Date: Monday, May 20, 2013
Time: About 2:00 pm
Wait: less than 2 minutes!
Since I’m planning on doing some busking along Denver’s sixteenth street mall this weekend, I have brought my 8-string Agile monster of a guitar, slung it over my shoulder, along with my other two backpacks, so I’ve got a lot of gear standing out at the Uintah stop this week. Deep blue, heavily moisture-saturated Cumulonimbus clouds hover in the distance over top the mountains, but where I stand the sun shines and birds chirp.
Maybe it’s the musician/traveler aura I might have with my guitar slung over my shoulders, or just some good luck, inspiring somebody to pull over in literally less than two minutes. This has to be some kind of record for the shortest wait– at least I know that it is for me.
A younger woman with her child in the backseat of the car pulls over, makes a motion with her hands to put my bags in the trunk through the rearview mirror, and when it doesn’t pop she gets out and does so with the remote key. Lisa is a fit looking girl, a few indecipherable tattoos on her left arm, cavern-dark black hair, and a slightly tan skin complexion, and she later explains that her mother (in Alaska) is 100 percent Native American, (pure-bred as they call it), and her father is 100 percent Caucasian, lives in Arkansas. “Yeah, they split up when I was a little girl and my Dad moved as far away as he could,” she explains later.
We get rolling and I say hello to the baby girl in the car seat, but she won’t have it and she turns away shyly and seems to be tired of being crammed in the back seat of the car. I thank her for stopping, and she tells me that she has been “looking for jobs all day.” I ask her what kind of job. “Any job,”, she says dryly,” I just moved here from Arizona… I’ve moved around a lot… and need to find work now.”
When I ask her where she is headed, Lisa tells me that she lives not too far away, but she wants to give me a ride all the way to Denver anyways. Oh no, it’s all right, I tell her. I don’t want to inconvenience her and someone else will surely pick me up– “Oh no, it’s fine,” she insists, and after the third time, crushing my rebuttals, she says, “I’m bored anyways, so I can give you a ride.”
“I just bought this car, actually,” Lisa says as we pass through the jagged hills of Monument. “I bought one before this actually, when I first moved to Colorado Springs, but the guy tried to rip me off knowing that the transmission was going out. As soon as I found out it was bad, I called him and told him that I wanted my money back. Well, he tried to play hardball and then I told him, ‘Look, give me my money back or I’m calling the cops. After that, he was all apologies and even offered to share his weed with me, but I was like NO.” She laughs about the experience.
We’re just passed Monument when a light rain start pattering from the sky, and the drivers’ side wiper just about comes off the motor arms, so she pulls over and I hop out to re-fasten the blade. We pull away and Lisa talks more about growing up in Alaska, America’s last frontier state. “Alaska is a cool place,” she says,” there’s no place like it.”
” I grew up with my family catching and eating fresh fish all the time…salmon, halibut, trout, you name it, we had it… one time, we went fishing and my Mom caught a fish but while she was reeling it in, my brother snagged it with his line. So he reels it in, pulls it onto the boat, claims the fish as his, then my Mom takes it from him and says, ‘Hey, that’s my fish!’, and then my mom takes a bite out of the raw fish and says, ‘is it your fish now?’ My mom’s kind of a crazy woman.” I can only laugh, trying to imagine this, the grotesque vision of this woman ripping a chunk out of a living fish.
“Yeah my Mom’s pretty crazy, ” she continues. “Here’s another one… growing up in Alaska, my parents used to flip houses, you know, buy homes, fix ’em up, then sell it for profit. They’d also rent out the houses too sometimes, and there was a tenant who refused to pay rent, so we wound up with his car somehow as collateral. Well, the guy went sour on my mom, refused to pay, so my mom comes to my brother and I and gives us the keys to his car, and she says, ‘Take this car somewhere, and destroy it.’ So we took this car, my brother and I, out into the sticks for a joy ride, and we beat the piss out of it. Smashed it into trees, ran it over huge potholes, did donuts, threw rocks at it, everything you could possibly think of, then we just ditched it along the side of the road.” I recall my trip last summer to Alaska, and the countless vehicles that were fated to be beaten and discarded on the roadside or off of a cliff, to rust and chip away in pieces, to become beacons and unsolved mysteries for travelers and tourists. Apparently, this was one of the stories revealed.
I ask her if she has ever hunted moose. “I’ve never shot one, but my brother has. I’ve skinned and dressed moose plenty of times,” she says.
Lisa confessed to me that she has been stuck living with her x-boyfriend, in some kind of volatile relationship. She is somewhat vague, but I can tell that she wants to talk about it, so I inquire. “Well… a few weeks ago we got in an argument when he was drunk, and he tried to choke me… he’s an ass.” I tell her that she should call the police, and then move out of that house as fast as she can. “I know,” she says. “I can handle him though, he’s just a scrawny weasel. I’ ve got a new boyfriend now, he practices jiu jitsu and fights, and I’m going to move in with him soon. It will be a better life.”
She tells me she’s trying to turn her life around, after hanging around her sister and druggy friends in Arizona. “I was doing coke, and I had to get out of there, was going the wrong way,” she says. “Now I wanna go back to college; I’m supposed to get funding since I have Native American heritage.” You absolutely should, I tell her. I thank her again and wonder what compelled this woman to insist on bringing me all the way into Denver. It’s been a nice conversation, and as always, we only scratch the surface, but that’s the familiar story of the hitchhiking experience. I give Lisa a CD of some of my freshly-recorded music from this weekend, and she drops me off at the Dry Creek light rail station.
“Can’t believe we’re already in Denver!,” she says. “That was fast. Great meeting you.”
Likewise, and just as fast as she was there pulling over, she is gone, us going our separate ways, and it’s pleasant when I get a text from her a few hours later.