Phoenix is massive. Metropolitan Phoenix is only a bit smaller than Iceland. If you’re reading this and appearing on Jeopardy soon, please know that’s not true. It seemed true as a kid in Tempe in the 80s, though. It seems true still. But it’s not. Ken Jennings will beat you if that’s your answer.

I’m visiting my parents in Phoenix. I should have left a while ago, but the resident chef extraordinaire serves up one amazing meal after another. I picked up some film today at Tempe Camera during rush hour. I stayed in Tempe to avoid the traffic. I got home to find a Mexican casserole in the refrigerator. (Why does refrigerator become fridge?) Heated it up and promptly burned the hell out of the roof of my mouth because I couldn’t stop eating it.

I left their place the other day heading west on Glendale. I can’t remember where I was going, but I know I missed the turn to the place I can’t remember. So I just kept going and going. I haven’t always been kind to Phoenix. It’s not fair to Phoenix. When you grow up in a place and feel like it’s time to leave, it’s easy to see only the things you don’t like. Strip malls. Strip mall upon strip mall. I think it’s an unfortunate result of terrible urban planning and vision, but that’s not the shop owners’ faults.

Growth, short-sighted transit voting, car culture, frontier nostalgia, and corrupt politicians helped shape the massive grid structure of metro Phoenix. 70s 80s 90s – public transit plans shot down. Phoenix finally got a light rail, but it seems like a poor substitute for what Phoenix could have done in the 70s and 80s when land was available and cheap. But why plan ahead? Apache Junction to Phoenix was fast, and more lanes would keep it that way in perpetuity, right? (Think I just used perpetuity incorrectly.)

I wish there were more walking communities, but I’m going to stop criticizing the strip malls. Yes, 31.483% of them are tied to excessive consumption, but the other half (hi Yogi Berra) are creative small business owners going for it and doing cool things.

If you’re still here, I admire your ability to plow through tangents. I bet you’re one of the 15 people in the world who actually read The Brothers Karamazov all the way through. I tried 3 times. 3 times over so many years that I finally got old and wise enough to get rid of that damn book (I wanted to drop an F bomb there, but I think you’ve really got to choose your F bomb moments well. I might add an F bomb later.) Should a Russian lit aficionado ever stumble on this page, get in touch, I’ll spring for the borscht and vodka if you’ll walk me through that book.

The problem – problems – with stream of consciousness is that you 1) forget where you were headed and 2) have to look up conscious vs. conscience. No streams of conscience here. I save that for the wee hours and the insomnia.

Glendale Avenue. I kept going and going. The strip malls are not monolithic. Sure, there are a few repeating blocks of CVSes, Verizons, and Smoothie Kings, but there are also loads of local Mexican restaurants, neighborhood bars, and service providers. Hard-working small businesses one and all.

I passed the strip malls and made a discovery that I am embarrassed to admit. Glendale Avenue leads right into the main street town of Glendale. Why was this a revelation? Western states and cities are big. When I was a kid in Tempe, I had a good friend who lived at about 16th Street and Glendale. When I’d drive there to hang out, it felt like a minor road trip. Glendale and Peoria? That was Shackletonian expeditionary work, but desert rather than watch out for the polar bears.

I really liked Glendale. There’s a main street vibe with buildings from the Old West. The buildings are named for the frontier folks who built them. Well, that’s not entirely true. They’re named for the dude. That’s fine if the dude was single. But if he had a partner, the important word there is partnership. That’s always annoyed me.

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Glendale has the biggest Subway I have ever seen. I wanted to get a veggie sub there just to say that I’d eaten at the biggest Subway on the planet. They have a German restaurant / biergarten. It was closed. I forget the name, but I think it ended in haus. I loved seeing the Mexican influence in town, but now I’m curious if there’s also a German element. That would be a very west Texas sort of thing.

Which gets me back to west Texas. Main street Glendale is Marty Robbins BLVD (see the street sign above). I wish I could remember the first time I heard Marty Robbins and the Gunfighter Ballads. Not the first time. I’m certain my parents played him. But the first time I thought gawddam. I remember the exact moment I became a Townes Van Zandt fanboy. I was in Bisbee, drinking alone at the bar. I’d like to think it was The Copper Queen, but that could be wishful thinking. It was a small bar, and the actual bar was solid. It had permanence. The bartender was beautiful and effortlessly cool. I asked who was playing. She told me. I can’t remember what song it was, but I’d like to think it was My Proud Mountains or If I Needed You.

I’ve always romanticized Robbins’ El Paso trilogy. Cowboys, the West, love songs. I liked Robbins so much that I spent a drunken evening in NYC playing Dwight Yoakam’s 1,000 Miles From Nowhere and Marty Robbins over and over on the jukebox. Jesus Christ, where was the bouncer that night? I’m still embarrassed. Thank goodness it was pre-social media.

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I looked up the lyrics tonight. I’ve read them before. But I read them again tonight. That cowboy sucks.

One night a wild young cowboy came in
Wild as the West Texas wind
Dashing and daring, a drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina, the girl that I loved

So in anger I challenged his right for the love of this maiden
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore
My challenge was answered in less than a heartbeat
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor

He kills a dude because he’s hanging out with the woman he’s obsessed with.

I have always liked that song, so there’s a part of me that wants to believe that Robbins is making a subtle statement. But he’s probably not. Felina is labeled as evil in a couple of different ways.

Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina
Wicked and evil while casting a spell
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden
I was in love, but in vain I could tell

One night a wild young cowboy came in
Wild as the West Texas wind
Dashing and daring, a drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina, the girl that I loved

Two dudes shooting at one another. Felina how could you, what have you done?

Reading the lyrics again, I concluded that the cowboy imagined Felina coming to him in his final moments. He had to have been imagining it. The real Felina was far away, unconcerned with the murdering incel’s fate. This is from the site, one of the first Google returns, analyzing the relationship between the song and Breaking Bad’s ending.

Going back to the beginning – the title of the final episode was Felina. Felina is the muse in El Paso; the narrator is drawn to her back in El Paso, and she is ultimately the cause of his death.

Sure dude, Felina caused him to murder someone. A Felina prompted a meth lab.

Funny, I intended to write about the Canon FTb I bought at a vintage store. The photos are some drug store Fuji 400 I shot to see if the camera works. Looks like it works, even though the lab said I was overexposing everything. That’s good to know. My Sunny16 skills need improvement. The camera is awesome, well-designed, and was well looked after. Unfortunately it doesn’t feel great in my hand.

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