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Friday, 27 April 2012

El Paso

File:Vegas de San Francisco.jpg

After passing the Paso de San Francisco: vegetation on Argentine side of the border, with view of the Nevado San Francisco, or Cerro San Francisco, a stratovolcano on the Argentina/Chile border: photo by Eri
c Depagne, 4 January 2005

It was a tremendous chore having the whole borderline to cover
In dark green paint
By morning, but when the dawn
Brought the usual feeling of not being in this world anymore
Marty Robbins
Would not have put down his guitar

File:Camping on the Border, near El Paso, Texas.jpg

Camping on the Border, near El Paso, Texas
: photo by Curt Teich & Co, 1916; image by Tangerinehistry, 9 March 2012 (University of Houston Libraries)


TC said...

Marty Robbins (live): El Paso

El Paso (Ganesha version)

ACravan said...

I really love this medley. And I wish I could sing like Marty Robbins (or sing at all for that matter). This is mysterious, funny and touching. Curtis

TC said...


Well, that makes two of us.

Marty's performance is astonishing. He'd obviously done the song so many thousands of times. And yet, amazingly, he's not mailing it in. "The layers of irony, the knowingness, the wink-wink aspect," as Angelica puts it. "It's supposed to be this tragic song, and he's sounding so cheerful about it!"

The spoof/goof potential is certainly there... and Steve Martin really picks that up and rides it. (Into the ground, should we say?)



After all these weeks of rain, the world around here seems indeed to be "covered in dark green paint" -- perhaps not down there in the West Texas town of El Paso, nor down there on the eastern slope of Cerro San Francisco.


light coming into sky above still black
plane of ridge, bird calling from field
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

what was instant, phenomenon
appropriate to itself

almost, in closest proximity,
living without memory

grey white clouds against top of ridge,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...


Yes, so much wetness, so much green, so far from the high dry borderlands where, though riddled with lead, Marty would not think to put down his guitar, ever.

And it does seem we're not alone in this season of drenching. Nin Andrews, back East in Ohio, has been posting some great photos of the intense wet-season Green Worlds there.

Such as this one and this one.

Beauteous enough to quench the thirsts of even a fossilized soul.

Hazen said...

El Paso was a long haul from Austin, where I was at UT, when this was a hit for Robbins. I remember many a day hearing this and feeling that it went with the heat and the glarey sky. Sometimes it came on the car radio when we’d be driving across South Texas scrub, where tarantulas as big as your hand might amble across the two-lane blacktop. We were headed to Mexico and cross-border incursions into towns like Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa and Matamoros, so we could drink in the bars and clubs where the “hostesses” were always from Mexico City, or so they told us. Not that I would know. We liked tequila; and Carta Blanca and Bohemia, two exotic beers (to us) that were pretty much shut out in Texas by Lone Star and Pearl, brewed in San Antone with water from the Edwards Aquifer. Shiner, back then, was both a small town and a lesser-known Texas brew. The Napoleonic Wars in Europe spurred waves of migrations from Central Europe to this country, my German ancestors among them. Life is strange. Beautiful, but exceedingly strange.

TC said...


Marty's song, with its remarkable unfolding linear narrative, is quite a piece of work really -- a throwback to the traditions of the Border Ballads, in both (or perhaps more) senses of that term.

I recall a visit to El Paso in February, once long ago. Dry heat, temps in the 90s, quite a shock coming from the Pacific Coast.

About those long-ago south of the border expeditions, your account reminded me of this sobering little sequence by Arthur Rothstein:

Sojourn in Matamoros

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

August, 1993, the month there were two full moons— 8/01 and 8/31—the latter one seen from Ken Osborne’s flat overlooking El Paso. He had driven my wife and I all the way from John Levy’s house in Tucson to spend a week with him on the US-Mexican border—thanks for the poem and video which sends us back to good times with cherished, old friends.

Nin Andrews said...

I love the line --dawn bringing the usual feeling of not being in this world anymore.
I am feeling like that now, and dawn is a ways off . . .

I don't know Marty Robbins though. Must check this out.

Marcia said...

First the other day - Russell Lee and his wonderful photos of San Augustine, TX, and your poem and the photos posted with "Best Intentions," and now -- El Paso and Marty Robbins! Great reading, viewing and listening.

TC said...

Many thanks, sweet friends.

Let us gather in that cantina by the border, some fair day... for a soul-restoring cup of herbal tea, perhaps?

Susan Kay Anderson said...

My sister Corine was so in love with Marty Robbins. It just didn't seem right when she got married.

TC said...


Well, down by the borderline probably everybody always misses somebody.

Corinna Corinna

tpw said...

Tom: That's a very funny & campy version of the song, obviously colored by his having performed it so often for so many years. There seemed to be some conspicuous winking and nodding over "Rose's back door" and being "back in the saddle," etc. But maybe that's just my sinful perspective.

TC said...

Couldn't agree more sinfully with your take on Marty's terrifically cynical rendition of his classic ballad, Terry.

A terrible fallen world this we're in, is it not?

tpw said...

Tom: I guess we could verify all this by checking with Rosa herself. According to Wikipedia, there is an actual neighborhood bar called

Rosa's Cantina
3454 Doniphan Drive
El Paso TX 79922-1644
(915) 833-0402

TC said...

Sí, Terry, me gusta, Rosa's!