Asheville is not Shangri-la

Have you heard the stories about Asheville, North Carolina? That it’s heaven on earth. That it’s the greatest city in America. That it’s one of the greatest cities in the world. Is that what you’ve heard? Well……it’s what I was told for years. Every person I talked to would rave about Asheville. Friends, colleagues, random acquaintances, people in health food stores, people in bars etc. etc.. It was as if this was the best kept secret in the world. And the question was….when will you go to Asheville?

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After years of hearing these amazing reviews……I decided that it was time to go. A friend and I had the opportunity…..so we went. We were SOOOOO EXCITED!!! All the stories. Great bars. Great people. Great air. Great scenery. Farm houses in the middle of the city with chickens running around. People growing their own vegetables. A super sustainable city of the future. So on we went. We parked the car and started walking.

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We saw the city hall, a fountain, some churches, some side streets with shops. Ok. Cool. We didn’t find the magic everyone was talking about…..but ok. So we decided to grab a couple of beers at a bar downtown. There we sat….trying to get our bearings and figure out if we were missing anything. After being accosted by about a half dozen homeless people pan handling for money, we began talking to a local at the bar. He said to us, ‘You’re pretty much doing the best thing in Asheville. Sit around, drink….and look at cars drive by’. Interesting……THAT’S THE BEST THING TO DO IN ASHEVILLE!!!!???!!!! Wow. The people telling me about this place must have been drinking some good kool-aid if that is true.

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This local went on to tell us that it’s legal to walk around topless in Asheville. So…ladies can walk around with their boobs hanging out. COOL. But he then said that it’s not that cool…..because old fat homeless women are usually the only ones taking advantage of this law. Eeesh. Nothing against old fat homeless women….but I understand how that could be unappealing.

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Alright….so we picked up and walked around some more. We had some food. Then wandered over to the River Arts District. Everyone said it was amazing so we had to go. Naturally, we were curious. Maybe this is where the magic of Asheville was. And again…..no magic. It was a tiny group of buildings with a few sculptures lying around.

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There was a little brewery/bar in back that was decent…..if you like drinking beer in a dirt yard while looking at train tracks. Having grown up in the hick-town of Washingtonville, New York…..naturally I thought that it was pretty cool….because that’s what I did when I was a teenager. And then we saw a pitiful, saggy, tattooed drunken woman who was babysitting an infant…. AN INFANT….at this bar. When asked the baby’s name she replied, ‘Oh man….I don’t know’. Either she was too drunk to remember, she legitimately didn’t know….or she kidnapped the child. WTF!!!

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A couple more hours of walking. A few more bars. Some side streets that looked like downtown Newark, New Jersey….and then I was officially jaded (not that I wasn’t jaded before….I was still looking for the MAGIC OF ASHEVILLE). So here’s the deal (for people who believe the stories). Asheville is no where special. It’s just a place on a map. The parks are small….and dirty. The shops are ok…not too different from any funky little hippie town shops. The bars are decent…some are cool. It’s not especially cheap. The drink of choice is PBR and the style of choice is HIPSTER. There are no jobs to be had unless you work in a hospital (from what I gathered talking to locals). There is an over-saturation of bums who pan handle by day and go live in the mountains at night (I was accosted more than a normal day in New York City). The cops hassle people too much (according to locals). There are a bunch of empty lots with graffiti. There are some mountains nearby to hike on….but they’re really not that impressive. And that’s that. Did you know that gay whales take it in the ass?

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Later, after my dream-like vision was shattered, I realized that Asheville is pretty cool….IN CONTEXT. It’s a progressive city….FOR NORTH CAROLINA. It’s not Shangri-la. Not even close. If I went there with the mindset of, ‘hey I’m going somewhere new’…it would have been a much more enjoyable time than with the mindset of, ‘this is going to be heaven on earth’. I plan on visiting again and giving Asheville another chance. After all…..who doesn’t enjoy empty lots that say UP DA PUNX!?!

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To me….Asheville seemed like the perfect place for people to go if they were on the verge of being homeless. It’s where you go to live when you’ve given up all hope and just want to give it one last shot. Will visiting again with a new mindset change that opinion? I sure hope so. And I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings Asheville….but you’re really not heaven on earth. Either that…..or I’m missing something and didn’t find the MAGIIIIIICCCCC OF ASSSHHHEEVVIIILLLLLEEEE. It was a weekday when I visited and I really do need to see it on a weekend. But as the seasoned local told me…..the best thing to do in Asheville is sit around, drink and watch cars pass by.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this M.A.V.B.L.O.G. and as always, be good to yourself, be good to others that you encounter & be respectful.

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