For David Colcord and Tomas Montano, 10th Street Station is the X on a perennial treasure map. Their feet know the precise number of steps, from any starting point, to guide them to their familiar haunt. And although family life has cut into their bar time, each visit to the Idanha's smoky environs brings back a full pour of barrel-aged memories.
Colcord and Montano—a collaborative team who go by the moniker Rail V y Tomas—have been dabbling in poetry, screen-printing, art and music for the last 12 years. And the Idanha is no stranger to their creative process.
"I used to live over there in the corner," says Colcord. "Five nights a week I would get off work and walk down here and drink until closing time. It was different times. But a wife and kids and mortgages kind of change that."
Colcord studied English at Boise State, but felt his poetry wasn't getting the candid feedback it deserved.
"The professors were always a little too nice about stuff." Colcord says.
So Colcord and a crew of fellow poets brought the classroom to the bar. They began weekly, whiskey-soaked gatherings where criticism abounded.
"We started getting together and ripping each other apart," Colcord remembers with a wry smile.
Around this time, Colcord met Montano while the two worked at Idaho Sporting Goods.
"I was doing jock art as a graphic designer," Montano jokes, "and [Colcord] was the main screen-printer there. We started collaborating on T-shirts and all kinds of screened paraphernalia."
Making band t-shirts became a creative outlet for the two after long days of screening numbers on Little League jerseys. Soon, Colcord began to share his poetry with Montano.
"Tom was always my first reader," Colcord recalls. "I'd always see Tom first thing in the morning and I'd show him what I had written the night before."
Montano joined the 10th Street clan and began contributing to the group's artistic canon. "I used read [Dave's] poetry and write songs to them," Montano says. "I consider myself part of that group, I just wasn't writing a lot of poetry."
But Colcord was. On ash-smudged napkins and soggy coasters, he scrawled most of the poems in his 1999 self-published book, Bar Napkin. The collection reads like an homage to Bukowski, with portraits of saints and sluts, the formulaic rejection of convention, and the emphatic highs and cursing lows of addiction.
"I used to do everything I could to emulate Bukowski," admits Colcord, "and oddly enough, anymore, I like the guy a little bit less with every poem I read."
But it's Bar Napkin's nostalgic narrative of Colcord and Montano's collective past that inspired their upcoming exhibition, "Three Different Women, Three Different Poems." The pair has been working on the project since last October. For Montano, the creative process begins with Colcord's words.
"I took a lot of those poems in the first section and I would read them and sketch with a Sharpie and some textured paper to get that wavy-inkblot line," he says. "I'd come up with maybe 30 or 40 sketches in the course of a weekend or two."
Montano, who picked up graphic design during a stint in the Air Force, strives for clean lines and bold colors in his work. His sketches draw prominently from Warhol's early blotted-line advertisements and the visual poetry of Kenneth Patchen.
After Montano's sketches are scanned into Adobe Illustrator, tweaked, and printed as "posies," the two ceremoniously gather at the Man Hut—a tiny shed in Colcord's back yard. The Man Hut, also dubbed the "estrogen-free zone," contains all the paints, screens and supplies the duo need to work their magic. It also contains a healthy amount of tradition.
For example, before they can begin to work on a project, Colcord will predictably ask Montano if he wants some of his spicy nuts—a snack mix that fuels their creativity. Montano then gives his well-worn response: "You know I love your spicy nuts, Dave." So goes their rapport: fraternal, jocular and peppered with a hint of sarcasm. But through all the joking, the duo have created some serious art. Their upcoming exhibit at Flying M Coffeehouse includes 12 original pieces, all screenprinted on recycled materials.
Their work is definitely nostalgic, if not outright mythical. As the show's title alludes, most of the pieces are about women, both known and imagined. Colcord's poem "I Used to Daydream," speaks of "A girl in white who would save me / A smile like Botticelli / A body like Venus / Another angel / Unattainable."
Like Colcord's verse, the pieces in the show reflect a certain cloaked idealism, a rough exterior belying a romantic core. Abstract line drawings in soft teals and peaches are accompanied by words of regret and longing.
"We're both married and have children now, so we're just kind of looking back at the days when there were lots of women," Montano says.
The guys are already throwing around ideas for the next Rail V y Tomas collaboration. Inspired by Colcord's new epic poem, Stolle Meadows, they want to trade the gimlet-eyed, 10th Street nostalgia for a fresh-aired, natural perspective. Montano plans to utilize earthier tones, like browns and mossy greens, to "explore the landscape and its effect on every day life."
But back at 10th Street, all lofty future aspirations are quieted as the bartender sets the next of many rounds firmly on the table. Colcord and Montano pick up pens and begin to doodle on their respective bar napkins; poetry and swirling lines converge. The conversation ambles from Smurfs to politics to Radiohead, and it seems as if 10th Street has become a makeshift Man Hut—minus the spicy nuts.
Exhibit opens First Thursday and runs through April 2. Flying M Coffeehouse, 500 W. Idaho St., 208-345-4320.