Council hosts goal-setting forum
The Asheville City Council will stage a community goal-setting forum Thursday, Jan. 12, in the Randolph Learning Center (90 Montford Ave.), starting at 6 p.m. Council members will use citizen input to help determine goals and priorities during the upcoming budget process.
After an introduction by Mayor Terry Bellamy, city residents will break into facilitated focus groups to share goals, brainstorm ideas, offer visions for Asheville’s future and spell out community needs. City staff will record the ideas offered and deliver a summary report to Council members. The results will also be posted on the city’s Web site.
— Cecil Bothwell
Touchdown or fumble?
Indoor football is the latest sports franchise to take a stab at drawing crowds to the Asheville Civic Center. The Ghostriders, part of the American Indoor Football League, will now call Asheville their home after recently signing a one-year contract with the Civic Center.
The AIFL began last year with six charter teams, all of which were based in the Southeast. Based on their success, the league expanded to 16 teams, with Northern and Southern divisions.
“We focus on regional play, and we got a pretty good response,” says AIFL President Andrew Haines.
Indoor football, which is much smaller than its outdoor counterpart, is played on a 50-yard field with seven-yard end zones. Haines says the result is a high-scoring game, with the added impact of a field-surrounding wall, which players often collide into (an element that may appeal to this region’s hockey fans).
“It’s very in-your-face and action packed,” Haines says.
As for that other indoor game — Arena Football — this incarnation does away with those annoying nets that keep footballs out of the crowd. “We go through 20 to 25 balls in a game,” Haines reports. “The crowd gets to keep them.”
The Ghostriders are the latest attempt to attract sports fans to the Civic Center, and the venue’s troubled sporting past is not lost on Haines. “We know about the hockey and the basketball, and we want to do things a little different,” the league president says. “We don’t want to make the same mistakes.”
Asheville will in fact be the Ghostriders’ first real home; as a charter team last year, they were a traveling outfit with a winless record.
The Ghostriders will kick off their home season on March 3 against the Augusta Spartans. Tickets will range from $5 and $10 for upper level seats to $23 “club” ringside seats that include drink and food service.
— Brian Postelle
Calling all vixens
Can you hear it — that distant moaning trumpet, sounding a sultry cry to all temptresses across the valley? Can you smell the perfume and gun-oil on the breeze? Can’t you just make out the whisper of high-heeled marching boots and sheer silk battle fatigues?
The Rebelles are coming back.
Forget what you may have heard about the demise of Asheville’s premiere burlesque comedy troupe — it was just another in the all-female guerrilla theater and dance troupe’s long line of disinformation tactics.
“We never ended,” says Rebelles’ founder Christine DiBenedetto (aka Simi Rocket). “We just went on a break. In two years, we wrote four original shows and performed nonstop regionally. It was a lot of work.”
Being at the front lines of the sexual revolution has left a few casualties, and getting all the troops back together has proven to be a challenge. The group hasn’t performed together since their 2004 Halloween show, and many of the founding members have since moved on.
Which means that the Rebelles are now looking for a few good women.
In front of bedroom mirrors all over the area, women of all shapes and sizes will soon be training. Not with chin-ups, but with grueling hours spent perfecting the rotation of hips and the ability to pull off campy one-liners while still looking unquenchingly hot. They can’t promise that the thigh-high boot camp will be easy, but the new recruits should be able to both stand up and strip down for what they believe in when their latest campaign of politically aware smut and sin deploys in June.
“We’re particularly looking for people who have good dance experience, but who also have an interesting sense of humor, because our comedy is a little bent,” says DiBenedetto. “We want people who understand that attitude, and who can bring some interesting concepts to the table.”
Like all covert-action cells, the Rebelles like to keep their plans secret until the they launch their attack, so the location and exact information about the auditions is being kept as tight as a dominatrix’s corset. But, if you think you just might have the right stuff to fight the sexy fight, you can call the Rebelles at 252-2326 or visit www.therebelles.com.
— Steve Shanafelt
Keeping the dream alive
This year, the life and legacy of civil-rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be celebrated all over Western North Carolina, from downtown Asheville to Sylva and Brevard.
The Asheville-Buncombe County Martin Luther King Jr. Association is holding several events, including a Youth Celebration and Award Ceremony (Friday, Jan. 13, 2 p.m.), a Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast (Saturday, Jan. 14, 8:30 a.m.), a Peace Walk that will travel from the St. James AME Church to Martin Luther King Park for a program of music and speeches (Monday, Jan. 16, noon), and a Candlelight Service and Awards Presentation (Monday, Jan. 16, 6 p.m.).
The youth celebration will include a performance featuring song, story, drama, art and other media to illustrate the philosophy of nonviolence as well as King’s life and work. And the keynote speaker at the prayer breakfast will be professor Luther E. Smith Jr. of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Along with a lifelong commitment to social transformation as an expression of his religious convictions, Smith is the author of Howard Thurman: The Mystic as Prophet. Thurman was the first African-American to meet with Gandhi. After that encounter, Thurman traveled the country speaking about the possibilities for nonviolent resistance as the means of transforming racial injustice.
Additionally, Namaste Yoga & Healing Center will be holding a Dr. Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration (Monday, Jan. 16, 8 p.m.) that will feature King’s speeches played on a sound system in the candlelit studio, silent meditation and prayer for nonviolent action, and live acoustic music with Ras Berhane and friends and the Three Kings Choir.
Western Carolina University in Cullowhee and the town of Sylva will also be holding plenty of events, including a Unity March and Candlelight Vigil, both in Sylva and on the campus of WCU (Sunday, Jan. 15, 5:30 p.m. and Monday, Jan. 16, 5 p.m. respectively), a Prayer Breakfast featuring Terry Bellamy, the first black mayor of Asheville (Monday, Jan. 16, 8:30 a.m.), “The Civil Rights Movement: Where It’s Been and Where It’s Going,” a panel discussion and showing of the film, King: From Montgomery to Memphis (Thursday, Jan. 19, 4 p.m.), civil-rights leader Judy Richardson speaking about her experiences on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and work on the film Eyes on the Prize (Thursday, Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m.), and a Spoken Word and Poetry Slam centered on reflections of the life and legacy of King (Friday, Jan. 20, 9 p.m.).
Brevard College and the Brevard/Transylvania County Human Relations Council will be doing their part to celebrate King’s birthday as well. Planned events include an interdenominational Prayer Breakfast with the theme “Religious Tolerance” (Saturday, Jan. 14, 9:30 a.m.), the Damascus Road Anti-Racism Workshop (Monday, Jan. 16, 1-5 p.m.), and a Candlelight Walk followed by a Community Celebration at the Porter Center for Performing Arts that will feature the performance piece “Musical and Dramatic Reflections on the Life and Dream of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” (Monday, Jan. 16, 6 p.m.).
For more information and a complete schedule of events, check the Seasonal Celebrations section of the Xpress Community Calendar.
— Lisa Watters
Local hostel offers international adventures
I’ve just spent a week swapping tales and hoisting ales with travelers from all over the globe — and I never left West Asheville. I talked international politics with a law student from Germany, and traded hopes for world peace with an activist from India. Late one night, I eavesdropped raptly as a musician from New Orleans practiced the classical guitar he’d rescued from Hurricane Katrina; another night, I had the chance to (but swear I didn’t) share a room with a group of young women fresh from a bachelorette party.
The scene of these exotic adventures was Bon Paul and Sharky’s Hostel, a big house with a welcoming porch on Haywood Road.
“It’s similar to a boarding house,” proprietor Joe Gill explains, “but it’s not — it’s a hostel. It’s very popular in Europe. It’s not like a bed-and-breakfast in that it’s much cheaper — it’s for the budgeted traveler. You share a bedroom, share a bathroom, share a kitchen, and there’s no breakfast that’s brought to you by a fancy cook, like in a bed-and-breakfast.”
But that’s not really a problem when you’re right next door to Digable Pizza, across the street from the Westville Pub, and a short stroll from the flock of hip new eateries and shops in the neighborhood, which Gill refers to as “Asheville’s Asheville.” And if you should decide to head downtown to catch a concert, you can leave your car in the hostel’s parking lot and ride one of the stable of bicycles Gill lets his guests use for free.
An enthusiastic backpacker, Gill has stocked Bon Paul and Sharky’s — named for a late pair of goldfish he describes as “good friends and confidants” — with all the amenities he’s enjoyed in the hostels he’s stayed in around the world.
The living room boasts comfortable couches, a wide-screen cable TV with a stock of DVDs, wireless Internet access, and shelves full of reading matter, including local guides and periodicals. On the back deck, you can ease into a hot tub or fire up a grill. In the kitchen, you can fix yourself waffles for breakfast or a snow cone for dessert. Each of the bunk-filled bedrooms (and the lone private room) contains lockers where guests can store their things.
Gill and co-Manager Eric Bell provide each guest with clean sheets, blanket, pillow and towel, and the communal kitchen and bathrooms are scrupulously scrubbed — contradicting the stereotype of hostels as dirty and unsanitary.
Gill named each of the rooms after an explorer he admires: Amelia Earhart, Jacques Cousteau, Roald Amundsen, Bas Jan Ader. But what kinds of explorers have trekked through the premises since Bon Paul and Sharky’s opened last March?
“There’s really been no trend, kind of all over the board,” Gill observes. “People in their 50s and 60s, maybe even older than that, all the way down to 18-year-old college students passing through. The majority of the people have been American, next U.K., and a few Aussies and other people speckled across the rest of the world — Switzerland, India, China, Japan.”
Most of the American guests, he notes, “seem to be looking to move to Asheville.” No surprise there.
Bon Paul and Sharky’s Hostel is at 816 Haywood Road. Rates are $20/night, or $17/night for stays of three or more nights, or those involving three or more people; the private room is $50/night. Reservations are encouraged, but drop-ins are welcome. Call 350-9929, or visit www.bonpaulandsharkys.com.
— Steve Rasmussen
Squeezing the lemons
A planned review of past reports on the Asheville Civic Center’s future took a slight detour Jan. 4 when Civic Center Task Force Chair Jan Davis claimed the bully pulpit to take issue with a new report released by the John Locke Foundation.
Solving Asheville’s Civic Center Dilemma: Making Lemonade Out of a Lemon, published by the nonprofit in December, concludes that selling the Asheville facility is the city’s best option.
“It’s a good report,” Davis declared at the Jan. 4 meeting, adding bluntly, “I don’t agree with it.” Calling the report’s statistics “a bit skewed,” he gave his own conclusion: “It’s very difficult to sell something like this.”
But why was the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank in Raleigh, even weighing in on this local issue?
“When the city of Asheville appointed the task force, that sparked our interest,” Michael Senaro, the report’s author, explained in a telephone interview. Senaro, who is John Locke’s director of research, said the foundation has been interested in the financial issues surrounding civic/convention centers for several years. After summarizing the Asheville Civic Center’s physical and financial history, his report goes on to argue the benefits of eliminating the taxpayer subsidy by selling the aging venue. But though the report cites a list of other transfers of public property to the private sector, they involve golf courses, botanical gardens, railroads, airports and utilities — not comparable facilities.
Asked if he was aware of any potential buyers for the Asheville Civic Center, Senaro responded: “No, but I did see that article in your paper that talked about the Missouri firm [John Q. Hammonds Hotels] that was interested in building a hotel downtown. If you offer exhibit and banquet-hall facilities to a hotel, that would probably be a real plus.” Selling the separate components rather than the combined multi-use facility “might be a much more viable option,” he said.
At the task-force meeting, however, the focus shifted as the group heard from Peggy Berg of the Highland Group consulting firm, which was hired by the Tourism Development Authority five years ago to assess Asheville’s need for a new convention center. Berg urged the committee to step back from the immediate fiscal “pain” and consider the “optimum investment to take Asheville to the next level.”
After that, former City Council member Ed Hay discussed another set of recommendations, the Heery Report, which was endorsed by a prior task force that Hay chaired. That group, he noted, “met monthly for five years,” beginning in 1996. Council formally adopted those recommendations, which called for improving the existing facilities, in 2001 but never implemented them.
The final speaker at the task-force meeting was architect Richard Fort, whose 2002-03 study considered ways to reduce the projected costs of the Heery recommendations.
The next task-force meeting will be Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the Civic Center Banquet Hall. Public input is welcomed. Making Lemonade is available online at www.johnlocke.org.
— Nelda Holder