8.11.2010

Lafayette, CO

Is his name Skeet? Skeeter? Remaining silent through an awkward introduction, he reclines in a white chair out behind The Miners Tavern. The tavern is in Erie, Colorado, a former mining town smashed between the hammer of Boulder and the anvil of Denver. Inside, stories unfold. Until a few years ago, the downtown streets remained unpaved and it appeared that Erie's locals had magically rendered their community invisible to the speculators bent on forging Denver and its satellites into a California-style megalopolis. But the spell that had protected Erie is losing its potency and the town has begrudgingly ceded ground to encroaching blandburbs. Refugees from Denver were accompanied by new homes and chain restaurants, Tyvek and stucco boxes that erupted around the town like pimples on oily skin, transforming Erie into an extension of the very city people were trying to escape. The town council fractured and, outnumbered, established residents lost their majority. Downtown was paved. The Miners Tavern is one of the few places in town the old locals still congregate. It is immaculate and blue collar, spacious and lively. On a Wednesday night, it is the only building downtown that glows with light and sizzles with energy.

Boots on a white metal table, long silver hair flowing from behind a bald patch, Skeet wears his navy blue jumpsuit with authority as he gazes at the stars overhead. "He rides his motorcycle every day of the year, even in winter," someone says. Skeet smiles and his eyes remain glued on the heavens. He is silent. "Um, hey, so this guy just rode around the country on a motorcycle..." Skeet will not take the bait. He is having a perfectly relaxing night without being dragged into a conversation with an outsider. "Everything okay?" He murmurs: "the stars are clear tonight." A group of bar patrons spray out the back door like water being released from a kinked hose. Primus is playing tomorrow, a fact that some of them find exciting and others find meaningless. Inside, a severe looking man with angular features, a dark goatee, and a black cowboy hat spins teenybopper music. "He plays this set every night, same order. He loves this stuff. It's a little better when you're drinking."

The hispanic man at the bar says: "construction is run by the mafia. Restaurants, too. You have to know people to get in, otherwise they will never hire you. It doesn't matter how good you are." He appears to be in his forties, a dark blue baseball cap shading his darker eyes. He nods emphatically. "I ain't lying to you, man. I got no reason to lie about this. I don't even know who you are. I don't care, either, because it's the truth. You gotta know people, do what they tell you..." His words are steamrolled by a powerful female voice singing Karaoke from the other half of the building.

Back on the patio the karaoke is muffled and Skeet remains transfixed on the heavens. Talk of Primus has waned and now bets are being placed on what song is next in line. "Trevor will sing Sabbath. You know he will. War Pigs. He always does." Two J├Ąger shots are on the line. The conversation dies down and cigarettes light up as everyone listens through the glass door for a hint of the next song. It is not Black Sabbath.

Rocky Mountains