“It’s not even about golf, per se. It’s about something that is not like anything else.”-Chef David Chang on the Masters
I put myself on the 15 day disabled list last week. After almost 2 years of sleeping in weird beds, showering in tiny showers, ubering in Ford Festivas, and flying in seats meant for my son, my back had had it. So I shut it down. To follow my dreams, I need my body functioning at full capacity.
As such, I had some time last week to think, and two questions I have been asked recently cropped up: “Do you miss North Carolina?” and “Is Mississippi now home?” The answer to both of these is “no” because for me, home is not a specific place, it is a feeling.
For years, I have been fascinated with the east coast vs west coast debate. NYC vs LA. His happy place vs her happy place. The north vs the south. Rural vs urban. And so on.
You should know by now that it is not enough for me to just hear about it. I want to experience it myself. Feel it myself. See what all the fuss is about. And so I did. And I wrote this article a few months ago about trying to find my happy place and subsequently didn’t think too much more about it.
But since I am laying low for a couple of weeks to rehab my back, I re-explored the topic. And by God, I think I have found some happy places. Places that make me emotional. Places that make me feel alive. Places that if you invited me right now, I would ask how soon I could meet you there.
So, here they are. My top 15 over the past few years, in order, with a few tidbits for you to savor.
St. Augustine, FL, springtime. Have an ice cream or some fudge and just walk around. Take pictures of yourself with the palm trees, obviously.
The Open Kitchen, Charlotte, NC, $1 beer night. Go back in time and order old school Italian classics washed down with yes, $1 beer.
The Ace Hotel, New Orleans, LA, happy hour. Grab a drink and a couch, and maybe the poet in residence will find you. Seriously, last time she wrote me an impromptu haiku.
St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, Indianapolis, IN, Pacers game night. Grab a seat at the bar, get the world famous shrimp cocktail and filet, and make some new friends.
Fulmer’s General Store, Richton, MS, lunchtime M-F. $8.99 for meat and 3 sides, dessert, and sweet tea. Shop for candy, fresh vegetables, or cowboy boots afterwards. The world needs more of these places.
Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles, CA. Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia. Ooh, I felt it. And I ate lunch two seats down from Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan (that almost ruined it for me).
Torrey Pines Golf Course, La Jolla, CA, sunrise. This was the view I saw as soon as I hopped out of the uber, and I am pretty sure I cursed out loud I was so smitten. Daaammmmnnn…
First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH, winter. Want to feel alive? Maybe the Browns will play your team on a cold December day. Go. Make a weekend of it. Explore a wonderful city, but please, bring an extremely warm jacket.
Wells Fargo Championship, Charlotte, NC, first week of May. Best week of the year in Charlotte. Check out the celebs in the pro-am on Wednesday, and then party with everyone else in the city Friday and Saturday. FYI, no one works that week.
Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, MN, autumn. Indulge the Minnesota hospitality, the beautiful leaves, Lake Hazeltine, a walk with your friends, and dinner afterwards. Oh yeah, the golf is also really good.
Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC, pregame. Get there an hour early and savor the pregame shenanigans. My personal fave is when the students sing “Every Time We Touch” and then go nuts! I just got chills writing that. This is a must do!
Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, not winter. Likely the most unique place I have ever gone and might ever go. Spectacular. For the full recap, read here .
Pride Park, Wingate, NC, fall game night. This truly is home for me, both literally and figuratively. Prove it? Three years ago, I flew home early from an NYC vacation to watch an important soccer game.
Random park, Venice, Italy, peak season. The picture may not look like much, but just adjacent to this park, there are stunning views of the following: canal, sea, mountains, soccer stadium, high school, prison, and church. I remember feeling my heart fill up as I did the 360. I also may have cursed out loud in amazement. Daaammmnnnnn…
Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, NC, spring or fall, sunset. Walking up 18 or enjoying some time on the veranda at sunset with the local church bells chiming is hard to put into words. You literally feel the ghosts of legends past all around you. If I ever feel that I need to join some big time club, this is 1A.
Happy places and “homes” are everywhere. Just remember, you don’t have to feel boxed in by the normal definition, aka where your residence is or where your parents went or what anyone else is doing. I personally get my rocks off finding people, places, and things that, like David Chang said, are unlike anything else.
So just get out there. Explore. I never would have found most of these if I didn’t do just that.
Have a great week, and take care of your back.-Benj
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