Monday, September 30, 2002

September 30, 2002
Last day of month and I'm way behind on art. Got started finally yesterday
about four, but didn't get far. Did two Lewis & Clark roughs but they suck,
big time.

Kathy and I cooked spaghetti, had a Greek salad, watched two Sopranos in a
row. Really enjoyed it.

Walleye Patti changed my life. I was driving across Wyoming last week when I
pulled into Thermopolis just after sunrise and was looking for a real cafe
(see Road Rules, Sept. 28). It was Sunday morning and nothing was open except
a McDonald's. At the far edge of town I saw a billboard, There was a painting
of a big ol' fish jumping right out of the water and the words: "Patti's
Walleye Cafe • World famous bisquits & gravy • if you don't like 'em they're
free • 30 mi. ahead on left • Shoshoni Wyoming."

Even though I was starving, I hit the gas and cruised through the Wind
River Canyon at about 85. Started looking right and left at the 30 mile mark,
but shot right through Shoshoni (pop. 651) and was out the other end when I
realized I must have missed it. I turned around, went back, looked around,
didn't see it, stopped at a Texaco and got gas ($10.20 cash), stopped a guy
getting in his pickup and asked him. He didn't know. Went inside to pay, and
the skinny kid with the earring at the cash register didn't know, nor the
girl in the Fast Break take out area. Finally, a church lady with muffins
smiled and told me it was up the road to "Thermop" (as the locals call it). I
had missed it!

I shot up the road to the north edge of town and saw a cinder block, bait
shop looking affair sitting down off the road (I actually saw it on the way
in but thought, "That can't be it!"). A sign said "Walleye" and another said
"Bisquits & Gravy" but it was nothing like the billboard. Besides, the place
looked abandoned and there were no cars anywhere. I stopped to take a
picture, then noticed the Open signs. I went up to the door and lo and behold
it opened. I saw three women inside standing by a walk-in, "Are you open?" I
asked incredulously. They mumbled something about "sit anywhere you like." One
of the women was smoking and hacking (it later turned out to Patti), so I
went out and turned the car off, amazed that anyone would or could go to this
much trouble to find something so meager looking.

I went into the small dining room that resembled an early 1960s air raid
bunker. No windows and there was a small tv on a moving tray blaring some morning news show and they were about to show that damn video of that Toogood woman hitting her
kid for the billionth time and I didn't want that for breakfast so I took a
booth along the west wall, facing away from the tv.

As the waitress poured me a cup of coffee (it was her first day), in came
a couple who sat in the very next booth, facing me! Now the last thing a
single diner wants is to look up at another diner. As a bonus, they too,
started hacking. The waitress came over and said to the woman, "I guess
stopping smoking hasn't helped your cough any." That told me two things: they
were regulars and I was going to watch them eat one of their last meals, bite
for bite.

I went outside to get a newspaper from the rack so I could sit sideways
and read (and not have to look at the tv or the couple hacking in front of
me). I ran into Patti on the way back in and said, "I want you to know I'm
here because of your billboard in Thermopolis." Patti took a drag off her
cigarrette and said, "That sign has got me more damn business." She said it
like it was a nuisance and if it didn't stop soon she'd have to go up there
with a chain saw and chop it down herself. I didn't want to tell her how hard
I had to work to find her place, but I still wanted to help her. "Patti," I
said as diplomatically as I could, "you need a sign outside that matches the
sign in Thermopolis." She looked at me with a deadpan expression and said,
"It'll just blow down." That was it. She didn't want to talk about it.

The chicken fried steak and the bisquits and gravy were wonderful. But as
I drove away I realized I would probably never go back and I wondered why.
After all, the food matched the advertisement. Here's what I came up with:

• The advertising on the billboard was genius (it made me drive 30 extra
miles to eat!) and the food was actually quite good, but everything else
around it was a failure.

• Many people in a town of 651 people didn't even know she existed (so many
people tell us they didn't know about us, or they thought True West was out
of business, or they tell us they can't find us on the newsstand. Ouch!)

• People want a complete experience. Just having a good product isn't enough.
I wonder if sometimes our "billboards" create an expectation but when the
people get to the web site or to the magazine, they are disappointed.

• How many readers have tried to help us by telling us "our signs don't
match" and we blow them off? Scary and instructive.

Thanks Walleye Patti for changing my life.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

September 28, 2002
Feeling much angst and doubt about all this journal stuff. As I was posting this morning, I saw a tease for the number one blogger site in the UK and went there ( It was so underwhelming. Just goofy, lame limey attempts at being funny and with all the “bollocks” and English slang references, it was at best a cultured mess.

It didn’t help that I read the new Rolling Stone this weekend with aged Keith Richards on the cover looking like a sun dried prune. More specifically, in the same issue, young punkmeister Beck (the author of one of the best lines in rock history: “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?!”), bemoans the current blogger’s glut, saying he really dislikes these “web sites where they’re writing about what they had for dinner and what the towels were like at the hotel. When I was a kid, I enjoyed not knowing. I wasn’t sure if Devo lived in a plastic pyramid and slept in plastic pods or what.” Ouch!

By the way, old pirate Keith gets in a couple of great lines in the same issue: “Mick has to dictate to life. He wants to control it. To me, life is a wild animal. You hope to deal with it when it leaps at you. That is the most marked difference between us. He can’t go to sleep without writing out what he’s going to do when he wakes up. I just hope to wake up, and it’s not a disaster.” And speaking of pirates, Keith’s take on family and marriage is: “I feel akin to the old whaling captains: ‘We’re taking the boat out, see you in three years.’” Ha. That makes me smile.

Kathy and I had lunch at El Conquistador with our daughter ($61, includes tip). Great green chile and margaritas (no salt, on the rocks). Saw Mad Coyote Joe there. He’s always funny. Caught up on his wild life. He’s such a tv star, while we’re trading war stories a woman from another table comes over, puts her card on the table in front of him and says, “If you ever want golf lessons, call me.” Joe is so jaded he left the card on the table when he left. I may call her and ask her if she wants to go on a whaling expedition.

Took a shower this morning. Towels were quite soft (Kathy used a new softener).

I promise to tell you about Walleye Patti tomorrow.
September 28, 2002
It was Sage’s last day so we had a big lunch in the conference room with pizza from Barros’ and Karen R. made a delicious homemade cheese cake. Many laughs and she teared up a couple times.

Finally started on next issue’s Classic Gunfights: Ingalls. Cribbed from Glenn Shirley’s book. He was so good, and I was so lucky to have visited Ingalls with him before he died. Got to thank Bob McCubbin for that.

Last week when I drove down to Douglas, WY to visit my mom, I got to see some interesting country. My route took me thru Meeteetse, Thermopolis, Shishoni, Casper and Glenrock. It’s hard to believe there is any over-population problems anywhere when you make this trip. As I drove, I thought up several ideas for our Special Travel Issue. Among them:

BBB’s Five Road Rules:
• You must leave before daylight, preferably one hour before (this was my Dad’s regimen and I rarely get Kathy to do it. She likes to leave around 10 in the morning and it ain’t the same. In fact, it’s totally anti-pioneer!).
• After you’ve driven for an hour or so, you must stop and eat at a real cafe that serves bacon and eggs (no franchises).
• If you listen to the radio you must find a local station that does the hog report (almost impossible today with all the syndicated, cookie-cutter music formats).
• You must stop at every museum and hysterical marker (or, historical marker, if you prefer).
• You must avoid the freeway wherever possible, especially in towns. Take the business route and see the decaying downtowns (which are decaying because of the freeway that bypassed the town!).

I’ll tell you about Walleye Patti, the woman who changed my life, manana.

Friday, September 27, 2002

September 27, 2002
Got an employee who is goofing off and not doing her work. This is so tough for me because that is exactly the type of employee I always was. So I’ve got to deal with it and not overreact (we always hate in others what we recognize in ourselves). And boy do I hate it now: everybody appreciates a hard day’s work, especially if they’re paying for it. Ha.

A week ago tonight I had an epiphany. We were at the Cody Design Conference and attended a very high dollar art auction at the Buffalo Bill Historic Center. Free wine and dinner (actually each dinner was $75 but we were a co-sponsor so we got three comped meals) held in a big art tent, full of big, black hats. Met lots of fun, rich people and enjoyed looking at the art and seeing what the art was selling for (most art was selling under retail but was still drawing about $5K to $7K a painting).

John Beckett, Stacy Halford and I left at around nine and decided to try and find the Wildwood Outlaw Ball which one of the artisans had told us about. The WOB was formed as a direct reaction to the formal event at the BBHC. We had a crude map and meandered thru the foothills north of Cody trying to find it. Finally, we followed two cars in front of us who seemed to know where they were going and sure enough, we pulled down a long, narrow, rutted road which fed into the Shaner ranch compound. Cars were parked for about a half-mile out across a long mesa that looked back towards the twinkling lights of Cody. As we walked in the dark we could hear the band wonking between songs and we could just make out a whole gaggle of cowboy hats around a big, roaring fire.
As my eyes finally scaled the darkness, I saw a rambling straw bale adobe ranch house wrapped around a dirt courtyard that looked into a studio-garage where a four piece band was set up. Just as we came into the patio the band launched into the Doors’ “Love Me Two Times.” Out of the dark, an older man in a parka came up close to me. His features were monster lit, like in a David Lynch movie, and he leaned in close and said, “Welcome to the real Wild West.”

I was home. As much as I enjoyed the trappings of the art auction, these were my people and my music. As I looked at the sea of cowboy hats and the age spread (there were little kids and oldsters everywhere) I realized that there are two Wests I live in, and also that we cater to in the magazine. My partners lean towards the formal, conservative West, but while they view anything to the left of George Strait as being "non-music" I actually prefer ZZ Top. So, like Huck Finn, I guess I'm resigned to going to hell. Ha.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

September 26, 2002
Got our office copies of the November-December issue. Magazine looks very strong, especially the cover, although the Holiday Gift Guide (10 pages) makes the issue look ad heavy. Concerned about that.

Bob Brink came in and calmed me down (economy jitters). Among the gems:
• “Kathy’s instincts are right, we need to throw some baggage out, but at the same time we can’t slow down.” (once again, everybody is about half right).
• “Every business could be working smarter. It isn’t just us...” (that was quite freeing)
• “We’ve got a strong plan for 2003 and we need to stick to it.” (Don’t look down, keep your eye on the goal.)
• “We need to do a complete internal audit of the biz. Where can we save money without cutting people?” (he was adamant that we have a great team in place and we are not going to cut any personnel).

I had many adventures in Cody and as I have time I’ll catch you up:
On Monday as I was waiting for the plane in Cody, I went into the small cafe and had a salad and wrote a half-dozen postcards to the people I love (did you get it?). I noticed a big, black rapper kid sitting about three tables over and he was arguing with his girlfriend about a song in a Patrick Swayze movie (I didn’t quite catch which one, maybe “Ghost,” but I’m not sure). They railed back and forth. Finally his girlfriend says, “Mister, hey Mister!” and I looked up and they were both looking at me. “Who first recorded ‘Unchained Melody’?” I looked over my glasses and said confidently, “That would be The Righteous Brothers, in 1965.” The young girl squealed: “I told you so!” The rapper shrugged and said, “I knew it was one of those brothers or sumthin’.” At first I was quite proud and felt rather “hip” until I glanced over at another table and saw a grandmotherly type woman smiling at me, as if to say, “I remember that song too. I got a hickey from Duwane Seemore after the dance. You and I are older than dirt!” Then I realized that the kids might as well have said, “What was it like being at Lincoln’s funeral?” That took the wind out of my sails.

More news later. Got to run.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

September 25, 2002
I worked last night for over two hours catching up on journal entries and on items for here, went to Blogger site and pasted it all in and when I tried to post it, the computer froze. Didn't save. Lost it all. Sigh.

The DOW went in the toilet yesterday. Five year low, etc. Really makes it scary for the magazine. Talked last night and this morning about what to do. Kathy thinks I need to trim costs and live within a budget (imagine that?!). I feel like I need to turn up the throttle and gain altitude, motor thru the stall. A plane taking off became the metaphor. The damn thing is finally airborne, but the wheels are hitting the trees. Kathy says, “Throw out cargo,” and I’m saying, “Hit the gas and power thru it.”

The problem is, everybody is about half right. And the question is: which half do you believe? You can't slow down and speed up at the same time, and I’m haunted by the saying that most business failures stem from trying to rein your horse in, in the middle of a jump. But Kathy is right in that very few people go broke being conservative. OUch!

We flew our best photographer, John Beckett, to Cody last Friday to join Stacy and I, so we could do several fashion shoots with Sherry Holt and other Western designers who were at the Cody Design Conference. Got some great stuff. The Holiday Inn was booked solid, so John, who is African-American, slept in my room. Big King size bed, but we both hugged the outer edges and I don’t think either one of us even turned on our sides for the whole night. Ha. In the morning John quoted the classic movie “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” lines: “I’ve got my hand between two pillows...” We laughed nervously.

Kathy called on Saturday morning and kidded me about my sudden urge to choose black men since our anniversary (if you’ve been reading this you know what that refers to).

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

September 24, 2002

Back from Cody. Made some great contacts, had some adventures, saw some rough country, slept with a black man. You know, the usual Wyoming stuff.

More later, including an encounter with Patti's Walleye Cafe, Bitched-out drugstore women in Shishoni, and sleeping with that black guy.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

September 22, 2002
I'm at my mom's house in Douglas, Wyoming. I feel like I have been out of the known world for five days. In Cody, which is so 1992, the Holiday Inn guy acted like a computer was some new fangled thing that hadn't been shipped up the Missouri on a flatboat yet. "Internet Cafe? Really? They have those?"
I have a many stories to tell, and I'll tell them tomorrow when I get home, tomorrow night.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

September 16, 2002
Well, I’ve wondered what kind of odd consequences my posted journal entries could possibly have and here they come. Sue H. (our receptionist and circulation director) stuck her head in my office this morning and said, “Why would you leave a $5 tip on a $65 meal?” I knew instantly what she was talking about.
In the afternoon Carole, R.G. and I were interviewing a woman in the conference room for a job in production. She seemed rather uneasy about something and mentioned she had visited our website. As she shuffled thru a stack of papers in front of her, she kind of rolled her eyes and said that she had also read “the journal.” We all laughed nervously and Carole said, “What did you think of it?” The interviewee found a printout and read out loud: “I feel sick to my stomach today. I’ve hired someone who we can’t afford and I feel like a failure.” Well, Carole, Roland and I howled, but I couldn’t tell if the interviewee seemed more uncomfortable by the diary entry or our seemingly demented reaction to her reading it. Ouch!

I’m trying to get ready for a trip to Cody, WY tomorrow. Will be gone for five days to the Cody Desgin Conference and to see my mom. Came home last night and had a glass of cabernet wine and Swedish pancakes (funny what we eat when we’re trying not to waste food, ha.).

Jana B. came in today and was a steamroller. Trimmed her own copy and helped R.G. hammer out several pieces. Our 2003 issues are going to be very strong.

By the way, the $5 tip happened like this: Russ and Wendy Shaw went to dinner with us at the Boulders about a month ago. I have a Signature card which gives us 30% off the bill. For parties of four, the Boulders charges an automatic 18% gratuity, but since it was off the lower combined bill ($120, which we then split between the couples) we added a $5 cash tip so the waiter (he’s the son of a friend) would have a little extra. So glad to clear that up. In spite of the correction, I can just imagine my obit: “Bell, a notoriously bad tipper, died Thursday...”

Monday, September 16, 2002

September 14, 2002
Waited at the TW office all morning for the holiday issue to arrive from Kansas City, but it never arrived. Later found out Fed Ex dosen’t deliver on Saturday. There went a half a day.

I had high hopes for art this weekend. Wanted to do studies in felt tip pen, quick, vigorous drawings. I did do some quick washes yesterday, copying a John Singer Sargent painting of Teddy Roosevelt. Got some good loose washes going, then stifled it with my damn skin tone overpainting. It is so maddening. I end up just using the tube of “flesh tone” and some red and it’s so bush and one-dimmensional. I’ve got to get past that.

Scenes’ I want to produce today and tomorrow:
• Craig Hamilton’s “Church of The Outdoors” column scene
• Lewis & Clark, collage for opening spread
• 11 scenes for Kierland Commons Hotel
• Gunfight at The OK Corral overview for April issue
• Minnie Hauan as a young woman
• Spanish Kiss (for article on myths of the border)
• Cole Younger in prison and in the rain

And, of course, I did none of the above. Went to the grocery store on Sunday and Target (got extension cords to recharge battery on ‘49 Ford, $16 house debit). Came home and made an Italian meal, spagetti and wine, then Kathy and I watched the premier of “The Sopranos.” Really enjoyed it. Went to bed and read about Van Gogh. Both he and his brother Theo died of complications from syphilis. Ouch! How much of Vincent’s genius was from cognitive effort (more than I think is popularly believed) and how much came from either a conscious overriding of his brain and getting to a semi-unconcious state, or did the disease and the absinth take him there? That is the question. I would prefer to believe the former, but my suspicions won’t discount the latter. In other words, about half, which makes me a damn Halfist. I’ll explain later.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

September 13, 2002
Read in this morning’s paper that Nick Nolte (once dubbed the “Sexiest Man Alive”) was pulled over on suspicion of DUI and that he had “droopy eyes and was drooling.” Kathy dated Nick back in the sixties and I knew she would want to see it so I cut it out and underlined the “droopy” and “drooling” part and placed it on the kitchen table before I went to work. Petty? Immature? I should certainly hope so!

I also read about Warren Zevon having inoperable lung cancer. Sweet Jesus! And he’s 55!!! Ouch! He summed up his predicament by saying, “I’m OK with it, but it’ll be a drag if I don’t make it until the next James Bond movie comes out.” Now that’s funny—and courageous.

A long one in the office. Lots of budget problems and office politics. Printer sent our page proofs to the wrong zip code so I’ll have to come in tomorrow morning and wait for the Fed-Ex guy and then call everyone to come in and do proofs. More stuff like that. It wasn’t fun, but hey, it beats cancer.

Friday, September 13, 2002

September 12, 2002
Got a firestorm going over one of our new columns. I never realized “horse training” could be so political. Craig Hamilton had a feature in the October issue (out to subscribers now and on newsstands in about a week) about a horse called Cinco. It’s really about his relationship with a stubborn horse and how the horse taught him more than he taught the horse. It’s heartfelt and witty in a Kingman cowboy kind of way. He has since turned in two more columns to appear in upcoming issues, but his writing is polarizing everyone. One of my editors pronounced his “cowboy philosophizing” as being “just awful.” Today, Sage (who is 24 and can be quite snippy and cynical about what she views as some of our “hokey” tendencies) sticks her head in my office and says, “Hey, I really like Craig’s newest column.” Then our newest salesperson, Stacy, a calf-ropin’ cowgirl, tells me if we continue to run Craig’s column we will be laughed out of business for being “California nuts.” One of my partners, Dave Daiss, weighs in and says he really didn’t care for the Cinco article because of the “politics.” My wife Kathy, who thinks most of the stuff we run is pure drivel, says it’s one of the few things she has actually read in True West and pronounced it wonderful. My business manager tears up when she talks about “Cinco” and the article. Bob McCubbin thinks it has no business being in a history magazine. Amazing. My instincts tell me if this Kingman cowboy is creating this much polarizing energy, he must be on to something. Going to give him his head and let him rip. Interesting.

Mike took the sales staff and me to lunch at El Encanto. Lots of laughs and a celebration for being in record territory.

Finished a “potato chip” article on “Everybody Hates Me!” by Ike Clanton, which is basically excerpted emails to Terry “Ike” Clanton’s website. Very funny. My favorite is, “Your (sic) stupid.”

Thursday, September 12, 2002

September 11, 2002
Wall to wall coverage of memorials. Tried to avoid them as much as possible. Did listen to a bit of NPR on the way to work. Sad day. Probably the biggest shock is reading that the U.S. had only four armed planes in the entire country the day of the attack and that one of the contingencies the Air Force considered was to have a pilot fly an unarmed jet fighter into any other attacking planes in a suicide mission. Ironic, eh?

Had a productive production meeting at 11:30 with Robert Ray, Abby Pearson and Gus Walker. They are inundated with too much inane ad work (Gus spent most of a day creating a rope border for a $500 ad. Ouch!). Stressed the need for systems. Another big problem we have is most of our mom and pop advertisers don’t know how to submit their ads and are sending in materials via email with 72 dpi images. etc. We came up with a pro-active idea of sending out any potential advertiser a “how to build an ad for True West”. Robert is creating it. Will also be on website.

Ate lunch in conference room with Carole and Kathy (who went to Tonto and got salads). Carole went to a wedding in upper New York state last weekend and she had pictures. At one point I looked at these two beautiful women and smiled. We were all roommates in the wild seventies and here we are: oltimers. Ha.

There’s hope for me. I read last night in Newsweek that “the best stories are written by losers.” Ha.

Bob McCubbin is finally up on his computer. Got an email from him in the evening. We need his copy for The Fifty Most Historically Important Photos. He wants to do it on his typewriter and I’m trying to wean him off it and have him just email it. We’ll see how that goes.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

September 10, 2002
Lots of meetings. Today is the first day for Jana Bommersbach who will be our Special Projects Editor. We had a very lively staff meeting at nine, then followed up with a strong editorial meeting to attack 2003 issues. Met with Roland, Sage and Jana. Then Jana and I went to lunch at Tonto Bar & Grill ($30 Sue debit). She is excited and it’s contagious.

Got back to office at two, met with Bob Brink and continued editorial planning. Chose the 50 Most Western Cities for Travel Issue.

I took off at 3:30 to go to dentist. Got teeth cleaned. Sandy made me promise to use my Braun toothbrush and I did, but I rarely do. This has only been going on for about, oh, six years. Ha.

Left there at five, drove out to Glendale for a speech at the Valley of The Sun Romance Writers meeting at Bowman’s Bungalo. Nice meal. About thirty women and one guy. Very nice crowd. Talked about my journey and all the things I did wrong (and continue to do wrong). Good speech but I think I went on too long. Could have ended sooner and left them wanting more, but noooooo. My big, fat ego knows no bounds. Kicked myself all the way out to the parking lot. Left them each an issue of TW. Big rain while we were inside. Running water in gutters as I left around 7:40.
Went by Dewey Webb’s house. Actually his parent’s house. He had called me and wanted to give me a movie poster. It’s of Mamie Van Doren in “Born Reckless,” a wonderful, camp, fifties Western. Very cool. Had a beer and sat and talked with his parents. Very nice people. Dewey is doing research on absinth for a possible article. I told him I want to do something on drugs in the Old West. Traded gossip about New Times, left there at 8:40 and got home at 9:20.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

September 9, 2002
Big problems with corrupt files. Our holiday issue was supposed to go to the printer today but it almost didn’t make it out the door. Robert Ray had seven pages with corrupt files and when he tried to flight check them, they wouldn’t go. He fretted all night Sunday and all day today. Several frantic phone calls to our printer in Kansas City. Finally got them to fall around 3:30. He wrote the PDF files, and rushed it out the door to Fed Ex at four. Whew! If people only knew how close to the abyss we come almost every issue they would be amazed (or amused).

Lots of rain. Marshall Trimble (he writes Ask The Marshall) came in around 9:30. Staff anxious to meet him. Ted wanted a photo taken with him, so I took several. Drove him out to my house and I shot off about a dozen reference shots of him standing in the rain with the cave Cave Creek is named for in the background. I’m doing a portrait of him for the Kierland Commons Hotel. Got some good stuff ($12 Sue debit, Foothils Photo, one hour turnaround).
Also had several hangouts on photo credits for Wild Bunch. One in particular involved a hostile owner, but I finally got clearance in the evening. If we hadn’t got it, I would have had to do a painting of the image and replace it on the press next week. Would have cost a bit to do and besides it would have looked rather lame. That was a relief. The photo ownership deal is so crazy. No one really knows what the legal perameters are. Some say “you can’t copyright a photograph. Only the person who took the photo can own it.” And “anything taken before 1923 is public domain.” On the other side are the museums and facilities who charge for photo usage. The situation is sticky because there are other facilities that own the same pictures and they don’t charge, so it’s really a Bermuda Triangle of legalities. Still, it’s nice to have clearance and not have the hangout factor.

Tomorrow we start on our 50th anniversary issues and Jana Bommersbach will be coming in to be our Special Projects Editor. I am very excited about this. We’ve got big plans.

Monday, September 09, 2002

September 8, 2002
I am back from Santa Fe. We flew to Albuquerque on Wednesday morning. Had to get up at 3:40 am, got to airport at five, heavy security. Got on plane at six, flew to Albuquerque and we were met by Bob McCubbin who drove us to Santa Fe. Worked all day Wednesday scanning in original photographs that belong to Bob Mc.

On Thursday we scanned more images and a Hollywood crew came in to film interviews with me and Leon Metz and Drew Gomber for a DVD of "Young Guns." That lasted from about noon until 7:30. Then we drove down to Canyon Road and had dinner at a sidewalk cafe (El Farol). It was fun.

Got up on Friday, Bob drove us back to airport and we took off for Phoenix. Got back here at 11, got to office around 12:15 and worked until about six.
Also worked Saturday and have to go in today. It really rained here last night. Long rolling thunder, heavy rain on and off all night.
Our latest issue goes out the door Monday. We are in record territory both in page count (120) and ad sales ($61K). We seem to be on a winning run.

I got an email complaint from a new subscriber from Austin: “I received my first issue of your magazine today. I must say in some areas I was pleased with my recent decision to subscribe to your magazine. However, your mention of Ann Richards and Molly Irvins under Austin as the Best Wild West Town made me reconsider that decision. If you knew anything at all about them you would not hold them out as examples of anything good or certainly any appropriate reason to have chosen Austin as the Best Wild West Town.” (Billy the Kid, Best of The West, October issue).

"When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced
courses of action you should take—choose the bolder."
—William Joseph Slim
September 5, 2002
Robert Ray and I flew to Albuquerque at 6 am. Bob McCubbin picked us up at the airport and drove us to Santa Fe. Robert hooked up Bob's computer and we began scanning some of his original photographs. Fun. Got some good stuff.

Monday, September 02, 2002

August 31, 2002
Kathy and I drove to Flagstaff (165 miles) to have lunch with Tommy and three of his friends (one was his roommate, and the other two are suite-mates). We took them to eat at Salsa Bravo ($75 cash, includes tip). Good talking to them about their classes and major, etc. Tommy’s roommate is from Eager and is going to be a civil engineer like his dad. Another kid is going to be in the restaurant and motel management and the fourth kid doesn’t know yet what he will major in. I brought Tommy the new redesigned Rolling Stone and he brought it to lunch. Wants a subscription (evidently Jann Wenner knows what he’s doing).

After lunch we went back to the dorm and picked up Tommy to drive out to JJ’s and Robert Chenault’s house in east Flag to drop off several boxes of stuff. On the way I was asking T about JJ and how he came out in court and T winced and said, “Oh shit, I missed my court date yesterday.” Well that put a lid on his enthusiasm. He was supposed to go to court to take care of his lack of tags ticket and now he’ll have to pay a fine. We drove back to his dorm on old 66. Really heavy traffic all the way. Dropped him off and headed south to take the cutoff to Sedona. Lots of traffic there also, but we made it. Such a beautiful drive. Lots of campers (Labor Day weekend) and foot traffic at Slide Rock. Cruised thru Sedona (several live bands on the main drag, vendors), wanted to take the turn to Cornville, but it said Page Springs and I wasn’t sure if that was it, kept going into Cottonwood. Drove around looking for a Dairy Queen for Kathy. Finally asked a local and found it in NW part of town ($4.50 cash), took off and drove over to I-17 and headed down Black Canyon, talking about our kids and whether they’ll amount to anything. Verdict still out. Got to CC at about 6:15, went to Blockbuster and got three DVDs and popcorn ($14 cash), came home and watched “The Royal Tanenbaums” with Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, etc. Mike Melrose raved about this flick, but I just thought it was quirky (6.5).

Sunday, September 01, 2002

August 30, 2002
I have painted over a dozen images for the Butch Cassidy issue. At least three are pure dogshit, three are decent and five had a shot at being wonderful, but I either pushed it too far, or aimed too high, and missed the trajectory angle on the re-entry and shot past the earth’s atmosphere and drifted aimlessly out into the dark void of space. But I digress.

The last piece I completed was the toughest although it seemed to be the most simple in terms of concept. It’s called Dead Man’s Dinner and is a still life of an open can of sardines and a beer bottle on a wooden table. I hardly ever paint from life (although I feel great guilt about this, knowing that anyone who has ever been half-way decent at this game swears by it. But I rationalize: “I don’t have time, I’m on deadline, maybe when I have some time I’ll attack it,” but I never do!). Like so many modern illustrators I have become a slave to photography. If I’m not literally projecting a photo, I’m either tracing or using a reference photo as the only source. On this painting somehow I broke loose from that and emulated something we did way back when I was in college (University of Arizona, Fine Arts College, 1965-70, no degree). I took some scrap paper and did very quick, loose washes of the beer bottle (we called them “gesture drawings,” and I can still hear my bearded-hippie-teacher Bruce McGrew booming, “Let it flow! Let it flow!”). I wasn’t trying to get the draftsmanship of it, just the tones. Then I took the can over to the kitchen and started to open it, so I could see the sardines inside. As I was doing this, I noticed the dramatic lighting coming in thru the kitchen window and ran back over to the studio to retrieve my beer bottle (a homemade brew bottle I borrowed from Robert Ray) and sat it next to the half-open sardine can. Then I went and got my camera and shot four angles of the scene, then went and got my gouache paints and brushes and painted the still life with a cutting board as my easel, propped over the sink. The resulting image was sloppy, juicy and scary. I was out of control, but there was something original in it...

On Thursday I picked up the film and picked the best lit photo, sat down at my art desk and freehanded the scene in light pencil. And then, using all of the information and “happy accidents” I discoverd from the previous ten washes and drawings I proceeded to knock out almost exactly the scene I saw in my head when I got the original idea. Amazing.
As Abraham Lincoln put it: “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend seven hours sharpening my axe.”