Sunday, July 03, 2005

July 3, 2005
On the road up to Flag yesterday we saw firsthand the wide-ranging-smoking-fronts of the so-called Cave Creek Complex fire, and it is quite complex. There appears to be several fronts, many miles apart. We have one front that burned to the south edges of Elephant Butte, just above our house, and then there’s another front just outside Black Canyon City, along I-17, about 15 or 20 miles northwest of us, and another one up on Table Top Mesa (a typical Anglo redundancy as Mesa means table. The other one I love is Calle Street—Calle is Spanish for street). The name Black Canyon City had extra resonance because the surrounding cliffs and mesas had recently been burned black by firefighters starting backfires with incendiary ping pong balls they drop from aircraft (I’m not making this up). One side of the road was stripped and blackened like cajun catfish and the other was a milky brown with amber waves of weeds. It’s always amazing in a fire zone to see the peculiar areas passed over by fires. We noticed this in Yellowstone as well, where the big fires of 1988 scorched mile after mile of ridgeline and then for some odd reason, would leave a narrow patch of tall trees, while everything around them was burned into oblivion.

As we neared Sunset Point, here and there you could see narrow spits of dried grass, oddly passed over, like some stray outhouse in a tornado.

We got up to Flag at about 2:30 and checked into the Quality Inn. Coming out of 112 degree heat, the 7,000 foot cool breeze (80 was the high) that bathed our faces was wonderful. I dropped off a box of True Wests for the rooms at the front desk and then Kath and I took a nap to get ready for a long night. When we got up, my wife of 26 years talked me out of drinking wine (I brought half a bottle of cabernet from the house) and after dinner at Los Altenos ($36 cash includes tip) we walked over to Bookman’s (used book store) and I bought a cool Cavalcade of America book full of timelines in American history ($10 cash). We can certainly use this in editorial.

After a pit stop at the Campus Coffee Bean for an espresso booster shot, we drove over to the Boardwalk (next to Thai Rhama on South San Francisco St.) and tailgated until nine when the first group came on. Keep in mind I go to bed at nine. Many of Tomcat’s friends joined us for this, being that this is Phil Bunkman’s last gig as the much-loved I Hate You When You’re Pregnant, or as they all refer to him, IHYWYP (you can check him out at, and the other bands at Waded inside past all the Goths, punks, mohawks and Flag hipsters ($5 cover), got the drinking wristband deal (for some reason they didn’t card me) and went up by the stage where a virtual one-man-band was wailing on a Strat and playing an Okie-fied drum set with his feet at the same time. He had on a cheap, black, costume ball mask, a narrow tie with a striped arm warmer up and down his right arm (at first I thought it was a tattoo) that matched his guitar strap (he was sleeveless on his left arm).and he head pumped away from the mike as aggressively as he stroked his Strat. He had a crappy little fog machine behind him which he had to activate with a free hand and a hip-hop sound machine on the top of his bass drum that he used when he wasn’t crankin’ chords. I have to say, he was the coolest damn thing I’ve seen in a long time. On the drum head were the stenciled words “Turtle Vs. Sloth.” The songs were strange and wonderful, funky and original. I gave Deena money to go buy his CD.

Unfortunately, the next two bands didn’t clear the trees. Speed Metal and Local Metal just isn't my deal. Phil finally came on at about midnite and I was so glad I didn’t have that wine! The entire crowd knew every lyric and they gathered around him and lovingly shouted out all the words to his goofily oddball songs, throwing him up in the air like some hillbilly deity. Of course he was only wearing shoes and women’s underwear (according to my son Phil’s a health specialist during the day and I tried to imagine some poor patient off his meds stumbling into this dive and losing it). Unfortunately we didn’t get to hear any of Phil’s newer stuff because one of his fans stepped on his drum machine and destroyed all of his new beats. After the gig, Phil gave the machine to my son and asked him to fix it.

Japanther was the headliner, but by 12:30 I must have looked like grandpa Jones trapped all night in a carnival fun house. I certainly felt like grandpa Jones. We got back to the motel at one and I don’t even remember getting undressed.

“During adolescence the music you enjoy is good music no matter how bad it is.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

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