Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


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Panama Red Plays Roosendaal

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Amsterdam, April 2, 2000 -- This saga begins one night
in Maloe Melo when Jur the Main Man introduced me to
this guy looks like something out of Good Bad and Ugly
named Hans, owns a bar in Roosendaal, a town down on
the Belgian border. Dude is wearing one of those
floor to ceiling train robber raincoats, a big
Stetson, and enough turquoise jewelry to support a
whole Southwest tribe for a year. We talk a while and
ultimately I get a gig to play in his bar. This is
back in February.

Sunday April 1 finds me and my personal trainer and
nurse Peppermint Patty on the train to Roosendaal,
gleefully escaping grandparental duties for the wilds
of South Brabant.

Coupla things: we had bought first-class tickets
(usually they sell second class unless you specify),
but for some reason were unable to find smoking
accommodations in same, so we settled into a
second-class state of mind and seats. All went well
until the conductor came by and told us we had to
leave second-class and get back to first, where we
apparently belonged. I've been chased out of first to
second before but never vice-versa. And I tried to
explain the rationale that having paid for a better
class of seating, we should be able to slum it a
little. Not so, adamantly replied the conductor. If
we wanted to ride in second class, we should have
bought second-class tickets. So we got up and under
the scornful eyes of the peasants returned to first
class. Actually there is almost no difference between
the two; first has slightly plusher seats an a little
more legroom.

Ultimately we did find a smoking section.
Now comes a couple of spectral yet polite characters
in black leather jackets swaggering down the aisle.
They go by, I look on the back of their jackets and it
says, no shit, "Hell's Angels" on the top of the
Hell's Angels wing and "Switzerland" at the bottom.
Now of course I gotta wonder what Hell's Angels from
Switzerland do to be badass? Be late. Or miss an
appointment altogether. Don't fill out a deposit slip
properly. Drink milk directly from the carton. Get
up from dinner without excusing yourself. The
potential ins and outs of being a Hell's Angel from
Switzerland keeps me occupied the rest of the trip,
which is short...a couple of hours at most, and soon
we pull into Roosendaal Centraal Station.

We go into the restaurant and for a grand total of
about four bucks have the most wonderful fish soup
ever made. The Dutch eat well, and I've tried to
figure out why the food here is so much better and
cheaper than at home. Maybe the farmer dudes are
subsidised. On the other hand, a doctor will come to
your house in the middle of Sunday night, it costs
about forty bucks for a filling in a tooth, unless you
have insurance, in which case it's cheaper. There are
a lot of economic mysteries, but one thing I've
noticed is the absence of insurance companies' fingers
in every pie. Perhaps we oughta drag those guys out
in the street by their neckties an just shoot 'em.
Come the Revolution...Or maybe it's the bold concept
that the healthcare system exists to deliver
healthcare. Anyway the fish was great, and I get on
the horn to Hans, who shows up in full rodeo drag,
turquoise dripping off of him, to take us to the bar.
On the way Hans says there are a lot of Moroccans at
the club...don't worry. Well, I wasn't, but now that
it's been brought up... Hey, I'm a Semite myself,
that is, a descendent of Shem as opposed to Ham or
that dude Japheth. They're Hamites or something.

We get to the club and the dreaded Moroccans turn out
to be nice fellows, not at all bloodthirsty. Besides
I have Patty draped in black head to toe, so I earn a
coupla points from the boys there.

De Pub, as it's known, is a relatively small place,
good thing, cause I draw at one time I counted 43
people. But I do my little show, an everyone seems to
like it. Now, there aren't just the Morocco guys
there; there are also some honest-to-goodness Dutch
country music fans, including a coupla Dutch Mrs
Robinson babes.

Let me tell you a little about the wonderful fans in
Roosendaal. During the breaks I fielded questions in
re my curriculum vitae; Texas Jewboys, Billy Joe
Shaver, stuff like that. Roosendaal has gotta be the
hottest hotbed of country music fandom in the whole
little country.

Not only do they like country music, but the people
who came to our show are inordinately enough to make a yearly or
bi-yearly pilgrimage to Willie's picnic, or to
SouthbySouthWest. And child! the getups these folks
had on just to come hear this
not-even-relatively-unknown singer songwriter. I
haven't seen so many Tony Lamas, even one pair the guy
swore were Charlie Dunns, western-motif jewelry, and I
don't know what-all outside of Austin.

One lady fervently swore to me that "Texas is my
home." One of those people who if they're good, when
they die, they get to go stay at Willie's house.
I won't belabor you with a set list which if you
haven't heard my cd would mean nothing to you. I'm
not a music least in the sense that I can
review my own shows. I didn't break any strings. I
got out of the gig well-paid and not injured. It was
a good little gig, and if I ever get the chance to go
to Roosendaal again, I'm on the train.

Hans put us in a cab to take us back to the Station,
and when we got there, I tried to pay the guy, but it
turned out Hans had already done that for me, too. A
touch of Texas oil baron class in Roosendaal.