Greek Gods in a Fast Food World
almost directly opposite each other near the center of Woodbury, like
two battling, unmoving gladiators, are the two symbols of what the town
is and what it could become. Kathy's Kitchen is the local eatery;
everyone I talked to likes to go there when it is open. The gray
wooden exterior of Kathy's, with it's simple painted sign and cut-out
coffee pot is a stark contrast to the stone and glass exterior and bright
yellow and red arches of the shiny new McDonald's
that opened the day after I arrived in town.
than anything else, Woodbury has character and small-town flavor.
The buildings are an eclectic mix of stone, mortar and wood, but all seem
to "fit" the area with their subdued earth-tones of reds and browns.
Each building has some unique characteristic that only hints at the story
beneath the exterior -- a carefully painted farm scene that forms an advertisement
on the side of one brick building or a window display containing a crudely
formed wooden hammer, cross, and whip with a sign advertising a soon-to-open
next to Goatboy's shop, Short
Mountain Music Works, is a little notions store. The window
display says much about the two ladies that run the shop and the neighbors
they serve. Perky little girls' dresses that would be appropriate
for Easter and an assortment of checked men's shirts and fedoras are the
kinds of clothes that one would wear to church or social gatherings on
Sunday; the ladies, probably in business in the town for several years,
know their customers tastes and needs. More importantly, they probably
know their names. This isn't some huge Wal-Mart,
with it's faux hometown feeling in the form of senior citizen greeters
at the front door pushing flyers at you when you come in.
center of the town contains an elaborate courthouse that is the heart
of activity in the town. It's steady bell tolls each hour; in the
evenings, young men in their souped up cars and trucks park with their
girlfriends in the parking lot, chatting, and probably not noticing the
Legion memorial, just in front of the building, to Woodbury residents
who fought and died in two World Wars.
was born and raised in a town much like this one. While I was in
Woodbury, the talk of the town was the new McDonald's;
people groaned when they passed by and talked about the new four-lane
highway that connects Woodbury with Murfeesboro and how that will change
the town. I remember when the restaurant chain finally made it to
my home town in the mountains of North Carolina when I was a teenager.
Others came and local restaurants and cafes began to close. Wal-Mart
opened about a half-hour away and even more stores closed up shop.
hometown made an attempt at keeping it's "small-town" flavor, starting
an annual Christmas
in July festival, celebrating the local Christmas tree industry, and
concentrating on gift-shops and other kinds of tourist-traps to appeal
to visitors from the foothills of the state. But something definitely
changed -- the locals didn't shop in the town anymore, going elsewhere
for their basic needs. These new customers are strangers, only in
town for a few hours, days, or weeks. People don't really know their
neighbors anymore, since they never run into them in town.
shooting a rather long interview session with Goatboy during my last full
day in Woodbury, I offered to take him out to lunch. At that time
of the afternoon, Kathy's was already closed, having served the early-rising
breakfast and lunch crowd in the town. The only place open was McDonald's.
We walked up the street and went inside, cringing at the sparkling bright
interior and posters for Happy Meal trinkets from the new Disney
musical cartoon of the "Hercules" legend. Except for the newness
of the place, it seemed like any other fast-food joint I had stopped in
on my eight-hour drive on I-40.
the interview, Goat recalled meeting a Lesbian at a gathering who wanted
to just "go out in the woods and raise asparagus". He noted that
"we don't live in a world like that anymore" and talked about the changes
happening in Woodbury and how the locals would have to deal with it.
"You have to watch out," he said, "or the very thing you're running away
from will be right at your front door."
the restroom doors of the McDonald's,
the management had placed huge posters of characters from the film "Hercules",
and the doors were marked "Gods" and "Goddesses". As we wolfed down
an unknown mix of bread, meat, and special sauce from a styrofoam box,
I pointed out the signs to Goat.
the only Greek God in this town," he quipped as he laughed heartily.