Dear Fiona

Hi. Sorry about that Texas thing. Who knew it was illegal to tour with hash browns?

I know that checkpoint all too well. I lived in Arizona for many years and drove through it a million times on my way to see the fam in Texas. I once helped a friend smuggle gerbils through it as she moved here. Luckily there were no gerbil-sniffing dogs at the time. It’s a scary place, waiting in line for the officer to look into your car and survey your intentions with a one-second stare.

My closest call came while driving a rental car on my way to a short visit. I had no luggage because I was just stopping in for an hour or so. Apparently a shady-looking character in a rental car with no luggage sets off warning bells. Or maybe I had residual gerbil odor. For whatever reason, the officer ordered me to pull over to the search area. I was terrified.

They brought the dog over, but he was unimpressed. And then, the scary part. They opened the trunk. The guy unscrewed the gizmo holding the spare tire down. They looked underneath. I held my breath.

See, I had no idea what was underneath that tire. I knew there was just a squillion to one chance of anything bad, but what if? What if a hundred hash browns were sitting  there, left in a panic by a previous renter? What if a smuggling genius stuck them there, waiting for me to haplessly drive through so he could pull me over on the other side and take them back? I would be left standing there next to two officers saying “Um, that’s not mine!!!!” The oldest response in the Border Patrol playbook. I would go to prison. There are almost no good races in prison. Life would not be good.

But when he looked under the tire, there was nothing. No hash browns. No gerbils. No Hershey bar. (well, you can always hope to find a Hershey bar.) I went on my way. But many years later, I still feel a twinge of fear when I go through that checkpoint.

So please know I feel your pain, Fiona. Texas really isn’t like that. Well, OK, it is. But you were on your way to Austin, which is a little island of blue in the sea of red. I’m sorry you got shipwrecked on the way.

I love the new album and the pine cone stories and your paintings in “Magnolia.” I love that you fearlessly write about your life. I love that in a world of  songs best used as ringtones, you still make music that matters. The world needs that.

I hope you won’t hold this against us. Willie got busted at the same place, you know. You’re in good company.

Have a good tour. Please come back. But next time before you hit Sierra Blanca, maybe lose the gerbils …

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About gary

no sock monkeys were harmed in the making of this blog.
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