Postcards from Phoenix: Making new friends, keeping the old

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Why do I love Tryon so much?

In a recent weekend visit, I boiled it down to three things: friends, community and place.

I discussed this with a friend at TJ’s one morning, who said, “It’s good to be reminded of that. Sometimes I forget.”

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So here I am, back in Phoenix, writing to remind you all how lucky you are to live in such a special place.

Having grown up in Asheville, my DNA tells me I’m in the right place when I see the mountains, smell the fresh air and marvel at the natural beauty of western North Carolina. That’s “place,” reason number three I still feel at home in a town I no longer live in.

Reason number two is community. I spent Saturday morning at the Tryon Coffeehouse Co-op, where volunteer Tracey Daniels manned the bar, and locals welcomed visitors from Traveler’s Rest.

The next day, I saw it when Bill Crowell, town commissioner and owner of Saluda Forge, pushed a hand truck up Trade Street towards The Tryon Bottle. The Bottle was a beehive of folks helping with a move to new digs in the center of the Missildine’s renovation project.

That brings me to the number one reason I love Tryon: friends. I am fortunate to have many wonderful friends in the “Friendliest Town in the South,” but I also love how good you are to each other.

When Paul and I stopped in Friday afternoon for the wine tasting at The Bottle (I still called it “La Booty.” Silly me!), we were greeted by lots of people we know, and picked up right where we’d left off.

Then, someone introduced us to a new Tryonite named Bob. Bob told us he was a neighbor of ours, and extended an unexpected invitation to come to his home the next evening.

I can promise you I’ve never received a party invitation minutes after meeting a single soul in Phoenix, or anywhere else I’ve lived.

We weren’t able to attend the party, unfortunately, as we already had plans. I was sorry I wouldn’t get to know Bob better on this trip.

Then, on Sunday morning, when we drove down Trade Street and saw our friends helping with the move at The Bottle, there was Bob. New guy. Pushing a hand truck full of boxes.

I was so proud to see people helping The Tryon Bottle owner Della Pullara get settled in her new location. I have no doubt she felt rich in friends that day.

My heart was full at that moment — full of love for Tryon and its friendly ways.

But something else happened that day that broke my heart.

I saw a post on a Facebook community page by a woman named Zelda, who moved to the area in 2014, and has no friends. I wondered how that could be, here where I’d met so many friendly people.

Within a day, her post had over 200 comments, and I was shocked that some people said they were also friendless and feeling alone.

There were also many responses with offers of friendship, and suggestions of ways to meet people, and that gave me hope.

When posting advice to Zelda, I thought back to my early days in Tryon. The first thing we did was subscribe to the Bulletin, so I suggested the same. We watched the newspaper for events of interest, and soon found ourselves on a Gallery Trot downtown, where we discovered lots of new people and places we loved.

I also suggested Zelda volunteer for a nonprofit or two. Shortly after my arrival, I offered to serve drinks at Upstairs Artspace events. No, I’m no bartender, but I can pour wine without spilling it, and smile when I hand out the cups.

Pretty soon, people I’d run into in town asked if I worked at Upstairs, and no, I didn’t work there, but it was a reason to start a conversation — and conversations lead to friendships.

I’m not worried about Zelda anymore, and hope the other lonely people responding to her post are also finding new paths to new friends. It was brave for Zelda to post her plea for friends on a public Facebook page. She put herself out there, just like new-guy Bob did inviting neighbors over and then helping The Tryon Bottle with its move.

Seeing people reach out to make new friends in a new home was a good reminder for me to make more of an effort myself in Phoenix, where I’ve found new friendships a challenge, too.

So thanks, Bob and Zelda — and thanks, Tryon, for always making me feel at home.

I can’t wait to see you again.