_D5C5045brianby Brian Clarey

It’s Joe Blevins on stage at the Garage. Again. But this time it’s different.

He’s just sitting there in the light, holding his guitar like it’s his very manhood, mustering a mug that is at once pugnacious and wise. The room wears a chemical stink.

Giles Clement, the traveling artisan, crouches behind the ancient equipment he uses to make tintypes: a camera of sorts with an accordion lens, technology that dates to the 1800s. A Cambridge varsity jacket shields the image from the light.

About 50 people mill about the rock room, waiting for their images to be immortalized in silver halide, a demand that necessitates a second date at Hoots Roller bar the next afternoon before Clement takes his show back on the road. Next stop: Richmond, Va.

I don’t have time to see what develops at the Garage, because I’m double-booked — two Friday-night art events, both starting at 6 p.m., each with enough subtext to make me want to see it with my own eyes and a time frame that requires a definite sense of urgency.

I take my leave of the Garage and set my stopwatch in the car as I pull from the curb, just for the hell of it. Within 20 minutes I’m passing through the Sandy Ridge Curtain and at 32 minutes I’m at the gates of the Greensboro Coliseum. I’m standing inside the Greensboro Cultural Center 10 minutes later, just as Dan Dos Santos begins his portrait to win the second round of competition at Ultimate Painting. I watch his demonic visage emerge from the canvas in the final round, and even stay to see a winner declared before making it home and in bed before 11 p.m.

Saturday night begins in High Point, in the lobby of a campus building that reminds me, a little bit, of Tara, the plantation house from Gone With the Wind.

From there it’s a quick trip to downtown Winston-Salem, where a $2 parking spot puts me in walking distance of Small Batch Beer Co. for a small birthday gathering, with all of downtown at my fingertips. I make it home to northeast Greensboro before midnight that night, too.

I suppose I’ve been a citizen of the Triad from the beginning, harkening back to the time when the combined cultural efforts of all three cities could barely fill a newspaper calendar page. I had to make the drive back then, I figured, just to keep things interesting. Now I do it because I want to.

We’re still stronger together than taken on our own, in both economic heft and cultural diversity. Greensboro is stronger for having Winston-Salem down the road apiece, just as the Camel City benefits from its neighbor. High Point adds luster and clout of its own to the mix.

To fully understand all this, of course, you have to move between the cities when the opportunity presents itself. All that takes is time and gas.

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