Monday, February 27, 2012

Honky Tonk Heroes Like Me

Driving down Highway 63 tonight with a steady stream of oncoming headlights and that old white line clearly visible, I was in no danger of relaxing or drifting off.  But if I had been driving home on an empty four lane late at night with no company and nothing to keep me on edge, I could have solved my problems by dialing up Pandora and clicking on my Wayne Hancock station.  Wayne's band is unreconstructed, undeconstructed, wailin', growlin', slidin', and poundin' out tunes about loneliness, drinkin', cheatin', and honky tonkin'.  What makes Wayne Hancock a great road companion is counting the number of highways and byways in his songs:  87 southbound, highway 54, I-40 east, 59 to New Orleans, 35 to Minnesota, I-10 west through Johnson City.  Mapping a life on the road.

Our road tripping family played a corollary of this game: heading west on I-70 provoked a rendition of 'Abilene' by the guy driving (Prettiest town that I've ever seen! Women there don't treat you mean, Down in Abilene, My Abilene).  Randy Travis let us go 'Roamin' Wyomin'.  'Going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come', we would barely break a sweat. To 'Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie' was cause for celebration.

Like Wayne the Train, a 'real nice room with a radio and tv' , a thunderstorm and a neon sign brings a smile to my face.  Blake and I courted to the tunes to Waylon and Willie and the boys.  Our little house on the bottom reverberated with 'Shot Gun Willie' and 'Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys' vinyl 33s played on my grandmother's hand me down hard maple hi fi stereo.  Blake always relished his role as fatherly alarm clock, alternating 'Revelry' on his trumpet with renditions of 'Your Cheating Heart' that would truly bring a tear to anyone's eye.  It didn't take too many of those performances for the kids to pop up without additional incentive.

Last night Waylon followed Wayne on the radio.  Dropping all pretenses of dignity and musicality, we joined in on southbound 63.  Youth and middle age,  winning and losing,  memories in common past and future, road tripping together:

'Where did it go, the good Lord only knows,
Seems like it was only yesterday...'

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