Case in point, last Friday afternoon. I received a message from my old friend, Seth. He and his wife, Alli, were passing through Waynesville. Was I around to meet for a beer? Of course. Heading up from our office to the Boojum Brewing taproom on Main Street, I realized it had been about seven years since I’d seen either one of them. How would the conversation go? Would they still be the happy-go-lucky, gung-ho folks I knew from back then?
I first met Seth and Alli when I was 22 years old. January 2008. I had just taken my first reporting job out of college at the Teton Valley News in Driggs, Idaho (over the Grand Teton mountain range from Jackson, Wyoming). Uprooting from New York, I didn’t know a soul when I hit the Rocky Mountain town of around 1,400 residents. Much like my relocation here to Waynesville, I was excited and anxious, ready to claim whatever adventures and friendships presented themselves.
At that time, Seth was working for Grand Teton Brewing, Alli up at hill at Grand Targhee Ski Resort. They were somewhat dating then, as were a lot of my new friends there. I was single and ready to mingle with all the snow bunnies surrounding me — it’s all kind of a blur looking back, as is most of our memories when we reflect on our early 20s.
The thing with living in a mountain town, especially one out West, is the transient and manic nature of life. If you’re not out there skiing Targhee, mountain biking the Big Holes or fly fishing the Snake River, you’re catching wild live music at the Knotty Pine Supper Club, a cold one at The Royal Wolf or partaking in shenanigans at an after-hours party on the prairie. It’s a Peter Pan mentality, one where you really don’t ever grow old, where old age just meant you were lucky enough to have so many opportunities to reach for the pearl of existence — as long as there was somewhere to go and something to do each day, and there always was.
I met strangers, now dear friends, from Missouri, Georgia, South Dakota, Vermont, Ohio and all points in-between. We were young and ambitious, with a reckless abandon to grasp whatever it was we thought we were made of when we left home for the great beyond. Although my tenure in Driggs only lasted about nine months, it justified the purpose I have chased ever since, the idea of being a writer, a journalist, trying to find footing in an uncertain job industry amid the eventual economic recession of 2008.
After I left Idaho and headed back to New York, I felt (and still do to this day) that a piece of my soul still floats around back in Driggs. And for a lot of my friends there, who also have moved on, I think the feeling is mutual. We got into the car and headed down the road, with the occasional glance in the rearview mirror to what we were leaving behind — our first steps into adulthood, our deepest dreams held and not yet shared with the world, until now.
These memories flooded my mind when I met up with Seth and Alli at Boojum. A lot of time had passed, with much happening in our lives since then. Seth is a brewer in Massachusetts (Wachusett), while Alli runs an all-natural energy bar company (OWL) in Vermont. They got married awhile back and now travel the country together, in search of the next big adventure.
They’re happy, and so am I, writing and exploring the great mysteries of people, traditions and landscape in Southern Appalachia. We’ve all found footing in our respective endeavors. It’s an incredible sense of self that only comes with time, and age, as youth becomes maturity, intent transitions into reality.
The three of us met up a couple times on their jaunt around Western North Carolina. Delicious local craft beer, mountain biking at Bent Creek, as joyous conversation rang true throughout (the essence of any true friendship). We made plans for hanging out again come winter, perhaps even in Massachusetts. Another adventure? And in New England? Who knows? All that matters is what lies ahead, the unknown, a scary idea for most, but a notion, to me, that sends a chill through my body like a little kid awakening on Christmas morning.
Their attitude not only mirrors mine, it also throws more fuel on the fire in what I aim to do with my life — live it.
1 Legendary musician and founder of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John McEuen will perform at 8 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Martin-Lipscomb Performing Arts Center in Highlands.
2 The Dillsboro Arts & Crafts Market will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 19 on Front Street in downtown.
3 BearWaters Brewing Company (Waynesville) will have Ol’ Dirty Bathtub (Americana/bluegrass) at 7 p.m. Sept. 11.
4 Renowned soul/jazz musician Shana Tucker will perform at 8 p.m. Sept. 19 at The Strand at 38 Main in Waynesville.
5 Andrews Brewing Company will have The Dirty Soul Revival (rock/blues) at 7 p.m. Sept. 12.