This guest post is a farewell-to-Spartanburg-post by Zoë Miller. Zoë is originally from Los Angeles. She received her B.A. in Liberal Arts with a concentration in creative writing from The New School University in New York City. She moved to Spartanburg last summer to live with her boyfriend, former HUB-BUB AiR Jonas Criscoe, and both of them are about to move to Minneapolis, MN, so Zoë can begin her MFA in fiction at the University of Minnesota. We’ll miss them both!
“I’m just waiting for the moment when I’ll get to take a train or plane someplace and I know I’ll spurt out because I’ve just got to see new things. I think Rimbaud said he needs new scenery and a new noise, and I need that.”—Patti Smith
Last June, on a warm Brooklyn morning, my brother and I loaded up a U-Haul filled with everything I owned and waited patiently in my empty apartment for the Super to arrive.
“The place looks good,” he said. “Write down your new address so the landlord can mail you the security deposit.”
And that’s when it hit me hard. Writing down my new address—Spartanburg, South Carolina?
After spending six beautiful, struggle-filled, glorious years working, editing 12th Street, attending The New School University with my colleagues and friends—I would be moving and it was all happening so fast. After graduating, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to move to Spartanburg and live with my long-distance former AiR boyfriend, teach creative writing at the Boys and Girls Club, get a lot of my own writing done, and apply to MFA Fiction programs for Fall 2011.
So, as my brother drove the U-Haul through my Brooklyn neighborhood towards the highway, with my cats drugged-up in their carriers, I kept my face turned forward. I did not look back. I remember squinting my eyes, the way you do as a child, making everything around you appear as one huge pulsating blur. I said goodbye to the brownstones, graffiti, slivers of sun bouncing off of girl’s shiny sandals, and the shopping cart wheels of the man who sells bouquets on the corner of Myrtle Avenue in squinty pulsating fragments.
When I first got to Spartanburg, after purchasing a car, I drove around a lot, exploring. I spent a couple of days just driving around and taking pictures. One day, I was taking pictures of this empty Laundromat, and this old gnome-like man from the shop next-door walked over to see what I was doing.
“I’m just taking some pictures,” I said.
“This is a dangerous neighborhood, you know,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
He suggested I take some pictures in his shop. It was a big shop filled with lots of metal materials, and he thought I might find it interesting. I decided to go on in and have a look, and we started talking. He told me he used to be a wrestler. The kind of wrestler like Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, he said. He pulled out some photographs from his desk drawer. He handed me a photo from his “wrestling days.” He was wearing gold underwear and white boots and he had bands wrapped around his arms with gold tassels. He looked very happy in the photograph. In another photograph, he was standing next to his two sons. He was wearing his wrestling uniform, and his sons were flexing their muscles and smiling, shirtless.
“This one is now in Afghanistan, and this one died of heart failure,” he said, pointing to the picture.
We both waited for a howling train to pass. Before I could say I was so sorry to hear about his son, he said, “You know, I’m in a Blue Grass band, you should come on by tomorrow night and see me play.”
And, that’s exactly what I did. I had a great time enjoying the new Blue Grass noise.
I want to thank HUB-BUB and Hub City Writers Project for the new scenery and for the new noise, and for the opportunity to become part of such a wonderful and vibrant community.
I am not trying to “toot my own horn,” I just want to put emphasis on how much I accomplished in one year because of my move to Spartanburg and because the Hub-City Writers Project and Hub-Bub.
I was fortunate to attend a variety of HUB-BUB and Hub City Writers events. I read some of my writing at the Showroom, and Corinne Manning invited me to speak with her about our love for James Baldwin at the first Writers Reading: A Series on Favorites at the Hub City Bookshop. I won 2nd place in the 2011 Hub City Creative Writing Contest for my short story, “Moth” which will be published in the Summer issue of Front Porch. Moth” is the first southern short story I have written, and it takes place in Spartanburg.
I was able to introduce children at the Boys and Girls Club to the art of creative writing. In the book we published this year titled: Places We Live, Imagine and Dream, filled with the children’s poetry and photographs you will find a quote from a 4th Grader at Pacolet Elementary named Trista Smith, that is so simple and beautiful in its truth: “Writing makes me happy. I get to express my feelings.”
These children taught me a great deal. I am so grateful for the experience.
And for many more: fireflies, magnolia flowers, wisteria, cardinals, trains, kudzu, cicadas, sweet tea and one of my very favorites: porches filled with Spartanburg friends.
I will miss you Spartanburg! Thank you so very much!