It’s the start of a new year, dear readers, and we’ve left our vices behind. Given the turbulent nature of the recent past though, I hesitate to lay too much hope on the horizon. Perhaps it’s best to tiptoe into 2023 and set the bar low to avoid being disappointed — an idea I initially jotted down in my diary.
For those new to the “Best Medicine” series, you may be asking yourself: Who is this person and why are they airing out their diary advice in Mountain Xpress?
As the headline notes, I’m Morgan Bost, a local comic. And each month, I speak with a rotating cast of fellow local comedians who share their innermost thoughts on all things Western North Carolina in hopes of bringing laughter (with perhaps a sprinkle of existential dread) into the hearts and homes of readers.
This month I’ve reached out to Mario Trevizo and Eric Brown to get their takes on New Year’s resolutions, the seasonal sads and Dry January. Asheville comedy favorite Julia Macias was also reached for questioning, but it appears she may have been overtaken in parts of her responses by an ancient Appalachian forest spirit. I was surprised at first, but here at “Best Medicine,” we welcome all voices — even those otherworldly or chaotic in nature.
Morgan Bost: New year, same Asheville. What’s the first of the city’s New Year’s resolutions that will likely be broken?
Eric Brown: Look, I get it. Last year was hard, and you put on a few extra pounds. But 2023 is when you get back down to your college weight, right? Wrong! Your college weight is gone. It’s dead. You’ll never be there again. Let it go.
Besides, losing 20 pounds isn’t going to make you happy. You know what will? Pizza. And lucky you — you live in Asheville. You’re surrounded by restaurants and breweries designed to keep you fat and happy. Let them do their jobs.
Because here’s the thing — when the Mad Max-esque climate apocalypse that we’re inevitably headed for comes, you won’t fondly remember hours spent on your Peloton; you won’t crave kale. While you’re fighting irradiated mutants in your leather jumpsuit, you’ll miss burgers and watching TV. Skip the resolution and just embrace happiness.
Julia Macias (as ancient Appalachian forest spirit): We all know better, but I know as well as anyone that we will not be able to resist feeding the French Broad River Beast. I remember Oct. 8, nineteen aught seven: Asheville’s own prohibition had just been passed, and the whole town came together to dump all the sinful booze into the river.
And now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a 50-foot-wide river creature on its first booze bender, but my, it was a show! Ole Frenchie whistled and clicked and did flips for all the town. It was such a hoot. Even Judge Jeter Pritchard loved it. “A show of Asheville coming together to be sober and merry!” I recall him saying.
The next year, the town reunited to witness the sheriff dump all his confiscated contraband over the bridge into Ole Frenchie’s maw once again. And that established a trend that we’ve continued, year after year, even after Prohibition became a memory.
Yes, the decades have revealed to me that Asheville lives to give Ole Frenchie all the grog and “bar snacks” (septic tank runoff, torn Patagonia fleece, worn-down tire rubber) that she can eat. We can face the fact that this diet ain’t the healthiest for our old girl, but I don’t think we can resist gifting her these treats. As a matter of fact, I’m on my way there now with a bucket filled from my septic tank.
Mario Trevizo: The people of Asheville deserve to know that starting the year with unrealistic goals and resolutions is pointless and damaging to their community. Can you imagine living in a beer city where everyone simultaneously stops drinking beer during the slowest and most depressing months of the year? Sure, they all think they’re feeling better because … well, not drinking is good for your physical health. And your mental health. And your sleep schedule.
But what about capitalism!?! What about supporting others’ dreams to make money at the expense of your actual well-being? These are some of the things I think the people of Asheville fail to realize they are impacting with their resolutions.
With that said, my guess is the first resolution to be broken is depriving breweries of their local income. It’s just not progressive, America!
Bost: Much like our crumbling infrastructure, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before the city’s resolution for a better water system breaks. As with most resolutions, the city’s was born from regrettable holiday decisions. While most of us combat a season of sloth and overindulgence with cleanses and meditation retreats, the city has resolved to counteract the loss of water to nearly 40,000 residents with an independent review committee.
Like dealing with a remorseful ex, I’m foolishly giving the city one more opportunity to prove itself — 90 days, to be exact. Which is the timeframe the city has given the independent review committee to provide a report with recommendations. What the city plans to do with these recommendations remains as unclear as the French Broad River (thanks, in part, to the ancient Appalachian forest spirit and her friends). But if I know anything about committees, it’s that they are both effective and timely — right?
Bost: Putting Mario’s prediction aside, many folks do choose to abstain from alcohol during the first month of the year, in what’s known as “Dry January.” What are your suggestions for booze-free fun in Beer City?
Brown: I actually just passed the one-year mark of quitting drinking myself. I stopped on New Year’s Day, 2022. Initially, I was just doing it for a month to see if I could. Up until then, I had never heard about “Dry January.” Once I learned that this was an annual tradition of sorts for many people — and given that a lot of my life decisions are motivated purely by spite — I decided to extend my monthlong run without drinking to 100 days so it wouldn’t look like I was part of that trend. That turned into me quitting altogether.
So my suggestion for nondrinking fun? Do something to purely spite someone who has wronged you. You’re sober now, so the satisfaction of besting an enemy will only be sweeter. Or stay home and play very sad video games about the dangers of alcoholism while you dry out. That’s what I did, and it got me to quit completely. Shoutout to Disco Elysium.
Macias: Personally, when I drink, I’m looking to escape the world and my feelings. So, sober fun often means finding something that forces me to live in the moment, and in the winter what better way to feel the wind in your hair and the rush of life than to go sledding?
But with the ravages of climate change, there just isn’t enough snow to go soaring down the hillside anymore. So if you want to relive those childhood memories, here’s what you’ll want to do. First, go downtown with a case of IPAs to recruit one of the psychic hillbillies. (I’ve seen a few of them hanging around Shakey’s, but if you go to any wood-paneled drinking establishment, you’re bound to find one.) Of course, if you’re strapped for cash, you can usually get one of the older psychic hillbillies with just an afternoon’s worth of Busch Light and a sultry glance. (But personally, if I’m going to get thrown around, I’d rather it be by a younger psychic hillbilly.)
Next, go up to the intersection of Haywood and Walnut streets with your favorite trash can lid, mount said lid and have your new telekinetic friend give you a good psychic shove down the hill. It might be more dangerous than old-fashioned snow sledding, but if you know how to drift and get a hard enough push, you’ll make it all the way to Tunnel Road! Either way, it’ll be a fun story to tell the doctors at the ER.
Trevizo: Despite my previous prediction, I have successfully taken multiple breaks from booze over the years. The trick is kombucha. And lying to yourself. You see, the average person doesn’t really like the taste of alcohol. We just like the taste of regret when we spend our money on drinks that make us question our lives and our ability to respect ourselves.
Luckily, kombucha offers a similar experience! Not only will it mimic the absurd prices of an alcoholic beverage, but it naturally doesn’t taste very good by itself either. And if you drink more than one, you feel terrible. But you can still drive!
So that’s the solution. If you can learn to lie to yourself about looking forward to buying kombucha after a hard day at work or when you want to celebrate with friends, you’re pretty much an evolved version of your current sober-seeking self.
Bost: Since I quit drinking in 2021, every day is Dry January for me. Might I suggest mentioning your alcohol abstinence in casual conversation to establish moral superiority? This will help supplement for serotonin.
Granted, it’s worth noting that quitting drinking is good for you in the long run, but in the beginning, it kind of sucks. On any given night out you may find yourself at first plagued with FOMO (fear of missing out), which I recommend counteracting by bringing up your drinking friends’ most regrettable mistakes. (That way, no one is having fun!)
If that doesn’t work, try tricking your brain with a few mocktails. I find I’m very susceptible to the placebo effect: two nonalcoholic beers in and I become much more confident in my dancing.
Bost: With frigid temperatures, shorter days and time spent indoors, winter can lead to some seasonal sadness. Now that the holidays have passed, any tips for keeping spirits bright this winter in WNC?
Brown: I know it can be hard to live in Asheville, where the rent is always rising and the pay never is. But anytime life gets me down, I like to think about the things I’m grateful for. For one, I don’t live in Greenville — could you even imagine having to live there? Or even worse, Charlotte? Ewwwwww, that would be awful.
If that doesn’t fill you with gratitude, think about what it would be like to have rows of nipples like a pig or a dog. I bet you’re glad you don’t. Really makes you count your blessings, huh?
And now consider this. You live in a time where air conditioning exists and dinosaurs don’t. Imagine having to navigate morning traffic in a world where sometimes a 20-foot-tall carnivorous monster is in your neighborhood, and you have to leave the windows down because there’s no AC? I bet you never considered that, did you? Truly, something to be grateful for.
Macias (as ancient Appalachian forest spirit): I’ve seen a lot in my many years wandering this little dirt ball we all call home, but everywhere I’ve gone, every winter, people always ask this question. Perhaps it’s morbid to say, but I find comfort in remembering that dark days aren’t relegated to the cold! One of my worst days in the last couple centuries was a sunny New Jersey May day in 1937!
Now, does imagining the Hindenburg’s ball of fire descending the sky in spring help me through the winter? No. But! Sad days in the sun can be a reminder of the joys found in the long nights: sharing experiences over hot cocoa, a gentle kiss to warm your lips and shamanic dances around Stonehenge. (Though, I suppose those days are long gone — you kids really missed out!)
Trevizo: As a Pisces man, I’m naturally going to feel the sadness of the universe a little more intensely than the average person. Luckily, I’m a master at putting meaning and purpose into just about anything as well. Ever heard of tacos? Or eating Taco Bell? Every. Single. Day. How about crying alone in your car while you aimlessly drive around a small mountain town?
These can all be great tools to jump-start your winter healing process. You see, when you replace the word “depressing” with the word “healing” in your head, nothing you do this winter is truly sad. Let’s give it a try. “Today I barely got out of bed. I ate a tub of ice cream, four-day old Taco Bell and cried in the shower for an hour while thinking about my ex from eight years ago. I didn’t even see the sun. It was such a healing day.”
Bost: My only advice is to avoid winter altogether. As a Leo, I don’t do well in the cold and would much prefer basking in the summer sun. I write this wrapped in a 15-pound blanket with a plethora of cookies, cheeses and various forms of fried dough within reach. My plan is to remain here, crushed beneath the weight of both the blanket and the world, until I slowly dissolve into a winter stew, marinating in snacks and streaming services. Once the worst of winter has passed, I will reemerge from my chaotic chrysalis refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to face spring.