John and Mary Marlin were the owners / hosts / full-time staff / ringmasters, having retired and moved from Detroit to open the business and just plain get out of Michigan. Brought their four sons with them and a friend or two of the boys.
It was Papa John and Mother Mary who pretty much changed the face of the town. The Tabor became a saloon in the greatest sense of the word, where you could get away to a place where everybody knew your name. They were always glad you came. We all took turns being “Asshole of the Night”, always had each other’s backs and even brewed up a batch of familial familiarity. Even the local Rednecks would grab a pool stick to protect one of “their hippies” from a particularly argumentative outsider no matter what the cut of their jib.
I just fell flat on my face right into place.
I will never, for the rest of my life, ever forget the time I actually heard myself calling out all the way to the back of the bar…
“Yo, Bump! Y’all seen Elmo?”
I almost wept.
I mean, shit (which I had learned to stretch into two syllables), I had gone to private school for a few years and taken five years of Latin, okay? Get where I’m coming from? And I’m saying crap like that and hanging out in front of the Post Office in town on the nights of the concerts up at Red Rocks watching the damned traffic jam at Bear Creek Road and Stone Street!
I had even started giving directions to tourists passing through using the measurements “down the road a piece”, “down the road a mite”, “down the road a bit”, “down the road a tad”, and crème de la crème … “down the road a ways, then turn right on over where Jasper Marley’s tack house blew up last Fourth.”
Five years of Latin? Forty-five dollar a plate dinners in the East 80s? Six figure trust fund?
Watching traffic jams?
“Y’all seen Elmo?”
Not quite the way anyone figgered my crick was gonna git to flowin’.
But it felt more natural, more relaxed to me than anything or any me I had ever felt before, and that was actually and most assuredly not from some artificially induced change in brain chemistry.
I had broken through a few years earlier in Denver, with Marty and Mary and Marcie and Mark and George and Tom assisting in the birth, and finally reached that point at which I was breaking out.
And it was then that Morrison was seeing more than it’s fair share of hippies and bikers not just driving through, but comin’ back. Puttin’ their feet up. Settin’ a spell. Didn’t necessarily sit well with some of the more established folks in town, but we were doing nothing to bother them aside from, well, just being there. Spent a lot of money in that town, problem being we were spending it in the wrong place. In that town of roughly seven-hundred-fifty cit’zens, there were four other bars owned by people who lived their entire lives in that town where we could put up our quarters for a twelve-ounce Coors instead of the Bud those interlopers served at The Tabor.
We didn’t care. It was our little “happy place”, and most of us were able to run a tab.
But a feeling of camaraderie among the regulars was insufficient substitution for the stability I needed.
Where Bryan and I had been able to kick back at home for an evening of Buds and buds, the occasional bag of ‘shrooms, the ten-inch reels of non-stop, carefully crafted playlists of the best of the late-’60s LA scene, of San Francisco psychedelia, Southern fried bar-room rock, the ball-busting bravado of Chicago blues and the growing genre of Western marinated country-rock …
… that reflective, introspective, ultimately insightful and personally progressive period had come to an end.
It had been the respite I had needed, and if my speech was slurred and I spent too long trying to find that word I was looking for and my eyes were neon red, so be it.
Things had started to get out in the open.
Just not quite enough.
Not quite yet.
And not quite entirely manageable.
They slowly started to get out of hand.
The Tabor was a sanctuary, but with little to offer on a nightly basis except for jukebox repetition and echoes of friendly small talk and beer hall bullshit coming from all three-hundred-sixty directions swirling aimlessly around me. I started to lose myself in a different type of confusion, one that was exacerbated by the floorshow outside of me rather than the turmoil within.
My heart went back into hiding, letting my foggy semi-consciousness do most of the work.
Once in too great a while, Bryan and I could find a quiet booth in the very back of the barroom, off behind the kitchen and the restrooms, and catch up on things. I was already beginning to lose track of all the lessons I had learned about myself in the Waldensian, almost pastoral atmosphere we had been able to establish for ourselves far from the maddening crowd, thirty miles up Bear Creek Canyon along Highway 74. Head left at Evergreen Lake on the way to Conifer along 73.
As close to a two-man Hog Farm as one could create in a growing middle-class mountain community.
And out of desperation for at least one room to call my own night after night, morning after morning, hangover after hangover, I found myself sharing whatever place I could find with whoever had almost enough money to kick in on the rent.
Ended up in a one-room/ one out-house cabin up in Deer Creek with Bill Kjontvedt, another one of the Tabor regulars with an old beat up Ford pick-up, a horse, and an inflamed pancreas.
Had our share of good times up there, waking up early Saturday mornings to sit outside with our two rifles, one shotgun, Bill’s .22 and my .357 and 44 Mag shooting up beer cans in hopes of keeping the weekly invasion of Jehovah’s Witnesses at bay. Threw some killer parties for some of the Morrison crowd and some of the local hill-based bikers.
Shortly after that, I met Liz, an exotically beautiful Spanish / Apache young woman raised in the plains northeast of Denver who had moved back home after living with her parents in California. Her friend Brenda had told her about “this cool little hippie town” in the foothills down the road from Red Rocks Park southwest of Denver and talked her into moving there.
Liz and Brenda spent some time in a home they rented from Buddy Chatfield, but it grew to be the official crash pad for everyone who couldn’t make it up the canyon due to snow, drugs, alcohol or whatever combination in existence come “last call” down at the Tabor.
In hindsight, I think Liz was also looking for a little place to be able to retreat to. As quiet by nature as I was, she had never been much for the nightly social circle, and I was drifting out of it if not away from them.
I was looking for the peace and comfort my family home always brought me; she was looking for those same things which she had never always able to find at hers.
Within a few weeks of meeting each other, after a couple of parties she attended up Bill’s place, we drifted towards each other. I left Bill’s (or maybe we both left, I forget) and rented a room in a local boarding house down in Morrison. It was an old hotel converted into a nursing home and pitifully resurrected into a collection of single rooms with a community kitchen and showers. and I essentially left my room in the boarding house and joined Liz in hers.
Even after living for a number of months in Central Denver, just blocks away from Denver City Park and the Denver Zoo, we still migrated back up to Morrison for the weekends and whatever weeknights we could fit in.
Even ended up back in the boarding house after a while.
For me it had been difficult to leave that wretched social scene because it was what I had come to know. Not just seven nights a week, but most mornings and pretty much every entire afternoon. And it was a five-minute stumble from my pillow.
There was a certain safety in redundancy, a modicum of comfort within the mental maelstrom that served the purpose of drowning out the last of what I was trying to escape.
Couldn’t shake the town, but yet again had to leave it after a while. The boarding house was pretty much closing down, not very many places in Morrison to rent, no transportation of our own to get back into the hills, but we had a couple of friends down in Arvada, northwest of Denver, who said we could stay with them. That settled that.
And it was easy enough to get a ride back to Morrison, hitching if we had to.
That part about “if we had to” refers to the hitch-hiking, not to getting back to Morrison. We didn’t really need to get back to Morrison – at least not as much as I wanted to or, yeah, maybe as much as I pretty much still needed to. I was only beginning to appreciate all that Liz was bringing into my life.
So I would head up there by myself, sometimes just crashing on a mattress someplace in the hallway in the living quarters up above the Tabor, waiting for Liz to make it up there.
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