The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes
The Tao of Willie
Willie Nelson (1999 and 2001)
They say writing the first line of a book is the hardest part. Thank God that's over. (3)
Lana, Kinky Friedman, and I are responsible for the contents of this endeavor, which is to be one-part song lyrics, one-part photographs, and ten-parts bullshit. That's where I come in. I seem to be doing very well. I have ripped off my friend Roger twice already, bragged about how well we draw in Tulsa, and exposed my daughter Lana for offering me drugs before the show. How do you like me so far? (3)
My first public appearance was in Brooken, Texas. We were at the annual Brooken Homecoming, with all-day singing and dinner on the ground. I was five years old. My poem was given to me by Mama Nelson to recite at the singing and performing part of "singing and dinner on the ground." I guess I was nervous, because I started picking my nose until it started bleeding all over my little white sailor suit, trimmed in red. I did my poem . . .
What are you looking at me for?
I ain't got nothing to say.
If you don't like the looks of me
You can look the other way!
I have never had stage fright since. (10)
I believe we need all of the words we have. So cursing, or "cussing" as we used to call it in Abbot, was part of carrying on a conversation. Of course, not in my home, but all over everywhere else. (14)
I heard one of the band members say the other day that his wife was using some kind of cream on her breasts to make them bigger. He told her, "Use some toilet paper. Look what it's done for your ass!" (64)
Once, Chubby stood up to take a fiddle course and got a little too close to Hank. His fiddle bow caught Hank's toupee, took it off, and sailed it out into the crowd. Hank kept singing, Chubby kept fiddling, and someone went home with Hank Snow's hair. Only in country music. (88)
I never have gotten a lot of radio play through the years, but I knew I was in trouble when I heard someone say, "Boy, I sure wish they would play some of the old guys like Randy Travis and George Strait." (117)
Waylon thinks I don't know where he is since he left Nashville, but never fear, ole Willie knows exactly where you are and what you're doing. I have your home under twenty-four-hour surveillance and I've tapped your phone. Just because you live next door to an FBI guy don't mean shit. He's helping me. Just kidding, pal. I hope you're as ornery and mean as you ever were. (118)
"Perfect pitch: When you toss an accordian into the trash can and it hits a banjo." Just kidding. I love the banjo and the accordian. (141)
A young kid joined the army. He wanted to be a hero. He volunteered to go overseas to the front lines. It was 1944 and we were at war with Japan. The young soldier went to his sergeant and announced he wanted to be a hero. The sergeant said, "Oh you do? Well, here's what you do, son. Just walk over there about a half mile and yell, "Hirohito is a son of a bitch!" The enemy will show itself and you just shoot one and bring him back and you'll be a hero."
So the young soldier walked off toward the road where the enemy lay waiting. After about an hour he came back bleeding, bruised, and half dead. The sergeant asked what happened. The soldier said, "I did just what you said. I went there and stood up and yelled, `Hirohito is a son of a bitch!' A Japanese soldier stood up and said, `Harry Truman is a son of a bitch!' We were standing in the middle of the road shaking hands when a truck hit us." (142)
Outside my bus window to the left I see what seems to be a courthouse. All the windows have bars on them. It might be a jail, or maybe just a rough part of town. Maybe it's a cathedral or a church of some kind. I'll probably never know. I'm sure when we leave tonight it'll be dark and late, and I'll never see the front of the building. So, I guess I'll never know unless I ask someone, and that would be cheating. (176)
Both of these songs put together probably sold about four copies. That's not the important thing. To me, just getting the words out of my head and onto paper was an exercise worth performing. Those kinds of thoughts left bottled up inside can do more damage than good, and can probably cause everything from cancer to heart break. Sometimes just saying the words can cause some kind of healing to begin. But if you sing those songs every night year after year, I believe you can also prevent a total healing because you're always opening old wounds.
So what's the answer? Who knows. If you have a hit with a sad song, just remember when you wrote it, it was for you. When you sing it over and over and over, it's for the benefit of the listener. Don't let it spoil an otherwise good night. Attempt to sing the song for the audience, and try not to get too involved in it yourself. It's a very thin line, and lot easier said than done.
Sometimes I believe the reason a lot of country singers and writers have gone off the deep end was because they could not find that thin line, and could never fully recover from the evening that caused them to write the song in the beginning. Hank Williams, Floyd Tillman, George Jones, Lefty Frizzell, and myself included, could in some way be victims of our own words. (186)
Don't forget the less fortunate or God will personally kick your ass. I'd love to do it for Him, but I can't be everywhere.
Two things I can't stand. One is somebody standing there with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth and a glass of whiskey in one hand, saying how bad smoking pot is for you, and the other is a fat doctor telling you not to run because it can be hard on your knees. (192)
We did Floyd Tillman's "I'll Keep On Loving You," which he wrote about his car. . . . (195)
It looks like we're getting to the end of the book, so I'll start winding down. I picked up a book one time and started reading it. The first paragraph said that everything we do, we've done a million times before. So I put the book down. No need in doing that again. I personally saved that bit of information until the last paragraph of this book. I didn't want to lose you. (200-01)
From the get-go, we need to get one thing straight. If you're looking for a scholarly work about the ancient Eastern philosophy found in the Tao Te Ching, this may not be what you had in mind. (2)
The Tsalagi believed that within each person was a battle between two wolves. Sitting with his grandson, a grandfather explained that one of the wolves was evil and was driven by anger, envy, regret, ego, and the worship of war.
The other wolf was good, and was driven by love, hope, compassion, and the promise of peace.
Thinking about the wolves already growing within him, the boy asked, "Grandfather, which wolf wins?"
And the old man replied, "The one you feed." (33)
I've written more songs than I ever dreamed possible, and I've also learned not to panic when the next song takes a little time to arrive. When I couldn't write a song, Roger Miller used to tell me, "Don't worry about it. When the well runs dry you have to wait a while for it to fill up again."
So when I'm not writing, I figure whatever I'm doing is filling up the well. (43)
I've also heard it said that perfect pitch is when you throw a banjo in the trash and it hits an accordian. (55)
What were the redneck's last words?
"Hey! Watch this!" (65)
Did you hear about the woman who was such a fan of country music that she has a tattoo of Merle Haggard done in a very delicate spot, high on her right thigh, and a tattoo of Waylon Jennings high on the other thigh.
Worried that the two tattoos weren't recognizable, she slips off her undies, lifts her skirt to a guy in a bar, and says, "Can you tell who that is?"
So the guy puts on his glasses, looks real close, and says, "I don't know who those other two guys are, but the one in the middle is Willie Nelson!"
That's a good one! But if you're suddenly pissed off over the crude nature of that joke, all I can say is, it's not a perfect world, and sometimes you just have to let your anger go. (67-8)
One of the secrets to my sound is almost beyond explanation. My battered old Martin guitar, Trigger, has the greatest tone I've ever heard from a guitarand I've played a lot of guitars, including a lot of other Martins that were the exact same model as Trigger.
A lot of the guys in the band have been with me for decades, but Trigger has outlasted every musician I've played with, and after all these years, I have come to believe we were fated for each other. (72-3)
Like they say, you've got to slow down and smell the flowers. Or in my case, smoke the flowers. (78)
The best part about having a song written about my so-called wisdom ["What Would Willie Do?"] is that I can play it for people when they give me any shit. (85)
Question: How come Hitler didn't drink?
Answer: 'Cause it made him mean. (86)
They say the success of a rain dance is generally related to its timing. I suspect that the success of advice-giving works pretty much the same way. So if any of the following things I've learned does good things for you, I'm happy to take credit. If not, then I say we blame the weather. (87)
There's nothing wrong with saying what you believe . . . unless you believe some pretty weird shit, in which case you may want to keep your trap shut. (88)
There's nothing better for your mind and body than a great laughexcept for great sex, of course, but let's face it, a good laugh is a lot easier to find, plus you don't have to buy someone a house when you get caught telling the joke to another woman. (89)
Regret is a funny thing. When allowed to rise, it occupies time that might be devoted to something constructive. When left alone, it lurks in the corner just waiting to be fed. I'm not going to pretend for a moment that I haven't screwed things up plenty in my life. But the older I've gotten, the more I've come to believe in my own songs:
I know just what I'd change
If I went back in time somehow
But there's nothing I can do about it now. (96)
At some level, I suspect we're all full of it. It's hard to go through life without a little gloss of bluster and bullshit to dazzle the lambs and keep the wolf at bay. That's probably not a bad idea, especially if you're fond of lamb and fear the wolf, but you also have to remember one of life's most important lessons.
Don't be dazzled by your own bullshit. (97)
On first glance, you might conclude that I may not be good with money. But if you look closer, you'll realize that I'm definitely not good with money. (105)
In the fifties, I sold the rights to some of my best songs like "Family Bible" and "Night Life." My daughter Lana was little when I sold "Family Bible" for fifty bucks, and she says it broke her heart for me to let something go that was so close to our family. I've been asked a thousand times how I could sell a great song for fifty bucks, and the answer is pretty simple. I really needed fifty bucks. (106)
Nearly thirty years after I sold "Night Life" for fifty dollars, I was fairly confident that I'd put my scuffling days behind me. I owned a golf course, a recording studio, and an assortment of houses and ranches, and I didn't ever have to worry about where the next dollar was going to come from. Then one day I answered the phone and discovered that I owed the IRS sixteen million dollars. Shortly after that, the debt magically became thirty-two million.
Money is a funny thing. No matter how high you stack it or where you hide it or invest it, they can still take it away from you. (106-7)
I've heard people say I was singled out by the government because of my pot smoking or my politics, but the way I see it, there was a legitimate tax owed, it was the Feds' job to pursue it, and my job to pay it off. (107)
[WTF, Willie? This is supposed to be a book of wisdom!]
When Ann Richards was governor of Texas, she gave me a road sign with my name on it, and she didn't go through channels to have one made. Being a practical girl from just down the road in Waco, Ann sent a state trooper to Abbott with a set of tools and he just cut one down by the side of the road.
Good luck finding that road today, as the signs are taken down by fans as soon as they're put up. But if you want to drive the Willie Nelson Highway, it's right next to the railroad tracks in Abbott. The pavement's pretty much gone and it's just a gravel back road to nowhere. And that's the way I like it. Earlier this year, the state legislators were talking about naming a fancy new toll road for me. I said, "Thanks, but no thanks."
When you drive the Willie Nelson Highway, you drive free. (109-10)
Add it all up and I've spent more time on the road than off, and slept more nights on the bus than anywhere else. On the bus, I sleep like a baby. Sometimes I dream that I'm on the road, headed through the heart of America toward another town full of people who are coming to hear me sing. And when I wake up, I find that my dream has come true. (111)
So let's take a minute to talk about marijuana. If you're not interested in hearing what I have to say, no problem; there's a nice chapter on golf right after this one. (115)
I first saw Pedernales [Willie's golf course] playing in a celebrity tournament in the mid-seventies, and a couple of years later, another guy and I bought it. Then I let him have it, but later I bought it back. Then I lost it to the IRS, so Darrell Royal and Jim Bob Moffett bought it back for me. But the Feds said my pals didn't pay enough for it, so the IRS took it back and sold it to an Iranian fellow. We didn't get along, so I convinced a theater owner in Branson, Missouri, to buy it for me and I did six months of shows to pay him back. So I guess I've paid for the course several times. (120)
Factually speaking, it's not premarital sex until you actually get married. (140)
Next thing I knew, I was a partner in a company that produces a new fuel called Bio-Willie. Of course, if you've got a fuel to sell, you need a place to sell it, so I also began to make deals with truck stops all over Texas to sell it.
As fate would have it, around the same time I started a bio-diesel business, I also won my favorite truck stop, Carl's Corner, in a poker game. My first reaction to this stroke of luck was that I ought to lose it back as soon as possible, because Carl didn't seem all that sad to see it go. (144)
Take the IRS, for instance (and I wish you would). When I suddenly found myself in debt up to my ears to the Feds, a sense of humor about what seemed like a hopeless situation helped me hold on to my sense of myself. (151)
Don't panic! Even though this chapter is called "Willie Nelson for President," let's get one thing straight. I do NOT want to make a run for the Oval Office.
There are far too many roaches in my closet for me to go into politics. (157)
Jimmy's son, Chip Carter, and I have talked about the possibility of my being his running mate in a presidential race. Chip wants to eliminate taxes on everyone who makes less than $30,000 a year.
My platform is that after we're elected, everyone has to get a gonorrhea shot. (158)
The Tao says that when the world lacks the Way, horses are bred for war. And when the world has the Way, horses are sent to till the fields. (167)
[Either way, it doesn't sound like too hot a deal for the horses.]
Many years ago in Fort Worth, I used to sell Bibles door to door, though I gave it up. . . . But selling Bibles had given me the opportunity to see the insides of these people's houses, and that showed me what they really needed, which was vacuum cleaners.
I felt a lot better about selling vacuums than I did Bibles. I sold a lot of Kirby vacuums and it didn't hurt my conscience because everything I said about those vacuums was the truth.
If you tell someone the truth and they fall for it, then more power to the truth.
There are a lot of salesmen in the world, and part of the key to selling something is to convince people that they need what you're peddling. Turn on the television or radio and it doesn't take long to hear somebody saying that he or she knows what God wants and what God thinks, and what God has planned for you. Nothing personal, but I'm not buying that line of vacuum cleaners this week. (173)
Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur in a jet fuel age. I'm seventy-two years old and every day someone asks me when I'm going to retire. But all I do is play music and golf, and I can't figure out which one they want me to give up. (177)