What’s So Cool About Asheville?

September 2012

Tuesday — 

We had gone to Pennsylvania for a gathering of Paula’s family (highly amusing yet heart wrenching blog entry yet to come on that one) and decided to treat ourselves to a couple of days in Asheville on the way home.

The drive from Pennsylvania to Asheville is nice, not thrilling until you get to the last hour. We approached the city going west on I-40. The climb is pretty intense, you’re seeing some elevation now, and the mountains ahead of us were shrouded in a thick mist. As we got closer, and you can believe me or kiss my butt, a shaft of sunlight broke through and shone straight down on the city. Was this a sign, a message from above, or had we wandered into a Monty Python bit? As it turns out, Asheville is just that way.

Tim and Andrew have driven up from Florida to meet us. Ten hours for them, ten for us. We arrived within a few minutes of each other, with them just ahead. When we get to our rental cabin, they’ve got it unlocked and are situating things. Our sons are strong and resourceful men, and I am flooded with gratitude once again for them.

The cabin is really a small house that leans up against a mountain. It’s perfect. Well done, o goddess of on line research!

We’re actually in another tiny town. This one is Marshall, North Carolina, half an hour from the big city. We can walk a hundred yards or so down a lane that takes us to the main (only) street in Marshall. What a find it turns out to be! It’s a hippie heaven.

Our first stop is at a converted church that is now a restaurant called Good Stuff. The outside area is crowded with a convivial bunch who advise us that it is taco night and that we should not miss it. Inside we go. They are correct. The tacos are pretty much the best we’ve ever had, and of course a little ale is indicated. Something local? I believe it was.

A couple of folk singers are alternating sets. They’re both very good, with that nu-hippie, organic, occupy thing going. The people are mostly outside though, and our singers compensate a little too much. It’s cool, it takes a while to learn how to feel a room.

The owner has been making a go of this place for six years after having moved out here from Asheville. He feels that Marshall is what Asheville used to be. That, and he can afford a house here. Tomorrow we shall see.

Wednesday — 

There are several good places to eat here. Last night we had earmarked a cafe called Zuma, although Tim had re-dubbed it ‘hippie breakfast.’ As in, hey, let’s go for hippie breakfast. It turns out to be another excellent find. The food and bean are superior, and the people are talkative and friendly.

As a matter of fact, almost everyone we will meet in Asheville turns out to be open and welcoming. I went out of my way to start conversations, partly just to see if the pattern would hold, and partly because, let’s be honest here, I just love to bullshit with people. These people are up for it.

Hippie breakfast concluded, we set out to explore.

Our directions coming into Marshall were slightly confusing and heading back into Asheville is no different. We find ourselves on a winding river road that seems to take us  deeper and deeper into the great outdoors. Tim is surreptitiously checking his gas gauge. Soon enough though, we blow into town on fumes, gas money didn’t give out in Gurney, and here we are.

A church feeding homeless people. An old neighborhood full of architectural marvels of many styles. A lush park where we walk. Graffiti. Old factories converted into an arts district. A dizzying profusion of magnificent old and new buildings. Food. Art. Street musicians. Craft brews. Obama stickers. Motion, energy, vitality, creativity, color. And everywhere, we talk to people. They are open, friendly, diverse, optimistic, liberal, full of life. Asheville is alive.

Time for dinner, boy are there a lot of choices. We end up at Tupelo Honey Cafe: southern food updated for the 21st century, bless our hearts.

Exhausted and exhilarated, we head back to Marshall. There’s one last stop to make, though. The Moog factory is here. They build synthesizers, and you can take a tour and see them do their thing. It’s late, and they’ve long since closed for the day. No matter, we go there, and Paula takes my picture leaning against a brick wall with a giant painting of the company’s iconic founder Bob Moog.

Back to the cabin. Sleep, gratefully.

Thursday —

“Hey, who’s up for hippie breakfast?”

It’s actually hippie lunch by the time we get packed and underway. A last pass through Marshall and we’re off.

The trip home is uneventful except for the fact that the boys vector off for further adventures on their own. We’ll see them a little later.

A brief moment of sadness as the mountains recede behind us. Mostly we’re happy and grateful for our beautiful family. Such love.

As for you, Asheville, we’ll see you again soon. Who’s got gigs?

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