Nightbirds

(Blueprint for a Mixtape)

"IN MEMORY OF ELIZABETH REED"/THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND
"Once you go trash, you never come back," sayeth the sage Jim Goad. It began for me about age five when, in Chocolate City, I spied pickup trucks full of hell-raisin' young rednecks with center-parted hair cruising into town across the Key Bridge from Virginia. They blasted Dickey Betts's "Ramblin' Man" with civic-mindedness and tossed their beer bottles onto M Street like Molotov cocktails. I was not yet a sexual creature although certainly a sonic one. Ensnared in the crosshairs of their headlights, badass attitude, and the nomadic rocker's anthem, I became The Littlest & Unlikeliest Rebel.

"AIN'T TOO PROUD TO PRAY"/LYNYRD SKYNYRD
I'm all grown up now and I'm with the bands. Dubbed the Redneck Negress by the Voice's own Greg Tate, I exist solely at the edge of night when the crow calls, luring me out to neon ballrooms or moonlit dancing lawns. My fellow nightbirds worship at the altar of Planet Boogie—smoky tour buses, scintillating highways, soul food joints, PBR, and the aural aphrodisiac of African and Scotch-Irish song traditions mating in perfect rapport. J., the heavy mama from the El Dorado state, is enamored of lanky freaks with Alabaman accents and illicit honky-tonk flirtations. E., white chocolate maverick from Moravia, vibes off her painterly vision subsumed in the Moorish meshes of Live At Fillmore East. Together, we make a Dixie-fried pilgrimage from the East Village's Lakeside Lounge to ATL's Star Bar and other sonic Gethsemanes deeper into the Dirty South.

"ROAD CASES"/DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS
Rock critics know fraternizing with the stars is verboten. But the lightning-flash adoration of their redneck fans ensnares me often; the latter in their John Deere caps, boots, and wife-beaters dragging me off by my kinky hair like Jimmy Castor's Troglodyte to beer-can-strewn lairs. As an African this desire renders me both perverse and a traitor. Still, with all my roots in Dixie, I am nothing if not the embodiment of "the duality of the Southern thing," a dialectic mysteriously invoked by Skynyrd acolytes the Drive-By Truckers. I don the saucy T-shirt of their friends' band from Athens, Georgia—Southern Bitch—and its provocative imagery of a bare-chested devil gal straddling a hay bale barely serves as a stitch suturing the ever warring and irreconcilable halves of my quadruple consciousness (sexual, mental, political, kozmic, you dig . . . ).

"THIRTEEN"/BIG STAR
These Yankees here in Gotham (and other fools) jes' don't understand the not-so-discreet charm of hirsute, pot-bellied, hard-rockin', hard-drinkin', and hard-livin' hillbilly love gods. I am a gypsy nightbird in a plumed voodoo Stetson and snakeskin boots, ever ready to shake my thang at the lean rogue plying me with Tennessee whiskey and tenuously leashed desire in his baroque hotel room in the Crescent City, or tilt my pelvis with savage abandon towards the proscenium arch's polychrome glow. These encounters make manifest the cease-fire between my warring selves that goes down when I am supine, vulnerable, heedless to all but fuck words uttered in a thick, rich drawl and the rough fingers of my elusive man handling my flesh as he does his beloved axe.

"I WALK ON GILDED SPLINTERS"/JOHNNY JENKINS
Spring, when thoughts of men young and old return to romance, will come soon again and with it the high concert season. The nightbirds' road that goes on forever will lead me to Hotlanta where my Irish guy will clothe me in the precious gift of a Confederate battle flag bikini and take us out to get down at the Truckers' outdoor show. Hotlantan will hoist me upon his bare shoulders, as I throw the devil horns in accompaniment to the band's blazing guitar army and glory in the sunshine daydreams of my everlasting electric affair with the Boogie. Between my legs, he may kindle some semblance of the illusory paradise I have long located in the sounds. My lech absolved in those lush urban fields, I will transcend white and black by the grace of music whose sole color is blue.

 
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