Gotta Dance

2350196127_9f6e774f0b_zMy mother was a dancer. I use the term dancer in the most flexible possible way, to mean: “One who dances.”

She said that she had always wished to be a ballerina—an image that didn’t compute with my childhood understanding of my mother, a labor room nurse who played racquetball at the YMCA, and otherwise attended a smattering of sports events in which my siblings and I competed.

She wore tight jeans and therapeutic sandals, and most of the dancing I saw her do was with her friends in the neighborhood on Friday afternoons, when everyone finished work and school, and the children played while the women drank wine coolers and bumped hips to Neil Diamond hits.

For the children, women dancing and drinking in the living room with the massive stereo speakers turned way up, was something to be avoided. So we played hide-and-seek, Legos, Barbies, and otherwise averted our eyes to the mothers.

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Nothing Can Stay, Gold or Not

My wife Liz and I met in a bar.

For Liz it was in defiance of her father’s admonition, “Whatever you do, don’t meet a Melungeon in a bar.” While technically she did meet a Melungeon in a bar, it wasn’t quite like that; we were both at a going-away party for a mutual friend, a poet who had taken a teaching job on the other side of the United States, in San Francisco.

Last Friday night Liz and I visited that bar for the last time. When the doors closed in the dark of Saturday morning, Bull Branch was gone. The owner Scott had closed it down the way she does everything—full throttle all the way. She swung open the doors and threw a smash-up party. Don DiLego, backed by a fantastic band, gave us a good dose of his soulful Americana. Everyone danced, and drank, and reveled in the company of old friends.

Open in 2001, Bull Branch was a restaurant and a bar, but it was more than that. It was a place to meet people interested in more than hookups and college football; it was a place to talk about art and literature and music; it was a place to hear music that ranged in the course of an hour from Willie Nelson to Morphine to Fela Kuti. If you wanted to dance, you did it between the tables. And that was fine. People did it all the time.

It feels like our town has lost another bubble of sanity, a local sanctuary from the bland corporate-store kitsch that appears to be spreading like gangrene across the city. Another place with personality goes, another Cracker Barrel or Buffalo Wild Wings—or two, or four—opens.

Friday was great fun. Saturday was sad, as if another friend had moved far away. Funny how a place has its own personality and can come to feel like a friend. Bull Branch was like that to me—a friend I hadn’t seen as much lately because I had three kids to usher through the teen years, but an old friend nonetheless.

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The Daughter Who Defied Gravity

Guest Post

By Gregory Wolfe

The following remarks were given by the author at his daughter’s wedding this past weekend. 

For Barry and Helena Wolfe-Blevins.

When the father of the bride steps up to say a few words at the wedding reception, his remarks typically have a certain amount of—what should I call it?—leverage, given the sizeable contribution that’s been made to the wedding budget.

But in this case, Helena and Barry have done such a wonderful job of making this a simple, modest, beautiful event, put together largely by friends and family, that I find myself without much leverage at all….

Still, I do feel it important to say that as parents your mother and I are very concerned and protective, so we just want to go on the record that if you ever, ever do anything at all to hurt our dearly beloved Barry, there will be hell to pay, Helena. [Read more…]

In Defense of Fine China

Twelve years ago, during the short months of our engagement before my husband and I were married, I had the pleasure of registering for wedding presents.

As a young child, I had watched all three of my older sisters select china, crystal, and sterling at Delta East-West gift shop owned by Helen Ward Nicholas and located on Main Street in my hometown.

I watched them unwrap the towers of presents that resulted, invariably wrapped in slick white or shiny silver paper. They set out the gleaming wares on the dining-room table, the engraved calling cards of the givers—“Dr. and Mrs. Shelby Truesdale III,” say—nestled among them for visitors’ inspection. [Read more…]