Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where God and The Devil Wheel Like Vultures

“Down below El Paso lies Juarez,
Mexico is different, like the travel poster says….”
-Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard, “Mexican Divorce”

I. Touch Of Evil

That was the summer of “birds falling out of trees,” as the Apaches might say. Looming weirdness. I’m in a beat-up Juarez taxi cab, inching slowly away from the Plaza Monumental bullring. A masked character in the truck across from us begins firing an automatic weapon over the top of the cab. Across the street at the Geronimo bar, three bodies fall into the gutter. My cab driver pulls his head down and shrieks: Cristo! Cristo! against the racket of trumpets and accordions from a narco-corrido song on the radio. Cristo, Jesu CristoAyuda me! The cab lurches forward with each string of Jesus curses. I’m riding inside a pinball machine set up next to a shooting gallery. Bodies are falling outside. Bodies are falling in the drug song on the radio. My shirt sleeve is stuck on the handle of the door and I can’t seem to twist and duck my head down below the dashboard. This is not the way I want to die. I try to grab hold of the wheel but the driver pulls himself together, makes the sign of the cross, then turns down back streets and alleys that lead to the border bridge. The rat-a-tat-tat of a weapon fades into the distance. The cabbie wheels to a stop and lights a cigarette. Sangre de Cristo. Fifty pesos, por favor.

It’s another Sunday evening in Ciudad Juarez.

Back then, twelve years ago, it cost fifteen cents to enter Mexico. Fifteen cents to wheel through the turnstile and cross the river bridge into the carnal trap. The Lawless Roads. I used to think of Orson Welles’ noir classic: “Touch of Evil,” when I walked down the bridge into Ciudad Juarez. That sinister feeling which draws the gringo-rube into web of rat-ass bars and neon caves; the nerve tingling possibility of cheap drink, violence, and sex; sex steeped in sham clichés about dark-eyed senoritas and donkey shows. It’s that heady, raw – anything goes, all is permitted, death is to be scorned- routine which informed and carved out the rank borderline personalities of John Wesley Hardin, Billy the Kid, Pancho Villa, and hundreds of Mexican drug lords. Western myth now grim reality. You craved the real west, didn’t you?

The late British writer, Graham Greene, knew the border terrain. He crossed over at Laredo in 1939, noting: “The border means more than a custom’s house, a passport office, a man with a gun. Over there everything is going to be different. Life is never going to be quite the same again after your passport is stamped and you find yourself speechless among the money changers.”

Speechless among the money changers. I like that. I can’t imagine what Hunter Thompson would have come up with if he’d written a version of Fear and Loathingabout the current state of affairs in Juarez. Cristo, Cristo, Cristo. Thompson once said that if you want to know where the edge is, you’ve got to go over it. Juarez is big time over the edge. Amen....

(This is the first page to a Tom Russell essay published in full on a radical new blog called The's the link to the full story with art.)


editor said...

That is very cool.

Like Billy Joe Shaver said, "Ain't no God in Mexico, ain't no way to understand how that border-crossin' feeling makes a fool out of a man."

Saddle Tramp said...



" Blood of a warrior ... Heart of a leader "

A scattered sampling of words from CBC's Living Out Loud and it's poetry edition I heard while passing by The Crazy Mountains heading into a Montana sunrise this morning after reading this post. Words from Farmer Poets, Korean Poets, West African Drumming Poets, Arab and Jewish Poets as well as a ( Native ) Regina Hood Poet. All from Canada and all dealing with the borderlines of seperation.

My conclusion to what you describe Tom, is the devil incarnate ... There is no logic to this duality ... It just is. There is no answer, only faith and calloused hands and wounded hearts ... You work or you watch.

Following this was an interview with Van Morrison on "Q" and Van did not hold any punches nor did he coddle any sacred cows. He had much to say about fame and his total disregard for it and disbelief in it. Known for his boorish behavior and reluctance to be interviewed , Van does not leave you guessing what it is all about ...

" Can ya do it for real ? ... that's the test "

-Van Morrison
Sept. 30, 2009
From his Toronto hotel room

saddle tramp

Via: A Jamestown, North Dakota Truck Stop

Saddle Tramp said...


In another rare interview on CBC's " Q " another interviewee known for his reluctance in being interviewed, showed up today, one day after an equally seclusive Van Morrison was interviewed on this same show. This one was an interview with the devil himself, or rather, the one portraying him in the film " The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus " with the deal making devil played by Tom Waits. Tom was at the Toronto Film Festival and allowed for a rare interview to discuss, among other things, the
movie which opens on December 25 th.
Tom opens the interview with quotes from one of his
favorite films " Touch of Evil " from which Tom quotes
Marlene Dietrich and Dennis Weaver with voice and
descriptions only Tom Waits can deliver. What a mind at work and play. When asked what his vision of hell is, Tom quipped " No place to sit down. " Tom Waits and Tom Russell with equally good taste in films and both still getting hotter and hotter and caught on the border between
the devil and come what may. Give 'em hell boys !

saddle tramp

Via: The Truckers Inn Truck Stop in Sauk Centre, MN