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A New Jersey Hillbilly/Jim Ledbetter/Nashville Cats

I am writing some commentary to James Floyd’s poem ‘Wasted Flowers’ which is the Phantom Billstickers poem of this week. I was in Nashville, Tennessee this last week and if any place can be spiritual to me it is this part of the dear and blessed South. In terms of that pleasant and grounded feeling, Nashville comes close to Dunedin in old Aotearoa and which I miss. I miss the town belt of Dunedin and all those trees (Queen’s Drive) which seem to be of a completely unique colour in terms of this world. This good world will never let you down (or will it?) and Nashville never does. I even found a new country singing star, Chris Knight. Boy, is he good. In a world where 90% of music is mediocre, I am always happy to hear a good one.

That old Ford Crown Victoria has never disappointed me yet and the door wouldn’t unlock before I left. I took it into my local gas station here in New Jersey. I mean a man might have to evacuate his vehicle pretty quickly at times, who can tell? The gas station owner (Mike) of Cifelli’s Sunoco unlocked it and threw the locking mechanism on the back seat like it was disgusting and shameful to have to lock a car. At the same time, Mike was telling me about a house that was for sale here recently and how he overheard two women discussing it whilst getting their cars filled with that precious petroleum. The stuff we are ruining the earth with. One of the women said she wouldn’t want to own the house in question because there were only five bathrooms and her family was six. Mike said, “What, does everybody take a shit at the same time?”

Mike also said that the Afghanistan war couldn’t be won because “what’s to win?” I couldn’t agree more. It’s just another case of men gone wild and having to stomp other men.

Now all that’s New Jersey hillbilly wisdom. Hillbillies (simple people) are everywhere if you look.

That car ran on eight cylinders all the way and it is one sweet ride.


On to Jim Ledbetter:

Jim Ledbetter came off a methadone habit by locking himself in his car in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee. He had nowhere else to go. He no longer had a house and probably few friends and this whole business (getting clean) was now merely between him and God. Of course if you were to count on anyone when the chips are down like that, then God would be the one. James Floyd’s excellent poem is for people like Jim Ledbetter and I feel I knew Jim well. As far as James Floyd goes, you can find him on Youtube under The Jefferson Street Poet.

I’m bound to say that it would have been cold there in Centennial Park and I know that every part of Ledbetter’s body would have shook from one door of that old car (it was a Chevrolet) to the other door as he got clean and got himself right with God, because that’s where he got. God cleaned the slate for Jim to start over again. Then, God didn’t let him down for the four years he was clean.

I love that country music in Nashville. One time I was walking down the street in my ‘Charlie One Horse’ Cowboy hat (the ‘Mama Tried’ model) and a car pulled up and the driver asked me if I was there to record a country record?

Jim Ledbetter, having proved himself to be a qualitative and deeply decent human being, died recently of a heart attack and that’s why I’m writing this.

Guys like Jim who make a comeback have a lot to offer the world and Jim did his fair share and more of good work. I salute him. Anyone who has gotten himself involved in the drug war (it’s bigger than Afghanistan and twice as unpopular) and has gotten clean. Well, there’s a life’s work and then some. There should be a congressional medal for it.

I won’t say much more about the drug war except that it is universal these days. No doubt the Afghanistan poppy crop was up again this year (and that’s with 100,000 troops in the country) and the Mexican city of Juarez has 250 drug-related murders a month now. It’s not the Somme yet but it will be. People will do incredibly craven-hearted things for money and drugs is where the money is. One time federal officers asked famous bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks and his reply was “that’s where the money is.”

There’s a remake/remodel of the Parthenon in Centennial Park, Nashville. Those Nashville Cats been playing since they were babies (I say this as an aside). Now I’m not really up on my Greek History (the original Parthenon was in Athens in Ancient Greece) but I think Socrates drove everyone mad by asking questions that pointed out the answer’s hypocrisy. People in power don’t usually like this sort of thing, they’ll even legislate against you and call in an endless supply of bureaucrats. I think they poisoned Socrates in Ancient Greece because they couldn’t stand the truth. Maybe I’ve got this all wrong and possibly I’m actually thinking of Martin Luther King who was shot because he told the truth. Boy, the truth is best for people in the long run but it’s hard getting there. You might even get your ass shot off. Still, it’s not all as hard as hanging out in an old Chev in Centennial Park. That’s true grit. That’ll make a man out of you and it’s remarkably honest. You’d stand tall after that and Jim Ledbetter did.

He was a true friend to everyone who knew him and a beacon of hope.


Keep the Faith,


Jim Wilson