Oh, Honky Tonk Woman,
How did you know? What did you see? Was I just another man in the sea of the darkly-lit hall? Did I just happen to be closest, or in the way?
Seriously, Honky Tonk Woman (whose name I know is Nicole), I’m making this sound like a bigger deal than it is. I always do that. You should just consider yourself lucky; if I were 10yrs younger and single I’d spend the day looking for traces of you online. There’s a fine line between stalking and loneliness in our social media age, don’t you agree?
But how you knew exactly what I needed at exactly the right time at exactly the moment that I didn’t realize I needed it, I have no idea.
Maybe you saw my friend Christian and I standing there for hours, throwing back Lone Stars, watching the band and the dancers, and talking about whatever it is that we talk about when he comes around: reasons streets are named the way they are, the history of neighborhoods, bands that we watched when we were in college. It’s clockwork, those conversations, and yet they go on and on and never cease whenever we’re together.
Did you see that? Did you feel any trepidation of breaking up such a relentless, nerdy back and forth? Was is it a dare? Was it done in vengeance? I later saw you at the bar, still standing in your pretty shirt and long black hair, talking to a seated man, younger, taller, better looking than me. You left with him, though curiously you took two separate routes through the crowd, he easily 20yds ahead of you by the time he reached the door. Maybe it was just a lark. Maybe it was for his amusement.
You asked if I dance. I said no. I didn’t lie. I demurred. You stood tall, taller than me. I’ve learned enough from getting old to realize that you don’t say no to a pretty girl asking you to dance at a honky tonk. Christian held my beer and we were off.
Do I need to describe the debacle here? No. I hope not. Spare me that. It was half lesson, half sympathy, and all seemingly in half-speed. I tried to make a break for it several times, retreat to just a few feet from you. You persisted, showing me the two-step, making me twirl you, showing me how to dip you. I thanked you. I may have apologized. I dunno, I turned my back to you. Stood back next to Christian, tried to act normal, tried to get us to talk about whatever inanity we were discussing before you arrived. Ten minutes later I broke in to confess that having a pretty girl ask you to dance is still amazing, no matter how unworthy you feel.
I know it was just a dance. I shouldn’t care about the circumstances. But so much of growing old is growing invisible. My mom always warned me about that, but I assumed she was talking about women, about her, about people who weren’t me. You, Nicole, noticed me.
And it made me notice myself.
Among other things Christian and I discussed that night was the merits of Jack White. He thinks he’s a poser. I have a more complicated he’s from Detroit, he’s a master composer/producer/publisher/etc view. The White Stripes gave Detroit a reason to be proud that wasn’t named Eminem, Kid Rock, or the Juggalos. Give us that, at least.
But, seriously, this performance floors me. The first little known song was actually written to be a jingle for a new Coke ad. It played once and never again. Can you imagine a world where our biggest mass produced products are shilled by great songwriters and master directors? It’s a loss, but this gem is a reminder of what could be.
And then there’s the second song, a tune that I more or less gloss over on Elephant, but here, acoustic, lit by floor lamps, and in light of White’s very public divorce and personal issues, it feels essential. It feels raw. It feels like the truest piece of art I can imagine. How anyone could be against that?