On the last night of his Fabulous Dream Vacation In the American Southwest Jae decided to enter a poker tournament — finished in the money, second place.  Oh, those New Year’s collard greens — still working their magic.

We hit the Peppermill afterwards for some belated birthday cake — massive servings of strawberry shortcake — then made a visit to the Jinya Ramen Bar to close out the evening with some reliably delicious Japanese food and draft Sapporo.  Living like kings . . .



I don’t open presents before Christmas Day.  Since I’d be on the road then this year, I just took a few presents to open in whatever motel I’d be staying at when the day rolled around (you can see them here) — the rest I left at home to open when I got back.  It would still be Christmas, of course, which doesn’t end until Twelfth Night, 5 January.

The haul was rich.

Mary and Paul sent me two choice Criterion titles:


Adrienne and Bill sent me this terrific Robert Crumb art book — for adult intellectuals only:


J. B. sent me a CD of new tracks he’s been recording over the past year in Nashville — they might be available on iTunes before too long and if so I’ll let everybody know, because they are magnificent:


My sister Anna sent me a gift basket of treats from North Carolina — which are mostly eaten and so can’t be photographed:


My sister Libba sent me a supply of smoked salmon and tuna, which her family makes in Upstate New York — the best in the world:


Jack White sent me a complimentary LP from his label Third Man Records, as a beau geste because a larger set of LPs I’d ordered was delayed:


My cup runneth over — thanks to all!

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Jae and I decided to have the traditional Southern good luck dinner for New Year’s Day — collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread.  The greens supposedly represent cash, the folding kind, the peas coins, and the cornbread gold.  Quite apart from that it’s a damned good meal, as basic as you can get but as likely to be eaten by princes as by paupers down in Dixie.

It certainly took me back to my childhood.

Jae did all the work.  He steamed the greens until they were tender then sauteed them in olive oil with garlic, shallots and lemon juice, adding a dollop of butter to the skillet at the end.  They were perfect and we ate them so quickly and completely that they couldn’t make the group portrait above.

He boiled the black-eyed peas in vegetable stock with garlic and shallots, and he made a superb cornbread round in my cast-iron skillet in the oven.

I’m starting to feel lucky already.

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A splendid New Year’s Eve . . .

A hearty meal of ramen on a very cold night, washed down with a pitcher of Sapporo on draft.  Back home for wine and then vodka and grapefruit juice.  Some excellent Chandon rosé Champagne on the terrace where we had a fine view of the fireworks along The Strip, whose aftermath was lovely.


A bit of caviar to celebrate the start of the the new year properly, then up all night talking with Jae about art.  In the wee hours we concluded, with drunken certainty, that when people who make things call themselves artists, it’s usually because the things they make are not quite as good as they ought to be or could be, and the people who’ve made them want a pass for this because of “who they are” rather “what they do”.

We’ll have none of that in 2015!

[Photos by Jae Song]

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My friend Jae was walking around my neighborhood today and noticed a new restaurant close to my home.  He suggested we try it tonight.  It’s housed in a cool-looking stand-alone building in the parking lot of a strip mall — the interior is small, warm and inviting, with subdued lighting, a bar and a big communal table in the center surrounded by booths.

When we showed up around 7pm there was already a crowd waiting for tables, which seemed like a good sign.  It was.  The place has Sapporo on draft and the food is exceptional, easily the best ramen I’ve ever tasted, and reasonably priced, too.  It’s open seven days a week until 3am.

What a find.


Lloyd Miss Saigon Baja

[Photo by Jae Song]

After Fort Davis Jae and I decided to head back towards Las Vegas.  Trying to figure out what city to shoot for that day we suddenly realized that we were within striking distance of Tucson and our mission became clear — revisit Miss Saigon.

We hauled ass and got there in plenty of time to check into the Motel Six and head over for another meal at our new favorite Arizona restaurant.  It was Friday night and much busier than on our previous visit, with a crowd of walk-ins waiting to be seated, but we had thought to make a reservation from the road and were shown straight to a table.


This night there was a sublime lounge group playing in the joint — a wacky lady singer, a saxophone player and a guy on a drum machine.  After the long drive, the big frosty Singha beer tasted especially good, and the food didn’t disappoint, either.


The next morning we had breakfast at a nearby Waffle House.

Lloyd Waffle House

[Photo by Jae Song]

Suitably fortified, we made it back that day to Silly Town.  We’d put a bit over two thousand miles on the odometer, a long haul for a Christmas in Marfa, where most doors were shut to the hungry traveler.  But that’s part of Christmas, too.

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On the initial day of our road trip we’d hoped to make it to Benson, Arizona, where you turn off the I-10 to head south towards Tombstone, our fist planned destination.  A late start meant we only got as far as a western suburb of Tucson, though this turned out to be fortunate.

We checked into a Motel 6 that had a smoking room for yours truly and saw that it was just across a couple of parking lots from the Miss Saigon restaurant, which looked intriguing and a step up from regular roadside eateries.  It turned out to be much more than that.


It served Vietnamese-Thai fusion cuisine and had an excellent selection of Asian and other beers, kept ice-cold.  The waitresses were cute and friendly, putting us in the best possible mood to feast on memorable green curry dishes.

We staggered back to the motel feeling refreshed and lucky.

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My friend Jae rolled into town from New York the week before last and we prepared to head off on a Christmas road trip around the West — me soaking up locales for future Western tales, Jae taking photographs.

First, Jae fortified himself with “all you can eat” sushi at my local sushi restaurant.  Jae can eat a lot of sushi.  The staff smiled bravely no matter how much he ordered, in the spirit of the season.

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New Orleans friend Jonathan McCall sends this photo of his personal hot sauce collection.  Hot sauce is taken very seriously in The Crescent City, of course, and while Crystal is the staple almost everywhere there, the variations are endless.

I’ve got a pretty good collection of hot sauces out here in the Mojave Desert, but it’s only about a third the size of this one.

Just thinking about hot sauce makes me happy.

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I just had my first taste of this.  I love my Louisiana’s Pure Crystal Hot Sauce, but this takes things to a new level.  Crystal is superb, comes in a glass bottle and has no chemical additives, but Sriracha has a mystical quality that messes with your mind.