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Paul Mountain
Pepperoni, Jalapeños & LSD
At eighteen, Paul Mountain pissed on his academic scholarship to the University of Minnesota and fled to Boulder, Colorado without money, family or prospects. In a cramped one-bedroom apartment with two other dudes, Paul's life was youth unbridled, impulsive, and without remorse. Within a year, Paul finds himself in a tiny cabin with his girlfriend in a Rocky Mountain ghost town, convinced he can write his way out of poverty before buying his first legal drink. He was wrong. He was wrong about a great many things. In his whirlwind memoir set against the backdrop of the final decade before the tech revolution, Paul escorts the reader on his rabid quest for anything to avoid the looming bondage of adult responsibility. Pepperoni, Jalapeños & LSD is a story filled with old motorcycles, speed junkies, crime, sex, mountaintops, poverty, more sex, empty ski slopes and laugh out loud happiness. It's a story of embracing life, because as Paul notes, "The day will soon come when the cigarettes finally take hold, the doctor shouts, 'Cancer!', and God's gavel falls, sentencing me to death and who the fuck knows what else. Probably hell, but I'm hoping for a clerical error, the great celestial typo."
Mountain’s vivid memoir of a Dionysian coming-of-age opens with Paul, an IT entrepreneur, waking up to the aftermath of a bender of hedonistic proportions. Promising yet again that this will be the last weekend of unnecessary debauchery, Paul contemplates whether it’s finally time to sit down and write “THE BIG ONE,” the writing project that preoccupied him back when he was young—and before “the tech revolution distracted me and provided a viable path to financial freedom.” With his tech firm comfortably able to manage most of his tasks, he begins retelling his story, flashing back to 1989 and a Beat-adjacent, LSD-fueled I-70 road trip in his hard-chugging Sunbird that brought him to Boulder.

Mountain writes from an honest place where no offense is spared and no shocking detail is left to the imagination, the material leavened by flashes of adult insight. Filled with the off-color banter you can expect from young men trying find their place in the world, Paul finds solace in a relationship with Lonnie, a slightly older woman, amongst other companions and lots of drugs and sex, some explicitly described. Mountain does not glorify these experiences or present himself and his friends as any more enlightened than they were—expect a lot of chatter about Lonnie’s breasts—nor does he shy away from the euphoria his younger self felt.

Rude, crude and occasionally philosophical, Mountain’s memoir offers an unflinching look at being a young American man out of control in a now by-gone era, testing limits and surprising with extremes, such as the scene of Paul snorting cocaine and making love with an older woman in a dingy bar restroom… but only after she tells him to roleplay as a fourteen-year-old. His shock after coming down saves him from being a total lost cause doomed to “steadily worsening addictions.” If you can stomach that, dear reader, then you’ll do just fine with the first of Paul’s memoirs.

Takeaway: An entrepreneur reflects on escaping a proudly debauched American coming of age, circa 1989.

Great for fans of: Jim Carroll, Jerry Stahl’s Permanent Midnight.

Production grades
Cover: C+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B-