Hello! We’re just wrapping up a week down in Black Mountain where we’ve been buying a home as well as a completely new way of life.
Depending on how you look through the knothole in the fence of life, it’s either an episode right out of Twilight Zone or beginning to live the lyrics out of a John Denver song, that lyric being: Going Home to a place he’d never been before.
We were sort of expecting the first part of the Twilight Zone part. After fighting seriously nasty traffic in the east for the past 30 years, we arrive in Asheville, rent a car, pull out on the road and…this is where old Rod Serling’s voice comes in: “A couple, having spent most of their lives having to fight for everything, even the spot on the highway, arrive in a town that’s the complete opposite of that.”
Within ten seconds, the difference is noticeable, almost palpable: the absence of road rage, but it’s more than that: It’s as if everyone…was happy, and with that, courteous and gracious. If you’re even thinking you might want to cross the road, the drivers slow to a stop, smile, and wave you on. This courtesy extends to such things as opening doors, smiling, waving and…communicating. Yeah, I would be skeptical as well, but it’s true and the plot thickens.
After returning from signing the house papers, Pam and I were walking along a stream near our motel. A mountain of a man, all of six foot-three and 300 lbs approaches from the other direction. He looks like a great big Santa, with a long beard, and he’s walking a Boston terrier that looks like one of ours. We stop and talk. He’s leaving Black Mountain after 30 years, because of family in Florida who need him. He has a stare that forces you to look him in the eyes and not look away. He’s been helping out at a seniors’ center for a decade and what he’s most depressed about, is that he won’t be able to help anymore. We play with the dog, chat a bit and explain that we’re moving down. We part, but there’s that Twilight Zone moment waiting in the wings. More in a minute.
We walk into Black Mountain and stop in at a shop called the Seven Sisters. Talking to the British gal, Arlene, who runs it, I ask if it’s named for the mountain ranges you can see here. She says, “Bingo” and a conversation ensues. We tell her we bought a house, she asks where and then…more Twilight Zone. She’s been there many times, had teas and barbecues there and knows the (former) owner well. An hour later, we leave, but we’ve already forged a new friendship. We have a “date” at the new house.
Time doesn’t permit me to go through the rest of the day, but at EVERY single place we go, whether in Black Mountain, Asheville, or Old Fort, the same thing happens. You cannot toss your hat without meeting a potential new friend and learning about the area as well as their lives. There is zero pretense here. Zero. Nada. There’s a friendly quirkiness that prevails and it’s palpable.
Getting back to the Twilight Zone. The next morning it’s 5:00 am,black outside and raining buckets. I sprint over to the main office to get some coffees and that old Santa Claus guy is there doing the same. As I enter, he starts scribbling on a paper napkin and hands it to me. The words are: Bud Hogan, Senior Citizens’ Center. I’m thinking, …huh??? He says, “I’m leaving, but you’re just arriving. When you’re settled, get your fanny down there and meet the people. They need some help.” I look question marks at him and he gets it. He says, “Trust me. Go down there. Spend an hour and if you can leave without being moved by these people…their needs…well, there’s something wrong with you.” I promise him. Finally I ask him who he is. He says. “Harvey; that’s what they know me as down there.” I say, “My name is Harvey, too.” He doesn’t blink…doesn’t bat an eye. He just grins a little.
Right now we have a small handful of friends up north who’ve fought the battle of rage, entitlement and pretense for a long, long time. With a little luck, there may be a small exodus to a place that’s not so fast-paced, but a whole lot happier and friendlier.
Country Roads…take me home…to the place…I belong….Carolinas, Mountain Mama, take me home…country roads.
P.S. I obviously can’t name every one of our friends in this blog. But…y’all know who you are. You don’t need an engraved invitation to come down and possibly discover a new way of life.