Thursday, November 17, 2011
From Trucker Spunk Island to Hog Heaven!
They say that when you travel a great distance with a loved one you unearth new secrets about each other. On this trip down South I discovered that Everly thinks hotel rooms are giant spunk traps where the spilt liquid DNA of lonesome truckers live forever like nasty sticky ghosts on every polyester fiber of bed cover, carpet, plastic tv remote and vinyl chair.
She brought this up vividly as I tried to choke down a Greek salad and some of her pizza that we'd just purchased at a closing joint up the street in a strip mall. We turned on the clunker of an old electronic dream box and the remote system looked like the equivalent of the first Space Invaders video game. It basically seemed to be hooked up to be a conduit to porn movies. The four movies "currently showing in theaters" that you could see were "Captain Ron" starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, "Couples Retreat", "Bruno" and some movie where Amy Adams buys high heel shoes.
We happily went back to Duke University radio, which was playing all Rough Trade singles from 1978 to 1982. Kleenex and Delta 5 really hit the spot and still sounded fresh. And in honor of the land we were visiting (although in the Red Roof Inn we could have been pretty much anywhere) I cracked open the Collected Stories of William Faulkner.
Everly is nothing if not the researcher. Plowing through Yelp and old Splendid Table shows she got us to the amazing Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen somewhere near Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A drive through only and a longstanding legendary joint they were not amused by or indulgent with our initial confusion pulling up to their window of vast splendid greasy coronary journeys. They knew that if we dithered for even two extra minutes there'd be a pile-up of hungry angry drivers.
When I'm at home I usually stick to just a piece of toast or croissant to line my stomach for incoming iced coffees and allergy pills, but I love me a good greasy breakfast on the road. But this place is the Speedy Meemaw of Hash Slinging. Just in the ten minutes that we were there wolfing down our chicken, egg and cheese biscuits (and I ate my hash brown hockey pock after standing and waving like a fool in front of the annoyed lady in the order taking glass box so I could get some hot sauce) at least a dozen cars went through.
With swollen gut and my pleasure centers sated with cholesterol and carbs and Texas Pete we headed for Chapel Hill's main drag and came upon a coffee place conveniently located next to Occupy Chapel Hill. Although I've been a fried and frazzled bastard and all my time lately has been sucked up by work and trying to at least keep up a pretense of being of a writer, I confess I haven't checked out Occupy Baltimore, but the movement has been a breath of psychic fresh air in the atmosphere of politicians fighting each other to see who can turn the clock back as far as they can to pre-FDR times and common human empathy.
The first bookstore of the day was Nice Price Books. A friendly unassuming shop that had the feel for some reason of a beach shop Nice Price also had a good vinyl record selection. In fact, I found the records to have nicer prices than the books, which were generally paperback and strictly half the cover price which these days and for most paperbacks isn't really that great.
But in the vinyl bins I scored a nice 12" Ramones promo, an original Bikini Kill split with Huggybear and a few obscure jazz pieces.
There was an enigmatic man working there who resembled a Nashville mix of Neil Diamond and Elvis with a sliver of Benicio Del Toro. He kept hovering nearby with a broom clearing phlegm and emitting a vibe of "I just want you to be aware that I'm miserable". But he kept reminding me of a lounge singer that used to be my assistant manager when I was a teenager working at Rite-Aid (it was a quaint pharmacy with a lunch counter and was named Reads before the Rite-Aid hog ate the head off it). He ate chili for breakfast every day, his admirable dark hair was always exactly the same without looking like a wig and he took me aside after we talked music and I told him I was a writer and singer and he told me to always follow my dream no matter how much resistance there was and who got angry about it.
Above is a picture of All Day Records, my Moby Dick of vinyl. It was such a beautiful day in Chapel Hill, around 70 degrees in November and we were on only the second day of our vacation adventure and Nice Price Books had whetted my appetite to find some great records.
Walking up to All Day Records I thought I'd found the place. The lights were out, although it was Tuesday and near noon, but I could see great stuff lined along the one wall in three rows - Erkin Koray, Skull Defekts with Asa and Brother Moonfish Higgs, a bunch of titles on the Indian label and Link Wray in front of the used bins.
Despite the darkness and no upright humans insight within I grabbed the door excitedly and it opened to an empty shop. Was this a cruel scientific lab test? Was William Shatner dressed as an army psychiatrist in a backroom watching me, waiting to send volts of electricity through me if I tried to pluck a $5 Ajda Pekkan album (the one where she's riding a horse nekkd) from a rack?
Apparently we had arrived at a time not falling within the parameters of "All Day".
But hey, I am a fellow dealer who does not like waking early. Or waking period, really. It's an ugly affair, getting the electrified ancient meat prone and functioning after 9 or 10 hours of flying through hidden mountain caves with Batman. Plus it made us feel like participating North Carolina citizens to hang out by the door and make sure those more desperate or less enlightened than us not walk in and have a mad grab of freebies or engage in a foul "Blastoma" - the medical term for an orgasm reached while having a Starbucks' induced bowel movement crouching in a darkened retail store.
Also we got to check out the graffiti near All Day and post some Normal's stickers (although if you're Johnny Law I'll deny it).
Eventually a much younger couple approached the store and sadly they weren't there to (hu)man the counter. The girl was touring under the name Headache and the gent was touring under the name Michael Collins, which he claimed was his real name. Turns out they had just played the Copy Cat building in Baltimore a few days ago, so that led to me heatedly throwing out all the Baltimore venues I could think of until they backed away Twittering.
The four of us did bring up the possibility, though, that maybe the counter person was collapsed behind the counter in the dark. This brought to Everly's mind a library story of a patron sliding under a table after a heart attack and not being seen in the slow, quiet period until another patron came along and discovered him.
At any rate, Everly ventured in just long enough to peek behind the counter like someone rushing through an apartment where you'd just set off pesticide bombs, then ran back out. Having determined no foul play or acts of God, she went to the open business next door and told them "Human Vaporizing, NC" what was going on. They kind of chuckled, shaking their heads and saying the record store owner's name in a manner that implied perhaps this wasn't unusual.
The young touring couple moved on, but I couldn't let go. Finally Everly lured me away, promising me we'd drive back after cruising the neighborhood some more. And to her credit, as always, she told the truth and return we did. At 1. Still no lights on. We exchanged a quiet moment of mutual understanding like in a Hallmark television special when little Aiden realized that Innskeep the Gerbil had gone on to Heaven and it was time to put it in the Keds shoebox and bury it next to Grandma's grave in the backyard.
And like many a human who's old enough to see end written in the newly exposed crinkle lines of his balding pate and no longer has good strong vices to erase the pain of being human, I happily let tasty North Carolina style barbecue assuage my vinyl lust at Hog Heaven, another Everly discovery (hopefully she will Yelp this bitch up, cause she writes real good like!). This place is on the outskirts of Chapel Hill when you're pointed towards Atlanta and they serve up a tasty subtle chopped bbq sandwich. And the best chicken and dumplings I've ever tasted in my life.
To top it off, they also had hanging the Men's Room this plaque that reflected both portions of their sign "Hog" and "Heaven". "Accept one another. Just as Christ accepted you." Sentiments I definitely like. But these hogs are up for slaughter!!!!!