May 8, 2004
Sometimes if you look hard enough at the past, you can see the future. Case in point: two weekends ago I was down on the border in Bisbee and Bart Bull took me in to meet his friends at Va-Va-Voom, a hip-retro store full of old comics, Life magazines, clothing, wigs and assorted Western Americana. I guess I kind of liked the store because I spent $271 (Sue account, don’t tell Kathy). When I got my stash home and started to actually study the stuff, much of it looked downright groundbreaking and revolutionary. For example, check out this old 1944 Arizona Highways. No cover blurbs, a small, well-placed, clean logo and nothing else. It reeks of confidence. It’s not begging you to pick it up, and most important, you know exactly what’s going to be inside. Without a word! That’s pretty modern if you ask me. And frankly, it looks more hip and engaging than anything I’ve seen on the newsstand in a long time. Don’t be surprised if you see an upcoming issue of True West aping this very look.
Second up, a Gabby Hayes Western comic book which I paid $39 for (worth every penny). It contains a classic story inside, “The Drums of Death,” that hits me right where I live. Sample dialogue: “Chief Big Wind, Sheriff Daggle and I want to know what’s eating your tribe. Why the war paint? Let’s keep the peace!” I don’t know about you, but the parallels to Iraq are painfully obvious. A character named Slim (Rumsfeld?) says as he rides away, “My men will blockade the reservation to keep weapons out!” Of course, it’s hopeless because a drummer named Tomtom is smuggling in gunpowder (WMDs) inside a cargo of drums, thus the subtle title. When our hero Gabby tries to reach inside Tomtom’s wagon to buy “a leetle drum for Tippy Ryan,” Tomtom says, and I quote, “Don’t touch my drums!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that very line.
Because the world tries so hard to be round, I have noticed that the farther out of style something goes, the more ripe it is for recycling as new. Maxim magazine is nothing more than the old Argosy repackaged for a generation that never saw its cheesy-testosterone larded pages. I predict the same trend for swearing in public. When everybody swears, is it effective, and more importantly, is it still hip? I wonder what the father of our country might say on this subject?
“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low, that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”