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December Pre-interstate Journal

Day of departure for this weekend’s run up the highway—and I’m sitting here typing when I should be packing. Tomorrow night(Friday, 12/11) we’re at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn, IL; Saturday we’re at The Mill in Iowa City, IA. Hope this finds you well, or getting there. Personally I think I’m all right, though in the words of Mr. Dylan, “I don’t know what ‘all right’ even means.” But we rock on—I’m feeling that holiday onslaught, aren’t you? I love the holidays, don’t get me wrong, but suddenly my task list grows to about 3 times its normal size, and bares sharp teeth. Onward . . .

I had a great trip to Louisiana last week, and yes, while in New Orleans I ate well, like any reasonable person should: raw oysters in the restaurant at the Old 77 Hotel; fried chicken w/red beans and rice at Willie Mae’s Scotch House; a mind-blowing (and gut-expanding) po-boy at Bear’s in old Metairie.  Per usual, the food and hospitality at all the venues I played was spectacular: Sundown Tavern in Ruston, Enoch’s in Monroe, and Spirits in Alexandria. The shows were fun, and well-received; I was particularly knocked out by the enthusiasm from the crowd during the first set at Enoch’s, in my old hometown. I don’t seem to get much press when I’m there, but y’all found me, and were there, and I love you for it.

I usually get positive responses when I play “Colfax” live, but it was kinda weird that night, when I was going into the part where the Klan enters the picture—a small group of African-American women, who’d been sitting there listening, upon hearing the words “Ku Klux Klan”, got up and left. Just like that. I didn’t see it happen at the time, but was told about it when I took a break after the song was over. Bums me out, in a way. Maybe it was unrelated; maybe they just needed to leave. But the timing suggests otherwise. One of the more frustrating things about doing what I do—write songs, record them, and drive around playing them for people, is that the live performance setting can be a challenging listening environment—and I fear that those ladies (who might not have even been there for the music) didn’t hear enough of the song to realize that I was on their side (and besides that, on the right side). But you can only do so much. Try to write well, speak and sing honestly, play your guitar, and hope that something gets across that’s positive.

WTF road story #45,359: On the way back to Nashville on Monday, I stopped at a Pilot in Jackson, TN to refuel. While in the men’s room, another guy, with beard, mullet and ball cap,  came in and was “stationed” right next to me. A really horrible version of “Blue Christmas” by a contemporary “country” artist, with overcooked horn arrangements that made me queasy, was blaring from the speakers above. As this guy heads over to the sinks, he says something vehemently about “Christmas . . . it’s all racial . . . .” I think to myself: “hmmm, interesting.” When I walked over to wash my hands, he said something else, which I couldn’t quite discern (but included the word “black”), so I said to him “you know, I think that song is called Blue Christmas”. Guy looks at me, says, “well, he said ‘white’! . . . Christmas . . . it’s all racial.” Then walks out the door. I still don’t know what in the hell he was thinking. Or, what side, if any, he was on. All I could figure was when he said “racial” he meant “rascist”. But that still doesn’t explain . . . 

Happy holidays! 

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