Getting ready to go out of town for a few days and Jamaica was feeling puny. Her doctor, my pal, Hansel, was just back from vacation. I have to tell you, I was worried sick that this was gonna be that last ride. It was hard to see through the tears to get across town.
She got some new medicine and by the time that I got home from Kentucky she was borderline frisky. Talk about thanks giving. I had explained that Jamaica insisted on going for rides in the car. I had begun preparing broth to pour on her food every night.
"She's twelve. Spoil her!" had been Hansel's response.
Now I just saw a post from my friend Windy extolling the virtues of living the life in front of you. Eat desert every day. I didn't pay much attention after that.
There's broth boiling away in the crock pot and egg nog in the refrigerator.
My friend, Jimmy LaFave, enjoyed tormenting me in any way that he could. Geography was his favorite.
"Why do you stay here?" he would always ask when he was in Tampa.
He used the term geographically challenged more than once introducing me on stage.
Sometimes I wonder. Of course it's too late now and it probably never mattered. There was a time, though, when I was encouraged from all sides to move to a location that would put me in a better situation to advance my music career. Nashville. L.A. New York. Austin. Atlanta.
Now, I have always boasted that Tampa has the finest audience in the world and I'll stick to that. The music business, however, has barely existed. Venue owners have struggled since I was a kid. No record label or recording studio has ever made the history books.
Oh, you have the occasional "hit record" that was actually cut in the area. Considering that this region has been rich with the most amazing musicians and writers that I have ever seen explains that. We can boast of a scrawny list of one hit wonders.
My dear friend, Benny Joy, is considered royalty in the world of rockabilly. He was certainly one of the best. His world in the '50's was the same. He spent time in Nashville, Atlanta and L.A. He was the first rockabilly singer to tour Europe. Some of his records sell for a small fortune today. Based on scarcity. He never had a hit. Elvis loved them, though, and told Benny more than once that he was planning to cut one.
Tampa was home, though. His mother was here. I don't know that he had any regrets. Not about geography.
The local radio station, the public radio station, my radio station plays some music from artists who hail from the area. When they do they're always referred to as "local artists." Everybody is a local artist fercrissakes! Somewhere.
By the time that Sir Doug moved to Austin and Jerry Jeff did a Playboy interview from a local bar and Willie made his home there, Austin began to take real pride in their heritage. Bumper stickers and t shirts began to announce the growing city as the "Live Music Capital Of The World." The local public television station began to produce Austin City Limits and soon the world of rock'n'roll musicians was beating a path to their door.
A couple of hippie entrepreneurs organized a little event that they called SouthBySouthwest and musicians, businessmen and fans flocked.
Meanwhile the public radio station in Tampa hosted a Lone Star Music Festival. I have tried hard ever since to imagine a station in Texas putting on a Sunshine State Music Festival.
Don't let this lead you to believe that I blame the station or anyone who works at the station for the inferiority complex. They inherited it. For all I know Kentucky is crawling with great music. Oh, wait- it is.
Bam! First thing you know seventy years have slipped by. I thought I was paying attention. Oh, the memories! That's the only proof I have that any of it ever happened. Of course that won't stand up in court. Not that I plan on going to court.
All the angels live in your heart. All of the demons live there, too.
Write all of your sad songs in 3/4 time. If they rhyme, fine. If they don't, better. There are children in the states dying for the truth.
If I overthink everything, as I've been accused, maybe it's because I was hit by a car as a kid. I'll just bet that I can find an excuse for every shortcoming. Wait- is that overthinking?
My joy level is running high. Maybe it's the time of year. Why hasn't there been a coffee table book with photographs of rock'n'roll stars opening Christmas presents? Wouldn't you love to see Little Richard in a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers opening a jar of Royal Crown Hair Dressing in front of the tree and a roaring fire? In realistic Kodachrome splendor?
Maybe if you're lucky you'll have a chance to make someone happy. Don't ever pass up an opportunity.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
Maybe I've told you everything I know. Most of it twice. For the first time I sit here with nothing to tell you. Is this what they call writer's block or have I just told you every story I have?
I've revealed every childhood dream and I've described in detail every broken heart I've ever suffered. I mean it's the same heart but every time it's been broken.
You've had to sit through tales of all of the heroes who have passed through my life and all of the pets who have made my life worthwhile. My grandmother, Lottie's, quotes about love and peace and my rantings about war and religion and politics.
You can dig back through this crap and come up with the most intimate details of a hillbilly's life who will clearly tell anybody anything.
I should be ashamed. I am. A little bit.
By tomorrow I should have new dreams. The problem is that I've given up on so much. Peace. Kindness. Romance. Oh, I'm closer to peace myself and I'm hoping that I'm kind. I try. On the other hand, my friends are getting married today. I believe in romance, just not for me. I tried that, too.
Every tree, every rock, every weed- they all fascinate her. Jamaica's old now. I am, too. Finally I have the patience to allow her to sniff everything that she comes upon. There's no place that I have to be, no schedule to keep.
Of course, mortality is on my mind. I don't know what she thinks about.
As much as I love her, she's never learned much from me. I've learned everything from her.
Hank Williams broke hillbillys' hearts all over the world when he sang, "I'm a rolling stone, all alone and lost." Muddy Waters wailed, " Sure 'nough he's a rollin' stone," and put Chess Records on the map and on the charts. Bob Dylan roared, "How does it feel to be without a home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone?"
Me? I wake up from confusing dreams about Nervous Norvus. I ache for the last woman that I ever fell in love with and long for romance that was never meant to be.
I've never been in step, even with the ones out of step. My naiveté is pure and that's nothing to brag about. I've been some places and I've seen some things. Nothing changes much. I'm going easy on myself here. I'm sensitive, too.
My dreams have always been about living with all of the folks that I love around me. My utopia, my commune, is in my head. It always has been. It has taken a long time for me to realize. We all carry a universe folded up in our head. Funny thing is, it's the same universe.
Wake up. Pay attention.
The songs that I bring you are the soundtrack to the "movie" that is my universe.
I know about heartache and sorrow. I see blowhards and charlatans on TV pushing their politics and their religion for money. I wring my hands over war orphans and stray dogs and cats. My "movie," though, focuses on the tap dancing. Romance.
The Jesus that I read about as a kid hung out with prostitutes and kids and thieves. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and the ones who sold doves in the temple. Did I mention that I was in Alabama?
So as I continue to sit and mourn the fading of rock'n'roll it's hard to ignore the benefits of the fading of the culture that I was born into.
Let me just put on my warpaint, heat up my tofurkey and give thanks to Donald Trump, Hugh Hefner and Roy Moore for ending the rule of old white guys. I can't say it's been good to know you.
I still wring my hands and cry over the demise of polar bears, tigers, elephants, desert tortoises and bonobos. I have mixed feelings when it comes to human beings, the only species with the potential to save the joint. If you've ever doubted the power of greed, take another look.
Before the midway closes down let's have a good time. After all, this could take a while and there are a lot more good folks out there than bad ones. Always have been.
Oh, my soul- there's still a whole lotta' shakin' goin' on!
Our destinies are intertwined. My well being, my joy, is in your hands. Your decisions affect my life. We're all in this lifeboat together.
When it's all said and done everything is beautiful. You have to look through a lot of smoke, though. All you need to know has been programmed in your heart. Well, not literally. We pretentious poet types talk about your heart. We're really referring to your consciousness.
I'm off to Kentucky so if you don't hear from me for a few days just know that I miss you.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
Second chances, second acts. I thank my lucky stars for opportunities to fix things. I don't have any problem apologizing. I regret things that I've done wrong but I don't think I have much trouble admitting it. I hope not. I'm stubborn and I know it. Everybody couldn't have it wrong! There are lots of big things that I have changed my mind about over a lifetime. I'm probably not finished changing my mind, either.
There is certainly nothing to be proud of about prejudice. I'm prejudiced. Without justification I think women are superior to men. I think that most of the apes are "smarter" than human beings and I like dogs better than most humans. Cats, too.
Without starting a complete inventory here, let's just say that I'm usually with the underdog. We sit at the kids' table and we have more fun.
We're all just along to make the others' journey to the end a little sweeter. Another lesson that I've learned from my dog. I can't sit here today and write all that I have to tell you about it. I can't write and cry at the same time.
Let me just say that if you open your heart wide enough and pay attention, there's nothing that I need to tell you.
This life stuff's easy. We struggle to make it hard.
If there was a historic Jesus, and evidence leads me to believe there was, he would be appalled at what is now referred to as the evangelical church. I don't want to be unkind here and I try hard not to judge. At this point in my life I understand that bigotry is almost always based on ignorance. That saddens me but I get it. Meanness? Thats's harder for me to swallow.
A preacher. I was supposed to be a preacher. Every aptitude test said so. The guidance counselors were always more surprised than I was.
For me it was air force pilot, indy car driver, wrestler/villain or juvenile delinquent. Then, finally, rich and famous rock'n'roll star. Only not rich. Certainly not famous. Oh, yeah- not a star, either.
Hard to believe, I know, but I digress.
If you ask my friends, I preach. I don't mean to but I preach. It just all seems so easy to me. Everybody's been hurt and everybody needs love. Feed the hungry. Take care of the ones who can't take care of themselves, human and otherwise.
It's all kindergarten stuff. After the golden rule not much else matters.
Well, sir, I've seen Loch Ness but I've never seen the monster and I've talked to ghosts but they've never talked back. I've watched the Midnighters twist at the mic right next to Hank's. I've been to Manhattan, I don't know how many times, but I've never been in the empire state building.
Maybe the saddest people that I can remember being around were Elvis and Janis and Jimi.
When I put the seashell to my ear, of course, I hear the ocean. When I look into Jamaica's eyes I see the universe. When it gets quiet enough I feel all the love in the world in my heart. All there's ever been, all there ever will be. It's like water. It just circulates and recirculates. That water from the mineral spring that ended up in your Topo Chico went through Nefertiti and Rasputin while you were still stardust in diapers. Yeah- we're drinking the urine of the gods and the riffraff.
If you think that this is all about you, you're right. I have tried desperately not to bother you with my drivel and I have failed.
The love, though- what about the love? It's never wasted. You don't need to conserve it. Tip well.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
As social animals we evolve along two distinct lines. As some kind of primeval ooze our needs were low. By the time that we were primarily prey we began to develop aggressive genes to keep from being eaten out of existence. To thrive we began simultaneously to develop loving genes so that we could cooperate and live in groups.
First thing you know a couple billion years slip by.
Cowboys and Indians. Sunni and Shiite. Republicans and Democrats.
You don't need to be a scientist to see that the aggressive team is winning. At the peril of our existence. Maybe the planet.
That's nothing new. We've been working at putting ourselves out of business since we climbed down from trees. Now, though, nuclear weapons are in the hands of lunatics. Mean lunatics.
Oh, they're out of fashion. A smart tyrant would wage cyber war on his enemy. Our tyrants aren't smart. Sadly, they're out of fashion, too. Little hands, big bombs.
Our team needs to step up the love game pretty quickly.
The birth certificate says Birmingham but I was born in love. I never planned to grow old. Truth be told I never planned on growing up. Can't say that I much care for adults. Now that there's nobody to tell me to go to bed I like to go to bed by nine o'clock.
If you have a fire in your soul from the beginning, you're doomed to a certain life. You don't dare mix with the other ones with that fire- you'll burn everything down. If you put on a bridle to go a little straighter, you'll eventually gnaw right through it. One way or the other folks around you get singed.
By definition I suppose I'm just lazy. This living just wears me out and I don't have energy left for accomplishment. Don't pay much attention to me but keep an eye on me.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
Anarchists were bad guys as I was growing up. I'm an anarchist. I don't hurt anybody. I don't even speed. No one in Washington, D.C. or Tallahassee has any interest in my well being and they have made that very clear.
Oh, I've no interest in overthrowing any government. I've pinned my hopes on leaders before. They killed them.
My anarchist ways extend beyond the government. I'm a musical anarchist. I had dinner one evening with Lucinda Williams right after the Americana Music Association was launched. As a charter member, I was elated. Finally a club for me. These were "my people."
Lucinda was not so excited.
"What if you were British?" she asked.
I might as well have been. When they started their own chart my CD's always broke into their top ten. It didn't take long to notice that I was never invited to work any of their events. It didn't take much longer to figure out that these were just folks trying to take the power away from the old bunch.
Now I'm not complaining here although I know it seems like that's all I'm doing. I like it out here. I'm an anarchist and I'm proud of it. I'm not a bad guy.
Squirrels don't go to the office. Whales don't retire. Giraffes don't worry about what to wear. I no longer fall for the "fact" that we're above the other animals, that we work based on some noble ideal and that our occupation defines our existence, our identity.
Squirrels do work of course. They build nests for their families and put away enough acorns to get through the winter. They spend most of their time chasing their pals 'round and 'round trees. Dodging Toyotas. Mating. To coin a term, squirreling.
Friends of mine spend a third of their time at some endeavor that they hate in order to pay for an automobile to get them there. They complain about the boss or, if they happen to be the boss, complain about their underlings.
Marketing and peer pressure combine to convince them to spend money on clothes, not to cover their horrible nakedness or to keep warm, but to make them look like all the others. They like to spend some more on scents so that they will smell like the others and jewelry to make it appear that they have more money than the others. Jewelry just like the others wear.
Most of them work hard to pay for houses that they can't afford so that they will be in school districts that enhance the offsprings' ability to continue all this.
I could go on. And on. I won't. I've got a day of squirreling ahead of me.
This sounds smug, I know. Just keep in mind my big hero, Lincoln Perry. If you know him at all you remember him by his stage name, Stepin Fetchit. In the '30's and early '40's he made millions playing the supreme shuffling stereotypical negro.
When pressed about the dignity of his endeavor he explained,
"Like Chaplin, I played the part of a simple, sincere, honest and lovable character who won sympathy from an audience by being tolerant of those who hurt him so that he could be close to those he loved."
Well, sir, I've just trick or treated with all the neighborhood kids. I'm full and I'm exhilarated. I believe I'll eat what I want, when I want, from now on. I suppose that's nothing new. What this culture considers growing up has never much appealed to me.
Don't have thanksgiving plans yet. I'm certainly thankful, though. If it turns out to be me and Jamaica here at the house it will all be the kids' table. I'll tell you that. We'll both be Indians, too. I don't are much for pilgrims.