(Photo: Robert Morrow) From the book City of Quartz
In honor of the passing of Fontana’s own Mike Davis (1946-2022), world-renowned prophetic writer of social unrest, environmental disaster and dystopian ideals. Here I will include a few email exchanges between us and flesh that out with some photos from The Brayer Archives. When people come to me for a lesson in what the Inland Empire is all about I have them first read Davis’ City of Quartz (with photos by Robert Morrow), advising them to read it backwards from chapter seven: Junkyard of Dreams, which in a way nails Fontana to the cross in diction. From there I recommend Joan Didion’s essay from the collection: Slouching Towards Bethlehem: an essay entitled, Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream, and Jack Olsen’s true crime book, Salt of the Earth (the first hundred pages anyway). For dessert I have them finish up with the San Bernardino Valley poetry of Dick Barnes, A Word Like Fire.
Mike Davis /
Don’t know quite where to begin:
Fellow Fonta boy / Moved to an egg ranch there in ’58 / A victim of St. Joes / Father ran Winchell’s Donut House at the Fontana Square / Fontana High (Fohi) graduate of ’72 / Studied music in the cow pastures of Norco / Met Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Jim and Jessie, etc.
One of my best friends coincidentally is Robert Morrow who helped you on the Quartz project of which the last chapter I consider biblical. When David Lynch was planning the movie, INLAND EMPIRE Ben Harper sweetly told him I was way more of an authority on Fontana than I really was. I thought in fear to beg them off but one day Ben Harper, Laura Dern, and Lynch were heading for our flat in Upland. They only got as far as Holt Blvd, a lightning storm hit them (and made the cattle run), and they all turned back (tender footed). And so goes the story of my life. But I did submit location photos, The Fontana Boxing Club, The Slovene Hall, The Iron Skillet, etc., and about a hundred dilapidated churches. After that I like to think that it was my grand contribution that influenced them-to instead shoot the whole movie in Poland.
The Fontana Boxing Club (Photo: Patrick Brayer)
Anyway, this is just me saying howdy. The other main reason I wrote was to see if you had any memory in reference to The Mr. Arky Barbeque on Foothill. I will include an aerial postcard of it that I found
Here’s a web site that blathers a tad on my behalf
Here’s a profile I wrote on the subject of one of my songwriter heroes from the inland empire, Frizz Fuller
Just for good measure here’s one of my favorite postcards of the Westward-Ho Motel
Mr. Arky indeed. If you’re ever in San Diego, please come by for dinner.
San Diego CA 92102
Thanks for the kind return
My sources tell me that the Mr. Arky’s Barbeque morphed into The Robin Hood Adult Bookstore
Don’t you hate it when life runs so appropriate. Now it’s a flat patch of dust on the hunchback of a Bobby Troup lyric. But why am I telling you all of this, you probably did your doctoral thesis on the influence of Mr. Arky on the new stone age
Would treasure a get together with you. Let me know how your schedule falls in regards to convenience.
My wife an I just had a new baby girl on January 21st, Eleanore Frances Brayer. So you’re looking at this new centuries version of a stay at home diaper pail songwritten dad. We are presently living in upper pissed-off Ontario, California. My wife teaches English Literature at Chaffey High School.
Someone (Aim Records based in Tustin) put out a compilation of some of my work in 1998 called, Sinner/Songwriter. For the cover they used one of Rob Morrow’s outtakes from the Fonta shoot while you were chipping away at Quartz.
Let me know what you’re interested in musically and I might just have something stashed around the archive here. It’s not all screechy, but that does tend to sonically dominate.
When I’m not trying to bother people with 50 odd volumes of my songs I’m chipping away at a documentary film, Dustboy. I got some great footage of Joe Mlakar Sr. who ran Mlakar’s Elbow Room for 35 years and earned himself a place in the Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame
Our family got to Fontana on account of the Slovenian culture, following my grandfather, a retired Wisconsin farmer, there in 1958 from Cupertino. So that weird polka-sausage-button box thing was always dangling in the back somewhere.
(Slovene Hall, Fontana, CA Photo; Patrick Brayer)
When did you leave Fontana? I have the feeling that you might have spent your formative years in San Diego. But, if you have any memories that don’t leave a bad taste in your mind’s mouth please feel free to share your stiffest recollections.
Man, you wrote the history of the car bomb, what else could possibly be left for you to write about?
Would love to hear.
My best for now,
Patrick of Brayer
How can I help but endorse a team that would have the nerve to call themselves the Cucamonga Earthquakes
Cucamonga Earthquakes (Photo: Holle Brayer)
On 5/5/09 10:44 PM, “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com> wrote:
First of all, mazeltov for Elenore; she’s a dote (forgive my language, but I speak a pidgeon mixture of Yiddish and Irish).
My older sister graduated Chaffey High, class of 1947. We lived on Montgomery St. (one block south of Arrow Highway near Citrus, I think) in Fontana until I was five. Then I was incarcerated in Bostonia,between El Cajon and Lakeside: basically, Fontana without slag or sausages. Until I was 18 and on a Greyhound Bus for New York, I had one fundamental idea: escape and survive.
Musically I am still stuck in Art Pepper and Eric Dolphy, but I have infinitely wise advisors: my 28 year old Irish daughter who lives in Barcelona and first introduced me to Sonic Youth, Nels Cline, etc.; and my 15 year old son in Dublin, who’s already sold his soul to rock and roll, with a mean little band – he plays piano and guitar – with torch-girl singer named Mo (whom my son has been in love with since he was 7).
He spends summers with me. Last July we visited the Fender Museum. This July, if you’re around the ranch, we’ll come up to aristo-upper-bourgeois Ontario (the Fontana view) and hear some music.
That’s a fantastic album cover. If you see or hear from Robert, please give him my warmest regards. If he’s not in Minnesota, maybe we could arrange a reunion.
At any event, keeping sinning and having such adorable babies.
San Diego CA 92102
Mike Davis /
Thanks for the kind return. It really appears you have shot out some global children. Would of course cherish a get together in the summer season. Let me know your schedule at UCR also and I could bring little Eleanore out and your students could compare her to a bowl of fruit. I do enjoy your world of fact and craft. It’s the same reaction that I feel to the great musicians that I’ve known. The work is worthy of a lifetime’s contemplation. Which of course frustrates your animal-self need for a quick fix. But it tells your smarty pants guy that he had better stop looking in the mirror at his hair and get to work
If Bill Moyers is looking for a tattoo for his chest I would suggest, “Mike Davis is the king of fact, craft, and grit”. I’m not certain if that should go above or below the battleship.
I’m glad to hear that Rob Morrow has finally got hold of you. I bet those early days were great, hell bending your way through the weeded herds, when perhaps angst was the only denomination. You guys were like the Lewis and Clark of our cement, dusty, without the cute Indian chick.
Rob told me once upon a time that he quit photography to become a songwriter, and that I was to blame. He is of course a splendidly cinematic writer, and most importantly, better than me on a lot of fronts, and frontiers. But it taught me that I have to be more careful. Not that you can control how wrongly you’re taken. Yet another area that you must know much more about than I.
Robert Morrow Fontana California / Photo: Patrick Brayer
So I still get a knock on my door late at night on occasion by apparent Rob Morrow photography fans. I answer the door and strangers just punch me in the stomach and run. So don’t be surprised if I’m wearing catcher’s equipment when I answer the door.
I hope, though I can’t imagine that you do, have time for such corresponding nonsense as this, but I welcome every thought and insight that your productive day affords.
Here I go quoting myself again. How sad is that?
“I don’t like to jump on any bandwagon that I didn’t pull out of my ass personally”
The baby is crying. I call her the boss of the flowers. The border collie just ate an entire bag of onion bagels so I should probably go out and say a prayer over him (Henry).
Be King! / Patrick of Brayer
When people go to France I like to send them this photo I took, saying “here’s your Sistine Chapel”,
which I know is probably not in France, but then neither am I.
Mike Davis, Pasadena CA
So colorful, so vivid. I taste the sausage.
I just love your writing. Always have.
And your music too, of course. But the writing…