Most days, you’ll find Wes Collins at the circulation desk of the Chatham Community Library in Pittsboro, where he’s worked since 2013. The Lenoir native has a bachelor’s degree in music business from Belmont College in Nashville after pursuing that for a time, enrolled at N.C. Central University and earned a masters in library sciences and information. “I get to see people at their best, most of the time,” he says of his work. “It’s rare that a person comes into the library and isn’t somehow happy to be there.” He and his wife, Anita, live in Chapel Hill and have two grown children — Will and Cassie — and an 18-year-old Bichon-Frise named “Thunder” who, according to Collins, “sleeps a lot of the time, but he’s a blast when he’s awake.”
What was your first paying job, and what did it teach you?
My first paying job was at the furniture factory in Lenoir. It taught me that making furniture is an art and a vocation. It also taught me that I have no talent in that area.
What’s the most unusual customer request or question you’ve ever had?
One very pleasant patron wanted to research the plotlines of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode ever released.
What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned from work?
EVERYONE is having a day, so be as kind as you can.
What would your co-workers miss most about you if you left?
The smell of peanut butter. I don’t know if they’d miss it but they’d note its absence.
Your standard order at a coffee shop?
Black medium roast.
Your ultimate “happy place?”
A record store.
Coke or Pepsi?
Where is your dream location to retire?
Favorite weekend getaway:
Blue Ridge Mountains
Which do you like better: starting or finishing?
I do more starting than finishing, but I like finishing better.
Favorite character from a Disney movie:
The ostriches in the “Dance of the Hours” section of Fantasia, or Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove.
When will robots take over the world?
Life on other planets? Yes or no?
Probably. Is that a yes?
Stay up late or get up early?
Get up early.
Does the early bird really get the worm?
It’s about worms? Never mind then.
Ever danced in the rain?
Nope. It might look like I’m dancing when I run though.
What habit would you most like to break?
What’s the most amazing thing about you that most people wouldn’t have guessed?
I don’t know about “amazing”, but a lot of folks don’t know that I’m a songwriter. I’ve won awards for my songwriting, and I play my songs all over the country, but I don’t carry myself like a songwriter, I guess.
Words or phrases you overuse:
I think I’m over it, but for a while there I way, way overused “patina”. Drove my wife crazy.
Your favorite movie of all time:
If money weren’t an object, but you still had to work, what would your job be?
What radio station do you listen to most frequently?
91.5 FM WUNC
One day, when you have time, what would you like to learn how to do?
If my fingers hold out I’d love to learn to play mandolin, clawhammer banjo, etc.
What’s been your wildest adventure?
I won the Kerrville New Folk Song Competition in 2015, but my greatest adventure was physically getting to the festival that year.
The air travel to Texas was uneventful, but as soon as we touched down the sky opened up and let loose the heaviest, most sustained lashing rain I’ve ever seen. And the guy driving the shuttle from San Antonio to Kerrville bulleted through this rain at speeds I would have found dangerous if the road were bone dry. I clearly pictured us hydroplaning into a bridge abutment. Yep, we were going to die.
We arrived at a hotel in Kerrville, where to my shock Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell were giving a free concert in the lobby (their show at the festival had been decidedly rained out). Turned out the shuttle driver was under the gun because Emmylou and Rodney needed the vehicle the second their performance ended.
I took in the show for about 20 minutes before the shuttle driver found me again to tell me he was going to try to get me up to the ranch where the festival was.
“Aren’t the roads closed up that way?”
“Yeah, we’ll see.”
Sure enough, about a mile up the road we found a “ROAD CLOSED” sign. The driver nosed the car around it.
Another mile up, we encountered water flowing across the road. He assessed the stream and said, “that’s less than a foot. We’ll make it.”
For about the fourth time that day, I thought, I am going to die. He was right, though. We got across fine, and there was no more water in the road after that.
This was getting to the festival.
Winning the competition (the next day) is a whole other story, but I don’t remember that nearly as clearly.
Your ideal vacation would be:
Nazareth, Pennsylvania, to see the Martin Guitar factory. Someday…
What’s your favorite snack food?
Your ideal dinner guest list (living or dead, up to six invitees) includes:
Paul F. Tompkins (comedian), John Lennon, Leo Kottke and Neil Finn
A fear you haven’t yet overcome is:
The most famous person you’ve ever met:
I used to be the product manager for a large record store in Atlanta. I met lots of famous people there: Johnny Cash, Elton John and Todd Rundgren come to mind.
The best advice you ever got was:
“Begin. Don’t get hung up on making it perfect. You can fix it later.”
What are five most frequently-played songs on your iPod playlist?
At the moment:
“Shine a Different Way” by Patty Griffin
“Keep It There” by The Weepies
“Videotape” by Radiohead
“Tomorrow Tomorrow” by Elliott Smith
“Look Around” by Stevie Wonder
What would be your last meal?
A New York Strip steak, because I’m allergic to red meat and it might kill me.
What’s your usual wake-up time in the morning?
What’s your cell phone ringtone?
“La Vie En Rose” by Louis Armstrong
Who’s your best friend and why?
Anita Collins, my wife, because she always has my back but she busts me when I deserve it.
If you could instantly learn one language, which would it be?
Spanish. It would allow to me communicate with so many more people around me.
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