At the Auditorium Tavern - Nanton
Why there’s nobody around? It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and the Nanton’s main street seems empty, like long time dried glass of water. The town shines under the sun and you can feel the heat refracted by the dark asphalt. Lots of trucks parked by both sidewalks look like enormous statues modelled on blazing metal, organized on the street space as following a kind of ritual liturgy. Suddenly, literally out of the blue, the feel of street void is interrupted momentaneously by the powerful aura of a tiny presence: a crow crosses the street while looking conspicuously towards us. He knows -I can see it in the harsh nature of his eyes- that we’re foreigners- that we’re not from around and, immediately, groans a question with reproaching overtones: what are you guys doin’ here?
We decided to walk down from the main street to the Highway II. The Nanton elevator break the horizon of roof tops and we want to see it more closely, but at the turn of the corner there’s another building that caught our eye. It’s the Auditorium Hotel and, on its first floor façade, several cowboy-designed signs offered services that we’re really looking for after hours of continuous driving: drinks, chilaquiles, and rooms.
The atmosphere inside is the opposite from the street view. A golden and comfortably warm shadow reigns over the place, crowded at this hour. Everybody -elderly town-people lunching, rude bikers drinking a cold one, ladies playing at slot machines and farm workers finishing the journey with a friendly talk- rest under the gentle music raising from very old speakers. Country guitar licks fill the space, while two guys on a small stage, at the bottom of the room, checked the sound for a later show.
You can feel that they’re kin: the common laughter, the plain smiling expressions directed towards everybody, the conversation topics and a fragrance of by-generations poured beer. Seated at the very entrance of the tavern we know that our presence awakes curiosity on our table neighbors. A rude looking biker -skull embroidered jacket and bald forehead threatening to crush your nose- looked at us from time to time, inquisitive but discrete. Any of us said a word for a minute or two, tasting the weird atmosphere of warmness and strangeness. Even a stuffed cougar, watching us closely from the canopy over the bar, made his contribution to that dense feeling.
Suddenly, breaking our circumspection, an old man entered the tavern. He walked right towards our table -a little bit slowly on account of his age- put the palms of his hands over our table with a vigorous gesture, and looking us eye to eye with his pale blue irises. Then, after a few seconds of looking at us, the man groaned: what are you guys doin’ here? We told him the story of our trip and, at the very moment, he becomes a gentle country pal and referred to us the history of the hotel -burned on a fierce fire long time ago- and how the tavern could be a perfect place to filming a Rock & Roll video. Long time ago, on the eighties, his tavern was the location for a stripper’s video. It was wild!, he said, while his pale eyes ignited a blaze of remembrance.
When Larry -the owner- left our table, the strangeness aura were gone and the sips of bud we were drinking tasted better. At the last drink, looking outside the window, I saw the crow again. Walking in front of the porch of the tavern he insisted on the same questions, but after a few moments of mutual silence he flied away.
Juan Carlos Montero Vallejo