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Friday, February 10, 2012


     rock mountain

Attempting to make a left turn onto Main St on a Thursday afternoon has become what Friday alone used to be. I had to wait for the car in front of me, which after waiting until he couldn't wait anymore made a right turn instead of the left turn. My turn at the stopsign and I see an endless line toward the courthouse light. A little bit of extra space between two cars. Zoom-zoom, I jumped in the space. I know better than to attempt a left turn onto Main St on Fri. I need to include Thursdays now. It's hard to believe by imagination alone that it takes as long to make a left turn onto Main St from a side street as it takes to make a left turn onto highway 17 from a side street in Myrtle Beach. It's not nearly the same volume of cars, but it takes as long to wait for a hole in both directions of traffic. The way the lights are set, when the line of cars that come from one of the lights to the next light gets by, then the line of cars from the other light starts its long parade. All there is to do is step on it and go for an opening. But every time I go to Winston-Salem, very seldom, I forgive Sparta all the times I've cussed its traffic. Once when friends were visiting from Atlanta, we were in Sparta and I was driving, griping about the traffic. Judy said, "What traffic?" Thank you for that.

Walking by Kermit's barber shop I saw through the glass door no one in the chair. I had the money in my pocket, no waiting, about-face, in the door and in the chair. Kermit has covered his walls with photographs of Sparta in the old days and people from the old days, newspaper articles, like when Bill Monroe played in Sparta, Del Reeves album cover and poster. I like to look at all the pictures every time I'm in there. People bring him pictures. I've taken him two, one of Jr Maxwell & Cleve Andrews jamming together, and one of them with The Little River Boys band, which included Estel Bedsaul and Paul Joines. He had a picture of Ed Atwood with his banjo, Howard Joines with fiddle and Clif Evans with guitar, when they were maybe in their 30s. Somebody gave him a close up photograph of a coiled rattler. It's spooky looking. Picture taken on the Parkway at Mahogany Rock. Kermit is a bluegrass bass player, country guitar player, and every year at the Hillbilly Show he lip-syncs two songs by George Jones, ol Possum. That's his nickname. His eyes are so close together he looks like a possum to country people. There is always somebody in a rural community nicknamed Possum, which grows up into Poss.

From Kermit's I crossed W Whitehead St on the way to see Chris Davis in her shop on the corner. I don't know that I've ever known what she calls it. She'd emailed me earlier asking if it would be all right to put one of my paintings in the window. I was told by somebody who saw it that it was in the window. I'd driven by twice and never noticed. It was the one of Howard Joines playing his fiddle with the chicken singing into his ear while he plays Chicken Reel. I was happy to see I like it. I never know what it's like to see one of my paintings the first time. It takes quite a long time of not seeing one to the point of forgetting it, then when I see it, it's almost like I'd never seen it. The familiarity is gone from it and I can see it more objectively, from afar. That's how I like best to see one of my paintings, the first time after so long I've forgotten it. It's like somebody else's painting then. I don't know what I would think of them if I hadn't painted them. I think I'd like them, but can't be sure.

Chris had a painting of hers from the past in there, three cows on a large field of white. Stunning, truly stunning. She'd just finished a nice piece of furniture that she'd painted in an extraordinarily beautiful way. Chris has single-handedly restored several downtown spaces. The one she's in now, she's done it up before. Completely changed it for this go-round. She can take a space with four walls, ceiling, floor, windows and doors, and transform it into any kind of look or feeling. She specializes in faux finishes. She can make a wall look like it's ancient or futurist. Chris is no stranger to work. She's the hardest working individual I know. She starts at it early in the morning and goes full speed into the night and starts over next morning. She has the work ethic of the old mountain people. Shes a good artist too. She likes painting black and white cows, the dairy variety.

Before the excursion that ended at Chris's, I left the coffee shop where I'd been visiting with Joe Allen Delp. I've taken to really liking and respecting Joe Allen. He tells some good stories of his experiences in another time when Sparta was the shopping center for the local people, the hardware store across the street from the courthouse. In that time, it was all mountain people here. Now the mountain people are rare in Sparta. Everything has changed. Sparta's center of gravity moved from the stoplight by the courthouse down to the stoplight by Hardee's where the shopping centers and parking lots are now. The downtown part of Sparta has no parking except along the street. Joe Allen is of another time. He's like me in that the times have passed him by. The world we both know is past and gone. Like in the song Angel Band, the setting sun is sinking fast, my race is nearly run. Joe Allen is somewhat harshly judged for his drinking habit in the past. No one has ever wondered why he needed inebriation so much. I think he came close to killing himself with it. He's gentle as a rabbit. Joe Allen is good people.


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