I am thrilled to see that the Tarboro Brewing Company, the latest culinary contribution to Eastern North Carolina by Inez and Stephen Ribustello, opened its doors last weekend. The duo met nearly 20 years ago while working at Windows on the World, the cluster of bars and restaurants that — prior to Sept. 11, 2001 — catered to tourists at the top of the World Trade Center. Working there in the late 1990s and early 2001s is how the Ribustellos learned much of what they know about food, beverages and the pairing of the two. They subsequently took that knowledge, along with a natural knack for entertaining and making people feel at home, and opened On the Square, a dining experience that brings people from up and own the East Coast to the most unlikely of tourist destinations — downtown Tarboro, NC. Last year I wrote about Inez and Stephen and their culinary journey for the Carolina Alumni Review and am pleased to see that what was then a mere dream in the making — the Tarboro Brewing Company — is now yet another “window” in their world.
I created the Meanderings section of this website to have a place where I could post photos and articles about planned travel destinations abroad. My first stop was going to be Spain, where I spent my junior year abroad and realized just how big the world was, that it encompassed much more than Virginia, where I grew up, and North Carolina, where I went to college.
If I hadn’t gone to Spain, I wouldn’t have gone to Mexico to do a summer internship at the Mexico City News; I wouldn’t have ended up working for United Press International, at least not in Mexico City; and my bosses at UPI would never have sent me to Guatemala. The Mexico-Guatemala experience added up to eight years, some of which was wonderful and some of which was wretched. It was the mid- to late 80s. Guatemalans were at war with each other, as were neighboring Salvadorans and Nicaraguans, not to mention the outside interests that both fueled and fed off of each conflict.
My time in Latin American later had an influence on what I did and where I lived. I spent eight years working for newspapers in Texas; as a freelance reporter, I’ve often written about immigrant issues; and in a quirky twist of fate, I ended up visiting the hometown of San Antonio Spur Manu Ginobili and writing a profile of him. I have many interests, but sports isn’t one of them, so the last place I ever expected to be is in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, looking at a life-size poster of Michael Jordan hanging on a wall in Manu’s childhood home. But there I was, thanks to Spain.
There were later visits to various parts of Europe as well as Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, all of them attributable, really, to my first steps on Spanish soil.
Then life came to more of a standstill. My dad passed away, I moved back East, I lived in DC for a while then moved to Raleigh, NC, where by the fall of 2011 – 30 years after Spain – I was living a pleasant but uncharacteristically sedentary life. The economic crisis and limited funds had a lot to do with the standstill, but once the cash flow started to improve, Spain became my destination.
I saved up some money, renewed my passport, and had started looking into flights, when my 88-year-old mother slipped in the bathtub. In the past two months, she’s been to two emergency rooms and has been admitted into one hospital, two rehab centers, and now an assisted living facility.
As for Spain, it’s been put on the back burner. Instead I go back and forth between North Carolina and Virginia, where I pay my mother’s bills, disentangle the labyrinth of elder care options she has, make sure her lawn is mowed and the cats don’t starve, and grapple with her ferociously stubborn attempts to return to the house where she lived for 51 years.
After all these years and for all the wrong reasons, she and I have kinda sorta traded places. Uprooted by her advanced age, she’s had four new homes in the past two months, and I am staying put. Instead of going to Spain, where I first learned just how far afield I could go, I’ve been going home; and instead of discovering the new, I’m rediscovering the old.