Pale Wire (Popscene)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

One Big Tree

I spent my Saturday morning driving around the countryside south of Columbia. Decembers are mild here in Missouri, and it was a beautiful winter morning, the soft sun shining down an open sky.

During my travels, I stumbled upon a gigantic oak tree on a cleared piece of river flats near McBain, MO. In town I met some nice folks at Lucille's Beverages and Burgers, where they have a jukebox with George Strait and Patsy Cline alongside The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Madonna. They told me the Burr Oak is Missouri's largest oak tree and the second biggest in the entire United States.

I also decided that I love Ulrich Schnauss' Far Away Trains Passing By. I'd always liked it before, but I think that now -- three years after its release -- it has matured into one of my very favorite.

Ulrich Schnauss - "Knuddlemaus"
This is the lead track.

It makes me feel like I'm tucked in a window seat aboard a train Kraftwerkin' across the snowy Swiss Alps at midnight.

Really, it does.


The Times ran a wonderful piece of unconventional journalism on Friday. Charlie LeDuff writes about Slab City, California, an abandoned military base in the Mojave desert where solitary senior citizens form a makeshift town out of their mobile homes each winter.

There are no amenities; no potable water, no electricity, no sewerage. Groceries can be picked up in town at the grubby market whose managers do not seem to mind that hundreds of people fill their jugs from the water tap. Mail is routed to a post office box - Niland, CA 92257. Gasoline is bought in distant towns like Brawley; prescriptions and liquor are bought in Mexico. Sewage is held in storage tanks or holes in the ground.

The north side of Main Street is Poverty Flats. The south side, the suburbs, where the relatively well-to-do motorhomies have their dinner dances and clubhouse trailers.