Thanksgiving Recap

My Thanksgiving was awesome. I got to spend a few days at home with my family before heading up to Asheville to visit with a friend and his family. While at home, I got to spend a lot of time cleaning out my grandmother’s house, since she has just gone into a nursing home.

The people who live next door to her house have a dog that they keep in a lot in their back yard. His name is Sandy. He never gets fed or loved or brought in out of the cold. I fed him while I was there and put blankets in his little house to shield him from some of the cold air.

Sandy is slowing dying. He is starving. You can see each one of his ribs. He has frostbite from the cold. The tips of his ears are black. He may have cancer or some other terrible health thing going on. He has a growth on his stomach and some sores on his hips. When I take him food, he practically rips it out of my hands. He is a sweet, loving dog. He presses himself against the chicken wire of his lot to be petted and loved while shivering against the cold.

I have laid awake many a night worrying about this dog, but my mother forbid my from kidnapping him, which is what I really wanted to do when I found out that calling animal control would only result in him being left there or taken and put down quickly. The legal options suck. Many people have encouraged me to just take him. But what’s holding me back is the possibility that I may end up living in that house (rent-free since I’m unemployed), and I can’t very well steal the next-door neighbor’s dog and then show back up living with it next door. Particularly in a place where you are liable to get shot for being on someone else’s property — never mind taking their property.

Animal control either hasn’t done anything or hasn’t been able to find the people at home, because Sandy is still out there starving in the cold. My mom says she might try to talk to the owners to see if they’ll agree to give him up. I can’t understand why someone would want to own a dog they don’t care about and don’t want to take care of. I can’t understand why they wouldn’t want someone else to have it who would give it love and food and a warm place to sleep.

I didn’t grow up with dogs, but since I have owned one, I have not been able to accept animal cruelty or abuse in any way. My mom says things like, “You don’t just kidnap a child you know is being abused — you have to go through the proper legal channels.” And I think things like, “But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes you do have to take matters into your own hands.” It’s not like someone who is leaving their dog outside in the winter to starve, freeze, and die is going to hunt me down and press charges if I take it and give it something better. Right?

Anyways. I saw them feed him exactly once, by throwing a plate of scraps over the fence to him. His water bowls are all full of leaves and dirt. When I’m not there, my dad goes down and feeds him. Animal control has been called by several parties, but so far nothing has happened. The rescue agencies there say the only way they can foster a dog is if the owner willingly relinquishes it. And I’m also afraid that Sandy needs more medical attention and care than I would be able to pay for. So for now, he is still stuck out there, and we are doing what we can here and there. When he hears our cars pull into the driveway, he peeps his head around the corner of his little house to see if we’re coming with food and gentle stroking and soothing words. When we do, he looks up at us with huge, sad eyes and shakes.

After spending Thanksgiving dinner with my own family on the farm in Mount Vernon, I headed up to Asheville to hang out with my friend and his family for a few days.

The night I arrived, I met some of his relatives on their way out, and ended up with a glass of wine in my hand and sitting in the den watching Punkin Chunkin with my friend and his stepdad on the Discovery Channel.

Apparently watching Punkin Chunkin is a holiday tradition for them that I had never heard of. It’s some contest in Delaware where teams drunkenly compete to see how far they can launch a pumpkin, using various apparatuses. I can totally see why people get into this based on the engineering involved. But the whole time I was thinking, “I have family in Delaware, and there is no way they know about this type of redneck shit going down in their state.” It was pretty durn fun to watch, though.

After more pie and more wine and more Punkin Chunkin, the evening found my friend and I in his childhood basement bedroom, where I used to read the homework reading assignments from his history book to him, playing Candy Land Bingo and drinking Cold Mountain Ale (local brew provided by his mom, because she is awesome like that). And watching Friday Night Lights, which is a TV show we’re addicted to about high school football in Texas.

The next day we drove around town reminiscing about when we both used to live there, and marveling at the new things that have been built since we left, and dreaming about a time when we’ll be able to afford to live there again. Had to get back home for the Auburn/Alabama football game, which his mom made like a Superbowl Party, complete with our favorite beers and buffet of chili cheese dip and all kinds of other good things to eat. We all had our Auburn game day shirts on and were completely psyched when Auburn won. War Eagle!

That evening, my friend’s mom took us out for a night on the town. We went on a tour of local microbreweries just to check them out since we hadn’t seen them. We went to the Biltmore Estate for a little while to see the new village there. It’s called Antler something and there are all these little shops and a museum, where we watched a short video on the history of the estate. After that we went to the winery.

And from there we went to a restaurant on the square called Cedric’s, where we warmed ourselves up, had some beers and decided what to do next. Cedric’s is named after the Vanderbilts’ beloved Saint Bernard, and there are pictures of him all over. There was a pretty good live blues guitarist playing that night, so that was fun. But we wanted to go downtown. So we didn’t stay too long.

Once downtown, it was a tough call as to where to go. We ended up having dinner at the Lexington Avenue Brewery, because it was a new addition to the scene since we’d both lived there. It was very cool, and crowded, so we sat outside on the patio under the heaters to eat, and that was kinda fun. The waitress asked me and my friend if we were family because we both ordered the same beer and red meat dishes, medium rare. Had to correct her that in fact no, we are not related. This helped my friend’s efforts to look down her shirt when she was leaning over the table, and I will admit, her boobs were worth staring at. So no grief was given. She was one of those Asheville girls who you know can’t possibly be FROM Asheville but whose sexy hippieness is¬† keeping her employed with good tips anyway. What? I’m not jealous.

The food there was good but the beer wasn’t that great, so we decided to go elsewhere before heading home. We wanted to go to Asheville Pizza on Merrimon to relive old times, but my friend’s mom said the bar they just opened downtown was cool. So we went there instead to check out the new place and scenery. It was cool. They have some new beers on tap which were good, and some new t-shirts, but they were sold out of those. It’s very industrial, but I liked it. We had some great conversation there, and some good beer. I got to have my old favorite — Shiva — which I had not tasted in years, and it was delightful.

Afterwards we stopped by the huge new Ingles on Tunnel Road (I can’t believe there’s a huge new Ingles on Tunnel Road) so my friend’s mom could pick up a potato to put in the homemade vegetable soup she was making for him to be able to take back with him. Then we went home and got ready to go back out.

My friend and I decided we had to go to Scandals to see what it was like now. We used to spend almost every Friday and Saturday night there at one or more of their bars, and we wanted to at least see a drag show for old times’ sake while we were there. It turned out that the multiple clubs we used to visit are all separate entrances now, so we just went to Scandals. We saw the drag show, and although it was not as fun as when we knew all the performers, it was still pretty fun. We still knew one of them.

It was a far cry from the days of sneaking underage shots through the mouths of friends and sneaking off to make out in various bathrooms and chain smoking in the pool room, but it was a fun night. We felt kinda old, though. We sat on the sidelines watching the dance floor, while saying things like, “Can you believe we used to come here and dance like that?”

Afterward, we went to Denny’s on Patton, which was always our old refueling station after a night at the club. We were going to get breakfast like we always used to, but there was a table full of redneck kids behind us making foul and hateful comments about some kids at the table next to us, and we had to leave so my friend didn’t beat the shit out of them. So we retreated back to Kenilworth Lake, to his parents’ house, for more Friday Night Lights and eating our take-out bacon and eggs on the water bed that I hate because it’s so hard to get in and out of. Seriously, you shouldn’t need abs of steel just for getting in and out of bed, for fuck’s sake.

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Crafty Love! Outdoor Weddings

Favorite wedding memories from my family:

My parents got married in 1975 in my mother’s parents’ living room. My mom wore a simple cotton hippie dress and daisies in her hair. My dad wore a powder blue suit and left his long hair down. The best man had car trouble on the way and left his jacket at the garage. Halfway through the small ceremony, my grandmother stopped the minister to point out he had skipped a step — the part where he was supposed to ask if anyone had any objections.

When I was about four or five in the early 1980’s, I was the flower girl in my uncle’s wedding. I remember sitting in the floor in his sister’s room while he got ready. As he leaned into the mirror to adjust his bow tie, he sang to himself, “Oh here she comes! Watch out boys, she’ll chew you up! Oh here she comes! She’s a man-eater!” Thank you, Hall and Oates for providing that very special memory that my cousins (his children) prefer I don’t recount. ūüôā

When I was nine, I was a junior bridesmaid in a cousin’s wedding. There was a junior groomsman (a nephew of the bride) who was to walk me down the aisle. Unfortunately, when we watched the video afterward it was clear we were the only attending couple who felt it necessary to sprint to the altar. At this same wedding, the brother of the groom had a terrible time trying to light the candles in the church and eventually had to give up so the bride could walk down the aisle. That couple has an 18-year-old son now who has inherited the truck that his dad used to flee the premises for honeymoon-land. He is still finding grains of white rice.

This weekend I will be attending the wedding of some very good friends in Asheville. In true Asheville fashion, it will be held on a farm, and there is camping for people who would rather sleep outside than stay in a hotel. The happy couple met years ago when they belonged to the same African dance group — she was a dancer; he was a drummer. Sometimes I look around me and think I am so fortunate to know the various amazing and interesting people that I have met over the years. Congratulations to Breanna and Greg! Here’s to a long and happy future. I have to go buy a dress now! While I’m doing that, you guys can check out some outdoor wedding related items on Etsy.

Moss Covered Centerpiece
$10 by Spotted Leopard

100 Bird Seed Favors
$95 by 2 Birds in Love

Ring Bearer’s Bird’s Nest
$14 by Garden Side Studio

Firefly Lantern
$24.99 by Bragging Bags

Land of Sky vs. Camel City

I would say that I am equal parts a glass-half-empty/glass-half-full kind of person. I think it’s the Libra in me. The whole balance thing. Choosing one over the other seems dishonest, because life is just not that black-and-white. It depends on the day. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on my mood.

Lately I’ve been trying to make an effort at positive thinking, and while that is not something that really comes difficult for me, lately it’s been an effort. Since I’ve moved to Winston-Salem, I think I’ve noticed a lot more negative things about it than positive, and I’m not sure if that’s due to my current mindset or if it really just doesn’t measure up to Asheville, from whence I came. So I’m going to do a little contest. If you are familiar with both places, you can weigh in if you like, and I encourage that. But I’m still going on the assumption that no one reads this blog, so it’s mainly a private contest.

Here are some things I miss and some ways that W-S tries to make up for it.

AVL: My Iraqi friend, Fred (actually Faraq), at the Citgo,clov who imported my favorite clove cigarettes for me and always tried to talk me into buying lottery tickets so he could get in on that action if I won.

W-S: Jay (we call him “The Auctioneer”) at the Shell station who always makes me laugh and tries to talk me into buying lottery tickets so he can get in on that action if I win.

AVL: The Orange Peel, Stella Blue, Emerald Lounge, Jack of the Wood, Barley’s, and Westside Pub for seeing awesome bands.

W-S: The Garage, for seeing bands only really known locally.

AVL: Hitting up Usual Suspects every Thursday night with my work peeps to have some drinks, swoon at the cutest bartender in town, and bitch about work.

W-S: I have one single friend here, and we work opposite schedules. I don’t socialize with the people I work with because they have other things to do (and children to look after) than hang out at the bar in the middle of the week.

AVL: Beautiful Blue Ridge mountain landscape surrounding you at all times. Particularly nice rush hour drives due to stunning sunrises and sunsets.

W-S: Sometimes I catch a glimpse of Pilot Mountain (the doorknob) on my way home from work, if traffic is just right and it’s a really clear day.

AVL: A town full of people who are not showering every day either, or else they’re okay with the fact that you aren’t. In fact, you’re cooler because of it.

W-S: You mean you don’t use a curling iron? What about pastel business suits? What would your husband say?

Okay, okay. I feel like I must point out some cool things about the Camel City now, because I do have a handful of good friends here, who are proud of it. And it’s not all bad. Especially when I don’t consider the alternative.

1. There are actually decent jobs here. In fact, that’s why I moved here. The job market in Asheville blows. Everyone wants to live there, but unfortunately unless you’re willing to wait tables or work at a resort, there is not much in the career department. After all, it’s a heavily tourism based economy. Some people are fine with that. Most people do it for a while, get sick of it, and move someplace where there are “real” jobs. “Real” jobs don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things societally, but when you’re just trying to make enough money to afford a place that’s in a semi-safe neighborhood and within 20 miles of your place of employment, that is a lot easier here than there.

We used to marvel at friends in Asheville who would move away to big cities and come back saying “Man, my apartment is like one-sixth of this size now! And it costs twice as much!” It’s interesting to me that just moving a couple hours away means I can make more money and pay less in rent. One of the big issues since I moved to Asheville has been the whole “living wage” thing. Because no one really gets that there. And twelve years later, they’re still fighting that battle. Nothing much has changed. I don’t know what will make it change, if anything.

2. We may not have natural beauty at our doorstep, but at least it’s within driving distance. I can still go hike on the Parkway with my dog — I just have to get up a lot earlier and drive a bit farther. When I lived in Asheville, it took at least an hour of driving up the Parkway to get far enough away from crowds to feel relaxed and comfortable anyway. Now I drive an hour straight to places that are isolated and beautiful and rugged.

3. It’s a different, more challenging, but positive experience to be a weirdo while living amongst the rest of society. I loved being around like-minded souls in Asheville. I loved not feeling weird because there was always someone way more weird than me. But there are days here when I think, it’s a good thing I am me, living here, because how else would these people ever get exposed to anything different?

I think it’s a similar mindset that led my parents and their hippied-out friends to settle back in Rutherford County, just to add to the diversity and open up some minds that might not have had a reason to open up before. It’s very entertaining to me now when I go shopping and someone looks at my patchwork pants or tie-dye skirt and smiles or strikes up a conversation just based on that. It’s so much more rare to find that like-minded soul here, when you do see them, you recognize it immediately.

4. It’s a dead tie between the two towns for quality Japanese food and sushi. This is a good thing. The places in Asheville have better atmosphere, but W-S is more of a take-out town anyway, so the quality of the food is really what matters. People here are less concerned with the authenticity of the dining experience because they’re trying to get home to watch American Idol with their California Rolls.

5. People are people everywhere. The people I’ve met here are great people. They just have different interests. Different focus. Perhaps a little less open-minded in general. Perhaps a little more materialistic. A little more conservative. In Asheville it seems like there really aren’t any “odd groups” of people. Here, it’s minorities. There is much more of a divide racially. If I was a minority living in Asheville, I might disagree with that statement. This is just my perspective.

I may have to postpone this diatribe until later. My brain is a little fried after nearly a week of intensity in the corporate world. I’m not done with good things about Winston, though, so stay tuned!

Musical Monday: Ben Harper Live at the Paramount

ben

Ben Harper is one of the few musicians on my “To See Live” list that I have not seen yet. He doesn’t tour much in¬†our area.¬†He used to come to Asheville once in a while, but it would inevitably sell out in like 2 minutes, and I would be too poor to go anyway. He is one of my all-time favs and one of the few I categorize as “I never get tired of it.” Recently my friend recorded this show for me (random act of kindness) since I am not as technologically advanced as he is in the¬†arena of television and don’t do all that DVR/Tivo stuff. It was about an hour long (which I assume was maybe the first set of the show because I’d be pissed if I went to see him and he only played for an hour). Live at the Paramount Theater in Seattle, from November 2007. I’ve seen/heard several live performances (recordings) of his, but not since the last couple of albums were released. This show featured several of those newer tunes that I had not heard live versions of yet. AWESOME. Just love him.

My next opportunity to see Ben and his new band, the Relentless7, is at the All Good Festival in West Virginia this summer. We’re batting around the idea of heading up there, because it’s the best line-up for a festival within driving distance for us that we’ve seen in a long time. (Update: we’re definitely going! I’m so excited!) One of Swamp’s favorite bands, Sound Tribe Sector 9, is also playing that festival, and as they are a San Francisco band, they’re hard to catch near us more than once a year. They were also in Asheville a couple months ago, but we couldn’t skip work to go. I’m also excited about the possibility of seeing Tea Leaf Green (another San Francisco band I really like), Yonder Mountain, Dark Star, Umphrey’s McGee, Galactic, and a bunch of others. I can do without Keller Williams and moe. If only Jack Johnson was going to be there, I could pretty much die happy. Still waiting for Jack to send me a personal invite to Hawaii…Jack…are you reading this? I am awesome at ping pong and chilling¬†on the beach…

Oh well. If anyone else is up for a road trip in July for some sweet music, let me know! Festivals mean the more the merrier.

Tasty Tuesday: Sakura

sushi

I love sushi. And I love people who will go get sushi with me. It’s really not as weird as people think it is. Last week, Coocatchoo and I tried out Sakura, this place in town we’ve been hearing is great. We both agreed it was the best sushi either of us has ever had. Now, I’m not saying I am a sushi expert. I know a little bit about it. I’m not the most adventurous sushi-eater — I know which things I like, and I tend to stick with those. I’m willing to eat some of the raw stuff. But not all of it. And while I’ve had sushi in every available spot in Asheville, I’ve haven’t had it many other places, except Chicago. Which is a city better known for its pizza and hot dogs than its sushi. All I know is that I’m really excited that the best sushi I’ve tasted thus far in my life is available in my current city. The atmosphere at Sakura could be a little more interesting, but the quality and freshness of the food makes up for that. They also had great sake, and Coocatchoo said the seaweed salad was delish.

So, my top three sushi places are now:
1) Sakura – Winston-Salem, NC
2) Wasabi – Asheville, NC
3) Heiwa Shokudo* РAsheville, NC

When I relayed the news of my discovery to another local friend who is also an Asheville transplant, he said,¬†with his typical sarcasm,¬†“Wow, I can’t believe you found anything here that’s better than Asheville!” He said this only half-jokingly, because he misses Asheville just as much as I do. I may be slightly more vocal than he is about my feelings that everything is better/cooler/prettier/more fun/etc in Asheville. Except, of course, the nonexistent job market and unaffordable property prices. Which would explain why we don’t live there anymore.

*Heiwa has them all beat in terms of atmosphere and ambience.

Thoughtful Thursday: Special Topics in Calamity Physics

51vetnrc1xl1

One of the NY Times’ Top 10 Books of 2006. Best book I’ve read in a couple years at least. This is a great description and interview with author. She grew up in Asheville, and those familiar with the town will recognize many things she describes, from schools to shoe stores to neighborhoods.

The story at first glance seems like your typical pretentious-high-school-clique-wreaks-havoc…but there is so much more to this than a dust jacket blurb could convey. Murder mystery, political subversion, lots of twists and turns, great character development. The author has a very innovative writing style that will either annoy the crap out of you or make you want to send her flowers. I personally wanted to beg her to mentor my (nonexistent) writing career. No character or situation turns out to be quite what you think, and¬†I love unpredictable. I was so sad to finish this book, and that doesn’t happen very often.

They’re making a movie, but I highly recommend reading the book before it’s released.

Super Crafty Saturday: Ashevegas

asheville

This past Friday, my mom and I spent the day in Asheville going to all our favorite crafty places. First we hit my favorite of the three great bead stores in town, Silver Armadillo. They don’t have the most extensive selection in town, but their prices are not too bad, and the type of beads they stock are more to my liking. They have a lot of precious and semi-precious gemstones, and I tend to gravitate towards natural materials more than other types of beads that are available. They have recently moved into a larger store in the same shopping center, and it is quite spacious and pleasant. My favorite purchase from this trip was a white rabbit pelt. I know, it’s gross in a way. But it’s also really beautiful and soft. I’m thinking about either incorporating it into some jewelry (to which my mom wrinkled her nose) or making a pillow out of it. Birdy can’t seem to keep her nose out of that shopping bag. It must still smell a tiny bit rabbity to her high-powered dog nose.

Next on our list, downtown! I lived in Asheville for about 10 years before moving to Winston-Salem last year, and I miss it dearly. It has its pros and cons just like any other city, but it just makes me happy to be there. There is a different focus and a different attitude. People are friendlier and everything is more creative. I wish I made enough money to buy an apartment there so I could be there whenever I wanted. Like every weekend.

yarncubbies

My mom is a big knitter, so we had to go to her favorite yarn shop, Purl’s Yarn Emporium. They have also moved into a better location on Wall Street. In the past,¬†Purl’s has sold some of my mom’s handmade knitting needles. They’re wooden with colorful handpainted balls on the ends. Mom has been trying to get me to learn how to knit for ages, and it has never really appealed to my crafting sensibilities. Until now. Apparently all it took was finding some yarn I could not live without, and now I want to make stuff. I bought some beautiful, ivory angora yarn, and my mom taught me the basic stitches. I’m practicing with some different (cheaper) yarn first until I can get better. Right now I’m still taking out more rows than I’m leaving in. But I can sort of see why people get so addicted to it. And why I will probably have carpal tunnel syndrome in about a year.

earlygirl

Lunch was at Early Girl Eatery. We frequently end up eating lunch there, since it’s in the vicinity of¬†many of¬†our favorite shops.¬†To really cute boy who seated us with the topo map of North Carolina tattoo: I’ll be back, don’t worry. Mom had a toasted pimento cheese sandwich that she said was a little too greasy. I had a great grilled chicken sandwich with goat cheese and thick applewood bacon. Must recreate.

earth

Next stop: Earth Guild. The purpose of this stop was for my mom to look for a particular type and color of yarn that she had run out of, but their selection of colors had been completely picked over from the Christmas rush. I really like the look of woven things, and the owner of the store gave me a demonstration on one of their smaller looms. I think it looks like a lot of fun, and now I’m thinking of taking a class at the Sawtooth Center. And maybe I will get a loom from Santa next Christmas!

origami

On down the street, we visited Origami Ink, a gorgeous stationer and gallery and a new addition to the bevy of downtown shops since my time in Asheville. I have never been in a store where I noticed how great the lighting was before. Their stuff is all pretty fancy and pricey, and many items I didn’t even want to touch. It felt a little like a museum. Each and every thing on the shelves was placed perfectly. But everything they sell is just amazing. I’m thinking of sending them a sample of my stationery to see if they might want to carry it. Although, I may be nowhere near the right price point to be in that place.

downtownstore

At Sensibilities Day Spa, I fell in love with this stuff. In case anyone was still trying to think of a Christmas present for me or something. *wink*