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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.

Popping the tailgate down in my truck, I jumped up, my eyes gazing straight ahead.

I had just enough water left.

Squeezing the last of my water bottle onto my dry toothbrush, I managed to get a halfway decent cleaning session. And there I was, sitting in the passenger’s seat of my old pickup truck, at 9 a.m. this past Monday morning, in the parking lot of a Waffle House in rural Arkansas.

Has it really been that long?

When I looked at the calendar this week, I realized it said 2017, which means I’m entering my fifth year as your features editor for The Smoky Mountain News. Truth-be-told, when I arrived in Western North Carolina in August 2012, I didn’t think I’d be here much longer than a year. Bank some cash, get some articles for my resume, and move on. That was the plan, or at least that’s what I thought the plan was.

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.

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

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.

But, I’m not sad either.

Even with that Charlie Brown quote in the headline to emphasize my thoughts on the impending Christmas, I still find myself somewhere in the neutral zone. Sure, I’m a positive thinking and focus-driven person, but why-oh-why do I find myself more of a loner when the inclusiveness of the holiday season taps my shoulder? 

“You don’t know me but I’m your brother/I was raised here in this living hell/You don’t know my kind in your world/Fairly soon the time will tell/You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me/I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see/Takin’ it to the streets…”

“I’m glad you’re here right now.”

Standing in line at the Old Europe coffee shop in downtown Asheville, I said that to my old friend, Jerica. It was a rainy Sunday evening and we’d just gotten out of a documentary screening (about Tim Leary and Ram Dass) at the Grail Moviehouse. While I was mulling over the cosmic nature and theme of the film and what our place is in the universe (as per usual), I looked over at Jerica and smiled.

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