Hope you’re doing well. Frankly, I’m exhausted. It’s been a very busy summer. I started traveling again for work across the US, had a wedding in Boston, and moved to Brooklyn.
During the summer months I have to opportunity to travel around the country. It’s incredible. I get to see so many places that I would never pick out on a map of places I would be interested in going. That’s not a knock on those places, most cities are beautiful (some are not).
A couple weeks ago I was in Fort Worth, Texas. I make it a point to stop into a record store in every city I go to (hipster bullshit). I went to Chief Records in Fort Worth, highly recommend it. I wanted to pick up some country albums, because I don't know much about the genre aside from “Johnny Cash is good, Garth Brooks is a creep”. But I consider myself a music fan and wanted to get into the country genre and figured what better place than Texas.
The man behind the counter at Chief Records couldn’t have been more helpful. He explained the difference between dance hall country and crooner country and the differences between east Texas country and West Texas country (he actually compared it to the east coast v. west coast beefs of 1990s rap). He ended up walking me up and down the aisles and pulling records out to tell me the history, who influenced who, where they came from, why they were important. It was incredibly helpful. I was learning a lot of facts, but it was when I asked him about his favorites is when I understood the power of country music.
I asked him if there were any artists that he personally loved, or had a deep connection to. He walked me over to the used section and started telling me about how 40 years ago when he loved this girl who lived in Dallas. He would drive 4 hours to go see her every weekend. He was young and in love. One weekend he decided that he was tired of driving to see her – he wanted to get married. He was totally enamored. He took out all the money he had saved up, bought a ring and drove to Dallas to meet her. When he got there, he said she was acting distant, wasn’t saying much. Before he had a chance to pull out the ring in his pocket she said they should stop seeing each other. She had to focus on school, and it wasn’t worth it for him to keep driving so far to see her.
He told me that he drove in silence the 4 hours home. No radio. No music. Just silence. When he got home his first instinct was to go to his record collection. He pulled out Willie Nelson’s Phases and Stages and put on “I Still Can’t Believe You’re Gone” and cried.
While we were standing over the Willie Nelson records he pulled out the vinyl and looked at it and asked if I had ever heard it. He took it out of the sleeve and played it on the store’s record player. We stood together by the counter listening in silence. I looked over and noticed him crying. Then I started to cry. Together he and I listened to a 40 year old song, remembering what it meant to him then, seeing that it still meant as much now. I feel lucky to have been there. Needless to say he made the sale. I bought Phases and Stages and now understand the genius of Willie Nelson.
Music can do a lot of things. It can make us feel better, or worse, get us angry or calm us down, make us dance or make us kiss. I don’t know any books that have that sort of immediacy. We’re lucky to live in a universe that has music. I’d like to make more of it. Anyway, we’ll talk later. Have a good weekend.