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.