Fun, Food and Drinks in Flagstaff

I found myself alone on the side of the road in California in the middle of the desert, somewhere east of Indio. I'd just parted ways with my road tripping crew, most recently camping in Joshua Tree. They were all headed to different places to the west, I wasn't sure where I was going, but Phoenix and Flagstaff seemed like places I'd end up in. Flagstaff in particular had some action in store the following weekend, Molly's graduation, as it turns out this would be where I'd end up and find action all week, although I wouldn't make it there by nightfall.

My first ride took some time, but it came in the form of a packed pickup truck, there was only room for me in the back. This was fine by me, I wasn't much for conversation at the moment and the wind would do me well. The group of guys were heading to Las Vegas, at the time this left me three options: I could jump out in Blythe and continue on to Phoenix, stick it out until Needles to continue on to Flagstaff or I could ride all the way to Vegas where I could likely score a free hotel room and relax for a couple days until something else came about.

Blythe came and they pulled over, I told them I'd keep riding, so they kept moving. By the time we got to Needles I decided that was the time to hop out, Flagstaff would be my destination unless something else came up. I walked down the freeway a bit with my thumb out until a car stopped for me, a man driving and a woman in the backseat, I sat up front. The man didn't say much, his smile and short words made me think his english wasn't great, but I'll never know for sure. The woman talked to me about where I was going, where I'd been, soon talking with a motherly concern.

It wasn't a long ride, but it landed me at a truck stop. I set myself up on the freeway by the on ramp, but the sun came all the way down without anyone stopping. Too dark to be seen, I headed to the truck stop for some food and contemplation. I stood under the streetlight for a while at the top of the ramp afterwards, but had no luck there. I decided to call it a night, walking down the ramp and behind some trees near the freeway where I rolled out my sleeping bag.

In the morning I woke to the light of the sun, got up and packed my sleeping bag away. I emerged from the bush to find an older hitchhiking couple with a "Kingman" sign, I hadn't expected this. I'd have to wait it out until they got a ride, I hiked back up the ramp and to the truck stop where I got some breakfast. I brushed my teeth and things, then got a big piece of paper and wrote "Flagstaff" on it. I stood outside the truck stop a while, occasionally peeking down the ramp to see if they were still there, they always were.

Enough time went by and I decided I'd walk down the ramp and go past them, let them get first dibs on traffic while I just walked on to the next thing, whatever it was. By the time I reached them I could tell they were frustrated from being ride-less in the hot sun. Before I could get any words out they told me they were going to stash their stuff and head to the truck stop, and that I should take a crack at it.

They headed up and it didn't take me too long before I got a car pulling over. The guy driving was heading to Albuquerque, he immediately gave me coffee and a burger upon entering the car. We swapped hitchhiking stories, he had plenty from his early years.

He dropped me off in Flagstaff and I got to walking. I made a quick stop at the Verizon store in regards to getting my phone replaced because of a minor problem, they set it up to mail a new one to Tanya's address there in Flagstaff, it was the only address I had on hand. I'd be staying with Mary though, I'd gotten in touch with her earlier.

I headed to the library on campus and camped out for a good while, eventually meeting up with Mary who'd been there even longer than I had, working on a final. She gave me directions to her house, she still had more hours to put in. I walked over to her close by house, her roommate was laying on the couch watching the basketball game, Suns and Spurs, I watched that with her for a while and made myself dinner, then soon fell asleep. Mary came in late, I woke and talked to her a few minutes, then soon we were both fast asleep.

I spent a good chunk of the next day again at the library, mostly writing, which always surprisingly makes hours go by quickly. At one point I took a break and talked to Tanya out in the grass, she too was taking a break from her school work, finals were coming up for everyone. I couldn't get a solid read on her, which made sense considering I couldn't get a read on myself in the situation.  Either way I was glad to see her, enjoying the beautiful day sitting in the grass.

After some more time in the library I headed back to Mary's place eager to watch the Lakers game. I watched that and had some food, some of Mary's friends came over after a while and we were out the door by halftime. We first went to a bar called brews and cues where we ordered big stouts. There was a bit of perceived drama dealing with one of Mary's friend's ex-girlfriends being there, we didn't stay long.

We headed for a gas station to pick up some liquor and a bottle of coke, we headed to a nearby house party and made quick work of the bottle. We stayed a little while, then grabbed some beers and headed to a bar just down the block where Tanya was, drinking cans of Pabst as if we'd bought them there in the bar.

I talked to Tanya a bit, I'd originally asked her if I'd be able to crash at her place while in Flagstaff, she'd told me something about having friends in town staying with her. This wasn't entirely true, she admitted this now, I understood her intention. I told her it only made sense that I spend this particular night at her house, she agreed.

After a bit more drinking and talking with the people around, I was on route to Tanya's place. She rode her bike, so I was walking, jogging and at times sprinting alongside her. Once again we paused outside her house for some time, eventually heading inside for a good night.

We stirred a bit in the morning, eventually she had to go to work, I slept in for an hour or so once she left. I woke to find her roommate, or as she put it, the one who "doesn't know how to be the girl on the couch". This girl gave me strange looks as I walked by and outside, looking for the bike Tanya said she'd leave for me to borrow. I found the one, but the back tire was completely flat, I left it there and took off on foot.

I stopped by Mary's to regroup, which equated to eating ritz crackers with peanut butter. From there I was headed back to the library for a chunk of the day, eventually heading back to Mary's for a quick nap and in time to watch the Suns game. Mary had also been napping, when she finally woke I was drinking questionable whiskey from my flask. She looked wrecked from sleep, she disappeared for only minutes and returned dolled up and ready to go, one of the faster turn arounds I've seen.

My whiskey and her coke mixed for an on-the-go drink that sufficed for our walk to the green room. We got there expecting 25 cent drinks, the usual wednesday night special, but this being cinco de mayo, there was live music and full priced drinks, we quickly left.

We debated a few different places, but wound up at a place with a balcony drinking Lagunitas IPAs and eating free popcorn. I got a call from my friend Mark back in New York who was in a celebratory mood given the holiday, it gave me a shot of energy and also made me look forward to being back in the city come July.

We next went to the joint, a place we also expected to find cheap drinks, but this place also overruled cheap drinks with cinco de mayo prices. This is where I met Keith though, one of Mary's friends. She told him of our plans to go to Vegas, as it stood at the moment she was still looking for someone to be her hitchhiking partner, he immediately accepted. We did shots of tequila to seal the deal, at the time we had no idea just what madness awaited us in the town of Las Vegas.

Mary and I headed back to the green room after hearing from Tanya that it had started kicking. We saw her there and got a cheap round of beers, not 25 cents, but cheap enough. We stumbled around in the there for a while, meeting up with two of Mary's friends I'd met the other night, Pete and Alan, eventually the four of us left Tanya to her dancing in the green room.

After wandering a few blocks into the neighborhoods we were climbing some steps into an apartment. Inside was a guy half awake on the couch, mildly annoyed with us, but too drunk and glazed over to do much complaining. We passed some smoke around, as well as a bottle of tequila, leaving as soon as we'd gotten our fix of both.

We went back towards town and landed in a bar we went quickly in and out of, it was packed shoulder to shoulder with mostly baseball capped guys in collar shirts with heavy watches, the wait for the bar unwaitable.

We went next door to the place with the balcony again, more popcorn and Lagunitas, conversations about the reasoning behind hickeys. A day or so later this conversation would result in Mary receiving a hickey on her forehead, "to see if it was possible", it is.

We wound up outside on the street in discussion about the next place to go, I got a call from Tanya at this time wondering where we were. In meeting up with her I lost track of the rest of the group, I let them know I'd find them later or in the morning. It turned out that someone Tanya had just met had put a tab of acid on her tongue while she was on the dance floor, she was about at the height of this now apparently.

I walked with her back to her house, she had no bike this time, saved me some running. At this time I could feel her focus on me and a peaceful happiness that was instantly infectious. At other times in the week I'd felt her being a bit stand offish, maybe looking for a balance in our dynamic, a middle ground, perhaps unsure of what it was that I wanted. All I ever want is everything the moment has, no holding back with thoughts that the future won't be able to deliver the same emotion, or that the future will even require the same emotion. The future has a tendency of futzing with the present at times.

We found ourselves in front of her house under the moon embracing again, this seemed to be the routine, one I enjoyed. We did eventually make it inside, I recall hours later having not slept yet peeking my head towards the window and being surprised at the sight of the sun.

We must of slept at some point, because I remember waking up. We laid and rolled in the bed a while longer, finally getting on our feet after some time. My replacement phone has arrived, I grabbed the box and headed back to Mary's on foot and took care of transferring things over and getting a shower in. I grabbed some food and the FedEx to mail back the old phone, then landed in the library again for some time.

After a while I got word from Molly that she was back in town, I headed to the dorms where she was supposed to be with some friends. After a decent walk I got to the building, almost walking by Denise even after nodding at her, I hadn't expected her. She was a one of Molly's friends from Portland who I'd met there and gone hiking with around some waterfalls.

I headed up the steps to the apartment where I found Molly with darker hair then when I'd seen her last, she quickly got to pouring me a drink and catching up. After a little more we were piling in a car to a friend's house, a girl named Kally. She was a friendly girl, an artist with a love for children who was looking forward to mixing the two with a teaching gig anywhere she could get one.

We had some drinks there, then a group of around ten of us piled into a taxi van headed for downtown. We poured out at the alley by Flag Brew and secured a big table. Kally got Molly and I a pitcher of beer to share, then even bought a burger for us, a really damn good one. We stayed there a while, everyone excited for the pending graduation and also well aware that many of them might not see each other for quite a while. Mary joined at some point too, although she seemed to only really know Molly and I.

I eventually broke off with Mary, we were both without many bills in our pocket and likely couldn't afford to continue on with the rest of them. We stopped by a nearby bar for their normal drink special, but it seemed that cinco de mayo wasn't the only reason to cancel specials, the pending graduation had bars taking advantage of people surely going out to the bars, all were charging high prices.

Luckily Mary knew of a house party going on and we headed there. It was really ten guys and one other girl, Mary made that two. The group changed between packing in a small bedroom passing the pipe around and lounging in the living room sipping beers talking about nothing that seemed to matter to anyone.

We left after a bit, Mary tripped over a low hanging chain across the driveway in the dark, nearly busting her face. Next I remember getting to Mia's, a bar we'd been to before. A good amount of the people we'd been with at Flag Brew at the start of the night were there too. We stayed for a couple beers then headed back to Mary's.

On the way back some flames caught our eye, we stopped to see people dancing with fire. We looked on with a curiosity, then about to leave, one of them looked over, "Wait, you're don't wanna miss this". We stayed to see one more performance of a girl swinging the fireballs around in dance until they finally burned out, we left impressed having seen this unexpected show to cap off the night.

We woke up and motivated ourselves to head to the food bank, we'd heard they would give a big box of food to us for free there. It was a long walk, about five miles, I went with Mary and a friend of hers who'd been staying at her place from time to time recently. We got there and filled out a very short form, we then went to a warehouse and got a lot more food than we'd even expected - a huge box and several shopping bags worth. We transferred all this to our backpacks and walked the long walk back home.

Once back at Mary's, we dumped our booty out on the table and admired it - cans of things, cookies, donuts, pasta, drinks, rice and tons more, even things like coffee and shampoo were thrown in there. Mary took a nap, I did the same out on the couch for a little while.

I woke up in time for Molly's graduation BBQ, I brought along a big zip lock bag of mystery food - none of us could tell what it was, little chunks I first thought to be dehydrated fruit or some such, even after taking a bite I couldn't determine what it was. I figured someone at the barbecue may know what it was and even love it, so I brought it along.

I arrived at the spot, first seeing Molly's family. They asked me what I brought... I told them I didn't know. Molly saw me next, the first thing she said was, "Why do you have popcorn chicken?", ah, now I knew. I told her it was from the food bank, she said there was more than enough food and she stashed the chicken away for us to eat later.

There was plenty of food, I ate up and helped myself to the big full cooler of beer. Mary showed up later, eventually people began to filter out, eventually we left too, pockets full of beer cans. That night took us to some house parties, much more exciting than the one the night before, and ended with a drunken mac n cheese meal back at Mary's at some late hour.

In the morning I wandered with Mary as she took care of some errands, then we met up with Pete and played frisbee golf on campus. I got word from Molly afterwards and met up with her and friends at Flag Brew. Kally was there and once again got me another burger, I was grateful for the tasty meal along with a couple pints of beer from Kirby.

I caught the end of the Lakers game, then headed to another bar with the group. I stayed for a round of pool, then headed back to Mary's on my own, I was out of beer money. I ran into Molly and Kirby along the way, they insisted I help chug a bottle of wine or sangria they'd been toting around. I did so and landed back at Mary's where I passed out for a little less than an hour. Her and Pete came back and we had a couple beers from the fridge before heading back out to town.

We went to Mia's where we found Molly and Kirby along with a couple others. Soon I headed to Flag Brew again where I found Tanya and some of her friends. They'd gotten some pitchers and were happy to give me a glass as I shared some stories from the road and they shared some stories about Flagstaff. Last call came around and I headed back to Mias to find it spilling out as well.

I left with Molly and Kirby, they hailed a cab to head back to the apartment they were staying at. Kirby offered the driver some blow, he didn't accept, Molly began massaging the driver from the backseat, he liked that better. He refused to charge us when he dropped us off, the massage had been payment enough.

We spent the night drinking and smoking at the apartment, some trying to sleep, they had to move out of the apartment by the afternoon, which was less than 12 hours away, and nothing seemed to be packed. We cooked up the popcorn chicken too, only a few of us would touch it, the rest were frightened of what free chicken from the food bank would be like. Crunchy.

Everyone slowly started passing out, I walked a ways back to Mary's in the near-morning light before falling victim to sleep myself. The next day would bring some shuffling around and eventually a trip to Vegas, one of the more memorable trips, as well as the birth of the McCormicks.


  1. Ken: Your mom gave me a ride earlier today from Kinnear to Jackson, Wyoming. We had a great talk. We visited your brother, Jack, at the youth camp outside of Dubois.

    Have a safe hitchhiking trip.

  2. Kenny: When I was talking with your mom, she said that you studied sound recording in college. I just bumped into a friend here at the library in Jackson, Wyoming--Michelle Waldron--and her husband, Noah, does a lot of sound work.

    Here is some info, if you are interested:

    Capsicum Productions
    Noah Waldron

    I hope this helps.


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