It’s Okay, I *AM* the Band….

Today while I was deleting old files to make space on my hard drive for more photos, I stumbled over this draft that I started…..who knows when….of course, I’m not going to finish it now. Just posting it, because it’s all true……

I lived a very sheltered life until my divorce at the age of 31. I didn’t drink alcohol, I never learned to smoke, didn’t use foul language and I didn’t know what the world was like outside my small circle of friends. Of course I saw these things on TV, but I couldn’t visualize living in that world.

My life changed one day when I answered an ad for a band that was looking for a piano player. I played piano, I should be able to do that, I thought. I auditioned on a borrowed keyboard, and even though I had never played with a band, had no idea what to do I got the job. This meant I had to acquire a piano and an amplifier on my minimum wage paycheck. That was no small feat right there. They also asked me to sing backup harmony, since there was another girl who sang lead. Yikes…..most of the singing I had done was at church and a few times at a local Opry show. I managed to fake my way through that also. I was beginning to get good at faking things.

The name of the band was “Burgundy and Lace”. Catchy and descriptive….Burgundy was the masculine part and Lace was the other girl and me.

The band picked up a few gigs locally, and I gained more and more confidence and experience. I also began drinking, simply because that is what people do in a bar or nightclub. You go there to drink, to mingle, to dance; to live the nightlife. Ah, the nightlife.

I will admit to being quite conceited in those days. I admit it now, but not then. My mother told me once, when she was annoyed and disgusted with my new hobby, that all I wanted to do was “get dressed up, go out and let men tell me how pretty I was”. I was appalled that she would say such a horrible thing to me, I was a “professional” musician now, and I was going to be famous! It was a few years before I could acknowledge the stark truth in what my mom said to me. It was the truth. I loved it, I was thin, didn’t look my age, I was cute and the men liked me.

Even on my off nights from the band, I couldn’t just sit at home. I would go out to a club with my new girlfriends; I learned to dance, sort of. For a musician, I’m not a very good dancer, but I loved trying. The most popular place in the 1980s was Calhoon’s, on Breezy Hill between Denison and Sherman. Thursday was “Ladies Night”….which meant no cover charge and maybe even free beer. If not free, then it was 25 or 50 cents. That was my price range in those days. At a place like Calhoon’s, the crowd was constantly moving, back and forth from one end of the club to the other. We never, ever sat down at a table; that was for the married people, or the ones on dates. As single ladies, we were there to “see and be seen” by all the (hopefully) single men. The three of us heard every lame pick-up line ever uttered, and some never heard before. My favorite was the obviously drunk guy who came up to us right before closing time and said he’d been watching us all evening long, but was so intimidated by our beauty that he had to work up the nerve to approach us. Sure, buddy, sure. We know; we all get prettier at closing time! But, you didn’t get better looking or smarter…..take a hike!

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Nightlife

*When the evenin’ sun goes down

you will find me hangin’ round

oh the nightlife, it ain’t no good life

but it’s my life.

She sat in front of the mirror applying another coat of mascara to her lashes. Her dark brown eyes were her best feature, everyone said so, therefore she tried to make them look even more seductive. It was always dark in the nightclubs, and she wanted to be noticed. She wanted very much to be noticed over all the other single women vying to be noticed.

The garage apartment Jeannie rented was very small, furnished with hand-me-down furniture, odds and ends, but was very homey and comfortable. Her clothes hung behind a curtain suspended from the ceiling. Satin jackets, sequined tops, jeans, prairie dresses, cowboy boots and assorted high heels, most verging on stiletto. She was the shortest child in her family, at 5′ 4″…..everyone else seemed to tower above her, so the heels were a must have. Tonight’s costume would be the red satin camisole, black satin pants, black satin jacket with rhinestone adorned lapels, and heels in a silver/black pattern. She fastened the rhinestone necklace carefully behind her neck, and checked her reflection in the mirror. “Looking pretty good for 30-something” she thought.

“Don’t the girls all get prettier at closing time…. Don’t they all begin to look like movie stars… Don’t the girls all get prettier at closing time… When the change starts takin’ place… It puts a glow on every face….. Of the fallen angels of the backstreet bars”

It was the same routine she followed almost every night that she didn’t work. Jeannie sang with a local band, and loved being on stage, in the spotlight, it was a rush like none other. But, the nights that she wasn’t on stage, those were the lonely, empty nights that she tried to fill. She and her two best friends made the rounds between the two neighboring towns.

First stop was the club at The Sheraton Hotel because it was an early crowd, and happy hour included a buffet. She could kill two birds with one stone. Heads turned when the three women walked in together, they joked between themselves, that they looked like “Charlie’s Angels”, without the firearms, of course. They would stake their claim to a small table near the dance floor, and hold court while sipping slowly on their drinks. Next stop was a rabble-rousing country bar, full of good old boys, drugstore cowboys and more single women to compete against for attention. The “meat market” she called it, because the crowd of single women moved from one end of the building to the other in a well-organized throng, constantly moving, looking at every man as a potential dance partner, or more. Jeannie was glad it was ladies night here so she could drink for free. Last stop for the night, the other country bar in town, more of a couples atmosphere there. Not any good prospects there, because Jeannie was determined to never be a home-wrecker. Jeannie and both her friends had been hit on by many married men; it was just part of the nightlife, but having been on the receiving end of that betrayal, she swore she’d never be the reason another woman would lose her man. This was just the place to relax and have fun, the house band was laid back and would let Jeannie sit in on piano and sing later, so it was the perfect end to the night.

The waitress appeared at the table with a Colorado Bulldog, “complements of the gentleman at the bar” she said, nodding toward the man in the teal colored shirt. Jeannie caught her breath, and mumbled thank you to the waitress, all the while keeping her eye on the man. The man who once belonged to her, until some sweet young thing stepped in and took him away. Why was he here? She hadn’t seen him in over a year. Had it really been a year since she moved 700 miles to get away from the pain and memories of the two years they had spent together?

Alex started walking toward the table, and Jeannie began to panic. What would she say? How should she act? Offended? Hostile? Cool, indifferent? He held out his hand and led her to the dance floor. They began to dance like they had done so many times before, and everything seemed so natural and comfortable, but surreal all at the same time. Her head fit perfectly in the crook of his neck and the smell of his cologne brought memories rushing back into her head and her heart. At the end of the dance, he held her tight and asked if he could see her home safely. It would be so easy to say yes, to let him take over and be her protector again; it would be so nice to have someone to share her laughter and tears with. But, she could still feel the hurt, the pain, and she knew she could never forget.

The bartender called “last call” and the lights came on in the club. Nothing is worse than the harsh reality of fluorescent lights after being in a dimly lit building for hours, then you see the real person in front of you, the one you’ve romanticized over, danced and flirted with….and you realize, he’s just a man. A man who has realized what a mistake he made.

Jeannie looked at her reflection in the mirror as she removed her makeup. Her brown eyes were still her best feature, but now she noticed something new. Just a glimmer…….Self respect? Hope? Yes, maybe a bit of both. She had just discovered how strong she had become in the past year. She said “no” to the man who once was the center of her world, who she loved more than anything and who had hurt her beyond comprehension. She said “no”…..and walked away.

* Nightlife…by Willie Nelson

~Me and Willie Nelson~

Once upon a time, out in the west Texas town of El Paso, which was so very, very far away from home, I had a great many adventures and experiences. Some I’ve already written about, some I have only alluded to, others I will definitely take to my grave. This is one experience that I will share.

~Willie Nelson slept on my couch.~

I had the privilege of working with a drummer named Bill Wilson….he was several years older than me then, and had been in and out of the music business for years. His real job, you know, the one that paid the rent, was plumbing. He often said there were 3 things you learn being a plumber…..

1) $h!t runs downhill,

2) payday is Friday and….

3) don’t bite your nails!

Bill also drank a lot, like most of the musicians that I met back then, and he could spin a yarn like no one else could. So, when I repeat this story, I’m really repeating Bill’s story, because I was not actually there at the time. I’ve had a lot of fun with this one over the years, though!

Me, on the left, Bill Wilson, and my friend Clara, New Year's Eve 1987

I had recently been forced to give up my one room apartment across town (okay, they made me move out since I couldn’t pay the rent!) and had moved in with my friend Carrie and her 2 kids, while Carrie’s husband, also a drummer, was on the road for the summer. (Carrie saved me from sleeping in my car and being homeless…thanks Carrie!) Meanwhile, Bill and his wife bought new furniture for their living room, so I bought their old set of rattan furniture, (now “vintage”) which I loved, for the paltry sum of $40.00. No one shared my love, though. The couch and chair were dreadfully uncomfortable seating!

Bill had told us all the story about the time that Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings were on tour, and their regular drummer had to take some time off, so Bill filled in with them on the road for several weeks. During that time, they stopped in El Paso and spent the night at Bill’s house. After a long evening of drinking and more drinking, Willie was too drunk to go to his hotel, so he spent the night…..he slept on the couch in the living room……the very couch that I was now the proud owner of! I never doubted Bill’s story, because he told it often and it never varied. I thought it was amazingly cool that Willie Nelson had slept on MY couch!

My friend Carrie, standing in front of the infamous couch!

I took the furniture back to north Texas with me in 1988 when I went back home. Then when I began working at the fabric store I bought new foam cushions, covered them in a beautiful cabbage rose print, and it went perfectly in my little garage apartment at 1700 1/2 South Fannin Avenue.

When I met Mike in 1989, I still had the sofa and chair set, but after we set up housekeeping together, I was “encouraged” to sell it. I’m pretty sure I got my original $40 back, too!

I have really missed being able to say “Willie Nelson slept on my couch”!

Willie hangs on the wall over my desk in the music studio.....he's probably looking for a place to sleep!

My Sister’s Porchlight

Once upon a time, way back in the late 1980s, my sister Becky and I became very good friends. It was the first time we had ever really been together much, because I am 16 years older, and she was just 6 months old when I married and moved away from home. So, she and I didn’t grow up together, she grew up with my daughter. Then in 1984 I got divorced…..it was not pretty and it was not easy. My family was upset with me, and to make matters worse, I became a working musician, playing in clubs and bars. But, in 1988, I came back home, to north Texas, settled down somewhat and got a real job. I still played in bars and clubs, but I had a better plan for my future.

My sister had graduated from high school by this time and was waiting tables at a local Mexican restaurant. She was very good at her job and always had cash in her pocket. I was making minimum wage at the fabric store, so I was broke all the time, and there were many times when I would have gone without groceries, except for Becky. Everyone says that sisters share a special bond, I think that’s true. We also share a love of food. And eating.

Becky was always entertaining!

Becky liked to hang out at my little apartment, and we spent lots of time cooking and eating. She bought all the groceries, of course. Sometimes I’d come home from work and she’d be there cooking already, she had a key so she could come and go. We had a blast cooking together, we even made Chinese food once, and it was really good. Funny, I still don’t like Chinese food, but whatever it was that we made that day, was really good. I seem to recall lots of spaghetti, tacos, sloppy joes…..real gourmet food!

My garage apartment was at the end of a long driveway, and we both had to park on the street, so it was very dark between my doorway and the street….and since I felt responsible for my baby sister, I would stand outside my door and shine the flashlight on her as she walked down the drive to her car on the street. That’s how the simple flashlight became the “porch-light” for the two of us. It has been an inside joke for 23 years now. No one else understood, but we did. That was the only thing that mattered. I love  MMYS…….

PORCH LIGHT!!!!!!!

Stupid Things I Have Done…..

Stupid things I have done in my life……and the lessons (if any) that I have learned.

Triple Threat at Lucile's. I am at the piano....

#1. I got married at 17. Barely had a driver’s license. I learned that even though my parent’s could no longer tell me what to do, I now had a jealous, controlling husband who monitored my every move. Took 14 years to learn from that mistake.

#2. I dropped out of high school after I got married. I learned at the age of 31 that I was NOT stupid after all, took the GED test without prep and passed with flying colors. Goooo Debi…..

#3. I got divorced at 31 before I had a game plan….or a job. I learned, eventually, that I COULD work and support myself. Very well, thank you.

#4. I began to drink at the age of 31. I learned that too much alcohol, in spite of creating fun, also makes you feel like death the next morning. I do not like to be sick, so I quit drinking……after 5 years. I take back that line about not being stupid…lol….just a slow learner!

#5. I kissed a lot of frogs. I learned that when you are single, men will lie to you all the time. Yes, they will. I kissed a LOT of frogs before I learned to poke around in their pond to see if there was scum involved.

#6. I drove my little Mazda station wagon down TransMountain Road in El Paso, at the speed of 110 MPH. I learned it was not my time to die, after all. See #4 above. Alcohol was involved.

#7. I moved 700 miles away from my family, for a man. I learned that he loved a lot of women besides me. Took 2 years to learn that lesson. See #4 above. Again.

#8. I was stopped by the police once, leaving a club after an evening of dancing and drinking, and was ticketed for 3 offenses, none of which included drunk driving. I learned to get OUT OF TOWN quick, I moved back to North Texas 3 weeks later!!! I may still be wanted in El Paso for having a burned out light above my license plate. I don’t go there anymore. If you see my picture in the Post Office there, will you pretend you don’t know me?

#9. I smoked marijuana a few times with one boyfriend. I didn’t like it at all. I’m very thankful for that. I couldn’t afford any type of drug habit :-/

#10. Refer back to #2…..I dropped out of school, and even though I have a GED, am fairly smart and can complete a coherent paragraph, I wish, oh so much, that I had gone to college and become “somebody”. I have learned many lessons because of that one decision, and I encourage every young person I meet, to get a good education, so they won’t have to stand on their feet for 40 hours a week the way I do. I am fortunate to have found my niche and truly love my job, but it would be so nice at my age, to just get to sit down for a while!

Bless the Beasts and the Children

Hugged an old friend today who is hurting, we shed a few tears as we talked; she is going through a very rough time, but she’s a smart, determined young woman. She’ll make it though to the other side, where the sun is shining, and the future looms ahead, beckoning.

She has children, you see…..and she loves them more than life itself.

It made me remember this song by Karen Carpenter,

Bless the Beasts and the Children.…..

Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world they have no voice
They have no choice

Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be
The world they see

Light their way when the darkness surrounds them
And give them love, let it shine all around them

Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe, keep them warm

Light their way when the darkness surrounds them
And give them love, let it shine all around them

Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe, keep them warm.

No one sings it like Karen did, but I did my best. For my friend.

The Rebound Man

The Branding Iron 1989

Spring 1989, I was single, carefree, working in a fabric store, training for a store manager position, playing keyboard on Wednesday nights with the house band at The Branding Iron….I was very self-sufficient and for the first time in years, I was content. Doesn’t matter that I drove a 1973 Mazda station wagon, lived in a tiny garage apartment, had no telephone and barely made above minimum wage. I was happy with myself.

My best friend, Lori, and I went out together a lot, she was younger than me, well, she still is….and cuter, so she got asked to dance a lot more than I did, but that was okay. I wasn’t a very good dancer anyway. Lori worked in a grocery store, and one of her good friends Mike, was separated and getting divorced, so he began hanging around with us. He was very impressed with me because I was a musician. Nowadays he tells people I was a “bar-fly”……I was not interested at all in him, however, as he was about to be divorced for the second time and I had been single for 5 years by then. All the warning signals went off whenever he was around…..he certainly wasn’t a viable dating prospect. I did not want someone who was on the rebound, even though he promised he wasn’t.

My best friend, Lori…

Every time I called Lori at work, Mike seemed to answer the phone and he kept persisting, so finally, I promised him that Lori and I would teach him how to dance and then turn him loose on all the single women in Grayson County. Let him rebound with someone else, I thought.

The weekend of June 10, my mom and I had made a trip to Dallas/Fort Worth for a mini vacation, so even though I was tired when I got back home that evening, I kept my promise to meet Mike and Lori at the Branding Iron for dancing lessons.

June 10, 1989

Well, I’m weak, what can I say…..he was so funny, and he flattered me to no end…..but sadly, he never learned to dance. We spent the whole evening chatting and drinking, although one of us drank considerably more than the other. I won’t say which one, but I didn’t have a hangover the next morning when Mike called wanting to take me to breakfast. We spent the whole day together, and after lunch he insisted we play golf. Really? I said I only play Putt Putt golf, he said “oh no, you’ll LOVE golf”…..we played 3 holes and then left after being “shushed” by a neighboring golfer. So, maybe I was a little too giggly trying to flirt? We have not played golf since June 11, 1989.

To even the score, I insisted we go roller skating on Monday night with my sister and her boyfriend. “You’ll LOVE it” I said, with my best poker face. Mike was game, he put on his skates, walked across the carpeted floor to the wall around the rink, stood there for a few minutes watching us as we skated round and round, then he carefully walked back to the bench and removed his skates.

The next day, Mike presented me with a handwritten poem, the first and only one he ever wrote for me…..it says it all.

The Rebound Man

It was true love…….and we continue to live happily ever after, without golfing or roller skating…….. The Rebound Man and the bar-fly!