The noises of downtown Denver are echoing through the park right now; children frolicking, buses screeching to a halt, police sirens blaring. In the middle of this park, lies a towering oak tree, offering shade from the blaring Colorado sun. This isn’t just any tree, to me at least.
It was February the last time I was in this park and also when I began hitchhiking. I made it to Denver barely alive after being involved in a serious crash with The Van. She was totaled and needed some mad fucking repairs. I refused to just let her rot in some junkyard and decided I would hitchhike to wherever the work was.
So there I was in the Mile High City with just my pack and Ziggy.I wasn’t sure what the hell I was doing, where I was going, and what the fuck to do. I came to the park next to the Denver Public Library, next to the capitol building, knowing it was a place for all transients alike.
I recall thinking, “What the hell Stass? You’re one of those dirty ass hippies like the ones you used to walk by in Downtown Chicago.” Quite frankly, I didn’t who I was except lost and confused. I had only been living in The Van for four months then, still a bit of a virgin to The Road.
Zig and I sough comfort under this tree. I tied her up to my over packed (60+ pounds) Osprey and laid in the grass under the bare oak.
The afternoon sun offered me warmth, yet I knew once she went down, the brutal cold would be my enemy.
I recall the cops busting some guys across the park, their patrol cars hauling ass down the sidewalk. I got a bit nervous then. Was I safe here? Then that turned into worry, as I had to find somewhere to sleep.
A couple young boys were passing out brown bags to all the homeless inside the park and sweetly offered me one. I blankly stared at them, debating whether to decline their gift or moug out on its contents. Then I’m like fuck, do I look homeless? Do I look hungry? I took the bag and wolfed down a sandwich, apple, and cheese crackers.
Five years ago, if you were to tell me I would be loitering with the Denver homeless, I would have laughed at you and offered you another line of cocaine. But there I was, no house and not a pot to piss in. I was alive and that’s all I could have asked for.
As I sit beneath the same tree a year later, I’m constantly glancing over to the girl I once knew. She’s a bit cleaner than I, her boots are barely weathered, and her hair perfectly straight. I smile at her, as she has no idea what The Road has in store for her.
So what happened next? A kid named Loki saw me and my pack and asked if I was in town for Further. Who’s Further? I told him about The Van and he started flipping out. “Are you Happy Nomad Girl? I’ve been emailing you about a ride!” We passed a smoke and he bolted for the bus roaring up.
My friend picked me up in his 1969 Fairlane and we headed to his place in FoCo. From there, I decided to check out Further in Broomfield, even though I didn’t have a ticket. I hung out down Shake Down Street, was “miracled in”, and took acid for the first time.
I caught a ride to San Fran from the guy who miracled me and stayed on his 35 foot boot in Antioch. We went to Terrapin Crossroads where Phil Lesh signed my concert shirt and told me I spelled my name wrong. We drove to Humboldt County where I scored a pound of weed which I sold for very little, but just enough to jump start my “Fix the Van Fund”.
He dropped me off at the Beat Museum a week later after Dean Moriarty’s great granddaughter contacted me and told me I must check it out. After I left there, not even a block away, I drank a beer with a couple dudes on a stoop and one offered me a place to stay at his friends. After he asked me out on a date to the methadone clinic, I hightailed it to Hippy Hill. I got a hotel in Oakland with a dude who was friends with a someone I had picked up in the mountains of Georgia after he got a flat tire on his bicycle. We ate vegan food, drank Jameson, and talked life.
The next day, I unloaded most of my gear to a train hopper named Ace. A guy named Gary picked me up in San Fran and took me to Lompoc to meet up with my cousin. Halfway there, he got out of the car, stripped his clothes off and hugged a tree. I have it on film, it’s fucking great. The stories go on and on.
If you ever find yourself in Denver, come to the park next to the library. Walk away from the library, towards the park, and down the path leading in. On your right, you will find an electrical box in the ground. Face the bus stop and you will see a tree right in front of you with a knot in the middle resembling an ass hole. Sit beneath it with the girl I once knew and tell her I said hello.