Saint Augustine once wrote “The world is a book, and those who travel read only a page.” Well, I’ll tell you this: spending most of your life in Lexington, KY is like not even reading a page, but a bullet point under the Features subheading in a late-2000’s IGN review of Wario Land 3. It’s an unhealthy way to live and a terrible way to find new Ethiopian restaurants. I began my journey through this great country to learn it’s story and to put that story down on paper, but not it’s story like actual history, because that’s, like, super boring. But, to discover the voice of America, one must discover their own voice, and let me tell you….this little pre-chub Kelly Clarkson is ready to sing.
Chapter 1: Hey Mr. Tamborine Man
After a run-in with an unscrupulous character in Nashville who took off with all of the money in my checking/savings/falconering fund, and a sudden windfall by my secret Daddy Warbucks (not the homeless who was living in our garage when I was 11 who wanted me to bleed in jar for him, but the one from Annie, the movie where a bald white man tries to get a red haired girl to bleed in a jar for him) who, by some means unknown to me, stacked the financial deck heavily in my favor so that I could continue my journey to communicate the voice of this nation, hopefully in the form of a Southern Gothic courtroom drama because all of the books I got on clearance at that Bed, Bath and Beyond were Grisham-lites and I’ve got a lot of scenes centered around unnecessarily hot courtrooms and 30-something young lawyers with chauvinistic tendencies jammed in my head that need to come out.
As I continued south, I stopped in a small town called Turnip Hill, right below Severeville, TN, the place where young ones are bred and raised to run any of the 75 pancake restaurants found on the .7 mile street that is Gatlinburg. It was a strange place, and not just because of the lack of a Kiwanis Club insignia on the town sign out front, but there was a strange vibe to the place, an underlying irregular heartbeat. And as I pulled into the local gas station, a local Kreveronoco Loaf & Pump, I got my first taste of the strange as I met Tiff, a Sweedhead.
Many would not know this, but having this wonderful tool known as a Google, I was able to find out that a Sweedhead was not an albino with a severe ear infection, but instead a fan of a very obscure band called Swedish Whiskey, which was actually based out of a town not far from Lexington called Georgetown, or as we called it, Past That Weird Gas Station/Barn Situation. I had only heard the music of Swedish Whiskey come from a number of tan Corollas driving around the area and some college dorms, playing from the laptops of bloggers trying to outdo My Old Kentucky Blog in finding the most primitive, low-fi music possible, digging deep into the Internet, or by just pulling up the first few music results on internetarchive.org. The music was shrill, and the screaming metal whine of the laptop fan could clearly be heard in the background, but there appeared to be somewhat of a following. Tiff was one of them.
She wore a t-shirt that was emblazoned with the declarative statement “Let’s Learn Spanish with Shia LeBeouf!”, one of SW’s more popular songs, according to Musical Family Tree, Indiana’s number 1 punk rock music library. Her fair white skin was inked with the words “I’m gonna go to the moon”, a lyric taken from the song Food Stamps, which was once featured in an episode of the short lived webseries, Matt LeBlanc’s Celebrity Ice Fishing, in a scene where Charles Gordon shared his baked bean recipe and talked about his knit sweater for 43 minutes. But, what really set her apart was the bottle-red fire happening on top of her head. True female Sweedheads who had somehow managed to get there hands on English Gardens, SW’s first ep, often colored their hair red to match the titular “Redhead”. The men often change their name to Greg and strive to live their lives in such a way so as to be respected “for what you do, but not who you are”.
We shared a moment at the cash register, I with a $7 rhubarb kombucha, she with the standard Sweedhead beverage of choice, Free Milk, which was often curdled and disgusting, but became an acquired taste after one’s gag reflex was successfully killed. As we stood at the counter, I studied her, and at the time not having any knowledge of who Swedish Whiskey was, or why Google is, I found myself completely perplexed with the idea of somebody devoting their life to such a silly thing as an band. Why be so devoted to something you aren’t producing, that you personally have invested nothing of yourself into? Why is it that people want to define themselves with something someone else produced? These questions I felt needed to be answered, because how could I write the novel to touch all Americans without understanding this common attitude, as well as why women be trippin’. So, I asked her to take me away with her, to show me the ways of the Sweedhead.
How little I understood about the power of music….and I listened to Walking in Memphis, like, all the time on the radio.
To be continued….