By Sue Murphy
After a long hiatus, I once again drove down to Florida to see my grandchildren. The trip requires nine hours of solid driving, but it beats a similar number of hours spent dealing with airport crowds.
I enjoy the drive, really. I could take the multi-lane highway route through Atlanta, which would get me there a bit quicker, but I always choose the more scenic route that involves a little less white-knuckling and gives me more time to breathe.
The route takes me through a lot of rural Alabama and Georgia scenery and several small towns where there is always something interesting to see. I don’t stop much along the way, or the nine hours would become 10, but I take in the local flavor via roadway signs and billboards.
My favorite this time said, “To Avoid Amputation, Call …” which seemed like a veiled threat, but the guy on the sign was wearing a white coat so I’m assuming it was a medical sort of thing. In Columbus, there were several military supply stores that made me giggle just a little thinking about the possibility that the U.S. Army issued new recruits a supply list like they do in first grade – “Two pair of stain-resistant khakis, one pair of sturdy boots, one No. 2 bazooka, four regulation hand grenades.”
There are parts of the trip where the attractions are few and far between, which made the discovery of Cowboy Bill’s Lounge especially intriguing. The building was low and dusty and sat just past County Line Road (which county, I couldn’t tell you). There were no lights on, but it was only 9 a.m., when any late-night carousing cowboy would still be sensibly home in bed. The parking lot also held a liquor store. That would be handy in case Cowboy Bill ran low. But the only other establishment for a mile in either direction was a pet crematorium that I’m hoping had no connection at all.
The best part was that the lounge parking lot also held a small, do-it-yourself lighted sign that said, “Karaoke Tuesday night.” The sign had been there for a while, indicating that karaoke night was a weekly event.
The road continued on past Cowboy Bill’s for a long, uneventful stretch, so it gave me a lot of time to think about those Tuesday nights. I pictured a crowd of karaoke regulars, people who drove from their homes and farms and far-flung (very far) family-owned businesses for a chance to be on the stage. I pictured the parking lot filling up and would-be singers filing in through that rusty screen door. Once their eyes became accustomed to the dim light, they leafed through the available play list, although my guess is that most of them already knew what they were going to sing. They’d been stealing practice time all week in between oil changes and selling bags of shelled pecans, and they were as ready as they’d ever be.
Were there crowd favorites? A guy with lambchop sideburns who did justice to “Viva Las Vegas?” A heart-of-gold woman who could bring the crowd to tears with a little Patsy Cline? A couple who sang exclusively showtunes? A guy who made the crowd groan because he insisted on signing “Bohemian Rhapsody” every single week?
I didn’t stop, so I’ll never know, but I enjoyed thinking about those brave souls. I applaud them for their dogged genius in creating a place where they can sing the song that is in their hearts every Tuesday so close to a crematorium.
Well played, my friends. Well played.