If Canton’s legendary Labor Day festival – the oldest in the south – is to survive, it’s going to have to become self-sufficient.

It’s brutal honesty.

Within the wide-spectrum of creative mediums, standup comedy may just be the most vulnerable and jarring of the artisan crafts. Standing in front of a roomful of strangers, all staring at you, comedians peel back the layers of who we think they are, who they think they are, and who they actually are — warts and all.

It was during the first sip of my second beer when it struck me.

“Let’s go see Dave Davies.”

I had just reached for the eggplant parmesan sandwich when it was asked.

“What do you think about God?”

I remembered immediately.

Scrolling through the Facebook stream on Monday afternoon, I came across a post from a dear high school friend who had some sad news to share. A mutual friend of ours, from way back up on the Canadian border, in my native North Country, had suddenly and tragically passed away the night before.

“You know, history becomes personal,” Reggie Harris said to a silent auditorium last Sunday afternoon. “These are our stories, and our history — black and white — on this long road of broken dreams and possibilities.”

Sitting onstage at the Swain Arts Center in Bryson City, Harris was joined by Scott Ainslie during their “Black and White and Blues” program, which received support from the North Carolina Arts Council.

It came out of the blue.

Sunday morning. My smart phone dinged next to my bed. I groaned, rolled over and reached for it. One eye open, my blurry vision tried to make out the sender in the message. It was a name I hadn’t spoken to in several years, more than a decade since we’d seen each other in person.

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.

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