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Random Report
September 29 - October 3
Johnny Cash Tribute
Whizzing along near 90 mph on 400, pink and purple flowers whizzing by in the median, reminding me of the wildflowers that grow up between the stones of the Apian Way. I'm on my way to deal with some of the bureaucracy that is modern life - tags. Happy birthday to me.
The Romans, too, had their bureaucracy, taxes, laws.
My chariot's wheels squeak and my belly grumbles. Time for some grease.
Turn off 400 on 369 headed east and you'll come to a big intersection. On one corner is Mudcat's Bar and Grill, though I doubt the local band of the same name has ever been there, much less own the joint. Opposite corner is a little roadside shack with a screened-in porch for a dining room, Chad's Barbecue. Good stuff for the price, though the conversations you'll overhear from the other plebeians may drive you mad. Somehow images of ancient Rome keep coming to mind.
The legions are out there battling the barbarians of the Middle East again on a quest for exotic oils we feel are rightly hours in exchange for allowing them into the empire.
Despite what many in the counties I'm flying through believe, our laws are based on those of ancient Rome, not the 10 commandments. But don't bother telling them that. They have faith which outweighs any rational discourse.
But the higher powers will not judge our mortal forms. Our immortal souls may be His/Hers/Theirs, or even non-existent, but here on earth it is man's dirty job to judge man's dirty, mortal form.
So roll on, legions, roll on! Might makes right, to the victor go the spoils and the recording of historical accounts.

Slower traffic keep RIGHT, motherfucker, some of us want to get where we're going TODAY. Under the radar, dodge the law, on a day so bright and clear it's easy to forget what a mess our latest emperor has made.
"Emperor? We elect our leaders!" you say?
Weren't you paying attention last "election?" We have finally succumbed to hereditary rule.
But enough about the men in the halls of power adorned with Roman columns in the capitol far away. It's time to make my offering to the local authority so that I may have access to the roads stretching across this great land.
I'm playing a bit of a shell game on the authorities, pretending I still live in the small mountain town where I spent too much of my youth so that I can save a few dollars on the annual birthday/road tax. I head toward the courthouse, only to stop dead in my tracks in front of a bronze statue, a memorial to the people who were run out of the area to make room for the ancestors of the current populace, all because of a yellow metal discovered in the creeks and hills. Andrew Jackson, hero to some and the angular face of twenty dollar bills, defied the supreme court and forced the Cherokee off these lands, marching them halfway across the continent, killing an estimated 25% in the process, yet here stands a bronze statue of a Cherokee and a gold miner, on opposite sides of the sidewalk.
Do any of the locals spot the irony? Probably not. The local school mascot is, after all, The Indians.
Inside they display the old Georgia flag behind glass, all but saying "Ferget? Hell naw!"
Ah well. At least the big bronze 10 Commandments plaque was removed a while back.

On my way out of town there's another rebel flag flying from the back of a truck. Wave that flag all you like. That afternoon there was a march for immigrants' rights just north of Atlanta where thousands appeared, far outnumbering the dozen or so rebel-flag-waving morons. When will these idiots, on both sides of the fence, figure out race is an illusion? It's like a national boundary, it's just something humans made up in their minds to separate people. But go back far enough and these boundaries are obscured, blurred, invisible. Give it enough time and these boundaries will cease to exist again.
Better learn some Espaol, honky, you're gonna need it.
And if immigration doesn't erase your "native" culture, Wal-Mart will. The entire town has been transformed by this foreign power, much like the Romans, dropping identically designed towns in every conquered territory. Local businesses, local products, local prices all washed away in a flood of cheap imports against which the local forces can't compete.
"We sell for less" indeed. We sell our communities for lesser quality goods, sell our labor for minimum wage, and sell our culture, all for your lower prices, Wal-Mart!
Roll on, legions, roll on.
And if the Wal-Mart doesn't finish you off, economics will. The "natives" are, once again, being chased out of town, not for gold per se, but for affordable real estate. Entire valleys are rapidly being eaten up for multi-million dollar homes in private golfing resorts and gated communities.
Roll on, legions, roll on.

I try not to think about it, insulated from such conflicts in my urban home.
We hit Starlight Drive In on Tuesday for Wattstax, a documentary about a 1973 concert featuring another group of people who were victims of the lie that is the word "race." It's magnificent, featuring performances by Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, Luther Ingram, Albert King, Little Milton, The Staples Singers and more. But the best parts were the man-on-the-street interviews where people discuss race relations, the economic situation and whether or not you should sleep with your best friend's woman. Richard Pryor rants, Jesse Jackson preaches, and every scene is packed with jaw-dropping fashions. It's worth watching for the hats alone.

Thursday we hit the Star Bar for the Johnny Cash tribute show. The Man in Black died of complications from diabetes, so the bar was donating all proceeds to local diabetes charities, all in the name of George "Montegue" Holton, who also passed away this summer from the disease.
Sonoramic Commando started things off, doing a couple of Cash tunes. They were joined by Dave Weil, turning it into Blacktop Rockets, for round of Cash. Then Ted Weldon stepped up and did One Piece at a Time with the aid of a lyric sheet.
The rest of the band stepped off stage so Ted could do a solo a cappella, which I can't remember in retrospect - maybe Meet Me in Heaven Some Day? Something along those lines. Ted ain't got the vocal strength to do such a solo effort full justice, but in context it was perfect.
"I don't know who's next, but follow that, motherfucker," he mumbled and stepped off the stage with everyone applauding.
Also up on the chalkboard were the names of other musicians we've lost recently, such as Ronnie Dawson. Johnny Knox did a Cash tune or two, then mentioned what a badass Ronnie was before launching into a blistering tune of Dawson's, and one or two of his own.

Next up, Amy Pike with various Star Bar stage regulars, basically Blacktop Rockets with Amy on vocals. Like many, she had to read lyrics off a cheat sheet, but with her Patsy Cline voice nobody minded a bit. Dave Weil stuck around and did a solo after the rest of the band split. Keeping the sets short made it seem like every band in town was on stage at one point or another, and the night only at the halfway point.
A guy who introduced himself simply as "Jonathan" performed a couple of numbers in Johnny Cash style, with only his acoustic and harmonica to back him up. I never caught his full name, but enjoyed his couple of songs.
Cletus and his City Cousins did a few Cash tunes, though Cletus didn't have the confidence he displayed at his recent appearance at the Starlight Drive Invasion. Maybe the loss of Johnny Cash had him all shook up. Somehow I was reminded of a Blues Brothers moment when Dan Ackroid said, "I don't know, I suggest you buy as many blues records as you can," but mentally replacing "Johnny Cash" in place of "blues," and adding ""cause there's not a thing we can do to improve on the original."

Joel Burkhart, the night's soundman and lead of Bully, stepped up on stage and asked if there was a soundman in the house, since he was performing and couldn't be two places at once. Someone volunteered, illustrating what a family-like atmosphere permeated the room, thick as the cigarette smoke burning my eyes.
Jim Stacy joined Joel and did a couple of tunes, wrapping up with an absolutely soul-wrenching version of Johnny's version of Nine Inch Nail's Hurt. Joel gritted his teeth as he played along, a grimace that matched the feel of the lyrics and the feel Jim's voice gave them, inserting a moaning harmonica between lines. Holy fucking hell, it was gorgeous.
Rocket 350 did sort of hard rockabilly flavored Cash tunes, and a few non-Cash tunes, about the only thing that could work after the somber tones generated by Jim and Joel.

And it worked as a perfect transition to the next act, Bitch, sort of the house band for 9 Lives. Hank Williams III was due to appear, but ended up with other commitments, so Bitch got to be the final act. They did hard, loud versions of Cash tunes with their usual gusto, a great band for sloppy drunk, late nights.


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