Buzzworm news briefs

Trout saddles?

Do mountain trout buck when you ride ’em?

Well, RiverLink has sure raised the question, anyway. The local agency is hosting the Swannanoa Appreciation Day and Trout Rodeo at the Buncombe County Recreation Park, adjacent to the Nature Center, on Oct. 5 from 12-4 p.m.

The free event will feature trout fishing from a freshly stocked stream, fly- and spin-casting instruction for children ages 8 to 15, and samples of grilled or smoked trout. (I’m disappointed to say that there won’t be any actual trout riding in the rodeo — I was hoping to see Mr. Toad show up in a cowboy hat!)

Several area colleges and environmental agencies will provide hands-on educational presentations about the welfare of WNC aquatic environments, and RiverLink will display an “Environscape,” which reveals how sedimentation and erosion impact wildlife. Also, some of the Nature Center exhibits will allow people a close-up look at the critters affected by the everyday choices we humans make.

Visitors to the event can participate in crafts for kids, bicycle-safety instruction and free health screenings, plus enter drawings to win canoe and raft trips with area outfitters.

— Rebecca DeRosa

Recovery: celebrating the possible

You couldn’t find a much more enthusiastic spokesman for the benefits of recovering from addiction than Doug Michaels.

“It’s an extraordinary experience,” he proclaims. Michaels is executive director of VOICES for Recovery, a statewide nonprofit organization based in Asheville.

To help raise awareness, the group will host a community “recovery rally” from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4 in downtown Asheville’s City/County Plaza.

Celebrate Life will feature an array of speakers sharing stories of recovery, along with food vendors and a host of local and regional performers, including Tyrone Greenlee, Andrew Hart, Trip Rogers of The Dry Dogs, Tony Schiess and Woman Song. Representatives from treatment centers and 12-step programs will also be on hand.

“Probably the most important thing is to get this message: that recovery is possible for everyone, and it’s OK to be in recovery,” declares Michaels.

Recovery, he stresses, is a matter of life or death. Citing the health hazards of drug and alcohol abuse, Michaels notes, “It’s the only terminal disease that can be permanently arrested.”

The community has a stake in recovery as well, since addiction affects so many people — including friends and family members of those with the disease.

On a personal note, Michaels reports that he’s been sober for 17 years now. He credits the Asheville Police Department (which arrested him for his second DWI offense) with pointing him toward the road to recovery.

Sent to court-mandated counseling, Michaels was told he wasn’t a bad person, but one who had an addictive disease. That made sense to him, since his mother and other family members also suffered from alcohol addiction.

“I was asked that day, ‘Would you like to stop drinking?'” Michaels recalled. “I said, ‘I could give it a try.'”

That was Dec. 4, 1985. He hasn’t had a drink since.

“I sent [the Police Department] a thank-you note after I’d been sober for a year,” he reveals.

After spending years in the insurance business, Michaels is now a full-time advocate for people with addictions. In May, VOICES received a four-year, $1.5 million grant to help bridge the gap between people in need of recovery and the institutions that serve them — such as hospitals, the court system and other nonprofits.

Since then, VOICES has hired a small staff and opened an office on East Chestnut Street in Asheville (which will soon become more visible, once their office sign is delivered).

And though this year’s recovery rally is actually the fourth one the organization has staged, Michaels notes that it’s the first one to be held in such a visible location. With visibility comes the possibility of greater acceptance — and positive change.

“In the fact that everyone in the community is affected by [addiction], we want it to be that open, so as many people [as] are interested in participating — at whatever level — can be a part of it,” says Michaels, adding, “Everybody — everybody — can recover from this.”

For more info, call VOICES for Recovery at 252-9022.

— Tracy Rose

Learning from the Holocaust

Over the years, Weaverville resident Walter Ziffer has spoken to thousands of people about how he survived the Holocaust.

Ziffer, who grew up in Czechoslovakia, was 14 when the Nazis deported him and his family. He spent the next four horrific years in a succession of concentration camps (seven in all).

“People were being systematically killed in one way or another, and I got away by the skin of my teeth,” Ziffer told Xpress. “I was liberated by the Soviet army on the eighth of May 1945.”

After being reunited with his family, Ziffer immigrated to the United States in 1948. He earned graduate degrees in theology and New Testament studies and taught biblical studies in theological seminaries in Europe and the U.S. Since his retirement, Ziffer has lectured at Mars Hill College, the University of Maine, UNCA and a number of Elderhostel programs.

“I’m really the only [Holocaust] survivor left in Asheville,” he reflects.

Ziffer will share his perspective in a free presentation on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the Weaverville Library (41 N. Main St. in Weaverville) starting at 7 p.m.

The professor plans to trace the origins and development of anti-Semitism — which peaked during the Holocaust — as well as recounting several experiences from his years in the concentration camps. He’ll also talk about the French community of Le Chambon (where he lived after the war) and how the Christian community there sheltered thousands of Jews. A question-and-answer period will follow.

Ziffer hopes audience members will come away knowing more about the Holocaust and having a deeper understanding of anti-Semitism and how to counter it.

“Genocide has happened since then, and we’re just not learning very much from these tragic events,” he laments. “We’re just repeating over and over and over.”

For more info about the event, call the Weaverville Library at 645-3592. For details about Ziffer and other local families with connections to the Holocaust, visit the following Web site:

— Tracy Rose

Seeds of change

For more than 30 years, environmental activist John Seed has traveled, lectured, demonstrated and led workshops on behalf of the world’s embattled rain forests. He founded the Rainforest Information Centre in his native Australia and has worked on diverse preservation issues worldwide.

Seed brings his passionate message to Asheville and environs in a pair of upcoming events; proceeds will benefit the Rainforest Information Centre.

On Thursday, Oct. 2, Jubilee! (46 Wall St. in downtown Asheville) will host an evening of music, poetry and dance by John Seed and other artists, starting at 7 p.m. The gala was organized by Wings Dance Company, the Asheville Ballet, and the Jubilee! Earth Team. Co-sponsors include the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, the Dogwood Alliance and Southwings. Suggested donation: $15 ($10 students).

That weekend (Friday through Sunday, Oct. 3-5), Seed will lead a “deep ecology” workshop at Earthaven Ecovillage in Black Mountain. The Council of All Beings Workshop seeks to give participants a deeper understanding of their connection with the natural world and the possibilities for environmental action. The sliding-scale registration fee ranges from $120-$175; scholarships are available.

To learn more about the gala, call Amy Kohler (712-4225) or Richard Fireman (645-0469). For information on the workshop, contact Kimchi (669-7552;

— Peter Gregutt

No ifs, ands or …

Ashes to ashes, butts to — trash baskets?

The first-ever Don’t Ash Asheville Contest is already under way. The booty-ful event, hosted by local conservation-and-beautification-minded nonprofit Quality Forward, will determine which local group has the biggest (collective) butts in Buncombe County.

Before you head to the nearest ice-cream store to start your “training,” however, take note that we’re talking cigarette butts here, not the kind you shake. School, community and business groups are invited to pick up cigarette butts found on Buncombe County streets and roads and take them to the Mellow Mushroom (50 Broadway in downtown Asheville) on Sunday, Oct. 12 at 3 p.m. for the weigh-in party. The team with the most butts will win $100, free pizza and local bragging rights.

To find out more about how your big butts can win, call Leslie Huntley at 254-1776.

— Rebecca DeRosa

Tar Heel writer pens Parkway guides

Doing justice to the diverse landscapes and rich cultural history of the Blue Ridge Parkway corridor would be a daunting task for any writer. Avid hiker, trail designer and travel writer Randy Johnson has tackled that challenge, seeking to capture the essence of the Parkway’s multiple dimensions in a pair of recently completed guidebooks: Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Ultimate Travel Guide to America’s Most Popular Scenic Roadway and Best Easy Day Hikes Blue Ridge Parkway (Globe Pequot Press, 2003).

The travel guide, says the Greensboro-based author, “meshes the best of the Parkway’s outdoor experience with a keen sense of the cultural heritage that makes the Parkway a national treasure — a motor trail through the heart of the United States’ least-homogenized regions.”

The Virginia native got his first taste of the Blue Ridge while camping as a Boy Scout. Since then, he’s actively explored the region’s footpaths, helped design the Parkway’s Tanawha Trail, and co-chaired the Mountains-to-Sea Trail’s Central Blue Ridge Task Force.

Best Easy Day Hikes offers the perfect introductory guide to the trails accessible via the winding roadway that connects Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Most of the 34 listed walks are what Johnson calls “leg-stretchers” — short, well-marked trails.

Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway is a more in-depth, single-volume resource for novices and veteran hikers. Both guides include brief trail descriptions, difficulty ratings, detailed driving directions, milepost references and convenient topographic trail maps. Whether you’re driving the entire Parkway or venturing out on a day trip, Johnson introduces enough cultural and natural-history tidbits to make both books enjoyable travel companions.

Catch Johnson this week as he rambles off the trail for a pair of book signings, in Asheville and Waynesville.

Johnson will be at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe (55 Haywood St. in downtown Asheville) on Friday, Oct. 3, from 7-8 p.m., and then at the Mast General Store in Waynesville (63 N. Main St.) on Saturday, Oct. 4, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Xpress will feature a complete review of both guides in our Fall Tourist Guide in the Oct. 15 issue.

–Sammy Cox

Begin at the beginning

For some folks, making a pizza from scratch equals buying a pre-shaped, partially baked crust and then dumping canned toppings and scattering pre-grated cheese atop it. Other more enterprising pie artists mix and knead their own bread dough, and create their own sauce.

But Michael Olivier began his pizza-making venture by building a brick oven — which is just about as scratch as you can get. And to top it all off, he fires that sucker with wood he cuts out of discarded pallets.

And even that, apparently, wasn’t enough for him. Olivier also committed himself to learning the esoteric art of sourdough leavening — and doing it all-organic, to boot.

You might imagine that wood-fired pizza is something of a rarity. If so, you’ll be doubly surprised to learn that there are two — count ’em, two — wood-fired pizza ovens within a few miles of each other in WNC (though getting from one to the other involves mountaineering, bushwhacking, maybe even ropes and pitons — or else a 40-minute, up-and-down, zigzag drive over the Blue Ridge). Olivier’s new oven is just outside of Weaverville; the other is at Warren Wilson College.

What’s maybe not so surprising is that Oliver has ties to that latter wood-fired cooker as well. His current practice of baking Friday-night pizza mimics the few-year-old tradition of Friday-night pizza at the Swannanoa college.

Olivier’s Underwood Baking Company is located in Ox Creek, east of Weaverville, on Dogwood Hills Farm, an organic, you-pick, berry-and-apple operation run by three other Warren Wilson graduates — Melissa Fridlin, Jessie Lehmann and Steve Yokim. Most of the vegetable toppings for the pizzas are grown right there on the farm.

Olivier and Fridlin, who’s also a partner in the bakery business, both took a Mountain Microenterprise Fund Foundations Course on starting small businesses. The two were able to obtain a loan to start Underwood through the Mountain Microenterprise Fund.

“They made this business possible,” Fridlin said, “and helped us figure out a lot of things we needed to do to make it work.”

Though the pizza has only been advertised on a shingle hung out on Ox Creek Road, Underwood does a brisk business every Friday evening, beginning at 5 p.m., with pizza-to-go and picnic tables for those who want dinner with a view — the farm and surrounding wooded slopes are classic.

You might, however, want to bring along a beverage — all they sell is pizza.

Olivier and able assistant Ann Grover (a UNCA student in her other life) make every pie to order, and continue their baking on Saturday mornings with naturally leavened loaf breads, which they sell to the French Broad Food Co-op and the Grove Corner Market.

From Asheville: Take U.S. 19-23 North to New Stock Road, then veer right, turning left at the light. Continue to Reems Creek Road and turn right, traveling 4.5 miles to Ox Creek Road, where you’ll again turn right, going another 2.5 miles to Dogwood Hills Farm, also on the right. Turn there, and follow the long driveway to the end. For more information, call (828) 768-1002.

— Cecil Bothwell


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