By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
A snowboarder-sociopath named Brendy joined me on another trip to the coast. We started drinking as soon as we crossed into Utah, tossing 40 ouncers into the back of my pickup truck like they were candy wrappers. Somewhere in Utah, we picked up an eccentric older guy we called Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob was on his way to an algae convention in Eugene, Oregon. He showed us his briefcase full of rare specimens that he claimed had magical health benefits. He ran down his get-rich-quick scheme and tried to get us to invest. The three of us drank and laughed our way across Route 50, stopping for steak and eggs and petty larceny whenever the occasion arose. Once I drove straight from San Francisco to Denver via Route 50 — 20 hours if it was a minute — popping caffeine pills and drinking Coke the whole way just to get back to a girl who wasn’t expecting me.
I had gone native.
The point is, Route 50 is always an option, never a necessity, like betting on an iffy hand. When you’re young you tend to push your luck just for kicks. But the house always wins in the end. Some learn the hard way. Some just take a wrong turn at the wrong time.
The only thing that’s changed in Eureka, Nevada, since its Wild West heyday is the internal-combustion engine, running water, electricity and the male-to-female ratio, which has gotten worse over the years as the mines shut down and the old Opera House and bordello turned into a motel with slot machines in the lobby. A sign at the town limits says: Welcome to the Loneliest Town on the Loneliest Road in America.
It had been a couple of years since those first carefree jaunts through the desert had taken me through Eureka. Going back to school had finally propelled me out of Vail and the low-end jobs and seasonal-affective disorders that were leading to too many broken bones and misdemeanors. Near the end, I cashed in my last Subaru and was down to a Honda Hawk motorcycle and a lot of mud in my teeth. The last straw came when a skid/loader on a construction site conked out on the crest of a hill and nearly toppled me into a swimming pool. The tip of my ring finger was almost chopped off in the hydraulic arm. I got out, washed off my hand, inspected my mangled finger and started kicking the mini-tractor, yelling, “Fuck this fucking place. I’m out of here!” over and over again until someone took me to the hospital.
By and large the years in journalism school and working at various newspapers were good years, culminating in a plum assignment to the Washington Post. But all good things come to an end, and this one ended suddenly. Before I knew it, I’d quit The Postand was traveling back across the country to pick up my stuff at the place in Los Angeles I used to share with a woman who used to be my girlfriend but, while I was in D.C., had taken up with a Viking from Iceland.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this errand without some help, so I called my old friend Arty. I could barely form a sentence. He could tell this was serious and flew out to meet me in New York. From there we set out for L.A. where I’d leave Arty and then retreat once again to the sanctuary of Vail. The recidivism of it all left me nearly comatose. The entire drive went by in a blur of cigarettes, cupcakes and Nine Inch Nails CDs. It was November and the gray sky was as heavy as the music and my mind.
“Arty, she gave him the bed,” I said somewhere around St. Louis, grabbing a Ho Ho from my box of 24. It might have been the first thing I said the entire trip.
“She gave the Viking our bed. I mean my bed. She gave it to him.” It wasn’t just a bed. It was the first bed I had ever bought. The first time I ever had a bed that was my own. It was a symbol of having made my way up off the floor. Now it was in the loft next door. I asked her how she could be so heartless.
“I didn’t think you’d mind,” she said. “You weren’t going to use it, and he needed a bed.” She made it sound like I was being immature.
“Dude, that’s cold,” Arty said in the car, polishing off a limited-edition Hostess Snowball eight-pack.
“What am I going to do? I mean, how could she be that insensitive?”
“I don’t know, dog, that’s a tough one.” He was eyeing the Dolly Madisons.
“I’ll be damned if I’m going to have Vlad the Impaler fucking her on it.”
Arty shook his head sympathetically and reached for one of my Ho Hos. “Hey, have you heard the new Cypress Hill CD?”
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