by Roy Parvin
It wasn’t our plan to move during the greatest wide-scale human health crisis in 100 years. We — my wife, Janet, me and our dogs — were just trying to escape California, where, for two out of the last three years, wildfire had swept within a quarter-mile of our doorstep in Sonoma County.
“I think we should move to Asheville,” Janet suggested in the wake of the Kincade wildfire that scorched nearly 80,000 acres in our neighborhood last fall. “The worst they have is thundershowers.”
To establish our seriousness, we flew here in early February. Even though it rained or sleeted our entire visit, we loved every minute. Asheville seemed as if it had figured out the alchemy of being both town and country at the same time.
Properly smitten, we put our California house on the market shortly after returning to San Francisco and by mid-March, right before coronavirus became a national panic, we were in escrow.
Then, suddenly, it wasn’t safe to venture to the grocery store, let alone cross-country. Each state between California and North Carolina had individual lockdown policies. But a death-defying trip to North Carolina was only one facet of the challenge. We still needed to find a house in Asheville to buy and move into.
Luckily, the world didn’t end. In mid-May, we loaded ourselves into our SUV and drove cross-country without incident, staying in hotels where we had the floor to ourselves and eating food we brought with us in a cooler.
By some wonderful stroke of luck, at the other end of the journey was a house waiting for us that we’d never set foot in. Actually, not luck, but thanks to an Asheville real estate agent named Tracy. The house was ours. We bought it off the internet, sight unseen, forking over well over half a million dollars, the real estate version of running with scissors.
From 2,600 miles away, the place looked dandy, but to assuage our doubts, we’d reinvented the concept of the open house. Like MacGyver, we employed what tools we had, which thankfully didn’t involve chewing gum. First, Tracy acquired the key to the residence. Soon after we began to conduct many FaceTime video sessions.
Along the way, we obtained key insider tips on fitting in. We learned the correct way to pronounce Appalachia. The appropriate plural second person term was y’all but not you’ins. From the other end of the continent, I took copious notes.
And so this is the rare happy pandemic story. As of 10 weeks ago, we officially became Southerners. Our new house is even better in person than on screen. Same for Asheville.
Much of our new life here remains a plot waiting to happen. On the plus side, our anonymity has made social distancing a snap. For now, we’ve put such things like new friends in a box, like a gift to be opened at a later date.
Roy Parvin is the author of two books of fiction and more recently a funny yoga book, Yoga for the Inflexible Male. His work has been awarded the Katherine Anne Porter Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts grant in literature.
This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.