Cold feet

I was on my way to Winslow by myself, which let’s face it, is pretty rare these days. Wearing blue jeans, shirtsleeves rolled up, and sandals. You can still wear sandals here in late October. I’m headed to my mom and dad’s house, to go through some of my mom’s things. My brother and sister-in-law will arrive late in the day with two dogs in tow.

My mom’s been dead for four years so this is a trip long in the making. If you know me at all, you know it hasn’t been easy. My relationship with my dad has hit a lot of potholes since my mom passed away. And, at least part of the tension has been over the fact that (I think) we’re long overdue for getting together as a family to make some decisions.

And I don’t know if I even believe in such a thing as closure. It sounds suspect to me. Undesirable even. How can I close what I want to remain open? But I do think there is a process for moving forward, and I’d prefer making active choices rather than avoiding any choice at all. One thing’s for sure she’s not coming back.

I just want us to be all together when we decide.

So through sheer force of will on my part, and stubborn refusal to let it go, this moment now presents itself. But now that it’s here I’m feeling tentative. For one thing, I’m not sure how I’ll feel on the other side. I mull all of this over in the car.

I decide I’ll make a stop in Flagstaff to get a coffee and focus myself before the final leg of the trip. Also I’d better change out of my sandals, and into boots, because the temperature in flagstaff will only be in the 50’s.

I find parking just down the street from an old coffee shop and hop out in the chilly air to walk around to the trunk to retrieve my boots, but I can’t find them. Crap. I’ve accidentally left my boots back in Phoenix!

“Girl you need boots if you are in Flag! It’s cold there!” says a friend via Instagram where I’ve already opened the moment up to the public.
“I know. I’m wearing sandals and a jacket.”
“Left my boots back in Phoenix’ was on Winslow’s KINO country yesterday mornin’n” says another friend. Referencing my old high school job as a disc-jockey for the AM country radio station in my hometown.

And it’s not lost on me that I literally have cold feet! I’ve managed to make this trip with sandals as my only form of footwear.

My mom never would have made an error like this. She took multiple pairs of shoes with her for even the shortest of trips.

Later, once I get to Winslow, I dig up an old pair of white sneakers abandoned in the bedroom where I sleep when I am visiting home. So it will be ok. I will get by. Much like how we handle the rest of the weekend. We’re ok. We are getting by. Still got a long way to go.

I think of a song Emerson came up with one time, bored, in the backseat of the car.

It’s a sad road to Winslow
Driving on highway 40,
Eating hot tamales in the car…

Still standing

The Sheagles

We spent the weekend in Winslow.

Every September my hometown hosts the “Standin’ On The Corner Festival” to honor the song that put it on the map, Take It Easy.

Well I was standing on a corner in Winslow, AZ
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl my lord on a flatbed Ford,
Slowing down to take a look at me.

Written by Jackson Browne, but made popular by the Eagles, it is my town’s claim to fame. This two-day music festival always culminates on Saturday night with an Eagles cover band. This year’s performance was by the all-girl Eagles tribute band the Sheagles. Their set is made up entirely of Eagles songs, building to the one song that is the cornerstone for the whole event.

I sat on a patch of grass with Liam, and Emerson, and my sister-in-law, Ryan, thinking Winslow sure is a funny place. We watched an odd assortment of cowboys, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and railroaders dance around to a Mexican band. Kids running around with marshmallow shooters some enterprising vendor has made out of PVC pipe, scattering marshmallows across the dusty pavilion. One particularly exuberant man, who we nicknamed the Scarecrow because he was so tall and skinny, kept raising his arms, outstretched and flapping, to draw more people out to the dance floor. Looking for any willing female.

What unites everyone is a mix of music, Navajo tacos, dust, and beer.

When the Sheagles came on, my fellow townspeople gathered round the front of the stage and stared at the eight female musicians from Nashville, seeming unsure about the band. But they warmed up after a couple of songs, after one of the Sheagles challenged into her mic, “Let’s hear it, Winslow!”

Hot tamale!

All that's left of the drive-in is this sign.

There’s not much left of it anymore, but growing up we had a drive-in movie theater, the Tonto Drive-In. It classic Winslow-style it was built right next to the train tracks. At least once during every freaking movie screened there (but usually more like two or three times) a train would go past clackety-clack, clackety-clack getting louder and louder making it impossible to hear the scratchy audio from the drive-in speakers hanging in the car window. You would be forced to read lips for the several minutes it took the train to pass. One night Jan was headed for the low cinder-block concession stand located in the middle of the red dirt parking lot. “Anybody want anything?” she said.
“Yeah,” said Tom, “I’ll take some hot tamales.”
Jan went to the concession stand, then came back handing Tom two foil-wrapped bundles.
“What’s this?” said Tom.
“It’s tamales. I didn’t know what kind you wanted so I got a green and a red.”
He started laughing, “What? I meant the candy!”
Jan laughed too. “You want me to take them back?”
“No,” said Tom “I’ll eat them.”
Only in Winslow could someone go to a drive-in movie concession and come back with actual, homemade, steaming hot tamales.

The darkness of the movie house

The movie theatre is for sale in my dusty hometown. I can’t tell you how this plays on my imagination. I watched most anything and everything that played here in the 1980’s: Blue Lagoon, Poltergeist, The Cannonball Run, multiple slasher films. It’s since been renovated, but at the time whole aisles of crusty seats would move unhinged from the floor.

When I see this place, it brings to my mind  the opening line from The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”

Take it easy

As I was driving to work my Aunt Jan called to say she had just scored two free tickets to see the Eagles and did I want to go? Well . . . shit. What could I do? I would pretty much follow Aunt Jan to the ends of the Earth if she needed me to. I’m feeling worn-out lately but I don’t want to be the girl who turns down free concert tickets, even if it is the Eagles. Or maybe, especially, because it is the Eagles.

I mean it’s no secret that my hometown is Winslow, AZ — as in “Standing on a corner in Winslow, AZ”.

“Oh god. The Eagles,” says my friend Amy, “you must really never want to hear them again after growing up in a town with at least one store that plays that song on a continuous loop”.

That song would be “Take It Easy”.

Standin’ on a Corner in Winslow, Arizona.
Such a fine sight to see.
It’s a girl my lord, in a flatbed Ford,
slowing down to take a look at me

For a while, this was years ago, I was contemplating getting a horseshoe tattoo with the word Winslow written in fancy script inside the bend. I wanted the ink-work to look like tooled leather. Like a western belt that has a cowboy’s name squarely stated on his backside, like “Chad” or “Justin” or “Clayton”. I felt that strongly about my hometown’s hooks in me.

Winslow doesn’t have a lot to crow about, but we try to make the most of it. Which is why the townspeople have taken that one lyrical mention and carved out a whole cottage industry.

In downtown Winslow a “Standin’ (there is no g) on the Corner Park” was built in the early 90’s. Complete with a painted mural of a girl in a flatbed ford and a bronze statue of a man with a guitar standing on the corner.

And every September the town celebrates a Standin’ on the Corner Festival. It’s a two-day music festival culminating on Saturday night with the performance of an Eagles cover band, Hotel California.

There are food vendors, beer, music and lots and lots of dust. The town is packed.

The summer my mom passed away she had arranged for the extended family to take a cruise together in Alaska. One of the more memorable stories of the whole trip involves my Uncle Tom, his sister (my Aunt Jan), and Liam getting drunk together and troubling some poor piano player in the bar to play “Take it Easy”. When the piano player did play the song, Tom announced in a loud voice to the entire ship’s casino, “That’s us. We’re from Winslow!” Which has become a sort of mantra for us all.

Anyway, all of this should explain why this concert with Aunt Jan is not to be missed. Turns out, we have good seats and as the show gets under way Aunt Jan reaches over to give me a hug and I think, “This is the closest I will get to hugging my mom again”. Aunt Jan’s body feels familiar, similar.

When the band starts playing “Hotel California” I am transported. I am 6, maybe 7 years old, and I am cruising through the bright desert with my mother on our way to New Mexico. She is wearing Famolare sandals and big sunglasses, which she considered very chic. I have on knee-high socks with sandals. She is singing this song and we are cruising through the desert and it is just the two of us.

My Aunt Jan is a natural cheerleader. She whoops and cheers at T-ball games or ballet recitals louder than anyone. When any one of us graduates high school or scores a goal it is Aunt Jan who we will hear. She is the kind of woman who sticks four-fingers in her mouth when she whistles.

That night there were plenty of whistles from my seat-mate. The Eagles sang for three and a half hours and we had to wait until the encore to get our moment. As the band re-took the stage and began to sing “Take it Easy” it was our moment to say, “That’s us. We’re from Winslow”.