Insomnia, I just can’t seem to get to sleep sometimes. When I was a little girl and I couldn’t sleep, I’d just lie alone in bed for hours with my heart racing and pounding in my ears. I remember feeling like I was going to die, but eventually I’d drift off to dreamland, have strange nightmares and then wake up unharmed and still alive the next morning.
Only when I got to be a little older did it occur to me to get out of bed and do something more productive. Rather than lay in the darkness wallowing in horror and fear, I played midnight Barbies, drew pictures, listened to music and periodically snuck out to the living room for the 2 a.m. viewing of Brain Games on HBO.
Later in life, having a roommate during my sleepless college years forced me out of my dorm room and into a social circle of night owls. I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t sleep. Wandering the halls all hours of the night were others like myself, pale, darkened eyed, useless of the night. We all had our different influences of course. Some of us had nightmares, some of us were tweakers, partiers, one was a schizophrenic and others were workaholics who just never slept. It was during this time and among these people that my after hour’s adventures had begun.
With the company of some of my new friends, I found late night activities to ease the restlessness that was buzzing me awake. I began to live a life that my young inexperienced self never imagined existed, a life full of strange places and mysterious people.
One of my favorite places to hang out was a bar called Defiance Station located near the train depot. They had good food, good beer on tap and hobos. Yes, I said hobos, real life, train hopping, harmonica playing, old worn out suit wearing, poetry spewing, blade pack’n hobos. I love hobos. They have the best stories and they all seem to know Tom Waits personally.
Nights of hobo folklore and tall tales soon resurfaced through me. I was inspired by these vagabond adventurers and found secret doorways into my own experiences. I retold of my curious happenings at the lunch table in the cafeteria back at school.
There was the amazing account of how we met an old Indian who came skinny dipping with us in the hot pots by the river behind the Denny’s. The old tribesman told about the spirits of the river and sang us a song about it in his native tongue. While he was singing I watched the river rush over the rocks making piles of white foam in its wake, the foam took on the faces of the river spirits while he sang. I saw them myself dancing in the moonlight.
There was also the time that we met Davy Jones’ bastard son and he sang us Monkees’ songs until the wee hours of the morning. He told us how his mother was a maid in a New Zealand Hotel and how she serviced Davy’s room one afternoon and got more than just a generous tip. He said he knew Davy Jones was his father, but they had never met and he was learning all the Monkees’ songs so that he could play them for his father and impress him when finally got up the courage to locate him.
Then there was the time I won a midnight balloon ride in an Odd Fellow’s raffle and we sailed above the town drinking Napoleon Brandy while singing Journey songs. Yep, every night that I went out I had some kind of crazy story to recount the next day at lunch. For the most part, people enjoyed these stories but there was this one guy who just didn’t believe me. So, I invited him to come out with us the next time we went on a midnight adventure.
That night came a few weeks later. I had been up until 2 a.m. working on homework with a friend. When we finished we deiced to drive into town and just walk around. The bars were going to be closing soon, so a walk was really all we were planning. Outside the dorm entrance was my skeptical friend having a late night smoke. He asked if we were out for an adventure, and if he could join us. He wanted to see for himself if anything unusual would happen. We thought it was a great idea for him to come along and soon we were all walking through the quiet deserted streets of down town Glenwood Springs in the middle of the night.
Back in the 1880’s Glenwood was a frontier town. Doc Holiday spent his final days there and was buried up on Bennett Hill. We had just passed Doc’s namesake saloon on the deserted main street. The three of us were the only living souls anywhere to be seen. Traffic lights flashed and the wind was the only sound besides our footsteps and quiet conversation. A tumble weed was dancing down the empty street; it was the only other movement besides us. 3 a.m. was approaching, bars were closed and the town was asleep. I looked at the kitschy old west business fronts and imagined a dirt road where a paved one lay. Covered wagons, instead of cars were making their way through town and our boots clanked over a board walk. This part of town used to be called Defiance and back in the day, it was just a railroad side camp full of saloons, brothels, prostitutes and prospectors. I’d squint my eyes and try to imagine what it must have been like.
“So when is the weird stuff supposed to happen?” my skeptical friend questioned me, interrupting my pioneer fantasy. Before I could answer him a door I had never noticed before, (even though I had been up and down this particular street a hundred times) opened in front of us. We paused to let whoever was coming out step onto the street. It was a cowboy, an exact cross between Buffalo Bill Cody and Clint Eastwood as “Blondie” from The Good the Bad and the Ugly. He was wearing an old filthy worn-out traditional western hat and a Native American poncho. He had two bullet bandoleers crossing each other over his chest and back, a holster with guns, jeans and leather chaps, and cowboy boots with spurs chiming his every step.
I looked into the face of my astonished and speechless skeptical friend. This was it the moment he’d been waiting for, the midnight adventure, the 3 a.m. cowboy. We quietly walked behind this anachronism in a playful surreal daze, at one point the cowboy glanced back at us revealing his Buffalo Bill beard and mustache, he acknowledged us with a polite nod. We followed him in silence for 3 city blocks, when suddenly he opened another secret door to some unnoticed apartments tucked neatly into the side of a business and he disappeared forever.
The next day at lunch I told the whole story and my skeptic friend proclaimed it to be true and that he had seen the 3 a.m. cowboy with his very own eyes.
“But the West of the old times, with its strong characters, its stern battles and its tremendous stretches of loneliness, can never be blotted from my mind.” Buffalo Bill