Wednesday, April 3, 2013



 On a typical Sunday morning, if I’m not going to church, I usually go to my modest little chicken house (one rooster and four hens) and get my breakfast (three eggs) which I augment with a banana and a bowl of oatmeal) and settle before the TV for “CBS Sunday Morning.” Over the years, I have become addicted to this show.  It is upbeat, entertaining and manages to give me a handle on what is going on “out there.” It used to always leave me with a sense of well-being and security ...but that is beginning to change.

   On a recent program, I learned that a new clothing store, soon to be in all major American cities,  trains  employees to smile (the results are kind of frightening) and sells expensive clothing that you instantly see in a variety of colors when you try them on. Then, there was a 78 year-old-grandmother who writes porn (she read some torrid passages  for CBS while she rocked on her granddaughter’s front porch). Then they did a “special report” on people who have learned to cope with the failing economy by “sharing” their homes.  They rent their couches ($74 a night, including a pancake breakfast), their cars ($24 per hour), their upscale “tree houses” ($300 per night).  In other words, only the wealthy could take advantage of the money-saving opportunities. Then, there was a visit with a successful artist who is the “wave of the future.”  He paints nothing but shelves of produce in Walmart. His best selling works are huge and depict vistas of breakfast cereals. There was an interview with 50 cents, a former drug dealer who has become a celebrity (music, film, modeling); he was recently shot 14 times attack that left him with bullet fragments in his impairment that left him with a “new way of talking.” There was also something about the latest craze, whiskey-soaked pickles. Finally, there was a financial pundit who explained how to plan for your retirement: Save 15% of your annual earnings for twelve years.

   Kind Hearts, this is not my world. I don’t have to abandon it; it has abandoned me.  Like A. E. Houseman, I feel:

A stranger and afraid,
In a world I never made.

  I dreamed last night of a river barge floating down the Tuckaseigee.  It was strung  with blinking lights, the sky above it winked and boomed with sky rockets and exploding fireworks. Several bands and orchestras played incoherent music  blending Souza, Brahms and Wayland Jennings. Colorfully dressed passengers clung together like party drunks and shout into the darkness but it was a language that I don’t recognize.  I noticed that this barge doesn’t have a rudder or a paddle wheel and it  tended to drift aimlessly onward, colliding with rocks and trees. The name emblazoned on prow this barge in drunken letters is LIFE!  It didn’t stop for me and I don’t think I wanted to go anyway.

   Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not especially unhappy about all of this. The only desire I have from here on out is that “life” remain interesting, and it certainly is!  My first exposure with the bizarre and the whimsical was probably the Farmer’s Federation Picnic.  There were greased pigs, shape-note “sings,” and a guy who billed himself as “A One-Man Band,” and he was.  He had tambourines on his knees, a pedal under his foot that beat a drum, a “French Harp” wired around his head so he could blow it, and a banjo.  He could play “Dixie.” Neither the Farmer’s Federation or the movies at the Ritz made me feel like an anachronism ....a lonesome feeling like a guy with a Ticonderoga #2 pencil in a computer 101 class. I get that feeling often now.

   When that happens, I wander down to Marion Jones’ store, across the street from where the Ritz Theater used to be. This place is filled with anachronisms, and some of them walk and talk.  In addition to the clientele, there are Swinn bikes, Blue Horse notebooks, saddles, turkey calls, and a picture of Governor Dan K. Moore. There are banjos and fiddles and Roy Rogers comic books. A Red Ryder air rifle!  I believe I saw a wind-up phonograph, a stack of 78‘s and some Grand Ole Opry memorabilia.  Records by Jimmy Rogers, Uncle Dave Macon and Ernest Tubb....even a Theresa Brewer.  There are rocking chairs and a bowl of vintage candy: mini-Baby Ruths, Milky Ways and Mars Bars (Marion needs some Moon Pies).  If I sit real still, nestled among all of the other anachronisms. I start feeling like I came home. The stiffness eases up in my hip. We rock and creak, maybe try to remember the name of the teacher who threw books at the students when she lost her temper.  It was Cunningham.

   Sometimes, Marion has customers. We usually get quiet then, unless they ask us questions.  I guess we are a curious-looking bunch.  “You live here?” We all nod like a row of daffodils in a gentle wind. “Have you ever left?” We nod again and mutter the names of far-off places.  Italy, Wake Island, Asheville.  My contribution is “Georgia.” Sometimes, they smile and stand quietly like folks in a museum, looking at the exhibits.  Anachronisms.
That’s not a bad thing to be.


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  9. It occurs to me, Gary, that my parents (and grandparents) probably felt the same way about growing alienated from "this world" as it must have seemed like one they never created either. I think growing older is God's way (if I actually let myself believe there is one!) of "larning us stuff" before we die. As I read about Marion's store, I wondered if maybe I had been inside that very story myself a long time ago only you all didn't recognize me as one of you because I was probably dressed like, prob'ly spoke like one too as I was "larned" to do, a Yankee. Sounds a lot like my Uncle's general store in Florida. You're probably in a lot of stories swapped at some of the finest cocktail parties up north, so in a sense you're more famous than you know. ;-)

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  11. Alice,
    Reading your comments, I was suddenly aware of how many dramatic works/movies/old radio shows take place in a "general store." My favorite Appalachian play, "Dark of the Moon," has several scenes in a store with a cracker barrel and I grew up listening to Lum and Abner and their Jot Em Down Store. The outdoor drama,
    "The Reach of Song" took place in a store. It is a great place for characters to meet. There is an old mountain operetta, "Down in the Valley" that does the same thing.
    A store and a church.