WNC Travel Guide

op columnThree months into this, I’ve decided that being a columnist for The Smoky Mountain News is potentially more challenging than being one for The New York Times. I’ve never been a columnist for a big-city publication, but I bet it’s easier to get lost in a sea of fast-paced New Yorkers after a contentious or honest column than it is to walk into Joey’s Pancake House where one knows half the occupancy. Growing up in Weaverville, I’m no stranger to the small-town vibe, a vibe that’s both comforting and precarious.

op barbeeThe other night I cut a skin tag off my husband’s face with a really sharp paring knife and some tweezers. I used peppermint essential oil to numb and rubbing alcohol to cleanse. Our 7-year old held a flashlight so I could see and our 4-year old looked on in amazement. 

op coxI hate having my picture taken. The simple truth is that I have found clever ways to avoid it for most of my life. But there is one picture of me I have always liked. In it, I am standing near the road between my old apartment and the park across the street in my hometown of Sparta, North Carolina. In the crook of my right arm, I am holding my nephew, Adam, who is 3-years-old. I am wearing my favorite shirt, a gray R.E.M. T shirt, and it is a beautiful day. Adam is squinting, and I am smiling broadly, as if to say, “This is MY nephew!”

op barbeeThere was a time in my life where I thought being wild would lead to a sense of freedom and purpose. I assumed that spontaneous trips, living alone, drinking good wine, writing long, dark journal entries and dabbling in debauchery would quench an underlying thirst for adventure.

op barbeeOne Friday night in October my husband and I were dining at the bar at Frog’s Leap when I realized Smoky Mountain News Editor Scott McLeod was next to us enjoying a beer and an order of truffle fries. He and I began chatting about his kids, my kids, mutual friends and ultimately landed on the topics of writing and journalism. He asked what sorts of topics I write about and which publications I write for.

This must be the place

art theplaceThrowing my father’s old Dodge Dakota into park, I stepped out of the truck and felt the crunch of snow and ice beneath my feet.

op coxWhen we wake up on Christmas Eve, it is nearly 70 degrees and raining so hard that when our miniature dachshund is about to go out for his morning trip to the bathroom, he takes a look up at me instead as if to say, “Are you kidding me, man? No thanks, I’ll just hold it.” What he means, of course, is that he will go back to bed just long enough for us to jump in the shower or start making breakfast, whereupon he will find a nice, quiet room somewhere in the house and surreptitiously relieve himself on the leg of a chair, reappearing minutes later, with another look that says, “No worries, mate. That room is all clear and secure.”

This must be the place

art theplaceSo, you’re from Canada? Not quite, but close. Growing up on the Canadian border, most folks there don’t really take notice of where they live, or how odd it perhaps may seem to reside so close to a foreign country because, well, it’s always been that way, you know?

This must be the place

art theplaceIt’s awfully quiet in here. As the rest of the newspaper heads out the door for home (or somewhere they used to call “home”), I sit at my desk. Relaxing back into my chair and staring out of the window, I’m not looking at anything in particular, with thoughts drifting into that bluebird sky outside.

op footballWhen I was 12 years old, there were few things I liked better than the Dallas Cowboys. Definitely my Farrah Fawcett poster. Maybe Fudge Royale ice cream. But not much else.

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