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Part One Chapter 9
In the evening I was involved in that trek to the mountains and didn't see Dean or Carlo for five days. Babe Rawlins had the use of her em- ployer's car for the weekend. We brought suits and hung them on the car windows and took off for Central City, Ray Rawlins driving, Tim Gray lounging in the back, and Babe up front. It was my first view of the interior of the Rockies. Central City is an old mining town that was once called the Richest  Square Mile in the World, where a veritable shelf of silver had been found  by the old buzzards who roamed the hills. They grew wealthy overnight  and had a beautiful little opera house built in the midst of their shacks on the steep slope. Lillian Rus- sell had come there, and opera stars from  Europe. Then Central City became a ghost town, till the energetic Chamber of Commerce types of the new West decided to revive the place. They polished up the opera house, and every summer stars from the Metropolitan came  out  and performed. It was a big vacation for everybody. Tourists came  from everywhere, even Hollywood stars. We drove up the mountain and found the narrow streets chock full of chichi tourists. I thought of Ma- jor's Sam, and Major was right. Major himself was there, turning on his big social smile to everybody and ooh-ing and aah-ing most sincerely over everything. "Sal," he cried, clutching my arm, "just look at this old town. Think how it  was  a hundred--what the hell, only eighty, sixty years ago; they had opera!"
 "Yeah," I said, imitating one of his characters, "but ithey'rei
"The bastards," he cursed. But he went off to enjoy himself, Betty Gray on his arm.
Babe Rawlins was an enterprising blonde. She knew of an old miner's house at the edge of town where we boys could sleep for the weekend; all we had to do was clean it out. We could also throw vast parties  there. It was an old shack of a thing covered with an inch of dust inside; it had a porch and a well in back. Tim Gray and Ray Raw- lins rolled up their sleeves and started in cleaning it, a major job that took them all afternoon and part of the night. But they had a bucket of beer bottles and everything was fine.
As for me, I was scheduled to be a guest at the opera that after- noon,  escorting Babe on my arm. I wore a suit of Tim's. Only a few days ago I'd  come into Denver like a bum; now I was all racked up sharp  in  a  suit,  with  a  beautiful  well-dressed  blonde  on  my  arm, bowing to dignitaries  and chatting in the lobby under andeliers. I wondered what Mississippi Gene would say if he could see me.
The opera was iFidelioi. "What gloom!" cried the baritone, rising out of the dungeon under a groaning stone. I cried for it. That's how I see life too. I was so interested in the opera that for a while I for- got the circumstances of my crazy life and got lost in the great mourn- ful sounds of Beethoven and the rich Rembrandt tones of his story.
"Well, Sal, how did you like the production for this year?" asked Denver D. Doll proudly in the street outside. He was connected with the opera association.
"What gloom, what gloom," I said. "It's absolutely great."
"The next thing you'll have to do is meet the members of the cast," he went on in his official tones, but luckily he forgot this in the rush of other things, and vanished.
Babe and I went back to the miner's shack. I took off my duds and  joined the boys in the cleaning. It was an enormous job. Roland Major  sat  in  the  middle  of  the  front  room  that  had  already  been cleaned and refused to help. On a little table in front of him he had his bottle of beer and his glass. As we rushed around with buckets of wa- ter and  brooms he reminisced. "Ah, if you could just come with me sometime and drink Cinzano and hear the musicians of Bandol, then you'd be living. Then there's Normandy in the summers, the sabots, the fine old Calvados. Come on,  Sam," he said to his invisible pal. "Take the wine out of the water and let's see if it got cold enough while we fished." Straight out of Hemingway, it was.
We called out to girls who went by in the street. "Come on help us clean up the joint. Everybody's invited to our party tonight." They joined us. We had a huge crew working for us. Finally the singers in the opera  chorus, mostly young kids, came over and pitched in. The sun went down.
Our day's work over, Tim, Rawlins, and I decided to sharp up for the big night. We went across town to the rooming house where the opera stars were living. Across the night we heard the beginning of the evening performance. "Just right," said Rawlins. "Latch on to some of these razors and towels and we'll spruce up a bit." We also took hair- brushes, colognes, shaving lotions, and went laden into the bathroom. We all took baths and sang. "Isn't this great?" Tim Gray kept saying. "Using the opera stars'  bathroom and towels and shaving lotion and electric azors."
It was a wonderful night. Central City is two miles high; at first you get drunk on the altitude, then you get tired, and there's a fever in your soul. We approached the lights around the opera house down the narrow  dark street; then we took a sharp right and hit some old sa- loons with swinging doors. Most of the tourists were in the opera. We started  off  with  a  few  extra-size  beers.  There  was  a  player  piano. Beyond the back door was a view of mountainsides in the moonlight. I let out a yahoo. The night was on. 
We hurried back to our miner's shac............
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