Ride 'em

Real cowboys, tons of bees, and Thai House 530
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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS "It's amazing how Ohio still exists," said Shawn Shine out of the blue. I think it was in Salt Lake City that an old woman, on her birthday, referred to him and my brother Phenomenon as "a couple of real cowboys" — and this made their day.

Phenomenon of course is a real cowboy — as surely as I am a real chicken farmer. It's what he does, in other words. Puts on a western shirt, a bolo tie, boots, and a hat, and he sings "Home on the Range." Shawn Shine plays the banjo and stomps his feet or slaps his thighs. He wears flannel shirts and a trucker-style baseball cap with the letters ROY G. BIV embroidered on the back of it.

Couple a real cowboys, yipee-kai-yai-yay.

Technically, Shawn Shine is more of a trail blazer. For real. I'm pretty sure he actually gets paid to blaze trail for National Park Service, sometimes. He gets a job, then he takes a train to somewhere, sleeps out on the trail, under the stars — with his ROY G. BIV hat pulled down over his eyes, as I imagine it.

Hedgehog and I befriended the bejesus out of Shawn Shine while we were all on that cute little tour together last month. In one of his songs he sings the line: "Now I can't hug you goodbye if you're covered in bees."

Every night I'd hear him sing that with his eyes closed and some other place's light reflecting off his glasses, and I would just squiggle and squish inside with admiration and respect for my new friend, the real damn cowboy, Shawn Shine.

Come to find he wrote that line about Jean Gene the Frenchman, my other brother! Shawn Shine explained the whole thing to me and Hedgehog at Thai House 530, other night.

Like a lot of people I meet here, or even in other parts of the world, Shawn Shine is already in with my whole kooky family in Ohio — where the weird ones stay. See, between trails once (pronounced wunst), he took him a class in cob bench making — I don't know, I guess because he wanted to make cob benches, or something — and the teacher turned out to be Jean Gene the Frenchman. Then the next thing he knows he is helping my brother tear down some old gangster's house around the corner from my mom's. Something historical, from the 1800s, hammered together with what Shawn Shine called "Jesus nails — you know, with four corners."

Anyway, they were recycling what they could for my other other brother's house around the other corner from mom's. Some beams, some posts. But the walls of the house . . . instead of insulation and wires or even dirty money, they were filled with billions of bees. And of course Jean Gene got it into his amazing head to recycle the bees, too. (Hot damn do I love that brother!)

So, yeah, they started a sort of a shuttle service for bees — as best as I can picture it, using their bodies as busses. And every songwriter in the world wishes they were there for that, I would imagine. But only this one was, bless him: Shawn Shine, everybody.

Most of the Bay Area, to think, doesn't even know yet how happy they are to have him here! When Phenomenon drove back to Ohio after the last show last month, he left Shawn Shine behind. In need of a room in a house, by the way, and work. For between roundups.

Meanwhile, dinner'll be on us. At Thai House 530, as I was saying. Over and over again, since I've latched on to that nasty head cold going around, and duck soup is my medicine. Plus the waitressperson there had the very good sense to compliment Hedgehog's T-shirt, not knowing Hedgehog was not only wearing her T-shirt but had dreamed it up and had it made! To sell off the stage at our shows, even though it doesn't say Sister Exister anywhere on it.

"I love her," Hedgehog whispered to me, when she went to put our order in. I did not feel threatened. Just sick.

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