Saturday, January 31, 2004

January 31, 2004
Got an instant message from my son Tomas in Spain at about 3:30 (11:30 pm his time). He was wondering how the Cats are doing. That would be the Arizona Wildcats, playing at Washington State. He had bought some computer hookup that was supposed to get him the game but it wasn’t working. So I ran over to the house, turned on the game and then ran back to the studio every five minutes or so with an update. Fun. Wildcats won, but barely.

Did several sketches this morning, went for a walk, took two naps, got embroiled in an e-mail cat fight which I didn’t want to have. So non-productive and a waste of time. I made a vow to turn off the computer and get some serious work done, but here I am (4:22) typing away.

I’ve been cleaning and found a sketchbook full of drawings and “comedic” ideas from 1994-95. The loose sketches are decent, but the writing is way weak. Need to keep that in mind. I’m not going to be a John Fusco or a Gary Trudeau (Doonsebury). Never will. Quit pretending that it could happen. I’m not good at it. I can draw pretty good.and I should be thankful for that (Wild Bill sketches are from Jan. 23, 1994).

Hey, what do you think of Custer? Hero? Pompous buffoon? Make your vote right here.

Buddy Boze Bell keeps passing gas. He’s lying right behind my chair and every time I look back at him, he gives me this look that says, “It’s not me, it’s Peaches.” I’m going to take him for a walk and air him out.

“It is a mistake to trust a man with an honest face. After all, that may be the only honest part of him.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, January 30, 2004

January 30, 2004
My musing yesterday regarding the origins of the Indiana Jones franchise/character elicited this response from Dan Buck of Washington DC:

“George Lucas's Indiana Jones was inspired not by an actual person but by the Saturday matinee serials of his youth, among them "Don Winslow of the Navy," “Spy Smasher," and "Zorro's Fighting Legion" -- all products of Republic Studios in the 1940s and 1950s. Art imitating art. A reporter today who writes a feature about an archaeologist shoveling sand in just about any far corner of the globe feels obligated to make a reference to Indiana Jones. Life imitating Indiana Jones imitating Don Winslow.” More here:

There has been some talk in the TW offices about a perceived “extreme casualness” among the employees. Perhaps it has something to do with my own wardrobe (see photo of me in my office with Abby Pearson).

Actually, this photo is from Halloween and I can’t remember who I was supposed to be (an aerobics instructor?), but it definitely belies the poster message behind my head.

My final postcard mailed from Spain (on Dec. 28!) showed up yesterday. It took a month. The odd thing is a batch were mailed from the same location and they obviously meandered their way here by different routes. I’d love to know how they made it thru, but who knows?

Going home for lunch today so I can take the dogs to the creek and gather my ten daily stones. I really enjoy the exercise and I’m getting quite a pile. And of course, Peaches and Buddy Boze Bell run and jump all over the place, as if we have never, ever been there.

“I think dogs were put in this world to remind humanity that love, loyalty, devotion, courage, patience, and good humor are the qualities that, with honesty, are the essence of admirable character and the very definition of a life well lived.”
—Dean Koontz, "Seize the Night"

Thursday, January 29, 2004

January 29, 2004
I’ve seen the new Old West and it’s in the Mideast. Last night at Fashion Square, Touchstone ran a sneak preview of Hidalgo (due out March 5).

What a wild ride! The horse racing sequences are very powerful, with thundering hooves and dangerous looking tracking shots. Not since Man From Snowy River has The Horse got such loving, glorious attention.

The big surprise, at least to me, is that the opening sequences which take place in the actual American West were the least interesting to me. True, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was lovingly reproduced right down to the medals on Annie Oakley’s chest, but for me it didn’t quite translate into anything compelling.

And I especially disliked the revisionist take on Wounded Knee where the famous photo of an Indian casualty frozen in place is recreated for the movie, but the corpse is given a white flag to hold as a kind of extra exclamation point (like it needed it). The movie totally sidesteps the fact that U.S. soldiers took some 40 casualties from the “surrendering” Sioux at Wounded Knee.

Of course, this reveals my own prejudices and pet peeves about modern Westerns and begs the question, “Is it even possible for history nuts to enjoy any portrayal of their Beloved West?” And my answer to that question is: “Either blow it up or get it right.”

Ironically, Hidalgo doesn’t really take off until the Cowboy, Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen), lands in the Arabian desert for the big endurance race.

The leap of imagination by screenwriter John Fusco (Young Guns, Spirit Stallion of The Cimarron), in taking an American Cowboy, raised by Indians, and throwing him into a parallel universe of the Old Mideast is chancy, but it works. Two horse cultures (Native American and the Bedouin) are juxtaposed, or interchanged and it’s a perfect fit, at least in terms of movie plotting and dynamics. On the negative side, there is already outrage from some Arab circles about the scene where a native rider stabs and kills his horse when it can’t continue.

Personally, I really loved the Arab old school style and garb. The billowing tunics and exotic saddlery of the galloping riders was way cool. But I’d be willing to bet one of my hats there will be Arab history buffs bemoaning the inaccurate head dresses and Arabian horse gear. Alas, we each have our areas of expertise, and heaven help Hollywood when they enter our cantankerous domains.

The metaphor of an American Cowboy dispensing Western style justice in the Mideast (Iraq is in the race path!) is at times wince worthy. When our cowboy hero grinds a spur on the cheek of a prone, traitorous Arab, I kept looking for the spider hole.

In spite of my sniping, the movie is ultimately successful and makes a pretty strong case that the Cowboy hero has outgrown the actual physical confines of the American West. This is not a new idea and can be traced all the way back to Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969). That was the first movie where “cowboys” left the actual Old West, in that case exporting their robbery techniques to South America. This caused consternation at the studio because the execs wondered aloud: “Can you leave the Old West in a Western?” After all, John Wayne and Roy Rogers had never left the Old West.

With the recent Shanghai Noon and this year’s Last Samurai, the story of a U.S. cavalry officer who turns Japanese, the idea appears to be a trend.

If you read True West magazine you know the real Frank T. Hopkins (on which Hidalgo is allegedly based) was more or less a blowhard and a fraud (there is no proof he was ever in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, or that he ever won a long distance race), but it really doesn’t matter. The movie is a tall tale more in the mode of Indiana Jones (who I suppose was based on some authentic archeologist/adventurer, but so what?) Hidalgo plays out like a big screen adventure and the audience I saw it with clapped at the end (always a good sign).

My prediction is Hidalgo will ride out the heat and be a hit.

“You may easily play a joke on a man who likes to argue -- agree with him.”
—Edgar Watson Howe

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

January 28, 2004
Kevin Costner has made four Westerns, including the recent Open Range. Evidently he doesn’t really like Oaters. Why? He tells Entertainment Weekly, “I don’t like them, because they don’t feel organic, or witty enough.” There must be some truth to this because that’s exactly how I felt about Open Range.

Speaking of new shows, the new HBO western Deadwood premieres March 21, and the stills I’ve seen of the costuming are excellent. Wild Bill Hickok (played by a very historically accurate looking Keith Carradine) actually is wearing—as per period photographs—checked pants, with the appropriate spring-bottom pants legs. Most Western costuming mimics the 1950’s pants rule of cuffs up off the shoe (wrong! wrong!). One warning though. It is going to be nasty (remember: it’s not tv, it’s ____ing HBO!).

From the They-Can’t-Print-It-If-It-Isn’t-True-Can-They? Department: also according to Entertainment Weekly, Brad Pitt “tweaked” his Achilles heel, while playing, ahem, Achilles, in the upcoming $150 million epic Troy, which will be out May 14.

I got tickets to see a sneak preview of the new Disney Western Hidalgo tonight at Fashion Square. We have done several articles on the making of this controversial film: see our take on its authenticity in the current issue of True West (March) I’ll tell you what I think of it tomorrow.

I talked to the Westerns channel yesterday and if you’d like to sign up in time to see the new “True West Moments” segments, which begin airing on February 1, you can do so by going to

”You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

January 27, 2004
Finally finished the Classic Gunfights of the Sheriff Brady ambush this morning (April issue). Many passes at the copy and art. We also did the film script of the same scene from Young Guns, where we grade the historical accuracy of the movie. Fun stuff.

Mike and crew came in at a record number for the travel issue (several thousand higher than last year). Dan H. nailed the cover. Really strong. If you’ve been reading in here you know how nervous I have been about it. Here’s a sneak peek. Pretty clean.

Emma Bull of Bisbee weighs in on “The Barbarians” showing recently on the History Channel. I made the comparison of the Vikings, the Goths and the Huns to Wal-Mart:

“Will the History Channel reveal that the secret of Wal-Mart's rise is the Kevlar lining inside those happy little blue tunics? Will it explain the role of the yellow smiley-face in the secret religious rituals used to convince stock clerks and fork-lift drivers of their invulnerability in all Christmas-season battles? I am waiting, darn it. This is clearly why I have cable.”

Good editorial staff meeting this morning. Went over May and June issues, in some cases planning all the way through into 2005. Exciting stuff. Really enjoy working with enthusiastic people.

Took Mike Melrose to lunch at El Encanto (machaca and eggs and iced tea, $20 cash, includes tip, the Boss paid). Got him lined out for the Big March. He is worthy. Big shoulders. That’s why they call him Minnesota Mike (Blue Ox country).

“It’s said time flies when we are having fun but frogs say time is fun when you’re having flies.”
—Larry Thrapp

Monday, January 26, 2004

January 26, 2004

An Open Letter to Baby Boomers
“Sixty is the new forty.” I heard that quote the other night on the HBO show Real Time With Bill Maher. Bill was evidently quoting the latest Baby Boomer pronouncement which blithely denies the combined laws of probability, nature, decency and gravity. What’s next? 120 is the new 100?

Probably, assuming younger generations don’t pull the plug on our sorry arses before we get there.

And I really couldn’t blame them. Has there ever been a more spoiled, self-centered, whiny and vain generation in the history of the world? Maybe the Huns, but at least they had the decency to kill everyone who disagreed with them, so they wouldn’t have to be around to hear all their self-centered poo paw.

“People try to put us down. Just because we get around.”
My Generation, The Who

“What Youth deemed crystal, Age finds out was dew.”
—Robert Browning

Just last Saturday at the Barrett-Jackson car auction, I saw a Ford Shelby GT-500, which I could have bought for $5,000 and some change in 1967, go for $280,000. That’s a lot of dew. And the scary part is that I was thinking to myself that’s only about $5,000 more than I would pay if I had the dough. Hey Man, it’s a muscle car.

Here’s a raw truth (and if you’re a male in your late fifties, or beyond, you may want to stop reading right now): my 23-year-old daughter could not stand seeing Jack Nicholson kissing Amanda Peet in the recent movie Something’s Gotta Give. “That was so gross!” Deena groaned while making the face of a thoroughly disgusted hija (Spanish for daughter). “Who wants to see some old geezer pawing a young girl?” Well, actually, old geezers who don’t want to admit they’re old geezers, and that, by extension would include me. I haven’t seen the movie yet but my reaction to hearing about the supposed sexual attraction between Jack, 66, and Amanda, 31, was “Way to go Jack! There’s still hope for the rest of us active, mature men.”

According to my daughter: “Give it up grandpa!”

And she is not alone. In fact, it’s my theory that the rest of the world is just being nice. They don’t want to have to tell us to “quit acting like you’re still in high school.” It’s unseemly. We should know better. Many of us went to college for God’s sake!

Let’s face the facts. Baby Boomers are officially old—terminally so. John Lennon has been dead for almost a quarter century and James Dean for half a century. Our two presidents were Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (a perfect yin and yang to our psychographic extremes). It’s over. We are geezers. Nobody, except us, cares that we were once hip, stayed up all night, got stoned at work, dropped acid, put a flower in a gunbarrel, whatever. It’s an embarrassment to keep repeating it and making others listen. Trust me, they are just being polite. It’s much like seeing your grandmother do the twist (to use a completely obsolete simile that only Baby Boomers would get).

You can call me old and bitter, but at least I know it. My advice is to quit fighting Person Nature and add some maturity and dignity to the moxy thing. Baby Boomers, act your age, dammit!

“Youth has been a habit with some so long they cannot part with it.”
—Rudyard Kipling

Sunday, January 25, 2004

January 25, 2004
Another rainy day here (third in a row). Went for a walk to the creek with the dogs about an hour ago. I'm picking up round stones for our driveway. I was impressed with the cobblestone streets and walkways I saw in Spain. Got inspired to do something like that in our driveway. I carry a shoulder sack and bring about ten stones up on each walk, and at this rate I will have enough for the entire drieway by about 2008. Ha.

Still cleaning the studio. Finding all sorts of historic items. Picture of Peaches as a pup, my termination agreement from KSLX, Feb. 9, 1994 (they fired me when I got off the air at 10). It was also right about this time that I finally got myself a Franklin Daytimer to get a handle on the mess that is my life. My first entry is for February 22, 1994 (first lines are: “I feel bad. I got up two hours late. It’s 6:59. My alarm goes off at 5 and I went back to sleep. It’s amazing how much better I feel when I get up on time.”).

Believe it or not I have kept a daily journal every day since then, and have ten annuals to prove it. I can access any and all dates with relative ease. Just for grins, on February 22, I’ll post the essence of each Feb. 22 posting starting with 1994. I haven’t looked, but it should be quite embarrassing, or at the very least, excruciating.

The Arizona Republic this morning ran my comments about Bush eating enchiladas at the Tee Pee. It’s in the View section.

Woke up this morning and was inspired to write “An Open Letter to Baby Boomers.” Last night we watched Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO and he recited a quote, “Sixty is the new forty,” and it just amused and irritated me to no end. I belong to a generation that refuses to grow up. And believe me, if I can see that is a crock, look out!

“Sometimes a fool makes a good suggestion.”
—Nicolas Boileau

Saturday, January 24, 2004

January 24, 2004
Still soggy and rainy out. Built a fire in the pot-bellied stove and started cleaning.

Went into Phoenix yesterday to drop off the cover scratchboards and layouts to Dan H. Gave him three riders and six maniac faces. Told him the dilemma we face (compelling, edgy cover vs. institutional travel issue). Hope he can thread the needle.

Picked up the Spanish rodeo posters at Ed Mell’s studio. Kenny photographed them into transparencies ($105 biz account). Met Theresa from Tri Star and signed another three boxes of Classic Gunfights books. From there drove the posters out to Michael Feldman’s frame shop in Scottsdale Airpark. They are big suckers, going to be pricey to frame: the biggest one is 58”X78” and that’s unframed. I need to measure the biggest wall in the dining room to see if two will even fit there. May have to build another house.


Stopped at El Conquistador for lunch. Had the mole enchiladas and an iced tea.($15 cash, includes tip). Bush came in to Phoenix Wednesday and had enchiladas at the Tee Pee Taproom. The economy is improving. Coincidence? I think not.

I was a guest on a Canadian travel radio show this morning at the Carefree Conference Resort. We broadcast live from one of the casitas. They are a syndicated show (30 stations, mostly in the northeast and Canada). Vic, one of the hosts, claimed it’s 34 below zero in Toronto today. Had fun. When they asked me what kind of animals they heard last night outside their door, squealing and yipping, I told them they were Democrats fleeing Iowa. When they asked me what kind of wild characters there are still roaming around Carefree I told them that would be “drug dealers.” The Corporate Director of Public Relations for Tiburon Hospitality and the Executive Director of the Carefree-Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce looked less than pleased and had to do “damage control,” and they really earned their money. I begged off having breakfast with them afterwards, but my ears were burning, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Fred Nolan flew out of London yesterday bound for the showdown at Silver City, NM next tuesday over digging up Billy’s mom. Unfortunately, as Fred cleared Newfoundland (I’m guessing, it’s a nine hour flight), the judge issued a continuance. Fred landed in Albuquerque last night and I left a message for him at his hotel , but we missed (he called me back this morning while I was on the air).

On a related note, Jana nailed the death date of Mrs. Garrett as 1936. If you read my piece in the Arizona Republic, you know that Homer Overton is claiming Apolonaria confessed to him her husband and Billy the Kid killed a drunk and buried him as the Kid. Homer was born in 1930 and would have been six when his source died. Very unlikely.

“If I want your opinion I'll beat it out of you.”
—Chuck Norris

Friday, January 23, 2004

January 23, 2004
Here’s a frightening thought: I’ve been a boss for four years, going on five. It’s a position I really never thought I would ever have. Why? Well basically, for the majority of my life I’ve excelled at being an irresponsible twit (I was a drummer in a rock band, an underground cartoonist and a radio morning show “personality,” and for a period of time, all three at once!).

When we bought True West in 1999, I brought absolutely no experience or known managerial skills to the job. Graphic and layout skills, yes. But a boss? Get real.

One time at New Times Weekly (must have been 1978) the staff and the owners, Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin, were sitting around imagining which tribe of Indians the various employees would belong to based on their demeaner, competitiveness etc. All agreed Lacey would likely be a Chiricahua Apache (relentless and vicious), and there was some discussion about Larkin being a Chemehueve (big head, slippery when wet), and there were other nominations, but when it came to me, both Larkin and Lacey laughed and pronounced me a shoo-in for the Pima tribe (Pima translates literally as “the bean eaters”). While I am partial to pintos, it wasn’t much of an endorsement for a future management position at NT.

With that said, it’s somewhat satisfying to realize I am still here. Quite a few people said I couldn’t do it. These people are called “employees.” Not really. In fact at least 12 of them actually show up every day to work with me (I can’t bring myself to say “for me” or “under me.”). I have learned a thing or two along the way, most of it the hard way, but here’s a brief overview of being The Boss:

• payroll: No man is a man until he has had to meet a payroll. It is the metaphorical equivalent of running in front of a train.

• office politics: if you have more than two people trying to get anything done you will have office politics. Most of the infighting and bickering is just superficial and not “real.” The trick is to know when to intervene (slit tires and death threats are a good clue).

• the difficult employee: some people have had a rough and troubled childhood. Fortunately, most of these people become cops. But as a general rule it’s not a good idea to hire convicted felons. That’s just me—I tried it once, and that was enough.

• Fear of decisions: Many times it’s better to do something, anything, even if it’s wrong. Just the idea of movement can be helpful. Stagnation is the kiss of death (just ask the Vikings, the Goths, the Huns, the Moors and Wal-Mart). Yes, I am watching “The Barbarians” on the History Channel)

• Stay focused on the goal: this is my growing edge. I have the hardest time with this one because I am constantly trying to make the magazine better, and sometimes I get going on a tangent (like writing this blog) and lose sight of what and where we should be going. Fortunately I’ve hired people (or, talked them into my dream is a better way of putting it) who are quite anal and always on task. It is a talent to find talent and keep them happy. That is a job all by itself.

“Writers are always selling somebody out.”
—Joan Didion

Thursday, January 22, 2004

January 22, 2004
Woke up to light sprinkles. Came out in the dark and started the computer, walked out to the end of the driveway and picked up the paper. Peaches and Buddy Boze Bell scampered out into the wet darkness, thrilled to be alive (“Every day is Christmas Day to a dog”).

The front page caught my attention: President Bush dropped in to Phoenix and Mesa yesterday and had dinner at the Tee Pee Taproom, a hip, “roll-up-the-sleeves” old school Mexican food restaurant on Indian School Road. The Republic ran a photo of him having a beer (can’t see the label, but I imagine it was ‘Merican), with Jerry Colangelo, (owner of the Suns and Diamondbacks) Bob Brenly (manager of the Diamondbacks), Joe Garagiola, Jr. (former sportscaster and GM of the Diamondbacks), and Arte Moreno (new owner of the Anaheim Angels) . As I studied the photo, it definitely made the Pres more of a regular guy to me. Plus, there’s something else.

The Tee Pee was the destination when my wife Kathy and her boyfriend had a tragic car accident in the summer of 1977. It was dark, there was a bicyclist, a canal. Bill swerved to miss the rider and the car went into the concrete canal that parallels the roadway. Both she and Bill went thru the windshield. He was killed. She lived, barely. Suffering a broken collarbone, two broken shoulder blades, a broken arm, and a knocked out front tooth, not to mention severe scrapes and bruises, Kathy was lucky to be alive. In fact she was in a coma for several days.

Bill Compton left a music legend as “the voice of God” on Phoenix radio. Compton Terrace was named for him. His sister, Carole Compton Glenn, is our business manager at True West magazine.

Ironically, Kathy and I “met” at Bill’s wake.

So the Tee Pee has history. Not to mention, love, death, tragedy, decent Mexican food, and the leader of the Free World.

“Wisdom and love have nothing to do with each other. Wisdom is staying alive, survival. You’re wise if you don’t stick your finger in the light plug. Love—you’ll stick your finger in anything.”
—Robert Altman

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

January 21, 2004
Had another sales person “resign” yesterday. Actually I felt fine about this one (I didn’t quite believe his hype). Besides we are approaching record territory with the ad team we have now, and considering the challenges they were faced with going into this issue, my hat’s way off to them.

Came home for lunch and bailed into Maniac scratchboards. I’ve worked up four, but it’s not there yet. Not in panic mode yet, but close. Need to schedule a cover session with Daniel on Thursday or Friday.

Corrine Brown was supposed to fly down from Denver today for a big editorial pow wow but she caught that flu that’s going around. She sent down some ideas and thoughts after attending the Denver Stock Show. We’ll go over them today.

Watched the president’s State of the Union address last night. Enjoyed it, mainly because every time Bush would say something, Kathy would yell out some flaming liberal retort (she was in the kitchen, where she belongs. Ha.). I also loved the three “photo op” soldiers they trucked in for the speech: A black guy, a woman and a white guy. The black guy started to yawn at one point (during a standing ovation!) but they cut him off. It appeared Bush had three teleprompters to go to during the speech: one in the middle, and one on either side. Having used one on my recent Westerns Channel shoot, I would give Bush high marks on being able to read.

“Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.”
—George Burns

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

January 20, 2004
I bought a cord of wood on Sunday from Ed H. who delivered it late in the afternoon. Ed is an oldtime Creeker (slang for a Cave Creek resident) and has been selling wood out here ever since we’ve been here (1986). Today he has a cute, young female assistant, and as the two of them unloaded and stacked juniper and cedar logs against our adobe fence, I talked to Ed about the firewood business.

Evidently, today it’s illegal to build a wood burning fireplace in a new house (although you can still build an outdoor fireplace, which seems goofy). Several of Ed’s friends have tried to cheat on this new law. They built a real fireplace with a propane hookup (which is legal), then after inspection, they ripped out the propane and built real fires. Ed said one of his friends got caught doing this. I didn’t ask what happened to him, but I imagined him in that new prison out by Buckeye holding several guards hostage and yelling at a negotiator, “Just bring me a pair of wood tongs Copper and no one gets hurt!”

In the early eighties I could buy a cord of wood for about $100. Today it’s $270, but Ed is still driving his olive green army truck with the hydrolic lift. He appears to be wearing the same t-shirt and maybe got his hair cut twice in that time. So, I asked him where all the money is going? Ed said he’s been buying stuff on e-Bay, and I thought to myself, “Yep, that’ll do it.”

I gave Ed the new issue of True West, he took off his gloves, we shook hands and he said, “See you in two years.” That’s about how long it takes to go through a cord of wood in Arizona. As I’ve often commented, by the time I go out to split the wood and bring it in, I’m too warm to have a fire. Ha.

But it was cool enough on Monday, so I built a fire in my pot-bellied stove and started working up some Maniac images for the May cover. I’m rusty and I hate it when I ruin the first two or three scratchboards (@ $29 a sheet!), but I must keep going. I always promise myself I’ll never get rusty again, but at age 57 that kind of pronouncement is a joke and I know it.

“The next best thing to being clever is being able to quote someone who is.”
—Mary Pettibone Poole

Monday, January 19, 2004

January 19, 2004
Yesterday’s Op Ed piece in the Arizona Republic came out nice (with the exception of the art). You can check it out—here’s a link.

Regarding the piece, on whether to dig up Billy the Kid, here’s part of an interesting e-mail I got this morning:

“My father was the sheriff of DeBaca County (Ft. Sumner, NM) during the 50's. He was born in the territory of NM and raised in the Ft. Sumner valley. During his term as sheriff, a Billy the Kid controversy raised its head. Probably, just about the time Brushy Bill Roberts died. At that time, there were still at least two people in
Ft. Sumner who were old enough to remember when he was killed. One of them
claimed to be one of the Kid's girlfriends, and the other was a young boy of
12 who was one of the persons who dug the grave for Billy. There was a
tin-type, or a sketch, of the Kid's burial. My dad often spoke of the flood that changed the Pecos River's course and washed out most of the old fort, including the grave yard. He said for years people found uniform buttons down river. The graves were remarked by one of the older residents who remembered the location and lay-out of the
cemetery. Whether the site, as it stands today, is the same site is unknown. My father did not think it was. I seem to remember that someone wanted to move a long-dead relative that was buried in the old fort cemetery, and nothing was found in the grave. Now, take the flood and the fact that Billy was only wrapped in a blanket, it is highly improbable that anything will be found, even if the location is exact.”

Finally started work on the Maniac art. Didn’t get far, but at least I’m in the water. Got big hopes for it.

A reminder to take our new poll! Do you plan to see The Alamo when it is released in April? You can click right here.

“For anything worth having one must pay the price and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice.”
—John Burroughs

Sunday, January 18, 2004

January 18, 2004
Our Manhattan born, renegade dog, Buddy Boze Bell has Valley Fever. When we were in Spain, our neighbors found him in a ditch, lethargic and weak. They picked him up and drove him to their vet ($490) and then pampered him with home cooked meals and his own bed in their house! Needless to say, when we got home and relegated him back to his rug on the patio, he voted with his paws and daily trotted back down to the neighbors for the Biltmore accommodations.

Valley Fever is a spore driven virus that lives in the dust of the desert and it is believed that virtually everyone who lives here, humans and dogs, has contracted it. Most think they have a cold or the flu, etc. (remember: you are getting medical information from a cartoonist). Still, we are stuck feeding Buddy a daily pill-rich food regimen and he has turned into a pampered twit. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, Kathy thinks he is the most intelligent, wonderful being on the planet (he is curled up in his own chair behind me in the studio even as I type this).

Speaking of Tip Top Hotel accommodations, Deena met with Steve S. at the Biltmore Resort on Friday and he gave her the lowdown on the biz (she has gotten a job with a certain well-known chain). We met her for Mexican food at El Conquistador yesterday afternoon ($38 cash, includes two dishes of carne asado tacos, two soups, posole and carne con juego, and two diet cokes). Afterwards, Deena drove me down to REI and I got a $100 gift certificate for our neighbor who set his hunting boots on the back porch and Buddy stole one and ate the tongue out of it. I was appalled at the current prices for new boots ($85-$125 for entry level footwear!) and tried to rationalize that Buddy only ate one boot, maybe I could just replace one shoe, but Deena shamed me into buying a pair, or at least most of a pair.

“I’m good enough, and dog-gone it, people like me!”
—Stuart Smalley (AKA Al Franken)

Saturday, January 17, 2004

January 17, 2004
Just got the news this morning that Spalding Gray (Swimming to Cambodia) is missing and possibly may have committed suicide. I just hate it when people who have given me inspiration and happiness, can’t find it for themselves. I saw my first Spalding monologue at the Scottsdale Center for The Arts a decade or so ago and I must admit, he inspired a major part of my radio persona and my approach to humor.

He simply sat at a table and basically read a monologue about buying a cabin in the woods. It sounds boring, but it had an incredible ring of truth to it and his honesty at his failings and foibles was fresh and breathtaking. In the course of the story he was having trouble with his city landlord who he described as having mafioso tendencies and this rough New Yorker type would leave threatening messages on his answering machine. Having totally hooked us in on this intriguing character he stopped reading and said, “Would you like to hear those messages?” As he said this, he reached under the desk and pulled up a tape player. The audience started to howl and clap. In a total deadpan, he proceeded to play the tape. It was so incredible to be actually listening to this total jerk, yelling and swearing on the phone (I guess it’s possible the guy was an actor, but I doubt it, and frankly I don’t care). I immediately applied (stole) this renegade introspection to the Jones & Boze radio show (KSLX, 1986-1994), where I would play actual, angry phone messages from Kathy, much to my wife’s chagrin, but she became one of the characters on the show and people loved her raw honesty).

Obviously I have applied the same dynamics to the magazine (read my editorials) and especially to this blog. Speaking of which, Abby P. yesterday said she loves it when I give the amount I spend at lunch and she asked me yesterday what I spent with Carole (we went to lunch). I told Abby this was none of her business, that it was a private lunch and that only a flaming jackass would violate the personal space of the general manager of the company.

Carole and I had lunch at Tuscan Cafe (had the veggie sando and an iced tea, $17, Carole bought, I put in $5).

"The reason people blame things on previous generations is that there's only one other choice."
—Some guy named Larson

Friday, January 16, 2004

January 16, 2004
Yesterday, we got an e-mail from Joe Small, Jr. (he’s the son of our founder):

“Hope everything is going well at True West magazine. I think you guys are doing a wonderful job of continuing my father’s dream. His dream was to have good stories, slick paper and color on the inside. He would give out a loud whoop if he could see it now.”

This was music to my ears. When we first took over four years ago, the criticism was quite intense ("Joe Small is spinning in his grave!!"). But when I went back and read Hosstail’s editorials from the fifties and sixties I saw a completely different person: someone who was a visionary, who ran all sorts of articles, on rodeo, travel, Western movie actors, etc. It was obvious to me, our founder was not stuck in the past—he was punching a hole in the future. From that moment on, I felt we needed to go forward and not look back. Of course I know he wouldn't agree with everything we have tried or done, but Joe, Jr.’s e-mail tells me he probably is rooting for us, and that's all I need to know.

Thanks to Jana Bommersbach we will have a big feature on digging up Billy in this Sunday’s Arizona Republic. They wanted 700 words but I sent them significantly more, and they bought it. Worked all day yesterday on it and finally e-mailed it down at 4:30. I wanted to add an illustration of Billy peering out of an open grave with a crush of media poking microphones and cameras down at his dusty visage, but they didn’t want to wait.

I’m embarrassed to say I actually watched Fox TV last night: the reunion of Paris Hilton, the Ritchie girl and the Simple Life family from Arkansas. So contrived, so cheesy, so mindless and yet, I couldn’t stop watching. It may be the nadir of Western civilization, but it sure is compelling and I understand why it’s a huge hit. Forced myself to turn it off (missed maybe ten minutes, but at least I could keep my dignity. Ha.)

“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers—you can blame anyone but never blame yourself—it's never your fault. But it's always your fault, because if you wanted to change, you're the one who has got to change. It's as simple as that, isn't it?”
—Katherine Hepburn

Thursday, January 15, 2004

January 15, 2004
Every year Folio magazine publishes a State of The Union issue about the status of the magazine biz. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights:

Magazine Trends From The Past Ten Years
• There were 31 bride magazines ten years ago. Today there are 77

• In 1993 there were 34 football mags. Today there are 84

• Dog titles (literally) ten years ago—40. Today there are 89.

• General interest mags got hit hard. In 1993 there were 175. Today there are only 25.

• Men’s titles have dropped from 81 in 1993 to only 34 today.

Quotes To Live By
"Most [successful] magazines have been started by enthusiasts. They started with a passion and learned how to do magazines, not the other way around."
—Bill Reilly

“The secret of a magazine is passion.”
—Clay Felker, founder of New York magazine

“So much of what we did was pure instinct.”
—Clay Felker

“New York [magazine] was not aimed at everybody. You pick a segment of the audience you’re trying to reach and that you care about. We were often attacked and called elitist. Well, we were elitist. Every city magazine has to be about the movers and shakers.”
—Clay Felker

“The thing about magazines is that they’re constantly evolving.”

“I don’t simply look at a mag’s design. It all starts with content.”
—David O’Connor

“One trick, is to sell the same customers more things.”
—Bill Reilly

“In the magazine business, it’s the editor and the editorial staff that matter. You can’t sell crap. Customers don’t buy it.”
—Bill Reilly, chairman of F+W

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

January 14, 2004
Believe it or not, one of the reasons I write this blog is to warn others who may be considering a venture down the dark path I’ve chosen. Case in point:

“I have decided to publish a magazine. I have also read your journal. I still want to go ahead with my project, but at least now I know I am insane.”

That E-mail, which came in yesterday, is worth all of the postings for the past year. Not that it’s going to stop her (none of my “advice” would have stopped me either) but at least she knows what she’s getting into.

I’m still trying to find the right image for the cover of the next issue (Are You An Old West Maniac?). Actually I could just run mug shots of most of my ex-friends and the point would be made in spades, but that’s probably too inside.

The rough cut of the Westerns Channel bumpers (A True West Moment) came in yesterday afternoon and we popped the tapes in and took a gander. The bits where I’m not reading off a teleprompter come off the best. Mike’s music needs to be more of a stinger on the intro. One of the head honchos at WC killed the “Hat Nazi” segment because she didn’t get the punchline: “Here’s a piece of advice to Hollywood costumers: If everybody’s wearin’ a big hat, ain’t nobody wearin’ a big hat.” Oh well. Probably too inside.

The bits start running on February 1, so you need to get the Starz-Encore package that includes The Westerns Channel (don’t feel bad, I let mine lapse also and need to re-up)

"Oh, by the way, the Boston gig has been canceled, but don´t worry about it. It´s not a big college town anyway."
—Tony Hendra, playing the band’s manager in Spinal Tap

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

January 13, 2004
I’ve been cleaning my office and throwing out a ton of old magazines (yes, it’s the anti-clutter seminar).

Our new Fraud issue is going out to subscribers this week. The cover is quite strong (see home page) and for that I thank you. Many of you voted for it and you were dead on. It was the right call.

Also trying to get the TW Maniac illustration going. Finally got some sketches going yesterday afternoon. I’ll post progress here.

Mo from the Westerns Channel called and said the True West Moment segments look good. She’s Fed Exing me four of them to look at. Need to tweak the music a bit, she told me. Anxious to see them. They start running in February.

Here’s a scan of the Spanish magazine Clio, which is their version of True West. Really strong layout, and where did they find that image of Tom Mix (bow-legged with two guns)? Take a good look at it, as a version of it may show up on the next TW cover.

I’ve really been enjoying The New Yorker lately, The excellent writing is the ticket, but I don’t want to get too smug about it (my son Tomas sent me the following quote):

"I believe virtually everything I read so I think that makes me more of a selective human being than someone who doesn’t believe anything."
—David St. Hubbins in Spinal Tap, the movie

Sunday, January 11, 2004

January 11, 2004
Kathy and I went to the movies yesterday for the first time in a long time. Saw Tim Burton’s Big Fish with Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor, Jessica Lange, Danny DeVito ($17 cash, includes a medium popcorn, no butter, and a bottle of water). I cried like a baby (father issues).

Afterwards, while Kathy went to get her hair done, I walked around the mall and enjoyed comparing U.S. commerce with the commerce centers I saw in Spain. It has been about five years since I’ve really been in a mall (hate ‘em) but I do have to admit they have a tidy appeal. Here’s some of my observations:

• The temperature control is very nice and relaxing.

• No one outdoes American reaction to new products (a whole store that just sells DVDs? that took over the space from a Walden’s Books. Ouch!).

• No one is cornier with names (Specs In The City, an eyewear shop).

• Man, have we gone casual! To see someone in matching sweats practically passes for semi-formal.

• No one is smoking, although I saw several people who appeared to be on crack.

Spanish Flashback: Here’s one of the Spanish posters I got in Valencia. Ain’t it a peach? Or is that an orange?

After the movie, Kathy and I met Deena and her friend Tara for dinner at Chompies Deli at Greenway and 32nd St. ($42 for salads and I had a New Yorker on rye with a Heineken). When we were done one of the waitresses came over and asked me for an autograph. I was stunned and too embarrassed to ask her if she really knew who I was. This both bothered and intrigued me all night as I imagined her going back in the kitchen and saying, “Who the Hell is Bob Boze Bell? I thought he was Mr. Green Jeans.”

“I wanted to be a big star. I thought being a star would make everything okay.”
—Hal Riddle, who never did become even a small star and now lives in the Motion Picture & Television retirement home in Woodland Hill, California

Saturday, January 10, 2004

January 10, 2004
Had a speech at the downtown Phoenix Rotary yesterday at noon. Huge crowd, maybe 250, big dining room overlooking the golf course. Many distinguished guests, including ex-State Supreme Court Justice Frank X. Gordon, who, like me, is from Kingman (except he went to Stanford and got good grades and actually studied). Got kind of nervous as we sat through the business meeting, wasn’t expecting such a big whig crowd. Speech came off fine, I gave Frank a bit of grief, going off on Kingman anecdotes and tall tales (“Hey Frank, you winged Evan Mecham in the arm didn’t you?” Gordon was the judge at Governor Mecham’s impeachment trial). I don’t think he really enjoyed it (he looked kind of pained like he was sorry he ever knew me). In spite of this, I got a strong ovation at the end and sold about ten books. One old guy came up to me and said, “You don’t remember me do you?” (I hate this and get it all the time) When I admitted I didn’t have a clue who he was he told me I bought my wedding ring from him (1979!) and without even looking he told me I had a century plant around the band, which I do. Amazing. When I asked him how he could remember such an insignificant thing like that he said, “I never forget a ring.” That old time craftsmanship and attention to detail, are we losing that? Or do you think 25 years from now someone will come up to me and say, “You don’t remember me do you? You rented Buttman 4 from my video Store back in 2002!”


Finally got my stack of Christmas cards out (Kathy did hers last weekend). Here is the card and picture, which was taken on the balcony of the Alfonzo VI Hotel in Toledo, Spain. We ordered two bocadillos (Spanish sandwiches with salami) and two cafe con leches from room service and then begged the room service guy to take our photo right at sunset. That church steeple in the background is from the 16th century. How did they even get the stone building blocks (4’ by 3’) up on the hill, much less up on the walls? However they did it, I can imagine in the late 1570s some old guy coming up to an archbishop and saying, “You don’t remember me do you? I put the steeple on your church and you never paid me.” Or, something close to that. The more things change. . .”

”Ego is the absence of true knowledge of who we really are.”
—Sogyal Rinpoche

Friday, January 09, 2004

January 9, 2004
Late yesterday afternoon, I drove down to Tempe to meet Deena for dinner. Brad and Carol Radina gave us one of those coupon books for Christmas (buy one meal, get one free!), so we decided to meet at a trendy, new restaurant at
Arizona Mills Mall called Alcatraz. Trouble is, they were so trendy, they are out of business already. So we decided to eat across the entrance at the Rain Forest Cafe, one of those gimmicky, jungle infested, yippin’ chimpanzee eateries. We were met at the Tarzan-theme-park-like entrance by four bush rangers, and as one of them took us on a safari to find a seat, a large, male diner came lunging out of a lagoon booth. The hostess calmly turned, put down the menus,
pulled out a pistol and shot the diner right in the mouth. Mortally wounded, the diner groaned and sank back into the lagoon (sorry, I may be confusing a 1963 family trip to Disneyland).

Deena warned me it might be expensive. I thought to myself, “How bad could it be?” Well, it was bad, and expensive ($30 for a crab cake sando and a large salad, a diet coke and an iced tea). And the service stunk so bad I wanted
to find that pistol and jam it in the cocky waiter’s mouth, but he kept hiding among the vines and I couldn’t get a clear bead on him.

From the Rain Ripoff Cafe we went to Changing Hands Bookstore (a soothing respite from the loud and obnoxious mall) to partake of a free seminar on “Win the Paper Chase—How to Organize Your Office.” The place was packed, mostly
with middle-aged women who had questions like, “How do I organize my jewelry?” The facilitator, a middle-aged woman who wrote Organizing For Dummies, was quite anal (“This is a film canister and quarters fit perfectly in
here, so you will always have money for a pay phone.”), but she did have some solid advice. Here’s a few highlights:

• Organization is not inherited, it is a learned skill (“I’d like to thank my mother, who trained me to be an All-State Slob.”)

• It takes seven seconds to make an impression (One look at my office and I’m guessing that is a very generous time allotment.)

• If you’re not enjoying it, let it go. (Sorry Buddy Boze Bell, adios.)

• Always plan today what you’ll do tomorrow. (Actually, I put off until the day after what I could have done two days ago, then beat myself up over and over until I’m totally incapacitated.)

• Think like a grocery store. (Group like items, and put the milk way at the back so you can drag visitors through your office and they will hopefully find something that’s missing)

• Dump it environmentally (staff, this is a sales person who didn’t meet his quota, and this—is a wood chipper)

Spanish Flashbacks: Got an e-mail from Jari T. from Kotka, Finland who wrote:

“It has been very interesting and amusing to read about your vacation in Spain. Parking in Spain is really something, but in Italy/Rome it is art. The no rther you go in Europe the more disciplined the traffic and parking get. I live in the North Europe.”

And while I was quite impressed with the graphics in Spanish and European media, I was very disappointed in the cartoons I saw there (see samples). Very weak and sophomoric although Deena warned me “It’s another culture Dad, you can’t judge humor that way.” Maybe so, but the draftsmanship was not edgy, just thin. In fact, I was irritated by most of it.

“If you have a job without aggravation, you don’t have a job.” —Malcolm Forbes

Thursday, January 08, 2004

January 8, 2004
Well, the response was immediate and unanimous (see yesterday’s photo of me in Granada, Spain). Mike Melrose said I looked like “Eurotrash,” and DJ Patterson summed up the web response when he pleaded with me to:

“Please, go back to wearing the cowboy hat. Wearing a scarf, a gay beret and
carrying a woman’s purse just doesn't fit your image.”

Lots of catching up to do, especially on artwork. Need to finish a Billy ambush painting this weekend (for April Classic Gunfights), and we are flirting with reviving Honkytonk Sue as a running strip in True West, and I need to bring in the tons of artwork from my studio and see if there is enough material to re-launch the gal.

May join my daughter and go to an anti-clutter symposium tonight at Changing Hands Bookstore. Kathy is the catalyst (and has the most to gain).

Need to do a wild illustration of the typical male True West reader to illustrate a piece R.G. wrote called “Are You An Old West Maniac?” It’s basically a tutorial to gauge the level of your passion (or insanity) in all things Western. My initial idea was to show a typical Baby Boomer (like myself and most of my friends) crossed with a re-enactor/single-action shooter with that crazed look in his eyes, leering out at us, only there is something amiss. Either his wife is off to the side with that 50s Creature From The Black Lagoon reaction, or the guy has a tv remote clicker in his hands, instead of guns, or he has on a cell phone (R.G.’s idea). Some giveaway that lets the reader know, the guy is from today and he’s looned out because of his interest in the West. Help me. Click right here to submit your thoughts. Thanks.

“The next best thing to being clever is being able to quote someone who is.”
—Mary Pettibone Poole

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

January 7, 2004
Drove into Phoenix this morning (22 mile run, one way). Stopped at Dan Harshberger’s to go over a couple layout and cover ideas. Showed him all the Spanish, English and French magazines I brought back. He was just as amazed by them as I am. In many ways they are ahead of us, both in style and graphics. Lots to steal from.

From there I went down to Indian School and Central to Arizona Art Store to pick up Essdee scratchboard (it’s shipped in from England and is now $29.95 a sheet! I paid $10 a sheet four years ago and thought it was too much, but it is absolutely the best and the only brand to use). Also bought some Gouache paints, quickly ran up a $130 bill. Ouch! Neighborhood has really gone downhill (Kathy and I lived nearby in the late seventies). How far? They actually had an armed guard—in an art store!!

Got down to Ed Mell’s art studio at 11:30 and met Theresa from Tri Star who had two boxes of Classic Gunfights books to sign (we’ve sold over 200 just out of the True West building).

Got Kenny (an artist who share’s space with Ed) lined out to shoot transparencies of my Spanish rodeo posters before I get them framed. Everyone marvelled at their beauty which made me happy.

Robert Ray met me at Ed’s to pick out tranny’s for the article we are doing on Ed in an upcoming issue, plus Robert took some digital pictures of Ed in his “space” for the piece.

Took Ed and Robert to Eliana’s (a Salvadoran food cafe on 24th St., $37 cash, includes tip). Caught up on all the artworld news (Ed sold all 22 paintings at his recent Santa Fe show), drove back out to office, getting there at two. Immediately went into an Executive Session with R.G., Bob Brink and Carole. Got some good, solid ideas going on product line extension for the web site (our sales are going thru the roof and we are having trouble keeping up with new product). We are also expanding so fast, we may need to rent the office next to us. Heady stuff. Especially if you’ve read the business timeline. Ha.

Spain Flashback: here’s a photo of me in my Gay Beret in Arab Alley (Granada). The woman walking towards me thinks I’m muy guapo (very handsome). You can tell by the smirk on her face. Actually, I’d date her but she only came up to my thigh.

“We are a people who do not want to keep much of the past in our heads. It is considered unhealthy in America to remember mistakes, neurotic to think about them, psychotic to dwell on them.”
—Lillian Hellman

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

January 6, 2004
“We’re from France!”
This is a family inside joke that we have inflicted on foreign lands for some time now. Whenever we are in a strange place (Costa Rica, Utah) we join hands and skip down the tourist trail yelling “We’re from France! We’re from France!” It has a certain idiot Conehead charm that appeals to all the Bells when we’re on the road. And it does get the looks.

Unfortunately, in Spain (where this photo was taken) we couldn’t use this charming chant because, according to my son, the Spaniards hate the French. Of course they share a border and Napoleon invaded a century or two ago, but then, who hasn’t? The Romans came and stayed for about 500 years, the Moors (Arab tribes from Africa) dropped in for some 700 years, and the Visigoths (Vikings?) had their turn, but for some reason, the Spaniards really hate the French.

While in Valencia, we rented a movie called Torrente which is kind of a Spanish Police Academy. The fumbling, fat, drunk hero says of a bad guy, “He smelled bad, even worse than the French.” Ouch!

Personally, I like the French. In my way of looking at the world, France is to Europe what Texas is to the United States. Both are big on themselves and in some ways back up the talk with, well, more talk.

Anyway, we couldn’t really use the French line and expect to survive, so we altered the chant to: “We’re from Tikrit! We’re from Tikrit!” But, alas, it didn’t have the same effect.

“Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump. You may be freeing him from being a camel.” —G. K. Chesterton

Monday, January 05, 2004

January 5, 2004
I finally feel back to normal (what do jet setting business people do?). It’s very cold out, built a fire in the pot bellied stove even though I have to leave in twenty minutes to go into the office.

I came home with a whole pile of magazines that I picked up in Spain and England. For several years the Brits have been putting free CDs in with many titles and this practice has spread to Spain where I saw a sign at a newsstand that said if you bought a particular title you would get a free scarf (I’m not making this up and have the picture to prove it).

Two particular titles really grabbed me. One is a magazine called Clio which is the Spanish version of True West. It is very slick and modern and has many elements of design and layout that I want my staff to consider. It also came with a bonus: a free novel with the purchase of the magazine (3.50 Euros, about $4). The other title (owned by the same company) is called Que Leer (What to Read) and has many, many book reviews (also another staple I’d like to emulate). Unfortunately, the catchy title has unfortunate cross cultural ramifications. My kids saw me reading it (or trying to, it’s in Spanish), and later, Deena said, “Where’s that Queer magazine?” With Russell Crowe’s head blocking out the L, it does send an unintended message to Americans. This of course cuts both ways, and probably the most famous example, going the other way, was when GM tried to sell the Nova in Spanish speaking countries. “No va” means won’t go, won’t run, etc.

One of the things we are trying to determine at True West is whether women have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to American history. Please put your two cents in. You can click right here.

"The enemy of art is the absence of limitations”
—Orson Welles

Sunday, January 04, 2004

January 4, 2004
Well, to add insult to injury, after unpacking our luggage yesterday we realized we lost several gifts for the family (a Spain sports cap, a clock, and several other souvenirs, all of them gift-wrapped: total worth, about $60). The good news is that my mailing tube with the classic Spanish rodeo posters had been opened on one end but the tube was empty (this stopped my heart until I unwrapped the outer layers and found the posters wrapped around the outside of the tube!). Since our errant baggage made so many stops it’s probably impossible to ever determine which airport thieves stole the stuff, but it’s unnerving to know that with all the good guys trying to keep the bad guys out, there are bad guys on the inside. (British Air had bigger problems on New Year’s Day than the two of us, with our State Department cancelling two of their flights over terrorist concerns). Still, it hurts and we feel violated.

I think the person I’m the most upset with is the train woman at Heathrow who baited us with: “Hurry, get on, before the door closes.” She later told us, as we were detraining to catch the return train, this happens almost every day and I wanted to say, “Wouldn’t it be better to say, ‘Last call for London’, or, ‘If you’re going to London the door is closing’, or is that too direct?’” Of course I didn’t and I imagine she has already bagged her quota for today, no doubt wondering all the while how stupid out-of-towners are.

We e-mailed Deena, and she went through this morning and specifically asked for directions thru the maze that is Heathrow. I’ve got my fingers crossed for her.

In spite of the bad experience we still had a great time in England with Frederick and Heidi Nolan. Here is a photo of them in their kitchen on New Year's Day. Ain't they sweet?

“Anyone who is happy all the time is nuts.”
—Leo Rosten

Saturday, January 03, 2004

January 3, 2004
Our baggage finally arrived late last night (1;36 AM.). All six pieces had made an extraordinary tour of their own, careening from Valencia to England, then on to Seattle, back to JFK in New York and a final ping pong bounce back across the country to Phoenix. Somewhere along this cargo hold tour someone or something smashed our bathroom bag which had two gift bottles of Spanish olive oil wrapped in bubble wrap. One made it, the other didn’t and the broken bottle of olive oil ruined everything it touched including the Navajo weave bag itself which we have had since we were married in 1979 (it did fry up rather nicely though). Everything else appears to be okay, but I haven’t opened up the rodeo posters or the Mamie Van Doren cowgirl stuff yet.

Omens: Three women, perhaps oracles of the New Year if you are suspicious, led us on our wild New Year’s Day journey. The first, a pretty, Spanish ticket counter attendant at Valencia Airport assured us our six bags were checked all the way thru to Phoenix.

But when we showed up at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 after a 22 hour layover in London, the British Air ticket counter attendant told us we’d have to go to Terminal 1 to get our bags because they weren’t checked thru. We weren’t overly worried because it was then only 11:40, and our flight didn’t leave until 1:10 (actually everyone in Europe uses military time: 13:10). We stumbled along, thru the maze of underground hallways, tunnels and took a train, and finally talked to an Iberia agent, in terminal 1 and she simply picked up the phone and re-routed everything (or so she assured us). This led to an obvious question: couldn’t the British Air attendant at Terminal Four have done the same thing, and saved us from having to meet Evil Woman Number Three?

Having gotten our baggage back on track (or so we thought), we back-tracked down into the bowels of terminals 1,2,3, down two flights of escalators, squeezing through zig-zagging tubes (wonderfully parodied in the movie Brazil) and back onto the underground train platform, where we spied a train to take us back to terminal 4. As I approached the first open car, a woman in an official looking train uniform peeked out and said, and I quote: “Hurry and get on, the door is closing.” We jumped on, and just as the door started to close, Kathy said, “Terminal 4?” and Evil Trainsplotter said, “No, this train is going to Paddington Station (fifteen minutes away in London proper).” Kathy tried to pry open the door as the train picked up speed and then reached for the panic button (literally) to which Evil Woman said, “Don’t you dare touch that!”

What could we do? Actually we started to laugh. There was only one other guy in the whole car (a skinhead with obvious brain damage from last night’s partying, or maybe he just hated us) and so we both took a row of seats and looked out the window and enjoyed the scenery, still thinking we might make it back in time.

When we finally pulled up to terminal 4. it was 13:03 (1:03) and we started to make a run for it. As we ran by our friends at the ticketing counter of British Airways, Kathy stopped and had them pull up the flight on the computer and the woman (not evil, just doing her job) said, “The door is closed. You won’t make it.” When we tried to explain our frustration with what had happened to us (okay, Kathy used the F-word and the S-word) I finally said to my wife, “Hey, hey, we don’t need that kind of talk.” Actually, I felt exactly like her, but I had just read two different signs on the counter that said they would not tolerate “abuse” by angry passengers and I thought of all the Time and Newsweek reports on “Air Rage” and I knew that Kathy was flirting with the major plot point of Adam Sandler’s movie Anger Management. The woman behind the ticket counter thanked me (for chastising Kathy) and began to talk only to me, which made Kathy even more angry, but she did back off, but maybe that’s because I had stuffed her head under my coat.

They re-routed us to Seattle, with a connecting flight on Alaskan Air into Phoenix. But instead of a ten hour flight, it would now be a 14 hour flight. When we got to Seattle, landing in the middle of a freak snowstorm, we got caught in a classic Catch 22, when a representative from British Air told us our baggage hadn’t made it onto the flight (after all that!) and Customs wouldn’t let us out of the baggage room without our baggage. Now we were in danger of missing the connecting flight. Customs made us wait until every bag was claimed, and I’m saying to the British Air agent “Hey, you lost our luggage! Why are we waiting for something that isn’t coming?!” She finally got on her radio and we jumped the long line and ran out into the snow. Literally.

We made it onto the Alaskan plane with seconds to spare, then waited on the runway for an hour until the de-icing guys got around to hosing us down. As our friends in Canada might say, “It was the second hosing of the day for us.” As we took off for the third time, in the third country, in 24 hours I looked at Kathy and said, “We’ll always have London.” We cried ourselves to sleep.

"A good marriage is the union of two forgivers."
—Ruth Bell Graham

Friday, January 02, 2004

January 2, 2004
Kathy and I got home last night at midnite. Deena is still in Spain and will return on Sunday. She and Tomboy wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in Valencia (having seen first hand how the Spanish party, they are probably still going at it).

Kathy and I flew from Valencia into Heathrow on New Year’s Eve and were picked up by author and friend Frederick Nolan in his classic, old style Mercedes. There were a couple of odd things: first, it was 3:30 in the afternoon and it was dark (I mean nine at night kind of dark) and second, someone had ripped out his “petrol controls” and glued them onto the wrong side of the dash. Now everyone knows that Brits drive on the left, but until you actually see the phenom it’s quite unsettling. Against my better judgement I got in on the driver’s side (American) and sat there as Fred motored out into the gloomy darkness on the freakin’ wrong side of the road! Even more unsettling, was the fact that everyone else was coming at us from the other wrong side. In England, a right turn is the dangerous one, the left one a piece of cake. Like the Spanish, the Brits also love the traffic circle and have even added a second layer to some of them to make it more interesting. Fred tried to explain to me the nuiance of the outer and inner rings as we shot through one of these like some upside down dancer in a murky mirror, but it was beyond me. Besides I had to fight the overwhelming urge to grab the steering wheel and get the beast over to the right side of the road.

Got to Fred and Heidi’s cozy and historic home tucked into the vast, lush and very wet English countryside of Chalfont St. Giles (not to be mistaken for Chalfont St. Peters, or something like that, which is nearby).

Like Spain, England is steeped in history and it oozes from every nook and cranny. Not far from Fred and Heidi’s is a barn made with the wood from the Mayflower. Yes, the boat, not the moving company. Ozzie Osborn flipped his ATV just over yonder hillock and Four Weddings And A Funeral used the neighboring Georgian-historic-style town which looks exactly like Williamsburg, but it’s the real deal.

We had tea at about four in the English tradition complete with silver tray, dainty cups and a crackling fire in the fireplace. A sumptuous dinner followed at seven, complete with vegetables from Heidi’s garden. Over wine and more wine, we solved most of the World’s problems.

Speaking of which, the papers are quite feisty over there. When Bush made his secret trip to Iraq over Thanksgiving, the Independent (Fred’s fave broadsheet) ran this headline: THE TURKEY HAS LANDED.

The next morning, Fred got us to Heathrow, Terminal 4 at 11 and that’s when everything fell apart. As we checked in, the British Airlines agent told us our luggage was not on our flight and we needed to go to terminal 1 to pick it up and bring it back. We thought this was odd, considering the distance (it’s fifteen minutes by car to the other terminals because they built terminal 4 on the other side of the runway). Well, we descended into the bowels of the earth (actually it was lighter down there than it was on the surface), got on a train, made it to terminal 1, found Iberia airlines, made the changes with forty minutes to spare, but when we tried to go back we ended up in downtown London and flat-out missed our flight. In the ensuing melee, Kathy came this close to getting arrested exactly like Adam Sandler in Anger Management, but that’s a story for tomorrow. I need to take a nap.

“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”
—Peter Ustinov