Editor’s Notebook: Big Al in the city

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(photo by Caleb Smallwood)

Big Al packed a couple bottles of water and an evening jacket for the trip, which amounted to about 25 miles west at the worst part of the day.

Big Al was born and raised in Greensboro; he’s worldly and well traveled, active in the business and civic community. His wife went to NC State, he owns a business in Burlington and a cabin in Boone, so he knows his way around North Carolina. And he even got season tickets to Wake Forest Basketball this year, so he’s been making the journey on Business 40 for months.

But when it comes to Winston-Salem, Big Al has got a blind spot. So I set out to show him as much as I could on a banging Friday night in the Camel City.

We parked in a lot for $2 across the street from the Hanesbrands Theatre for a RiverRun sponsor party, made a quick lap around the room and then poured out into the streets. I explained the connection between the Reynolds Building, which he had never really considered before, and the Empire State Building, upon which he’s gazed many times. I outlined my grid/strip comparison of Winston-Salem and Greensboro’s downtowns, and I broad-stroked the transformation of the Innovation Quarter and Krankies by the time we pulled into Hoots Roller Bar, which made a fine anthropological segue.

The tour pulled back to downtown Winston-Salem and along Trade Street, where we paused on a bar crawl to admire the red spires of the ArtPark and eat late-night barbecue — something you can’t get, Big Al noted, in downtown Greensboro. We even ran into Joe Blevins at the Silver Moon Saloon, making it as quintessential a #WSNC experience as one can get in one night.

We wrapped with a drive-by at the new (to Big Al) Wise Man Brewery, and then posted up at the Ramkat, the newest focal point for the city’s culture.

We listened to Jeff Beck on the short, late drive home, allowing us to absorb all we’d seen and done in the previous 10 hours. And we barely touched the waters.

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