It was a gray overcast day, heavy with fog, as we made our way on US Interstate 90 south towards
the border town. Getting through Austin and San Antonio is always a great relief, as you watch the city of San Antonio disappear in your rear view mirror, and along with it massive traffic congestion and a freeway littered with roadkill, the land visibly opens up and the traffic thins and you know that you are entering the more rural and relaxed stretch of road that is I-90. But something about the persistent low lying fog that day gave the whole drive an air of noirish intrigue.
Other than the occasional passing car there were no people to be seen, only landscapes, though the landscapes themselves seemed to anthropomorphize at a surprisingly rapid rate taking on all kinds of portentous meaning. We passed a solitary grove shrouded in mist and seemingly alive with palpable mystery, there was an air of foreboding in its countenance, as if it was whispering a warning to maintain a safe distance, to stay in the car and keep moving along.
It felt as if we were not only driving through space but that time itself was receding and we were journeying back into the past. Everything we saw as we drove along had a look of age and dilapidation. Old rusted bridges, weathered windmills, Union Pacific rail cars and metal cattle on ranch signs all seemed to radiate with atavistic remembrance of down on their luck drifters, family secrets and recriminations passed down over generations, working men killing time in bars after hours of hard labor, and a small town torn apart by a never solved murder that passed into folklore and song. The Corridas sung here detail death over spoiled milk.
The towns floated by trancelike, Castroville, D'hanis, Knippa, Bracketville, names that felt strange on your tongue when spoken aloud, like some ancient incantation. Somewhere between Uvalde and Bracketville we passed an abandoned brick house caved in on itself, lonely and haunted on the side of the highway. Gnarled trees were slowly encroaching on the broken brick with an almost imperceptible creeping, working their way inside and taking root, returning the structure to its natural surroundings. The house was being reabsorbed by the landscape.
That night, after we finally reached our destination, and I laid down to sleep I found myself passing into dreams in which I wandered alone in similar desolate and haunted surroundings, the only sound was soft and familiar music playing somewhere in the background. When I woke in the morning the music was still there and as the dream faded, I realized what had soundtracked my dreams was an all night station radio station seeping through the thin walls from the motel room next door. I leaned over and flipped on the TV and a movie directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Bogart and Gloria Grahame was just starting. I laid back on the bed to watch the film and let my mind slowly turn over thoughts on how the divisions between dream and waking, and past and present seemed somehow more porous in this part of the country.
1. Theme from the Conversation-David Shire
2. Yesterday is Here-Tom Waits
3. Solo on a Raft-Walter Scharf
4. The Lonesome Road-Frank Sinatra
5. Generique-Miles Davis
6. End of the Night-The Doors
7. Girl of My Dreams-Trevor Jones
8. One For My Baby- Oscar Brown Jr.
10. All of You- Helen Merrill
11. Strangers in the Day- John Lurie
12. Lost & Lookin'- Sam Cooke
13. Mort De Felix- Tindersticks
14. After the Lights Go Out- The Walker Brothers
15. If I Should Lose You- Charlie Parker
16. The Lonely One- Nat King Cole
17. To the Office/Elevator-David Shire
18. Ballade Pour Un Cloporte- Jimmy Smith
19. Lament for a Trapped Spy- Gerald Fried
20. Angel Eyes-Jack Jones
21. Are You Warm Enough- John Lurie
22. Joe- Scott Walker
23. Angelitos Negros-Eartha Kitt
24. Some Small Chance-Serge Gainsbourg
25. Stairway to the Stars- Johnny Hartman
26. Nosferatur- Tindersticks
27. Swordfishtrombones-Tom Waits
29. Paradise Cove-The Surfmen
30. Lipstick Traces- Benny Spellman