Meet Kevin Carter, aka felon number 86, 079.
I had the good fortune to meet Kevin, 55, this week in Glenwood, New Mexico, the one-horse town where Tutu and I stayed in 2001. Kevin is going to prison for 3 and a half years on June 24th for Crystal Meth possession but he’s sanguine about it. He has a “grandfather” prison number: 86, 079 which meant he was the 86,079th man to get arrested in the state of Arizona since records began in 1930. “They’re up to the 300,000s by now” he said, adding that if you had a grandfather number, you could rule to roost.
Glenwood hasn’t changed much since I was here with Tutu in 2001. It has only become more dusty. Here is where we stayed last time and where I stayed this time too.
And here is me doing a bit of stretching in front of the room I was staying in. Check out the front of the top storey of the building about to tumble down any day now:
A nice lady called called June ran the Lariat when I was here last, but she died two years ago. Now the place is run by a man called Lester who had an exceedingly dusty cowboy hat at reception that didn’t bode well for the state of the motel interior. He didn’t smile at all when I paid him $45 (including tax) for the room. Here is the interior. A $45 including tax motel room is a thing of beauty, although we’re not talking Grand Designs.
A 6-pack of Corona can keep your spirits up for a bit, but basically, you don’t want to linger somewhere like this for too long. So I went for a walk through the “town” until I discovered this sign:
And this inside:
This is my idea of, well, not exactly heaven, but it proved to be a great place to spend a Tuesday evening when you are avoiding spending too much time in your $45 motel room. The Glenwood Tavern is run by Wayne who has 4 fingers on one hand. Here he is displaying two and a half of them.
He was playing pool with Kevin Carter when I walked in. Kevin looked up and asked where I was staying and when I told him the Larait, he exclaimed, “Shit, you’re staying at the worst place in town!” I do like a bit of red neck rough with a sense of humour.
Kevin added that he’d lost 13 games of pool today already. And maybe it wasn’t surprising. I noted that he kept forgetting if he was stripes or spots. I told him the story of the pool game between Mick Jagger and Bryan Ferry with Jerry Hall looking on. Bryan Ferry told me this one time when I interviewed him. Only Bryan looked horrified when I suggested the game had been pool. “I never play pool,” said the coal miner’s son. “Only billiards.” The story goes that Bryan Ferry won the pool game but that Jerry Hall went off with Mick Jagger because, even though he’d lost the game, Mick was a charismatic looser.
Kevin was drinking Dos Equis beer with lots of lime in it. On the East coast, if you order a Corona or a Dos Equis, they laugh in your face. Sophisticated East coast people drink that thick syrupy stuff brewed by 14th century monks. I hate that stuff. How are you supposed to drink that on a hot day? Kevin agreed. He called Dos Equis “working man’s beer” ie beer you can drink while you’re working. Back in the puritanical East, the idea of a beer you drink to make make work more paletable would freak them out. Outside the Glenwood Tavern was a sign that suggested a good work paring for a can of Dos Equis:
Back in the bar, Kevin was at the pool table, explaining how he’d broken his nose in a variety of places playing pool. “You know how it is with pool,” he said. I couldn’t work out why you’d need to have a punch up over a game of pool but still. They have different pool rules here. You have to tell your opponent the shot you are about to play. Maybe that avoids punch-ups around the table. The alternative way of playing i.e. when you just play your shot has a very red neck name around here. “Don’t take offence or nothing,” he said looking awkward, “but round here they call that ‘N***** Play.” Kevin said he didn’t use the phrase himself. He called the do-as-you-want kind of pool shot, “Plough and Pray.”
Plough and pray was a bit like the way his life had turned out. He said he used to work with the Mexican drug people who “cut people’s heads off.” In the 1980s he did 8 years inside for possession of marijuana, 75 guns and $14,000 in cash. He’s off the crystal meth now at the age of 55 and back on the straight and narrow. He said, “being cool leads to trouble.”
He has to take a UA, which is a urine test, every week. He drinks extra lime in his Dos Equis because he says that helps “flush out” your system. It reminded me of a waiter in the Dallas BBQ in New York back in 1987, also called Kevin. Kevin always had a dazed, happy grin on his face when I worked there as a student. He taught me about Visene for red eyes and his big dream was to join the police force. He said if you drank 3 quarts of cranberry juice the day before the test, all traces of marijuana would be flushed out of your system. When I went back 10 years later, Kevin was still a waiter in the Dallas BBQ. Maybe his mistake was not to put loads of lime in his Dos Equis. But Rolling Rock was the trendy beer in NYC back in the late 1980s and that didn’t require lime.
There was something very gentlemanly about New Mexico Kevin. It’s a pity he don’t be able to vote in the elections. In America, if you’re a “felon” you can never vote again. He’s caretaking the property of a friend here in Glenwood until June 24th, and he looked after 2 people recently before they died. He took me for a ride on his Harley. Apparently I was the first person ever to go on the back. I was honoured. He showed me the mountains and his caravan. It was nice. He was at pains to point out that it had a very big shower. I showed my appreciation. A big shower in a trailer is the equivalent of a £70,ooo side return kitchen revamp in London.
Kevin told me that in America, felons like him can choose which federal prison they go to, which sounded similar to the UCAS university application system in the UK. His top two choices were the prison in Eugene, Oregon, because he has a friend there, and one in Arizona because that’s where his mother lives. He also wanted to try out for a prison in California because of the good weather. The worst prison in American is apparently the one in Florence, Colorado. “It’s always kicking off.” If you are in a federal prison, you don’t want people fighting all the time, like you might like them to do round a pool table in New Mexico.
I was about to leave the Glenwood Tavern when Laura Lee came in, like a central casting kooky country chick from a one-horse town. She’d come in for a 6-pack of Coors, another beer that gets you laughed out of town in Boston. She runs the Glenwood Fish Hatchery and she kept talking about her “wife” back home. Wow, I thought, maybe I got the tone of this town wrong after all. Maybe any minute now, Tom Ford is going to come in with his husband and have an impromptu meeting with Wayne and Kevin about this year’s Pride float. Maybe I could reveal to the whole of the Glenwood Tavern that I’d written a book about masturbation called Sex Drive. But it turned out Laura Lee is married to a man and she calls him a “wife” because he’s really good at household chores. Still, I thought that this was a good gender-bending message for Laura Lee to put about in Glenwood. Here she is with her box of Coors beer.
Laura Lee was great. She said, “I don’t give a hoot about what a beer tastes like. I just like the buzz!”
She was born in New Mexico and said that Glenwood is the most beautiful place on earth.
Glenwood was an interesting place in terms of conversations. In London, they tell you how much their house is worth. In New Mexico they tell you if they’re felons or not. In a breakfast called “Golden Girls,” which opens for breakfast for about an hour a day, depending on the mood Golden Girl Eddie is in (try and order the eggs when her hand is not bleeding from a mandolin accident) I met a man who looked like he might have been James from the Chainsaw advert. He said his daughter was now living East. He said that he’d like to visit her, “But she won’t let me. I’m too political.” By “too political” I could imagine what he meant but decided not to probe.
Here is Kevin on his Harley, showing me the directions to “D&D’s Organic Bed and Breakfast” the following day. I liked Kevin. He was my Hell’s Angel angel. Funnily enough, before we parted, he gave me a crystal. Of the good variety.