Max, Mariachis and Salvation

We were driving at night through the sweltering central valley of California.

It was like that old Neil Diamond song about Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show. You know the one, about hot August nights and you can hear yourself sweat.

Somewhere outside of Buttonwillow I glanced over at the Malt and asked, “Max, do dogs have an immortal soul?”

“How would I know?”

“Well, you have fur, four legs, bark, poop on the lawn and constantly beg for food so it seems likely you’re a dog.”

“Did you just assume my species, amigo?” “And while we’re at it, exactly why are you asking me dumb questions?”

Max in Bucket Hat

Max blended in with a camo bucket hat hiding his dog mullet.

I explained that for the last 100 miles the choices on the car radio were limited to mariachi music or hyped-up, thick-drawled evangelical preachers determined to save immortal souls.

My favorite was the guy who called out his followers by name, extolling their many virtues, not the least of which were the “frequent and generous cash contributions sent to the radio station in care of Brother ________.”

Home sweet home

For unknown reasons we felt very welcome here.

Max had grown bored with the conversation and asked me to put a CD in the dash player. I fumbled with one hand to grab a disc at random while the car generated machine gun sounds as the tires ran over those little reflector bumps that line the side of the road.

We both figured anything would be better than soul saving.

The CD was a Linda Ronstadt album. “Canciones de mi Padre.”

Ai yai yai.


Note Linda giving us the finger.

37 replies

  1. At the opening wail from Ms. Ronstadt I leapt from my chair and lunged for the music centre controls… least the evangelists don’t have musical accompaniment…I hope.
    I associate those damned trumpets with the ‘Ring of Fire’ with which a beloved and boozy captain of an England cricket team hoped to inspire his men…..and failed – against the Australians to make it worse.
    I hope Max swaggered into that bar wearing his hat…and that you refrained from commenting on the misuse of the apostrophe while on the premises.
    I looked up Buttonwillow and wished I hadn’t.


    • I shook my head when I saw that apostrophe. What kind of idiot would…oh, wait, think of where you are.I happen to like a lot of Linda Ronstadt’s stuff but the Canciones album is not among my favorites although I empathize with her motivations for making that album. For a long time she felt she had to hide her Latina ethnicity. At the time, (and maybe now, too) the music biz tended to stereotype and pigeonhole performers. Having said all that I admit that I just cannot develop a taste for mariachi music. If you think Buttonwillow is bad, let me introduce you to Barstow, a perennial finalist on the website that lists which city holds title as the “armpit of California.”

      Liked by 2 people

    • Now that you mention it there were several instances where the appearance of Rod Serling would not have been surprising. Long drives down I-5 in California become surreal experiences, especially at night. These are things of which alien conspiracy theories are made!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Silly, dogs can’t spell. If they could spell it would be t-r-e-a-t-s n-o-w! I don’t know squat when it comes to things like souls but I want the rainbow bridge story to come true. Come to think of it, I might be more favorably inclined towards a religion if it made provisions for dogs to accompany their humans in whatever afterlife might occur.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I-5. I so completely do not miss it. My driving music was usually Supertramp, though I do have a limited fondness for mariachi music. Did you know it’s based on polkas?

    Buttonwillow was where I usually needed to stop for gas. Looks like you just plain stopped. I had the kind of childhood that might have led to an adulthood among the Riff Raff — is that really how it is spelled? Live and learn. I grew up living in horror of winding up in Barstow or Victorville, one of those places. You can see why I ran and just kept running, right off the continent.

    You were so brave to lose sight of the freeway. I never would have dared, but of course Max would have protected you. And I’m sure the wino’s had very cold beer on tap. Did they actually have any wine?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You would be astounded at how much of California agricultural land is now devoted to growing grapes. Huge swaths of the central valley, the coastal mountains, plains and even foothills are now vineyards, mostly operated by enormous corporate growers. I giggle at the notion of East Modesto being considered “terroir.” Ah yes, a phenotype characterized by a hint of meth, wife-beaters and just a touch of smog. The latest marketing blitz is for “Stella Rosa.” Google it and pass the info to your favorite vinificatrice and watch the horror on her face as she reads the tale of this monstrosity conceived by Los Angeles’ oldest wine operation.

      PS: you can keep your hallowed collection of accordion music.


      • I don’t collect that norteno stuff — the occasional radio surprise is all I need to keep me happy. Actually here in Vendee we do have our corporate wine types; if by chance you see something from Mourat, just say no — maybe say yes once, so you see what I mean. Actually anything that claims to be made in the “southern Loire Valley” would be somewhat akin to anything “bottled in Napa Valley.” We’re very southern Loire. Come see. Wives and little white dogs welcome.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. HA! Sounds like a trip Coop and I would’ve enjoyed! 😀
    MY! Max is so handsome and smart! 🙂 I bet he didn’t enter that place because he is not a wino, dingbat, or riffraff! As a dingbat, I’d feel at home there! 😉 HA! 😛
    I love your choice of music! My 3 young adult kids tease me for having always enjoyed Mr. Diamond. What’s up with that?! Kids! 😉 😀
    Forget Brother ___________! I think having furry-ones like Max and Coop in our lives is what saves us so often! 🙂
    HUGS and Happy Road-Trippin’!!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup, you guys would have fit right in on this romp up the coast. We’ve become adept at finding off beat locations and activities that are dog friendly. In Oregon we found a company that gives tours of the famous Oregon dunes in monster-size sand rails and if a dog fits on a lap it is welcome to come along. I suspect Coop could make himself real small to get in on the action. Dive bars are our specialty and you probably would not be surprised to find out that most dive bars like having a dog or two inside no matter what the Health Dep’t says about it. Max has been offered a beer more than once but he hates beer so no problem with him getting rowdy and disorderly.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Good dogs go to heaven but bad dogs go everywhere.” That’s Max channeling his inner bad dog and singing the tune by Meatloaf. Or maybe channeling Mae West. Who knows? Max is a good dog but he does go everywhere that’s pet friendly and sometimes sneaks into other places. too. That baby stroller trick works very well. 👿


    • Knowing you, I bet you would get a hoot out of these characters. They are so utterly transparent about their motivations. True Brother Love operations and they blatantly admit the key to infinite ecstasy is a fat contribution. When I start screaming “Hallelujah” it’s time to bring on the mariachis.


  4. I have trouble remembering my dogs aren’t people. I frequently call them people. So, I fully understand Max’s confusion when you referred to him as a dog. Tom, you must’ve had too many beers and confused yourself.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me? Too many beers? Not very likely since too many is just enough. 🙂 Speaking of beer, I was able on this jaunt to visit the source (home brewery) of my favorite brew-Deschutes Black Butte Porter- in Bend, Oregon. It was like a pilgrimage, my personal Beer Hajj.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The average Australian, particularly Australian male would be very impressed with a beer Hajj and not only that, but also filled with extreme envy. However, Geoff doesn’t drink beer and neither do I. For many Australians this would be considered a heinous fault. However, Geoff’s dad used to be the treasurer of the local trotting club and the stench of beer stained cash turned him off for life.
        BTW heard a good beer story the other day. A friend of ours has a couple of lambs (who look to be full gown sheep at this point but still known collectively as the lams the same way ur two are still “the pups” even though they’re now two).
        Anyway, my friend left a can of beer outside and when she returned there were teeth marks from the sheep around the base and it was empty.


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