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How much can one fan of OKOM (Our Kind Of Music) accomplish in just a couple of years? Plenty, if it's Rockzilla, aka photographer Michael Johnson. From 2003 to 2005, rockzilla.net was a chronicle of the alt.country scene from a uniquely Texan perspective. But all good things must end, and Rockzilla has retired from the online 'zine scene.

This mirror site was copied from the rockzilla.net site with the express permission of Rockzilla hisself. If you don't believe me, go to the KHYI-Fans email list and ask him! Buddy will back me up, too.


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Reasons to Quit

by David Pilot
 
     
 

Charlotte, NC is an interesting town. I relocated here just over six weeks ago with my job, and to my undying joy now have an entire year at my disposal to explore this city and state. I'll be popping off from time to time with well-considered and soul-improving ruminations on the state of the state, and perchance now and again offering comparisons between Dixie and Texas. Kick back and grab a cold one if you like, and let's talk of things that may or may not be interesting, but certainly keep me from dying of homesickness.

North Carolina itself is pure Southern culture. The folks are friendly, the countryside beautiful and the tobacco fields simply boundless. Interstates don't seem to exist here, just two-lane highways through rolling hills and cornfields dotted with Confederate monuments and innumerable historical markers. A Ken Burns wet dream, I suppose, and a wealth of opportunities for a history and Civil War buff like myself to walk the land that Stonewall Jackson died for. The people here are proud of their land and their heritage, and while they've moved into the 21st century they've retained links to their old ways that a Yankee just can't fully understand. Farmers markets are plentiful here, and the fresh vegetables and fruit ---especially the okra!!!-are not to be trifled with. If I have to be outside of Texas for a year, I can sure think of worse states to be in.

Charlotte, on the other hand, is none of the above. An old Southern city with a proud tradition, Charlotte is now a mecca for out-of-state imports drawn here by the banking industry. Yuppies from New York, New Jersey (who'da thought THAT??), Chicago and Portland are everywhere. Everyone seems proud of Charlotte, and the local rag, The Observer, daily finds ways to tout her municipal status as a world-class city. But none of these people bursting with civic pride are FROM Charlotte. They're Yankees. At the main intersection Uptown (no, they don't call it downtown-that's how you know they must be Yankees), on the corner of Trade and Tryon streets, is a granite monument noting that Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Legislature held their last meetings in the building behind the marker's reader. Only no one stops to read it. When I did so, on a casual Friday in my normal boots, jeans and Stetson, I drew dark glances and muffled comments from the Hilfigered passersby. They all seemed to think I must be the Grand Dragon hisownself stopped in to pay homage to murderers from dark ages past. Of course, I draw those same looks anywhere I go in this town in said apparel. Back home, no one thinks twice about a man in comfortable clothes. Here, everyone thinks twice, for starters, then grabs the women and children and ducks for the other side of the street.

But that's just cultural, I guess. We all like our comfort zones, and apparently Justin ropers don't fit that definition for folks around here. Let's talk of things that truly matter, things like jalapenos and spices and food with flavor. They don't have those things in Charlotte. What they do have is something called a "wrap." I think I saw one once at a Jack in the Box in Irving, but that's about it for my exposure to this alleged foodstuff. They are the rage here. They consist of a tortilla wrapped around meat or beans or veggies, colorfully garnished with cilantro and sold for roughly eight bucks apiece. I'd call that a burrito, usually, and pay a hell of a lot less for it, but what do I know? Of course, a burrito has a flour or corn tortilla, usually contains beef or chicken, and has flavor. These wrap doohickeys are usually in a tomato basil tortilla (don't ask the waitress what a tomato basil tortilla is. She'll tell you "It's red." No lie) or a spinach tortilla or some other godawful violation of natural laws, and they usually contain pork or spam or something similar. What they do not contain is flavor. Or spice. There's no such thing as heat in this town where culinary concerns are involved. Even Hooters, which I felt could be counted on as an authentic American tradition where wings are concerned, has wimped out here. Hot wings? Uh uh. Oh, sure, you can order 'em, and they'll make 'em, and you can eat 'em. Just don't go expectin' 'em to be hot. My 3 year old son could eat these things.

Having only been here six weeks, I won't say conclusively that Charlotte has no edible food for sale. There is one place, sadly only open for lunch Monday through Friday, called Johnny Burrito which makes a hellacious California-style burrito that seriously takes two hands to hold and eat. It's like a football. And they do have fresh chopped jalapenos there. Still seven bucks with a drink, but in this town definitely worth it. There's also a significant Mexican population in Charlotte (no, I don't know why), and as a result there is some outstanding south of the border comida to be had. I've found the Carta Blancas colder and the enchiladas fresher when the staff at these establishments realizes I am competent, if far from fluent, en espanol. Apparently they're not used to gringos speaking the language around here, so if you do they take you in like family. It's a great thing when you're hungry, but it strikes me funny that I moved from Texas to North Carolina only to find that friendliness and familiarity are directly linked to my ability to speak a foreign language.

I think what I miss most about Texas, aside from friends and real music and prairie sunsets, is the sense of place and pride in identity. I read once where Bum Phillips wrote that if you ask a man from Connecticut what he is, he'll say maybe a lawyer or an accountant or a broker. If you ask a man from Texas what he is, he'll say he's a Texan. Then he might mention that he's a lawyer or accountant or broker, but he's gonna make damn sure the first thing you know is he's a Texan. When you're living in Fort Worth and driving all over Texas at every opportunity, you know that's the case and you appreciate it. When you leave and come to a town like Charlotte, you miss it worse than a broke down air conditioner in mid-July. There's a certain value and honesty in the pride of place and self that Texans have, and it leaves a big black hole when it's nowhere to be found. It's a shame, really, because folks from North Carolina do have a lot to be proud of. In my few ventures to the countryside so far I've found many that know that and really do love their home state. But these Charlotteans, as they call themselves for reasons I'll never even try to understand, only seem to take pride or find identity in their cars, wardrobe and bankrolls. I reckon that works for them, and I wish 'em all the luck in the world, but it sure doesn't do a thing for me. I like my friends real, my history proud, my music true and my food spicy. Most of all, I like knowing that the people I interact with on a daily basis share a lot of common ideas and values and traditions and pride, and that a "howdy" on the street will get one in return. I like knowing that my state inspires legends and awe in the hearts of people everywhere. I like knowing that while the Confederate marker in downtown Charlotte is ignored by passersby, Matt Western down in Australia is watching over the Alamo 24-7 on a live webcam. My home is a special place, and blessed to be filled with folks who know it. I've declared my cube an official embassy of the Republic of Texas, and a 6 x 8 foot Texas flag hangs on the wall. The shelves are plastered with Kinky Friedman books and Dallas Cowboys footballs, and the CD player constantly blares Chris Wall and Brian Burns and Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff. It's not home, but for the eight to twelve hours a day I spend sequestered there it can begin to feel like it a little bit. If you're reading this in Texas, do me a favor tonight when you get home. Go find yourself a back porch or a highway, pop a top and watch that big ol' Texas sun set the biggest sky in the world on fire. I'm watching the same sunset in my imagination, and countin' the days 'til I get home and have a cold one with you.

You can contact David Pilot at:

tailgunner-at-rockzilla.net

 
     

 
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