A week ago, I was sitting in my favorite spot in Someplace Else, Falling Rock, North Carolina’s premier nightspot, next to the old jukebox at the end of the bar. Nobody uses the jukebox any more, of course, not just because technology, even here, has moved on, but also because of the bullet holes still there from the evening in 1977 when a stranger whose complexion broke one of the hostelry’s unwritten rules came into the bar to ask for directions. Times have changed, thank goodness. Nowadays the owners and staff may still not exactly like folks who don’t resemble them closely in every single way, but they do like their money. It’s not uncommon to see someone who, to look at him, might be Hispanic, though you can’t quite be sure, and, though nobody would actually talk to him, they don’t shoot him either. A couple of months ago, the bar’s first openly gay patron was welcomed by the regulars when it was agreed after some lively discussion that the fact he was wearing a cowboy hat trumped all that stuff in Leviticus.
I use the word “trumped” advisedly. Falling Rock is deep in MAGA country and the epicenter of this belief system is Someplace Else. And the epicenter of the epicenter is the band’s fiddle and harmonica ace, my old friend Beau Strokes. It’s a tribute to our friendship that it endures although we don’t see eye to eye on much, Beau and I. In fact we disagree about just about everything. Take that old jukebox we were sitting next to. I told you the commonly accepted version of the story behind the bullet holes – the one that was reported in the local newspaper and all the TV channels and provided the inspiration for local playwright Marcie Penman’s musical tragedy in three acts, “Jukebox of Death,” which ran for two weekends at the Falling Rock Community Theater. Beau’s version is quite different. He wasn’t there that night, but his buddy Earl’s cousin had a friend who knew someone who was, and the real version of events is quite different from the official one. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal it here as I was sworn to secrecy, but Beau did give me permission to share the other secrets he revealed to me as we sat at the bar. In fact he insisted that I do, because the world needs to know. So here you are, Beau – this one’s for you.