the bright angel lounge

Putting the pedal to the metal in our white Dodge Charger, Simone and I drove to one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Grand Canyon.

The purpose of this trip was primarily to see all the work the Colorado River had done (with some help from uplift and other geologic processes) to carve out 6000 feet of canyon wall.

It’s incredible; all of the visitors standing too close to the edge of the abyss are not.

National Parks are fantastic treasures, but the secret is out.

I don’t like crowds.

They derail the whole plan to find solitude in nature. Thoreau says, “All good things are wild and free.” He neglected to mention anything about the folks who arrive to geologic wonderlands by RVs, equipped with satellite televisions powered by generators.

These same highway people tend to have a hard time observing the rules of keeping their limbs within the safe confines of the guardrails.

But the good thing about the Grand Canyon is almost everybody goes home at nightfall. The masses part. If you’re fortunate enough to be staying at the park, it’s pretty easy to find an empty watering hole to decompress after seeing so many people behave in ways you fundamentally disagree with (littering, hand-feeding squirrels, and choosing inappropriate footwear for the outdoors.)

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Drinking on the edge of a precipice is not for weenies, or little smokies neither.

Inside the lovely Bright Angel Lodge, built in 1935, is a dark room for enjoying a few brews. This bar could be anywhere in America, except there are perplexing murals of Native Americans and cowboys. (Please see the photo above.)The carpet is dark and probably remembers a lot of spills. 

They have Grand Canyon Beers on tap. I wouldn't go as far as recommending them.

Before arriving here, whilst driving our American Muscle car up I-17 N, we listened to a lot of Sheryl Crow.

The good stuff. From the 90s. When she was gritty and making French toast by tearing off mold from the crust of the loaf of bread. This is a reference to the song “If It Makes You Happy.”

This Sheryl Crowe belongs in a dark bar in the southwest. Here she could croon about doomed relationships.

Did Sheryl write songs here, bellied up to the bar with a ballpoint pen, or play for drunks on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon? Before she made it, did she have her guitar case opened for tips and take a cigarette break when people weren’t listening?

Not likely, but in my head she sure did.

“We’ve been far, far away from here
I put on a poncho and played for mosquitos
And everywhere in between
Well, okay, we get along
So what if right now everything’s wrong?”

This lounge made a big impression on me, with its underwhelming atmosphere, very average customers dressed in jeans with polos tucked in, and dark corners where nothing interesting or illicit was happening.

It’s because it reminded me of those grunge Sheryl Crow songs we belted out in the privacy of our rental vehicle. I left holding on to that place with my hand on my heart.

I imagine her early music came from a dark place where spent a lot of time in seedy-no-name-bars, strumming her guitar to make a living. She didn’t know back then if her rock-n-roll dreams would come true. Before fame and fortune, she suffered from both ennui and angst. Just an American scraping by in the middle of this big country.

Sheryl would understand that people are a drag, and the best refuge from them is in lonely saloons.

I got to return to this bar about a year and half later with another friend, Heather, who also somehow missed the childhood rite of passage of visiting that big hole of Americana.

The Bright Angel Lounge was exactly the same, save for one detail. This time there was someone playing a guitar in one of those dark corners.

With just a guitar, singing the borrowed song "There's Your Trouble" by the Dixie Chicks, was Drew Reid, an unrecognizable grey haired musician trying to make a buck in the desert. Not Sheryl Crow.