By Tom Blake
“Now that you are retired, what do you do?” is a question I’ve been asked often in the last three and a half years.
My answer is always something like this. “I keep my body moving and my mind active. Those are my top two priorities.”
I was strongly reminded of that answer while reading an article titled, “Why Does Willie Nelson Still Do It?” in the May 2018, online version of Texas Monthly magazine. Writer Michael Hall included in his article a video interview with Willie Nelson.
I’ve always admired Willie, and after reading Hall’s article—and watching the video—I have even more respect and admiration for him.
But, first, some background
In August 2015, Willie Nelson, at 82, was scheduled to perform at the Orange County Fair. My life partner Greta and I and our Dana Point friends, Ron and Lee Cohan, had tickets for the concert at the Pacific Amphitheatre. The four of us realized it might be our last chance to see Willie, a country music legend.
We were in our row-two seats; the band’s instruments were in place on the stage. Then, it started raining hard; the show was canceled.
Three months later, the same group—Ron, Lee, Greta and I—attended a Jan. 6, 2016, Willie Nelson and Family concert at the Grove in Anaheim.
On the night of the concert, it rained again, but the Grove is an indoor venue, so we knew the show would go on, although the possibility of a rain cancelation crossed my mind.
Frankly, my expectations about Willie performing were modest. I imagined that his family members, including his sons Micah and Lukas on guitars, and “little sister Bobbie” as Willie calls her, on piano, would be the primary performers and that Willie would sing only a few songs. After all, he was 82.
When the lights dimmed, Willie led his band onto the stage. He was wearing a T-shirt with “Maui” on the front and his usual red headband.
Willie picked up Trigger, the name he’s given to his ancient Martin N-20 classical guitar that he’d had for 47 years—the one with a gaping hole and faded autographs from famous people such as Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings on it. He began with one of his classics, “Whiskey River.” The four of us were pleasantly surprised. Willie and his band sounded great. Again, I wondered if that would be the last time I’d get to see him perform.
He was on stage nonstop for over 90 minutes. He sang: “Georgia on My Mind;” “On the Road Again;” “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground;” “Crazy;” “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die;” “Good-Hearted Woman;” “Always on My Mind;” and about 25 other songs, all of them familiar.
He was gracious and personable. Fans kept tossing cowboy hats on the stage. Willie would wear the hats for a couple of songs and then toss them to the crowd Frisbee-style. He also threw five headbands to the crowd.
Now, this August, Willie, who turned 85 April 29, (Trigger, the guitar, is now 49, and “baby sister” Bobbie, is 87) and his family are coming to Southern California again. He will be at the Orange County Fair Aug. 10, but we aren’t going to see him there.
Instead, the night before, he is performing at Humphreys by the Bay, a cozy, intimate, outdoor venue cuddled next to yachts in San Diego. Our friends, Ron and Lee, purchased a package that includes dinner, an overnight stay at the hotel and row-two seats. We are going with them. To make this concert even more special, singer Alison Krauss of the group Union Station is also performing.
I’ve learned to stop wondering if this will be the last time I see Willie perform.
Written on the tickets: “Humphreys/Rain or Shine.” So, it can rain all it wants that night.
In a Texas Monthly article, Michael Hall writes that Willie says he keeps entertaining because it makes him happy. In the video, Willie adds, “I think that has a lot to do with keeping you alive—keeping busy, doing things and being creative.”
Willie is 85 years of proof of the need to keep our body moving and mind active as we age. He’s an inspiration to a lot of seniors.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at www.findingloveafter50.com. Email: email@example.com.