We’ve made it, dear readers, to the most wonderful time of the year: Leo season. Putting aside the undivided birthday attention I’ll receive come Saturday, July 29, I truly love summer. It’s a time for love and lust (if you can ignore the boob sweat). A season to lounge by the pool and enjoy your favorite book or social media squabble.
But honestly, who needs Threads or Twitter when you have Xpress’ opinion section? The other week, I certainly went down the section’s rabbit hole. In case you missed it, there was a back-and-forth between local readers Karen White and Lindy McClure over what or who is ruining Asheville.
White, a recent arrival from Chapel Hill, argued that the city’s quirky reputation wasn’t doing it any favors in preserving the area’s natural beauty. She implored residents to clean up their mess. “Take care of your community or don’t live here,” she wrote. “Have some pride, for God’s sake.” Within this short missive, White also suggested she was moving on to cleaner pastures.
Writing in response, McClure asserted that “greedy, unrestrained development” was responsible for Asheville’s demise. Furthermore, she argued “newcomers who don’t care” were also to blame for the city’s current conditions. In a final mic drop, McClure bid Karen a “good riddance,” leaving me with a near Nextdoor-level adrenaline rush.
To discuss this, summer fun and so much more, I’ve gathered Asheville comics Peter Smith-McDowell, Eric Brown and Timothy Hearn. When it comes to social media, Smith-McDowell, who runs a Western North Carolina meme page to complement his live comedy, is a true pro!
Bost: Since social media doesn’t seem to be going out of style, what would the ideal Asheville social media account need to look like to satisfy locals and tourists alike? In short, if these mountains could tweet, what would they say?
Timothy Hearn: I think the Asheville social media world would be vast and groundbreaking! Its Instagram account would feature only happy couples looking at mountains and getting engaged in front of the Biltmore Estate. Its Vine account would be 10-second clips of beer bros talking about dry-hopped IPAs and bachelorette parties getting lost downtown. Over on Asheville TikTok, folk songs and cover bands would all perform on the side of the road. And if we were lucky, Asheville’s Facebook page would be loaded with invites to events that we could reply “maybe” to and then get on with our lives.
Peter Smith-McDowell: In some ways, I could see an Asheville social media account reading like those posts we see from older relatives or friends on Facebook. You know, the person always asking simple questions as their status: “Is it OK for a dog to lick moisturizer off your face?” (We don’t know! Just Google it like the rest of us dumb-dumbs.) Asheville would also post weird charcuterie board photos — like pepperoni folded into squares with Velveeta Cheese. And, of course, our city would slide in other cities’ DMs with messages like, “Hey, wanna see my mountains?” Meaning Asheville would definitely be blocked by Charlotte. In fact, I could see Asheville getting banned on all social media platforms, with Etsy as its last refuge (if only it could remember its password).
Eric Brown: Even though Threads just launched, I imagine some enterprising parasite is already squatting on BlueRidgeMountains as a handle, so I imagine Asheville will have to settle for RealBlueRidgeMountains420 or something like that. I think an easy way to satisfy both tourists and locals alike is to not even attempt to. As a lifelong Asheville resident, I hate the tourists as much as the next person; but I do love their money. My suggestion is to create a standard city Web presence, but also a secret, second account for locals. The main account will do all the basic Asheville stuff: “Gee, aren’t hotels neat?” and “Come down to the new 14 Blue Dogs Brewery and try the new kombucha stout.” Then on the alternate account, probably called RealBlueRidgeMountains420AfterDark, posts would bemoan: “Oh great, another hotel” or “Don’t go to 14 Blue Dogs Brewery, it’s a front for a beer conglomerate, and also I hear they use real dog meat in the kombucha stout.” Now is that cynical of me? Yes. I like to think so.
Morgan Bost: Imagine your over-400-million-year-old Appalachian grandparent trying to Thread: That would be the Blue Ridge Mountains — granted that segment of the mountain range is even older! Jam recipes and bird pictures with questionable politics mixed in. Reminiscing about the “good old days” (prehistoric to be exact), while reminding everyone that they used to be uphill both ways. They’d probably need the much younger Rockies to help set up an account and reset the Wi-Fi.
The White/McClure exchange was in response to Xpress reporter Jessica Wakeman’s article on Asheville’s skyrocketing cost of living and its impact on local artists and business owners. Since we’re all local creatives — translation: perhaps broke — what are your recommendations for making it in Asheville?
Hearn: Get roommates! Get someone to live in a van under your extra oak tree in the backyard. Charge the mice living in your walls some sort of monthly rent, or potentially train them to play basketball and start a local business that charges people to watch their games.
Better yet, get three restaurant jobs, a side gig and start your new mouse business. Once the “Mouse Basketball” project takes off, go ahead and franchise it. Of course, you’ll need to come up with a better name than “Mouse Basketball” in order for it to get big enough to take over a good portion of the sports entertainment market. Once you do all that, I am pretty sure you’ll be able to afford to live in Candler.
If all that doesn’t work, there’s always Uber or DoorDash.
Smith-McDowell: I recommend wearing several random items from your house and strolling through downtown Asheville. Yes, the tourists will look at you oddly as you pass them sporting bubble wrap, your child’s tutu, a baseball cap and a Cheerwine shirt you got from Goodwill. But the sight will certainly make these same tourists second-guess whether or not to buy a second home here. It’s on us to do our part. It really takes a village of people dressed like the Village People to make sure our rent doesn’t go up.
Brown: Times are certainly hard, and the prices of food, gas and rent continue to climb. If you’re anything like me, you’re living paycheck to paycheck, hoping that your next comedy gig pays something — anything! — so you can afford food for the night. I mean, sure — you’re devastatingly handsome and certainly smarter than everyone you’ve ever met (and most importantly, humble), but that doesn’t pay the bills, does it? So, what can you do? I’ve come up with a simple yet elegant solution. We typically waste anywhere from six to eight hours a day on sleep. Imagine how much money you could make with an extra shift cleaning up at any one of our illustrious hotels. I bet you could make upward of an extra $100. By God, with that kind of money you could buy the 78-cent ramen noodles without thinking twice.
Bost: Someone once asked if I had tried “cutting costs” by scaling back on iced coffees and baked goods. As a West Asheville Leo, I’m not sure I understood the question.
Switching gears to something more … sensual. Summertime means sexy time for many WNC locals. As temperatures rise, so do libidos. Where are the best summer spots for sweeties (and strangers) to, ahem, heat up this month?
Hearn: If you really want to heat things up this summer, just hike your date down to Paradise Falls. It is a secret place that nobody knows about. (Those who do are all too busy getting hot and bothered to let you in on the secret.) This awesome little waterfall was carved into the mountain and manifested for your pleasure. But don’t go telling anybody I told you — we already have enough new people coming around and crowding our prime swimming holes.
Brown: Have your date meet you at the Sloth/Tom Selleck mural at Burial Beer Co. Everybody looks better standing in front of Sloth. Your date will take one look at the mural, and suddenly you don’t look so bad anymore. At least, that’s been my experience. (WARNING: Positioning is important. Do NOT stand in front of the Tom Selleck portion of the mural. You’ll never be able to compete with him. He’s got a mustache for days.)
Smith-McDowell: Best place to go is Disclaimer Stand-Up Lounge on Wednesdays at Asheville Music Hall. It’s free and there’s food and drinks to purchase. See all levels of stand-up comics, including some who’ve performed on Netflix, Comedy Central and Prime. I heard on TikTok laughter helps the libido.
If that doesn’t get you sensual and slippery this summer, bring your date down to my new small business located under the bridge with the chess mural. It is currently called “Mouse Basketball,” but we are workshopping new names.
Bost: Contrary to Smith-McDowell’s very obvious plug (he’s a co-producer of Disclaimer Lounge), longtime MedHeads will remember I wrote the truth about open mic comedy’s notoriously libido-killing vibe. I love the Disclaimer Lounge, it’s a great place to laugh and feel better about yourself, but nothing kills date night like being lambasted by underinsured, former class clowns. I suggest Disclaimer romance only if you’re anticipating a dry summer (and I don’t mean alcohol).