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Mild Delirium And Enlightenment On The Summit of Mount Elko

Where everyone who was anyone wanted to be seen

There wasn’t a whole lot to do while I was growing up in Elko, Nevada. On Friday and Saturday nights, most of the town’s major players would drive to the Alberton’s parking lot and then stand in it. Sometimes someone would break a bottle and the pleasant, destructive tinkling would get everyone all revved up for a second.

After a while, everyone would go home. If you’re wondering , Epic, Grandiose Adventure, and The Secret Of Everlasting Life are all spelled E-L-K-O.

I spent a lot of time wondering if there might not be more to life than the asphalt bordering a local grocery store.

The town was nothing special at street level. In fact, sometimes it was hard to walk around at street level without getting something thrown on you from the cars on State street.


I often went hiking. Sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. One afternoon, I decided to attempt a solo ascent of Elko Mountain. It was a big ugly hill with a whitewashed E up top and was the opposite of a treacherous climb.

Eventually, I flopped down at the top and looked at the town. The altitude greatly improved the appearance. From up here, the whorehouses and casinos just looked like more buildings. The roads even shimmered a little bit, and I couldn’t see any of the potholes.

It was actually pretty. I watched the cars snaking in and out of the hills. So many people. Each car on the highway with someone behind the wheel. And in that person’s head dwelt a history, memories, dreams of tomorrow, worries of today. More life in the town than the census could ever account for.


Every brain contained a universe. Every body contained a beating heart.

Here, up above it all, I had nothing but fond feelings for the place. I felt like a fly on a massive wall, privy to things that are trod underfoot and ignored at street level.

If everyone could get up here, maybe they’d stop complaining, I thought. But who’s brave enough to climb all the way up here? Only I would dare. Only I–


A bird cried out above me. I looked up and shielded my eyes. Far, far above me, a tiny dark V wheeled in the air. And suddenly, I didn’t feel like I was up so high anymore. For all I could tell, that bird was a mile away.

I got out my journal and started writing.

I wondered what a bird with a human mind might think of the scene I had been observing. Then I wondered how much higher a bird could fly. Then I wondered if a bird could still fly if it had to support the weight of a human head. An ostrich could, but they don’t fly.

I saw a tic on my leg and wondered if Lyme disease would be painful. Then I wondered if an ant was dropped from a great height, would it die, or are ants light enough to float down safely from any altitude? And then I wondered if I’d ever get to see Haley’s Comet, and I have no idea where that one came from, but it’s in my journal.


And these are apparently the sorts of thoughts a person has on top of Elko Mountain.

But I never forgot that bird. I’m not sure what the point of this is, except that there is always someone higher, and someone lower, and high and low are terms that can be as abstract or concrete as you want them to be.


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  • Heather January 13, 2010, 7:20 am

    Beautiful. . . . thanks for sharing. . . . that was cool!

  • roxthefoxthebabygolilox January 13, 2010, 7:48 am

    Oh yeah…I forgot about Albertson’s parking lot!
    The knife and the fact that I am still living here just
    got pushed in a little deeper or lower or higher…Ha!
    I love the deep thoughts on the “E” mountain.
    Oh won’t you please take me back to Paradise City?

    • Josh Hanagarne January 13, 2010, 9:57 am

      Roxy, go stand in the parking lot for me. One more time.

      • Roxthefoxthebabygoldilox January 13, 2010, 3:20 pm

        I’ll see what I can do…lol!

  • Heidi Howes January 13, 2010, 8:20 am

    Great writing, Josh, I am really enjoying your blog! So glad I found it, and it is really inspiring me on a number of levels and topics. Thanks for doing this!

    • Josh Hanagarne January 13, 2010, 11:08 am

      Thanks Heidi. Give it time and the glow will fade. I will surely come up with a way to repulse you and send you shrieking for the hills:)

  • Christa Avampato January 13, 2010, 8:49 am

    Gorgeous story, Josh, and what a great reminder as we consider the highs and lows of our lives. Highs and lows are personal decisions, and we can’t compare ours to those of others. It’s all a matter of perspective, and that’s a wonderful thing.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 13, 2010, 11:08 am

      Oh, you CAN compare them to those of others, it just isn’t that helpful for me.

  • Michelle McGee January 13, 2010, 10:52 am

    Ah, perspective. Standing in a different place can make such a difference. Great post!

  • Heidi Howes January 13, 2010, 11:43 am

    By the way, Josh, super happy to have found you and your site because a parent of one of my private (voice) students just informed me that she has Tourette’s–and I feel much better equipped to understand having read your experiences. Thanks!

  • Justin Matthews January 13, 2010, 12:00 pm

    You always come up with some of the most mind provoking posts… guaranteed to make you think. Or go insane. I have a notebook full of strange and rambling thoughts as well. Lately I have gone to a digital recorder so I can get it out faster. There is nothing like feeling you are on top of everything and being slapped back into reality by nature. One of my favorite lines in a movie is in Jeremiah Johnson. He is looking up at a hawk and tells his boy “Hawk. Heading for the Musselshell. It would take me a weeks riding and he can get there….Hell, he’s there already.”
    Master what we can, conform to the rest.
    Thanks Josh

  • Megan Horton January 13, 2010, 7:57 pm

    Ahh Elko! I spend many nights in the Albertsons parking lot too. Like you said, it was the place to be. How lame! How did we get out of there intact? That place is such a hole.

  • Boris Bachmann January 13, 2010, 11:11 pm

    Whaa.., no picture of the whorehouses?