Sunday, November 07, 2010

Look around; characters abound

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn., Nov. 6 -- I've always been rather amused by the notion of writer's block.

Can't speak for everybody. My gut tells me it smacks of pretentiousness. Or laziness. Or something.

We're at the Down Home, cool joint, house of music. Good stuff. Appalachian and authentic.

Cruz Contreras and the Black Lillies are on the bill. Oh my.

Watched Cruz for a year or two when he fronted the band for his ex, Robinella. Knew he could pick. Had no idea he could sing.

But he can and it's cool, especially when whatever he's picking mixes with Trisha Gene Brady's harmony and Tom Pryor's pedal steel. "Whiskey Angel," wow and wonderful. Darn tootin'.

I mention writer's block because colorful characters abound here. Sitting at the end of our row is a bespectacled woman wearing a book and a bored look. She throws us a curve when she asks our friend Mike if he'll pretend to be her date should her ex show up. Mike, ever the gent, agrees.

She lights up when she hears we're from Knoxville. She likes Robin and Cruz and some of the other local talent. She smiles when she hears I'm a writer and says her daughter has dabbled in newspapering. She herself writes journals, but she says she's too wordy to be read. As my mind wanders elsewhere, I hear her telling Mike that she's worked in patents after Mike mentions his daughter does the same in D.C.

After the figurative curtain falls, the guy beside Jenn says the windows on his car have frosted over. Which makes sense, since it's freezing.

The guy then tells us he works for the railroad and often leaves the VW bus he finally found and restored down by the tracks, should he jaunt to Knoxville to dig some tunes.

"I sleep in it sometimes so I don't have to drive back," he says.

"Maybe we'll see you around town," I say on the way out the door. His twang and the image of that bus stay with me on the way home.

Writer's block? I think not.

Just look around. Characters abound.

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