I’ve been away. To those who know me, and not even that well, me being away is as common an occurrence as toe nail growth. The last ten months of my life have been packed with packing and unpacking, regional migration and plenty of ch-ch-ch-changes. The most significant of those changes happened last December on a snow-less weekday afternoon in Brooklyn. After securing my security deposit from my feisty Sicilian landlady, I was finally ready for my next move.
Movement is easy but moving is hard. Moving is harder still when moving an entire one-bedroom apartment, complete with furniture I outright owned. Wisely, I enlisted moving experts to do all of the heavy lifting while my little brother and I stowed what was lighter and more manageable into a minivan and made our way south.
All moving eventually finds somewhere to stop. The minivan, groaning from the weight of such space-fillers as wooden coat hangers, a coffee table and garbage bags of clothing I look ridiculous in trudged its way through the eastern seaboard’s urban thickets. Chevrolet’s finest then traipsed over the Mason-Dixon line and skimmed the Appalachians. Hundreds of miles later, my brother Dave and I had arrived at Jack Of The Wood, a divey bar in downtown Asheville, NC, right in the middle of a set by local favorites, The Krektones. My old friend, Rabuck, greeted us with hugs and local beer. The Kreks played their surfy jazz-rock as the jumpy crowd got down. Much later that night we crashed hard at Rabuck’s sister Carrie’s house, soon to be my new house. The next morning, Dave and I hastily unloaded the van and stuffed its contents into my future room, an almost perfect square with lime green walls. Dave and I then climbed back into the van and raced to the outskirts of Charlotte, NC where my parents have only recently been wading into retirement.
All of this is to say that as of January of this year, I am officially a southern gentleman, or at the very least, southern. For the surprising many who don’t know, Asheville is a mountain oasis, anchoring the extreme western flank of the northern most Carolina. I use ‘oasis’ because naturally, culturally, creatively and politically it may be the best word to describe this burg of not even ninety thousand though ‘anomaly’ may be slightly better. Once you make your way to the surrounding Blue Ridge mountains or to nearby Black Mountain or Montreat or even the not too far away Smoky Mountains, you may also be forced to use the word ‘scenic’ or even — if you really must — ‘picturesque’. A nature hike or two into my stay and I knew I had made the right decision.
As to that decision, I had my reasons. As a freelancer, the world is my mailbox. The Internet has freed me from not only a daily commute but from having to commute anywhere, period. While I love New York and all of her quirks, I didn’t need to put up with her financial pitfalls and hassles to appreciate her. For the almost three years New York and I were a thing, we tried to make it work. She was fun and always up for something. Neither of us ever seemed to want to sleep. What we had was passionate and all-consuming and man, could she cook! But once I managed to get my own place at what I thought was a reasonable rent (funny how New York dramatically shifts your definition of what’s reasonable), things between us started to change. Financially, our relationship started to take its toll. To an increasing number of my fellow urbanites, the city was becoming more and more of a high-maintenance gal. The monthly hustle of trying to indulge in her expensive charms and pay my ConEd bill, all with irregular paychecks, was proving to be a challenge to my usually low stress levels. I was faced with a choice: Either spend my nickels on four hundred square feet and the occasional cockroach or put them towards plane tickets, foreign street food and typhoid inoculations. Guess which one I chose?
Hence, we needed a break. New York and I agreed to try the long distance thing. I would have sporadic visitation rights and she received sole custody of all my unused MetroCards. We would always have the F train.
Many of my friends and relatives thought it odd that a proud city rat like myself would relocate to a place without public transportation or a major sports team. One friend wondered why I was moving out to the country and had I any previous experience riding horses. Another couldn’t imagine me permanently behind the wheel of a car, especially with other drivers around. Some people I know spouted the same tired cliches about the South or were quick to label Asheville as part of the more tired and condescending “flyover states”.
But I knew better. I was a semi-frequent visitor to Asheville over the last ten years. I have great friends here. I have mountains and nature as well as art, craft and an always evolving food scene. I have close proximity to my aging parents (but not too close). I have farmers’ markets and festivals; breweries and barbecues. I have hippies, yippies, yuppies, transients, townies, old money and new. I have breathing room, financially, and the room to follow other creative pursuits more substantially. Hey, I have a new home.
But the traveler in me is eternally antsy. And hungry. The world outside of Asheville still calls me out of restless sleep and implores me to either get in my car or to keep employing flight attendants. Watch this space to see what happens next.
WHAT: the cottony mists sitting above the mountains along the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, south of Asheville
WHEN: August 10, 2013
WHERE: Blue Ridge Parkway, near Asheville, North Carolina, United States