I stumbled upon a familiar town deep in the woods. Actually not that deep. Just a tank of gas and a somewhat useful foot on the peddle got me there. The place looked familiar since it was used in a film long ago. I did not see that film when it was in theaters since I came out when the film did. The film was Deliverance and the town is Sylva, North Carolina and I was driving down the same street as used in that film and as I drove I was more interested in finding a parking spot than I had time to The Googles “where the fuck am I and was this street used in a film?”
This blogger for one reason or another has been to a hundred, perhaps several hundred dying little villages across this Great and Sainted land.
The little shops were run down and the buildings were very sun burned and for the most part vacant. However, here and there is a few businesses still thriving or at least thriving enough to pay the rent and somewhat clean the windows when they remembered. This was not the time of Deliverance, the long gone days were done and grandma’s golden general store and the local butcher were gone and but dust on a few brick walls as remembrances. These basic shopes have long been replaced by a number of cute establishments that could find a home in any number of little towns that make the trade papers and tourism board brochures. The little village of Sylvia is a mountain town and within the sphere of Asheville so that while there is a paper mill and rail road tracks, a number of modern road side establishments both ma and pa and corporate, there is the little bookstore, the provisioners for mountain hipsters, and a number of other businesses including the same as one finds in any small village that is on the cusp of collapse (see this blogger’s rant on Main Street USA where businesses were enumerated and itemized in a most sardonic manner).
I had been told first about Deliverance by my mother when I was very young. I guess that year made an impression on her, seeing how Mr. Reynolds was on the screen and I was in the nursery – they did that back then. Put babies in nurseries and kept mothers for a few days. I was brought home, I imagine, in a bassinet from the hospital and I believe my grandmother was there, still in her 1960s garb with the sun glasses and head scarf or perhaps she just put those on for the pictures. I was driven home in a Rambler – a now vintage and perhaps rare car – to a tract home in the suburbs. And my mother sometime in that same year watched Deliverance, the horror film of epic woodland folk and sweaty small towns, and perhaps I was still in the womb when that happened. Perhaps all the fingers in all the world have been pointing to here for some time. Or perhaps not.
I first watched Deliverance when I was nine or ten. It is a longer story than fits in this blog, but I was a child alone in a den in Long Island late at night with a colour TeeVee and cable, three things we as a family of that time could not afford. At that age one has no concept of time. Something from not too long ago seems like ancient history and in 1982 or 1984 or whenever the fuck I was that kid in that room with that TeeVee, Deliverance seemed so long ago so far away, it is strange now to reflect that this film was but as old as I. No Citizen Kane, no Alice in Wonderland, no Casablanca or Lawrence of Arabia (all favorite films at that age), this was of my own lifetime, give or take a few months, days, and hours.
I was up late, one of those unsupervised children of the 1980s we all now fear. I had watched classic Star Trek until about midnight and then on HBO (Home Box Office… the internet of our age and a amazing thing to have in the home since we still had an old black and white and struggled to get channel 13 WPBS) came this film my parent has spoken about and to which the adults alluded to just by going “de a ling ding ding” whenever they didn’t like to be outdoors. I had also seen it in a copy of Kenny’s Mad Magazine collection, since Kenny had no children of his own and didn’t mind our reading his comics. And this was the 1970s, let me remind you…. we drank out of a hose and went on adventures outside of our property without a plan or cell phone…. I’m not saying that a few of us didn’t get kidnapped and die…. But I had some idea of Deliverance. And now the chance to see it. My caregiver, the alleged babysitter, had passed out upstairs long ago after a pack or five or Chesterfields and several bottles of wine. And there was Deliverance. Just right there, on the Boobtube. And I watched the shit out of that film and enjoyed every moment. I did not, however, so much appreciate the abuse I received at the hands of the alleged babysitter… but that is another matter altogether. But having been armed with Deliverance, it was not so amazing that adults acted in strange and mentally ill ways.
Outside of the Kudzu that covered most of the hills and crept over the lamps, spare cars, and sheds, I did not consider the film nor think other than this looked like a quaint enough village if not like a thousand other rotting places I have seen. I parked the car by the burned down building on what may be a main street (the filmed Mill Street was the other direction) and took it all in. I was about to get to the bookstore, but remembered I had little time and just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, needed some victuals to which I assumed a Mexicanhispanicy spot seemed the best bet.
It was. The food was wonderful and the space indeed the type of spot I recognize. Old tin ceiling, worn counters, storied building kicked into shape but needing so much more work than I knew the businesses income could support. Being chained to a small Main Street myself (for reasons far outside the space of this blog), I understood and sympathized and yet there was tinge of envy. The men were young and had mustaches and suspenders. The woman ample arms with amazing ink. The other patrons were laughing and talking with little care in the world and I was rushing my day to get to [omitted] so I could [redacted] the next day. I checked my phone for the map to ensure I had enough time to have dinner, drink a single yummy local pint of brew and legally get on the road to arrive in G— by sundown.
I finished my bill and exited. The early autumn sun yet shone on the Kudzu and the store fronts, both burned down and yet occupied. I took a few snaps and returned to my car. To the highway, and left the safety and comfort of the mountains and the hills that I can been taught to see only as a backdrop to that 1970s Gothic film, the iconic epic of the age, the long lost now lonely time that I was born.
Editor’s Note: This blog is written with a Vizio laptop on often constantly moving trains, airplanes, and cars. Anyone who knows this machine knows that the trackpad is very sensitive and changes text, removes and deletes text and otherwise hon one’s writing. We apologize for such occurrences where sentences just seem to end and with