What kind of man is it who goes to the Rocky Mountains, and through determination, skill, and (I assume) access to a wide variety of power tools alone takes a space where there was no attractive and charming two-storey wooden house with electricity and running water and says ‘Here. Here is where I will build an attractive and charming two-storey wooden house with electricity and running water’?

A kind of man who is a man totally unlike me – that’s what kind of man. Because I would have given up and gone crying down the mountain road before I was even done measuring out the ground with my stride as soon as I realised that there might be a bug in the woods.

What kind of family is it who says ‘You’re going to be in Colorado? And we’ve never met you? Please come and make yourselves at home in this attractive and charming two-storey wooden house with electricity and running water that some guy built while we take you in and feed you and make sure you’re entertained while you’re there?’

Well, that would be Erika Rae’s family.

What kind of a man is it who says ‘We’re all going to be hanging out? Then I’m going to bring a case of wine and some champagne for all of us, including these strangers from across the Pacific, and we’re going to do this right?’

Well, that would be Uche Ogbuji.

What kind of woman is it who still terrifies me, even though there is now an ocean between us, and I have it on excellent authority that she can’t cross over running water?

Obviously, Megan diLullo.

I must warn you. Please remove any magnets from the immediate vicinity, as the following photo is so metal that they will fly screaming across the room and bury themselves in your computer screen.

Right before they catch on fire.


Dear TNB: These are your editors.

An insight into TPAC’s combined intelligence and problem-solving ability can be found in how we handled our arrival into the Rockies.

Step One: Talk to Erika Rae. Get her address. Also get told that there is little cell phone reception to be found near her house.

Step Two: Drive to the nearest city centre with the idea of going from there. Find our GPS doesn’t recognise her address.

Step Three: Decide to call Erika.

Step Four: Remember what we were told about the cell phones less than twenty minutes earlier.

Step Five: Use the post office landline to call and leave a message asking for Erika to come and meet us at the local cafe.

Step Six: Also get directions from the woman at the post office.

Step Seven: Wait five minutes. Unsure if Erika will get message anytime soon. Decide to follow post office directions.

Step Eight: Figure that we can recognise Erika, a woman we have never met, if she passes us on the road on the way to her house, by the fact that she is brunette and we think she drives an SUV.

Step Nine: Drive past a brunette woman in an SUV. Turn around and go back to town.

Step Ten: Unable to find brunette woman in an SUV.

Step Eleven: Go back to cafe, defeated. Cafe owner hears our accents and asks if we are the people Erika just called about.

Step Twelve: Stick to Erika’s original, one-step suggestion: ‘Why don’t I just come meet you guys?’

Step Thirteen: Erika comes meets us guys.

Step Fourteen: Hilarity ensues.

Seriously, if you want to have a good time, go hang out with the Colorado contingent of TNB. They have bears. It’s awesome.

We got in to Erika’s place late in the morning. We met her kids (small, smaller, smallest), her husband (tall), and her dogs (friendly) right before we got introduced to the next member of her family: the woods.

I’ll say this.

I’ve always defined myself as a city guy. I grew up in suburbia, familiarised myself with the alleyways of Melbourne as soon as I had the chance, fell in love with San Francisco, and thrill to the sights and sounds of cities at night.

But I could live in the Rocky Mountains. Mountain lion dens, the quiet of marshes and trees, the storms that sweep past. Trees that smell like vanilla and chocolate and strawberry and Zara’s background chirping of ‘I want a squirrel!’ (OK, at this point, I was fairly sure we were actually in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory…).

I could live there, so happily.

As long as, of course, I had the time to practise my Uchery.

Whatever you were doing on Friday June 11, we had more fun. We just did.

Deal with it.

We had poetry readings, brain-damaged monkeys, and Rocky Mountain Oysters. We had kung-fu, and huge amounts of good, good food, and wine. We had same-sex marriage ceremonies and Marilyn Manson and German reggae. We had lightning and archery and we had this almost completely unexplainable photo.


We had a roof over our heads while the skies opened up and we had friends who took us in and made us feel so, so welcome. We had discussions about life and love and writing and each other, about monkeys and squirrels and chipmunks.

And we miss you guys, now.

Thank you.

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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

44 responses to “TPAC 2010: Day 9, 10 – To Rock Out in the Rockies”

  1. Sarah Bell says:

    Question one: Why do you have your finger up Megan’s nose in picture one?

    Question two: Why are my sister’s fingers bandaged?

    Question three: What did you do to my sister?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Answer one: I don’t! It’s a clever optical illusion.

      Less clever is the photo that can be found on Facebook of Megan actually sticking her fingers up my nose.

      Answer two: the answer involves many factors, but really, as we all know, can be summed up in one word: metal.

      Answer three: fell completely in love with her metalness and am now badly trying to cover it up by making fun of her and joking about how I fell completely in love with her metalness. Like, people will read this and think ‘Oh, he couldn’t possible be in love with Megan, because he’s making jokes about how he’s in love with Megan.’

      But I am.

      Double-bluff, suckers!


      Can the rest of the internet read this?

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        Jamestown’s not a half-bad place to get lost. How did you like the classic Colorado drive up there?

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Jamestown was a very nice little slice of Colorado. The river is what they refer to as a babbling brook, I believe?

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Interesting. Didn’t know that. I’ve just heard it referred to by Jamestowners as “the creek,” but I’ve only stopped int he town itself about a half dozen times. “Babbling brook” is cool because it makes me think of the Hobbits’ shire.

        • Simon Smithson says:


          It’s a colloquialism, rather than an actual definition. And a fading one, too, I think, which is rapidly moving into antiquity. I just liked using the appellation.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Jesus, guys, should we tell her about the incident with the filleting knife?

  2. Zara Potts says:

    Oh my God. I am, laughing out loud at your description of us trying to get to Erika’s house, beacuse it is EXACTLY what happened. I had forgotten that. Man, how stupid were we? Even more stupid than I thought ,now I see it written down step by step. But so fucking funny.

    Which reminds me: Do Not Tell Slade What We Realised Yesterday.

    Oh, the Rocky Mountains were wonderful. Wonderful company, wonderful food, wonderful brain damaged monkey impressions. Wonderful wedding. Wonderful squirrels. Just magic.

    We were so incredibly spoilt by the TNB people and their familes. What a blessing.

    Compound, anyone??

    • Simon Smithson says:

      No. Slade Must Never Find Out.

      Looking back, I can’t believe how dumb that was. No, seriously, we’re smarter than that. It must have been the altitude.


      I had such a good time there, thanks to all the TNBers who made it along. Really, guys, I enjoyed meeting you all so much.

  3. Jude says:

    Uchery! Hahahaha!!

    Bloody hell – just reading your description of trying to find Erika’s house, makes me grateful that you both got home safely.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Ha! But I must say that because she had a baby on her front pouch, Erika didn’t get to demonstrate that she and Scott are the true aces at archery.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        I’ll have to send them some arrows to make up the ones I lost…

        Poetry, archery, woodcraft, conversation – Jude, Uche is such a Renaissance man that he makes Mirandola look like Pauly Shore’s less-talented cousin.

        • Erika Rae says:

          Uche can go from Emerson to Einstein to Eminem in point-zero-two-seconds flat. He is a preview of humanity’s evolution. Assuming we’re not going backwards, that is.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I would be so happy if I was evolving into Uche. Then I would take over the world.

  4. Uche Ogbuji says:

    We miss you guys, too. We’d better get to constructing that compound.

    I must fill in the detail that in photo #1, the lighting has obscured Erika’s one-finger salute. But actually, now that I’ve said so, seems silly to have done. With all that metal in evidence, what else could she have been doing?

    And yeah, I’m like you. Not exactly a city kid, but at least a medium college own kid, converted to the soul side by the Rocky mountains.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      We should get the guy who built the house Z and I stayed in to build the compound.

      We’re all so metal. It’s ridiculous.

      The trip around the States has really appealed to my latent natural sensibilities. I hope it keeps up beyond just a vague yen to go and see The Last Airbender.

  5. Becky says:

    I want to shoot bows with Erika Rae.

    In the worst way. I’ll bring mine, Erika, wherever you are. I am perfectly at home in the woods. Can I move in?

  6. Oh, man. I wish I was there with you guys and gals. You look like you had the bestest of best times. And Megan, I hope those lovely fingers of yours are doing okay. Peace, y’all.

  7. Erika Rae says:

    Simon, we’re all in love with Megan. In the worst way.

    Also, the picture of me as Pablo with Uche and Simon flanking as matadors or possibly as background singers for the Gypsy Kings makes me wet myself with glee. It is a gleeful wetting. Not unlike the gleeful wedding between Zara and Megan. To the happy couple!

    Oh, and the Rocky Mountains will never be the same now that Simon and Zara have been here to hug and sniff our Neapolitan trees. You guys – so warm and funny. And metal. With the kiddos tucked blissfully away in their beds, we rocked out to Marilyn Manson, Seeed, and yes, Chumbawumba. We couldn’t be more metal if we tried.

    Zara, love, did you manage to keep the Rocky Mountain Oysters down?

    • Zara Potts says:

      Oh, you tricky trickster. You almost had me. Well, actually you did trick me for about half an hour.
      But after we spent a good twenty minutes howling with laughter at poor brain damaged Ricky, I realised there was no way you would have fed me mountain oysters, which is lucky because otherwise I would have posted the pictures of us all doing monkey imitations… ! (which I still have just in case…!!!! ahahahhah)

      • Simon Smithson says:

        I imagine Megan’s life to be like those ’50s glamour women scenes where she walks through a supermarket and all the assistants sigh in harmony and rest their chins in their hands and watch her walk.

        Just more metal.

        I love that photo so much. I want to marry it.

        Oh! Chumbawamba! I forgot Chumbawamba!

  8. Gloria says:

    I read the part about your love for the city, yet your confidence that you could live in the Rockies and I started sobbing uncontrollably. I miss The Rockies. It’s where I grew up. You made me homesick.

    I remember exactly what I was doing on Friday, June 11th, and I’m confident that you were having more fun.

    These pictures make me insanely jealous.

    I want to shoot bows with Erika, too.

    I have to ask – what was it like to drive all over THE ENTIRE NATION in just thirty days? That’s insanity.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      You grew up everywhere! The Rockies, LA… everywhere!

      We did the trip in just under three weeks, I think. We bookended it with some time in LA and a mid-point stop in NYC.

      The answer is: awesome. It’s so much fun. But I guess a lot of that was due to choice of traveling companion, too.

  9. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    That pic of the marsh and trees and rocky creature in the background…I could live and die there.

    I hate getting lost, so if I go somewhere unfamiliar, I equip myself with lots of maps. A few years ago, I went to the woods alone. Google maps allowed me to zone in on the strange little roads which led to the cabin where I was going to stay. However, the logging road up the hill was NOT charted by Google and the instructions from the cabin owners were off by a letter. (There is a BIG difference between Logging Road 160 and Logging Road 160-A.) Ultimately, I relied on the kindness of a stranger and intuition to get me to the right place. Two hours later than expected. *sigh* Worth the drama, though.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It was gorgeous out there. It really and truly was.

      I’m the biggest advocate of GPS the world has ever known. There’s a suburb over here called Eltham that I, without fail, get lost in. And every time I look out the window, struggling to find a street sign I recognise, I grimly think GPS. This is why I should get GPS.

      • ronlyn Domingue says:

        Because of Novel #2 and the anticipated Novel #3, I have interest in maps and urban development. I went on Google Maps to see the ‘burb. The planners were on whatever’s worse than crack. There really is no excuse for such convulted streets. Kudos, though, for the butterfly reserve.

  10. angela says:

    what the hell are you guys doing in that last picture? why are there sheets and ponchos involved?

    maybe i don’t wanna know.

  11. Ben Loory says:

    always with the marilyn manson at erika’s… definitely my kind of place…

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I can’t believe the Manson came out. I was so happy to hear it. And to sing along. At one in the morning.

  12. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    “Seriously, if you want to have a good time, go hang out with the Colorado contingent of TNB. They have bears. It’s awesome.”

    Do you have Mad Libs in Australia? Because this quote would make a good one. Just put blanks for *Colorado* (noun/place) and *bears* (noun/thing) and *awesome* (adjective) and switch out words for each TNB contigent. Play this game drunk.

    Also, I’m pretty sure Erika is an awesome boxer. She can kick your ass, I think. Maybe that’s why she showed you the woods first thing. Like: Go ahead and try it. This is where we keep the bodies.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Mad Libs are international. Drunk Mad Libs even more so.

      Erika is badass. Her Chi Sau is so much more Chi Sau than my Chi Sau. And has inspired me to get back into kung fu.

      (they totally keep the bodies there)

  13. Judy Prince says:

    Loved the Uchery photo and the almost completely unexplainable photo, Simon! Now proceed to explain the photo, if you can.

    Zara chirping about wanting squirrels? She’s so cute.

    And here’s what I can’t completely explain: Seeing ALL of you being natural (well, naturally goofy) and comfy in your TNBers’-created territory, is just plain wildly wonderful!

    Hey, yeah, good to know a couple brill folk can make several stoopid decisions in a row—and follow through with them. 😉 We sooooooo take for granted our instant technologies until they’re suddenly missing.

    Do you actually, truly, really mean that Erika Rae’s husband built that attractive and charming two-storey wooden house with electricity and running water? Wow. Can he change light bulbs? Wait—-dear Rodent can do that…..

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I don’t think it was Erika’s husband. Just some wandering dude. I’m not completely sure what the story is there, except that he’s ten times the man I am.

      • Judy Prince says:

        A “wandering dude”, Simon? Sort of like Johnny Appleseed with power tools.

        He or she does possess awesome incredibly admirable talents. So do we. And everybody else.

  14. Jacqui says:

    My daughter came home from her holiday rock school programme today with taped fingers very similar to how Megan’s look in the photo. She rocks bass guitar. She is 9 year old metal. Megadeth metal. Just like you dudes.

  15. Richard Cox says:

    I wish I would have been along for this segment of TPAC 2010. Well, really, all the segments. But Colorado is one of my favorite places, and the last photo in the piece is one of my favorite TNB pics.


    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh my God, I can’t imagine the levels of awesomeness we’d have ascended if there were more TNBers in the mountains…

  16. I miss you guys. Thanks for writing this Simon.

    P.S. I can actually roller skate on water. It’s a side effect of all the God Lube.

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