The “Welcome to Pocatello” sign shines like a beacon of hope at two-thirty-something in the morning after 10 hours behind the wheel, in solitary confinement, save the head nod exchanged with a couple Hell’s Angels before parting ways at the truck stop in Rawlins, Wyoming. Don’t worry about keeping your hands steady on the wheel after that four-pack of Starbucks double shots, there won’t be much traffic in town. You won’t be sleeping when you get there. My host, a long lost childhood friend greeted me at the door with a glass of tequila disguising a hint of margarita mix.
The Pocatello Tourism site suggests hiking one of the recreation areas, or seeing the zoo, the huge sports arena, or the performing arts center, but they won’t tell you about the Assisted Living Facility. The Facility isn’t just open to everyone, but if you’re lucky enough to lodge with a local, and employee of the facility you’ll have the privilege to spend the morning listening to Slayer with a man whose cirrhosis is so bad he pees in a tube while confined to rocking-the-fuck-out in a wheel chair. Say hello to the convicted sex offender as he streaks down the hallway, nurses in hot pursuit to catch him before his nudity becomes offensive and out of control. Marvel at the woman known for taking the worst shits in the hospital, but don’t stay too long.
Since you’re in the neighborhood, go ahead and check out the Performing Arts Center and the Sports Arena, they’re huge, real models of fine architecture. Then head downtown to refuel. The Tourism site has an alphabetical list of dining establishments, everything from Arby’s to Yocrazy, but they don’t say much about the friendliness found at the First National Bar. I think the “Nash” serves food, and if you have a drink in your hand at three p.m. you get another one free. Guess you’re going to need some food after all. They won’t tell you about the Mexican place across town, which serves a fabulous chile rellano combo plate.
After your meal, your hostess, tour guide, and Assisted Living employee may decide now is a good time for a tongue piercing. Follow her. They won’t tell you how much she’ll drool as the technician at “Into You Piercings” explains the nuances of poking ears, belly buttons and labias while he transforms her flavor sensory center into a sex toy.
The sun dips below the horizon and the line of Harleys forming outside the “Nash” which happens to be next door to the piercing parlor, is a sign that the locals have come out to play. The Tourism website neglects completely, any mention of the hospitality you’ll receive from the locals in Pocatello. They may stare you down as you sidle up to the bar wearing a pixie skirt and a leopard print purse, giggling as you order your whiskey-ginger and survey the tattoos that sleeve their arms, the leather vests emblazoned with patches denoting which clubs each man claims and the dirty fingernails from wrenching on bikes or working construction all day. Don’t worry, they’ll warm up to you after sharing a few drinks, a round of pool and an expressed disdain for people who take offense at the mention of eating an infant raw, as if cooking it is more civilized.
If you are kicked off the pool table, it is probably time to follow your hostess and a few of your new friends to the next best bar in town. It doesn’t really matter which one, because at this point you won’t remember the name of the place in the morning.
They won’t tell you about the blonde girl in the denim mini skirt, high-heel leather boots and black shirt who might offer to buy you a drink. Her adam’s apple bobbing as she introduces herself as Rachael, or was it Stephanie? Her five o’clock shadow exfoliates your skin like sandpaper as she kisses you on the cheek before saying farewell. She’s right, it’s time to head home, eyelids drooping, struggling to keep up with conversation.
Sweet dreams, tourist. Enjoy waking up on the floor at the crack of noon to the summer sun poking you in the eyes and the ambient temperature an offensive hundred and two. As you drive away let the wonders of Pocatello stay with you.