Out Now!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Dirty talk in Jackson Hole

Tuesday July 13

Jackson Hole seen from above

Me and the pink lady were walking side by side, she still licking the ice-cream she’d bought in Yellowstone Park. Somehow she managed to talk between licks. “You know,” she said, “we’re walking on history.” I nodded, barely able to talk. My head was hurting from too much grog and the pink lady spoke in a high, dry monotone that cut through me like a knife.

“Mountain men crossed and re-crossed Jackson Hole between 1810 and 1840 catching beaver. The valley was supposedly named after the fur trapper David E. “Davey” Jackson in 1829, perhaps earlier.” She paused. Another lick. “The fur trade declined around 1840 and we don't hear about Jackson Hole again until after 1860.” Then, mercifully she disappeared, ice cream and all, and two other figures stepped into view: Roland and Veronique.

Together we walked around Jackson Lake and caught the boat back from the other side. From the boat I was able to take several dramatic shots of the Tetons.

“You know how they got their name,” she whispered. I span round. The lady wasn’t in sight, but her voice was all around and I caught the whiff of vanilla and chocolate. I shook my head, wondering whether Roland and Veronique were privy to the same conversation. They seemed pretty quiet.

The pink lady continued. “les Trois Tetons” Then because my French is pretty poor, she translated. “The three breasts!” Well, I’d always heard French women were different. I squinted, trying to make sense of what she’d just said; wondered how long those poor bastards had been out there alone and what else they did to beaver, but then the dirty talk ended and she became all factual.

“The Shoshone however called the mountains Teewinot,” (It sounded like dog food) “meaning many pinnacles.” Well, at least they could count. Three breasts, indeed. Then she whispered something else that made my blood run cold. “The Tetons are the youngest of all the mountain ranges in the Rocky Mountain chain. Most other mountains in the region are at least 50 million years old but the Tetons are less than 10 million and are still rising. Jackson Hole is of the same age… and is still sinking.”

Never mind. We’d be somewhere else tomorrow.

Later that afternoon, instead of going to the Hot Tubs with the rest of the group, I went to get my picture taken as a Cowboy, then celebrated with a lemonade at the Mountain High Pizza Pie with Evelyn.

I remember the pizzas were good.

That evening we all went to a barbecue at a ranch-house. It was a large sombre barn. I was one of seven hundred people being fed beef, beans, potato and coffee very, very quickly. Industrial farming feeds beef much the same way. American efficiency is wonderful. That night we had fresh grog.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Jackson Hole

Monday July 12

I hear it’s great in Jackson Hole

Yup, mighty pretty.

Okay, whose big idea was this?

The town square has arches on each entrance; each arch is made from elk antlers that have been naturally shed. Or so I've been told.

We had, for us, a late breakfast at 7 am and decamped to Snake River for a day of white-water rafting. It was fast and exhilarating, and then there were the quiet moments, drifting down river past immense sandstone cliffs. It was easy to dream of Shoshone and Blackfeet, easy to dream of making this a more permanent way of life. Our time on earth is finite. What better way could there be to spend it like this? Only John Lennon was right. Life is what happens when you're busy making plans. What chance dreams?

The Pink Garter Theatre

Back in camp we soaked up the sun and lined up for the laundry. In the evening some of us went to the Rodeo but I went with Kay to the Pink Garter theatre to see ‘Little Mary Sunshine’ My God, it was funny. Or maybe the sun had got to me

It took several drinks in the bar afterwards to settle me down, and a few more at the Ranch inn just to make sure and get those damn tunes out of my head. It didn’t prevent several erotic dreams of Nancy Twinkle, but that was alright.

Rome does things differently :) Made from the bones of 4000 Capuchin monks, all naturally shed but perhaps more macabre than Jackson Hole's bone-gate. (In response to Maria's comments below.)

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A pink lady in Yellowstone

Sunday July 11th.
We woke up early this day, keen to see Yellowstone and check the fidelity of ‘Old Faithful’. The geyser was undoubtedly the star of the show, and resembled nothing so much as an ancient pagan ritual, its power drawing a silent and respectful horde, poised in photographic worship. On the moment a thousand cameras clicked, followed by a moment of silence.

No doubt people were contemplating that they were standing in the middle of a gigantic caldera, its last great volcanic eruption a mere 640,000 years ago. A woman in a pink dress stood nearby; she had an ice-cream and was taking long and contemplative licks, no doubt assessing the odds. Just five miles below us roiled a vast reservoir of magma thirty miles long, twenty miles wide, and six miles deep. Our eyes met in silent understanding. This baby could blow at any time…geologically speaking.

I tried to reassure her, to reassure myself, all without saying a word. Given its geological history the likelihood of a super-volcanic eruption occurring before she’d finished her ice-cream was 1 in 730,000 or 0.00014%

She riposted with a look. And what are the odds of winning the European lottery?

I walked away, the ground trembling beneath my feet. This woman was spooky. There was no European lottery but she knew one day I would play it. What else did she know? She watched me walk, barely hiding her contempt.

And you know what? Her face twisted into Munch-like scream, and she finished her ice-cream in a lick: catastrophic geologic events are neither regular nor predictable. They just happen.

Gloomy thoughts. Much of North America obliterated by a tourist attraction.

The problem is you never know what a geyser’s thinking. Was it brooding on past indignities? It has been used as a laundry, garments placed in the crater between eruptions - timing here being everything. With each eruption clothes shot up in the air, thoroughly washed and no doubt steam-cleaned. In an early experiment in temperature control it was found that linen and cotton fabrics were uninjured by the action of the water, but woolen clothes were torn to shreds

Me and Doug, an Australian, walked across the steaming mudflats. It was eerie - like a nature walk on the moon, unexpectedly alien. It was also frustrating because human nature being what it is, you wanted to wander where you were not allowed to – for your own safety.

Never mind Yellowstone, nor the need for some fresh steam-cleaned underwear of our own; the bus exploded in silliness on our way to Jackson Hole, our next port of call. Alcohol, boredom and shaving foam make a deadly combination. I was still thinking of the lady in the pink dress, wondering whether the fumes clouding the mud flats, were hallucinogenic, whether they could be bottled – when Veronique attacked with a can of foaming beer.

We arrived in Jackson Hole late, and set up our tents in the dark. After dinner we made our way across to a Trek-America campfire party. We’d been told about it but rumour was our only guide. The night was pitch-black and we had only one torch, which Veronique hi-jacked because she’d heard the party was near a river. Dutch logic.

Dutch triumph.

The party was found.

My diary records how I talked to four Australians and drank their beer feeling immense guilt because I had none of my own. This is a cardinal sin but no doubt I consoled myself that the world as we knew it was due to end within 25,000 years. Perhaps sooner. The pink lady had spoken.

Friday, 6 August 2010

A storm in Wyoming

Saturday July 10th

We travelled through Wyoming to Cody, the town built by Buffalo Bill, and which now terms itself as 'the small western town with the big city attitude'. It may be true, but it’s some boast. The Wyoming plains and sky were overwhelming and we felt very small.

I am proud of these photos : )

That night we camped on the prairie, the sky gathering into a storm as we were putting up our tents. As usual I was slower than anyone else, knots and pegs mutinous in unpractised fingers. I was inside the barely erect tent when the storm broke. It was like being in the Devil’s mouth as the tent whirled and jerked with me, grasping on to the barely erect pole for all I was worth.

After the storm - a road turned river

The storm ended as suddenly as it had begun and I glugged a quick whisky, celebrating the fact that both I and the tent remained standing. When I peeked outside, I took another celebratory drink. Sometimes slowness pays. The rest of the group, more efficien than me, had their tents up before the storm broke, and had taken refuge in the dry of the bus. As a result their tents were scattered across the prairie and the evening was spent in retrieving and drying them out.

Later some of us spent the evening drinking cheap Californian wine in a nearby laundrette. It stood where buffalo once roamed but W. F Cody saw to that and made the land safe for washing machines. My diary records that I somehow upset Sharon Lehman, a large and bouncy New Yorker with a smile like sunshine, but it doesn’t record how, or why. That’s the trouble with diaries. They can bring back memories of how I saved a tent, but not something as important as that.