Denver Bar Association
July 2010
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The Road Worrier, Part 5

by Greg Rawlings


Everyone should fly into the city of Alamosa on a 19-seat Beech 1900D plane at least once in their lifetime — if for no other reason than to know the true meaning of the word "fear." Our co-pilot was a dead ringer for Opie Taylor, though slightly taller and without one of Aunt Bea’s pies waiting at home.

When we were just above the runway, a crosswind knocked us cockeyed and I heard someone in the cockpit, other than Opie mutter, "Oh, jeez. Oh, jeez." The two cowboys behind me yee-hawed as we settled down onto the tarmac while I contemplated a quick last will and testament. House, dog and life insurance to my kid; my art, art books and Volvo to my girlfriend; remaining books and CDs to my youngest brother Matt, except for my Thomas Pynchon first editions, which simply must go to ex-Docket wit Paul Kennebeck.

Okay, so after the fear and trembling not quite unto death, we landed at what passes for an airport in Alamosa County. The eight other passengers and I stumbled down the narrow steps to the runway, knees still wobbly. A converted lawn mower ferried my sad, blue Samsonite bag with the green bow from the bowels of the Beech to the "baggage claim." The backseat cowboys, who turned out to be geologists, met their ride and disappeared into the San Luis Valley.

I was left to face the Budget rental car clerk alone. I expected him to sneer at me and lisp, "City boy reeks with fear, doesn’t he?" Instead, he merely confirmed my reservation, handed me the keys to a less than luxurious Saturn SUV and pointed me toward the Best Western.

Now, first of all, it may have been "western" but the Alamosa motel I arrived at was far from the "best" of anything. My room did have a small fridge, a flat screen TV, and no obvious signs of insect infestation; then again, most crack houses get two of three right on that analysis.

The Rockies were blowing a ninth inning lead to the Braves on TV and my room was creeping me out with all strange white wood and the aura of satanic rituals past. So, I decided to head into "downtown" Alamosa. All three blocks of it. Where, to my surprise, I found a perfectly pleasant coffee house, Milagro’s, with a perfectly pleasant barista who, to top things off, sang along sweetly to the Tracy Chapman song playing on the radio. The songbird then served me a just right cappuccino. Order was restored to my universe.

Oh, did I mention the coffee shop had free wi-fi? Not that I used it, but the very idea of free wi-fi in this twilight zone scenario made me feel as if I was still tangentially in touch with civilization. Thank You O’ Great Gods of Cappuccino and Free Wi-Fi! The gods, though capricious, still occasionally smile, even on one such as me.

As I sat, sipping my cappuccino and before I got all cuddly and started hugging random strangers, I thought back to that harrowing flight. The Beech 1900D has no restroom, hence, as spring begets summer and summer begets fall, the flight served no drinks. Simply put, nobody should have to make the 48 minute jaunt to Alamosa in a Guam Air reject without access to cocktails. I may move to have that important consideration placed in the Colorado Constitution; it’s rife with many a lesser issue.

After reminiscing, two rustics entered Milagro’s. They sport overalls with shoulder flaps undone a la Jethro Bodine, the most style conscious of the Beverly Hillbillies. For a moment, I thought I’d been transported back to the Appalachian rust belt of my tawdry youth. I do love the male rustic’s hat, enviable in its concatenation of dirty straw, sweat-stained band and mule-chewed brim. I felt a sort of awe.

So I was safe, relatively sound, and had the beginnings of a caffeine buzz. An acoustic version of John Lennon’s "Watching the Wheels" hummed from the radio and the barista hummed along once again. The rustics were pot farmers and needed coffee even worse than I did. They stunk of skunk weed and their eyes were red as that big blue mustang’s out front of DIA. Colorado circa now, what a place.

Epilogue: Two weeks and eight trips to the acupuncturist later, my left neck and shoulder are still killing me. And, I have two more trips to Alamosa before the case will be done. Such is the life.

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