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Dec. 20, 2021

The Memoirs of The Official Seenagers by Charlie Ponger. A Trip. New York to Oklahoma City, Salina Kansas, Boulder Colorado, The Grateful Dead opening for The Who. 1977

The Memoirs of The Official Seenagers

by, Charlie Ponger

I am from CT, now in New York. 

1977, then 18 years old. A High School buddy wins a football scholarship to Boulder. (Cool spot back then) Simultaneously, a girlfriend, moves to Oklahoma. 

Arrangements were made to visit both. I've never been anywhere other than Florida.
 The first stop is Oklahoma. Many firsts during my stay in Oklahoma. It was difficult adjusting to the dry air. The extremely oppressive dry heat in Downtown Oklahoma City was remarkable. Indoor skywalks connected various buildings. 
 As for the social structure in Oklahoma, it was the antithesis comparing it to New York. I was ignorantly surprised to learn how our cultures differed on nearly all levels. 

Talk about my insulation and isolation from the rest of our country.  Holy Cattle! 

 I found the outskirts of Oklahoma City bizarre. The visual of these black mechanical oil rigs churning twenty-four-seven reminded me of the TV show Lost in Space. They were everywhere.  The inescapable smell of oil was, at times, nauseating.

There were meatpacking plants. Never close enough to see a meatpacking plant. The non-visual didn't stop the stench, similar to the odor of rotten meat in your fridge. Far worse than the smell of black gold, Texas tea.

Massive tarantulas crawling around, seemingly everywhere, and surreal. Was I on planet Mars?  My first close encounter with these weird-looking creatures happened when this creature was crossing a country road and nearly the size of a snapping turtle. Massive. You couldn't miss it.

Then there was my jogging experience. A doozy, nearly running face to with an enormous real-life snorting Black Bull, a ring through his nostrils and all. He must have been one pissed-off bull. I could feel his body temperature through his nostrils, and that's  WAY too close. 
 
It's Oklahoma where I learned that rifles are commonplace.  I guess for most of the country too. 

 High-school football in Oklahoma is insane. Friday night under the lights is sacred. Enormous Roman-type Coliseum football stadiums for high school? 

The women,  incredibly pretty.  Particularly my girlfriend at the time and her entire family. Including her mom. Her mom, thin, wore those tiny daisy duke blue jean cut-offs with a white tee-shirt.  A stunner. Why put an 18-year-old guy in this position? I'll never know. 
Nearly all of my female encounters, generally, devoid of makeup.  Blue jeans and cowboy boots looking like female ranchers, farmers' daughters. Right out of a Beach Boys song. Well, that's how I remember it, anyway. :)
  
I was perplexed by the ammunition on shotgun packing experience. Why I asked myself. I quickly discovered that the girlfriend's brother and father did this because hunting season was approaching, bonding with father-son. (Go buy your ammo)

Indeed a camping family, all outdoorsmen, Hunting and fishing. They couldn't get enough of it. They even knew how to start a fire with just sticks and a rock. 

 My sleeping quarters?  A sun-drenched sunroom, hot as hell, with its own bathroom. Waken by a glaring sunrise every freaking morning. This will make a short stay for our guests. It had to be their plan.   
Sharing this bedroom with an odd Parakeet didn't help matters. The Parakeet loved mornings and not the confinement of a cage.  That freaking Parakeet talked non-stop. Just on and on. This Parakeet had the on and ons!  Oddly, the Parakeet suffered from some sort of mental illness too. This Parakeet hated its own feathers so much he pulled them all out!  It was a freaking bald parakeet. Only feathers on its head were intact. He looked like something out of the Adams Family.  
This bird needed the couch. It made me wonder, did the family drive him nuts, or was he just a nutcase entirely on his own?

The food was different for me, coming from an American Italian household. For instance,  I had brisket for the first time. Not the Jewish kind in New York. Instead, this was Oklahoma brisket. It was delicious. 

My girlfriend's family friends owned a cattle ranch in Woodward, Oklahoma. All Oklahomans call it Doubha-Ya, Doubbha-Ya "WW." I'm just sayin. By the time I met these family friends, maybe after a week or two, the girlfriend's family had enough of me,  the girlfriend too.
I was the overstayed guest! Making a solid and robust sales pitch to get me outta there. I reluctantly agreed to bounce. 
Pushing me out, must feel like when kids parents send them to boarding school?  I went to herd cattle for the day in WW. 
The drive from Oklahoma City to WW was strange as hell.  For over a two-hour drive, not one word was spoken.  Instead, this seemingly wealthy guy drank an entire flask of bourbon, maybe more.

 I picked up what he was puttin down. As he drove through the gates of his massive cattle ranch, I was surprised to see a few dead cattle in the pastures. The rich guy was obviously complacent and didn't have on a stitch of empathy. 
He made it known he disliked American Italians from New York, like me. He was a racist mother fucker. He continued to call me an I-Tal-Un or a Camel Jockey. Or Maybe he owed someone from the Bronx some money?

The Cowboys were pretty cool, though, and played the part, just like the movies. Rough guys with big smiles.
On their horses, Lassoed the cattle, the whole works.
I was in the cattle pens helping weigh the cattle. That's what they do.  I watched the cowboys administer antibiotics with doctor-like skill. They feed the cattle Solutent Green, yep, just like the movie, and gross.  
Once out into the pasture,  it was then time to corral them back into the field pens. No horse for me. I was a cowboy on foot. My job, while the real cowboys, in the saddles, moved the cattle toward me. Literally, stampeding towards me.  The owner sat in his car, and I could feel his amusement. Fuck him, I thought. I'll show him. I would have instead been run over by a stampede of cattle rather than offer one ounce of fear, although I was scared shit. I wasn't going to show it. I did what I was told by the cowboys. I had no other choice.  So, here I am, Jumping up and down like a lunatic, waving my arms,  screaming at the top of my lungs, all the while keeping gates open one after the other. I only hoped for the best.  Billy Crystal would have been proud of me. 

I couldn't avoid stepping in cattle shit. It was everywhere. I couldn't help but notice some of the cattle had enormous cysts on their bodies. Some were blind. I thought, this guy, the owner, is a mother fucker. He could give two shits. He was an arrogant mother fucker, and as far as I was concerned, he was far worse than any of this cattle shit. 
Turns out I was right. This guy went to prison for some sort of financial stuff. Such a dick.

Now, briefly back at my sunroom, not one question was asked about my little jaunt. Said thanks, and off I go to meet my buddy. As a reset, he is the one who had the full-ride as a football player wide receiver. He could catch anything within arms reach and then some.
Maybe he is 5'-10". Reminded me of Fred Biletnikoff, who played for the Oakland Raiders without the sticky hand glue that Fred coated his hands with. My buddy didn't need it.  Damn, that was a long time ago. Since you are probably a Seenager, you may remember Fred Biletnikoff? 

My buddy decided to meet me in Salina, Kansas! The family I was staying with couldn't wait to get me to that Greyhound Bus. LOL! Including the soon-to-be ex-girlfriend.  I had never been on a transit bus before, only one of those yellow school buses. Never a Greyhound. So, I packed up. Including my new brown suede cowboy hat and my acoustic guitar, and I went off.  As I boarded, I looked back to and waved to the family. In turn, they were waving back, just like the closing scene of the Beverly Hillbillies TV show. Man, they couldn't wait to get me the F outta there.
I was the only one who got off the bus in Salina, Kansas. One foot hit the ground and then the other. It was hot and dry. I could hear and feel the crunch of the dry dirt underneath my new cowboy boots. If I only had spurs on my heels, I thought.  Surreal, for sure. Hot sun, disgusting dry air.  A perfect opening scene out of a  Kill Bill movie.   
The bus depot, a small wooden white building, was closed. No one around. I looked left and right. No one around. As far as the eye could see, nobody. So, I sat there, on the curb, next to the depot sign. The depot sign was nothing more than an old piece of wood, maybe 12 inches long by 8 inches wide. Black lettering and white background. It read Bus Depot. Not creative, but to the point. 
The sign hung off a black steamfitters pipe with two S hooks. One of the S hooks came off, now hanging by one. I probably would not have noticed the sign at all if it wasn't for the wind. As the wind blew, the sign made a creaking sound, back and forth. The S hook was the culprit. As the wind blew, the dirt road created a dust bowl of sorts, and here comes the tumbleweed, right down the dirt road. 
I really am in Kansas, Toto! 
 I sat out front waiting for my buddy, and with my guitar, I played every Crosby Stills and Nash song repeatedly. Sang to my heart's content. This went on for three hours. My buddy was late, no bother for me. 
I could hear something in the distance. Looking through the Grapes of Wrath, I faintly noticed a car approaching me. As he slowed down, I could listen to the tires against the dry dirt road before I could actually see his car in full view. 
He stopped, and without either of us saying a word, I got in, and off we went. 
After a while, I looked at my buddy; my first words were, "Hey man, this is one fucked up place" we laughed as we were on our way. 

The highway was straight and flat. I mean seriously linear and flat. 
It's nighttime, he is still driving, the music is going, I look over at him, and he is freaking sound asleep with the wheel neatly tucked between his knees and his foot on the gas? That was crazy! So, things went into slow motion for me, and I gentle grabbed the wheel before waking my buddy. 

On to Boulder, we arrived on the outskirts of the Denver sky during the evening hours. Our approach was above the Denver skyline, and it was illuminated. What a beautiful sight.
Boulder was amazing. The Hill was unique. The flat irons, fantastic. The campus too. We went to this cool bar named The Sink, carved our initials into a wood beam. 
While in Boulder, as impromptu as it gets, we decided to pack it up and head out to see the Grateful Dead open for The Who. That gig was in Oakland. We had one day to get there. I had no idea how far it was from Boulder to Oakland. It didn't look far on the map. Ah, teenagers. He knew tho. I didn't. So, it was decided that three more would join. Five of us crammed into a Toyota Celica and one guy in an arm sling. What an arrogant disaster this dude was. He wanted to play the same cassette over and over again, a band named The Tubes. The sling guy was stuck on this band cause he knew one of the members. I didn't give a shit. The music sucked. Over and over in the cassette player, the fucking Tubes. I mean, we were going to see the Dead open for the Who, and this dude is playing this crap music. I had enough. He and I were at odds for the entire trip. As soon as this guy got into the car, I could feel he didn't like me and me the same. Just one of those things. We never grew on each other. It was a total mismatch. I remember thinking I wish he wasn't in a sling.

The gig is in less than 24 hours. We had to get there.  Now we are in the middle of nowhere Utah, and it's bathroom time, not a bathroom in sight.
Well, we picked the same spot as 90000 other people, toilet paper scattered everywhere. Our two female companions didn't appear phased. 
 We entered Nevada, and Tahoe was our only answer. We were short on cash.
There it was, a casino. Tahoe back then was a one-horse town.  My buddy and I sat at the black-jack table. We took our winnings and now had enough money for gas and food. Can you imagine how naive? Well, we will just get some more money by gambling? Talk about luck. I remember driving above Lake Tahoe and just couldn't believe how beautiful it was. I've been back since, and it remains remarkable.
As we entered California, we forgot to do a bong. We did a bong for each state. This kinda helped with the boredom. Packed, like sardines, a guy in a sling who listened to The Tubes, I did my best to remain sane.  So, we turned around and re-entered CA just so we could do a bong.

Finally, the gates open in Oakland, and it is a mad rush. I couldn't seem to get away from stampedes.  Ee sat in the front row. 
Another first for me. Front row, people passed around those camel-haired wine flasks and joints. Tanned women, all so pretty, walking around nude. Nude women sitting on guys' shoulders.  Why am I living in Connecticut, I wondered? 
The Grateful Dead opened for The Who.  The most fantastic gig I have ever attended.

And definitely the most bizarre, fun, engaging, and educational experience of my lifetime.

As an Official Seenager, You can't make this up.