Werewolves of Utah

I was still drinking in 1983 when I moved to Salt Lake City.  It took a little time, but I found a watering hole for exiles at Junior’s, a dark joint down on Fifth Avenue South next to a bail bondsman. Junior’s was a Midwestern tavern transported to the West. Nothing fancy. Just a line of bar stools, a couple of booths, a jar of pickled eggs, and a pool table in the back. The music was 50s jazz, and on Sunday night, the owners covered the pool table and had a little combo play. The clientele was literate, jaded, and mostly from somewhere else. Because Utah was the land of eternal smiles where the facade of happiness ruled at all costs, we all thought we were a little darker than we were. But every group, even exiles, needs a little fantasy to carry it along, and at Junior’s, a couple of days a week, we restored our fantasy.

We celebrated our alienation from the official culture with sarcasm and droll humor. We even had a theme song of sorts. At the end of happy hour, John Ause, one of the owners, marked the passing of the cheap beer by crossing the jazz line and playing Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” He handed out tambourines, sticks for drumming, and pots and pans. And the whole bar played rhythm and sang along. Aa-ooh. Werewolves of London. We howled and laughed and howled some more. Aa-ooh. It was the best moment in the day. Werewolves of London.  And so, all the cheap beer gone and the final song sung, we stumbled out to once again look for our places in our unhappy lives.

 (This is the unedited version of an anecdote I wrote for “That Same Lonesome Blood,” an essay I did for the Oxford American music issue in 2001. The essay was far too long and about a quarter of it never saw print.  I thought editor Marc Smirnoff was a judicious editor and he did well by my essay, promoting it for Decapo Best Music Writing of 2002 edited by Jonathan Lethem and Paul Bresnick. Still it was hard to leave so many words behind. We cleaned this little story up a little more than I wanted, so I am taking this opportunity to present it mostly as I wrote it back then.)

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