Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Happiest Day of My Life & The Saddest Town In America

October 1, 2014
   Nothing ahead of me. Nothing behind me. I'm on the road to Billy the Kid country. Left Springerville, Arizona this morning at 7:20 and headed up on the high plateau towards the New Mexico line. A brisk 40 degrees out. Shocking considering I have been wearing short sleeved shirts for the past four months and the temperature has never been below 78 at night! It was 39 degrees when I woke up at Reeds Lodge:

   Got in to Springerville yesterday at about four. Left the True West World Headquarters after a Design Review meeting at ten, and an interview with reporter Mike T. who I used to work with at New Times. He was in my office ostensibly to interview me about "The 66 Kid" but one of his first questions to me was, "Your band, the Zonies, played at our wedding at the R&G ranch. What did you do with the $400 I paid you? Buy a new house?"

   Now this is journalist humor. Notoriously underpaid (his wife has been the business editor at the Republic for 30 years and she just had to reapply for her job) reporters like Mike often hold grudges for a long time. I told him I bought an eight-ball of cocaine with the $400, which seemed to make him happy. In reality, I only got $100 of the money because I had to split it with three other guys (all newspaper men as well) who probably did buy cocaine with it. Or, at least a couple cases of beer.

   Anyway, that was fun, and I left the office heading for Rio Verde and the back way across the In-din res to the Beeline Highway. It's a 225 mile run to Springerville and it was a very pretty day to be traveling. I am all by my lonesome, which I actually kind of prefer because if I want to stop and take a gander or a pee break I don't have to negotiate with anyone. If I want to take a side road, who is going to stop me?

   I had dinner last night at Los Dos Molinos in Springerville and that was fun. Walked there from Reeds so I could have two margaritas and celebrate being on the road. Made it back to the lodge without incident and slept like a baby.

   Woke up with a dilemma. Do I drive for an hour and have breakfast in Quemado, like my dad would do, or do I walk across the street to Booga Red's and see what the locals are doing. In a flash of inspiration I thought to myself, Hey, I'm going to do both!

Booga Red's surrounded by Big-ass F-350s

   Got inside and took a booth by the front window. Straight ahead of me, in a corner booth, were six cowboy types who, it turns out, owned most of the big haul-ass trucks in the parking lot. They were on their way to a job somewhere near Pie Town and they had a ton of stories. Most cowboys work construction, and the two professions kind of bleed into each other. There were probably only three of those guys who ever roped a calf in their lives, but they got the gear on. Come to think of it, so do I.

  Anyway, loved hearing their talk: "Got a big day planned, Hon," the lead dog said to the waitress when he wanted the check. The other phenom in these little cafes is the retired guys and the coffee klatch. They seem kind of sad, or lonely, to me. They're not going anywhere, all the guys at the table have heard their stories a thousand times and it just seems a tad tragic to me anyway.

   Took off at 7:17 with a cool dampness in the air. it was 49 degrees out and I turned on the heater (something I haven't done in a long, long time). Why is it that you're driving along and it's cold, and it's cold and then it's too hot. This happens in about a millisecond. There is not toasty in between. It's freezing and then it's too hot. This is also true about money. You're poor, you're poor and then you have too much money. It's happened to me a couple times and I'm here to tell you, there is no in-between.

   Got to Quemado at about eight and went into El Largo Cafe:

  El Largo is home of the very large elk head on the wall and the very large American flag, also on the wall. Had the huevos rancheros. I couldn't see half the people in there because of all the camo. In this cafe I had a whole table of elk hunters with their guide in my line of vision, and the guide was making fun of all the yocals who hunt with 30-30s.

   Speaking of hunting, El Largo has one of the finest large-boned, large-haired waitresses I have ever encountered in the wild. Took this photo, on the sly:

One fine Big-boned Waitress taking an order from the elk hunter's table

The Saddest Town In The Southwest?
  As I motored on to Socorro, I realized this is one of the happiest days of my life. I love these back road cafes and the slice of life it gives a glimpse of. And speaking of a slice of life, I went through one of the saddest bergs in America: Pie Town. Now there are towns that look bleak (Magdalena is very bleak looking), but this is just sad, sad, sad. Nothing on the street, everything boarded up, not a hope of anything happening—ever.

   Next stop, Lincoln, where I will be spending the next 10 days as the artist in residence.

"The road is everything."
—Good Ol' Ben Rux