And so we settled back into a routine that we would follow for the foreseeable future, some time at home, some travel, hopefully a nice blend of both. For Joanna this means volunteering one day a week at the NC Horse Protection Society, a non-profit outfit in China Grove that rescues horses and tries to find them suitable homes. Other days include a mixture of going to a nearby gym for aerobic swim and exercises classes, yard work, and riding her bike with me.
My routines will be more flexible and will feature a lot of bike riding (I hope), working on this blog, maybe a bit of consulting and importantly, planning for future trips. The month of February would fly by as we awaited a ten day trip out to the west coast, taking advantage of a US Airways companion ticket, March being the best timing for us and the kids.
The Queen City Brewers Festival and Super Bowl the next day provided a soft landing for both of us and moderate weather the first part of the month offered plenty of opportunities to get outdoors to cycle and hike. I also spend a bit of time doing our taxes and pulling together a complete picture of our financial situation for a meeting with a financial planner, important for us as we enter this new phase of our lives.
The next weeks would be full of meet ups with friends, reminding us of how we’d truly found a home in Charlotte. The first weekend back we had dinner with Sarah and Hans, Judith and Eric, and Lyndsay at Heirloom, a newish farm to fork restaurant in the Coulwood/Mountain Island Lake community. The dining room here is unpretentious, belying the stellar service we’d receive throughout the meal. The chef/owner, Clark Barlowe (experience includes The French Laundry, in Napa, California, and El Bulli, in Spain), tries to source all ingredients from North Carolina, including beers and wine. You can order A-la-Carte, or any number of multi course meals. Joanna and I opted to split a five course, which proved to be just the right amount of food for the two of us.
Eric and I would meet up again a week later on the 10th for lunch in Cornelius. With him were his rabbi and one of his co-workers and our first stop was for a to go order at Tienda Mexican, a food truck on Old Statesville. It will come as no surprise that I ordered a Carnitas Burrito. From there it was a short drive down to the Crafty Beer Guys brewpub, located in a old craftsman style house also on Old Statesville. A leisurely lunch followed, good food and nice beers fueling a discussion both philosophical and off-the-cuff.
The next day I joined Jim Hoppa at the Flying Saucer for what would turn out to be an impromptu and unexpected reunion with a number of former colleagues from UNC Charlotte. The Saucer comes closest to being the bar I’m most closely associated with and one of the reasons is that each time I visit there is a good chance I’ll run into someone I know. This will diminish over time as my connection to campus lessens, but for now it’s proximity to school means there is a good chance I’ll continue to see folks I’m familiar with.
Joanna had spent a few days that week in New Jersey helping her friend Jan pack for moving; the Friday of her return, the 13th, I took in a free concert courtesy of the Charlotte Folk Society at their venue of choice, the Great Aunt Stella Center. This former church built in 1914, is reminiscent of another favored venue here in Charlotte, the McGlohon Theater. Both maintain the historical vestiges of their earlier function while immersing the listener in a intimate musical experience. The featured performer that night was Scott Ainslie, a traditional acoustic blues singer, guitarist, historian, and songwriter. His show traced the origins of the blues and featured Southern Appalachian fiddle and banjo traditions, as well as black gospel and the blues. His between song narrative was highly informative and punctuated by his excellent musicianship made for a very entertaining show, but one I had to cut short to pick up Joanna at the airport.
It had been a good start to a new era for us. The Europe trip was over (and its extension, the grand tour of the west coast) and we now found ourselves a bit lost, not having what I call the Big Goal as an overriding pretext to our lives. I’ve often used this phrase when talking to students about what their lives will be like once they graduate from college. They will be euphoric having accomplished their degree and relieved to have left behind the grind of study and testing. But the big goal will be gone as well, this enveloping mission that subsumes all other facets and concerns.
It put me into a bit of a funk, having lost the purpose I’d been gliding under for a couple of years or more. But activities like those recounted above, great February weather that promoted outdoor fun, and the planning for trips to take place this year soon pulled me out of it. The Europe trip had accomplished one thing for certain; we’d become accustomed to not working and had made that transition, one that can be hard for many folks to adjust to. And so came the realization that we’d lived out a dream and now must work a bit harder to make more dreams, ones more local and on a smaller scale. But the rewards should be just as big because we will have adjusted our goals. That’s always been the key to my success; set a low bar and you’ll surely exceed expectations.
NC Horse Protection Society: http://www.horseprotection.org/
Crafty Beer Guys: http://craftybeer.longtermsolutions.com/
Charlotte Folk Society: http://www.folksociety.org/
Great Aunt Stella: http://greatauntstellacenter.org/