Electric Tulia Bar
And I steer the beast off the main thoroughfare and down the lonely road to the center of this Tulia; the flashing neon kicking up.
West Texas Riding
Wheels on the highway between day and night,
the lights scattered like animal eyes along the horizon,
Tulia-37 miles, Tulia-12 miles, Tulia-city limits.
And I steer the beast off the main thoroughfare and down the lonely road to the center of this Tulia; the flashing neon kicking up electric fuzz in the air: BAR…CANTINA…ROADHOUSE…WESTERN WATERING HOLE, like a good girl calling me home and I pull into the crowded lot, I can hear the music and the laughter and the shrill voices beating against the walls as I walk to the door and pull it open and like a punch in the face the vibe hits me like my head is a steel drum and life is the sticks pounding away real horror show… The clown suit jukebox in the corner is bleeding out some tunes, there’s the crack of a cue ball as it flies across the felt tabletop and collides into the 8, the rousing voices of my compadres rise ever higher as I make my way to Toadstool #1 at the end of the bar.
I hear the heavy clank of beer mugs and see the hands of the western bartenders move like Flash on crack, tequila and beer, more tequila and beer, and even more tequila and beer until the whole place becomes warm and alive and heartbroken and full of the pulse of sadness times loneliness plus heartbreak divided by death as the migrant farmworkers slide their Earth-battered cowboy boots across the rough floor whilst dancing with a maiden or two, swinging to the diamond beat of barrio Mexicano flavorings and there goes a dart, bullseye, no lie and another tequila and beer and the blurry eyes come on and then the incoherent, wide-open talking with a stranger at Toadstool #2 and we get into it about the heat and how the whole damn world is just on fire and we’re all gonna burn up real soon and slide away like ash in the wind.
Last call comes and I choke another one down, pay my barkeep and walk out into the dry, hot night, the churning spill of the heat bugs deafening. The stars are all spilled out across the sky like ice chimes making an awful racket of light and I know I better walk off some of the daze a bit before I attempt another 40 or 50 miles along the jungle superhighway — so I spark one up and start walking like a tightrope choker, knight-like and high toward the main part of the downtown, small, precarious, dirty and somewhat coldly charming with it’s plain square buildings of squat brick and sun-bleached adobe, big square panes of dust storm glass allowing a big peek inside at motor mounts and cracked mannequins wearing faded wedding dresses, those empty, long-gone looks on their faces as they wait for some hero groom to carry them down the aisle with a pistol and a tourniquet.
I come to a French flag twirl of a pole, a barber shop and I look inside, somewhat attracted by the dirty yellow glow of the lights, the bottles of emerald-green absinthe disinfectant for the black combs and silver scissors; I see a mirror and an empty barber’s chair of crushed cranberry vinyl, then some ghost star in the chair, then the barber shaving the rough face of a honcho angel with a straight razor and its glinting glow, like a chrome click signaling Hades for war.
Shaking my head and looking back, now just empty space and the visions are getting worse now, the voices louder, the attempts at exponential sadness digging a deeper grave… And then the car drives up slowly, the popping reds and blues, and the law pokes his head out the window and says something like: “Where are you headed? Nowhere. Did you just come from the bar? Yes. Why? I was spewing steam. You’re not planning on driving this star-studded nochy are you? No, I’m planning on finding a place to lay down and wistfully dream, maybe fitfully scream.”
The tall law with nothing better to do gets out of his car and cites me for intoxicated walking and then drives me to a little shimmery hotel beyond the roundabout, the hotel sign coming into lonely view, being busted up neon, letters missing, so instead of the sign saying HOTEL it just says H EL and he drops me at the front desk and takes off whistling and shooting into the night.
I push the key into the lock and open the door to room No. 55. There’s a stench of dirty road life and the rattling hum of a window air conditioner. I collapse onto the bed and begin weeping into my grenade, looking up through the split in the curtains I see the sign just flashing repeatedly: HEL, HEL, HEL… And I grab the desk chair and hurl it out the window, the glass makes slow-motion blood-violet sprinkles, and a few minutes later a knock at the door. I stumble wildly toward that door, my brain completely slurred and wild now and some Indian indigo angel appears and tells me to leave right away before I get locked up and electro-shocked like S. Plath. The long, winding path.
And after looking up at the remaining stars from the perch of a park for the rest of that nochy, I go kicking gravel at dawn and I make it back to the parking lot at the CANTINA ROYALE. My lone car sits there, patiently waiting to be fired up and taken home. My aching soul climbs in, and I head west, then north and then the very next day I’m in an elevator downtown heading toward the fifth floor of a yellow brick building, the one with the big globe on top like Atlas, and I’m alone and tired, whipped by this world and every fabulous girl, whipped and wiped out and I sit down at an old desk to blindly read and correct and assemble all the words, all the horrors of this world, that the outlets like mine so gallantly harvest and sell.