Living Life Alive & Free



In 1982, Jimmie Ray Swagger and I were sitting in the backstage area of the Houston Astrodome. It was two days after he had played a sold out show, but we were still there hanging out with the staff who were setting up for annual livestock show events. We had not really slept between all the coke and pills and booze, but that was to be expected with Jimmie Ray. Actually, neither of us remember much of those two days, but some weeks later, I found a piece of paper in my jacket pocket. It was a flyer for the livestock show folded neatly in four, maybe too neatly. When I opened it, it stated that Jimmie Ray was hiring me to write his biography. Woohoo! The paper was signed by both Jimmie Ray and myself, witnessed by one Bobby Bob Hodgkins, and notarized by Canter Folsom III, Public Notary in Harris County, Texas, with his circular raised seal and all. Very official looking paper even though it was quite liquor stained.

At that point in my life, I hadn’t written much more than a few love poems to lucky ladies who were lucky enough to never get them. And oh yeah, I had also started a movie script for a horror movie titled The Nose Rippers, about a group of monsters who came out of an oil well that dug too deep and quickly got addicted to cocaine, especially the cocaine remnants in the noses of humans. So they went around eating noses. The idea was to have a lotta people having their noses eaten by the monsters. Real horror like. Actually, I’m not sure if I just thought of it or actually ever wrote any of it down. What the hell. I wasn’t any sort of writer. Hell, I hadn’t even written a line for Jimmie Ray who had pretty much took anything half clever anyone said and put it in his songs. Guess in all those long nights I never even got to say anything worth putting on a song.

What was I talking about? Oh right, so when I’d done found that notarized legalized paper, the one that said “Me Jimmie Ray Swagger of sound-like sort of mind and soul, do here begot to Francisco Frankie Lopez Gomez the hereby rights to write my official biography in official goddamn real like book form with paper and cover and all the accoutrements, period period,” well, I right away called Jimmie Ray’s house in Dallas, but the gal who answered said he wasn’t there. Then I tried his house in LA, not there either (of course, fuck LA, though that house has the best fuckin-A swimming pool, damn that shit is sweet, exact replica of the playboy mansion one, I’m told). Then I tried his house in Baton Rouge, and also no luck. Now that is a nice house. That was my favorite, back in the day, big porch, right facing the swamp, we were practically huffing Off! spray to keep the mosquitos at bay, had to get that shit in our bloodstream! Another nice thing about that house was that it was far enough from main street USA, that only the know knows knew the know to get there. Man, we loved to go there and spend a week. Always fun hunting in that swamp. And the po-po always friendly, never gave us any grief about loud music or naked people or drugs, hell sheriff whats his name even partied with us on several occasions. Not like those dicks in LA with all their dick-swinging attitude. Anyway, I couldn’t find him there either and wasn’t about to call the NY apartment after the last shitshow there. So I did a couple of bumps and gave in and called his manager Brett Boufandough, who was the worst person to ask anything about Jimmie Ray ‘cause he would just talk shit about how much it was going to cost and it all became about money. And Jimmie Ray for all his shortcomings, money was never one of them. I was the same way, I think that’s partly why we got along for so many years. Money never meant shit, except shit to get shit with. But Buffonduck, well, you know managers, that’s all he could think about, money, money. I called him to ask him about Jimmie Ray and ended up getting in a fight with him about some shit I can’t even remember now, but I do remember yelling at him that I was going to write this book and would show the world what a fuckin-A dirtbag he was and then I told him Jimmie Ray would kick him in the ass the minute he read what I had to say. Oh yeah, ‘cause I knew somethings about Buffondog that Jimmie Ray didn’t care enough to remember in the morning, bad shit I tell you, really bad shit, the bad shit that will make the hair on the back of your hair stand on end. Actually I don’t even remember any specifics about the dude, which is probably why I never had said anything, but I knew deep in my bones that he was a creep of the worst kind and was probably, fuck that, I was certain he was stealing money from Jimmie Ray. But if I ever saw him do anything, I don’t remember, you know, we were pretty fucked up most of the time. But you know, I knew, and when I hung up on him, I had the feeling he had heard me. It was very stressful I tell you. I was sweating when I hung up. So I did another bump and then went looking for the Xanax, but fuck I was out. So I called Doc Holiday (that wasn’t his real name, you follow?) see if he had some, and sure enough he did. So I got on the Trans Am and blazed 45 to 59 all the fuckin’ way to Chimney Rock (this is all in Houston), and when I get to his fuckin’ mansion, lo and behold, guess who’s there? “Jimmie Ray Swagger as I live and breathe. I was just looking for you man!” I said. But he has been here a few days already and is just sitting there strumming one of Docs old guitars and he looks up at me with two dots on his eyes, and I can see he can use a booster, so I offer him my bullet and he smiles and says “Oh yeah,” and takes the bullet, but instead of using it how, you know, how the way its meant to be used to get that perfect dose, he opens the top and pours the whole fuckin’ thing on a mirror on the table and does a massive line, barely left anything for me. I had to rush to get to it before Marilynn, who I saw right away bee-lining nose first for what was left. But I was able to pull it away before she got to it. She then begged me for some, and damn, if she wasn’t sexy in those gold leme hot pants and rainbow tank top, so I split the rest with her and there goes a gram in 3 lines. Doc is laughing at us and doing bumps from his own bullet. Marilynn is feeling good and I think she’s coming on to me, but I came here for the Xanax, right Doc? And Doc hands me a bottle and I hand him a bill and open it and take two, and by then Marilynn is back with Jimmie Ray which is good, ‘cause he likes her. Things were as they should ‘cause if I started off with her I don’t know what Jimmie Ray would do. Probably go find another girl, he never needed to go far for that, except I think he really liked this Marilynn, I mean he did end up marrying her (3rd wife), but I didn’t know that at the time. So I go, “Hey Jimmie Ray, check this out,” and I hand him the notarized paper and he reads it and he’s feeling good from that giant line he just did, and he laughs and says “If I can’t remember doing it, it must have been a good decision.”

And we toasted to it, with some fine rye there on the table and Marilynn toasted too and Doc toasted and we all got toasted and more toasted and that piece of paper got some more liquor and sweat stains on it than what it already had from that night at the Astrodome, and I don’t remember much from that night, but I do remember toasting to the righteous book I was going to write about Jimmie Ray Swagger. Hot damn!

But then his agent got wind of the plan. I think I mentioned it when I called him that one time and yelled at him. Yeah, that’s right, I told him I was going to drag his fat rhinestone covered ass through the dirt with it. Prolly not a good idea in retrospect, but hell, he has it all coming to him. Fuckin’ Brett Bufondough, if that even is his fuckin’ name. Come to think of it, I don’t think it is, but that’s what we all call him, so I take it as real enough. Well, Mr. Buffondoh didn’t buffonlike the buffonbook idea. I wonder why the fuck no, right? And he went to Jimmie Ray and gave him a whole long letter detailing the negative aspects of the plan. Mostly having to do with Jimmie Ray’s fucked up life and how bad that would look all done in on black and white. One thing is the tabloids, but another thing is a scholarly thing like a real book book. You know what I mean. Then Mr. Buffondick, to top it all off, also went and told Jimmie Ray’s first wife, Marie, and his second wife, Mona (damn, I just done realize they all have M names… gonna have to look into that). He also told the label people, and pretty much every dickhead who thought Jimmie Ray needed to shape up in his life ’cause record sales this and record sales that, and how is he going to pay all the alimony and keep up his contracts and blah blah when you have a book of the sort they thought I was going to write (that I’m prolly going to write, ‘cause to be fair, there ain’t no other book to write about Jimmie Ray but a low down, sex and drug crazed volume). Well, the thing here is that, they didn’t mind so much someone writing about Jimmie Ray’s life, but they said, and this is what blew my fuckin-A mind away, they said that it should be done by a PROPER writer who could turn sleaze into sexy and debauchery into dollars! Can you believe it? As if sleaze ain’t sexy all its own and debauchery is always instant money, look at Jimmie Ray! He’s never lacked for a penny, and although not so much now, at the time this was all going down, he was living the life! Drugs, girls, cars, boats, houses, fuckin’ all of it. But the damn goons said they wanted a good book that would help his career, not sink it, and they all had letters with details and charts and graphs and numbers and math and fancy words and all that crap that they said positively proved that if I wrote the book, it would be the end of his career. So I told them to shove their papers deep into their buttholes, and that Jimmie Ray said he wanted me to write it and I would only back down if Jimmie Ray himself asked me to not write the damn thing. I mean, we were buds, you know? Good buds of many long long nights. So even with the paper, if he said no, then it was no, I wasn’t gonna do it against his will. And then I ripped the phone off the wall and threw it out the window and went and smoked a big fat joint laced with PCP like my dad Bobby liked to do and I ran naked through the ranch, ‘cause I was out at a ranch I used to have back then, nothing big, about 100 acres of woods that edged the river, with an old double wide parked in the middle. Pretty out of the way, no neighbors anywhere, got it for a bag and an old pistol I used to have, not a bad deal. Anyway, I ran through the ranch, hollered at the moon and passed out.

Some time later, months? years? Who the fuck knows. But I know it was Monday night ‘cause I watching Dallas getting whipped by the damn Raiders like a bunch of roaches on my porch when, who the fuck knocks on the door, well damn if it’s not Jimmie Ray and Marilynn and a bunch of other dudes and gals I didn’t know. And they are carrying several suitcases. One suitcase had some sound and video recording equipment that Paco (or whatever his name was) proceeded to presently start setting up without even a hello to me or nothing. And Jimmie Ray says, “Well, dang, brother, everybody is telling me you want to write a book about my life. Why you have to go tell them instead of coming directly to me, bud?” And I’m sitting then puzzled by the whole thing, my tongue hanging out. And Jimmie continues, “It don’t matter, what matters is that every reasonable person I know tells me it is a terrible idea, but you know me, when I’m getting that many rights, I just know they gotta be wrong. So damn boy, I’m here to record that damn book.” And then he turned to Pete (or whatever his name was), and said, “Hey man, hit record and don’t stop ‘til the ambulance comes.”

Then they started opening suitcases and pulling out shit, several jars of pills, a sheet of about 100 hits of blue moon acid, a bag of Texas mushrooms, a couple of eight-balls of Miami coke, a little baggie with what he called “the cleanest meanest crank you’ll ever try,” some Colombian sinsay, a ball of black tar dope, a bayou blaster, spikes, straws, a stack of girly mags, from Playboy to Oui to Skank to Butt Dirt, one suitcase was stock full of bottles of Cuervo Gold and mescal though at least one had broken in travel and the whole thing stank like a bar floor. He was prepared to camp out for a while. “And there is more in the car,” he said laughing. Anna (or whatever her name was) was still bringing cases and boxes from the cars. Well we popped some acid, and did a couple of lines, and Jimmie Ray started talking and we ate a bunch of mushrooms and ate some mother earth pills, and got naked and ran around the woods, and Jimmie Ray kept talking, and we took some X and smoked some PCP and fucked in the river and Jimmie Ray kept on talking, and we shot speed that blew smoke out of my ears and I had to lay down while the roof flew off and Jimmie Ray kept talking, and shoved anything and everything we could find into our bodies in new and never again tried ways, and we fucked in every part of the ranch and every part of everyone who was there, reaching uncountable orgasms never before invented ecstasies of vision and sounds and touch and fuck that smell is all I could remember when I woke up, and Jimmie Ray just kept on talking and talking and talking. And like I said, when I woke up, it was several week later and all I remembered was the smell.

When I woke up I was alone at the ranch and every inside surface of my house was painted babyshit green, the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the couch, the chairs, the coffee table, the magazines on the table, the turntable, the speakers, the paintings on the damn babyshit green walls. All of it babyshit green, like I was living inside a baby diaper, everything except a stack of TDK and Sony video and audio tapes right there in the middle of the room, like a salvation from the babyshit. I looked at those, packed them into my car and drove back to my house in Houston to check them out, I had to get out of that fuckin’ babyshit green scene.

I’d be lying if said I’ve never jerked off to those tapes, some of the stuff in those tapes is just, well, you know. Actually years later I tried to sell some, but by then, Jimmie Ray’s career was in the dumps and no one cared to pay the price I knew they were worth, plus by the late 90s the tapes looked a bit dated, you catch my drift? Lotta bush and bellies in 1982.

So back at home in the Heights, as I was going through the tapes, it just hit me, I had the full load of Jimmie Ray spunk straight from his shaft AND his mouth on both audio and video, well, I knew right then and there, that I HAD to write that damn book!

By then it had been a while, I don’t know what year it was, much later. Maybe 85, 88? Hell, all those years blend in together real nice like, but I do know it took a while between the Astrodome and the tapes, and then I had to spend a few years going through the tapes and by then Jimmie Ray was starting to do state fairs and shit shows ‘cause country music was getting all wimpified and sounded more like  fuckin’ disco than anything else, fuckin’ drum machines! Anyhow, I had to go through three hundred and thousand hours of straight taping, most of it with Jimmie Ray nonstop jabbering on about a million things. There were a few moments when he passed out in mid-sentence, but then right as you thought he was done for, he’d snap back to it and finish the thought. Seems like everyone took turns sleeping but Jimmie Ray I don’t think stopped talking for more than 2 or 3 hours total in all that time. That means in about two weeks of straight taping, he never slept. The motherfucker was up the whole time. How is that possible you say? Well, fuck, better living through chemistry I guess. I’m pretty sure, Lonnie and Elise (or whatever their names were) were doctors or nurses or some fuckin’ drug experts ‘cause they always knew exactly what to give him to keep him going. And yeah, there was a lot of gibberish and incomprehensible mysteries being espoused by Mr. Swagger, but man, it was a fuckin’ grade A, XXX, made in America, midnight special, fuckin’ gold, no diamond fuckin’ gold mine. I had to do 3 stints in rehab during those years just so I could be sober enough to go through the damn tapes, ‘cause I tell you, they will draw you to sex and drugs and drinking the way, John Travolta makes you want to punch someone in the face. Fuckin’ Urban Cowboy my ass. Urban Disco duck is more like it. If I ever meet him, I will fuckin’ put a fist right into that flabby nose of his, then bite it off. I bet it’s full of that high class Hollywood blow. Just watch me. See just thinking about him makes me want to punch someone or something. Wait up. Ok, I just put a whole through my drywall again, fuck it, I better go get a drink and some blow. See, even thinking about those tapes makes me want to fix and fuck.

Anyway, so I spend all this blood and sweat and tears organizing the damn tapes, by which I mean I listened to them and tried to make sense of what the fuck is going on, the video helped a ton and there a lot of hushing from Jimmie Ray ‘cause as fucked up as the whole thing was, he never seemed to lose sight that we were recording for his bio and made sure everyone kept the fuckin’ sounds down even as he was talking about growing up in Oklahoma while getting blown by someone while simultaneously going down on Marilynn. Watching and listening to those recordings, that’s when I realized the true genius of Jimmie Ray Swagger.

But then I got that fuckin’ letter from his lawyer, Jersey T McMillan, telling me that Jimmie Ray was demanding all the tapes back. What? Why the fuck, right? There was no explanation, nothing. Send all tapes over and desist from writing any book about Jimmie Ray Swagger, said the letter (I mean that was the last sentence ‘cause I couldn’t make heads or butts from all the lawyer talk before that. However, I understood enough, Jimmie Ray was denying me permission to write the damn book.

I was pissed off at first, but several bottles and joints and lines and pills later, I finally got in the Jimmie Ray mindspace and I understood exactly what the letter meant. Like he had said to me in Vegas when he hit the jackpot on a slot machine and we had us an all junkie and prostitute party at the hotel, “Don’t do anything you don’t want to do, and do everything they don’t want you to do.” It was clear as the light that was creeping in through the towels I had for curtains. So that’s why, even without his permission, I decided to go ahead and write his now “unauthorized” biography. ‘Cause fuck it, I don’t need the tapes, I’ve seen them and listened to them hundreds of times back then and have re-ran them in my head over the past 30 years or whatever long it was since I turn returned them to Jimmie Ray and his fuckin’ lawyer. No worries, it is all encased right here in my awesome airtight memory cells which by the way are now super enhanced by these Mexican memory pills I’ve been taking, and you know what? In my mind, the tapes now run even more real than the real actual tapes run, ‘cause those gotta be all dated and shit.

So tighten your seatbelts, boys and girls, ‘cause this is going to be the worse best ride of your life, and if after reading this you don’t think Jimmie Ray Swagger is the hero America needs right now, the hero with the vision, or visions I should say, the hero with the REAL freedom, not that fake freedom bullshit they sell you on TV or on your baseball caps and t-shirts, no, I mean the real freedom to be free, free from the shackles that bind us, free from the machine, free from the… hell, you know what I mean, you know exactly what I mean, FUCKIN’ FREE. Where was I going with this? Fuck it, just grab a sit down and as soon as I go get some more ding dong and another bottle of bourbon, I’ll tell you all about Jimmie Ray Swagger.