Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do They Have One Hell of a Band?

I don't know about you, but I am an horror genre fan from old.  I couldn't tell you which Stephen King book was my first, or even how I got my hands on it.  It had to have been Carrie or Cujo or something.  But I've devoured King's books whenever they become available.  Of course, I do prefer his earlier works more.

Christine will always hold a dear place in my heart.  My dad had a good friend that owned an auto junkyard and his yard contained the wrecks that came out of the movie.  He even had some of the rubber parts from the car that "came back to life".  I must have been about eleven when I crawled through those cars and picked through the junk inside, snooping along floorboards and in trunks for some forgotten treasure.  I might even have a memento or two stashed in a memory box in the garage...

Plymouth Fury.  Photo from web.
I also enjoyed Hell Night with Linda Blair.  That film was shot at a mansion within a couple miles of where I grew up.  I would sneak through the property from the park next door to see the pond and curving staircase in the garden.  But never at night!

Photo from web.
Then there were the Friday the 13th standby's.  My uncle was responsible for starting me down that road.  To this day I still have a problem with murky water.  Canoeing, kayaking, swimming, it doesn't matter.  I get the heebie-jeebies when submerged branches poke up slimy tendrils and scratch along the underside of the boat.  Only able to see a foot down, the branches disappear into darkness.  Who knows what else hides down there?!?  Egads!  Just ask Mr. Oilburner about the canoe in Lake Mead...  He will have a good laugh.

I don't know what it is.  It's some irrational, primitive fear. I can think logically and know I have nothing to fear.  But as soon as I see those wispy branch fingertips grabbing from some unseen depth and scratch along the bottom of the boat like skeletal fingers on a chalkboard all I can wonder about is the dead body snared in the branches just out of my sight.

What does this have to do with riding?  Read Stephen King's short story "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band" in Nightmares & Dreamscapes.  Then ride around the South.

In a nutshell, the story is about a couple, long married with each typifying standard male and female stereotypes.  The wife thinks her husband has to prove he is always right, at any cost.  And the husband thinks the wife harps too much and gets the megrims too quickly.

While take a mini-vacation/road trip they get off the beaten path and find themselves on murky, dark, swampy two lane "trails" without any ability to safely turn around.  Any chances to turn around occurred while the wife slept.  And always one road ahead look promising...until after the next rise when it returned to two dirt lanes with grass growing in between that whispered along the undercarriage of the car.

When hope is waning a sign post appears.  It simple reads:

Welcome to
Rock and Roll Heaven, Ore.

We cook with gas!  So will you!

Then a beautifully paved and painted road rolls out.  And you just can't refuse the enticing asphalt.  

The next rise reveals the perfect little slice of "earth" that is Rock and Roll Heaven, Oregon, complete with perfect church steeples, clean shops along Main Street and even smoke curling from a couple perfect chimneys.

It is always too good to be true...

Mr. Oilburner and I took a relaxing ride along some quiet, almost forgotten back roads.  The kind of roads that no GPS would take any well-apportioned, immaculate Mercedes down.  Roads that any self-respecting yuppies would ever want to see.

Luckily we aren't those.  We took turns that led us in the general direction of our destination.  Roads that weren't traveled, except by the cars that lived on them.

But that is the crux.  Not many people lived on these roads anymore.  It was a little eerie traveling along these roads of second or third growth forest.  Every once in awhile a house would pop up.  It could have been a wood house that was quickly decaying into the trees and vines, left to die of neglect.  It could have been some single-wide trailer that had died in a fire, with insulation stuffing oozing out of the remaining walls.


Interspersed within these derelicts would be a house that was still lived in.  Occasionally the dooryard was swept nicely and the porch had rockers and pretty planters.  More likely the property was littered with long planted Detroit iron that was sinking back into the earth with exploding bags of garbage piled around.

People standing around in these yards or walking along the lanes would turn and stare as we passed.  There weren't smiles and waves, and there weren't malicious overtures.  There were unsettling, suspicious stares of people unaccustomed to strangers coming down these roads.

I'm not necessarily a city girl.  But I would probably not be a great rural girl if the rural were of this caliber.  Traveling down these roads made me start thinking Twilight Zone or some Stephen King dimension.  Had we slipped into one?  I always have my suspicions of these dirty, sinking back roads.  Afraid that I will zip around some curve in the road to be presented with the perfect little community...  And wonder if I will have the guts to stop.  Or just continue on through before I become caught in someone else's dream.


  1. Fascination with horror and suspense? Nothing you gotta explain to me. I have been a Stephen King fan myself for the better part of my life (yes, I am talking his earlier work, mostly). Christine was the first of his books that I read in English. And whenever I come towards an eerie place or road, I would think, what would Stephen King make out of it.

  2. My mother is into horrors, scared that crap out of us one night while we were watching Nightmare on elm street! I know what you mean by arier though, been few a few towns of late which would be frightening after dark.

  3. Steel cupcake:

    I used to watch horror shows but not anymore. They are too scary. I prefer romance.

    I travel a lot of backroads and sometimes I get a funny feeling. That's when I turn around. I was on a gravel road which lead to a 1st nations cemetary. I had a feeling that someone was watching so I quickly left. I still get the shivers when I pass that road.

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  4. Cujo and Christine were 2 of my early SK reads too and "Bad to the Bone" always brings back the movie Christine too. Nothing affected me like the first "Alien" movie though!

    NZ is full of little backroads - you'll have to come and explore them. If you strain your ears, you might just hear the banjos down some of them :-)

  5. Never been much into the horror genre. Who am I kidding, I've never been into it at all. I'm not much for suspense.

    And, it has gotten worse as I've aged. Very well written piece, but I'll be moving along now.

  6. I'm kind of with Keith on this one. Never been a huge fan of the horror genre, but at the same time enjoyed all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies when they came out. I've also seen Pet Cemetary and Christine with Troubadour. He was the Stephen King fan.

    I do believe I not only hear banjos but can also hear someone spitting tobacco while drawling, 'Y'aint from around here are ya." I think every state/country has roads such as those......

  7. I love horror stories and so does my daughter, I also enjoy driving along lonely roads but I'm always thinking what's over the hill ;-)
    I started watching "Christine" on netflix the other day with my daughter in the room but had forgotten how R rated it was, I quickly told her the movie was no good and changed the channel :-0
    I loved the movie when it came out.

  8. Love those "scary roads" and Stephen King. Still remember reading his collection of short stories, "Night Shift", while working the graveyard shift at a convenience store back in the 70's. Scared the hell out of me.

  9. We once took a "short cut" from Hwy 1 over to Hwy 101, to come out near Healdsburg. The road from the coast soon narrowed, turning into a single-track road, then to dirt. We kept on, as there was no place to turn around. We saw wild pigs, at one point - cute, little spotted things, following their mother across the road.

    After awhile, the road came back to paved road, and then we popped out into a wee little community - just a couple of houses, really. The folk there stared at us, quite surprised, as we were to see them. The guy was your classic "biker dude" - Harley, leathers, the nine.

    We kept on, and eventually ended up on a 2-lane road again, and then back on the highway.

    We never did revisit that place, though we've wondered about it. The cynic, though, says to stay out of California forests, because of the marijuana growing.

    Too late now, I suppose.

  10. Love horror films/books. Also scifi and fantasy. My favorite is Dean Koontz, but I like Stephen King too.

    Totally get what you're saying about water. I hate swimming and feeling something swoosh by my foot! And kayaking...first there are rocks underneath, then there is inky nothing, and then there are weird currents that grab the boat and the whirlpools...Creepy!

    Ok towards the end of your post I'm pretty sure I'm hearing dueling banjos. Ah yes, those fun little backwater areas where you never want to break down or drop the bike, and you know the cellphone won't be working in there either!

    Ha, just read through the comments...Trobairitz heard the banjos too!

    be very careful... ;-)

  11. I've now joined your cast of fans. The writing is imaginative and creates in me exciting feelings of "Oh! I know what she means!" Here in North East TN. I love taking the back roads that lead to "nowhere".

    The banjo's often strum in my head, the folk will lift their backs from their toil (huge summer gardens) sometimes they will wave, often more, they will not. I always wave at them! I figure if they were curious enough to stop their watch me, then I'll let em know, I'm curious enough to be friendly with them.

    As for scary movies...I can't do 'em. Just can't: my heart often feels like its jumping out of my chest. When my daughter was younger she and her dad loved to watch them together. I was forced to from time to time. Now I don't have to. Daughter lives on her own and that hubby is gone...whew. :)

    I'd like it if you could add the app that allows us to sign up for your blog announced by helps me keep up with the ones I really like...and yours is just such a one...
    Keep up the great posts..."I'll be back"....

  12. "Horror movies" I shudder at the words. I'll pass, thanks.

    I too had a real life experience in a small town in Arizona.. Whew!

  13. Hi Everyone! Sorry for the delay...need to catch up!

    @SonjaM: I am so glad that I am not the only one! :) Sometimes it does seem to occupy my mind more on these back roads, unfortunately.

    @Raftnn: A mother to love, huh? ;) Could you put your finger on what was scary about those towns? Were they ghost towns? Or the current clientele?

    @bobskoot: Unfortunately, I am going to have to give away the secret that I am no longer into the newer horror flicks. The computer graphics are just getting too good. Hostel and Saw were the last things I really watched. I wonder if the older we grow and the more we realize this stuff can actually happen, that we don't care for it as much?

    Now you are just really making me freak out with your cemetery road! I am so glad that you didn't squish the bad feelings and go on. You just never know.

  14. @Geoff: Yeah, "Bad to the Bone" didn't quite go like I expected it would when I read it. I think I will have to read it again. :) It's been awhile.

    Ya know, I think I have only seen Alien once. And I agree...didn't like it! LOL

    I would love to see what banjo music is like in NZ. But you have to come here to experience the real thing! :)

    @Circle Blue/Keith: Moving along isn't for good, is it?? Nothing bad for not enjoying it. Just means that as a child you weren't up at night aggravating your parents when you couldn't sleep because of the monsters in the closet.

  15. @Trobairitz: You are stronger than I. I wasn't too into the Nightmare on Elm Streets. But I do hate to say that very few King books translate into good movies. They usually have to cut so much out to make them a decent length that the pertinent stuff gets cut out. Pet Cemetary, the book, is quite good.

    I was actually thinking of you and Oregon while writing it. I could envision the ex-hippie communion type places around your area and wondered if you saw some of the same "places" as I. :)

    @George: I haven't seen Christine in years. It's R rated? How old is your daughter and when can you let her watch it? ;)

    Lonely roads are one thing. Scary, bad vibe, creepy roads are another. And now I am psyching myself out! :)

  16. @Jonesy: Funny you should mention "Night Shift". I happen to be re-reading it since I picked through it to try and find the "Band" story. "The Mangler"...eewwwww!! LOL

    @David: You are describing almost exactly the road in the story. I'm really, really, really glad you two didn't stop!

    But now, with the wonders of the internet and Google Earth, check that place out again. Then tell me where it is! :)

  17. @bluekat: I enjoyed Koontz for awhile. But it got to the point where I knew exactly where every story was going and I became bored with his writing. My first, and still favorite, book of his was "Lightning"...for the obvious love story in it. :)

    I actually love to kayak, and that is my problem. As long as I can't see anything in the water I am fine. If I start seeing eerie things in the murk, that is when I start getting antsy. But I agree with ocean currents. I read way too much and know the darn dangers... Sounds like you do too! LOL

    Oilburner and I are trying to determine if there might be any old filming locations for Deliverance. Make a real banjo story/video for y'all!

    @Chessie: Thank You! I've taken a look at your site too and enjoy it. We seem to have many of the same interests. Scary!

    I'm the same way with waving to people. I love seeing people just sitting on their porches. Sometimes they are happily surprised when I wave first. But this trip...was just "uninviting". I'm sure you know the feel of some roads...

    Thanks for making me learn something new. ;) I've added the email subscription!

  18. @Ken: Your "real life experience" didn't happen to be in Colorado City, AZ or some such place? You'll have to let me know... But there I would assume you would experience something more like Children of the Corn or something. :)

  19. Dear Steel Cupcake:

    I'm so sorry I'm so late in joining this party, but I read this post about three days ago, at 2am in the morning, and didn't want to answer it with the last of my conscious, misspelled strength. (I save that for Key West Diary.) While Stephen King is recognized by many as the pinnacle of the modern horror story, there are some others worthy of consideration. These include, H.P. Lovecraft, J.S. LeFanu, and far more recently Peter Straub. (I first read Ghost Story when I was 21, and couldn't read the book alone in the house.) Also, one cannot overlook the works of Edgar Allen Poe, which tend to be as etherial as they are scary. (In fact, reading Poe for the pure horror is like reading Shakespeare for the jokes.) Then again, "It" by King is a colossus in contemporary horror. And some of King’s other works translate incredibly well into film. For example, “Sleepwalkers” is a great movie and I still have a thing for Alice Krige. (Every guy in the world had his eyes on the young girl who worked in the movie theatre. Not me... I wanted Alice Krige.) And I own “Silver Bullet,” which I view every few months.

    How cool to be close to some of the original film artifacts and props. I enjoyed this post, which sent me back to my bookshelves, wondering where I had put stuff.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  20. "The REAL banjo music"......

    I worked in Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana for a few months in the 90's. Some of the customers in those backroads catfish eateries were pretty "interesting". They didn't have their banjos with them but I's lay money that they all had them at home :-)!!!

  21. Dear Jack!

    No worries, not late to the game when I haven't even been able to play lately myself. I appreciate you showing up when you can. I've read a Lovecraft or two, and they didn't really stick. I haven't been aware of LeFanu... gonna have to get me some. Straub...mixed bag for me. I definitely know him through his collaboration with King on "The Talisman" and the sequel "Black House". Though, one of my all-time absolute favorite books is Shadowhouse!! Re-reading it right now too. However, I haven't read "Ghost Story" and will have to pick that one up. But "Koko" didn't impress me. I will probably have to try reading that one again. When I picked it up it was one of three English language books in the store while I was abroad decades ago and could have shaped my perceptions of it.

    For the classics, forgot to list Bram Stoker! aahhh... And F. Paul Wilson has produced a couple good ones.

    As for King books made into movies...I've been disappointed lately with the screen adaptations. I've stopped "watching" them long ago. My favorite still is "Shawshank Redemption". I probably saw Silver Bullet as a kid and will need to pick that one back up as you so highly recommend it. And I haven't even thought of Sleepwalkers in years!!

    Thank you so much for pointing me to a few more authors/books. Mr. Oilburner is gonna appreciate that so much. Like my "to read" stack of books isn't big enough already. HEHE.

    -Steel Cupcake/Lori

  22. Oh Geoff!! You didn't tell me that you had experienced the "Real South"! Yeah, you definitely understand the banjo. Tell me...did you have a difficult time understanding each other...what with accents and all? Especially Louisiana where they were probably talking Cajun? I work with a couple ladies from that region and love making them talk to me! :) you play the banjo?? ;)


  23. Lori:
    I worked for my parent company, International Paper, down there. Loved my time in the south and have some hilarious stories. Might divulge one sometime! Yep, it's amazing how simple the word "ENGLISH" is and how complex it is in reality. Stopped at a roadside fruit stall in Louisiana and after some language difficulties, the elderly folk manning it asked me whether I was from Nooo Yawk!!!

    Sadly, I don't play anything. Jennie and our daughter Victoria are both great pianists but I was last in line when the musical talent genes were handed out :-(.

  24. Ms Steelcupcake

    I have never read Stephen King but will do so now!

    What is the "megrims"? My ex always had "migraine" but all that is best forgotten about.

    xs Spotted Dick

  25. Dear Nikos,

    While one definition of megrim is migraine, the other is whim or fancy. In this phrasing it was more indicative of someone that would see something in a situation that wasn't there. Like believing a situation can go downhill when there are no outwards signs that it will. ;)

    I, too, have gotten migraines a time or two. Not enjoyable!

    If you wanna start on King, his older book: Carrie, Shining, It. Newer books: Gunslinger series, Dreamcatcher (and Regulators as Richard Bachman), From a Buick 8. hehehe.

    -Steel Cupcake

  26. Lori

    I do recall being grabbed by the film Carrie. Now I know who wrote it (I missed the credits as I was hiding under the cinema seat)