The alarm cruelly sounded at 7 a.m. at the Quality Inn in a funky zone of Dallas, and the band lurched to the breakfast Continental in the lobby and speed-loaded Raisin Bran, pastries, and coffee into their systems, speed loaded the Yukon and drove north towards Denton and a rendezvous with the 281 to Amarillo. The 800 mile drive took the predicted 13 hours, but the Texas/New Mexico dry country was a gentle green from a rainy summer, and beautiful rolling hill scrub pastures and red earth muddy rivers guided us westward. It was a good vibe drive. A final Waffle House visit east of Tucumcari: Paul Marshall orders the bacon and one egg, hash browns smothered, coffee (several refills), and raisin toast; Rob has the pork chop sandwich with hash browns smothered, peppered, and covered, and a diet coke; Paul Lacques has his customary cheese omlette and hash browns smothered and covered, and of course raisin toast and coffee; Shawn takes the ham and cheese omelette with grits and raisin toast, just water, please. It was good.
We reached Gallup, 6500 feet in altitude, near sunset, and the red earth glowed under silver clouds, crossed over a railroad line and the Puerco River and pulled into the parking lot of El Rancho Hotel, a 1938 extravaganza, home to movie stars filming westerns in Monument Valley, with the neon entrance motto: “The romance of yesterday, the convenience of tomorrow.” Rob’s old friend Buck set up the show in the El Rancho and introduced our record to KGAC, All Navajo All The Time radio. They’re playing it, and we’re psyched. Buck greeted us at the El Rancho, and he and his lovely wife Liz helped us set up the P.A., and we got our cool rooms (the Burt Lancaster and the Dennis Morgan) in the momento and turquoise and Indian Art bedecked hotel. The show was mild anarchy and just great. The audience is a mixture of Navajo locals, hippies, Caucasians of category defying origin, and the obnoxious British correspondent from CNN, who looks and talks exactly like he does on TV. The band got an extra charge from a customary round of 101 Wild Turkey due to the high altitude, and dug into the songs with extra abandon. The beer flowed like wine from our listening friends, with much rough edged banter, and the Hawks soared ever higher. Just before the end of the first set we play “Dog.” Spontaneously, several members of the crowd begin to howl and bark. We’re pretty sure they’ve never heard this song before which can only mean they are listening and responding. This kind of thing doesn’t happen in New York City. The crowd was great. Gallup has soul. We mixed Waylon and Merle into the set list, and the crowd was well pleased.
Deep into the second set, we realized that we might be in for a long (or much shorter) evening, when the bartendress, of noble bearing, was abruptly hauled off in handcuffs past the stage, on to jail. She apparently was entrapped by undercover cops who got her to sell a drink to an “underage” narc. Paul Marshall did a very kind and effective announcement to the crowd, who promptly evacuated the room as if it were burning down. No booze, no show in Gallup. We hung and chatted with folks who stuck around, including a cool Navajo guy who told us about Canyon de Chelly. I hope we can play a reservation on our return. Late night dining at Christy’s diner, and our last night of this leg comes to an end.
I must say, I being Shawn, the sandwich I ordered was top notch, perhaps the best diner sandwhich I’ve ever had in my life. It’s called the Aztec sandwich and it rules. Basically it’s a grilled cheese with bacon and Ortega chiles. But it was something else too. While I’m doing this entry Rob say’s, “Hey, are you assholes ready to find out how much money you lost on this tour?” Well I don’t know if I’m really ready…but here we go.
And then, after all is said, done, and paid for (gas, lodging, booze, etc. etc.) we discover we’ve avoided the very real possibility of totally losing our ass and have actually come out ahead.