Monday, March 8, 2010

More pictures later, folks, when I repost this.

general store cafe

agave blossom

Let's talk about Texas. Texas is a BIG state. And if you drive straight across from El Paso (and was there ever on earth a more godforsaken town? It sprawls forever in all directions looking a shambles of makeshift housing, higgledy- piggledy lack of planning, and glaring storefronts along the highway that just scream desperation to be noticed -- our very own Mumbai) to the border of Louisiana it's about a thousand miles, and over 600 exits! That's one third of the total ocean to ocean trip if you drive straight! And that's exactly what we did yesterday in about 7 hours, accompanied by an iPod loaded with pretty much every tune Mark Knopfler ever recorded. God bless that man! If there was ever a guy a girl could love with every fiber of her being it's Mark Knopfler. A story teller extraordinaire, wicked, seductive guitar player, and empathetic interpreter of the human experience that moves me to my bones every time I hear him. His music seems to suit the American landscape more than any other composer I can think of, especially on Golden Heart, Money for Nothing in the cities and amidst the oilwells. We listened to a fair amount of Aaron Copeland and John Barry earlier on this trip, musical scores to suit the grandeur of the landscape, but it was Mark who really worked, got us across Texas, told the stories of the vast, passing land, the broke down towns, the grand sellout, the empty houses -- no easy feat. Station 1330am in Texas was really fine on Sunday, Willie Nelson, Elvis, you name it, til the religion part started, then we plugged in the iPod.

We'd started out from Lordsburg , NM, Saturday morning, driving east on Route 10 to Deming, then a two hour detour up 26 to Hillsboro and a stop at the General Store Cafe for a chocolate malt for me and apple pie and milk for T. It was just an excuse to drive through that gorgeous country, where Carlotta lives, and enjoy the scenery one last time. I stopped to pee in the bar in Nutt. When I asked the bar owner if she'd mind if I used the loo, she answered, " I Shirley would Knott!" and smiled. I was blown away, and her name was Sherry! (Folks who have read my novel will appreciate this coincidence.) Later on at the GC cafe, sitting next to me at the counter, at my back the warm wood stove, was Clyde, a local rancher with darling twinkly blue eyes and tanned hands wide as paws, and we talked about his lost dog and ranching. I hope his dog comes back, he seemed mighty distressed at the lost of his "buddy". T loved the town and agreed I'd fit right in if I decided to move there, which I think about from time to time. It's my idea of a perfect place, and the people are friendly, a trait we find pretty much universal here in the southwest, along with really good restaurant service and waiters who will actually tell you if something isn't very good. (couple of exceptions.)

Heading over to 25 and down to Hatch to cop a couple of ristras to carry home. Turning eastward to El Paso and into Texas, it was dark by the time we had to stop at the Border Patrol station and T, the driver, had to try and look unsuspicious as the guy shone a flashlight in her eyes and asked us what we were doing here from Maine, are we US citizens, etc. Her eyes were so fried from driving by then (dry, warm wind with the windows down, welcome but hard on yer eyes), plus there was the spectre of PMS looming, she did her best to not look like a crackhead. He softened when I asked about hotels and told us not to stop til Van Horn as the hotels before that were all fleabags. Nice guy really once he dropped the don't-lie-to-my-weapon routine.

Okay -- note to Van Horn, Texas, a few other Texas towns as well: Pick up your trash! I mean what would it take to get the scouts or some local prisoners or some drifting sideways teenage civic group out there to pick up all the plastic bags??! They lined the outskirts of nearly every Texas town we drove through, caught in the shrubbery that lines the highway, puffing up in the wind, a nonstop blight of ironic ghosts come back to haunt the petroleum industry, their shameless progenitor. Is it not enough to suck the earth dry with all these wells? You have to paper its surface with a sheet of petroleum byproduct plastic as well? It's like they don't see it, you know? Yet another sign of the despair that plagues the land. Okay, so you don't have a job, or things suck, so get some folks together and go clean up some of this mess! Like my nanny used to say: "Dont make me get my shoe out, chile!" Have some pride! There is a marked lack of civic pride across this country, both rural and city, and everyone needs to get off their lardasses and pick up some trash!! I mean do something. You don't need Washington to tell you to clean your house do ya? Well, how is your town any different?

I mean, you should SEE all the nice TARP highway projects completed out there, or in progress. They're really nice, new roads, well- built bridges, overpasses to make everyone's travels easier. The TARP thing is good, go see for yourself. But for the lovva mike, what are YOU doing to make things better? To renew America's dignity? My solution is to get out and clean something up that needs cleanin or repair in your town, get some folks to help you. America just needs to get off its collective lardass. Whether you're paid to do it or not. Simple.

I was sorry to miss stopping at Whooppee Bowl Antiques just over the NM/T X border; another time I guess. And I love the tumbleweeds smashed up against the cattle fences. I saw a wild pig running along the highway, escapee from some bunch of penned up unfortunates I guess. His prospects along the highway do not look good.

Sweetwater, TX, is the windpower capital. Also home of the World Rattlesnake Roundup, which just has to be about the scariest event in the state. I have a tough time imagining folks lassoing a snake, but whatever. Windfarms as far as the eye can see in all directions, and if you don't think you're lookin at the future when you see that vision, well think again, cause T. Boone has a pile of money invested in this and I have no doubt he aims to make it work for him. I've seen these windfarms from the air and they go on forever. It's stunning. The turbine blades are like 100 feet long, we saw one go by on a double length tractor trailer. The wind turbines seems to co exist peacefully with the oil rig dinosaurs bobbing up and down, suckin er dry, the smell of oil in the air near refineries (Texans used to call it the smell of money, I know cause I watched "Dallas" religiously). And there's Big Spring, the poinsettia capital. Saw a billboard advertising boots, a cowboy holding a rope saying, " I work in acres, not in hours." Loved that.

Texas, where the trains are long and the grass is short. The word "BOOK" painted in huge bright green letters on the front of an abandoned building. Who was Book? What was his story? I'm always wondering at the blown out buildings, What was the story here? And Knopfler: "I'm the fool I never thought I was.

Billboards from God say : " What are you doing with the rest of your life?" -- and they're signed God. My response? Well, if anyone should know it's You!

And - "One nation under me-- God" as if God were that conceited. I mean to have that much pride you have to be the conceited, fear mongering old testament God, not the God of Jesus and the new testament. Wish these folks would get it straight. There was a reason Jesus preached a new gospel of love rather than fear.

As for me, I'm with Einstein, who must have had a considerable experience of something grander than the average human can conceive of, and who said, when asked if he believed in God: "I believe in something much bigger."

Final complaint today, it pained me to have to drive the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway outside Dallas, especially as it used to be named after LBJ, who had his issues but was a damn site better for the place than Raygun. (An apropos moniker considering his starwars fettish.) We slept in Shreveport, where I am sitting in my bed writing this. On to Water Valley and the Blount family graveyard, Memphis, the Lorraine motel and maybe Graceland, with freshly laundered undies, and a smile in our hearts. Weather is gorgeous, warm --flipflops weather -- (we've had no rain to speak of the entire trip -- imagine that! -- but I see it's comin now). Today it's Koop on the box, and All Things Must Pass. Maybe some Paul Butterfield through Mississippi, New Walkin Blues sounds just about right.