I remember when my publisher suggested in the spring of 2013 that I start a weekly column. I was definitely receptive to having my very own page in the newspaper to write (literally) about whatever I want. But, there also was a prominent, lingering thought in the back of my head — what am I going to write about each and every week?
At first, I introduced myself, where I’m from, what I want out of life, and how I view the world from my front door. Then, I talked about places I’d lived and visited, and the incredible people I met along the way. I’d talk about my family, my friends, and total strangers that left an unforgettable mark on my existence.
Writing a weekly column isn’t an easy task, to be honest. Yes, there are some weeks where you know exactly what you’re going to write about. But, then there are times where Sunday night rolls around and I’ve yet to figure out what my topic will be (with the column due Monday morning).
And yet, in some odd way, I kind of enjoy that fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants topic search. I like the idea that I can write about anything, anyone or anyplace. I’ve used it to showcase my interviews with Oscar-winner Kevin Costner and guitarist Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, as well as words about my love of old country music, getting poison ivy while playing Frisbee golf or my teenager indiscretions with stealing beer from my grandfather’s garage fridge.
When I started this endeavor, I really didn’t know if anybody was even going to read this, let alone make a connection with the words and sentiments. There have been plenty of times I’ve put this together and wondered, “Who really cares what I have to say?”
But, the funny thing is, there are folks who care about what is said on this page. In a world where face-to-face communication is a lost art and the simple act of starting a genuine conversation with a stranger is a rarity, having an outlet like this (let alone in print, on a physical piece of paper, not a digital screen), it seems people find comfort in the situations I find myself in and the thoughts I tend to have emerging on the other side of a long day.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking along some downtown, whether it’s Bryson City, Sylva, Franklin or Waynesville, and someone I’ve never met stops me and says “Was your trip home to New York fun?,” “How’s your sister’s pregnancy going?” or “I really liked what you said about your time living in Ireland, oh how I miss it there.”
For a split second, I find myself a tad jarred by the encounter. Here I am, in the middle of the mountains of Western North Carolina, and this person knows exactly what’s going on in my life, and wants to say hello, perhaps have a chat for a moment about it. And as these surreal moments continue to happen, I truly do welcome them. I’ve always been a fan of connecting the dots of humanity, whether through journalism or just saddling up at the local watering hole and striking up some friendly banter with the folks to the left and right of me.
There’s something to be said about being a participant in your existence. Too many of us out there in the world just stay within our own bubble. We never open ourselves to others. I know sometimes people are weary of those they don’t know, but in all truthfulness the majority of the world has a good heart, and I have proof of that on a weekly basis with all of the amazing people I interact with and write about.
With that said, I welcome any and all suggestions for ideas, interesting characters and topics that you would like me to ramble on about. Heck, just say hello if you want — I’ve never met a stranger. I want this page of The Smoky Mountain News to be a comfort zone, a place where you can kickback, relax and delve into the beautiful chaos that is the world around me. I find the more I push out and explore my surroundings, the more I realize how similar we all are, in so many great ways. So, here’s to one wild year of “This must be the place,” and to many more.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1: Country act My Highway will perform at 9 p.m. June 21 at No Name Sports Pub in Sylva.
2: The “Way Back When” dinner will be held at 5:30 p.m. June 27 at the Cataloochee Ranch in Maggie Valley.
3: The Blue Ridge Mountains Arts & Crafts Show will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 21-22 at the Haywood County Fairgrounds.
4: A street dance will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. June 27 in downtown Waynesville.
5: Bluegrass/Americana group The Kruger Brothers perform at 7:30 p.m. June 28 at the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center.