This must be the place

art placeI was afraid of getting caught.

As a teenager, I found myself sneaking into the back door of my grandfather’s garage. Amid the darkness, I stepped over firewood, fishing gear and forgotten storage boxes layered in dust. Sliding past his couch-on-wheels Ford Crown Victoria, I located the refrigerator and reached for the handle. Opening the door, the bright light illuminated the interior of the garage. Squinting my eyes, I found what I was in search of – a cold can of Coors Light.

This must be the place

art placeI wanted to be close to the source.

When I was 20 years old, I decided to become a writer. Standing in the mud at Bonnaroo 2005, I realized all I wanted to do what talk to strangers and write about them. It’s a fascination that will never subside, a thirst that will never be quenched.

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.

This must be the place: Bringing the world to your doorstep

art frIt all started with an email. 

Last July, I was at a crossroads. Being a freelance writer for a few years, my usual summer work dried up before the warm weather even arrived. The publications I was contributing to in Upstate New York were losing money, rapidly, with their freelance budgets being the first casualty of a haphazard newspaper industry.

This must be the place

art theplaceIt’s the question I get asked the most.

“Is there any music around tonight?”

This must be the place

It had been 10 years.

I kept thinking those words while boarding a plane in Charlotte this past weekend, bound for my hometown. Tucked far away in the northeast, awaiting my arrival was a 10-year high school reunion. 

This must be the place

art garretGetting poison ivy is my official sign summer is here.

Like old men whose knees ache when there’s an impending storm, the symbolic rash and blisters are Mother Nature’s way of telling me spring is over. Ever since I was kid, I always seemed to catch poison ivy at least once during the summer months.

This must be the place

art garretIt was the reason I came to the South.

Situated in the southeastern corner of Tennessee, the city of Chattanooga is a rapidly growing, bustling hub of culture and commerce in Southern Appalachia. Like Asheville, both cities went through hard times following the end of their manufacturing eras. Each became stagnant, searching for an identity that eventually evolved into prosperous havens for artists, musicians, chefs, craft brewers, etc.

This must be the place

art garretI had never seen the color green like that before.

Touching down at the Shannon Airport in southwest Ireland, the lush, vibrant green landscape of my ancestors took my breath away. It was August 2005, and I was about to embark on a collegiate semester abroad.  

This Must Be the Place

art thisplaceWell, hello there Western North Carolina.

As the arts and entertainment writer at The Smoky Mountain News, I spend my days wandering between art gallery openings, craft beer releases and front porch pickin’ sessions. Each week, I invite you along on the ride as I bring to life all the creative people, places and things that make Southern Appalachia so unique.

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