Wilmington, NC: driven by obsession

July 10

Heading southeast. Spent a cozy night in Hotel Dodge Caravan in the parking lot of a Huddle House, and in the morning let Stormy run in the red Carolina dirt behind it.

Wilmington, NC is an oceanside town with palm trees, Spanish moss, and tin roofs. The town itself seems laidback, but I had trouble relaxing when I visited the beach and, after spotting some Confederate flags and a President Davis Drive, realized I hadn’t seen any black people for the past few miles.
(This Wikipedia article sheds some light on the town’s history: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilmington_insurrection_of_1898)

Back in town, the venue, the Juggling Gypsy, was the opposite of that beach. It’s a small indie music club, but also has a reputation as a venue for weird circus acts. The audience varied widely in ethnicity, age, and levels of amiable intoxication. A fun place to play.

I’m finding that there is far too little time to talk to people I meet at shows. I had to break down my props and load out, but I wish I’d gotten to talk more with John Henry Scott, a gentleman in his 70s with a long scraggly beard and a fabulous resume: clown, magician, New Orleans DJ, Cajun musician, and ghost story teller. And I was sad that I didn’t get to swap more stories with the opening act, Stray Cat Sideshow. Robin Souls and Secoria de Kitten are married, working towards quitting their day jobs, and devoting their lives to dangerous acts (Secoria even swallows a squiggly sword!).

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With Thomas Little and Kelly Stiles at Juggling Gypsy

I did get to unwind at Waffle House at midnight with some old friends from New Orleans. One of them, Thomas Little, I hadn’t seen for years, and I asked him what he’d been up to. Buttering his toast as if he were chiseling a statue, he replied, “Oh, y’know, being driven my my obsession.” And what is Thomas Little’s current obsession? Making his own inks, basing his research in alchemical manuscripts and experimenting with pigments derived from various plants and minerals: yellow ochre from ferric oxide, pink from cleaver root, purple from wild grape. He even tried juicing poison ivy. And here’s the kicker: he got a day job as a maintenance man in a state park. That means a vast supply of botanicals, snakeskin for pellum, and a concrete cabin where Thomas is slowly illustrating a grimoire with his own inks.

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The frontispiece from Thomas Little’s grimoire. Follow his monkish activities on IG @a.rural.pen

In the morning, on Thomas’s recommendation, I visited Carolina Beach State Park, the only place in the world with a trail of wild Venus Flytraps.

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