required listening

i ran into an old friend this weekend that i hadn’t seen in about 10 years.  we grew up as best friends and slowly drifted apart during high school.  the best way to explain it is that our lives went in different directions.  i had heard he had fallen on hard times, but didn’t know why or how.  i chalked most of it up to gossip.

i ran into him at the bar of all places.  when i arrived he was smoking cigarettes and talking to my wife.  i didn’t recognize him at first.  his hair was slicked back and he looked unusually skinny.  when i figured out who it was, i gave him a handshake and a bro-hug.  it was good to see him.

he disappeared for a few minutes to grab another beer and came back singing.  the music was slightly inaudible due to the talking on the patio.  he sat down at the table and asked if anyone had heard of townes van zant.  i was the only one.

for the next few minutes we discussed the legendary texas songwriter and how it was a shame not many people knew who he was.  i told my friend “waiting around to die” was one of my favorite songs of all time.  it’s gut-wrenching.  i get the same dirty feeling from this song that i get listening the velvet underground’s “heroin.”  it makes you feel like you’ve hit the bottom and there’s no way out.

the rest of townes’ self titled 3rd album (i believe) is just as dark and moody as “waiting around to die.”  there’s little else but his voice and an acoustic guitar, but no matter how many other instruments you add townes still sounds completely alone.  my other favorite tracks on the album are “colorado girl” and “i’ll be here in the morning.”

when i got in the car to leave the bar, i put townes van zandt on and everything made perfect sense.  maybe the rumors were true.  maybe my friend had hit rock bottom,  but unlike townes he wasn’t waiting’ ’round to die.  he was trying to put the past behind him and that made me feel a whole lot better.

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