John Thomason is a writer from Charlotte, North Carolina, and the articles editor at Grist. He lives in New York City.
A Points South essay from the Spring 2020 issue
My father said it seemed like we were due for one of those great hurricanes that periodically wipe the beach clean. If a deadly storm was coming, local legend has it that we would be warned. The story goes that a ghost clad in gray stalks the beach in advance of every major hurricane, warning passersby. Those who heed the Gray Man’s warning are spared, and all those who don’t, perish.
A Points South essay from our North Carolina Music Issue.
After twenty-four years of educational experimentation and financial struggle, Black Mountain College closed in 1956. Today it is remembered primarily for its tremendous impact on the visual arts. Among the famous painters to emerge from its tiny student body (yearly enrollment was consistently well below one hundred) were Robert Rauschenberg, Kenneth Noland, Susan Weil, Dorothea Rockburne, Ruth Asawa, and Cy Twombly. But it’s also fair to say that the most notorious experimental music composition of the twentieth century would likely never have been composed or performed if not for its cultivation there. John Cage’s two terms as a summer instructor, four years apart, bookended his larger transformation from a critically accepted, if minor, experimental musician to perhaps America’s most controversial living composer. It began with a food fight in Black Mountain’s dining hall.
A Points South essay from the Kentucky Music Issue.
Over Labor Day weekend last year I called a distant cousin, Mitch Cundiff, to ask if he could take me to Paradise. The old town is just a few miles from his home in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, where my grandmother grew up. He told me he was happy to, but there was nothing there to see. “It’s like the John Prine song says,” he explained. “They hauled it away.”