The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee’

Those Are Marshmallow Clouds Being Friendly

December 22, 2011 | by

My first shift at the candy store was on the first day of October, my last just before New Year’s, but when I talk about it now, what I say is, “Last Christmas, when I worked at the candy store.”

In the world of candy stores, and this candy store in particular, Christmas is a perpetual condition that just happens to spike at the end of the year. A red-and-green decorating scheme carried throughout the shop—I could not escape it, even when I retreated, as I sometimes did, to the store’s one bathroom, also tinged with red and green, just to shut out the world for a minute or two. On the sales floor, the shelves were heavy with saltwater taffy and boxes of truffles and delightfully analog toys—balsa gliders, pick-up sticks, chunky wooden puzzles. The general effect was that of being buried inside the holiday stocking of a child who’d been very, very good that year—along with the child himself, and a hoard of his less well-mannered friends and their overstressed, oblivious parents.

I took the gig shortly after finding myself laid off from the job I’d had for the last four years as an editor at a music magazine. I felt adrift and thought tending to a candy store, such a bastion of simple pleasures, might anchor me more firmly to the world, and also I thought that money might be a thing I’d might want to have again. But in my vague desperation I had forgotten about humans’ terrific knack for rendering even the most ostensibly pleasant pursuits completely soul crushing, and how that tendency increases as the winter days darken.

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The Day I Met Hillbilly Jim

January 13, 2011 | by

Part four of a five-part story. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

A young Josh meets Hillbilly.

Hillbilly Jim lumbers into the studio wearing sunglasses.

I am on time this time. Early, even. Because I’ve been briefed I say, “Hi Mr. Morris. I’m Josh.”

His hand engulfs mine, pumps up and down. He is massive. Six-foot-seven, broad shouldered, and suspiciously orange.

“Howdy,” he says. “Good to meetcha.”

I am meeting Hillbilly Jim. This is real. I have note cards to tell me which questions I’m supposed to ask. They are stacked up in my hand, which is sweating profusely.

Hillbilly Jim has lost his shirt and is now clothed simply in denim overalls. He sits in a folding chair in front of me. There are lights all around, heat slapping us from a hundred directions, illuminating our faces, Hillbilly’s unnaturally tan, mine ghost white beneath all the makeup.

Action!

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When I Got Cable

January 10, 2011 | by

Professional wrestler and disc jockey Hillbilly Jim.

A tale of fame told in five parts.

I’m about to become a regional television star—Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky. I will sign autographs and receive marriage proposals. I will fly to Disney World, Hollywood, and Huntsville, Alabama's U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

But for now I’m simply the twelve-year-old son of fundamentalist Christians who caved and got cable. Cable! A boy sitting on a couch on a Saturday night in Nashville watching television for the first time in his life with the option of more than a single public station.

I’m an excited boy, a wide-eyed boy, amazed and stimulated and overwhelmed by kung fu movies and (oh my God!) MTV. A remote-controlling boy who absorbs like a dry sponge dunked into pure neon, who keeps the clicker from his big brother. The brother grows red in the face and angry. A boy who can’t get enough, wrapped in a blanket with brand new cable and who clicks and clicks and then, suddenly, there is a man, his face filling the screen, his hair and beard a single unit, pulled over his head like a balaclava, frizzy and thick, the consistency and loft of couch-pillow stuffing. The man is amazing. He is huge and happy. I am a boy who just discovered Hillbilly Jim.

Hillbilly Jim is about to wrestle the Earthquake. The Earthquake is angry. He is yelling and spearing at the camera with his meaty pointer finger, talking about all the things he will do to Hillbilly when he gets his hands on him. The Earthquake is enormous, blue spandex, thinning hair. He says he is going to kill Hillbilly Jim, and I believe him.

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