There and Back from Halfway Flats

Driving out of the city
beyond the sprawl
to small towns
past isolated cabins in the woods
onward and upward to the pass.
The heart races as we dangerously lean back for groupies
on a stone ledge
on the side of the road
over a cold-water ravine a long, long way down.
Angry truckers honk their horns at strange looking city-folk
walking, single file along a narrow shoulder
“don’t they know
these roads
are for serious business.”
Up and over then partway down
the forests have a more ordered feel
ponderosa pines, bitterbrush and red dirt replace fir trees, ferns and moss
the air smells less like water, decay and new life
and more like a dusty ranch road in late July
the buzzing of horseflies
hours ‘til dusk.

No bars
out of range
and onward to camp
pitching tents on flat earth dry pine needles, littered with cones
perilous logs laid across slow flowing streams
jalapeño chips
wasp attacks
but first, Whistling Jack’s whistling pay phone scam.

Hours later
with much stirred up dust
and the sound of 90s riot girl punk
arrives Dan
to much jubilation.
BBQ badassery ensues.
When parts are missing you improvise
but what with hot exploding rocks
and burgers the color of coated tongue, I don’t know gray
sometimes it’s wise to simply drive away
70 miles down a windy road
into the night
to Fred Meyer in Yakima town
in the middle of gang-season
for supplies.
Pouring into Sherri’s on filthy hobbit feet
with the salty sweet taste of fries and pies watering my mouth
no trout.
Later, the dark woods loom
watching us like saucer eyed bears
yet we persevere.
Queers in the woods.

An even rain
taps out gray percussive tent membrane
on the coldest morning
of the coldest day
of the hottest summer in history.
Waking up to the body heat of sleeping friends
cold outhouse runs
the sound of bacon and pancakes
paper plates
passing biker gangs
and slow games of rummy 500.
Time passes to the rhythm of braided hair
breakfast, lunch, dinner
party tents
presidents and assholes
and long walks down to the river.
Night comes too soon.

Awake again surrounded by sleeping friends
reading to a slowly rising sun
–three witches
childhood friends
now in their seventies
haunted by memories
of horrors best left buried
reunite one last time.
They give feast to the solstice
drinking and eating and dancing
celebrating and lamenting
what it means to be old–
I could get used to this.

Riding home
up into the storm
you can learn a lot about someone by the music that they love
looking out the window
watching the pines pass by.

The things you learn along the way:
how to pitch a tent
how to keep drinks cool without a cooler
the taste of safety
the treachery of payphones
the important, under-appreciated role of emotional support snakes
life takes place on the ground
in the space between sleeping bags.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *