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A Taste of Asheville

Asheville sunset

Asheville, NC

was my destination for Day 2. Have you heard of Asheville? I had not until about a year ago, when my numerous trips to Charlotte, NC meant that I had dipped a toe in the waters of western North Carolina, leaving me clamoring for more.

Asheville is the unofficial capital of the western North Carlina region, which includes the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (but more on that in the next post!) and a whole lot of rural backwaters. My first few hours there I walked only a few blocks, but found above 7 street musicians performing- quite a musical town, it seems.

I also found several different views of the city itself from denizens and newly-arrived outsiders, from “artsy” to “overpriced” to “in the process of gentrifying” and more.

I had an afternoon, a night, and a morning to explore the city, and got down to business:

Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, Asheville, NC

Grove Arcade

is a sort of shopping arcade like I found at the Victorian Market in Inverness, but modernized instead of kept historical. This structure held one of my favorite finds in Asheville, the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar— I mean, can you imagine my excitement?? Such an awesome idea, and so well designed and structured inside to promote cozy little conversations.

Up Haywood Ave, I found another of the city’s highlights:

Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe

which was all a good indie bookstore could hope to be: a font of local knowledge, a repository for independent book news, a generator of uncountable staff recommendations in every category, a magnet for many local writers and visiting authors… the cafe did not manage to tempt me with its delights, but that may have been because I had already popped into:

French Broad Chocolate Lounge

where I promptly tried to order one of everything (have I done this before?) and the counter staff were patient with my questions and very helpful. I love the principles that guide the company, summed up and displayed proudly in the lounge area:

Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe

I had dinner at a small southern-style tapas joint that was pretty good, The Southern, and then found a place hosting a ‘string band’ for the night- which I learned meant bluegrass if they sang along with it. It was a bar called:

Jack o’ the Wood

and I would love to share the band’s sound with you (they were called Chompin’ At The Bit) but WordPress isn’t allowing videos for security reasons… and I’m on the road trying to get these updates out as they come, so that’s enough of that!

I returned after one fun set to my lodging, my first ever experience of AirBnb, up the hill to the north of downtown. As I would later learn, the picturesque winding, hilly roads of the neighborhood would be good practice for the Great Smoky Mountain Roads! And then next morning, I ventured forth to a famous local joint:

Early Girl Eatery

which serves typical southern breakfast fare, biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, even “Meat ‘N’ Two’s” a southern staple, or so I’m told. I went for the biscuits and smoky bacon gravy, my first ever! Very scrumptious, and my wallet approved as well ($4 lunch, don’t mind if I do).

It was a delightful, too-short taste of a town that definitely has a lot to offer. My favorites, and missed attractions that merit a return visit are: the music, the indie scene, and the Biltmore Estate (not enough time to justify the $45 ticket).

Got any thoughts on these last three? Or the other places I mentioned? From Asheville? What did I miss?

I’ll be spicing up the ‘Life Observation’ posts with ‘Local Travelogue’ posts like this one as I criss-cross the country; next up: the Great Smoky Mountains.

Great Smoky Mountains in Fog

They do look pretty smoky in the fog, don’t they?

The First Day

I recently wrote a post about processing your experiences. But today I will be switching gears (har har) to talk about a more immediate experience, one that has not been mediated by time, space, or perspective.

me and car, stuffed to the gillsI’m talking about this

Epic Road Trip I’m on.

If you’ve signed up for the newsletter, you already got a taste of it yesterday. But here is where I’ll be posting my observations and stories along the way, as they happen.

Observation 1: Leaving is harder than Going

As stressful as it was to throw a party the day before leaving D.C., it was an awesome party. Friends came from far away, in sickness and in health, bearing non-space-taking gifts and their love and encouragement for the journey.

It was still difficult to let go of things I thought I could use in the next 6 months. Friends helped.

It was painful to cart so many boxes down to the post office, my biceps and forearms protesting the awkward burdens. Friends helped.

It felt so rushed, with so much pressure to Get Out Of There. I ended up leaving 3 hours later than intended, and forgot all the coats and bags hanging in the closet. (D’oh!)

But as soon as I got out of the familiar suburbs of DC, passing through the Beltway to merge onto I-95 S, it disappeared. I felt lighter, giddy, exhilarated, yet calm.

Leaving is harder than going.

Observation #2: Social Capital Counter-Balances the Learning Curve

You may or may not have heard of the term social capital; basically it means that you have assets based on the relationships you cultivate, and what the people in your networks can help you achieve.

I realized as I passed Braddock Rd that eventually I would forget all those things I had learned, all that local knowledge I had built up, and that some of the relationships I had cultivated will dry up and drop off. The same thing happened after I left San Jose, after study abroad in Paris, after Istanbul. It’s natural, after all, to make new attachments and let go of the old.

Moving to a new place will involve new acquaintances, finding new businesses to frequent, learning local streets. The transition time will be a low in terms of social capital, but a high in terms of learning, something I’ve been missing a lot lately.

While I am learning, everything will be exciting!–new!–scary!– and thenĀ  as I settle in to a new routine in Portland, OR, things will become easier and relationships will start up again. Another wonderful learning cycle.

Do either of these ring true for you? Tell us in the comments whether you agree… or not!

A Flood of NY Pictures

Port Washington dock
Sign about Port Washington Dock
My first run!
Shadows on leaves
My shadow and the blue, blue water
Foliage on the art museum grounds
Ginny and Irene
Cindy and Irene
Nassau County Fine Arts Museum- home of the angry geese!
Lesson: BE HAPPY!