I was driving towards Aspen off the prairie, looking for the cutoff turn at Limon. I still had 400 miles to go.
There. That’s not a bad first line, is it? True, as well.
I’d spent the evening in Colby, home of Miss Kansas according to the big signs I could see from the Interstate, but wherever she was now, coked out and face down in the Playboy Mansion or just home with Mom, washing her hair, she wasn’t at the Rusty Bucket, the most god-awful airplane hanger of a bar I ever want to go to in this life. If your idea of fun is stealing your older sibling’s driving licence and glueing your photo onto it so you can get a drink, that’s the place to go.
Except it’s not really, because they shove every ID under a fluoroscope to see if it’s been cut and they card just about everybody. And that ain’t no lie. This is a place where all the Deputies try to look like Burt Reynolds with pistol grip shotguns behind the front seats in the police cruisers and all the bar staff wear Mace in neat little holsters on their belts. Cosy. Like Rick’s Bar in a parallel and wrong universe.
I got out of there before my cute English accent had a chance to get me somewhere to sleep or dead and went to find a place to crash out in my car. I turned the big old Chevrolet off the highway down some dirt roads and slept to the sound of some kind of engine somewhere.
It had gone by the time the sun woke me around half past five. I got the car back on the highway and headed west looking for some breakfast.
All I found, mile on mile of prairie grassland was a sign for Six States Tower. I didn’t know that’s what it was called then. It was a wooden Victorian English seaside lighthouse stuck out here in the middle of absolutely nowhere at all. As I drove down the track I passed old cars full of empty bottles and a reassuring sign.
See the Two-Headed Calf. Wonder of the Ages.
What could be nicer? Maybe the people I could see at the top of the lighthouse tower could tell me while they were bringing me some food, I thought, except as I got closer I could see they were dressed in Victorian clothes, the women in crinolines. And none of them were moving.
I stopped the car in bright sunshine in front of the tower. From here I could see the people were never going to move, because mannequins never do except in films. Nobody around at all. I opened the car door in the silence of a Colorado summer morning and stepped out into a pool of glistening black stuff that crunched as I walked across it. Then it started shimmering and parts of it rose into the air. It was about then I realised I was walking through a patch of locusts.
I got back in the car, drove straight out onto the Interstate and almost immediately got in a discussion with the Colorado State Patrol about what intersecting the median means and how you can’t just drive onto the motorway in countries where things are properly organised. We got on fine. It was that kind of day.
The Tower and everything about it was real. It was built in 1926. It shut in 2013, when the old guy running it died. The insane collection of tourist stuff jammed into the tower was all sent to auction at the end of 2014. It wasn’t a David Lynch film. It was all real and I was there, even though it isn’t there now.
That’s one thing about getting older. You can. And you can say ‘Yeah, I was there. I know about that stuff, you know?’ Whatever happened afterwards. I was there.
Whatever happened afterwards. I was there.