!Free ⚖ Chinaberry Sidewalks ♿ From The Acclaimed Musician Comes A Tender, Surprising, And Often Uproarious Memoir About His Dirt Poor Southeast Texas BoyhoodThe Only Child Of A Hard Drinking Father And A Holy Roller Mother, Rodney Crowell Was No Stranger To Bombast From An Early Age, Whether Knock Down Drag Outs At A Local Dive Bar Or Fire And Brimstone Sermons At Pentecostal Tent Revivals He Was An Expert At Reading His Father S Mercurial Moods And Gauging Exactly When His Mother Was Likely To Erupt, And Even Before He Learned To Ride A Bike, He Was Often Forced To Take Matters Into His Own Hands He Broke Up His Parents Raucous New Year S Eve Party With Gunfire And Ended Their Slugfest At The Local Drive In Actual Restaurants Weren T On The Crowells Menu By Smashing A Glass Pop Bottle Over His Own HeadDespite The Violent Undercurrents Always Threatening To Burst To The Surface, He Fiercely Loved His Epilepsy Racked Mother, Who Scorned Boring Preachers And Improvised Wildly When The Bills Went Unpaid And He Idolized His Blustering Father, A Honky Tonk Man Who Took His Boy To See Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, And Johnny Cash Perform Live, And Bought Him A Drum Set So He Could Join His Band At Age Eleven Shot Through With Raggedy Friends And Their Neighborhood Capers, Hilariously Awkward Adolescent Angst, And An Indelible Depiction Of The Bloodlines Crowell Came From, Chinaberry Sidewalks Also Vividly Re Creates Houston In The Fifties A Rough Frontier Town Where Icehouses Sold Beer By The Gallon On Paydays Teeming With Musical Venues From Standard Roadhouses To The Magnolia Gardens, Where Name Brand Stars Brought Glamour To A Place Starved For It Filling Up With Cheap Subdivisions Where Blue Collar Day Laborers Could Finally Afford A House Of Their Own A Place Where Apocalyptic Hurricanes And Pest Infestations Were Nearly RoutineBut At Its Heart This Is Crowell S Tribute To His Parents And An Exploration Of Their Troubled Yet Ultimately Redeeming Romance Wry, Clear Eyed, And Generous, It Is, Like The Very Best Memoirs, Firmly Rooted In Time And Place And Station, Never Dismissive, And Truly Fulfilling
When we arrived unscathed, my father s overly careful about lining up the tires on the concrete driveway strips, barely visible under a half foot of water, and this seems peculiar given what our expedition s been like so far With a hurricane blowing full tilt all around us, sliding to a sideways halt would seem a fitting conclusion to this wild ride But then I m not the one driving.My mother gets out of the car, wades into the house, picks up a broom, and starts sweeping floodwater out the back door Then she pops the refrigerator door open with a screwdriver my father s solution to its broken handle and grabs a can of lukewarm Jax, drains half of it in one glug, wipes her mouth with the back of her wrist, burps loudly and, pointing the can at my father, says, J W Crowell, next time you lay a hand on me, you better make sure you kill me, cause if you don t I ll kill you I don t care if I have to wait till you fall asleep to do it How quickly my mother switches from Pentecostal purist to beer guzzling shrew is one of life s deepest mysteries My mother was born in June, the seventh of Solomon Taylor and Katie Lee Willoughby s eight children Addie Cauzette arrived with the right side of her body partially paralyzed, the result according to an old country doctor who didn t examine her until she was three of a stroke suffered in her mother s womb So from before birth, a pattern was set by which polio, acute dyslexia, epilepsy, the sudden death of an infant son, and a subsequent case of whacked out nerves would join the lengthy list of maladies assaulting young Cauzette well before her twentieth birth day In the seventy four years and nearly four months marking her time on what she called this crooked old Earth, my mother rarely drew a healthy breath Still, to say that life wasn t fair for this awkwardly glib yet deeply religious woman would fail to take into account her towering instinct for survival Thanks to this primal urge to thrive, she would leave this world at peace with the knowledge that physical existence was something for which she was born ill equipped And I honor my mother by saying that it wasn t for lack of effort that an accommodation between her sensitive soul and the poorly fitting body she wore was so very hard to come by The previous fall and winter, my mother had experienced two failed pregnancies I couldn t seem to carry a baby no than fifteen minutes, she told me And your daddy swore up and down I was losin em on purpose But she did finally manage to complete a full term pregnancy, and Tex Edward was born on January 27, 1944 He died thirty seven hours later.Staring into some vacant yet familiar dreamscape, where the sharp pain of thirteen miscarriages is softened by visions of a heavenly playground for lost children, my mother, sifting through fractured images that documented her baby s all too brief passage through this world, introduced me to my brother time and again Oh, he was beautiful, Rodney He had a full head of curly black hair and the bluest eyes you ever seen While I only got to hold him for a minute or two, I can still feel him to this day They had me knocked out most of the time, but I could hear him cryin off in the next room They said I almost died, too, and for a long time I wished I had They never brought him back and nobody told me nothin Admiring our work, I remarked innocently to my mother, when she walked up to have a look, that I thought my row was prettier than Dabbo s Is not, he said Simultaneously, the hoe in his hand came down on the top of my head, splitting my scalp open.All the sounds of a normal spring afternoon chirpy chatter and the lazy traffic silenced themselves, and Norvic Street suddenly seemed like a scene from that science fiction movie The Day the Earth Stood Still.My mother s eyes commanded me to remain upright and conscious until she got to me I cast a glance in Dabbo s direction an inquiry of sorts, to confirm if he d actually just smashed me over the head with the sharp end of a garden hoe And if so, why But his eyes were two television test patterns advertising the end of another broadcasting day The Star Spangled Banner had been played and the sign off prayer delivered No clues were forthcoming from my unpredictable little friend.When my brain completed cross referencing my reaction with Dabbo s and my mother s, it finally registered that the warm red sticky stuff on my left hand was my very own blood, and my scream could be heard in Beaumont He killed me with a brain concus sion He killed me with a brain concussion Dabbo killed me with a brain concussion Donnie Schott, whom we affectionately nicknamed Shotzie or, depending on the situation, Shotz Mo Dilly Ack, suffered from a violent strain of cerebral palsy In the parlance of the times, he was a total spastic, Flailing arms, spidery legs, misshapen speech Shotzie didn t so much talk as bray loudly and the grandfather of all protruding chests drew attention away from his soulful blue eyes Together with these afflictions, his close resemblance to a blond Elvis Presley, circa 1954, seemed a cruel joke Life wasn t remotely fair for this sensitive soul.His parents, whom I saw but once, and then from a distance, constructed small living quarters in the back of their garage, where their son, it seemed to his gridiron crazed cohorts, lived in exile Cot, sink, commode, desk, chair, and transistor radio gave it the feel of a jail cell But for his inclusion in our continuing run of fun and games, it seemed that Donnie Schott lived a life void of human interaction My parents were drained of their color for months My mother lost twenty pounds she didn t have to spare, and my father went through cartons of Pall Malls like gumdrops I could practically hear eggshells crunching whenever they walked into a room with me in it The funny thing is, I felt calm inside, even oddly restored Overdosing on barbiturates caused a shift in my perception The pain of losing Annie was no less prevalent, but I knew it would pass And, that it probably wouldn t be anytime soon, no longer seemed impossible to bear. I have long admired Rodney Crowell A country traditionalist country shouldn t sound like pop music , he was heavily influenced by Townes Van Zandt much like Steve Earle was His sound has roots in Hank Williams, Johnny Cash whose daughter he was married to for awhile , Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins all people I grew up listening to along with a lot of blues, rock and roll, and jazz My family has always had eclectic musical tastes.Crowell s memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks reads as if you re sitting out on the porch with him on a Texas summer night, swatting mosquitoes and drinking beer Crowell is a great storyteller and I found the tale of his parents and their stormy relationship, and his childhood growing up hardscrabble in Houston both familiar and fascinating I m ten years younger than he is, but well I remember the mosquito trucks, the encephalitis scares, the holy roller preachers, and running around the neighborhood getting into trouble This book is worth a read for that alone.There is a deeper message throughout this book which is never preachy That forgiveness is possible and that even the most complicated relationships can be redeemed I learned some things from Mr Crowell that I won t soon forget. This is one of my favorite memoirs Rodney Crowell writes about himself and his parents as they are as we all are flawed human beings There were places I laughed out loud, and places I cringed His childhood in the Houston area was grim, but not without love and warmth, and reading about it gave me a whole new appreciation for the music of a man I only knew as Johnny Cash s son in law Crowell knows something that some of us will never learn holding a grudge against people who have done the best they can with what they had to work with doesn t hurt anybody but you. Chinaberry Sidewalks is Rodney Crowell s tribute to his parents, who despite their violence and abuse during his childhood elicited his love and appreciation While the book is fairly well written with frequent cultural allusions and lyrical wording, Crowell does overwrite, i.e facing an eternity of roasting like a marshmallow in the bonfires of hell, congregation members stew in the juices of our own demise and hope the preacher will hurl a Hail Mary that saves our bacon Initially, as he describes J.W and Cauzette Crowell, his matter of factness seems unrealistic, but he s clearly making a choice that accepts how his family contributed to the man he became In an interview about the book, he says, I decided early on that I could tell the truth and really reveal in the first seven pages that my father was capable of being an out and out bastard But I knew if I were just to tell you, the reader, that, it would be self serving on my part and designed to make you feel sorry for me.He also says, I don t think my childhood was bad , he said I think it was perfect Crowell and Addie Cauzette Willoughby met in 1941 at a Roy Acuff concert in Western Kentucky He came from white trash, Cauzette explained His grandfather had sex with daughters, sisters, granddaughters, neighbors wives, and the odd farm animal The lack of a formal education and a degree was a source of constant shame that my father was never able to overcome, Crowell writes, even though his father eventually earned the rank of superintendent at the Mid Gulf Construction Company in Houston and his level of expertise in the construction business made him equal to any civil engineer coming out of Texas AM or Rice Cauzette suffered a stroke while still in the womb, so from before birth, a pattern was set by which polio, acute dyslexia, epilepsy, the sudden death of an infant son, and a subsequent case of whacked out nerves would join the lengthy list of maladies assaulting the young Cauzette well before her 20th birthday my mother rarely drew a heathy breath Revival meetings and Holy Roller preachers help her stay sane despite J.W s beatings, and when she finally stands up to him, Rodney is elated The title comes from the three young Chinaberry trees he and his mother plant along the sidewalk edge in front of their four bedroom bungalow on Norvic Street in Jacinto City, TX They name the trees for them selves and only his thrives.Crowell cares for both of his parents in their final days and equates his feelings for his four daughters with his love for his grandmother and Guy Clark Of his book, he says, If I was looking for your sympathy vote, my book was going to fail, Crowell said I didn t want you to feel sorry for me I wanted you to love them Rodney Crowell has conducted a respectable if unspectacular career as a progressive country jack of all trades, writing, performing and producing commercial hits and critically respected works for himself and such collaborators as Emmylou Harris and Rosanne Cash.That Chinaberry Sidewalks all but ignores his professional career might be a letdown for its most natural audience Crowell fans looking for insights into his craft, accounts of life on the road and in the studio, his take on his 13 year marriage to Cash.Music still figures prominently His parents met at a Roy Acuff concert, and when Rodney was a toddler, his father, J.W., took him to a Hank Williams show the doomed star s penultimate performance There was an outing to see Jerry Lee Lewis and his future father in law Johnny Cash, and Rodney later played the drums in his father s bar band. An honest, humorous, and sometimes heartbreaking memoir of a rough childhood and adolescence The author is a gifted storyteller, which he has put to use as a notable country song writer I sometimes detected a tendency to overwrite, but never strongly enough to pull me away from the story. I saw this book when browsing the newly added ebooks to my libraries electronic book collection, and since it was available I checked it out I never really cared for him as a singer, but his song writing was what I thought made him noteworthy It didn t hurt that he had been married to Roseann Cash The first half of the book is written rhythmically like his songs Then all of the sudden it seems like someone else started writing his story This was very disappointing to me Every once in awhile you would see his rhythm come out in a sentence or two.Hopefully it is okay to quote two excerpts from the book that made me take a few extra moments to absorb Remembering the intensity with which my father could tear through ten straight fast songs evokes images of seeing Jerry Lee Lewis perform at the Magnolia Gardens Bandstand, the three acre open air dance hall and beer garden owned by the mayor of Channelview, Texas Johnny Cash spoke the language of common people with uncommon eloquence This book is worth reading. Excellent memoir by Grammy Award winning singer songwriter Rodney Crowell The focus of this book is not really him it s his parents and his growing up with them in Houston in the late 50 s and early 60 s In many ways it was what we might call a dysfunctional family today There was wife beating, drinking, and other kinds of things that should have made for a pretty miserable childhood for Rodney He doesn t see it that way though While very candid about his parents shortcomings ad his own , as a man his love and respect for both his mother and father shine through in his writing.and his writingthis is not the incoherent ramblings of some celebrity bemoaning his childhood This is written as literature filled with metaphor and written in a style that is actually beautiful to read If Rodney ever gets tired of writing hit songs, he can always write prose I can t say enough about how wonderfully written and what a beautiful story it is of his early life and the lives of two very imperfect people who he loved until they died. Mental note to self as I begin this review don t get too bogged down in exposition Chances are pretty high that if you don t know who Rodney Crowell is, you re most likely not reading this book or review For the mildly curious who might want some level of background before making a purchase decision, I ll offer that Crowell is a songwriter and performer of top notch caliber He began his career in the early seventies, and found a good deal of success on the pop and country charts before settling into a late model career shift that has found him peddling his considerable storytelling wares in the Americana and alt country regions of the modern Pop Mart He s a truly gifted guy, and he often writes from an autobiographical perspective, which makes this book offering from him resonate like a long form version of one of his recent albums, wistful and heartfelt, filled with the life lessons that can only be seen when one takes the long road of memory back to make sense of it all.If you re looking for the full on autobiographical treatment here, you re looking in the wrong place Crowell doesn t touch upon his professional life until the end of the book, and then only briefly in the context of the stories being recounted He instead focuses on the memories of his childhood in East Houston, out near the Ship Channel and its toxic stew of industrial sludge that seemed to permeate every aspect of life in the region I ll admit that I have always had a fascination with Crowell the performer simply because he hails from a region of Houston that I am personally familiar with, myself having lived at the intersection of Telephone Road and South Wayside for a number of years when I was younger His vivid tales of childhood in 1950s and 1960s era southeast Houston ring true to these ears for the simple reason that I personally know other people who can speak to similar stories.The real core of the book revolves around the complex relationship between Crowell and his parents, J.W and Cauzette Both were prone to hard drink and hard violence, and it s obvious from the outset that we re in for a tough ride as we wind down a memory lane filled with alcohol fueled outbursts of beatings and baitings, guns, and the ever present lack of money Through it all, it s obvious that Crowell loves his parents with a fierce devotion, and the payoff comes in the final chapters, reading like an extended love letter to his mother and father To his credit, Crowell avoids the syrupy sweetness that often accompanies such reminiscences and goes straight to the heart of the matter.Like Rodney Crowell the songwriter, Rodney Crowell the author brings to life a snippet of time for us to examine in detail His prose is deft and to the point, his command of language fluid and descriptive It s a short book at just over 250 pages, but well worth the read.Coda This is an old review that I plucked out of the mists of time to revamp a bit after I pulled Chinaberry Sidewalks off of the shelf to leaf through it a bit A bit of autobiographical exposition is needed When we moved from Houston to central Texas back in 1996 it was a sea change for my whole family It was a bit of culture shock even though Houston and Austin are only separated by 160 miles or so As far as my musical tastes go, I was lucky enough to find that Austin radio was WAY better than Houston radio At that time, the old KGSR was still in business, playing a variety of sounds with an emphasis on what would come to be called Americana music as well as a focus on local talent I..we as a family.found ourselves getting interested in a whole new musical palette that stands firm in our collection In 2003, Rodney Crowell released an album called Fate s Right Hand It was one of his first forays away from mainstream country and into the Americana world, and it contained a single called Earthbound My daughter, who was 7 going on 8 years old, latched onto that song and it became her anthem, a record she often listens to to this day It s a sweet song about the turning of life s wheel and the simple joy of being alive and having one s feet firmly planted on the solid ground Good lessons for us all Carry on, Rodney, and thanks for the music. This book begins like a Hunter S Thompson novel The four beer blitzed couples dancing in the cramped living room of my parents shotgun duplex were wearing on my nerves In particular, I didn t like the sound of their singing along with my prized Hank Williams 78s Just like a Hank Williams song, we are treated to a confessional memoir filled with heartache, poverty, careless decisions, infidelity, substance abuse and pathos In southeast Texas, Rodney survives torrential rain and violence He grows into a young man intent on getting out, distancing himself from his past until he finally stops running and reclaims the wisdom and power of the little boy who escaped from his family s tar paper shack Once Rodney stops running, he reclaims a lifetime of love and beauty hidden in the darkness.