Saturday, May 9, 2009

Remembering Elko From Ely

It is Saturday night at Ely's Historic Hotel Nevada, founded in 1929 and going strong. My shirt is from Elko's J. M. Capriola Western Wear, founded in 1929 and going strong. Signs of hope for our time.

It is night. I have turned on not a single light, but the room is filled with a soft yellow effulgence. It comes from outside. Across the street, flashing yellow lights dramatize the solid bright blues and pinks of the Jailhouse Casino signage. Just outside my window, the Historic Hotel Nevada's own progressive flashing bulbs are tireless in their quick footed cicumambulation of the wooden sign. For some mysterious reason, a Mexican flag is waving in the Nevada night wind, patriotically illumined by flood lights, right beside my window.

Below on the street, car engines growl and tires hum past and away. Hark, there is another unrecognizeable mechanical sound calling for some unknown reason. It seems to be imitating the mating cry of a migratory bird.

Here I am, and glad of it. This may be an acquired taste. If so, I have acquired it. The lights outside my window remind me of long past callow youth when my legal aid office was above Wong's Chinese Restaurant, announced in pink neon outside my window where I worked many a late night.

But that was Boise. I intended to remember Elko. The big event of course was ordaining two new priests and meeting with parish leaders to imagine their future. All that was splendid -- bagpipes, a colorful Caholic deacon preaching, hymns galore, the whole shebang -- but you had to be there -- so I won't say more about it.

What I will say is that Elko was happening this weekend! I alway seem to be in Elko when the town is in high gear. Last time was the biggest event of the year -- the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This time it was the 2nd biggest event, the biker rally. If that were not enough, the biker rally schedule overlapped an RV convention. But wait, there's more: the Cinco de Mayo parade was transferred (like a Saint's day) to today. All this and a double odination.

This great day was presaged on Friday by a full frontier moon. Beneath that moon, it was Karaoke night at JR's Bar -- my other favorite bar -- really I only have two. A variety of performances were given gratis by the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was the democratization, the perestroika of art, with decidedly mixed results. Let me focus on the good -- though I enjoyed the bad and the ugly just as much.

One guy was a bona fide first rate star quality country singer. He was a swarthy man with black hair and a black mustache. He was about 8 beers a week away from handsome, as his wife was about 12 beers away from stunning. But vocally he was prime, and he sold his songs.

Another guy with a a hayseed persona, including the scraggly beard and a missing front tooth, sang Frank Sinatra oldies like The Lady Is A Tramp and My Way. While he sang, an old couple who are there every single Friday night -- an old couple without wedding rings -- an old couple in Western attire -- I have seen them at Cowboy Poetry two years running -- this old couple danced in front of the stage. Not to be missed.

I will say one thing about today. At the ordination reception, I sat across the table from the 87 year old father of one of the new priests. He was a retired lawyer from Grand Junction, and yes, a Cowboy Poet, who had grown up in Idaho. He recited a classic style poem of his own creation, "The Old Cowboy" -- a prototypical Western lament about the closing of the range and the loss of the old way of life.

If ever this life, which I have been so undervedly graced to share, should fade from the ways of the earth, I will write a lament.

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