Sunday, July 18, 2010

Horrid time on the highway with Waylon and finding solace in the fact monkeys don't wear silver suits

I know monkeys don’t wear silver suits, but 35 years ago, two pretty young women with unshaved armpits were parked in the middle of the two-lane blacktop in front of Waylon Jennings’ house when I made the split-second decision to live. I didn’t like the other choice, so it wasn’t that difficult.
I’ve been thinking of that day and how Johnny Rodriguez offered refuge a lot lately, since that was the last time I was involved in an automobile accident, before the previously mentioned Big Bam of July 4.
My son, Joe, my near-constant sidekick – I’m just glad he survived our most recent death-defying adventure – says I didn’t swear too much when the car hit ours recently. I supposed I cussed, as I was and remain, as the doc tells me, “concussed.”
Oh help me, please doctor, I’m damaged…. Having to search the mental dictionary for words can be frustrating for a writer or even for someone like me.
But the doc says I’ll be better as just soon as I am able. And I’ve gotta admit I have been finding some good alternate words, both for cussing and for conversation. Lots of weird compound phrases using “vile” and “pig” and “insurance” and “oil” and “Shotgun Dick.” Hold, it I guess those were words I used before. See, I’m getting better all the time.
And it is with all of this in mind that I think about the pair of University of Michigan swimmers (or so they told me, to explain their garb) who had stopped their convertible on Old Hickory Boulevard, at the Brentwood-Nashville line, to gape at Waylon’s house 3½ decades ago .
By the way, whoever bought that old compound -- where magic was created and strange music and perhaps smoke floated in the air -- kept the iron “W” over the compound gate. (Did I ever tell you about the day I saw Willie Nelson, driving a big, old Pontiac, pulling out of that driveway, at least 30 years ago? He seemed happy and probably hungry. Thick smoke trailed from the car. I’m not sure if it was exhaust. )
The first time I crossed beneath that gate was at the height of the Outlaws movement and I was in a moment of despair.
I had been cruising along Old Hickory – a rural stretch back then – when the old Plymouth Duster I was driving came over a rise and there were 100 feet or less between me and the pretty girls in the green convertible.
Since Waylon and Willie and Tompall and Jessi were riding high back then, I didn’t blame them for stopping, although I’d have preferred if they’d pulled off the road so I didn’t have to ruin their day and mine.
Now, I admire their fandom of Waymore. I remain a huge fan, even though he remains dead, as many of you likely will agree. I know because I helped write his obituary. Interviewed Ramblin’ Jack Elliott for the obit. “He Waylonized songs,” said Ramblin’ Jack, from his San Francisco apartment.
If I was to ramble, I’d likely end up in San Francisco on occasion, too. If only because I like the Golden Gate, sourdough bread, sea lions, cable cars and the late Jerry Garcia. My son, Joe, says I ought to go there and swim out to Alcatraz. You’re supposed to swim away from the island, kid. Watch that Eastwood movie again.
Anyway these pretty young swimmers were stopped by Waylon’s house and I came over the rise and I couldn’t. Couldn’t stop, I mean.
Brentwood was still a rural outpost, served by the Pony Express and protected by Matt Dillon. Hold it, perhaps it was UPS and Bob Dylan…. Regardless, on that day my choices were to either slam on the brakes and try not to hit the girls in front of me too hard or to go off the road and go airborne, likely rolling several times and dying in a rocky cow pasture, my bloodied head covered with manure.
There are those today, particularly in the world of Shotgun Dick and his vile band of insurance and oil barons who would have preferred I take the latter course (see, I told you it’s all coming back now). In reality, they probably don’t care what happens to me. I’m just a gnat. They have bigger targets like The Big O.
On the topic of the guy from Chicago, my old ball-playing pal, well he promised me he was going to save the economy and end the war and bring me health care. … OK, I know those are impossible tasks … But I think it was Tim McGraw who said “Ya Gotta Believe” when he and Kenny Chesney went for that wild ride on police horses in Buffalo a decade ago. No, it was his dad, the great Tug McGraw who said that. “Ya Gotta Believe!”
So I believe in The Big O’s integrity, even if his delivery – like Tug’s – has been a bit iffy. But why’s he vacationing in Maine when he and Michelle preach that the rest of us suckers should spend our money basking on the oil-glazed beaches of the Gulf Coast?
You suppose he and Michelle and the kids don’t want to collect tar balls and dead fish instead of shells on their beach strolls while watching dolphin carcasses wash over their toes?
C’mon, Big O, man up. You let Big Oil hoodwink you on this one. And those are the same guys you are listening to about that ridiculous war. Call me when you get back from Maine, so we can shoot hoops again. It might help me. It sure would help you.
Back to Waylon and the big wreck of 1975 or so.
Instead of dying in cow manure in a field of rocks owned by Eddy Arnold – who came to be a close friend but who on that day I believe cussed me for blocking traffic -- I chose to live, so I applied the brakes and tapped the pretty girls in the rear end. It was a long time ago when I was older. The Duster I was driving was torn up, but it was repaired in a week or two and I was back on the road to what now I’ve determined is eventual ruin. The girls’ rear-end looked fine. And there wasn’t much damage to the car. No tickets were issued by Jake and Elwood, the cops who arrived on Trigger and Scout. Or maybe they rode one of those Blues Brothers cars.
If I had died on that day, or even in the most recent accident, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be writing this today.
One thing I always wondered: the young women wore those old, one-piece competitive swim suits that don’t hide anything. And while they were very attractive and nice, they didn’t shave their armpits. Maybe they were Europeans. Course I don’t shave mine either and I’m not European. Not pretty, though, either. And I seldom wear one of those bare-it-all swimsuits, except that one year when SI asked me to, but that turned out to be a practical joke orchestrated by Dan Jenkins.
Oh yeah, before I put that story to rest and go back and talk about Alice and the Restaurant, I ought to say I walked beneath the big “W” arch and to Waylon’s house to call the cops. No cell phones back then. Remember, this was 1975 and down here in Tennessee, we still had to have Mabel work the switchboard for our wind-up home phones. Only I think her name was Alice.
But when I needed help, Waylon was up at Johnny Cash’s house, choking down ribs, chitterlings and bourbon and talking to John and June and Bob Dylan, Dr. John the Night Tripper and Lawrence Welk, who legend has it landed a borrowed helicopter on the lawn so the assembled could hear his “champagne music” tales of honky-tonk desolation and broken hearts.
Since Waylon was gone and I didn’t think Shooter was born yet, I had to walk across the street, and Johnny Rodriguez’s maid let me into his house to make my police call. Too bad his career went belly-up and he moved back to Texas. If he’d stayed here he may not have ever been accused and acquitted in that killing of that Bosco guy he mistook for a burglar but which I always took for a chocolate flavoring you put in milk.
They say “in Jersey anything’s legal as long as you don’t get caught,” but I’ve been told by one of the Lone Star State’s most respected journalists that down in that savage land it’s OK to use firearms as frequently as possible. After all Texas is pretty much outlaw territory run by illegal war profiteers and oil barons. The only thing that makes it a worthwhile place to visit is the savory flavor of the roadkill when served up on tortillas. Dead from Armadillo World Headquarters.
OK, well that’s enough on that. There was no gunplay involved in either wreck.
Accidents are accidental. Otherwise they’d be assault.
The other driver in the most recent adventure told my wife “your husband was dazed after the crash” because my head was slammed into the window by the impact. My wife bit her tongue.
Which brings me back to universal health care and the fact that I am helping The Big O and the Lone Ranger in our effort to take the nation away from the hate-spewing followers of that fat punk radio prophet they all so enjoy.
And, due to the series of unfortunate occurrences, I begin to sense that those pompous guys who want “to get our nation back” are applauding, hoping that I’ll check myself in to the local saloon or at least to the place they used to call the Insane Asylum in Hopkinsville, Ky.
I suppose it wouldn’t be that bad. My pal Lonnie lives in the subdivision tucked just beneath that complex. He’s a good guy with a lovely wife named Cricket and some dogs. He also saw the Little Green Men who landed in the crossroads of Kelly, outside Hopkinsville, 50-some years ago. I wrote about that before. It’s one of those much-studied alien encounters that have experts debating if it was true or just something misunderstood by the locals who saw the spacecraft and the Little Green Men.
Some thought they were monkeys who had escaped from a traveling carnival. Lonnie still shakes that logic off with the simple statement: “Monkeys don’t wear silver suits.”
That is a gentle truth offering me solace in this summer of discontent and disaster.