Bruce LaRue: A trip to town is a feast for the senses
From time to time we hitch the wagon to the team and venture out from the peaceful, bucolic countryside of western Rowan County and take a trip to town, in this case the soothingly sensuous town of Salisbury. Sensuous? Stay with me.
We get all gussied up, not church gussied up, just town gussied up. A trip to town often entails a visit to the general store for supplies, perhaps even sundries, whatever those are.
It was a crisp, clear, late fall, early winter morning, perhaps 10 or 11-ish. I tried to get my wife to come along, but she was tied down with work-related issues and bade me farewell. Oh, yeah, bring me something back for lunch, please, and try not to get into any mischief.
I hitched up the Camry and headed to the public library, as is my wont when flying solo. There is ample parking, and it is a short, pleasant walk to Main Street. Moreover, the library is a place of refuge, a citadel wherein sentries keep watch over the armory of shared knowledge, information and ideas. The public library in Salisbury is a good one, yet probably underused.
Since I had no one with whom to interact during the walk, I interacted with the town. On this particular morning, either my senses were more attuned to sights, smells and sounds than usual, or downtown Salisbury was in no mood to be ignored.
As I exited the parking lot I paused by the old well and read about its history, trying to imagine what the area might have looked like way back then. After that, every historical marker, no matter how small or obscured by shrubbery, drew me in. Each is significant, worthy of one’s attention.
I always study the big mural, each time finding a scene that escaped me before, much like watching an old movie for the 21st time and spotting a car or a bottle or a clock that somehow went unnoticed during the previous 20 viewings. A light breeze carried the aroma from the kitchen of Go!Burrito across my path. Already hungry, I fairly feasted on the comforting scent emanating from their grill.
The townspeople would not be ignored, either. Twice, when waiting to cross an intersection, drivers at the stop sign motioned for me to cross in front of them. Each person I encountered on the sidewalk subtly insisted on eye contact and at least a nod of sociable acknowledgment, and usually a “Good morning.” In a world in which indifference seems to be the order of the day, my walk along Main Street was uplifting and refreshing.
I stopped by South Main Books to pick up a book I had ordered. It is important to support local small businesses. Without our financial backing, small town charm becomes a cherished memory instead of a long-standing tradition to be passed on and cherished by future generations. Our library and bookstore are places of comfort, and the people are nice and helpful.
With a new volume of knowledge and useful information in hand, finding something to eat was next on the agenda. While downtown Salisbury has no shortage of good eateries, I am a little self-conscious about dining alone in a restaurant. I opted for the Burger King on Jake. The lunch rush was over, so there were not many customers. Fast-food dining experiences are normally not notable, as least not in a positive sense, but this one was quite different.
The young lady cleaning the glass doors, a manager, greeted me with eye contact and a smile. The young man at the cash register took my order in a pleasant, professional manner. The total came to something and two cents. I handed him the something and before I could start digging he told me not to worry about it. Then, one of the most extraordinary things happened. I sat down, unwrapped my sandwich, a Whopper, and stared in amazement. It was exquisite. It literally could have been featured in an advertisement. I hope no one was watching, for it was almost certainly the first time I have ever smiled over a tray of fast food.
As if that were not enough, the manager paused at my table on her way to clean more glass and asked if everything was all right. That never happens at fast-food joints, right?
I called my wife to ask what she would like me to bring her to eat and she opted for Katana. While I waited for her meal to be prepared I enjoyed a delightful Japanese malt beverage. How can a day be this good and not include golf or fishing?
Salisbury is a town that stimulates the senses. Numerous restaurants deliver the tastes promised by aromas working the streets like carnival barkers. Feasts for the eyes abound, not limited to murals and the astonishingly unique architecture of several old homes. Pops at the Post and Buskers offer some of the sounds of Salisbury. The Salisbury Symphony is a treasure and Buskers is an absolute delight.
In addition to the physical senses, a walk through town also awakens a sense of history that will not be ignored, nor should it be. It does not raise its voice, yet the beckoning whispers can be heard above the bombastic prattle to which we are subjected on a daily basis.
At least for one lovely day, not only was there a profound sense of history, but also a sense of civility, decency and respect that should inspire a sense that not only is the present in good hands, but there is reason to share a sense of optimism for the future.
Salisbury is a sensuous town, indeed.
Bruce LaRue is a resident of Mount Ulla.