July 14th, Yes Trek Day 4
When I awoke, still a little woozy,
I asked my gentlemen companions if they wouldn't mind collecting
Derek from the airport without me. I moved slowly but was coming
around, and the three of them returned to find me upright, groomed
and dressed in a groovy, flowery gown, doing a pretty convincing job
of carrying myself merrily again. The idea of food seemed tempting
and we descended the stairs to the dining room where another party of
diners, three men in two-piece suits, were conducting business. "When
we are all seated down there, we won't look anything like those
guys," I commented. "Will we?" Derek in his Yesshirt agreed, said he
was often one of those guys, a suit with important things to do. Our
aim here was to conduct leisure.
Once I had sustenance in me, it
would be easier to participate in the imminent prospect of having
fun. I was never so glad to find grits on a menu, the bland white
grain you eat with sausage gravy beside your eggs in the south.
Caloric yet flavorless, it was the perfect way to ease myself into
rejoining the world of the appetitive. A flock of big, plastic,
decorative sea gulls were coming right toward us from out of the high
ceiling while we ate. The "realistic" birds and the big picture of a
tree (in lieu of the real thing) seen from the window of the elevator
on the ground floor imparted a pleasingly cheesy sensation. Yann
seemed particularly keen on cheese. The staff laughed at our crude
joviality, appreciating us better, no doubt, than the party of suits.
The smell of coffee brought me further around, although I
fastidiously chose to imbibe the more summery and indigenous southern
brewed iced tea.
As the others packed the van, I
lolled in the shade beside the parking lot, listening to the
mockingbird. It had a repertoire of 20 songs or more and I tried
to discern the fervent melodies
that would carry
balance of being one.
Away down Interstate 40 we sped,
Chris driving again to allow me relax in the back and further
convalesce. I looked at the Furstenwurth family photos and showed
Derek mine. Our day-tripper had come bearing many Yes live
recordings, sessions, etc. and he cordially invited us to make
requests for our favorite rarities. We decided to hear two live
versions of South Side of the Sky among others. We stopped at another
McDonald's where all I could manage was a nugget and a couple fries.
Derek returned with his tray and an anecdote about the cashier, a
young lady who complained to him -- or aloud to herself, he wasn't
sure -- that her manager was disappointed she hadn't hidden the
hickey on her neck.
To my delight I discovered a fresh
peach outpost right next door and wandered over while waiting for
Chris to finish slowly savoring each bite of his sumptuous burger
stand banquet. The peaches were so sweet and aromatic, the first of
the summer season for me, and Derek, who is a gardener like myself,
also moaned appreciatively while biting into one, once we were on our
way. Derek drove from McDonald's to Oklahoma City. The details are a
little hazy again: sorry. It took me another day to fully recover my
wits (the few I had to begin with) and it may have been for this
reason that I failed to remember that our destination that afternoon,
Oklahoma City, was the scene of the domestic terrorist bombing at the
Alfred P. Muher Building. We even arrived with time to kill before
Derek's flight and chose, instead of gawking at the bombsite, to play
some Frisbee at a remote city park where a few clusters of trees
stood, providing shade.
I believe it was here that I first
invited Yann to ritualistically fling the party-in-the-park Frisbee
discus and disappointedly discovered that he not only didn't, but
wouldn't play: preposterous.
the truth of
sport plays rings around you
As with the presumption about
Yesfans and alcohol consumption, I also just took it for granted that
we all played Frisbee. Yann told me his dog, Victor, would play if he were
here and I even told Yann I would be his dog. (Sorry for applying so
much pressure, ami. I didn't want you to miss out on a single
opportunity for fun and, frankly, Frisbee rules in the land of
outdoorsy diversion!) He took it upon himself to take pictures,
instead. Chris, Derek and I formed a wide triangle and began
impressing one another with our perspective stylistic approaches. The
Frisbee spun and sailed in the hot Oklahoma sun, took a few dips in
the stagnant creek and seemed frequently to bounce off Derek's head
and roll away -- it had taken years for him to perfect this move, he
chris, merry, yann, derek
merry, chris, yann, derek
After the shoot, I was putting my
camera away and found the bag of bottle rockets I had packed in case
an occasion for obstreperous celebration arose. Yann and I began to
light and launch them from a bottle, far as we were from the
likelihood of bothering anyone, and as they screamed and popped I was
told that it was Bastille Day in France! How about that? I felt
better having made Yann happy, but the activity ate up time. The ride
to the airport grew steadily frantic as we made three wrong turns,
but we managed to drop Derek at the terminal entrance with five whole
minutes to board his plane.
I was ready to drive again for the
first time in days and we stopped for gas at a 7-11. As Chris was
going in to pay I asked if he'd get me Pepsi Slurpee -- the air was
oppressively hot and it seemed just the thing -- so he returned with
three jumbosized frozen drinks, one for each of us. The Pepsi machine
wasn't working, though, and I tried, but couldn't muster enthusiasm
for either the taste of "Dr. Pepper" or "Cherry Limeade." Chris ended
up drinking both mine and his and I felt like a heel, as if I had
sabotaged his gesture of generosity. (It really did get to me, Chris,
but the actual abundance of sweet frozen goo didn't do a thing: I'm
so sorry, and thankful, still.)
to hold you
Across the plains, pictures of
distance were spreading out before us now. White cumulonimbus clouds
piled up along the horizon in panoramic majesty, turning gray below,
where they were raining, and displaying sudden flashes of lightning
which elicited a responsive "woo!" and "wow!" and "whoa!" from each
of us in turn. Ironically a rainstorm christened us just as we
entered into a far more arid environment than any of us were used
as apart from
any reality that you've
ever seen and
The quickly-passing cloudburst
dinked us with a hailstone or three, pea-sized.
Oklahoma became Texas somewhere
around the time I perceived my first whiffs of sage brush which
everywhere perfumes the Great Basin of the southwest (low-lying and
high desert between the Topographic features of Colorado's Rocky
Mountains and California's Sierra Nevada range). If I were able to
link you to aromatic files, or Olfaction Plug-Ins, I would include
Desert Sage here, and later, California's Eucalyptus and Bay Laurel:
ahhh! mmmmm. It was a welcoming, returning, reassuring smell which
lit up my memories of previous travels here. I stuck my head out the
window into the sweet-hot blast of air.
We gassed up in Amarillo and
refreshed our supply of beverages, the boys adding Budweiser in cans
to the cooler. Chris drove and Yann relinquished his place in the
passenger seat to me. He snoozed in the back while I cracked Kathy's
donated-to-the-cause salted pumpkin and sunflowers seeds, sending
tiny hulls out the window all the way to Tucumcari. At one point, the
dry delight of the drive was momentarily decimated by the strong
smell of cow manure. Just as we discerned a crampackedjammedfull
cattle farm, the van was spattered with a cloud of dung-loving
insects. Strangely enough, this occurred around the same time that I
was discovering my distinct distaste for Chris' music selection,
Dada, whose lead singer was doing his best to convince me that the
heart was just a piece of meat. The bad smell and bugs seemed to suit
my mood in that moment just fine.
Gradually along this leg of the
journey, behind the still stormy faraway cloudpiles, the sky evolved
from deep blue to dark black, through neon pinks and purples. Far-off
desert towns began to twinkle on the horizon many miles before we
came upon them. I snapped a photo of the New Mexico sign and one of
an exit ramp to San Jon, at Chris' request. We turned south just
before the lights of Albuquerque to find Manzano Mountains State Park
in the dark, nestled atop a mountain in one of the scattered ranges
that comprise New Mexico's Cibola National Forest. I had found a
description of it on the Internet and was hoping in the morning light
to behold and show my friends some spectacular beauty.
When we arrived, the gate to Manzano
Mountain State Park was locked. A sign to a campground promised
something in the way of accommodations, so Chris drove up the narrow
rocky road three winding miles through stunted pines and junipers and
sage and desert flowers. The stars were turning! We somehow managed
to pass the campground, for effect, I think, in retrospect, and went
on another three miles, until the road began descending down the
mountain. This seemed wrong because of the distance (we'd gone some
miles beyond the three indicated by the sign), and we read a placard
which indicated the town of Mountainair, well outside of the National
Forest, would be the next outpost of civilization. Since I seemed to
be the only one who maintained faith in our ability to see this night
through, Chris let me drive. I put on some jubilant Vangelis, hoping
to soothe our jangled nerves and mental uncertainties, and
backtracked three miles to the campground.
We'd simply missed the turn. It
wasn't populated, featuring just one other party, already asleep. I
drove in circles to find a nice site among the many available. While
the tired, disoriented, guys got their bearings, the pink! of popping
aluminum Bud cans providing the soundtrack for the same, I was
admiring the stars and setting up the tent in the dark with the van
headlights on. At the picnic table I audiotaped an exchange with
Yann, who was, shall we say, moved, with his first encounter with pit
Yann: Oh my God. I can't believe
Merry: What's wrong?
Y: That such a place exists.
M: What is it about the place that is so
hard to believe?
Y: That some one set a camping ground with
just four shitty holes in the ground and lovely pumps.
(Merry and Chris explode laughing.)
M: The pump isn't working, though.
Chris: So it's a non-pump.
Y: UNwondrous Stories.
M: I'm so sorry you're disappointed,
Y: I'm not disappointed; I had no
M: It's the pit toilet thing, isn't
Y: No, it's a lack of hot water..
M: We'll have hot water, just not tonight.
We'll make it in the morning.
Y: How will you do it?
M: We'll just heat up water we have with
Y: Oh yes, making tea.
Y: Yeah. Shaving with tea. that's very
(Chris and Merry explode laughing
The situation seemed to call for the
emotional warmth of a campfire and I'd brought some firewood along
(as a veteran of many true summers of camping, I came equipped).
Chris broke out his guitar and the resounding bronze strings rang out
in the thin air of the starrydark and powerfully silent mountainside.
I ventured vocal accompaniment to a few songs Chris and I both knew.
We tried to recall the words/chords to the Beatles' "Rocky Raccoon"
and Led Zeppelin's "Over the Hills and Far Away."
Yann eventually forgave me for the
poor accommodations and returned, thankfully, in all his personable
glory. He even said he *loved* me, twice (Yann would repeat himself
when he was being most sincere). Placing my arm on his shoulder, I
pointed away to two stars, teetering on the rim of a dim ridge, and
recited some W.B.Yeats:
...and she is
still there, busied with a dance,
deep in the dewy
shadow of a wood
or where stars
walk upon a mountaintop.
The brilliant band of our Milky Way
was glowing over us. I encouraged the others adjust their necks to
the appropriate angle, to see. For the life of me, I could not fathom
how it was possible that these city boys could not be completely
amazed! Chris even requested in the tent that we zip up the windows
through which stars were shining. "Afraid of the dark, are we?" I
asked. Actually there were panthers out here -- for REAL, not the abstract *amy* variety
-- and a zipped window would not have mattered if one was hungry
enough. I promised to protect Chris from the danger of darkness and
he finally agreed to my insistence that we await the onset of sleep
in the gentle infusion of quiet starlight that had traveled so far to
play through wide pupils on our rods and cones.
merry tale ****