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« Never Enough Time | Main | You Can't Keep America Down »

The Road

The road, when properly used, can have effects like a sensory deprivation chamber. I’m plowing across the desert on two-lanes that appear on the road atlas as numberless gray lines, finding my way from Los Angeles to the desolate interior of Nevada through Death Valley. Renee and I have spent quite a bit of time this year exploring the back roads across the country but this is different. I’m alone and have no schedule or agenda or particular need to go or come back for that matter, save for the wife. Renee is good company on the road but being alone is a completely different trip altogether. The poverty of other voices or eye contact, of any distractions but the occasional wait for a passing lane leaves your brain like a spastic dog let out of its cage. The peripheral daydream

you may have in LA traffic of winning the lottery or killing your landlord turns into an epic adventure in your head when there’s no brake lights to disrupt it.

Mid-September is perfect because it’s still hot but not so stifling that you have to cave in to air conditioning. Air conditioning is for Nancy’s who’d complain about their sinuses regardless. I like the contrast of sweat against the aridity of the desert. It brings out the crows feet and makes me think I’m Clint Eastwood.

There are uncounted bungloads of semi-abandoned ghost towns in Nevada but Goldfield is the one that always stuck out for me and that‘s where I‘m heading now.. I passed through a couple years back but, as usual, I had a gig or some other pressing agenda that didn’t allow me to stop and explore it.


Goldfield, Nevada is about 175 miles north of Las Vegas and about 30 miles from the nearest gas pump or smiling face. It was once the biggest town in Nevada - around 30,000 at the turn of the century - until they ran out of gold and then, like the MC Hammer story, everyone kind of disappeared. About 300 people still live there and they aren’t exactly what you’d call ‘warm’. There’s one motel in town with four rooms attached to the Santa Fe Saloon, one of the 4 bars in town. I got the last room. The few people who notice me at the bar view me with suspicion and rightfully so. It’s suspicious for anyone to come here for no reason. The rest of the people I see are mostly old rancher guys who talk in bumpersticker clichés.

“Oh, here comes trouble.” says the hard-looking barmaid every time an old regular walks in as though she’d never used that one before.

Even the bathroom at the Santa Fe had the most old school graffiti, including but not limited to - “Here I sit broken hearted…” and “He who writes on shithouse walls…”, etc, etc.

Someday cunts from the civilized world will come here, spot the intrinsic unscarred beauty of this place and proceed to tear it down and rebuild it exactly the way it is only with logos and up-to-code electrical and then hire an artist to write those same epitaphs on the bathroom wall.

The town itself is tricky to explore if you’re a paranoid like me. Most of the buildings are abandoned but all of them look like they’re abandoned so you don’t really know if your about to poke through ancient archives of days past or the current digs of an ex-felon just waiting for an excuse. So I’d drive around and gawk from my car window and then go back to one of the bars. When the bar got boring, I’d go back to my room. Moments later, back to gawking. This was interesting for about two hours. Actually, one hour. The second hour I played along out of respect for the 6 hour drive.

The Mozart is the bar that has food. The only one. Until 8pm. After that, eat a dick. So I ate there. Before 8. Then I got into a drunken grudge match with a poker machine that wouldn’t pay. I’ve had these fights before and I’ve yet to win. I hit a wall in Goldfield because my wallet only held so much money and the only ATM in town closed at 8pm while I was eating. Call it a draw in their favor.

The next morning I woke up early and it took a few minutes for the guilt and reality to set in from the night before. There is no worse hangover than the gambling hangover, especially the silly gambling hangover. Losing it all in a high pressure poker hand, losing to a straight flush with four fives has a hint of romance. Plugging quarters into a video game that makes Pac Man sounds when you win until your fingers are black is only a half-step better than being hunched over a scroll of scratch tickets at a 7-11 counter.

So now it’s 7:30 am and I’m broke, miserable and filled with self-hatred and mostly hungry but the ATM doesn’t open until noon so I decide it would be a lovely drive 30 miles north to Tonapah where cash flows 24 hours a day. On the way into town I see a wooden sign that for the Tonapah Speedway. It’s the place to be Saturday nights at 7:30, it tells me and I believe them. I know I’m never gambling again so I figure when not spend some time tonite with the dregs of the dregs of back roads Nevada.


In the meanwhile, its back to Goldfield for the day. I really want to find some dirt cheap semi-abandoned rental property to have a UnaBomber retreat where I can dump my shit and write my novel or at least death threats to John Leguizamo. The dream sounded perfect in my head and grew to wonderous proportions on the drive here but is rapidly losing it’s luster every second I spend here looking into the steely weather-beaten stares of the locals who’d had the same bad idea years ago and are now stuck with it.



I don’t find any rental property and the visit to the graveyard only killed about ten minutes. I figured I’d catch some desert sun and just take a moment to reflect on life but there’s really no place to sit outside and there’s certainly no pool so I have no choice but go back to the bar to drink and put quarters in that fucking machine.

Fashionably late is the protocol for the Tonapah Speedway and I’m twenty minutes early. Not that there’s no pre-game entertainment. A crackling loudspeaker plays “Freebird” intercut with audio cuts of the announcers of the Dale Earnhart death race.

“If I leeeave here tomooooorow…”

“That’s a pretty bad crash. We hope Dale’s alright down there…”

“…would you still remember meeeee…”

It went on and on until a song parody about Jeff Gordon being a fag kicked in to add some levity to the situation. The races were your usual mix of street stocks, jalopy and dwarf car races. Personally I couldn’t tell the difference between the stocks and the jalopy cars but I guess they couldn’t say “shitbox” over the PA system with so many children in the crowd, mostly in diapers with no pants, sitting in cold dirt and eating garbage. The dwarfs stood out and partially because I remember when they were called midgets. And so it goes.

There were some really brutal crashes but it was evident that no one would die and make a proper evening of it so I headed back to Goldfield where, at 10:45 pm on a Saturday night you couldn’t find bathtub gin or a tumbleweed that would let you fuck it.

(No, baby - I didn’t go to Nevada to fuck tumbleweeds. It just sounds funny.)


I woke up again Sunday at 7:30 am and contemplated staying another day and really trying to slow down and enjoy the tranquility here. By 7:39 I was showered, packed and doing 85 south for Vegas. Football season, you know. And plenty more of those goddamned poker machines. I need to settle down. I need to find roots and a place for my shit that has more room than this studio confinement that keeps me and the wife with our heads lodged up each others brown parts. But it doesn’t look like Goldfield is gonna be the place.

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