Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Black Rock

Walking along the beach of Monterrey Bay. Sea Lions barking from distant piers. The smell of Doc Ricketts lab; all of Steinbeck's Cannery Row characters sail around in the morning breeze. Crustacean music. Sea weed jabber. Monterrey show the night before - the only foul one on the tour; I'm feeling disjointed and ponderous. I see a smooth black river rock lying on the sand. Pick it up. Pocket it; thinking of Georgia O'Keefe. She became an ex-patriot within her own country. Disappeared into the New Mexican desert… I like that notion. Georgia collected shiny black rocks, and I run my fingers over the smoothness in my pocket; I feel like I'm carrying around her hardened, mummified, glorious soul. It keeps me going. Georgia became the landscape she painted: parched, serious, caustic, poisonous, eternal. She spoke in poetry; held little use for poseurs. She fled New York and reinvented herself in the wilderness; made art that floats above the changing landscape of an America illuminated by gas station signs. I'm not as big a fan of her art as her enormous, matchless spirit. And I finger the smooth black rock in my pocket and keep shuffling down the beach like Prufrock; trying to some to terms with the morning and the far off barking of the sea lions, and praying for the strength to write a few more songs that will fill up a record that will resonate and feel as wild and permanent as the shiny black rock; the relic of O'Keefe's spirit. Later, craving something to read, I find the paperback copy of Joan Didion's: "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" in my war bag. "It's easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends." There are two masterpiece essays in the book from 1966, and '67:
"Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream," and "Goodbye to That." Didion saves me that afternoon, as I read those two essays over and over and hold the black rock. "We tell ourselves stories in order to live," says Didion. Stories and songs and long walks on the sea lion beaches of memory. And now the black rock rests on Didion's book; next to my bed. And the blood dimmed Steinbeck tide is loosed, and the ceremony of innocence is drowned.


Saddle Tramp said...

TR . . .
My pleasures now exhausted . . .
I return to the desert to regain my thirst. -ST

You have to hit some dry patches at times, but take heart. Gutzon Borglum didn't find his Mount Rushmore until age 60. Mt. Rushmores don't show up everyday. Maybe he was 60 years getting ready. Maybe it's a song. Maybe it's a painting. O' keeffe had a very long road before she painted herself out. O' Keeffe could have only left us a portrait of her hands and that would have been inspiration enough as the gatefold inset art work on your new anthology reveals so well. And that is why I would rather pay the freight to have something in my hands. I picked up on O' Keeffe's trail in Amarillo and Canyon, Texas and many hikes in Palo
Duro Canyon. I followed her to New Mexico where like her, I found myself always wanting to return. When I give up living on wheels for good, I will be somewhere in New
Mexico. By the way, O Keeffe had an excellent stereo on her Ghost Ranch.

And now Dylan is singing " Red River Shore". As for me,
I abandoned the big picture long ago. It's all about the details. Town to town. Person to person and mile to mile and little black stones and black books and . . .
I just left a girl back in Barstow. Her dark eyes full of tears.
Another displaced soul clinging to me like a life raft. It ain't easy having to move on at times . . . Deliveries to make.

-ST Heading north into a full moon over the Virgin River
Gorge and across that 30 mile sliver of Arizona
between Nevada and Utah . . .

Anonymous said...

It's on days like you describe that I need a Tommy Makem fix, specifically this one:

But Monterey is a bit of an enigma. I lived there for six years. Fabulously beautiful, it draws the rich and famous and fabulous. And yet it seems to revel in its own mediocrity, as if the ntural beauty of the place can make up for everything else.

No black rocks for me. See you in Elko.

Saddle Tramp said...


TR . . . Just coming south down the 99 and passed The Tagus Ranch as I was listening to your " Down The Rio Grande ". I have passed The Tagus hundreds of times, however this time the TR that sits atop the towering sign that looks over the Tagus Ranch really caught my attention. The Tagus like so much of our history is shamefully falling into ruin. It may go the course of the Whiting Bros. motels / stations that were along Old Rte 66 where now all that remains pretty much is their signs.
If The Tagus Ranch does not get rescued and ever goes to demoltion I will sure try to appropriate the TR for you. It might make a a nice entranceway to your hacienda . . .

More sightings:


New homes from $ 199,990
Fresno, California

Comment: When did poets start selling houses and what the hell is a poet's crossing?

Minnesota Adopt -A - Highway sign on Interstate Hwy 90



Comment: Whereas I am a servant to the sentence.

Tom. Have you seen the restored version of Orson Welles " Touch of Evil " that is supposed to be more faithful to the
suggestions he made in his 58 page memo? I will let yoy be your own judge of that. We will never know for sure what could have been or should have been. Truth is a tricky business. However, your song " Touch of Evil " nails
it for me . . .
Whether it is Gideon , Didion, O'Keeffe or St. Thomas that saves us, we still need to be saved. Like Tom says ; what you don't assimilate, you repress and that will corrode your heart and guts out . . . Look at the Tagus Ranch. Who will save it?

Why do I write? Because it hurts too much not to. Everything that needs to be written, already has been. It's just that we need alot of reminding . . .

-ST Via: California Daries in Tipton with the Tulare fog settling in on top of us while waiting to load for Lake Norden, South Dakota still clinging to a chance to catch you in Reno or Elko . . .

Stoke said...

Sorry to nitpick but in CA it's Monterey. Monterrey is in Mexico. Other than that I enjoyed the entry as my folks lived around there for a long time.