The drive to Winston-Salem was so peaceful. North Carolina has such an impressive landscape. Surrounded by mountains and pastoral scenery, I wanted to pull aside every few minutes, but I was trying to reach my aunt’s house at a reasonable time. I did manage to sneak in a short detour through the little town of Marshall and snap some pictures.
I am somewhat regretful that I have not sooner had occasion to put my feelings into words about the time spent with family in Winston-Salem. I was only there two nights, but it was a wonderful moment to be around loved ones at that point in my trip. I had great chats with my aunt about life, family, traveling. She is such an admirable woman, and I told her as much. She’s full of life, protective of her family but not unreasonable or overbearing. She’s well-traveled, intelligent, integral. In the short time I was there, we laughed so much and so hard. Family—it’s that word you overlook until you feel the full force of what it means to be connected to your tribe. People who love you in the purest form, without motive.
On Sunday morning, I stopped in Winston-Salem’s Historic District, Old Salem, which provides a lovely glimpse into a Moravian Settlement. The old houses and shops were all labelled, for example: Third House 1767. The streets were practically empty, perfect for taking pictures. I also came across an artist who was painting outdoors. Just as I was leaving, the old Tavern opened up for brunch. I couldn’t resist.
My next stop was Charlottesville. I was a bit spent when I arrived so I stopped at Pen Park, which has some wonderful views. I hopped in the back of my car for a bit, and fell asleep to Portishead. When I awoke, all I could think about was food, so I took a walk through the city center. Most places were closed, a confirmation that this little night owl could never live in Charlottesville, no matter how charming it is. I walked past the Jefferson Theater, which announced Matisyahu was playing in a few hours. I bought myself a ticket and headed to a little French place to try some scallops and a watermelon sangria. The concert was so so much fun. I danced the night away, had a few too many beers then stopped at a late night bar for some antipasti and a cocktail.
The following day, I drove to Washington D.C. After spending some time nestled in the mountains, the big city pace affected me right away. A little more stress. Issues with parking. Stairs. Rubbing shoulders with strangers. Options, options. I didn’t eat that night. Didn’t feel like eating. I just wanted water, a shower, and sleep. The following day, I visited the National Mall and then went on to Arlington Cemetery. There are no words for the intensity of mixed feelings brought on by Arlington Cemetery. A picturesque landscape of rolling hills, manicured trees, cherry blossoms, and hundreds of thousands of elegant tombstones placed in neat rows like dominoes. I walked and I walked and I walked among headstones. Overwhelmed at times, tears came and went as they pleased. That day, I made a friend, a young man from Scotland named Craeg, we shared a few meals, including “a real American burger” as he put it, way too much dessert, and later I introduced him to ceviche. I also met a pair of German twins who were traveling the East Coast by bus, and because I have a fascination with twins, I asked to take their picture. They told me they had been to a baseball game where they met two other sets of twins, and promised to send me the photograph. On my way out of DC, I had every intention of visiting the National Art Gallery, but something felt really off, I couldn’t find parking, I dodged a few accidents. Detours and traffic everywhere. It was one of those days that felt like everything had been inched out of place. I wasn’t having it, so I decided to visit Art Whino instead, a low-brow gallery in National Harbor, where I met yet another pair of twins—two talented young men working at the gallery, who were also kind enough to let me take their picture.
On my way to Philadelphia, I decided to pull aside for a bit. I had to be in New York City the following evening to meet up with a friend, and also pick up Sebastian at JFK. I didn’t want to waste a lot of time but I had no idea where I was going, so I stopped by a drive-thru to grab a quick bite and gather myself. The guy at the window asked three times to confirm my order and got it wrong anyway. No big deal, I went back to the window, he apologized, and then politely asked if I was single and perhaps might want to go out with him that night. A first for me. I had never been asked out at a drive-thru window. Gutsy, but sweet. “I had to ask,” he said.
I decided to book a cheap room in an old mansion tucked away on the outskirts of Philly. Some of the housemates invited me to roast marshmallows over a fire that night, which sounded really appealing, but instead I read a book and fell asleep. The next morning I had a quick breakfast, met some nice girls from France, Saint-Martin, and Spain. Everyone was on their way to New York City. I drove into Philadelphia, and spent the day at The Mütter Museum, analyzing specimens, sketching malformations and other odd things.
Washington DC (Arlington Cemetery):
Washington DC (Twins):