Places make a place. Of course Floydness is defined to some extent by its tucked-away houses, outbuildings, trailers, and occasional bus. “Everybody has their own nook & cranny,” declared Lara Miller. Earlier “Places” have touched on numerous spots—outdoors and in, country and town. But here is an appreciation of two of the author’s favorites.
BLACK WATER LOFT. Formerly Harvest Moon Food Store, the building had housed an appliance store and before that (if I’m not mistaken) a casket store. Black Water itself was remodeled a few years ago so that it comprises one big room for customers, which is partly divided by massive beams that form triangular trusses at both walls. On one side stands a battery of thermoses that hold coffee made from world-ranging beans. From the opposite side juts out a family-style bathroom. The Loft also serves as an art gallery, so the décor changes over the months.
The work area toward the back divided into two spaces: behind-the-L-shaped counters and a rear kitchen.
Please click below for a video of Julien and Sidney being served hot chocolate. By permission Hannah Barista.
Once when Ms. April was washing dishes, I asked her to do so in time to the music (which plays unobtrusively); a good dancer, she began swaying, arm-waving, and back-arching. Baked goods line the counter, espresso machines hiss against the back wall, and a menu above lists items in well-crafted by multicolored chalk.
On one wall is a south-facing battery of windows that is especially inviting in winter.
Here at the counter I held a couple of sunny tutoring sessions in English. Smaller windows on the opposite wall frame a metal roof that slants up to a mysterious door in the brick wall of the next building. In in the communal living areas people can repair to a sofa, a throne, a stuffed corner-wedge, a barstool (at a counter by the southern windows) or a chair (at a table or in a nook). The ceiling and much of the walls are wooden, as is that spiral staircase that winds down to the bookstore. On the railing are posted various photos including this one:
Opening the door from the balcony-deck at the top of the stairs, you never know how many people will be there, or who. This refuge is frequented mainly by people–residents and visitors–who were not born here. Wait–high school students often hang out there, and an occasional infant enjoys a warm maternal smoothie. In my early days of cappuccino-sipping tI met a child of about ten who seemed to be free of scholastic duties. “I’m an autodidact,” she explained, not realizing that I had encountered the word in Sartre’s La Nausée. Some people stand and chat despite explosions of steam and whacks of espresso grounds. Once I asked a barista (the female lead of Wind in the Willows, earlier chapter), “Would I be beautiful, too, if I wore that apron?”
Other customers may work at their computers in let-me-alone concentration, and several times our son-in-law has used the Loft as the extension of his Charlotte office. Below, Keith Grenoble, a collector of stones, examines a specimen in 2013.
One morning a genial potter and yoga teacher from North Carolina showed up in faded blue overalls. Suspenders lined a bare chest, nothing apparent underneath except himself– O Melungeon muffin! One day he was carrying a laptop with the photos of tuning pegs: “I repair these.” Another time, asked about a supply of ceramic cups for the Loft, he replied, “Our last batch bubbled.”
Once as I stood talking, the cell phone of a person sitting nearby jingled—but kept going, and in a timbre that sounded richer than an electronic one. Looking down, I perceived a small instrument held with both hands that played a tune with thumbs. The musician wore homemade-looking shoes with no socks. When I asked him about the instrument, he told me it was African but had to spell the word for me. He had been inspired to make it by his three-year-old daughter who had clinked together two rings belonging to a washing machine hose. We chatted warmly. “Are you a friend of virtue?” he asked. “Do you mean a person, or the concept?” “The concept.” “I’m an apostle—but more of a Judas.” He laughed as I coveted his kalimba.
Lucky path-crossing: Bill Gardner, the ex-County Commissioner who didn’t “die for lack of a second” after all. Educator, civic and church leader, inveterate reader, and native, he descends from a family that even has a road named after them, off Rt. 221 past Willis (chapter below). Another serendipitous encounter—it’s Dennis, who was born in the same hospital as I was in Oak Park, Illinois. We chat outside and invite Laura Polant to sit with us on the small deck, where we have a lively chat.
Once David Maren of Tendergrass Farms asked around about advertising fresh sausage that by law couldn’t contain paprika. Some ideas: “gluten-free,” “paprika-free.” Once Gannon plied a computer program for casting one’s fortune (or something digital-mystical). Another time I read the description on a sack of Red Rooster beans and announced my aspiration to be “robust and sweet with a bright acidity.”
When I saw a pamphlet advertising a Bingo night, I scolded a barista (another autodidact) for displaying material more appropriate to a nursing home. She apologized. We then agreed on a plan: departing, I called “N-12” and she yelled “Bingo!” before I could slam the door. At eye-level with the stoplight, the balcony also allows a person to look down onto parked vehicles as well as onto tractor-trailers as they negotiate the Stoplight corner to the right. And allows a nosy person to spot the frequent passenger who doesn’t need a shoulder belt.
One twenty-three-month-old enjoyed sitting on the balcony bench, rough-sawn, and picking out rotten splinters. “Hi!” he would call as he waved at people across the street.”Hi!” they would respond. “Red!” he exclaimed as the stoplight turned red; “Red!” he exclaimed as it turned green.
FINDERS KEEPERS. Occupying the southeast corner of E. Main St. and Wilson St., this second-hand store was once the Esso Station, so the business itself is a twice-as-nice. (For a photograph of the original building, see Images of America: Floyd County, Floyd County Historical Society, Inc. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2012, p. 77.)
The owner, Daniel Bauer, has an impish wit, but I let it pass. Once I upbraided him for not walking outside and filling my tank from the old pump, and I recommended a more professional uniform.
I also threatened to sue because the woven, tricycle-shaped flowerpot-holder that we gave our grandson caused him to mount and fall from it. And our visiting guest, who was trying out a bathtub in the courtyard, had to be rescued by friends when it tipped.
Inside is a fascinating collection of bygones piled to the ceilings where mechanics used to work, and the mysterious veiled lady who introduces this chapter replaced the grease monkeys.
About a table with brass decoration Marge said: “I kind of like the dentedness of it.” Finders Keepers supplied our door knocker, a lamp, a pair of rocking chairs (which we split with our bathtub pal), a gold mirror and a wrought-iron shelf for a bathroom. Fo outdoors, two concrete benches, a wrought iron candle-holder, and the light-orange head of Buddha (which I mistook for Mr. Peanut). Offspring received a cedar armoir, a walnut bookcase (“Gorgeous,” proclaimed Marge), a bedside table, and and a dresser-plus-lamp. We had to say a reluctant No to any number of objects and a relieved No Thanks to others.
Little Sidney had eyes only for a little metal race car, which he drove back to Charlotte. At our house toys are piled in a wooden Arbuckles box made to hold coffee-beans. No child can appreciate its blend of esthetic, utilitarian, and antiquarian.
At our condo in South Carolina, a round, rotating, heavy piano stool is parked in front of the electric piano. I value it especially for two reasons: “They don’t build ’em like that anymore” (as the carpet man declared), and we got it before Ann First. She had to be satisfied with a wooden column, which lends classical éclat to the inside of the old farmhouse:
Among the file of old post cards I found one that pictured Bok Tower in Florida, a 250-foot, neo-Gothic art-deco carillon. I sent the card, originally mailed in 1948 with a message about the weather, back to Lake Wales in an envelope, and received a thank-you note from the Bok folks.
I also bought a volume called The Bible in Art that gave me a framework—from Genesis to Revelations—for understanding religious art in all its ubiquity. Daniel let me have an issue of Life magazine for free, its postal label reading “Mr. Rex Prillaman, Box 147, Henry VA 24102. Published in September 6, 1968, it came out a week after Marjory and I were married during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, so it preserved memories of those turbulent socio-political days.
Eight or nine presidents from now, maybe one of today’s children, having become a grandfather, will be poking around a second-hand store. His young companion is much shorter than a capacious, once-fancy, now-rickety, piece of wooden furniture. The child works its bi-fold door, admires its sculpted woodwork, inspects the now-dull brass fittings. He eyes its numerous shelves and recesses, its three drawers and as many black-surfaced slide-outs–no doubt for a keyboard, a handwriting surface, and a printer. After folding its side-plank up and down, he tips his head and peers into a space between pullouts two feet off the floor.
“Grandpa, what’s this?” The man gets down on his knees and perceives a sort of cocoon taped onto the bottom of the top pullout. The owner is called, manages to extricate the object, and slowly unwraps it from a page of the Floyd (Virginia) Press dated December 2016. The three people stare at a jeweled object, its central crystal surrounded by a constellation of emeralds.
“Here, lad,” says the owner, “finders keepers.”