Run around Sue
Trip Start Aug 06, 2010
2Trip End Aug 08, 2010
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“You hungry!?” Sparks hollered from inside the bathroom, “I know of a place we must hit up.”
“Oh yeah? They have good brunch?” I wondered, as I heard my stomach growling.
“Not sure,” Sparks responded, “but we literally must hit this place up. Karen's Kitchen. I’m pretty sure it’s the only restaurant open in town. Unless you want to hit the AM-Pride, that is.”
Oh…How did people grow up in this Twilight Zone?
I turned on my car, and the beaming sun had turned it into an oven. The drive was so short to the restaurant that my air conditioning didn’t even have enough time to cool down, and I was made further uncomfortable by the now-visible scattering of mosquito guts all over my windshield. Karen’s Kitchen was pretty much like what you would imagine a redneck restaurant to be like. At first glance when we walked in, it appeared to be an antique store that had been temporarily transformed into a makeshift restaurant serving up home-fried goodies, all less than $3.00 an item.
“Hello, George!” Sparks greeted the owner. I had grown to expect this, as everyone knows everybody in these settings. “You have got to try their flour tacos. That’s their most famous dish here. Shit, try three different things; it’s all so cheap!” He was right. I ordered 2 flour tacos, some tater tots, and a filet-o-fish. Why is it that, after drinking sessions, you always wake up thinking you can eat meals suitable for a family of three? The grease and fatty goodness from the food was churning its way through my stomach, leaving me dazed and confused, and in some pain. There was no time for that, though, as Sparks insisted we take a tour of the town and surrounding areas.
We drove past the Gooch’s Grocery Store and the town water tower, where just beneath, Sparks had played basketball on a rickety, old hoop. Driving through the perimeter of town, he showed me where Dual’s dad lived and, of course, the high school. Funny, because the high school was located conveniently next to the middle school, which was even more conveniently attached to the elementary school. Done, done, and done. Swapping high school stories and drifting out of town, all I could see were old, abandoned farm houses that appeared to be the remnants from a nuclear holocaust.
“Ahh, the liquor store.” Sparks was visibly sentimental as he pointed to the now-defunct liquor store, still with decaying signs of what it once was. “Here is where we used to have to venture out of town to score liquor. Welcome to Horace, John. The asshole of America.” Horace, Kansas, a bustling town of 143 (according to the 2000 census), was named for Horace Greeley, a writer for the New York Tribune in the mid-1800s. The New York Tribune was once, proudly, America’s most influential newspaper”, according to Greeley himself. Greeley took advantage of his popularity and influence and bolstered the Republican and Whig parties, as well as being a staunch advocate of the vegetarian lifestyle. The poor man saw an abrupt and harsh demise in the early 1870s. After his political dreams and presidential hopes came to a crushing defeat at the hands of Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, things spiraled out of control. When the unmerciful Republican party publically scorned Greeley, coupled with rival New York Herald newspaper owner, Whitelaw Reid, gaining control of the New York Tribune, Greeley lost the plot.
“You son of a bitch, you stole my newspaper!” Greeley’s famous (and alleged) last words he cried out after spotting Reid in downtown Manhattan. Nevertheless, Greeley’s predominantly positive reputation lasted long after his death in 1872, and several towns and counties have been named in his honor. You might even recall seeing Horace Greeley depicted in the film “Gangs of New York”, as the owner of the Tribune.
Driving a little bit further out of town, Sparks showed me a single tree way out in a vast, open field, under which people go to lose their virginity. Now if that’s not small town, I don’t know what is. Similar to when I was in Oklahoma’s panhandle, cows cut off our transportation through the road temporarily. When they cleared, Jon wanted to show me the house where he lived for many years, including the house in which his father passed away. It was sad, as all that remained was a cement block, showing where the foundation of the house once laid. The whole ambiance was somber, which was painted so sweetly in nature by the hanging tree whose branches stretched out over where the house stood. I suppose we had a bittersweet “ode to the house”, paying homage by insisting on an impromptu climb of the grain silo next door.
This was no ordinary climb. Sparks had to grab a rusty, old ladder from off the ground and prop it up against the base of the silo, just so we could reach the actual, equally-old and rusty ladder that was attached to the silo itself. I have never been one to be afraid of heights, but this thing was massive, so just in case, I had Sparks go up first. He was just as uneasy about this as I was; this thing was easily 10 stories high, and the ladder might not have been climbed on since World War II.
“Just don’t…look down.” I could feel the sweat from my palms make my grasp a little more slippery, and thus, more shaky. The trick was to just keep your eyes straight ahead on the silo itself, and on whatever rung you were grabbing at the time. The creaky irks from the old silo and the pang of shoe on metal just added to the intensity of it. By the time I reached the top, the only sounds I could hear was the sharp wind whistling and the loud sound of my rapidly-beating heart slowly start to die down. I took one quick look back down the ladder chute.
“Hoooooly shit. Haha I’m not looking forward to going back down.” The feeling of certain death dissipated when I saw how beautiful the expansive sky was, reaching out across multiple counties. You could see out for miles, your eyesight treated to visions of sunflower fields and green pastures. At the top was an entrance into the silo, but Sparks warned me not to go in there because of the danger of "mouse poop poisoning". It's ignorance of these things that confirms my town where I grew up was not small enough.
"It might not be the most wild town on earth, but you can't deny that it's fucking beautiful." Sparks proclaimed, with a proud tone in his voice, looking out in the distance in lost thought. The climb back down was not as bad as we thought it would be; I suppose the wonderful views had eased our minds a bit. The sun and humidity below were really doing a number on us, so when Dual's car drove up next to us, we all agreed that going to the pool was our best option. About once a year or so, the county pool would throw a "free day", where everyone was admitted, and today was that day.
On our walk to the pool, we stopped in our tracks as this big GMC Yukon SUV came barreling down the street towards us, screeching tires as it took hard turns, and then halted to a stop right in front of us. Then, the window rolled down, and we saw one of Sparks' friends, Kyle, bellowing out in song, and as loud as possible:
"HERE'S MY STORY, IT'S SAD BUT TRUE...IT'S ABOUT A GIRL THAT I ONCE KNEW!!!" Kyle was doing this, in good fashion, to give Sparks a hard time about when he sang "Run around Sue" to the bride and groom at a mutual friend's wedding earlier in the year. We hadn't seen Kyle yet that weekend, so that means he either hit a perfectly-timed joke for that moment, or that he had been driving around town looking desperately for us with that song on pause in his CD queue. Whatever it was, Kyle cracked himself up and drove off laughing, and all Sparks and I could do was laugh along with him.
Our time at the pool reminded me of the scene in the film "The Sandlot" where all the boys are goofing around at the pool. Picture a bunch of grown men (most of them in their 30s or almost there) bouncing as high as possible on the diving board and doing their best Greg Louganis impressions into the pool. These crazy diving stunts were intermittently interrupted by the proverbial young girl, under the direct supervision of her mother, just making useless laps off the diving board and back again. Every pool has one of these people. The mom, cheering her on:
"You can do it, honey!" <young girl approaches edge of diving board, looks to her mother for approval, plugs her nose, then walks off the edge of the diving board>. Time...after time...after time...after time. I did a couple of flying squirrel dives before the cannonball competition ensued. Unfortunately, I'm just not fat enough anymore to win those things. Lounging beside the pool, we chatted up the son of the owners of Karen's Kitchen, who recommended we go back there with him for dinner because he ate free.
After round 2 of Karen's, you could sense the town coming alive before our eyes. We didn't even need music in the car because the music from the massive town party was carrying itself throughout the city. At the Gooch household, we all spent our time "pre-gaming" (a term describing the act of drinking before a fun event) for the later part of the evening. The plan was to go to this huge warehouse that had been converted into a dance floor and outdoor party area. The party itself was teeming with Greeley County natives, all talking about what they had been doing over the last 10 years, and how most of them had moved on from the small-town Tribune life (many of them had relocated to Denver). One girl we met, Rachel Pollock, had suggested that we all go out to the one (and only) local bar in town, "The Trench".
By the time we all arrived at The Trench, everybody had been drinking for quite some time, which helped ease the fact that this bar only served "three-two beer" (beer containing only 3.2% alcohol by volume), and no liquor. Oh well, anybody who was anyone in this town was here, and the live music scene on the back patio was great for the moment. I spent most of the time talking science and physics with the aforementioned Rachel Pollock, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Maine, and meeting new people in between. After the bar, we were walking back to the Gooch household, when, all of the sudden...
Screech! Kyle had, seemingly out of nowhere, pulled up beside us again with the windows down and music blasting:
"She took my love, then ran around...with every single guy in town..." I was laughing uncontrollably at this point, as I always appreciate a well-timed joke coming to fruition...twice! Needless to say, we all hopped in the car with Kyle and his wife, and cranked up the music even louder as we took a stroll around the block, all singing "Run around Sue" as loud as we could.
"Ask any fool that she ever knew! They'll say KEEP AWAY FROM-A RUN AROUND SUE!!!" This was truly a great moment. We were screaming at the top of our lungs and having a blast, a a great pinnacle of the evening with people you grew up with that you no longer see. I was feeling it. We stopped off at the Gooch house, but I was tired as hell and went back to the Trail's End motel to get some sleep. Sparks stayed behind to keep partying, only to stumble into the motel room at 7:30 a.m. with Jeremy Gooch, his pants practically around his ankles.
"Sparks, you OK?" I asked, half laughing and half worried. He didn't respond; he just face-planted into the adjacent bed.
"Who's that in here...who is that?" Gooch lurched his way over to my bed and pulled back the covers that I was using to shield my eyes from the bright sun. "Romey! Alright man, go back to bed." The end seemed fitting to such a wild weekend.
You stay classy, Tribune.