A bottle of Jameson is my only company as I watch the snow stick thickly to every surrounding window on the bus. Tristan is in Pittsburgh, visiting family, and thank God, because though I find a breakdown and a bottle of whiskey an adventure, I believe his freezing little toes might see it differently. The weatherman was calling for between half and inch and a foot of snow here in Longmont, Colorado tonight, and three or four hours after the flakes started falling we’re already well into three inches. The windows completely snowed over now, I won’t know for sure how much of a blanket I’ll need to dig myself out of until tomorrow morning when I muster up the courage to delayer myself the seven thick blankets I’ve shelled myself under.
Why am I here, perhaps that’s the question on any particular reader’s mind, on the minds of the restaurant patrons walking past, peeking in at me slightly shivering, and maybe even I’m not completely certain. I spent the past few days with a very old, very dear friend high up in the mountains, a beautiful snow painted town named Estes Park which serves as a sort of mountain tourist gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. We blew a flat tire on the way to the park, and she laid in the dirt to avoid the wind and just generally hang out with me while I changed the air deprived tire, my hands growing greasier by the moment as I watched her watching me with a sort of mild respect or astonishment at my ability to fix this bus in every situation, and it certainly wasn’t the first time it had broken down on the two of us. I probably should have viewed her surprise at my ability to do such typically “manly” things with a bit of disdain, like “Why wouldn’t you think I could?” but instead I was just pleased with her satisfaction with it all. Later, the problem solved, we walked along a shimmering sunset lake, white capped mountains between us and the retiring Sun, the thundering sound of a thick pack of elk storming out of the forest and into the Estes Park golf course the trail ran along. First the sound of an elk cow, high pitched, calling out some mating ritual song and then the clapping of hooves as three buck emerged from the forest, crossed an asphalt parking lot and seemed nearly like reindeer, ready to take off. As I sort of awestruck watched them run away my companion pulled at my arm and gave a kind of “Oh no,” sound that I took as a warning, and when I turned two dozen or so more buck elk, five feet tall at the shoulders and perhaps double that with their horns, were charging nearly straight for us. Before they trampled us into another statistic though, they swarmed around and away, disappearing into the dusk. We shared a cigarette and watched as the Sun went off to set for California or fall into the Pacific or do whatever it is solar system centers do after nightfall. On the walk back to the bus, it was warm then, only two days ago, under a pitch night sky, the moon not quite ready to make her nightly appearance, we suddenly found ourselves again surrounded by the herd, this time they were still though, many of them just staring us down. I tried stomping my boots, making “Ya!” and “Get!” but the beasts found me and all of my 5’7″ of little threat. Eventually they parted and allowed us to pass, it was all glorious and beautiful, and later as we sipped coffees and sat in the front of the bus, a virtual Yuletide greeting card as our small town setting, three deer would run right through the middle of main street, in front of our tinny abode and off into some forest park.
But that was then and after coming down from the mountain in search of whatever additional heat descending 3000 feet or so might provide, I find myself with a bus that has no inclination to start, parked in the local VW mechanics lot. He’ll be back on Monday, and it’s Saturday night. Seven blankets and this bottle of whiskey will be my only companion tonight, perhaps a phone call or two before my cell phone dies. Good is the night, and long, cold as well.