Friday, February 28, 2014

Boot Scootin' Booty

February 28, 2014
   When I was going to college I played in quite a few Country bands and I saw some pretty amazing dancing, that is, if you call extreme Horndog behavior "amazing dancing."

Daily Whipout: "Boot Scootin Booty"

   Of course being in a band gave me a good view of the floor, where dirty looks and ass-bumpin' got equal time.

Daily Whipout: "The Bandstand Evil Eye"

   And, of course, the best honkytonk joint for miles around was this little joint:

Daily Whipout: "Pulling Into The Parking Lot of The Heatwave Cafe"

   But the one girl everyone wanted to see came in late almost every night and then closed the place:

Daily Whipout: "Honkytonk Sue, The Queen of Country Swing"

"It wasn't God who made honkytonk angels."
—Kitty Wells

The 66 Kid Is Nine Signatures In

February 28, 204
  Hard to believe it's been nine weeks since we started on our quest to turn in 16 pages a week on "The 66 Kid" project. Today, Signature 9 is due and we have it all but done, save a couple tweaks, nips and tucks, here and there. Here is my view of the project this morning:

Command Central at 7 a.m. this morning. Nine signatures in the can, three to go!

   That's an unfinished gouache of Good Ol' Ben Rux, at bottom, right. Hoping to finish it and several other paintings before the deadline (March 22) so I can trade up, from inferior images I have already placed in the document. Of course, this is an endless game, and if I didn't have the drop dead deadline, I would be trading up until the cows come home, or dementia sets in.

"If it wasn't for deadlines, nothing would get done."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just Show Up To The Big Dance

February 25, 2014
   Yesterday, I hit the wall for coverage on the next signature of "The 66 Kid." I thought I had enough info and photographs to cover the section on my Little League career, but when it came time to do the layouts, I realized I was sorely mistaken. What to do?

   Ray "Buns" Bonham of Flagstaff showed up at the True West World Headquarters this morning with a suitcase full of all the missing Little League photos and newsclippings. In addition to being my Kingman All Stars teammate, Ray has it all, including the actual Northern Arizona Little League Tournament program:

So, looking through his clippings I was able to patch this storyline together for the book:

The Northern Arizona Little League Championship In Flagstaff (1959)
   When I was 11, and an all star alternate, I didn't play one single inning. I hated riding the bench. In my last year of eligibility I was determined to give my last year everything I had to not only make the team but to play as well as I could. I had a very good coach, Frank Esquibel, who taught me the finer points of drag bunting and when the All Star practices began he coached me on how to get an extra step towards first base.

   On July 27, 1959, we traveled to the big city—Flagstaff—by car caravan. I rode with Ray Bonham, Chuck Petkovitch and our driver was hitting coach, "Jonesy," who worked the bug detail at the inspection station on north 93. We landed at the biggest and best hotel in Flagstaff, The Weatherford. I had never stayed in a hotel before. When we got to our room on the second floor, Jonsey told Ray and I we could use anything he had but we weren't allowed to use his toothbrush. Although I made a mental note about this, I think he was joshing. Jonsey also had little pebbles he would carry and he would give them to certain players to put in their back pockets to help them play better. Alan Tapija had a great tournament and he had Jonsey's little pebble in his left-back-pocket for every game.

   We weren't in the hotel for very long before Chuck Petkovich and another kid from our group threw a water balloon out the second story window, right outside our room, drenching a man and woman going to a business meeting. They were wearing business attire and were not happy. The hotel staff responded quickly and kicked everyone from Kingman out on the street. We ended up at a flea bag hotel on Route 66 just east of San Francisco.

   Things went better on the playing field. In our first game, we defeated Holbrook 7 to 3 Tuesday afternoon. Skip Davis started as pitcher for Kingman but was relieved by Wendell Havatone in the second inning. According to the Mohave Miner, Skip's arm "tightened up in the mile-high dampness and he was removed to prevent injury coaches said." The Miner also reported, the "game started at 2 p.m. but was called after two and one-half innings of play at 2:50 p.m. because of rain. Play resumed at 4:40 p.m." Wendell Havatone had two hits with Robert Bell, Ray Bonham, Paul Torres and Heber Nelson each getting one apiece."

   We advanced to play Page. Ray Bonham was the pitcher going the distance, striking out 10 and giving up one walk. Quoting the Miner again: "Kingman jumped off to a two run lead in the first inning when Allen Tapija bunted and was safe. Robert Bell bunted and was safe on a fielder's choice, and Leroy Bender walked."

"Tapija and Bell scored on pass balls before the side was retired."

"In the big fourth inning, Skip Davis walked and Stephen McLendon was safe on an infield error. Then Tapija walked to load the bases. Robert Bell singled sharply to right scoring Davis. . .Havatone then singled to score Tapija and Bell."

   I have never been so successful on any playing surface in my lifetime and no newspaper reporting in my lifetime has ever mentioned me so prominently, or so successful on the field of dreams. According to one of my coaches, Floyd Cisney, I was the team's leading hitter at the tourney, batting 670. True, I achieved this mostly by bunting and being fast, but still, I'll take it. This was truly the top of the roller coaster for my sports career. We beat Winslow in the final and the game was broadcast live on KAAA to the folks back home. We weren't told about the broadcast to keep our nerves down, which was probably a good idea.

   When we got home the team's leading players were asked to show up for the photo op in a vacant lot across from Valley Bank the next day. The select crew, myself included, showed up for our starring moment but there was a slight problem. Leroy Bender showed up with Allen Tapija and, although he was a player on our team, he hadn't been asked to be in the photo. Rather than tell him he couldn't be in the photo, Leroy stepped into the photo and is there for all time, simply because he showed up. That is so Kingman, and I learned another lesson: so you weren't invited to the big dance?

"Just show up at the dance and you'll be surprised how often you get asked to dance."
—Good Ol' Ben Rux

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Killing Your Little Darlings

February 23, 2014
  On Friday Dan Harshberger and I turned in Signature 8 of "The 66 Kid." Four more to go. Next up, "Hey! Battah! Battah!" about being an Oddfellow Yankee in Kingman's Court.

Command Central, at 6 a.m. this morning as I try to cram in all the stuff I want to feature in the last 64 pages.

   This is so ironic: I spent the first 100 plus pages worried sick about having enough material to pad out 192 pages and now here I am fretting about all the stuff I have to cut, or trim way down. Gee, I wonder what a famous documentarian would say about this:

"Once you have a rough draft, be tough and cynical and even cruel about your work, and kill off whatever is weak. Pressure-test every seam."
—Marshall Curry, in Tell Me Something, a book I draw inspiration from every morning

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tom Horn The Dark Side?

February 19, 2014
  We've got a roaring controversy going on here at the True West World Headquarters. We are doing a big, special issue on Tom Horn and we cannot agree on a cover. The staff is split right down the middle on two different cover ideas:

Tom Horn by Gary Zaboly, or Tom Horn Going to The Dark Side?

Which one would you buy and why?

"See him before he sees you."
—The tag line on Tom Horn, starring Steve McQueen

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Great Big American Road Trip

February 18, 2014
   We made the same road trip every summer for over two decades. From Kingman to the Bell family farm north of Thompson, Iowa that was my dad's idea of fun. Allen P. had a deep need to go home. My mother told the story about when they were just newlyweds, he got so homesick for his mother's cooking he put her in the car and drove straight through to the farm. He only stopped to get gas. The guy was a stubborn Norwegian and he could get obsessive on certain things. Going home was one of them.

   So there we were on Route 66 in the heyday of Road.

  We made the trip every summer, usually in August, from 1947 to about 1967. That's 20 trips, which doesn't sound like that much, or, it doesn't sound as all inclusive as it seemed at the time. Only in the last couple of years of that record setting stretch did we go somewhere else beside Iowa. We didn't even take Route 66 west to California until 1963 and that was only because my dad's younger brother Glenn moved to Long Beach to teach school and Carl and Minnie came out to see their new baby, who they named in honor of Carl.

   The trip never got old to me. The night before we left was like Christmas Eve to me. We were going to hit the road and see some sights, eat some great food and have adventures. My mother packed and my dad loaded the car so we could get an early start. We didn't leave Kingman, we escaped! Nobody was out at four in the morning and we slipped right out of town and onto the open road!

  I loved trying to find local radio stations, especially in the outlying areas. In the Winslow corridor they actually had a radio station with Navajo announcers and they would talk in long, loping syllables and every once in a while you would hear the words "Canyon Ford," or "Levis on sale." That was fun, but it did get old quick. In the bigger towns like Albuquerque you would get flashier shows, but even then there were no "Rock stations" or "Country stations," or "The BIG" anything. There simply wasn't enough musical product to fill out an entire play list. Top Forty was in its infancy, or, had yet to make it's way into Route 66 country. That doesn't mean you wouldn't hear hits. We must have heard "Little Jimmie Brown" in five states on station after station.

   The signal for most stations petered out quickly and static on the airways was the majority of the sound I could get on the dial (by the way, Kathy and I borrowed our neighbors pickup last weekend and it took us five minutes to figure out how to turn OFF the radio). My mother would tire of the static and ask me to turn off the radio for awhile. I remember Leslie Gore's "It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want to" getting big play and I was struck with how the song spoke to people my age. That was a marvel in its time. The next song would be something by Jimmie Dean or Farron Young. I don't remember any formats, but I do remember smart-assed announcers. That is something that has never gone out of style.

   Elvis was a big deal, but the DJs invariably made fun of him, "Here's Elvis The Pelvis. . ." and more than  once I heard early rock described as "jungle music," in a man-I-can't-believe-we're-playing-this-crap-again way.

   But my absolute favorite find on the radio dial on road trips was the farm and ranch report. You'd get some hayseed guy talking about corn futures and it just always made me smile. Someone would sing happy birthday to some kid in town and it was just a slice of small town Americana. That is the radio I miss, when it had distinct, regional personality. it wasn't slick and it wasn't all that funny or even entertaining in the Big City Market way, but it was hilarious in a wonderful way.

"If you're a loyal KOMA listener, kiss your sweetheart!"
KOMA jingle that worked every time

Monday, February 17, 2014

Six Degrees of John, Paul, George and Yoko

February 17, 2014
   One of the twisted connections to the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show last week is that I actually have a connection to one of the Cats who produced the show.

  In 1980 my cartoon creation, Honkytonk Sue was sold to two Hollywood producers, Andrew Solt and Malcolm Leo, who had just produced one of the first rock documentaries, "Heroes of Rock and Roll" for ABC. I really dug the show and was excited to hear they were interested in buying my cartoon character. Andrew and Malcolm flew me out to Hollywood and took me to a great Bar-B-Q place in the Valley to impress me. That was fun, but the real impressive thing was this: turns out both worked for legendary documentatian David Wolper and so my obvious next question was, "Did you work on the O.K. Corral episode of 'The Appointment With Destiny' series?" The answer was not only yes, but Andrew had one of his associates drive up to his house in the Hollywood Hills and bring back the film canister of the show (this is before DVDs) and I sat in an editing bay and on a movieola watched the show. In those days it was very difficult to see a show after it had aired, unless you were lucky on a re-run, or knew someone who actually had the show. Both guys, Andy and Malcolm had stories about filming in Tombstone. They took out the wall that fronts Fremont Street and put dirt on the pavement and curb to return the scene to its original state so they could film on the exact spot. Well, almost. They utilized the entire space between Fly's and the corner house, so the space was actually much larger than the 18-feet-side-yard we now know was the site, but hey, it was still a big deal.

   So, I signed with the boys and the adventure to sign a major female star began. I made numerous trips to Hollywood to work on the project. We had Goldie Hawn signed to be Honkytonk Sue and Larry McMurtry wrote two scripts, but it never quite happened.

BBB Gone Hollywood, 1982

   After the project collapsed, Andrew made a very wise purchase. He bought the entire library of Ed Sullivan archives, including of course, the Beatles appearances which were used extensively on the show last week. Here he is in all his 1980s glory:

Andrew Solt, Honkytonk Sue producer and owner of the Beatles archives on Ed Sullivan

   Andrew went on to produce and direct, "This is Elvis" and "Imagine," working with Yoko Ono and given full access to John Lennon's home movies. Kathy and I attended the premiere of both films. Small world, no? Oh, and here's Malcolm in all his Porsche glory:

Malcolm Leo looking fly

"It's a small world but I wouldn't want to paint it."
—Stephen Wright

Perfect Is The Enemy of Good Enough

February 17, 2014
  This past weekend I watched the converted 8mm films from my youth growing up in Kingman, including ambitious "movies" I talked my friends and relatives into filming with me. These would include "The V-2 Rocket Farm" "The Blond Indian" and "Ben Gas," the most ambitious of all. Lots and lots of effort went into doing these with the end result being they are all spectacularly weak in every respect. Not sure what I was thinking would happen but it was unnerving on one level: I have to face the realization that I felt then like I feel now about "The 66 Kid."

  Ouch! That hurts.

  We turned in Sig 7 last Friday and here is Command Central this morning at 6 a.m.

Command Central Eight, Five Sigs to Go

  I found most of my old driver's license in the garage (the pack rats got the rest) and they tell a story all by themselves (they're lined out above). Also noodled a couple "66 Chix" and that would include Judy, Terry and Gail from our high school annual (xerox from annual, upper left). I had the hots for quite a few girls in that school system and in fact still do. Frankly, I loved them all.

  Here are random notes I jotted down yesterday:

• Down the road a battered water tank, a toothless windmill skitters in the stiff spring breeze, for there is always a breeze in Mohave County.

• Romance may surround the Great American Road Trip, but the harshness of the landscape to the West of Kingman speaks to the daunting challenge this area gave to the early pioneers.

• As we neared Seligman the road turned a tawny red for the simple reason the pavement was tinted by the quarry pits near Flagstaff that picked up the red, volcanic ash which mixed into the asphalt gave off a reddish hue.

• It is still spine tingling cool to follow along parallel to the phantoms of the trail, the outlaws, the renegades and the path finders. I have spent countless hours just looking out there at the passing scenery, zipping across modern bridges and imagining how long it took them to traverse that dry wash, or that muddy embankment (half a day?), and as the miles pile up, you reach a serious appreciation of the distances they covered in such primitive conveyances.

• The harshness of the Mojave Desert is hard to love but harder to forget. It sneaks up on you.

"It's the heart of youth culture, the land of dreams, skateboarding, choppers, lowriderss. I would move there right away because the sun is always shining. Everything there is faster, cooler, freer, bigger vibes, more challenges."
—Some European Dude pining for California

• After we had been in Arizona for about a year, I dreamed of my Iowa home and wanted to go back. I felt this very strongly until we did go back the next summer and I saw all my friends had moved on. Half didn't even know me.

• An artery to the heart of the world. The days of wrath were yet to come and I knew it. The wheel turns.

• We were the Norweigian version of "On The Road," but with coffee instead of benzedrine and silence instead of sex.

• The great blazing stars came out and the painted desert got dim and I felt great affection for the harsh land but it was like petting a panther. I knew even as a kid, especially as a kid, if you messed up and got stuck out here there would be no forgiveness.

• We zoomed through the little New Mexican towns out past the trading posts where the wagons were parked and the glowing light from inside highlights the Navajos tall, straight forms as they traded and caught up on gossip.

• All the magic names flew by, Lupton, Saunders, Crazy Horse, Geronimos, Grants, Cubero, Laguna. Soon is got dark and the cars continued on, but my father was looking for a place to stop for the night. He didn't like to drive at night.

• The obits, where more and more people look like me.

"Perfect is the enemy of good enough."
—Good Ol' Ben Rux

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Julian Lennon Acting Just Like His Dad

February 16, 2014
   Last night I mentioned to Kathy that I thought it was odd that none of John Lennon's boys performed at the Beatles 50-year-reunion gig on CBS last week. She said, and I quote, "Why don't you Google 'Julian Lennon Grammys' and I'll bet you find out." Well, Ms. Radina nailed that one. With one click, I found this:

Songwriter and photographer Julian Lennon reveals he was unimpressed by the celebration in Los Angeles marking the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s historic arrival in America.

“The last thing I wanted to do was stand in the audience with everybody else, clapping my hands and being filmed in front of millions while watching a Beatles’ karaoke session,” he says.
The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute To The Beatles was aired on US television last weekend and saw McCartney and Starr perform the band’s classic Hey Jude at the Los Angeles Convention Centre. Julian’s brother Sean and Yoko Ono were among those attending.
Julian, 50, who is the son of the late Beatle’s first wife Cynthia, adds: “Give me the originals any day… that’s my cup of tea.
“That’s why I decided I preferred to be in a state of reflection and appreciation and doing something much more subtle and more heartfelt, in my mind, than the glitz and the glam of those kind of shows.”
End of article. Of course, it's not shocking that the offspring of John Lennon would say something like this. In fact, I kind of think John would agree. No, the shocking thing is that Julian is fifty! Yikes! That is ridiculous.
"Hey Jules, don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better."
—The original thought running through Paul's head as he was driving over to the Lennon flat to comfort Cynthia and her son Julian, or Jules

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Beatles Nail Small Town Memories

February 14, 2014
   Last weekend Radinas from many miles around descended upon our house in Cave Creek to pose for a commemorative photo to celebrate Betty Radina's 90th birthday.

The Radinas, three Bells and three Bortschellers.

   Bryan Black shot the photo and he's very good. Meanwhile, working on life in Kingman in the 1950s. Got some help from a few of my Kingman compadres:

A Snapshot of Kingman
    At the Dairy Queen a banana split cost 50 cents and all cones where hand dipped. The latest rock 'n' roll records could be purchased at Central Commercial, or, at Mohave Electric, across the street, for a dollar (I was so shocked when we went to Phoenix for the Little League Championship and i found "La Bamba" by Richie  Valens for 78 cents at a Skagg's Drugstore in Glendale). Milk could be ordered for home delivery from McCall's Canyon Dairy, leave the empties on the porch for pickup.

   Every night there was a 10 pm curfew and a siren would go off to warn kids to go home. Admission to the State Theater was 15 cents for under 12-years-of-age and 25 cents for over. Many of my teenage friends tried to fudge in as a 12-year-old to save a dime. Popcorn was 10 cents.

    Dogs were allowed in class at the junior high. Mary Kay Hokanson remembers her dog Tootsie being in every class except Mrs. Hands' class. Mary Kay even remembers Tootsie graduating with her.

    We got all of our mail at the main post office and our box number was Box 470. One time at a party, Arnold D. Thomas, who worked at the post office, regaled everyone by telling each of us our Box office number. And as you might guess, we were easily entertained.

    Our telephone number was Blue 549 and there was no dialing, you picked up the phone and an operator came on and asked for the number you were calling, and I would say I'm calling the Harshbergers at Blue 427 and she would plug in the connection. We were all on party lines, so if you picked up the phone and people were talking you had to wait until they got off. Sometimes, my father would tell certain yackers to quit hogging the phone lines and get off. That always went over well.

   It was a dirt road to Wickiup and Phoenix. According to Charlie Waters the road wasn't paved until some Kingman people embarrassed Governor McFarland by starting a movement to secede from Arizona and become a part of Nevada. When he agreed to start paving the road, they agreed to stop the movement. The Kingman crowd also picketed the governor's appearance at a Frontier Rodeo Parade in Prescott and the first stretch of paving was cut the same day.

Speaking of the Beatles, thanks to Mike Torres, who called me and told me to tape the replay of the CBS 50 year celebration of The Beatles being on Ed Sullivan, I got to watch part of it last night. Really a stellar show. Can't get over how many great songs those Limey kids created in their early twenties! "In My Life" actually made me misty because it applies to what I'm attempting to do with my book about growing up in Kingman. Really profound. How could a couple of kids write that?! Just amazing.

There are places I remember

 All my life though some have changed

 Some forever not for better

 Some have gone and some remain

 All these places have their moments

 With lovers and friends I still can recall

 Some are dead and some are living

 In my life I've loved them all

—Lennon and McCartney

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thanks to Billy the Kid I Got My Butt Beat

February 12, 2014
   Funny what you can remember when you start dredging around in your memory banks. I hadn't thought  of this in 30 years:

Thanks to Billy the Kid I Got My Butt Beat
   In eighth grade we had a history teacher who had a metal plate in his head from injuries received from the landing on Omaha Beach during D-Day. Mr. Paul Lamassney was a former Army Ranger ( and by his telling, Paul Anka played him in the movie "The Longest Day") and if ever a lecture was getting boring all you had to say was, "Is there a draft in here?" And Mr. Lamassney would say, "That reminds me, I was drafted once." And off he'd go on a tale of Battle-of-the-Bulge-fighting. Our fearless leader hailed from Las Vegas, New Mexico and although he had a begrudging respect for the German fighting man, he had no love for Billy the Kid. When I raised my hand one day to ask why, he snorted, "Billy the Kid shot everybody in the back," to which I said, "He didn't shoot them in the back they just didn't turn around fast enough." I got a big laugh from the class and an invitation to come up to the front of the room and bend over and grab my ankles. Two swats later, I sat down gingerly (it really, really hurt) but I wore my punishment proudly.

   "Did it hurt?" everyone wanted to know at recess. Yes, I admitted, as I leaned against a spindly tree on the playground, but it was worth it. Those were the first of several swats I received during my school career in Kingman and I have to say I am a better person for them. For my money, if you can't stand up for a butt beating, you really don't deserve the forum to say anything.

The story is completely true, the only part I'm unsure about is the spelling of Paul Lamassney. Gay?

"Advise persons never to engage in mouthing off to ex-Army Rangers."
—Billy the Kid

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

First Kiss On Seven Houses Road

February 11, 2014
   One of my all-time favorite songs is "Seven Bridges Road." Just a haunting, wonderful song. In "The 66 Kid" we are doing the seven houses we lived in during the Kingman years and here is the last one:

The Gates Avenue house with my Dad's '62 Olds outside, circa 1968

   Meanwhile, here is a page from one of my mother's scrapbooks that covers a ton of ground:

Top, Left: me at my grandmother's house where I really got the bug to do Old West history. Next up my Lutheran Catechism classmates at the temporary Lutheran Church off Hall Street in 1963. Me on my dad's lap in our house on Ashfork Avenue (we watched Elvis on Ed Sullivan on the TV behind us there). Me, practicing my drums in the living room in our Ricca Drive house. And, finally, the Burf and the Jan—one gave me my first kiss and the other was a roommate in college. I'll let you guess, or, fantasize, which is which.

"I don't tweet for a very simple reason, which is that I drink."
—Lorne Michaels

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Hair Style That Rocked A Nation

February 10, 2014
   Big Radina family gathering at our house last weekend. Lots of clowning around:

Tom Bell hits it early.

   Colorized a previous sketch of a certain girl I vowed to someday make out with:

Daily Whipout: "BBB and BB Sittin' In A Tree,  K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"

   So far, no tonsil tonguing, but it ain't over YET Ms. Brigitte Bardot!

   Here's another shot of Grantham P. Hooker, the Kingman cowboy who did more to clean up Mohave County than 200 ATF agents:

The Doper Roper In Drug Dealer Mode

   Also still working on the hairstyle that rocked a nation:

Daily Whipout: "The Five Flattops"

"Life is ridiculous. And you know that I would never say anything bad about your father in front of you, but your father is a sick son of a bitch."
—Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Sig Six Is In The Can Mohcajete Mama!

February 8, 2014
  The kids are in town for a picture. It's Grandma Betty's 90th birthday and she wants a photo of all the Radinas, so Deena, Mike and Weston flew in from Pasadena at 10:30 yesterday and I met them at El Encanto for lunch, then Kathy and I cruised into the Beast at seven last night to pick up Thomas Charles and Pattarapa coming in from Baltimore. We then motored over to share some mohcajete with Bill Glenn:

L-R: Bill Glenn, T Charles, Pattarapan and Kathy in the back room of  Mariscos Playa Hermosa on 16th Street and Garfield, I think it is. The mohcajete is the stone dish in center full of steamy meats and fish. Really pretty spectacular. From there we stopped at La Frontera, a taco truck T Bell is fond of and loaded up with extras for the ride home and for his sis Deena who was at the house.

Sig 6 In The Can
We handed in Sig 6 of "The 66 Kid" yesterday which means half the book is in the can. Here's Command Central at six this morning as I strategize on the last half of the book.

   The yellow pages are the first six signatures of the book and as you can see, they are marked done, even though we will probably make another dozen passes at them, tweaking and adding and subtracting. Checking out Sigs 7 thru 12 (bottom sheet with notes in red): that's LA artist Ed Ruscha peeking out from behind my current sketchbook. He's the "faux-naif funny man of American art," and he's the dude who published the tongue-in-cheek book "Twenty Six Gasoline Stations" and one of them, shot randomly on a trip from LA to OK was the Flying A truckstop my father ran for a time in the mid-sixties. Want to get that detail in the book.

  I realized yesterday, this whole project is a giant jigsaw puzzle.

"I wanted to be out of Oklahoma."
—Ed Ruscha, answering the question of what his goals were when he was growing up

Friday, February 07, 2014

When The Doper Roper Cleaned Up Mohave County

February 7, 2014
   Dealing with a tricky subject in the book. There's an ugly side to every little town.

Race Back In The Day
   Kingman wasn't perfect. Like most of America in the 1950s and 1960s, there were virulent pockets of racism (some would argue there still is). I talk about my own family's prejudices and how it affected a black family, the father was stationed at the Air Force radar base. But I didn't want to just throw my mother under the bus for her views on the matter, so I thought I'd better cast a wider net. That led to this True West Moment which will run in the book as well:

   Several who have read this have flinched and said it's not funny, but it's the truth! Or, at least, more true than most would admit. But, my friends and family in Mohave County didn't restrict their ire to ethnicity, which is exactly why I created this dude:

The Doper Roper Cleans Up Mohave County
   Mohave County cowboys had a tough time accepting non-conventional types with long hair and—heaven forbid!—bellbottom pants! I know this because, as a member of a rock band, I found myself in the crosshairs more than once. I wasn't alone. I created the character The Doper Roper in 1972 as a reaction to the bellicose attitudes of my Kingman cowboy cousins and their disbelief at my betrayal of the manly traditions of the past. Grantham P. Hooker, or D-R, as we called him for short, was based on several Kingman area cowboys, most notably Buzzy Blair.

The Doper Roper Roping Hippies Off The Hood of His Pickup

   We're missing the scene where D-R pounded nails into his hood and wrapped bailing wire into tight little stirrups so he could lean out into the wind like that.

"Heiffer dust!"
—Grantham P. Hooker

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Failing to Succeed

February 6, 2014
   Hard at corraling Sig 6 today. Got up at 5:30 and went at it. Wrote from seven to eight, then switched gears and started a couple art pieces. Came home for lunch and whipped out a little study, actually colorized a sketch I had done a year ago:

Daily Re-Whipout: "Gold Road: Ben Rux World"

   One of the things I have realized doing this book project is I sure made a lot of vows and I sure failed a lot. Here are a few of the results from the vows I made as a young kid:

   I never got to meet Norman Rockwell. I never became a spelling champ. I never played the Ed Sullivan Show. I never owned an XKE. I never had a hit record. I never got to date Annette Funicello and I never got to make out with Brigit Bardot. These are all things I vowed to do when I grew up.

   But then it got worse. I have always hated the seventies which were always very dark times to me. Altamont, disco, Watergate and cocaine ("Hey, it's not addictive") to name but a few of the cultural mileposts that totally bummed me out.

  By 1977 I had hit bottom. My wife left me, my truck was repossessed, the magazine (The Razz) was busted, one of my best friends had committed suicide, I was still plagued by acne and I was still stigmatized by being from Kingman (yes, I know, at least two of these were self-inflicted calamities).

   I won't bore you with the turnaround or the epiphany that changed everything but suffice to say some of my later vows did come true. In some ways, I think I failed my way clear. Mulling all of this today I realized one authentic thing about myself:

"I have failed at many things in my life but I never failed at dreaming big."

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Party Hardy Norskys & A Dog Named Pal

February 5, 3014
  Got some light rain today. Still on it for another 16-page-signature, due on Friday. One of the points I make in my talks about going to Iowa every summer is that as we were always traveling eastbound on Route 66, while we met all the westbound people going to California and Disneyland and they were laughing and waving and they had innertubes on the top of the car, and, there we were, heading to the family farm north of Thompson, Iowa to talk about crops and eat five times a day, with these rip-roarin', happy-go-lucky people:

Norsky's Kicking Out The Jams On A Saturday Night! Dina, Hank, Thelma, Carl, Grandma Hauan, Minnie, baby and uncle Glenn high on life.

   Meanwhile, found this photo of me and my dog Pal in front of our old house on Ashfork Avenue in Kingman.

I believe that's a '49 Ford pickup with the side panels. My father always had nice rides.

My Dog Pal
   A man brought a box of puppies into my dad's gas station and put them on the floor in the office. As I looked at the cute little mutts, my father told me to choose one. I picked up a little spotted, black-faced noodle and petted him as he snuggled into my neck. One of the pump jockeys suggested I call the dog “Pal,” because that was what he would be. I took the advice and Pal was my dog, following me on my bike everywhere up and down Ashfork Avenue.

   One day, when the late-summer traffic on Route 66 was especially heavy, I was riding my bike home from the station towards our house. Where the apron for the gas station ended, there was a small bike path right along the highway that I had to travel before angling off back to the dirt roads west of the highway.

   As I peddled along, Pal saw a jackrabbit and chased it as it angled out on the roadway. A car hit Pal head on and ran over him. The horrified people stopped and got out, but Pal rolled several times, jumped up and, trailing blood, ran all the way home.

   My father got home before I did and we found Pal in the side yard, coughing up blood. The vet came and cleaned him up, examined his abrasions (incredibly he had no broken bones), and said he didn't think Pal would make it through the night. I worried all night. But in the morning, Pal, looking even worse than before (bloated, bruised and with one eye swollen shut), was still breathing.

   Pal lived to fight another day and we had many adventures together. Unfortunately, while I was at school and my parents were working, Pal started running with a pack of neighborhood dogs and got into it with a porcupine out near Doc Arnold's house. Someone found him on the side of the road and called the number on the tags.

   Again, the vet was called, and this time my father had to hold Pal with a rolled up newspaper jammed into his mouth so the vet could pull out all the quills with a pair of pliers. It took about an hour, and Pal was traumatized by the painful experience. So was I.

   I remember my dad joked that, hopefully, Pal had learned a lesson. But the vet shook his head and said that not only do most dogs not learn, they go back and seek out more porcupines.

   This time the vet was right. Not long after, Pal showed up briefly with his face full of quills again. But now, he wouldn't come close.

   We never saw him again.

"A boy and his dog will make you weep."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

They Call Me Yellow Fellow

February 4, 2014
  At the end of this week we will be halfway through "The 66 Kid" book project (the video documentary will follow right behind). Here is the view of Command Central at six this morning.

Five signatures in the can, seven to go

  I'm really enjoying marking all those finished pages in yellow (now if they would only STAY yellow!). We've had to do some major redesign in Sigs Four and Five. Makes it rough to stay on schedule when we are going back to reclaim and redesign pages while trying to maintain a 16-pages per week regimen and that includes writing, artwork, maps, layout and proofing of every page. Actually a ridiculous schedule but the truth is I wouldn't be getting the results I am without the pressure. Plus it's a pleasure to work with my teammates Dan the Man, Charlie Waters, Chuck Cook, Andy Sansom, Jon Nelson, Gus Walker and Robert Ray. With significant contributions from Karen Johnson Collins, Mary Kay H., Jay Gates III, John Waters, Dorian Trayhan, Tap Lou Duncan Weir, Glenn and Claudia Bell, Kenny Peterson and Mike Richards, to name just a few. Everyone of them working to make the book a worthy project.

"Character consists on what you do on the third and fourth tries."
—James Michener

Monday, February 03, 2014

Cloverleaf From Hell

February 3, 2014
   I worked on a couple paintings this weekend, including this little study:

Daily Whipout: "Cloverleaf From Hell"

   This is to help illustrate the end of the book when I ask the question, "What happens when too many people show up for the same dream?" Let's face it, the interstates are a godsend. We can zip through huge cities with relative ease but somehow it seems lifeless and oppressive. I was reading a review in the New York Times yesterday and I loved this description about the current status of the old motels: "motels in various stages of fleabaggery," and I also love this quot on why the old road ain't what it used to be:

"Before Interstates and shopping malls mucked up the fruited plain."
—Bruce Denby

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Dreams My Fathers Sold Me

February 2, 2014
  Working on a couple paintings today: "Windswept Highway," "20,000 Cooties Under The Sea" and "Sailer's Camp Respite", all three for "The 66 Kid."

  I had a speech yesterday for the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Steward Retreat and on the way back home I spied this great bank of clouds.

Pima Road and Lone Mountain, looking north over Continental Mountain. I dig that python head, also the road design, shooting off to the right is a happy accident. I will use both. I took a second shot through the windshield to pick up the rest of the cloud bank:

Looked like it might rain but we got nothing out of it. I'm also working on my father's dream, that is, what he aspired to, and how he sold me on his dreams. Here's my first take on it:

Dreams My Father Sold Me
 Almost every Sunday my father would take my mother and I for a drive. First to my grandparent's farm north of Thompson, and then from there to see gas stations, or other businesses for sale. Sometimes they would be combination-gas station-cafes and even more ideal, one such combo at Leland, had a small gas station with a cafe next door, behind a white picket fence and the house was above the cafe. My father would stop the car and let it idle and tell my mother and I how happy we would be with this three-in-one dreamboat property. I've always had a vivid imagination and I always bought what he was selling, or, in this case trying to buy.

 Even after we moved to Arizona, we would sometimes make a trip to Wickenburg to take a look at a Western Auto store he saw in the paper, or a Blakely Gas Station on the road to Wendon. I loved these trips because they gave us hope for a better life, an ideal, and a dream to shoot for.

 The part I didn't like was, as time went on, my father would come home and start drinking, which led to complaining about all his problems at the gas station. He had employees who were stealing from him. The oil company wanted to raise his lease, the local bulk plant was ripping him off. At some point I got the message loud and clear: I'm not sure what I am going to do with my life, but whatever it is, it won't be this. Which put a bit of a wedge between us, because I think my father always had a fantasy of a car related business with the signage—All Bell & Son—over the door. I wanted to please him, but given his unhappiness at the dinner table I instinctively knew I would not be going in that direction. It was just too obviously a dead end.

  The upshot being, I was very careful what I talked about at the dinner table with my own kids. But even with my careful resere, neither one wanted to be an artist, or a historian. So, looking back, I might as well have complained like crazy.

"What you get is not quite what you choose."
—JD Souther, in "The History of The Eagles"