On my birthday, like most people, I get real reflective. It quickly becomes a boring self-assessment of “where am I going, where have I been” that is only truly forgivable on the day you were plopped, nude and squawking, into this world. Turns out 28 was a pretty great year for me, especially in context with 27 and 26 and most of 25. And some of 24. And several months at 23 that I was a super loner. Nobody likes you when you’re 23, really.
Above is a picture of me at my birthday party/show last year with some of my closest friends. Mike (upper left) was not happy. Tommy (center, only head visible) was overly happy.
Below is a picture of me as the clock struck midnight on my actual birthday last year. I was alone in my former apartment where I lived in my own “noise prison” above an elderly couple, one of which was terminally ill and desperately in need of me to not wear any semblance of a shoe or walk, really.. at all. I had been crying for a couple hours. Sitting around. Ignoring most of the texts I got inviting me to dinner or drinks or conversation. My long-distance boyfriend at the time was in another city and was reacting to me like the petulant child I was being. Because that is who I am - a petulant child that wants a big damn hoopla made out of my birthday, as if I’m the only person who’s ever been born.
Also - I’m pretty sure that is Hawaiian Punch stain on my lip corners, but the shirt is just tye-died. Enough of that bummer and back to things I heavily enjoyed at 28.
1. Natalie Grace Alford sings me Happy Birthday.
A brilliant singer and one of the few things I discovered in Chicago that I really can get behind, Natalie has personality and legs for days - a lovely vocal range, and the songwriting chops to showcase said voice. I just find her to be great, and now as I watch her prepare to record and release a record — and keep on keepin’ on - I am more and more flattered to have had this very personal birthday song just for me. If you find yourself immediately charmed by her like I was — please hit her IndieGoGo campaign HERE and consider throwing in a few bucks! She’s halfway there!
2. Saw Wanda Jackson Live on New Year’s Eve in Chicago, IL.
New Year’s Eve was basically a bust every year since my brother and I chopped up our own confetti…. until Wanda. A fan of her from the pre-Jack White era and a loyal of the post-Jack White era — e.g. REAL STREET CRED FAN — I think the first Wanda tune I ever heard was Big Iron Skillet. On New Year’s, she was as charming and funny and on as she always is — including bringing her hubby Wendell up on stage for a saucy New Years kiss. Those two hot tamales! I tell ya!
3. Took beautiful photos of my friends and started working on Young Mary’s Record more seriously and consistently (It’s gonna get even better, guys, I swanee!)
This is Ali Townsend. She is one of the most beautiful people I know — and non-surprisingly- is adept at making everyone else I know beautiful, too. She’s also really funny. And smart. And weird. My type of gal. If you need your hair to make your face better, or your face to make your hair better — she’s a genius. You can find her: HERE. And you can like the YMR page for the sake of my birthday and pandering: HERE.
4. Called dibs on my own Maker’s Mark barrel.
It took years to get there - but only 30 minutes from my childhood front door — is the Maker’s Mark distillery. Hit the link HERE to see my post about visiting — and I’ll even tell you how you can call dibs on your own barrel as well!
5. My hair went REAL RED. My brain is still brunette.
6. Welcomed Lucero to BG with my sweet pals Larry and Michelle at The Warehouse at Mt. VIctor.
(photo by : the talented Justin Blodgett.)
7. Discovered — with credit due to Shooter Jennings and Misty Swain Jennings — the songwriter and wild man extraordinaire , Mr. Billy Don Burns.
This dude is for real. If you’re one of those folks that moans and groans about songwriters that don’t live their songs — then Billy Don Burns should be your Messiah. Hit this trailer for the upcoming documentary “Talk about Crazy” - thank me later.
I particularly like the portion of the interview where BDB expresses his hope to turn the Grand Ole Opry down if they ask him to play again. Now, see #8 on my list.
8. First backstage experience at the Grand Ole Opry - honored to see Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, & Billy Don Burns take the stage.
Also wanted to include this night - because I took my favorite photo of the year of a road warrior Outlaw fan of the decades, Bandana, sitting underneath this portrait of Minnie Pearl. Just lovely.
9. Upgraded Kentucky Prophet Mike Farmer from acquaintance to friend. Oh - and then we spent a Tidball’s night out on the town with Frank Black (Pixies).
I love Mike for so many reasons that it is silly — in addition to being like more talented (and alive) than Freddy Mercury — he has an emotional depth that so many people like me (petulant Scorpio child) need very badly to level with them. He’s a genius. A talent.
10. Grazed my fingers up the legs and hips that made Dwight Yoakam what he is today right before taking this photo with my beau Jon.
This was on Dwight’s bus outside of the Ryman. On the way home from this show late late that night, Dwight told Jon to play me The Stanley Brothers. He did — and then he played me even more Dwight.
11. Attended my first ever Goose on the Lake Festival in Allegre, KY. And got to watch one of my very favorites, Patson One Man Band - knock ‘em dead.
In addition to going to this great festival (chiefs of this pow-wow are Lloyd Settle and Jon)— I contributed this article to Kentucky Monthly : HERE.
12. We watched two of our best friends get married. In an amazing place. In the California desert.
Really. They’re like our best friends. And I’ll not hesitate to mentally abuse anybody that ever questions/assaults their love in real life or on a People Magazine online post. We’re like bizarro them and they’re bizarro us.
13. I got my wrestling education from two of the most knowledgeable sources …
and then got to watch as they nervously met one of their idols.
14. Took a few moments to visit with THE VOICE, Vern Gosdin.
15. We’re a dark coupla’ folks, eh? Spent a couple hours in the Museum of Death in LA.
16. Had lunch at the first ever KFC location in Corbin, KY.
17. Graced the presence of another icon - Mr. Merle Haggard.
Take your own guesses at what is going on in this photo. And then, listen to his track “The Downside” — if you can.
18. Icon meet-n-greet section of the list. Here’s Jon, me and Los Angeles legend, Christopher Dennis.
I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to being a bit more starstruck by the “confessions of a superhero’ star above than Merle Haggard, at first. The documentary nerd in me places that film in my top 5. I gave Dennis a $20 tip in exchange for this photo and a polaroid he autographed. Yeep! (Confessions of a Superhero is available on Netflix.)
18. And to wrap up the icon part of the list — Me, Jon and Mick Foley.
Nashville, TN at Zanie’s. I promise to post an entire (long overdue!) blog about his set and why I adore him as a wrestler and as a human being.
19. My first ever trip to Graceland!
On a road trip to Oklahoma City — a stop at Graceland was a must-do. Yet another thing Jon has educated me on — and I couldn’t ask for a better teacher — is Elvis Presley. Didn’t need the headphones to guide us since I had that dude.
20. Devoured this tiny chocolate piano at the TPAC Gala.
21. Was present to see a very deserving Colonel Jon become a Kentucky Colonel.
22. First concert with my parents in years at Renfro Valley to see Shooter.
I’m lucky to have great parents and a great relationship with them. They are my very best friends and I would have nothing (literally and figuratively) without them. Plus, they’re really smart and really funny.
23. Fed a Baby Cow.
This little baby lost Mama Cow a day or two before we went to visit Lloyd on his farm for a night. One thing I hate is the morning — functioning anytime before 11am - but I got up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 9am for this baby-feeding. I felt like it was worth the exception- that it would be good for me - and I was right.
24. Made friends with Ron Jeremy..
and sampled his really great Ron De Jeremy Rum. (Available in stores in Nashville.)
When Jon first told me that he was pals with Ron Jeremy — my mind went to the gutter like most people’s do when I tell them I consider Ron a friend, now. So, you’re forgiven. But the truth about Ron is — he’s a smart, fascinating charmer even if you didn’t know what he’s packing in his pants and what he can do/has done with it. I’d credit him as one of the most famous porn stars of my generation and in the several vignettes of time I’ve spent him in varying circumstances, I’ve watched fan after fan approach him and Ron greet and interact with them in A+ pro manner. He nails it. (Pun completely intended.)
25. Adventured to Hazard, KY.
One of my favorite stopovers all year - our darling pal Wesley Fields was cordial enough to host us in his Hazard, KY cabin earlier in the year. It was beautiful and made from his own hands. My entire post is : HERE.
26. Got away into the woods.
One of the most surprising and great-for me things that Jon had added to my life is making sure that we get out into the backwoods from time to time. It makes me breathe. See. Look, too. Take in context.
27. 29th Birthday Trip to LA
Nice hotel digs paired with a sidetrip to see Lucinda Williams in the desert and stay at the famous Joshua Tree Inn where Gram Parson’s spirit still hangs? I definitely met a dude who has caught on to the Scorpio petulant child desires and far exceeded them — which leads to #28.
28. Met Jon Hensley.
I wrote a note to Jon in his birthday card this year that said “Thank you for making me believe in the practice of love” and that sums it up. Many of the great things that happened to me at 28 are because of Jon - and I couldn’t imagine them being nearly as vibrant if he weren’t there. Really, I can’t imagine them being much fun at all without him. He’s strong and infectious and brilliant and a gorgeous man. And most importantly, we see each other’s whole arc. Light, dark, grey.
My point? You can start a year off with a sobbing selfie and end it with a really long blog about how pleasantly surprising and great your year was. Keep going.
And don’t just sit there, bust a LIKE.