Meeting the Neighbors

Published 12:00pm Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We met one of our neighbors before we bought our house. There were two houses for sale on our street, and while we were looking at the one we didn’t buy, we met the owner. She was an elegant woman and not what I’d expected to find in a small Southern town (this was just the beginning!). For one thing, I detected no Southern accent. I asked where she was from and she named a small town in Vermont. It sounded familiar to me, so I asked, “Isn’t that where John Irving lives?”
Her eyes lit up and she said, “Oh, do you know John?”
No, of course I don’t know Mr. Irving, but I’m certainly a fan. And I was also becoming a fan of my future neighbor.
The day we moved in, a couple walked up our sidewalk to welcome us to the neighborhood. I quickly discerned that like Mr. Irving’s friend up the street, these were not typical small town Southerners.
She was a painter. He was a writer. They were from New York. I was starting to see a pattern.
Of course, in the nearly three years I’ve lived here I’ve learned that everywhere I go in Tryon, I meet the most fascinating and unexpected people.
Yes, we have moderate weather and stunning scenery, but really, the best thing about Tryon is Tryonites.
I can’t tell you the number of evenings I’ve found myself at a social gathering having cornered a new and intriguing person, and asking, “How did you get to Tryon?”
I felt like we were still the new people on our street until last fall when a man moved into the stone cottage across the street.
Like my painter/writer neighbors had done for us, I went over to welcome the new person to the neighborhood.
He was very friendly, had moved from Asheville, and was from Washington State before that, and played the violin for a living. Of course, I knew right away he would fit in perfectly in Tryon.
His name is Jamie Laval, and his modest self-description as a violinist is quite an understatement. I Googled him and learned he is the premier Scottish fiddler in the country. Here’s a string of snippets from his reviews: “A virtuoso who understands the beauty of nuance. Subtle and energetic at the same time. original, unusual, extraordinary, exceptional, subtle, complex, compassionate, awe-inspiring, magical, outstanding, red hot. His playing speaks directly from the body, rising up from the particles of the earth.”
Okay, you get the picture. Apparently he’s pretty good. I don’t think I’ve ever accomplished anything that rose up from particles of the earth.
We immediately invited him to join us at the Beer Festival at which I pranced him around like my shiny new pony, introducing him to my friends and then bragging about him behind his back.
When he was introduced to one woman in particular, she extended her hand and stood silent and slack-jawed. When she finally spoke she stammered, “I’m sorry, but … I just … you’re just … so handsome. I can hardly speak.”
Yeah, apparently I wasn’t the only woman in Tryon smitten by the man who could take people “on an emotional journey from quiet melancholy to wild jubilation.”
I’d heard he played for the Queen of England once and wondered what she’d stammered when she met him.
Shortly after that, when I ran into our neighbor, John Irving’s best friend, and told her about the dreamy violinist in the stone cottage, she said, “We must have cocktails.”
We didn’t exactly have cocktails, but neighbors do occasionally stop by our front porch in the evenings and join us for a beer or glass of wine, and Jamie was no exception.
He called one day to offer me a job writing his Wikipedia page. I told him my price would be lunch. Now before you all start calling me asking me to write your Wikipedia pages for free too, remember if you can’t take me from melancholy to wild jubilation with your fiddle, then don’t bother.
Before I’d had a chance to write the Wiki page and collect on my lunch, Jamie told us about his concert at the Historic Stone Cottage on Pacolet.
We had only heard him practicing through the walls of his house, so were very excited to see him perform. If you were there, then you know how he earned all those reviews. He had us laughing and crying within the span of a song, and as tears of emotion rolled down my cheek, I felt I’d been played like a fiddle. Oh wait.
Anyway, if you missed it, you’ll get another chance to see him perform at TFAC in December. And until then, maybe you’ll catch his mesmerizing presence at the IGA.

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