Thursday, December 30, 2010

Clean Hands, Closed Mind

Spring signaled the start of festival season in the South, when small towns block off their Main Street for events like: The Daylily Festival, Old Fashion Plow Days, and The White Squirrel Festival. It was a good excuse get out of the big city for a few days and explore new places, drink beer, and eat greasy food. However, I learned long ago that part of the fun was the journey, and if I can quote myself, “No journey truly begins until you’ve passed a blindfolded horse.”

I decided on the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I’m not going to turn this into a tourism promotion, but the place is a living landscape painting. However, it’s not perfect. It can have its dangers, especially mountain predators like cougars and wolves. Regardless, the area is an enclave for Yankee retirees, artist and hippy-types, and if you drive the same route I did, you might just share a beer with 1950’s country folk.

My Google-approved route sent me via single lane mountain roads for most of the trip. About halfway in, a curve signaled the journey’s starting point, grazing at the side of the road was what appeared to be a blindfolded horse. While was in question, I nailed the horse-eating-grass part. I know what you’re thinking, blinders. No, I’ve seen the Kentucky Derby. Not blinders. Blind-fold. Like an ACE bandage wrapped over most of his horse head, not yet severed over movie dispute involving one of the Blue Collar comedians.

As I continued, the road twisted and wound as I got higher into the hills. Around a sharp bend in the road and there it was, “Bob’s Place”. To call this place “ramshackle” would insult abandoned 1930’s Oklahoma, Dust Bowl era farm houses that today barely stand. The structure appeared as sturdy as most children’s forts built from construction site scrap wood.

There was no town accompanying Bob’s, just a few abandoned shacks adorned with biker graffiti. The exact phrase escapes me, so I’ll go with “Bikers love Crème Brule!’ ”.

I had to see Bob’s. It was either a bar or general store. So I got out and said hello to the three people sitting outside on the porch, interrupting their conversation, which I’m certain had nothing to do with particle accelerators. They invited me to have a look inside, knowing my reasonable teeth meant I wasn’t local, and it was probably my first visit.

Bob’s Place is a bar. Good news as I’d already bought pickled green beans at an earlier stop. At a glance, the empty bar appeared to be the classic local hangout where people staple things to the walls and ceiling. It was like dozens of local spots I’d seen throughout my travels.

I decided on a can of Bud Light. Something told me I wasn’t finding a blender for Daiquiris. I tried to tip the bartender, who was outside when I arrived, but I didn’t think he understood, and handed the money back.

The plump, white haired old lady in the tented house dress owned the place. Enchante, Bob. The bartender, local president of the James Dean Fan Club, with his Bryclcreemed hair and sleeves rolled up above the elbows, and thin build, put me in the mind of a dancer in a local theater production of Grease. The beer bellied man in the wife beater undershirt was a patron/bar historian, as he proceeded to tell me about Bob’s past, the bar, of course. A beer bellied man never tells…about his only beer source for miles.

I was definitely an outsider. The owner and bartender didn’t have a whole lot to say to me. The patron did most of the talking. Actually, I gathered that the bartender’s not accepting of my tip was a hint.

The place had been there for 100 years, used to sell moonshine out of it. Pretty sure they still kept some next to the 1975 Chateau Lafite Rothschild.

I was told the place was pretty popular at night and on weekends. Bands even played there, so check “Yes” in the amenities column for electricity. However, check “No” for indoor plumbing as I was advised the working outhouse was around back. I took his word for it, as there was no way in hell I was going to check the outhouse’s soundness. Bad vision of this city slicker being locked inside. Yes, they called me a city slicker.

I couldn’t help but notice a big bottle of hand sanitizer next to Bob. Evidently, after a trip to the outhouse for a potty, even the worst racists clean their hands.

Ok, it’s slippery slope time. How to properly address what happened next without offending. The patron then went “N-word” on me. For this story I will substitute that word with “kitty”.

Memorable feline quotes:

“You won’t find any kitties up here.”

“We had a kitty come in here one time with the delivery man and he tried to get a Coca-Cola. He reached for it and he got shot three times in the stomach with a pellet gun. He was bleeding, rolling around across the street .” He laughed as he told me, as if it was actually funny.

“We don‘t care if you can read or not, if you‘re a kitty keep on driving.” (Referring to a sign use to be posted nearby)

He had more to say about the surrounding areas, giving me the idea that the region did not provide a diversity in hair care products.

Some might say they were just exaggerating to shock a tourist. The figure painted on the door told otherwise. A black man’s silhouette painted on a white door, with a target over his heart and a caption of “Oh shit.” The artist didn’t sign it, but something tells me his initials were KKK.

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