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September 11, 2010
John Wilcock - January 5, 2008

 

The column of lasting insignificance
 
       

also posted:



2011
November 26 2011
November 19, 2011
November 12, 2011
November 5, 2011
October 29, 2011
October 22, 2011
October 15, 2011
October 8, 2011
October 1, 2011
September 24, 2011
September 17, 2011
September 10, 2011
September 4, 2011
August 27, 2011
August 20, 2011
August 13, 2011
August 6, 2011
July 30, 2011
July 23, 2011
July 16, 2011
July 9, 2011
July 2, 2011
June 25, 2011
June 18, 2011
June 11, 2011
June 4, 2011
May 28, 2011
May 21, 2011
May 14, 2011
May 7, 2011
April 30, 2011
April 23, 2011
April 16, 2011
April 9, 2011
April 2, 2011
March 26, 2011
March 19, 2011
March 12, 2011
March 5, 2011
February 26, 2011
February 19, 2011
February 12, 2011
February 5, 2011
February 5, 2011
January 29, 2011
January 22, 2011
January 15, 2011
January 6, 2011

2010
December 25, 2010
December 18, 2010
December 11, 2010
December 4, 2010
November 27, 2010
November 20, 2010
November 13, 2010
November 6, 2010
October 30, 2010
October 23, 2010
October 16, 2010
October 9, 2010
October 2, 2010
September 25, 2010
September 18, 2010
September 11, 2010
September 4, 2010
August 28, 2010
August 21, 2010
August 14, 2010
August 7, 2010
July 31, 2010
July 24, 2010
July 17, 2010
July 10, 2010
July 3, 2010
June 26, 2010
June 19, 2010
June 12, 2010
June 5, 2010
May 29, 2010
May 22, 2010
May 15, 2010
May 8, 2010
May 1, 2010
April 24, 2010
April 17, 2010
April 10, 2010
April 3, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 20, 2010
March 13, 2010
March 6, 2010
February 27, 2010
February 20, 2010
February 13, 2010
February 6, 2010
January 30, 2010
January 23, 2010
January 16, 2010
January 9, 2010
January 2, 2010

2009
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 12, 2009
December 5, 2009
November 28, 2009
November 21, 2009
November 14, 2009
November 7, 2009
October 31, 2009
October 24, 2009
October 17, 2009
October 10, 2009
October 3, 2009
September 26, 2009
September 19, 2009
September 12, 2009
September 5, 2009
August 29, 2009
August 22, 2009
August 15, 2009
August 8, 2009
August 1, 2009
July 25, 2009
July 18, 2009
July 11, 2009
July 4, 2009
June 27, 2009
June 20, 2009
June 13, 2009
June 6, 2009
May 30, 2009
May 23, 2009
May 16, 2009
May 9, 2009
May 2, 2009
April 25, 2009
April 18, 2009
April 11, 2009
April 4, 2009
March 28, 2009
March 21, 2009
March 14, 2009
March 7, 2009
February 28, 2009
February 21, 2009
February 14, 2009
February 7, 2009
January 31, 2009
January 24, 2009
January 17, 2009
January 3, 2009

2008
December 27, 2008
December 20, 2008
December 13, 2008
December 6, 2008
November 29, 2008
November 22, 2008
November 15, 2008
November 8, 2008
November 5, 2008
November 1, 2008
October 25, 2008
October 18, 2008
October 11, 2008
October 4, 2008
September 27, 2008
September 20, 2008
September 13, 2008
September 6, 2008
August 30, 2008
August 23, 2008
August 16, 2008
August 9, 2008
August 2, 2008
July 26, 2008
July 19, 2008
July 12, 2008
July 5, 2008
June 28, 2008
June 21, 2008
June 14, 2008
June 7, 2008
May 31, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 17, 2008
May 10, 2008
May 3, 2008
April 26, 2008
April 19, 2008
April 12, 2008
April 5, 2008
March 29, 2008
March 22, 2008
March 15, 2008
March 8, 2008
March 1, 2008
February 23, 2008
February 16, 2008
February 9, 2008
February 2, 2008
January 26, 2008
January 19, 2008
January 12, 2008
January 5, 2008

2007
December 29, 2007
December 22, 2007
December 15, 2007
December 8, 2007
December 1, 2007
November 24, 2007
November 17, 2007
November 10, 2007
November 3, 2007
October 27, 2007
October 20, 2007
October 13, 2007
October 6, 2007
September 29, 2007
September 22, 2007
September 15, 2007
September 8, 2007
September 1, 2007
August 25, 2007
August 18, 2007
August 11, 2007
August 4, 2007
July 28, 2007
July 21, 2007
July 14, 2007
July 7, 2007
June 30, 2007
June 23, 2007
June 16, 2007
June 9, 2007
June 2, 2007
May 19, 2007
May 12, 2007
May 5, 2007
April 28, 2007
April 21, 2007
April 14, 2007
April 7, 2007
March 31, 2007
March 24, 2007
March 17, 2007
March 10, 2007
March 3, 2007
February 24, 2007
February 17, 2007
February 10, 2007
February 3, 2007
January 20, 2007
January 13, 2007
January 6, 2007

2006
December 30, 2006
December 23, 2006
December 16, 2006
December 9, 2006
December 2, 2006
November 25, 2006
November 18, 2006
November 11, 2006
November 4, 2006
October 28, 2006
October 21, 2006
October 14, 2006
October 7, 2006
September 30, 2006
September 23, 2006
September 16, 2006
September 9, 2006
September 2, 2006
August 26, 2006
August 19, 2006
August 12, 2006
August 5, 2006
July 29, 2006
July 22, 2006
July 15, 2006

 

 

September 11, 2010

John Wilcock
the column of lasting insignificance

Luckenbach, Texas

The romance of this place was in my mind as soon as I heard Waylon Jennings singing the eponymous song and my plans to visit have endured ever since. It’s hardly a place at all, being merely a collection of ramshackle, wooden shanties clustered around a post office (1849) which now serves as a general store offering everything from T-shirts for lady bikers and Stetson hats to guitar-shaped flyswatters.

Taschen-Hefner
Luckenbach, Texas: photo credit unknown

Framed by a group of 500-year-old oak trees, the biggest building is the dimly-lit dance hall, booked for much of the year by weddings and other celebrations in addition to the Friday night dances and other shindigs. There is music seven days a week, with Jimmy Lee Jones onsite much of the time. (You can see him render Luckenbach, Texas, on the Wait A Minute show on this website and buy his CDs in the store).
       It was an eccentric local rancher/philosopher named Hondo Crouch who paid $30,000 for the abandoned,  century-old German ghost town back in 1970 (he died in 1976) but Willie Nelson and Waylon more or less adopted the place and still turn up at least once a year for the annual summer picnic. Founded almost a century earlier by an itinerant German preacher, his daughter named Luckenbach after her fiancé.
      “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach” goes the community’s slogan and there’s nary a visitor who doesn’t feel blessed to be there.
      My quick trip to Texas was to visit Austin where I met my new friend,  cartoonist Ethan Persoff with whom I hope to collaborate on a book. The 2,700 miles I covered round-trip inevitably resulted in a traffic ticket in Texas which seems to have devised its near-perfect highways and 80mph speed limits to encourage speeding, while simultaneously stationing traffic cops unobtrusively at intervals frequent enough to catch a constant stream of speeders.
      Only a 5% margin is allowable so if you get caught going 84 it’s an immediate $140 fine and on divided highways, with cars as much as a mile or so apart, it’s the easiest thing in the world to exceed the limit, an income that Texas has surely come to rely on. It seems safe to assume that with four cars lying in wait at different points on the 70-mile stretch between Marfa and I-10 alone, that $1,400 a day or almost $10,000 per week  would be levied. And can we guess that, considering the size of Texas, this might be multiplied by 100? (that would mean an income from speeding tickets alone of $1million per week. Nice going).
      My visit to famous Marfa was to see the works of Donald Judd and those of his Chinati Foundation, but being Sunday everything was closed up tight so I was lucky to at least find the gallery of Mary Etherington open. A former New Yorker, Mary said that though Marfa was quiet and isolated she met there visitors from all over the world.  But when I asked what advice she had for artists who aspired to come and settle in this famous artistic community, she laughed and replied: “Don’t”.
   The 1956 filming of Giant, directed by George Stevens, was filmed in Marfa, its stars—James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and Dennis Hopper—staying at the charming, Spanish-style Paisano Hotel where you can still watch a DVD of Giant on a monitor in the lobby. More recently here  was the filming of the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men.
         Just west of Marfa is a viewing site at which visitors can watch for the notorious Marfa Lights, mysterious spheres which hover in the night air unpredictably ten or twenty times a year. Supposedly they have been observed for at least a century, at first attributed to Indian camp fires (or, by the Indians, spiritual signs) and later to swamp gas, distant car lights or a mirage. The mystery of the lights’ origin has never been solved but Wikipedia says “the dominant skeptical explanation seems to be that the lights are a sort of mirage caused by sharp temperature gradients between cold and warm layers of air”.

Most of my driving time I listened to the radio, once hearing a waitress taking orders from truckers and assuring them their food would be ready when they arrived. But the tone of the talk shows was predominantly angry, ranging from contentious to paranoiac. Most reflected a deep-seated suspicion about what they presumed to be the Muslim agenda, a well-thought-out campaign to introduce sharia law to the country. “That’s obviously the basis of their faith” one said, “so why wouldn’t they do anything they can to promote it? They’re patient and know that the rage over 9/11 will fade away. They just have to wait and make their gains incrementally”. And the reason why moderate Muslims don’t speak up? “Because they’re well aware of what happens to unbelievers” the caller said ominously.
     Several Western states have devised another way of reaping income from unwary traffic: every now and then a sign will indicate that the next few miles are a “traffic emergency zone in which traffic fines will be doubled”. Sometimes road work is going on, or one lane of the road marked closed, but quite often the section is no different from the previous part of the highway.

Meteor Crater - Arizona
A few miles before Flagstaff it’s worth taking a short, nine-mile diversion to the Meteor Crater, the spot where  a meteor plunged into the ground at an estimated 26,000 mph, carving a hole hundreds of feet deep and a mile across. At the beginning of the last century a Philadelphia mining engineer took the lease on much of the land before spending 26 years digging for the ‘lost’ meteor before deciding that it must have vaporized.

   

Oatman
Oatman, Arizona

THE OLD GHOST TOWN of Oatman on Route 66 has an official population of 128 but gets half a million visitors every year  to crowd the sagging, wooden sidewalks, buy souvenirs and admire the sometimes-snappy burros that meander across the main (only) street. The feisty beasts are descendants of those that accompanied the gold prospectors early in the last century  and there still is an active goldmine just outside of town but output is far below the millions of dollars-worth mined in the early days. Oatman is a late-rising place and at my 10am arrival, even the burros were apparently still asleep and many places were still closed. These included the famously decrepit Oatman Hotel where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon night in  1939. For a small extra charge you can stay in the same room but it’s a bit primitive with no toilet or running water, although legend fills the air like a cloud.

9/4/10

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