There was a time not too long ago - although it certainly seems like many, many moons - when our lives were like some old Western movie. It was always a raucous, rambunctious, ribald and renegade movie, that's for sure.
Every good movie has to have a winning sound track and the themes for our Western movie were written by a handful of songwriters that included Willie, Waylon, Merle, David Alan, Billie Joe, Mickey, Jerry Jeff and Guy.
Guy Clark especially was tapping our phones and reading our mail, because he knew things about us we didn't even know ourselves until we heard him singing about them. He knew too much then. He knows too much now.
My compadre, C.W., joined me and my Closest Companion to see Guy Clark in a little upstairs joint in Philadelphia called The Tin Angel not long ago. The Angel is billed as an acoustic cafe. It holds only about a hundred souls at a time in its long, narrow space. The down side is that, even at $15 per ticket ordered ahead of time by credit card, there is no reserved seating - except for people who have dined at the restaurant downstairs. So every - I repeat - every table and chair in the front of the room has a "Reserved" sign on it. This leaves, for those of us who didn't dine downstairs, a long wall of bar stools or a seat at the bar in the back. No tables for the unreserved slobs, no matter how many tickets they may have popped for. (Of course, it's also outrageous to tack a $1.50 service charge on each ticket ordered by credit card when the orders are being handled not by a ticket agency but by employees of the restaurant/cafe. That, my friends, spells minor rip!)
Nevertheless, it's ridiculous to be arguing about this type of thing. When Guy Clark's music was providing the sound track to that old Western movie I was talking about, none of us had a credit card. Very few of us had a regular income. What money did come in went for gas in the car, guitar strings now and then, the occasional meal and, of course, beer. Many's the night C.W. and I scrounged another buck to make the price of just one more pitcher of beer before we had to call it a night.
We were always there to get each other through the heartbreak and the hallelujah, the pride and the pain, and we were always there to watch each other's back, no matter how dumb or dangerous the world around us got to be.
So it's little wonder when, in a song about stuff that's so good you don't want to leave it hanging on a wall somewhere, stuff that was made right the first time and still works the way it was meant to work, there's a line about an old friend who has seen you at your worst. At that point, C.W. and I glanced at each other and smiled, 'cause, once again, Guy Clark was reading our mail.
C.W. and I still rag on each other about all the wonderful choices we made in choosing dates and women on whom to lavish our attention, lust, affection and bankroll over the years. He continues to razz me because he thinks that teen-ager, Jennifer, the one who told me she was 22 when she was really 18, was ugly. I take C.W. to task over several of his peripatetic paramours who, if you ask me, were bottom-hangers on the attractiveness scale and who gave airheads the world over a bad name.
But enough of that. Our Western movie has moved into different scenes now. C.W. and I still have money problems, but we are occasionally able to use our cash to buy something we want, something that we can keep instead of just something we will be drinking up in a short time and ridding ourselves of a short time after that.
Guy Clark is outrageous. He did just about everything we would have wanted to hear: Old No.1, Desperadoes Waiting for the Train, L.A. Freeway, Coat from the Cold, Home-Growed Tomatoes, Texas Cooking - and a bunch of new songs that are just mighty fine in and of themselves.
He is a dreamer and a romantic, this Guy Clark. He loves his wife, Susanna, and tells you so when he sings songs about her or songs she has helped write. There's a young man playing bass with him whose name just coincidentally happens to be Travis Clark - his son. And Guy does a song about a man who started jumping off roofs with a towel around his neck as a child and kept on doing it because he never learned he couldn't fly. So fly he did. The song mentions that the man's philosophy was that life is always a leap of faith: "Spread your arms and hold your breath - and always trust your cape."
Advice I, for one, always try to follow.
©1995 The Gloucester County Times
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