Lightning visit to Chapel Hill

Since graduating in 2016 I had not been to Chapel Hill, and I was dying to go soak it up. So a few weekends ago I jumped in my car and drove off to my beloved Alma mater in North Carolina.

After stopping for the night at a roadside motel in Florence S. Carolina, I arrived in Chapel Hill in time for lunch. I walked across the ghostly campus to see my dear friend Mandey at her restaurant, Imbibe. She did not know I was coming and was very surprised to see me! She fed me a gorgeous pork belly sandwich!! I was happy to see they had successfully transitioned to a delivery and pick up restaurant! Unfortunately, the upstairs bar, Zogs, my second home in Chapel Hill was closed due to Covid. From there I walked down Franklin Street, across town, enjoying the energy and the community, something that I dearly miss in nameless, faceless Florida. I am glad to report that The Yogurt Pump is still serving (from a window) the best frozen yogurt in the world. My old friend Jedd has opened a cigar shop (World Headquarters Cigars) and I enjoyed catching up with him for a while. My next stop was the Student Store!! Where I overspent on UNC gear, although truth be said, it was mostly presents for family. I took the long way back, stopping to meditate at the Arboretum.

Confession time: The Catholic church at UNC, The Newman Center, is across the street from the Carolina Inn, the quintessential Southern hotel. From my first days in North Carolina, after church on Sundays I would go across the street to the Carolina Inn, get a coffee and sit in the lobby to read. Once, when my sister came to visit, she stayed at the Inn and had an amazing experience! So, at last I bit the bullet and stayed at the Inn, I was dying to, and it did not disappoint!

I had socially distanced dinner with a handful of dear old professors: Cristina, Oswaldo, and Irene. My heart was overjoyed with happiness to spend time with them.

Sunday morning, after a perfectly Southern breakfast –including grits! I crossed the street to church. Mass is normally being held outdoors on the parking lot during Covid, but due to the rain, mass was cancelled and the ceremony was going to be livestreamed from inside. At the beginning they did not want to let me into the building, but when I identified Father Bill, they did. Seeing Father Bill was a more moving experience than I expected. Mass, with only a handful of parishioners, mostly undergrads, was simple and beautiful. After mass we could not abide by the rules anymore and Father Bill and I fell into a heartfelt, teary (for me) hug.

After sadly checking out of the Carolina Inn, I drove to Irene’s house for lunch. And what a lunch it was, full of good food, laughter, memories, conversation, and needless to say: gossip! After that, it was a sad, lonely, and rainy drive back to Florida, stopping to sleep in Savannah Georgia.

Now I can’t wait to go back and see all the folks I missed in this lightning visit (you know who you are), and to go to mi favorite places that were closed for safety’s sake. As Terminator would say: “I’ll be back”.

Zog’s, Zoggys, Chez Zog’s, The Zog, Zogmeister, Zoggy Woggy´s, etc.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

WordPress, the platform that hosts this blog has recently updated their software, making it easier to see the posts I have written. I was surprised to see that I cite Zog’s often but have never had a dedicated post. Here it is.

The reason I have not written about Zog’s before is that it is my hideaway, my cocoon, an extension of my living room, and I did not want to blow my hideaway, expose my little secret, or God forbid, bring in droves of tourists, camera in hand. But last fall when the Romance Studies Department could not find a suitable venue for their Pre-Halloween Halloween party, I sacrificed my closely guarded secrecy of Zog’s to offer it as a venue. Our department’s Social co-Chair Jordan organized a great party. Normally I do not participate in these activities (see below, under Sartre) but, since I was the facilitator of the venue I had no choice but to go. I just dusted my old Sheikh outfit (that my dad bought in Jeddah in the 70s when he met King Fahd. So now that my whole department knows about my watering hole, I guess there is little left to lose.

When I first moved to Chapel Hill in that distant June of 2012. I quickly had to stake my territory, run some recon ops, and establish myself. There were (are) two bars around the corner from my cottage, one on top of the other. The ground level bar had big windows, and a glossy, wannabe fancy air about it. Zog’s was literally an open (yellow) door with some creaky wooden stairs leading up to the bar. The choice was obvious. I have never regretted it. Of course I have had to go to other bars in Chapel Hill for social obligations, but I always go back to Zog’s. Most memorably, my dear friend Stjepan, before moving to Japan asked me to go to his favorite bar, a well-known Franklin Street purveyor of libations. Yes it was a pretty place, with an impressive bar, but it was, how can I say? Fratastic? The last thing I want is to have to drink surrounded by the kids I teach all day long, or a bunch of posers, or to pay more than I should for a refreshment. You guessed, I have never gone back to that joint.

At the end of the day it is not so much about the quality of the drinks – especially if it is only a Tanqueray and tonic when it is hot, or a neat Maker’s Mark the rest of the time (IMHO the best value in Bourbon) , or the music, or the atmosphere, although all those things matter, you can get used to different styles. It is always about the people. In this case awesome owner Mandey and her little brother James, and the rest of the staff, Michael, Reese, Josh and Jedd. I love them all. Top, top human beings, nice people, caring, funny, professional, and very good at their jobs!

Unfortunately I only go a couple of times a week, and I mostly read, but I have had some nice conversations, especially with James, as we share a passion for orchestral music. With Jedd I chat about Jung, spirituality and other silly stuff. With Josh we mostly talk about comedic techniques, with Reese we talk history, archaeology and love. And with Mandey, I can pour my heart out while she pours me a drink! Of course I also chat with other established regulars, Jeff – who has a drink named in his honor: the “Electric Jeff” – although I would rather drink sewer water than that neon green drink. The darts league people on Thursday nights, and a few other regulars.

It is a bit of a rule that I always go after shows, concerts, plays, etc. I need the time to digest whatever I have seen or heard and Zog’s is the perfect venue for that. Of course they have two pool tables, darts, fine cigars and a ton of local art for sale, occasional bands, they are dog friendly, cat friendly, even bunny rabbit friendly. But I go because it is my favorite bar.

Although I do not agree with everything Jean Paul Sartre said, I do agree with him in that “L’enfer, c’est les autres” which has been loosely translated as “hell is other people”. (Those who know me even a little bit, know that I am mostly against translations). So unless I am going to have a decent conversation, I would rather just read and drink.