A week before the Longview Benefit, I got a Facebook post from the Other Brother:
“Coco is in town this weekend at the rose room – I am going, how about you??”
Well, hell yeah! Ms. Coco Peru, infamous New York icon, star of stage and screen, doing a performance in my fair city – why wouldn’t I go? I had a contract gig on Thursday, had the benefit on Saturday, so Friday night would be my only availability. I asked Other Brother to contact the lovely Lady Fair to confirm our ability to attend, and all was good.
My Thursday night contract with the Wine Shop went fabulously, a charity icebreaker for the new member held in a gorgeous, eclectic art gallery in North Dallas. Comforted by the spaciousness and inspired by the surrounding beauty, I was on fire the entire night – huge success for the charity, huge success for the Wine Shop, and several new contacts made.
Friday, I got a call from one of my freelance graphics clients while I was attempting to get ready for my night of drag frivolity with an office software emergency – needed massive changes made to a file to send to his company headquarters in Florida, could I help out? Microsoft Office Suite not being my occupational specialty, I evidently had a better grasp of the software than my client, so with only a couple of hours to spare I told him I’d jump right on it. In my towel, ass-deep in a bodacious Excel file, my Facebook alerted me I had a message from Other Brother:
“You guys going tonight?”
I’d thought we’d made that obvious, but you never knew what was up when Other Brother asked a question like that – he could be checking on you, he could be laying the groundwork for him. “Better question – are YOU going tonight? How do you feel?”
“I am whooped, but I am going – I don’t get to see Coco enough, already got tickets. Lo and The Ex are going. Have not slept since yesterday.”
That wasn’t good. “That’s not good.”
“Damn, I have the worst case of insomnia, cant take sleep pills.”
That was worse. And as much as I wanted to hear about Other Brother and his now-dicey health, I was on a deadline and needed to cut him off.
“Call Lady Fair, give her the deets. We be going.”
“Excellent – I don’t have the phone, but I will give you the deets. Cool?”
Dammit. “Figures. Send away, Boo-Boo. I’m in the middle of an emergency freelance job, check back in a couple of hours.”
“Love ya. Looking forward to tonight. 🙂 “
“Me, too. We are meeting The Ex at five thirty, Lo is riding with us. I don’t see you enough either. Get busy, doctor – will call later.”
The bodacious Excel file proceeded to kick my tail for the next few hours, finally cutting some corners at the client’s behest to get it back to him before close of business East Coast time. I put on my do-rags, sent the Other Brother a Facebook message that the Lady Fair was home from work, and waited for my instructional phone call.
At 11:30 pm, I sent the Other Brother another Facebook text saying “F- it. Going to bed. Please let me know you’re okay in the morning.” The Lady Fair had been asleep on the couch since 9:30 pm, didn’t seem fair to keep her from bed any longer, especially since we were too late to make even a midnight show. Got up the next morning and checked my cell phone – Other Brother hadn’t seen the messages until he got home, having stayed after Coco’s show for the meet and greet with the star and the fancy people of Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs. He’d gone to show without us. I’d spent the last evening psyching myself up to hearing the Other Brother’s health had let him down, he’d crashed on the couch and slept the night away without ever calling us – hearing he was fine, he’d just never called, put a major damper on our morning.
It was while we were digesting the news of our ditching when the Lady Fair got the call her best friend’s stepfather had passed away – my lovely wife got what details she could while I got busy getting ready for our two-hour drive East. Missing what had sounded like a fabulous show seemed less important now – our closest friends had suffered a loss; the band was chipping in to help two people with little means to help themselves. The Other Brother was put on the back burner while the Lady Fair and I took care of immediate business – we showered, dressed, grabbed my cowbell and tambourine, grabbed my lyric books just in case, made sure her camera had battery power and space on the data card, filled the Mustang’s tank, and away we went.
It’s sometimes hard to describe Texas to those who haven’t lived here, it truly is more than a state – it’s a state of mind; but it’s also because each corner of the state looks completely different from the other three: the wide open spaces of the West, the lush coastlines to the Southeast, metropolitan urban centers of DFW and Houston, the Latin beauty of San Antonio, the quirkiness of Austin, Big Bend National Park, Palo Duro Canyon – you name it, you can probably find it somewhere in Texas. East Texas is a particularly lovely drive from Dallas, full of lush piney woods, sweeping hills and darling stops along the way – unless, of course, you’d taken far more time getting gas and a car wash than expected and you’re running behind schedule. Then, the best part about the drive from home to just an hour outside of Bossier City is the 75 mph speed limit signs as soon as you leave Dallas County. The little missus and I had planned on stopping for a bite on the way to Longview – every time I looked at the clock, I still hadn’t made up enough time for a swing by a drive-thru; that the best burger joints were so damn far off the highway didn’t help. I had a rumbly in my tumbly by the time we hit the Longview city limits sign.
The Barr was easy to get to but hard to find: the venue was just a skip away from the highway exit, but no real sign to speak of – my eagle-eyed spouse caught the name in front of the motel just off the corner of Estes Parkway and I-20. Parking was the motel parking lot – I pulled the Mustang down at the end, opposite the rooms and near Pauly’s truck, all but unrecognizable without the equipment trailer. The Lady Fair grabbed her camera equipment, I grabbed my instruments, and we headed to the front door and inside.
Now, when I say The Barr is a dive, I mean that in the best possible way: small, but not tight; dark, but not dim; bad-ass bikers and their old ladies everywhere you look, all with smiles on their faces and laughter in the hearts. The Barr is the band’s kind of place with the band’s kind of people. The Barr’s stage area was surprisingly large; to find the entertainment was in its own dedicated area was an even bigger and better surprise. I’d expected to be cramped – as it was, we’d have more room than the last East Dallas gig. Because of stage logistics, Super Dave and I would be changing places, not a terrible change, but a change nonetheless. The crew set-up their front gear with the headliner’s amps, I handed out the set list we may or may not be following, and then we got out of the way while the first charity auction went down. I got a soft drink, the Lady Fair bought us tickets to partake in the donated barbeque, and we waited for the band’s cue to go on.
When Patrick started the drum beat and Pauly came in with the chord strums for American Girl by Tom Petty, all the tension from the Other Brother, the Lady Fair’s best friend, the two-hour race to East Texas, and the empty stomach melted away – I was with my four band mates, we were playing in front of an appreciative audience, and all was right in the world. As good as J.C. had been the week before, nothing could compare to having Patrick back at his post – Pauly played his best in weeks, interacting instinctually with Super Dave and egging on the crowd to cut loose while the rest of the band followed Pauly’s lead. I wasn’t ready to quit when our time was up, and by the looks I was getting from the guys, they weren’t either – but we shut it down anyway, getting our gear out of the headliner’s way as quick as we could while the next auction started.
The Lady Fair and I redeemed our tickets for Barbeque finally, tearing into some damn fine vittles. Margaret did her best to try and contain Pauly, who was fairly vibrating at this point, rock and roll still surging in his veins with no music to soothe the savage beast. After what felt like forever, the headliner of the benefit, The Alan Fox Band, took the stage – magic. Pure magic. Mix the electric blues of Stevie Ray Vaughn, the dueling guitars of Thin Lizzy, and the whiskey-soaked growl of Gregg Allman’s vocals, and you have something close to Alan Fox and his stellar band. Gary was in obvious heaven; Pauly, feeling those guitars down in his bones, kept sneaking a look back at me – I just kept smiling back at him. The Alan Fox Band was every bit as good as their reputation and then some.
AFB was nearing the end of their first set when I gave the Lady Fair the heads up we could head on back to DFW – amazingly, Gary, Pauly and the Lovely Bride, Margaret, came to the same conclusion just then, as well. We headed out the door, hugged and shook hands, then climbed into the Mustang and pointed her West. Leg Two of the Heading East Tour was done, and we’d done good.