Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mountain Man

Garrison Keillor writes, "I lay in bed for an hour, looking at the ceiling, trying to figure out my problem with vacations. I would like to think that it's the obligation to have fun I find depressing. I dislike parties for the same reason: They're a conspiracy to be festive at a certain hour, and I don't know how to do that, any more than I can laugh on cue. New Year's Eve parties are the worst - a celebration of the passage of time - and the few I've attended were next to hellish, a lot of hard drinking by loud people in enclosed places. Vacations have the same insistent urgency about them: Play golf or die. And then, too, there is the fact that I enjoy my work." Yeah, that makes sense, but it doesn't apply to my time spent in Colorado. The cowboy and I leave Saturday and we are taking Sonny with us.

My son Jason lives in Boulder. Although it may be months between our visits I always feel as if we have only been parted a few hours. The conversation picks up where it left off. Jason is an extraordinary person as are my other two children but this story will be about him. He and I spent the first two years of his life pretty much on our own, living in the sleepy little college town of Cedar Falls, Iowa and watching the drama of Watergate every afternoon on a TV that got only two channels. His father, my former husband was working on a music degree at the University of Northern Iowa and working full-time at a shoe store owned by an abusive manager. I told Joe that he should not put up with that kind of treatment and the next day he came back to our $86-a-month apartment and announced that he had quit the job. We packed up the '59 Chevy and listening to Elton John's Daniel on the car radio, headed back to Dubuque and family. Car broke down and a semi driver picked us up - me, hiding my nursing infant behind a baby blanket.

Jason was born an old soul and he owns an intrinsic native intelligence. At the end of his junior year of high school he brought home a report card with almost perfect grades. Whose test did you copy, I asked, as up until then his reports showed mediocre, average work - always a mystery to me considering his apparent smartness. I thought it was time to start studying, he answered.

He took the year off after high school and worked three jobs. He'd bring home half-full bottles of shampoo from the Motel 6 where he was a housekeeper. He bought a 1976 blue Chevette with red and white striped seat covers. One night his brakes went out about twenty miles out of town and he coasted back home, at last parking the car at the top of our very steep hill and walking the rest of the way. He never took out a student loan due to his ability to work and save - a trait learned from his frugal father. He earned two years of credit from the local community college and then he left. Moved to Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, a massive, sprawling intellectual center smack dab in the middle of fields of corn and soybeans. Iowa City is an interesting place, and a friend of mine, an extremely hip friend of mine had commented, no matter how weird you think you are - you will find someone weirder in Iowa City. Jason worked because that is what Jason does. After an indeterminate amount of time I got a call from him. Yeah, he said, I ran into my counselor and he said that I could graduate - got enough credits. Jason would have kept on signing up for classes if he had not run into that counselor. Jason misses a lot of appointments. He does not need these middle people that keep popping up in our lives. Will you wear the cap and gown, is there a ceremony, do you want a party, questions, questions from his mother. Nope, he said, they'll send me the diploma in the mail, I'm going to Colorado.

Jason had made the obligatory trip out to Colorado with friends during a spring break. And like a lot of college students he said, after I graduate I am moving to Colorado. But unlike a lot of college students, Jason did.
He and a couple of friends moved into a ranch house on the rim of the Flat Irons and on my first inspection, I found earth worms on the basement steps, Yeah, Jason said, pulling his fingers through his long hair, somebody left the hose on in the basement and the worms just moved in.
He called me one night and asked for my recipe for spaghetti sauce. He and the college friends were going to start a pizza place. There was no taco pizza in Colorado and they would introduce the delicacy.

They called the place Fatty J's. The four partners in the business all had names that began with "J." Fatty is a label attached to snow. Like the Eskimos, the Coloradians have many adjectives for snow, and one of them is fat or phat. Fat means big, puffy flakes that make the best ground cover for boarders and skiers. It is light and airy and doesn't bog the board down. It is the perfect snow. Several years after Fatty J took off, my former son-in-law made the observation about the company logo: it's a joint, isn't it? And by god, it was. I have smoked my share but I had never seen the resemblance in the design. At first it appeared to be a fat pizza with rising steam but at second glance, yes, it was the notorious chubby reefer with a wisp of smoke curling up. By now Fatty J had bypassed the sweet scent behind the dorm rooms and had progressed into the businesses and catered lunches. It was a hectic schedule and as Jason and I walked into the mountains he was often on his cell, arranging work schedules and company softball games. Self employment is self destruction. After numerous disagreements among the partners Jason decided he wanted to do something else.

Anyway, now he is a chef, an - ahem - executive chef - at a vegetarian restaurant in the pedestrian mall in Boulder - which by the way - was designed by the same guy who planned the ped mall in good old Iowa City, Iowa. He makes pasta out of zucchini and carrots and even the soda pop is organic. Jason works so he can travel. He returned from an exploratory trip to South America a year and a half ago and he is planning another trip to the mid East, Viet Nam, India, Indonesia - a one-way ticket he says. It's all about adventure and inspiration. He wants to know how people who have so little can be so content and thus, the trip to India. He packs a large knapsack and he camps or lodges at a hostel. I often wish he lived closer to me, dropping in for some fresh corn on the cob and a conversation with my father. As much as Jason loves us, he needs to be away from us. We represent conformity and stability and he desires motion and mystery in his life. And besides, he has always wanted to live near beauty, and yes, the river and rolling hills of the driftless land are lovely, but whoa baby, wait until you see the Rockies.


MrDaveyGie said...

I live vicariously through the likes of the "jasons" of the world.

P.S. you really are kidnapping my papa, aren't you?

dawn marie giegerich said...

Oh, yeah, read on.