An elderly couple sits to my right. He’s mumbling over a crossword and she’s reading the Daily Independent. She’s excited for tonight’s show at Poage Landing Days.
“Travis Twitty plays tonight, he’s one of those overnight sensations.”
I can’t help but eavesdrop after that just came out of her mouth.
“Was his daddy that famous singer?” She asks her now engaged husband.
“No,” he replies, “his mama is from Conway, Missouri and his daddy is from Twitty, New Mexico.”
She accepts his answer and goes back to thumbing through the morning paper.
“I can’t stand those brown people either,” she breaks the silence.
Obviously inaudible to the morning barista, she is coincidently brown and yells ‘Lord Jesus, help me.’ She spilled milk.
“If that Hillary wins, she gonna be in the White House, dead within a year. All kinds of health problems. She is a woman you know.”
This woman is just spitting them out this morning.
On the opposite side of the coffeeshop one is being harassed by another twice his age. How he’s dressed.
“You’re wearing a puffy shirt,” pointing. “You have eighteen pockets in the vest. Boys, he’s wearing a puffy shirt like a pirate and has pockets like a fisherman.” They are all erupting with laughter. “You have the same problem as Sheldon on that T.V. show my wife likes.”
The subject shows his nineteenth pocket on the inside of his vest. Let’s his hecklers know the jokes on them.
I’m cruising around the Farm Aid website yet allowing W.B.’s weekend suggestion to unbalance my decision in attending the Willie Nelson festival. Something isn’t sitting properly. For as willing as I am to making the six hour trek to Bristow I’m being pulled by a much less glamorous event. I committed to a journey to find the Spirit of Real Country Music – everyone knows Willie is it, that doesn’t need discovering. I’m looking for the unknown. That, and the core identity of Real Country Music. It makes more sense to travel to Abbott, TX as the birthplace of Willie than to Bristow to see him live. As far as Margo and Nathaniel go – I’m sure we’ll cross paths in the future somehow. I send W.B. a text and let him know that I didn’t end up driving out to Irvine yesterday. The little festival is sold out. If I head in that direction today, what are the chances that I can even get in? He replies telling me to ask for Byron, that Ol’ Dubya Bee sent me.
Decision made. I grab my book and leave. I look forward to returning to this little Starbucks in Ashland.
My first red light has a vetern standing on the corner. His cardboard sign lets me know, that, and he’s hungry. His left foot doesn’t exist, a bandaged stump does. He stands upright on it, slightly leaning into crosswalk pole. Just heartbreaking. I drove the I-65 S from Chicago on September 11. The overpasses had single bearers waving or draping the starts and stripes. Displays of patriotism; anger, hurt and pride. America will come out strong on the other side of this. The image I see in this moment is heart-wrenching.
I battle giving all I have – it would be a grand gesture. I settle on dollar bills and all my apples. He’s grateful, blessing me like many of the other Kentuckians I’ve encountered during my stay in Ashland. An unhealthy but effective stimulus; guilt triggers commitment. I want to make a change, is this my fight? I’m not American. It’s not about being American, it’s humanitarian. The light turns green and I sit there. The cars behind me are patient as I give my friend more money.
I turn onto 13th St to eventually connect with the I-64 E and I cannot believe my eyes. The paradox couldn’t be any more uplifting. A gift from the Gods of Canadian Iconicism. As if my longing for home couldn’t have been cured any quicker; I’m stunned. I drive smack dab into the revelled and iconic. In the heart of Kentucky, ready to puke with homesickness and there it is. I’m immediately transported to Cranbrook, Taber, Weyburn, Virden, Vermillion Bay, Iroquois Falls, Sherbrooke, Moncton, Truro and Baddeck.
A Tim Hortons. In Ashland, Kentucky.
I can’t pull in quick enough. I bust through the front doors and I’m in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
One regular medium coffee, boston cream donut, sausage breakfast sandwich on an asiago bagel – toasted. Four ketchups. The usual. My excitement is shared with the staff. They tell me they’ve never heard someone speak like me before and ask for a picture. I return the favour and snap one for my own memory. I’m revived and craving the coming adventure.
Back driving with my knees I eat my donut in four bites and move on to the corner of a ketchup package – lost in the moment. I have someone exited the 65 and am driving on the more scenic highway 60. No worries, it connects down the way.
Hillbilly Jim on Outlaw Radio is talking about September 11. It’s a somber recount of overlooking the remains from his hotel room – he’s not one to get too sentimental over the radio waves but is sharing a personal moment.
Again, my life is being filled with this synchronicity that cannot go unnoticed. The connection between my thoughts and how the road is unfolding is enough to make a guy pinch himself.
“Anyways, I thought I’d just share that,” Hillbilly Jim concludes, “Here’s Kentucky’s finest – Exile.”
“I Want To Kiss You All Over.”