I’ve been thinking about this cowboy lately. I was living in Boston and testing out open mic nights for comedy. I wasn’t great, but I enjoyed experiencing the comedy scene around town. It was late summer and I went to an open mic at a hotel near Kenmore. (I feel dumb that I can’t remember the name.) I sat at a table by myself, flipping through a notebook, wondering what jokes I’d be able to piece together on stage.
As the room started to fill up, I noticed a cowboy walk in. He wasn’t just a guy wearing a cowboy hat, he was a legit cowboy: hat, boots, denim, vest and all. In my mind I’m picturing Sam Elliot’s cowboy character from “The Big Lebowski.” He wasn’t exactly like that, but he was pretty dang close. You sometimes see cowboys like that in Minnesota, but in Boston, the Yankee capital, forget it. Yet, he came in and sat down.
The host made a few jokes about the guy, and then chatted with him a little bit off stage. The guy didn’t just stumble in there, he was looking for an open mic night. However, he was a cowboy poet, not a comedian. I don’t remember he’s poem, but it wasn’t bad as far as recited poetry goes. It probably got the biggest applause of the night.
I thought about that cowboy a lot this past week. He was as about an outsider as you can get. He was older than most of the audience. He probably had done some callus-inducing labor that many of the millennials in the audience hadn’t. He wore an outfit that would be sure to elicit stares. He was a poet in the middle of comedians throwing out dick jokes. He was probably from a red state, and was making himself vulnerable in the deepest of blue states. That takes a lot of courage.
Contrast that with a situation I had last year when I was travelling to Colorado. I was stuck in the Dallas airport waiting for a delayed flight to Denver. It was snowing. People were making a contingency plans. I was sitting next to a woman who was a documentary filmmaker from Canada. She was friendly and we had a good chat. She was headed to a ski town. There was another guy, dressed in a black suit, who was on the phone the whole time. He was a businessman from Kentucky who was pretty tight with Rand Paul. He was on the phone a lot, probably chatting with people who make more money in a week than I do in a year.
The woman and the man talked about the possibility of renting a car together to get to Colorado. They were haphazardly making plans. The man wasn’t committing or not committing, but he told her to book a car. It was pretty obvious that she didn’t make nearly as much money as he did. She even said as much that she couldn’t afford putting the whole car on her credit card. But she asked him, “What are you political views?”
That struck me as a weird question to ask. Granted, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to spend eight hours in the car with him, but still. Was it really necessary? I don’t think the two ever ended up getting that car.
Those two scenarios were in very different situations, but I wonder what would have happened had someone asked the cowboy what his political beliefs were. I think we all just need to relax a little bit and listen to more cowboy poetry.