January 13, 2008

Third cartridge, and knives

My collection of used cartridge cases from guns is now up to three. Found one on the side of a road in Texas. I mean, a lonely road with nobody in sight and no other cars passing for long minutes on end. I have stopped to stretch my legs, and I have stopped right next to this crumpled brass case, lying there on the tarmac. I pick it up and look around cautiously. Anyone about to fire at me? Anything at all that looks like the source of this thing? Anything at all that looks like it may have caused it to be fired?

No. All around me are giant yucca cacti common in this area, body and big prickly green ball for a head with a pale-flowering stalk erupting from the top, some 15 or 20 feet tall. It's like being in the midst of a gathering of Dr Seuss characters. It's unlikely, though far from impossible, that one of them fired the bullet that's left behind this casing.

***

Prada Marfa is a ... what? A roadside glass-fronted boutique with handbags and high-heeled shoes on display: gold, black, red, brown, white, black with silver lining, etc. But if a boutique is what it looks like, a boutique is not what it is. In fact, a plaque next to it says it "will never function as a place of commerce, the door cannot be opened."

Nope, this is a (still quoting from the plaque) "site specific, permanent land art project by artists Elmgreen and Dragset modeled after a Prada boutique." The site it is specific to is on the southern verge of highway 90, west of the dusty one-road town of Valentine. I stand in front of it with my camera ready for a full 20 minutes, waiting for a car to pass on the highway so I can get a photograph of the whole affair with that car reflected in the glass. No luck. That's how busy this highway is. That's where this land art project has landed.

One of the large plates of glass has a palm-sized circle of damage, as if someone flung a stone at it.

Or maybe shot a bullet, leaving casings. I suppose somebody, I mean somebody, wanted those shoes badly enough.

There's commentary too. I nearly miss it, because it is spray-painted graffiti on the edge of the road and I drive past almost without noticing. Put the car into reverse -- still no other car for miles behind -- and back up till I can read the large letters: "Please Redeem A Dying America".

***

I browse through a gift shop that has prominently displayed yellow printed signs. They say: "Please Do Not Bounce, Kick or Throw the Merchandise."

The signs are not for sale.

On a fridge in a community kitchen at a spot where I camp, someone has arranged little word magnets in a line, to form a sentence. At least, I think it is a sentence. It says: "gorgeous blue blood above the smooth wind when winter rose from purple rain like sordid mist said worship elaborate sun vision."

It was all going pretty intriguingly, till that "worship."

***

At a rest stop near Pyote, I get out to stretch. Immediately behind me is a tall Indian man bending over his car's engine, fiddling with something inside. He straightens and turns, and sees me. I immediately start in recognition, because he looks like a cross between the actor Om Puri and a friendly motel owner I met in Montgomery, Alabama. He looks questioningly at me, so I explain: "You look like someone I met in Montgomery, Alabama."

"No," he says, reaching out to shake hands. "I'm John. From LA. We don't know each other, but we can get to know each other here!"

With that, he turns back to his engine with renewed vigour. A couple of minutes later, he shuts the hood, leaps into the car and vanishes.

From the bathroom emerges another Indian, this one unshaven and tiny. Almost petite. He walks lightly over to his vehicle, climbs in, starts it up and rumbles off.

An enormous 18-wheeler truck.

***

On the outskirts of Amarillo, a large sign says:
    Bates Motel. Each Room With a Shower. Taxidermy Ahead.
I brake to a stop to marvel. Then I notice the other side, and this is what it says:
    Bates Motel. Each Room With a Shower. Knives Sharpened.
Have to stop in this town.

3 comments:

B said...

You just found the case of the bullet that killed JFK! (or did you just find a hole in your pocket and triple-count the same case.)

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