The Labyrinth

by on May 25, 2024 :: 1 comment

photo "Keep in (Touch)" by Tyler Malone

One night, I got stuck in Pueblo, Colorado. It’s not a bad place, a steel mill town, semi-arid land sprawl, and as in a lot of towns, the bus station where I landed happened to be an underground hypermart: prostitutes, both sexes, dealers, and of course, all the big shots a road hog like me would ever wanna meet. The station’s a fashion show of Bukowski clones after nightfall.

I mention big shots because that’s where I headed. A saloon across the street called The Big Shot Lounge had a salad bar, warmed-over egg rolls, and lowlife hors d’ouerves.

Great. I indeed was hungry. I’d been bouncing and sweating in the seat of my pants for hours on the Hound, and heck, for zilch, I could eat as well as drink bad beer. Besides, it was the first place I saw when I untangled myself from the knot of nitwits all holding court outside the depot.

Also not so great. The Big Shot is a pit stop for junkies. You find a good stiff drink, you get yourself a plate of egg rolls, maybe a few stalks of celery with Cheez Whiz on them, and think to yourself, Wow, this is a bargain. Then, when you look for a booth, you see half of them are inhabited by a variety of humanesque mutations, each disgustingly nodded out before half devastated plates of limp egg rolls and breadsticks.

Yummy.

All the red vinyl booths were ripped. No surprise there. Every tough guy’s got a stage where knifing a vinyl booth means something paramount. I don’t know what’s meaningful about it, but seriously, this grizzly spot of bar culture driftwood in an urban landscape held up itself as a mixed blessing, though half the inhabitants that evening were obviously Native Americans.

So, yeah. I scooped up a plateful of egg rolls, ladled half of them with regular yellow mustard, not the Chinese kind, grabbed a weak, watery gin, and hit a booth.

Good times.

At this exact point, in almost any grade Q blue movie, this is where you meet the chick. Free love for tired travelers who look “like Barishnikov.” Ah, the floozy wasn’t bad looking. Alluring in a lot-lizard way, Cindy Lou, standoffish and shy, soon warmed to me, sat down across from me. I can still see her face: a frilly bush of blonde hair hovering across from a pile of soggy, cold egg rolls.

A sore-eyed sight for sore eyes.

Chatting, I revealed I’m a spoken word phenom (an outright lie), and she said, “I LOVE spoken word!” (also an outright lie), and then she asked what those do. The rest I barely remember.

In hindsight, Cindy Lou Mickey Finned me. Maybe not roofies, but something slightly disorienting, disabling, disarming, and naturally, dissingly weird. She chirped, “Wanna go to a party? There’s spoken word there!”

Sure, I dizzily desired a bangin’ poetry party.

What I do remember is a battered Buick, a true special of last century beige, rusty undercarriage I told her “is pretty.” We turned left, banked right, then left, right, wound around curves, passed over steep gullies, crossed a few bridges, all of them dizzier as we went, truly a funhouse mirror.

“Ain’t this fun?”

We hit an old house in what I’d term the strange part of town. Looked like a pueblo. In Pueblo, Colorado. The whole town from my seat in a rust-bucket Buick was the strange part of town. Worse, Cindy Lou had plugged some sordid abomination of a Broadway musical soundtrack in the cassette deck.

Nothing quite like riding The Disorient Express to the sounds of Paint Your Wagon. Ripped–and directly ready for the pages of Midnight Star.

Once in that crooked dive, which at least was warmer than finger-chilling night air, a confusing melange of real gone hepcats were drinking Keystone Beer and smoking Swisher Sweets. This party was one in which no one has anything to say other than quips in an infinite variation of “Ain’t this shit great?”

Blurry is great, right?

In bigger cities I’d visited as a road dog, I’d seen the same ragged clothing worn by a strange cult of people who called themselves “creatives,” an affectation–sham glam: old tee shirts, ripped jeans, usually black, scuffed boots or torn Chuck Taylors. This belly flop of a party was a surreal thing.

Yep, I’d found the archetype that inspires 21st Century creative culture. In Pueblo, Colorado. I’m sure that, ages ago, in the Fifties, such a motley group would have been called “Indians.” A now forbidden slang designation. Politically correct outlaws wanna be for real, not the 1961 Mohawk crowd: crewcuts, flat-tops, shaved heads, shrunken heads, whatever.

Wait. Was that a blurry knife fight in there? Can’t be sure. In a queasy rubber living room, outrageous drama ensued–I know that much. Something about a bitch. Cindy Lou jerked me out of there by my left arm, “before the cops get here.”

Then, Cindy Lou vanished. Where was I? Seemed like an apartment complex. A real maze. Everything adobe and beige. A labyrinth full of bull, drugged mythology. Is the line from this to death too straight? Of course nothing’s black and white. The crooked darkness’s winding hallway, each day a dim passage into uncertainty maybe, had nailed me again. The dose-inspired insight had eyes in the back of its head, and the view wasn’t pretty.

I was lost. Worse, bewildering malevolence, impending doom. Fights. Shouts. Loud voices. In and out of lucidity, my fear erased excitement. Out of there, I stumbled into a shamble-run, some blockhead yelling at me, “Who the fuck are you? Come here! Get outta here!” Then, in a last ditch effort, I found a hedge.

Honestly, you’ve never experienced life if you’ve never come-to after spending the night standing like a splintery board in a prickly ice-cold hedge in the strange part of Pueblo, Colorado, a spoken word phenom on the run from outlaws.

editors note:

What’s a new city other than experiences to discover old experiences over and over and over again? ~ Tyler Malone

Comments 1

  1. Marie Higgins

    So much delicious phrasing in this story. But also simple lines, like “Ain’t this fun?” Made me sing that song in my head. But what really got me, was when I went back to the beginning and re-realized the title. So true… only one way into this world, only one way out.

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