How I can I write this while sitting down? While not crying? While being indoors instead of outdoors in the sun, or on the road I love like my friend and colleague Mark “EyeBall” Kneeskern, “The Last American HitchHiker” as he was known… and known by so many names and aspects?
On Monday Sept. 1, after being on the road and touring Canyon De Chelly in AZ., I was contacted after no phone service for a while by my friend and colleague Curtis to tell me the bad news… that our friend and light in this life had been killed by a train in Fairfield, Iowa on Sunday morning, Aug. 31, about 4:30 am.
Mark had spent this summer as artist in residence at the Jailhouse Gallery in BV with Brynn Ronning, after his usual wintering at his converted school bus in Terlingua, TX with his long time girlfriend and muse, Shannon Carter. His plan was to go on a midwest tour promoting his book for 2 months before returning to the desert; and then the cyclical life of returning back to Salida next June would commence… for another 40 years.
But after a book reading in Fairfield, he set up a ride share and partied with friends, and got invited to another place… and somewhere in the night/morn he was heading somewhere by himself and was killed on the tracks. No one knows what actually happened or didn’t at that moment, but the conductor saw him and slammed the brakes… to no avail. Mark was an organ donator and was cremated.
That was not all he was… an avid writer, a singer, a tub bass player with Greg and Terri and Steve in Lupe Balazos here in Salida, an aspiring rapper on the cusp working with Just Be.Man to compile 50 raps by next summer. He was always writing down notes for his next book, and looked at me crooked with a smirk when he wrote down one of my catch phrases or observations. He never looked thru me or others with those glorious blue eyes, or over your shoulder to see what better conversation or group he could get into… he burned with inquisition of the story YOU were telling and inflections; though his were always more amazing.
Three years ago, I got to really meet him at Cafe Dawn for one of his shows, and can’t remember what the theme was but he knew who I was, and he wearing a long kimono, no shirt, and beat up cowboy hat shading his bushy mustache. In attendance were Brinkley Messick, Shark, and TR Price… all along with Mark and others who would become members of The Rogue Lot for my ALT/WALK productions during Artwalk. The irony and imagery of last year’s live art show called “This Train” haunts my soul now, but it was about the sins, rebuilding, and redemption of Man’s soul and tools; and so telling of the Man who destroyed/rebuilt the passenger car section with a paint brush and a claw hammer, and threw the debris at the audience for them to feel and consume.
Mark was a blasting burning churning art machine this summer in BV and Salida, and now all that art is on display, not to be sold till Shannon and his family look at the catalog and make decisions. You can see it all at Wanderlust, Eye Candy, Dawn Cafe, Jailhouse in BV, and still in the bathrooms of the Fritz… which was just featured in the recent edition of Sunset Magazine as “Looking at art with your pants down!”
There was a remembrance at the Jailhouse on Thursday night and it was like a 2nd line in New Orleans… starting slow and somber with people telling and crying, and ended with fire tricks, singing, drinking, and wailing to the heavens!
This Sunday at Benson’s at 1pm, we will be remembering once again for the Salida family, with musicians from Texas whom he knew and loved, Jon Hogan and Maria Moss, playing great folk/Appalachian songs; and artists doing what we do in times of sorrow and joy; and we’ll be collecting monetary donations for Shannon for her expenses to get to his mother’s house in Minnesota for their memorial next week, and back to Terlingua. And we know she’ll be back to their second home here in Salida again, because she loves us as we love her and her man, and all that he was and represented and conveyed in the (not so hidden) secrets of being a great and decent extraordinary human and artist. The loss is immeasurable… but the example and trail of connection between BV/Salida compadres and colleagues in art art and life has grown many strands to this rope this year, that will show and shine… for him, Shannon, and us.