Fort Collins is a dog town. It has great, fenced-in dog parks. People take their dogs everywhere, especially to open-air music venues, like Odells or Maxline Brewing. We were at Maxline yesterday to see Drifting West, sharing the patio with several dogs, many of whom arrived in bike trailers. The folks wheel in trailing a toddler carriage in which sits a grinning kyoodle. We always have three dogs, young, middle, and old, so that when the old one dies, we have two more to tide us over until we get a new one.
Bohemian Nights, a three day music festival that was shut down by the virus two years ago, had almost as many dogs as people. I wouldn’t subject my dogs to one hundred and twenty decibel rock performances, but perhaps the dogs enjoy it.
Right now, Freddy is the new dog, a tan mutt fro the Four Corners region. Freddy is a great dog. Then comes Bob, who looks like the ancient Egyptian god Anubis, whom we got from another animal rescue outfit. At the top of the totem pole sits Mack, a once ferocious Boston Terrier/pug mix we got from a veterinarian friend. Mack has mellowed. She loves to lick. Every day we go to the dog park. In a few minutes, the dogs will gather around, wagging their tail, pawing me, and barking, demanding to go to the dog park.
My sister Jill has always had two Labradors, always gets them from the animal shelter, and takes them everywhere. Since Sis works in Rocky Mountain National Park, those dogs have seen more of the great outdoors than most people. A couple years ago, when her set of Labs was getting old, they took them on a road trip to several national parks including Yellowstone and Crater.
When we moved to Fort Collins, I would put on a pair of sunglasses, carry a cane, and got Lucy a harness so I could take her into restaurants. That didn’t last long. I tried to order her a beer and the bartender demanded to see ID.
In 2000, I rode to Sturgis with Tom Delaney. I rode Tom’s Road King, immortalized in my Biker books. Tom rode another Harley, of which he has several. We camped at the Buffalo Chip, one of Sturgis’ venerable and notorious venues. We brought tents. The restrooms were concrete bunkers that emanated effluent. One morning I entered the pillbox to find a biker passed out on the floor amid the discarded condoms and misplaced piss. He was drooling. I went to another restroom. Since then, they have been upgraded.
Saturday night’s headliner was young blues slinger Johnny Lang. But prior to that, Cher appeared to announce the winner of a raffle. First prize was a new Harley. They had chosen Cher because of her performance in the movie Mask, one of the more sympathetic portrayals of biker culture on film. It also starred Sam Elliott. Cher had been coasting on the goodwill of that movie a long time.
As Cher walked onstage, ten thousand bikers lustily cheered. “Good evening! I’m here to choose the raffle winner who will receive a new Harley. But before I begin, I’d like to tell you about my good friend Bill Clinton.”
“BOOOOOOOO!” ten thousand bikers lustily declared.
“Now wait a minute. Bills’ really a good guy.”
Cher cut short her presentation. She has not been back since.
The next day, Tom and were walking through the campground when a man passed us on the left riding a springer. At the same time, a man on the right was playing with his dog.
“That’s a nice springer,” Tom declared.
I thought he meant the dog. “That’s not a springer,” I said.
“Sure it is.”
I turned to the man. “Hey buddy! What kind of dog is that?”
The man, his arms blue with ink, assumed a fighting pose. “It’s a GOOD dog! Why do you ask?”
to Phoenix last week. Dude met me at the airport. We rode to his
house on the farthest fringes of Phoenix at ninety miles per hour.
Dude has two dogs. One is an old, fat German shepherd they found
quivering in their front yard covered in mud. The dog was chipped.
They contacted the owners who lived on the other side of the city. No
response. Conclusion: the owners had abandoned the dog on purpose.
The Rudes took her in and have been caring for her ever since,
nursing her through a rattlesnake bite.
have three thousand dollars right then, she would have died.”
shot three short videos which I put up on my Facebook page. They may
still be there. On Friday, a cop came to the door. I stepped outside
to speak with him. He asked for my ID. He read me my Miranda rights.
He burst out laughing. It was a friend of Dude’s who had agreed to
this practical joke, and then took us on a ride along to the other
side of the tracks. Dozens of pop-up tents crowding the sidewalk.
People with no hope collapsed on the concrete waiting for the soup
line to open. The officer explained services, and we talked to some
of the homeless. One young man had been a star high school athlete,
but fell into drugs, fathered a child, and just as he was getting
clean, his mother died of cancer.
we went to the Biltmore Astoria, Frank Lloyd Wright’s astonishing
hotel in Paradise Valley. Wright’s famous attention to detail was
evident in the furniture, the ballroom, the carpet design, and the
frescoes, which resembled ancient Egyptian and Mayan art. The food
and service were first rate despite the fact we were dressed in rags.
and I set out to see Batman at the Carmike, which lies across
the railroad tracks behind Karate West. The city’s revising Mason
Street with new rails and a commercial bus line and the whole city
has been a clusterfuck since May when they started the Repairs.
Every year, the same streets, the same repairs, and the construction
crews don’t communicate with one another so it sometimes seems as if
the city has become a giant rat maze, at least for drivers.
were on foot. We crossed the tracks and saw that the City has
blocked off the pedestrian bridge over the ditch. “Come on,”
Kim said, leading the way by climbing between the plastic yellow
ribbons strung across each end. Plastic yellow ribbons that said, DO
NOT CROSS. It was about 96 out, which caused the black ink on the
yellow plastic ribbons to turn into crankcase engine oil. Mere
seconds after climbing through the final strand I noticed the heavy
gray sludge on my arm and legs. Likewise Kim.
spent some time in the men’s room cleaning up.
movie was good.
the way back we steered around the fateful bridge and as we neared
the sidewalk a well upholstered city employee with a yellow hard hat
and coveralls on approached us with a twinkle in her eyes.
I saw you boys go across that bridge. Now you know why we put those
is a double-edged sword. The internet giveth, and the internet taketh
away. I have been a devotee of newsstands ever since visiting a
fully-stocked magazine store in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I love
magazines. I have subscribed to countless over the years including
I moved to Colorado, there were two outstanding magazine outlets. The
News Cafe in Loveland, and Al’s News in Fort Collins. They had
hundreds, if not thousands of magazines on display and copious
paperbacks. I could spend hours in them just looking through the
various magazines. The music sections alone were stuffed with
There were two or three different model car magazines.
are undergoing a paradigm shift that is killing the printed
periodical. Most of it is the internet. Why shlep downtown when you
can dial up whatever your heart fancies on your phone? Well here’s
one reason. In a magazine, you can flip past the ads by turning the
page. Also, the ads were more thoughtful, designed to engage, and
contained exciting graphics. On the internet, the ads are shrieking
monsters that appear
designed to piss people off. They cover content, often for long
minutes with no way to get rid of them. Finally, reluctantly, a tiny,
nay, an INFINITESIMAL ‘X’ appears in the far northwest corner of the
screen, as far from the ad as possible. When you move your cursor
over the X, it runs to another part of the screen. I make a point of
not noticing who the advertiser is because I’m not interested. Or if
I do take note, it’s to avoid their product or service.
understand advertisers need to monetize the internet, but there has
to be a better way.
I think we have a generation that doesn’t read. Raised on video games
and electronic media, they have no interest in books. Certainly not
in books without pictures.
News closed down a couple years ago. Al’s News closed down last year.
The only place you can find magazines is Barnes & Noble, which is
hanging on by its fingernails, or the supermarket which grudgingly
shows a few popular titles.
also have a risk-adverse population. Motorcycle sales are down. There
used to be five or six monthly general interest motorcycle magazines.
All that remains are Cycle
both of whom have gone quarterly. They are waving the white flag.
There aren’t enough new models to cover, so they feature artsy-fartsy
photo spreads of cracked asphalt or dirt bikes in the distance. They
feature articles about “Titanium–the Miracle Metal!”
is still monthly, but instead of three or four complete road tests
each issue, we’re likely to get one, plus endless artsty-fartsy photo
spreads of ancient tires, racetracks at dusk, and ruminations on the
future of the electric car. Road&Track’s
last issue got woke and started railing against the internal
combustion engine. They never discuss the source of the electricity
powering their Teslas and Leafs, which is, of course, coal-burning
CHAPTER FROM UNFORTUNATE SON, THE NEW BIKER NOVEL
CHAPTER ONE “Surprise!”
looked at his father Duane, sitting on his sofa with Josh’s dog Fig
in his lap. The same Duane who’d abandoned Josh at a truck stop
when Josh was fifteen, from whom he had not heard in two decades.
you doing here, Duane?”
looked up with a con man’s grin, deep parenthesis framing his
mouth, several day’s stubble clinging to his chin, lank gray hair
unkempt. “Is that any way to greet your own father?”
eased Fig off his lap, stood, and walked to Josh with his arms open.
“C’mere, boy. How the hell you doin’?”
endured the awkward embrace until Duane stepped back. Duane smelled
of graphite, body odor, cigarettes. He’d found an old ashtray in
the kitchen, set it on the coffee table in the living room and smoked
several butts. He wore dirty blue jeans and a Dolphin’s T with the
sleeves cut off to show his ropy, muscular, tatted arms.
are you doing here, Duane?”
went into the kitchen, Fig at his heels, opened the refrigerator,
took out two cans of Capital Lager and tossed one to Josh, who caught
hearing a lot about you. I’m proud of you, boy. Proud the way you
turned out. You’re a man now. Solvin’ crimes, killin’ bad
had nothing to do with it. You’re as sentimental as a catfish. What
do you want?”
popped the can and guzzled, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down.
“Why would you think that? Maybe I just wanted to see how you’re
snapped his fingers. Fig trotted over and sat next to him, looking
up. “Because you’re a con man. You haven’t worked a real job in
your life. The whole time I was with you, all you did was scam
people. The old dropped wallet trick. Shoplifting. All those women
you took advantage of.”
looked pained. “Maybe I’ve changed, you ever think of that? You
changed. You were a rake hell. They called you Chainsaw because of
that one thing, and now you’re a born-again Christian, ain’t that
right? You’re on a mission from God.”
do you want, Duane?”
flopped onto the sofa and put his feet on the coffee table. “I just
want to stay here for a few days. I love your dog. I won’t be any
you get in?”
the fence and used the doggy door.”
anxiety Josh had experienced when he saw the Camaro in his front yard
blossomed into a full-bore suck hole in the middle of his chest,
summoning unwanted childhood memories. Walking in on Duane fucking
some girl. Watching Duane dip into her purse while she slept. Fleeing
in the middle of the night because Duane had committed some felony.
The road rage. Duane waving his gun and trying to run another car off
night in November he did run another car off the road. It was a
station wagon full of kids who’d dared to pass while flipping them
the bird. Duane floored his 350 cubic inch Camaro and gave chase. The
car’s body was shot anyway. He couldn’t afford a shiny new car,
or even a shiny car, but he always found a way to get that Camaro
with the big engine. Josh remembered the car was pale yellow with
rust spots, the hood was brown, and the driver’s door was primer
MOTHERFUCKER!” Duane bellowed into the wind, which whipped his
words away. Those kids couldn’t hear shit, the way they were
blasting Beastie Boys. They never saw Duane coming. He cut the
lights, zoomed up on their left, slammed the wheel to the right and
stuck with it, big, fifteen-inch wheels and tires, ramming the wagon
into the ditch where it rolled over once before coming to a stop.
watched the whole thing through his window, mouth open, hanging on to
the grip with both hands. Heart in mouth. What the fuck. He was ten
teach ‘em,” Duane said, heading on down the highway.
crashed in seedy apartments, trailers and tract houses with Duane’s
friends, all the same creepy crowd, grifters, drifters, penny ante
thieves, prostitutes, drug dealers, too smart to work. Everyone had
an angle and a rap. Everyone had a way to beat the system. Most had
food stamps and disability. Some had pit bulls. Josh always wondered,
why the pit bulls?
slept on a lumpy sofa in the living room, or in a closet if Duane and
his buddies got too loud snorting coke and drinking Fleischmann’s
vodka. They’d toss back valium to ease the descent.
remembered waiting in a ‘69 Camaro with the engine running while
Duane ran into a pharmacy “to get some cold medicine.” Minutes
later, Duane erupted from the front door clutching a paper bag, slid
behind the wheel and floored it. They fishtailed out of town. Josh
saw the butt of a pistol protruding from Duane’s pants.
popped his beer and sat in a chair facing Duane. “Who’s after
drained his can and belched, putting his whole torso into it. Duane
was proud of his belch. “What makes you say that?”
I know you, Duane. You’re only in it for number one. You never
cared about anything in your life except getting yourself over. I
still don’t know who my mother is.”
think her name was Karen Pratt. Haven’t seen her since she dumped
your little bundle of joy on my doorstep.”
surprised you didn’t put me up for adoption. Or dump me in the
woods like you did that dog. Remember McKeesport? I wanted to go to
school but you couldn’t get your shit together? So I went down and
registered myself and they asked me for my birthday. I didn’t know
what my birthday was. It was April first, so that’s my birthday
that pained look. “Son, you gotta give me a chance. I’m not the
same person I was.”
stared. Duane looked away. He leaned forward to scratch Fig’s ears.
“Your dog likes me. They say dogs are excellent judges of
I could eat a baby’s butt through a park bench. Whatcha got to eat
seethed. He didn’t want this. He’d trained himself not to think
about his father.
on. We’ll go get a burger.”
clapped. “Now you’re talkin’.”
Josh eyed the ‘97 Camaro. It was faded dark blue with rust spots
and twin tailpipes.
there’s an SS
with the 330 HP LT4
block engine from the Corvette.
That there’s special.”
lookin’ for you?”
let’s get some grub and I’ll tell you about that.”
me a favor. Lose the pistol.”
drew the pistol, looked at it, leaned into the Camaro and stuck it
deep in the seat cushions.
got in Josh’s 300 and headed east toward Madison. Duane pulled a
pack of Marlboros from his pants. “Mind if I smoke?” Josh
lowered all the windows. What was the point? Duane was going to do
what Duane was going to do. He’d always been that way. They drove
to the Laurel Tavern on Monroe Street, a family-friendly pub that had
been there for forty years. The interior was dark and boisterous with
families catching an early dinner before heading home to Netflix and
video games, or couples just starting the night. They took a booth.
The twenty-something waitress had long purple hair on one side of her
skull, nothing on the other, and a unicorn tat on her arm. Duane
stared like a hungry dog. They ordered burgers. Josh got a beer,
Duane went for two shots of Canadian Club and a Miller chaser.
should try some of the local brews,” Josh said looking around. “You
don’t have to drink Miller.”
the time I get to that beer, I won’t give a shit. Ja see that
cooze? You got a girlfriend?”
one, but she died.”
shit. That happened to me. A couple times.” He pulled out a cig and
lit it one-handed with a kitchen match. A stout man with wife and two
kids at an adjacent table looked over.
smoking in here.”
did a double-take, stabbed the cig out on the bottom of his shoe and
dropped the butt.
after you, Duane?”
looked around. Con-wise, just like his son. Josh, a licensed private
investigator, had never looked at Duane’s record. He didn’t want
who Ryan Gehrke is?”
The Miami wide receiver who took a knee.”
stabbed a nicotine-stained finger at Josh. “You know why he took a
or some shit.”
showed yellow teeth. “He was protesting systemic racism in the
justice, and in the cops. I gotta tell ya, I think he’s right on
the money with the cops. They’re all rotten. Some of ‘em are
killers. That cop in Cinci. They were in a Wal-Mart when that
seventeen-year-old kid picked up an air rifle in the gun department.
Two cops run in screaming and shot ‘em. They didn’t tell him to
drop the gun or put up his hands. None of that shit. Bang bang. Very
sorry. They both walked. Pigs said they had reasonable concern for
Ryan shoot them?”
shook his head like he was talking to a dummy. “Noooo, it’s just
one of the issues we discussed.”
waitress came, plopping down drinks and burgers. Josh put ketchup on
his burger. Duane tossed down the shot. He tossed down the next shot
and looked around for the waitress.
gripped his burger. “Whoa there, pardner. You don’t want to go
blotto just yet.”
finished his burger in six bites. He had coyote jaws. He chugged the
Miller. He belched long and loud, causing heads to turn. Distaste.
where were you talking to Ryan?” Josh said.
pushed the dishes aside and leaned on his elbows. “At his crib in
Miami. Man, you should see it. He’s got this fuckin’ estate in
the same neighborhood as Desmond Pow, right on the beach. Pool,
cabana, hot and cold running babes, the best champagne, all the
cocaine you can snort, celebrities, you know who I saw?”
the fuck were you doing there?”
spread his hands, nonplussed. “Where do you think he got his
I first met Serial
Killer Man at Rocky Mountain Comic Con several years ago. An
unprepossessing fellow, he approached my table with a portfolio which
he laid out. Hideous, childish, pencil and crayon scrawls of skulls,
demonic figures and symbols.
sent me this.”
Everybody has a
hobby. Serial Killer Man’s hobby was corresponding with serial
killers, exchanging artwork, sometimes visiting them and getting
photographs. He had a clown drawn by John Wayne Gacy. I think he had
pictures of himself posing with Gacy. It was a while ago and I can’t
remember. I, too, was obsessed with serial killers. Many writers are.
We seek to understand the nature of evil so we can write about it. I
read and I read until I could read no more. I read Ann Rule and Jack
Olsen. I read Aphrodite Jones and Stephen G. Michaud. Serial killers
captured the public imagination and are everywhere. Countless
television programs and movies. Luther, Mind Hunter, Dexter, The
Fall, Hannibal, Alienest, The Prodigal Son. The serial killer is the
perfect modern day bogeyman, embodying our darkest fears. An evil
force who chooses strangers.
only natural for normal people to muse about the nature of evil, and
wonder what would compel someone to systematically track down and
murder strangers. As long as you don’t dwell on it. As Nietzsche
if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
about all the ladies who have corresponded with infamous killers,
visited them in prison, and even married them.
saw Serial Killer Man again last week at the Rocky Mountain Con. He’s
a regular. This time he had pictures of himself posing with one of
the so-called Tool Box Killers in a California prison. SKM is
unprepossessing and harmless. He also loves comics. He has an
extensive collection of original art. Only it’s not from comics.
I’ll probably see him again next year.
Day after day, Florida Man after Florida Man. Florida Women too. It seemed ideal material for a comic so I started writing. By the time I finished the five scripts I had a detailed novel outline. Getting an independent comic off the ground is an iffy proposition. If I were an artist, I would have drawn it myself. But I’m not. And artists don’t work for free. Fortunately, the talented Todd Mulrooney agreed to throw in with me.
I wrote the novel and sent it to Wolfpack publisher Mike Bray. Wolfpack specializes in Westerns, thrillers and crime stories, and Florida Man is comedy. Mike said he’d take a look, he might know someone. After he read it, twice, he said he wanted to publish it himself. So there it is. That’s Todd’s art on the cover.
By now, you are all weary of the blurb:
Gary Duba’s having a bad day. There’s a snake in his toilet, a rabid raccoon in the yard, and his girl Krystal’s in jail for getting naked at a Waffle House and licking the manager. With his best friend, Floyd, Gary sets out to sell his prized Barry Bonds rookie card to raise the five hundred needed for bail. But things get out of hand.
I had inadvertently joined an informal group of Florida Men whose fascination with that state’s more outre behavior and denizens is something more than a hobby. I hooked up via Florida Men with James Aylott, a former tabloid photographer turned novelist whose novel The Beach House touches on much of the same material. But while Florida Man follows the exploits of one hapless hero, Tales From the Beach House tells the intertwined stories of the denizens of a seedy Delray condominium. It is as packed with intrigue, heartache, and betrayal as a Shakespeare comedy, but is often funny. James uses real headlines to kick off each chapter:
MAN MISTAKES DEAD WOMAN FOR APRIL FOOL’S MANNEQUIN
MAN CAUGHT IN SEX ACT WITH PET CHIHUAHUA
MAN KILLED TESTING BULLET PROOF VEST
James read my book and posted, “Crammed with hysteric high-octane toxic masculinity, and without a hat tip to any sense of modern political correctness the novel “Florida Man” has to be one the must read books of the year! This amazing novel is pure-concentrate Florida fiction and will certainly be inducted to this genres future Pantheon of greats. Gary Duba, the book’s central character has to be a solid contended the Mick Dundee of our times and should be immediately signed up for a new marketing campaign by the Florida tourism board. This truly was an astonishingly good book and I highly recommend it to anyone who isn’t easily offended who is looking for a fun and action packed read. This book has raised the creative bar in the genre of Florida fiction and it will be hard to beat by the many writers who tread that path. I am just glad my next book will be set in Missouri as Florida Man has set a new standard that will be hard to better.”
I thought I’d pretty much covered the territory in that one book, but my publisher feels otherwise. I am planning a sequel. There is no dearth of material. Just go to www.floridaman.com, which sedulously tries to keep track. You can find our books on Amazon.
Fort Collins has excellent bike paths. I frequently ride the Spring Creek Trail which winds through the heart of Fort Collins. I always count the horses. People keep horses here like other people keep dogs. The trail takes me past the CSU Veterinary School. I can usually count on two there. The trail winds past the little free library box outside the fire station at Prospect and Taft. I always take a book, and usually pick one up. The last book I picked up was Beyond Fear by Joel Kramer, who set out to cross New Guinea in 1993 with a friend, using nothing but an inflatable kayak for transportation. It was an incredible journey.
people struggle with their bikes. When you ride a bike, your leg must
fully extend to
the bottom of the cycle, the knee locked. People grunt and strain,
standing on their pedals, and their legs never fully extend. I use
medieval toe traps, The modern way is special bike shoes that lock
into the pedals and are easy to remove. It
is astonishing how many people do not observe the most basic rule of
the road: stick to the right.
the trail approaches Spring Canyon, more horses appear,
gorgeous bays on a shaded pocket ranch west of Taft. Just past Spring
Canyon heading south is a pocket ranch which can yield up to three
horses. The other day I circled back toward it and found its front,
hidden behind a fence on a dead end road.
Cathy Fromme Prairie is a wide open space in the shadow of the
foothills with nothing but a bike path. Signs advise you to be snake
awake. New signs have appeared, limiting electric bicycles to fifteen
miles an hour. The trail cuts under Taft and then under Shields, near
the Apple Wood neighborhood. Now we’re talking. This is horse
country. I counted nine horses. The trail cuts under the railroad and
I’m back in Fort Collins with rushing traffic and blowing trash.
I have enclosed two images. One is a painting of Kender MacGowan with his beloved horse, whom he had to put down. Val Mayerik is the artist. The second is the lagoon I pass on my bike ride.
2. At no time during the exam did I recieve an official warning;
therefore, relying upon the college, I merely maintained my grade.
Surely this should been a satisfactory grade.
3. I know many members of the class who do not work as hard as I do
and who got a better grade. I am reconized among my classmates as a
good student. Just ask any one of them.
4. I was not well at the time of the exam.
5. This mark ruined my prospect of getting a scholarship.
6. This mark grieved my parents whose pride I am.
7. This is the only course in which I received a poor grade.
8. It is not a higher mark which I seek. I care notning for marks. I
think marks are wicked and I disapprove of them. However, this
pernicious system of which I am the victim requires marks for
achieveing success, and therefore, I seek a higher grade.
9. Several people around me copied from my paper during the exam, yet
they received higher marks than I. Surely, this is not fair.
10. I live far away frm the college and I feel this extra travel
should have been considered when you gave me my grade.
11. I have studied this subject from the broad philosophical
viewpoint and, trherefore, I was unable to answer your technicl
12. The questions are ambigous and therefore my answers should be
graded according to the reasonable interpretations that I made of
13. The exam was unfair and unfairly distributed over the subject.
14. I have to work after school and at nights. Therefore, I should be
given a break.
15. The reason I did not do better is because I am very honest. I do
not wish to say anything against any of the other members of the
16. My mind always goes blank during an exam.
17. I would have done much better if I had taken the other exam you
gave to the student next to me.
Conditions in the room were not conducive to concentration.