dolly parton had her own variety show on abc in the late 80’s. we watched it as a family. she said a lot about growing up in the smokey mountains. they meant a lot to her.
in the early 00’s a girl i was with told me she’d never pilgrimed graceland and wanted to, badly. hours after the start of spring break we were diving south to the mississippi delta in the rain. we wore all black. the sad-face photos of us at the eternal flame were outstanding and appeared meaningful.
while dolly aired, the family took a spring break road-trip to florida. we left in the middle of the night. i woke up in the backseat when my mom announced, “this is where dolly’s from!” the rising sun shined through the fog that rested on the range: smokey mountains! the name made sense
the day after graceland, girl and i were entertaining the staff of a bbq place on beale street. we asked if they had ideas on where to continue our trip but they weren’t much help: two of the cooks hadn’t ever traveled outside of memphis. we numbered six places we knew on a napkin and rolled a die. one was drive east to the smokey mountains; two was south to new orleans; six was west to texas; i don’t remember four or five. we rolled a two, easy!
despite my car breaking down so close to new orleans, i didn’t make it back on this trip or back to the smokies on that trip. if i stay on the road long enough i’ll be able to connect all the nouns of my life. e.g. if i take the smokey mountains on this journey, i’ll be experience mapping at a highly skilled level. like the circled white icing on a hostess cupcake
i stayed the night with family friends in louisville. from there it’s a straight four-hour-drive to st louis. i wasn’t ready for that: i had this feeling that the trip was incomplete: it wasn’t a i-don’t-want-this-to-be-over feeling, rather a this-isn’t-done one. i turned the gps off. exited the highway and cruised with no direction
for days i wove roads and states without a map. i often didn’t know where i was. i slept in the car. i barely spoke. i drove really fast. this is experience dessert.
in southern missouri, i was on a farm-to-market road. the speed limit is marked 50 but everyone keeps 70+. at the top of a hill, off the corner of my eye, i noticed a turtle crossing the street. i hit the brakes and ran out. i snapped the photo and picked him up as a caravan of trucks sped past the spot he was at
i set Allegory Turtle down safely in the field he was walking to
now i’m ready.
i kept a rough course in the direction of st louis and as the cupcake’s circle would have it, came upon the subject of the journey’s first photo via a road i’d never traveled-
how predictable – life is pathetically poetic
listening to: the kink’s till the end of the day (1965)