Category Archives: 12 – December

A to B episode 12: John Wayne

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Music in this show:
1. Arnold McCuller, “All good”
2. Bela Karoli, “Metal body”
3. Blair, “Chrysler”
4. Chancha Via Circuito, “Prima”
5. ??? (John Wayne’s cell phone ring tone)
6. Django Reinhardt, “Minor swing” (played by klemjc)

You may recall that the turtle hit a serious snag in the road, early on in our trip. The motor home and I ended up at the front door of John Wayne’s Auto Clinic, on the recommendation of Reggie the wrecker driver (a hero among men in his own right). When I walked into the shop, a John Wayne film was playing in the waiting room, a John Wayne clock hung on the wall, and John Wayne figurines and memorabilia decorated the entire space.

The phones in John Wayne’s shop ring off the hook. People are always in and out of the place–wrecker drivers (towing is an arm of the business, along with the auto shop), unfortunate owners of broken cars, kids selling peanut brittle–many of them wearing snakeskin cowboy boots. Through it all, John Wayne keeps a surprisingly cheerful countenance, which he claims is due to the Choctaw in his blood. His wife takes care of the books at the shop, and everyone made me feel right at home, offering to pick me up food for dinner and driving me where I needed to be.

It would have been difficult for me to choose a more interesting place for the turtle to break down than McAlester, Oklahoma. A Mason himself, John Wayne took me on a tour of the biggest Masonic temple in Oklahoma, which also happens to be the most beautiful building in McAlester. The temple houses a theater with a custom-built organ, priceless backdrops, and wigs and costumes to match (you can find Charlton Heston’s garb from The Ten Commandments on display there). Lining the walls of the temple are framed pictures of past Masons, all of which are askew, due to the regular bomb tests that go on at the nearby army ammunition plant. On our tour of the city, John Wayne and I drove past the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison that executes death-row inmates, holds about 900 prisoners (who are known for their riots), was referenced in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, and hosts an annual rodeo competition for inmates throughout the state. In addition, Reba McEntire happens to be from McAlester, and John Wayne has fixed her car a number of times.

Little did I know that John Wayne Clagg was less than thrilled about taking on the job of fixing the turtle’s broken engine. That fact is just one of the things I learned by having a chat with the best auto mechanic in Oklahoma after all was said and done, along with other lessons about what starting a business is really like. If you want to get to know the man a little better yourself, all you have to do is listen to this show.

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An extra little tangent, if I may: One day, John Wayne and other folks at the shop were perplexed by a particular car that had come in–they were having some trouble starting the engine. Thing was, the car was connected to a breathalizer. The driver had gotten a DUI, and the attached breathalizer was mandated by the court. The car couldn’t be started unless a sober driver breathed into the device. According to one of the mechanics, every once in a while, when the car is in motion, the device beeps, indicating that you’d better reach over quick and blow into it, otherwise the car will stop dead in its tracks.

A to B episode 11: Sam

I stepped into Sam’s vintage shop, searching for a backgammon board. Lo and behold! …He had just sold his last one. The search continues.

Anyhow, B4 is Sam’s thrift store, which is nestled in a neighborhood of Dallas called Deep Ellum. Luckily, although Sam reluctantly said he had only 5 minutes to talk, we ended up spending 30 minutes exploring the hodgepodge of post-consumer objects, with Sam narrating. His occupation (well, his preoccupation) with discarded objects is his way of investigating changes in society over time. Sam’s shop, with all its curated odds and ends, chronicles disappeared years. He’s got an insider’s view of how we as a species–as human beings–get from the Point A of making flutes out of clay to the Point B of building the electric quadrichord.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “What in Sam Hill is an electric quadrichord?”
Youse gots to listen to the show to figure that out!

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Music in this show:
1. Optiganally Yours, “Stop touching me”
2. Mott the Hoople, “All the young dudes”
3. Dawes, “When my time comes”
4. Mumford & Sons, “Lover of the light”
5. T. Rex, “Bang on a gong (Get it on)”
6. The Fray, “How to save a life”

Thanks to Sam, who was game for this out-of-the-blue interview and for enduring my questions longer than we planned.

Also, I can’t take credit for selecting the music in this episode (except for the Optiginally Yours track [Rob Crow is a genius]). Given that this was an impromptu interview, I was not about to ask Sam to turn off his radio, which was tuned to the venerable KXT 91.7, the sounds of which bled into our recorded conversation.

I am fully aware that radio is magic. Nonetheless, I marveled at the uncanny thematic synchrony between that KXT DJ‘s playlist and Sam’s thoughts.

Magic never gets old. Nor does music. Nor does radio.

A to B episode 10: Roy

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Music in this show:
1. Ken Nordine, “My Baby”
2. Evelyn Evelyn, “Elephant Elephant”
3. Bang On A Can All Stars feat. Kyaw Kyaw Naing, “Hsaing Kyaik De Maung”

I’d been riding Becky’s blue cruiser around a seemingly up-and-coming arts district of Dallas, Texas, called Deep Ellum, looking for a place to get a beer. First, I tried the Deep Ellum Brewing Company, but they apparently don’t sell to the public except on Thursdays. I rode down Commerce–the bars on the sunny side of the road blasted banal music, and a promising Cajun bar looked sad and chilly in the shadows across the street. I biked down Elm–a bunch of people sat outside in the sunshine, smoking and drinking. Obviously, that was the place I wanted to be.

I came across Roy, who was tending bar at this place called July Alley. Actually, I could never really find him…when I first came in, someone had to point out the bartender–Roy and his long white beard were hidden behind the screen of a video game. When I returned for a second beer, Roy was concealed within a group of people who were talking in a booth–a “staff meeting”, he said.

The bar smelled like vomit, but the women’s restroom was magnificently clean. A little skirted figure without a head was affixed to the restroom door, and a double-headed figure indicated the men’s room. Art lined the brick walls.

The first thing Roy told me was a story. We later made a deal that I’d buy a third round if he’d let me interview him. When we hunkered down, Roy recommended a book about Eastern philosophy. He also told me about meeting “Cat Man”, who buried aircraft fuel in front of his trailer home and kept wild cats caged on his property. Roy’s rough outline of his own Point A to Point B demonstrated that any effort to demarcate the intermediate steps in advance actually may be a waste of time.

Roy mentioned his wife a few times during the course of our conversation. For 14 years, she’s suffered from dementia; for 6 years, she’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Here’s just the trace of a description of Roy’s marriage–

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Music in the BONUS:
1. Jana Hunter, “Palms”
2. Davina and The Vagabonds, “Sugar Moon”

As it turns out, by the way, Roy joins my growing list of people whose first marriage did not work out. He happens to be describing his second marriage, which is great news for those of you who have been discouraged by romance, right?

Jim & Sarah: UPDATE

Episode 2 of Point A to Point B featured Jim and Sarah, whose current goal was to visit 7 continents in 12 months.

A high bar for anyone, let alone that intrepid couple!

Well, they’ve done it! They achieved their goal upon setting foot in South Africa this month. As Jim says: “Seven down; zero to go.”

Congratulations to the ever-inspiring Jim and Sarah.