Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Livin' the Honky Tonk Life In Yankee Territory

I have been meaning to write this post for several weeks, but ever since my sister and I performed this past weekend at a Hank Williams Tribute in Baltimore, I am even more inspired to do so.

What does it mean to live a Honky Tonk life? More and more, I find that it is a good description for the ideology under which I live. While Honky Tonk means many things to many people, I thought it would be fun to parcel out what it means to me, particularly after living for 4 years in Austin, Texas and 2 years in Idaho. There is a unique sense of freedom to be found in these parts of the country that is quite different from living in the Northeast. Don't mistake my pride for these areas as somehow trumping my love for my Yankee roots (though I was born in the South, in North Carolina). But I have found ways in which to live in the blue-blooded North, while still celebrating the lifestyle of the great open spaces, honky tonk bars, and raging rivers.

Here are some Honky Tonk guidelines:
  • Smile and tip your hat at people you pass, particularly if they look doleful and cross. It might make them feel special, and it'll make you feel even more cheerful.
  • Kick up your heels and dance, hoot, and holler. Northerners sometimes have trouble with this one, so show 'em how it's done!
  • A little gluttony goes a long way. My husband, sister, and her boyfriend get our kicks by hiking with our dogs 2 miles over to a local biker bar on the top of a mountain ridge, drinking 3 pitchers of beer, playing some pool, putting some Merle Haggard on the jukebox, eating some wings, and hiking the two miles back. You can walk off your buzz, view some beautiful vistas, and have tons of fun!
  • Lighten up! No one is going to take you as seriously as you are. Your happiness is just a shift in perspective away.
  • No matter your race, creed, or sexuality (this is the Austin version of Honky Tonk), every person (and animal!) on this earth deserves fair treatment. Unless you are buying the next round, stay out of people's damn business and let them have their rights!
  • Avoid turning up your nose at people; it just makes you ugly. And it only means you're uncomfortable with yourself.
  • Don't fence yourself in. Try something new and uncomfortable. Add some spice to your life; put some color in your cheeks! Experience it for what it is, and you'll wake up the next day glad that you did it. I was terrified before our performance at the Hank Williams show because we hadn't practiced with the house band until we walked up on stage in front of 200 people. But once we were in the midst of the performance, I was so focused and enjoyed every second of it.
  • Do things for the joy of it! Every day is a blessing, and we live in a fascinating time. Stop and enjoy the wonderful details along the way: the strains of lap steel guitar floating up your sunny staircase, the happy cups and plates stacked in your cupboard, the little bird holding on for dear life at the feeder blowing in the winter wind, two young boys walking down a long, lonely city alley, lovers dancing and kissing as if no one is watching, a glance of communication from one musician to another. What is your reality? What do you see in a day?
Now go and have yourself a honky tonkin' good day!

My sister and I (The Hello Strangers) perform at the Hank tribute
Photo at top: Our new friends C.W. and Lindy Loo

All photos © Chace + Smith Photography

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