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Pittsboro: A Love Story [an essay by John]

So you've all heard me rattle on about how much I love where we live... here's John's take. He's so good with words! 


I find most people have a loose disinterest in nostalgia, but it’s a major component of my personality. I can’t help it; I feel compelled to elegize by the tidal circularity of living, and by the inevitable loss of the moments of one’s life that, in the aggregate, compose our existence—the way that existence winds down like a spinning top, our lives, in all their wonder, escaping minute by minute, into the unkeepable, unknowable ether.

It drives my girlfriend crazy—and I suppose I get why. I mean, this mentality occasionally leads to my holding up a piece of discarded wrapping paper I find in a catch-all drawer and gasping, misty eyed, “Rhianna! You wrapped the Ohio State pez dispenser you put in my stocking at Christmas two years ago in this! Awww… remember? That was such a nice Christmas…” Again, I can’t help it; I’m lucky to have a lot of memories I like revisiting, the only negative aspect of this being that, as though in some Melvillian Hallmark card, everything in my life tends to symbolize everything else. So I spend a lot of time allowing the present to carry me into the past through an overwrought network of associations and sentiment.

Now, owing to the above impulses to imbue my past with irrational romanticism, I have always cultivated a vehement sense of home, and keep that idea fiercely as a central tenet of my identity. Morgantown in the autumn, frozen winters in Granville: these are not merely places where I’ve stayed, they are places that have stayed with me, part of my understanding of self, coloring my conceptualization of the world. Because of all this, my sense of home is something like keenly honed, and is deeply important to me. But not just everywhere makes the grade, so to speak, especially when measured against the lovely specters of paradises past.

This had become, to be honest, a real bummer recently. I moved to North Carolina in 2007, and long story short, spent four years homesick: fall was nonexistent, it hardly ever rained, there’s no Stroh’s in NC, and everyone watches NASCAR*. I mean, they really watch it, like they know all the drivers’ names, their numbers, the “team” they’re on, which makes next to no sense to me, owing to NASCAR’s not being a team sport— except in the sponsorship and management of the team, which raises the question of… you know what, forget it, the point is I DON’T GET NASCAR, and people who do almost never get me. And maybe that’s all that needs said: there was home— autumn leaves the color of campfires, greasy spoon diners, the filigree of Christmas lights on a drapery of snow— and then there was North Carolina with its NASCAR. Also, grits. Also, subtle xenophobic isolationist Southernism complete with sentences ending in “these parts,” and Confederate flag bumper stickers—although perhaps this is redundant having already identified the NASCAR contingent.

Now ok, I’m being woefully narrow and unfair to NC, I acknowledge that, but I was tragically out of place: trying and failing to recognize the keystones of home in a foreign environment. Carolina Beach (my first stop in ’07) did, really, exhibit some of the above idiosyncrasies, but Hillsborough was a delight, and Carrboro would have been, if I was an entirely different person (i.e. smoked clove cigarettes). But I wasn’t a different person, and I struggled mightily to find any of myself resonant in my new southern surroundings. Or no, not new— in 2010 it occurred to me, somewhat horrifyingly, that I’d been in NC as long as I’d been in my beloved Morgantown, and as of 2011 I would have lived in North Carolina longer than any other state in my adulthood. Upon this realization my bags were packed. I’d had enough grits, enough 75 degree Decembers, enough of feeling like an outsider. I was headed back home, ready to declare my southern experiment dead. But, as it goes, a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral.

For one, of course, I found Rhi, who changed something like every aspect of my life for the better. And then, serendipitously, we found Pittsboro. Etymologically, the Germanic “boro” means “fort,” soooooooo, I guess the town was like a… pit fort? Or, I guess, many pits? Regardless, I almost instantly adored Pittsboro, finding it devoid of pits—and forts. Aside from the myriad charms of our little red house, the town itself was just full of darling wonders. In fact, this whole essay began as a list of places in our wonderful town. But somewhere along the way, after mentioning the fiddle shop, the coffee spot, the Italian restaurant offering— ready thy loins— complimentary wine, I couldn’t help but feel like I was falling short of doing justice to our new home. As I noted each admirable aspect of the place, I began to understand that I couldn’t really say anything to make anyone love Pittsboro the way Rhi and I do— and I’ve had lots of practice trying to get people to understand and appreciate the unspeakable and innumerable affectations of places I love. But just like Morgantown and Granville before it— like Howard, Ohio, with Frankie’s Pizza and the diviest dive bar in the world, The Derek Inn— Pittsboro is special not because of its many fine establishments, but because it resonates with some ineffable sense of “home-ness.” And it’s hard because I don’t really know what I mean by that, which maybe I should have mentioned at the start of this meandering note. But what is there to say? What makes home feel like home? The truth is, bending to romance, the sky feels different— feels different— in alien places. The crickets sound different. But at home, the breeze floats through the open windows just so, or, the exact same way in central Ohio in the ‘90s as in Morgantown later, and as in Pittsboro, now.

I guess what I’m saying is that for a long time—too long—I was looking north the way one might fawn over certain old photos: reminded of loss. I found myself saying the phrase “back home,” far too often, never meaning anywhere near where I was. Now though, in Pittsboro, with its record shop/used book store, its great brew pub, its co-op grocery—but more importantly its sky, its crickets, its breezes—I’ve found a place that inspires me to stop looking at where I was, stop dreaming of where I might go, and allows me to simply feel, of course, at home. And that, for maybe a long while, is where I am.

*John wanted me to put a disclaimer saying he does not mean to be rude to all people who like Nascar, some people that like Nascar are really rather nice people!  

hey hi hello.

The blog has been quiet.  Last I updated I talked about us going to Kentucky for Labor Day Weekend.  Since coming home from that long weekend, getting back into the swing of work, unpacking, and getting some new furniture... our house has been a wreck and it's kind of been the state of our minds.  Kentucky was... hmm, how to phrase... eventful?  I won't go into details but I will say this:  next time I go there, I'm not telling anybody, I was stressed out trying to see everyone within a 36 hour period.  I'm so lucky to have a lot of people that I want to see but trying to schedule them in one weekend was a little ridiculous and not relaxing at all.  I felt on-edge the whole time we were there and checking my watch to see when my next visit was does not make for good company.  No one wants to feel like another appointment so it wasn't fair to my friends, family, or me.  There was a lot of stuff I wanted to do but couldn't and some stuff I did that I won't do next time.  Live & learn, right?  Let's get to the good stuff though:  we both made some new friends.  John in particular found a new bff in James -- he's so stoked to hang out with him in the future, hopefully we can make that happen!  We hung out with Stella & Lala, two of my all-time favorite gals.  I got to see a dear friend that I haven't seen in so long & it was so good to catch up with her over some tea one night.  Seeing Leigh and her pregnant belly was so amazing and surreal.  And my parents are doing very well too!

Once we came home we've both been battling allergies (they are SO bad in Kentucky... where we acquired the sniffles) and rearranging furniture... so our living room has been pretty empty & won't be filled until tomorrow (hopefully).  We thought we were going to have a relaxing weekend to catch up and put things back together but I got busy working with horses and we had some unexpected things pop up with friends, so... yeah... this weekend wasn't relaxing either.  I'm hoping that this coming weekend we finally get to spend some time, just the two of us, reacclimating properly, relaxing on our new furniture (fingers crossed!), cooking yummy food, and so on.  It'll be our last weekend together for a bit without a bunch of plans so I'm really looking forward to holing up in our house with just us and the animals.  Let's hope nothing pops up that we have to do or entertain.



Today we're going back to my (Rhianna) hometown in Kentucky. I haven't been back there since Christmas and this is the longest stretch I've ever gone being away from Kentucky, 8 months and some change.  Feels a little weird in a way.  I think for anyone, you expect the place you've left to stay exactly as it was when you left and are always surprised to see that life has moved on and stores have opened and people have grown and all that jazz in your absence.  Does this make sense?  What a strange feeling it is.  But I'm excited to see my parents and my friends and visit the pub that I so often frequented and eat Mexican food and hang out with Stella.   

I used to live on this street, in an old house on the right at the top of that hill.
It's where John & I started our relationship!

image via



John and I went on a date to a new restaurant in town.  There are SO many new places opening up in our tiny town... it's kind of amazing.  We have so many quality restaurants in our town of 3,000 people.  Spoiled rotten are we!  John is actually in the process of writing up a blog post about our town (I'm not the only one that thinks it's the best place to live ever! I promise!), but he takes foreverrrr to compose his posts, he's a writer so he drafts and revises and drafts and revises, etc.  I just spit up words all over the keyboard and post it, maaaaybe edit it later if I see any glaring spelling/grammar mistakes.  Oh what a horrible blogger!  Anyway...

Friday night we went to, what is arguably, the "nicest" restaurant in town.  I mean this price-wise and fancy menu items & bourbon/wine lists.  It did not disappoint.  It's in a beautiful space, a renovated mill.  Oh the floors!  They are so beautiful!  The exposed brick!  It's lovely!  Enough exclamations.  We had the most charming waiter, Elliott, attending to us for the evening and boy was he helpful.  We also got to talk to the owner and brag about him to her later... love that we've been meeting so many of the owners of our favorite restaurants.  The bourbon list made me miss home... seeing all those Kentucky towns on the list.  I decided I must have a whiskey drink, so I got a Chatham Courthouse Sour and it was fantastic.  John and I got the cheese plate, that he loved... I'm not a fan of too many cheeses (I know, your respect for me just went way down, didn't it?  People think I'm crazy that I'm not a fan of cheese... but let me tell you, blame my body, my body does not like many dairy products, it rejects it!), but I loved the fruit selection on the plate and ate some of the yummy bread.  Then we ordered mussels.  SO GOOD.  We gorged ourselves on the mussels and local tomatoes, dipping the bread into the broth afterward.  And then came dessert.  Elliott told us the very long list of fresh desserts (this menu changes daily) and all of the options sounded delicious but I had to order the dark chocolate pot de creme because pot de creme is possibly my favorite dessert in the history of ever.  It was just as good, if not better, than I thought it would be.  So rich that the two of us could hardly finish the single portion we were served.  I washed mine down with some french pressed coffee.  Such a successful evening. 

During the dinner we discussed some BIG PLANS that we are SO EXCITED about.  Caps are so neccessary here.  Basically, our lives are awesome.  And we ended the evening at home watching Disney movies... we've been on a big Disney kick lately.  The rest of our weekend was lovely... we ate a lot of chili because it was chilly here & made us feel like fall.  We repotted plants and moved some inside, we framed forgotten pictures and placed them on the walls, we did a lot of "Cozy-fying" our house and it was worth it.  I was a homebody before but now I'm even moreso.  Anyway... that was our weekend!  Hope yours was awesome too!!!