Editor’s note: The following content, unlike the rest of Mountain Xpress’ award-winning coverage of local news and events throughout the rest of the year, is 100% fake.
It’s been nearly two years since I drank a bunch of coffee, drove around town and got paid to write about it. Since then, I’ve also been handed actual U.S. currency in exchange for going antiquing as well as putting a local furniture maker’s livelihood at stake by “scaring away customers” — his words, not mine — at his craft fair booth.
Now, fresh off of helping make a beer that miraculously didn’t send anyone to Urgent Care, I was able to convince the Xpress Powers That Be to let me spend the last few months as an Experiential Specialist. Kicking deadlines and editorial meetings to the proverbial curb, I embarked upon not one, not two but three projects, covering the wild world of Asheville life as only an alt-weekly with a modest budget can.
The room where it almost happened
Having covered local theater for the past five years in these pages, the time felt right to come out of retirement and resume my acting career. Though I hadn’t trod the boards since an ill-fated high school production of Die Hard: The Musical in April 2002, I auditioned for Asheville Community Theatre’s staging of Hamilton and, under threat of no future Xpress coverage for the nonprofit, was cast in the dual role of the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.
On opening night, as my MC coaches Davaion “Spaceman Jones” Bristol and Chris Shreve aka C. Shreve the Professor watched in horror from the side, I went into a fugue state and apparently began performing the Jefferson parts in Act I where the Lafayette rhymes should go.
Though Brian Postelle of Asheville Stages later called my rendition of “What’d I Miss” a “spirited albeit psychotic display,” I’m told it was also “blessedly brief” (according to Xpress’ own Kai Elijah Hamilton). Suddenly donning period clothing to match my own frilly attire, Bristol sprang from behind the curtains, put me in a choke hold that he learned through his Urban Combat Wrestling work and hurled me off stage, stepping in with Lafayette’s next line of dialogue.
The rest, as they say, is history: Bristol went on to win an Anthony (aka Community Theater Tony) for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical and is currently working with Lin-Manuel Miranda on a new show. Thankfully, Bristol kept me on his Christmas card list, proving yet again that he’s truly a (Space)man of the people.
Pretend it’s a city
When the Asheville Police Department announced it was “back to normal” (staffing-wise) thanks to the addition of its newly formed Sidewalk Patrol, I felt called to lend a hand. Pedestrian etiquette is a cause near and dear to my heart, and I was elated when then-Chief David Zack gave a thumbs-up with one hand and the “OK” sign with the other — then proceeded to pat his head and rub his belly at the same time — for me to shadow a team of officers.
“Our city’s sidewalks were designed for a different era, one when you were lucky — or unlucky, depending on who’s heading your way — to encounter even one person on your stroll around town,” Zack says. “Since APD hasn’t figured out how to wield that sweet, sweet Harry Potter magic to push the buildings back and widen the walkways without encroaching on our precious streets, we have to make that sweet, sweet lemonade from all these frickin’ lemons.”
Outside APD headquarters, admitted muggles Sgt. Jack Mulanax and Capt. Ken Narlow fashioned a badge out of chewing gum foil, attached it to my shirt with some freshly masticated Big Red and deputized me for the day. As we walked their beat, one fresh horror after another soon appeared.
Dog walkers! Parents with children! Some kind of bizarre ritual involving a guitar plugged into an amplifier! It was mayhem in the streets and only the Men/Womenfolk in Blue could clean it up.
As various degenerates approached, we moved into a single-file line like civilized people, then resumed our triangular phalanx until the next obstruction. Despite the clear sidewalk laws in place, rules were violated with extreme prejudice and tickets handed out as if they were coupons for free doughnuts.
“I keep asking for yellow lines with room for passing in reasonable areas, but we’ll see,” Mulanax says. “Convex blindspot mirrors and yield signs would be great, too. If we’re not treating sidewalks like a well-traveled road, we’re doing it wrong.”
Seconds later, we unwittingly entered into a game of chicken with a young couple who could only be described as “extremely hot,” simultaneously holding hands and walking side by side. Just as it looked like Capt. Narlow might get knocked into Walnut Street into the path of a UPS truck, he blew his shiny metal whistle, the fashion models crumpled to the ground and the collision was averted.
“Ma’am, sir — I don’t know what sidewalks are like where you come from, but in these parts, they’re not one-way,” Narlow says. “It’s wonderful that you found someone willing to make physical contact with you in public, but you’re going to have to let all these sad single folks by.”
The beautiful people in handcuffs, locked to the dumpster by N.C. Stage Company, we walked back to the police station with Mulanax letting out audible “ahs” and repeating the phrase, “Oh, what a lovely day,” in the style of Nicholas Hoult’s Nux from Mad Max: Fury Road.
Indeed it was.
Hunting and gathering
Every time I’m shopping for discount cheese in Ingles, the obscenely well-curated music playlists piped through the supermarket are rudely interrupted by a message that the stores are hiring for all positions, full time and part time.
A shopper at these establishments since the long-bulldozed Brevard location had the type of halogen-bulb, fire-hazard sign that, well, still points customers toward the Ingles Markets #2 at the corner of Patton Avenue and Leicester Highway, I wanted to see how these human beehives run. And so I did what any responsible journalist would do: used a ouija board to summon the spirit of Bob Ingles and ask if I could work a different job at a different Ingles over the course of one extremely long day.
He said, “Hell, no,” but I still hold on to the dream that one day I’ll get to stack apples like an archaic game of Jenga at the Swannanoa market (aka Swingles). Or slice a rump of honey ham at Oteen (aka O’Tingles) so thin that customers wonder if there’s actually anything in their bags. Or make a frappuccino for some flustered white lady at the Starbucks inside the Black Mountain location (aka Blingles). Or tackle some young ruffian at the Haywood Road (aka Wingles) spot’s self-checkout for typing in the number for regular bananas when he’s clearly got ORGANIC monkey telephones. Not on my watch, mister!
If that entrepreneurial phantasm changes his mind, maybe I’ll even get to drive a delivery truck from The Mothership in Black Mountain to any number of Ingles Markets across this Zardoz-fearing region, then look into the camera and bellow, “I’m doing my part — are you?”