Another Weird Day…

37 Cents a Fart by Henry HarveyMy first introduction to the south was during a book tour for  my (then) latest book, 37 Cents a Fart (And Other Infamous Animal Stories).  We flew down to Asheville and my first book signing was at a Barnes & Noble in Biltmore Village, a very up-town plaza close to Biltmore Estate.  We had zero idea what to expect and crossed our fingers.

All during the signing, Pam and I kept exchanging glances and smiling.  We both had the identical question marks on our faces.  What’s up?  Why is everyone so incredibly friendly? Six hours later and completely exhausted, we walked over to a restaurant and collapsed.  The waitress seemed incredibly friendly, just like at B&N and we ordered dark beers and something that sounded interesting : Shrimp and Grits with Cheese. Wow…

Then things started getting a little weird, a word that I’ve used often in the past year.  A couple at a table across from us asked where we were from and pretty soon, we invited them to sit with us.  More beers, and a little later the manager wanders over…really friendly,  orders another round (on the house) and sits down with us.  I thought, maybe it was because of the book signing and we were getting the “royal treatment.”  Nope.  They’d never heard of us or the signing.  When the bill finally arrived, I glanced at it, slid it over to Pam and she looked at it with huge eyes.  Something was wrong… the extent that we called the manager over.  I said, “Uhmmm…  This bill.  I think there’s been a mistake.  Maybe there should be a one in front of it?”  He scanned it.  “Nope.  That’s the bill, all right.”

We flew home trying to figure out what had happened.  Arriving back in Philly International, everything returned to normal.  The pace was fast again and everyone seemed extremely guarded by comparison.  Traffic out of Philly was as usual.  Fast, aggressive, lots of road rage, beeping and bird-flipping.

For what it’s worth, we later drove back down, still curious about this strange friendly place, only this time I was determined to get to the nasty hidden underbelly of the south.  I spent ten days researching an article, the goal: to interview people to find out what they didn’t like about the Asheville area.  I interviewed 97 people, and never found one who disliked the place.  Not…Even…One….until the last day, in Black Mountain, where we met an old gal, who said, “Okay, there is one thing I don’t like.”  I thought, “Bingo!  Here we go!”  But then she said, “I’ve been here 7 years and my only regret is that I didn’t move here twenty years ago.”

Scroll ahead to yesterday.  I emailed my son, Cameron.  The subject-line of the e-mail was “Another Weird Day”.  Here it is, copied and unedited:

Another weird weekend…
This morning we were working down in the sculpture field and a truck goes by.  A minute later, it comes back and pulls over.  Turns out it’s the unofficial “mayor” of Catawba River Road.  Tom Allison (there’s a road here named after him) used to own practically the whole road.  Used to grow corn on what is now our property and plowed it with horses.  LOVES what we’re doing.
Our neighbor comes by and we go out to lunch on the river.  Our other neighbor stops by with three DVDs for us to try.
Then, for the three hours we were working on the sculpture area, cars slowed and beeped or beeped and thumbs-upped.  I stopped counting at 25 cars doing that.
Working on the stream and Pat Thomas comes up on his ATV…with a logging tool.  I’d mentioned that I was struggling to turn a big log crossing the stream.  He had the perfect tool!
After close to a year, we’re still rubbing our eyes and wondering if it’s a dream and we’re going to wake up.  Every day is amazing.  And what’s weird, I think Mom and I are losing some of our northern sharpness.  Who’d a thunk?
Mom and Dad
P.S.  Re reading this email, you might be wondering if it’s pumped up a bit.  It isn’t.  That’s what blows my mind.


Some little observations:  Having driven in Bucks County, Pa, for the past 30 years, I’d become accustomed to the increasing road rage, and rudeness driving around.  You see people flippin-the-bird all the time and car horn blasting a daily occurrence.  In the past year, the only car beeping is when you see a friend and give ’em a toot.   Yesterday, working on the sculpture garden we got the finger over twenty times……but it was the other finger, the thumb, pointing up and broad honest sincere grins…from people we don’t even know.  Just mind-boggling.

We used to watch The Waltons when I was in the Air Force, and always loved the integrity and warmth of small-town living.  …I think I learned some of my ethics watching that show.  Used to watch Oppi and Andy Griffith on Mayberry RFD, too, and thought, Boy, I wish things could be a little more friendly, a little more graciousness, manners…  Didn’t think it existed.

Yesterday, we were in a Walmart going down the aisle and at the intersection, a great big mountain of a man with a beard and tattoos came barreling into the middle just about the same time.  We stopped, looked at each other.  And then he said…and I quote:  “Excuse me, sir,” and began backing up.  That never happened in 30 years.  It happens all the time down here, on a road, down an aisle, in a hardware store, grocery.  Pause to get your breath and there’s someone more than happy to swap a story or a joke with you.

I’ve always said, “There’s no Nirvana.”  I think I’m going to have to re-think that.

When you scrape away a couple of decades, this is what my brain thinks I look like


17 Responses to "Another Weird Day…"

  1. Deborah Bellini says:

    I have no words this week, just a great big smile on my face. I’m so happy for you and Pam.

  2. Henry Harvey says:

    Sometimes good friends don’t even need words. Thanks, Deb.

  3. Henry Harvey says:

    And that’s exactly how we remember you
    and think of you today.
    We’re only as young as we think.
    By now, 12:36am, Wade just turned 73.
    I hit big 61 last week.
    I still think of us the way we looked when we met you for the first time in Lahaska.
    I think we’re all looking pretty darn good.
    (Now the way we feel may be a whole other story.)
    As my friend says, KHF.
    That was her sign off and I only figured it out a few years ago (too embarrassed to ask)….Keep Having Fun.
    Pam and Wade

  4. Henry Harvey says:


    Happy birthday to Wade, and a belated one to you!
    Pamela likes to say that (eventually) we all get the face we deserve. I see that a lot with actors and a whole lot with politicians. But it’s true for us mortals as well. KHF, eh? My mind jumped to KFC and I was trying to extrapolate into Krispy Home Fries. I guess that works, too.

    Your friend is right, though. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s hard. But we should all try every day to KHF.

  5. Henry Harvey says:

    Lots of great stuff down there. Can’t wait for our visit and to be part of the adventure.

  6. Henry Harvey says:

    Don’t build your hopes sooo high you’re heading for disappointment. Every place we’ve ever gone, the fun occurs between your ears. Having said that, with a little luck, you’ll have a ball!

  7. Henry Harvey says:

    Funny you mentioned The Waltons, we just started watching it!

  8. Henry Harvey says:

    It’s simple but the messages are elegant and universal.

  9. Henry Harvey says:

    Yep that’s the south I grew up in and love and wishing we could magically scrape away a decade or two

  10. Henry Harvey says:

    Our bodies may betray us a bit, but you can be any age you want to…in your mind.

  11. Henry Harvey says:

    Wonderful story. It’s always such a pleasure to unexpectedly find a happy place in this world.

  12. Henry Harvey says:

    Yeah… Seems like it’s getting a little harder to do lately. Thanks Linda!

  13. Henry Harvey says:

    Can’t imagine anywhere not friendly with you two in muster. Sherrell and I evoke the same kindness wherever we go in the world. I worry we aren’t as guarded as we should, but heck we wouldn’t enjoy what others have to offer in hospitality. So glad you are enjoying Asheville. 

  14. Henry Harvey says:

    Lovin’ every minute!  In retrospect, I feel like a dog that was kept in a really small yard.  Couldn’t really move around enough to know what kind of dog I was.  Then, you’re let loose and you think to your self, “Damn, I’m one of those runnin’ dogs!  Never knew!”  No one in my family was funny or seemed to enjoy laughing.  I thought I was like that.  And I was wrong.  
    As always, thanks !

  15. Henry Harvey says:

    Fantastic! I didn’t think these could get any better! Love you guys, Margaret…

  16. Henry Harvey says:

    Hi Margaret! Glad you enjoyed the article…it means a lot.
    We feel the same way about you two!
    Henry and Pamela

  17. Phil says:

    I’ve never understood rudeness when common decency is easier. I subscribe to the Mammy Yokum (google it for those who do not know) philosophy…”good is better than bad because it’s nicer”.  You and Pam now live in a Blue Zone (google that too but it is a good thing, and rare).   I’ll just refer to where you live as very nice Southern Exposure.  We will probably live out our life up here. I do see occasional charm and politeness to make it acceptable.  I can’t account for other peoples’ rude behavior but I won’t change.  People in my little enclave wave as they drive by and I don’t even know them.  I do the same and they wave back.  I’ll still hold the door open for the person behind me even though 1-2% will ignore you.  You guys live in a good zone. I’m happy for you both and I enjoy your innocent acceptness of it.  Be well my friends.

Leave a Reply