Ringing in the new year with a new scene
Aspen, CO Colorado
So I rang in the new year watching three large girls in wedding dresses sing bad ’80s tunes at the Mangy Moose in Jackson Hole, Wyo. How I know all the words to Journey tunes like “Don’t Stop Believing” is beyond me, but there I was in front of the stage with spilled beer in my hair singing, “Just a small town girl … living in a looonely world … take the midnight train going anywhhhhhere,” and it really meant something to me. I seriously almost cried.
It was one of those “only in Wyoming” things. Like, only in Wyoming do the men growl and pant instead of using actual words when they stagger toward you at the bar, their tongues dragging on the floor behind them leaving a trail of slobber in their wake. They make no bones about the fact that they are animals looking for their next kill, which is why I’m assuming the girls here seem pretty lax about appearances. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the entire bar wearing Prada shoes.
I came up here on a whim. I guess I wanted a change of scenery and that’s exactly what I got. The truth is, I really hate New Year’s Eve. Whenever I don’t like something, I either ignore it or run away from it, and in this case I tried to do both. I realize the date doesn’t change even if the location does, but sometimes a long drive is all I need to clear my head.
There was a time when I was the happiest when I was on my way somewhere, especially the airport. I used to travel a lot for my job, and I got so addicted to it that I literally couldn’t stay in one place for more than six months. It wasn’t enough just to go somewhere. I had to pick up and move. I loved the idea of starting over, of creating something new.
That’s how I ended up in Jackson Hole. I came out for a weekend and decided living in San Diego was no longer working for me, so I found a place to live that day, signed a six-month lease, flew back home, packed my car and drove to Wyoming. I drove alone through a blizzard that followed me from Utah state line all the way to Jackson. At one point in the middle of the night, I ended up on some remote Forest Service road that wasn’t even plowed. I thought about how much water I had in the car to drink should I end up going off the road into a ditch where I surely wouldn’t be found until spring. I had no idea how far I was from the nearest town. I just kept thinking, “This is America. There has to be a town eventually.”
I bought a book on tape, “A Time to Kill” by John Grisham. I figured I had plenty of time to kill, and it was a long book, something like 10 cassette tapes. I figured I had time to kill, so the longer the better. The book was so good that when I finally arrived in Jackson at around 4 o’clock in the morning, I sat in the parking lot of the condo complex so I could hear what happened in the end.
I don’t know many girls who will jump in the car and drive 20 hours alone. But there is something about being in that void of between here and there that appeals to me, that space where the odometer and those signs on the side of the road that tell you how far you are from your destination are more important than the clock or how many messages you have waiting on your phone. I especially like being out of range, officially cut off from the world and actually succeeding in being able run away, to cut myself off from things I don’t want to deal with.
Wyoming is particularly satisfying in the change-of-scenery category, enveloping my little being in big skies and the vast emptiness of the high desert. In big open spaces like that, the time/space continuum becomes so distorted that it’s hard to believe the speedometer really says 110 because there are moments when it feels like you’re not moving at all. It’s that feeling of being suspended that I like.
There were plenty of satisfying sights, like the cowboy riding his horse through the snow on the side of the road in Pinedale. Or the herd of elk that leaped fearlessly across the road, prancing through the air unheeded like it might even be fun, like the road was some kind of gap jump in one huge terrain park. I marveled at the oversized bulldozers with their blades up in the air, like the snow-packed, icy roads were satisfactory. I almost had to laugh at the signs that read, “roads may be icy” as if there were days that the roads were actually dry. I watched the temperature gauge drop to the single digits, watch the snow drift across the road like spider webs.
My memory is a little fuzzy but as the clock struck midnight, I stood in front of the three brides as they bellowed some obscure song by REO Speedwagon that I also knew all the words to, the wolf to my left licking his chops like he might swallow me whole in a split second. Everyone was bleary-eyed and dancing, stumbling really, unshaven, sloppily dressed, the stench of stale beer lingering in the air.
I knew I was a long way from home and once again, being everywhere and nowhere was exactly where I wanted to be.
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