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Anna was a metaphysical meteorologist. Could always predict whenever my heart’s weather was nearing rain.

Jen was born under the sign of an electric guitar. She could turn me up. Turn me on. Did anything but turn me down.

Doris took everything that wasn’t nailed to the floor or superglued to my conscience.

Kelly would cage me. Let me roam wild in her heavy-petting zoo.

Fiona was my judge, jury and executioner. She never inflicted a painful death; more like the death of all my pain.

Certain things about certain women I’ve known…

Ashley was a blizzard in a box.

What is your earliest memory?

Living in the dry, flat desert of the West Texas countryside.My grandfather raised me and I would wait for him to come home from work.He would always have some treat or food for me, which meant the world to me at four or five years old.

If you weren’t a musician, what other profession would you choose?

I actually wanted some sort of job with NASA. Ironically, I guess I would be out of a job now as well, with the space program losing interest.I’ve always been fascinated with the stars and space travel.

Please explain what just happened.

The clock just struck 1:15 a.m. and Iʼm on a flight from Phoenix to San Francisco. We got beat tonight by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but at least we won the series. Later tonight we play Oakland in that ridiculous Interleague series. I hope to get to sleep by 3 a.m. but the DH rule will make it hard to sleep. As I type these words I’m listening to my talented friend Eve Selis serenade me through my headphones. I’m drinking a Pinot, the stars are all out and there’s a full moon. Up here it all works. I love this goddamned blessed road…

What is your earliest memory?

I live my life one day at a time (and sometimes one inning at a time), so my earliest memory was waking up today at 11:37 a.m. and realizing that I slept too much, and probably drank too much as well.

Please explain what just happened.

The chorus started.  It’s Dire Straits.

What is your earliest memory?

Trying to compete with my big brother by walking along the side of the bath like he did, then falling and breaking my arm.

If you weren’t a rock and roll drummer, what other profession would you choose?

Librarian. What could compete with that adrenaline rush? The rock star thing would do if all else failed, though.

1971: In Kindergarten, you participate in a “talent show” where you and Brian Clark lip-synch to Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” and the Beach Boy’s version of “Sloop John B.” You remember wondering at the time how much talent it takes to do such a thing, but somehow, you come in first. You also remember finding the words to “Joy to the World” ridiculous. Why would anyone have a bullfrog named Jeremiah who was “a very good friend of mine”? And how could that possibly relate to the world’s joy? Also, in thinking about “Sloop John B,” you, later that night, (after lip-synching to the line, “I threw up all of my grits”) ask your mother what grits are.

She tells you they’re something southern people eat.

“Yes,” you say, “but what are they?”

“They are a food,” she says. “A southern food.”


My mother

was full moon,

my father—

lone wolf.


I was their child:

part howl,

part ghost-strung guitar.


I did not cry

when the witch doctor

smacked

the first pain of breath

into me.


Instead,

I sang a song of what was,

what would be,

what would never be.


My birth certificate

was written on a blank page

of starless night.


I was baptized

in a river of black crows.


My first three utterances:


“Holy”


and


“Hold me.”


To this day,

I still search for

meaning and completion

in those three words.



This is mariachi operetta, nervous breakdown, a broken spirit stitched with corn silk. And this is breakfast. Breakfast after losing ourselves in the streets, after shedding the snakeskin of the guidebooks, dodging glass and flying water. Perhaps we will find our huitlacoche one day, but it won’t be today. Perhaps that’s the last anniversary a couple has before they die, no matter their age: the huitlacoche anniversary, attainable only on the verges, rendering in a smear of its black smut, the others obsolete: paper cotton leather linen wood iron sugar steel huitlacoche huitlacoche huitlacoche…

Louisa and I nearly fall from the street into the restaurant, México Viejo, Old Mexico, and are berated by its pottery, its orange walls, contained pockets of steam kicking like the tar pits into the yellow film of iron chandelier light. This is, after all, the best buffet we’ve ever seen, and the place is stuffed with patrons—families with freight trains of kids, business-suited groups basking in the lunch break, old men eating alone, old women staring them down from behind blue clay bowls of caldo de res.

The host, a barrel-chested man with a thick moustache, comes at us with a puzzled look. He stands about as high as my sternum, and I am only five feet, seven. He says nothing, carries no menu, and shrugs. I look to Louisa for help and, miraculously, she says, “Dos.”

“Una mesa para dos personas,” I say, needlessly, forcing my remedial Spanish onto anyone willing to listen. Yes, I am a gringo, I want to tell them, but not one of those gringos, you know? ¿Verdad?

The man nods, his moustache appearing to take flight, leave his face like some hirsute moth and flit about the room. He sits us at a wooden table as squat as he is and gestures, almost dismissively, toward the buffet with the back of his hand.

“Muchas gracias,” I say.

Here, the man stops and manages a smile, his moustache returning from its flirtation with some underage mamacita in a corner booth, once again perching on his face like some gothic canary. He parts his lips. His moustache flaps for dear life.

“De nada,” he says, or growls, or rasps. The words sound forced through knife-cut vocal cords and tracheotomy, plopping into our ears, rheumatic, robotic, phlegmatic, sweet. And we do, we do feel welcome.

Our waitress, a young, curly-haired woman in a flowing brown dress so diaphanous, she should be our waitressssssss, steps to our table with two mugs of coffee before we even order it. This is assumption of the highest working order and I want to stroke her hair, if only to test the perfect spring of the curls. Louisa blows her a kiss and descends into a clatter of South African-accented “Gracias, gracias, gracias…”

Our waitressssssss laughs, her voice carrying into the air like a coffee percolator run on helium, and disappears again into the psychedelic madness of the restaurant. Louisa and I look to the buffet, an L-shaped number covered in white tablecloths, different stations manned and womanned by the staff, clad in purple button-down silk shirts bearing white irises, the women with red flowers pushed behind their ears, flattening masa dough for fresh tortillas, searing various meats to order, juicing papayas and carrots, unraveling spools of white cheese, roasting green chilies until their skins blacken and blister, this tiny opera of food played out on a pot-bellied guitar, and we don’t now what to do, how we can accommodate all of this food, taste everything made to order, taste everything premade and marinating in pottery pots and bowls, painted garishly with fat women hauling grapefruit, with Jesus bleeding on the gustatory cross, his crown of thorns replaced with a mass of seething beans. All the juices, all the soups, each diner bearing a calm that we can’t seem to enforce upon ourselves, our hearts festering in pots of their own, the gas-heat turned up way too high, burning to the bottoms.

“Oh my god,” Louisa says, and she’s absolutely right. The best of nervous breakdowns. Of broken spirits stitched with corn silk. We stand. We step toward it, this burbling beast of breakfast. It opens its arms to us like the obese aunt, over-make-upped, over-perfumed, we only see at holidays. This buffet, before we are done, will surely pinch our cheeks red. I feel off-course, having jumped the tracks. I don’t know where to begin. Louisa slaps me on the ass, and rights me with a word.

“Taco,” she says.

Again, she is absolutely right.

 

**NOTE** Please forgive me if I do not respond to your comments.  I am presently on the road for my BAROLO Book Tour.  If I’m coming to your area for an event, I’d love to extend you an invitation!

Tour schedule here: http://matthewgfrank.com/?page_id=101

Info. about the book here: http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Barolo,674189.aspx

Thanks!  -MGF

Yesterday, early evening, I went to the Strand Bookstore on 12th Street and Broadway.  The store is just slightly overflowing with used and new books presented on tables and in aisles of shelves that almost reach the ceiling, reminding me of a school library.   “Eighteen Miles of Books” is their current motto.