Just the 'Fax, man

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

Steve is talking about all the places he's lived. The buses keep coming, two to a green light, sometimes three. It's one of the waitresses' last nights. She's going to work at Sapp Brothers off I-70, but she's not leaving before she badmouths everyone she's had to work with here. Catharsis, they call that.

The man with the bath-towel shoes gets up to go. He moves with surprising delicacy, pays his bill with a crumpled dollar and change he counts three times before handing it over, then hoists a black garbage bag over his shoulder. It's stuffed with God-knows-what, except for everything he owns. He walks out the door like a lonely, broken Santa Claus.

The two men discussing their six-foot aunts and midget cousins run their family trees all the way to the roots, then go. They're replaced by a trucker -- a big fella, loud and boomy. He sits with Steve and me, hears I work for Westword and leans close.

"That paper is wild," he says, pronouncing it wahld. "But tell me, how much of it's bullshit?"

And I, rising to defend the honor of my publication, say no more than 80 percent on a good week. "We do better than the New York Times, anyhow."

"No, I mean the ads. All them ladies in the back? How much of that's real?"

He's serious as a heart attack. He has the look of a man who's been badly burned in some Filipino mail-order bride scam, and so is being very careful this time. Shopping around.

"That stuff?" I say. "That is all true. Hundred percent." And manage to say it straight-faced, too.

"Hoo-wee!" he bellows, laughing. "I like that! That's wahld."

And I laugh, too. So does Steve. The trucker is the kinda guy you can't help but laugh along with. We talk a while, the three of us, about blood, Alaska and the finer points of the escort business, and by 6 a.m., life starts to seep back in around the edges of the night. On the horizon, the sky is blue-black, the color of a smashed thumbnail. Sunrise is coming, and that signals the end of my time here at the end of the world.

I get up, pay my bill, leave a 150 percent tip -- payment for the memories. And by 6:45, I'm on the road, putting Colfax behind me and driving into the sun, into the start of a new day. -- Sheehan

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