There is that long stretch of nothing along the I-10 between San Antonio and El Paso. Fortunately, I had a plan to break it up as I returned from my Texas Tour. We got off the I-10 and cut Southwest to a little town called Alpine. Now to someone like myself who is traveling from the high mountains of Arizona the town of Alpine is anything but alpine. No snow or pine trees. It is high by Texas standards (4,775') but it is certainly no Telluride. The one thing you will find in Alpine is a lot of cowboy hats, boots, belt buckles, country music blaring out the bars and trucks... plenty of pickup trucks. After spending the better part of the week in the big cities of Austin and San Antonio I had finally arrived in... well...

Texas.

You might think that a weird artsy sort of musician would dread coming to a small redneck town like Alpine. You might imagine that my night would end being dragged behind a truck or something... but this is never the case. In truth, I actually dread the ho-hum of the hipsters in the big cities where you can never be cool unless someone cool said you are cool. In the big city I am just another Wednesday night touring band. In the small redneck towns I am the goddamn circus... and they are happy to see someone do something different. 

I had no idea what to expect at the Crystal Bar. It was a pretty informal booking. I wasn't even sure if they remembered booking me at all. When we got into town I stuck my head inside just to see what it was like. It was huge. They told me that people would bring their horses inside sometimes. It is that sort of place. Country music blaring. Cowboys looking at me with that "What the hell is with this barefoot guy?"

They're gonna kill me...

The owner was nice enough though. Jeanne had inherited the place from her husband after he died suddenly on Thanksgiving. Really. She also ran a restaurant and told Matt and I to go and have dinner on her... which we did. I ordered steak. I am not really the biggest fan of steak but when in Texas... Besides, I already had Texas barbecue in Austin. I had a green chile cheeseburger in New Mexico. It was time to sample that other cuisine the great state of Texas was known for: Steak. A New York Strip in my case... with some mash potatoes... Well... being a touring musician isn't always the healthiest thing... but I love experiencing life too much to be a vegan in a Texas steakhouse... just sayin'.

Well fed, I came back and gave them a show. The place was too big and empty that night for my taste. I wish I had sent Jeanne some flyers instead of sending them to the hotel that booked me the next night (and they didn't even put them up). Still, I was treated generously and made some badly needed cash which put this tour into the black after some disastrous gigs in Austin and San Marcos (money-wise anyway...). I'll admit I did sort of fade a bit in the end... too much free beer... and I was getting a little worn out from touring. Still, Jeanne seemed to enjoy what I did and wanted me back. The rednecks didn't lynch me. They even got up and danced a little. There's a star on the wall there with Waylon Jenning's signature on it. I put my signature nearby. I had finally found Texas... and... much to my surprise. I like Texas and I think I will return someday.

The next night I played the lobby of the old Holland Hotel. I had planned to play in their magnificent courtyard but then there was a storm. A real storm too. I went outside and saw a funnel cloud in the distance. It didn't quite come down but plenty of hail and lightning did. 

So I played an acoustic set in the lobby. 

It was a bit weird. Everyone was in the bar which was on the opposite end of the building. I played to myself for awhile but, eventually, some folks gathered around to hear what I was doing. I was asked to play Waylon Jennings. It was about the twentieth request for him I got since coming to Alpine. The only song I know of his is the theme to the Dukes of Hazard. I guess I have some homework to do. They dug my blues though. I even played them some of my country songs. Normally, when I play "Chain Drinker" no one pays attention but they hung on every word and laughed at all my double entendres. "Don't know how I got into this rut. I might be able to get out but not with this beer gut... cause I'm a chain drinker and problem smoker and I can't seem to get my shit together..." Yessir. I write damn good country songs. That is a well kept secret. Too well kept.... but at least, some folks in Alpine know that now. When I looked into my tip case Ulysses S Grant was looking back at me. Yeah. Don't fear for my sake in these little redneck towns. I will be fine...

BACK