Spent last weekend in Asheville, N.C. — a town neither Jenn nor I had been to since, like, dinosaurs roamed the Earth. (Turns out they still exist in Asheville, but I’m getting ahead of myself.) My last time through, my visit included just a drive through downtown and a stop at the Biltmore. I’d seen an art-house movie theater, though, so I had a feeling I’d like more time there.
This time, we stayed with friends who arranged for a condo less than a mile from downtown, enabling us to walk practically everywhere. (I was particularly fond of this tack, given our experience in Santa Fe last month.) It was maybe a two-mile trek to the warehouse district for an art crawl, but it was worth it, even as we got caught in the rain a couple of times.
Despite it being a pretty crunchy town, our pedestrian efforts escaped some. I spent five minutes talking to a woman at the art-walk info booth trying to figure out how much walking we could save on the free trolley. She had no concept of how far we’d walked. We’d passed the Asheville Brewing Company about halfway there, and I thought that might help give her a frame of reference.
“We’re trying to head back toward the Asheville Brewing Company,” I said.
“Are y’all parked way over there?” she asked.
“No, we’re parked way past that, but that’s where we’re headed.”
You shouldda seen her eyes…
I know it sounds silly, but our experiences seemed amplified having walked to see them. Maybe the extra pavement pounding made us appreciate a seat and a cold beer that much more. Or maybe — bear with me here — maybe there’s a psychological plus. When you park in a city, on the street or in a lot, you’re sort of grounded there. You spend too many brain cycles on remembering the cross streets where you left your car or how much time is still on the meter.
When you’re pedding it, you can simply focus on the menu at that kick-ass vegan restaurant (that’s right), or the snazzy ringed Epcot T-shirt that you struggle to put back on the rack at the vintage clothing store.
So, enough preaching. Here, in no particular order, is a list of the coolest stuff we experienced while we were there:
- A kick-ass vegan restaurant, The Laughing Seed. (One dish is The New South: Herb and cornmeal encrusted portabella cap, dirty quinoa, chilled black-eyed pea salad, grilled chiffonade of greens, Tabasco aioli.)
- The film “What Maisie Knew,” at the Fine Arts Theatre. A very good telling of Henry James’s story (but set in modern day), starring Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. It exceeded the source material, says the only guy I know who read the book.
- The Fire Escape — an extra special pale beer muddled with jalapenos made by the Asheville Brewing Company. There were breweries and pubs offering local beer all over the place.
- A record store that sells mostly vinyl. You know, records. We found a 45 rpm copy of “The Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley,” a piece of propaganda surrounding a terrible massacre with a Columbus tie.
- The dark back corner of a warehouse at the end of the art crawl where there stands a giant Tyrannosaur puppet made of scrap metal. It’s a piece by now-deceased kinetic sculptor John Payne. The industrial music was pumping, and you could just grab the handles at the end of two pulleys and make the behemoth join the rave. Jenn demonstrates below: