Saturday, January 24, 2009

attachments to material things: foodshark

The Foodshark in Marfa Texas; the first place we found a veggie, non-deep fried meal in a week of travel in the Southwest. It makes you realize how immersed you are in the material; who should care if you eat nothing but fried beans for a week? Certainly not achieving an unattached understanding; complete and clear, like water reflecting the moon. The mind in samadhi, like the sky, For ten thousand miles, not a cloud.
Certainly not thinking of salads, beer(s) or a secondhand cross frame to go trailstorming with. Or even a Yamie CL221 bass clarinet to open out some new textures in Riprap. No, nothing like that. Anyway, Marfa is an amazing hallucination that suddenly appears out of the distance after almost 200k of windswept high plains. A small town that grew up as the railhead for the area, it was once the wealthy, bustling world center of merino wool (cue Rapha clobber here). After that, it collapsed in the depression, and the town was left twisting in the wind, miles from anywhere, until Donald Judd, the New York Minimalist artist, arrived to begin buying up the town as cheap studio/exhibition space. What you see is an 'ironic' Prada shopfront in the middle of a very quiet space (200k quiet)

Apart from that, it's suddenly fairly mad times - multiple poetry settings required in two weeks, for a concert in Chelmsford with Grevel Lindop. It needs for one to just keep going to that little calm place. Plus a request for a piano reduction of an aria from 10,000 Things, and a duo that might look at an old sax piece of mine that needs radical re-editing. And, of course, trying to get in some time on the horns, teaching, marking, etc. Also, there's the Britten Sinfonia doing a workshop with Knussen this weekend, and the West Suffolk Wheelers Reliability Ride on Sunday. Not to be missed.

Strangely, the comments section attached below these blogs requests more high, lonely train pictures and such.

So.... my fave cheap motel, with the half-mile long freights with four huge throaty Union Pacific locos dragging it up the grade that rumble through every ten minutes, like a vibrating bed you put a quarter in, only free:

and Maria's, a great place to have scrambled eggs on toast with tons of chili sauce, (which only aids the Mel Brookes moments alluded to above) in a picturesque valley surrounded by mine tailings:

and the beer garden of the above establishment:

and of course, the final 'rails-into-the-distance' photo ( for a while), leading out of Marfa, Texas.,

I think I've milked this holiday about as far as I can, and we haven't even arrived back up North yet.

You all have a safe journey now.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Filling ratholes with cement.

It's that kind of provocative title, isn't it? Almost like the beginning of a bad metaphor in what will turn out to be a cringingly boring sermon as you slump, hungover, further into the pew. ( "...of course, we should try and understand that we've all had to fill ratholes with cement; each and every one of us. We cannot stand in judgement. But this should always bring to mind the parable of Jesus among the money changers in the temple... [ I had just typed 'Monet changers', which looked far more interesting... that proximital slip of the T and Y being adjacent each other on the keyboard creates a whole different tangent that is tempting to follow..anyway...])

So as I laid in bed at 3 am listening to an ongoing rodent Summer of Love in the walls, it brought to mind Gary Snyder's concept of 'porosity' from The Practice of the Wild, the idea of allowing our surroundings to move freely through our lives, a kind of practice of interpenetration and embrace of Rattus norvegicus. After all, they are sentient beings. .... Right. All that went out the window yesterday, when it was discovered that the furry bodhisattvas had started chewing on Jane's green, un-fired pots, as she had been using coconut in the clay body to open the texure of the surface during the bisque firing. Madam was not pleased. So it's a Friday evening, and I'm gripping a beer (sadly not a PBR , as suggested elsewhere) and filling ratholes with cement.; not off to interesting gigs, fashionable parties, or an evening filed with scintillating, Wildean repartee.

Anyway, sorry for the digression - the header photo: more holiday snaps. Lordsburg, New Mexico; a bypassed godforsaken railway town that was once a major hub of activity. It was the place that the 'Ringo Kid', John Wayne, had to get to in his early film Stagecoach, by John Ford. Standing in the middle of the high plains on the border of Arizona at over 4,000 feet, you can now stand on the main street at rush hour, all six lanes of it and take photos at your leisure. The early sun shows gold off the rail tracks that every 10 minutes a what seems miles-long freight labors over the imperceptible incline, four locos in front, two in the back, laden with containers of white-goods soma from China.

This vast space seems haunted, and indeed it was; we had spent the day driving up from the Mexican border through a long, high valley that was all pasturage, about four miles wide flanked by 1,000-2,000 foot ridges hemming in each side. This, compared to the landscape before and after, had seemed relatively lush in a high-plains-kind-of-way. We stopped for about a half an hour, alone, just outside a place called Apache, and listened to the impersonal, autonomous wind that had blown forever, irregardless of our presence, and would always continue to do so. The sense it gave was one of something lost, you kept scanning the ridges for some sign of the reasons why. The effect was entirely otherworldly, though you knew you were on a road, in the USA, in a car, participating in the shiny, almost-new Third Millennium.

The reason became clear at the next crossroads (to glorify one house by a dirt track by that name) - there was a stone cairn which, after seeing nothing for the last 60 miles, we stopped at. It was composed of spooky recovered stone quorns the women had used for grinding corn and local rock, with a small bronze plaque that announced this was the place that Geronimo and the exhausted Apaches had finally surrendered to the horse soldiers. Geronimo and 35 warriors had held off 5,000 cavalry for almost a year, (who they knew would only ever increase in number) and had finally been split up and ethnically-cleansed to reservations hundreds of miles away in Florida, while others had been sent to the extremely unpromising scrub land tracts that white guys decided they couldn't use for anything else. I found later it was called Skeleton Canyon; it had been their valley.

The thing that occurred to me was that all the valleys had been someone's long before they were driven from them.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Back in the saddle again...

Cue the Sons of the Pioneers here, as we just got back from a week driving the back roads of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. However, this breathless update of our adventures in the wild Southwest, NYC art galleries and New Hampshire blizzards had to wait a few days as I arrived home to find mice had chewed through many of the cables strewn around my desk for the computer, necessitating a few days of soldering, cable purchasing and re-wiring.

This particularly iconic (yeah, I know, I hate the word too) motel sign, beckoning us all to our own personal Calvary of rusting bathroom fittings, static- fuzzy televisions and 'lite' American beers (unless you subscribe to some of the perhaps heretical views of the Ark of the Covenant actually lying under the true site at the Mount of Olives; thus making it your own personal martini buoy) was what drew us to the Motel Motel (it had no other name, so we'll just call it MM for the moment) in Fort Hancock, Texas, after a day of trickling down side roads along the Rio Grande. (I know, I put my hand up; I lied on the Facebook page by saying this was from Globe, but I uploaded the wrong one and couldn't be assed to change it... let's face it, Facebook sucks as far as extended, cogent discussion goes - although compared to Twitter, it's Adorno's Aesthetic Theory; and who doesn't love that book?

None the less, the actual motel at Globe, Arizona is here sub; and you can see, if you zoom the photo a bit, not only is it refrigerated, but there are room phones and a large, unexplained picture of Geronimo gracing the entrance. Add that to being surrounded, as I mentioned elsewhere, by green-tinted, worked-out stepped ziggurats of the abandoned copper mines which overshadow the town.

Needless to say, it was a real find. The whole town sat above five thousand feet in the mountains 100 miles roughly northeast of Phoenix, hard against the barren, high-altitude scrub-infested reservation the Apache had been forcibly ethnically-cleansed to at the end of the 19th century, after Geronimo's final unsuccessful uprising.

More on other things from this holiday as time goes on, but I must get to work on some settings for a gig in Chelmsford next month, where Riprap accompanies the poet Grevel Lindop. This should be interesting, as we have no idea yet as to what we're doing. Malcolm promises some suitable material soon...

El Rancho: it's refrigerated and very reasonably priced, and it's waiting there just for you and that special someone... you know you deserve it.