Daily Archives: January 9, 2012

The Great Continental Divide – The Rot Started at the Top

A few generations ago this parking lot was full of people journeying along Route 66.  People stopped here because their engines were overheating, or the kids needed to stretch their legs, or they just wanted to pause for a view of how the water divided.

The view wasn’t all that much, but a dad could walk down below with the kids, step behind a phony hogan, and tell they chillerns if they pee here their water would go both ways, ending up in two different oceans.

The hogan was a lot more inviting back then.

It hadn’t played hotel to a thousand stranded hitch-hikers and drunks looking for a roof.

The roof, of course, still held out the rain and snow.

It hadn’t entered the phase before even the drunks avoided it.

Though all the seeds were planted.  All they needed was nurturing a generation or two.

Garden Deluxe comes into Gallup on tanker trucks and railcars from California.  A local business family bottles it, labels it and keeps it thrifty enough so a bottle could be bought for half a US dollar when that roof still didn’t leak.

The Kachina were Hopi and Zuni.  Pottery, and silversmithing, all the tribes in the area.  Rugs, Navajo.  But while the years took the roof off that hogan the businessmen discovered Asians can make Kachina, junk jewelry, rugs, and pottery a lot cheaper than anyone struggling to hack out a living with craftsmanship on the Rez.

The motorists didn’t care.  They wanted the Made In China stamp already filling their homes in the lowlands.  The world they lived in took longer to send all their own jobs to Asia.  

Old Jules



Spark and Tinder for the Next Country Music Wave

Morning readers.  I’m obliged you came by for a read this morning.

A while back while I was in Kerrville I was in one of the huge office supply stores that have driven all the locally owned ones out of business.  I was nosing around looking at things when I glanced at a guy, a woman and a clerk studying copiers or fax machines. 

“Small world!”  I mutters to myself.  The male customer part of the trio was a face a decade older than one I’d known too well almost a decade ago.  A guy named Tony Wossname.  Once a motel manager in Grants, New Mexico.  A man I’d been blessed to observe through the lens of the darkest side of his character. 

I changed positions in the store, moving place to place studying this later model of a man who could spot desperate need for a job when he saw it and derived a lot of pleasure out of making it as painful and difficult for the desparee as his power allowed.

After I discovered I couldn’t get any other job in Grants, New Mexico following Y2K I went to work in a motel off the Interstate, graveyard shift, as a night clerk for a while.  Besides giving me almost enough money to pay rent, utilities, and buy a little carefully selected grub, the job showed me a side of humanity I wasn’t familiar with.  And it gave me a lot of time to think about what I observed.

One of the things Tony liked about being a motel manager was his radio in the locked office the 11-7 shift clerk couldn’t access.  The radio had no speakers in the office, nor in his apartment beside it, but it did have speakers in the lobby where he couldn’t hear it.

What kind of music do you like?” Tony’d asked me conversationally during the job interview.

I like any good music.”  I shrugged, recognizing a management school tactic for getting the applicant to relax.

So do I.  But there’s some on the air these days I can’t stand.”  He scowled and shook his head.  “I hate that RAP stuff.”

I just don’t listen to the radio much.  I like older music, mostly.  The modern CW swill could probably drive me nuts.”

He had what he wanted and changed the subject, now that I was all relaxed.

I got the job, which included two lobby speakers tuned to a modern CW station, 11 pm to 7 am with the volume control and station selector behind a locked door.

I did a lot of writing on those shifts while trying to stay sane.  Here’s one night of inspiration about modern country music:

3:30 AM

Hearing this country music station wailing all night so many nights has caused me to realize what’s changed in country music. It used to encompass a fairly wide range of fairly lowbrow experiences and sentiments. Love, cheating, drinking, bull riding, hound dogs, mama, trains, trucks, car wrecks, dead friends, being broke, dreams of something or another, hopes, losses, resentment, pride of accomplishment, prison, cows, land, and clothing. Now it’s nothing but drooling whining love songs. Wonder what the hell that means?

Probably  means females are picking all the hits, buying all the records, and the men who dance lockstep with them are also females.   Something’s definitely changed, in any case.  There are still Guy Clarks out there, still Prines, still Tom Russells, still Willies and Merles. That just ain’t getting hit records.

Maybe the baby boomers lost something after their quadruple bypasses. Ever heard of a woman getting bypass surgery? I haven’t.

Maybe ten years from now we’ll be hearing country songs about bypasses and prostate cancer- about Winnebagos, casinos, golf, medicare—about grandkids wanting to  put him/her in a nursing home- about hearing aids and false teeth, thick toenails and sagging skin.

If so, it will be an improvement, and I, for one, look forward to it.   Maybe tonight I’ll write the off-the-charts hit CW song for 2012. 

Cheatin’ a Broken Heart

Westbound on the Interstate
Out on the Great Divide
Our Winnie overheated
So we pulled off on the side

The sagebrush and the red rock buttes
Invoked our reverie
While the engine cooled I thought about
My bypass surgery.

You can have your diabetes
Talk about your brand of “C”
But when heat waves blur the red rock
I’ll take bypass surgery

We’ll be turning south at Flagstaff
For the fairways to the south
Where my third ex-wife will meet us
With the grandkids and her mouth

Those two eggs up on whiskey toast
Home fries on the side
She always made for breakfast
Were my downfall and her pride

We’ll take the brats along with us
And camp somewhere below
The international boundary
Buying meds in Mexico

‘Cause it’s not the margaritas
Nor the senoritas sweet
It’s the discount pharmaceuticals
That tug these flattened feet

Now the engine’s finished cooling
And the wheels begin to roll
And there ain’t no bloody stool
In the RV commode bowl

You can have your diabetes
Talk about your brand of “C”
But when heat waves blur the red rock
I’ll take bypass surgery

So here I am, 2012 coming on strong and fast.  The lyrics for the big hit for the year already written, the New CW Wave craze all mapped and ready to take off.

Gotta find a musician.

Remember where you heard it first.

Old Jules