I went through the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and Virginia this past weekend. It was my first trip to the mountains and holy crap, it was just immense. My mind had a hard time comprehending the scale. I would see some big ass mountain and then I would see a tiny house clinging to the side of the mountain. Forget having an island to yourself; a house on a mountain is desolation personified.
My mother was telling me how poor people were. To her e proof was in the outhouses and the lack of fancy food at the stores. To me it was in all of their faces. They look tired and worn through. There are two man jobs up there and it was farming and mining. These people work hard for not very much.
This was really evident when we went to a big ass Flea Market in Bristol. They were house in these buildings that were narrow warehouses. They sold anything from socks, to sticky notes to flip flops to old tabloids to Stephen King books. A lot of what we saw for sale was pure junk. Boxes of rusty pans sit next to boxes for Game Boy games. Not Game Boy games mind you, but the boxes were for sale. It was the desperation that got to me. These people were hard selling broken children’s toys like they needed to make a rent payment.
Of course, these are the same people who once hung a circus elephant from a train trestle because it stomped on some local folks. They hung an elephant. You don’t fuck with people like that.
I did buy issue #2 of the 1983 run of Red Sonja for a dollar, as well as an old Diane Duane Star Trek book for a dollar as well. There were good deals to be found through other people’s trash. I also came across a box of mint Penthouses from the 70’s that they were selling for 2$ each but my mom was RIGHT THERE next to me, and we don’t have that kind of a relationship. Sigh.
It was hard not to imagine all sorts of naughtiness from these people. The most popular item for sale at the flea market were DVD’s. These people wanted some fucking entertainment. It was too easy to imagine orgies in those beautiful mountains. It was too easy to imagine wife-swapping and deviant experimentation to pass away the long nights. A perpetual fog hung over the place that were actually just low clouds, but the fog gave a feeling of concealment to the place. A man could fuck his neighbor’s wife in the white haze of dew in front of the church and no one would see. The trees were thick enough to hide an outdoor BDSM dungeon.
The mountains are a place for secrets.
The drive back was strange. I felt lean and mean. I felt fucking glad I didn’t live there but at the same time the pure beauty of the place was damn tempting. There is something magical about seeing trees clinging to the side of a mountain you can barely perceive much less conceive of. It reminded me of my favorite erotica stories: big appetites frustrated by bigger obstacles.
Days like these, I know why the wolf howls at the moon.