Sunday, November 18, 2007

Asheville Autumn 2007

The little city of Asheville is always a wonder. It's a lusty town, a teen-age place, but it's also filled with old, old folks. It's a place of beauty with with a brand new band-aid and a worn-out temporary patch. The new green place now being finished in front of its City Hall and County Courthouse soon will be filled with performers of music and art, and the place will ring and resonate throughout the spring, sumer and autumn of every year. it will be a show without an end.

Thomas Wolfe lived here, and he wrote here too. Later he said something about not ever going home again – in part because the Asheville folks were mad at him for what he wrote about them and wouldn't LET him come back. But what would he know? He wrote with the top of his refrigerator as his desk. He was a big guy. O. Henry was another Ashevillian, along with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Carl Sandburg down at Flat Rock, Wilma Dykeman called Asheville her home, and its nearby Black Mountain College hosted the likes of Josef Albers, Thornton Wilder, John Dewey, Albert Einstein, and Henry Miller. Buckminster Fuller designed and built his first geodesic dome here. Robert Rauschenberg studied art here, and John Cage and Merce Cunningham puttered around with music and dance at the tiny school which closed forever in 1957 after graduating a total of 60 students.

The Vanderbilts came to Asheville too, one of them built a 250+ room house on his 1100 acre plot. It is still called "Americas's Biggest House". Billy Graham lives over between Black Mountain and Asheville, and Bob Moog, the creator of the famous sentheiser, died here in 2007.

There's a lot more, too. Like the time the New York Yankees were playing the Brooklyn Dodger team in famous McCormick Field, their left fielder, a guy named Babe Ruth ate so many of Asheville's hot dogs and drank so much of its beer that he came down with the infamous "bellyache heard round the world". That's the way the story goes, but actually the Babe was sick when he got here, collapsed at the depot and went to the hospital instead of the field, but the year before, while playing here in Asheville, he did claim that this was a delightful place to play, "damned delightful" he was quoted as saying.

Today, you can walk down O. Henry Avenue and see the Citizen-Times newspaper office.

Half a block more will take you past the federal building with its wild sculpture. Inside is the offices of the American Naional Climatic Data Center.

Back to the Little City again, this time for a two-night visit. The weather had been perfect with light balmy breezes, lots of warm sunlight and bright blue skies. But today, Asheville revealed it claws with a blighting wind of 55 to 60 mph which flung cold leaves and snow flakes at us as its temperatures fell to 27°! Brrrrr.

At the hotel we couldn’t even keep the trunk lid up to get our bags out, and then the bags wanted to scoot along on the frozen pavement.

We ate in Vincenzo’s which was pricy, and the food was OK. I had potato dumplings with Bolognese sauce, which was like a very good pork barbeque, but that was all there was, and it was too much of that. I would have been happy with perhaps one-fourth the amount of meat sauce and some creative vegetables provided as a side dish. There were no surprises, no sense of an elegante moment; it was tasty food, but I expected more than that for the price and the location. I was disapointed.

Next morning was frigid, but with brilliant blue skies and a wind that slowly moderated throughout the morning into a pleasant afternoon. After the seminar, we shopped for cars.

For lunch we hit the Thai restaurant known as Tamarind. Excellent! Surprises galore here. Good food, well prepared and served. Great ambience. Tasteful decorations and tasty food. A sense of being "somewhere else". The waitress was very friendly and helpful. A good place to go to for lunch, probably great for dinner too.

That night we went for dinner to the restaurant known as "The Table". Wow! Wow! Wow! I don’t know what else to say. It was one of my most incredible dining experiences. This is why people who love to travel become adicted to it, because of peak experiences like eating at The Table in Asheville. I had the Hanger Steak, but I don’t think it would really make any difference. Amazing. Didn’t I make any pictures of "The Table"? I did, but I ate THEM the next day. Later, I went back (just to make a photo)!

Asheville's Village Arts & Crafts Show 2007

Saturday and Sunday, August 5 & 6, 2007, the campus of All Souls Cathedral in Asheville held the 35th annual Village Art and Craft Show. Some 125 exhibitors came from 18 states to display their products.

Saturday’s temperature was probably in the mid 90°degrees with high humidity, and the patrons and visitors all looked like they were from Dali’s studio or the produce section in one of Franklin’s grocery stores. Best exhibit was clearly the interior of the cathedral. It was dark, cool and hypnotic. Outside, the exhibitions ranged from wild to obscure. Three art exhibits stood out from the group.

Teresa Brown’s “Visually Speaking” mixed colors and textures in a series of interesting photographs. I had to ask if they were photos or painting, or a combination. The artist says she uses modification only to “remove imperfections, etc.” whatever that means. But her work is fascinating and should sell well since she is primarily presenting colors and textures. Her web site is and most of her work appears a little above average perhaps but check out her section on “Still Life and Floral” . That is what she had on display at the show and you can see why it caught my eye. We can all learn a lot from her.

Stacey Brown uses cracked glass in his work, and makes a collage out of the glass and watercolors. Go to his site for more information I was mesmerized by his “Guitar Friends”, “Mr. Piano”, and “Full of Fun”. Those three and more are on his web site. This guy is good. He paints feelings.

Doug Cavanah makes “Lightscapes”, and they are photographs printed on canvas. The photographs are technically imperfect in many ways but the effect of seeing one of them is stunning. It will definitely stop you in your tracks. I looked at the photos he had there and noticed the lack of crispness in detail but then I kept thinking to myself “I wish I could make a photograph like this”. I began to suspect Velvia and asked him if he was using digital and he said “No!” So I asked him “Velvia?” He really didn’t want to talk about it so I finally dropped it. I did get that he uses Provia 100 and very long exposures. I was still fascinated so I went back and asked him what kind of a camera he uses and he blew my mind with his answer. I think he said it was a 10 X 14 or a 4 x 10, or something like that. Then he smiled for the first time. His business card says his web site is and I could not open it . At any rate his work is compelling and should sell well – remember these are very large prints, and they are on canvas.

So the day was hot and people walked around with partly open mouths as if needing more air. Eye lids crept down over slowly glazing eyes. Hair styles and smiles became abandoned as they slid on down like so much of a mud flow across their owners faces. I admired a couple of young ladies who wore a bit of a crinckly seersucker miniskirts and not much else, and the cathedral was the coolest place in town. A hell of a show.

© John Womack, 2008. All rights reserved.


A chilly weekend in the Little City of Asheville. Snow fell and winds ripped through the streets and the temperature fell below 20°.

But our visit was filled with good food and fine music and a great time. We ate Indian food, and French food, and Tapas to the sound of west coast jazz. And we ate at Tupelo Honey, and that's as good as it gets.

We hit the Jack of the Wood for their Thursday night jam session and listened to mellow bluegrass music as the snow flakes fell outside.

And we visited Thomas Wolfe's house, the Smith-McDowell House, St. Lawrence Basilica and All Soul's Cathedral. What a spectacular weekend!

© John Womack, 2008. All rights reserved.

NC Arboretum, Asheville, NC

We've been living here within reach of the North Carolina Arboretum for 14 years now and have never been tempted to go there. I visualized it as being a cross between a butterfly garden and a flower garden. Not bad, but not worth the trip. Finally we took some house guests there as a "thing to do" and we were all amazed!

It was not the day for arboretum appreciation. It was hot, and muggy, and heavy thunder rumbled through the heavens and then fell out of the sky and rolled around in the parking lots, car to car, and then even into the buildings and shook the displays. Rain fell unexpectedly, then quit, then there was blue sky and more heat and wow – more rain suddenly fell. Fortunately we were well rewarded by the galleries and other shops, the museums and quilt shows.. During one of the many pauses in the rain, we toured the Bonsai Garden. I have seen bonsai trees before but never so many, and never so well displayed.

We were able to walk the area between the Baker Exhibit Center and the Education Center. We enjoyed the Quilt Garden and the Blue Ridge Court but could not get onto any of the trails that led across the grounds.

We did get to walk a short distance through the "Plants of Promise" garden, and obviously will have to return on a better day – Indeed – we promise to do so!