"A deeply fascinating portrait of the cold war ... An important and brilliant take on life in mid-20th century US."
- Chris Petit, The Guardian
MY FATHER DIED, EITHER IN VIRGINIA OR MARYLAND, at the age of fifty-three, on the night of March 12, 1976. My mother told me that he died at home in his bed in Hagerstown, Maryland, but the Social Security Death Index indicates that he was pronounced dead in Virginia, although it doesn’t say where in Virginia.
I had doubts, even then, that he died at home.
You cross a sewer drainpipe to get there.
Lately, the ditch where the sewer water runs has been the final resting place of a rusted Winn-Dixie shopping cart, an artifact no doubt stolen from the nearby Winn-Dixie Plaza, which features (in addition to the Winn-Dixie) an Emergency Clinic, a Buy Wise discount drug store, a Radio Shack, a Buy Rite discount shoe store, a European Tanning Spa, a Hills’ discount department store, and one of those afternoon saloons without windows, the kind of purely functional dive that might, if you walk into it, change forever your views on the nature of things.
Mystery begins in a feeling, something deep, poetic, and sweet.
You get caught up in it. You get caught up in it fast. Little raptures of being alive ripple down the back of your neck, trickle like ice crystals doing an unknown, familiar dance across the constant heat of your spine. This is what it is like, this is where it all begins. Mystery is like a seductive voice deep into the way cool and hot of the music that you suddenly discover is singing to you, directly to you, only to you, breaking you away from what you thought you were, which until that very moment you thought was the whole and substance of your life. Mystery changes all of that because mystery changes you. Mystery defines you in the casting of its spell, in something as simple as the enchantment of a voice, a voice inviting you to dance, a dance that promises something you will always remember, or, maybe, that you will never forget.
Take South Carolina #15 exit off I-85 heading up from Atlanta at the legal speed limit, pause at the sign at the end of the exit ramp, and — if you are prone to consider the meaning of such things — you see that you are now at a complex intersection of American culture. This place — this intersection — displays local histories, regional politics, and deep, dangerous — ultimately spiritual — conflicts. What are these stories? What is this place all about?