Thursday, 19 February 2009

An American Odyssey, Part 2: Deliverance

The Engine of our 1.4litre Chevrolet Cobalt neither roared nor purred but occasionally if you put your foot down it could be made to meow. When Leaving Washington DC we decided to take scenic route 50. After four hours we were beginning to regret it, we were deep in the Appalachian mountains and it looked like we somewhere close to where the events described in the book Deliverance occurred.

Unlike the America we see on the television this wasn't the land of rampant consumerism, businesses seemed few and far between let alone billboards which were thus, offering only accusation and damnation.

I hoped beyond hope to see something like this:

But it never came and after 8 hours of driving it was getting dark, we were tired, hungry and I was getting worried about running out of gas.

Just then. . . . something that seemed insignificant happened, we passed over the state border, leaving plain old Virginia for 'Wild & Wonderful' West Virginia, and wonderful it turned out to be

Dont just take my word for it, ask this chap:

John Denver is thought of as one West Virginia,s greatest advocates, but that is a fallacy. His famous song 'Country Roads'' had its original chorus altered at the behest of a tyrannical record executive insistent that the track appeal to a wider demographic. When I interviewed a bitter John regarding the whole unfortunate incident he told me:

"I was just a country kid back then, I knew what I loved and that was chicken, so I wrote a song 'bout it. I just figured back then that if I got that record deal and made me a stack o' money, that I'd be able to get me as much of that finger licking chicken as possible. And yeah it paid off, I've eaten me a whole lotta chicken since that day. When Harland died I realised I'd never had the chance to say sorry for turning my back on the man who was like a father to me. Well thems was real hard times. I don't know what I'd have done if I didn't have chicken at that time, I'm not even sure if I'd still be here. I musta eaten me damn near a thousan' buckets, Sad days man, sad days."

John agreed to let me have a copy of the original lyrics (in red) as opposed to the filth that was released (in blue.)

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I be-long
West virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

Country roads, take me there
To the Chicken, I adore
Colonel Sanders, Chicken Popa
Cookin' Chicken, on the bone

It was this story that made finding a KFC in Grafton in the back waters of West Virginia so magical. Nestled as you can see amidst dense forest on route 50 as it langurously winds it's way across the country Grafton KFC reached out of the darkness like a reverse chicken lighthouse drawing modern day land mariners towards its enchanting warm glow.
And what a KFC it was, this was the paradigm, the bar against which others should be judged. This wasn't just a fast food chicken restaurant it was a dining experience. Pictures of the local football team adorned the walls, charity was prevelant but not intrusive, there were tasteful Haloween decorations (perhaps slightly premature) and many homely touches. A cruet set for example adorned each and every spotlessly clean table and there were mints along with the other condiments. Why anyone would want to purge their mouth of the flavour is beyond me but I appreciated the gesture.

Our Hostess, for that I what I would call her was knowledgable, helpful and understanding to the point of perfection. She could knock a few of those big city branches into line I thought to myself. And the food? well this was my introduction to the 'Plated Meal' Original recipe strips (great) a side of mashed potato and gravy, (good) soda (standard) and the curious american 'biscuit'. This was something akin to a plain scone which one can cover with the contents of a sachet of the Colonel's buttery spread (not to my taste).

And so we ate, said our goodbyes and went on our way into the night,revived not just by the food, but by the thought that tomorrow we'd be in the promised land. . . . Kentucky.

Coming Soon. . . . An American Odyssey Special Report~:Kentucky

1 comment:

paulbot said...

excellent work dave. a thoroughly enjoyable read so far, I look forward to the 3rd installment!