Wastelander Aspen III
The last time we drove thru Leadville
some high country Hip Hop Gangstas
had spray painted this on a wall:

Gas station toilet stop, speaking of
bodily functions: ½ hr wait in line.
Sign over side door:
Door standing
wide open.

Hurry Up, Kid, We Need to Pee:
The whole line listens to the little boy
before Cindy & Chayo
tear off 11 straight
paper towels inside the


Tho I’m the fam’s nature freak
I totally heart filthy
wrecking yards even more
than nature.
10,000 rusted stories,
10,000 cracked hauntings.


1968 Mustang fastback
in front of me
more beautiful
than the glaciers.
Viva Estip McQueen!


Twin Lakes!
Right there. Uh-huh.
Grow my beard
down to my gut.
Talk to beavers.

Tiny waterfalls leap
out of the trees and whisper, “Hey Buddy!”
to the van.
Can’t help but shout
at them.
I invite a skinny waterfall
to jump in and drive to Aspen.


We’re so high now the flytrap’s gasping.


Down the Independence Pass to Aspen.
I realized suddenly that I
was keeping the van from hitting
the cliff walls with the muscles
in my buttocks.


Sunny rain.


ASPEN, later that same day….
Aspen Institute/ Aspen Meadows hotel.
Checking at the lobby, I saw Ishmael Beah.
We looked at each other and said
“PLAYBOY” and started laughing.
[Note: a couple of years ago, Beah and Michael Eric Dyson and Tony D’Souza and I were photographed for long hours for an expensive Playboy photo shoot. No, there were no nude women. Basically, it was authors wearing fancy clothes in bizarre scenarios. They handed Ishmael an AK-47, which failed to amuse him. Dyson was in a flooded bus with drowning Black kids while white businessmen in fancy suits stood in the sun outside. Very post-Katrina. I was given a crown of thorns and a Mexican flag and stood above 14 body bags. Did I like it? Hmm. They gave me a billion dollar hand made Italian suit. Playboy put me in a hotel w/ a chandelier in my room, a liveried butler, and James Bond robo-TV screens that levitated out of the footboard of my bed. But…when I walked in to get my clothes, the fashionista rhino-woman doing the dressing looked at me and shouted “Fuck!” This little piggy almost went home right there. Then the photographer had a falling out or something and the shoot was scrapped. I kept my suit.]

Sunny condo. Wall of windows
looking out on aspens and the Roaring Fork down the canyon.
Scott, the master of the grounds,
drove us over here in a golf cart.

We feel like rich people.

We are rich people.
Just don’t have the money.


I could live like this.
I want to live like this.
Can I live like this?

The world outside weeps for murdered Neda in Tehran.
We sip billionaire coffee as the river


Off to the writers’ reception.
We watch Ron Carlson get the Aspen
Literary Award. Afterwards,
We hug all our Aspen Writer org friends.
The kids in their own condo squabbling over
cable . We’re all degenerates.
Tipsy Aspen ladies swoon over
Hummingbird: I collect more kisses.
My job: gal-magnet.
Someone tells me Into the Beautiful North
is selling “Phenomenably.”
Hope they don’t mean

My ol’ pal/NEA bossman Dana Gioia.
[Note: Great American poet & former head of the NEA. Wow. Notes. I feel like a scholar.]

We say hi, but then a fan & his wife
shove me aside to talk to Dana. Relaying awe & love
to the Great Man.
smiles placidly.

Off to the Hernandez house!
Dana, master of Washington, announces, “I know
exactly where the party is!” We march off
at a splendid pace! We stride right past
Lance Armstrong’s house! Huzzah!
I am an architectural fame-whore! Lance! Lance!
Dana warns us bears sneak around the hallways of our condos
looking for room service trays to violate.
Suddenly, we pause, and he says, “Which direction
is the Hernandez house, do you think?”
Goldang it! The administration has let us down again!
Dana marches into a woman’s garage and asks her!
Viva Aspen! We’re off again. We round a corner.
We don’t know where we are! Dana gets out his cell phone.
This is how it’s done! Power hook-ups! DC in action.
“Where,” he booms, “is the party?”

AHA! The party!
We march in and Dana switches to full politico
Republican Party Animal mode and begins
shaking hands like a former governor. I love that.
I want to learn how to do that. Presto! A drink
appears in Dana’s hand and in 37.4 seconds, he is
embroiled in a profound literary/politico chat!
We stand in the kitchen like rubes going, “Hyug!
Hyug! Goll-y, you have real paintings in here!”
Fortunately, Gary Ferguson is a real gentleman
and saves us.
[Note, for those of you who don’t know Gary, AND YOU SHOULD,
he is the noted naturalist/”nature writer” who lives outside
Yellowstone and is writing the most killer book
of the year right now.] We go thru the food line
together and hook up w/ my ol’ pal Christopher Merrill.
[Yes, a freakin’ note: Good poet. Go read him.]
These fine fellows lead us out to a stone wall
where we perch and admire the nine million dollar view
and talk shop. Gary and I have an appearance together
later in the week. “What are you going to do?” he
asks. “I don’t know,” I say. “What are YOU
going to do?” “I don’t know,” he says.

Wine. Food. Singing—Joe Hurley, Colum McCann’s
rock star amigo, appears and sings a few at the
piano. (A piano, by the way, built for the
original Queen Mary.) Ishmael Beah says to me,
“Sometimes I cannot believe what people
just said to me!”

Dana and Joe can party all night. Not us.
We are just Maw and Paw, and we want to go to bed.
A car appears, and many of us pile in. I, being selfish,
grab the front seat. Cinderella, Beah, Chimamanda Adichie[I’m
not writing any more notes!] and Gary make a human
logjam in the back.

Chimamanda says, “This reminds me of Nigeria.”
I say, “Mexico, too. Except in Mexico,
someone would have added a chicken.”
After a beat, she says,
“Nigeria too!”

We tumble out of the car at the Meadows in
utter darkness and wander away,
looking at stars like sugar
spilled across an obsidian counter,
listening for

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