Best Medicine: A graveyard smash and other such ghostly musings

TAKE TWO: Eric Brown, top left, leads the comedic charge for this month's "Best Medicine," taking over where former host Morgan Marie left off. Also pictured, clockwise from top right, are Paul Dixon, Gillian Bellinger and Paul Vonasek. Photo of Brown by Cindy Kunst; all other photos courtesy of comedians

So, I know what you’re thinking, dear reader: “This must be some sort of Halloween trick. I’m used to reading Morgan Marie’s hilarious column; who’s this guy doing it this month?”

Fear not MedHeads. This is no Halloween trick, it’s a Halloween treat. I’m Eric Brown, comedian, writer and frequent contributor to this column. In the wake of Morgan’s recent departure (she isn’t dead, she just left town), I’m here to deliver an extrascary, Halloween edition of “Best Medicine.” Or should I say, “Pest Dead-icine?”

This month, Mountain Hex-Press and yours truly, or possibly yours ghoully, have assembled a skeleton crew (actual skeletons) of Ash-Evil’s finest and funniest comedic forces. I’ve asked my two Paul Bearers — Paul Dixon and Paul Vonasek — to help out. And of course, no Halloween party would be complete without Kill-ian Hellinger (Gillian Bellinger).

It is my personal scare-antee that this column will make you cackle like a witch on a blood moon. (I also scare-antee that this is the last Halloween pun I will write in this column.) So, let’s turn it over to my frighteningly talented panel.

Eric Brown: Asheville has always had its fair share of ghosts — from the Pink Lady who is said to roam the Omni Grove Park Inn to the very spooky Helen (of Helen’s Bridge fame). Unfortunately, as the city continues to grow, these ghosts have become old news. What kind of new ghosts would you like to see in Asheville to help us keep up in this fast-paced phantasmagorical world?

Paul Dixon: Here it is: Ghosts of Asheville Past, Present and Future — a kind of Dixonian Tale, if you will allow it.

The Ghost of Asheville Past is a young Kentucky boy chasing turkeys all willy-nilly throughout forested trails along the French Broad River. He is looking for a lost turkey … or is he looking to take your soul back to old Kentucky?!?

The Ghost of Asheville Present is a bro skeleton with a flat, brimmed cap on a bike, drinking beer that he bought with crypto. He is unavailable to meet with me because he is stuck in line at Biscuit Head West.

The Ghost of Asheville Future is a middle-aged woman on a wooden skiff floating down the old French Broad, which now flows only with dank IPA in the summers and dark stout in the winters. As she comes out of some Class 9 rapids, she sees a kudzu-covered sign leading to Asheville. With a moan, she deciphers its words: Future 26!

Scared ya, huh?

Gillian Bellinger: Asheville has a reputation as a progressive town — a community that waves its freak flag in the mountains and stands for something. Whether we like it or not, this stance makes us a focus for the spirits that cannot abide our progressive views. I give you, the Ghosts of Canceled Public Figures.

Elon Musk will haunt trivia nights at Hillman Beer, screeching out incorrect answers to all the astronomy questions. Joe Rogan will float through the Asheville Housing Authority spouting misinformation about climate change. Ticketmaster will take up the last seats in the LaZoom bus, causing havoc for tourists just trying to listen to a nun telling jokes. Soon we will need to bring in the exorcist to call these ghosts out: John Oliver.

Paul Vonasek: Get this: A ghoul hisses through the downtown Asheville air, filling your heart with dread, your nose with sulfur and then showing you 14 memes that it thinks are only kinda funny. Then when you think it’s over, it shows them to you again. You turn the corner to try to find your car. Just as you think you’re in the clear, a streetlight explodes above you. You hear a devilish chuckle and then a literal “LOL.” Now the ghoul is showing you the text conversation it’s having with another ghost and asking you for advice on how best to ask, “You wanna haunt sometime?”

Brown: I propose we invest heavily in ghost dogs. If we can import a bunch of ghost dogs, all the existing ghosts will have something to do with their time besides bothering us with all their door slamming and chain clanking. Plus, imagine how much fun you could have with a ghost dog. You’d never have to feed it or clean up after it. I guess fetch wouldn’t be as fun, but who doesn’t get bored with fetch after two or three throws anyway?

Now I know what you’re thinking: How do we get ghost dogs here? The short answer is, I don’t know. I’m just the idea guy. There are plenty of people in town who are into witchy stuff, so surely one of them can point me in the right direction. So, if you’re reading this and you’re a dog medium, please reach out.  I tried looking into it myself by watching the film Ghost Dog, but it was about a samurai hitman and not ghost dogs at all.

Brown: Speaking of ghosts, the ghost of Thomas Wolfe has reportedly been seen haunting the now-vacant Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Sources say his restless spirit is angry, floating through the empty aisles and moaning things such as “Fix my auditorium” and “Seriously? Can we not get some funding to address this?” With the venue currently closed, something needs to be done. Asheville has a long history of repurposing buildings for new creative endeavors (looking at you, River Arts District), so I propose we find a new temporary replacement. What place would be a good short-term alternative to the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium?

Dixon: I would send everyone back over to Thomas Wolfe’s momma’s house, that Old Kentucky Home. It’s just a few blocks east of the auditorium (not all the way over in old Kentucky). Wolfe wrote about how “you can’t go home again.” But I say, “Pshaw.” Let’s send everyone back over to his momma’s house and shake that shack till Bele Chere comes back.

Bellinger: Roll with me here: Put the audience in tubes on the French Broad River.

No. 1: very cost-efficient. No need to remodel, just buy some floatamadidles from Walmart, throw those sweet babies in that MRSA-filled water and watch the magic of art take place.

Letter B: Need more space for selling snacks, drinks and giggle water? No worries, our floating island of inflatable coolers has everything an auditoriumgoer could need. I’m talking Thomas Wolfe-branded cocktails, TW-branded towels and a collaboration between New Belgium Brewing Co. and TW — The Lost Boy Brew.

Point $: Season ticket holders would be known as the “Wolfe Pack,” and they’d be tied together in the shape of a Wolf(e)’s head, howling at the Appalachia moon.

Vonasek: Dollar Tree has everything. Why not the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, right between the discount Reese’s Easter Eggs and LA Looks hair gel? Word has it that their competitors, Dollar General, are getting into the streaming content game with an app that only plays canned laughter from “The Big Bang Theory.” So, Dollar Tree should invest in LIVE entertainment, right there in aisle 23. Because nothing makes money like live entertainment. And you know I’m telling the truth, because I do improv comedy — a famously lucrative career path.

Brown: If the Pubcycle has taught me anything, it’s that Asheville loves to do mobile activities while pedaling.  I think that could be a very simple and cost-effective solution while we wait on renovations. Sure, we’d have to commission a fleet of pedal-driven vehicles, but you can’t tell me that if the Asheville Symphony rolled by on a convoy of Symphonycycles (patent pending), you wouldn’t want to hop on. And it would be a completely green vehicle. The only gas it would run on is classical gas. Now I’ve never tried to play a cello or timpani drums while pedaling a bicycle, so I don’t know if that would be difficult. But I’ve seen the Asheville Symphony, and they’re all very talented.  If anyone could do it, it’s them.

Brown: October is easily my favorite time of year. The leaves are turning, the weather is getting chilly, and hordes upon hordes of monsters descend on us as Halloween draws close. While that may sound terrifying, I have great news. Monsters, ghouls, ghosts and the like all have the same weakness as us humans: They love to party. A lot of people don’t know this, but the “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett isn’t just a fun Halloween-themed novelty song; it’s a guide to survival. What are the top places in town where you would point monsters to have some sort of Halloween bash, hopefully calming their bloodlust and sparing us their wrath?

Dixon: We should send out an EeekVite to all monsters and summon them to the rooftop bar at Hemingway’s Cuba in downtown Asheville. I know it’s no Mount Kilimanjaro, but it does have a nice view and can keep these seasonal creeps occupied for a few hours discussing such books as A Farewell to My Arms, For Whom the Head Rolls and A Moveable Fist. I know, that is a lot of body parts, but they can also discuss The Moon Also Rises and other lesser-known Hemingway works.

If a bar full of alcohol does not seem to succor this nightmarish bunch, then maybe scuttle them over to Amboy Road’s velodrome, which some call the Mellowdrome.  It’s racecar-proof cage with concrete embankments will certainly keep these miscreant monsters placated till dawn.

Bellinger: Roll with me here: Put the monsters in tubes on the French Broad River.

No. 1: Witches float. So, they don’t even need tubes. That’s just fiscal responsibility.

Letter B: Werewolves, orcs and psychopaths with chain saws are all known to be bad swimmers. So, once they are on that tube in the water, there is no getting out of it to wreak havoc among town revelers.

Point $: There are a variety of aquatic monsters that already make the French Broad their home — sirens, krakens, Loch Beer Ness. The French Broad is basically a living room for aquatic monsters. It would be one big house party, in water, with monsters. It feels right. It feels festive. We could call it the Silver Bullet Bash. Too topical? OK, how about the Garlin Schmarlic: The Halloween Hootenanny to Remember 2023.

Vonasek: I used to drive Lyft in Los Angeles. (I know, I know, humble brag — AND it was in a Toyota Corolla, so double braggadocio.) Anyway, I had many completely normal passengers. But I did give a Lyft to a Dracula. And yes, I know they prefer to be called vampires, but this was a Dracula. Of THE Draculas. Not the Count himself, but his son, Kenny Dracula. He was coming home after a party back east. He called it the “slam-bam skunkiest, ancient cursed monkey wrist time.”

That night, as I drove the wayward son of the midnight magistrate, I learned he was in the midst of recording his latest album, Kenny Which Way but Loose — a post-punk-synth-grunge-honey-roasted-country western. But even with the excitement of his new music, he kept returning to the party he’d just been at. Finally, I asked him where such a party could be found. As he puffed on his Clove cigarette and the early morning beams of sun begin to hiss on his skin, he said, “Where else man? … The Asheville Walmart at 10:47 p.m.”

Great tipper.

Brown: So, The Crow and Quill seems like the most obvious answer, and that is exactly why it won’t work. It’s too on the nose.  That place is definitely going to be packed on Halloween. And most of the monsters smoke. There’s no way they’d fit on the venue’s back porch area.

With space in mind, I think the best place for this copyright-free Monster Bash is the Asheville Mall. You could set the food court up with all the things they would need. And it would be really easy to decorate, too, considering that giant Halloween tent full of holiday stuff set up in the mall’s parking lot.

Imagine all the business these monsters would bring to the mall. I mean, who spends money more recklessly than drunk people? Drunk monsters, that’s who. This could totally revitalize the mall. In fact, we could keep this going year-round and be the world’s only Monster Mall.

You know, this actually sounds like a good idea for a screenplay. Imagine how funny it would be to see Frankenstein trying to figure out an escalator. Or Dracula bursting into flames going into a PacSun (because of the sun part). Yeah … this sounds pretty good. What were we talking about, again?


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About Eric Brown
Eric Brown is a comedian, writer, and most importantly, very cool.

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