This month, “Best Medicine” is celebrating Western North Carolina parents. Given the complicated relationship I have with my own family, I’ve spent the past seven years in Asheville collecting adultier adults to help raise me as their own. You know, chosen-family who remind me to change my car oil and advise me on whether or not my eggs have gone bad (the ones in my fridge, of course).
Since I’m not currently tasked with raising another human, I leaned on Xpress Managing Editor (and father) Thomas Calder to help generate this month’s questions.
Meanwhile, comedian Chesney Goodson returns to the “Best Medicine” circle. Joining him is Michele Scheve, owner and producer of Slice of Life Comedy as well as Cary Goff, comedian and producer of the Disclaimer Lounge, who is better known around these here mountains as the Asheville Comedy Godfather (his preferred nomenclature, by the way).
Morgan Bost: Children are notoriously calm and predictable. But on the rare occasions when the little ones do act out, what location in Asheville do you consider the worst place for your mini-me to have a meltdown?
Michele Scheve: Taking a tantrum-prone child to goat yoga is a challenging situation. Moms who are stressed out and looking for some inner peace will find themselves in a nightmare. Not only does it ruin the chill vibes for everyone when you’ve got a wild child running around, but you might even end up losing your child to the goats. However, it’s kind of fascinating because no one ever really knows whether it’s a goat-kid or your human-having-a-meltdown-kid that’s responsible for all the horrific screams.
Chesney Goodson: In the middle of the grocery store’s toy aisle. They’ve always got a knock-off Barbie doll conveniently placed next to the section of the store where management knows you’ll have to pass, giving your kid one more item that you as a parent have to say no to.
Cary Goff: Along with comedy, I also write poetry. So, the worst place for a meltdown has to be at any spoken-word function. I find it hard to finish your poem about the essence of humanity and how we all exist peacefully in the eyes of nature while your kid is screaming like Rodan in the corner of the room. It’s a rough transition — returning to your poem before an audience that just watched you snap at your child. Over time, I’ve learned that if you give your kids your iPhone, they will play games until Daddy finishes reciting his poem “The Loins of Gaia,” which no one in the room was really paying attention to anyway.
Bost: I think it’s best to discuss the worst place for me to throw a tantrum. Avid readers and longtime MedHeads know my potential for a breakdown at any given Ingles, but I’m most likely to pitch a fit when forced into some sort of athletic adventure. Hear me out. I love camping and hiking. And on rare occasions, I’ve even been known to grace a bicycle. However, the combination of these elements creates my worst nightmare. Does anyone actually enjoy pedaling uphill as their crotch aches and cars whip dangerously close by them on winding mountain roads? And then I’m expected to just like … sleep in a tent after? No, thank you! Unless someone wants to carry me up the mountain on their handlebars while I suck down a juice box and listen to Lizzo, I think it’s best to leave extreme adventure to those not fueled by cold brew and cinnamon buns.
Bost: Playdates often require parents to interact with fellow playdate parents. In some instances, these gatherings can be quite awkward. Any recommended icebreakers? Fun factoids? Or perhaps some handy tips for dealing with that one parent who can’t help but brag about their child’s superior intellect?
Scheve: When I hang out with other Asheville parents, I often inquire about the private, charter or magnet school their children attend. Inevitably, the other parents start engaging in an artful rivalry, attempting to one-up each other with stories about their child prodigies. They go on and on about how their preschooler already has a fancy degree in science-engineering and fluently speaks four languages. I just sit there nodding and waiting patiently for my moment to share. Then I let them know my straight-up-public-school-kid is a fantastic artist, a cool radio DJ on 103.3 Asheville FM and is already a pro at collecting and playing vinyl records. But more importantly (for our future family finances), my kid’s social media is finally gaining traction with some sketchy brand ambassador offers. By the time those other Asheville parents leave, there’s no doubt who the superior parent is.
Goodson: I made up a wonderful “fact” that I tell other parents at these types of gatherings. It goes like this: I was one of the original members of the French Broad River Band. Most don’t know that the French Broad River blatantly ripped off our name. The whole matter ultimately broke up the band, though we are still in court over our copyright infringement suit against the watery hoodlum. But I digress.
You see, nothing piques people’s interest more than made-up facts about a town nobody really knows anything about.
If that fails, just make up other random “facts” about sports teams or players that can’t easily be verified. For example, one of my go-to stories is that Babe Ruth once used a port-a-potty outside of a chocolate factory. A worker walked in afterward and caught a glimpse of The Great Bambino’s delivered goods and came up with the idea for the Baby Ruth candy bar.
Needless to say, get creative! Asheville history is like a blank canvas in a Lisa Frank coloring book — it’s just waiting for you to fill in its ’90’s-themed mountain scenery with your colorful words.
Goff: I like to break out some fun facts such as, “Did you know the median population age of WNC is 46.5 years old? Crazy, huh?” Then I hit them with: “Did you know that the percentage of WNC seniors aged 65 and over who fell increased from 25% in 2012 to 33% in 2015? Insane, right?” Then I ask, “Did you know the average rainfall for WNC is 44 inches?” At this point, the other parents are always like, “Really?” Then I’m like, “Kidding! It’s 45. Gotcha!” Collective laughter ensues as we take our next shot of ayahuasca.
Bost: Why is it that no one ever talks about new topics of conversation with babies? There’s always that awkward moment when a parent-friend excuses themselves to the restroom, leaving me alone to be judged by their offspring. And as more and more friends pop out their own sentient beings, I find that I’m running out of shapes and colors and farm animals to lead with. What are Western Carolina toddlers even talking about these days? Climate change? CBD? Is there a baby drum circle I should be aware of? Like most Ashevilleans, they obviously have strong opinions on milk preferences.
Bost: Lastly, what are the unique opportunities that come with raising children in Asheville?
Scheve: It’s great to find a mountain bald like Max Patch or Sam Knob and take your little one on an epic hike. Once you conquer the summit, get them off their harness and just let them run wild with puppylike energy. Don’t forget to have a baggy to pick up after them and watch out for other leash-free kiddos. If they’re a good boy, girl or nonbinary, give them a treat like an apple caramel doughnut from Vortex. Then take a well-deserved break for yourself and eat that special cookie from your private stash. As enjoyable as it is to soak up the surroundings in your carefree adult haze, at some point you’ll remember you’re a parent, along with all the perils of ticks, poison ivy, stranger-danger, falling off a cliff, deadly lightning flash storms and the fact that you forgot the sunscreen. Time to find your kid, clip that leash back on and head home!
Goodson: Honestly, there isn’t much for kids to do around town, which is why most locals take their kids to breweries. Nothing shows your child what not to do more than doing the things you don’t want them to do in front of their face early in life. The hope being they don’t do it behind your back later — right?
I also see a lot of out-of-towners leaving their children to be babysat by black bears so they can take a selfie by a waterfall.
Goff: We like seeing what kinds of rashes our kids get from tubing down the French Broad. We also love bringing them to a local brewery and letting them run around unsupervised while we spend the day drinking until our kids are eventually forced to call us an Uber. Oh, and we love to go to expensive art galleries and play a game called “Touching Stuff.” Whoever gets yelled at first gets a delta-9 gummy and a tattoo.
Bost: As the mother of two cats, Leopold and Gertrude, I’m grateful to be nestled between so many cat cafes. A new cat cafe that doubles as a metaphysical store will be opening in the neighborhood soon. How convenient! I can sip cold brew while mapping the cats’ birth charts. (Gertrude is a Leo, Leo is a Sagittarius — it’s all very confusing.) I’m sure the cats and I will have plenty of time to explore our spirituality this summer after the release of this column inevitably leads to a sharp decline in my dating life.