As I sat at my desk booking shows a few months back, it appears there were few way posts after the city of Billings that might want to hear indie duos croon ironic. I scanned maps, I imagined but mostly I presumed that east of Billings was spare and arid until the population (humans and trees) started to pick up again farther east. That is untrue but after the splendor of the Rockies and the Bitterroot range, we had gotten used to big things. I kept wondering where would Bowe Berghdal might find ballet lessons as he grew up out here.
The waves of earth wane as we pass toward the land that the glaciers shaved. From a small promontory I expected to see the curve of the planet. We we’re headed to Spearfish, South Dakota a town at least as curious to me as it’s name. But just before we cast off, our Billings host Dave Cleaves mentioned something beneath his enormous wooly beard about Gillette. I thought of razors. Perhaps a media stunt to shear he his resplendent Black Beard pirate whiskers. But no, Gillette he told us is in Wyoming. He knew a guy who knew a guy. There is a gig to be caught in Gillette. We gig. And so the tour expanded nicely to fit in this extra Tuesday.
Wyoming is a very large, mostly square arrangement. I’ve seen it on a map & it looks like a placemat. I am not sure there is much else I know about it. It appears for an instant in the news like Winnepeg or Galveston and then is quickly overrun by reports of Tel Aviv. It turns out that if you follow I-90 East, the mountains don’t give up so easily. All day long after we jumped off of Billings the rig heaved and pulled against these steep lesser mountains. The heat of the sun heated the water in our holding tanks. There are no trees anymore save a few dots of resistance along stream beds and sunshadow folds in the low hills. After five hours of trundling in heavy seas, we crested our final hill. Puddin yawned nervously & peered out from the rig’s curtains. Jess navigated the rig expertly thru a frothy river of heavy trucks: F350s, Dodge Rams, doulies. Emaculate candy colored power heaved and bobbed all around us. There are no small cars in Gillette. We hid inside the rig, in our little Tardis, and nary a Gilletter guessed that inside sat skinny hipster balladeers staring out at them a little agog.
Outside the rig Big big stores fanned out under the blue cirrus sky. A muscular breeze intimated it’s ability to lift narrow people up and carry them over the truckways & grasslands beyond the city limits. Pale warehouses full of food, dogs toys, clothes and mattresses went on for miles. Inside the McDonalds that I stole into for a quick hit from the free wifi, swarmed hundreds of children crawling over the jungle gym & squirming thru the see-thru plastic slidy tubes. I ordered a strawberry shake & sat in the corner clinging to Facebook updates. The tall, broad denizens of Gillette paid little attention. They are not aggressive despite my assumptions.
As the long summer sunset carried us past dinnertime, Jess took Puddin to Fisherman’s Park. Children on bicycles of every size led her to these public wetland where flocks of red wing black birds gather to compare epaulettes and to scream at anyone who will listen. Some children rode atop miniature ATV’s. Fisherman’s Park is an eponymous city park. One does not fish in Portland. One may Forest in the Park but hardly Fish. Whole families sat on the dock in the middle of a flat lake angling for trout. Rods sparkled lightly in late light. The hoards of bicycles whirred a circle around the seated families, the lake and the ardent black birds. Outside that circle the candied powertrucks blazed and protected the the park from the Westerly winds.
We cooked rice & beans for dinner in the rig with a little salsa verde and yogurt for dessert. That night in the endless black of the walmart parking lot, the young men emerged. They are not small either. They ride motorcycles and blur them across the wide boulevards and the vast empty car park. They challenge angular momentum & care little for classic physics. The pitch of the open throttle can loosen a filling and the speed is so great the mencycles are more colored tracers of red, blue & chrome. I saw no women watching this display but maybe it was in part for them. I could begin to understand why poets don’t get laid. But maybe the night rides are for another reason. Maybe they ride in the enormous dark across the open pavement because no one knows they are here in America, in the big square of Wyoming. In the morning, black tire streaks in lacey circles were strewn across the parking lot. I assume sometimes the riders slip, take a turn a fraction too quickly and the heavy tread of the tires looses purchase. The sparks fly, the bones fly. Like the insects that collect along the windshield and grill of our westerly rig, they meet with Fate in another curious bargain.
I do not ask why I do this.
I do not believe in your worries.
I am what I do.
Marvel or be gone.