"What are you doing in Baker?" he said. "Didn't you get my telegram?"
"What? Fuck telegrams. I'm in trouble."
"You're supposed to be in Vegas," he said. "We have a suite at the Flamingo. I was just about to leave for the airport..."
I slumped in the booth. It was too horrible. Here I was calling my attorney in a moment of terrible crisis and the fool was deranged on drugs--a goddamn vegetable! "You worthless bastard," I groaned. "I'll cripple your ass for this! All that shit in the car is yours! You understand that? When I finish testifying out here, you'll be disbarred!"
"You brainless scumbag!" he shouted. "I sent you a telegram! You're supposed to be covering the National District Attorneys' Conference! I made all the reservations...rented a white Cadillac convertible...the whole thing is arranged! What the hell are you doing out there in the middle of the fucking desert?"
Suddenly I remembered. Yes. The telegram. It was all very clear. My mind became calm. I saw the whole thing in a flash. "Never mind," I said. "It's all a big joke. I'm actually sitting beside the pool at the Flamingo. I'm talking from a portable phone. Some dwarf brought it out from the casino. I have total credit! Can you grasp that?" I was breathing heavily, feeling crazy, sweating into the phone.
"Don't come anywhere near this place!" I shouted. "Foreigners aren't welcome here."
I hung up and strolled out to the car. Well, I thought. This is how the world works. All energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet. What a fool I was to defy him. He knew. He knew all along. It was He who sacked me in Baker. I had run far enough, so He nailed me...closing off all my escape routes, hassling me first with the CHP and then with this filthy phantom hitchhiker...plunging me into fear and confusion.
Never cross the Great Magnet. I understood this now...
--From Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas : A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, by Hunter S. Thompson
American music at its finest speaks to the kernel truth of our existence in this strange land: as long as you look and act like you know what you're doing, and you're doing what you're supposed to, you can get away with anything. The root of Libertarian is Liberty, and the founding fathers of this country had well honed trigger fingers for all of life's tangible enjoyments. God and guilt were for Sunday...Monday through Saturday he could mind his own goddamned business.
For good or ill, I bark into a microphone every Saturday about alt country and why it's for me and for others, for the forgiveness of Nashville's sins. Every now and then, a record crosses the threshhold of the Mighty 1220 that is Processional, Epistle, Communion, and Recessional in 12 tracks and 4-part harmony.
I've read a few scattered stories of this wild-eyed hillbilly they call Joe West, but I think it all comes down to the distinct possibility that he and I were separated at birth. Our gift and our achilles heel is that we can both talk or sing about everything and nothing all at once, and the most that can be said about either of us is that folks who know us like to have us around for the shock value. During full moons I've been known to jump into the phone booth and come out as Super Jack, and South Dakota HairDo just might be our hero's new soundtrack:
I'm a media mogul
and a macro biotic
I'm a yoga instructor
and a little neurotic
I soak it like a sponge
and I leak like a sieve
cuz I've come to accept
the truth is...relative
and i love to feel the oil
come across the sea
and i love to feel their coming
to comfort me
and i just made it through
I'm a survivor, I'm a survivor
I got mafia connections
I got corporate ties
I get off on the smell of your twist tied too fly
Just a poor boy doin' what I can
I'm a 21st century garbage man
--From "21st Century Garbage Man"
Maybe you've been force fed a pre-packaged American existence, with paved roads from your doorstep to your final destination. But there are people like Joe West in places like Santa Fe, New Mexico, singing songs about desperate South Dakotans with dirt under their nails and vacant expressions more indicative of fatigued guile than slow wit. I don't know Joe West's mother, but if she had been an old music groupie from back in the day, it would be hard to tell whether Lou Reed or Townes Van Zandt was Joe's daddy. I mean that as a compliment and a put down, all at once. When he comes to Lee's Liquor Lounge on Thursday, May 27th, I fully expect him to shake my hand, then punch me in the nose.