goatboy and
the music machines

a documentary by Randy A. Riddle


Greek Gods in a Fast Food World

Standing 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.  

Kathy's KitchenMore 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 Christian bookstore.  

Right 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.  

 The 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 American Legion memorial, just in front of the building, to Woodbury residents who fought and died in two World Wars.  

I 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.  

Goat's Custom License PlateMy 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.  

After 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.  

During 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."  

McDonald's in WoodburyOn 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.  

"I'm the only Greek God in this town," he quipped as he laughed heartily.