Nov 20, 2021 • 7M

"It's a Big Country" with Musical Guest Kyp Malone

Bonnie Hawthorne
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The year was 1987. The roll of Tri-X was 36 exposures. The mileage from New York to Los Angeles (by way of Western Pennsylvania), worked out perfectly to one shot every 87 miles. The starting point was Newark, the end was the Howard Johnson’s on Hollywood Boulevard, near the Capitol Records building.

My companion, a full-sized Panasonic boombox, was my most expensive purchase to date. I took that thing with me into restaurants and recorded conversations with waitresses and truck drivers. (I still have those tapes somewhere.) I also made up country songs while I drove.

East Coast to the West Contact Sheet ©Bonnie Hawthorne 1987

I intended to write the stories of this trip this week. I still will, so think of this as Part One. But apparently, as our bodies change and morph, sometimes a few outlier cells within us foment revolution. This week, I tried to find out what these troublemakers are up to. After six doctor’s appointments in five days (in person!), a CT scan, an ultrasound, and four of the most painful games of peek-a-boo you can imagine, in the end, I was left with lots of lab-coated-shrugs and cheerful promises of More Tests!

I called my friend Kyp Malone to ask if he’d do a cover of one of the country songs I’d written on this 1987 trip. He had guests over, but said if sent him a voice memo with the song, he’d think about it.

The recording I woke up to when I turned my phone on the next morning was the best gift I’ve gotten in a long long time. Laughing in bed is a wonderful way to start a grueling day. He was pretty faithful to the original, but verse three is all him and I love it. He said to feel free to trim the end, but I left it all. It goes on for a bit too long, just like a good cross country road trip.