Archive for the ‘Arts & letters’ Category

High time to hit the road

October 30, 2014
Through a windshield, darkly.

Through a windshield, darkly.

It was 4:20 p.m. (smoke ‘em if you got ‘em) when I fired up the Forester for the latest six-hour drive from Bibleburg to Duke City.

Herself and I had been in the old hometown to prepare Chez Dog and The House Back East® for new tenants, a project I’d hoped would take only a couple of long, hard days, but I got there on Friday and didn’t get gone until Tuesday afternoon. Herself beat it on Monday, having one of them obnoxious “job” thingies that requires regular attendance.

So there I was, once again piloting a heavily laden Japanese automobile solo through the starry American night. It reminded me of the good old days, when all I needed for a cross-country jaunt was a bridge burned at one newspaper, a job offer at another, and a battered old rice-grinder that was nearly as full of shit as I was.

“What kind of sordid business are you on now? I mean, man, whither goest thou? Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?” — Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”

I used to love those long nights behind the wheel, in part because I generally enjoyed some sort of illicit chemical assist, having studied at the feet of Jack Kerouac, Ed Abbey and the redoubtable Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Once a friend and I even took a page from the Good Doktor’s book — to be specific, a page from “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas” — and ate some acid before stalking into the old MGM Grand to see what we could see, which proved to be much more than was actually there.

In short, it was a bad idea, like so many of the Good Doktor’s, and we quickly jumped back into our auto and drove straight through the inky darkness of the Intermountain West to Alamosa, Colorado, for a steaming plate of enchiladas and beans served up by my companion’s mom, who either didn’t notice or didn’t care that we were horribly twisted on LSD and Budweiser.

After a few hundred thousand miles of that sort of thing, coupled with deteriorating night vision, a bad back and a considerably diminished drug intake (I’m pretty much down to a cup and a half of coffee in the morning these days), I lost interest in snorting that long white line through the windshield and sleeping it off under the camper shell in some rest area or unpatrolled parking lot. When the sunlight started fading, so did I. A motel bed sounded a lot better than drumming on the steering wheel with ZZ Top, Bob Seger or the Allman Brothers cranked up to 11.

But I got a little of the old love back Tuesday night. As I motored southwest with the cruise control set at a safe and sane 75 mph a banana moon hung brightly in the sky dead ahead, the highway stripes rising up as if to meet it on the hills. Where to go? Mexico? San Francisco? Albuquerque, as it turned out. I left the stereo off and listened to the music in my head.

 

The ‘Boogie’ man gonna getcha

October 23, 2014
"Full Tilt Boogie," by Hal Walter

“Full Tilt Boogie,” by Hal Walter

My man Hal Walter of Hardscrabble Times has a new book out. “Full Tilt Boogie” covers a lot of ground, but then so has Hal.

A journalist, runner, world-champion burro racer, ranch hand and foodie who lives in the Upper Boondocks of Crusty County, Colorado, Hal is also the father of an autistic child, Harrison, and the book gives us a glimpse into how he manages all of this without winding up in a Nudie jacket with wraparound arms, playing lonesome country tunes that only he can hear for an audience that only he can see.

“Full Tilt Boogie” can be had in a variety of ways. You can await an old-school dead-tree edition or a digital version from Vook, or contact Hal directly via email or Facebutt and get a special-edition PDF that has more pix than these others.

Perhaps best of all, you can pay what you please, a la the Live Update Guy/NPR revenue model. I think you’ll find his story a worthwhile investment.

• Extra Special Boogie Treat: Here’s a little something to get your feet moving on over to PayPal: Catfish Hodge’s legendary 1973 album, “Boogieman Gonna Get Ya.”

R.I.P., Robin Williams

August 11, 2014

There should be a law against really funny people doing themselves in.

I’m talking the harshest possible punishment here: Bring them back to life and make them be funny some more.

That’ll teach ‘em.

Creative class warfare

June 21, 2014
The Turk' enjoyed some backyard time while I cleaned a bike in honor of the summer solstice.

The Turk’ enjoyed some backyard time while I cleaned a bike in honor of the summer solstice.

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Just ask the Turk’, who enjoyed a little outside time in the Mad Dog Media Botanical Gardens, a.k.a. “Weedpatch,” as I washed a bike in honor of the solstice.

Shortly thereafter it began raining off and on, with thunder for flavor, and the feline outings, bicycle riding and Old North End Garage Sale took back seats to working and earning.

Speaking of which, I can see I’ve been going about the latter activities all wrong. Clarity is so 15 minutes ago. If a guy could only learn to deploy with a straight face semantically null phrases such as “further leverage,” “cultural and creative assets,” “place of choice,” “launching new ideas” and “preserving our rich cultural heritage,” why, People of Money would write us fat checks for doing absolutely nothing beyond talking authoritatively and incomprehensibly out of our asses.

Toward that end I’m pleased to announce the formation of the Caramillo Street Collective for Creative Obfuscation, whose sole purpose it shall be to talk shit for money. I know, that sounds an awful lot like what I already do, but trust me, this is a radical departure from business as usual at Chez Dog. It’s a means of further leveraging my cultural and creative assets from my place of choice to launch new ideas that preserve my rich cultural heritage.

Somebody owes me $20K now.

• Speaking of talking shit: Here’s Timothy Noah on the ethics of dog-crap disposal.

Calvin and Hogges

June 7, 2014

Bill Watterson, creator of the fabled and much-missed “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip, got back in the game for a while this past week as a guest artist for the Stephan Pastis strip “Pearls Before Swine.”

The famously reclusive Watterson, who sent Calvin and his stuffed tiger sledding into history in 1995, collaborated with Pastis in part for fun and in part to help raise money for Parkinson’s research, according to Michael Cavna of The Washington Post.

Pastis did the writing and some of the drawing, turning Watterson loose in the middle panels. And both apparently had a wonderful time.

“I had expected to just mess around with his characters while they did their usual things, but Stephan kept setting up these situations that required more challenging drawings … so I had to work a lot harder than I planned to! It was a lot of fun.” Watterson told Cavna.

As for Pastis, he said: “It’s just massive … the biggest thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

Got them Suburban Snowsick Blues

May 12, 2014
It was a mother of a Mothers Day at Chez Dog.

It was a mother of a Mothers Day at Chez Dog.

The weather has been, shall we say, unsettled.

One minute a fella’s cycling around and about wearing little more than a bit of team kit marinated in sunscreen, and the next he’s huddled over a furnace grate in a snowmobile suit, Ruger Mini Thirty locked and loaded, ready to repel a terrorist yeti raid on his bacon and beans.

I made my preparations on Saturday, whipping up two steaming tureens of Southwestern fare, the first of a pork-and-potato-laden green chile stew and the second of pinto beans with onion, garlic and chipotle chile. To say the atmosphere has grown heavy indoors since would be an understatement of epic proportions.

The weather wizards were shrieking about inches and feet of white stuff, but this latest resurrection of winter proved to be not so much of a much. What little we got was heavy and wet, to be sure, and at one point I had to venture out with a broom to flog it off the tender branches of the young Canadian red cherry in the back yard.

This morning we have gray skies, temps below freezing, a stiff wind, and flurries, which is to say it’s May in Colorado. It caused me to compose a protest song in the style of Mr. Robert Zimmerman, though it’s tough to be musical without guitar, harmonica or talent. Still, I had a whang at it in an email to a friend and colleague in the mountains.

How much snow have you got there?
They said we’d get it everywhere
But mostly, down here below
the worst was that the wind did blow

It sucked, actually
Real cold
Movin’ t’Arizony

(squee honk blaat hoot snort honk twee)

 

Won’t you help to sing …

May 2, 2014

Woke up with this playing in my head for some reason. Now it’s in yours, too. You’re welcome.

Gassho, Peter Matthiessen

April 5, 2014

Author, naturalist and Zen teacher Peter Matthiessen has gone west.

Jeff Himmelman recently wrote a piece on Matthiessen for The New York Times Magazine — I just read it last night, and a good read it is — and today an obit followed in the news columns.

Zen is a tough nut to crack, but I think Matthiessen did a pretty fair job of it while arranging what seems to have been a graceful departure given his circumstances (more than a year spent battling leukemia). Discussing radical experimental measures that might have helped keep him around a while longer, he said,  “I don’t want to hang on to life quite that hard. It’s part of my Zen training. … The Buddha says that all suffering comes from clinging. I don’t want to cling. I’ve had a good life, you know. Lots of adventures. It’s had some dark parts, too, but mainly I’ve had a pretty good run of it, and I don’t want to cling too hard. I have no complaints.”

Speaking with The Guardian newspaper in 2002, he said that Zen “is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake.”

“We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past,” he continued. “Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.”

In the here and now, Matthiessen’s final novel, “In Paradise,” is to be published on Tuesday.

I don’t know much about art, but. …

April 4, 2014
Spring has sprung, the grass has riz; I wonder where the flowers is.

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz; I wonder where the flowers is.

Well, look what the snow drug in.

That nice little dumper did wonders for what passes for a lawn here at Chez Dog (it’s kind of green, and it’s on the ground, so we call it a lawn). And there’s more precip’ in the forecast, so ’ray for April so far.

Elsewhere, something less appealing is crawling out from under its covering. It seems Alfred E. “Worry” Bush has turned his limited skill set to painting since leaving office, and an exhibition of his portraits has opened in Dallas.

You may be familiar with his previous works, “Afghanistan” and “Iraq,” bits of performance art that required gallons upon gallons of blood and bullshit. We can’t afford them, and don’t want or need them — they don’t even match the sofa, f’fucksake! — but we’re paying for them anyway.

Based on what we’ve seen of those, I’m surprised ol’ Alfred’s portraits could find an exhibition space loftier than a refrigerator door in a prison cafeteria. They certainly make a compelling argument for hanging more artists and fewer paintings.

 

 

Rowdy dow dow

March 17, 2014

This is one of my favorite bits for a St. Patrick’s Day playlist. But the first time I heard the song, it was on a Planxty album. A different sort of a tune altogether, don’t you know.

At the time Planxty included Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny and Liam O’Flynn; Paul Brady didn’t join up until later. I saw Irvine and Brady play at a small venue in Corvallis in the early Eighties, and it was quite the show. Here’s their take on the same song.

I have all these on vinyl. One of these days I have to get off me arse and digitize ‘em so.

• Editor’s note: And yes, I did make it home without incident. Never even had to check a bag and risk my proud-ofs getting lost in the ozone. The final flight was the topper — Nazi torture seats the size of a child’s car seat and all the elbow room of your “final destination,” a passenger nearby who apparently decided to marinate in cheap cologne in lieu of showering,  another who clearly had given up washing his feet for Lent (1976), and a baby re-enacting episode one of “The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots.” Good times. The next show is in Louisville, Kentucky, and if I go, I am so driving.


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