I finally had a moment of silence.

After a raucous Saturday night attending the Perpetual Groove show at The Salvage Station in Asheville, I found myself in the living room of my friend’s house in West Asheville. Midnight had come and gone, and there I was, sitting on the couch, wide awake as folks were already asleep atop the air mattress on the floor and in the back bedroom.

It wasn’t the film that was shocking. It was the mere fact I had previously thought “I was aware,” and yet actually have fallen so short in my pursuits.

How could something so beautiful be so ugly?

Standing at the edge of the ocean on the Gulf Coast of Texas, I looked down at my feet being washed over by the relentless waves of crisp waters filled with mystery and wonder. I kicked around pebbles and broken shells, just glancing down at them with such awe, almost a Zen-like state of mind where you simply zone out and immerse yourself in the winds of change, and of self.

Sitting in the back of his tour van in a Texas parking lot on a recent cold prairie night, Hayes Carll takes a sip of Jameson from a small plastic cup, leans back into the bench seat and kicks up his boots.

He’ll be the first to tell you the world today is an odd — and sometimes confusing — place, and he’ll also be sure to remind you that the sky ain’t falling. Sure, there’s an increasing divide between who we are and where we’re going as a society. But, real compassion and understanding comes from seeing the other side as a piece of some large pie of humanity, rather than a segment of the population that needs to be alienated, or worse — eliminated.

I decided to not wear the hardhat.

Standing underneath the magnificent 215-foot high ancient rock arch at the Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia, I found myself in awe of Mother Nature’s creativity, and also of the history attached to the property.

It ain’t dead.

Rock-n-roll. In an era when sugar-coated pop stars and polished country acts are atop the charts, one wonders if there is any shred of real rock swagger and attitude anymore. Where is that sound and tone that pushes sonic barriers and actually challenges you to think outside the box with lyrical content that isn’t about riverbanks and moonshine, but rather focuses on the raw elements of the human condition?

Through the strewn lights I could see the Empire State Building.

2016 in A&E

Each year, we here at The Smoky Mountain News showcase our “Spoof Awards.” Sometimes they’re meant in good tongue-and-cheek fun, but mostly they’re special events, people and places that we throw the spotlight onto one more time in reflection as another long and bountiful year comes to a close, a new year ready to begin.

This must be the place


For me, it’s Plattsburgh, New York. Just down the road from the Canadian border, in the heart of the North Country on Lake Champlain. It’s been almost five years since I lived there, and several years before that when I initially left the rust belt blue-collar city in pursuit of my journalistic aspirations.

A frigid mountain wind howled through Bryson City last Friday evening as a handful of folks hurried into the Smoky Mountain Community Theatre. Finding a seat in the old building, one was immediately greeted by numerous actors in full 1940s attire.

“Welcome to the show,” they smiled.

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