stationery destinations (Bakersfield)
This Best Western is next door to Buck Owens' Crystal Palace — an old west façade Buck constructed & performed within most weekends until he ultimately left his namesake street in Bakersfield. I was under his spell there on a few errant occasions. He mounted the stage through a tule fog machine cloud while a king-sized video screen flashed digital lightning bolts striking in quadraphonic thunder overhead as the Buckaroos kicked in their theme. A 70's Pontiac convertible, customized by Nudie with silver dollars, decorative firearms & discriminate embroidery, tilted above & beyond the bar tiers of bottles as an exceptional landmark, rich in manifested myth & its accompanying stereotypes. I always suspected the palace of watered-down drinks — even the night my party was escorted out, a little overelectrified by the spectacle of it all.
In the proper setting, the intoxicating burden of circumstantial proof can be successfully overwhelming.
Across Buck Owens Blvd is Zingo's Café, a pit stop that offers diner fare in the front, & in the back, a small lounge that serves smashed locals who crush emptied beer cans on their foreheads. On one chicken-fried steak & eggs morning, the booth behind me was seated with two adults & a bawling infant. The couple explained to the waitress that they'd had the kid circumcised earlier & missed breakfast, so they cut the ride home from the hospital short to grab a bite.
Their order was the same as mine, but also consumed to calm the suckling with a gravy-finger teat.
The Best Western itself holds a karaoke night that, from memory, opens to a stringy man in his sixties still dressed in his USPO uniform culottes to deliver "House of the Rising Sun" while inserting his own biblical lyrics, & peaks with a chunky late-thirties — conjured as a Kern High School District former athletic champ — possible shot-putter — dude choosing Boston's "More Than a Feeling." When it first faded in, the fifty or so in the lounge all paused mid-sip to watch because none of us — as one collective psyche — could believe that this guy would be able to reach that lead vocal high note before the guitar solo. Everyone froze — even the staff — — — & then he did it! — he hit that note dead on! No one could fuckin' believe it. The place erupted like everyone there had just been given a convertible of their own. It was communal rapture awash in a rush of joyous drinks orders — some probably as paid-off bets — in all-embracing celebration. It's all anyone talked about for about fifteen minutes — his fifteen minutes — a cursory star again for about as long as it takes to suck down a fleeting highball.
Where Does the Good Times Go, Buck? Nothing feels the same. Let's close our eyes & slip away.