Smilefest Reunion 2011

I made a trip up to North Carolina last month to see some friends and visit with my family. The primary purpose was to go to Smilefest. This year was my fifth or sixth going to that festival, I believe. I’ve been to it in three different locations now, and the latest one, while still not quite my favorite, is definitely great. My favorite was when it was in Union Grove on Van Hoy Farms. Least favorite was at Deerfields outside Asheville. Of course, I love that area, but that park is not conducive to festivals whatsoever. We bitched the entire time about having to hike our stuff in for miles (even though there were flatbeds to ease the walk if you could catch one). It was still ridiculous, and I’m not a fan of sleeping in a tent pitched on a nearly vertical mountainside. This year, for the second year in a row, it’s been held at Jomeokee Campground in Pinnacle, right at the foot of Pilot Mountain. It’s a beautiful site, and they’ve kept the ticket sales semi-private for people who have been before (hence the “reunion” moniker), so you end up with people who know how not to act a fool, and who are experienced festival-goers and are there to enjoy the music (okay, and also have a little fun).

As usual, we heard a lot of really awesome music and drank a lot of beer and camped and got real dirty for a few days. I live for those weekends. Good times with good friends. Met a lot of awesome new people too. Saw folks I only ever see at Smilefest (another reason why it’s like a reunion). Here are some pictures my good friend Jenny took, since I have none of my own to share because I didn’t take any. You can check out the Facebook page of her photography business (Dancing Lemur Design) here. She is really good, and you should “like” her.

Me and my flip flops on my patchwork quilt, enjoying the band, Doby.

Every year, every location, they always have these cool windows and bottles hung in the trees.

Our buddy Kelly with his friend Laura, enjoying some muscadine moonshine.

Me trying to figure out how I’m gonna get a queen-size air mattress into my 2-man tent. Travis totally did it, and it was like my own private bouncy castle. Awesomeness.

Always love the hula-hoopers and wish I still had mine. Unfortunately not everything can make the cut when you move. I would like to investigate the collapsible options, though.

We had a huge campsite set up, with about eight people camping together, complete with four or five easy-up tents. We basically created an open-air house. One tent was just the kitchen area. One was the sitting room. We dubbed it “Cabanapyland.” The Jerry tapestry provided a little shade and privacy. In this picture, I’m standing in the living room. LOL. We had not one, but two solar showers. And, because we are seasoned veterans and smartipantses, we totally camped right beside a pole with a power outlet and a water spigot. SCORE!

Here’s a nice shot of the main stage with Pilot Mountain in the background. So pretty. Great time. Can’t wait til next year!

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!