I Got Kicked Out of a Store because I Am Not Scottish. A Journey Through Appalachia.
If there’s one thing that’s important to know about me, it’s that I love a good road trip. The kind that involves bizarre roadside attractions like a 20-foot tall Jolly Rancher, a few eccentric weirdos, and perhaps a little dose of fear as you see the gas gauge lower and realize you are in the middle of Nowheresville. A little pee drips out, your heart beats a little faster as you picture your imminent murder at the hands of the local townie, before you pull up to a gas station at the just the right moment. It’s really quite a thrill.
Sure I’ve lived in Paris, traveled all around the world, and hobnobbed with Pamela Anderson, but what I really wanted to experience was clog dancing. As a child I had spent many hours destroying my parents’ kitchen floor by stomping on them with my Mary Janes in an attempt to tap dance. My mother, finally realizing she had a little Ginger Rogers wannabe in the making finally enrolled me in dance class where I was able to tap, pirouette, and leap to my heart’s content. Tap dance as you may or may not know, descended from a combination of Irish clogging and African tribal dance. I didn’t have any plans to go to Africa anytime soon, but there was always Appalachia, the heart of American clogging!
I had heard little bit about Appalachia and most of it scared the shit out of me. I’ve never seen Deliverance, but the mere sound of those banjos in my head makes me shudder. All I can think about is squirrel pie and missing teeth. But Floyd’s Country Store in Virginia was apparently clogging central. I felt like a preteen who had just discovered a stack of Playboys in my older brother’s bedroom. I was so excited I thought I was going to puke.
I knew exactly who to ask to accompany me on this fine journey, my friend Kumail. Kumail was gay, goth, and Pakistani. He also used to be part of a coven and has cast many spells during his time as a warlock. In fact, he once swears he made some annoying girl’s phone fall into her beer during a concert. This was exactly the kind of mojo I needed for this road trip. I like to think of myself as having dazzling and exciting personality, but Kumail makes me look like a pillow masquerading as a person. I knew he would bring some sparkle to our trip.
So I texted him my idea. Drive Charlottesville, VA, then Asheville, NC and then on the way back Floyd’s before heading back to NYC. It would be Appalachian-lite.
“100% yes!!!” he texted back immediately.
We eventually made to Asheville, a quirky, fun, liberal hippie town in North Carolina. While meandering the town window shopping, we decided to step into one of those Irish/Scottish stores filled with kilts, claddagh rings, and all things plaid. We were immediately struck by the giant chain blocking us from entering. Connected from the register to the other wall, it seemed like a highly unfriendly gesture for a store particularly in a popular part of town.
“Can I help you?” a lady behind the counter asked us. If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume she had just been resurrected from the dead.
“We’re just browsing,” Kumail responded, confusedly.
“We don’t allow browsing!” she shouted in a voice that can only described as Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey.
Kumail and I looked at each other quizzically.
“Um, OK,” I said. We turned and walked out.
We stood outside on the bright sunny day, confused about what just happened.
“Uh, did she not like us because we’re brown?” Kumail asked.
“But she had that chain up there which makes it seem like she doesn’t want anyone in,” I said, puzzled. “Let’s consult Yelp.”
“Oh my God.”
“What?!” Kumail asked excitedly.
“She has a one star review! Apparently she doesn’t let anyone in who isn’t Scottish. She doesn’t like Mexicans, Italians, tourists, gays, immigrants, or anyone really.” It was quite clear from the abundant reviews that unless you are William Wallace himself you will not be allowed in the store.
Kumail and I busted out laughing so hard, I had to grab onto a building to control myself.
“You know what’s even funnier?” I asked.
“Little does that stupid hag know, I lived in Ireland. The sign in her window “Céad Míle Fáilte” means 1000 welcomes in Gaelic! I CANNOT EVEN DEAL!!!”
Kumail and I alternated between crying while laughing, hyperventilating, and screaming.
For the duration of the trip, whenever one of us was looking around a store the other one would come up and say, “excuse me, we don’t allow browsing!” in our best Violet Crawley voices, exaggerating the “r” for added effect. That old bat really made our trip.
“We’re in FLOYD!” I shouted in my best cheerleader voice. “It’s going to get WILD!” We had spent 2 days in Asheville before heading back North to Floyd.
“Woo hoo!” Kumail shouted.
“Wait, is that your clogging outfit?” I asked. Kumail was wearing black jeans and a leather jacket with studs in it.
“What’s wrong with this?” he asked.
“We are not going to a Cure concert!”
“You look like you rolled out of the bargain bin at Walmart,” he retorted. “Besides this jacket is Balmain.”
It’s true I did. But at least my sweatshirt was Proenza Schouler.
“Whatever, let’s just go. I’m ready to clog my face off.”
We sat down in the back, quietly observing the moves of the seasoned clog dancers.
“Alright, I’m ready to hit the dance floor,” I whispered to Kumail.
“I’m not gonna go up there,” he replied.
“WHAT?! You have to come with me!” I hissed.
“I’m not good at this!”
“That’s the whole damn point! Who cares?”
“Where are y’all from?” an older lady turned around and asked us.
“Are y’all from the University of Virginia?” her husband questioned.
I knew Kumail was equally as flattered that they thought we were in our early twenties. You know how “black don’t crack”? Neither does brown. But I didn’t have the heart to break it to them.
“Yes, we are!” I replied.
“Well, we overheard you and we would be happy to dance with you!” the lady said.
“Come on Kumail!” I said grabbing his hand.
There we were, a gay brown warlock and a Latina-looking Indian woman clog dancing with an older white Southern couple in the middle of fucking nowhere. OMG, am I the racist? Here I was terrified yet enthralled by potential contact with racist hillbillies, yet everyone (except for the curmudgeon in Asheville) was nothing but nice. And everyone had their teeth.
To this day, I am wholly convinced David and Alexis from “Schitt’s Creek” is fully based on our adventures in Floyd. But alas I suppose I will never know. Daniel Levy if you read this, call me.
And they say Americans can’t come together.
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 I’ve been to Ireland but never saw any clogging. I did see a lot of singing and drinking.
 True story, I once interviewed a guy to be my roommate and he asked me if it was OK if he brought home freshly killed squirrel because he liked to eat them. Considering a squirrel is at raised naturally and not factory-farmed, it seemed considerably more healthy. But the idea of my roommate trotting in fresh squirrel carcass made this pescatarian’s stomach turn. I’ll stick to my seeing estrogen-filled supermarket meat in the fridge from my roommates, thank you very much.
 Before the internet of course.
 Fine, it was Proenza for Target and I got it at a thrift store for $10. But does that matter? I think not!