Where the beef isn’t

OK, I admit it: I’m not the best person to tell anyone which locally made veggie burger could convert a carnivore, because I’ve never been a meat eater (though I do know all the words to that 1980s-era Whopper theme song). So you quarter-pounder fanatics can do what you like, but keep this in mind: […]

Don’t tell her how to feel

No matter how vast the range of country artists — and there’s a great deal of variety here, from the driving snarl of early Johnny Cash to the friendly, folksy bar banter of KT Oslin; from the heart-wrenching twang of Patsy Cline to the pop-savvy trill of Shania Twain — they always seem to meet […]

Hoop dreams—and demons

The nasty word “rape” has a way of permanently attaching itself to all who come in contact with the act it describes. Yet sports stars, buoyed by a fame that often includes a bubble of bad-boy charisma, seem magically able to dodge its taint. Accused rapist and L.A. Lakers celebrity Kobe Bryant is, of course, […]

Valley of the dolls

“When I was a kid, I made a puppet show with my Raggedy Andy doll,” reveals Chicago-based theater director Blair Thomas. “There wasn’t a movie theater or anything in the town I grew up in,” he slyly adds. To be fair, most kids pick up a puppet at some point, no matter where they happen […]

Getting Punchy

Who can talk about puppetry for any age group without drifting to that most delightfully acerbic of all marionettes, that comical ne’er-do-well Punch? Not that the hook-nosed buffoon has ever, by any means, offered “family-friendly” entertainment. In fact, with his spew of curses, Punch surely embodies an early foray into adult entertainment, especially when joined […]

Rebels without a recipe

Introducing tourists to authentic New Orleans cooking probably makes downtown restaurateur Chris Jones pretty happy. However: “If we have Vassar Clements jamming on a Parliament tune by the end of the [BlueBrass finale show], I’ll be really happy!” declares the Thibodaux Jones Creole Kitchen co-owner and head instigator of the BlueBrass Project. Veteran fiddler Clements […]

Fooling around with folk

Ceramic artist Liz Sparks, one of the artists-in-residence at the Energy Xchange in Burnsville, is also a newly appointed member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. “To me, folk pottery is what’s made in Seagrove,” she continued during a recent interview. Seagrove, the North Carolina piedmont town famous for its large population of potters, is […]

The feet of nations

Attending Folkmoot USA is like getting to tour the globe without fear of jet lag or parasitic giardia. It’s like Walt Disney’s dream for the “It’s a Small World” theme ride — only with way more authenticity. Now in its 21st season, Folkmoot — the Waynesville-based international-dance event — is still striving to bring the […]

Lives of the rich and fictitious

“He’d had affairs with Bianca Jagger, the princess of Savoia and some runway model turned singer named Annie Lennox,” announces name-dropper Lucia Sanchez, a character in Valerie Ann Leff’s debut novel. Leff, a local writer, set her Better Homes and Husbands in New York’s Upper East Side, at fictional 980 Park Ave. — a pre-war […]

Swimming against the current

In 1956, two years after Brown v. Board of Education had helped launch the postwar civil-rights movement, Eleanor Roosevelt agreed to speak in Western North Carolina — but only if she could address a racially mixed audience. The venue for the former First Lady’s talk was the Asheville YWCA — an emerging leader in the […]

Which Y?

They share three letters in common — three words, in fact — “Young,” “Christian” and “Association.” They each have a gym, a pool and an after-school program. Even their fees are pretty comparable ($58 a month for a family membership at the YM, $50 at the YW). But their mission statements move in decidedly different […]

Not so obvious

“You can ask any old friend of mine: I’m a f••ing comedian, a fun guy, and that’s what most people thought I’d become; not Old Misery Guts,” British singer/songwriter Beth Orton recently confessed to Believer magazine. It’s true that every interviewer claims the 6-foot-tall musician is almost punchy, always cracking jokes and telling crazy stories. […]

Human potential vs. animal magnetism

“One of my Romanian teachers says, ‘People in the circus are way more crazy than other people, and the people who go up in the air are the craziest of all,’” reports Lisa Clayton, hula-hoop artist, ring mistress and aerialist with local act Surreal Sirkus. But even a lifetime of experience cannot ensure safety. “A […]

The ex factor

“I had so much racism and ill feelings toward whites that I had to back up a lot to gain perspective once I decided to follow Jesus. “Anyway, now I’m able to see what and where the true issues are at,” writes Speech, front man and mastermind of the recently reunited hip-hop group Arrested Development, […]

Redheaded stepchild

“The guy who plays drums for Kronik cuts my hair each week,” reveals Lewis Lankford, president of the West Asheville Business Association. And Bryan Marshall of country act Bryan Marshall & The Gone Wrongs, well, his wife Terra owns The Beauty Parade, a nearby salon. Lankford is naming off many of the musicians who not […]

Vital Signs

“We want to be a visible presence; we want to be taken seriously,” insists Sylvia, a founding member of the Asheville Vegetarian Society. As if to drive that point home, four group members have met me for lunch at the Early Girl Eatery — and together, we’re a server’s nightmare. “Does this have any dairy?” […]

A spirit with a memory

“[Addiction] does not want the addict; it wants the family, the community, the nation.” — the Rev. Renita Weems Addiction, explains the Rev. Renita Weems, “wants your soul, but it will settle, for now, [for] your sanity. It wants your hope, but it will settle for your family. … It is a spirit with a […]

Everybody’­s doing it

“Once it’s had as much as it can take, it falls off,” pop star Britney Spears recently announced on the Web forum Contact Music. “It’s supposed to fall off every six months,” the bad press-beleaguered singer lamented. “Mine falls off every other day.” Perish whatever see-through-body-suit, Madonna-tongue-kiss thoughts you might be having: Spears is talking […]

Let’s get it om

“I want to have people on the dance floors singing ‘Om’ … instead of ‘shake that ass.’” — Bhagavan Das It was Beat poet Allen Ginsberg who once said, “Bhagavan Das never had anything better to do than call up Mystic Mama on the Mantric Telephone.” He was talking about Das’ practice of singing the […]

Bond: strange bond

“If I had known you were coming I could have at least stocked up on burritos,” Miss Wilma tells her prodigal daughter, Sarah, who’s just mysteriously arrived from Santa Fe, 10-year-old daughter in tow. It’s a rather odd greeting, considering that the older woman has been all but estranged from her own offspring for the […]

Weekend warriors need not apply

Llamas. That’s the first thing I picture when I recall my days at Penland School of Crafts. It was a dozen years ago, to the month, and in my 19-year-old wisdom, I decided I wanted to make jewelry for a living. So I signed up for a two-month intensive in my chosen medium and left […]