Thursday, February 25, 2010


Willie, Time To Go (ongoing blog chapters saga)

By Mad Coyote Joe © 2004

“I tell you kid, televisions are a great way to pick up a little quick cash. I mean who doesn’t want a better TV, on a good day I can unload eight or ten of em.”

I’m a little confused. “Just how do you get a hold of eight or ten TVs?”

“Shit…grabbing TVs is easy. You wander into the Monkey Wards or any big store. All you need is a receipt. If you can’t find one in the trash or on the ground, just buy something that cost a few bucks. Walk on back to the TVs and fold the receipt so the store name is in plain sight. Tuck the receipt in your mouth, pick up a set and head for the door. (Back in the sixties merchandise was often stacked in the department) You can’t talk and nobody is going to ask a guy with a receipt in his mouth if he paid for the TV. The fuckin manager will usually get the door for you. And if he gets wise and starts asking questions, you can always throw the TV on him. The problem with them getting the door is they may want to help you to your car. You really want to avoid that. It gets a little sticky when you’re trying to explain the six or seven TVs in the back of your station wagon.”

My buddy, Willie Coogan is 34 years old. An anglo, that stands six-foot two-inches tall, 240 pounds, without a drop of fat. He’s a big, friendly looking man, with penetrating steel grey eyes and a big “shit eating” grin that never leaves his face. Willie’s the kind of man that other men find likeable and a little scary, both at the same time. With a sandy blond, full head of curly hair, a classic bad boy, women find him irresistible. He’s also a self described “Rounder” or career criminal, that has been in and out of prison all of his life.

I’m fifteen years old and big for my age. Willie works with me in the steel yard my family owns in the gritty industrial district of old south Phoenix. He needs a straight job to meet his parole requirements.

We’re fabricating iron on a pneumatic steel bender. It’s another sweltering summer day, working in the brutal Arizona sun, The bender we are working at is situated between two driveways that sit about twenty five feet off of the oily dirt road that runs in front of the steel yard. The neighborhood, a mix of old buildings and industrial plants, is the home of the poorest of the poor, numerous gangs, street people, junkies and drunks. So, it doesn’t seem odd when the two bums start arguing just outside the gate on the other side of the bender.

They look like street people, unkempt, dirty long hair, several days of stubbly beard. Both in dirty work pants, one wears a sleeveless Levi jacket and the other an old, faded, sweat stained, tee shirt that say’s, “American Graffiti.”

The guy wearing the sleeveless jacket starts, in a very loud, drunken voice.

“Jimmie, You didn’t even like that chick. I don’t need your shit!”

The shaggy man in the “American Graffiti” tee shirt looks over and starts talking to Willie and me with an intoxicated slur, while his friend stumbles on down the broken sidewalk, seemingly unaware.

Approaching us from the front, he blirts out, “Like her… Can you believe him? She was my cousin! I’ve known her all my life!”

We’re starting to laugh at the developing scene when the other man notices that his friend has wandered through the first gate into the yard. He is now standing at the second gate, just behind us, so he wanders on over.

Extending a friendly hand, he appears to be the classic happy drunk.

He mumbles to Willie, “Hey man, that’s Jimmie, I’m Sam, how you doin?”

Willie smiles and turns, to shake his hand. We are both snickering.

As he turns I noticed the man standing across from us reaching behind his back, as if to tuck his shirt in.

Suddenly, time slows to a crawl and all sound seems muffled. I see the next few seconds like an instant replay in some sort of twisted, slow motion movie. I watch the look on the man’s face change from a lazy smile, to deadly serious. In an oddly choreographed move, he pulls out a big blue-steel revolver. Grasping it with both hands. He is now pointing it directly at Willie’s head. This movement causes Willie to turn back towards him. The looming barrel of the pistol looks huge and hollow and is about eight inches from center of Willie’s forehead. Meanwhile, the second man produced his own gun. He grabs Willie by the shoulder. I watch as the barrel is firmly pressed just under my friend’s right ear at a slightly upward angle, causing him to carefully tilt his head to the side. Willie’s hands instinctively, start to rise, signaling surrender. The man on the other side of the bender say’s in very low, but deliberate, staccato voice“ don’t-even-breathe… F-B-I.”

Meanwhile several unmarked white sedans descend on the yard with lights flashing. Agents wearing blue blazers with F.B.I. in big yellow letters appear out of nowhere.

One of them says, “Willard Coogan, you are under arrest for interstate trafficking of narcotics, fraudulent schemes and receiving stolen goods. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney…” He is cuffed behind his back and shoved to the ground in seconds. A couple of agents with shotguns stand over him pointing them directly at Willie’s chest. I’m pulled out of the way by another agent, asking if I’m alright.

A waiting sedan is pulled forward and Willie is jerked to his feet, lifting him by his huge arms. He is pushed in the back seat and accompanied by the two big agents, one on each side. The car immediately takes off. As they drive away, I catch a glimpse of Willie. All of the color has left his face. He looks as if he has aged twenty years in just a few minutes, like a caged dog on his way to the pound. This is the last time I will see my friend for just over eight years.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wood Cutting in the Sonoran Desert

I met my wife Kathy when we were going to High school, both of us just 13. I was her first kiss, first date, first boyfriend and yes, I took her to the Senior Prom. We married in our early 20’s and moved to Cave Creek a few years later. Our first house was an old ramshackle combination of poorly connected rooms with a tin roof. We had no air conditioner or heat, so it was fans in the summer and a fireplace in the winter.

When you heat with wood it’s a whole different thing from having a fire for ambience. The first time you buy a cord of wood for $280 out of a $360 paycheck you decide that cutting your own might be a better choice.

Photo Daigneault 2002, Our yard in spring

Living in the desert and driving on dirt roads you soon learn to look for firewood opportunities. There is an old grove of tamarisk trees right in the middle of town and there was many a night that I came home to find we were out of wood and the “house” was getting cold. So I dove over to the grove and tied a rope to a big branch of tamarisk that was often still attached to the tree. I would attach the other end to the back of my motorcycle and roll forward until the rope was tight and then give the gas!

Photo Daigneault 2002, Saguaro our yard
Usually after a few yanks the branch would come free with a big crack and I would drive the two blocks to our house. This route included about 400 feet of driving down the middle of cave creek road dragging a 15-foot long branch that if I was lucky would burn all night.

Things were different in those days. If the local cop saw you he would turn on his red flashing lights and follow you until you turned the corner on to your street and then lean out the window, laugh and yell, “Get a truck”. Wave and then go back to looking for speeders.

Photo Daigneault 2002, cactus front yard

I have a party to cook for in a few weeks and I’m out of mesquite, so I went out wood gathering. I took my son Joey and we drove around town on the back roads. After about ten minutes we found a big pile of mesquite branches that had been cut and discarded last season along with cactus and various other yard trimmings. This time of year we only need to keep an eye out for scorpions, black widow spiders, and the occasional tarantula, luckily the rattlesnakes are hibernating. There are also the cactus and mesquite thorns to contend with. We got out and used an electric branch saw with a full battery and cut off the smaller branches leaving only logs about six to seven feet long. The truck was full in about half an hour and we took it home. Joey will come over this weekend and cut it into foot long logs, and then split the big pieces so I can use the wood in my big trailer barbecue.

Photo Daigneault 2002 Tuna blossom our house

Joey had to go back to work and so after we got to the house he gave me a hug and drove back to Firecreek to finish with his coffee roasting.

I was a little worn out so I went inside and set in my big chair. I had a few mesquite thorns in my hands to deal with. As I was working on my hands, I remembered Joey at four years old wanting to use the chain saw or to help load the wood. Back then I had to keep an eye on him. Now he’s the one keeping an eye on me. I hope that one day I get a grandchild to take woodcutting. It may not seem like much but to me the though of driving an old truck on a dirt road with a dog and my grandkid is about as good as this life gets.

Cactus Flower photo Daigneault 2002

I feel sorry for the people that live here, but they live in town or in subdivisions with “Desert Landscaping”. Joey and I were off the main road, only a few blocks but it was amazing. The ground was damp from the rain and there were birds and rabbits. It smelled like creosote and earth. It’s a gift to live here and interact with the desert. And it’s a gift to have this life with my wife and kids.

If you live here in Arizona and have a little time this weekend, grab your sweetie or kids and take a drive. Just go for a little hike in our beautiful Sonoran desert It’s there waiting for you.

Photo, Mike Assad feb 05 Snow in front yard

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Being an Artist

The other day I was at coffee at C4. I met a couple that was enjoying the beautiful Cave Creek morning. The woman asked an interesting question.

“What would you say is your main art form?”

My answer was, “Well, food… or performance… well, I also love architecture, but that’s not my main area of interest, But I also really enjoy music, Lately I’ve been working on writing, creative non-fiction and poetry, but that’s not my main area of… let’s back up.”

For me it’s all the same. I write with the same part of me that paints and sculpts and cooks and speaks. Let’s take my motorcycle for example.

I few years ago, I found a Honda Trail 90 in the Motorcycle Trader. It looked exactly like this.

I rode it for a few months and really loved it but I started thinking about what I really wanted. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to change my motorcycle. So I chopped it. I’ve never done any of this type of work, but I decide that I wanted to make my Honda 90 cooler and this is what I came up with. I did all of the painting my self and believe it or not that orange that matches perfectly is Home Depot spray paint.
Well I rode it for about six months and I started thinking about the movie "The Great Escape" and Steve McQueen on that great bike. Now that's a cool bike! I mean how hard can it be to copy?

so I chopped my bike it again. I decided to paint it Desert Tan. And this is what I came up with.
My thought on art, music, or anything that you feel strong about is, “Bring it!” I write, both words and music. I paint, build, sculpt and cook.
The great American Will Rodgers once said, "It's great being an artist, because nobody can tell you're not"

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dinner with my Mentors

Tonight was a real treat. I was fortunate enough to see the people that have made my career what it is, stop and have a taste of the fruits of their labors. Bob Boze Bell, his lovely wife Kathy and daughter Dena (I’m sure that I spelled their names incorrectly) dropped by Cody's along with Don McClure, Bruce Jones and his also lovely wife Marisa and their son and my little buddy Peyton had dinner and drinks. I was responsible for all the recipes. For Bruce and Don they remember when I first wrote and then corrected those recipes. And Bob drew the first label for the Chili From Hell 24 year ago. This was the beginning of me being Mad Coyote Joe.

I tried the Rocky Point Shrimp Cocktail tonight and I remember first having it with Kathy, Katie and Joey 20 years ago; still that wonderful flavor.

The coffee is being roasted, by my son Joey, at fire Creek Coffee. It’s fantastic, what can I say he has his mother’s amazing palate.

Make sure and get out and try the food at Cody's in Cave Creek. You won't be disappointed.

Photo Daigneault
The set of The Sonoran Grill sits empty

The Beat a poem by Daigneault

The Beat
A poem
By Daigneault

Unspoken words

take wings tonight

Aromas dance

and rise

Piercing tones

reveal true heart

The brush carves

wood, cuts ice

Colors mixed find

notes not seen

Gracious hands

yield truth

Spade finds

earth, desire and flesh

The supple

muse of youth

And in the sky

beneath the waves

The beat,

the grain,

the stone

Unspoken words

take flight tonight

From gods these

gifts, on loan

Photo by Ila Ross 2004

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A quick thought on Sunday

There’s an old saying that goes something like; “Happiness comes, not from having what you want, but instead, wanting what you have.”

We have been lied to. And we are the biggest suckers in the last thousand years. 99% or more of those that have lived on this planet in those past thousand years have lived well below the poverty level.

It’s human nature to desire the best, but with the availability of everything, we are convinced that true happiness is just around the corner. All we need is to get to the next level… just a little more shit. A better car, a bigger house, new tits, a boat and a cabin and a flat screen television, not to mention those really cool shoes that we saw on MTV, with those few little changes we’ll be able, at long last, to truly enjoy the blessings that this life has bestowed upon us.

However, if we get these things they are often outdated as soon as they get home. Or, we need to go into hock to get these things. Or, the worst scenario of all, and the most common, we go into hock for things that we quickly tire of and then it off to the races. The great American “rat race” that is! More shit, more debt, more stress, more therapy and meds, which leads to self-examination. Only we don’t have the time to truly examine ourselves so the quick fix is that sweet vacations that we can’t afford and of course…just a little more shit. A better car, a bigger house, new tits, a boat and a cabin and a flat screen television, not to mention those really cool shoes that we saw on MTV, (That noise you are hearing in the back of your mind is you screaming at the top of your lungs, because your head is on fire!)