She Won't Cooperate

or I Want to Be the Girl With the Most Cake

Renee Smith

Renee Smith
Wilmington, North Carolina,
July 20
Your Highness
Single mom of 2 grown daughters, writer; lover of sushi, memoirs, David Sedaris, Green Day, Aimee Mann, Bill Hicks, and Stephen Colbert. A lifelong native of Houston, I made a cross country move to Hollywood East beginning Act 2 of my life.I am currently at work on a screenplay and two books of essays. I have written a number of produced plays. I'm a Grad School student at UNCW fulfilling my lifelong dream of advanced degrees and writing full-time. I am also a recently laid off high school teacher , but felt as Sylvia Plath did, that "teaching is dying a slow death in front of an audience." The education system is broken and I can't save it by being in it--but perhaps my words can help.


Renee Smith's Links
MAY 22, 2011 2:27PM

Moving to Tree Hill.... and there is only One (a love story)

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Growing up a misplaced girl in Texas I always knew I'd move. I never felt comfortable in the spread-out broiling landscape of Houston....... an avid reader and fan of Woody Allen and Al Pacino  since Juinor High (or maybe before) , I knew my rightful homeland was New York .... or being an anglophone, perhaps London. Period. My love of Texas Icons--our music and our Tex Mex and our Art Cars and our Austin and Robert Rodriguez--filled and fills a certain part of my soul, but my heart wasn't settled.



Simply put, I never felt at home.


My family isn't a family of movers. We stay put, in the state anyway. Actually finding a way to pick up and pack up and move far away-- a bright, shining toy beacon--was something I couldn't wrap my head around the practicality of actually doing it. 




Then my daughters got older. And my youngest, Tallulah,  decided that Duke University was the only school for her. 



 Her decison was based on many things, but certainly one of them was the way North Carolina had begun to snake itself into our psyches.... all of these things she loved, and then her sister and I adopted and loved too...were North Carolina based. Pretty soon, North Carolina became the Dave Foley of states--it made appearances everywhere. You turn on the TV to watch a rerun of The New Adventures of Old Christine or Will and Grace, and there's Dave.....


Dave Foley = North Carolina


........ you find a new band you love and they're from North Carolina. A new book? An American Idol contestant? Movie? Writer? TV show? North Carolina.  



This would probably be a good time to mention our family's love of One Tree Hill. I'm not sure when it happened. For awhile, Tallulah was the only Tree Hill junkie... a soap opera phenonom about two fine looking guys who were rivals and brothers who both played basketball in an idealic community in North Carolina (where else) where chcerleaders were punk rockers and bad girls and the adults were more screwed up that their children--sort of a CW presents Blood Brothers for teenagers. What's not to love?Then in some magical  moment--as mystical  and illusive  as the last time I read Goodnight, Moon one lost bedtime years prior--One Tree Hill was a family ritual, just as Friends and e.r. before it. The Scott Family was our family. Brooke Davis' dreams? Ours. 



One Tree Hill carried us through more family drama than was on the screen... illness, poverty, academic struggles,  job hunts, break-ups, deaths, betrayals. You know, life? And it did so to the beat of Gavin DeGraw who we discovered because, yeah, creator, writer and musical guru, Mark Schwahn put him on the show and it's his voice you hear over the opening credits--the bluesy intense.......... 

"I don 't want to be......

Anything other than what I've been trying to be lately

All I have to do
Is think of me and I have peace of mind
I'm tired of looking 'round rooms
Wondering what I've got to do
Or who I'm supposed to be
I don't want to be anything other than me"

 gavin degraw

Life got harder and like a lobster slowly boiling, I didn't know for a long time that I was in fact dying. Actually, literally dying just as my soul was metaphorically dying in the hot wasteland of Houston freeways and the agony of abuse that was standing teaching in  a North Houston urban classroom (check out Miss Darling. Her teaching posts reveal all.) I didn't know at the time that I was Celiac and that was the reason for chronic migraines eating away at my brain 4 to 10 times a month and rendering my digestive system out of order. What I did know was that driving a 25 mile commute to Abuseland, surviving a heat index of blow torch, and feeling totally alone in a city of millions was shrinking my soul to less than zero. 

 What I did know was that this was a city that made my oldest daughter Seymour feel like an alien, a nondriving shut in, one of too many who couldn't survive..... And I knew that my youngest had talent and an academic pedigree to present on the World Stage and that Houston had little to nothing to offer her.

And like Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh, we had to find our True North.


 And I knew that the harder we worked, the worse we got. Illness abounded. Absenteeism, legitimate absences based on simple survival, became too commonplace. Migraines, allergies, exhaustion, swine flu, depression, unexplained dizziness... I was threatend constantly by  my boss. ... He once made me sit down and listen to him list the mornings I'd been late.... from 30 seconds to 15 minutes.  My daughter's high school had me on speed dial.

An episode of OTH was titled:

My Attendance is Bad but My Intentions are Good.

Our family creed was born.


We went to visit Duke University the summer before Tallulah's senior year. My friend since forever Connie lives in Western North Carolina, so we hung out in the mountains, then drove to the campus. It was indeed love at first sight--a gothic fairyland of promise and beauty. Tallulah then asked, begged to visit Wilmington. It was only 2 more hours.... and on the East Coast of the Atlantic.

What the hell is in Wilmington?

It's where they film One Tree Hill. It was also Dawson's Creek.

Say what?

We hit I-40 and made it there by midnight.


Over the next two days we drove every inch of Wilmington seeking out film locations.  We blared "I Don't Want to Be" when we found the 6th Street Bridge.


We stood in awe on the actual River Court.


We found Peyton's house,



the Scott house (for sale!),






Clothes Over Bros. 


It was all there. And as I drove that town, I fell in love. Deeply deeply in love.

What the hell is in Wilmington? Every damn thing.

Beach, river, bridges--including a draw bridge,


cape fear drawbridge 


a quaint downtown chock full of bars and restaurants in seriously old beautiful buildings, college kids, bars, the largest film studio east of L.A., quirkiness on every corner (they could teach Austin about keeping the freak on) , civil war history, a battleship,  theaters, a shop-local mentality, farmer's markets, 100 year old houses, really attractive people, a film festival, resident celebrities..... and this feeling of quiet and peace and understanding, kindness and tolerance.    

Here I could breathe. Here I could build a new life. Here I could save my own life.

We had a tire blow out while there, and the mechanic told me when I said in passing that  I might just move here--people who do, never leave.

I told Tallulah that when she got into Duke, I would move us all to Wilmington. She did. I did. We're here.    

wilmington welcom dt 

Somehow I found the strength to make it happen. I will never know how. I guess, really, I felt I had no choice. Like Pooh said, it was my True North.

Who knew my True North was a small town on the East Coast of North Carolina and not New York? Not London? Certainly not Houston?

One year later, we drove up to our rented 100 year old cottage, 1 block from the Cape Fear River, less than a mile from the heart of Downtown.... and oddly and accidentally (as I rented it online never having seen the property) sitting directly beside Tric.

tric sign 



We were exhausted traveling with 3 cats and a dog in the cab of the U-Haul.

movin van 

Our car was falling off the dolly. We had left so much back in Houston. I ws jobless. I was home.


front of house 


(Tric,  I later found out, also shared fame with Blue Velvet....that in fact... everything here is Blue Velvet.. that Wilmington is Lumberton.


blue velvet houseDavid Lynch filled the film entirely on location here, another reason I am quite certain the recongition of this town was immediate and profound).

My world here is part reality and part cinematic fantasy. I taught high school for a year and am now heading for graduate school taking steps toward a life-long dream of a PhD. I shop, I cook, I feed my animals.... I diagnosed Celiac and am reclaiming my health inside and out..... I receive notices on my door when One Tree Hill is filming in my backyard.... 

 8 is great

......and I have sushi in the same restaurant with Brooke and Julian (Sophia Bush and Austin Nichols)... I notice The Rock crossing the street.... I pass Juliette Lewis on my way to the hair salon. Which is real life, which isn't? It doesn't matter.  

Here life is beautiful--from the Cuclourus Film Festival to the subversive film series at the Juggling Gypsy hookah bar, from the fireworks shot off for every reason to snow falling on the beach, from the pride of local farmers at the weekly Farmers Market on Front Street to the bar tales of knife fights and Marine Mayhem at the port bars downtown to the Soapbox laudromat and music venue that shares space with a tattoo parlour to the ever changing and always surprising movie and TV filmings that pop up like the beloved azaleas all over town all of the time.  

To paraphrase Elvis Costello: I used to be disgusted, now I'm amused.

Every single day.

brewery front street 

By the carriage horses with bunny ears and tails at Easter, by Zac the hippie who sells Freakers, by the Soul Saving the kindness of the guys at Gravity Records by the charm of Jamie and Matt at Jester's Cafe....

.....and enchanted....

like the secret mailbox at Wrightsville Beach.......

secret mailbox 

By our first real snowfall covering the fairy tale world in white.... 


...even the beaches................ 

snow on beach the never-ending beauty of the view from the River Walk.......

riverfront w battleship 

.......and I stand in my backyard and listen to... silence. The wind blows. My cats wander. I am at peace.  

Each day when I drive over the majestic Cape Fear Memorial Drawbridge with downtown Wilmington glistening to my right and a stretch of river to the sea on my left, I breathe. Deeply. Profoundly. Gratefully. 

rainbow across wilmington 

The intensity of that beauty rests my eyes, tired from concrete and traffic and ugly. I am calm.  I am healing. 

And inside me I know what Mark Schwahn doesn't.....and what I didn't tell him when we met him one night outside our house and he gave us a private tour of Tric..... 

mark schwahn 

That One Tree Hill saved my life.



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I hope this makes cover. I did the same thing as you did only I did not make it to NC.
One has to breathe and live as life is way too short.
I too have celiac. Lovely disease..
I loved this.