Monday, December 11, 2006

Too Damn Late to Be on the Computer...

You know, I used to be real superstitious about music on the radio when I would cruise into Music City, like I could read in the lyrics what sort of adventure I was heading into. This was back when I was pal'ling around with Waylon Jennings, Tompall Glaser and "Cowboy" Jack Clement, drinking too much and spending what pittance I could coax out of the magazines on pinball machines down on Broadway.

I thought about that tonight, flying in late for two more COWBOYS with Royal Wade Kimes, maytbe the last real cowboy singer on earth, or at least east of the Mississippi. So I turned on the radio and punched the buttons around until I found Mary Gauthier's whiskey version of "Mercy Now," which damn near made me cry and nearly drove me all the way into town and South Broadway, which is a sad tourist shadow of its honky-tonk self. Here's what she sang:
Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race
Towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, well
They'll do anything to keep their crown
I love life, and life itself could use some mercy now

Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don't deserve it
But we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance
Dangle 'tween hell and hallowed ground
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
So I didn't go down to South Broadway, although I could truly have used a beer. Even a crappy beer. I told you all my favorite South Broadway story, didn't I...about how I ended up thrown out the door of a strip joint names Skull's Rainbow and almost subsequently almost slain in a SWAT raid on a bar with chicken wire in front of the stage?

I can't remember — perhaps an increasingly common phenomenon these days — so I am inclined to tell you again. Anyway, the short version is me and now-famous and taught in college novelist Nicky Tosches were drinking at Skull's, as his wife was leaving him because he spent way too much time drinking at Skull's. The essence of strip joints is nakked women, but Skull's had a bar that ran along a side wall and faced a mirror so one could drink heavily and not overtly drool at the merchandise. That night, as it happens, was Miss Nude Teenager Night, and Miss NT was finishing up her stint on the pole while Nicky and I, not talking, consumed Pearl Beers. Miss NT finishes up and walks along the back of the bar, headed for the dressing room, There are hoots and cheers like the Super Bowl, but she doesn't look back.

She gets all the way to the door of the dressing room, which has a star on the door, then stops and turns back. The cheers, impossibly, increase in volume. I look in the mirror and I see Miss Nude Teenager is standing right behind me at the bar. She leans forward and places her head on the back of my neck, kissing me. Even in this ratty Hampton Inn three decades later waiting for the sleeping pills to kick in, I can still feel her breath on the back of my neck and smell the mixture of sweat and gardenias.

"Sometimes," Miss Nude Teenager whispers, "it just gets so damn lonely on the road. I'm with you tonight." There is not a sound in the bar; it is as if sound has simply ceased to exist. "I'll be right back," she said, "and we'll go someplace nice." She walks toward the dressing room, her heels the only sound in the bar.

So anyway, Nicky sweeps the Pearl bottles off the bar, grabs me by my necks and belt, carries me through the dead silent strip joint while I'm muttering something like, "Please's Miss Nude Teenager..." and throws me onto the cobblestones outside of Skull's Rainbow. "I can't let you do this to yourself, man," he says, helping me stand up. "You wanna go get a drink?"

Sure, I say. I think my date stood me up. Then the cheap-ass honly-tonk we went to got raided by SWAT, and me and Nicky got braced at the bar by a couple of guys with shotguns and bad attitudes, who failed to appreciate either Nick's or my sense of humor, which resulted in a long stay in a squad car that smelled like puke until a cop we knew showed up and kicked us loose with the final admonition of, "You guys are such complete, total fuck-ups I can't hardly believe it!" We invited him to breakfast, it being dawn and all, but he had to go fill out the paperwork, so Nick and I had biscuits and gravy sans cop and Miss Nude Teenager.

I think we all do need a little mercy now...


Anonymous said...

Hey, I live in Royal Wade Kimes' back yard.

I can get to Chester, AR, via dirt roads in about 20 minutes.

I have neighbors who've known the Kimes literally for decades.

The Ozarks may be scenic, but they are tough to scratch out a living in.

Only thing that grows here is rocks.

That's why there were motorzied bandits that sprang up here in the 1930s.

Heck, that's why some of the meanest, roughest, nastiest Civil War Guerillas were spawned in the Ozarks.....because living in the Ozarks makes one independent, hard, and little mean.

It's why marijuana was such a big cash crop in the 1970s, and why all the meth labs are out here today.

Gotta find some way to scratch out money in the Ozarks......if you can sell it to Yankee touristas, hey, you got it made (Branson).

Pretty to look at, but hard to live in, the Ozarks.

Anonymous said...

"I thought about that tonight, flying in late for two more COWBOYS with Royal Wade Kimes, maytbe the last real cowboy singer on earth, or at least east of the Mississippi."

Kimes is good, very good. But, I am glad you qualified this statement, otherwise I would have to remind you of RW Hampton, Brenn Hill, and of course the guy who kicked started the whole modern western music thingee - Ian Tyson.

Anonymous said...

While I can appreciate the prominence these two musicians hold in the world of Cowboy singing, I am still stuck on Miss Nude Teenager. And I'm quite happy being stuck there too. Please Do Not Disturb.