March 31st, 2016

This is a really cool city.  A breath of fresh air.  I need it.

As much as I love Savannah and Tybee, this place is something totally off the charts for me.  There is a raw appeal, a freshness of imagination.  The Dogwoods are in full bloom, Wisteria grows wild along the roadsides, Azaleas are everywhere.

There are street musicians (buskers) on street corners (there’s even a drum circle performance downtown on Friday nights,
everyone welcome, play or dance).
There are superb art shops and galleries, creative store fronts, fabulous restaurants and pubs.  I don’t even drink beer (I’ve had less than ten beers in ten years) but this area is the birthplace of multiple micro breweries so I had to sample one at WEDGE in
The River Arts District.

There, we met some fun young people with dogs. The seating is casual, and “meet your neighbor” is the name of the game.  Lots of picnic table units lined up so you have to get sociable.  Asheville is very dog-friendly and, if you obey the rules, dogs are welcome on patios (but not inside, health regulations).

After our first trip to WEDGE, a brewery located in an old brick warehouse, we decided to tour around the area and were lured to check out the other aged buildings beside the railway tracks. Long abandoned, these funky old structures have become a living palette for graffiti artists. Focus on artists.  The art work is outstanding, even if the subject matter isn’t my preference, it’s still very good.

My photos do it no justice.  I’m not a fan of destructive graffiti but this stuff is amazing, creative and clever. These are true artists exhibiting their talents on the expansive canvases of dilapidated long-ignored buildings.

It’s the other side of the tracks.  And they’ve made it a colorful inventive part of the outer city.

Doug was catching up on business on his cell while Zuma and I were perusing the somewhat eerie site; she and I met a young 20-something guy who was hoisting a battered skateboard into his creaky old car. Feeling secure with big ole ferocious  Zuma The Man Killer at my side, I had to comment to him how cool this place is. The young guy was touched, clearly pleased that I was impressed.  He informed me that the community and a group of skateboard dudes had put it together. Doug I agreed we’d never seen anything like it in our lives.

There are rules.  No profanity, no explicit sexual illustrations, etc. There’s a big sign that lays it all out.  The young guy invited us to the skateboard park at the dead end of the site.  On the other side of the tracks (seriously, the still-operational freight train is in the background).

No way would I have ventured back there without Doug but these were cool guys.  I hailed Doug who was still on the ‘phone doing business; we jumped at the opportunity.  This was a once in a lifetime invitation.  Cool young guy invites old lady with mammoth black dog to check out his skateboard park.  Oh ok!  I’m in!
Come on, Doug!

Beside the train tracks, these guys have created their own skateboard Shangri La.  Doug said to them, “This is just great” and he really meant it because it is great.  One of the guys said,”Yeh.
This is PARADISE“.  And he meant it too.

While a subtle waft of pot smoke sifted through the air, l couldn’t help but feel, here we are, touring America.  No b.s.  No pretense. Not covering up.  Not apologizing. Just BEING.

Asheville.  Gorgeous shops, incredible friendly and open hearted people, outstanding music both in the clubs and on street corners, dreadlocks, gorgeous views of the mountains which surround the entire city, single men and women trekking solo with a banjo and a backpack, clearly stopping by whilst en route to healthily hiking The Appalachian Trail, just doing their thing, not requesting any claim to fame, gay couples holding hands openly strolling along the sidewalks, in love, inviting mouth-watering creative menus at every corner, hot dog stands, coin laundries, sunrises and sunsets that are so vivid in color they simply defy description, chilly mountain nights, hotter than hot days, warm mountain breezes, fancy gelato stands, high-end boutiques, farmer’s markets with emphasis on organic produce. This is America.  I love it.

You couldn’t pull this off in Camden, Maine.  The Good Ole Boys and Women would halt all of this freedom.  Remember Peyton Place?  Yeh. it was filmed in Camden.  For good reason.  Well done, casting people.

I’m so glad we live in Hope, a small the rural area outside of Camden.  I like saying “We live in Hope”.  It’s pretty, private and the people are amazing.  Often, we receive a basket of warm cookies, a casserole, a genuine friendly visit from our neighbors. People are sweet, children come over to play with Zuma and brush the horses at our farm and walk on the trails through the woods. Our neighbors like to be neighborly; they are kind-hearted and generous.  We are all enthusiastic about maintaining the watershed and the woods.  We share our land.  It’s a wonderful place to live.

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