This week on Cross Currents is Weston Boyles of Rios to Rivers, a local non profit for cultural and environmental education. 

Boyles was with Doug Tompkins, philanthropist, environmentalist and founder of The North Face, when Tompkins was killed in a kayaking accident in Chile.

To learn more about Rios to Rivers, click HERE



12-Minute Listen

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the most widely-read Latin American author alive today. The writer, a winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, is a master at spinning tall tales with the details of his own life. That proved to be a challenge for Gerald Martin, who has spent the past 17 years working on the just published biography, Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life.

LYNN NEARY, host: 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the most widely read Latin-American author alive today. Winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, the Colombian writer is best know for the novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” He’s also well known for being a teller of tall tales when it comes to his own life, which made him a singular challenge for his biographer, Gerald Martin. 

Mr. Martin spent the past 17 years working on the just-published biography “Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life.” And Mr. Martin joins us now from our New York bureau. Good to have you with us. 

Mr. GERALD MARTIN (Author): Thank you very much. Good to be here. 

NEARY: He was writing as a journalist for a number of years before his most – probably his most famous novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” was published. 

Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. 

NEARY: And that book was very highly anticipated. I didn’t realize it until I read your book just how much people were already sort of heralding it as a great novel before it was even published. Why was there so much expectation for him and for that book? 

Mr. MARTIN: I think, for a start, there was already this big movement that was just about to be called the boom in Latin-American fiction in the 1960s. There were lots of writers around who were going to be top writers who are known to anybody who reads these days, like Fuentes and Vargas Llosa and so on. But it wasn’t so clear that there was a movement, but there were people who wanted a movement. So that was the one thing. There was a need for an even bigger book. But I think the biggest thing of all is that the book made – I mean, I can still remember – I was a young man then. I was in Mexico City. I read the book six months after it came out. And you had to be there at the time. You had to be in the 1960s. You had to be in the world of the Beatles and Third World revolution, psychedelia, lots of things, to understand now what impact the first page of that book had. 

It just seemed to be a kind of writing that everybody’d been waiting for. They didn’t know they were waiting for it till it came. It was just one of those zeitgeist things. The first two lines, the first time you read them, you just felt, I’ve read this before. Where does this come from? Which is what he felt when he first, himself, thought up the first line of the book. 

NEARY: Can you remind us of what those lines are? Do you have them memorized? 

(Soundbite of laughter) 

Mr. MARTIN: More or less. It’s almost correct. 

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia would remember that distant day when his father took him to discover ice. 

It’s a very strange beginning of a book, and it’s also an incredible beginning to a book, because it’s circular. It’s got so many tenses in it. It’s so strange. And it just seemed what was needed. And then, people felt that, and they had such immediate confidence in the book that when Garcia Marquez had only half completed it, they started to publish chapters in newspapers around Latin America. I mean, this is something that just had never happened. And so, it’s almost as if he was seen as a bestseller writer at an era when no one in Latin American ever sold more than, you know, more than 2,000 copies of books. 

So there was something we all say now – and, in a way, it sounds like hype. We all say there was something magical about the moment and the book. But certainly, this had never happened before, and it’s never happened since in Latin American fiction. 

NEARY: Well, of course, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is known as the father of magical realism, which is a style of writing where the fantastic can happen, even in the most mundane circumstances. And in reading your book, especially the early part of the book, I was really struck by how, in his childhood, there seemed to be so many and even events that had that kind of fantastical element. 

Mr. MARTIN: Yes. One of the problems, of course, is knowing whether they really did, or whether it’s the way he tells it. And I think there’s no doubt that it was an extraordinary place to be born. I think it was an extraordinary house to be born in that he was born in, and I think a town where so many things were happening and so many nationalities were coming through. 

NEARY: Let’s talk about that town. 

Mr. MARTIN: Yeah, sure. Okay. 

NEARY: Let’s talk a little bit about that town and why it was such an extraordinary place and such a – to grow up. 

Mr. MARTIN: Well, the town was out of Cataca. It was about between five and 10,000 people in the 1910s. And the American United Fruit Company moved in there around that time, just before his grandfather moved to the town. And so you had a small Colombian town in which almost nothing was happening or had ever happened, which suddenly had this big, outside world arriving. It was an extraordinarily active place for somewhere that was so small. 

NEARY: Yeah. And he had this very close attachment to his grandfather, because he was raised in his early years by his grandparents, but a very close attachment to grandfather, the colonel. Tell us a little bit about that. 

Mr. MARTIN: Well, his grandfather had been a colonel in the Colombian civil war at the end of the 19th century, which had a kind of magical realist name of itself. It was called the Thousand-Day War. So his grandfather, Colonel Nicholas Marquez, had been a hero of that war. He then moved to this new town where things were happening and became one of the big guys of the town. And when Garcia Marquez was left with him and his grandmother, the grandfather became the most important person in his entire childhood, and in one sense, at least, the most important person in his entire life. 

NEARY: At one point, I think he told somebody my grandfather died when I was eight, and after that, everything was flat. Again, perhaps an exaggeration, but just an example of how important that man was to him. 

Mr. MARTIN: Yes, it is an exaggeration in the sense that, for a start, he was actually 11 when his grandfather died. But it’s true that when the grandfather had the illness that lead his death, Garcia Marquez was eight. And it’s also true that he said that every time anything’s happened to him for the rest of his life, he’s had a kind of impulse to tell grandfather. And, of course, grandfather hasn’t been there for, well, quite a lot of years, now. 

NEARY: But even as a child, he was – and a as a young man, certainly, he was an irrepressible storyteller, it sounds like. He also loved to tell stories, didn’t he? 

Mr. MARTIN: Yes, he did. And being, you know, how grandparents adore children and spoil them and all the rest of it and think that everything they do is wonderful because you’re getting the chance to enjoy it all over again, I think he always had a ready audience, and there were lots of people always passing through the house. And I think the cleverer he got and the more stories he told, the more everybody applauded him. And so I think he did get that feeling which he’s talked about later in life, that people love you if you tell stories. And so he’s always told stories so that people would love him. 

(Soundbite of laughter) 

Mr. MARTIN: And it certainly worked. 

NEARY: If you’re joining us, you are listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. And we’re talking with Gerald Martin, author of “Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life.” 

Now, he grew up and he came of age at a time when Colombia and all of Latin America were going through a great deal of political upheaval, and he himself got caught up in those politics, didn’t he? 

Mr. MARTIN: He did. He already had the background of his grandfather being a civil war hero. Then when he was 18 months old, there was a very famous massacre in a town very near to his town, which is really important in his work later on. And, of course, when he was a student in 1948, he was 21. He was a student at the university in the national capital, Bogota. There took place one of the most astonishing events in the whole of Latin-American history, when the liberal politician Gaitan was assassinated in the street. And his supporters literally burned the whole center of Bogota – and all of this at a time when there was a Pan American conference taking place in Bogota to set up what is now the organization of American states. 

And Garcia Marquez was in a cancion, in a boarding house 300 yards from where that happened. So that really initiated his extraordinary tendency then and in later life to tend to be around when big things happen. 

NEARY: The politics that were taking place in Latin America also coincided with a time of great creativity, especially among Latin-American writers, which, again, he was very much a part of. How did that influence him and influence his writing? 

Mr. MARTIN: Well, he’s always talked about as the originator of magical realism, without one to boring, that’s not entirely true. Magical realism was originating right then when he was a student in the late 1940s. There was Alejo Carpentier in Cuba. There was Miguel Angel Asturias in Guatemala. Although the thing about him is that he was less influenced at that time by these people who you would think would be his major influences, and he was actually more influenced by writers from this country, first Faulkner, then Hemingway – very unusual in Latin America, because, of course, most Latin Americans tended to follow what the French were doing rather than what people in the United States were doing. 

NEARY: Now, I have to say that in this book, he comes across as having a very sort of mischievous sense of humor. And as we’ve said, he likes tall tales. What’s your favorite story about him? 

(Soundbite of laughter) 

Mr. MARTIN: Oh, there’s a good one. 

(Soundbite of laughter) 

NEARY: Or maybe a favorite story that he told. 

(Soundbite of laughter) 

Mr. MARTIN: When the Bogotazo took place, that big upheaval in Bogota in 1948, it happened that Fidel Castro was there. And Garcia Marquez had disgracefully pawned the typewriter that his parents gave him for his 21st birthday, and that typewriter got lost in the riots. It was looted. 

But Fidel Castro, the first he did during the Bogotazo, because he was there, was to smash a typewriter on the ground. And Garcia Marquez swore to Fidel Castro that that was his typewriter. So that’s the kind of tall tale that he tells. And sometimes, he seems to believe them. Who knows? 

NEARY: Do you think it will be his most enduring legacy, ultimately, that book? 

Mr. MARTIN: I think so. You can make arguments for lots of other books, and some people think that some of his other books actually are more perfect pieces of literature. And, of course, he himself has always had a rather difficult relationship with this book. He often says it’s just full tricks. But I personally think that it is the Latin-American novel. So many Latin-Americans tell you that they recognize themselves in the book, that they’ve got a grandmother who’s just like Ursula, the central female character, or they’ve got a grandfather who’s just exactly like the colonel. 

And apart from that, the book – to me, at least. Of course, I’m a bit prejudiced, perhaps. 

(Soundbite of laughter) 

Mr. MARTIN: To me, the book seems timeless, also. It’s a book like “Gulliver’s Travels” or Rabelais or one of those books that, even when it first came out, seemed to have been around a long time. So, yes, I personally think it is the book that will his book. 

NEARY: Do you think that younger people are not as exposed to Gabriel Garcia Marquez is those of us of a certain age, that he’s not read as much as he used to be? Or no? 

Mr. MARTIN: Well, I think he’s not. I think that’s clearly true. But I don’t think it’s as true as you might think. If you read anything about Garcia Marquez in the newspapers and you then go down to the bottom of the article and go the blogs these days, it’s all young people. There are still 20s and 25-year-old people talking about all the things that they talk about. But Garcia Marquez is still – he’s still, by a mile, the most recognized and recognizable Latin-American writer. And I see that Garcia Marquez is still extraordinarily popular among Latin-American young people. No question about it. 

NEARY: Gerald Martin is the author of “Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life.” Thanks. It was good talking with you. 

Mr. MARTIN: Very good to talk to you, too. Thank you very much. 

(Soundbite of music) 

NEARY: And that’s our program for today. I’m Lynn Neary, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let’s talk more tomorrow.


Commentary: Meeting Gabriel Garcia Marquez

On Publication of Memoir, Katie Davis Remembers 1983 Interview


Katie Davis interviews Garcia Marquez in Bogota, Colombia, October 1983.

Courtesy Katie Davis

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Caleb Bach/Knopf

Cover for Living to Tell the Tale (Knopf, 2003)

Some writers invent constantly, their creations sprawling outside the page. That is the way of Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez — novelist, short story writer and now author of a long-awaited memoir, Living to Tell the Tale, which was published in English this week.

Twenty years ago, commentator Katie Davis had a chance to sit down with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Afterwards she wasn’t sure whether she had conducted an interview or participated in a piece of fiction.

“I was aware that Garcia Marquez had a habit of making things up during his interviews. He liked to give each journalist a gift, something original, so they didn’t go away with the same old stuff,” Davis says. The author initially misheard Davis’ first name as Vicky — and insisted on calling her Vicky from that point on…

“And in my case, he included a reminder for when I lose sight of ‘the other reality.’ Garcia Marquez opened my copy of One Hundred Years of Solitudeand wrote: ‘To Vicky… with a kiss, Gabo.'”

From Living to Tell the Tale (Knopf, 2003):

My mother asked me to go with her to sell the house. She had come that morning from the distant town where the family lived, and she had no idea how to find me. She asked around among acquaintances and was told to look for me at the Libreria Mundo, or in the nearby cafes, where I went twice a day to talk with my writer friends. The one who told her this warned her: “Be careful, because they’re all out of their minds.” She arrived at twelve sharp. With her light step she made her way among the tables of books on display, stopped in front of me, looking into my eyes with the mischievous smile of her better days, and before I could react she said:

“I’m your mother.”

Something in her had changed, and this kept me from recognizing her at first glance. She was forty-five. Adding up her eleven births, she had spent almost ten years pregnant and at least another ten nursing her children. She had gone gray before her time, her eyes seemed larger and more startled behind her first bifocals, and she wore strict, somber mourning for the death of her mother, but she still preserved the Roman beauty of her wedding portrait, dignified now by an autumnal air. Before anything else, even before she embraced me, she said in her customary, ceremonial way:

“I’ve come to ask you to please go with me to sell the house.”

She did not have to tell me which one, or where, because for us only one existed in the world: my grandparents’ old house in Aracataca, where I’d had the good fortune to be born, and where I had not lived again after the age of eight.


Chile’s young leader, Gabriel Boric, has a passion for literature that rhymes with the history of Latin American politics

Perspective by Ariel Dorfman

April 27, 2023

Chile’s president, Gabriel Boric, attends an event in Limache, Chile. (Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters)


Ever since Chile recovered its democracy in 1990, after 17 years of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship, each incoming president has addressed the magnates of the private sector to tell them of the new administration’s plans. There was much speculation about what Gabriel Boric, elected president in December 2021 on a furiously anti-neoliberal platform, would speak about. Would this tattooed firebrand, now 37, who had made a name for himself as the leader of the student movement and then as a troublemaker in Chile’s congress, even turn up?

Boric attended that meeting in January 2022, but instead of declarations of policy or potential legislation, he started his speech with a poem by Enrique Lihn (1929-1988) about the Cemetery of Punta Arenas, in Boric’s hometown at the southernmost tip of Patagonia: “Not even death could make equal these men / who give their names to different gravestones / or shout those names to the sun-wind that erases them.” Boric was bringing out of the shadows the countless Chileans whose lives have been ransacked and neglected, reminding the cream of Chile’s ruling class that, as the poem says, “peace reigns here but a peace that struggles to break out,” haunted by the dead, “each being themselves forever, waiting, with tablecloths extended for their children and grandchildren.”

Less than a week later, addressing an annual forum that promotes scientific knowledge, he once again quoted a poet whose “irreverence against all forms of authoritarianism” he admires, Nicaraguan priest Ernesto Cardenal: “In one of his last poems written before dying,” Boric told the gathering, “he said that humanity needs a new mathematics, because one plus one is not two but one, and that salvation does not come from one but from all of us together.” During the next year, poetic allusions, mostly from unknown authors, kept popping up in speech after speech.

Poetry, of course, is something politicians resort to from time to time. Seamus Heaney’s words about the rare moments when “hope and history rhyme,” from “The Cure at Troy,” have been repeated often by Bill Clinton and, over and over, by Joe Biden. But Boric’s fascination with poetry and literature is not incidental or ancillary; it’s uniquely embedded in the his marrow. As a child, little Gabriel would recite extensive stanzas his grandfather had read to him and, by adolescence, had joined a literary workshop, writing incandescent poems and editing a literary magazine. Literature’s call to a young Boric would have been further amplified by the fact that a number of Chile’s foremost poets (and Boric’s favorites) were born in far-flung provinces: Pablo Neruda in Temuco, Gabriela Mistral in the Valle del Elqui, Nicanor Parra in Chillán, Pablo de Rokha in Licantén and Gonzalo Rojas in Concepción, to name just a few who journeyed to Santiago to pursue their literary ambitions. Many decades later, Boric made the same pilgrimage.

In an alternative universe, it is conceivable that someone with Boric’s voracious reading habits and cultural aspirations would have created a mature oeuvre of literary work before entering the political arena, an example set by some of Latin America’s most accomplished authors. Argentina’s Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, while exiled in Santiago, wrote “Facundo,” a hybrid of essay and fiction considered an essential masterpiece of the 19th century, and went on to capably govern his country. José Martí, who died on the battlefield fighting for Cuban independence in 1895, produced an astonishing range of poems and essays that inspired both that struggle and Fidel Castro’s revolution decades later. Only after Venezuelan Rómulo Gallegos had written several major novels was he elected president of his country. Mario Vargas Llosa, whose works count as one of the high marks of Latin American contemporary fiction, was a candidate for the presidency of Peru. Sergio Ramírez, an exceptional novelist, served as vice president of Nicaragua during the first Sandinista government. (When Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s current dictator, revoked Ramírez’s citizenship, Boric offered him the Chilean nationality.)

There is no guarantee, of course, that Boric would have attained such noteworthy literary prominence. History, in any case, intervened. He became ardently involved in the mobilizations of university students between 2008 and 2011 protesting the inequality and injustices that were the legacy of the dictatorship, which the cautious center and left-wing parties had been unable to successfully redress. That militancy ultimately catapulted him to win the presidency with a 56 percent majority.

The dissident who entered the Presidential Palace in March 2022 was determined to carry out a utopian, iconoclastic political program, driven by recent ecological, feminist and LGBTQ+ insurgencies, as well as the historical struggles of workers and Indigenous peoples. But he was also influenced by his contentious, prophetic literary predilections; by subversive Chilean poets and narrators (Pedro Lemebel, German Carrasco, Diamela Eltit, Elicura Chihuailaf, Griselda Núñez, Roberto Bolaño, Alejandro Zambra), most of them from the fringes of society who were rebelling against a Chile “weighed down by a tombstone” (another line by Lihn that Boric once declaimed in the halls of Congress).

Very soon, however, the harsh reality of that traditional and conservative Chile began to weigh down on this rabble-rousing politician entranced by poets who impertinently criticize and mock the status quo. To get legislation passed in a fractious Congress where he did not hold a majority, Boric had to curb many of his revolutionary desires. Sixty-two percent of the electorate resoundingly rejected, in a referendum in September, a remarkably progressive constitution that expressed the insurrectionary and foundational yearnings of Boric and the movements that had swept him into power. That defeat shocked the young president. Might he be out of touch with the real country’s concerns and priorities, especially regarding the economy and how to offer security to citizens unnerved by a rise in everyday violence and crime?

The besieged Boric reacted to these and other setbacks by adopting a more moderate and modest agenda — even proposing policies he had condemned in the past — which could be interpreted as his bowing to a tenet enunciated by Machiavelli: It is better to break a promise if keeping it would be against one’s interests. But political expediency is arguably only a partial explanation for a shift to a less belligerent attitude. That change was also prepared by what Boric’s most cherished books had taught him.

His ability, for instance, to question his own preconceptions is prefigured by a phrase he has frequently insisted is the key to his moral philosophy: “Doubt must follow conviction like a shadow,” coined by Albert Camus, Boric’s most beloved non-Chilean writer. And his willingness to reach across generations to more experienced people, bringing into his coalition the very center-left figures that he had excoriated so virulently, is less surprising when considering his appreciation for writers (Jorge Teillier, Stella Díaz Varín, Armando Uribe, Jorge Edwards and Lihn himself) who wrote their most substantial work many years before Boric’s own birth. Nor does Boric only conceive of poetry as confrontational. It is also a field of beauty, where adversaries can mysteriously meet, anticipating his own desire to find common ground with opponents to his government.

This openness and tolerance learned from his relentless readings should not be confused, however, with the abandonment of beliefs and principles absorbed from those very books. But Boric’s preferred literature is marked by a fervent reverence for a threatened natural world, and a deep empathy for the pain of men, women and children perpetually sidelined by the powerful. If he betrayed the identity shaped and inhabited by “echoes and voices of nostalgia” (Neruda), he might feel orphaned, emotionally adrift.

So are the two passions of Boric’s life — the love of a recalcitrant, sacrilegious literature and the dedication to a flexible, pragmatic form of service in politics — irreconcilable? Can he be true to both of them?

That will depend partly on what transpires in the confines of his mind, but mostly on how multitudes of Chileans define their communal future as they accompany their young president on his unprecedented journey. The outcome will be determined by the capacity of Boric’s compatriots to imagine, in ways that so many writers past and present have foretold in stubborn and wondrous words, a land no longer eternally weighed down by a tombstone, a land where the dead in the cemeteries can rest in peace and the living who visit them can abide in justice, where perhaps hope and history might, in effect, rhyme.

Ariel Dorfman, a distinguished professor emeritus of literature at Duke University, is the author of “Death and the Maiden.” His most recent books are a collection of poems, “Voices From the Other Side of Death,” and a forthcoming novel, “The Suicide Museum.”


The Mavericks’ Raul Malo pays tribute to the late great John Prine with his own version of “I Just Want To Dance With You

Writes Raul…
It is with a heavy heart that I write this today. I thought perhaps this virus would be a merciful one and spare our friend @John Prine. It did not. The world has now lost one of its greatest troubadours. That we all know. However I’m going tell you a little bit about what kind of guy he was. I had the pleasure and honor of “opening” for John a few years back. This was during my solo years, and I was at a real crossroads in my life as to whether or not I was going to be able to continue to do this for a living. John treated me with nothing but kindness and respect. His entire crew made sure I had everything I needed night after night. John’s character was apparent from the moment I walked through the backstage doors at whatever theater we were playing. It matters who’s in charge.

Throughout the years I would see John in all kinds of settings, from backstage at @Ryman Auditorium, to the Granny White Market (where we’d take our kids so they could grab their after school snacks). He always greeted me warmly. I can hear him clear as a spring day adding almost an extra syllable to my two syllable name…”hey Ra-uu-ul” he’d say with his unmistakably raspy drawl. Pleasantries would soon follow and then a short goodbye, knowing that we would see each other again.

I saw John many times after those years. His children and my children grew to be friends. His triumphs this year were celebrated at my house too. He was an inspiration not just personally and musically, but professionally as well. I often refer to John, and his label @Oh Boy Records, as a model for everything that we (@The Mavericks) are doing now. He set the example. He set the tone. Of course he did. He’s John Prine. 

Watch Raul Malo’s rendition of “I Just Want To Dance With You” followed by John Prine’s performance of his song accompanied by Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway and Phil Donelly back in 2003.

~~~ WATCH ~~~


I’ve had some time on my hands lately so I dug into my old music on this rainy afternoon and have been enjoying some Ry Cooder’s tunes.  The guy started in the mid-60’s with the Rising Sons, an American, L.A-based band, which was founded in 1965. Their initial career was short-lived, but the group found retrospective fame for launching the careers of Taj Mahal and Cooder who went onto writing film scores (Paris Texas & many others) to some really eclectic albums that only a musicologist like himself could pull off.  There was a song from Bop Till You Drop, The Very Thing That Makes You Rich Makes Me Poor written by a Memphis cab driver that disappeared into history.  I remembered the story but had to Ask The Google to find it, so rounded it up in an old RollingStone from 1980.  Enjoy.




From Tex-Mex to R&B — looking to the past for fame and fortune


A few weeks after Christmas, Ry Cooderhopped a plane for the Cajun country of southwestern Louisiana. Director Walter Hill had enlisted him to head down there to record part of the soundtrack to his latest film, Southern Comfort, and it was the sort of excursion Cooder loves to make. Even though it lasted only a couple of days, the guitarist was able to play with some of the region’s finest musicians and immerse himself in the centuries-old French-American traditions that still prevail there.

“Ry was something else, not only as a musician, but as a human being,” Dewey Balfa says of Cooder’s visit. A fifty-four-year-old fiddle player, Balfa may well be the world’s best-known Cajun musician. “To tell you the truth, I lost my brothers Will and Rodney in an auto accident a few years ago. I thought I never again would make a recording session and be in the same mood as when Rodney played rhythm guitar for me. But Ry made me feel like I was back in those days. As much as I like other music — country, bluegrass, some rock & roll — I can’t get into the grooves because I’m too deeply rooted in my own music. But Ry can break away from his regular music. He just fell right in with us and lifted the group. I played like I hadn’t played since my brother died.”

With those few sentences, Dewey Balfa manages to sum up much of what makes Ry Cooder special. Though the very mention of words like curator, musicologist or archivistmakes Cooder’s skin crawl, he has done more than any other contemporary musician to bring the various strains of regional music into the pop mainstream. And, as Balfa’s testimony illustrates, Cooder hasn’t accomplished that feat just by duplicating the sound of other people’s records. He’s ventured out — to slack-key guitarist Gabby Pahinui in Hawaii, to bluesman Sleepy John Estes in Tennessee, to Tex-Mex accordionist Flaco Jimenez in South Texas — learning the music firsthand. And the records that have resulted from those encounters haven’t come off as studied re-creations of little-known art forms; rather, they’ve been accessible, contemporary and personal.

“I know a lot of musicians who like all kinds of music, but very few of them seem able to incorporate these elements into their own stuff and make it come out as a kind of personal music,” says Chris Strachwitz, owner of the California-based Arhoolie Records, a label that specializes in regional and ethnic music. “Ry has what I call a composer’s ear; he’s able to hear things in a way in which they might reach more people. It’s a lot like what some of the classical composers used to do when they’d incorporate elements of folk music into their compositions.”

Even if he didn’t have the most eclectic tastes around, or even if he weren’t able to meld seemingly disparate forms of music into a unified and pleasing whole, Ry Cooder would still be a musician to be reckoned with. For Cooder is a brilliant bottleneck guitarist; his bending and blending of notes can make the instrument sound like it’s talking or crying or laughing (just listen to his instrumental version of Ike and Tina Turner’s “I Think It’s Going to Work Out Fine” on 1979’s Bop Till You Drop). As a rhythm guitarist, Ry may not possess a lot of technique — “People who have technique are like Pat Metheny,” he says. “That, to me, is impossible” — but he is an economical player with an uncanny ability to create unique and interesting sounds.

“I sometimes think he must be playing with four hands,” says drummer Jim Keltner, who has appeared on nine of Cooder’s ten albums. Bassist Tim Drummond agrees. “When we’re in the studio and he’s playing, it’s all I can do to keep playing my bass. I just want to stop and watch him.”

Crimson Sound is a small rehearsal studio hidden away on an alley in Santa Monica just a few blocks from the ocean. Ry Cooder himself lives only a couple of miles from the studio — in a Spanish-style white-stucco house just off the Pacific Coast Highway near Sunset Boulevard — and he’d jogged to Crimson earlier in the morning to work out some material for an upcoming tour in support of his new album, Borderline. When I arrive, he is seated, oddly enough, behind a drum kit.

“You know ‘Trouble You Can’t Fool Me’?” he asks, referring to a track from Bop Till You Drop. “Well, there are certain things that song has to have: these off-time parts, these hits,have to come at a certain time, otherwise the song doesn’t work. Often I’ll tell my poor drummer something, and he won’t understand what the fuck I’m talking about. It’s tough to describe a part, so I gotta find ways to show him.”

It’s typical Cooder. Ry Cooder the perfectionist. Ry Cooder the arranger. Ry Cooder the man obsessed with searching for the perfect sound. Jim Keltner tells how during one of the sessions for Bop, Cooder heard the band make a sound he liked and proceeded to spend the day breaking everything down until he found out what caused it.

Ry fiddles around on the drums for a few more minutes, then moves over to a stool in front of his guitar amplifier. He’s dressed in a baggy violet T-shirt, loose-fitting green slacks and gray running shoes, and his legs — Cooder stands over six feet tall — are spread out in front of him. (“The guy has long legs. And big feet,” Keltner says. “When we’re in the studio and he’s standing behind a baffle, all I can see are his head and those gigantic running shoes sticking out.”)

The forthcoming tour will be Cooder’s first full-fledged set of U.S. dates since his Chicken Skin Music trek in 1976. For those shows, Ry was accompanied by accordionist Flaco Jimenez and, he says, “Everything happened that possibly could.”

Such as? “Well, such as death,” Cooder says, staring down at the floor and talking in a quiet, choppy drawl. “The bass player’s oldest son died suddenly. Then the saxophone player’s father died. And illness. Flaco had problems and had to go home for a week. The guitar player got pneumonia and had to be put in the hospital. And hardship. We had a bus we couldn’t pay for, so we lost it and had to drive cars, which would break down in the snow. I was sick for two years after that. Exhausted. Debilitated. Demoralized. I believed in it, and I thought it was going to happen; it was so great, who could not like it? But it turned out that very few people did like it. Those were dark days.”

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

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The Very Thing That Makes You Rich Makes Me Poor

Kiitella – Lisa Issenberg – creates special gift for Mikaela Shiffrin

~~~ WATCH ~~~

The Vail Valley and the world is celebrating Mikaela Shiffrin for her world record setting 87 WORLD CUP WINS! Each of the towns in the Vail Valley presented her with a gift. 

The Town of Avon, Colorado commissioned Lisa Issenberg of Kiitella to create a “Key to the Town” for her. 

“One of the highlights of my career is making awards for people like Mikaela. What a great honor to have my art in her hands over the course of ten years… and now… to create a gift especially for her! What a joy and privilege to make Mikaela’s “Avon Key to the Town” gift. Thank you Avon!” – Lisa Issenberg, Kiitella

Kiitella’s custom awards are commissioned by multiple organizations across the outdoor, ski, film and environmental industries. To learn more, visit

#CustomInspiredAwards #MadeInColorado #MetalArtist #WomenSupportingWomen #SustainableAwards  #MadeWithLoveAndGrit

Awards in this video include: 
2023 Avon Key to the Town!
2013 Vail Beaver Creek World Cup
2014 Squaw Valley (now Palisades Tahoe) US Alpine Championships
2015 Aspen Audi FIS Ski World Cup 
2015 Vail | Beaver Creek FIS Alpine World Ski Championships
2015 Sugarloaf US Alpine Championships – photo:JWalter
2016 Sun Valley US Alpine Championships
2017 Squaw Valley (now Palisades Tahoe) Audi FIS Ski World Cup
2017 Aspen Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals