The Back Lot of North Carolina

In this age of COVID, meeting up with a friend has become an adventure in itself. We decided to meet half way between our houses, a three hour drive for both of us. Our socially distant gathering would take place outside; we would only enter buildings while masked for take away and bathrooming. Our meeting place was a small North Carolinian town on the bay. I had never been there. I planned it out as best I could with Google Maps street view with shots from 2014.

I got on the road early, an hour or so after sunrise. Once I got off the interstate, it felt like I was back in the Thumb area of Michigan – as rural as rural gets – and it made me nostalgic for days gone by. Between the farm fields, the small towns called to me. I daydreamed about renting a room in Beulaville, settling in for a week to write a novel. I’d walk to get my coffee at Duff’s Cafe, have dinner at Ann’s Thai Kitchen, followed by ice cream from IGA. I’d finish up the day writing, sipping a double shot’s worth of Deep Eddy Ruby Red vodka. A writer can dream. Maybe someday.

With my midwestern background, surrounded with only soybeans and corn, the tobacco fields always interest me the most. I’ve been here fourteen years and the novelty hasn’t worn off. The first time I saw a tobacco field, I didn’t know what it was. My friend, with southern roots a mile deep, looked at me like I was nuts. We were on the way to a funeral, but I made her pull off to the side of the road so I could get a closer view of these exotic plants growing in the middle of absolute nowhere. I marveled at how these plants could cause so much damage to a human, as someone who has a thing for distillates of potatoes and sugarcane.

The small towns – some disappeared within a blink of an eye as the cruise was set at 75mph on a byway – gave way to larger towns. I imagine people in the one horse towns would call these large cities. It took me a moment to adjust, too.

I didn’t expect towns this large to be in the back lot of North Carolina.

I didn’t expect them to be as nice as they were either. I have a few on my “must revisit” list.

The drive was easy, scenic, and before I knew it, I arrived at my destination.

It was more beautiful than the pictures and I was sad I didn’t investigate more of its historical significance until after I had left. My heart was singing as I drove through the quintessential downtown that hadn’t changed much from the early 1900’s, never mind the 2014 view. My friend had gotten delayed, so I had some time to explore and get the place wired. I parked right by the water and judging from the morning sky, it was going to be a beautiful day.

As it turns out, the visitor’s center had a large back porch, complete with rocking chairs and a postcard worthy view of the water out of the sun. I couldn’t have found a better place to enjoy the company of an old friend!

As I sauntered through downtown, where everything was clean, friendly, and the ambience made it feel like I wasn’t in 2020. I realized I had forgotten to bring deodorant on this adventure (of all days!), so I stopped in at the local pharmacy. The decor was straight out of 1978, but I found some Old Spice at a very reasonable price (I refuse to smell like flowers or baby powder, I prefer masculine scents). I made a mental note to remember this pharmacy also had an ice cream counter. Sears was going out of business and the sales I saw from the window were difficult to pass up as a bargain hunter, but I truly didn’t need anything, so I kept walking. This town felt like I was lucid dreaming. I also noticed my Great Lakes accent disappeared here. I usually save my southern lilt for patients at work, but it came out naturally in this town.

I walked back down to the water, just as my friend appeared.

I could write a novel in this town too, except I would require a kayak.

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