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Greensboro’s Ten Best longing for the recent past…

by Brian Clarey

The Wild Magnolia Café

True, I’ve lived in Greensboro for just a sight more than five years, but in that relatively brief period I’ve seen so many changes, so many things come and go in this town that sometimes I feel like I’ve lived here two lifetimes. First on my list of things I miss is Wild Mag’s, the Creole-themed booze and juke joint on the corner of Walker and Elam and site of the very first YES! Weekly party.

The Greensboro Bats

Whoa, whoa’… nobody’s dissing the Grasshoppers and their new digs, but every now and again this summer inside the emerald jewel downtown I would inexplicably find my thoughts drawn towards that purple palace just a mile or so away. The cramped seats that groaned when you opened them, the puddles of standing water and cracked concrete, the pitchers’ mound so underdeveloped it was a candidate for a training bra’… they all passed through my thoughts as I sipped from my souvenir cup this summer and watched replays on the giant TV.

The Willie Bucket

Every time I would drive by Saltmarsh Willie’s seafood restaurant on Lawndale I would affect a pirate accent. Yar, and will it be smoking or non in the saltmarsh this evening? The signature menu item was called, I believe, the ‘Willie Bucket,’ consisting of a pile of steamed shellfish ‘— clams, oysters and the like ‘— over which was ladled gobs of seasoned, melted butter which was called, I assume, Willie Butter.

The Burlington Industries building

I used to think this formidable steel structure the color of dried blood was kind of ugly until they imploded the sucker. I’m also nostalgic for the implosion itself and think that we should do more of them in the city. Any suggestions?

Downtown monotony

It was a much simpler time just a few years ago, when most of downtown Greensboro called it a day at around 4 p.m. and by 6 the entire district looked like something out of ‘“The Twilight Zone’” with deserted thoroughfares and tumbleweeds and odd echoes bouncing off the buildings. Parking was a snap back then, and the most difficult nightlife decision was a toss-up between the Rhino Club and Twiggy’s.

Hockey

I was a smart-mouthed kid on Long Island when the New York Islanders won four Stanley Cups in a row (Bryan Trottier rules!) and the experience imbued me with a love for the fastest game in sport (jai alai doesn’t count: that’s just two guys with a rock trying to kill each other). All hockey fans know that the game loses something when it’s translated to television, but catching an occasional Generals game at the Coliseum gave me my fix. I can only imagine how exciting it was when the Hurricanes played there.

Dollar-a-gallon gas

It wasn’t all that long ago when gas prices in North Carolina, which as of this writing are the highest in the nation, hovered right around the reasonable rate of a dollar a gallon, enabling me to fill my car for about twelve bucks. Nowadays it costs more to fill my car than it does to have the oil changed. Bloodsuckers.

The Mad Dog Trio

Before Amy Bowles, Tom Royal and Post Postlethwaite took their brand of jazzy instrumental funk from Greensboro to Boston in 2002, they told me they didn’t think any band that played mainly original tunes, let alone tunes without lyrics, could ever make it in the Triad. Of course, things have changed since then. But it’s not likely that the MD3 will be playing Greensboro stages anytime soon.

New Garden Road

This one’s for Ogi, who says he can still remember New Garden Road before the bulldozers came and trashed it. ‘“The cedar trees, the split rail fence, the pastoral beauty of the Jefferson Pilot club,’” he recalls. ‘“It was one of the prettiest, if not the prettiest roads in Greensboro. It was just a gorgeous two-lane road.’”

Steak and lobster

Before the GTCC culinary program, before the Food Network got its hooks into us, before fusion-style cuisine and amuse-bouche became part of the everyday lexicon, a fancy dinner meant steak and/or lobster, possibly paired with a giant baked potato and maybe a little something green on the plate. Those were simpler times, my friends.

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