I would like to take this little moment of detoxification to thank my buddy Salem for putting together one of the best weekends we’ve had since filling the Super Soaker guns full of vodka our senior year. Everyone pitched in, of course, and my brother Sean was also heroic in corralling the herd of cats I call my best friends. But nobody enables conversations, paves the streets with fun, paints the hands of waiters with $20 bills and contains the solar-powered fission of energy like Salem.
When I first met him in 1989, my friend Carwile said he might annoy me as soon as we all moved in together. What I soon realized was that I was having the time of my life, and we were both annoying Carwile. Coming from a background of moneyed Charlotte prep school football and more than a few indiscretions of youth, Salem should have been the kind of person to which I was genetically repelled, but instead we found common ground in almost everything. He had suffered at the hands of a social circle (and old friends) at Carolina, and humiliation was an emotion I’d known all too well. Salem talks a mile a minute, he could sell salt water to the Old Man of the Sea, and doesn’t mind starting a long story, but if you drift off even for a second you might miss something fabulous.
We lived together twice; the first house became Chapel Hill’s greatest party gathering spot due to his massive Klipsch speakers and healthy dose of “Cosmic Thing”; the second house was made famous by the first 80s party ever documented in history (1991) and the fact that he put his head through all the windows in time with the songs.
Salem (with ice cream) and I (with bowling shoes) dance in the afternoon sometime in 1990
After brief stints in restaurants and food-related jobs all over the South, he wound up in Jasper, GA, owning the Jasper Family Steakhouse, arguably the best family dining experience in the Appalachians. He married Elizabeth, a beautiful, strong-willed woman with two awesome kids of her own – and Salem adopted them in a heartbeat. Last year, they gave birth to another daughter, Lillie-Anne, who is the cutest child this side of Parenting Magazine.
And throughout this, he – like me – has tried to create a world that would have satisfied his 9-year-old self. He has an air hockey table, an 8-foot basketball goal for dunking, and the kind of stereo we used to lust after. On the adult end, he has aged scotch and humidors for the occasional puff of the world’s best cigars. And we can still go down to New Orleans and have a great time, regardless of age. I think Salem and I just always wanted to have fun and have a big project, unapologetically with both hands outstretched, which is why we’ll always get along.
Lillie-Anne befriending the animal kingdom