Archives for posts with tag: Motel Chronicles

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MOTEL CHRONICLES (Excerpt)

by Sam Shepard

I remember trying to imitate Burt Lancaster’s smile after I saw him and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz. For days, I practiced in the backyard. Weaving through the tomato plants. Sneering. Grinning that grin. Sliding my upper lip up over my teeth. After a few days of practice, I tried it out on the girls at school. They didn’t seem to notice. I broadened my interpretation until I started getting strange reactions from the other kids. They would look straight at my teeth and a fear would creep into their eyes. I’d forgotten how bad my teeth were. How one of the front ones was dead and brown and overlapped the broken one right next to it. I’d actually come to believe I was in possession of a full head of perfectly pearly Burt Lancaster-type of teeth. I didn’t want to scare anyone so I stopped grinning after that. I only did it in private…

Photo: Burt Lancaster as Joe Erin in Vera Cruz (1954)

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MOTEL CHRONICLES (Excerpt)

by Sam Shepard

They caught him with a stolen print of a cottonwood tree. He was in the parking lot cramming it into the bed of his pickup. When they asked him why, he told them he wasn’t sure why. He told them it gave him this feeling.

He told them he saw himself inside this picture lying on his back underneath the cottonwood. He said he recognized the tree from an old dream and that the dream was based on a real tree he dimly remembered from a long time ago in his childhood. He remembered lying down underneath this tree and staring up through the silver leaves.

He remembered voices from those leaves but he couldn’t remember what the voices said of who they belong to.

He told them he was hoping the picture would bring the whole thing back.

Painting: “Cottonwoods Near Abiquiu” (1950) by Georgia O’Keeffe

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MOTEL CHRONICLES (Excerpt)

by Sam Shepard

…We stopped on the prairie at a place with huge white plaster dinosaurs standing around in a circle. There was no town. Just these dinosaurs with lights shining up at them from the ground.

My mother carried my around in a brown Army blanket humming a slow tune. I think it was “Peg a’ My Heart.” She hummed it very softly to herself. Like her thoughts were far away.

We weaved slowly in and out through the dinosaurs. Through their legs. Under their bellies. Circling the Brontosaurus. Staring up at the teeth of Tyrannosaurus Rex. They all had these little blue lights for eyes.

There were no people around. Just us and the dinosaurs.

PHOTO: Dinosaur Park, Rapid City, South Dakota, 1945 (April K. Hanson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

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MOTEL CHRONICLES (Excerpt)

Story by Sam Shepard

…We stopped on the prairie at a place with huge white plaster dinosaurs standing around in a circle. There was no town. Just these dinosaurs with lights shining up at them from the ground.

My mother carried my around in a brown Army blanket humming a slow tune. I think it was “Peg a’ My Heart.” She hummed it very softly to herself. Like her thoughts were far away.

We weaved slowly in and out through the dinosaurs. Through their legs. Under their bellies. Circling the Brontosaurus. Staring up at the teeth of Tyrannosaurus Rex. They all had these little blue lights for eyes.

There were no people around. Just us and the dinosaurs.

PHOTO: Dinosaur Park, Rapid City, South Dakota, 1945 (April K. Hanson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

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MOTEL CHRONICLES (Excerpt)

by Sam Shepard

I remember trying to imitate Burt Lancaster’s smile after I saw him and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz. For days, I practiced in the backyard. Weaving through the tomato plants. Sneering. Grinning that grin. Sliding my upper lip up over my teeth. After a few days of practice, I tried it out on the girls at school. They didn’t seem to notice. I broadened my interpretation until I started getting strange reactions from the other kids. They would look straight at my teeth and a fear would creep into their eyes. I’d forgotten how bad my teeth were. How one of the front ones was dead and brown and overlapped the broken one right next to it. I’d actually come to believe I was in possession of a full head of perfectly pearly Burt Lancaster-type of teeth. I didn’t want to scare anyone so I stopped grinning after that. I only did it in private…

Photo: Burt Lancaster as Joe Erin in Vera Cruz (1954)

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MOTEL CHRONICLES (Excerpt)

by Sam Shepard

They caught him with a stolen print of a cottonwood tree. He was in the parking lot cramming it into the bed of his pickup. When they asked him why, he told them he wasn’t sure why. He told them it gave him this feeling.

 He told them he saw himself inside this picture lying on his back underneath the cottonwood. He said he recognized the tree from an old dream and that the dream was based on a real tree he dimly remembered from a long time ago in his childhood. He remembered lying down underneath this tree and staring up through the silver leaves.

He remembered voices from those leaves but he couldn’t remember what the voices said of who they belong to.

He told them he was hoping the picture would bring the whole thing back.

Painting: “Cottonwoods Near Abiquiu” (1950) by Georgia O’Keeffe

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MOTEL CHRONICLES (Excerpt)

By Sam Shepard

 He changed the canary

Fed the mule

Stood transfixed for half an hour

 Every morning

He changed the canaries

Fed the mule

And stood transfixed for half an hour

 He never planned on standing transfixed for half an hour

It just happened

Every morning

 Maybe it was the pause in finishing feeding the mule

The momentum running down

 There seemed to be a natural momentum

From changing the canaries

To feeding the mule

 There was never any problem

Moving from the canaries

To the mule

 It just happened

Every morning

 It was the pause

After feeding the mule

That stunned him

 A Giant Pause

 He even knew what the next thing was

He knew it very clearly

 He knew the next thing was feeding himself

After feeding the mule

 But he couldn’t move

 He stood transfixed for half an hour

Staring at the desert

 Sometimes staring at his bottle house

 Sometimes staring at the well pump

 It depended on which direction he happened to be facing

When the transfixion struck him

 It got to the point when he looked forward

To standing transfixed for half an hour

 It was the high point of his morning

 Change the canaries

Feed the mule

Stand transfixed for half an hour

Photo: Dianne, xTexAnne, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Excerpt from MOTEL CHRONICLES by Sam Shepard

       He stands still by the smashed suitcase peering down into all his one-time belongings. Crushed soap bars saved from motel showers. Flattened cans of string beans. A mangled map of Utah. Hot tar and blacktop ground into the pure white towel he was saving for his first long bath in a month.
       Nothing moves from one end of the highway to the other. Not even a twig flutters. Not even the Meadowlark feather stuck to a nail in the fence post.
       He pushes the toe of his boot across the burned black rubber skid mark. Follows the crazy swerve of tires with his eyes. Sour smell of rubber. Sweet smell of sand sweltering.
       Now a lizard moves. Makes a fragile fish-like wake with its tail. Disappears. Swallowed in a sea of sand.
       Should he try to salvage something? Some small token of the whole collection. A pair of socks? The batteries from his flashlight? He should try to bring her something back. Some little something. Some memento so at least she’d think he’d been doing more than nothing. Just drifting all these months.
       He pokes around in the debris with a mesquite stick looking for a present. Nothing seems worth saving. Not even the undamaged things. Not even the clothes he’s wearing. The Turquoise ring. The wing-tip boots. The Bareback buckle.
       He drops them all on the pile of rubble. Squats naked in the baking sand. Sets the whole thing up in flame. Then stands. Turns his back on U.S. Highway 608. Walks straight out into opened land.

FROM THE AMAZON BLURB: Motel Chronicles reveals the fast-moving and sometimes surprising world of the man behind the plays that have made Sam Shepard a living legend in the theater. Shepard chronicles his own life birth in Illinois, childhood memories of Guam, Pasadena and rural Southern California, adventures as ranch hand, waiter, rock musician, dramatist, and film actor. Scenes from this book form the basis of his play Superstitions, and of the film (directed by Wim Wenders) Paris, Texas, winner of the Golden Palm Award at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival.

Note: Motel Chronicles was originally published in 1982 by City Lights (San Francisco).