Society & Culture

Lost and Found in America

One Saturday night last summer I found myself sitting on a warm, grassy knoll outside Missoula, Montana, watching a blood-red sun set behind a cup in the hills with the snow-fringed Bitterroot Mountains beyond, while in the foreground an elfin, 70-year-old man dressed entirely in black leather, accompanied by an energetically hair-swinging band, blasted out a heavily amplified song called “Feed My Frankenstein.”  The vocalist was my old friend Vince Furnier, better known as Alice Cooper, and he was there bringing his “A Paranormal Evening” show to town.  Even rock music can have produced no sight stranger, nor one more removed from its origins, I reflected, than this mascara-streaked figure, prowling the stage before a huge mural of yellow-eyed spiders, with a working guillotine positioned directly behind him, haranguing the audience with songs about insanity, mutilation, and necrophilia.

How did we get here?  In my case, the literal answer was by way of a commandeered 1970’s-vintage school bus shuttling concertgoers from the comparative metropolis of downtown Missoula to an amphitheater carved out of lush hills a few miles to the east.  Although brief, this proved to be one of the more trying experiences of a life not devoid of shadow.  It was a big, closed bus with a driver in a tie-dyed T-shirt, and one apparently bereft of suspension.  The highway deteriorated appreciably...

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