Somehow a hummus bagel from Einstein Bagels in Provo, Utah did not fill me up. Josh yelled at Mormon children. A family- two boys with big pale ghost-eyed faces and a non-descript mother- sat behind us enjoying their bagels. One of the boys knocked his drink all over the floor. We heard the instantaneous splash of 8 ounces of apple juice slapping on the freshly mopped floor with a smack. This brought a representative of the establishment out to clean up the spill. As we got up to depart, Josh slipped on the still-damp floor. “FUCK MAN!” He barked. “This is bullshit!” The family looked at him in horror, a shade of total panic coloring their eyes.
Prior to that episode, I gazed off into the surrounding mountains. The strip mall and its surrounding structures seemed barely six months old, cut into the mountainous terrain with all the finesse of surgeon wielding a rusty saw blade to perform a transplant (cue Carcass songs here).
This is Utah.
I think I am looking at the Rockies. Utah looks different. The houses boast their own peculiar personality compared to other states in this area. You see many churches and steeples. More cows, always cows. We drive between cliffs. They’re severe, brutal, jagged, foreboding. Then it all appears red, like the cliffs of Arizona or New Mexico. Then verdant and rolling fields. Horses chill by the side of the road, no human or house for miles. Most structures I see along this highway: 80? 84? – all of them look new, as if they appeared in 2000, at least around Ogden. Clouds continue to darken our journey.
It’s crazy to see things like campers, shacks and what appears to be UFOs hidden in the crevices and small valleys of these tan hills. This reminds me of Mesa Verde, the Native American city built into the side of a mountain somewhere out in the southwest. That always blew my mind back in elementary school: this civilization existing in the gaping wound of a mountain. Everything out here is desolate and lonely. Where are the standard natural life forms? Birds, squirrels, snakes, humans, lizards??? It’s probably better this way.
Lots of snow. We must be reaching the apex of the mountain I ogled earlier. The highway stretches ahead and up into the clouds. Highway to heaven or highway to hell. Does Michael Landon or Bon Scott stand at the other side? (I know, I know, Bon Scott did not appear on that multi-platinum AC/DC record, fuck off). I have to piss of course.
Do you remember what you did on this exact day nine years ago? I do. April 22, 1995. I was 19-years old. I drove around Red Bank, NJ searching in vain for a hardcore show. This was pre-Google Maps, so I cruised around aimlessly looking for the telltale signs: big pants, thick Tulsai beads, x-ed up hands, headbands around bleached-blonde heads (I myself was guilty of many of those fashion faux-pas). I drove back to the record store near my parents home and purchased two records to make up for missing out on what surely would have been a painfully awful hardcore show: Still Life “Slow Children At Play” 8-inch and the All the President’s Men comp on Old Glory. I hung out with Spoon, dining at Italian Delite at Monmouth Mall. This was our Saturday evening routine. We probably flirted with Debbie, Donna and Laurie. That girl nearly got my brother stomped by local thugs, one of whose members did not approve of my little brother hanging out with their ex.
Then we met up with said brother, Adolfo and Arthur Vance. What mattered most to me was seeing my girlfriend. She’d gone away for a week to Florida with her friends for spring break. I mean, c’mon, spring break? How fucking typical. I should’ve known the relationship was doomed when she even mentioned going.
But she was my first girlfriend and I was smitten. She was 17, a senior in high school, smarter than me, a bit of a hippy. So I was finally going to see her after this vacation. Of course I completely ruined seeing her the previous night. We planned to meet up after band practice. Well, band practice led to eating at the local Denny’s and that led to hours of cavorting. By the time I returned home, I called her. She abandoned me and went out with friends. I called her the following day: she was understandably curt with me. She seemed distant. She didn’t like the name of my new band. All was not well. But I didn’t think much of it.
That night, my friends and I met with her and her friends, too car loads of obnoxious teenagers loudly roaring into parking spots at the Manasquan Inlet. Foolishly, I wore my Earth Crisis long sleeve. I was straight edge, she was not. I don’t know why I wore it- to antagonize her and her friends (something Spoon and I loved to do, us the ignorant militant edgers).
So my girlfriend and I reunite. We hug and she’s limp like a warm corpse. We get back into different cars and cruise over the Dunkin Donuts in Wall on Rt. 35. All of us enter. She grabs my arm and stammers: “We need to talk.” This was the first time hearing this phrase directed at me and would not be the last. I wasn’t aware of its significance at the time, but I did detect that it did not bode well.
We go outside and into her car. “I don’t think this is working,” she muttered. “I don’t think we should be together like this.” Then she laid it on heavy, like dumping a crane load of dirt on me: “I feel numb.” And then the deathblow: “I want to still be friends.” All of this, in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot.
There then followed a grim time of post-break up despair better left in the thankfully small print run zines I banged out back then. Eventually we would migrate back together and she would break up with me again. Still, nothing compared to the emotional bombardment of that night, April 22, 1995. In retrospect, I have to look back in awe at the tumult of emotions, the violence of heartbreak. Though it was a long time ago, it will not be forgotten. I am tougher, smarter, more resilient now. Or something.
Wyoming looks like the desert. Superior, Wyoming. Utah looks like mountains. I expected desert in Utah and mountains in Wyoming. Remember that scene in Dog Day Afternoon wherein Al Pacino’s character asks John Cazale’s what country he wants to fly to when they flee their botched bank robbery? Cazale responds: “Wyoming.”