Archive for December, 2022

Coming into the bowl of Denver, low mountains on the horizon like a purple fence around a corral, Frank felt a bit overwhelmed.

The place was bigger and more crowded than he’d anticipated, traffic zipping and darting and roaring by him on the freeway, and his nerves were jumpy and unsettled.

He used to have nerves of steel, could piss in a Coke bottle and not miss a drop, but now he felt shaky and his flesh was like a pincushion with the pins still in it.

Haven’t been the same since that LSD excursion back in April, he thought, anxiously scanning the periphery at sixty miles an hour. And his little brother jumping off the Arrowhead Bridge and the resultant pile of shit that led to, sure as hell didn’t help much either.

And the concussion?

There was also that.

He continued along on Business 70, also known as Colfax Avenue, a street name he remembered from the book, and that felt right. Staying on Colfax, he drove by the State Capitol and the U.S. Mint and then spied one of those chain restaurants that were springing up all over the country like toadstools after a rainstorm.

He turned off the highway at the next exit and wound around to the restaurant parking lot. He went inside and found the payphone, pulled the phonebook page from his pocket and dialed up Larry Richards’ office number.

A female voice answered, Frank thinking she sounded quite young. Richards always liked the sweet young things. “Larry Richards’ law office, this is Susan, how may I help you?”

“Is Larry available?”

“Mr. Richards is busy on another line, whom should I say is calling, please?” Her voice went up an octave on the please.

“Tell him it’s an old friend from high school in Zenith, Minnesota.”

Frank heard the phone clicking and then some recorded music for a brief moment before a male voice came on the line. “Hello, Larry Richards speaking. Who’s calling, please?”

“Is this the same Larry Richards that once tried to put a Chevy engine into a 1954 Ford?”

“Yes it is,” Richards said, a chuckle coming into his voice.

“Well this is the guy whose garage you used to lift the engine out of that Impala you stole.”

Frank recalled that after failing to adapt the Chevy motor to the Ford, Richards was eventually arrested for trying to sell the stolen engine to an undercover cop.

“Frank Ford, you old cocksucker. What the hell are you doing in Denver?”

“On my way to California, Larry. Gonna look for work out there.”

“Minnesota climate finally get to you, Frank?”

“That and a few other things. But yeah, I finally decided to relocate. And being that I was in the area, I thought maybe I’d pay you a visit and have you show me a good time. For old time’s sake, you know.”

“Just great Frank, sounds super. It’s really great to hear your voice again, my friend. Let’s get together this afternoon. Once I’ve finished with this consultation, we can hit one of the many great happy hours in the area and catch up. Shit, it’s been years, I can’t believe you’re actually here.”

“It’s true, Larry, I’m actually here. Should I call you back later?”

“Why don’t you just come by my office around four-thirty? Where you at?”

“I’m on Colfax Ave, just past the Mint.”

“That’s not too far from here. If you go back the way you came for a few blocks there’s a nice park at the Civic Center I think you’ll like. Plenty of things to see. Keep you occupied until four-thirty or so, no problem. This is gonna be great, man. But, um, please be careful not to mention any of the uh—shall we say—low points of my history, around my secretary. Nobody here knows about my checkered past.”

“My lips are sealed, Larry, see you at four-thirty.”

Richards gave directions and Frank wrote them down on a scrap of paper he’d had the foresight to bring to the phone with him, Frank going all in on the travel-discipline thing.

Frank took a seat in a booth by the window. Ordered a California burger basket with fries and a Coke and wolfed the whole thing down, even though it was mediocre at best.

Seemed he had a lot of holes to fill.

After lunch Frank got in the station wagon and went to the park Richards recommended. The air was warm—on its way to eighty degrees, the sun shining and a slight breeze—and Frank felt the solace of summer slowly washing over him.

His jeans and long-sleeved chamois shirt being a little too much clothing for the weather, he took off the heavy green shirt and sat in his t-shirt on a park bench, feeling like a vagrant. He read his book and let the warmth work its magic on the tension in his neck and shoulders. But the relaxation didn’t last long. That rogue nervous energy kicked in and made it hard to stay put, so he got up and sauntered around the bustling park.

Found it quite scenic.

Plenty of pretty girls.

But the time passed more slowly than he was comfortable with and around three-thirty he decided to rumble on down towards Larry Richard’s office with the intent of stopping at a bar along the way, if any place caught his eye.

He motored his way around the city. Seeing the sign for Larimer Street, another familiar name from the book, he made the turn and was soon swinging into what seemed to be a rare parking space near an establishment called Jimmy’s Saloon and Eatery.

Jimmy’s was a few steps above the old Metropole on the cleanliness scale. Definitely lacked the embedded stink of Frank’s former place of work. Shit, there were still times when Frank swore he could smell the old bar on him, like the stench had burrowed under his skin and stayed there.

Ten years he’d spent in that hole. And a clean bar with new furnishings and walls that didn’t have years of caked-on grime was a pleasant experience.

Instead of dirt on the walls, there were framed black and white photos of the early days of Denver—rodeos and miners and railroad scenes—but Jimmy’s definitely lacked the character of the bars of Larimer Street Kerouac wrote about.

But that was all right withFrank.

He was remembering the teenage Larry Richards, the guy a real piece of work. Probably the only miscreant in the history of Zenith, Minnesota, who served a jail term under the Huber Law (work release for employed prisoners) and got out every afternoon to practice tennis.

And weekends to play in tournaments.

Richards, then a recent high school graduate, had accepted a tennis scholarship to Arizona State University, and the judge allowed this unusual Huber Law arrangement so as not to ruin the young man’s opportunity because of one youthful mistake.

At least the only one the cops knew about.    

Ah, the leniency that was the past, Frank thought. And it sure helped that Larry’s parents were well-off professionals from the prosperous East End of Zenith.

Frank knew he’d never have received that kind of break.

But Richards never put on any airs; he just accepted his good fortune and went off to ASU in the fall like a good little car thief.

And that thought brought to mind another parallel from the book.

Dean Moriarty had spent a part of his juvenile years incarcerated for stealing cars, and was quite infamous in the Denver area for this trait. So maybe there were more similarities between Larry Richards and Moriarty than Frank had originally thought.

(To be continued)



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The sun was up and shining now, beams angling through the motel window, but Frank was in no hurry. He felt pretty good after nearly ten solid hours of sleep.

Last night he’d seen a thick Denver phonebook in the desk drawer. He pulled it out, plopped it down on the desk and paged through to the R section. And there it was: Richards, Lawrence, atty at law.

Two listings, one for home and one for office.

Checking the clock on the bed table—just after eight, Mountain Time—Frank decided on the office number and was about to dial it up when he realized it was probably a long distance call, something you couldn’t do from a motel phone without a lot of hassle. 

Unless you called collect, which wouldn’t exactly give the impression Frank wanted.

Ah, hell, he thought, tearing the page out of the phone book, might as well just motor on down to the big city and ring Richards up from somewhere close.

He fueled up at the pumps in front of the store—ten-gallon limit—and got back on the road.

The sun and the clean air got him high. He was anticipating a fun stop in Denver. Hoping, anyway. Rolling along, tires humming, he slipped into a pleasant reverie of cattle drives and wagon trains crisscrossing these broad eastern Colorado flatlands. 

After about an hour, though, thoughts of Nikki started creeping in. His former girlfriend, the beautiful blond he’d once thought was the perfect girl. The one he’d had but couldn’t keep, like it said in that Velvet Underground song. Well, now her pale blue eyes were lingering on.

In his head like a strobe light.

And pushing the worm of an idea at him.

Did he deliberately drive Nikki away because of his low self-image?

Low self-image was a term Nikki, a sociology graduate working on her master’s degree, often used.

But here in the West the sun was too bright and the air too clear and clean to wallow in regret over past mistakes. And who’s to say it was even a mistake? Maybe Frank had her best interests at heart, considering what he was involved in at the time.

Sometimes fate has more wisdom than you do, Frank thought to himself.

Maybe someday he’d get some therapy. He’d heard they did a lot of that shit in California.

But for now it was on to Denver and Larry Richards.

In Kerouac’s book, Sal Paradise goes to Denver to meet up with Dean Moriarty, the son of a Denver wino and bowery denizen, who has a penchant for wild partying and driving recklessly and is seen by nearly everyone as crazy.

In a fun sort of way.

At least if you’re young and crazy yourself.

Moriarty was fond of Benzedrine. A speed freak, they’d call him today. In contrast, Richards was a high level athlete who kept himself in shape on a year-round basis. And whereas Moriarty flitted from woman to woman, wife to wife, and held low-level jobs like parking lot attendant and railroad laborer, Richards was married and a big nuts lawyer. But Larry had also committed his share of hijinks. Even had a few scrapes with the law back in the care-less days of his youth.

But Larry Richards was no Dean Moriarty.

No, he sure wasn’t. But Richards did like to party, Frank recalled, and the man—at one time, anyway—definitely enjoyed pursuing the ladies. So Frank’s old friend would likely be able to show him some fun and help him slip out from under the grinding millstone of past transgressions.

Or not.

But they’d definitely give it the old college try.

(End of Chapter 4)



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Barnes and Noble: https://bit.ly/3sBA5SZ

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https://books2read.com/u/mlEM1B  (shortcut for all ereading devices)

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By the time Frank crossed the Colorado line it was getting dark. The roadside shadows were filled with all sorts of strange things and his thoughts were bouncing and hopping like flies on a dead dog. But the self-loathing hadn’t entered the mix yet and Frank sensed the Hater was just waiting until the time was right. The demon would hang back until Frank was tired and strung out then bring on the anguish and the suffering.

The way it usually went.

A few miles into Colorado, he came upon a roadside oasis containing two motels, two gas stations closed for the night and a convenience store. An old-fashioned single-level motel sat on one side of the frontage road cul-de-sac and a fairly new, two-story Best Western with a swimming pool was on the other side. Deciding to go upscale, such as it was, Frank swung into the Best Western and got himself a room, paying cash in advance.  

After checking in, he walked across the parking lot to the bright fluorescent glow of the small convenience store and bought a sixer of Coors.

When in Rome…

He took the chicken breast and the potatoes—spuds now limp and soggy and looking somewhat inedible—from his cooler in the back of the wagon and went to his room, the big fat joint from Waverly’s gift box nestled in the pocket of his blue denim shirt.

Frank turned on the television. There was a baseball game on and he left it there, popped a beer and set up his dinner on the small table by the window that looked out over the parking lot and the darkness of the western plains. He was kind of excited about seeing Larry Richards again—the guy had always possessed a knack for fun—but decided to wait until the morning to do the searching.

When his belly was full (spuds weren’t half bad) and his body engulfed in a pleasant heaviness, Frank popped another beer, stuffed a bath towel across the space under the room door and fired up the joint. He smoked about half of it, blowing the smoke out the window by the table and then grabbed On the Road and stretched out on the bed, propping up two pillows behind his head.

He dissolved into the book.

And couldn’t help but notice the similarities, the parallels, between himself and the narrator of the book.

They were both on the way to California, although Frank would be looking for work there as opposed to searching out fellow conspirators for safaris into the heart of the American night. And Frank was thirty-six, no longer an arrested/perennial adolescent like Sal Paradise. But they’d both fueled their journey with amphetamine, and Frank’s stop in Denver would be another similarity.

As his eyelids got heavy and the words on the page began to blur, Frank put the book down on the night table and shut off the light.

He was drifting, halfway between waking and sleeping, when another parallel came to him.

Frank, like the characters in the book, had a burning longing inside him for a freedom he couldn’t quite define.

And that longing was pushing him down the road.

(End of Chapter 3)



(Fitger’s) Bookshop.org:  https://bit.ly/3XG682t

Zenith Bookstore; https://bit.ly/3EV1RzL

Barnes and Noble: https://bit.ly/3sBA5SZ

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3DEFkYz

https://books2read.com/u/mlEM1B  (shortcut for all ereading devices)

SEE ALL T.K. O’NEILL’S BOOKS HERE: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B09HPBWMJF and https://bluestonesblog.com/

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