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Earlier this month Yoko and I visited Asheville, a small city nestled in the North Carolina mountains. After a long day's drive we drove into town not really knowing what to expect.  I knew the town had a reputation as an artists' haven, but didn't know what this meant for a place situated right smack dab in the middle of Appalachia. One of the last acceptable stereotypes left in America is that Appalachian people are dangerous inbreds living in squalid conditions. For a variety of reasons--the mythology not least among them--I have become increasingly fascinated with Appalachia.

We finally made it into town only to discover that Asheville was a thriving--and marketedly bohemian--small city. Nearly every street corner in the central business district was occupied by musicians, mostly with a folk/Americana bent. Given the city's Appalachian heritage, I suppose this emphasis on the folk music isn't so surprising. Walking through downtime, we heard a rich variety of folk styles: rootsy old-timey stuff, country-influenced Austin City limits stuff, early 60s collegiate folk stuff, bluesy stuff, singer songwriter-ish stuff. Our little stroll felt like a recapitulation of the entire history of 20th century American folk music. 

As we turned onto College Street, the city's main drag, we encountered a sextet that looked like it had stepped out of a 1963 

My first thought was the sudden realization that, had I gone to college in the early 1960s, I would have been the most pathetically earnest folkie this side of Pete Seegar. The way things are going, I may end up this way anyway. (In honor of Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday, I am reading his biography, which is making me want to jump rails, become a communist and organize migrant workers.) Had I been placed  on an American campus in early 1960s as a young man, there is absolutely no doubt that I would have been insufferably politically aware. I shudder with hypothetical embarrassment at the turtleneck sweater and beret I would have probably worn. 

My second thought was to notice the number of attractive women who circled around them with rapt attention, realizing that Asheville is one of the few places in American where you can wear suspenders and still enjoy the sex life of a rock star. Chalk that up as a point in Asheville's favor.

We ended up going to a restaurant called Mayfels, which was one of the innumerable haute-southern joints in town. (Not that the city is exactly bereft of dining choices; there was a New York Times review of an Indian restaurant that noted Asheville's passion for Indian food. Chalk another point up.)

I ordered some rather delicious jambalaya and Yoko a delish po' boy. We drank some of the local beer and watched the tourists stroll by. Stunningly, Asheville recently beat out Portland in a recent poll for the title of Beer City USA
. As I made short work of my jambalaya (and the cornbread!) I noticed a Belgian-style bar down the street. Chalk up point number three. 

Nursing my beer, I added up the points. Nestled in the mountains, blessed with a mild, four-season climate, teeming with musicians and artists and boasting a terrific food and beer culture--I started to wonder if Asheville hadn't been custom made to appeal to my tastes...


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 17th, 2012 01:39 am (UTC)
Asheville's great. I once saw crusty punks and cops enjoying a sincere laugh together there. The annual Moog Fest is pretty enjoyable, too. And there's a weekly drum circle at one of the downtown parks, so you know which park to avoid at least once a week.
Jul. 17th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
If you put a hot guy in suspenders, he's still hot. What's surprising is that Asheville is a place where a hot guy plays that kind of music. I'm impressed.

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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