This must be the place: Ode to Butch Trucks, Texas sunsets

Popping the tailgate down in my truck, I jumped up, my eyes gazing straight ahead.

This must be the place: You want the house, I want the road

I had just enough water left.

Squeezing the last of my water bottle onto my dry toothbrush, I managed to get a halfway decent cleaning session. And there I was, sitting in the passenger’s seat of my old pickup truck, at 9 a.m. this past Monday morning, in the parking lot of a Waffle House in rural Arkansas.

This must be the place: Five years ain’t nothing, darling

Has it really been that long?

When I looked at the calendar this week, I realized it said 2017, which means I’m entering my fifth year as your features editor for The Smoky Mountain News. Truth-be-told, when I arrived in Western North Carolina in August 2012, I didn’t think I’d be here much longer than a year. Bank some cash, get some articles for my resume, and move on. That was the plan, or at least that’s what I thought the plan was.

This must be the place: In the presence of the Founding Fathers

I decided to not wear the hardhat.

Standing underneath the magnificent 215-foot high ancient rock arch at the Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia, I found myself in awe of Mother Nature’s creativity, and also of the history attached to the property.

This must be the place: Sydney to Seattle to the South

Through the strewn lights I could see the Empire State Building.

This must be the place


For me, it’s Plattsburgh, New York. Just down the road from the Canadian border, in the heart of the North Country on Lake Champlain. It’s been almost five years since I lived there, and several years before that when I initially left the rust belt blue-collar city in pursuit of my journalistic aspirations.

This must be the place: ‘Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy.’

But, I’m not sad either.

Even with that Charlie Brown quote in the headline to emphasize my thoughts on the impending Christmas, I still find myself somewhere in the neutral zone. Sure, I’m a positive thinking and focus-driven person, but why-oh-why do I find myself more of a loner when the inclusiveness of the holiday season taps my shoulder? 

This must be the place: Christmas Jam, now more than ever

“You don’t know me but I’m your brother/I was raised here in this living hell/You don’t know my kind in your world/Fairly soon the time will tell/You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me/I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see/Takin’ it to the streets…”

This must be the place: Indonesia to Carolina and back again

“I’m glad you’re here right now.”

Standing in line at the Old Europe coffee shop in downtown Asheville, I said that to my old friend, Jerica. It was a rainy Sunday evening and we’d just gotten out of a documentary screening (about Tim Leary and Ram Dass) at the Grail Moviehouse. While I was mulling over the cosmic nature and theme of the film and what our place is in the universe (as per usual), I looked over at Jerica and smiled.

This must be the place: Last call at the Brar Patch

“Blue-collar heaven.”

When asked just what the Brar Patch is, Trey Smith was quick with that response. Huddled under a flickering light of the tiny bar, Smith gets head nods of agreement from several folks nearby. Standing next to him was Marty Owens.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.