Monday, June 27, 2011

Country Strong

What follows is an endorsement of the Gwyneth Paltrow film Country Strong, a movie I was very apprehensive about enjoying.  The film turned out to be surprisingly not as bad as I thought it would be.  The degree of its not being as horrid as I thought has inspired this affirmation.

Country music can be a fickle mistress.  She teases with lyrics of a festive life, filled with dogs, watermelon dances, seeing one’s mother after her incarceration.  But she will also remind us of life’s hardships, including infidelity, watermelon dances and death by getting runned over by a damned old train.  While I do find a few of the songs catchy or some of the female singers nice to view, I have never felt the music described my lifestyle or a lifestyle I was particular to.

Several outside influences have been considered in this review.  One must take into account the state of mind present when viewing the film.  No danger or odd circumstances surrounded the atmosphere of our den; we were at peace with the world and in love with each other as we watched Country Strong together, my wife and I.

Gwenyth Paltrow stars as Kelly Canter, a country superstar being released from rehab one year after falling from the stage in Dallas, a city which will haunt and redeem her, in a drunken stupor causing a miscarriage of her unborn baby.  Garrett Hedlund plays the part of Beau Hutton, a young part time honky tonk singer cursed with a pitiful attempt at facial hair, with whom she has an affair.  He is hired to join her on her return tour to keep an eye on her addictions.  He is torn between Kelly and Chiles Stanton, played by Leighton Meester, a young girl whose success in country music is dependent upon her beauty.  Tim McGraw stars as Kelly’s husband James, he pushes her as her manager but you can see right through his wig that that he has a hard time forgiving Kelly for losing their baby.

While Gwenyth never won an award for being considered sexy, as an example please refer to the unflattering evening gown worn in the movie poster, she gives an admirable portrayal of a much sexier woman.  Namely Tim McGraw’s real wife, Faith Hill whose acting skills might outweigh the singing skills of Gwenyth.  A conundrum aided by theory that Faith Hill fans may find the film to be documentary in nature and unleash their hatred for McGraw’s misgivings while at the same time confused by Faith’s appearances at later dates.  I thought of Faith often during the movie.  While the simplest of country music fans might be perplexed by Kelly’s behavior off stage, I believe superstars such as Faith might have watched the film from the comfort of their own luxuriously appointed RV, snacking on Xanax with a little vodka to help the pills go down easier, all the while screaming at the images on the screen “I hear ya girl, been there, done that!” 

Like the country music, table mounted, whiny guitar instrument thing, melodrama is sporadic but hits the right chords, get it chords.  It is not overpowering but you really notice how annoying it is during the solos.  Melodrama could be lost on or misspelled by its intended audience, but it brought a smile to a non fan such as me.  It was at those moments I imagined Faith drunkenly raising a bottle of vodka saying “Hell yes!”  I know I did.

After viewing the film and telling a few friends about it I was informed that it was really a horribly reviewed movie.  I don’t doubt it for a minute as it has been decades since I last saw Coal Miner’s Daughter, another film filled with country music songs.  I feel different about this film.  This film makes even me feel Country Strong.

Monday, June 20, 2011


On a leisurely drive through Pinckard Alabama on state highway 134 you might encounter a black man sitting on a wood crate in front of the old mercantile building beside L&M Motors.  His purpose is unknown to the casual driver who might lift a few fingers from the steering wheel for a cordial wave as I have never seen him return a wave.  He might possibly be a salesman for L&M Motors, albeit a bad one as I rarely see him standing, plus the Chrysler with the lackadaisical Hip Hop paint scheme they have for sale has not moved in months.  I did see him sitting on his wood crate with the vegetable salesman mentioned in one of my recent posts.  Apparently he finds the hot spots in Pinckard, which are few and I would say far between but nothing in Pinckard is far.  If he is the ambassador for our fair town I say we can do better, like the black man in Midland City.

Just a few miles down the road, after 134 turns into Napier Field Road in Midland City, you will find a black man in his front yard most mornings that waves at every car that drives by.  I’m not talking about a casual movement of the hand.  He throws an arm in the air for several seconds ensuring the drivers know, depending on direction of travel, they are welcome to town or thanked for passing through on the way out of town.  His enthusiasm is indelible as not only myself, but several other drivers I have noticed, return the wave in a similar fashion.  He puts a smile on my face almost every morning on my way to work.

If you pass through either of these small towns take note of these gentlemen.  While Midland City has the benefit of a major four lane highway, Dollar General and an independent grocer, they also have an ambassador of friendship.  A man who raises his hand to greet any race, any gender, any make and model of automobile, and he is appreciated for it. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tomato Sandwich

I saw the man on the side of the road in Pinckard selling vegetables out of the back of his truck and this time driving by I have cash.  He has signs advertising MATERS and KORN.  I am reminded of a band named Korn with a K but I think the band used a backward R, so there is probably no connection.  I whip around my wife's Taurus wagon and pull up to the makeshift stand.  He also has okra and squash.  I ask where the tomatoes originated.  Malvern he says, that is close enough to Slocomb for me.  I purchase twelve pre-husked ears of corn along with some tomatoes and a mess of okra.  For those not familiar with a mess, it is a commonly used unit of measure in the South, ranging anywhere from a helping to a half a hamper.  I told him the ingredients will go together to make a soup.  He asks if he can come to my house.  I just smiled, thanked him and left.

Just in case you were wondering I got all of that for $15.  $5 for the dozen ears of corn pre-husked, $4 for the okra and another $4 for the tomatoes.  I told him to keep the change, in return he handed me a few more tomatoes and some kind of little round squash.  I love the South.

My wife is not home yet and I want a snack.  Oh no, all we have is wheat bread.  I have never had a tomato sandwich on wheat, it will have to do.  I picked the smallest tomato and sliced, then applied a liberal portion of mayonnaise to the bread.  Then generous salt, pepper and ten dots of Tabasco sauce.

Even on the wheat bread the sandwich is good.  Nothing can quite describe the taste of the mixture of milky goodness that drips from the sandwich to my plate.  If you have never tried this delicacy then get yourself to Slocomb, or the surrounding area during the early summer.  Make yourself one of these simple but flavorful sandwiches.  I may save one for my wife to have a sandwich too.  I need to get some white bread and bacon, oh bacon makes it so much better.  Excuse me now, I have to go back to the kitchen.