13 November 2004


I received an email from Susan this morning, who just started a great new job in Arlington. She was excited to see Max Cleland in the elevator. It got me thinking about how most people go nuts to meet movie stars and musicians, but only people like us would be excited to meet a certain politician (or even recognize one). This reminded me of a conversation I had at a party. I was telling people how thrilled my mother was to meet one of the Dixie Chicks, and get an autograph and photo taken. When Texasville was shot near her home town, she collected autographs of anyone who was connected with Hollywood. I compared her collection to my own, which consists of people like Michael Moore, Jello Biafra, Julia Butterfly Hill, Susan Faludi, Howard Zinn, and Alejandro Escovedo. Maybe the lines between politics and entertainment are blurring more than usual. We're certainly in for four more years of political farce.

A note on Texasville and the McMurtry family. Larry McMurtry is a writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for Lonesome Dove, and many of his books have become hit movies. He has retired to his hometown of Archer City, Texas, and pretty much turned the whole town into one big bookstore. Peter Bogdanovich filmed two movies based on McMurty novels in Archer City, The Last Picture Show and Texasville, both of which give you a pretty clear picture of the kind of town it is. My mother grew up in an even smaller town called Windthorst just a few miles away. The McMurtry's had a ranch right next to my uncle's dairy farm, and one of my cousins apparently had a crush on Larry's sister. However, Protestants never had much to do with the German-Catholics, and that was all there was to our families acquaintance. However, ever since the filming of Texasville in 1988, and Larry's retirement, he has hosted a musical showcase for singer-songwriters in the building next door to the burned out Picture Show, where Sam the Lion used to run his pool hall. My mother has been volunteering to work this monthly showcase, known as the Late Night Lazy Boy Supper Club. Along with updating me on what the family in Texas is doing, Mom calls to tell me that Larry did this, and Larry did that, and gives us something else to talk about when there is no more gossip about our family. A few years ago I located an account of the County Commission race my great-grandfather, Lukas Zihlman, won in 1902, and noticed that one of his opponents was a McMurtry. Whenever I worry that my mother is needlessly pestering the McMurtry's out of misplaced celebrity worship, I think of Lukas and my poor Scheffe cousin and think that it feels right somehow that these links, indirect as they are, should be continued.

I myself have only had one encounter with Larry. I was browsing his store over the Christmas holidays one year and recognized that he was working the counter that day. Mom keeps pointing him out to me, but I refused to be impressed. This time I approached him, pretending to not know who he was, and asked where he kept the local history books, hoping an interest in Archer County might provoke a conversation, but he just pointed them out and went about his business. I should not be surprised, for although Larry is a brilliant writer, history takes backseat, and sometimes a shot in the back, when it comes to his plots. I consider myself more of a historian than a writer, and though I am frequently appalled at the liberties he takes, I can read the Lonesome Dove series over and over again without getting tired of them.

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