Saturday, October 6, 2007

An Oyster Bar Holiday

The Broadway Oyster Bar in the 80s was much more austere than it is today. For heat in the winter we had 2 fireplaces and a sleeping bag over the door. The bar blocked us from the warmth of the fire so Sharon and I would warm brandy with candles and keep ourselves lit.

In the summer there was no air conditioning. We tried everything we could think of to cool the place down. We would fill a bus pan with ice and set a fan behind it blowing toward us and the customers. We would run into the walk-in cooler every 5 minutes but it became clear our food and beer wasn’t getting cold. Finally we just started closing for a couple of weeks every year in July.

JT was my girl friend. We were together for about 5 years. I’ll get permission to use her name later because she may not want me to air some of our dirty laundry. We went on a dozen trips together and all of them will make great stories.

We had already left the country 3 times (Canada, Mexico, and Jamaica) before it occurred to us that it would be fun to tour the American Southwest. We followed Route 66 all the way into the San Bernardino Valley in California hitting every spot in the song. I had just gotten a Suzuki Samurai. This little car is highly under rated and is great for 4 wheeling. I beat the hell out of it.

We stopped at the Cadillac Ranch until I was spooked by a bull, did Santa Fe and couldn’t find Taos, got drunk on Wild Turkey in the middle of the desert somewhere between New Mexico and Arizona, hit a ghost town populated by wild burros, and 4 wheeled muddy dirt roads that crumbled down mountain sides. We stayed in Sedona and the southern rim of the Grand Canyon.

Somewhere past the continental divide we noticed The Painted Desert in the distance. We followed small blue highways until we reached a gate with a sign that read, “Painted Desert closed at 6:00pm”. How do you close a desert?

Even the rest stops were fun. There were signs telling us to watch out for the scorpions.

In the middle of an endless expanse of desert in California we decided to go to Las Vegas. I was new to the commercial gambling scene and was struck by the absence of clocks, the free booze, and nearly free food and lodging. J would take a roll of coins and sit at the slots. I got involved at a black jack table and lost nearly all of our money. We didn’t even have enough to buy gas to get home and we still had a week to go.

J was furious. “Well that’s the end of our trip!” I should have told her I had a gambling problem. She handed me a roll of nickles and sat me down in front of a slot machine. She said as long as I was playing, they would still give me free drinks. She didn’t want to see me for the rest of the evening. I asked a waitress for Jack and water. "That's whiskey isn't it?" she asked. God knows what I had been drinking all night.

Somehow with our spirits undaunted we spent the next day at Hoover dam. At the state border I took our last $20.00 and turned it into enough money at a black jack table to get us home.

After an evening in a motel in Utah, we got onto the highway and saw a sign that read, “No gas for 122 miles”. “We mean it!” I should have paid attention.

At the other end of the state we got off the highway and spent the day at Arches State Park. A beautiful place I highly recommend. It was like Mars to me. I’ve never seen anything like it. Unfortunately I was so dazzled I forgot about our gas situation. When we got back onto the highway we ran out of gas. I could see the mountains of Colorado in the distance in front of us. There was nothing behind us.

Thinking I was being heroic I jumped out of the car stating I’d hitch hike to a gas station. I told J to wait there. “You’re not leaving me out here alone in the desert”, she howled. She jumped out of the car and slammed the door shut. I looked through the window at my keys that were dangling from the ignition. They were now locked inside.

After we got back with the gas and broke into my car we decided we could still salvage the trip by staying with our friend John who was managing condos in Dillon Colorado. He made most of his money in St. Louis dealing coke. He and his girl friend decided they had to live in the mountains. The condos were empty and we had a great place to stay. We drank Champagne in a glass walled hot tub blinded by the stars from our mountaintop and went cross country skiing in the morning. The local bar was a log cabin that was packed and had Blues bands. I remember finding a box of Tofu Helper at the local supermarket.

Someone told me John died from an overdose. He was the first person I ever saw free base cocaine.

No comments: