Mother: So Triad City Beat made it a year. Did you get a raise?
Me: No, but I got a T-shirt.
Mother: That won’t keep a roof over your head.
Me: No, but you can live in your clothes — you cannot wear your house.
When I was growing up, I thought of Winston-Salem as the place of doctor appointments, my mother’s yoga class, gallery openings and the odd trip to Loehmann’s or Montaldo’s. It had the whiff of the arts mixed with the rich perfume of the tobacco barony and a healthy dose of hospital disinfectant. Throw in the spicy scent of a Moravian cookie and that was the Winston of my childhood.
Jaw-numbing dentist’s visits were followed by trips to Hickory Farms where my father splurged on “exotic” sausage and I gummed hunks of Swiss cheese. Old-lady yoga torture was a means to the end resulting in the purchase of a cute outfit. (Patient Child is still my favorite yoga pose.) And trips to visit people at Baptist and Forsyth usually wrought a Reynolda Village stopover for dinner or light shopping. I even scored a gold bracelet once after a particularly lengthy bedside vigil for a person I had never before met.
Torture and reward. Torture and reward. As an adult I have discovered that “torture and reward” is a pretty apt description of life — but as an adult I’ve also discovered that it’s entirely possible to say no to some of those things we find torturous.
Three things I find torturous: 1. Driving at night. 2. Driving in a snowstorm 3. Driving to Winston-Salem. So when TCB’s fair leader, Brian Clarey, booked our anniversary party at Winston’s Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art on a winter weather-advised nocturnal eve, I was less than thrilled. Despite my Forsythaphobia, I volunteered to drive so my beer-loving Viking date could sample the array of fancy brew supplied by some of our advertisers. I wore a jacket adorned with Jane’s Jewels — broaches bequeathed to me by my dear friend Frank Slate Brooks — as both homage to our publisher Allen Broach and as protection against wintry mix on I-40 in the abyss of the night.
Viking: So what’s Winston like?
Me: It’s artsy, but wholesome — a little sleepy with a whole lot of Wake Forest and hospitals thrown in. It’s come a long way but to me it’s still a brunch kind of a town.
Viking: I like brunch. Doesn’t everybody?
Me: That’s what I mean. There’s something on the menu for everybody.
Enter the dark, winding roads of the well-to-do Buena Vista neighborhood and wend your way to the hidden, modern arts haven that is SECCA. (Viking: Are we going to a house party?) It’s here we find 200-plus supporters and various Triad City Beatniks gathered to celebrate our first birthday. There’s founding editor Jordan Green holding his baby girl wearing a tutu.
Jordan: Man, I think I just gave my baby a brownie laced with Mexican hot peppers.
Me (also wearing a tutu): You know I don’t often say this to babies but, “Bitch stole my look.’ I don’t have any compunction over taking down a toddler over a Hello Kitty shirt, but maybe I should draw the line with babies.
Jeff Laughlin, the “other” gun for hire, walks up to me and whispers (“You know, columnists have to leave by 8.”) Ellen Clarey Kern — investor, sales rep and sister to Brian — marches over in her high-heeled Hunter rain boots and fans the conversation with hair flips.
Me: Only Clarey could get me on Business 40 in this. He is truly one of those people who push you out of your comfort zone.
Ellen: I know! He got me to leave California and move here to sell ads!
Me: He’s an evil genius with a touch of douchebag but somehow he transcends the douchiness.
Ellen: He’s a transcendental douchebag!
Me: He would love that!
Brian (who has taken to dressing like an Old West evangelist these days — replete with rolled-up cuffs, vest and man-broach): Hey Crews, you stealing my thunder with the broaches?
Me: I’ll take your broach and raise you 15?
The night closes with a heartfelt speech from Brian, a toast from blasé bon vivant and associate editor Eric Ginsburg, a salute from Allen Broach and cheers all around for another year in the coming for Triad City Beat. To paraphrase columnist Lewis Grizzard, putting out a weekly is a lot like being married to a nymphomaniac. It’s really fun for the first few months and then it gets to be a chore. Torture and reward indeed.