I once met Kris Kristofferson at Johnny Cash’s house. I’ve written about it and maybe some of you have read of that meeting. I was eighteen years old and didn’t know him from Adam, he wasn’t famous yet. He offered to give me a ride back to the highway (I was hitchhiking to New York) but I declined his offer. Now I want to tell you about my second encounter with the man.
I had spent the last four and a half years of my young life hitchin’ around the country. I left when I was seventeen and came in off the road just before my twenty-second birthday. I had decided to start a new life for myself—a new life in a new town, someplace where I knew no one.
The town’s name and the reason I chose it ain’t important. It was a midsize city. The year was 1972. Got myself an apartment and found a job right off. I was all set to start my life in earnest. No more going from town to town and living off the land. I had got the roaming out of my system.
I went to work every day and then went home every day to an empty apartment. I was never much into watching TV, so I’d read books. I’d go for walks in the woods across the street. I played Frisbee by myself. I had no human contact outside of work. And work wasn’t all that great either, because I worked alone and had limited contact with other people.
I was so lonely I’d sit on the front steps of the apartment building so I could say hi to the other tenants as they came in, hoping they would stop and talk with me. There was a dive bar in the neighborhood and I’d go there in the hopes of a little conversation, man or woman, I didn’t care. But it never happened. It got so that I could really relate to the Hank Williams’ song I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.
You wanna know how bad it got? One day a guy came by selling magazine subscriptions. I invited him into the apartment and sat him down and listened to his spiel, enraptured to hear a human voice. I bought subscriptions to magazines I didn’t even want to keep him there longer.
There’s a special kind of lonesome for the young. When we’re young, we want to be a part of what’s going down. We want to meet up with our friends at the local pub. Get together for get-togethers, for parties, for going to the beach, to laugh and cavort. Maybe not so much in later life, but when we’re young, there’s a fire in us. And whatever that something is, I had it bad. I was so lonesome I could have cried. And on occasion, I did.
Now this is where Kris comes into the story. I was browsing through the bins of a record store one day and came across the album The Silver Tongue Devil and I. I took one look at his picture and thought: What the hell? I know that guy! I remembered sitting across a kitchen table from him as he sang one of his songs for Johnny. He had just written it and he wanted Johnny’s take on it.
I definitely was gonna buy the record, but did the cat have any others? Sure enough, in the same bin I found Border Lord. I took them home and put them on the turntable. From that moment on, the loneliness I’d been living with started to ease. It wasn’t overnight, but the clouds slowly parted as I listened to Kris sing When I Loved Her. When I heard him sing about that wasted guy on the sidewalk, searchin’ for a shrine he never found and wearin’ yesterdays’ misfortunes like a smile, I realized that I wasn’t the only lonely person on earth. I would find myself and get my shit together on that “lonely way back home.”
He sang about the lonesome, the misfits, he sang about me … he sang to me. He brought me sunshine. He got me through my darkness.
Well, long story short: Here I am in my dotage. But in the half century since I wore the grooves off those two records, I’ve never been lonely again. And I think if Kris were to offer me a ride today, I’d take it.
If you’re interested in reading about my first encounter with Kris, you can do so here: