“At Last” by Etta James. A timeless classic. The kind of tune you want to send into outer space as a melodic ambassador to the aliens who might be curious as to just what kind of species we humans are.
Tucked away in a corner at 5 Walnut Wine Bar in downtown Asheville, I find myself daydreaming while observing the world swirling by the open bay windows and fresh air flowing in that makes this spot a safe haven for me amid the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s January, and though the winter had finally made itself known this week, today (thankfully) is blue skies and warm sunshine kissing the cheeks of all who take a moment to look upward and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us at all times.
New Year’s Eve was a few weeks ago. And though I spent it with dear friends in the maddening crowds of Brooklyn, I still found myself — like right now — reflecting in awe of another year down, hopefully many more to come in this great unknown we awake into each morning.
This is the fresh canvas, where whatever was bothering you rolls down your body like raindrops onto the cold concrete beneath your feet. While I tend to enjoy those raindrops, for good or ill, some soak deeper into my exposed skin (and heart) than others.
Ah, my dear Etta. Your songbird voice revved up my memory. I gaze around 5 Walnut, hearing laughter, sparkling wine glasses held high with unique fingerprints from joyous customers glistening in the mid-afternoon sun. It is life, and in its finest hour, which is here, and now.
What catches my attention the most is the mere fact that the next year will bring about more faces and places, emotions and physical changes, sidetracking and rushing forward attempts at glory, than you could ever imagine. I mean, just think about all the people and things you crossed paths with in 2015. New friends, lost friends, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and unforgettable tragedies, all rolled into a single ball of energy we kick around while trying to figure out just what it is we’re trying to do with ourselves.
I, for one, shake my head in laughter, sincerely grateful laughter, when I try to fathom what the hell happened within the last year as I put up a 2016 calendar — fresh with promise and an empty schedule — up on my wall.
Someone recently told me that, although they “like my writing,” they couldn’t read most of what I publish because, “it’s too sad and deep.” To which, I told them that, “real understanding is being able to appreciate the happiness and the sadness as all one thing — the human experience.”
I look at enlightenment — true enlightenment — as being able to see and embrace the good with the bad. Happiness (and love) is the most transcendent of human emotions, with sadness a close second. They both must be respected, and also held up to the light in awe and intrinsic value.
And when dear Etta echoed throughout 5 Walnut, I found myself thinking about all the ups and downs of 2015, especially in terms of my relationships with the opposite sex. For each adventurous date and storybook encounter, there were also tears shed and somber feelings projected over differing perspectives on where things were heading or if they even had a shot of success right out of the gate.
Every year, we all think, “Well, I know more than I did last year, so I’ll be ‘go-to-go’ when heading into the battlefield of males versus females.” All is fair in love and war, you see, and, “You can’t be wise and in love at the same time” (Bob Dylan).
Looking back on 2015, I found myself in the presence of sheer magic, where everything I had “learned” was tossed out the window the second a femme fatale caught my eye on an otherwise typical Tuesday night at the brewery around the corner.
Truth be told, I really don’t know what the hell I want. But, what I do now is, when I see it, and feel it, I’ll know. This isn’t some sappy Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan ideology, it’s chemistry, and the raw sense that what you’re doing — the trajectory you’re currently on — is pure, truthful, and of sound mind.
And so, as dear Etta vibrates through my soul, and every cell in my body bounces around happily, I take the last sip of my beer and set the glass down. The sun is now a few degrees closer to the horizon, a few more degrees accurate toward my intent and desired course. Head for where the grass grows green and the river flows by in its own ancient rhythm. Sleep peacefully knowing that everything is something, and something will always amount to everything as long as you never forget how lucky you are to breath in and out, in and out.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 Water’n Hole Bar & Grill (Waynesville) will have a 10th anniversary party with Humps & The Blackouts (psychobilly) at 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6.
2 A community benefit showcase for The Canary Coalition will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, at The Mad Batter Food & Film in Sylva.
3 O’Malley’s Sports Bar & Grill (Sylva) will host The Freeway Revival (rock/jam) at 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30.
4 No Name Sports Pub (Sylva) will host Scott Low & The Southern Bouillon (honky-tonk/outlaw country) at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29.
5 Grammy Award winner David Holt will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville.