#209, Rome, Italy
It's a sultry night here in Albuquerque as I sit roistering on a plush blood-colored couch in Burt's Tiki Lounge, sipping water from a bottle bought in a gas station that featured live scorpions in a glass display case over the rack of Hostess fruit pies. There's no A/C, it's July in New Mexico, and in a few hours I will be stomping around on stage with a fiery red accordion. If there's one thing you learn on tour, it's how to adapt to your surroundings. By midnight I should be edging my way toward heat-induced delirium. Or, if I'm unlucky, spontaneous human combustion.
The dusty highways of America's southwest are by turns desolate and full of peculiar beauty. The day's drive was hypnotic. We drove for miles in our Ford van through the painted desert, gazing out at stretches of arid scrub and pointed saguaro cactus. Tumbleweed blew and distant dust devils swirled. Temperatures bubbled into the triple digits. Maybe I've seen too many episodes of Road Runner or paintings by Georgia O'Keefe, but I really did expect to run into a cow skull by the side of the road.
Speaking of skulls, I do have an affinity for the things. There's a character in Martin McDonagh's play A Skull in Connemara who takes pause from his gravedigging to contemplate the peculiar things we all have inside our heads. The Poor Yorick scene from Hamlet is another good example. I've no stomach whatsoever for the blood-and-guts end of anatomy (as I was reminded two nights ago at the Rogue bar in Phoenix when, post-show, the friend of a guy who makes his living preparing cadavers for medical students excitedly showed me a picture of a skinless corpse on his iPhone), but the bones inside us don't bother me a bit. Give me a cartoon skull and I feel positively warm and fuzzy.
Today's Italian-style skull gets right to the point. Danger, risk of death, keep out, pirates: when you see a skull on a sign, you know somebody means business. I've collected quite a collection of skull signs along the way. This little guy makes a nice companion to the 209. Just don't touch it -- it's evil.