Monday, August 15, 2005

Time to Leave Phoenix

Several readers wrote to me about something I alluded to in my last post: Somebody shot at me in Tempe one night. What was up with that, they asked. Well, here’s the story:

In early 1979 my friend Mark and I went to a fraternity party at Arizona State University and stole a keg of beer. Neither of us were students, but we were drunk as hell. I remember later climbing the fire escape stairs of Manzanita Hall, then the freshman girls dormitory, and getting caught by a stern middle-aged woman at about the 8th floor. I don’t know what we were thinking.

Later still we were driving around in neighborhoods near the university in Mark’s little MGB convertible. The streets were narrow – one lane each way – with parked cars lining the curb on each side. We came upon a pickup truck stopped in the road, in our lane facing the wrong way. Its lights were on and the engine was running. The truck was in our way, so we did what made the most sense to us at the time: We pulled as close to the truck as possible – nose to nose – and commenced to honk the horn for about 3 minutes, laughing like drunken hyenas. Finally we zoomed around the truck, shouting some obscenities as we passed.

About 100 yards down the street we came to a four-way stop. Mark looked in the rear-view mirror and muttered, “Holy Shit!” The pickup truck was hurtling toward us – in reverse – at a very high rate of speed. We figured things were about to get real western.

Mark turned right and pulled the MG over in a clearing about 40 yards from the intersection. He got out of the car to prepare for the fistfight that was sure to come. I’m really tall, and as I struggled to get my drunken self out of the tiny car its windshield exploded in a million crystals that shimmered in the moonlight. I looked back and saw the silhouette of a guy with a rifle, shooting at us.

Remember that keg of beer we stole from the frat house earlier that evening? It was crammed in the space behind the seats in the MG, and I dove back into the car to hide behind it. Bullets zinged and banged into the car. I looked at Mark a few feet away, where he was hunkering down and hoping to survive.

The guy got in his truck and sped off. We never saw what he looked like, nor did we see the license plate on his truck. When we were nose-to-nose in the street the headlights of the truck were right in our eyes, making vision impossible.

After that the idea of getting out of Phoenix seemed to get more and more attractive. Things were getting outta hand, and Jackson Hole sounded like a good place to chill.