I feel like cursing right now. I know that can be offensive, so I am giving you this warning so you can avert your eyes.
When did I get so fucking courteous? I am sure it won’t last.
But I am sufficiently emotionally scrambled from the Willie Nelson concert I attended the other night. Let me tell you, the Red-Headed Stranger (FN 1) fucked me up. Not only am I listening to his music non-stop now (you try running a few miles to “To All The Girls I Loved Before”), but I am flooded with memories from my childhood in Texas. Willie Nelson’s music is the soundtrack of my youth. When it was time to go to bed, my dad would sing, “Turn Out The Lights, the Party’s Over,” and I remember where I was sitting in our living room when he explained to me that Willie Nelson penned the Patsy Cline signature hit, “Crazy.”
But here’s the thing, since I left Texas in 1995, I purposefully left certain things behind. I am not sure why exactly. Maybe it was a normal part of individuation and coming of age, but going to the Willie Nelson three days ago was like stepping back to my past and grabbing a piece of the old stuff for myself.
It feels so fucking weird.
For all these years, I divided the world into things that belonged to me, and those that belonged to my past and my family back home in Bush country. The things for me included Chicago, therapy, and liberal politics. The things I left behind included the Catholic Church, college football, and Tex-Mex food. While I have had some success sharing parts of myself with them, I haven’t been as successful at joining them with the things I consider “theirs.”
Until Thursday night.
Willie Nelson took the stage and started with my mother’s favorite song: “Whiskey River.” I felt my heart lurch along with the steel guitar. I didn’t see anyone else there welling up during “On the Road Again,” but I was. I could see the allure of Willie– he’s irreverent, talented, and his “I don’t give a fuck” attitude is charming in an expected way. Half way through his show– around the time he dipped into his gospel tunes– I realized I wanted a piece of him for myself. I wanted to share Willie Nelson, and all he stands for in my own history, with my family.
Me? Wanting to share? It’s unheard of.
I will note that Willie Nelson’s obsession with getting drunk and high is a tad bit distracting for me, but his talent is larger than all that. And, OHMYGOD, he’s 79 years old and still going on tour to sing the classics that his fans want to hear. There is plenty to admire in Mr. Willie Nelson, just like there’s plenty to admire in some of the things I left behind (even the Catholic Church, I suspect).
To say that the concert was a trip down memory lane is an understatement and a cliche. More precisely, it was chance to look backwards and reclaim a forsaken part of myself and my history so it can live and come with me into my future.
The best part of it all was that I bought myself a red bandana and decided who I was going to be for Halloween.
Look for me next to the Tootsie Rolls singing “On the Road Again.”
FN 1: Nickname for Willie Nelson? The Red-headed stranger.