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Cortado: Blues y poesía de Waubeek (Parte Uno)


W. Alex Choquemamani/Little Village

Waubeek: blues y poesía

Though he never made much money
when he passed around the jar
He could really play the blues.
-Shemekia Copeland

Son las once de la noche de un martes del 2017. Dentro del local hay apenas dos personas, el dueño del bar y un granjero. Este último viste overalls, polera blanca y una gorra que difícilmente se puede leer las letras.

Los saludo a ambos y me dirijo a la barra. Pido una cerveza, Tim Kula, el dueño del bar, me la entrega. Luego de esto ellos continúan su conversación como si fueran dos viejos amigos que se están poniendo al día en sus quehaceres.

¿Do you want another beer?, me pregunta esta vez no Tim, sino Terry Smith, amigo de aquel. Le digo que sí sin pensarlo mucho, y le doy las gracias. Luego quienes charlan esta noche ya no son dos, sino tres personas.

El bar se llama FB&Co., y está en Waubeek, un pueblo pequeño que está ubicado en el Valle de Wapsi, cerca de Cedar Rapids. Y a sus alrededores solo hay campos de maíz y soya, pocas casas y un río, el Wapsipinicon.

Cuenta la leyenda que Wapsi y Pinicon eran dos indios americanos, la hija y el hijo de jefes de dos tribus enemigas. Ambos estaban profundamente enamorados el uno del otro. Pero un día fueron descubiertos, y también perdonados a condición que no volvieran a verse jamás. Ante semejante medida ellos decidieron quitarse la vida en este río. Es por ello que este río se llama Wapsipinicon.

Wagon Bridge stretches over the Wapsipinicon River in Waubeek, Iowa, 1911. — photo librarian/Flickr

Lo que capta la atención del forastero que visita por primera vez FB&Co., no es tanto la cabeza de un venado disecado que está colgado en una de sus paredes, y cuyos cuernos tienen la forma de ramas de árbol. Ni los billetes de dólares firmados y adheridos en el techo del bar -al parecer- por un grupo de clientes de ánimo festivo y voluntad de desprendimiento. Menos su mesa de billar; por cierto, un entretenimiento común en los bares de Iowa.

Lo que llama la atención es su escenario pequeño que está al costado de la puerta de ingreso, sus posters autografiados por músicos de blues, sus cuadros con recortes de periódicos de fechas pasadas que dan cuenta de un acontecimiento musical ocurrido aquí en FB&Co. Así un póster corresponde al músico de blues Johnny Clyde Copeland (1937-1997), en el que se lee unas líneas suyas dedicadas a FB&Co.: “Happy times are here again.” En otro cuadro hay un recorte de periódico, y es una entrevista a John Paul Hammond (1942), quien también estuvo en el escenario de este bar. “The Midwest compares very favorably (to New York) and Cedar Rapids seems to be a blues stronghold,” son algunas palabras de este músico dedicadas a esta parte de los Estados Unidos.

Waubeek: Blues and Poetry (Part One)

Translated by Allison Stickley

Though he never made much money
when he passed around the jar
He could really play the blues.
-Shemekia Copeland

It’s eleven p.m. on a Tuesday in spring 2017. In the dive bar, there are barely two people: the owner and a farmer, the latter dressed in overalls, a white shirt and a hat with barely legible letters.

I greet both of them and direct myself to the bar. I order a beer, and Tim Kula, the owner, serves me. After that they continue their conversation as if they were two old friends talking about their daily chores.

“Do you want another beer?” This time Tim doesn’t ask, but Terry Smith, his friend. I say yes without thinking much and thank him. Those chatting tonight are no longer two, but three people.

The bar is called FB&Co. in Waubeek, a small burg located in the Wapsi Valley, just north of Cedar Rapids. And the only thing around are corn and soy fields, a few houses and river called the Wapsipinicon.

Guests relax at F.B.&Co, 4185 Whittier Rd, Waubeek — W. Alex Choquemamani/Little Village

As the legend says, Wapsi and Pinicon were American Indians, the daughter and son of chiefs of enemy tribes. They were deeply in love with each other. But one day they were discovered and forgiven on the condition they never saw each other again. Faced with such a measure, they decided to take their lives in the river. This is how the Wapsipinicon got its name.

What grabs the outsiders’ attention when they see FB&Co. for the first time isn’t so much the mounted buck, with antlers like tree branches. And it’s not the signed dollar bills customers have stuck to the ceiling of the bar – seemingly – in a festive and generous mood. Even less the pool table, which by the way, is common entertainment in Iowa bars.

What grabs their attention is the small stage next to the bar’s front door, with posters autographed by blues musicians and some framed newspaper clippings from the past giving account of the music events here in FB & Co. Like a poster of the blues musician Johnny Clyde Copeland (1937-1997), with some lines he had dedicated to FB&Co. Happy times are here again. In another frame is a newspaper clipping, an interview with John Paul Hammond (1942-), who was also on this bar’s stage in Waubeek. The Midwest compares very favorably (to New York), and Cedar Rapids seems to be a blues stronghold are some words from him dedicated to this part of the United States.

F.B.&Co, 4185 Whittier Rd, Waubeek — W. Alex Choquemamani/Little Village

The Spanish version of this article was originally published in Little Village issue 302.


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