By Hills Snyder
It was the smell of weed that first brought us together. I was sitting in my car shortening a joint by lighting one end on fire while dragging on the other. I was parked on Thirty Fifth Street outside the gates of Laguna Gloria, a good place to be doing what I was doing. He was walking by, heading for those gates, when four fingers of smoke beckoned him to be tapping on my window.
It was the early Eighties and a certain Groover’s Understanding still held. Nothing had been re-mastered yet and I was still someone who rented the occasional VCR from a 7-Eleven, usually in the middle of the night. So the signals were still authentic, analogue, happening now.
I had once felt the magic driving down Congress Ave at three AM. Some guys in the car next to me were passing a number and gave me a look that suggested I roll down my window. Did. We drove all the way from Tenth Street to the river, passing it back and forth between cars, easing through the flashing traffic lights without really stopping, just driving close and grinning.
So he knew and I knew that he would climb in the passenger seat and partake. But it did take me by surprise when he removed his leg before shutting the door.
I liked it that he felt that comfortable.
As we passed the joint back and forth across the front seat, he told me about sliding into home.
He had been an American nineteen year old in Viet Nam and like all those other boys he’d been taught to hit the dirt whenever he heard the sound of incoming ordnance.
That particular day, the day when he heard that sound, the sound he’d heard many other days, he went down, just as he’d been trained to do. The shell he was dodging hit close, but not close enough to do him any harm.
He was twelve years old and as he rounded third he was already seeing himself sliding in, right foot first, beating the incoming throw by a split second, crossing the plate—just as he’d been taught to do.
And when the moment came for him to go down, that’s what he did. He slid.
I can still picture it perfectly, just as he described it. The heel of his right leg striking the edge of the plate first, his left leg tucked under, his left hand trailing in the dirt, the right hand in the air as if to signal the completion of the run from third—the cloud of dust, the score, the bringing one in for the home team.
And he was seeing it too, just like that, just like that in his mind, the day he heard that sound and slid.
He was picturing it, he was twelve years old, he had good eyes, but he didn’t see the land mine that happened to be there, right there under the plate, right where he slid into home.
His name was Jackson Tomorrow. I was thinking about him yesterday as I was making preparations to read this very short story, the one I’m about to read to you now.
It's Too long
In those days we were two artists sitting on a porch. We would pass the time watching whatever happened to occur in our view. We rarely interrupted those times with words, unless something random required it.
But one afternoon, I said to him, Jackson, the next time I do a show, I’m going to call it If You Don't Like Dogs and Children, Go Fuck Yourself.
He thought about it.
After a good while, he said, No. It’s too long. Just call it Go Fuck Yourself.
Hills Snyder has been an artist on the Texas scene since the seventies. He is also an active arts writer, publishing since 1996, including reviews of Psychedelic, Optical and Visionary Art Since the 1960s (San Antonio Museum of Art), The Old, Weird America (Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston) and Silence (The Menil Collection, Houston).
In 2005, he created Book of The Dead for his project as a resident artist in the International Artist Residency program at Artpace in San Antonio. This was the beginning of an ongoing series of exhibitions linked by the verses of Song 44, a murder ballad written by the artist in 1997. Other projects in this series include Misery Repair Shoppe (2006), All Good Children (2008) and Casual Observer/Causal Observer (2010).
October 2010 saw Snyder spend nine days on the road replacing objects gathered by curator Jens Hoffmann for the Artpace exhibition On The Road. This action retrieved the objects contextualized by Hoffmann as stereotypically Texan and returned them to their original or near-original locales, hence salvaging them from the sealed narrative projected by the curator. To complete this task Snyder drove Hoffmann’s route in reverse, driving throughout Texas and Eastern New Mexico. Highlights of this project, titled One Kind Favor, included a Stetson placed on the grave of Blind Lemon Jefferson, pouring back sand “stolen” from White Sands, New Mexico and a 1950s era Lone Star beer can donated to the permanent collection of San Antonio Museum of Art (which was converted in the late seventies from the historic Lone Star Brewery that the can came from over half a century ago).
In 2011, Snyder founded Wolverton, a four piece folk band that plays frequently around San Antonio and has released two albums of original music produced by Grammy winning producer, Joe Reyes. Most recently Wolverton released an EP, Horse Head Dawn, co-produced by Reyes and Snyder.
For more information on Hills Snyder's work, visit www.hillssnyder.com.