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This must be the place: Sunlight wakes me just to say let’s go to sleep now

Eastern Idaho. Eastern Idaho.

The moment the song came onto my stereo, I was immediately transported to a time and a place somewhat foggy in memory, but never to be forgotten.  It was “Saving Days in a Frozen Head” by songbird and guitar wizard Kaki King. So, this past Monday, when the melody filled my headphones, I found myself rapidly traveling to the past. 

Eleven years ago this week, I had my first real deal articles published in the Teton Valley News. A tiny community newspaper in rural Eastern Idaho (backside of the Grand Tetons), I was 22 years old and had no clue what the hell I was doing with my life, let alone knowing how to live and work as an aspiring journalist. 

And when I took off from my native Upstate New York for the West, I packed my truck with whatever would fit. Boxes of books, vinyl records and old issues of Rolling Stone. Few garbage bags of clothes. 

Right behind the driver’s seat of my pickup truck were endless cases of CDs, many of which new albums that I’d received to possibly review for music publications back east. One of those recordings was Kaki King’s seminal album “Dreaming of Revenge.” 

It’s just one of those things, you know? Where some piece of music just falls into your lap at the exact juncture of your existence it was intended to do so. Almost serendipitously. For me, back in January 2008, “Dreaming of Revenge” became the soundtrack to my tenure in the Rocky Mountains. 

The record is filled with whimsical instrumentals full of sorrow and compassion, tunes spilling over with lyrics about love lost, love found, and trying to find footing in one’s quest for meaning and purpose — perhaps even redemption, maybe even simply a reason to get up each day and try again.

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There’s such haunting space within the album, too. For each fluttering note up and down King’s fretboard, there’s also these vast openings, more like breaths within the songs themselves. It’s wide open air to stand and immerse yourself in, just like the neverending landscape of the West itself. 

When I dove back into the record earlier this week, I suddenly had an urge to track down my old 2008 journals and newspaper articles from the “western experiment,” my attempt at making something of myself on the other side of the Mississippi River, only to circle back to the northeast less than a year later. 

But, within my nine months in Idaho and at the Teton Valley News, I came across endless avenues of beauty — raucous characters (ranchers, cowboys, ski bums, etc.), jagged mountain peaks, sprawling high desert valleys, late nights and early mornings, deadlines met and stories published.

Browsing the dusty files, I came across one feature that really stuck out. Titled “Karaoke ... The Cowboy Way,” it was a piece I wrote for the paper on Jan. 31, 2008. Here’s an excerpt: 

Pulling into the dimly light parking lot at Dave’s Pubb this past Saturday, those curious found themselves amidst a forest of eight-cylinder trucks and diesel rigs.

A societal centerpiece of Tetonia, the building may seem intimidating to those passing through or unfamiliar with the business. But what it comes down to is the mere fact all friends were strangers at one time.

With this being karaoke night, inside seemed the perfect opportunity to immerse oneself in the tradition that is Dave’s Pubb.

“We’re just about good people and having fun,” said owner Dave Whitmore with a smile and a handshake, sitting on a barstool, sipping a beer amongst his patrons.

There are several anonymous brassieres draped over a pair of antlers on the wall, steel-toed boots strolling the floor, 10-gallon hats being tipped to a passing femme fatale, ceiling tiles covered with dozens of $1 bills from faces of the past who have crossed this threshold and domestic beer with a side of whiskey being the drink of choice.

The atmosphere is filled with jovial conversation, hearty laughs and “YEE-HAW!” from every corner of the bar, which float above one and all.

According to Rose, the bartender and den mother of Dave’s Pubb, there used to be instances of dancing on the countertop, but, as she said with a laugh, “We don’t dance up there anymore ‘cause we all kept falling off.”

Coming into my eighth year living and working in Western North Carolina, my time out West seems like a lifetime ago, more so a dream now hazy in hindsight. But, what that time and place changed within my heart and soul has never been lost on myself or my intent. 

So, when life gets a little too hectic or confusing, throw on the headphones and hit shuffle. You just might surprise yourself as to what comes on, let alone what visions and memories will be conjured that provide the ideal perspective to keep your head up, ready and roaring for what tomorrow will bring.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all. 

 

Hot picks

1 “Let Freedom Sing,” a mostly-musical program honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, at the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Franklin.

2 The Haywood County Arts Council will present “January Jazz” with Jazz Revolution Band at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at Laurel Ridge Country Club in Waynesville.

3 Americana/rock act Arnold Hill will be hitting the stage at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, at Elevated Mountain Distilling in Maggie Valley.

4 An exclusive wine tasting with The Swag’s Sous Chef DeeAnn Rose, “A Taste of Italy” will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, at The Classic Wineseller in Waynesville.

5 Americana/folk duo Gypsy & Me will hit the stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, in The Loft listening room at The Strand at 38 Main in Waynesville. 

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