As y’all know, I play on cruise ships as a pianoman. This means I lead drunk people in song. It has its perks. I “play the room”, and in between songs I talk to the crowd. Surprisingly, one question that never comes up is: “What do you do with this money we’re giving you?” The answer is: I make more music with it. I take the show on the road.
Music is a very strong passion of mine, as is travel. Two weeks ago, I visited North Carolina. I totally LOVED it. I share my experiences with you here for two reasons: First, in an effort to perpetuate the good I have received – to show you in words, pictures and video exactly how I choose to spend the money that I have earned practicing my art – the money YOU gave me. And second, to share the beauty of local culture and help us bask in our humanity. Yes.
So now, without further adieu, the recap!
Dawn, Sunday May 12
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
My eyes open to my pitch black cabina. I am sleeping on the bow of a mega liner, a floating hotel named Freedom. I lie awake and listen to the air conditioner blasting away as I realize that today, after 36 nights of leading drunk people in song around the piano, I will make my way to North Carolina for some much needed mountain air & performance dates! It. Is. Adventure time.
Monday May 13
Charlotte, North Carolina
I awake at dawn to the sounds of birds. This sound to a seaman is unfamiliar, as is the sun breaking through the curtains. I have four hours to soak up some internet before its time to head back to the airport and rent the car. I tune into Santa Monica NPR station KCRW and hear Zach Braff and Marc Maron being interviewed on The Business. Both talk wildly about how internet is letting them do their thing.
The front desk calls – my shuttle is here. The kind driver agrees to take me to the car rental lot near the airport instead the terminal. He will be the first person on this journey that will help me for no other reason than my asking. We pass a farmers market on the way and talk fondly.
I jog across a rental lot with my backpack and camera case in hand. I rent the car, point the nose west and search for lunch. I think of Paige, who I usually eat burgers with.
then, epiphanyish moment…
Belly full, I am headed out highway 74A from Charlotte to Asheville. The fields are green all around, the small towns come and go as I take the business routes down Main Streets. I stop in Chimney Rock State Park for a bit, and keep on, passing woodworking and textile communes and fresh stone foundation river homes. The little two lane highway becomes tunnel road, leading me into downtown Asheville.
I park the rental near the basilica as night is falling. I check in to Sweet Peas Hostel. I go for a long walk and run into a long haired singing busker with my boots if they were 40 years older. His name’s Charlie and we go for a beer when he’s done. Turns out he’s writing a children’s book with his friend Erica, who shows up at the bar. I tell them I’d like to film them talking about their project and maybe that would help them do a Kickstarter. We make plans to do so the following day. Life is wonderful.
Tuesday May 14
Asheville, North Carolina
I awake at dawn. After breakfast I drive out meet Erica at the zipline course were she works and shoot her with the GoPro. She’s delightful, but nervous on camera.
I heard back into town and shoot Charlie, who’s delightful, and easy with the camera. I drop him at his friend’s bar, and head back into town for my recording session at Echo Mountain Studios.
After the session I head back home to Sweat Peas where I strike up a conversation with two hostel mates: one from Europe and one from Florida named John. We talk about the big concert that night: Father John Misty at The Orange Peel. We decide to go and have a beer on the way were we meet Kallie, who serves us the beer with a big smile. I get her number and the gents depart for the show, which turns out to be a caustic rendition of Doors-like psychedelia, which I’m into as you know. Life is wonderful, again.
Wednesday May 15
Asheville, North Carolina
In the morning, John and I decide to drive out into the Pisgah forest. We provision at French Broad Co-Op, and a coffee shop where a waitress tells me she’s from the future. We tell each other our quests: the dude’s a chef headed for Chicago then Brooklyn to warm up two exgirlfriends and make sure they don’t meet.
After the hike, we drive back to town to meet up with Kallie. We end up drinking craft beer all afternoon down by the river.
Kallie takes John and I to her place for supper where I hit on her braless lesbian roommates at the edge of appropriate, right where it turns into heart poundingly sexy. After supper and porch cigarettes, we take turns huging Kallie and abscond.
Thursday May 16
Asheville, North Carolina
Last day in town. I walk up to Early Girl Eatery for breakfast, skipping and laughing and singing barbershop, looking in the eyes of strangers, telling them of my plans to build a street piano. I pass two young people in the shade and stop to chat a while. Everyone is very friendly, and life is wonderful.
After breakfast I visit Paul Taylor and meet the shopkeep there. His name is Bret. He’s very knowledge and keen and I could talk to him for hours, but I have to pack my bags and sketch the Arcade.
After a few drawings, I head back to The Sweet Pea to pack my bags, and I meet two young ladies staying in the bunks next to mine. They’ve just arrived from Brooklyn. “What do you want to do?” I ask. “Commune with nature” they say. So I draw them a map.
While packing, I overhear a traveler man making plans to head to Vermont. Knowing that flights out of Asheville are very expensive, and wanting to earn my traveling karma, I butt into his conversation to offer him a ride to Charlotte later that afternoon. He accepts, and becomes my spirit guide. We make plans to leave at 5pm.
I check my bags at the front desk, wonder down to the river for one last beer. I meet green thumbs selling tomato plants and herbs, and a couple recently back from six months in South America.
I hike back up to the hostile, pick up my bag, and Spirt Guide and I walk out the door towards Charlotte.
Spirit Guide and I hike our gear to the rental car, and start our journey back down out of the mountains. We tune in to WNCW as we drive. “Is this Fusion?” asks Sprit Guide. “I guess so” I say, and then we listen to Sally Ford and the Sound Outside play a live set. Spirit Guide calls everything we listen to “fusion”, then, Fits and the Tantrums comes on, and I switch the radio off.
At sundown, we arrive in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood in Charlotte. We park the rental car, and Spirit Guide and I saunter over to Petra’s Piano Bar & Cabaret. I soundcheck, and Spirit Guide takes off in to the night, saying he may return later. I wander around backstage and find a book of 20s music to open the show with.
We party till midnight, and my wonderful hosts invite me to return on Saturday. I say I would love to, and wander out into the night – ostensively to find Spirit Guide, who has not returned yet.
I wander down the road to the Diamond diner and check out the show posters. One catches my eye: Captured By Robots, a band I’ve seen in Seattle is playing soon, so I strike up a conversation and sit down at a table of strangers, asking “are you guys going to see Captured By Robots?” From here the conversation jumps around like a happy bunny rabbit.
The bearded fellow offers me some of the cheese fries and I introduce myself. His name is Matt. He and his girlfriend Rebecca live nearby. He tells me about a documentary he is producing about Charlotte’s annual comic book art convention, and I am hooked on these people instantly. I have found my Charlotte adventure friends. We exchange numbers, I say goodnight and head to the airport hotel.
Friday May 17
Charlotte, North Carolina
“The dead have risen” says Spirit Guide as I open my eyes to the morning light. We break camp, get in the car and head to the airport. Billie Joel plays his harmonica and all four verses play before we get to the rental lot. The song came on when the car did, and finished when I put her in park. At the terminal, Spirit Guide and I part ways. Safe travels. Pleasant journey to Vermont old timer.
The fight to BWI goes quick. I head outside to wait. I set my pack down and sing a song to pass the time. She turns up in a blue Mercedes. We drive off to Georgetown.
I like to hold her hand while she drives. We have drinks and talk business philosophy. I carry her bags as we stroll over the river though a sea of graduating students.
Later that night, we drive to National Harbor so I can jump on stage at the dueling bar. She and I split up, she to her friends, me for Jimmy the main dude. He finds me, we chat, he brings me up, we play Honkey Tonk Women and New York New York, the girls in the audience dance and make eyes at me, but none of them are her. One of the other players taps me, so I go off. Jimmy announces “Derrek Wayne everyone!” and the couwd cheers.
I find her at a table in the back. Her friends have just left, and she tells me about their date: “Who wears tennis shoes on a Saturday night” she said with a tisk as we drive back to her secluded home to have a smoke and make love in a lavender room.
I put on The Civil Wars. “I wish I could stay with you” I whisper in her ear. “My life goes back to normal on monday” she whispers back. I get up in the middle of the night. “Where are you going? I need to know where you’re going.” I go downstairs thinking I could never tire of these questions.
Saturday May 18
I kiss her thrice goodbye and get on the plane.
I’m flying back to Charlotte today, where my adventure friends are there to pick me up at the airport. Bless their hearts, I couldn’t have asked to run into more wonderful people.
Matt & Rebecca take me everywhere…
… the local comic book store in Charlotte, which holds a convention every year. Matt is making a documentary about it!
They introduce me to new music, and their awesome pug! And homestayed me for two nights! Ah!!! These people are WONDERFUL!!
Their neighborhood market (across from the piano bar)…
… and then their friend Jere dropped me at the airport! So long!!
– End of Recap –
So there you have it! It was a magical week, and I think it was lots of fun for everyone. You got it going on North Carolina. I will be back.
If you would like to plan you own adventure to Charlotte or Asheville, drop in on these awesome places of business:
– DOWNTOWN & RIVER ARTS DISTRICT, ASHEVILLE –
beer is art at…
6 Riverside Dr, Asheville, NC
communal sugardreams at…
Sweet Peas Hostel
23 Rankin Ave Asheville, NC 28801
fine hipster & heady goods by hook or by crook at…
Paul Taylor Custom Sandals and Belts
12 Wall St, Asheville, NC
cute shopping in opulent architecture at…
1 Page Ave Asheville, NC 28801
– PLAZA MIDWOOD & ELIZABETH NEIGHBORHOODS, CHARLOTTE –
fabulous acts & people at…
Petra’s Piano Bar & Cabaret
1919 Commonwealth Ave, Charlotte, NC
beer, music & deli, what more could you ask for? At…
The Common Market
2007 Commonwealth Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28205
your local source for vinyl records…
1419 Central Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28205
your local source for comics & graphic novels…
Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find
1957 East 7th Street
Charlotte, NC 28204
getcha brunch on at…
1936 East 7th Street
Charlotte, NC 28204