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TRAVELING IN YOUR OWN BACK YARD: GRAHAM, NC

by Any Setzer, Legal Assistant

Getting divorced is hard enough.  BEING divorced and trying to move beyond the past is a whole different ball game.  Putting your trust in a new relationship is hard.  The thought of sitting through the cliché movie – dinner – coffee dates making idle chit chat and trying to get to know someone new can be daunting and repetitive.  Why not try something different?  Get out of Greensboro, North Carolina, get out of your comfort zone.  Traveling with someone is a great way to figure out how and if you are compatible with them.

Do I recommend a weekend trip to Miami with someone you’ve just met?  Of course not.  But “traveling” doesn’t have to mean spending hours trapped on a plane suffering the drools and dronings of random strangers.  You can get out of dodge right here.  There’s plenty of small towns around the Piedmont Triad to explore, and each one has its own distinct personality.   You can feel like you’re in another world but still be close to home (close enough to be rescued).

When my boyfriend and I began seeing each other, our first all-day excursion was to Graham, North Carolina.  It was one of the greatest days I can remember.  Afterward, I was hooked – on him and on Graham, NC.   Here are the highlights on what we saw, and what our experiences taught me about Mike:

Alamance Arts is housed in a historic mansion located at 213 S. Main Street, Graham, NC 27253.  For our visit, we were treated to an exhibit by the world renown blown-glass artist, Chihuly.  Chihuly and his team create life-sized glass sculptures featured in botanical gardens Sitting on the porch swing of the spacious deck, we watched an educational video describing how in a multitude of cities including Denver, Atlanta, and Nashville. That this extraordinary man has continued his craft for decades after losing an eye and the use of a hand makes his work all the more awe-inspiring.  We were grateful to admire the powerful yet delicate pieces on display in the gallery.  Thank you, Graham, for saving us a trip to Raleigh.

Stroll a few blocks to 119 N. Main Street, and you’ll find Graham Cinema.  Mike and I stumbled upon this place and its gem of an owner while admiring the vintage movie cameras and equipment through the windows.  The theater features a rare balcony seating area and the warm, southern hospitality of a proprietor happy to talk.  For 40 minutes Mike and I listened, fascinated by tales of the Projectionists’ Union, “back in the day,” and (spoiler alert!) one story that ended in a shooting.  A colorful man full of colorful stories, the owner of this historic cinema house offers $4.00 feature films and a whole lot of history.  The wisdom and anecdotes are free.

Artie the Mouse is a Graham celebrity.  Greensboro has sculptures of denim pants everywhere; Graham has Artie.   While visiting Alamance Arts, I discovered the Holy Grail of pamphlets – the Artie the Mouse Scavenger Hunt map, leading to all the iconic places in Graham where a tiny statue of Artie lives.  It started as a whimsical challenge, but by the time we found all of the Arties (and meandered around for hours) we had visited the police station, the historical BB&T building, a quaint little park, the historic courthouse, and countless other Graham landmarks.

Graham Soda Shop and Grill was a great stop to refuel and take a load off.  From the chrome-trimmed red bar stools to the vintage decorations, this place takes you into the 1950s. The food was lovely, and the service was warm and friendly.  On this particular afternoon, the Graham Soda Shop and Grill offered free entertainment:  one of the locals (I presume) belting out his own rendition of tunes from the ’70s and ’80s.  At one point, the star-in-the-making forgot the words to the song he was singing but covered with confidence, winking and pointing at the diners and putting on such a grand show that for a minute I thought I was in Vegas.

Last but certainly not least, there’s the Cannolis.  Tasty Bakery at 16 NE Court Square has got The. Best. Cannolis.  In the Triad.  Anyone at work will tell you that I am a Cannoli connoisseur.  I have been known to rearrange my schedule for Cannolis.  Tasty Bakery is the best – I once waited out a bomb threat to get one (true story).  The bakery offers a great variety of pastries and beautifully decorated cakes, but once I bit through the delicate, flaky shell and into that rich cream all drizzled in chocolate, I ceased to see anything beyond our cozy table.  There’s more than a slight chance I would break up with someone over Cannolis, but I don’t worry about that with Mike.

Overall, our day trip to Graham exceeded any expectation I’d had before starting our “adventure.”  I discovered that I fell in love with this small town so close to and yet so different from Greensboro.  A place still owned by the locals, Graham has a relaxed, small-town ambiance that makes me feel that I stepped back in time – a time when people were just….nice.  That atmosphere allowed me and Mike to let go of the new relationship pressure that can come from trying to build something in the midst of everyday life.

Through that trip, I learned that Mike was easy-going in nature, found humor in the same quirky, ridiculous things I did and was, in general, a roll-with-the-punches kind of guy.  The sincere interest he showed in the people we met, and the things we did showed that he was genuine and down-to-earth. The fact that I wasn’t climbing out of my skin to go home after an hour told me this was someone I could spend quality time with.

By getting away without getting away, the new experiences we shared helped us bond and also learn about each other in a more honest, lasting way.  You just never know what you’ll find in your own back yard.