Archive for June, 2009

being townes


Here’s an overdue post from the June 12 Texas Observer, in which I write about Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle. And here’s an excerpt:

I interviewed Van Zandt over the phone from his home in Tennessee for almost two hours, and I saw one of his last shows, at Rockefeller’s in Houston. Afterward, backstage, my girlfriend introduced herself and told Townes, “You used to date my mother.” When she clarified that she was in no way implying paternity, he looked up sloshily from where he sat and said to her chest, “If you keep leaning over me like that, I’m going to grab you.”

I wooed my ex-wife playing “No Place to Fall” to her at a Bolivar Peninsula beach house, and I couldn’t help but melodramatically invoke “Our Mother the Mountain” when I realized I was headed for divorce. I learned how to play “Pancho and Lefty” living briefly outside of Terlingua and named my dogs Pancho and Lady, which is only half embarrassing. I had just piggybacked a freight train from Alpine to Houston when the news arrived that Van Zandt had died, on New Year’s Day 1997, at age 52. I ended up writing one of many remembrances for the weekly paper. Years later, I accompanied a friend on guitar while he sang Van Zandt’s “I’ll Be Here in the Morning” to his beautiful new bride.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about this relationship I have with Townes Van Zandt’s music. I think it’s pretty much in line with a lot of people’s relationships with his music—Steve Earle’s more than most.

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img043I probably paid too much for this first edition of A Moveable Feast, everybody’s favorite college book, but I really wanted it.

It looks like there’s a new version of the posthumously published (and edited) classic forthcoming, according to this story in the New York Times. I’m good with mine, which I bought at The Bird’s Nest, a used book store in Missoula, Montana.

img044Missoula, remember, is the home of Robert Jordan, the emasculated hero of For Whom the Bell Tolls, this slipcased facsimile first version of which I picked up at Missoula’s Book Exchange.

img045I didn’t pay anything for my paperback of Hemingway’s Nick Adams Stories, which was recently gifted me by a friend who’s inordinately jealous that I’m going to get to spend the better part of the next year in Ann Arbor, not too terribly far from the Upper Peninsula Michigan haunts of titular Nick.

There’s even a blue canoe on the faux birch-bark cover, to match my blue canoe — one of two I’ll be taking with me when I hit the road in late August.


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P1010348This is Caddo Lake, in northeast Texas, near the township of Uncertain. You probably recognize it from the picture, which looks almost exactly like 48 quadrillion other pictures of Caddo Lake. It’s sort of a ridiculous place to take pictures.

But a friend and I went up there last weekend and paddled around and took some pictures anyway. Here’s another one.

P1010363This was a little sloughy connector between higher-traffic channels. It had some current in it, which I wasn’t expecting, and this was taken after we’d paddled upstream and intersected a waterway called Government Ditch, which was a mostly straight-edged cut through the swamp buzzing with bassboats and jet skis. Man I fucking hate jet skis.

We’d just turned around and were headed back downstream toward the main lake when I took that img040picture. In another 20 minutes we’d pass again an alligator that I’m putting at a considered and solid 10 feet. It just sank and swirled when we’d passed it coming upstream, and surprised us, since the local word is that gators are a rare backwater sight, despite the place being lousy with them. When we passed it going back we didn’t even see it, just suddenly heard it over our right shoulders on shore, thrashing like something very heavy trying to snap something else’s neck. That time put the heebie-jeebies into me.

At the flea market in Uncertain, headed out of town, I found this absolute score for the budding river books collection. The subtitle—”A history of the conquistadors, voyageurs, and charlatans who discovered, opened up, and exploited the Father of Waters”—is worth the $2 all by itself, even if it weren’t a first.

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imagesThis one’s WORTH A CROSS-LINK, methinks.

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