How many of you who sit and judge me…

…have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?

Sorry Mr. Owens. I don’t judge you. Never did. But I’m here to pass a little judgment on your hometown.

On this last road trip through the Golden State, I had occasion to stop off in Bakersfield. As a matter of fact, we needed petrol, and Buck Owen’s Blvd. off of Highway 99 seemed as good an exit as any to take.

At the bottom of the freeway ramp, there stood Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace. And not much more. We weren’t of a mind to visit the palace, tho it was interesting to see. But the gas/food/lodging situation in that area was sketchy to say the least.

It was all just…weird.

I’m a big fan of Buck Owens and think he’s about the most talented musician I ever knew, along with a great self-deprecating sense of humor.

I can’t help but think his old hometown hasn’t quite done him the justice he deserves. The place to go to remember him is a weird neighborhood filled with strange businesses.

Who knows, I may be missing something…

Then again, it is California’s Central Valley. A David Lynch movie waiting to happen…

Went and got a little country

Now for ya’ll that know me, you know that goin’ a little country is the roots of my raising.

I’m a bit more comfortable getting lost in the woods than I am in a big city. I can fathom starting a campfire more easily than finding a parking spot in San Francisco.

That said, you know I also love the urban area where I live. The art, the music, and oh the food.

So this weekend, the two sides of me managed to converge in one geography.

You see, there is this establishment just south of San Francisco called the Cow Palace. I am not making this up.

I remember the first time I visited the Bay Area. I remember driving north on Highway 101 from the airport and I saw the sign for the Cow Palace. I was like “WTF?” (I believe that is a direct quote.)

A palace for cows?

I got my first chance to visit the venerable Cow Palace about eight years ago for a car show. (Yes, I own it, I like car shows) I found it to be an odd yet intriguing place. It reminded me, on many levels, of Albuquerque’s own Tingley Coliseum.

While wandering the halls of the Cow Palace that car show day, I noticed there was a wall of grainy black and white photos of old men in cowboy hats. I was told then that the Cow Palace has hosted a rodeo for many years. “Well, cool” I thought. But then thought “the Bay Area doesn’t know nothin’ ’bout goin’ country.”

Each year that I’ve lived here, I’d see on the news the story about the kickoff to the rodeo. A longstanding tradition where cowboys drive a small herd of longhorn cattle down a busy urban street to the Cow Palace. Here’s a link to this year’s story complete with photos and video: Moo!

I always wanted to go see what was doing at a rodeo held at a palace for cows, but due to a lot of circumstances that don’t bear explaining here, I spent a lot of time alone in those days (despite being in a relationship). I was never brave enough to go to the Grand National Rodeo by myself.

This year is different. I am in a relationship with The Good Man. My Brooklyn-born, City raised fiancée. There is no way I’d ever have thought he’d be into the rodeo.

Man, was I ever wrong. Another good lesson in tempering expectations, eh? (May The Good Man always be such a source of surprise for me.)

Several weeks back, TGM sent me the links to the rodeo and said he wanted to go. He’d gone to the Grand National a few times in the past and enjoyed it, but hadn’t been in a long while.

For me, come May, I’ll have lived in the Bay Area eleven years. So it’s been at least that long, maybe tack on a couple more, since I’d seen a rodeo myself.

Saturday rolled around, the last day of this year’s rodeo, and we made sure we didn’t miss it. I pulled on my fave Fat Babies, did my hair up high as the heat and humidity would allow, and we hit the 2:00 pm show. We even managed to get ourselves a couple real nice box seats.


What an impressive show. It was a tight two-hour rodeo with great cowboy competition. In between events, they had top notch entertainment like Tenessee Walking horses, Open Hackamore reining events and the best was Tomas Garcilazo, a genuine and incredibly talented Charro (and his horse Chollo too).

I was oh so very worried about going to a San Francisco rodeo, not knowing what it would be like here in the big town. I had nothing to worry about. It was great. As soon as the first bareback rider came blasting out of the gate, I knew all about it. I was right in my element.

We had *the best* time. When the rodeo was over, we wandered the cowboy art show, shopped the mercantile, and generally took in the sights.

All of that was followed by kick ass eats at Milagros. Nothing puts the topper on a day like hand smashed guacamole…oh, and a glass of sangria.

What a great weekend…

Turns out the Bay Area DOES know a little bit about goin’ country.

Confidential to my best friend in Las Cruces:

No, it didn’t compare to that cold rainy night at the rodeo in Silver City. But then that night was more about the post-rodeo party…


Have you ever known a place that, in your memories, takes on a dream quality?

It can be almost any place. I have lots of them.

But one that shows up in my dreams quite often is this really greasy spoon in Las Cruces. A college hangout. Oh did I have some fun times there, and the tasty green chile cheese burgers that still haunt me.

That place is called Dick’s Cafe.

It’s a place with plastic windows covered with a greasy film. It has torn vinyl seats and ugly formica tables. The desert sun pours in through those windows, lighting up the room and the grimy linoleum floor.

And there is a jukebox. Oh that jukebox. I used to ask cute cowboys for their pocket change and they would give it to me. My best friend and I would play our faves. And we smiled, and laughed, and told stories and picked on each other and occasionally picked up on each other. It is genuinely the stuff of my dreams. All the individual memories blended together into one beautiful and happy amalgam.

When visiting Las Cruces, my pulse still quickens driving past Dick’s. Back in the day, we would drive by real slow and survey the pickups parked out front. My best friend and I had a game, how many could we recognize. She was always better than me at that, but if we saw a good one, one belonging to a good friend or a particularly cute boy that needed to be flirted with, we’d turn in to the dirt parking lot and grab a coke and some fries. The days went by slow and easy then.

What’s great is that Dick’s has been around since 1959. My best friend’s parents, my surrogate Mom and Dad, have just as fond memories about Dick’s as we do. THAT is an institution, people!

Why am I waxing rhapsodic about Dick’s today?

Because I just read in the Las Cruces Sun News that they had a fire overnight. Article here.

If the physical place is gone, it can live on in my memories. But it would be a sad day for me to have to say goodbye to the actual place.

Just writing this, remembering the days, makes me smile. Fridays at Dick’s were especially fun.

An urgent email went out to my best friend who still lives in Las Cruces for some on the scene reporting…

It seems like a really bad idea…

Found myself bored and channel surfing this evening and happened upon a new reality show entitled “Gone Country“. It’s hosted by one of my fave musicians, John Rich (the Big & Rich song “Big Time” never fails to make me sing along both loudly and badly).

It stars the likes of Bobby Brown, Sisqo,Dee Snyder, Maureen McCormick and Carnie Wilson. The website calls the mix “eclectic”. Unh huh.

Their challenge? To sing country music. And the one who ultimately wins will have a country record produced by Rich.


What B and C list celebs won’t do for a little money.

It was painful to watch. I couldn’t get through the entire episode.

And somehow, I know that country music is going to be mercilessly made fun of.

I just….can’t watch this.

And tonight I light several dozen candles and say a novena for the writer’s strike to end and actual thoughtful, artistic shows to return to television.