On the town: The late-night liquor store performance | AspenTimes.com

On the town: The late-night liquor store performance

Rachel Poole
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – After my third consecutive 13-hour work day, my feet scraped the cement with each step. Lifting the weight of my arm to the door handle felt laborious, but despite my beat-up body, my mind fixed itself on something other than sleep: I deserved a drink.

When the lights from Alpine Liquor in Basalt poured into my eyes, I began backpedaling out the door, reverse-zombie-style. But then a familiar Hispanic voice called for me.

“My friend, how are you?” he hollered.

Before I could answer he saw the Raggedy Ann bags under my eyes and practically bounded toward me. The man, originally from El Paso, smiled and slung his arm around me.

“I have just the thing for your tired soul!”

I chuckled, musing at the obviousness of my exhaustion. And, again, before I could reply he scurried out the door and around the corner. In the time it took me to find the cheapest bottle of sauvignon blanc in the wine cooler, the clerk returned with a silver-haired man in his 60s who held an eight-string guitar close to his midriff. He walked to a chair near the register and shoved his wiry pony-tail over his shoulder.

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After introductions were made the man asked, “What would the lady like to hear this evening?”

Unsure of this guy’s ability to carry a tune and my patience level, I mumbled the ever-lame answer, “I don’t know.”

Hector, the dried-out hippie, cleared his cigarette-crusted voice and after a few shaky strums, he smiled and whispered, “It’ll be a Willie Nelson tune for you.”

I failed to recognize the song through the intro, but by the time he hit the lyric and song title “You were always on my mind” his fingers moved with ease along the neck of the guitar, and his voice came out deep and confident. Like an experienced street performer, he rolled from one song into another, and before I knew it, 20 minutes went by and so did several customers who weren’t as engrossed in the performance.

Maybe exhaustion made him sound better than he was, or maybe my soul was desperate for a pick-me-up. Either way the wine went unopened that night, and I fell asleep to a Willie Nelson lullaby.