A Homecoming, Of Sorts (whilst never leaving Main Street)

I’ve lived in WNC for nearly four years now. I’ve written about the musicians and venues around here. I’ve poked a little fun at Sylva and Cullowhee but taken an outsider’s view of the town’s merits when some of the locals inevitably complain of its shortcomings. And for the most part I’ve tried to at least appear as though I fit in to some degree.

But it wasn’t until sometime last Friday morning, as I rounded the corner and began my descent down the old courthouse steps that I looked out over the stoplights and rooftops and felt something kind of strange. As the town maintenance guys pounded and jack-hammered at the fountain, the cars rolled through from Dillsboro, dogs barked from a hundred little yards and a hundred little houses, I got the unsettling sensation that I was “home.” This is coming from a guy who’s spent an inordinate amount of his life wishing to be almost anywhere but where he happened to be at any given moment.

When I wander down Main Strett, past the windows and shops and passersby I realize that I recognize more faces than I ever thought I might. Seems I can’t seem to go within 50 feet of Guadalupe café without stopping to chat with someone about, well, anything. It’s usually Luke Webb playing the role of “someone.” Coffee Underground has a whole gravitational pull of its own, let alone what’s quickly become my favorite menu on the block. Who would’ve thought that eggs and avocado could make such sweet music together? Mill and Main sure has a knack for crafting a fine martini, much to my concrete laden head’s chagrin the next morning. Mr. Menze is a fixture at the gallery steps, photographer Matthew Turlington is perpetually either coming or going, and now that the familiar rumble of the air conditioner on the corner that used to belong to Bay has returned, everything seems (and smells) a little more “right” around here.

Maybe it’s that I was mostly oblivious to the fact that over time I had developed some real friends around here. In an instant, from atop that daunting mountain of steps, the focus that labeled most everyone as “acquaintances” shifted just enough to reveal living, breathing people with lives and stories and the whole nine yards. It never ceases to amaze me just how much you can get back when you’re willing to put a little in.

Now if only we had a good Thai restaurant around here...

— By Chris Cooper

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