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"After I broke my neck, I symbolically broke my Pike County connection in a way," he says. "I knew it would trip people out. My hipster buddies, they were cool with it, but I wanted to move on. I didn't want to reinvent myself so much as I needed to grow."
Back in Athens, Tina asks him why he avoided seeing the people he knew. He says it's because he doesn't worship the three things most important in Zebulon these days: George W. Bush, the Confederate flag and Jesus.
But there's also something else. "I'd be embarrassed," he says. "I'm all broken-necked and atheist."
The stretch of road where Chesnutt flipped his car into a ditch half a lifetime ago is unremarkable. In fact, he had trouble finding the exact spot on the drive into Zebulon. There are a string of ranch-style houses set back from the road, and he wrecked on one of those lawns.
One has a huge Confederate flag hanging in the window.
Chesnutt sees it and laughs. "Yeah. It was probably that one. That'd be purrr-fect."
There's something undeniably twisted and poetic about the image of Vic Chesnutt crashing into the Confederate flag. It plays right into all the Southern gothic, mythical, metaphorical mumbo-jumbo so frequently associated with him and his music. There's only one problem: It's not true. Driving further along the road, Chesnutt realizes the crash site is almost definitely further down.
Vic's 1993 song, "Gluefoot," contains a great line: "I want to blame my heritage for my leisurely demise." But in real life, it's just not that simple. His songs have been consumed with subverting myths and tearing down facades to get at the real truth. And the real truth about Chesnutt ultimately exists in the gray areas between his pride and guilt over his heritage, his atheism and his wheelchair, and in his love/hate relationship with Pike County.
Of the accident, Chesnutt says, "It's a cliche. A teenager gets drunk and flips his car."
The truth is Vic Chesnutt didn't crash into a house with a Confederate flag. He just crashed.
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