Buzzworm news briefs

A walk in the garden

“Here’s your chance,” exclaims Susan Roderick, Quality Forward director, “to gain admission into secret gardens where you can stroll to your heart’s content and garner inspiration from some of Asheville’s most talented gardeners.” Roderick’s organization will host its 10th annual garden tour in the Kenilworth community on Sunday, June 19, from 1 to 5 p.m. — rain or shine. Quality Forward is a volunteer-based nonprofit that works to enhance the environment and quality of life in Asheville and Buncombe County.

Kenilworth, an independent city from 1891 to 1929, has a long and colorful history. Community residents are proud to have elected the first female mayor in the state (Leah Chiles), happy that their original jail house (now a private residence) is still standing, and they revel in rural charm, walkable streets, a marvelous collection of trees, a fascinating mix of housing styles (from grand to early-American bungalow) and an 18-acre lake.

Like many folks of his day, early 20th century developer Jake Chiles had romantic notions about England, and Scotland in particular. He doted on the vision of a development based on the wonders of Kenilworth, as featured in the 1821 Sir Walter Scott novel, Kenilworth. The book offers the improbable story of Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester (immortalized in Leicester, just outside of Asheville), who suffers neglect and insult, and eventually dies at her husband’s hands.

There are 12 gardens in the Quality Forward tour, with themes ranging from Catherine and Gerry Brown‘s Japanese-style garden to the Lutz family’s interpretation of gardening in Provence, France, to Frank and Margaret Adams‘ Rock City Garden.

With so much to see, don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes.

Tickets are $15 each, $25 for two. All proceeds will benefit Quality Forward. Register at the Kenilworth Presbyterian Church, 123 Kenilworth Road. Vans will be available on a limited basis for those in need. For more information, call 254-1776.

— Peter Loewer

Even if he does say so himself

Nursing a beer beneath a Panama hat, travel writer Lan Sluder cuts a fine Hemingway-esque figure (albeit a somewhat suburbanized version). Like the late Hemingway, Sluder is an occasional ex-pat, working the trenches of such far-flung destinations as Bangkok and Tegucigalpa. But rather than opting for gritty American nemesis Cuba as his home away from the homeland, Sluder chose coup-free and tourist-friendly Belize, where he lived for more than a decade.

Now, however, he calls Candler home.

But putting down Western North Carolina roots hasn’t stopped this writer from exploring exotic locales. In fact, in Fodor’s new guidebook, The Carolinas and Georgia (Random House, 2005), it was Sluder who deemed Asheville “the hippest city in the South.”

So why exactly does Asheville merit this mention? Sluder claims visitors can find “an arts and culture scene which rivals that of Santa Fe,” with “myriad restaurants, coffeehouses, museums, galleries, bookstores, antique shops and boutiques.”

Sure, Asheville has been deemed the “Paris of the South” and the “New Age Mecca” with such abandon that it’s hard to pinpoint who coined those phrases. But “Hippest City in the South” is a new one, and — with competition from the likes of Athens, Atlanta, Charleston, Savannah and Wilmington — somewhat unexpected.

But Fodor’s, a long-trusted travel-guide company, backs this claim with Fodor’s Choice awards, their highest honors, for the Cataloochie Cove and the Thomas Wolfe House as attractions and Gabrielle’s restaurant at the Richmond Hill for dining. Other area haunts, like Zambra and Bistro 1896, earned Fodor’s stars, acknowledging their notability.

Even with much sought-after stars to back the claim, can a title as weighty as “Hippest City” really be bestowed by a local? With living experience logged in New Orleans, Chicago and Miami — not to mention various tropical locales — Sluder may well be just the man to judge.

— Alli Marshall

Like a gold rush minus the hard labor

Sure, there are rumors — many of them founded — of people unearthing semiprecious stones from the surrounding hills. However, as the roadside attractions offering pre-dug earth for tourists to pan through in hopes of a big find prove, gem hunting is generally lots of hard work with little reward.

Unless, of course, you do your seeking at the Colburn Earth Science Museum’s annual Gem Fest. Now in its ninth year, the family-friendly weekend-long fete boasts speakers, educational activities and dealers selling minerals, fossils, jewelry and beads. Think of it as skipping the part about sloshing through muddy water and ruining your jeans — instead, you can go right to the part where you select that perfect quartz point or amethyst cluster.

The show runs Friday, June 17 (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.), Saturday, June 18 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Sunday, June 19 (12 to 5 p.m.). Check out lectures, such as University of New Orleans professor of mineralogy William Simmons speaking on “Collecting Pegmatites in Russia and Maine”; or “Volcanoes, Eruptions and Mineral Treasures,” presented by professor of geology and geophysics Karen Webber, also from UNO.

Of course, if you do want to pan for gold, that’s not out of the question: That and other activities run throughout the weekend, along with a silent auction to benefit the museum’s science education programs. And even if you don’t strike pay dirt, you can still afford to stop by Gem Fest — the festivities are free, as is entry to the museum.

For more information, visit www.colburnmuseum.org or call 254-7162.

— Alli Marshall

But will there be pillow fights?

If the last sleepover you went to involved playing “Light as a Feather, Heavy as Lead” and watching either Grease, Ghost or Dirty Dancing, it’s probably time to dust off the Ouija board and break out your best jammies. This year, the Asheville Purple Pages is holding its gay-straight community alliance event as, yep, a pajama party.

Forget the stuffy meet-and-greet involving pantyhose, pinchy shoes and food on toothpicks. This fete, held at Club Eleven (11 Grove St.) on Saturday, June 18, is all about fun. The 9 p.m. event includes free admission, pizza and $1 beer until the well runs dry.

The Purple Pages, now in its second year of publication, focuses on the area’s gay, lesbian and transgendered community, highlighting gay-friendly businesses and those with safe environments. The resource guide helps members of the GLBT community locate much-needed services — from physicians and dentists to auto mechanics and lawyers — without fear of prejudice.

The Pajama Party is an opportunity for anyone 21 years old and older to get to know the Purple Pages supporters and sponsors.

For more information, call 350-9970 or go to www.ashevillepurplepages.com.

— Alli Marshall

Make him one with everything

That’s the punch line to the joke about what the Buddhist asked for at the hot dog stand. And it’s the less eloquent version of Daigaku David Rumme‘s statement: “Zazen is said to be the Dharma gate of peace and comfort, the practice of realizing our innate oneness with all things.”

An American Soto Zen monk, Rumme spent 25 years at the Hosshinji monastery in Japan and was ordained a priest in 1978 by Harada Sekkei Roshi. He’s now a staff member of the Soto Zen International Center and lives at the San Francisco Zen Center. But far-flung affiliations aside, Rumme is currently focusing on local ties: The monk’s brother — master potter Chris Rumme — and mother both live in Asheville.

Though he’s spoken at the Asheville Zen Center while visiting his family and counts Teijo Munnich (of the Asheville Zen Center) as a longtime friend, Rumme has never led an extended retreat locally. Saturday, June 18 and Sunday, June 19, will be the teacher’s first weekend-long teaching. “The objective of this retreat is to come close to our zazen meditation both in stillness and in movement,” he says in a recent press release.

Anyone with an interest in meditation is invited to join. The $25 fee for the weekend covers breakfast and lunch each day. The teaching runs from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The retreat will be held at the Zen Center (191 Murdock St., Asheville).

To learn more, call 253-2314 or e-mail info@zcasheville.org.

— Alli Marshall

Meet the new boss

The search is over — Asheville has a new city manager. In a special June 9 meeting, the Asheville City Council voted unanimously to hire Gary Jackson to replace Jim Westbrook as the city’s chief executive. Westbrook, who held the reins for more than 10 years, announced his retirement back in January.

“Gary is an outstanding candidate,” proclaimed Mayor Charles Worley just before introducing the man who beat out more than 80 other applicants for the city’s highest-paying job. The other two finalists interviewed by Council were Assistant City Manager Jeff Richardson and Steve Thompson, the assistant city manager of Virginia Beach, Va. After the announcement, Jackson signed an employment contract that stipulates a salary of $140,000 annually. He starts work June 27.

In a brief statement, Jackson said he felt “deeply moved” and “humbled” by Council’s decision. He added that his goals include focusing on “communication, collaboration and continuous improvement.”

Council member Terry Bellamy, who made the motion to hire Jackson, later told Xpress that she was impressed by Jackson’s comprehensive background and his “ability to bridge the needs of both the business community and neighborhoods.”

Jackson comes to Asheville from Fort Worth, Texas, where he worked as a private consultant after stepping down as city manager last year. Local media coverage of his departure reported that he’d had philosophical differences with a newly elected mayor. Jackson, 51, began his career as a social worker, and at a May 26 public forum in Asheville he noted that that experience had led him to pursue a career in public service.

Fort Worth is the nation’s eighth-largest city, and Jackson controlled a budget there of nearly $800 million. Asheville’s budget for the coming fiscal year is expected to be about $100.2 million. Within the past few months, Jackson has also been a finalist for city-manager positions in Tacoma, Wash., and North Port, Fla.

— Brian Sarzynski

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