Viva Las Vegas

Last month I steered my sexy Swedish auto out of this sun-forsaken land and returned to my headwaters. I needed a break, I needed the sun, and I really needed to witness some basic human dignity that seems so absent from the latte/Lexus-obsessed Northwest. I was getting into scraps at work, on the street, you name it. My patience had dried up and I was quickly becoming a monster.

Things changed the second I-90 crossed from inbred freaktown Spokane into majestic Idaho. Suddenly, people let you merge and drive in the left lane only to pass! I’m serious!! And after sixty or so serpentine miles of mountain road, Montana opened up like an oasis. Basic human freedoms are still respected in Montana, such as the right to drive as fast as you want (“reasonable and prudent” - like we average plebeians are still accorded the bourgeois faculty of reason there!!) Plus everyone drives a Dodge 4x4 pickup. “God Bless America,” I purred, not once, not twice, but the length of the whole mofo state!! All 500+ miles of it. I was feelin’ so heartened and patriotic that I even tried the radio. Nuthin’ but the same ol’ tin-pan-alley can’t-call-it-country, but I took that in stride, too. For at least twenty minutes. Then I popped the mix tape back in.

Lefty Frizzel, I think it was, once said that a marriage is worth three songs and a divorce is worth five. Well, no one can tell that story as well as George Jones and Tammy Wynette. I drove over 5000 miles in the last couple of weeks, and they, along with that other dynamic duo, X, graced my stereo more than even “Bad 80’s Music” or the Cramps. It’s the duet. There’s just somethin’ about two passionate voices singin’ out a passion play at the top of their lungs. And if you know anything about the real life blood and guts behind the showbiz, it hits home even harder. GOD! it’s like nuthin’ else!

Which brings me to askin’, what ever happened to the Duet? Is it a lost art form? Does our Gen-X cynicism and technology-fostered worldliness preclude us from singin’ straight out odes to what I call the Four L’s of country music: Love, Love Lost, and Liquor? I mean, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it, kids? The blues included Lust in the mix. New country adds the Lord. Rock threw in Self-Referential Posturing and Inanity.... But nothing beats good ol’ country music for yanking unabashedly on your heart strings. Take “The Weather’s Good in Southern California,” for instance. George Jones is yearnin’ for Tammy from his Tennessee mansion while she’s a good-girl-gone-bad out in L.A., cryin’ a million tears over a neon sign that blinks B-A-R.... she lost a chase for her dreams and true love in the process. Oh, God, what a cruel world!! Then there’s that “Golden Ring’s” bumpy ride from a store front window to her hand to the floor to a pawn shop in Chicago.... cuz you know only LOVE can make a golden wedding ring. George and Tammy spent some hi-flyin’, drug-addled years madly in love with each other before things erupted horribly. He didn’t even make her funeral! And it’s all there in the music.

Johnny Doe and Exene Cervenka did much the same thing with X: love, drugs, and emotional holocaust. And kept the band together so that you could listen to it! As quoth the mighty Henry Rollins, “One of the most beautiful things in the world is the sound of John and Exene singing together.” Jesus God.

People just don’t drink, fuck, and fall in love anymore!! They say it’s risky, but so is driving your car. Be Brave.

God Bless Marcellus Hall of Railroad Jerk for his amazing cover of Jones’ “If the Drinking Don’t Kill Me, Her Memory Will,” and the boy who bought it for me.

God Bless head Radiohead Thom Yorke for deigning to collaborate with silly one-hitters Drugstore, thereby briefly resurrecting the duet with “El President.” I wept! Kudos, even, for substituting Apocalypse Politics for the 4 L’s. I guess, really, that’s what it’s all about these days. Down in Flames! Down in flames!

I just want a good seat.

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