Wandering Billy

By Billy Eye

“No friendship is an accident.” — O.Henry

They say what you’re doing when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, you’ll be doing all year. Getting a good night’s sleep sounds about right to me! I haven’t adopted a resolution in a long time; to be honest, I never expect to make it through the entire year. Surely, I console myself every January, my heavenly reward lurks right around the corner. I even know how I wish to depart this dusty jewel — spontaneous combustion — and with all I had to drink over the holidays, that’s a distinct possibility. The parties were too numerous to mention . . . the ones I wasn’t invited to, anyway.

What you couldn’t possibly know, dear reader, unless you are paying an unhealthy amount of attention to this column, is that your humble scribe Billy Eye got his start reviewing punk bands on the east side of L.A. back in 1980. Bubbling up from the underground came Red Hot Chili Peppers, Social Distortion, Minutemen and so many others; night after night, and more than a few afternoons, yours truly was knocking around in notorious dumps against a backdrop of ferocious music.

That said, I loathe to be clubbing when a punk band takes the stage. I was weaned on the real thing, so don’t even bother. That was how I felt for decades until discovering Robert (Cray Cray) Joyce and his meteoric ensembles. Rob gets what most punkers today don’t understand or can’t fully embrace. It’s a laugh. It’s a good time. It’s not a wail fest. With delirious lyrics steeped in ironic pentameter, this High Point native’s loopy onstage presence as the manic frontman for Robert (Cray Cray) Joyce is infectious. (No really, I think if you saw Rob you’d agree, he looks infectious.) I caught that group at Somewhere Else Tavern recently then ventured over to the edge of UNCG’s campus to Tuba House, a housing-code-busting crashpad that closely resembles Dorothy Gale’s farmhouse. After the tornado. That’s where Rob’s dramatic beats for Time Machine Drive-By tore through the crowd. They’re one hell of a party band.

Rob Joyce also organized a Battle of the Benefits to raise money for charity at New York Pizza that was supported by the area’s dynamic music community. It seems Tate Street is undergoing another renaissance of music and art, and at its core is Matty Sheets’ Tuesday night open mic at NYP that consistently attracts major talent. Always a good time, I had the pleasure of attending when Jennifer Millis, fresh off her world tour, wowed the audience and was summoned back for an encore, which is pretty unusual. But then she’s a truly amazing performer. Even more exciting was her impromptu living room performance for me and the titular star of my new groovy television program, The Nathan Stringer Summer Music Show, look for that on YouTube.

***

Not half a mile away from the aforementioned Tuba House is a home of a whole different sort, one that has welcomed doyennes and dignitaries for what will now be thirty-four Presidential administrations. Located on North Edgeworth, the Weir-Jordan House was built in 1846 by David Weir, one of the founders of what would become Greensboro College. This manse was once surrounded by 20 unspoiled acres with the nearest neighbor being Governor Morehead’s Blandwood House. History whispers that perhaps it was Alexander Jackson Davis, Blandwood’s architect, who designed this antebellum mansion just loaded with warmth and charm. In 1920 the Greensboro Woman’s Club bought the house for their meetings and the National Federation of Woman’s Clubs still own it. I pretty much ambushed superstar caterer Stacy Street there when I found myself at Weir-Jordan on unrelated business, and she couldn’t have been more gracious. For a decade now she’s been staging elegant functions for large and small groups in this Nationally Registered Historic Home, with all of the rent going to preserving this treasure so close to the center of town. Standing in the spacious drawing room I could almost imagine what it was like a century ago when the area was being developed as a residential neighborhood.

***

It was almost exactly twenty years ago that I moved three blocks west of Hamburger Square and would get the most curious looks when I told people this. They’d inevitably ask, “Why would you want to live downtown?”  I prefer apartment living and wanted a solid old place, up off the ground, with hardwood floors, thick plaster walls and lots of windows showing plenty of sky. Built around 1930, the place I selected, and reside in now, is a classic shotgun design, so evening breezes are a real treat when the weather’s nice. It’s snowy days I enjoy most though, when I can gaze out my front windows and see pretty much what someone would have witnessed in 1937 when this place was occupied by a Mrs. Margaret Clark, who worked for the Greensboro Overall Company, on Carolina Street near Northwood, Blue Bell Manufacturing’s main competitor in the 1930s.  OH

Billy Eye is laughing because you’ll never get the seven minutes back that you wasted reading this drivel.

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