Friday, April 4, 2008

The Great Cheesecake Weekend

All of this talk about cheesecake reminded me of this story.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was living in San Angelo, TX . I was in a very unhappy marriage and working a job that could have driven anybody crazy. The thing that saved any sanity I might have had was the community of people I found at the Kerrville Folk Festival. These were people who lived life on their own terms and I really had never seen that done before. Kerrville in those days was the great equalizer. When a person is covered in a couple of days worth of caliche dust, it’s pretty much impossible to tell if he or she is a pauper or a millionaire. Nobody much cared either. After the second year, I started camping with the same people every year. One cold, rainy weekend we named our camp ‘Camp Stupid’ as in ‘just shut up and camp, Stupid’. For the first four or five years that I attended the festival, I did not keep in contact with anyone during the rest of the year. It was always a surprise to see who showed up, who didn’t and who was the new Kerrvirgin.

About ‘92 or ’93 I started going to the three day festival on Labor Day weekend. It is officially called the Wine and Music Festival but most of us just say Little Fest. In ’94, my daughters and I got to the ranch and did not see anyone we knew. We put some pup tents in the middle of what was then the meadow and before long some friends came and fetched us. I remember a couple of guys just pulling the stakes up and carrying the tents down the hill and putting them under the tree where they were camped. One of them kept saying that he could not wait for me to meet his girlfriend. This was mildly surprising since I had met his wife the previous spring and I was a little bit wary of meeting a woman who would be his girlfriend. As it turned out, the girlfriend was close friends with the other tent carrier for whom I have the ultimate respect. We became close friends very quickly. Neither of us can figure out to this day what she was doing with that guy. He turned out to be quite a character, a shifty one at that.

A few weeks later, I drove to Abilene, TX to a Bernice Lewis concert. It turned out that Ol’ Shifty was the promoter. (He could be several posts or one long one but we won’t go there now.) He started insisting that I come to New Braunfels the next weekend for a Halloween Party that my friend, with whom he was now living, was having. He got my phone number and they called me up and talked me into coming. It did not take a lot of talking on their parts since by then I was needing to get away from home and from my job as often as possible. My friend, A, was living in an old catalog house on a farm on the outskirts of town. She was house mating with D and they were raising their daughters together. The three younger girls had a room in the attic which A and D had remodeled themselves. This included hanging drywall and everything. I did not think that there was anything that D did not think that she could do. She seemed to think that anyone could do just about anything if they put their mind to it. The oldest daughter had a room to herself in the front of the house. When I showed up with my girls, there were six girls and three women. That’s a lot of estrogen in one house.

I went to the party and maybe someday I’ll write about the Halloween parties we had in that old house. This was the beginning of my almost monthly visits to New Braunfels. It became my haven in a lot of ways. Yes, there is a tie in to cheesecake.

I always tried to take something special for everyone when I went down there. Sometimes it would be a special bottle of wine or rum. One time it was croissants for breakfast. One particular weekend lives in our memories as the Great Cheese Cake Weekend. I made a huge cheesecake and we polished it off pretty quick. D got it in her head that we needed another one. She and I went to HEB and got the ingredients. As soon as it was baked, we put it in the freezer. About three hours after the first one was finished, we started on the second. D was still talking about my cheesecakes the last time I saw her, just a few hours before she took her leave of this realm. I had taken her one a few weeks before while she could still enjoy it. It seems that beating cancer was the one thing she didn’t think she could do.

The house came from a catalog
So many years before
Every time I drove up
I found an open door
We’d meet there in the summer
Sometimes in the fall
Two sisters, four daughters
They welcomed us all
New Braunfels days mmm mm New Braunfels days

A smile of lights
Over a makeshift stage
That tall Canadian sang
Fairies danced
Upon the grass
I wished that night
Would never pass
New Braunfels days mmm mm New Braunfels days

We were howling at the moon
The train whistle blew in tune
New Braunfels days

Now those daughters are grown
They're out on their own
The sisters both have moved away
Sometime I drive
South on 35
See that old house up on that hill

New Braunfels days
I start thinking about
New Braunfels days
I’m always thinking about
New Braunfels days
I love thinking about
New Braunfels days


Since I don't have an uploadable version of that, the soundtrack for this post is Lowry Olafson's
Blanket In the Cold

1 comment:

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I always love hearing your stories, and I know how important Kerrville is to you.

Please send cheesecake, or better yet, bring one and stay awhile.