A&E Columns

This must be the place: ‘Night after sleepless night, I walk the floor and I want to know’

Scottsdale is 'The West's Most Western Town.' Garret K. Woodward photo Scottsdale is 'The West's Most Western Town.' Garret K. Woodward photo

And so, we enter the whirlwind holiday season once again. Honestly, it feels like I was just in Knoxville, Tennessee, leaning against the bar on the second floor of the Preservation Pub in Market Square on New Year’s Eve when the clock struck midnight. 

While the rest of the country was watching the ball drop in Times Square on TV, the die-hard Volunteer college football faithful were watching Georgia take down Ohio State 42-41 in the Peach Bowl. It was an SEC win over the Big 10, which seemingly mattered more than watching some illuminated disco ball in Manhattan signaling the need for a new wall calendar in your kitchen.

Earlier that day, I had awakened at a hotel room on the outskirts of Nashville. On assignment covering a gig at the Ryman Auditorium the night before, the room was dark and silent. Opening the curtains, it was late morning. Bright sunshine. Hotel parking lot. Bustling Interstate 40 nearby. Pack up and try to make it back to Asheville for the ball drop.

Initially, I was tempted to stay another night in Music City. Some friends had sporadic plans for NYE. Maybe throw the dice and see where it lands, eh? But, then I thought of how much money another night at the Holiday Inn would cost, let alone Uber and dinner, onward to cold suds and cheeseburgers in the midnight hour at Robert’s Western World on Broadway.

Back on I-40, I stopped at a Logan’s Roadhouse in Cookeville for a late lunch. Flying solo, as was the norm for me for several years, either emotionally or in transit, it was a filet mignon medium rare with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Being NYE, the place was empty, the young bartender nice. She asked what my plans were for NYE. I said I had none. She smiled with a slight chuckle and went back to tending the bar. I finished my meal and hit the road for Carolina.

Nearing Knoxville, I decided to call my best buddy and see what he and his wife were up to for the final day of 2022. The sun was falling quickly behind me as I headed back into Eastern Standard Time. They had found a babysitter for their young daughter and were just going to bounce around Old City and Market Square. With Carolina so much further beyond the horizon, I said I’d be in their driveway soon.

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Several hours later, there I was, on the second floor of the Preservation Pub. Surrounded by football freaks all adorned in nice clothing to ensure their significant others were pleased with their attire on this night of nights where one must spruce themselves up in hopes of a midnight smooch in the arms of a beautiful woman.

Being the random single guy in the throngs of anonymous faces, I found myself in a sea of couples. I didn’t see the ball drop, but did catch the field goal that sealed the deal for Georgia to go on to win another national title. By 1 a.m. I had located the rest of the group of folks I wandered in with. Get the Uber. Head back to their house. A nightcap and some hearty conversation, onward to a peaceful slumber as 2023 was now here.

Jan. 1. The early afternoon drive back to my humble abode in downtown Waynesville. A contemplative hour-and-a-half journey. Some Crosby, Stills & Nash on the stereo. I remember that trek and how I wished the next holiday go-round would be different. Most of the holidays of my adult life have been spent either alone or solo in my personal endeavors.

I wished that by next Thanksgiving the void in my heart and soul would be somehow fulfilled by the company of a kind, genuine soul, this woman I’d yet to meet and could cross paths with at some point in the near future. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle being alone, I was just bored of being alone.

Sure, I enjoy my solitude and chase after it, either in the depths of Mother Nature or on a backroads sunset cruise. But, truth-be-told, life is so much more fun and inviting and memorable when you have someone to share those special moments with — whether it be a live show, afternoon hike, gut-busting meal or simply waking up and deciding who’ll make the coffee and where we should go for breakfast.

Skip ahead to this past Sunday afternoon. The air is oddly warm for this time of year, although a slight crisp resides, a sign winter will overtake our mountainous landscape soon enough. I sit at the new mid-modern desk in my apartment. Finally caved and go rid of the shabby old hand-me-down desk. Now? Dark wood and continued inspiration.

My apartment has transitioned from the longtime bachelor pad of my wanderings and ponderings to now a cozy place of respite. And that is thanks to the kind, genuine soul of a woman, Sarah, who seemingly appeared from nowhere on fateful Thursday night in January, not long after that contemplative hour-and-a-half journey on New Year’s Day from Knoxville to Waynesville.

As I type, Sarah’s at work and will be back to our apartment around 6 p.m. Plans are being made for dinner this evening. We might wander into Asheville and catch up with some friends for a beverage and some banter before the holiday season careens across our field of vision. To note, we’ll be heading to her father’s in Goldsboro for Thanksgiving.

I think of leaning against that bar counter in Knoxville. I think of the ball dropping once again in Manhattan and how I was once again on my own, haphazardly meandering about in the grand scheme of things. But, all of those feelings and emotions dissolve when my phone dings on my desk. It’s a text from Sarah: “Let’s pick out a tree when we get back from Thanksgiving.”

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

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