My Life as a Lug Nut

Debi Snider
Copyright 2003
This is a true story and took place in El Paso in 1987

“The Red Rose Lounge”……….hearing the name by itself suggests it might
be a nice place to relax at the end of a long day, with some nice piano bar music, some greenery here and there, polished brass railings along a shiny oak bar, a handsome Tom Cruise-type bartender mixing and serving exotic drinks to the yuppie crowd. But when you add the street name to the location of this lounge, the locals know it is on one of the worst streets in town and is more commonly known as a “dive”. I’m still not sure where the term “dive” originated, but I feel it may have something to do with a person taking a headlong dive into a world of alcoholic misery, for that is what I was about to do.

I was in rehearsals with a surefire up and coming rock band during the week (whatever happened to them?), when the drummer pulled me aside one day to talk. J.R. was playing on weekends with a three-piece band at the Red Rose Lounge, and would I like to bring my equipment out and sit in with them sometime……of course there would be no money involved, but it would be “fun”. Well, being the ham musician I am, I rarely ever turned down a chance to perform, so there I was! I soon became a regular fixture at the Rose, and before too long, I was on the payroll at a whopping $15 a night, every Friday and Saturday night from 9 till 2AM.

The stage, such as it was, was very small, and only about 8 inches above the dance floor, and barely enough room for the three guys, so I set up on the side near the fire exit (good thing there was never a fire!). The band’s unofficial name was “Mixed Nuts”, and since I was off to the side, I became affectionately known as the “Lug Nut”. My trademark song was ‘The Rose”, appropriately enough, and I sang it twice every night. Sometimes people noticed, but most times they didn’t. The clientele at the Red Rose Lounge, was a very serious drinking bunch no white wine spritzers or fancy drinks for these folks. Beer, the cheaper the better, the occasional whiskey and Coke and not even any pretzels on the bar in cute little baskets. No, if you happened to get hungry during the night, there was a vending machine in the back hallway, full of stale cheese and crackers, and candy bars.

One of the regular patrons, was a down on his luck fellow named (for the purpose of this story) Larry. Now, Larry had a very serious drinking problem, which probably explained why he was homeless. He would rather drink than do anything else in the world, including working to make money for a place to live. Rose, the bar owner, was one tough cookie most of the time, but had a soft spot for Larry, and let him sleep in the back office when it was really cold or wet outside, and Larry did a few odd jobs in order to get his beer for free. The rest of the time, Larry, I was told, slept in the desert under a shrub, and wandered the streets looking for handouts.

Larry began sitting at the table nearest my keyboard every night that I was there, and really paying attention to my music, to the point where he was heckling the band because I wasn’t singing enough songs. He would try to talk to me on breaks, but I was trying to keep my distance, not knowing exactly what his motives might be. Because he was usually so drunk and hard to talk with, I was polite, and tried to laugh things off, until one fateful Saturday night. Larry finally drank enough to get the nerve to tell me that not only had he fallen in love with me, but I was the “love of his life”, and he would do anything for a chance to prove his love to me. My pulse quickened, my heart was racing, but not for the declaration of his love, it was time to panic here I was slowly inching my way towards the fire exit door, while this poor guy is earnestly promising he will cut his long hair, give up his earring, get a job and find a place to live, if only I will give him a chance. But he didn’t want to do any of those things for himself, to make his life better, only for me. I tried to explain as gently as I could, that a person couldn’t, and shouldn’t have to change himself just to make another person love him, to make himself worthy of love. I assured him that he could put his life back together, then surely there would be someone in his future that would find him to be the perfect mate, but for now, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t the cause of his current problems, and I couldn’t be the solution for his future. I was not very convincing, and Larry didn’t take this very well, he said he cared only about me, not himself, not his family, and since I wasn’t going to give him a chance, he might as well have a few more drinks and he did. I was very anxious about this turn of events, as I had never had an “admirer” such as Larry, and didn’t realize until then just how dangerous it can be, to be in the “spotlight” so to speak, even in a low class place like the Red Rose Lounge.

One Monday morning not long after my encounter with Larry, I went to the club to pick up my equipment for my other band’s rehearsal, and had to wait a few minutes for them to open. The bar opened at 10 AM every day, and as I sat in my 20-year-old station wagon with 150,000 miles on the odometer, I saw several of the “regulars” walking up, they weren’t fortunate enough to even own a car, to wait by the door. These were the same people who I saw every Friday and Saturday night, and here they were, bright and early on Monday morning……waiting to get in. I wondered what kind of lives these men and women had lived in the past, and what road had led them to spend most of their waking hours in a dim, smoke-filled dive like the Red Rose Lounge. If I kept playing here and drinking like I was, could my future be staring me in the face? How in the world did I get involved in this place? At that moment I realized I had a choice to make.

As I loaded the last of my equipment into my car (by myself), one of the fellows hopped off his bar stool long enough to hold the door open for me while I carried out a single mic stand……he told me how much he enjoyed my music and hoped I’d play there a long time. I looked into his tired, worn face, smiled my best smile, said thank you, got into my car, drove away, and never returned to the Red Rose Lounge. I’m sure it’s still in business today. I wonder if Larry is still there……….

Sureshot, El Paso, 1987

My Life as a Lug Nut

Debi Snider
Copyright 2003
This is a true story and took place in El Paso in 1987

“The Red Rose Lounge”……….hearing the name by itself suggests it might
be a nice place to relax at the end of a long day, with some nice piano bar music, some greenery here and there, polished brass railings along a shiny oak bar, a handsome Tom Cruise-type bartender mixing and serving exotic drinks to the yuppie crowd. But when you add the street name to the location of this lounge, the locals know it is on one of the worst streets in town and is more commonly known as a “dive”. I’m still not sure where the term “dive” originated, but I feel it may have something to do with a person taking a headlong dive into a world of alcoholic misery, for that is what I was about to do.

I was in rehearsals with a surefire up and coming rock band during the week (whatever happened to them?), when the drummer pulled me aside one day to talk. J.R. was playing on weekends with a three-piece band at the Red Rose Lounge, and would I like to bring my equipment out and sit in with them sometime……of course there would be no money involved, but it would be “fun”. Well, being the ham musician I am, I rarely ever turned down a chance to perform, so there I was! I soon became a regular fixture at the Rose, and before too long, I was on the payroll at a whopping $15 a night, every Friday and Saturday night from 9 till 2AM.

The stage, such as it was, was very small, and only about 8 inches above the dance floor, and barely enough room for the three guys, so I set up on the side near the fire exit (good thing there was never a fire!). The band’s unofficial name was “Mixed Nuts”, and since I was off to the side, I became affectionately known as the “Lug Nut”. My trademark song was ‘The Rose”, appropriately enough, and I sang it twice every night. Sometimes people noticed, but most times they didn’t. The clientele at the Red Rose Lounge, was a very serious drinking bunch no white wine spritzers or fancy drinks for these folks. Beer, the cheaper the better, the occasional whiskey and Coke and not even any pretzels on the bar in cute little baskets. No, if you happened to get hungry during the night, there was a vending machine in the back hallway, full of stale cheese and crackers, and candy bars.

One of the regular patrons, was a down on his luck fellow named (for the purpose of this story) Larry. Now, Larry had a very serious drinking problem, which probably explained why he was homeless. He would rather drink than do anything else in the world, including working to make money for a place to live. Rose, the bar owner, was one tough cookie most of the time, but had a soft spot for Larry, and let him sleep in the back office when it was really cold or wet outside, and Larry did a few odd jobs in order to get his beer for free. The rest of the time, Larry, I was told, slept in the desert under a shrub, and wandered the streets looking for handouts.

Larry began sitting at the table nearest my keyboard every night that I was there, and really paying attention to my music, to the point where he was heckling the band because I wasn’t singing enough songs. He would try to talk to me on breaks, but I was trying to keep my distance, not knowing exactly what his motives might be. Because he was usually so drunk and hard to talk with, I was polite, and tried to laugh things off, until one fateful Saturday night. Larry finally drank enough to get the nerve to tell me that not only had he fallen in love with me, but I was the “love of his life”, and he would do anything for a chance to prove his love to me. My pulse quickened, my heart was racing, but not for the declaration of his love, it was time to panic here I was slowly inching my way towards the fire exit door, while this poor guy is earnestly promising he will cut his long hair, give up his earring, get a job and find a place to live, if only I will give him a chance. But he didn’t want to do any of those things for himself, to make his life better, only for me. I tried to explain as gently as I could, that a person couldn’t, and shouldn’t have to change himself just to make another person love him, to make himself worthy of love. I assured him that he could put his life back together, then surely there would be someone in his future that would find him to be the perfect mate, but for now, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t the cause of his current problems, and I couldn’t be the solution for his future. I was not very convincing, and Larry didn’t take this very well, he said he cared only about me, not himself, not his family, and since I wasn’t going to give him a chance, he might as well have a few more drinks and he did. I was very anxious about this turn of events, as I had never had an “admirer” such as Larry, and didn’t realize until then just how dangerous it can be, to be in the “spotlight” so to speak, even in a low class place like the Red Rose Lounge.

One Monday morning not long after my encounter with Larry, I went to the club to pick up my equipment for my other band’s rehearsal, and had to wait a few minutes for them to open. The bar opened at 10 AM every day, and as I sat in my 20-year-old station wagon with 150,000 miles on the odometer, I saw several of the “regulars” walking up, they weren’t fortunate enough to even own a car, to wait by the door. These were the same people who I saw every Friday and Saturday night, and here they were, bright and early on Monday morning……waiting to get in. I wondered what kind of lives these men and women had lived in the past, and what road had led them to spend most of their waking hours in a dim, smoke-filled dive like the Red Rose Lounge. If I kept playing here and drinking like I was, could my future be staring me in the face? How in the world did I get involved in this place? At that moment I realized I had a choice to make.

As I loaded the last of my equipment into my car (by myself), one of the fellows hopped off his bar stool long enough to hold the door open for me while I carried out a single mic stand……he told me how much he enjoyed my music and hoped I’d play there a long time. I looked into his tired, worn face, smiled my best smile, said thank you, got into my car, drove away, and never returned to the Red Rose Lounge. I’m sure it’s still in business today. I wonder if Larry is still there……..

Sureshot 1987

Sureshot, El Paso, 1987

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!

Letters to my Mother

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, we drove up to visit my parents like we usually do. We enjoyed a nice, quiet lunch at Cotton Patch…..okay, just kidding, that place is so noisy, you have to yell to carry on a conversation. Afterward, we visited more at the house, and my nephew, his wife and their adorable 3 year daughter came by to visit.

I had asked mom for some letters that she had kept from the time my kids were small, so yesterday, she handed me a large envelope full of letters and some photos. YAY…..more treasures! Oh, but wait….maybe not. The first letter I opened was from El Paso in 1986, after I had moved there with my boyfriend. It was quite sobering, even though I was sober to begin with. How my life has changed since then. For the better, of course.

The rest of the letters were far more entertaining, written in the early 1980s when we had moved to the country and were living in a ramshackle farm-house that we were renovating. Renovating is really an exaggeration. Trying to keep it from falling in on our heads, is more accurate. Most of the time that we lived in Forney, Texas, we didn’t have a home phone, so I wrote letters to keep my parents informed of our general progress on the house and the kid’s activities. Just an aside…..the postage stamps ranged from 20 to 22 cents on these letters.

The farmhouse….we paid $2,500 cash for the house and had it moved around the corner to our 2 acres.

The house did look better about a year later, and was still standing in spite of the wood-burning stove in the living room. Luckily the house did not burn down the winter that everything froze up for more than a week. We endured cold winters, and very hot summers in that house….and lots of dust, dirt and construction. Whew.

 

The best thing in the envelope was a hand written poem, that was once set to music, that I wrote for my mom for Mother’s Day 1979. I actually don’t remember writing this down and decorating it like this, but I did.

And she kept it.

All these years.

And people say *I* am a hoarder!!!

This is quite fragile as it’s written on construction paper, and I even made an envelope from the paper also. Who knew I was so thoughtful and resourceful?

 

So, the most funny thing was a handwritten list, I must have been as young as 13-14…..titled “My Real Life Problems”….

I particularly love #15 and #18……my little brother was quite a brat back then. You can see I had a very low self-esteem, and I outgrew that for the most part. It does sneak in every once in a while to try to bring me down. I’m not sure about #14 as I never had trouble with my complexion, I was blessed with good genes in that department! Still, pretty funny to read now and see how insecure I was then. (this proves that I have always been a really good speller!)

 

When I began writing this today, I had intended to scan some of the actual hand written letters and include them; however, after re-reading them, they seem intensely personal to me, so I changed my mind. Some things are better left un-shared, I think. But, these letters reinforce my belief that my life has gone through a great many changes in the last 30-40 years, and I have come out on the other side a better person. The once painfully shy first grader who wouldn’t speak a word for six weeks, somehow morphed into a musician who loved to entertain on stage, and then became a force to be reckoned with in the retail world.

So, thanks mom, for keeping these for me. I am sorry for the many times I’ve let you down, and I’m thankful that you always forgave me, and you never gave up on me.

 

 

Dreamin’ Jeannie

The story of Dreamin’ Jeannie is a simple one. It’s my life. My middle name is Jeanne, easy enough to turn that into Jeannie….then use the play on words from the old Stephen Foster song “I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair”….Because, it seemed I was always day-dreaming about things that I could never have, or could never be…I dreamed of being a musician, not necessarily being famous, but of being known for my music. I was a *stay-at-home-mom* long before that became a popular catch-phrase; what it really meant was, I had never worked, had no education or job skills, and a controlling husband. My (ex) husband didn’t like it when I would get lost in music, probably because he wasn’t musical, and he just didn’t understand. He did buy me a lovely piano once, but didn’t like for me to play when he was in the house; only if we had company would he say “play something”…..most of all he was jealous of my love of music because it took me away from him. It was my escape. I escaped a lot.

I wrote this song in 1979…I was sure that it could have been a big hit if the right artist would record it…..(I’m still dreamin’ about that)…..I had all of my original songs from that era copyrighted in the early 1980s thinking I would someday do something with them. So far, all I’ve done is sing them over and over to myself, and record a few for my satisfaction.

Below is the video slide show I set to the song a few years ago……filled with photos of the house we lived in once, my kids, and my days in the clubs….and the last frame is my daughter Kelly and me, performing together on a local talent show.

Dreamin’ Jeannie

Breakfast dishes sittin’ on the table till noon,

dirty clothes piled up in the hall so soon,

the kids are outside playin’, she knows her mama’s prayin’,

that someday she’ll grow up and stop dreamin’ all the time;

Her husband’s workin’ hard and extra hours these days,

to try to pay the bills and get ahead some way,

he loves her all he can, but he just don’t understand,

only hopes that someday she’ll stop dreamin’ all the time.

But Jeannie can’t stop dreamin’ when the music’s in her head,

cause if the music ever stops, she might as well be dead;

Well, someday they’ll remember how they teased her years ago,

when they hear her music playin’, on the radio…………………

She’s livin’ in a fantasy, well that’s what they all think,

just cause she’s not worried ‘bout dishes in the sink,

the telephone is ringin’, but Jeannie keeps on singin’,

and hopes she won’t ever stop dreamin’ all the time;

She knows the house is dusty, and the beds have not been made,

and the ironing’s where she left it, sometime yesterday,

so she gives a little smile, when he says he’ll be gone awhile,

and he knows she’ll never stop dreamin’ all the time..

chorus

second chorus:

They’ll say “Jeannie keep on dreamin’ makin’ music all day long”

someday the world will recognize, Dreamin’ Jeannie’s songs,

and her friends will say “oh yes, I knew Jeannie way back when,

wonder if she thinks about us every now and then”?

I can say that I have accomplished one goal, because most people who have known me for more than a short time, know my love for music; they know I love to sing, to play piano, to record, and to write songs. New people I meet are always surprised, no, shocked to learn that I once played in a country band, in bars and honky-tonks. I sure don’t look the part now. I just laugh and tell them “I wasn’t always this old”!

Copies of my labor of love, my very first hand printed lead sheet for Dreamin’ Jeannie…I’m still impressed that I was able to do that without knowing “how”…..

I’m still waiting for someone to discover my music ……..the dream has never died.

Jeannie is still dreamin’…..

All Cows Eat Grass?????

All Cows Eat Grass….Every Good Boy Does Fine…..

Anyone who has ever taken a piano lesson will remember these phrases meant to help you learn your lines and spaces. I’ve known them since I was 5 years old, maybe even before that. Possibly even before I was born!

My mother played piano, and taught piano lessons from the time I was a small child, so I heard these on a daily basis in my home. I thought everyone’s mother played the piano, and I thought every child took piano lessons. I think every child should take piano lessons. I think every home should have  music.

Debi

I began my love/hate relationship with the piano at the tender age of 5, my mom patiently tried to teach me. I admit, I was not a good student at the time. I preferred to sit in the corner of the room and listen as she instructed other students, and then when they left, I would proceed to play what they had learned.

Maybe I was a bit of a show off?

Mom gave up and sent me to her teacher, one seemingly ancient lady named Thelma Braun. Thelma lived in a grand 2 story house in town, that she had filled with the most interesting furniture and accessories that I had ever seen, along with a beautiful grand piano. She was a very intimidating teacher to me, and she finally dismissed me because I would not practice. I took more lessons with her when I was about 16, but my boyfriend would drive me there, and I was more concerned about my plans after the lesson was over, so once again, I was dismissed. I absolutely regret not studying and applying myself, and for letting down this teacher. She was a legend in my hometown, and left a legacy when she died, The Thelma Braun Foundation, which supports the arts and music. I hate to admit that I am possibly her only failure!

Thelma Braun

My mom was still studying with Thelma after she married and was also teaching her own students at the same time. In 1958 they gave a joint recital, I think I remember it. Maybe I think I remember it because I have the recital program?

An Evening of Music 1958

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom’s students gave a recital the next year or so, at our church and I chose not to participate. Stage fright…..lol. Somewhere I have a photo of the students, all the girls in their fluffy best dresses and boys in suits and ties….like a time capsule of the 1950s….

So, my mother has retired, several times, from several jobs, but keeps going back to work! She’s like a steam roller, you just cannot stop her! Her latest job, is teaching piano again. She has a few students each week, at a new studio in my hometown. It’s very easy for her, they provide the piano, the room, book the students, collect the money, she just shows up, teaches the lesson and collects her money from the studio! She really enjoys teaching and sharing her knowledge and love of music with anyone who is willing to learn.

2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over my lifetime, I’ve had so many people ask me to give piano lessons, and I’ve declined every time. Even though I possess the knowledge, it takes a special person to teach successfully, and I’m not that person.

I did get over my stage fright in the 1980s……I’m ready for my piano recital now!

My hat is off to Thelma Braun, and my mother Clover Kimberling….thank you for instilling the love of music in me, I am a better person for having learned from the best.

 

All Cows actually DO Eat Grass!

 

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!