Repeat when necessary

I’ve been writing about music for close to 40 years (!), which means I rarely don’t have something playing in the background — including while I’m at the computer working.  A good bit of the time, of course, what I’m listening to is whatever specific artist or record I’m writing about.

But there are a lot of times I go off-script, too, especially when writing something fictional or longer or not related to music at all, or even just for a change of pace. At those times, I’m usually looking for the aural equivalent of comfort food: something soothingly familiar that I can slip into and eventually tune out, letting it work its magic subconsciously.

This actually isn’t all that unusual, because a fair amount of anecdotal evidence suggests that if you want to really bear down on a task requiring concentration, it helps to binge on the familiar. It’s not just writing, either. My wife works as a real-estate paralegal and recently spent a day with Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” playing on an endless-loop repeat, and she reported that she felt like it greatly enhanced her productivity.

In my case, I’ve developed a few go-to favorites over the years. Some are individual songs, some are complete albums — and they all help focus my mind. What are some of yours? I’d like to hear about them in the comments.

Television, “1880 or So” — This was the leadoff track on the seminal New York new-wave band’s 1992 reunion album, and it was never any kind of hit. But it still kind of puts me in a trance every time I hear it, and I can listen to its hypnotic guitar interplay and mysteriously murmured lyrics for hours at a stretch. I’ve been trying to wear this one out for more than a quarter-century and it hasn’t happened yet. Another song in a similar vein is “Days on the Mountain” (1982) by Television founder Tom Verlaine. It’s weirder and less tuneful, but also longer and more epic. It scratches the same itch.

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue — This 1959 cool-jazz classic is an album I could happily listen to every single day the rest of my life, and it’s another one I’ve never been able to wear out. In that, I rank it alongside my all-time number-one favorite, Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On. But Riot isn’t something I put on when I need to really bear down on a piece of writing; too jittery, and it demands too much concentration to serve as accompaniment. Kind of Blue, however, retreats into the background just enough to work perfectly.

The La’s — This Liverpool band made one and only one album, about which there is a fair amount of lore. Unsatisfied with how things were going in the studio, the band broke up in the middle of recording, leaving the producers to piece together enough songs to make up an album. While that’s not a promising scenario, the result is nevertheless one of my all-time favorite start-to-finish records ever. You already know the hit, “There She Goes,” 2:42 of chiming pop perfection. But all 12 songs flow along, rising and falling at a perfect pace. Even though it’s barely 35 minutes long, The La’s really does feel like a satisfying, long day’s journey into night.

Ennio Morricone, Legendary Italian Westerns — I’ve always had a special affinity for the “Spaghetti Westerns” of Italian director Sergio Leone, including the wide-open ambience of composer Ennio Morricone’s elegant scores. Two decades ago, this 1988 compilation of the maestro’s greatest western themes was my main soundtrack while I was writing my novel “Off The Record.” There’s just something that feels intrinsically right about dramatic instrumental movie scores as fiction-writing accompaniment.

Aaron Copland, Copland Conducts Copland — Speaking of cinematic, Aaron “voice of the American Heartland” Copland is pretty much the last word when it comes to broad-brush musical landscapes. Between “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Appalachian Spring,” this is music that should have your written epic sailing along in no time at all. And Copland’s music is so versatile, it even worked as soundtrack for a movie about basketball — Spike Lee’s “He Got Game.”

Good advices

Early in my time as Piedmont Laureate, one of the first things I did was to get together with a few of my predecessors to compare notes over dinner, and it was immensely useful. They had some terrific suggestions, and I’m going to try and do events with as many of them as possible over the course of this year. I’ve done programs with two so far — 2009’s Jaki Shelton Green at the North Carolina Book Festival, plus 2011’s Scott Huler at Quail Ridge Books — with a third, 2014’s Carrie Knowles, on the schedule for May 20 at Southeast Regional Library. More to come, I hope.

Toward the end of our gathering that night, 2017 laureate Mimi Herman (an amazing poet) told me something that really stuck with me: “Be thinking about what you want to give up, because you’ll have to give up something if you’re going to do this.”

That made a lot of sense and I promised I’d figure something out. But it sure didn’t play out the way I thought it would. Right around the time of that get-together was when the McClatchy Company made every News & Observer employee of a certain age a buyout offer, including me. I’d been turning down all such entreaties over the past decade with hardly a second thought, and my kneejerk was to do the same again this time. But McClatchy has been spiraling downward for years, which made me consider it. And after agonizing over it for a couple of weeks, I decided it was indeed time for me to take my leave from the paper, a process that involved much agony and ecstasy.

So yeah, the N&O turned out to be what I’ve given up during my Piedmont Laureate year. And while I don’t yet know what I’m going to do long-term, it still feels like the right call. Adding laureate doings on top of family responsibilities, freelance side-hustles including a book to finish and a radio show and an already-overwhelming N&O dayjob that was about to become even moreso meant that I had bitten off waaaaaaay more than I could chew.

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Photo by Scott Sharpe.

It’s been just over a month since I left the N&O newsroom, and I’m still kind of catching my breath. I actually just applied for a job, a part-time gig that seems like it would fit my life and schedule so perfectly, I almost don’t want to get my hopes up. I’ve written a few freelance pieces for former local rival publications I never imagined would carry my byline, Indyweek and WRAL.com, including a review of this past weekend’s big Dreamville Festival.

Dreamville was the first big concert at Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Park and it drew a massive crowd of 40,000, which was amazing to witness. It did feel odd to see some of my former N&O co-workers out there covering it, and for somebody else to be writing that story for the paper. But some things never change; just like they’ve been doing for years, N&O photographers Scott Sharpe and Robert Willett snapped a few candid pictures of me on the job that they were kind enough to share (see above, and below). I’d be thrilled with either of these serving as book-jacket author photo.

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Photo by Robert Willett.

I’ve done some freelance writing for out-of-town publications, too, as well as a couple of bio-writing jobs. The latter involved a very different editing process from what I’m accustomed to, since the subject has to approve of what is written — which is nothing like the outlook I’ve had for the past three decades of journalism.

I’ve had Piedmont Laureate programs to do, too, including one that went great last week at Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh. “Revisiting the Underground: Stories From the Cameron Village Music Scene” was about the old Cameron Village Underground nightclub scene, centered around long-ago in-concert photos shot by my former N&O colleague Chris Seward. I led the discussion and it was quite nice, including anecdotes provided by a few rock stars who were in attendance. The photos will be on display in the library lobby through the end of May, and I’d highly recommend checking them out (here’s a story I did on this exhibit last year when it was at the City of Raleigh Museum).

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Live at Cameron Village, to talk about The Pier and other subterranean nightspots from long ago.

I hope the next one goes as well, a “Piedmont Laureate Presents” program scheduled for Wednesday, April 10, at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop. I’ll be serving as emcee and interviewer for an event centered around the beautiful new photo book “Blue Muse: Timothy Duffy’s Southern Photographs.” Also on the program will be recent Grammy-winner William Ferris, and singing from the superlative Glorifying Vines Sisters. Y’all come.

Apart from all that, possibly the biggest gift that giving up the N&O job has given me is that I’ve been able to spend this past month focused on my own book. I am in the final (I hope!) rewrites for “The Big Book of North Carolina Music” — although that was never more than a working title, and the rewrite stage has confirmed that I’ll need to come up with a different name.

Whatever it is to be called, I’ve been working on this beast for either two years or the 28 years I was at the N&O, depending on how you reckon it. The book covers close to a century of music and history starting with bluegrass forefather Charlie Poole in the 1920s up to the present day, with 16 chapters and a Preface.

It’s been quite a slog, and I’ve had to beg, borrow and steal time from elsewhere to work on “Big Book” the past two years. I was humming along on the first draft at a pretty good clip through the first half of 2017, getting through about one chapter per month. But then the N&O started up a big “digital reinvention,” giving me and everyone else in the newsroom annual digital page-view quotas that were somewhere between ambitious and insane. That made the job immensely more difficult and energy-consuming, and from then on every chapter took at least two months to finish. There were a lot of days when I’d stall out and collapse into a recliner before getting to the book, because you can only push the time/space/lack-of-sleep continuum so far.

But I’m finally closing in on the end of it, and this is actually the fun part of the process. I once likened first-draft writing to digging ditches, and I’ve always found that part hellishly difficult. This phase, however, is the payoff, where you give the book another spin through the keyboard to tighten, brighten, fix inconsistencies, ponder word choices and trim redundancies, When I profiled the very fine novelist Ron Rash a few years back, he summed it up like this:

What I enjoy most about writing is revising, and what I hate is getting down the first draft. Once I get into something and it becomes about the language, that’s the good part. How vowels and consonants rub up against each other, the rhythms of the sentences and the paragraphs and the pages, that’s what gives me the most pleasure as a writer.

Amen. And I’d like to add that having this book occupy the center of my work life for a little while, with everything else having to find a place around it rather than the other way around, has felt positively luxurious.

Thanks, Mimi, for the good advice.

We are the champions

It’s been three weeks since I left the News & Observer and entered gainful unemployment, so to speak, and I’m still getting used to this new normal of not having a regular workplace to go to every day. It’s been a strange series of adjustments and jolts, starting with news two weeks ago that North Carolina rock legend Sara Romweber had died. Not having a place to publish a proper obituary was throwing me for a loop, until my former competitors over at Indyweek were kind enough to let me do one there (whew).

There was a bit of a respite last week with South By Southwest, the massive festival in my long-ago stomping grounds of Austin, Texas. Going to Austin every March is one of my annual compass-setting rituals and I was already registered, so I went and it was the usual amazing time, equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. I saw friends and family and ate way too much TexMex and barbecue, and I also kept busy doing some freelance reviews for Rolling Stone.

NametagDMThis week, however, I’m back home and the reality of really being gone from the N&O is starting to sink in. It no longer feels like an extended stretch of days off, but La Vida Freelance, and here we go. It came with a punctuation mark, too, Thursday night’s annual North Carolina Press Association Awards dinner. I attended, and it was most likely my final act as a member of the N&O newsroom team. It will almost surely be the last time I’ll ever wear a nametag like this one.

Us journalists are funny about awards. We all feign nonchalance because it’s what one does, and we talk a good game about how awards are ultimately meaningless, which is certainly true as far as it goes. Deep down, however, we’re just like anybody else: Whether it means anything or not, winning stuff is fun, especially if it involves dinner paid for by somebody else.

So I went and I won two this year — one for the N&O and one for the Durham Herald-Sun, which is now owned by the N&O and shares newsroom staff. I won second place in feature writing for a piece about the singer Nina Simone’s roots in the town of Tryon, a story pegged to her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year; and third place in arts and entertainment reporting for a feature about artists in the down-east town of Kinston.

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Overall, the N&O won 34 awards and came in second in the overall-excellence category, behind the Winston-Salem Journal but ahead of the Charlotte Observer, our…or rather the N&O’s former big in-state rival (it’s going to take me a while to start thinking of the N&O as “them” rather than “us”). Now that the N&O and the Observer are owned by the same corporation, the papers are more partners than competitors. But like the old corner store of daily-paper journalism, having them for a rival is something else I miss.

Credit where credit is due, the NCPA organizers put on a much tighter program this year compared to years past, when the ceremony had the pace and vibe of a high-school graduation. I still remember last year’s interminable event, when we were entering Hour Three and one of my co-workers sighed, “Now is when you really miss cocaine” (still my most indelible NCPA memory from years of attending).

This seems like a fitting capper to my 28-year run at the N&O. Going on a month into my followup chapter, I’m still catching my breath and trying to figure out what’s next even though I’ve actually been pretty busy. I’m in the midst of final (I hope!) rewrites on the North Carolina music-history book, and I’ve got a decent amount of freelance work to do. But the freelancer’s lot is to fret about whether or not that will keep coming, a feast-or-famine cycle I’ll have to get used to.

Meanwhile, the Piedmont Laureate calendar is gradually filling up. Please come see me at an event soon.

 

A few words about…Ryan Adams

DRANYTBack on Feb. 13, when the New York Times dropped its bombshell piece alleging sexual misconduct by my old book subject Ryan Adams, about a half-dozen emails with the story link appeared in my inbox within two minutes of it going online. Most of them were along the lines of OMG have you seen this?! But a few were also inquiries, from people asking what I thought or if I’d be writing about it.

One of the people asking if I was going to write about it was an editor at the paper, to whom I responded: “I’m not touching this with a 10-foot pole.” Figuring that the world could do without my hot take on the situation, I opted to leave it alone.

And yet that did not stop anyone from asking.

I was scheduled to do a few events at last month’s North Carolina Book Festival, and I figured (correctly, as it happened) that I’d get asked about Ryan. So I wrote out a statement that I read at my Feb. 23 presentation about book-writing, figuring that would be the end of it.

Weeks later, however, people are still asking — and I figure it will inevitably come up next week, when I’m at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. So what the heck, I’ll put the statement on here, too, even though I have no grand revelations. I wish I did.


I have said very little in public about the recent Ryan Adams allegations. Almost nothing, in fact, and I’ve had my reasons.

Ryan has been gone from Raleigh for a very long time, and he has not even played a show anywhere in North Carolina in nearly 14 years — since June 2005. He and I have not communicated directly in many years, either, so whatever insight I may have once had into him as a person does not seem relevant to his current circumstances. Moreover, I have not wanted to give the appearance of trying to sell books or otherwise capitalize on a terrible situation.

For whatever it’s worth, I never witnessed or heard about anything like the allegations in the New York Times story, either back in the day or while reporting on him after the fact. This should not be surprising. Ryan’s time in Raleigh was more than 20 years ago. He was just breaking into the music business and did not yet have his own recording studio, record label or standing in the industry to boost anyone else’s career.

Of course, I heard some stories because everybody in Raleigh of a certain age who was crawling clubs back then has at least one Ryan Adams story. As told to me, they were mostly humorous anecdotes in which no one took him too seriously — like the time he jumped into a hot tub full of women uninvited, or got chased out of a house and down the street in Boylan Heights with a broom.

In light of recent revelations, stories like that don’t seem nearly as funny or innocent as they once did. I think of Phoebe Bridgers, a singer/songwriter and one of the women quoted in the New York Times story. She wrote a song about her time with Ryan, “Motion Sickness,” that kind of induces shudders from the very first verse.

I hate you for what you did
And I miss you like a little kid
I faked it every time but that’s alright
I can hardly feel anything at all…

That leads to the chorus, in which Bridgers declares she has “emotional motion sickness” and croons in a shell-shocked voice, There are no words in the English language I could scream to drown you out.

At least we got to actually hear that song. Some of the other women in the New York Times story gave up music altogether, and the word “tragedy” seems somehow inadequate to describe that.

At this point, I have no idea what a right or just outcome would look like. It’s not my place to either condemn or defend Ryan. I’ve written a lot about Ryan over the years, very possibly too much. So right now, what seems appropriate for me to do is this: to listen.

Sara Romweber, rest in peace

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Let’s Active in a 1984 promo shot. From left, Sara Romweber, Mitch Easter and Faye Hunter.

Well, that didn’t take long. Here it is only Tuesday of my first full week away from the News & Observer after 28 years — and already, there’s a story that’s killing me not to do for the paper. If I were still in the newsroom, I would be spending today writing a proper N&O obituary and remembrance of Sara Romweber, who died Monday night from cancer at the much-too-young age of 55.

Romweber was one of the great drummers in North Carolina music history. I was a fan long before I moved here, thanks to her time in the band Let’s Active in the early/mid-1980s. And once I got here and started seeing her in other bands, that fandom only grew. From Let’s Active’s brainy art-pop to Snatches of Pink’s metallic glam-rock, with the runaway-train garage-rock of her brother’s Dex Romweber Duo somewhere in between, she played a very wide range of music and did so brilliantly, invariably displaying casual nonchalance — always on-point, never unnecessarily showy.

So here is a sample of her at work, and below that a quick remembrance I put out on Facebook and Twitter.

UPDATE: Whattaya know, I was able to give her a proper sendoff in Indyweek.

 

Whenever I’d see Sara Romweber onstage, I would ask myself: How does she hit those drums so hard? Because even though she was soft-spoken and slightly built, Sara could flat-out bring the thunder — especially in her brother-sister act Dex Romweber Duo, and in Michael Rank’s Snatches of Pink. She also played on some of my all-time favorite records with Let’s Active.

I think the only time I actually interviewed her was for the Flat Duo Jets box set liner notes a few years ago. And she told me one of my favorite anecdotes of that whole project, about life growing up in the Romweber family home in Carrboro:

“Dex would be practicing by himself in the basement, where the furnace was. His voice really carried & it would come up thru the vents. You could hear his voice & guitar really well on the 2nd story from the basement, like a speaker. He’d be learning songs our mom knew, Elvis ballads, and he’d keep stopping because he did not know the lyrics. So mom set down her knife, opened the door & said, ‘Dex, honey, that goes…’ ‘Okay, thanks!’”

She also talked at length about monster movies, soccer, Catholic school, the many bands she and her siblings played in over the years — about everything except herself, in fact. I think that was pretty typical, because Sarah did not seem like one to call attention to herself. But you only had to see her play once, and you’d never forget her.

Alas, she is another one gone too soon — from cancer at age 55, preceded in death by her old Let’s Active bandmate Faye Hunter.

Rest in peace, Sara. Gonna fire up “Cypress,” “Dead Man” and “Ruins of Berlin” in your honor.

Thank you, friends

Last month, when I began telling people privately that I was going to leave the News & Observer after 28 years, almost everyone reacted with enough genuine shock to surprise me. But that was nothing compared to the response when I put the word out to the world at large.

UglyCryThese past two weeks have been amazing — the most wonderful, depressing, heartbreaking, uplifting and bittersweet experience of my life. I have wept, repeatedly and embarrassingly, in public and private. And every time I think I’m done, here it comes again; seems like I’ve still got some grieving to get through. And while my head knows it’s the right time to leave the N&O, my heart is going to take a little longer to come around.

LastDeskShotIn all, nine of us left the N&O newsroom, representing around 200 years of total journalistic experience and institutional knowledge. It was a similar story at other McClatchy-owned papers across the country. I think most of us departed more in sorrow than in anger, and I’m hoping for the best for my former co-workers who are still trying to hang in there at the N&O. I’m afraid it’s going to be rough, and it hasn’t exactly been a picnic up to now.

Probably for some byzantine accounting reason, McClatchy is classifying this as “retirement” for everyone leaving. But full-on retirement is not an option for me at this point. I do have a few months of breathing room, with book-writing and Piedmont Laureate activities and a little freelance work to get me through this stretch of time. Nevertheless, I’ll have to figure out a Next Act pretty soon. I’ll keep you posted.

SocksFirst, though, I’d like to bask just a little while longer in the afterglow of all the love and kindness that’s come my way. I’ve heard from people across social media, in-person and even in my mailbox at home, where various neighbors have left pick-me-up gifts including chocolate, notebooks and cool socks. Jeri Rowe, a longtime friend and colleague from Greensboro, checked in with a written tribute so nice, it’s kind of impossible to feel worthy. It’s been like getting to watch my own funeral, and hearing from so many people has meant a lot.

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Martha and me. Photo by Dave Russo.

It reached a crescendo this past Saturday afternoon at Kings nightclub in Raleigh, where my wife Martha Burns orchestrated a lovely going-away bash I’ll remember forever. I’m not great at guessing crowd sizes, but it looked like close to 100 people came by to pay respects, give me a hug, tell a story. Some were kind enough to play a song or two — Caitlin Cary and Matt Douglas, two-thirds of Tres Chicas, Dana Kletter, Ryan Kennemur, The Sirens, Kenny Roby and even our neighborhood super-group Patrick Ward Ramsey leading the crowd in a sing-along version of “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

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Matt Douglas and Caitlin Cary. Photo by Dave Russo.

Peter Blackstock, one of my closest friends for over three decades, came all the way from Austin, Texas, and read a few very entertaining excerpts of our writings back and forth over the years. My old N&O co-worker Bob Langford got on the mike to do a comedic roast of a tribute, showing the perfect onstage timing I’ve always envied. And my BFF Scott Huler…well, I’m including it below because words fail me beyond noting that the thought of it will make me tear up for the foreseeable future.

Scott, of course, was the first creative-non-fiction Piedmont Laureate back in 2011, and I am honored to follow in his footsteps. As it happens, his latest book just came out, “A Delicious Country: Rediscovering the Carolinas Along the Route of John Lawson’s 1700 Expedition.” He’ll debut it with his first reading on Wednesday, March 6, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. So we’ve made it a “Piedmont Laureate Presents” event — two Laureates for the price of one! — which means I have the honor of introducing Scott and his co-presenter, Tom Earnhardt of UNC-TV’s “Exploring North Carolina.”

Y’all come.

# # # #

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Me and Scott. Photo by Dave Russo.

My best friend is David Menconi, so what I have is music.

Menconi watched my life explode in the 1990s, waited for the flames to die down and then came up, dusted me off and said, ‘There’s a band you have to go see.” And then came years of my life where the entire playlist, live and on records, was the Backsliders. Someone who leads you to the Backsliders manifestly has your best interests in mind.

But apart from the local bands David introduced me to are the mixtapes. I once was heading out on a car trip and asked David for a mix, with a few requests. That became mix number 1, and along with that he made a second tape with two albums: On one side, Hollywood Town Hall by the Jayhawks, and on the other The Gilded Palace of Sin by the Flying Burrito Brothers. So if you’re keeping score, David introduced me to the Backsliders, the Jayhawks and Gram Parsons.

At some point I began responding with mixes of my own, and we developed a shorthand, the tapes accompanied by song sheets with song titles followed by half-spoken thoughts, staccato comments understood almost subliminally, a personal semaphor — twin talk, a bestie language.

I want to share one of those with you.

When long ago it became clear that the News & Observer and I were going to have to start seeing other people, David made me a mixtape with a title cribbed from a line from “Animal House,” and that tape has some resonance now. The tape is called “Leaving: What a Good Idea.” Subtitle: “The Rearview Mirror at the end of the rope.” The song sheet is no longer with the tape because the song sheet lives in the treasure box on my dresser, with the birth certificates and passports and pictures of the kids. With the stuff I must not lose track of.

It started with the Replacements’ “Hold My Life” — comment, “Because I just might lose it” — followed by “Downtown Venus,” and his crib note reminded me of a drive down Wade Avenue when I had recognized a sample in that song. Menconi’s the music guy, but he’s giving me credit for hearing things. This is the tape that introduced me to Joe Henry’s “Trampoline”: note: “So this time I’m not coming down.” The Elvis Costello song “We Despise You” has only the crib note “hee hee hee,” and the Tom Waits version of the seven dwarf’s marching song (“heigh ho…heigh ho…”) refers to our work turning into toil. David’s comment: “I’ve got this story I’d like you to localize.” Ennio Morricone is there, Shawn Colvin is there, Nirvana is there. Towards the end David gets literal, and we get Willis Alan Ramsey singing “Goodbye Old Missoula,” Booker T and the MGs’ version of “Exodus,” and it ended, perfectly, with the B-52s’ “Follow Your Bliss” and David’s benediction: “may we all find it.”

And now David is leaving — what a good idea! — and I, and we, will manage his departure, though surely not as gracefully as he managed mine.

David has traveled with me and eaten burgers with me, watched endless sports games and movies and kids with me. And in fact, that’s really the whole thing, isn’t it? We’ve been eating lunch together at one place or another at least once a week now for nearly 30 years, and there are times when we barely talk at all because we just know everything the other one has to say, and at the end of that lunch I still feel like I’ve been to therapy. We talk about writing and stuff because we’re writers, but it’s like plumbers talking about plumbing. We just talk.

We both turn for comfort every year to the Christmas specials, and those specials help us communicate, too. One year the annual newspaper awards came out and we got the email with the list, and we both got skunked. I’m a broken, ruined person, with a shriveled black hole where my heart should be, and I desperately need that external validation. But I didn’t even get a chance to get up from my chair before the phone rang. Menconi, in the voice of Charlie-in-the-Box, from “Rudolph”: “I guess we’ll just have to wait til next year.” And suddenly I didn’t need the stinking award because I had Menconi.

We both revere that “Charlie Brown Christmas Special,” and we find in Linus the meaning of friendship. Linus watches Charlie Brown wreck one thing after another, yet Linus just hangs around. Charlie Brown gets no cards, and there’s Linus. Charlie Brown wrecks the play and there’s Linus. Charlie Brown screws up the tree and there’s Linus.

Welcome to my life. I move to Raleigh to start a job and there’s Menconi. My marriage ends and there’s Menconi. His kids come along and there’s Menconi. I leave the paper: Menconi. I get married — Menconi. Kids of my own. Menconi. Lunch every solid stinking week come heat, hell or hurricane — Menconi. And, true enough, the opposite. Menconi’s life hits a speed bump and there I turn out to be, so I guess this works both ways. And Menconi walks away from the N&O, and here I am again.

I have nothing to offer but my company, and nothing to claim but my gratitude for the best friend that I’ve ever had.

I probably should have made a mixtape.

— Scott Huler
March 2, 2019