Asheville!

Oct 28 Sun, West Asheville, North Carolina

 8:31am

Ring…ring…”Hello”                                                                          

“Hey…where you at man?

“I’m at (anonymous), where are you?”

“Not sure, let me find a cup of coffee… and my bearings and I’ll call ya back in 20.”

 

I knew I was in a parking lot in West Asheville, but having parked the car along Haywood Rd. and after walking to many of the fine establishments this area has to offer the night before, I lost track. I lost track of my friends (or they lost track of me) and the location of the windshield wiper blade switch…which an anonymous passerby-er-err was kind enough to assist me with. She even gave me a hug and tucked me into the front seat of the car.

I drove out from behind the buildings and onto Haywood and immediately pulled over.

  

8:42am

Ring…ring…ring…”Hello”

“West End Bakery, I’m at –“

“Hey, do you know where the West End Bakery is?  (“Yep,” said a voice from the background.) Right on man…we’re on our way.”

 

I walked into the bakery and my senses began to yawn and stretch when the sounds and smells burned through my fog brain, brain fog. I actually felt pretty good, considering. Hungry, I glanced at the menu but thought best to wait for my friends. “Coffee, please.”

 

After they arrived, the four of us sat down and I ordered the “Trout Bagel,” a fresh everything bagel with fresh cream cheese and topped with fresh, local caught trout.

Although I only ate half and offered the other, it was scrumptious; a word my mother used to use comes to mind to best to describe.

 

Over the course of a few more cups of coffee, we shared comical details of the night which included the fact that I was now coat- less. Through all the doors I passed, there must have been one room in one bar that was a little warmer than the others, and that’s where my coat must be. The only clue to where I definitely was, after playing the process of elimination, was revealed when I pulled a pack of matches from my pant’s pocket.

After we exchanged handshakes and hugs with our new friends, my friend Tomas and I set off on a quest for the coat. (By the way, all names I use in this blog are fictitious, to protect the innocent and respect their privacy you know. And it maybe true…we all have an identical twin…somewhere.)

“Man, I’m sure glad I’m not a dentist,” he said, looking at his choppers in the rear view mirror. “Why?” I asked, buckling my seat belt. “Cause I probably would have tried pulling some teeth last night!” Oh right…”The Hangover.”

 

We found the coat, like the matchbook said, and what was in the coat pocket was in the coat pocket. Desoto’s on Haywood has some good karma points coming their way but I get the feeling that’s just how the people of Asheville are.

From the moment we rolled into The Riverside Arts District and made our first stop at The Wedge, I could feel the coolness in the atmosphere, and I’m not talking about the effects of hurricane Sandy who was casting her gusty winds across the NC Mountains that Saturday afternoon. I’m talkin’ about the whole vibe, the art, the architecture and most for sure, the people. From the locals to the bartenders who worry about your well being rather than the tip jar. To the wait staff, to the young lady who stopped to help me out, thank you. The West End Bakery… you were right where I needed you. And to our new friends, who live in Asheville, thanks for accommodating.

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Bull Pen Falls via Cashiers, NC

What is it about waterfalls that draws us? Sure, they’re nice to look at, kinda dangerous…and they smell good too. Many stories and songs have been written about waterfalls. Lovers consummate, sinners reborn, daredevils become famous and life gets contemplated…  all by the calm pool below the torrent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker when it comes to waterfalls. Now throw in a bridge by a waterfall and holy shit look out! “A birder-fall, a widger-wall!” Like a little kid seeing the “golden arches,” ya just gotta pull over. There’s what’s called the “Land of the Waterfalls Loop Ride” that passes through Cashiers, where I happened to be. After doing a quick Bing search of the falls in this area, I chose Bull Pen Falls. Not only because I thought the name was cool, it also required driving 5 miles on a winding gravel road to get to…yeah, sounds a little remote. When I crossed the narrow bridge that spanned the river, I parked in one of  two available parking spots. Priding myself for taking the road less traveled, I reached for the door handle when no sooner a parade of suv’s arrived and began lining the roadside. With 12 packs of beer under arm, the twenty-somethings marched past me and down the footpath that led to the falls. Yep, I thought, waterfalls do make for a good place to party.  I watched them for a little while from the bridge as they posed for pictures and laughed and frolicked. I’m sure each and everyone of them will remember that day at the falls for the rest of their lives.

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Mount Gilead, NC

I wasn’t planning on visiting an Indian mound that Sunday when I left for Mt. Gilead, but after seeing the road signs indicating an opportunity, my curiosity got the best of me. For brevity, it’s basically an Indian burial ground.  In the past I have always been intrigued with graveyards, the older the better. I would walk through reading the names and dates on the tombstones and wonder what they looked like and how they died. I would walk past the ornate marble monuments and look more closely at the simple stone markers. Sometimes I’d have to pull back the encroaching grass in order to read what was engraved on the flat rock. Hey there “John,” I see you were 38 when you died in 1927. I see your wife and infant daughter over here and looks like maybe you buried them 2 years before you died. Judging by all the dilapidated farm houses along the gravel road I took to get here, I’ll assume you were a farmer. I want to believe you were crushed in a tractor accident but something tells me it was more along the lines of a suicide. I’d ask your parents, who outlived you by 20 years, but they’re buried here too. Accident or intention, it doesn’t much matter … you, “John,” are with your family now.

When I was growing up, I was taught that the dead know nothing. When you die your body returns to the earth and your soul, spirit… energy, just kinda goes “poof.”(Yes, one of a slew of religions) Without elaborating on this theory, let me just say to the theologians; you can rewrite that “Book” as many times as you want but one thing is certain, nothing about the after-death is certain. (Take the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures for example) What is certain is that we as individuals have the amazing capability to believe what we want. The ability to draw from our life experiences and others around us, what we see and feel, gather, absorb and interpret, enables us write our own doctrine. And so what if we never come to a conclusion because conclusion is ultimately death itself. Instead, maintaining an open mind is what drives me to a better understanding. So “John,” your death is alive, as it gave me energy to think about you, and in a way, it helped me understand my life a little better…thanks man.

Ok, getting back to the Indian Mound. As I said, I wasn’t planning a visit here. I’m on a life quest, not a death ride. But knowing what I know about the Indian culture told me I wanted to know more. Native Americans didn’t have an “instruction book” to go by, as is placed in front of us every time we turn around. No, my interpretation is they believed that the Earth was Mother, giver and sustainer of life. Everything on Earth was alive, interconnected and therefore worshipped and respected. The Father, the sky, the stars… was where the soul went after death, the “afterlife.” As with most beliefs, Indian theology is complex, and according to most shamans, not easy, or intended, for the white man to comprehend. When the Europeans first introduced themselves to the Natives, they couldn’t understand this concept and therefore feared it. Typical, what we fear the most is what we don’t understand.  Apparently, the Europeans were the ones to call the Native’s beliefs a “religion,” when in reality; it is a process of life.  I think the Natives were on to something.

I pulled up to a building that reminded me of a one story middle school from the seventies, institutional like…  brick façade, and there might have well been a flagpole to.  I parked my car in the expansive, nearly empty parking lot and walked in. “This your first visit?” asked a man as pale as Casper, dressed in Park attire. “Umm…yes,” I replied, half expecting a darker skin tone and period clothing. He entertained me through the rehearsed motions, handed me a “self guided tour” pamphlet and sent me out a back door to The Mound.

I walked the museum like structures, left and returned, with permission, with the travelingchair. I sat in a replicated building on top of the Mound and thought of this:

She took off her spectacles and laid them at her nightstand lined with pewter frames of her past. Before she slumbered off, she gazed into the eyes of one particular photograph, as she did every night, for the past sixty-two years.

She could see her repeated reflection against the glass… leather skin, sunken sockets and toothless kiss.

Called to war, he died youthfully handsome shortly after they married.

She always dreamed of the day they would be reunited.

Death came that evening and gently carried her away.

“I wonder….

When she arrived, was he there waiting?

Would he still find her beautiful after all these years of timelessness?

Perhaps…

I think the passing of time is just an illusion, resulting in a twisted refection of what we expect to see.

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Mount Mitchell, NC

“Strange…but that mountain peak behind us looks higher.”

“Maybe, but the chair is higher than you right now.”

“I think it’s higher than… everyone, except if they’re in a plane.”

“Or… West of the Mississippi.”

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Shamboozle Fest 2012

Black Mountain, NC

Held in Black Mountain, NC at The Pisgah Brewery, the 2nd annual Shamboozle Festival was…”sha-mazing!” I wasn’t sure what the meaning of “shamboozle” was so I looked it up, and I gotta say, I’m glad I made it through the night without getting “shamboozled”… or did I?

“You don’t mind where you are ’cause you know where you’ve been”  –  from the song, “Let Your Troubles Roll By” Carbon Leaf

 

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South Mountains, NC

Photo by Jeffrey Arnold Swan

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New River Blues Festival 2012

September 2, 2012 Grassy Creek, NC

John Dee Holeman was well into his set when a passing storm cast it’s wetness on the crowd gathered along the riverbank. A colorful field of umbrellas popped as if in tune with the rain drops splatting on the water and the chords played on the guitar. Drenched sundresses hugged skin as they danced in front of the stage. I was under the largest Poplar tree I ever saw, and the storm passed.

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