Wednesday, August 19, 2020

A Perfect Day At The Hair Farm (A Dorm Daze Prequel)

One of the things that drives me in life is the quest for "the perfect day." Now that means something different to everybody. For me it means a day so goddamn good, if you could bottle it up and relive it over and over again, you would. I can think of maybe three of those off the top of my head. Days where you are actually kinda sad when your head hits the pillow at night. 

There was a day last Fall where after sort of knowing somebody online for over a decade and texting or talking to her every day for four months solid, I took five days off of work, blew out of town, drove nine hours and a state away and we finally met in person. Let's call her Katie. Katie and I spent a Friday (and eventually the whole weekend, where unfortunately we made one bad decision after another, not the least of which was spend entirely too much money on club seats to attend the atrocity that was my beloved Chicago Bears taking on her Denver Broncos while unbelievably hungover) together. DIAGRAM THAT SENTENCE! But that Friday, I'm telling you, that Friday was a perfect day. We met for breakfast, had our first actual golf lesson for the first time in person after several years of virtual online sessions, played eighteen holes, got dressed up (GOOD LORD, SHE'S A KNOCKOUT), shared a fancy dinner and drinks, talked about what we wanted out of life and capped it off with a warm embrace and kiss to cap the evening. I never felt more alive in my goddamn life. Now, somehow, despite my best attempts at screwing things up royally in the ensuing month and change, Katie is still as good a friend as I have, I love her to death and always will, and we at the very least message daily if not talk. I'm sure I'll write about her again some day. Things didn't turn out quite the way I pictured it in the future with her when I drove back to my hotel that Friday night. As always, I massively over-read the situation like I do the majority of putts these days. My dumb brain going places it shouldn't have and seeing things that weren't there. That tends to happen more often than I'd like. But that Friday was as perfect a day as I'd had in two decades. If I could bottle up that day and sell it, it'd fetch more on the streets than cocaine.

Halfway through a perfect day!
Most recently, I had a day a few weeks ago where I got up, watered my garden, taught an awesome golf lesson, fired a red-number on my old golf course and spent the afternoon with a pretty special gal, let’s call her Carly, who took me shopping at one of those high-end clothing stores that I wouldn't have ever pictured myself wandering into in a million years. I could’ve never fit in their clothes! She outfitted me with a whole new wardrobe. Stuff I never thought I'd wear, but you know what? They look fucking fantastic on the new bod! We capped the day again, with a lovely dinner and drinks at a swanky restaurant talking about how we got to where we were at. Unfortunately, I was actually successful at torpedoing that friendship royally and I still don't know if Carly and I are really friends anymore. I suspect probably not, and that really fucking bums me out. Sometimes the perfect day doesn't result in better things down the road. In fact, by definition, it's really all downhill from there. But sometimes, when you can just live in the moment of the perfect day, those things stick with you and burn a memory so vivid in your head you couldn't shake it if you try. 

This entry covers the events of one of those days, and we're going to turn on the wayback machine. Just a little over twenty-one years ago to one perfect June day that I spent with one of my best friends before I moved away to go to Westminster. I call this one "The Perfect Day at the Hair Farm."

It was June 19th, 1999. My alarm clock blew off at 5:30 AM with my favorite Keith Richards Stones' song, "You Got The Silver." I had to catch my pops before he left for work so he could sign my financial aid paperwork. My whole application to college came in pretty late. I'll tell that story another day, but I was behind the eight-ball and couldn't afford to wait for the mail to deliver it, and the money was starting to run out. So my buddy Skwez and I were going to drive it up to Salt Lake and hand-deliver it ourselves to the school. Plus, I wanted him to see how good this situation was going to be. He wasn't only one of my best friends, but he was also my golf coach in Junior College at Eastern Utah. He wasn't just going to send me off into the wild without seeing the lay of the land first. And I at least wanted to introduce him to my new coach. 

The old man and I sat at our ancient-ass 70's era kitchen table (yellow veneer? TACKY), hammered down some bacon, eggs and coffee and went over the paperwork for my pell grants and work-study. I think it was finally setting in for both of us, the clock was ticking on my leaving Price for good. Less than two months to go. I still miss those breakfasts. Pops Nickas was a hell of a breakfast cook. I swear it's the paprika on the hash browns. Goddamn fantastic. "You guys staying up there tonight?" he grumbled. 

"I don't know pop. We're flying by the seat of our pants today. The only real item on the agenda is dropping off these papers and checking out the dorms."

"Didn't you do that three weeks ago?"

"Yeah, but this time I'm taking a camera so I can see what I've got to work with as far as space goes." I obviously needed to figure our a way to fit all of my worldly possessions into an 11'x9' space. "Have a good day at work, pop. I'll find a pay phone and let you know what we do."

Nickas and Skwez, lookin' like a couple preppy
assholes, circa 1999.
Skwez pulled up an hour later at 6:30 in his pimp-gold 1996 Jeep Cherokee. I tossed my golf clubs and overnight bag into the back. He tossed me the keys as he filled up his CD changer with our road-trip standards. GNR's "Appetite for Destruction," Ozzy Osbourne's "No More Tears," Metallica's "Master of Puppets," and Rob Zombie's "Hellbilly Deluxe," among others.  "You're driving." He hated driving that canyon. 

"What's the plan?" I asked.

"I had TK call in a favor and we're teeing off at South Mountain in two hours. Fucking step on it dude." The course was roughly two hours away.

South Mountain Golf Club was at the time (before Salt Lake County bought it) was one of the two high-end golf courses in Northern Utah in the latter part of the 90's. Carved into the hillside in Draper, it opened up in 1998 and immediately got a reputation as one of the best tests of golf in one of the best conditions in the state. And for $90.00 at the time, it sure as hell better have been. That was pretty much unheard of for a public course green fee in Utah back then. 

We blasted through the canyon. Just a college dipshit and his slightly older than college buddy screaming metal tunes and power ballads at the top of our lungs. Not being my own vehicle, I drove extra carefully and we pulled into the South Mountain parking lot in an hour and twenty nine minutes. We popped the hatch on the Cherokee and started unloading our gear and changing our shoes when a bag attendant pulled up and loaded our clubs onto a cart. I damn near pulled the Happy Gilmore and tackled him when he grabbed my bag, until I remembered that yeah, nice courses have those guys. We tipped the dude and checked in where the guy informed me that I wouldn't be allowed to tee off unless I wore a collared shirt. Free golf at a swanky track though. Blew my mind, but I saw a decent looking one in a fat-kid size (MORE X'S THAN A PORNO THEATER) on the rack and bought it so we could tee off. Only $70! I couldn't believe how much of a rube I was back then. I'd like to say I still have that shirt, but no. It was in that giant tub of giant clothes I donated to the shelter last Winter. 

We teed off and this track was better than advertised. Super long from the tips, tight, with trouble everywhere. The greens were slick and the wind was whipping. Birdies were hard to come by, but we both made a few. Our scoring was pretty unspectacular, we both shot 75, but we had a damn blast and took a hundred bucks off the suckers we got paired with in a best ball match. We thanked the Director of Golf for being an awesome host and said hello for TK. "Come back anytime," he said. I don't think he lasted more than a year in the job.

DJ for a Day!
We dropped our gear off at Skwez's sister's place, got cleaned up and I got my paperwork together. We still had to make my meeting with Financial Aid at 2:00. We jumped back in the car and headed for downtown, switching this time to the radio. It was no secret, radio in Price Utah in the 90's was liquid shit. Radio in Price is STILL liquid shit. We had three country stations, two right-wing talk stations, a pop station, and an oldies station that I probably listened to more than anything. In fact, I can still sing along to almost any 60's song on Sirius Channel 6. I heard them all a thousand times. Liked them, but we were hurting for variety. But Salt Lake had the mighty KBER 101.1. Still, for my money the greatest radio station in the history of this state. We flipped it on just as the last refrain of Tesla's "Modern Day Cowboy" blasted out and the DJ, Hammer (who I got to actually host a show for an afternoon a few years later) came on. "Let's check in with Helmut over at Rocky Mountain Raceway getting warmed up for the big Poison/Ratt/Great White/LA Guns show tonight!" 

We looked at each other, "Dude, no way we're driving home tonight. We've gotta go to this. There won't be twenty people there, they might let us play in the band." Don't get me wrong, we still loved those bands. We grew up in the timewarp that was Carbon County, where it was still 1988, but we both knew most of those acts hadn't been heard from in years. Thankfully, the legendary Heavy Metal Shop was in the Sugarhouse neighborhood within walking distance to Westminster so we popped in and managed to snag their last two tickets. We were gonna rock our dumb asses off that night. 

Formerly known as Res.3
The college visit was every bit as good as my initial one, if not better because one of my best pals was there with me this time. We met with my new coach, DP, briefly and it was like a passing of the torch. We took another dorm tour. And this time I got to see my actual room. Res. 3, Room 302. The Penthouse of the new building. And I didn't know it at the time, but I also met one of my future roommates, Jerry Flynt. I took a few photos of my bedroom to get some idea of what I had to work with space-wise. Not much, but at least I got my own room. I was going to have to stack some furniture, or do some "Step-Brothers" shit. Skwez was impressed. "This dorm is nicer than Harvard!" he said. I have no idea if that's true. We stopped over to the Campus Patrol office so I could pick up my residential parking permit, made one more trip by admissions to say goodbye to DP and my admissions counselors Kenny and Clint and booked it over to Tres Hombres for some dinner before the show. 

Over giant smothered burritos and for him a margarita, for me a Sprite (I was still 20 years old and the DD for the trip), we talked a bit about what I was about to dive into. He asked me, "What do you think about your coach?"

"Seems like a nice guy. And this is the chance to get in on the ground floor of something. Yeah, we're probably gonna get our asses kicked, but at least this is a chance to play. I mean, I won our Conference last year and I couldn't get a look from any of the big schools. I just want to play man. I know I'm not D1 talent. But I think I can hang in the NAIA."

"I think you're making the right move man.That campus is awesome." he said

"Yeah, and not a ton of rules when you live there. Just enough rules. And I kinda like the idea of living in the dorms. I kinda need rules and structure to bend and push!"

We finished eating, paid the bill, I hit up a pay phone (REMEMBER THOSE?) to call Pops Nickas to let him know I was staying up there that night, and we lit on out of there towards Rocky Mountain Raceway. After driving for what felt like a goddamn eternity we approached the 5600 West exit off of the 201 freeway. Felt like we were basically in Wendover, kind of funny to think that’s pretty much where Casa de Nickas is now. But about a half mile from that exit we ran into bumper to bumper traffic. “Shit, maybe there’s more people that remember this stuff than we thought.” 

It was a half hour before we reached the venue to find an absolutely jam-packed parking lot. We got out of the car just as the opening bars of LA Guns' (Jizzy Pearl Version) "Ballad of Jayne" echoed across the property. Bummer, we'd missed most of their set while stuck in traffic, but managed to clear security just in time to see them blast through "Never Enough" and "Rip and Tear" to close out their set. The infield of the racetrack was packed wall to wall with people. There might've been 13,000 people there. Which considering it had been nearly a decade since any of those bands have had a hit, really said a lot. 

This dude was put in charge
of reviving the unrevivable
Next up was Great White. I know, I know, but this is pre-Station fire. We were at the same time both struck by how good they sounded and how awful they looked. This was a weird era for rock music, Sony had created a label called Portrait that summer and tabbed producer John Kalodner to revive the careers of these old glam rock and blues metal acts. I bought a couple of those albums that year and while they sound pretty good, don't exactly hold up to the older material. But there's a couple gems on each. Great White recorded one of those albums in which they pretty much re-recorded most of their old hits along with a new song or two. It was pretty stereotypical, when the new songs came out, that crowd made a mass exodus for the john or the beer line. It was uncanny. 

Their set wrapped up, and I was really most excited to see Ratt. So Skwez hit the beer line, and I hit the restroom. When I came out he was talking to these two fairly attractive women who immediately ran up to me and asked if I'd buy them a drink. I'm an idiot, so dumbfounded, I obliged and they planted a kiss on each side of my face like to freaking Doublemint Twins and disappeared into the crowd. Skwez was ten feet away laughing his ass off. "The fuck was that all about?" I asked.

"Oh, I told them you were one of the promoters and loaded. But you 'don't like to make a big deal out of it.'" 

"Thanks pal, I've barely got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. Especially now that I'm going to that school!" Still, at the time, that was pretty damn funny.

Utah! Get me two!
We waded back into the crowd just as the opening riff of "Lack of Communication" brought Ratt out onto the stage. They sounded great, and unlike about 2/3 of the times that I've seen them live since (6 or 7 times in various clubs and bowling alleys) actually put some effort into the performance. They blasted through all the songs you recognize and a few only us heshers recognized. For us, the highlight was easily "Nobody Rides For Free," just because it was the closing credits song on one of the two movies (the other being Top Gun) that we'd watched over and over again that summer, Point Break. Bottom line though, Ratt sounded fucking awesome that night. That tour might've been the last time they were really at their best and the crowd was shit hot. I had no clue this many people even still liked this music, but this crowd was genuinely into it!

And now Tan Mom plays the hits!
Poison was Poison. Even if you're the type that thought of them as "metal for chicks," you still couldn't help but have a great time jumping around to their songs. They basically blasted through their entire greatest hits record, which for a nostalgia tour, should be an actual law. Played pretty much every recognizable song they had. About halfway through the set, I got bumped into by a guy absolutely flying on grass, hobbling around on crutches. "Dude, you look sturdy, I need a favor!"

"Uhhh, whatcha need?"

"Put my lady up on your shoulders man!"

Hey, who am I to say no to a man in need. Up she went for "Something To Believe In." I managed to catch a glimpse of Skwez's face. He had a mixture of bemusement and a bizarre pride when she handed me her tube top. It was funny at the time, but there's a good reason you don't see that too often at shows anymore. And that's definitely for the best. 

They wrapped up the show with "Rock and Roll All Nite" from the legendary Less Than Zero soundtrack. A hell of a good time was had, and as we filtered our way out of the racetrack and back to the car, Skwez and I just looked at each other like, "did that day just happen?" We ran pretty much nonstop from 6:30 that morning until now at 12:30 at night. And everything we did tangentially hit on just about every aspect of our friendship. From playing golf (where we first started hanging out), to touring the halls of academia, to blowing our eardrums out with a bunch of obnoxious hard rock tuneage. It was a the fullest of days with one of my best friends, dare I say "perfect." Because while life has moved on for us both, and we're still pals and have had many good times since, that day was pretty much our apex mountain. And I'll remember that forever.


Two months later, I left Price for the last time as a full-time resident. In fact, outside of the summer after my first junior year, I've only popped in for a few days here and there to visit the family and a few friends. Skwez got married, moved to Colorado, divorced and married again, adopted a couple kids and now is a domesticated family guy. Neither one of us are fat kids anymore. My history in the years since has been pretty well documented here on the 'Monster. But that perfect day will stand out as a real turning-point in my life. That day, moving to the city became real.