When Chris Gray rolled back into town after 10+ years in Austin to work at Houston Press, my colleague, frequent co-conspirator, and editor John Nova Lomax called and asked if I'd take Gray out and show him the local ropes. It was Gray's first night in town, July 7, 2007.
So I saddled up, drove down to the Press offices and picked up my young charge/soon-to-be boss. I've got to admit, the skinny punk with the mohawk doesn't always make the best first impression and he did not look like any vision of a newspaper executive I'd ever come across. The main thing I noticed as we headed toward West Alabama Ice House is that this guy smokes. A lot.
My faith was braced when I realized he drank Lone Star. And he wasn't doing it for hipster cred, he was doing it because he likes Lone Star. If you didn't like Lone Star or think it was cool to be drinking it, you could kiss his ass. He didn't have to say it, I could just tell. An admirable trait in a guy, in my book. I felt better about the transition.
We took in the scene at WAIH for a while, then drifted by Under the Volcano, my local bar basically. At that time, UtV didn't sell Lone Star so Gray tried a Saint Arnold's. Another milestone in his re-initiation into ways and mores of the Bayou City. Don't think it was his favorite, but he was game.
From there we hit Blanco's open mike night. Judging from the stares we got, I suspect that may have been the first mohawk those folks had ever seen. I'm not entirely certain whether they thought he and I were a couple -- a very odd couple albeit -- who'd strayed in by accident or if we were just two complete unsuspecting dumbasses. A few regulars seemed a bit on edge, slightly malevolent. I liked it. This guy was shaping up already. I knew Blanco's would figure in our future doing what we do, and I liked the way he was handling himself and scaring the shit out of the natives.
And so began one of the best working relationships of my long life. Since that night, he and I have made the rounds more than I care to think about and have literally written hundreds of thousands of words the past half decade, relying on each other for proofreading and helpful ideas -- and for humor in the darker moments. So far, it seems to have clicked.
He comes back to work in February. It's a miracle. I can't wait.
Chris Gray Day, a benefit to assist with Chris' medical bills is this Saturday at Continental Club. You can purchase your tickets online or at the door.