It’s where Pentecostals speak in tongues and charm snakes.
It’s a part of the world where it’s possible to live and die without ever meeting anyone black or Jewish.
Dotting the roadside are a lot of houses with tumbled-off porches and caved-in roofs.
The yards of tidier homes along this stretch are brimming with ghostly armies of lawn statues for sale, resembling Disney’s rendition of Qin’s tomb.
At Eureka Live, the drag show has drawn a capacity crowd (who knew there were so many variations on the spiked pixie cut? I meet a 26-year-old woman with her two lesbian moms, who met each other in the military.
There are some methy-looking youngsters slumped around the pool table, a lot of smokers, some big Southern hair, people in hunting fatigues, and coeds from the nearby University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.“I was married 15 years. One of my daughters is here tonight,” the drag queen tells the audience.
It’s where some say the tendency for wayfarers to settle down can be explained by vast, magical crystal formations beneath the mountains that create spiritual vortexes.He was a Pentecostal preacher who came out of the closet at age 40, after 16 years of marriage and two children.Now 53, he’s a bubbly, stout man with a hee-hawing laugh who works by day at a nearby Tyson chicken processing plant — one of the large employers in the region, behind Wal-Mart and J. Hunt, the trucking company — inspecting poultry that’s been stripped from the bone and sent down a chute to him.“Oh honey, I still preach all the time, it’s just a different kind of preachin’ now! After his partner died of AIDS six years ago, he moved from eastern Arkansas to Memphis, where he felt disappointed by city life.“That skinny little thing? “That’s like suckin’ roadkill.” Lee is from Memphis and remembers the old days of tiny, secret gay bars there, back when it was illegal for a man to dance with another man.“For that, you have to go check out the china, thataway.” He indicates the makeshift back room, a section of wood fencing that looks like a duck blind a few yards uphill, covered in ornamental dinner plates with mottoes like “Cherish the Moment” and “Sisters are Forever.”Charlie tells me an email has gone out to the whole town that a reporter from New York is coming; I’m expected in one hour at the Prayer Meetin’, a weekly happy hour gathering at Henri’s Just One More.There are an unusually large number of people here tonight, some of them begrudgingly on their best behavior.