It all started with The Monkees 20th Anniversary Tour... "I got some inkling of what the whole thing was about. I wondered to myself if I could have ever been a Monkees fan, because I really liked that experience; I liked the way Micky sang, I liked the way Davy sang and the way he looked. I liked the love that was exchanged between the audience and the performers, and the reciprocity of it, which was complete. There was a lot coming off the stage from those guys, and a lot going back to the people. It was edifying on one hand, but on the other hand it was uplifting. I had never realized that that was going on at Monkees concerts because what I was trying to do was play loud enough so I could be heard."
-Michael Nesmith, interviewed after attending his former bandmates' concert at Arlington Stadium in Texas, 6/22/86
But it soon became our story... In 1986, Monkeemania exhibited a brief resurgence for their 20th Anniversary Reunion tour. Big hair, parachute pants and Reaganomics were all in full swing. Cell phones and the internet were future pipe dreams. Mix tapes were still traded; vinyl records were still king.
In the summer of 1986, four young lives came together and were changed forever during the course of a single road trip.
This is the story of that meeting, that madness, and the twenty years that followed Summer's Last Stand.
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Summer's Last Stand (early poem) by Laura Cushing You're wearing a halo strapped around your shoulders, though the rest of the band only sees it as a five dollar T-shirt purchased latenight from a roadside stand. The barefoot Mexican senorita who sold it had a face as brown as baked clay, eyes like apples, and the most sonorous voice I'd ever heard.
We write a song in her honor.
The arrhythmic cadence of telephone poles dance across the roadways
pole .... swag.... sway... pole... swag... sway... sway... swag... pole
Home feels further away with every laugh.
Miles come in markers as Daniel tries to his best to coax a Mariachi sound from his acoustic guitar.
...sixty-nine gets a puerile giggle, but ninety-eight is sober, hitting like degrees of the ever-present sun.
Staggered over the airwaves, The Cure confirms it; Today is Friday, so I'm running high on love.
Bobbie Dylan tells us we're all just tangled up in blue, and we laugh until we cry because it's so very close to truth.
Fifteen miles to Vegas and Cherry's on the rag. Halfway through summer, equidistant past and future. You make a joke about Adam and Eve, and we all laugh until we see the murder glazing her pale eyes.
The carpet of our van is already sticky with remains of too many fast-food meals, and spilt beer, so we stop for generic tampons and half a tank of gas.
Flattened sacrifices to the asphalt god are less identifiable than ghosts, a deer or a bear or a wolverine or a raccoon... We fancy that some idle Thursday night, we'll gather them into a road kill circle, and freak out the natives.
Leaving Vegas, a tire blows out with hiss-rattle-thump puncturing the August afternoon. You peel off your souvenir shirt to wipe the beads of sweat running races down your forehead.
While you switch in the spare, I sip from a cherry soda and admire the view.
Our drummer edges out a rhythm with his sticks tap-tap-tapping the side of our war-torn van. He's wearing his barbed wire bandana like a crown of thorns- our own crucified Christ, all long hair and a martyr's persecuted smile.
I never loved you more than in the moment you turned to me, and said 'Fuck it, let's just go home.' Eighty miles gone, Michael has to piss in the radiator to keep it from running dry. We all turn away but feel connected to the moment, just the same.
My head on your shoulder as I sleep, half-standing and you whisper in my ear "This was the best summer of my life."
I smile, because I know you're a liar.. but you still steal my breath while you're telling the story.