While J.T. took Jim out for Donna the Van’s oil change, Karma prepared some delectable homemade breakfast sandwiches. A very strange World War II episode of Boy Meets World scored an otherwise peaceful brunch. Keep Boy Meets Weird.
I borrowed Donna to go to the thrift store. After last night’s failed merkin experiment (my drumsticks kept getting snared on its filthy locks) it was imperative that I get some new show shorts, though nothing could replace my tiny shinies. I also needed a bass drum head, but that shit could always wait another day. Pro gear, pro attitude!
There are more breweries than gas stations in Missoula, so that’s where we fueled up for our aimless travel day. J.T. donned his new sea blue surfer sneakers and Karma looked quite fetching in her new hot pink Failure T. We bid them adieu on our first sunny day in years on this tour.
At a pit stop in Drummond, we poked around a strange house dedicated to exposing the horrors of crystal meth abuse. Cartoon humans clung to windowsills expressing their meth regrets. A giant grim reaper, anti-meth poetry, and a family graveyard also decorated the building. Several cars littered its unkempt front lawn. Maybe it was an opium den run by drug snobs.
The drive through Montana is as beautiful as everyone says. It was almost annoying. Alright, we get it, Montana you’re amazing with the big, salty chocolate mountains, the marshmallowiest clouds, and the babiest blue sky cooing serenely. Enough already.
To offset the beauty we ate peculiarly in Big Timber. Next to Elvis and Marilyn mannequins, we endured a $13 elk burger, a bacon-wrapped hot dog slathered with Swiss cheese and mushrooms, and store-bought potato chips dusted with Parmesan and baked to a tasteless crisp.
Night fell down on Crow Country, where Donna bounced happily along the fluffy roads of the Crazy Mountains near Little Big Horn. At a pee break in Crow Agency, Montana, I was taken aback by the beauty of the Native American women. The cashier was striking. I almost bought a VHS Tape Rewinder just to make conversation, but didn’t. Later at the motel I would jack off playing a bootleg cartridge of Custer’s Revenge.
The red asphalt of Wyoming greeted with silent stoicism. We stayed in the town of Sheridan for the sole purpose of patronizing The Mint Bar. A narrow taxidermist’s Hall of Fame, Beer & Whisky, the Mint was surprisingly dead on a Saturday night. We sat in a rustic booth made out of trees and were immediately ambushed by an elderly man with an extended hand.
“I could tell you’re not from Wyoming!”
His name was O’Connell. Jim O’Connell and he was from Joliet, Illinois. Spry and lucid for an 80 year old with a few drinks in him, O’Connell led us on an adventurous, mostly one-sided autobiographical conversation.
He was a pilot, a real estate tycoon, a grandfather, and the head of many boards and coalitions and things.
“You’re sitting with a very important man.”
When eventually asked, we revealed that we were a band.
He told us about an internet radio station his colleague had started.
“Do you have a card?” he asked.
Jim handed him a download card for Failure.
“No, no! Something with an address!”
Nicole wrote their address on the back of the card, and O’Connell said to look for a piece of paper with a violin on it that would contain the internet radio web address.
“I tweeter,” he admitted, but clearly preferred snail mail.
We covered a lot of other topics. The death of his son-in-law, The Korean War, gas prices, Manhattan (“No, not New York! Manhattan, Illinois!”), the pilot in recent news who was locked out of the cockpit and wrestled to the ground by passengers (“He just went goofy”), The Vietnam War, our current war, Boston, Green Bay, Mykonos, Ireland (“Don’t go to Dublin!”), Italians, higher education, his daughters, his granddaughters, sororities, fraternities, the NFL.
Heybro hayseeds and heehaw cuties were giving our odd little booth the most quizzical looks.
Jim started rolling a cigarette.
“Is that hot?” O’Connell asked. He bought the next round.
“We” talked more and more about many other things like real estate, the year 1972, and how the world is going to shit, all the way to last call.
On our way out O’Connell bought me a Mint Bar baseball cap and I saddled up to the bar for one more.
He complained that he spent all his money on his daughters.
“And you know what they get me every year for Father’s Day? A silk tie.”
“At least it’s silk,” I countered.
I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Jim. Time to go.
O’Connell said he was 80 and didn’t know how much longer he had. He felt the wisdom he had imparted had fallen on his daughters’ deaf ears.
“You’re a great man. Keep it up!”The bartender had given me a bumper sticker.
“DON’T MESS WITH THE US! – THE MINT BAR”
Back at the motel, comically amazing infomercials and Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka gave us the sweetest little nightmares.