- Jack Elliot has this incredible soft touch with people; you feel right off that you've known him for years and he's just continuing where you left off the last time you saw each other. In my case, I'd never laid eyes on him before, not even on stage, so his personableness was really surprising. Right off we were sailing into truck legends, barreling down the narrow northern California logging roads, with him driving on the left-hand side because "that's the wasy it's done up there." "Loggin' roads are for loggin' trucks, and cars don't have no right a way." He tells me he's been saving up for a brand new Peterbilt truck that he figures to live in for the rest of his life. His technical knowledge of trucks is awe inspiring. Pecos Bill comes flashing back to me. Small-kid cowboy legend, swimming in his tall white hat, black-and-white pony-hide chaps, burbling cactus legends, coyote prairie songs, sailing sky high off the back of every buckin' horse. A wandering, mythical, true American minstrel. Jack keeps ramblin' on to quarter-horse stories, diesel trucks through South Dakota snowstorms. He transforms the hotel room with American landscapes while the film crew is busy packing up its gear. For Jack there's never a better time than the present for wheeling full tilt into any old legend. Makes no difference what's happening in the immediate environment; the only thing that counts is a story, and even better, an exchange of stories. I've had lots of experience being the audience to fired-up speed freaks on the Lower East Side. Listening to their mind-benders while all the time wanting to escape. With Jack it's different though. He's not selfish in that way of nailing your attention down with insane raps. His pleasure is wandering casually in the imagination and just bringing someone else along for the ride. We're heading for the elevator in the Gramercy Park, and I'm wondering about cowboys. About the state of cowboys. About "real life" and "fantasy." About making up from everything that's ever touched you. From Pecos Bill to the Rolling Thunder Revue.
- Sam Shepard