A Piece of Texas

Well. It’s Tuesday of the first week of going back to work. I worked on comments for a friend’s piece of writing and revised maybe two pages on the manuscript. Mostly I seem to be catching up on email and exercise. This afternoon, in the writing room, I’ve been doing all sorts of things to avoid the open screen. The revision task ahead seems daunting. I’m not sure I even know how to write anymore.

So I’ll tell you about a Christmas present: Django and Jimmie.

courtesy Wikki
courtesy Wikki

Now. You may not believe such a present would make me so happy, but it revives scenes and people of my life in Texas.

The first time I saw Willy was the winter of 1976 with my friend Cynthia in Austin. We went to some smokey club, I don’t remember the name, but big enough yet small enough for a full crowd. A Texas couple, complete with big hat and big hair, invited us to their table. Willy was already big in Texas. He was also living hard in those days and often late to appear and often high. But he sang his heart out. The most memorable part of the evening came after, however, when the Texas man invited us to his office, an oil man it appeared. He had matching chairs out of huge Texas Longhair black and white hide, horns for armrests and horns across the high chair backs. Cynthia was always better at charming small talk than I, and we finally escaped but not before the Texas Oilman gave us each a ten-inch high oil rig painted gold.

The next time I met Willy was on the set of Honeysuckle Rose in 1979 when I worked as an extra in a barroom music scene. As shooting a film goes, the extras and musicians and Willy did several shots. Same song, different takes. Same enthusiasm, same clapping. We were there most of an afternoon (movie making not as glamorous as it seems –re: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant.) At any rate, the shoot over, the crowd filed out by a side door. Willy was out there, smoking a cigarette, saying thanks as people walked out. I stopped, told him I’d seen him in ’76 when he’d won my heart. He leaned in and kissed me.

My friend Jessica says I should get a lapel pin that says I Got Kissed by Willie Nelson.

It’s Texas mostly I remember when I listen to Willy Nelson. It’s where I learned to dance the two-step, earned my union card in Screen Actors Guild, learned to be a bartender at the Rio Club–another smokey funky bar that ran to blues and country. Austin is where I knew Cynthia who has since died. She was a big part of my Texas life, and in my wanderings, I’d get to Austin between destinations whenever I could. The Texas years ran through our early to late-thirties, with a two-year break when I was in Germany.

I taught my Baltimore City husband the two-step with this new album. He, who could not abide country music when I met him, has become a fan of the Texas sound and he can finally feel the two-step in his body. It helps that Don Henley of The Eagles has just put out a new roots music album. Henley’s roots are Texas. For years, listening to the Eagles, I’d say, “But that’s country! Listen.” His response, “That’s not country; that’s the Eagles,” has now become a familiar laughing line.

So thank you for traveling with me as I remember how to write again. It’s only a piece of Texas, but it’s a big piece.




40 thoughts on “A Piece of Texas

      1. And how, precisely or staggeringly, did you get from Africa to Paris to Latin America etc, to Alabama??? And the Crimson Tide to boot. Oh, must have been the high tides as a child that propelled….

      2. Wanderlust is a genetic disorder I guess. My grandmother was born in India of French-English parents. They spent about two centuries there. All descendents are spread across the Earth. I have cousins in South Africa, Tahiti, Canada, Europe. We (were) servants of the (British) Empire. To roam is our fate. Be good Janet. (You too have been around, haven’t you?)

      3. I have indeed. My current writing project is a collection of essays, Captured by Wind, and in the process, discovered another “servant of the British Empire” (I love the sound of that term), Sir Admiral Beaufort, Royal Navy, who developed the Beaufort Wind Scale.

        I’m also reading “Rising Ground : a search for the spirit of place” by Philip Marsden, another Brit. You might like it.

      4. Hi Janet. I like the title. A good title is half the job done. πŸ™‚ I always thought Beaufort was French. Probably the descendent of a Normand invader then. πŸ™‚
        I will look up Marsden. Currently reading an old Robert A. Heinlein book. Be good.

      5. The Beauforts were Huguenots, a noble family from northern France, chased out after generations, and settled in northern Ireland in the early 1700s roughly. Calvinists, as I understand it. I think the Normans were earlier weren’t they?

      6. Of course, that was the other possibility. French protestants chased away by Louis the XIVth. Normand invasion was much earlier. Early 11th century. Lemme check the exact date: 1066. Battle of Hastings. πŸ™‚

      7. I didn’t know that. Is it the British Council library? In Polanco? (I am now in Tlalpan, a bit far. And my english bookshop is in Lomas, Monte Libano…)

      8. You know, I don’t have any idea. This was in 1987 so anything could have happened since then. I lived on Londres in the Zona Rosa two blocks from the Angel of Independence and I could walk to the British Library, sort of north-ish from my apartment. And maybe it’s moved. What I remember is walking down a few steps from the street to the entrance. And sitting on the floor and pulling out books. I also remember a coffee shop on the way where I’d always stop. May have been for Cubano coffees… not sure. I remember a glass with coffee in the bottom and a layer of either cream or steamed milk at the top. I loved living so close in and could easily get to the main market downtown and the Zocolo. I really really need to get back there.

      9. Time has passed. When we arrived in ’89, we stayed close to the Zona Rosa for a few weeks. It was just a great place. Now it has “gone the drain” a bit. Such is life. Do you know Tlalpan in the South of DF?

      10. Tlalpan is where I’d catch a bus to go to Tepotzlan, where I lived for several months along with traveling to D.F. for acting business, and later caught the bus there for Cuernavaca where friends lived. I understand, however, that the area has exploded in housing and businesses in the last few years. I was last in D.F. for a visit a little over ten years ago and saw then how down at the heels the Zona Rosa was looking. I did go by the travel agency where I once worked, but my boss, Pepe Lobo no longer there.

      11. Yeah, travel agencies are disappearing. (You worked in one? Interesting) TepoztlΓ‘n is very nice. Generally go there for weddings. πŸ™‚ You seem to know all the nice places around here. Tlalpan is being “revamped” nicely. I will post regularly on the area. Nice colours. Take care janet.

  1. I’m headed to Texas with my mom and sisters in a couple of weeks, and will carry this story with me…. such a good one. And I totally agree with your friend Jessica- you need that lapel pin.

    1. While I’m rarely pleased with the amount of just plain old stuff in my inbox, I was delighted to see your name. Thank you for reading and responding. I feel honored.

      Jessica’s line was one of those laugh-out-loud lines. It was perfect. She was in the audience when I read this piece aloud, at a bar, Friday night as was my husband. Since I talk to them both often and since they rarely read my blog posts, (Cliff spends his time reading students’ philosophy papers; Jessica spends her reading time revising her own book) they were both surprised to hear themselves read out loud.

      Have a great time in Texas. Really. Even with all its nutty politics (it wasn’t always that way) it’s an interesting state.

      I’ll look forward to your own Texas post when you return.

  2. I love hearing your Willy Nelson stories. What a revelation that you have a Screen Actor’s Guild union card. I was born in Houston in 1936 and left in 1947 to move to Mississippi. I’m a vintage figure – didn’t recognize any of David Bowie’s music that the papers are filled with this week. I am amazed that I still feel as if much is yet to come for me and I’ve been on this road a mighty long time.

    1. Thank you so much. I expect once born in Texas, it’s a part of you regardless of where you live or how long. Both my sons were born in Texas and have lived all over since, including Europe! But their hearts still belong to Texas.

      Not to worry. You still have the best coming! We’ll travel this road into elder together.

  3. When I moved to Texas in ’73, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys were singing “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed.” No one took offense, and I still don’t take offense. The Kinkster’s one of my favs, as is Willy. I was introduced to the Austin scene with a visit to the Broken Spoke — wonderful times. And of course there’s Luckenbach. Back in the day, while it still was “undiscovered,” it was great.

    Wonderful memories you’ve raised, and some neat stories about your own time here. Ya’ll come back, now — y’hear?

    1. I remember Kinky Friedman! And the Texas Jewboys. Mercy. Haven’t heard that name in years. I first moved to Texas in 1962, pregnant with my first son, who was born during the Cuban crises, left and moved back, left and moved back, etc etc until about 1990 when I moved to New Orleans and then New York. I’ve not lived there since although I’ve been back. Back in the day, indeed!

    1. What a great comment, Jill. Thank you! Yeah, there’s a lot of Texas stories. I had some great times there. Me and Willy: we’ve both grown old, not nearly as crazy, but still working.

  4. So I just came across this piece, and it simply speaks of wide open spaces and memories. I guess some things that are so representative of Texas. I just moved into Texas over a year ago, and I’m still trying to get used to it. But it does seem like a legendary, expansive kind of place. A place of magic which can have some impact on you. Your piece gives that kind of vibe. πŸ™‚

    1. What a great line, Nadir…”a legendary, expansive kind of place.” It really is. And each part of Texas, east, south, west, north, has a very different legend and history, and it’s sometimes a challenge to figure out which piece of legend goes where. Expansive is a good word. Just driving across Texas can take a full day and completely different landscapes. Regardless of what else goes on and how the politics change, Texas is interesting.

      1. Janet, it’s frigid here in the Chicago area as well. My weather app says we’re up to 11, with wind chill now “only” -4. Brrrrr! Went out to run errands and now I’m home until a women’s church do tonight. Time for some hot tea. Stay warm and keep writing.

        the other janet

      2. Sorry to take so long to reply, Janet. I was avoiding the inbox over the weekend. And from the looks of the weather today, Chicago isn’t any warmer than when you wrote. Here in KC, it was 4 degrees this morning. Yup. January. Lake Effect. All that. Only we don’t have a lake and we don’t have wind today, just cold. I went out yesterday on snow covered and slick streets and came home exhausted. Another snow storm heading in tomorrow. So here we are, two interesting women, talking weather. Some things don’t change.

      3. No problem. I understand avoiding the inbox and as I’m going to Arizona to visit my parents on Friday, parents who don’t have either computer or internet, I won’t be online much for those ten days or so. I go to the library once a day for an hour or so to get rid of email (or respond) and do my blog and respond to comments. Truth be told, it’s kind of nice, at least for a tie. Stay warm and I’ll try to get some Arizona heat to head your way next week. πŸ™‚

    1. You’re welcome, Allan. Thanks for reading! That’s one of the things that keeps me going…that and all the words floating around in my head most of the time. Sort of like you and the camera.

I love conversations! Let's start one.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.