Eyes Wide Open

I had budgeted yesterday to be a hardcore writing day – and I was forced to modify plans a bit when the snow began to fall.  It’s quite uncommon for snow to hit the Piedmont, but when it does, all hell breaks loose.  The city moves into freak-out mode and institutions begin closing – sometimes even a day before the first flake falls.  I managed to squeeze out a book commentary for my MFA program before I even considered leaving the house.  Then I bundled up, plugged into some music, and joined the fun outside.  When I left I could still see folks’ lawns.  But things were definitely starting to quiet down.  Schools had closed, businesses were sending employees home early, the grocery store hung signs warning of their odd hours.  The regularly scheduled life that moves us like a slingshot from day to day was on the fritz – and the minutes passed slowly enough for everyone to enjoy the weather.  Giant flurries landing on hand-knitted beanies were enough to bring complete strangers together.  It was fascinating to see the community hunker down because we had all lost the semblance of control we feel we have over our lives.

I enjoyed walking past shop windows and seeing myself reflected in them.  My grey, pitted Patagonia jacket collected the snowfall and made me look like a silverback gorilla trudging through a blizzard.  A yeti.  My beard was frozen, my boots crunched and vibrated with each step, and I was buzzed off the Explosions in the Sky album I was listening to, “The Earth is not a Cold, Dead Place.”  Even if I found nowhere to set up camp and do some more writing, I’d at least get a dreamy walk in.  I was alive and listening to my soundtrack.

I peeked into some local cafes along the way.  The Looking Glass was closed.  Weaver Street Market Cafe – closed.  Spotted Dog – closed.  Seems everyone was trying to beat the anticipated rush home before the frozen rain came and forced the town to evacuate.  Tyler’s – closed.  The Tiger Room – closed.  By now cars were losing their ability to do anything but idle and many folks were just parking their vehicle and taking to their feet to get home.  More smiles and waves from folks I didn’t know.  I briefly chatted at a red light with a man wearing a red face mask.  We both waited for the green hand before crossing even though there wasn’t a car in sight in either direction.  Then I passed Neil’s Deli – closed, but saw lights on at the Open Eye Cafe.  Seems they were living up to their name.  It was packed with locals watching the spectacle outside.  I entered and joined their ranks.

I stayed at the Open Eye for a couple hours.  I wrote a bunch, edited more, but mostly just took in the strange and exuberant vibe that moved like a current through the warm space.  I overheard one of the baristas, usually quite sullen, chide a group of college-aged people when they asked if the place was open.  She said yes, and if I heard her correctly, she added, “…but we can’t serve you if you are covered in snow.”  The students asked if she was serious to which she nodded stoically, and they exited to shake off.  Anyone who heard this interaction laughed as soon as the students turned to go – including the barista.  I’m not sure I’ve seen her smile more than a couple times in all the years I’ve lived here.  And if it was merely the snow that cracked our faces in ways that only a snowstorm can, well I hope for more of it.  The town of Carrboro was much prettier than usual yesterday – and I’m just talking about the people.

Carrboro’s Open Eye Cafe – the only cafe brave enough to handle a little weather. Giant props to Scott Conary and his staff for keeping a handful of us caffeinated and warm on a memorable Carrboro day.

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Katie and I took a lovely winter walk through Carrboro while it was in ghost-town mode.

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