Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Night in the Country


It’s Friday night in the country and Kurt and I are back at our computers. We tried to go out. The kid is on a sleepover. Very rare. But there’s nothing to do around here. There aren’t even any lights on in the houses and I wasn’t sure when we passed them if they were abandoned or the people were all asleep. It was only 8:30. Probably half and half. It’s common around here for people to let old farmhouses fall into disrepair and then put a doublewide, or if they have money, build a brick ranch house, a few hundred feet over. It’s also common around here for people to get up when it’s still dark to feed the critters, and so naturally they go to bed early. So it could be either way.

I love the old farmhouses. It breaks my heart when I see brown clapboards with all the paint worn off, buckling porches choked with kudzu and roofs like swayback horses on old farmhouses. Maybe the next time I drive by the roof will have collapsed. It frustrates me that people have given up on these houses. Don’t they know there are people like me who would love them?! How did they get so far behind that giving up and starting fresh made more sense than trying to fix the thing? Maybe one year the heater conked out and the roof started leaking and they thought they could get through one more winter—maybe the livestock market would be better next year. Then the chimney started crumbling and noises on the metal roof as mortar fell and skidded to the gutters raised the hair on the back of the farm wife’s neck. She stopped stirring. She cocked an ear to listen. They couldn’t stay warm. They couldn’t use the bathroom sink because the pipe was broke. (If there was a bathroom sink.) They couldn’t keep up with the paint. They were tired of it. Every spring, scraping, sanding, painting. An old house will kill you.

But still! I would never abandon an old house!

We passed these old houses and the doublewides and neat brick ranch houses, all dark, not long after supper in search of a dive bar we got a tip on. Kelly’s boyfriend, fifteen-years-old, mentioned it in passing. He was over for dinner and was explaining where he lived. I was trying to maintain a look on my face that conveyed both sophistication and friendliness (he comes from a good family—the father is a lawyer). He said, “It’s past this bar. It’s a dump. You wouldn’t want to go there. Rednecks go there.” Kurt’s and my ears perked up. He’s obviously much classier than we are. There was actually a bar around here? And it had rednecks?

All these years we’ve been living here, we haven’t found one good watering hole. Not that we’re big drinkers. But you’d think that in the moonshine capital of the world, in a place where people know how to line dance and play fiddles, we would be able partake in the whole authentic experience in some backwoods honky tonk with knotty pine walls and red-and-white checked floors like you see on TV. Something like Urban Cowboy. But there are none—no honky tonks, saloons, taverns, pubs, inns, or local hangouts of any kind where you can get a beer, a line on some decent moonshine—just so you could say you’ve had it because I hear it’ll rot your insides out if you drink it on a regular basis—and maybe listen to a little bluegrass on a Friday night. At least on this side of the lake. No bars at all. There are forty-seven churches and one Dairy Queen but no bars.

There are a couple of bars on the other side of the lake. They cater to “them ones not from around these parts”—non-locals—who buy McMansions on the water and build docks with boat houses bigger than my real house, but that’s about forty-five minutes around. Plus, they are really not bars, per se. They are really restaurants with bars on the side to accommodate diners waiting for their tables and they seem to go out of their way to shed themselves of any kind of country flavor, which is what we have all come down here for but I suspect the locals are embarrassed by and don’t realize how much we, their only customers, love that stuff. If they did, they’d be making a ton of money. The places would be packed. But, in a misguided attempt to attract us, their décor is designed to be progressive and modern—industrial pipes and duct work exposed on the ceiling (these “pipes” are sometimes fake—cardboard tubes spray-painted with silver paint), plum-colored walls, shiny black tiles, brick, martini glasses with Z-shaped stems.

There is one real bar on the water but it thinks it’s in the Keys and has bamboo tables, blue drinks and plastic palm trees.
It specializes in ‘80s bands and closes at eleven o’clock—about the time I’m just perking up—even on July 4th. Very similar to the Palace across the boardwalk in Keansburg except you could barely get the people out the door at last call at two a.m. and when they had ‘80s bands, it was 1980.

Therefore Kurt and I were really itching to find a cool, authentic place. They might say around here that we had a hankering for one. This might be our only chance since we’re selling the house. Pretty soon we’ll be in New Jersey where we’ll have plenty of bars to choose from but maybe no authentic redneck place. So we decided to go find this dive bar. We couldn’t ask the boyfriend for directions because it’s bad enough that we don’t pray at dinner and we’re already wrecking Kelly’s reputation (the boy, good natured, said that’s okay, when Kelly apologized that we dug right in like two barbarians—he had said a silent prayer). Obviously a nice boy. Last thing we wanted to do was damage her reputation any further—I’d already embarrassed her when I told him that the woman in the old picture he was looking at on the wall in the kitchen was Aunt Millie and she was a hot number. Why I had to describe her, I don’t know. But that’s what we always say about Aunt Millie when her name comes up. She was a hot number. When he looked at me quizzically, I said, “You know, a floozy. Died of cirrhosis of the liver, something like that. Big drinker. But ooh, she was a hot number in her day. Had a couple of husbands, flaming red hair…” So I couldn’t ask him for precise directions and we had to wing it.

Luckily we have the Big Mama because at least if you’re going to drive all over the hillside with nothing to look at but dark houses and hulking shadows that may be cows or children of the corn, at least you can drive in style. I splurged and put my seat warmer on. This was our night on the town! Kidless, in my cowboy boots (not the riding ones, the dancing ones), and going to a backwoods, country dive bar! I imagined some Outlaws on the jukebox, perhaps a little ZZTop—“Waiting for the Bus,” would be perfect—and some oldies, got to have the oldies—“Make the World Go Away,” George Jones, George Strait, Hank. We’d dance across the dusty floor and shoot pool with boys (that’s what they’re called around here—boys—not guys, not men, even if they are grandfathers) in flannel shirts and John Deere caps, and maybe a cowboy or two. There’d be a couple of bleached blondes with too much make-up on and hairdos back from when I was still watching Three’s Company, and a guy named Eeavard with his head on the bar. I mean, how good is that? A guy named Eeavard?!

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I could have gotten a look at some of the farmhouses. But all I could see were shadows zooming by. We couldn’t find the bar. We went further. We turned left. We turned right. We said let’s go a few more miles. We considered calling the boyfriend but ruled it out. How desperate were we anyway? What about if we took Business 29? Maybe it was the business highway and not the regular highway? (I don’t know why they do that—it’s so confusing—two highways with the same name.) We’d get excited every time there was light on the horizon—Look! That’s got to be it! But all it ever was were the yellow lights coming from a church basement or the digital sign from out front. No bars anywhere.

So we’re back on our computers on a Friday night. Which I guess is just as well. I hear boys with names like Eeavard can get pretty rowdy.

18 comments:

Christina said...

Hmmmm. Good times I would say. I would have gone by the Dairy Queen for a dip cone.

Aunt Millie sounds like my kind of fun. There are enough fuddy duddies out there.

Gilly said...

OMG! w
What a place to live! No wonder you will be moving. What on earth do they all DO out there - apart from going to bed early because they have to get up early? Don't they ever let their hair down?

But I laughed at your account of trying to find the bar! Have you ever thought of being a writer - or maybe you are, I don't know. But you have talent, that's for sure!

Sloan said...

Your website is giving me a hard time commenting but I'm trying again. I was laughing because you are ruining Kelly's reputation and no wonder why you are moving back to jersey! That would be a little too quiet for me!! It is interesting how you spin taking a drive to find a bar into a story like that. You should write a book.

Leonora said...

Ha, ha! I never thought about this, but you're right! There are no pubs, bars or dives around here. In NY, there's one on every corner : )
Daughter #2 says they have one in Grandin (downtown Roanoke). That's kind of far for you to drive though.

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

And I thought I lived in a rural area. At least we do have a few bars and a tavern or two around here.

Horses Are Our Lives said...

LOL. As I read this, I thought about when we moved here over 20 years ago. Hubby and I left 3 kids with a babysitter and went out, and everything was closed on a Saturday night! Even the mall! Times have changed, but I guess not in your area! LOL, just kidding. I also laughed about this, because I used to sit home alone on Fri nights until after 7 or 8 when hubby finally got home from work. I'm just happy to sit home with the computers and the hubby by 7 this past year! Thanks for visiting my blog and sticking with me. I hope to visit your blog more this winter. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a blogger reunion every year and meet everyone?

Tanya said...

like i always say, i LOVE the way you tell a story...i too hate when i see old farmhouses deserted like that but i love the perspective on the photo. sorry you couldn't find your dive bar :(

CountryDew said...

Those little watering holes couldn't compete with the restaurants w/ bars. About 20 years ago there were a number of them but they dwindled. Folks moving in wanted the restaurants with bars, not the little watering holes. I think there may still be one or two in Botetourt but they're not easy to find.

Your writing in this piece was absolutely splendid, Deb.

Beth said...

Haha...well, at least you had a nice drive through the countryside, Debi! And we got to enjoy reading about it. :-)

I reckon I'm getting old. Sitting with my honey watching Netflix and eating popcorn from the comfort of my recliner is my idea of a good ol' time these days.

By the way, Tom and I have often talked about the very same thing---how people let the old family homeplace fall into ruins while they put up a doublewide nearby. It's a pity, for sure, but, having endured the endless maintenance headaches of an old house, I kind of understand.

qhgirl said...

Virginia also has abc laws that require a certain amount of proceeds must be from food.. and top that off with all the strict drinking and driving laws.. and it spells doom for the little bar.

Not saying drunk driving is cool or anything, but realistically, it is not the .08ers who are the problem most of the time.. it is the stundard fools.

Claudia said...

OMG, laughing my butt off...we have done the same thing trying to find a place to go to that wasn't in Roanoke!!There are a few spots but they are inside of restaurants..and yes, they are all trying to be something like a Keys bar..
Now theres an idea! Make a red-neck cowboy bar, complete with saddle topped bar stools and wagon-like booth seats...a good dance floor and some good music,live or otherwise!!
Hmmmmmmm...thinking...

Sweetflutterbys3 said...

I have to go with Beth and Tom, we sit at home and watch Nexflix most nights. There are tons of bars here in Pittsburgh and most are open at night. Just be sure you don't mind getting shot if you go!

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Claudia, if I had the money, I'd open one!

We haven't been out in years. We're all about the movies and popcorn and computers at night. But once in a while maybe! Yeah, Roanoke is kind of far. Out of desperation I was thinking about that place Billy's Barn--it looked like they might have some authentic country stuff--and then, bam! I just read in the paper that it burned down! Just my luck, lol.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Well it's too bad you didn't find the Dew Drop Inn and have a couple of drinks. Who knows maybe it was for the best.

I love old houses too and am always sad when I see one abandoned. There's just so much you can do to fix one up nice and save it. Hope you get to Jersey soon.

Lisa said...

So, so sad bout those beautiful little farmhouses. I would love them too. Although maybe not, in a place with 47 chruches and no bars! How do people even meet? At church I guess. We will welcome you back to the tri-state :)

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Thanks Lisa! I miss Jersey. And New York! I can't even believe my daughter hasn't been to NYC since she was a baby and remembers nothing. She's going to be so excited when I show her everything.

Yeah, they meet in church! Therefore we have no friends, lol.

Beth said...

Just popping by to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving, Debi. I'm still praying that you'll soon make it north---I'm so sorry that the banks are being utterly ridiculous.

Motley said...

H-H-H-H-Hicksville!!!!