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PANAMA FINDS HIMSELF GOIN BACK
TN December 10, 2005 - - I came back to Texas in late October to the little
town of Pittsburg at the invitation of Gus Gustafson and Janet Franklin, musicians
who decided to combine their love of music with their love of coffee and opened
The Coffee Cup in Pittsburg a little while back. I had sent them a promo package
and they had met my strict criteria of places I will deign to play; that is, they
booked me. This was way back in July, before I had gone to France.
on the night before my gig, October 21, driving the stately silver Volvo down
I-30 from Little Rock, I had stopped in Hope, Arkansas, to pay homage to the birthplace
and boyhood home of America's last real President, Bill Clinton. I had spent the
night in an Economy Inn across the road from the Hope barracks of the Arkansas
State Police, perhaps in one of the very rooms where Bill had been trysting by
the pool. I asked for the Jennifer Flowers Suite but got only a blank stare from
the Indian (from India) lady at the desk. Hope is in the southwest corner of Arkansas
and Pittsburg is in the northeast corner of Texas, so that when I woke up I had
only about a two-hour drive to get to The Coffee Cup.
of this country, including my own vast holdings(yeah, right) in Tennessee, is
cotton country, and cotton season is over. I noticed that Texas cotton picking
machines are a lot more efficient than the one Bubba Junior and his son Bubba
III operate up home, there being less cotton left on the stems and strewn around
the roadside down here. Maybe it's a matter of timing. Maybe we've waited too
long this year. Perhaps our cotton bolls are rotten, because when them cotton
bolls get rotten you can't pick very much cotton. It's a real puzzler for us cotton
Gus had arranged
for my illustrious bass playing friend David Carroll and me to stay at the Carson
House Bed and Breakfast.
checked in and was assigned the Pitt Room. David got the Sophia. The B&B's
namesake and second owner, Mr. Carson, was in the lumber business in the 1800s.
He also owned a circus and an interest in a railroad which traveled between Texas
and Mexico. The other notable distinction of the Carson House is the extensive
use of curly pine in its trim, from Carson's stand of diseased trees, which had
developed a grain so distinctive that, until Clark Jesmore the joint's owner,
filled me in I took for a tropical hardwood. For you fellow carpenters, it's worth
the trip just to check it out.
David Carroll is a lanky, laconic and intensely intelligent
soul who is a joy to be around and has that quirky sense of humor I have come
to associate with the bass players of our calling. I think some of the attitude
they have comes from the knowledge that while we singers and songwriters are pulling
down the front man kudos, it is really they, minding that bottom and guiding us
safely through musical shoals into the next root tone coming down on the one,
who literally carry the show. I had only played with Dave once before, earlier
in the month at my gig at Waldo's Coffeehouse in Waco, and he had astonished me
with his easy grasp of all of my tunes, so I was looking forward to repeating
the experience this weekend at our two gigs together.
I got a reassuring phone
call from David, on the road from his estate down in Bastrop telling me that he'd
be in Pittsburg on time. He showed up plenty early, checked into the Carson House,
approved of his suite, and we headed out to the gig.
Coffee Cup sits on Highway 271 in Pittsburg and Gus had assured me that my name
would be in lights, or at least on the roadside sign, all week long, thus virtually
guaranteeing a full house the night of our performance.
We played to a
full and very generous house, did my little tunes, sold the snake oil and a few
CD's, and headed back to the Carson, pausing on our way to buy beer, there not
being much in the way of night life in Pittsburg after the Coffee Cup shuts down.
Thank you, Pittsburg. And thank you, Gus and Janet. Despite our initial plans
to par-tay into the night, David and I shut down ourselves almost immediately
on arrival back at the Carson.
Carson House, appropriately enough given the bio of its namesake, sits beside
a railroad. Late in the night I got up, awakened by some instinctive hoboistic
ghost-in-the-jukebox clickety-clack of ten-ton wheels, and raced down the stairs
and out into starlit Texas gaping in wonder at futuristic stainless steel gondola
cars disappearing down the track into impenetrable dark and distance. Suddenly
I was aware of my impossibly lonesome self and the miles I was away from home.
I went back to bed and slept until morning.
day, Dave and I set out on the road to our next gig, Lin Been's Rancho Frijole,
in Wills Point. Lin had called me one afternoon about a month before while I was
grocery shopping to come play at her place. It's a combination tropical nursery,
campground and performance space about sixty miles or so east of Dallas. She's
a member of Kerr Union, a group of folks who know each other from good times at
the Kerrville Folk Festival, and they decided this year to have a little mini-fest
of their own, starring none other than your faithful chronicler. I was, still
am in fact, tickled pink to show up.
got to the gate and past the cowgirl security and onto the property, where we
were met by Miz Been herself, who showed us to our quarters. Dave and I shared
a cabin by the little lake, or maybe it's a large pond, on the Rancho Frijole
grounds. During the afternoon, lolling around in front of our cabin and on the
floating pier out on the lake, David tutored me in the finer points of reading
the stock market pages.
we were reading the paper, the Dallas Morning News from two days before, we came
across the entertainment section, listing the best musical bets for the weekend.
They were: The Dallas Symphony, Merle Haggard, and Panama Red. "Gotta be
a slow weekend in Dallas," I said. "Torpid," agreed Dave. It's
always nice to have such strong ego support on your team.
played our set at nine pm, just as advertised. We were received well, and hung
around some of the campfires afterwards. Dave went to bed early and when I awoke
the next morning he was gone back to Bastrop. I decided to hang out around the
greenhouse where breakfast was being served.
WITH MIZ BEEN
Lin Been was born in Oklahoma but got to Texas "as fast
as I could."
The railroad of life is full of sidetracks, however, and
Lin found herself in Florida for a while, where she fell in love with tropical
plants. It was the combined affection for Texas and jungle botany that impelled
her to move back to Texas, buy some land and set up a greenhouse. Now she spends
as much time away from Dallas as she can at Rancho Frijole. In the company of
numerous canines, but particularly a huge amiable soul named Hermann.
I presume, after The Sons of Hermann, a fraternal organization the Dallas branch
of which Lin is involved in.
in the afternoon I felt the need for a short nap and, the weather having turned
chillier, eschewed the rustic pleasures of the lakeside cabin for the bed in Lin's
nap turned into an all-nighter, and I awoke to mockingbirds greeting the Texas
Lin's other guests
were Chet and Carla Gossett, a tag-team from Northern California. Chet does something
for the city of San Mateo which for reasons of national security I can't go into
After breakfast they split back to NoCal, and I said goodbye to Lin
and hatted up myself. Back in the stately silver Volvo I lit out across country
to the little town of Italy, Texas, joined up with the Interstate coming down
from Dallas and set out to Austin.
was up for and in for more adventures, and looking forward to hanging with my
new pals, the estimable Will Sexton and Gabe Rhodes.
about them later
PANAMA FINDS HIMSELF "LOST IN AUSTIN" THIRTY YEARS LATER
on the Panama Red Forum >