We’ve made it, dear readers, to the end of a long and winding road. No, I’m not talking about Interstate 26 but rather my time in Western North Carolina. After a decade in the 828, I’ve decided to say farewell.
But fear not, dear MedHeads, “Best Medicine” will go on. This latest column, however, will be my last — and one that has been surprisingly difficult to write. As a Pisces moon, I’m feeling incredibly sentimental. That’s why I called up my more practical friends — Eric Brown, Nora Tramm and Peter Lundblad — to help me sort through all this.
Longtime readers may recall that these three local comics were the column’s debut guests. It’s great to have them rejoin me for one last hoorah before I bid readers adieu.
Morgan Marie: While Xpress Managing Editor Thomas Calder thought my suggestion of a “Survivor”-style competition to determine my successor was a bit “too much,” I still think I should have some say in the matter. Preferably, I would avoid the human route and go straight to Sasquatch. Who else could fill my shoes? Plus, who better a successor than one completely off the grid? Offline and immune to comments, Bigfoot wouldn’t be afraid to offer tough takes on the latest local news. But I digress, who do you all think should take over “Best Medicine?”
Lundblad: It’s obvious to me that “Best Medicine” should be passed along to an actual doctor. I’m not entirely sure whether it needs to be a medical doctor or not. I guess any Ph.D.-level candidate would do. Or really anyone with any level of education at all. I’ll even take street smarts. Basically, a person who is vaguely aware of how to type is fine. The editing staff are good at Xpress. So really … anyone that can use punctuation correctly; will. likely! do a decent … job? at this. Right!
Brown: While Bigfoot is certainly an interesting idea as a successor to this column, it’s simply not possible. Unfortunately, Bigfoot isn’t real. Everyone knows Bigfoot was a robot created by aliens to protect them from the Six Million Dollar Man. I watched this whole two-part documentary on NBC about it. Plus, the Six Million Dollar Man ripped Robo-Bigfoot’s arm off, so I bet he would have a hard time typing after that.
My recommendation for replacement? I’ve got just the right candidate, and I’ve got 6 million reasons why you should pick him. That’s right, it’s Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man. Let me just do a quick Google search here to see if he’s still around, and … oh, damn — turns out everything I previously described wasn’t real. It was part of a TV show I saw in reruns as a child. Well … I guess a fictional character is not going to work as host.
Maybe we can get “Stone Cold” Steve Austin instead. He’s definitely real, and I bet he’d be great at it.
Tramm: Seems like I’ve seen Morgan’s name all over town: on the cover of the Mountain Xpress, on the fliers for practically every local comedy showcase, on the back of my eyelids when I blink. All of which is to say, no one person could fill her shoes. So perhaps we should combine two of the other most ubiquitous names I’ve seen plastered all around our fair city. That’s right, let’s track down Asheville’s most prolific tagger, DADBOD, and whoever’s been hanging those “LOVE” signs on every utility pole. We can team them up and give them the platform they both so clearly crave.
Marie: As my time in WNC draws to a close, I’m reflecting on what I’ll miss the most and the least about life in Asheville. If you were in my shoes, what do you suppose your answers would be?
Lundblad: If I were to move elsewhere, it would be the housing crisis I’d miss the most. I wouldn’t know what to do with the 75% of my paycheck that’s currently going to rent. And what would my mother do if I stopped begging for money? How would she adjust to life with a millennial child who could support himself? Can one even imagine?
Oh, and 12 Bones. I’d miss 12 Bones.
Brown: I’ve lived here my entire life. My mom’s side of the family was here before the Revolutionary War. I guess you could say my family has the mountains in their blood. Or we were too poor to move. But I like to think it’s the former.
I think the thing I would miss the most here is the community I’ve become a part of. I like the misfits and oddballs this town seems to gather. Asheville is like a magnet for weird people. The kind of people who don’t think chickens can truly be free range unless they’re allowed to come into the house to watch TV. That community is probably what’s kept me here all these years. That, or I’m too poor to move.
I’ll tell you one thing I wouldn’t miss if I left, though. All of I-26. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’m here to tell you the road to hell is I-26. Particularly the stretch where it meets I-40 to Airport Road. I hear that the Spanish Inquisition designed that interchange but decided it was too cruel to build.
Tramm: I’ve actually run this experiment before, as I left for about a decade. The serious answer is that I missed the mountains and didn’t miss the employment/housing situation. But since this is a joke column, my answer to both the most- and least-missed was the whack jobs who show up in the letters to the editor section of every local periodical. It’s like if someone actually printed and sold copies of that time when the edgy guy from your freshman psych class got into a three-month-long flame war with your ultrareligious uncle under one of your 2008 Facebook status updates. They don’t make ’em like that in the big city, let me tell you.
Marie: I was initially writing this response in BattleCat Coffee Bar and feeling overly sentimental when I ran into friend, comedian and February “Best Medicine” contributor Moira Goree. As an area native, I asked what she would miss the most. She said summer thunderstorms and rain, when one side of the mountain is dark and gray and the other is bright sunshine. Then we went on to roast the local comedy scene.
That’s what I’ll miss most. Not just the weather and the roasting, but those moments of running into friends in coffee shops on any given Monday. It’s what makes Asheville feel like a small town. You find friends and exes on every corner and everywhere in between. This small-town vibe is coincidentally the thing I won’t miss about living in Asheville, as well. It will be nice to go someplace where coffee shop locals don’t know the full extent of my dating history … yet.
Marie: Many areas have unique dialects and mannerisms, cultural signifiers that reflect someone is from an area. You’re all WNC natives. What are dead giveaways that someone is from here?
Lundblad: I am a unicorn. I am the “from Asheville” who didn’t move away in his 20s. I am the mountain that didn’t blow away. I am the river still polluted. I am the ground that holds up the new hotel. I am where the line cooks leave their cigarette butts. I am a poet of bunkum and Buncombe alike. What was the question? Sorry, I’m from here and I’m easily distracted by overly flowery ideas.
Brown: I think the easiest way is to look for what I call the “South Slope Stare.” If you ever see anyone who has a look on their face like they’re having a good time downtown, but also they’re a little over it, that’s the South Slope Stare. It looks a little like a half smile with a bit of impatience and just a dash of quiet desperation. A sort of look in the eyes that seems to say, “Yeah, I know they have a stout at this brewery made out of recycled deadstock clothes. I had one for breakfast this morning. Now put your drink order in and get out of my way.”
Now that’s not to say locals don’t have fun; we just don’t have as much fun as Marjorie and Glen Stumpwater from Horse Tragedy, Ariz., who think “Asheville is just so cute, but they’re a little liberal for our tastes.” Having to navigate street festivals and bars full of the Marjorie and Glen Stumpwaters of the world is how you get the South Slope Stare. (For the record, I made up the names Marjorie and Glen Stumpwater, but if by some chance there is a couple by such a name and they’re reading this, I’m sure you’re probably fine people. Now finish this column and stop clogging up the sidewalk.)
Tramm: I am legally and morally obligated to clarify that my family moved here when I was 6 months old, and thus I cannot claim “true local” status. That being said, I can tell you that everyone who attends Asheville High School eventually gets their upper chakras blasted wide open by the convergence of strange energies in the main building’s central rotunda — you didn’t think that spire was just for show, did you? — and gains the ability to see into the astral plane. So, you can easily identify someone who went to school in town by waving to them (or flipping them off if you prefer) with your spiritual aura and watching to see if they react.
Marie: I came to Asheville an astrology cynic, ignorant to Mercury and retrogrades. I’m now leaving a proud Pisces moon with a Leo sun/rising and the owner of several tarot decks. Tarot and astrology are seemingly woven into the fabric of WNC, after a certain amount of time here you eventually acquire a basic knowledge through osmosis. Spirituality is high on account that these ancient mountains are haunted. (Along with Bigfoot I also believe in ghosts.) Therefore, it’s understandable that despite my best efforts and Christian upbringing, I eventually succumbed to the occult. I think Western Carolina singles are especially susceptible since Asheville dating is based almost exclusively on the compatibility of birth charts.