When I was a senior in high school, I had a habit of pulling from a pile of outgrown t-shirts from the back of my father’s closet and wearing them to wrestling practice. These t-shirts were primarily from a phase my old man had in his late 30s that consisted of solid colors and pithy slogans. Examples were “I’m the daddy, that’s why,” “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me,” and “NOW it’s Miller time” above an airplane flying over a burning city. These shirts often provided the only chuckles heard during wrestling practice.
Quite possibly my favorite of the wrestling practice t-shirts was the oldest member of the collection. It was light blue with dark blue iron-on velvety letters. It read: “Willie Nelson Fan Club” and was signed in black Sharpie by several of my dad’s friends from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base when he left active duty and became a Reservist in 1978. Even in 1992, Willie Nelson was cool. Wearing my old man’s homemade fan club t-shirt made me feel cool. And, it reminded me of my childhood.
Every time we’d meet my dad’s best friend Joe from the Air Force for summer vacation at Guntersville State Park in north Alabama, he’d let Joe know our ETA by addressing his call sign on the CB radio when we were a few miles out. Dad’s CB handle was “Blue Max,” and Joe was the “Red Dawg,” and after our week at the lake, when we’d load up the station wagon and head back toward Hendersonville, Tennessee along I-65 north, the Blue Max would pick up the CB and sing “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson, and I knew vacation was over and that Willie Nelson was cool, because my dad didn’t sing anybody else’s songs over the CB.
Last night, I attended my first Willie Nelson concert; it was at The Tabernacle. After his son performed, the 79-year-old senior Nelson walked out onto the stage and showed us that he still has that which he never lost.
And for a few minutes, I was The Blue Max, and it was 1978. Until this song started, and at the 1:19 point in the video, my bride made a realization:
He likes the bright lights and night life and good timin’ friends
When the party’s all over she’ll welcome him back home again
Lord knows she don’t understand him but she does the best that she can
Cause she’s a good hearted woman, she loves her good timin’ man
And then the nostalgia faded, and I realized I’m not the little kid riding in the back seat with the Blue Max or even the older kid wearing his t-shirt to practice. I’m the Good Timing Man, blessed with a Good Hearted Woman. And that’s even better.