Archived Arts & Entertainment

This must be the place: Ode to being real, ode to the dude who felt otherwise

An excerpt from ‘On the Road.’ An excerpt from ‘On the Road.’

It was Saturday. Having just strolled into my neighborhood bar in Waynesville, I walked over to say hello to my new musician friends at a nearby table who were performing that night. 

One from Nashville, the other Kentucky. I helped them get the gig when they needed a connector show to end their East Coast tour en route back to Music City. Said hey and proceeded to walk towards the bar counter to order a cold domestic beer. 

And just as I made my way through the crowd, I saw a familiar face standing by himself next to the front window. I knew who he was. I knew his significant other. His crew are good folk, too. But, I couldn’t remember his name at that moment in time. I drew a blank. Shit. 

A week prior, I saw the same dude behind the kitchen counter of an Asheville spot. Again, I recognized him and said hello. He just blankly stared at me, eyes piercing through me from above his mask. He shoved my burrito across the counter to me and immediately turned away. 

It was an odd interaction, truth be told. So, curiosity got the best of me. Did I do something wrong? Was it the same dude? As he stood next to me near the front window of the bar, I stopped and tried to make same talk. I asked if it was him at the Asheville joint. He just stared at me with the same eyes. Well, that answered that question. 

In that fleeting moment, I tried to formally introduce myself to him. He looked right through me. That 1,000-yard stare. The worst stare. Again, I couldn’t remember his name, only to say, “What’s your name again?” A last-ditch effort to make friendly conversation. He just walked away. I was like, WTF? 

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So, I walk over to him again. Me: “Hey, man, sorry about that. I remember faces and not names.” Him: “I just don’t like you.” Me: “Huh? Did I do something to offend you? If I did, I apologize.” Him: “You didn’t do anything. I just don’t like you. You’re fake.” 

His words took me back. I stood there bewildered for a moment. Me: “So, you don’t know me or know anything about me, but you don’t like me?” Him: “Yeah, you’re fake.” Me: “Well, I’m sorry you feel that way. I’m a real person and I am a human being. I laugh and cry like everyone else. What’s fake is your attitude.” 

Thus, I just walked away. You may not like me or who I am or what I do and how I conduct myself, but don’t call me “fake.” That is a lie. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve, transparent to a fault. 

And now, here we are. It’s Tuesday morning. I’m at my desk within the walls of the newspaper. We’re trying to kick this publication you’re currently reading out the door to the printer, to be delivered tomorrow morning at newsstands around the region. 

But, I can’t get that interaction on Saturday out of my mind. Sure, don’t let others buy real estate up in your head. And yet, it’s more so this thing to behold and understand. Why do I feel this way about one interaction? Is it the person or what was said? Hell, was it me? 

Like most jarring, unexpected moments in your daily life, thoughts swirl in your head replaying the interaction like reruns of the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination. Analyze each moment, frame by frame, to see where it all went wrong and what could have been done to prevent what ultimately occurred. 

Normally, I would go the Zapruder route. It’s what most folks do. Truth. But, as I’m getting older and realizing more about myself and those who surround me, I’ve also come to several conclusions. 

They are as follows. Sometimes it’s not you, you just happened to walk into the wrong space at the wrong time. You can’t ever assume what someone is going through (past or present) to trigger such a reaction (this goes for both sides of the interaction). And, as the Butthole Surfers sang in the hit song “Pepper” — “you never know just how you look through other people’s eyes.” 

Or maybe it’s that lingering Catholic guilt from my long-gone childhood of pleasing people and taking things to heart. Maybe it’s the unrelenting torment and bullying that I experienced as a kid from others who simply didn’t like me because I was different (or “real” to myself and not the status quo), which is why being called “fake” hit hard, and deep. 

In closing, it’s nothing and everything and whatever resides in-between. The yin and yang of people, places and things. The only thing we have control over in this universe is how we react in a situation. And don’t forget: kindness begets kindness. Brush off your shoulders and continue onward with head held high. 

And to the dude who felt otherwise, I hope you know I came in peace and was simply looking to make a connection. No ill will or hidden agenda. You seemed like an interesting human being. I dig those bands that you have stitched on your jean jacket, especially the one on your shoulder. 

So, why not try and spark conversation in the name of human connection and fellowship, eh? If not, then it is what it is. I digress. Maybe someday you might feel otherwise. If so, the first round is on me. 

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

(Garret K. Woodward is the arts and entertainment editor for The Smoky Mountain News. He’s also the music editor for Smoky Mountain Living magazine and a contributing writer for Rolling Stone. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .) 

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  • Loved this. Appreciate your vulnerability and generous soul. Using your platform as a bridge to show how healing can be so gracefully offered. Thank you ?

    posted by Cheryl Thompson

    Wednesday, 11/17/2021

  • You could never be fake....I know..all you need to know...xo

    posted by Kathy Woodward

    Saturday, 11/13/2021

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