The five-year anniversary of my move back to Burlington is now. Here’s the state of the … whatever.
Five years ago my spouse, the lovely and talented Roselee Papandrea, moved to Burlington with me on a leap of faith.
“It’s a nice place,” I assured her with the confidence of someone who had lived here for eight years from 1984 to 1992.
She wasn’t so certain. After all, she had only seen Webb Avenue, which we used to take on our way to N.C. 87 en route to visiting my mom and dad. It’s not always an inviting stretch of road.
“If you say so,” she finally said.
With that, I returned for work on May 1, 2007 at the Times-News after a 15-year absence. A month later we hauled all our stuff here from coastal North Carolina to a house we just bought near a construction site soon to become Alamance Crossing. That itself was another leap of faith, one we have never regretted.
So we planned then, and still plan to be here a long, long time.
That, in a nutshell, is how I am handling questions posed by friends and readers regarding the announced sale last week of the Times-News to a Florida-based media company. People spent this past week asking about my plans and what would happen to the Times-News. There were some pretty wild rumors — all completely unfounded.
Here’s the story as I know it right now: My future is here, the outlook for the newspaper is excellent, our customers should notice few if any changes and we’re not going anywhere.
Besides, when I arrived here in 2007, my predecessor Lee Barnes left me a lengthy list of things to do in Alamance County and I haven’t gotten around to all of them yet. Like a good movie, you can’t leave in the middle.
For example, he recommended hitting the Three College Observatory. I haven’t done so, much to my shame. It’s still on the list. He also mentioned something about growing tomatoes in my yard. At the moment, I have a fig tree, but no ‘maters — not yet anyway. And I never attended the Hospice Flea Market when it was still operating and simply the biggest fund-raising extravaganza in Alamance County. I still, however, have a chance to visit the store that now operates as a replacement for the market. So it’s out there.
But I haven’t been a total failure at taking Lee’s excellent advice. I toured homes decorated for Christmas at Glencoe Mill Village, which was a delight. He also advised me to go to the Graham Cinema every so often for a low-cost movie in a historic old movie house. I’ve done it, but not nearly enough. And I’m on a first-name basis with everyone employed at Zack’s Hotdogs.
Still, taking stock over the past five years of my return to Burlington I quickly determined that there is a list of things I used to do as a matter of routine 20 years ago that I haven’t attempted even once since coming back.
Eat at Skid’s: I used to love Skid’s and frequented the one on South Church Street at Alamance Road for lunch when the newspaper was produced in the morning and delivered in the afternoon. Now I just don’t eat lunch. Memo to myself: Have lunch at Skid’s soon.
No more cafeterias: Another favorite lunch hangout was the Apple House Cafeteria at Holly Hill Mall. But it’s long gone, as is the signature piano that used to be there. I just don’t get around to the K&W. I also miss Libby Hill, which is no more and Perkins, which vanished. And while I did check out The Cutting Board upon its reopening, I haven’t had a chuckburger since, well, hmmm.
Go to a minor league game at Burlington Athletic Stadium: I pretty much lived at that ballpark at Fairchild from 1987 when baseball returned to the area and 1992 when I left for the beach. I covered one of the first games the then-Burlington Indians played there. It was against the Bluefield Orioles and the pitcher for Bluefield was a kid out of Fordham named Pete Harnisch who went on to pitch 13 Major League seasons. I haven’t attended one Royals game since I got back — much to the chagrin of season-ticket-holding Jay Ashley. This year, definitely.
Putt-Putt for the fun of it: Burlington’s course is one of the last remaining ones in the nation. I played it a time or two back in the day. Need to get my game in shape and go back.
Sit on my front stoop drinking beer, looking at Pine Hill Cemetery and listening to George Jones records: Now I have a lovely and talented bride so I don’t do that kind of stuff anymore.
Besides, vinyl records have gone the way of Apple House Cafeteria. Just remember that newspapers aren’t following that path anytime soon.
See you back here in five more years to see how I’m doing on the list.