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Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico’

Smoke

July 15, 2013 | by

smokefromhelicoptor

If you live on a peak in fire-prone country, as I do every summer in the Black Range of New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, the big one will eventually come for you. This knowledge does not cushion the fact that if you’re a lookout evacuated by helicopter you can’t help but feel a failure. The point of the job is early detection: the sooner a smoke is spotted, the more options you give firefighters to contain it. When you’re airlifted by the whirlybird, the options have dwindled to none but run.

I realize self-quotation is a dishonorable habit, but it sounds a little smug to say I saw it coming and leave it at that. The fact is, a lot of people saw it coming. All you had to do was read the story written plainly on the faces of the mountains. Read More »

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Desert Moon: Breaking Bad in the American Southwest

July 16, 2012 | by

There’s a moment when thunderclouds smother the sunset and the chile ristras begin to sway, when bits of smoldering earth intertwine with invisible rain, and you’re tangled in tumbleweed magic. Everything is burnt orange and cactus green, clay-tinged and warm. There’s mystery disguised as menace, comfort in spite of storm, and the sky gives off a phantom light that makes the concrete seem cinematic. This is the desert Southwest, my homeland, also known as Breaking Bad country.

If you’ve made the television journey with Walter White—from tightey-whitey chemistry teacher to hairless drug kingpin—you’re already familiar with the show’s desert setting of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It acts as a silent character that, to me, is also its most important.

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At the Gettin’ Place

January 3, 2012 | by

If someone had asked my granddad where he got the chaps in this photo, he might have replied, “At the gettin’ place.” His speech was rich with colorful phrases. To him, a convincing salesman was someone who “could sell eggs to a chicken,” the relationship between a person’s actions and character best summarized with “Whatever’s in the well comes up in the bucket.” And when dismissing someone unsavory, he preferred the placid “Let ’em peck shit with the crows” to a crass “Fuck them.” So many of his sayings reflected elements of the hardscrabble, rural world that shaped him.

The gettin’ place in this picture is a roadside stand in Apache Junction, Arizona. Largely known nowadays for its scenery and suburbs, back in 1947, Apache Junction was a fringe outpost east of Phoenix with a few cafés and tourist traps along the highway. Signs announced: Postcards! Indian jewelry! Pan for gold! Read More »

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Charles Hardin Holly; Clovis, New Mexico; May 27, 1957

May 20, 2011 | by

Dear Lorin,

A time comes when it’s healthful to put aside obscurantism and turn to bedrock, if only briefly. And while I flatter myself in thinking you know me as a man not prone to get overly excited about digital-remastering projects, nevertheless there are instances in which the beauty of the original song lay precisely in a primary attempt to expose its elements, and in these cases the additional stripping away of hiss and other shit can be revelatory, or in this instance (Best Ever: Buddy Holly, Techniche 2009), transformative.

That plane crash was a Hindenburg of pop. It’s taken me into my midthirties to mentally recover the true damage of it from Don McLean’s rhymes. Ever really listen to “La Bamba”? You’ve probably unconsciously sold yourself on the idea that the Los Lobos version is slightly superior. Not so! It's not the guitar, either, but the voice. When angels sing rock for fun they sound like Ritchie Valens. Did you know it’s Carol Kaye playing rhythm guitar there? Did you know Valens was seventeen when he died, that “La Bamba” hadn’t even been released yet? Snowy field in northern Iowa, flames.

If you listen to the live versions of "La Bamba," Valens played it basically like a sped-up Mexican folk song. Only in the studio did the ecstatic thing happen--at the point of intersection. I read somewhere that Valens didn't even like it.

On “Not Fade Away,” Jerry Allison plays a cardboard box (he’d ripped the idea from Buddy Knox’s lyrically creepy “Party Doll”). The beat is cartoonishly African. If you want to hear where it came from, listen to the song I hope to keep if the people in charge of the survival pod say you can keep only one, Charles Barnett’s “Run to My Jesus for Refuge.” Barnett was a Georgia man in his nineties. Alan Lomax met him at the end of a sand lane near the Sea Islands, right around the time Buddy Holly was making his song. Lomak asked, “Know Any Tunes?”. Barnett flipped a washtub over and started beating on it with two sticks, playing some of the most tenth-dimensional counterpoint you’ve ever heard, with galloping runs that suddenly freeze into cosmic pauses. “Mary, she wore a golden chain, / Every link was Jesus’ name. / I’m gonna run to my Jesus for refuge.” Supposedly Barnett could still jump into the air and click his heels together, at ninety-he-didn’t-even-know-what.

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