Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pistols Carved Out Of Soap

Back on the road. At least 60 in a row. This is my terrain. Querencia. We began in Tucson at the Congress Hotel; stayed there at the historic old railroad palace. The Congress bar is called the Tap Room; a bronc rider named Pete Martinez used to trade drawings for drinks. The drawings are still on the wall. Bony broncs and rank steers. Cowboys with cigarette butts in their mouths. Some nights the drinks are still a dollar a piece. The Margaritas are very excellant. Pete Martinez reminds me of the story of Guy Welch, the Picasso of the western saloon and whorehouse, who drove up and down the 1940's West, from Mexicali to Calgary, painting cowboy murals on saloon walls, in exchange for beer and a bed, and the odd dollar. Back in the Congress Hotel, John Dillinger was fleeing with the other guests during a fire... Dillinger bribed a fireman to go back up and retrieve the bags. Machine guns and stolen money fell to the street and Dillinger was caught. He later broke out of jail with a gun carved out of soap.
Onward we went to Las Cruces and the Rio Grande Theatre, which was full to capacity. And then to Santa Fe, where the streets are full of Indian Santos carved for the Indian Market. It feels good to be back on the road; trying out new songs. As Townes said "Living on the road my friend, is bound to keep you free and clean. Now you wear your skin like iron, and your breath's as strong as kerosene..." Or as Lowell George might say: "I'm still Willin'." Next stop Edmonton Folk Festival, and please check out the new face of our website at with new art work. We're going for a more user-friendly approach. Now we're off to a gig at a detox center. With that in mind, might I recommend one of the best music books ever written: Art Pepper's "Straight Life." You might enjoy that journey, and it was a rough one. Adios....TR

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

St. Anthony in the Desert

"I heard you're building your home
deep in the desert....
Hope you're keeping some kind of record."
Leonard Cohen
Coming home. Flying over the scorched Chihuahuan desert. From a thousand feet in the air the desert looks like custard pudding left in the oven too long. The Mesquite trees and the desert willows are black dots on orange-red sand. Flan. Crustulant. The Sahara of the soul. Somewhere below the desert surface are the largest crystal caves in the world (thanks to Mickie Merkens for this information.) There are also ancient Spanish swords and the lost verses to "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues." The heavy pull of things mystical and historic. I'm returning - like St. Anthony - into the dry wasteland where extremes meet. Where men balance their own aridity and desire for reclusiveness with that of the landscape.
Quoting James Cowan: "A Man did not escape to the desert to find identity, but to lose it, to eradicate his personality and become anonymus." Society is the cave....the way out is solitude.
It's the cowboy way. The shifting, whispering sands and old Walter Brennen recitations.
We're flying over John Wesley Hardin's grave and the best Mexican restaraunts in the world. Now we're landing one hundred yards from the largest equestrian statue ever concoted: Don Juan Onate astride a giant Andalusian stallion. Don Juan crossed the Rio Grande five hundred years ago and brought us the Spanish horse, Catholicism, and the first thanksgiving - which took place years before the East Coast version. Old Don brought us a cornucopia of mixed blessings. He wiped out entire tribes of must have taken a mighty large ego to survive 110 degree heat beneath that Spanish helmet. Heat stroke. The conquistadores went crazy on the deserts of the New World. Swords swinging high over heads; the desperate babbling to the gods of the Inquisition. Enter the Jesuits bringing up the rear. Then Cormac McCarthy with his pen.
Tracking or even undertsanding Mexican and Southwest history is a bit like tracking General Santa Ana's bloody severed leg through the streets of Mexico City...what led to all of this ? What does it mean? That's why we're in the desert - to make sense of it all or leave it behind. Around every corner, on the backstreets of Juarez, lurks another verse out of "The Streets of Laredo." Hell with it. Coffee up and get to work. And what did St. Anthony find as the meaning of life - after living alone in the desert for sixty years? Song! Chant and song. The stillness of inutterable speech. The inarticulate speech of the heart (to quote Van Morrisson.) Song being the only way to express the mystery of the inexpressible. The desert provides the mirror for looking deep within. So we're tracking this inner ground waiting for the winds of the spirit to blow.
Time to pick up the guitar. Two more cups of coffee. The job at hand. Welcome home.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Meat Science Essay # 1

Before I flew out of Switzerland, two days ago, I enjoyed the best meal of my life. At least the best meal I can recall since that joint in Madrid I wrote about. I'm not a big steak eater, though I come from Horse and Cow Folk who are known to eat beef four times per day. I zig zag toward an "In and Out Burger" and stick to yardbird and fish. But then again...the three best steaks of my life have been: 1. Tri-Trip on an open fire in Cuyama, California - at my sister-in-laws place. That's the far end of a sirloin, cooked over oak coals. Fresh air and Hank Williams music helps.
2. Peter Luger's in Brooklyn - aged steak and sliced tomatoes under the Williamsburg Bridge - go there...take a cab....disregard the snotty lawyers...enjoy...; and 3. Betley and Ollie's Chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland. Betley and Ollie are in their 80's. They used to run a cafe near the train station in Saanen, and now they cook private gourmet meals in their Chalet, which was built in 1754. Ursulla Andress eats at their house. She was James Dean's first girlfriend in Hollywood. Time flies. She's still ruggedly handsome. We all are.
We were sitting outdoors admiring the Alps and enjoying the salad Betley pulled from her garden: greens and tomatoes. Real tomatoes. They tasted like strawberries soaked in Sicilian oilve oil. Trains rolled by that looked like Lionell toys and the snow gleamed high up on the glacier. Then Ollie pulled out this giant propane cooker and Betley got the oil hotter than a
Pittburg slag burner... then she threw in the "entrecote." Two minutes each side. Meat science. Smoke. Alchemy. Mountain air. Or maybe it was the wine. South African whites to Italian Reds. I've lost my mind.
The last thing I recall was a glass of Dewar's Scotch and somebody smoking a Havana stogie.
Fade to pink and green. I am not a scotch drinker. Train whistles and toots. What a meal. What a life. Sabroso.
I think there was a desert of fresh berries. I cannot be certain of this. I do know that Betley and Ollie were singing romantic songs in German and French; then Ollie put on a record of some cat playing Hot Jazz on an electric saw in Paris sixty years ago. I think everyone was dancing in the garden. I'm pretty sure of this.
Betley and Ollie were in love. I was in love. The record began to skip.
I think we staggered home.
I cannot be certain....."between the idea and the reality, falls the shadow...."
Woke up. Caught a plane.
Dreaming of entrecote. Tomatoes. La vida extraordinario. Love.

TR El Paso...