At the cusp of a new year, most of us pause to reflect on the 12 months just past, in a spirit of celebration or regret, with an eye to improvement or, at least, making different mistakes as we roll on. In the pages that follow, Xpress has collected both the high points and the low from our 51 weekly editions in 2002 — from stories that won’t go away to others that barely made the public radar.

And from all of us at Xpress, Happy New Year!

— The Editors

“Even more alarming than that developer’s deranged and greedy plan was the one taking place at the hands of another Florida transplant with a wretched, self-serving vision for the East Asheville Hardware and Seed & Feed store. Miniature golf, bumper boats, [a] water park with [a] sunken ship … wow! How did lovely Haw Creek survive all these years without them?

“‘Thinking outside the box,’ are we, Mr. Roy St. Vincent? I beg to differ. You should be boxed and sent back to that hellish overdeveloped theme park named Florida.”

— Ervin Sisk, directing comments to Florida transplant and East Asheville developer Roy St. Vincent, who plans a Haw Creek theme park, in Letters, Oct. 2

“[Buncombe County Emergency Management Director Jerry] Vehaun, however, says he’s confident that the securely built shipping containers and the skills of local rescue workers will be sufficient to protect the public from significant danger from the radioactive materials being hauled through our area. “When these containers have been involved in accidents, they never had one to break open,” said Vehaun. “Those types of incidents with radioactive material really don’t concern me as much as a truckload of gasoline or propane going down the highway.”

“In fact, however, the containers that will be shipped through Asheville have never been used anywhere before and will not be crash-tested before being put into use.”

— “Duck and Cover” by Cecil Bothwell and Nicholas Holt, Oct. 9

“‘As far as any security information, that information is pretty much protected by federal statutes and guidelines,’ explained Sgt. P.V. Staggs, the Highway Patrol’s chief public-information officer. In other words, the Highway Patrol is not in that information loop.

“‘The Highway Patrol is notified when any [plutonium] is moved through North Carolina,’ Staggs told Xpress. ‘But they provide their own escorts and security. We would assist only if requested.’

But a DOE spokesperson at the Savannah River Site said the agency does not discuss information regarding security or transport of plutonium and that, contrary to Sgt. Staggs’ assertion, ‘They would not get any notification for plutonium.'”

— “Duck and Cover” by Cecil Bothwell and Nicholas Holt, Oct. 9

John Howard: “Being profane is actually quite funny. I know you can’t print this, but …”

Steve Shanafelt of Xpress: “Oh, watch me.”

— “Random Acts,” Oct. 9

“Busting wood is … straightforward: The log splits or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t split, I swing again. At the end of the day, I have a stack of firewood. To be sure, there are better and worse cuts, and better and worse woodcutters — but it’s hard to argue with a woodpile. If someone could have done it quicker, or cleaner, or with more resounding cracks from the splintering wood, who cares? Mine’ll burn just the same.”

— “Against the Grain” by Jay Hardwig, Oct. 9

“Despite an abundance of ‘good, meaty, well-built songs,’ to borrow [lead singer Kevin] Russell’s phrase, it was a cover tune that made the Gourds’ name. That tribute — an amped-up, hillbilly-hootenanny take on Snoop Dogg’s thug-life anthem ‘Gin and Juice’ — became an Internet sensation, traded as hotly as commemorative Elvis plates at a tri-county swap meet.”

— ‘Smells like Gourds Spirit,’by Jay Hardwig, Oct. 9

“What it will take for anyone reading this to heighten their awareness? For me, it took bruises from the jailhouse floor. It took a humiliating phone call to my parents. It took my freedom and spontaneity being held for ransom. It took paying my dues to realize the value of individual responsibility in this screwed-up society.

“I refuse to get patted on the back for being the rebel I am not. I fear for those in my generation who believe themselves so far into the “underground” that our collective future is as good as dead. History has a history of repeating itself: That’s my incentive now to walk a straight line.”

— “Walking a Straight Line” by Megan Van Dusen, Oct. 16

‘Appalachian scholars are asking the question, ‘What other group in our society [besides mountain people] could be the object of such ridicule?’ And [they are] thinking that the answer is no one else.’

— Appalachian Studies historian Tyler Blethen, referring to the local casting call for a reality-TV version of Beverly Hillbillies, in “Truth and Consequences,” Oct. 23

“I feel like once it’s been really looked at, they’ll see it’s been politically motivated and that’s all there is to it … politically motivated and a sleazy way to run a campaign, in my opinion.”

— Buncombe County District Court Judge Shirley Brown (who was challenged for her seat by Weaverville attorney Susan Wilson), referring to a complaint filed about her job performance with the Judicial Standards Commission by her opponent’s campaign treasurer, in “A Race to Remember,” Oct. 23.

“Wilson counters that if she’d made the accusations a part of her campaign, it might indeed be considered sleazy. But ‘It’s not been a part of my campaign,” she says. “And two, the allegations were made by other people, several other people not involved in my campaign. And my understanding is, the allegations are true.'”

— “A Race to Remember,” Tracy Rose, Oct. 23

“Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford just doesn’t understand that he, too, must abide by the law. On two occasions, separated by more than a year, he has failed to turn over public documents that might prove embarrassing to him and his department.

“Most recently, after an Oct. 1 incident, Medford’s staff repeatedly denied Mountain Xpress access to a Sheriff’s Department tape of a local 911 call reporting an instance of domestic violence, transcripts of calls for service and records of radio communications.

“These records are specifically named as public in North Carolina’s Open Records law, which says that such material shall be made available to the public upon request.

— Editorial, “Sheriff Medford’s Actions Unlawful,” Oct. 30

“I told them girls that works at that McDonald’s where I stop and get breakfast in the morning, I told them where I lived. They said, ‘You know you don’t live in a graveyard!’ I said, ‘Them dead people ain’t gonna bother nobody! The live ones is the ones you’ve gotta worry about.”

— Claude Robinson, “At Home,” Oct. 30

‘If you lean on the Lord, he’ll bring you out!’

“The first time Clarence Fountain, one-third of the triumvirate of triumphant gospel voices that is the Blind Boys of Alabama, says this to you, his buttery rasp trembling and shaking and groaning under the sweet weight of faith, you are diminished by his awe.

“But after about 30 minutes on the phone with the sightless singer, when you realize he’s said this same thing to you at least 15 times, you feel more beaten than starstruck. His faith has whipped you but good.”

— “Fountain of Faith” by Frank Rabey, Oct. 30

“With [the Lord], you can do all things. Without him, you can’t do diddly-squat.”

— Clarence Fountain, “Fountain of Faith,” Oct. 30

“The analogy that I’ve been using [to describe the notion of a state-supported lottery] is that if your kid was going off to college and you gave him $1,000 for books and school supplies, and he came back and said, ‘Well, Dad, I blew the money, but I’d like a hundred bucks to get involved in a poker game,’ you’d probably smack him. But that’s exactly what the legislature is doing.”

— Brian Barber, “House District 117” election coverage, Oct. 30

“Everywhere we put alternative transit, it’s not being used; it doesn’t pay for itself.”

— Trudi Walend, “House District 113” election coverage, Oct. 30

“Even as a child, I was able to appreciate the majestic beauty surrounding me. The sunsets I saw from the top terrace of The Sky Club were unlike any others I have seen. Sadly, these are only memories.

“When I returned to Asheville, to see my beloved homeland, I was truly shocked and deeply saddened to see what had happened. My mountain no longer called out inviting me home again, but rather it cried out in pain. I’m grateful others feel as I.”

— T. Thomas, Letters, Nov. 6

“In that same issue, your managing editor, Cecil Bothwell, offered his take on the Oct. 22 formal City Council session. I was appreciative of his effort to provide detailed coverage of the hearings, but bumped my shin on several of the editorial comments he interlaced with his report.

“Statements like ‘essentially rubber stamping’ and ‘after going through the motions of the formal hearing process,’ from my own perspective, offered unkind, simplistic and subjective interpretation of our persisting efforts to play it fair and straight. Seven individuals, with seven decidedly different approaches, came to the same point when the final decision was called.

— Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower, Letters, Nov.6

“I can remember reading the Bible to look for the juicy bits in early high school. That was the only interest I had in [it]. So I totally understand why somebody would not immediately go: ‘Oh, yeah, Christ is living before me now. I’m going to get down on my knees and volunteer my services.’ There are a lot of us for whom that isn’t a natural act.”

— Bruce Cockburn, “Man of Many Words,” Nov. 6

“As a memoirist, she’s sometimes maddeningly self-unaware. One example: She candidly admits she’s boy-crazy, but doesn’t examine why, when Jesus appears to her, he looks like Daniel Day-Lewis.”

— “Aching for the Divine,” a review of Lauren F. Winner’s memoir Girl Meets God, by Carrie A.A. Frye, Nov. 13

“Crazy ex-sex. It’s a part of modern life. We know what it’s like to talk about things like this with friends. [Author Lauren] Winner’s contribution is in letting us know what it feels like to talk about them with God.”

— “Aching for the Divine” by Carrie A.A. Frye, Nov. 13

“Graffiti may be considered art in the sense that every creative expression could be considered art, but one cannot qualify it, or any art, as respectable, en masse. The forcing of one’s opinions upon another is not respectable, and nor is it dignified to force another to fix damage perpetrated by the expression of that person’s opinion.

“True art is defined by originality and by its power to alter the viewpoint of one’s inner and/or outer life. The scribbling of “No war” is banal, boring, predictable, stereotypical and as common as white bread. It is not art. It is the opinionated action of a bully who disregards the human equality we all share and instead claims rights over other people.”

— Bea Weaver, Letters, Nov. 13

“Disturbing? Definitely. Controversial? Unquestionably. Yet there’s far more to Schenck than mere angry rants: In all his work, both on the page and on the street, the poet strives for balance. Even righteous wrath, he warns, must be succeeded by growth, healing and compassion. Having worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Schenck, I’ve seen him in action: This man truly walks his talk. And among Asheville’s homeless population, as well as the caregivers who assist them, there are many who will echo that assessment.”

— “The Meshing of the Sun and Moon” by Mickey Mahaffey, Nov. 13

“Well, fellow Americans, we’ve done it again. We’ve voted for guns and butter.

“Remember 1964, when we voted for the ‘peace candidate’? He promised a Great Society but served up Vietnam along with his social programs. To disguise the costs, he folded the Social Security surplus into our ‘Unified Budget.’ He was a Democrat.

“The Republican version of guns and butter promises war in Iraq and tax cuts for the rich. The Clinton surpluses have already given way to deficits, but we ain’t seem nothing yet: Someday, when we are able to add up the war expenses and subtract the depleted tax revenues, we will understand what we actually voted for. Again.”

— John D. Johnston Jr., Letters, Nov. 20

“After all the years of silence, is it too late for me to reclaim the idea of individual freedom and responsibility? Should I now apologize to those young people I taught to love freedom and honor our glorious past? Did I grow up believing in myths — and, worse yet, did I teach those myths to young minds as truths?

“In my life, I have traveled from unbridled idealism to reluctant cynicism. Now I have to ask myself: Where is the leadership? What happened to those great Americans who pointed the way to the future, teaching us to love freedom and pay any price to maintain that great gift? Did they, too, disappear into some cloud of myth?

“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.”

— “A Long Night’s Journey Into Day” by Earl Willis, Nov. 20

“Working in the marketplace is relatively new in some ways, as far as forest protection. And I think this is going to be increasingly the way of the future.”

“At a time when the Bush administration and Congress are rolling back environmental protection for forests, water and air, citizens are forced to look outside the government for environmental leadership.”

— Todd Paglia of ForestEthics and Danna Smith of Dogwood Alliance, “Local Group Wins Environmental Victory,” Nov. 20

“At its best, [Billy Jonas’] music lets the kid in

all of us run amok, like we’re still bounding from the porch in a Superman cape, or prancing naked through the house at bathtime, eluding the babysitter’s frustrated grasp.”

— “The Billy Beat Goes On” by Frank Rabey, Nov. 27

“Greatness is its own reward, to be sure, but a little applause never hurt anybody.”

— “The Fight for Friday’s Dinner” by Frank Rabey, Nov. 27

“Let me just say that having Woody Guthrie’s son call you at your house is pretty damn cool.”

— “The Group W Bench” by Frank Rabey, Nov. 27

“The ’60s was a glitch. It wasn’t a usual time.”

— Arlo Guthrie, “The Group W Bench,” Nov. 27

“In every hometown now there’s people worried about what their kids are learnin’ in school, what kind of water they’re drinkin’, what kind of air they’re breathin’, what’s happenin’ with that nuke plant down the road. All of those concerns that were crazy years ago have become normal. So in some sense, I’m much less of a danger. And I miss that!”

— Arlo Guthrie, “The Group W Bench,” Nov. 27

“We just sort of wallow in the fakeness.”

— Stephen Jackson, curator of The Aluminum Tree & Aesthetically Challenged Seasonal Ornament Museum & Research Center, “Let It Shine, Shine, Shine!” Nov. 27

“I do think the scriptwriter could have found some term other than ‘Black Thing’ for the all-white cast to call the planet-conquering evil force.”

— “Lost in Space,” a review of the N.C. Stage Company’s production of A Wrinkle in Time, by Nicholas Holt, Nov. 27

“Huge chunks of cauliflower poked through the soup’s dark skin like disembodied eyes, peering back at me accusingly. [My wife] Tracey shut the lid, shuddered, then shook her head. ‘Where exactly are we going to put all this?’ she rasped, turning to face me. Twin cauliflower buttons stared from where her own eyes should have been, till I hurriedly blinked them away.”

— “The Fight for Friday’s Dinner” by Frank Rabey, Nov. 27

“Making soup, you see, requires commitment and perseverance; and without healthy doses of equanimity and compassion, its preparation becomes nothing but a Campbell’s-style sham. Above all, though, vision is key: what to put in, how much and how soon.”

— “The Fight for Friday’s Dinner” by Frank Rabey, Nov. 27

“I have no idea what Kim Basinger thought she was doing playing mom, but she must be from the south of Detroit, judging by the extreme Southern accent she affects, always saying ‘cain’t’ for ‘can’t’ and managing to turn Rabbit into a three-syllable word.”

— Ken Hanke, reviewing 8 Mile, a movie set in the Motor City, in “Short Takes,”, Nov. 27

“I may be old fashioned, but I would take breasts over fur any day.”

— Wayne Ruth, Letters, Dec. 4

“There has a been a complete merger of corporation and state in which the top military owns large portions of pharmaceutical companies and therefore the Homeland Security Bill releases pharmaceutical companies of all liability for botched vaccines. This continues the corporate crime of privatizing profits and socializing costs, even if it means death.

“Yes, I think it is time to start using the ‘F’ word. The American Heritage Dictionary describes fascism as “a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

“The ‘F’ word is fascism.”

— Lisa Thurman, Letters, Dec. 4

“Years ago, when we could still get all the aunts together, my family would have huge holiday dinners centered around bowls of homemade, hand-rolled piroghi (Eastern European stuffed dumplings — now available from Mrs. T. Inc. in your grocer’s frozen-foods section).

“My relatives were a whole lot closer to their Old World customs back then (and let it be said that, in her day, my darling Aunt Mary could have kicked Mrs. T’s ass with one hand tied behind her back).”

— “Sing for Your Supper” by Frank Rabey, Dec. 4

“This year the city of Columbus forced 10,000 people to pass through metal detectors before proceeding to the protest site. It was the first time in U.S. history that such a search had been conducted. Eighty-seven people were held in jail for climbing over the fence at Fort Benning to demand that the SOA be closed; these 87, some of them elderly, were denied food and water, and bail was set at $5,000 per person. The information forms used to process them were meant to be used only for people who have already been convicted and are on their way to federal prison.

“In times like these, it’s imperative to tell young people that our government is not perfect, that it sometimes commits acts of incredible injustice, and that we have an obligation to demand that these things change.”


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