We’ve reached the end of a long and harrowing year, dear readers. Seems just yesterday we were scrubbing groceries and hoarding toilet paper in preparation for two weeks of stay-at-home.
Now here we are, entering (*checks notes*) our THIRD! pandemic holiday season. While many have adopted the “new normal,” others look to the new year for promises of more precedented times.
And while things may never fully go back to the “old normal” (whatever that was), this holiday season “Best Medicine” is hoping to conjure nostalgia by capturing the true spirit of Asheville. Joining me this month are fellow local stand-ups Cameron Davis, Larry Griffin and Christian Lee. Together, we’ll be discussing gifts, booze and New Year’s resolutions.
Morgan Bost: What is the one holiday gift Asheville desperately needs and why?
Cameron Davis: Is it just me, or is Mercury in retrograde ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME!?! I don’t know if it’s because I grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy ingrained in my brain or what, but have we developed the technology to blow up planets yet? Because if we have, I think for the sake of Asheville and all its astrology fans, the greatest holiday gift of all would be to take that little bugger out of the sky. (Hey, Pentagon — if you’re reading this and there is some bunker in the Nevada desert with a space laser that can blow up planets, help us out!)
Once it’s gone, how could you be having a bad day? Mercury doesn’t exist anymore, silly! It can no longer … retrograte you? You might just be having a bad day because that happens to everyone ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME!
Let’s celebrate the holidays this year with the gift of taking that celestial scapegoat out of the picture.
Larry Griffin: Sometimes it’s hard to get the right gift for a person. That’s when you know it’s time to hit up the gift card rack. For Asheville, I’d load up some cash for one of downtown’s many shops filled with dreamcatchers, crystals and Tarot cards — maybe some gourmet chocolate or edibles to top it off.
For the touristy component of Asheville, I’d buy socks — the go-to gift for when you don’t know what to get someone but need to appear polite.
Christian Lee: Being the only punctual person at an event shouldn’t be the counterculture statement all my other hobbies were meant to be. I know 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time is a soft 8:30 p.m. in Asheville time, but I’m punctual if only for the right to complain.
So for this holiday season, I think everyone in Asheville could use a watch — preferably one with an alarm. Not a smartwatch, just something to remind people about whatever it is they’ve committed to.
Maybe it’s the Catholic school guilt instilled in me, but I like arriving at the time I agreed to.
Bost: Given that I’ve already exhausted my allocated gift budget on myself this year (to be fair, I have been especially good), I would like to see Asheville receive the gift that keeps on giving: affordable housing. If you’re an avid reader of the column (which I’m sure most of you are), you know that lack of affordable housing is a topic that surfaces quite often in “Best Medicine.” While I had hoped this hard-hitting coverage would have resolved the issue, alas it still remains.
But maybe the magic of the holiday season can help bolster efforts! Replace mall Santas with City Council members this year so parents can slide in affordable housing among their children’s wishlist of skateboards and video games. A long shot perhaps, but it never hurts to hold out hope for some kind of holiday miracle that could one day be adapted into a delightful holiday film. (I’m looking at you, Lindsay Lohan.)
Bost: What spirit — talking drinks here — best represents Asheville and why?
Davis: I moved here from Chicago and an interesting thing about that city is they have a spirit that is in itself a litmus test for the newcomer. It was called Malört. I shudder just thinking about the astringent herbal liquor that everyone pretended to like and forced me to drink.
With this in mind, I think Asheville needs its own especially disgusting spirit to test a newbie’s resolve.
Here is the recipe for our new signature spirit. It starts with the freshest rainwater collected in puddles at the Carrier Park dog enclosure, then poured through your 3-year-old Brita filter. For our herbal note, snag some fresh sprigs of kudzu, preferably tendrils that have creeped onto the concrete of the I-240 underpass. Finally, steep ingredients in grain alcohol for about six months. When done, filter contents through a basket woven from hippy dreads to take out any impurities.
Voila! Now we have the spirit Ashevilleans can pretend to like and dare visitors to imbibe.
Griffin: I think Asheville should have a moonshine renaissance. In a city with plenty of $15 cocktails featuring 12 ingredients each, moonshine represents a different side — even if its lure and mythology now only exists in our minds rather than in our modern times. But we are a mountain community at heart — and humanity in general is not as far from our mountaineer forebears as we like to think.
So let’s start passing around some red plastic party cups full of homemade moonshine more often at every dive bar we visit.
Lee: After much consideration and imbibing — not to mention an online “What spirit are you?” quiz — I’ve narrowed it down to whiskey.
According to the quiz, whiskey best represents Asheville’s “hard work and self-care” traits, as well as the city’s “boring maturity but knows what it likes” personality.
In my opinion, the spirit also encapsulates Asheville’s love of rustic classics and fearless partying.
But if I could select the beverage that best captures Asheville’s aspirations, I’d say hard kombucha. It’s vibe soft, party hard spirit is the current contender for the town’s official motto.
Bost: The true spirit of Asheville can be found in the 15% ABV craft beer clutched in the right hand of a new parent, a small child cradled in the other. On any given Saturday, you can find such parents across Asheville hoping to have their Cake Porter Stout and drink it too. Due to those pesky open container laws, though, parents are discouraged from drinking at the playground. Luckily, most breweries now bring the playground to them! With sprawling outdoor areas, an abundance of free baby sitters and floor food for both Fido and baby, breweries really are the perfect place for families!
Bost: In the spirit of New Year’s, what is one resolution our community should collectively agree to pursue in 2023?
Davis: The New Year’s resolution I think we should all take on in 2023 is to use designated crosswalks like a New Yorker.
Hear me out. I don’t know how many times I’ve stood at a designated crosswalk with a clearly visible sign that says “State Law: Yield to Pedestrians.” But instead of crossing with confidence, I politely wait until all the cars have passed, look both ways like my mama told me to and then skitter across the street.
I think we should all take on the arrogant street crossing style of a big city. Because you know what else is technically against the law besides not yielding to a pedestrian? Vehicular manslaughter.
I’m talking about a sense of entitlement. Pride even! I’m talking about walking into that designated pedestrian crosswalk like you own it, looking into the eyes of an approaching driver and silently communicating in your grittiest Clint Eastwood look, “Go ahead, punk … make my day.”
Griffin: Most of the time people will say they want to get healthy for the new year by going to the gym and all of that. But every incline in Asheville is so steep that we can get fairly decent cardio workouts just walking around downtown for an afternoon. And besides, we already have an abundance of health-conscious residents. I see people walking and jogging and biking everywhere; and the hiking trails never have a shortage of folks getting their workouts in.
So, let’s make a resolution to stay inside and eat junk food while binging half a dozen new prestigious TV shows you read about on Twitter. Or you could stay inside and catch up on sleep, or read that book you promised yourself you’d read — before turning YouTube back on. If you cut out exercise and health, the possibilities are endless. Celebrate sloth!
Lee: We should get rid of anti-unhoused architecture, for one (but really for all). We should be pursuing community, not chasing it out. That’s a lot of snack money spent, and for what? So people can’t nap on benches? The way housing is going, I think we’re all better off just napping in public between our three jobs.
We should make shelter inescapable by adding little roofs and padding on public structures. Guerrilla-hospitality, that’s my New Year’s resolution.
To be clear, my agenda is to destigmatize naps for all, regardless of background. As a former sleepy teen turned drowsy adult, our needs are scarcely met. And I’m tired of napping during fire drills at work.
Bost: In 2023, I think the community should resolve to soften our stance toward tourists. I get it, tourists have a reputation for both driving poorly on our roads and driving up the cost of living. But perhaps we as a community simply need to step in and show them the proper ways of conducting themselves.
That’s why I’m advocating that locals adopt a tourist in 2023. If you see someone looking lost and meandering next year, ask where they’re from and if they’d like to be taken under the wing of a local (a term legally granted only to those that have lived here no less than 500 years). Teach them that it is possible to go above 35 mph on I-26, and that tipping less than 20% results in a cacophony of manic bird calls. (We should all normalize cawing at bad tips, by the way.)
Is it our responsibility as locals to manage tourists? Certainly not. But what’s actually stopping us from adopting entire bachelorette parties in order to show them that it is possible to enjoy the Pubcycle without “woo-ing” past a funeral procession? (A very real thing I’ve witnessed). Come 2023, it’s worth a shot.