Kinky Friedman’s guitar pick

November 21, 1997: As a memento of our meeting Kinky Friedman gives me an autographed guitar pick, cut from tortoise-shell-patterned plastic. It’s a souvenir of his sometime career as a country singer, founder of the Texas Jewboys (“the only thing Texans and Jews have in common is that they both like to wear their hats indoors”) and composer of such classics as They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Any More, Asshole from El Paso and Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed.

“I thank the Lord we didn’t have a commercial hit,” he says, “or I’d have been playing Disneyland right now instead of being the pointy-headed intellectual novelist that I am.” That’s stretching it a bit, perhaps, but he’s certainly a novelistic success: Road Kill, which he’s here to promote, is the tenth in his series of cult detective novels starring himself. It’s set in the world of country music and also stars Willie Nelson. It’s all based on real people, he says, since he subscribes to the belief that “you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose but you can’t wipe your friends off on your saddle. You’re stuck with these people, so I just put them in the manuscript.”

He says Willie Nelson loves the book and helped promote it in New York. “Of course, he goes around smoking a joint the size of a kosher salami, getting so high he needs a step-ladder to scratch his ass, but beyond that he’s a great American.” He says he himself gave up drugs a decade ago. “When Bob Marley fell out of my left nostril I realized it was time to stop this nasty habit. I did do a lot of Peruvian marching powder in the ’70s. You’ve got to find out what you like and let it kill you, you know. If you can defeat the demon, you’re so much better for it.”

Religion? He calls himself a Jehovah’s Bystander: “We believe in a supreme being but we just don’t want to get involved.” He can be a touch melancholic and introspective, along with the scattergun wisecrackery. Writing comes easily—“so much easier than writing a good song. Writing a good country song is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Just writing the words and music is what I think killed Hank Williams.”

And the guitar-pick? It will bring me, he says, good luck within 48 hours, or I should pass it on so someone else can get the benefit. But it doesn’t take anything like that long to work its magic. The same evening, I win $50 on the lottery.

 

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