June 11, 2019

An installment in John T. Edge’s Points South column, Local Fare.

Costumes transform their bar into a theatrical production, Feizal said to me that day in the jungle room. “You watch someone put on a Big Bird suit and then you ask, what will the Big Bird do? You give two banana costumes to two guys and then stand back to watch what happens. Pretty soon the dude at the bar in the banana costume sees the dude in the booth in the banana costume. They hug. And they start buying each other drinks.”

June 11, 2019

A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue

I have wanted to visit this house for years. Like many North Carolina kids, I grew up with the broad strokes of Thomas Wolfe’s story, the prolific, small-town genius who became one of the most revered writers of his generation. I lived in North Carolina for most of my life, but I never took the opportunity to visit. Not enough money, not enough time, too much to do: that’s an old story, I know, and a true one. It is also true that we seldom value the places where we live, not enough anyway.

June 11, 2019

A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue

As an evangelist, I have showed “Miracles” to many people by lying about what it’s actually about. Generally, I describe it as a sort of joke, a curiosity. I don’t tell folks that when I first heard Frierson sing about being “only human” I was lonely and confused, and I listened to it so much that the music morphed into a personal manifesto about redemption, as if he had boiled down the obsessive and impossible task of purity into a formula. On first listen, how I feel about “Miracles” would seem ridiculous. 

June 11, 2019

A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue

In 2007, the fossil remains of a severely disabled prehistoric man were uncovered in what is now Vietnam. The skeleton revealed the fused vertebrae and weak bones characteristic of a congenital disease called Klippel-Feil syndrome. The man was a quadriplegic, unable to feed himself or keep himself clean, and yet he survived to adulthood—during the Stone Age, mind you—because others in his community took care of him.

June 11, 2019

A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue

Much of what they’d tell me next was legend—tall tales, rumors, exaggerations. Perry Martin adopted an orphan girl he found on the riverside, raised her up as his own, paid her way through college. He killed nine people, or eleven, or a dozen. One of his alleged victims was his own stepson: the younger man had rocked a boat they shared too violently, which angered Martin. Apparently, despite his life along the river, this outlaw did not know how to swim.

March 19, 2019

An installment in John T. Edge’s Points South column, Local Fare.

Calamity and travel arrest time. They beg focus and feed insights. Tourism has taken on some of the functions that religion once served. Here in America, we have ritualized restaurant going, embracing time at table as a cultural passkey, just as we previously codified sightseeing and museum going. Each effort shows respect for (and belief in) a society, a community, a place.

March 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue

Like many other locals, I had never valued the glades. I had never learned to see past the scraggly trees and the rocky fields. A chance Google search one day told me about the wildflowers, these endemic species that carpet the barrens and are found nowhere else in the world. I started hiking the Flat Rock State Natural Area. I dove into deed research, seeking to know more about the people who used to carve a living out of the limestone.

March 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue

Listen to the first two notes Raphael plays on his solo on Nelson’s “Georgia on My Mind” and it’s impossible not to hear Mickey singing the word “Georgia” through the instrument, the second syllable bending upward, just the way Willie sings it. Raphael’s harmonica grounds the song in its call-and-response gospel impulse: one voice means little without the other’s ghostly affirmation.

March 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue

My family has laid claim to a variety of nationalities and regional affiliations, yet there are still questions I reflect on from time to time regarding my own claim to my current home. Am I a Southerner, and do I have a right to call myself a Southerner? Will others recognize me as a Southerner, despite my lack of accent and because of my Asian face? And what does it mean to take on this identity—what does it mean for me to claim Dixie?

November 20, 2018

A feature essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. 

Rapsody now dons the mantle for a long tradition of black women, particularly those from the South, forcing Americans to look in the mirror of our professed ideals and to face the ills that haunt us. She carries the torch the outspoken, Tryon-born Nina Simone held high in the heat of the last century’s civil rights movement, before she fled to Europe for respite and asylum. She embodies the quiet fire and sensuality of the diminutive Roberta Flack, born in the Asheville-area town of Black Mountain, whose blend of torch ballads, folk, soul, gospel, and disco transformed what could be decidedly black and land in the genre of “pop music” as the civil rights fight gave way in the latter part of the century to the cultural appropriation that integration wrought.