This must be the place: Ode to this newspaper, ode to a quarter century

It was just about 12 years ago when I first rolled into Waynesville. After a solo 18-hour, 1,000-mile trek from my native Upstate New York to Western North Carolina, I found myself sitting in an office chair awaiting an in-person interview with Smoky Mountain News publisher/founder Scott McLeod. 

This must be the place: ‘Running to lose the blues, to the innocence in here’

Hello from the writing desk in my humble abode apartment in downtown Waynesville. It’s warm and sunny outside on this Monday afternoon amid Memorial Day Weekend. I’ve just returned from a 2,678-mile out and back trip to the North Country.  

This must be the place: ‘Of freedom and of pleasure, nothing lasts forever’

It was nearing midnight when my mother finally beat my father, my girlfriend, Sarah, and I at cards, rummy being the game of choice and of tradition in my parents’ household. Most of the snacks had been consumed and I was halfway through a lukewarm Labatt Blue Light when she placed her last card on the pile to claim victory. 

This must be the place: ‘Little pink houses for you and me’

Bearing witness to a few fine folks chomping down on handfuls of raw ramps last Sunday afternoon at American Legion Post 47 in Waynesville, it dawned on me that I’ve lost touch with this region. 

This must be the place: ‘Cast upon a beach town, Winn Dixie cold cuts thieves highway hand me downs’

Right now, there are a handful of old cardboard boxes in the back of my girlfriend’s car. Inside the boxes are several dusty photo albums of Sarah’s past.

This must be the place: ‘I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all’

Is there a more exhilarating feeling within your heart than that of preparing for a road trip? I think not. The wandering, pondering rambler inside my soul vibrates wildly thinking about what routes to take, where to stop, who to stop and see and what kind of wondrous happenstance will occur throughout the journey. 

This must be the place: ‘Subway steam like silhouettes in dreams’

Last Thursday, it was decided to go bowling. Galaxy Lanes & Games on the outskirts of downtown Sylva, in a somewhat dormant shopping plaza buffering the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway and greater Jackson County.

This must be the place: ‘Plates slammed onto the counter, coffeepot burped, voices ask of a loved ones’ whereabouts’

The title of this column is a sentence written in my old road journals. Back on Dec. 26, 2007. I was 22 years old and leaving my hometown of Plattsburgh, New York, heading west to start my first reporting gig post-college at the Teton Valley News in Driggs, Idaho. 

This must be the place: ‘Cloud hang on the mountain, they make me lonesome inside’

With a cool breeze rolling through the Old City district of downtown Knoxville last Thursday evening, I clung tighter to my jacket, pulled the brim of my hat lower and meandered across the railroad tracks towards Boyd’s Jig & Reel. 

This must be the place: ‘Beg, steal or borrow two nickels or a dime to call me on the phone’

Hello from Room 623 at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Owensboro, Kentucky. Just about six and a half hours from my humble abode in Waynesville. Russ Avenue to U.S. 276 to Interstate 40 and backroads through Southern Appalachia to get here. 

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