John had to go to Bakersfield this week, and I went along because Bakersfield is a touchstone. So much came to be from starting in Bakersfield. There’s a recent idea making the rounds that today’s young and struggling artists should actively NOT move to New York City, because there is no there anymore. I think I tend toward the idea that going where the action is is a ticket to frustration, rejection, panic and disappointment. I guess the root question is why a person might make art: if you’re making art as a way to make money, I don’t think there is anything for you and I to discuss. If a person is making art to make art, to discover something new or preserve something old, if you’re making art to find out what is in the art, then we have something to talk about. And you know what? There are many fewer hurdles to making art in third-tier cities or even dots on the map. You don’t have to stay where you are (I grew up in Riverside, CA, for instance, and I quickly learned I didn’t like it enough to stay there.

So, in the past 25 years, I have gotten out a little, I’ve explored a little, I have pulled up stakes and moved someplace where I knew no one more than once, and this approach has been good to me. I settled on Sacramento a very long time ago, but the adventure hasn’t ended. What does this have to do with Bakersfield? Bakersfield is not an obvious mecca for creating anything stunning or new, and if you are not familiar with the Bakersfield Sound, I will here suggest you do a little research, it’ll be worth your while. Empty places encourage people to create their own entertainments. I don’t know if there is anything in this world better than that. Bakersfield is a pretty empty place.

Cadillac - Nudie Cohn

The epitome of over-the-top country glitz.

In a decade or two, I imagine people may begin to consolidate the fabulous richness that rappers are wearing today, and start to look back at the good old days of hip hop. In so many different ways, it’s the same story. Most of America is on the outside looking in and wondering what exactly is going on, wishing to be a part of it.

Crystal Palace stage

I’ve been curious to go to Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace for about 15 years now. I booked the hotel in Bakersfield because the price was right and it advertised it’s nearness to the Crystal Palace.

You know what? Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace is like nothing so much as it is like my last trip to Knott’s Berry Farm in 1978. I missed the shoot-out, but in so many other aspects, like the mannequins dressed in “western” gear and placed on the faux balconies outside, it captured a place in time that has largely been left. I felt comfortable there, but I was really grateful that I hadn’t brought any of my family with me. I didn’t feel like chasing children through the restaurant or explaining the significance of the artifacts in glass cases lining the walls. It’s a place to go if this is your interest. It might be short of interesting otherwise.

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