As much as I detest their existence, I’ll admit cell phones have a proper time and place—like when the brakes fail in your car as you’re hurtling toward Lookout Point while the back seat is on fire. Then it’s acceptable to use a cell phone because you have an emergency situation on your hands. I’m not alone in my thinking. The Chico Planning Department has a cell phone policy. “In order to better serve our counter customers we ask that you please turn off your cell phone when receiving service at the counter,” says a sign on the counter. That doesn’t sound like too much to ask. Maybe grocery stores could adopt the same policy: “Please turn off your cell phone while perusing the produce section or waiting in the checkout line.” A few months back I was forced to listen to one end of a cell phone conversation by a young woman standing in front of me at the express line (nine items or less) in Safeway. “But you don’t respect me,” she said to the phone. “Whenever your friends are over, you don’t walk me out to the car when I leave. If you respected me you would. And I love you, too.” OK, that’s it, I told myself. “Hey,” I said to the checker as she scanned a can of Dole pineapple chunks. “This woman has 12 items in her basket. Can we make her go to another line?” My request was denied, and my hatred of cell phones escalated.
This Saturday I get to go to the Feather Falls Casino to see Jerry Jeff Walker. When I tell people this, most draw a blank and say “Who?” Then I tell them, “He wrote ‘Mr. Bojangles.'” And they think of Sammy Davis Jr. and his smarmy version of that great song. But Walker is like Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings, only more grounded. You get the feeling he’s really lived the things he sings about. Like “We’re pissin’ in the wind, but it’s blowin’ on all our friends,” or “LA Freeway,” “London Homesick Blues"—the theme song for Austin City Limits—"Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother.” As for “Mr. Bojangles,” Walker’s friend David Bromberg explained in a 1972 recording that Walker met Bojangles in a drunk tank in New Orleans while doing a little “field research.” This week I talked with Walker’s press agent Pam Smith from Austin. “Oh, Jerry Jeff’s voice keeps getting better,” she said. “He’s clean and sober now.” Surprised, I asked her, “You mean he’s quit drinking?” “Ah well,” she said. “Not exactly. He doesn’t drink as much as he used to.” Anyone with an appreciation for good music—this isn’t that hokey, glitzy, lightweight country crap—would do well to see this show. Walker and his band, a modified version of the Gonzo Dog Band, will share the July 28 bill with Rodney Crowell.