One round-trip ticket to Memory Lane, please!
The other night when I was digging around in my memories for the photograph of me in front of the Mississippi sign, I came across this.
That's me, all nineteen years of me (obviously before I discovered the art of eyebrow waxing), and one Lark Houston Watts (his real actual name!) (also: eyebrows!) and this photo was taken at about eleventeen hours after midnight which was the closing time at Mainstreet, the bar in our college town.
I do have a penchant for the nostalgic. Of course, I blame this on Southernness. And possibly wine. I sift backwards through the people and events in my life as if it could explain something crucial about the future, or how I got here (which isn't a bad place to be, you know). Just figuring it out. I'm noticing that in order to be fully me, complete and happy in who I am, I need to know who she is, this girl in my skin -- Mr. X notwithstanding. Before him, during him, who was I? Who do I want to be? The future is wide open. There's good stuff there. Plant your own garden, decorate your own soul.
So anyway. It was late last night, and raining, and I started thinking how there's love... and then there's first love. Lark was tall, Southern (eyebrows!) one of the most talented human beings I have ever laid eyes or ears on. When I met him, he was already a local Nashville celebrity. I was 19 and unscathed, young, an unwritten page. The first minute he looked my way, I was his.
We met completely by chance. At the time, I was the weather girl for the university TV station's news program. (I kid you not. I desired to be a weather girl ... it's raining ya'll!) And one evening I was prepping my absurdly detailed forecast at the same time another show was setting up for filming. Out of proximity and necessity, I was asked to fill in as host for a local music showcase that aired each weekend on the channel (much higher rated than the news, I'll tell you that). The host was home sick with the flu.
I met Lark that day.
Before long we were inseparable. I worked at Mainstreet, the bar where he would sing live once a week or so, and I watched as he was on stage, my boyfriend (I love that word, boyfriend, don't you? it's kind of hopeful and sweet). I wasn't even the legal drinking age, but it was college and the bartender would hand me a cup each evening of something, Lord only knows, and I drank it. Lark would get up on stage and there was charisma exuding right out of him and it was amazing. You'd see these girls, girls everywhere, everyone wanting a piece of him, it was... crazy. It made me crazy.
We spent one summer holed up in a tiny one-room apartment on a leafy, tree-lined street of antebellum homes, giant Old South houses that had been converted into apartments for starving university kids. I worked at the bar until 2 a.m., and then we went into the studio and he and his band recorded until dawn. I look back on that summer and I can't believe how happy it makes me, even though we were broke and fighting and the hot water stopped working in the ancient apartment, and I would go into the studio at night and go into the long, empty bathroom under fluorescent lights and sit up on the cold tile by the sink and wash my hair while the sounds from the studio filtered in through the walls, the vents, the sound of Lark's voice everywhere.
The things we do when we're young, hopelessly in love. Because seriously? Could ya'll imagine me for even a minute now, with my germaphobia and wet wipes and antibaceverything, standing in an empty ladies room in a recording studio at four in the morning washing my hair in a sink? Hell. Freezing. Over.
Obviously, we broke up. I wanted to be grown up, married, adult. He had a dream and a singing career which did not include a picket fence and a volvo. I moved to Los Angeles to become a writer, he played Nashville, toured, we kept in touch. I got married. He started a new career as a music video director. But we kept tabs on each other, after a while it became apparent that he and I had known each other longer than we cared to admit in public. It's nice still being close to someone who saw you grow up, change, stay more the same than ever. Every time I hear his voice it takes me right back to 19 years old, a good year.
I about had to pitch a hissy to get him to digitize the stuff he recorded that summer. Last week he sent me all of the songs I wanted, and since I know he won't sue me for letting ya'll download his stuff, here's a few for you with my liner notes included. Because if I'm going down memory lane, ya'll are coming with me!
[NOTE: Because I am a technologial dumbass, I cannot figure out how to get my cute little buttons to automatically download the song as opposed to just playing it in your browser. SO! If you use Internet Explorer, you have to right-click on the button and select "Save Target As..." to save the file. If you use Firefox, right-click and select "Save Link as..." to download the file. What a pain in my nostalgic ass.]
Hands down, my favorite song ever. I listen to this when I want to go home, it makes me think of the studio, Lark in jeans and me in cut-offs and Keds, he looks at me through the haze of a cigarette. And later when I was in Los Angeles and not sure why the hell I moved here, I would listen to this song as I drove up and down the canyon roads, aimless. Homesick. ("Lies, baby ... truth and honesty.")
2) 4th of July
I hated this song when he wrote it, I was so mad at how the story ended. Then I realized... it's a story, Sally and Danny are not "Laurie and Lark." heh. Now it's one of my favorites, it's a great song -- with a bullet. ("Danny said, 'Sally, my love is true... if we make Mi'sippi, I'm gonna marry you.")
3) Put Down The Gun
One night Lark and the band were doing a showcase at ... the Bluebird, maybe? And I watched him perform this song with his backup singer, Lyria, and I about had a jealousy attack. It's damn near the sexiest song he ever wrote. I still get a little jealous, now that you bring it up. ("Your daddy's back in town ...")
4) When The Night Falls
He recently confirmed that this song was about ... uh, someone we both know. Real well. Rhymes with "Raurie." But I love it, I'm a woman who likes to be called 'baby' if the right man is saying it. ("Were you expecting a hero from one of your magazines? Or maybe some backseat Romeo to sweep you off your feet?")
We were at 12th & Porter one night, and Lark was on stage and this woman behind me had pulled her chair around to get a better view. "Oh, that boy is just something, isn't he?" I went from sweet to green-eyed in zero-point-zero seconds flat. "Oh, he's something all right." One eyebrow arched, daggers shooting. It makes me laugh thinking of it. Like I was gonna throw down at 12th & Porter. (There's a big, deliberate pause in the middle of this song.)
I love how music can take you right back there. I listen to his voice and it's like I'm back home, sitting at the City Cafe drinking sweet tea and eating lunch at 2 p.m. Of course, I'm about as far from Back Home as possible, a thousand billion miles away, two glasses of wine and drowning in nostalgia.
Lark is better known these days in Nashville as a video director for country acts like Sawyer Brown and some other people I ought to know, except my musical knowledge stopped sometime in 1993, but he has a new CD coming out this summer and you can get the preview disc from his website, larkwatts.com. That man can sing your heart out!