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{Off The Cuff} Why I Know The Weather Watches Me

It appears that we’re in for another pending ice storm.

The last one to make it this far south, past Austin, almost to San Antonio, happened over two years ago. People get a little crazy around here when things freeze. I grew up in an area of the country that actually had all four seasons, so I’m used to dealing with winter weather. I understand why people here are not, but it doesn’t make it any less of a wonder to me.

When it gets cold like this, I have to pull out the big guns. I pull out the thicker socks– let’s just say that my favorite boots are more for style than they are for frostbite protection. I usually throw on a thermal underneath of my pearl snap shirt. And, I reach into my closet and pull out my heavy leather jacket.

I was raised in a family that had a conservative wardrobe. Jeans, t-shirts, polos, etc. When and why my style preferences changed I’m not sure, but if you’ve ever been to a show, you know I tend to lean towards some less than conservative garb. I take great pride in my collection of vintage clothing. It’s like a hobby to me.

Hobby isn’t actually the right word. It’s more like an extension of who I’ve become as a person. It’s my personality, and I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure it’s always just a little different than everyone else.

My jacket is the centerpiece of this crazy collection of clothing. It’s the Cadillac. It’s the flagship.

I don’t get to pull it out very often, since its incredibly warm, and I live in south Texas, so perhaps that makes it even more special– the fact that it takes an event to get it out. The weather is going to be cold… It might snow… I’m headed somewhere north…

Something big is about to happen. Something different. It’s then, and only then, that I go to my ace…. I pull out the jacket.

I didn’t buy the jacket. I probably never would have if given the chance. It’s pretty over the top, even for me. It’s brown suede, with long tassels hanging down from the sleeves, the back, and the bottom. It’s got Native American beadwork on the shoulders and arms. It’s got large silver buttons. If I hold my arms straight down, and move my body side to side, I can perfectly recreate the look of one of those massive spinning brushes inside of an automatic car wash. I’ve done it on more than several occasions.

The jacket was given to me by a friend.

Blaine Martin owned Blaine’s Pub up until about a year and a half ago. He sold the bar to go out and seek his adventures elsewhere. I was sad that he was moving on, but that’s the kind of person Blaine was– if there was no adventure to be found, he was off to find it.

Blaine’s Pub is in San Angelo, Texas. It’s a surprisingly big city to be stuck so far out in West Texas, and while I’ve come to love it (and the people there), I had no other reason to go to San Angelo other than to play a show. Jimmy, my manager at the time had booked me into the bar.

“The guy that owns it is a friend of mine,” he said, “and if he likes you, you’ll be back in there.”

And off to San Angelo I went.

When I walked into the bar, guitar in hand, Blaine spotted me right away.

“You’re Perkins’ new guy. Welcome to Angelo. A friend of Perkins is a friend of mine. You need a drink? Hey, beer and a shot, on me. What flavor?”

“uh….”

“Goldschlager and a Miller Lite for uh… uh….”

“Drew.”

“G*ddamn, that’s right. Drew. So what’s your deal? Where you from? You any good? Play me a song.”

I did. I played him a song, sitting next to him at the bar, at 4:30 in the afternoon.

“Play another.”

I did.

“Sh*t, you’re good. Get me my calendar. OK, Jimmy said you needed some gigs to make some money. Said you’re not making too much. It’s ok, that sh*t happens sometimes. You and me, we’re friends now. How many shows do you want?”

We looked at his calendar, and I picked out one Thursday a month over the next three months.

“That’s it? I said you could pick out some dates. Here, watch this.”

He wrote my name down on every Thursday for three months, as well as a couple of Friday and Saturdays.

“I’ll give you $300 a pop and a room for every show you play here. HEY, beer and a shot, on me.”

That was the start of our friendship. 2 Miller Lites, 2 shots of Goldschlager, and about 18 shows on the books. All in about 5 minutes.

I learned a lot from Blaine. Most of the times it was jokes, stories, and history lessons about music, musicians, and people in town. Some of the time it was about life and how to live it. All of the time it was entertaining. All of the time it was special. He always had a way of making his stories feel like some sort of show… and that he was putting the show on just for you. I loved that.

Blaine took me to Mexico for the first time—a trip we took (Josh Grider came along with us) riding in a white 1986 Lincoln Towncar, onto the front of which Blaine had recently installed a pair of large bullhorns. We went for lunch in Acuna. And margaritas. And beers. And margaritas. He instructed me to buy Holly something…

“Some kind of jewelery or something. Earn you some attaboy points when you get home. Know what I mean?”

I did. I bought her a necklace and earned me some “attaboy points,” as he put it, when I got home the next day. We ended up getting pulled over for speeding on the way home. We were late for our show.

“It’s ok,” Blaine said, “I know the owner. He’s ok with it. It’s good to be the king, know what I mean?”

I did.

Blaine caused me to miss my one and only show due to…. Well… due to George Jonesism. It was St. Patrick’s Day. A day that Blaine and I shared as our favorite day of the year. Being good Irishman, it was only fitting that we should celebrate together. He booked me into the bar for a show, and told me to come early. I showed up at 3 PM. I was at the hotel for a shower before the show by 5 PM. I woke up, sprawled out on my bed at 12:45 AM. Never made it back to Blaine’s. The next morning, I met Blaine for breakfast. He always called me for breakfast at 8 in the morning the day after a show. I met him, and eased my way into conversation, eventually letting him know, sheepishly, that I didn’t make it back to the bar for the show. He hadn’t said a word about it in the 20 minutes we were there together.

“Well I know that… it’s my f*cking bar.”

He laughed at me, told me it was his fault for me not making the show, and paid me for it anyway.

“It’s St. Patrick’s Day. I wouldn’t have done my job if you could have played. Sometimes, you just gotta f*ck up, just to feel what it’s like to f*ck up. Know what I mean?”

I did. It felt bad. I knew it wouldn’t happen again. Anywhere. Ever.

He paid me for a show that I missed, and taught me a lesson that I need to learn: always trust in what you believe. I believed missing a show was a bad thing. I believed that getting too drunk to play was a cardinal sin. I had never done it before. Now that I had, I knew I was right all along… and I also knew that I didn’t need to experience something to know that it was wrong. I could trust my gut.

One night after a show that I had played with Billy Joe Shaver at the bar, I complimented Blaine’s jacked.

“I’ll tell you what, Blaine, that is one hell of a jacket.”

“It’s yours.”

He took it off and handed it to me. I tried to refuse.

“How can you say no, you haven’t even tried the damned thing on yet?”

I tried it on.

“Now that looks good. Its yours.”

I tried in vain to give him the jacket back. It was obviously expensive. He would have nothing to do with it. In the morning, when we met for breakfast, I tried again.

“G*ddamnit. When I give you something, it’s yours. That’s your goddamned jacket, know what I mean?”

I did. He was angry. I had offended him. I didn’t mean to, I was only trying to make sure that he didn’t want it back. It was expensive. Too expensive to give as a gift, I had thought.

That was something else he taught me: no gift is too expensive. If you really care about a person, make sure they know it. It’s not about the money, it’s about the sacrifice. It’s about putting someone else before yourself.

From that day on, I wore that jacket with pride. My wife thought it was ugly. When I wore it home for the holidays, my old buddies made fun of me for it.

“What in the hell are you wearing?”

I loved it. They were all right, of course. It was ugly. It was over the top. But it was Blaine’s, and I loved it.

But you know what, Blaine was over the top. That’s the way he was. He didn’t try to be like that. That’s the way he was. I mean, seriously, the man is in the Guinness Book Of World Records for the longest continuous ride on a Ferris wheel.

You can’t make something like that up.

I could write forever about Blaine’s generosity, about his huge heart, his jokes, his stories, and the way he always let me know how much our friendship meant to him (it did… ever check the liner notes to Dollar Theatre Movie? I dedicated the record to my friend Blaine). I did my best to let him know how much his friendship meant to me, as well.

Blaine passed away on Sunday. He was 53.

On Monday, word started to trickle in, via the news that a freeze was coming on. By Wednesday, they said, we’d be waking up to a sheet of ice on the ground.

On Wednesday, regardless of how much ice may fall from the sky, I will be making the drive out to San Angelo. A drive that, thanks to Blaine, I’ve made at least a hundred times.

Today is Tuesday, and by early afternoon, it’ll be cold enough that I’ll need my jacket. I’ve got it sitting out right now, waiting for the temperature to fall.

There’s a good chance that Wednesday will be the coldest day of the year. It’s supposed to dip down into the 20’s, and that’s a damned good thing… I’d look like a fool wearing that jacket at Blaine’s memorial service if it were going to be 60 degrees outside.

But that’s the way things work. If he had given me sunglasses, it’d be sunny. An umbrella, and it would rain. But he gave me a big, heavy, leather jacket, with long tassels, and Native American beading.

The weather always knows.

Godspeed Blaine Martin. You were one of the greatest people I have ever known. Thanks for that jacket. I’m going to need it tomorrow.

Drew Kennedy is a Texas transplant via Virginia who has been cranking out some of the most original tunes to be found in this scene. His last album, Dollar Theatre Movie, gained wide critical acclaim and praise, and Drew is currently working on his next album to be released in 2009.

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