Saturday, May 26, 2012

Something Real Outside of Asheville

People of every stripe gushed about Asheville on our bike trip and before it, as far back as New York folks would wax nostalgic for this hip little southern town. Excepting Dave, a tattoo artist in weird Floyd. "Asheville? It's played out, man. It's all hype."

Dave turned out to be right. Asheville itself is a fairly safe and cooky facsimile of a radical town, one part washed up hippy and one part oblivious granola yuppy enclave, all coffee shop and food co-op. It's nobody's fault, really, and the quality of life appears to be good (though, like Portland, being young and over-educated is a common problem). It is a damn shame, though, because the whispers underneath this marketable main street version of an alternative, art and community oriented way of living are based on something real. It's the Asheville of the past, maybe, and certainly the Asheville of the periphery.

We were lucky, through some good friends, to stay somewhere that lives up to the hype, so to speak. A place pieced together up a steep hill from downtown, buried by trees and secluded by a series of unmarked dirt roads. 5-6 houses, each built over time by their inhabitants, made up of salvaged lumber and scavenged brick. Tin roofs redirect water to giant containment tanks, from which it is filtered with slow drip double pots for drinking. Heat is passive, or from efficient wood stoves. Electricity is forgone, or comes from solar panels. Toilets compost human waste in a simple way, and the results are fed to the garden.

The garden produces herbs, berries, onions, chard, kale, leeks, potatoes, carrots, beets, garlic, and even artichokes, along with a host of things I didn't even know to ask about. Chickens lay eggs in an elevated coop house and whine pitifully when you take them out from under them. One house centers around a piano, another is filled with bicycle powered lathes and grinders a-la Maya Pedal. There's a kiln in the works, and a venue for shows.

Most of this little world was constructed by bike trailer trips, and it's still close enough to the city to go in every day. After 6 months in New York, it's quite inspiring to see people my age living on their own terms and gathering tons of skills that they can use to create food and shelter for themselves. I had an oddly deep pride for my co-generationals after seeing what they'd done with their time, it's the kind of place I always knew existed but had never seen first hand

1 comment:

Steve said...

My wife is from East Tennessee (not far from there), I would have never guessed Asheville was an alternative enclave! As always, enjoy your blog.

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