Archived Arts & Entertainment

This must be the place

art thisplaceDon’t go in there.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been told this. From my parents, teachers, friends or just strangers in general. It’s a phrase that can refer to a dangerous spot in the woods, front yards with vicious canines, disgusting restaurants or mismanaged places of business. But, mostly, it’s been applied to certain bars.


I’ve always been a champion of “dive bars,” places were the people are as unique and real as the aged buildings themselves. Places where the beer is two degrees from frozen and pickled eggs are in high demand. These are spots where laughter is hearty and handshakes are as frequent as a “round for the house” over a recent promotion or just plain ole’ good news.

My fascination with these establishments is deep and personal. Coming from a proud Irish family, being social over a pint or two is in my blood. Jovial conversation and a salute to “another day six feet above and not six feet below” is part of who I am. And, as a journalist, it’s the patrons of these bars that truly captivate my attention.

Some of the wildest tales and best story leads I’ve ever gotten hold of were a direct result of midnight words with the only other person sitting at the counter. They are war veterans and hairdressers, lawyers and nurses, farmers and maybe even unemployed for the time being. But, what remains, what ties us all together, is the mere fact we’re all here, together, and, at least in this moment, the night is ours.

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From the moment I arrived in Waynesville a year ago, I was continually told, “Don’t go in there,” anytime I inquired about the Water’n Hole. But, seeing as my apartment was right around the corner from the bar, I soon found myself at its doorstep. Being new in town, I was immediately welcomed with a friendly smile and cold drink. The folks, as expected, were joyous and rowdy — my kind of people. 

Many, if not all, of those I met that first night have become some of my closest friends in Western North Carolina. They’ve given me helpful suggestions for features, bought a round for my birthday and always remember to ask me if I’d like to come to their barbeque next weekend.

So, last week, I found myself once again at the Water’n Hole. I was just about to size up my 8-ball shot on the pool table upstairs when the lights suddenly went off. It was a blackout on the east part of town. The band downstairs stopped playing and those in attendance wondered what to do next? Do we go home? What now?

With her trademark smile, owner Becky Robinson grabbed a couple candles and stated she was still open for business. The band grabbed their string instruments and began plucking a few tunes, eventually passing the guitars around for anyone who wanted to chip in a tune or two. We sang together, chuckled and held our heads high – the night was ours once again.

Just as they say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” I also advise, “Don’t go in there ... unless you want to meet some fine mountain folks and have a great time.”



Hot picks

1: Southern rockers The Corbitt Brothers hit the stage at the Saturdays on Pine concert series in Highlands on July 27.

2: Actor/historian Kurt Sutton presents “An Evening with Mark Twain” on July 28 at WCU.

3: Americana group Sundy Best perform at Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City on July 26.

4: The WNC BBQ Festival heats up at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds on July 26-27.

5: Cellist/poet Carol Bjorlie comes to City Lights Bookstore in Sylva on July 26.

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