Monday, August 30, 2010

This guy Heath that I went to school with--he was a year behind me--got blown up the other day. He's some kind of oil field worker, and there was an explosion, and hey you know the rest. He's not dead, though, and is currently in intensive care some place close by, waiting for the day when the doctors tell him he's free to again walk the earth, and how lucky he is.

My most vivid memory of him is when I went to take the ACT. I went along with my friend Robby, and this guy, the one who got blown up, went along with us to take it as well. The three of us, packed into the brand-new Mustang that Robby's parents had just bought (a horrendous idea, as Robby was a fucking insane driver--he was going 110 mph the entire way to and from the testing site, on a two-lane highway, in the rain), drove from the little town we lived in (population 925) to the slightly larger town of Magnolia, Arkansas (population 11,800) to take the test. I guess Heath had never been in such a large and exotic city before, because every time he saw a black person, he was happy to point out to us "there's a nigger," or "look at that nigger over there," or, while waiting for our food at a fast food place, "I hope these niggers don't fuck up our order."

When I found out about his getting blown up, I took a look at his Facebook page. There were an enormous amount of get-well messages, and I scrolled through probably thirty-five and counted only three that didn't include some variant of "we're praying for you" or "you're in our prayers" or something along those lines, which means, I guess, that if he dies, then they were just not very good at praying, and God hates them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I spent the first twelve years of my life in Texas, and then another four years shortly after I graduated high school, going to what was technically a college, and living with my grandparents. Practically all of my extended family still lives there, and though I only moved about eighty miles away, it feels much farther in my mind, and I rarely go back. I doubt that anywhere I live will ever feel like home the same way it does when I take that left turn off Highway 155 onto the one-lane blacktop where I spent the majority of my earliest years. I left a lot of bones buried back there.

Guy Clark--seen above with his incredibly beautiful wife, Susanna--is from Texas. He’s one of those great Texas singer-songwriters you hear so much about, along with Steve Earle and Willis Alan Ramsey and of course Townes Van Zandt; he and Van Zandt were great friends, and while Clark is nowhere near as consistent as Townes, every now and then he would strike gold—“LA Freeway”, “The Randall Knife”, “Dublin Blues”, and, probably my favorite, “Desperados Waiting For A Train,” a song about the relationship between a young man and an older mentor figure—in this case the young man was Clark and the older was his grandmother’s boyfriend. It’s a beautiful song, and sad, and it tells the truth about how cruel time can be, its thousand little thefts that leave even the strongest of us with nothing. It tells the truth about what it’s like to love someone.

Funnily enough, the lyric I respond to most is the line about “them old men…playing/Moon and 42,” which are both domino games, and one of which, 42, was played by all the adults at every family event I can remember. Everyone would come to my grandparents’ and after whatever big holiday meal we would have, the shitty old card table would get broken out and the clack of dominoes would be inescapable for the next five or six hours. It’s honestly one of my favorite memories, and probably all the more precious to me because I never learned to play the game despite it being the background to literally a couple of hundred hours of my life: it’s just one of the countless regrets that pile themselves up on top of you when you think back to the people you knew and loved and all the things you could have done or said.

I could still learn to play, of course, but what would the point be? Anyone I would want to play with is long gone.