The lady and I were out having dinner the other night. We hadn’t had a proper date night in far too long, our lives have been quite busy lately. I also owed her massive apologies for what went down during our last game of “Mario Kart,” which I hoped to do by taking her out for a meal. We were at a nice restaurant enjoying our meal when I suddenly heard it playing faintly in the background. At first I ignored it. I chose to not pay attention to it as it was playing so softly I wasn’t sure I was actually hearing what I thought I was hearing.
But then it got louder and my fears were confirmed. The radio in the restaurant was playing “Wagon Wheel” and to make things worse it was the version recorded by Hootie. The lady picked up on what was happening, she reached out, held my hand, and said: “Babe, it’s OK.” Just about that time is when the song reached the “Johnson City, Tennessee” part and people in the restaurant went “WOOOO!”
You see, I don’t like the song “Wagon Wheel.” It’s not just that everyone in the area screams when they sing “Johnson City, Tennessee”(WOOOO!) or the fact that the song is geographically incorrect (heading WEST to Johnson City, Tennessee (WOOOO!)? West?). It’s not even the fact that Hootie up and went and did his own version of it. Nope, my friends, you see, the fact is—“Wagon Wheel” broke up my marriage.
The year was 2005. I was but a young and carefree lad, she was a smart and sophisticated lass. We married in the spring of 2007, and all was warm, sunny, and bright. We had a little house and used to have friends over for cookouts and nights of Scrabble. We made puns, we made cakes, we had a lovely basement we wanted to finish off into a den. Then, one day, the song “Wagon Wheel” entered our lives. It was around the time it began to get played around here—a lot.
I couldn’t help but notice the song was name-checking our area and that caused many a jovial reaction from those participants listening to it in a public drinking house. “WOOOO!” they would exclaim. “Oh, I see the song mentions our fair town, how nice” I would say. Yet every time my wife and I would visit a public house, we would hear the song over and over and over. “Johnson City, Tennessee!” (WOOOO!)
So perhaps I lied a bit and said my consternation towards the song has nothing to do with its geographical errors—but it does, it has everything to do it with. My wife soon took up a love for the song, which was fine, until the night terrors began. I would lie awake at night, sweating, looking at the ceiling of our bedroom in the dark, focusing on one thing. “You can’t go West from the Cumberland Gap to Johnson City, Tennessee!”(WOOOO!)
Nope, my friends, you see, the fact is—“Wagon Wheel” broke up my marriage.”
This error in the song vexed me so that I turned our unfinished basement not into a den, but into a Wagon Wheel Crisis Command Center. There was a cork board with many strings and maps trying to tie the logic together. I had a series of computers that looked like they came from the set of “The Time Tunnel” working to process it all. But my pride and joy of the Command Center was my 1-800 hotline for other people who I knew must be as vexed as I was. If anyone needed to talk to someone about their feelings towards the song and its geographical sins, all they had to do was dial 1-800-WHY-WEEL.
My wife wasn’t amused or pleased by this turn of events. We started to drift apart. She didn’t’ like that our games of Scrabble now featured me only playing words that were in the song “Wagon Wheel.” We lasted for a few years more, but she left me alone with my Command Center. I sold off the hotline and the computers. I kept the cork board—I found a dandy way to repurpose it thanks to Pinterest. In time I too moved on, forgave myself for falling into the siren-like call of “Wagon Wheel.”
The lady in my life right now is very kind and understanding of this time in my life. Now when the song comes on, much like it did when we were out having dinner, she just holds my hand and makes sure that I stay in the moment and let the feelings pass. I’ve gone from blank stares out into space to only mildly twitching when they reach the “Johnson City, Tennessee” (WOOOO!) part. Life, uh, finds a way. Right? See you next week.