A Vagabond August

To recap: August 2014. A vagabond wandering around Louisville, Colorado.

My original plan upon arrival in Denver was to spend a few days getting acclimated and hunting the usual online places for potential projects before the Man came for a week-long visit. Then, we would be happy-go-lucky tourists in Colorado for a spell, while I waited for the job callbacks to come pouring in. He would then fly back to Atlanta, gather his belongings, and move to Pittsburgh to close on his house on August 26th. I would spend more time in Denver, job-hunting and whatnot, and then I would go to Moab, Utah, to visit with Spawn for a few days. After that, I would think about October and beyond.

But after this happened, I had to come up with a new plan. And, unfortunately, my mind was cluttered with panic. $100 a day for a hotel wasn’t something I had factored into this adventure at all. $300 a week for an extended-stay hotel amongst a rainbow of ne’er do wells would kill me. So what to do, what to do?

“Just wait until I get there. We’ll figure it out.”

“I can’t afford to pay for a hotel for two months while I look for a job.”

“I know.”

“I can’t afford to pay for a hotel for two months while I look for a job.”

“I know.”

Rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat.

Almost immediately, something wasn’t quite right. He couldn’t seem to focus and he moved a little – I don’t know - aimlessly. If I had to explain it to someone in the airport parking lot, I’d say that in the few minutes since landing, he just seemed like a fish out of water.

I drove him around a little. First through downtown Denver and then, after a quick stop by the home (Quality Inn), to Boulder. We parked to walk around downtown a bit and stopped at a kiosk full of various tourist maps and pamphlets. He found one that said BOULDER in big block orange letters and handed me his phone.

“Take a picture of me?”

“If you move a few feet to the left, I could take a picture of you with the actual city in the background.”

“I want a picture with this.”

(That would be the only picture he would want in all of Colorado. And he’s a picture guy!)

Of all the places we could have gone to for dinner on Pearl Street, he chose The Cheesecake Factory. He got the shrimp with angel hair because “that’s what I always get at home” and barely ate.

“Do you want a box to take it home?”

“No, thank you.”

“Do you want to split a piece of cheesecake?”

“No, I’m full. Get a piece if you want one, though.”

It just felt like another disappointment. First, the neighbors, then Iowa and the apartment, and now this. And I couldn’t make sense of it. Just before he boarded the plane, he had been so excited to come.

Maybe he was just tired? Maybe it was the altitude?

“Did something weird happen on the plane?”

“No, why would you ask that?”

“No reason.”

After dinner, I tried to get him to walk along Pearl Street with me.

“Let’s go in the bookstore.”

“I’ve been to bookstores.”

“After dark, we can watch the hippies.”

“I’ve seen hippies.”

“What do you want to do?

“Just go back to the hotel.”

(And it would turn out not to be for the obvious reason.)

It was almost dusk when we drove from Boulder to Louisville. It was just beautiful to see the sun setting behind the mountains along the way.

“Look at that. Isn’t it gorgeous?”

“What? What am I supposed to be looking at?”

I tried over the next day or two to find something that he wanted to do. No, to the Rocky Mountain National Park. No, to a hike in Chautauqua Park. No, to the Denver Botanic Gardens. No, to Estes Park. No, even to a simple walk along Boulder Creek. I’d suggest, like a good, albeit accidental and MIND YOU HOMELESS, hostess, and he’d reject and change the subject.

“Well, what do you want to do?"

“Just be with you.”

Made no sense at all.

But trying to figure out what was wrong with him took my mind off my own troubles. I had no room in my brain to regroup for my new and improved Denver plan.**

So, we headed to Moab, Utah, to see Spawn. I changed plans with my son at the last minute, because visiting him was priority, second only to my job search, and I needed to make sure that got done. Unfortunately, Spawn knew nothing about the Man, because he was supposed to fly home before my originally scheduled visit. I wasn’t anywhere near ready to discuss any love-life nonsense with Spawn. We don’t do that.

It was a really nice drive. We stopped in Dillon, Colorado, where the pizza and haze of pot smoke over the pretty little town were just what the doctor ordered for both of us. Even working things out with a Toyota Corolla at Vail’s elevation wasn’t enough to worry us. We spent the drive playing old-fashioned car games and passing love notes when we were stopped in traffic, which was a lot of the time.

Our only mistake was driving from Denver to Moab on a Friday afternoon. There are a few electronic signs along I-70 that basically tell you, “Yes, your drive sucks today, and it will suck again on Sunday when all you crazy weekenders return to the city.” Lesson learned. Beautiful drive, though, until I realized that what should have been a six-hour drive turned out to be a Friday eleven.

Well, there was the added mistake of my choice of footwear in the desert. Don’t wear flip-flops around cacti. I got stabbed by an evil that gave me something akin to poison oak with a 102-degree fever for days.

It came as a shock that I wasn’t alone on the trip, but Spawn understood my predicament after some explanation.

“I thought I’d show you Canyonlands, Arches, my work, and a cool restaurant in town. On the way back to Denver, you should take Highway 128, because it runs along the Colorado River, and it's really pretty.”

The visit was a little awkward but a lot of fun. The Man and Spawn had mad respect for each other in an arm’s distance sort of way, and oddly enough, I think the Man just wanted to make the visit easy on all of us. We took lots of pictures, had nice meals, and learned a lot about the area.

Then, on the last morning...

“My mother died.”


“My sister just sent a message on Facebook.”

“Do we need to get you to Pittsburgh?”


I knew of her advanced cancer stage and that she had rejected suggestions of any surgeries that might prolong her inevitable. I also knew of her desire to die quietly and uneventfully. She wanted no fanfare, not even an announcement. And I knew that she and the Man had not been in touch for a while. Having my own parental communication issues, that was a familiar situation, and I didn’t question it.

The drive back to Denver was a lot shorter but no less unusual. We were driving back to a hotel where neither of us knew what to do next. I tried my best to ignore reality for a little while longer.

“We’re supposed to take 128, the scenic route, remember? The turn should be right along here somewhere.”

He started talking about something else, and I didn’t see the sign.

“We must have missed it. Can we turn back?”

“We’ve gone too far now." 

Next, more what the hell have I done, but east of the Mississippi.


**(in hindsight) Well played, my friend. Well played.