*Warning: the following contains various scatological references. If you find this offensive, then I am not sure why you are on a website dedicated to places that a person has urinated.....
10/13/18 – 11/2/18
I have never been a person to devote much thought to the ringer of my phone. I tried once but found that none of the supplied tones truly reflected the way I felt about myself. As a result I have always just lived with whatever default tune came on my device. Until October 16th I never regretted this. At six in the morning I woke up with a stabbing pain in my gut. I’ve heard about food poisoning. People have told me about the sensation of simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea. I had never experienced it. With my face in the can I projected a colorful concoction of onions, green yellow and red peppers, purple cabbage, and crushed tomatoes; the previous night’s tacos…… My intestines churned and I feared a multi-cavity release. I sat with my face in the toilet and my backside over the tub in preparation for the worst. Thankfully this never occurred. Once it was over, I laid on the floor for what felt like an eternity. Body pale and in cold sweats….. my phone began to ring. The jingle is reminiscent of a TV commercial for a product geared toward millennials. The sun is shining, they’re running out the door and hop into the car. Maybe somebody realizes that they forgot to shut the garage on the way to the beach and the passenger casually swipes through some nifty app for home automation. Laying on the floor, an empty man, listening to this infinite loop, envisioning those happy people, I could not imagine a more appropriate picture of hell.
This went on for several days after we had reached St. George. It was the first time that I considered giving up. Humans have this strange way of thinking that all times, good and bad, will last forever. This is the source of runaway bull markets as well as missed opportunities. I imagined the ramifications of similar circumstances while in a 150 mile barren desert crossing.
Thankfully my bowels stabilized. We’d been staying with our friends Chad and Danielle who had strangely moved into our old house, bought much of our furniture, and were watching our dog. We’d met them shortly after moving to St. George in 2015. Danielle had grown up on the same street as me in Michigan, but we had never crossed paths before Utah. We could not have asked for a better place to rest.
Being back in St. George, in our old home, with our dog, and with much of our furniture was a bit surreal. I had some work come through, so I fell right back into my standard routine of riding to the university to get on the wifi and make calls. I looked at my long neglected to-do list and saw that at some point I had made a note that by August 1st we were supposed to “Move the fuck out of St. George no matter what!!!”
My old neighbor Zack had been doing some guiding and asked if I wanted to make a few bucks taking a Columbian client out for some hikes. At first I wasn’t interested, but then I realized that it could be an opportunity to practice my Spanish. The first day was cancelled due to rain. On the second it quickly became evident that he had no interest in helping me with my Spanish. He taught me a bit about Columbia and recommended a few places to visit though. He also explained to me, in English, that different races of people smell differently and should not live near one another.
“It’s just like dog and cat. They smell different and they fight. It doesn’t make anyone better or worse, it just means that it is ok that we don’t want to be around each other.”
I took this into consideration and stuck my nose near my own armpit while he was not looking. I was supposed to take him out on a third day, but decided that the knowledge I was gaining from the experience was not aligned with that which I sought. I called my friend Veronica to see if she wanted the extra money.
“Yeah, it’s this nice old man that just wants somebody to go on a walk with. Nothing strange about him at all.”
In our absence, two new restaurants had opened. One was a pizza joint with one of the larger selections of beer in southern Utah. The other served Indian food. Both were good, although like all things St. George there were glaring inconsistencies with what the 21st century would consider a pleasant dining experience.
Utahns are efficient and formulaic to a fault. The Mormon Church is incredibly well oiled and structured, and this trickles down into all aspects of life. Miss a Wednesday night bible club and you can bet your ass that somebody will be at your house within 48 hours with a fresh pie to make sure everything is ok.
This proficiency manifests itself spectacularly when dealing with classically bureaucratic institutions such as the department of motor vehicles. With more delicate entities such as a restaurant, in which a one size fits all approach is no longer desired, their lust for economies of scale causes a homogeneous environment that could be described as a cross between white bread and unsalted rice cakes.
Nobody ever asks themselves how a place feels. They walk into a California restaurant with a line out the door and say “There is a brick oven, 37% of the walls are covered in reclaimed wood, the dough is slightly less than perfectly round, and there seems to be a lot of these beverages called ‘Pale Ale’ pouring from faucets behind the bar. This is the recipe for a good pizza place!” The next thing you know you have seven taps pouring essentially the same beer, boxed wine, too much cheese, and a gross oversight and failure to install a dimming switch in the dining room. Specious.
Indian places always get a pass on the atmosphere. I find that the best ones have a variety of retrieved fast food tables, torn vinyl seats, ancient fluorescent lighting bright enough to inspect for defects in the paint job of a Porsche, and some of the filthiest kitchens that must somehow be exempt from local health code. Like all things St. George, the new Indian restaurant is disappointingly clean. If the circumstances are taken into account, the food is exquisite.
We had just finished a hike with our friend Michelle. At some point I look under the table and realize that we had all tracked mud inside. I’m reminded of a night in Detroit several years ago when myself and some friends went to see a show at the venue previously known as the State Theater. Prior to that we took a walk into an alley to have some tea. After this we went to what at the time was the nicest restaurant in the city, Roast. I thought I smelled feces at our table. We were sitting near the bathrooms and I went to have a look to see if there had been some kind of accident. Nothing. I went back to my seat. The smell never left. I never said a word to anyone else. After dinner we were walking through the lobby of the Westin and I noticed a trail of mud from my left shoe. Upon further inspection it was decided that this was in fact shit. The only explanation we could come up with was that somebody must have defecated in the alley that we stood in before dinner and I had stepped in it. Years of playing the drums means that I often tap my feet under the table and I had most certainly worked in to the carpet.
On so many levels, St. George is more ready for shit on its floor than any other town. Somewhere in the municipal code there will most certainly be a protocol for dealing with shit in its myriad forms. Within any organization, all employees, even down to the lowliest fry shoveler, will have an employment contract. Within somebody’s contract it will read something resembling “In the event of defecation, you are responsible for removal of said biohazard as well as sterilization of the affected area. Refer to section 36.b.2 of the standard operating procedures and act in strict accordance.” The SOP’s would describe, in great detail, methods and tools to be used, places of disposal, contingency plans, etc. Such an ignominious act would never be mentioned again.
I once witnessed this work in action. I was at a local grocery store. Every now and then I found a nugget of health food greatness on the bargain rack that the local cowboys did not know how to utilize. This day I noticed a small carborundum lump on the corner. As I leaned closer, I caught whiff of its stench. Being near the door to the stock area I walked back to find help.
“Hey man, I hate to tell you this, but I’m pretty sure you have a turd on the bargain rack.”
“What, it’s probably just a little dirt”
“No, I’m pretty sure it is poop. It has that earthy miasma. You better take a look.”
He followed me back to the rack. He knew instantly that I was correct. He pulled out his radio. “We have a number two in corridor three.” He turned back to me. “Thank you sir. I hope you will continue shopping with us.”
“I think I’m at least done with the bargain rack for now.”
“I understand. Take care.”
At the same time, St. George is ill prepared to embrace shit on its floor. In the Detroit restaurant the situation would unfold much differently. Although a traditional employment hierarchy often exists, it is rarely respected. A manager might be notified. This person would then look for a busser and tell him/her to clean the mess.
“No way dude, you made me jump in the dumpster last week to get Dan Gilbert’s i-phone. It’s Tricia’s turn”
Tricia threatens to quit if she has to do it. The dishwasher is summoned. “Job title is dishwasher, not shit washer, although you often treat me as if that were the case.” In the end Richard, the new guy, comes to the rescue in hopes that he will be rewarded with some more weekend shifts. He also earns street cred by putting said biohazard on the bike seat of a bartender from the place around the corner.
In accordance with Southern Utah fiscal conservatism and non-belief in the terrors of a world being overrun by non-compostable matter cast aside by a single serving society we are given a Styrofoam box for our leftovers. I notice that our placemats are made of a heavy weight paper and channel my 3rd grade art class and fashion two origami boxes that fit together with German precision for our leftover curry. We discuss how bad the world would need to get before we “check out.” It occurs to me that I’ve been “out” for the better part of the last decade and that if things get any worse I might have to check back in. Michelle asks me what I would do. Without much thought I decide that I could wander restaurants such as this one and teach people how to repurpose their placemats into carryout containers.
“That’s the best you could come up with?”
“I think you underestimate how much polystyrene the world uses.”
My dad and step mom come to visit for a few days. We all go to Zion and I get a good reminder about how unimaginable those ocher walls are to virgin eye. They drive on to visit some other parks and we spend the next few days prepping the bikes and enjoying the little bit of time we have left with pets and friends. I generally do nothing but lay in the grass with Porter. She has some fatty tumors that I noticed before we initially left. The vet said not to worry about them. There is more grey on her muzzle, but she is still full of energy at ten years old. She gave me the cold shoulder when we first arrived, but seemed to have settled down and decided that we were back together. As we packed our things on the first of November I can see the look of trepidation in her eyes that she always gets when she knows I’m leaving but is unsure if she will be going with me. It is heartbreaking.
We ride 8 miles to the Red Mountain Resort on the edge of town. My dad had gotten us a room there. We have dinner with them one last time and get to bed early. In the morning we have a casual breakfast and wait for our friend Veronica to meet us. She’s never toured and will join us for three days to Lake Mead.