From our breakfast stop, reminiscent of Dave and my’s favorite “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” gag
The next morning, there was biscuits, and coffee, and a brief stroll through downtown Asheville. In the used bookstore, we laughed to see a poster for Creed Bratton, of Office fame (and, apparently, the Grass Roots), who was apparently on tour. We had just been discussing The Office and the fact that he was a previous rockstar the day before.
I decided I wanted to arrive to my host house in daylight, and so drove straight there from Asheville, despite considering meeting my hostess at the local music and arts festival. I had a pass for the next day, so I figured settling in properly would be better.
I did also have time to stop at this covered bridge
Arriving at her house was surreal. I let myself in with the previously-disclosed secret key. I had the place to myself to set my stuff and my self down. Just as I was feeling a bit like an intruder, I turned towards the fridge, and found it plastered with familiar faces. This is the childhood home of a dear friend, and her image and her art—or maybe not hers? But certainly the source of it—is everywhere. It took a great deal of tension away to see it. Still, I picked a distinct seat on the couch that was piled with blankets and pillows—presumably for my use, and mostly pinned myself there as I waited for my hostess to arrive home.
Even with out exploring too far, I was already enamored with the house. It is crowded in the best way, artifacts from all kinds of projects and childhoods (going back multiple generations, it would seem), are lovingly preserved. There are piles of art on some tables, and other, seemingly small and silly things, hang in places of honor. There are posters from the previous years of the Paperhand performances, and it only builds my excitement to work with them.
It is clean and well-kept, but in a way that is like the opposite of that cringey overly-sterile hospital gloss clean. I don’t feel afraid to put something out or place or smudge a window. Signs of regular use and holding-on-just-in-case and get-to-it-someday projects are scattered throughout. The front room, where my designated seat is located, in living room that feels truly full of life. The seats, arranged in a circle that makes me crave conversation and maybe a song or two, are all mis-matched but well suited to each other. It begs for a gathering.
Despite how welcoming all this seating is, when my hostess, Sarah, finally arrived, weary from a long day with children at an ourdoor festival in this variable weather, we wound up in the only two kitchen seats. She, in a chair that is clearly a familiar favorite, and me perched on a tall stool.
Over the course of our re-introduction (I had only met her in passing when the family was in St. Louis) that evening and a brief tour of the backyard the following morning, Sarah told me most watered-down version of everything I need to know for tending the house while she is away. Still, it’s a lot of house and a lot of yard, and while the work is not unreasonable, the whole thing feels like “too much” for just me. This is a place meant to house a family, people who know its quirks well, and I am just passing through.
I got pretty thoroughly acquainted with it that Monday though, my first day home alone, as I broke down and hauled a huge portion of branches from a recently fallen tree. I had promised to do the work, and been granted permission to access whatever I needed to make it happen, so I had to move forward with confidence, taking gardening tools without asking official permission, and aggressively pulling broken limbs out of healthy trees. That definitely gave me a certain sense of ownership and pride.
Before that though, and the reason we split the work into two lonely batches instead of tackling it together, I went to the Shakori Hills festival. Because of my decision to get to the house in the daylight the day before, I was only there for the last day. So most of the festival goers were bleary from a long weekend of indulgence, and the general atmosphere was half-closed and groggy. That suited my own road-ragged self just fine, to be truly honest.
I heard many excellent bands, one of whom got me to turn around on the road, as I intended to walk past. (They’re called Rivers, a bluegrass folksy type band, if you wanna check them out). I did a little yoga with free class, and managed to feed myself pretty well on the slim amount of cash I had, as I was still waiting on the replacement cards. I tried not to let the lost wallet sting stick around too much.
I also stumbled upon a boff-fighting ring, and though it was full of children, and technically Belegarth and not my own beloved Dagorhir, just seeing the familiar weapons made me smile.
With the festival closing out, I headed back to town, and, on a whim, checked Creed Bratton’s tour schedule, and found he was in Carrboro that night. With the 20$ I had left until the banks opened the next day, I was able to get a ticket and a beer, and was treated to weird experience that was an almost uncomfortable mash of novelty and nostalgia. There are few shows that tug my heartstrings like The Office, as it’s run lasted through some seriously formative times in my life. Singing it’s theme in a new city, surrounded by strangers, was uplifting and destabilizing. It was awesome, and I’m so glad I went.