The next morning was sunny and bright. I slept in, which I'm prone to doing, given the opportunity. I made some coffee when I got up. Took another hot shower. (You've got to take advantage of these things when they're available). Watched cable news. There was some tragedy or another going on. I slowly got my stuff together. It always amazes me how quickly I can make a mess out of a clean room.
I called the mechanic shop. They were working on the van. I took what I had brought with me (jacket with clothes wrapped up in it, guitar, little bathroom thingie with toothbrush, razor etc.), checked out of the room, and sat on a rock by the side of the road, waiting to be picked up.
Hank Hill was just finishing up the van when I got there. I paid them with plastic (it really is way too easy) and hit the road.
Somewhere near Houston, as you drop out of the hill country, the Southwest turns into the South. All of a sudden there are bayous and big trees and the air is thick with moisture. The Piney Woods, I think they call it. East Texas. Near the Gulf Coast.
The last time I had been on the Texas Gulf Coast was a couple of years back, when I was doing some dates with singer/songwriter John Amos. Hurricane Ike was making its way landward, and everyone was kind of monitoring it on the weather channels.
We were playing a show in Surfside that night, not far from Galveston. It was a 9 till 1 a.m. kinda deal, and the place was filled with Gulf Coast characters, talking hurricane talk, most of 'em with a good deal of bravado. They were exhibiting way more machismo about a hurricane coming in than I could muster.
After the show, I packed up my gear and headed toward Taos, New Mexico, which was where the next show was. The weather had me feeling uneasy, and I wanted to put as much space between me and the Gulf as I could.
It wasn't total paranoia. The club was up on stilts, so it was essentially on the second story. And when Ike hit, it pretty much destroyed the place. Two feet of ocean came through that second story.
But this wasn't hurricane season. I pulled into Kenneth Dunn's driveway in North Houston, after negotiating rush hour traffic on the beltway. I looked under the van, just to check if everything was okay. There was something that looked like motor oil all over the bottom, dripping. I checked the oil. The dipstick read full. As near as I could tell it was coming from the transmission.
But I'd had enough vehicular adventures for awhile. I went in and had a bowl of gumbo. Kenneth's from Louisiana. He knows gumbo.
I've learned there are three kinds of gigs... money gigs, glory gigs, and great musician gigs. If any two of those criteria are met, it's a satisfying night. If all three are met, it's a great night. If only one is met, well... you can live with it. If none of them are met, you might want to strongly consider a different career path.
The next night I had a show at a seafood restaurant. We drove in Kenneth's truck.
This was a a money gig. They paid decent, fed you anything off the menu, gave you drinks, and treated you with respect. The fact that Ed Starkey was playing bass, and Grammy award winning drummer Jimmy Rose played percussion, made it that much better. There's no glory in playing a seafood restaurant. But two outta three ain't bad.
We were basically playing in the waiting area, by a fountain. There were tables set up. People would come in, sit and listen to some music, then go to their tables in the restaurant to eat dinner. But there was one table with two older couples sitting at it, eating dinner in the waiting area. They were kind of grumbling when we set up. They were gonna be a hard sell, you could tell. They thought of the space as their own, and didn't really want to have it invaded. But right away we caught their attention. They started nodding their heads, swaying in their chairs, and turning around to look. When the music is good, you can't deny it. Even if you want to. The heart, ultimately, is stronger than the head. As a performing musician, you live for those soul connections.
Turns out one of the guys was an ex-cop, who had also worked for awhile as a bodyguard for Elvis Presley. According to him, Elvis was a real nice guy. Shy with girls. The ex-cop also had the honor of having Janis Joplin fall on top of him off a stage once. It's amazing the stories people have to tell.