Returning to my favorite front porches

Published 3:23 pm Friday, June 21, 2019

I wasn’t certain I’d be able to come to Tryon this summer. Right before my scheduled departure from Phoenix around Memorial Day, I suddenly needed an MRI-guided biopsy for a suspicious spot discovered two years after my breast cancer treatments.  

I found myself in an uncomfortable limbo, both physically and emotionally. Face down on a slab while one breast endured medieval torture, I searched my mind for a calming thought that could get me through the forty minutes of discomfort I was promised. 

I let my mind wander to my front porch in Tryon. In the rain. A dog in my lap. A cup of something warm in my hand. Paul by my side. 

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If you think forty minutes of turning your breast into a waffle is tough, try adding a holiday weekend to your wait for biopsy results—for results that might keep you in Phoenix for a hot summer of stress and medical stuff instead of sitting on a blissful front porch in North Carolina. 

I won’t keep you waiting any longer. I’m here. In my favorite town. My test results were good this time. You’ve never seen anyone pack so fast in your life. Or endure a four-day car ride with a car full of dogs wearing such a big smile.  

Coming back to Tryon after an extended absence is always interesting. There are some good changes: a pretty new restaurant called Cafe Le Gaule with tasty crepes, for example. And some bad ones: the burnt remains of our beloved Melrose Inn. Some things are the same, also good and bad: great films at the Tryon Theatre (good), small-town rifts between people who got along when I left here last year (bad). 

I had to laugh when friends pulled me aside to ask if I’d heard the biggest gossip. They each had the juiciest tale to tell, and yet everyone had a completely different story. They can’t all be the biggest gossip. 

I quickly fell into my usual routine: trivia at McGourty’s on Thursday night, a glass of wine at The Bottle on Friday evening (including a stroll through The Nest to covet its new wares). Friday mornings are reserved for Coffee Talk at Details USA, a gathering of artists on the front porch of this lovely gallery at 22349 Asheville Highway (on the road to Landrum), hosted by Toby Wolter, sculptor and proprietor. 

If you haven’t been, you must stop in some time. In full disclosure, I should note that Toby sells my books, but that’s not why you need to go. It’s a delightful little shop full of unique gifts and art. Then head next door to Harvest House for lunch. (I love their reuben and sweet potato fries.) 

At my first Coffee Talk of the summer, I met a new Tryonite on Toby’s front porch and started my usual pitch on why I love Tryon so much. There are so many reasons, sometimes I don’t know where to start.  

On this day, a man beside us told a story of a day long ago when some sort of weather catastrophe kept a local restaurant ‘s employees away. The man stepped in and made a big batch of coleslaw so the place wouldn’t have to close its doors. It was such a hit, he’s been returning every week for years to repeat his task voluntarily. 

I looked at my new friend and said, “That‘s why I love Tryon. Because this guy made emergency coleslaw, and then he never stopped.” 

I think the new guy got it. He seemed like the kind of person who’d make side dishes if they were needed as well. He’ll fit right in. 

I told him about all my favorite places and events so he can go too, and how easy it is to find nice people here. I didn’t explain how eventually this will be the place he goes in his mind when enduring tough things, like MRIs and biopsies. That even if a job takes him far away, he’ll leave his heart here and rearrange his life so he can spend summers on his old front porch. 

He’ll figure that all out on his own, in his own way. I hope when you meet him, you’ll be friendly. And that you’ll all be kind to each other. And you’ll appreciate how lucky you are to get to live here all the time. Here in my favorite place where I can write my Tryon Diary.