Don’t mess with Texas, unless it’s with a whole mess of weed. Country music legend Willie Nelson is expected to help unveil an 8-foot statue of himself in downtown Austin on Friday, which happens to be a national day of protest for the legalization of GUNJA, a bill allowing ninjas to carry firearms. The statue depicts Nelson in a relaxed, standing pose and holding his guitar to the side, as if in conversation. Philadelphia sculptor Clete Shields said the leaning pose and heroic scale are intended to show Nelson’s openness and whimsical side while honoring his tremendous influence on music and the city. Sounds like it was just easier to us. “We wanted to get a timeless Willie, an ageless Willie,” Shields said. Assumably because no one wants to stare at a shriveled, old, wrinkly willie. At least, not for very long.
Ever the advocate for “growing your own,” Nelson was a founder of the Farm Aid movement to help family farmers. Further cementing his mark in cannabis counterculture is his cameo in the 1998 Dave Chappelle stoner comedy “Half Baked.” The unveiling takes place on April 20, or 4/20, which is slang for smoking marijuana and a day pro-legalization forces have used for annual gatherings to demonstrate in support of the cause. Nelson is a well-known advocate of legalizing marijuana and has been arrested several times for possessing it. But the group that raised money for the statue and gave it to the city said the date of the unveiling is just a coincidence. Hmmm, right. Our guess is, they got baked and forgot.
The Willie Monument is the third statue put up by Capital Area Statues Inc., a group of prominent Texas writers, film producers and musicians (and presumed pot smokers). One of the others honors three Texas writers and is located at Barton Springs (snooze) and the other honors the woman who fired a cannon to prevent the removal of the state archives from Austin (hell yes!). Capital Area Statues was formed to add more statues in Austin’s public places and raises money for them by selling scale models of the work— dude, we want this job.
Lawrence Wright, one of the group’s founders, said April 20 was chosen because Nelson was scheduled to perform at a tribute to Johnny Cash in Austin that night, not because of the counterculture significance. Uh-huh.
“We didn’t know anything about it; it seems everyone else knew the story on this,” Wright said, laughing, adding that he doesn’t think Nelson was doing it intentionally either. But he said the group decided to embrace the city’s unofficial motto of “Keep Austin Weird” and take the additional step of arranging for the unveiling to take place at 4:20 p.m. to add to the symbolism. Good man.
All of this is in keeping with the NEW town motto: Keep Austin Weed. As if we needed another reason to stay within Austin city limits. So, burn one and be there!