Archives for posts with tag: Paris Texas


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).


Poem by Joan Jobe Smith

A navigable river in south central United States, 1,018 miles
long, it rises in the high plains in east New Mexico, flows east
crossing the Texas Panhandle and then becomes a boundary
between Texas and Arkansas, turns south in southwest Arkan-
sas and crosses the border into Louisiana, flows southeast a-
cross Louisiana into the Mississippi River into the Gulf of
Mexico and I was born in Paris, Texas, 30some miles from
the Red River and first time I saw it in 1953 it was brown
muddy as old chocolate when we drove over it in my father’s
new Ford Fairlane on Christmas Day to see my grandpa Old
Robert dying of TB in an Oklahoma hospital, my grandma Nora
weeping in the back seat beside me. I had to wait in the cold car
with the dog, little kids made old folks sick they said and on the
way back to Paris crossing over the Red River again my grandma
Nora told us about the big flood of 1914 when a big old 100-year-
old pecan tree like that big one over there fell over into the river.
Folks came for miles to save it, an Eiffel Tower, its roots Goliath
arms reaching for the sky. Hundreds of folks pulled and pushed
and tugged and heaved ropes tied to the tree trunk and branches
while the Red River raged wild and turned maroon and almost
drowned a lot of them. For days the folks camped out, stubborn
as only Texas and Oklahoma homesteaders can be and they saved
it just fine and come spring of 1915 the pecan tree rewarded the
folks with the biggest bumper crop ever known, horns of plenty
of plenty of pecans, three thousand pecan pies it must’ve made,
all the women doubling up pecans in each pie, four cups instead
of two, to float on top the brown sugar custard, not one pecan
orphan losing its way from that tree, not one pecan gone afloat,
uneaten Ishmael down below in that dirty old Gulf of Mexico.

Photo: “The Red River” by spysgrandson


Wearing a purple scarf  sporting a snowflake motif  — a item of clothing that must have some Bukowski-related sentimental value; if not, cool fashion choice for a summer night in L.A. — Harry Dean Stanton oozed charisma at the Charles Bukowski tribute on June 30th as he shared tales of his encounters with Buk and read from the great writer’s oeuvre.

Harry wrapped up his performance with a song (“Cancion Mixteca”) in Spanish, featured in the iconic film Paris, Texas (1984). In the Wim Wenders masterwork — written by Sam Shepherd — Harry Dean Stanton (as Travis) delivers a compelling monologue about his conception in Paris, Texas. Fellow performer Joan Jobe Smith was eager to meet the actor — because she was born in Paris, Texas. Hear Harry sing the hauntingly beautiful “Cancion Mixteca” at this link.

(Photo by Silver Birch, Los Angeles, June 30, 2012)