Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Truth About Daily Whip Outs

October 21, 2018
   A doctor who lives up the creek from me decided, several years ago, he wanted to pursue his artwork, something he told me he had neglected during the long slog to becoming an MD. Once, while visiting his home, he showed me a painting he was trying to finish, and he confessed to me he had been working on it for a month. Frankly, it looked like it, and by that I mean it had a tortured look, like something a physician might do if they decided to apply and channel all the things they learned in med school into one painting. Of course I didn't knock the painting because I have painted scenes like this myself and I've been caught in a similar torturous corner many times. Instead, I tried to be positive, giving him a couple suggestions. When I mentioned my theory about painting as quickly as possible, he asked me a question, which was actually more of an accusation: "Come on, you don't really do those 'Whip Outs' in one sitting, do you?"

   Yes, I try to do most of them in one sitting. Which brings up a question I get a lot:

"I really enjoy your Whipouts. I'm a bit curious as to how long, on average, does one of those take?"

—Oscar Sorlis

Daily Whip Out: "Ojos Under The Brim"
   One sitting: approximately 45 minutes


Daily Whip Out: "Life On The Line"
45 minutes (a study)

The Truth About Daily Whip Outs
   When it comes to drawing, thinking ruins everything. In my opinion, you have to do a drawing, or a painting, as quickly as you can, without hope, without despair. Toulouse Lautrec believed if you let the pencil stop, the drawing will die. Good advice.

   Not everyone agrees with me:

"I work to create something that is in my brain, and I don't feel like I have to impress people outside."

—Alessandro Michele, Gucci's creative director

   Well, that may be, but, unlike Alessandro, I do have to impress people on the outside of my brain. Here's how the French director of the new Western, "The Sisters Brothers," puts it:

 "Everything needs to be planned, and yet, in the end, there needs to be a kind of innocence."

—Jacques Audiard

   I must confess to you, this is not easy for me to do. It's very hard to let go of the skill set I have painfully acquired over a 40-some-year career and just let it all go when I sit down to draw or paint. But, that is where the magic is.

"Mexican Mamacita" took two sittings.
Sky and background in one sitting
and then the foreground figure
in about an hour-and-a-half,
on another day.

   Here's another example: revised and revisited. I saw this Daily Whip Out on my desk this morning and decided it needed another tweak, or two.

Daily Whip Out: "Worn Out, Revised And Revisited"

   So, altogether, probably two hours. But this is not an indictment of taking your time. I have many paintings that I have worked on for days and even weeks, but too many of those look tortured, so I remain, for better or worse: Mister Whip Out.

"First thought, best thought."
—Ray Bradbury

Friday, October 19, 2018

Apache Duotone And Chuckawala Willy

October 19, 2018
   Looks like a great weekend ahead. Trying to simplify my approach.

Daily Whip Out: "Apache Duotone"

   After we visited the local museum in Shoshone, California, just outside the Death Valley National Park, I drew a sketch of one of the miners I saw in the display case. I showed the drawing to Kathy and said, "What is his name?"

   She replied, without even pausing:

   "That's Chuckawala Willy."

   And so it is. I realize the formal pronunciation is chuckwala, but I have always pronounced it as chuck-ah-wala, because, well, I grew up in Kingman.

   One of the major lessons Kathy and I learned on our recent jaunt to Nipton and Death Valley is: when coffee is as important to us as it is, we need to bring our own coffeemaker.

   Why? I agree with this statement:

"Decaf? You mean brown sadness water?"
—A serious coffee drinker saying


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Union Pass Clouds and Golden Valley Clouds

October 18, 2018
   On our trip home from Death Valley we caught storm clouds all the way from the Colorado River to Cave Creek. Here is a cool shot at Union Pass in the Black Range at 8:30 on Sunday, October 14:

Union Pass Clouds

Union Pass from the Colorado River

   Motoring towards my hometown, we caught this rolling beauty:

Golden Valley Clouds

And then on to our home territory:

New River Clouds

   All in all a great trip although I wouldn't do the Laughlin casino leg of the trip again. We wanted the river walk in the morning, but the swarming gnats ruined that little fantasy.

   Yes, Nipton was a hoot-and-a-half and very relaxing and so was the Oasis at Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley.

   We gave our good friend John Goodwin at Galaxy Press an award last week.

   My Own Personal Permanent Victory Tour

   I have an anniversary coming up. As of this coming September, in 2019, I will have been running True West for twenty years. This is about seventeen years longer than I thought it would be. Against long odds and a heavy handicap (I am not a businessman and even married a math teacher so my checkbook would balance), the magazine has survived and even thrived, thanks to a long list of friends and associates who somehow stuck with me through thick and thin (we lost about $30k a month for the first two years).

   The key, of course, is having good people to help out the cause, and last week we hired a new editor, Peter Corbett, at right. He and our senior editor, Stuart Rosebrook are going to be an editorial team going forward. 

Stuart Rosebrook and Peter Corbett
at the True West World Headquarters

"But Poetry's the son-of-a-bitchiest thingumajig,
it exists—and you can't do a damn thing about it."
—Vladimir Mayakovsky, Russian poet

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Viva Zapata!

October 17, 2018
   When it comes to vaqueros and Mexican horsemanship, it's hard to beat the dashing figure of Emiliano Zapata:

Zapata tricked out and looking muy guapo.

   Check out that gear! Ay-Yi-Yi! Sweet.

"I can see by your outfit you did alright by the revolution."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

These Boots Are Made for Trashing Non-Guitar Players

October 16, 2018
   Oh, Nancy, your boots may be made for walking but your hands tell me you've never played a guitar in your life.

Nancy Sinatra looking all sexy but one thing
is certain: she is definitely not a guitar player

"I hate it when I see actors in movies holding a guitar like a baby."
—Johnny Cash?

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Three Secrets to Putting Out A Successful Magazine

October 15, 2018
   I don't often give out trade secrets, but here you go:

   The three secrets are in the covers, above. Also, one of the secrets is in this letter to the editor:

Dear Editor,
   I am a very satisfied subscriber of your fine magazine, thank you very much.

   Upon reading your last issue, Nov. 2018, page 41 shows a collection of "Art History", that your magazine has published over the years.  All of the illustrations are good.  But I almost fell off my Barbary Coast bar-stool with laughter when I saw the (1930s?) drawing of a naked hottie, holding onto a wooden barrel to cover herself;  next to her stands a desperado, pistols drawn, with the caption, "Stick 'em up!"

   I absolutely find no offense with this cartoon.  It is humorous!  The attractive woman is not exposed in the illustration (yet?), nothing to hurt the eyes of prudes which might unfortunately read your magazine.  Nor is this sexist;  anyone held at gunpoint is advised to do what is best to survive.  But I'm getting serious, which is ludicrous when talking about this classic and funny comic.

   One of the reasons that I enjoy TWM is the humor, be it comics, stories, or even 1800s recipes!  Stuffy historians and ill-humored historical fans of Americans great Old West should get over themselves, go out with some friends to a bar or saloon, have some drinks and lighten the heck up.

   Thanks for your time.  Cheers!

James Jarvis
San Francisco, CA

   Here are the three secrets: Have a sense of humor. Be authentic. Have a point of view.

   That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

"If it's true that legend is truth exaggerated to make a better story, then one of the things we historians do best is to ruin a good story."

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Nipton In The Rearview And The Hottest Spot On Earth

October 14, 2018
   On Wednesday, we lounged around Nipton until noon, enjoying the quietude (full disclosure: Nipton is right next to a branch line of the Southern Pacific train tracks and about every hour or so a long freight train comes blasting through with sirens blaring).

   Kathy and I were headed for the hottest place on earth. Driving west to I-15 we headed southwest to Baker, California, then headed north into the the least popular National Park in America. 

The Longest Vanishing Point I've Ever Seen

   Back in the day, New York art directors were fond of vanishing point desert vistas and I remember driving all over Arizona with a professional photographer from Phoenix who got the assignment to find a two-lane highway example for a national ad shoot. We found the one on the back side of Monument Valley, heading for Mexican Hat (it is seen prominently in the film "Forrest Gump") but this one, above, is about twice as long as the Arizona one.

   Of course, I couldn't drive through Shoshone without sampling the local museum and I wasn't disappointed:

 Local bad girl, "Shotgun" Kitty Tubb

   From Shoshone, Kathy and I motored over the divide and then stopped at Badwater, which is 282 feet below sea level.

Badwater Boze

   According to Roger Naylor's fine book, "Death Valley: Hottest Place On Earth," that white stuff I am standing on is 95% pure table SALT, and it covers 200 square miles and is 9,000 feet deep and consist of accumulated sediment and SALT. All from lakes drying up during the ice age. And it is still damp now! 

  From this interesting hell hole, it was only a hop, skip and a jump to Furnace Creek in Death Valley.

The Oasis at Furnace Creek

"It was so hot that swallows in full flight fell to the earth dead and when I went out to read the thermometer with a wet Turkish towel on my head, it was dry before I returned."
—Oscar Denton, caretaker of the Furnace Creek Ranch on the record hot day of 134 degrees, the hottest ever recorded on the planet, July, 1913

Friday, October 12, 2018

Nipton Teepee Girls

October 12, 2018
   I've got a thing for wide spots in the road. You know, those little roadside attractions with one or two businesses, maybe five houses and a stray dog, or two.

   To me, the heyday of these settlements was 1957. I have such fond memories of my father driving us through places like Hackberry, Truxton. Leupp, Cubero, Cline's Corner, and on and on. In 1957 every section of the country had them, but they are in decline now and too many of them look dilapidated, or worse.

   Last Wednesday, Kathy and I took the backroad from Searchlight, Nevada and landed in this cozy, little wide spot in the road out in the middle of nowhere:

Nipton at Sunrise

   Nipton, California has a general store and a small hotel. It's so isolated, an alleycat jaywalks with impunity:

Nipton Cat Crossing

Here's a close up of the jaywalker:

Cat On A Hot Thin Asphalt

   The service in Nipton is a tad spotty, but then that is part of the charm. It took me about 45 minutes to get a key to my room. One of the problems was the Cal Lottery was up to $545 million and construction workers from a nearby highway bridge project were pouring in to the general store and lining up to buy tickets.

   I wasn't in a hurry. In fact I had actually driven four hours out of my way to avoid being in a hurry. That's why I came to Nipton in the first place. I took the time to look at the store full of trinkets and T-shirts and books (Sherry Monahan, one of your books is carried here!). Plus, they carried the usual wide spot in the road sense of humor: 

Remember the golden rule: Whoever has the gold makes the rules.

   Finally, this old hippie guy (four years older than me) saved us. Sam saw us waiting and he jumped in to get us checked in. There was one problem: nobody in the store had a key to our room. Sam finally got in his truck and personally drove across the road to a line of trailers to hustle up the key to our room.

Sam The Man gets the key

The Hotel California

   Had a great evening and in the morning, I walked the entire town without seeing a car or a soul, except for that cat. 

   About an hour later I met two, brave souls who spent the night in one of the teepees. 

The Louisiana Teepee Girls

   Kristen Fallon, on the right, and Noelle Henderson were driving from Louisiana to Sacramento for Kristen's first nursing assignment and they Googled AirBnBs and rather than stay on the Interstate, they decided to get off the freeway and stay in a teepee. They get major points, from me, for being so damn adventuresome. They did admit it got a little cold during the night but they were game.

   Oh, and one more thing: when we finally got to the hotel room, Sam gave me the door code: it was 1957.

"You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave."
—Eagles, "Hotel California"

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Nipton Or bust!

October 11, 2018
   A year ago, the noted historian, Doctor John Langellier, and myself, were going the back way from Bullhead City, Arizona to the Lone Pine Film Festival in Lone Pine, California, when we chanced upon a lush oasis, clustered in the barren high Mojave Desert. It turned out to be an outlaw way station with 15 residents. Here is the sign on the edge of the wide spot in the road:

Nipton Stop Sign

   And here is the general store, at left, below, with a crazy painted car outside. It took me a year, but I made it back with Kathy yesterday to try out the place.

Nipton Flies Its Freak Flag
& The U.S. Flag

   They have five rooms in the Hotel California, and nine Tee Pees and maybe four eco-cabins parked on the desert outside the tightly clustered trees of the town. We decided to spend the night. Pictures and details tomorrow.

"The Internet: whose idea was it to put all the idiots on earth in touch with each other?"
—P.J. O'Rourke

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

London Bridge Homesick Blues

October 10, 2018
   Gave a history talk last night in Lake Havasu on Olive Oatman and all the ne'er-do-wells from Mohave County (my home stomping grounds). 

   The talk was filmed by CSPAN and will appear on the channel in early November. Here I am this morning on the waterfront with the notorious London Bridge in the background.

On the waterfront with BBB

   When I was in junior high, in 1961, my parents took me and my grandparents on a Sunday picnic down to Site Six, on the arid banks of Lake Havasu and I remember there was just one lonely boat dock building on the edge of the water. A local historian told me last night that in WWII the army scratched out a dirt airfield and put a couple barracks out there to support it. This was to protect the rest of the country in case California was invaded and taken over by Japan. Ironically that is also the origin of Rocky Point, Mexico which was also established by the Army Corp of Engineers as an alternate sea rout to the States if Japan blocked off the Pacific Coast.

   I also remember Charlie Waters (his father owned the Mohave Miner and they got the scoop) coming to my parent's house on Gates Avenue in Kingman and telling me the developer, Robert McCulloch, of McCulloch Chain Saw fame, had just bought London Bridge and was going to ship it, brick by brick, to Site Six and that he was going to call the proposed town Lake Havasu. It just seemed so insane at the time, but it was a brilliant stroke of promotional genius.

   That was fifty years ago.

   Today there are some 55,000 people living in Site Six, I mean, Lake Havasu.

London Homesick Blues
Well, when you're down on your luck
And you ain't got a buck
In London you're a goner
Even London Bridge has fallen down
And moved to Arizona
Now I know why
And I'll substantiate the rumor that the English sense of humor
Is drier than than the Texas sand
You can put up your dukes, and you can bet your boots
That I'm leavin' just as fast as I can. . .
—Jerry Jeff Walker, "London Homesick Blues"

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Missed Taken Identify

October 9, 2018
   One of the weirder phenoms of this world, to me, is all the look-alikes who pass themselves off as famous people. I have an old bandmate who looks like Carlos Santana and he has played in front of 50,000 people in Sun Devil Stadium, more than once, accompanying the ASU marching band, doing Santana songs at halftime. Many, if not most, of the people in the bleachers are convinced he is the real Santana and after thunderous applause (Mike is a very good guitar player) the crowd clamores after him to get an autograph, and, or, to touch him. He told me it is a strange sensation, having that much power for being someone who you aren't.

   When Kathy and I were on the Rock & Roll Retirement Home tour last Saturday, our guide, Charlotte, told us they had a resident celebrity, who came out of an elevator just as we were going up to the second floor.

   "He was in the 'Our Gang' movies as Freckles," she told us proudly. He carried himself well and is apparently 98 years old.


   When I asked him if I could take his picture he agreed and was gracious and when I asked him about being Freckles in the "Our Gang" flicks he quickly added that he was in the silent versions which have all been lost.

   Oh, how convenient.

   I flashed back to working at New Times in the eighties when a news report in the Republic claimed a bagger at one of the local grocery stores was, in fact Buckwheat from the "Our Gang" series and several TV news stations did stories on him. Then another guy, back east, claimed to be Buckwheat as well, and I realized there are probably quite a few Buckwheats—and Freckles— passing themselves off as members of a very porous cast of characters in a long-running show.

   Another time a New Times reporter came in the office and told me that Hank Ketchum, the creator of the comic strip, Dennis the Menace, is a homeless person living in Phoenix and the reporter had a drawing of Dennis that the down-on-his-luck cartoonist had done to prove it. Being a cartoonist myself, I quickly saw that it was not the real deal. Homeless Hank claimed the syndicate had robbed him of all his royalties and he was forced to live on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona. Unfortunately, when our editor did a little research he easily found the real Hank Ketchum who told us this bum imposter (literally!) was causing him all sorts of problems. The real Hank Ketchum was living on a lake in Switzerland and was very much alive and receiving ample royalties for his cartoons.

   On another occasion, one of my New Times amigos came in the offices, upstairs in the San Carlos Hotel, and said Glenn Fry of the Eagles was downstairs drinking in the bar. Being a big fan, I ran down there, only to discover some hippy guy with long hair who sort-of looked like Glenn Fry, but not quite. Anyway, I didn't bust him and besides, he was holding court at the bar and, of course, everyone was buying him drinks and fawning over him.

   Probably the most bizarre encounter with one of these taken-identity people was when I was a drummer in a Country band in Tucson playing the VFW circuit in the 1970s. We were told in hushed and reverent tones by the wait staff of the VFW that was just outside the gate at Davis Monthan Air Base, that one of the women who came into the bar regularly was actually Ronald Reagan's first wife, Jane Wyman. Well, there was a decent resemblance, but REALLY, she's hanging out in Tucson in a VFW? To this day I don't know if it was the real Jane Wyman or not (although a quick search shows that the real Jane Wyman had a home in Palm Springs!),  but then, that is the thin line of believability all these Taken-Identity people play on.

 "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant."
—Cary Grant

Monday, October 08, 2018

Caught In A Downpour

October 8, 2018
   Rained a couple times yesterday and we have had multiple downpours since Monday. This has inspired me to do some gully washer art.

Daily Whip Out: "Caught In A Downpour"

Sketch for "Rider In The Lane"

   Finishing up the new and revised Doc Holliday book with Robert Ray.

"Fame is a vapor. Only one thing endures and that is character."
—A magnet, Lukas Nelson's mother bought for Lukas's tour bus.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Pondering The End of My Career

October 7, 2018
   We got slammed with rain last night at about two in the morning. Started with a gentle patter on the roof but it quickly turned into a deluge with sheets of rain and ripping wind. Woke up this morning to standing water everywhere and no paper delivery (washes running too high).

   Went out on the road for my daily walk with a sweatshirt on! I swear I have not had a sweatshirt on in seven months. Crazy. It was 55 degrees out and after this last crazy, hot summer, it was a total joy to be walking in the crisp, cool air.

Sunrise Saguaros On Morningstar

      The heavy cloud cover started to clear out at sunrise.

Sunrise Over Ratcliff Ridge

   Had a sobering encounter yesterday at the Rock & Roll Retirement Home. That is the name Kathy gives to all the assisted living facilities cropping up everywhere here in the Valley. We were visiting her mother, who is 94, and the campus where she is temporarily staying is on a huge, sprawling apartment-condo type piece of real estate that takes up most of a city block.

   Kathy thought it would be fun to take a tour of the facility, so she inquired at the front desk, and one of the residents, who volunteers for this kind of duty, took us all around to see all the social areas, the library, the bistro, a high end dining restaurant and a model condo furnished with interior decorator flourishes. 

   Almost every one you meet in the halls is very friendly and also using a walker. That gets surreal after a while in a walking-dead kind of way. The big man on campus has his own little car (I'm not kidding) and as he shot by us, Kathy's mother said, "I want one of those." I quickly realized they call it a "campus" for good reason because we were encountering all the cliques and popular kids and study hall passes and classrooms of a typical high school. I wondered where the make-out halls were located.

At one point, our guide, who has been living in the facility for ten years, turned to me and said, "What was your career?" I realized she assumed Kathy and I were checking out the facility for ourselves,

   I told her I was still publishing a magazine and writing books, but the question really kind of set me back on my heels. No one has ever talked to me about my "career" in past tense. Sobering to say the least, because at some point it will be true, whether I like it or not.

Daily Whip Out: "Midnight Customer"

"We begin our life in diapers and we end in diapers. From ashes to ashes from incontinence to incontinence. It's all one big, damn circle, Dude."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Head Banger

October 6, 2018
   From an early age I've had a thing for metal.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

      As in, heavy metal. The first song I heard that made me realize this was "Rumble," by Link Ray. The growling same two chords, thumping to an incessant beat, both invoking the menace and the seething that gets my motor running, in a head-out-on-the-highway, kind of way.

   Fast forward to "Highway to Hell." Now that speaks to me. Sure I love the Beatles and the Stones and Eric Church and Chris Stapleton, but when push comes to shove, it's hard to beat that Aussie band of brats.

   Speed Metal, not so much. It's a bridge too far.

   Last Thursday I ran into a female millennial order-taker at Janie's Coffee Shop and she was wearing an AC/DC T-shirt. As she finished my order I commented on the shirt and asked her if she was a fan. She said she was and, jokingly, I told her she was going to get a bigger tip because of it. She smiled like waitresses do with old men who think they are funny. 

   When she delivered our food I asked her what her favorite AC/DC song was and she drew a blank. She looked flustered and she couldn't name one (in that moment it became blatantly apparent to me she was just wearing the damn shirt and didn't have a clue about the band). I wanted to tell her she just lost her tip, but what I really said was, "Young lady, you are on a highway to hell."

"Hey, grandpa, get off the stage!"
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, October 05, 2018

In The Doorway at The Dance

October 5, 2018
   Some of my earliest memories are being at dances in Kingman and on the Big Sandy. My mother had four sisters and they were all good dancers:

At The Mule Shoe Ranch
L to R: Allen P. Bell, Minnie Bell, Carl Bell, Jean Linn, Budd Linn and BBB

   When I got older and got in a band I graduated to playing in honkytonks and that gave me an inspiration:

So, I've beeen studying doorway lighting effects from the master of moonlight, Frank Tenney Johnson. I've seen this scene many times:

Daily Whip Out:
"In The Doorway at The Dance"

"All that stuff you've always been ashamed of, you're now going to turn into your art, and it's going to heal you, and also make it meaningful, and a productive thing."
—Elizabeth Kemp (Bradley Cooper's mentor)