This must be the place: And no matter what may come to shine, the dream will always be mine
I awoke in the guest bedroom and it took me a few seconds to realize where I was. Tampa, Florida, was the destination this past weekend. And there I was amid Gulf Coast sunshine and beautiful chaos only found in the depths of the unknown night.
The purpose of this latest excursion was part business, part leisure. I was heading down to Tampa anyhow to meet up with some folks in the craft beer and music industry to talk about some ideas we’d like to implement in the Western North Carolina brewing and live music scenes.
That, and my buddies The Infamous Stringdusters just so happened to be performing at my friend’s brewery and music venue in Ybor City. Since the Dusters were in town, I figured it’d be an ideal time to interview fiddler/singer Jeremy Garrett for Rolling Stone about his new solo album, which was recorded and produced by Organic Records in Arden (home of Crossroads Studio).
But, the underlying tone of the trip was this surreal sense of big changes, personally and professionally, within the lives and careers of all involved. These were familiar and beloved faces, many of which I didn’t even know a year ago, let alone when I moved to Western North Carolina in 2012.
Turning 35 a couple of weeks ago, I’ve really had a “What does it all mean?” vibe and attitude rolling through my head. Halfway between age 20 and 50. This weird, surreal spot where you’re young enough to have mobility and youthful exuberance (fingers crossed) and yet you’re old enough to be aware of just how big and wondrous the world is — with a more defined and clear focus of what it is you are sincerely meant to do in your time and place on this planet.
For myself, it’s always been about the written word, the one thing I (hopefully) offer society in the name of peace, love and compassion between humanity and the grand cosmos. And it is the written word by which I’ve acquired this vehicle and catalyst to pursue my wildest dreams with a reckless abandon.
The gratitude is flowing through my heart and soul as I’m writing this column, all while sitting at a table in the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport awaiting my flight back to Asheville, cold beer within reach, my thoughts ricocheting across this blank page like they always do, especially in moments of transition.
That gratitude reverberated through this Tampa trip, the crazy notion that everything and everyone around me is a result of the written word. It’s a long way from home back in the North Country of Upstate New York, and an even longer way from the old days of pounding on newspaper doors in hopes of somebody taking a chance on an underemployed writer.
Now, these paragraphs are not meant to push forward any false notion of self. More so, it’s about being sincerely appreciative of every single opportunity that has come my way, and never forgetting those long nights spent on the road chasing after some aspiration I had back in college of being a writer.
Tampa, Tampa, Tampa. It was weird to step out of the airport and feel that warm breeze, a far cry from the cold wind and snow experienced a few hours prior in Haywood County. Though I’ll always be a person who feels most at home in the mountains, there’s just something so appealing and mesmerizing about that Florida sunshine.
Cruising along causeways over silent waters in the midnight hour. Drinks in bars filled with neon lights and loud music. Get up with the morning sun to do it all over again. Turn that pasty Irish skin of mine to a shiny tan amid countless freckles that’ll finally reveal themselves in the right temperature. Snapshots of a weekend now fleeting into memory.
The whirlwind weekend came to a culmination while at Rock Brothers Brewing in Ybor City. With the Stringdusters onstage in the packed upstairs venue, my friends and I saluted the fiery performance, and also each other, these different backgrounds and starting points, each ultimately coming together and forming these lifelong bonds — through craft beer, music, journalism and an unrelenting zest to strive for greatness every day.
Winter is quickly giving way to spring, as the cycle of life starts all over again. I’m always sad to see the cold months disappear, the sentimentality of the holidays, good cheer and all that stuff that is meant to eliminate the winter blues in the presence of loved ones, near and far.
And though I’m not sure what this new phase will hold, I do know that I’ll be rushing towards that horizon with head held high, the wind at my back if I’m lucky. I mean, what else is there to do in the universe but chase after passion and truth? And with the “golden rule” safely tucked in your back pocket, the world is truly your oyster.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 The “Mardi Gras in the Mountains” celebration will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, in downtown Franklin.
2 Boojum Brewing Company (Waynesville) will host Darren Nicholson Band (Americana/alt-country) 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21.
3 The reception for the 52nd annual Juried Undergraduate exhibition will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, in the Fine Art Museum Star Atrium in the Bardo Arts Center on the campus of Western Carolina University.
4 There will be another installment of “Comedy Night” at 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at Mad Anthony’s Taproom & Restaurant in Waynesville.
5 Lazy Hiker Brewing (Sylva) will host Andrew Thelston Band (rock/jam) 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21.