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Monday, October 17, 2011


     whitehead community center

Today was a good day to drive. The sun was out, the temperature just right to have the window down. A few degrees cooler would have been too much. I set out to a gathering of the Selma's coffee shop regulars at Laurel Mountain Estates, a subdivision in the Stratford area. It's out 221. I went over Spicer Mountain Road to Antioch Church Road to 221. Turned left and drove as far as Walnut Branch Church Road, where I figured I'd missed it and turned around. Drove back as far as 93 to be certain I hadn't missed it somewhere unexpected. I turned around and it was nowhere. Just the other side of Walnut Branch Church Road was the Laurel Mountain Estate Road. Grrr. Up the road I go, instructions in hand, turn right on Tom's Knob Road, 3 mailboxes, and up the mountain to the first house on the left that is "almost mustard yellow." On the left side of the road all the way up the mountain were houses that would depend on what kind of mustard, what brand of mustard, pastel, honey mustard. I went until all the houses quit and it was forest for a long ways.

I turned around and went back to the mailboxes. It wasn't up that road. By wasn't, I mean I never saw a house with a car parked anywhere near it. When there was a car, it was just one. I figured there would be at least a red Miata and one more car, maybe two, maybe three. But all I ever saw was one and none. None of the houses had numbers on them. I had the number to go by. It was on one of the three mailboxes. But I passed at least a dozen houses up that road, maybe more like 20. Three mailboxes? Scenic Mountain Road went off up the perpendicular. I said, let's try it and see. I drove up it until no houses were left, turned around and went back to the mailboxes. Turned right and thought I'd go a little farther up the road this time, and passed the place I turned around. Came upon a colony of houses. One a pastel almost grey poupon yellow with rockwork in front, as described in the directions, a little red some kind of car with faded paint parked there. By this time I was an hour late. I said, "I'm going home."

I turned around and drove down the mountain a little too fast reminding myself of permission I'd given myself years ago. I have waited in the past beyond the point of feeling ridiculous until one day I told myself I have permission to walk away and quit waiting after the point where I start feeling ridiculous. By now, when I start feeling ridiculous, that's it. Heading down the mountain I felt I'd gone way past ridiculous. I told myself it would really be stupid to have a wreck on a gravel road by myself, slow down. At the mailboxes I pulled off the road where the gravel meets the pavement onto a parking space rectangle of mowed grass. Reached in my pocket and couldn't find the pen I thought I'd brought. It was in the seat beside me under the camera box. Paper. None. In a pocket in the door I found a Food Lion coupon never used. Been meaning to put it in the trash for months. I wrote my brief song of the blues on the back of the coupon, put the coupon inside the folded paper napkin the directions were written on, and put the package in the mailbox with the number I'd been looking for.

I drove away telling myself, "It's a good day to drive." I took the same road going home to bypass Sparta and drive through beautiful mountain, yellow and red trees, a dairy farm with big white tarp over a mound of silage and black rings of tires spread around on its white expanse to hold it down. Spicer Mountain Road again, a beautiful road, this time seen from the opposite direction, the scenery the same, but different. I hoped Jerry Edwards would be home, seeing on the way out that all three of his vehicles were in the driveway. Pretty good sign. When they came into sight I applied the brakes and backed into his driveway. I wanted to get a photograph of the Whitehead Community Center. Took the photograph from the driveway. The scene above is directly across the road. It's a beautiful sight in winter, too, the shadows of the bare trees spread like veins over the surface of the snow and the side of the building.

Just now took a sip of some nice white liquor. It put a warm glow in the belly. This is why I sip it. I learned sipping it from Jr Maxwell, who appreciated it with the same appreciation he might have for the way somebody played a banjo or a fiddle. As a banjo picker himself, meaning an artist, he appreciated the artistry in good liquor making. It's as much an art form as making music. One day the liquor corporations will be defunkt and the Christmas tree growers too, who poison our water at the source. Then we'll have mountain liquor without prison again. On the road today I played the tape of Jr's band the Green Mountain Boys. One of the songs was the Jim and Jesse bluegrass song, Paradise. "Daddy won't you take me back to Muelenberg County, down by the Green River where Paradise lays. I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in askin, Mr Peabody's coal train has hauled it away." Powerful song.

Jerry was home watching football. I hadn't seen Jerry in several months. Run into him here and there; hi, how you doin? Jerry is what Jr Maxwell called "a worker." There is no doubt about it. Jerry is my age, and his dad was Jr's friend all his life. Jr was grown up when Jerry was born. Jerry's dad died several years ago, and Jerry became Jr's hunting friend since then. Jerry and Jr have been friends longer than Jr and Jerry's dad. Jerry is always on his tractor, in his truck, or feeding cattle, hauling cattle, doing what needs to be done. Jerry and I became acquainted while I was looking to Jr's care in his passing. He is one of Jr's friends I want to go on knowing. I'd like to go on knowing them all, but many of them slip away to someplace else, or just enter the zone of forgotten, because our paths never cross, no "Hey, how are ye?" moments, no reminders until we fade away from each other's memory. I saw Jr's cousin Stephen Joines yesterday. We remind each other of someone we all miss. As they say in the mountains, Hit don' git no better'n 'at.

Todd and JoEllen will have to wait a day or two to find out why I never showed or called. The phone number was on the napkin left in the mailbox. I don't have a cell phone. And they are not listed in the phone book. I have a feeling that next time I talk with one of them, I'll be told I turned around too soon---just around the next bend. It felt like I was in a maze. My friend Carole lives right close there, but I didn't want to see her, because I was too strung out on frustration. I just wanted to get home. By the time I reached Jerry's, I was almost home. A nice drive in a yellow and red landscape can relax the frustration down to nothing. By the time I sat down in front of Jerry's tv, the frustration had faded like driving down the mountain out of a fog. This was why I left the house, to take the sight-seeing way to see Jerry.


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