Poor Boy, Long Way from Home


from left to right, Charlie, I-and-I, Concha

I said “Listen brother poor boy
Don’t be worry crime
Somebody, somebody, somewhere”

Jeff Buckley version of Bukka White’s “Poor Boy Long Way from Home”

Wish I could say I taught Charlie Geer, but I can’t. I worked with him on the school magazine, but that’s about it. We’re talking mid-80’s when my boys were in diapers, and Charlie was like an undersized Atlas hauling around the sins of the South, [warning: trying to visualize this salad of mixed metaphors could trigger an acid flashback] spiking the cauldron of his tragic vision with vitriol, developing a brilliant sense of humor to ward away the absurdities of Charleston, which he was later to bring to life in his very underappreciated novel Outbound.[1]

In his early years, Charlie dabbled in various trades and professions: worked as a country schoolteacher, a circus roustabout, a carpenter, an orchard keeper, a shrimper, a college professor. Like his work, his friendships span a democratic demographic that extends from members of the St. Cecilia Society to patrons of Florida juke joints. Now he lives in Andalusia with his beautiful wife Concha, so I only get to see them in August when they come to Charleston to visit Charlie’s relatives. It’s interesting how age democratizes relationships. I consider Charlie my contemporary, and I suspect he feels the same about me.

We brothers now.

In between essays and a memoir he’s working on, Charlie has created a character called Henry Heppleworth, whom I wrote about here in October of 2016. Henry came to being after Charlie read WJ Cash’s The Mind of the South.[2] You wouldn’t call Henry, a Trump supporter, deplorable, no not at all. In fact, I find him sympathetic. Henry, like Charlie, is a sensitive soul, who laces his dialogues with “durns” instead of “damns.” And over the course of his ten-month existence, Henry is developing, become more human.  Cracks are forming in the foundation of his ideology.

With Charlie’s permission, I’m sharing three of the videos here so you can sort of chart Henry’s progress. I encourage you to hop on YouTube and check them out. If you do, you’ll get to meet Concha as well.

Okay, here’s the very first one, Henry’s background story.

Poor boy, long way from home. He takes up his guitar.

Of course, there’s obvious irony here. Henry is an immigrant-hating immigrant. In Spain, he’s living in a much more socialistic society, which, of course, is the bane of the rural Trump voter who relies on the emergency room for his wellness plan and despises them inheritance taxes them 1%ers suffer.

After his meeting a nice lady at a festival, you can detect a shift in Henry’s perspective. And in his most recent video, you can tell it’s starting to dawn on him, it’s bullshit. It’s a sort of a sigh of a song/poem. A tragic vision tempered with humor, for sure.

Henry deserves more exposure, y’all. Click away.

[1] Do yourself a favor and hit the link and check out the video on Charlie’s Amazon page.

[2] It’s a goddamned classic.

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