Jason Isbell brings on the sunset

I’ve been stalking a fan of Jason Isbell for over a decade now and I kid about an impending restraining order but jokes aside, he’s my fave by far and I feel like he speaks to my soul on a level that no other artist or musician ever has, even my precious Indigo Girls – maybe it’s that he’s an alcoholic in recovery, maybe it’s the slight air of despair in his manner, even when he’s seemingly happy. It’s as if he knows how fleeting it is, and cannot quite appreciate the moment, knowing that sooner or later, it will only change again. He’s public about his struggles with anxiety and I am learning more about mine, and the role that it led in my alcoholism.

Whatever the reason, I found myself packing up my car on Friday, and heading out of state for a night to see him perform at an outdoor venue in his home state of Alabama. It was hot and sticky and we were packed in – elbows to assholes, and there was plenty of buzzy excitement in this small town for his show, and of course, he did not disappoint. I wish I was better at being a solo traveler, and I’m actively working on it – I tend to short change myself outta convenience, or more likely, fear/anxiety. Not this time, I told myself. I’d overspent on the whole experience, so I decided I might as well go for it, I mean, I could have another heart attack this year or some shit.

Go for it, I did. I hit up Jack Brown’s for a fantastic Wagyu burger that required my asking for another STACK of napkins, and I devoured it as if I were headed to the electric chair. I eat about four burgers a year so this thing looked like an autopsy when I was done. I arrived at the show with plenty of time to scope out the setting, and peruse the merchandise table – where I got a somewhat whimsical cartoonish t-shirt that kind of belies his vibe, but hey, it was groovy.

He hit the stage with his usual Southern self-deprecating charm coupled with his monster guitar playing and we were deafening in our delight. He’s funny, real and talented. He wove a tapestry of old and new songs, and we all sang along and swayed. It wasn’t what I could call an intimate night, given the outdoor arena, but it was a rockin’ Friday evening and he genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself as well, touting a brand new album – who some say is his best to date.

During the encore I commented to a guy beside me that as such a fan of Jason’s songwriting, I sometimes forget what an amazing musician he is until I actually witness his guitar prowess, and he agreed. I know it’s a shitty stereotype, but I truly don’t think most women really appreciate a searing guitar solo, you know?

I didn’t know it at the time, but that innocuous comment led to my discovering that this fellow fan was also attending the show solo and upon further review, I could see that I had a well-bred/well-read/corn-fed strapping hot young buck in front of me. One who was inquiring if I’d like to find a bar close by and wait out the mass exodus of traffic.

Don’t mind if I do.

You could’ve mounted a fucking tv on his chest, y’all*.

So that’s when this alcoholic found herself in a speakeasy from the days of the Fitzgerald’s that required entry via payphone (!) from an old wooden booth and it was so delightfully charming that I felt like Zelda herself after ordering a fancy pink martini-looking-thing that included a sprig of smoked rosemary. We sat at the fancy marble bar for over two hours, exchanging life stories and anecdotes, finding similarities and laughing at differences. We flirted shamelessly under the chandeliers and I found myself checking my reflection self-consciously as I was positive that whatever makeup I had left was sliding off my face, giving me the appearance of Courtney Love, but not in a good way. I found his broad strong hand on my leg a few times as he emphasized a point here and there, and I felt the exhilarating zap of electricity shoot up my thigh and straight into my stomach, unleashing all the goofy flip flops and butterflies.

He excused himself to the fancy-ass gentlemen’s restroom and I spilled my nervous guts to our fabulous bartender, because that is what one does when one finds themselves in such situations. “My, my, my – Miss Thang baited her hook with honey and came down to Bama and caught herself a BIG fish and now she doesn’t know what to do, well, all I can say is ROOOOLLLL TIDE, girlfriend!” and we both collapsed in laughter, because true dat, as the kids say.

The evening quickly turned into the next day, and it was time for me to retreat back to my AirB&B, and reality.

Our eyes sparkled and danced all the way to the corner outside where I ordered an Uber and he waited beside me. I touched his ridiculously fit bicep at every opportunity, and when he asked to kiss me, I let him – I could smell his sweat and aftershave as I kicked my country-ass booted leg up under the glowy streetlights in a move that would’ve made Carrie Bradshaw proud.

I glanced out the back of my ride and watched him stroll away and fade into the early morning. It was an unexpected magical evening that combined reality with fantasy and I’ll be eternally grateful to my passing suitor for making me feel desirable, charming and alive. It was never far from my head that this was a serendipitous connection between two strangers on this spinning rockball we call Earth, but like I mentioned before, isn’t that exactly what makes it magic?

I smiled the whole way home.

*I discovered he played for the Crimson Tide in college, naturally.


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