In April, 2008, I visited Texas proper for the very first time. Although I had visited the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport on numerous occasions, stopping over during flights from here to wheresoever, this was the first time I actually went to Texas with the intention of going to Texas. And what better reason to go to Texas than to visit the Dallas International Guitar Festival…as a member of the entourage of the darling of the modern guitar manufacturing industry — Paul Reed Smith?
A couple of months prior, bassist friend Gary Grainger (who plays regularly with Paul’s band) called and asked me if I could fill-in for him on this event. I was glad to do it, for any number of reasons, but mostly because it would be the first time that Paul and I would get to play music on-stage together — despite our having been incredibly close friends for well over thirty years.
It was a blast to do all the trade-show presentations with Paul. As he played the role of MC/ instigator, guitarist Mike Ault, drummer Ezell Jones and I played short twenty-minute sets — throughout which Paul happily pointed out all the great features of the guitars his company produces. They really are the best guitars in the world! I was amazed at how grueling six hours of such a performance schedule could become — as one must be “switched-on” both during the performances and thereafter — so as to entertain and then subsequently intercourse with the festival-goers.
On the last night of the festival, there was an All-Star Jam — the opener for which was Paul’s crew (Mike, Ezell and me), joined by Paul and Texas gunslinger guitarist David Grissom. We rocked indeed! 🙂 Back at the hotel that night, after all the festivities had culminated, things got really interesting. Hmmmm.
The hotel concierge suggested that we might want to visit the overlook to the rooftop pool. From that vantage point can be had an incredible view of the downtown Dallas area. Ezell and I, weary from the preceding three days’ work, but still highly charged by the generally excited atmosphere of the festival, decided to visit the roof and take in the view. When we got to the rooftop pool, Ezell paused — unnaturally uneasy — and then decided against going any further. There was a group of four people already up there, and the area was fairly small…though sizable enough to accommodate perhaps up to ten people, in somewhat close quarters. As Ezell made his way inside to the gym area, I ascended the staircase to the overlook, while two of the people (a man and a woman) descended from there. Once perched, I stood there taking in a quite marvelous view, accompanied by the two fellows who remained: a very cool and long-bearded older guy, and a younger (aged about late-20’s, early 30’s) and somewhat beefy fellow.
Both guys were rather pleasantly “lit” (as in “feeling no pain”), so I decided to engage them in a fairly benign conversation — recounting the events of the festival. After about five minutes, the younger guy began to get increasingly agitated; he descended from the outlook and went inside. For about ten minutes or so afterward, the older guy (who was a Vietnam Vet) and I continued our quite friendly discussion. We talked about everything from how the Vietnam War veterans got really “fucked-over” by the government, to modern-day politics and economics. Then the younger beefy guy came back out into the pool area. A few seconds later, Ezell came out to tell me something — and then a strange kind of stand-off between him and this beefy guy developed. The situation dissipated after a few moments, and Ezell went back inside to the gym area.
After the beefy guy came back up to the overlook, he began to cajole the older guy (with whom I had been talking), in an attempt to get the remains of a cigarette he had been smoking. I pulled out my pack of Camel Turkish Gold cigarettes and offered him a fresh one. Although he took the cigarette, thanking me, he looked perplexed…remarking that “black guys don’t smoke Camels!” (In fact, and for reasons having probably to do with marketing, it’s quite rare to see a Black guy smoking a Camel.) On his way to stand on the other side of the old guy, he lit the cigarette, took about two puffs, and then belted out a hearty “NIGGER!” I was stunned. The old guy was disturbed, as he said to the younger guy “Wait a minute, this guy’s the bass player…” The beefy guy then responded, “It don’t matter. That’s how we roll down here in Texas!”
Taking a few seconds to get my bearings, I motioned to the beefy guy to “come here”…and he boldly complied. Embracing him, I kissed him gently on the neck, and somewhat loudly whispered to him that “you niggers down here are crazy,” releasing him afterwards. As he went to reclaim his position back on the other side of the old guy, I waited a few more seconds and then descended from the overlook. The beefy guy was more stunned than I was.
Entering the gym area, I laughingly (but still somewhat stunned) began to tell Ezell what had just happened. We then made our way to the elevator. By the time I pressed the button, I was laughing my ass off — not just happy that I had avoided a potentially ugly confrontation, but also because I had triumphed over my own personal outrage.
Despite all the really cool things that occurred during my visit to Texas, that incident was indeed the highlight! 🙂 I can’t wait to go back.
Upon recounting the tale to Paul, a few weeks later, he provided me with a very interesting twist to the story. He called me “really slick” and said, “Tony, you know, of course, that if he really believed in what he was saying, then you actually poisoned him by kissing him.”
I laughed my ass off, once more…glad that all’s well that ends well.