22 June, 2011
DOWNTOWN — An early twilight drenches the city. No brief summer storm, this one is settling in. Passersby divert into shops or huddle under awnings, only to barge out again when they realize the rain is here to stay.
After half an hour, the streets are filled with only the desperate or the determined. Middle-aged women walk their dogs, fat men run incongruously down the sidewalk, teenagers walk close to each other, excited to be wet.
Through the car windows, these people look like paintings, moving and alive under their impasto. Smokers are the only ones who stand still, leaning stylishly into the side of a building for shelter.
SUICIDE BRIDGE — There’s a wreck somewhere ahead. A fire of brakelights reflects from the wet pavement. I increase my following distance and, like all the other drivers who know this bridge, hope those behind me do the same.
Before we reach the end, traffic has stopped, and blue lights reflect under the trailers of the 18-wheelers lined up to follow Interstate 26. A VW Beetle is trapped between the wall of trucks and an incoming fire engine.
In the end, it’s nothing. Drivers struggle to see what caused their delay. Two people stand with cellphones on the roadside, at opposite ends of a pair of cars with minor damage. We ooze past the blockage and onto Patton Ave. I pass a young man on a moped. He’s soaked to the skin, but unencumbered by the traffic.
8 September, 2011
DOWNTOWN — Posters tell us that a storm is coming, but in the soft light of the evening no one seems to care. In these last few days since the tropical weather moved through, you can catch rumors of fall in the fine skies and cool nights. It’s hard to believe a storm will ever come again.
On the street, couples pause in front of shop windows. A young woman walks her dog, carrying a tremendous bouquet of unwrapped flowers. I wonder if they were given to her, or if she’s carrying a gift for someone else.
Evening sets in and the town lights up. The posters are everywhere, magic-marker lightning bolts scrawling their warning. No one notices but the buildings, getting darker as the light fades. A high overcast has moved over Asheville, and what’s left of the sun is directionless and vague. I decide to head home early in case the bridge is locked down.
From the car I see the usual crowd photographing the statues in front of the Civic Center. Between the tourists there’s a flash of color. In a city where everyone photographs everything, you have to look for connections that aren’t always there. I park and wait for the crowd to leave.
If you hadn’t seen her, you’d have no way of knowing the young woman with the dog was here. No one heeds the storm-warning posters, but a flower left in a statue’s hand draws a crowd.