Townes Van Zandt didn't die for nothing, of that much I'm sure. Just look at the songs he wrote and the lives he continues to touch. My girlfriend Misti claims that before she met me only two things made her wet. Riding the mechanical bull at the Blind Horse Saloon and listening to Townes's song¸ If I Needed You.
I have a buddy Carl plays in my TVZ tribute band and works construction here in Greenville. He did a couple of tours in Afghanistan and says what got him through was Townes's music. After patrolling all day, dodging IEDs and sniper fire, him and the some of the other old boys in his FOB drank beer and smoked and listened to Waitin' Around to Die. Now, there's some black humor Townes would have appreciated.
One night at the Blind Horse, where my band hopes to someday play, I was talking to Felix, the man runs the mechanical bull. He observed you can always tell a woman is about fall off of Old Salty—that's the bull, Old Salty—the moment her thong shows above her jeans. He allows no high heels when riding Old Salty—and keeps a handwritten sign above his stand saying No High Heels—for the reason a woman wearing high heels could easily break her ankle if she were to fall. His favorite Townes' song is Flying Shoes—go figure—which Townes no doubt wrote while he was stoned.
Carl's girlfriend Stacy is the sommelier at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse just down the street from the Blind Horse. In case you don't know, a sommelier tastes, selects, and recommends wines at the restaurant. She studied at Johnson & Wales in Charlotte while Carl was off killing Hadjis. Even though they weren't married then, she remained true, except for one time with that big guy Cotton wholesales wine for Yadkin Valley Winery. She confessed as much to Carl the last time they were drinking at my place. Anyway, Stacy's confession goes a long way toward explaining why she listened to Tecumseh Valley all the time Carl was gone. She told Misti she especially related to the part about how the girl in the song “took to whorin' with all the lust inside her.”
Misti dances three nights a week at the all-nude Lion's Den off the highway, which don't bother me none, because I know how she feels about the kind of men come in that place—mostly Charlotte bankers and BMW executives on a tear. Misti found Townes before she found me, listening to him on her daddy's stereo. Her sister's into embroidery, so Misti had her sister embroider her favorite line from Snowin' on Raton on a t-shirt. I love that line, plastered across her breasts, “You cannot hold a lover that is gone.”
That's a badass truth for sure.
We're trying to decide what to do. After Carl and me fixed Cotton's wagon for taking advantage of Stacy, Misti confided the third thing makes her wet is when her man gets into a fight. So, it's been non-stop sex ever since Carl and me were arrested—the floor, the sofa, up against the fridge. Now, we're waiting to hear whether the charges will be assault or aggravated assault, depending on whether Cotton walks again or not.
Misti wants to light out for Texas, where some of Townes's ashes are said to be buried beneath a headstone in Dido. It's as good a plan as any, because I have no intention of spending time in jail on account of a fight that left me with a broken nose and a busted lip.
Last night, Misti and me were taking a break between rounds when she asked what's my favorite Townes Van Zandt song. Pancho and Lefty would be an easy choice, but actually my favorite is My Proud Mountains. Every time I hear that song I want go to Colorado, a place I've never been. Misti doesn't want to be that far from home, but the way I see it, if you're going to jump bail all the way to Texas, it's not that much further to Colorado.
Townes died dependent on the kindness of his second ex-wife Jeanene, who did him no favors when she checked him out of the hospital with a broken hip and gave him alcohol to relieve his DTs. He drank too much, over-dosed on drugs, and abused his muse. Late at night, while Misti sleeps, I sit on the stoop of my trailer, smoke a joint, and listen to the big trucks whine. I'm thirty years old, broke, and have one ex-wife and a kid I never see.
Smoke curls above my head like a serpent set to strike.