CHEAP EATS Another weekend away, playing unlikely gigs in unheard of places, like Oregon and Idaho. This time: a punch-and-cookie country dance party down at the elementary school, a train depot, and a barbecue joint.
My new favorite rural Idaho restaurant: Sagebrush BBQ in New Meadows. It's two days later and I'm still picking still-tasty morsels of pork from between my teeth. They must have fed us a hundred dollars worth of meat, on top of everything else. And we must have earned it, because I believe I saw three or four grandpas in our audience, in a fit of inspiration over our rowdy old-time cowboy music, order a beer.
The band was my brother Chris and me, as usual, but this time with our brother Jean-Gene the Frenchman on bass. Which was a novel and nice thing for us, but also kind of squirmy. It was clear that Chris — normally the smoothest of front men — wanted so badly to let everyone know that we were family, and his contorted efforts to do so without actually using the word "brother," in reference to me, were ... well, excruciating.
Conceptual considerations aside, there's an unwritten rule in show business that you can't just toss off multisyllabic words like "transgender" while wearing a cowboy hat. And "sibling" would have sounded fatally self-conscious. I sympathized with his dilemma, big time, but my hair and makeup weren't helping matters by doing all the right things for a change; in one of those goofy twists of fate, in Bumfuck, Idaho, I think I might have looked about as pretty as I've ever looked.
Enormously complex problems such as this almost always have a ridiculously simple solution. On the third night, outside on the patio at the Sagebrush, long before any kind of semiformal introductions could have crossed the mind of even the most conscientious of band leaders, I stepped up to the microphone myself and said, tilting my head toward our usual spokesmanperson (whose hair, by the way, is even longer and probably prettier than mine, although legitimized by a scraggly Fu Manchu mustache), "This is my brother Chris."
Clap clap clap. He tipped his cowboy hat to the crowd.
Then I gestured toward the clean-cut Frenchman to my right and said, "This is my brother Gene."
Clap clap, tip of the cowboy hat, clap.
Problem solved! By way of gravy it occurred to me to keep talking. And this is one of my proudest moments ever in the area of public address. "Two of us come from San Francisco, and the other lives in Pennsylvania," I said, pausing just long enough to make a little eye contact, let them take us in, live and in context, before adding, "Can you guess which are which?"
Instantaneously, you could see the fear and confusion melt from the brows of the elderly Idahoans, ranchers, and bikers. Or maybe it was me who relaxed, while they laughed and loved us, some of them even dancing on hot gravel wearing open-toed sandals, until three sets later we were all fast friends.
In fact, this might have been the first time in my extensive, illustrious career as a touring rock ’n’ roll superstar that I could have maybe actually gotten laid, almost — and not by an octogenarian, either. Some of our most enthusiastic fans were under sixty!
Two, in particular, were right around my age. Early forties. And everyone agreed that they were hot for me. This felt good. I wasn't so sure, but they did make a point of advertising the fact, from the middle of the dance floor, or gravel pit, that they were going to be samba dancing in the Independence Day Parade down in Council, we should come ...
Well, it's Independence Day, right now, and I'm a long way from Council, Idaho. I'm in San Rafael.