Mayberry, yes, that Mayberry.

Monday, December 29
Some background:
One of the less awful but more annoying symptoms of my Lyme disease is insomnia. Trying to avoid sleep meds which are less than ideal, and herbals which are less than effective (for me, at least), I’ve resorted to memorizing Edward Gorey poems, assorted chants and spiritual invocations, sending Reiki to all people who need it, and when all else fails, and there’s decent wifi, old TV episodes whose visuals aren’t essential to following the plot, with eyes closed seeking oblivion. Obviously, many shows don’t qualify, but the Andy Griffith series works. There are few set changes or compelling visuals forgotten from earlier viewings, plots are simple, the stories generally kindly and positive. Bland, yes, but blandness is soporific. Knowing that I was becoming a Mayberry maven, Bruce suggested that we go to Mt. Airy, the little N.C. town which was renamed Mayberry for the series and continues to this day to exploit the public’s nostalgia for it.

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The town is as afflicted by the Andy Griffith legacy, as our Cooperstown is afflicted by baseball. Both towns are based broadly on fiction. Cooperstown has the Hall of Fame Weekend, and Mayberry has Mayberry Days in September, when anyone still living or imitators from the series show up and visitors wax nostalgic. Sadly, where the roster of Hall of Famers is at least renewed yearly by new members, the surviving members of Mayberry are dwindling each year.

The main street businesses vie for tourist patronage. Antique/yesteryear/souvenir shops, candy shops, pie shops, toy shops, all have some connection to one or more of the Mayberry characters in their names. Sometimes, the connection is pretty thin, but as we pass them, we frequently hear the whistled Mayberry theme, which must drive the locals crazy.

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There are the more official attractions, like the Courthouse, jail, Wally’s service station, Floyd’s barbershop, a museum of the Andy Griffith collection with lovingly collected clippings, theater promos, Barney’s salt and pepper tweed suit, Goober’s crown-cut hat (bronzed, no less), and then, in strange juxtaposition to the museum, an arts council with an exhibit about Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous Siamese twins, of P.T. Barnum fame, complete with an intriguing, thought-provoking movie about their lives and the flourishing farm they established with their respective wives and 21 offspring, all raised by a slave/wet nurse who’d been a wedding present to one of the brides.

The Mayberry Campground where we’ve set up, is on the Bunker farm built by some of their descendants, and there is a vast family tree of living descendants still in the area. The area map bears the odd mix of Andy Griffith Highway, a Chang and Eng Bridge, and in the far distance, a remarkable knob of a mountain, Pilot Mountain, which became Mount Pilot in the Mayberry series.

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We went to the little town of Pilot Mountain and found a truly beautiful state park with a road that winds up to an adjacent overlook, from which we could see Pilot Mountain, itself, a quartzite upthrust of an ancient, billion year-old seabed, very like the basalt upthrust of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. For a state that seems very committed to Biblical scripture’s timeline for the Earth, it seems to tolerate this temporal contradiction without batting an eye.

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After few days of 50s Hollywood make-believe, it was refreshing to gaze on the purity of nature’s mineral magnificence, haloed by soaring turkey buzzards riding its thermals, and, 360 degrees below and beyond, the farms, forests and towns stretched out into blue mountains and sky: a deeply moving way to end the year.

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Happy New Year, everyone!

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