But I didn’t pay one iota of attention to Willie Nelson because I fucking hated his music. I hated almost all country music, making exceptions only for Dolly Parton, and later in college, I made discreet one-off exceptions (like if country song was playing when I made out with a cute Sigma Chi– see Moon Over Georgia). My dad always had his tapes around– I remember him singing “Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over,” when he was trying to get us kids to bed. It worked, because the song was so lame it made my ears burn so I crawled into bed to SHUT MY DAD UP.
When I got older, I appreciated Willie’s Farm Aid efforts to raise money for the disappearing American family farm, but I was busy with INXS’s Calling All Nations Tour and memorizing the cast of We Are The World.
My family members were always on the bandwagon. One of them has seen Willie in concert more than I have seen the inside of my local Costco. I get Shutterfly photo albums from my parents that are nothing but pictures of Willie on stage in his signature red bandana. Sure, it was amusing to see my mother’s 400 pictures of the Red-headed Stranger, but it was nothing to get all ablaze about.
But, then something happened.
Maybe I was ripe for an obsession or it was some nostalgic reflex occasioned by my recent milestone birthday. No doubt there are Oedipal-Freudian connections that aren’t appropriate for this family friendly blog. But I’ve caught Willie fever. And it’s bad.
I first saw him last October and since then I’ve practically bankrupted my discretionary budget downloading his music. (He’s recorded over 250 albums so I was screwed from the start.) I’ve read 2.5 biographies about him, 3 chapters of his autobiography, and have conceptualized a novel based on a portion of his life that I find fascinating. I can’t get through a conversation without bringing him up. Last night I dreamed he was playing at a casino in Joliet but I missed it. I woke up tear-stained and clinically depressed.
As a joke Jeff will say, “Name a few facts about Willie Nelson,” and I’ll rattle them off like some savant tot on the Ellen Degeneres show. But I’m not a tot. I’m a grown ass woman.
And Mr. Nelson started recording back in 1958 (when he was 25 years old), but genius fan over here didn’t bother to become a fan(atic) until he turned 79. My timing is impeccable like that.
To sum up: Now I am stalking an 80-year-old pothead. It feels really good to be someone my kids can look up to. I check his website everyday to see where he is and wonder if his daughter Paula has made him eggs yet or if he’s gone on his run. Is he playing golf? How many tokes today? Will he ever do an acoustic tour– just him, his guitar, Trigger, and a stool? I joined the fan club so I can get “breaking” news. I’ve spent therapy time talking about my deep regret that I came to this so late– “He’s 80 years old! How many more concerts could I possibly see? Why didn’t I start sooner? Why did I ignore his genius until now?”
God bless my family who has to live through this with me. Ever patient with my little enthusiasms, Jeff made me this birthday cake:
That’s love, people. My love for Willie, Jeff’s love for me and an obsession I can’t shake, that should have started decades ago.
I find refuge in Uncle Willie’s lyrics:
“Time will take care of itself so leave time alone / And pick up the tempo just a little and take it on home.”