Oh, Charlotte! You lovely southern city, you. Your warm humid nights, railroad tracks, and brick buildings fill my heart!
— R. Waller as we step off the jetliner and into the long tube
at Charlotte International Airport. Rob’s dutifully checked guitar waits dutifully, faithfully at tube’s mouth. We amble, truly amble, towards baggage, through humidity and heat that feels like a distant memory. We’re in the South, and slowing down. It feels good and we’re still waiting for bags.
We rent a sweet bronze (beige?) Toyota Camry at HertzSoGood, and at Budget a mile down a sleepy road grab Paul Marshall, just arrived from a week’s visit with his son Scott in Fayetteville. We meander towards University area Charlotte, along leisurely interstates through tree stands, carefully groomed highway grass with shockingly bright wildflowers, and rollingfields. It’s hard to get your bearings for a California man. There are no peaks to spy for orientation, just noncompetitive old and relaxed hills in all directions.
We find our Red Roof Inn on Equipment Road, as donks* cruise the access roads up above, drive past several sketchy but intriguing underground economy transactions. This place is hopping, in a slow kind of way. The rooms are adequate if you apply a soft focus (bofus?) and don’t inspect mysterious stains too closely. We decide to drive to the NODA area, a rural crossroads by the tracks that’s densely packed with shops of the new, globally informed yet locally committed entrepreneurial mindset. It’s a cool little spot. We check in with the Evening Muse, an 1800’s brick building at the very corner of the brave new crossroads. Ah, cool inside. The sun’s pretty intense at 5 p.m.
In the cool Muse interior, Don’s behind the bar, pours sophisticated local drafts for us band, a warm reunion. Joe the soundman is doing something technical and esoteric with a mysterious aluminum box. Laurance Juber, who’s doing a separate show at 8 before our 10:30 set, walks in, we introduce ourselves. Is that a flash of alarm in Laurance’s dark eyes? He reminds us, as per our facebook communication, that he can’t stick around to see any of our set. We don’t blame him. He’s played with Paul McCartney and we’re a sketchy country rock outfit he’s probably never heard of. Are we stalking him? No, Laurence. We’re cool. Do your thing.
With the sun still quite blazing to the west, we stepped down the block and into Boudreaux’s, as cool as the Muse, and ordered seafoodgumbo, crabcake croissant, redbeansandrice, with andouille sausage and greens and cornbred. We went with the Abitabeer and sweetea, and damn it was good. The staff they were mellow, a bearded young fellow, who handles the people with grace. We pick up our forks, smile to ourselves, and delight in the delicious taste.
We’re in an entreprenurial mood. How can we join the new paradigm of commerce? We decide to purchase a crossroads and create an artificial, but really tasty, local epicurian/mercantile experience, always cutting edge. On one corner Paul Lacques will open a Clam Chowder and Espresso joint called The Jittery Clam. Only New England Chowder (in winter), Red Clam Chowder (in summer) and espresso. That’s it. On the opposite corner Rob is opening a wig and hair piece store called Sweet Merkin. On the third corner Paul Marshall runs Indica/Arabica, an herb/espresso bar with the sleepier varieties of herb and bean. On the fourth corner is the Kommie Korner, a barter only bazaar with open bar called Lac Du Joie and dark hidden chambers, shaded passageways that hint at the Medina of Fez. On the fifth corner–oh, no, we’re done. Accepting applications to enlightened startups for all four radii outward from our crossroads.
It’s evening, we have sampled enough the pleasures of the Red Roof Inn, and we return to NODA. Laurance Juber is dazzling a rabidly enthusiastic audience seated at his feet. We take the stage with gear kindly provided by soundman Joe and his friends, the amps sound great, Joe dials in a pristine sound, and we do a satisfying acousticalelectric set for an involved group of new friends and old. It’s good to get our feet truly on the ground.
*a donk is a jacked up car with eye catching paint job with fancy rims, often rented.