This is Not a Folk Song




 

 

This is Not a Folk Song    

By Chris Chandler  

www.chrischandler.org

 

Most of my stories start out with the phrase my car broke down.

Only the time I’m thinking of the car didn’t exactly break down —the engine fell out of the vehicle.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had the engine fall out of your vehicle, but trust me it is a sight to behold.  I wasn’t sure what I was gonna do so I called up my oldest friend in the world and he said he’d be glad to drive the three hours down from Atlanta to get to La Grange. 

I sat on a milk crate and pan handled change.

 I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to pan handle change when you’re wearing a t shirt that says “Just Say No To a Real Job.” 

The folks of La Grange all seemed annoyed

as I purchased a Schlitz Malt Liquor Tall-boy

and went back to my milk crate,

where I had to wait. 

I shared my last cigarette

with another vagrant

who was peddling flowers. 

We swapped stories and wasted the hours. 

 

His story had it that - these two guys got really drunk on Night train or MD 20/20.  They were riding on a box car and got caught, were thrown from the moving vehicle and subsequently killed.  His story has it that their bodies were so polluted with Night train and MD 20/20 that since they were buried in a shallow grave out side of Green Bay Wisconsin - nothing will grow there to this day. I had to tell my friend that I did not believe his story, but I thought it was somehow beautiful.

 

But this is not a folk song

It is about the way I feel

And whether that’s universal,

Who am I to tell, it’s not a folk song

But you are welcome to sing along

But it ain’t got no harmony and I think that that’s OK

Because I’m not feelin harmonious anyway.

 

This story is about my friend Frank.  Frank is my oldest friend in the world.  Our buildings faced each other down in Stone Mountain, GA and we had rock wars against each other.  We went to kindergarten together.  We went through puberty together.  We went through juvenile delinquency together.  We even detoxed together.  When Frank  got there he did what he always does - he didn’t say a word - he just handed me a bottle of tequila and we took off - past those shotgun distilleries and I started laying it on thick and heavy to my friend Frank about how I didn’t think the last five years of my life amounted to a damn thing - traveling around the country, living in the back of a pickup truck - maybe staying in homeless shelters - writing songs about the people that I meet.  As I was getting deep into my self pity rap I looked over to Frank for some sort of a response and he still hadn’t said anything - he just looked up - which made me look up.  I noticed for the first time these giant iron butterflies ejecting and rejecting their landing gear - which could only mean one thing - that we were headed towards the Atlanta airport - the world’s largest airport.

 

Frank exited at the last remaining exit in Hapeville, GA, and we were on this little dirt road.  We were fish tailing along it until we came up to a chain link fence.  Frank he nudged that chain link fence with the front bumper of his car and that gate slung open.  We were no longer near the Atlanta airport but we were in it.  And I don’t mean in the parking lot.  We were between the runways.

I mean we were now drag racing a 727.  I thought for a minute we were going to win - that is until we saw this other chain link fence coming up on us real fast - so Frank, he locked them down and we doughnuted around.  Frank hopped out of the car, pulled out a little white piece of paper, and undid the combination lock and pulled the pickup truck inside.  We were in about a twenty yard fenced off area that sits between the runways of the Atlanta airport.

 

But this is not a folk song It is about the way I feel

And whether that’s universal,

Who am I to tell, it’s not a folk song

But you are welcome to sing along

But it ain’t got no melody and I think that that’s OK

Because I’m not feelin melodious anyway.

 

Now the reason that twenty yard fenced off area is there is because it is a graveyard.  Now in the state of Georgia you have to ask a family’s permission to move a graveyard and my friend Frank’s family did not give the Atlanta Airport permission to move that tiny plot.  I looked down at some of the dates and they were all there from before the civil war - and to find anything in the city of Atlanta from before the civil war is relatively significant. The date that caught my eye read, “Emanual, age seven, House servant.”

 

I went to ask Frank about that. He had climbed up on top of the tallest monument.  So I climbed up there with him.  Drinking Tequila with my oldest friend in the world.  Watching the planes take off so close that we could actually make out figures in the window.  So close that if I had a flat stone, like in the good old days, I could’ve taken out one of those windows.  I noticed from that height that the planes have to jog left and then dart right to avoid this tiny graveyard, 

I started thinking about my measly five years of living on the road and how that might not ever amount to a damn thing.  But here was the life of one seven year old slave who could change or at least slow down the steamroller of progress, one hundred and fifty years after his death.  That, I thought, was beautiful.

 

But this is not a folk song

it is about the way I feel

and whether that’s universal,

who am I to tell, it’s not a folk song

 But you are welcome to sing along

but it’s played out of tune and I think that that’s OK

Because the whole damn world’s out of tune, anyway.

 

nbaekm mpyovy