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Wheels on the bike go round and round 20: Grants Wheels on the bike go round and round 20: Grants
by Mike Jennett
2009-07-14 08:12:30
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Don’t come to Grants unless your evening plans comprise wandering Walmart, or ritual suicide.

For all I know, there could be a vibrant eclectic scene downtown but, on the outskirts, this town lacks a certain joie de vivre. I can’t believe the entire town can be so mind numbingly boring and dysfunctional, so maybe the townsfolk are trying to dissuade outside visitors, to keep a nefarious secret – trafficking human parts, for instance.

It starts at the hotel...

The clock/radio plays only commercials with whining children or females singing about Jesus. Other radio transmissions – anything with any musical or interest content – are non-existent.

Internet access, misleadingly represented by glossy pictures of hard-wired ethernet connections requiring a pass code at check-in, is actually wi-fi with no pass code requirement but, as it turns out, no-fi. The signal disappears after 3 minutes online, never to return.

The front desk clerk, who smiles inanely and points a thumb towards the ceiling, tells me to call the internet help desk who would ‘sort me out.’ I bet they would. Any communication with help desks will take years off your life – that’s what they’re for. It’s a sneaky method of population control.

There is no food. Despite a continuous illuminated display outside advertising dinner specials, the kitchen is closed due to mechanical difficulties. Meaning what, exactly? Has somebody’s cat fallen into the food processor? Is the cleaning lady missing a finger? Have recent guests turned green and died?

So – on to the bar for popcorn and beer where, despite being empty, it takes a while to get served. The pleasant atmosphere of background John Lennon music soon disappears, to be replaced by the raucous laughter track of a comedy show from a 14 inch television above the bar, turned up to full volume.

Neither the program, nor the frequent commercial breaks is hardly welcoming entertainment – and this seems to be overwhelmingly sponsored by a new birth control pill called Yaz. The chubby barmaid, whose eyes remain affixed to the picture, will not do anything about it. “Everyone wants the game on,” she says, vaguely, waving around at the entirely vacant room.

There is no game. There is no everyone, so I spend the next ten minutes hurriedly finishing my beer whilst hearing, multiple times, that Yaz does not prevent HIV, STD or other three-letter acronyms connected with unprotected sex.

The desk clerk says there’s one other bar in town but find I it fenced off in a construction site and looking like it’s been that way for a very long time. Perhaps it served food and had good music so the locals closed it to avoid attracting attention.

The Asian super buffet across from the hotel turns out to be a steam table holding a collection congealed masses of what might once have passed for food, but their time of holding that status has long passed. Now, they look more like something that would be offered on the salad bar in an English Pizza Hut.

Table for one, I am asked, by a smiling oriental lady who either thinks I am starving, or mad. She’s right about one of those. She would have a point with the other if I were actually to sit down.

A shudder runs down my spine as I realize the truth; without resorting to Taco Bel or Subway, there remains only Denny’s. As a restaurant, Denny’s falls a couple of notches short but, as a last resort in the town that feels like it died ten years ago, it suddenly gains status. I could go there, have a mediocre steak and a glass of bad wine and pretend to be in the land of living for the evening.

No.

It takes several attempts to find Denny’s, hidden between Super 8, the car wash and Walmart. Fifty-year old music reaches me before I even get to the door and continues, unabated, as I ask for a table, sit, order and eventually eat. Not that I mind– I quite like that era of oldies – but it says something about the population.

Denny’s is evidently the place of choice for anyone whose hair has turned gray, white or disappeared altogether and lives in a 1950’s time warp. No one seems to be eating much or talking – just sitting, staring.

Never mind, I’m not here to make friends, I just want a steak and a couple of drinks but once more I am thwarted.

“We don’t serve alcohol,” the teenage waitress says slowly, wide-eyed at the suggestion. “We just don’t see the need.”

Where else can I go? In the land of the blind, the one-armed man is king. Or something like that. It applies to restaurants too.

It’s whilst I’m eating, that another reason for the town’s state dawns on me; Los Alamos is very close. Could fifty years of radiation exposure from those early A-bomb tests have caused generations to lose increasing degrees of IQ, so that even the brightest would be considered a moron by standards in the outside world? Does the waitress have a seven-toed cousin at home? Do they burn the two-headed ones?

I chew in uneasy silence for a while as Pat Boone, Elvis and then Little Richard serenade the restaurant. Is fifty years enough? Will I be safe for one night?

Worry begins with a niggling feeling in your stomach and grows, like wanting to go to the toilet. Is there something else? The true reason begins to form in my mind, like a jigsaw taking shape. Forget trafficking body parts. Forget radiation and mutants.

Area 51 isn’t far; not next door, but close enough. I know how these things work – I saw that movie. First, there are lights in the sky, dogs disappear and cows get turned inside out. Then pods appear in basements. One by one the townsfolk vanish for a day or two and, when they come back, they’re different; quiet, subdued and they walk around staring.

Women forget how to cook and men stop drinking. They have no need for food or alcohol. They hang together, shunning others until, one by one, everyone becomes the same.

It all fits.

First, it was Roswell. Now they’re on the move.

We’re all doomed.

Read more at: www.mikeonwheels.com OR www.wheelsonthebikegoroundandround.blogspot.com     


  
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