Guitarchaeology Day in North Carolina

Mar 18, 2024

If you know me, you know I pride myself on being a damn good guitar detective. I’d been trying to chase down a guitar for twenty years, and I found it, about ninety minutes outside Charlotte. However, despite my writing polite letters and leaving voicemails and then showing up on the doorstep and asking politely to see it, I was turned away by the current owners of the guitar. I wasn’t even allowed to see it, let alone photograph it. That stung, after twenty years of guitar tracking and a hell of a lot of groundwork. At least I took it as far down the rabbit hole as I could, but I just hate failing.

But: it was just about the most beautiful day you could imagine in North Carolina. The sky was blue and the sun was shining and there were dramatic clouds in the sky. So I decided to set out across the state to do some backroads driving and some small-town photography.

Somebody told me Salisbury had a lot of neat old buildings, and it was only about thirty minutes from where I was at. So I went to Salisbury first. What a neat old town! Tons of great old buildings and signs and houses and graveyards. There is something about the US South that is so photogenic to me. It’s a beautiful place, with incredible natural surroundings, and so much of the old stuff that’s still intact has the most incredible decaying look to it. Everywhere I turn my gaze in North Carolina, I think it looks like a photograph. I think I took the best graveyard photo of my photographic career today. There are still so many beautiful places in North Carolina.

Well, that is, except for the creeping condo menace that seems to be EVERYWHERE. I drove on side roads most of the way today, not the freeway, and tried to examine every little town along the way. Every single town has condo menace! They’re tearing down the old places and putting up big square condos. I guess that’s what the kids want, and it’s only natural. But being an old soul, it gets me right in the “feels” when I see these old decaying places, covered in kudzu vines. I wonder if kids will ever wax nostalgic about their condos?

Tonight I’m in a little tiny-house Airbnb off of Lake James, near Marion, North Carolina. It’s quite cold outside, but I’ve got the heater cranking. I’ll pretend that it’s an old wooden mountaineers’ cabin, with a fireplace or a big cast-iron stove burning wood and heating up the place, with a little rock chimney blowing smoke up into the trees.

Tomorrow I’m going up to Jonas Ridge, North Carolina, to do more guitar research. Stay tuned, and don’t forget—quitters never win, and winners never quit! Or: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Whichever of these overused platitudes works, that was my day today. A frustrating but beautiful and peaceful day of solace.

See the original Facebook post for more photos!