I’ll be a writer when I finally go deaf

For a few minutes back in August, the local arts center sold tickets for a concert scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving. Willie Nelson was coming to town and I was determined to see him. 

Tickets went on sale at 9 that morning and by the time I got through at about 9:30, it was a sold-out show. But while I was still on the phone with the arts center, a pair of tickets in the balcony became available.

So then I just had to wait until the end of November. The show was planned for a Tuesday and on the Saturday before, Willie’s band was in a bus crash.

Eventually, Willie was able to reschedule and the concert was last night. 

And I was sick. Feverish. Exhausted. Achy. Whiny.

We offered up our tickets for sale, but there were no takers. I didn’t want to miss it, but I also didn’t want to get off my couch. So we went. Did I mention the snow and ice? Well, there was snow on top of ice.

Willie’s son Lukas and his band were the first act. 

Have you ever been so high, so stoned that every thought that came into your head was beautiful and profound? And your friend next to you is only maybe half as stoned as you are and they are like, “What the? Are you freaking stupid?” because the words you are saying are only totally amazing to you? That’s my assessment of Lukas Nelson’s music career. 

I really couldn’t help being snarky about him and my husband was no help, either. So there we were in the balcony, a real-life Waldorf and Statler. Lukas kept singing about smoking a joint and he kept playing the guitar with his teeth. “There must be Doritos in there,” I said to my husband. And my husband was all, “His guitar is made of honey buns. Nom nom nom nom nom.” 

But finally Willie came on stage. 

If I were to make a list of 1,000 songs, or even 10,000 songs that would make me cry, “Whiskey River” would never be on the list. But something happens to me at performances. Something inside my brain switches on and I think, “Oh holy shit. That’s Willie Nelson. And I do not remember a time in my life when I did not know him.” So I cried through “Whiskey River.”

In fact, I cried through most of Willie’s set. Anybody looking on might have thought I was having the worst day of my life. And I even told myself I was being so emotional because of the fever. But the truth is, I’ve cried through just about every concert I’ve been to. 

I saw the Avett Brothers in November in Little Rock, my hometown. They opened with “Arkansas Traveler,” a 19th century folk song. And I bawled while the people around me stood with their arms at their sides. So few were familiar enough with the song to identify it, much less appreciate it. The Avett Brothers wouldn’t open their set with that song the following night. It was something just for us. And if you don’t know “Arkansas Traveler,” how can you appreciate the evolution of music? How can you appreciate the Avett Brothers standing in front of you? 

Nothing leaves me quite as tongue tied as attempting to write about music. I know what it does to me and how it makes me feel. But expressing it isn’t something I can adequately do. And I don’t think I’ll consider myself a capable writer until I can write about music. Saying that it makes me cry, even if it’s the Pixies singing “Debaser” in an old Memphis movie house, just doesn’t give you much to go on. But I know other people get it. There are other people who don’t need my explanation. And people who just get why I cried through “Whiskey River” are the best kind of people.

When the bee stings

Just this week, a friend at work asked me, “Beekeeping? Are you not scared of getting stung?” 

My first bee season starts in about 40 days. And I do worry about a lot of things as that day gets closer, but stings don’t concern me. I made peace with that a long time ago.

Remember that song that goes, “If you wanna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band”? Well, if you want to be a beekeeper, you gotta have a stinger in your hand. And arm, leg, cheek. A bee doesn’t want to sting you. She’ll die if she does. (Male bees, being pretty much useless, cannot sting. They just hang around and eat and try to meet a needy queen.) But bees only know dedication to the queen and the hive, so they’ll die protecting the homestead if that’s what they need to do.

Beekeepers wear light-colored clothing when they work the hives. But do you know why? Bees don’t see colors the same way humans do. If bees see a dark moving mass, the lookout bees are like, “There’s a bear!” We have two dogs with unlimited access to the back yard. One of our dogs is white and loves to chase flying insects. Our other dog is smart enough to know better, but the bees are going to peg her for a bear. She looks a lot like one to me sometimes. I just hope she’ll learn to stay clear of the fenced-off bee yard. I’m already stocking up on antihistamines just in case.

The main thing I worry about is killing the bees. Off and on for weeks, I’ve had stress dreams about bringing the bees home and crushing the queen as soon as I get her here. I dream of squashing whole frames of brood. And when I’m awake, I worry about what will happen to my bees when it gets too hot or too cold or too rainy. And a new horror came into my mind today. What will happen in a tornado? We’ll have to bring the bees into the house.

My husband said the hell we will.

I can make peace with knowing I’ll be stung by bees. But I guess I can’t make peace with the bees not being my pets. That’ll probably change after the first dozen or so stings.