Just the 'Fax, man

Thirty miles of developments, drunks and dreams -- the ultimate road trip.

"Freebird" kicks in for the second time, followed by "Me and Bobby McGee," also making a repeat appearance. Christina returns to her seat at the corner of the bar and mutters something about not appreciating good music from the '70s and '80s. Just then, Hoodie sidles up. "I like good music," he offers with a Beavis-like cackle. Mike asks Christina why she played "Freebird" again; she denies playing it. "It reminds me of a friend of mine who died," she insists. "I would never play that." For the next five minutes, Hoodie and Christina haggle over who picked the track. Truthfully, both of them have been repeating each other's songs all night. It's safe to say that neither is fit to operate anything mechanical.

"I probably shouldn't drive home," Christina concedes. "Oh, well, I guess I'll just take the back way." -- Herrera

1:22 a.m.: Lazy C Motor Lodge,
8787 East Colfax

Anthony Camera
Spare time: Debbie and Robbie Moss are bowling for 
dollars at Lakewood Lanes.
Anthony Camera
Spare time: Debbie and Robbie Moss are bowling for dollars at Lakewood Lanes.

Busta Rhymes is rapping on the TV about "Pass the Courvoisier." The trio of crackheads inside their room at the Lazy C are more interested in passing the glass pipe. That and scoring more crack before they run out. To that end, the oldest of the three, who looks to be in his mid-'30s and goes only by "C," is working the phone: "Yo, it's C. Can I hook up with you in a few? Okay. But don't keep me waiting this time, okay, please? Please? Okay. See you." C leaves without saying goodbye to his two friends: a young woman named Sharonda, who is sitting on the bed, endlessly braiding and then unbraiding her hair between hits, chattering about how she's gonna stop smoking this crack shit tomorrow or maybe the tomorrow after that, and then Sean, who's sitting behind the burn-scarred table, gaunt and silent, with zombie eyes and Buckwheat hair. Sean's from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sharonda's a Denver girl. Every few minutes, Sean gets up and goes to the bathroom, closes the door, then comes out a few seconds later, shaking water from his hands. "Nervous motherfucker, what you doing in there?" Sharonda asks him. Sean never says a damn thing. C comes back, pissed off and ranting about how that bitch just left him hanging one goddamn time too many. He gets on the phone with another dealer, pleading for immediate attention, reminding the party on the line of all the white-boy business he's been steering their way. "Don't worry," Sharonda says to a visiting white boy in the room. "We good people." -- Holthouse

2:04 a.m.: Tom's Diner,
601 East Colfax

The cabbie across the way is reading Scientific American, whose cover says "The Future Looks Flexible." Only it doesn't. Not from here, anyway. Just a straight line out until dawn, traveling east into the sunrise four hours away. Maybe it's different for him because this is his lunch break, his noon. This is a guy who sees the sun the way the rest of us see the moon. This night -- his day -- may seem full of bends and curves as he looks at it.

"Actually, we're giving away free breakfasts this morning," says Sarah -- night-shift waitress, bouncer, c-trip manager at Tom's -- as she refills my coffee cup. "It's our first annual cabbie-appreciation night. We're just trying to thank them for coming in, carrying away our drunks. I've never seen us this busy on a Tuesday night, I can tell you that much."

Most of those in the crowd are cabbies. They've been coming and going in pairs or alone, newspapers rolled up in their back pockets, criss-cross pattern of seat cushions tattooed across the shoulders of their wrinkled satin jackets, for hours. Before they get served their free breakfasts, they have to show their hack's license, and most of them -- when they ask about the deal -- do it quietly, like they're a little embarrassed. Like asking for something free feels a little too much like begging.

Another cab pulls up to the curb out front. The driver gets out, stretches, slumps through the door. Sarah smiles. "Go ahead and sit anywhere," she says.

The cabbie across the way glances up but doesn't seem to recognize the new guy. He crushes the cover of the magazine in his big hands and goes back to the future.

At Tom's, all the food is COD after 10 p.m. -- you order, you pay, then you get served. There's a keypad lock on the bathroom door and a hole in the window beside my head covered with a peeling strip of packing tape. All of these are signs of the kind of neighborhood that Tom's is in, the sort of crowd it expects to draw after dark. Not the cabbies so much, but the others.

The door opens with a sucking sound -- a little of the quiet escaping, a little of the night sneaking in. Sarah is standing by the register with her arms crossed. "Out," she says. "You were 86'd."

There's a brief argument, muttered, from the fat man with the blue overcoat and the limp standing in the doorway.

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