Why we moved to Asheville in the middle of the pandemic

WELCOME HOME: Janet Vail, left, and Roy Parvin recently bought a house in Asheville sight unseen and moved 2,600 miles from California as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country. Photo courtesy of Parvin

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 news@mountainx.com.

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132 thoughts on “Why we moved to Asheville in the middle of the pandemic

    • bsummers

      Did you miss the part where they established their seriousness?

      But I get what you’re saying. As a 24-year resident of Asheville who got priced out & gone, I found the “we dropped half-a-mil on a house unseen” part simply hilarious.

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      • aaaa

        I like the part in hi comment down below when he claim’s to be a starving artist…..living in a 500k house? That is pretty amusing

    • Child of the South

      Congratulations on moving to the South. However, living in a geographic location does not make you automatically “one of the gang”. Being Southern is not something you wear like a raincoat, it’s stomped into your soul by everyone who makes fun of grits, laughs at your accent and refers to you and your neighbors as “dumb hillbillies”, but you deal with it because you know you have something they never will. It’s a hard club to join, and most don’t make it, or even care to be in it. I’m sure you’ll make many nice friends in Asheville, there’s a lot of new wealthy people in town now, but I expect you won’t meet any true Southerners. Good luck, and enjoy Asheville.

    • James

      Without knowing the couple, I’d offer that chances are they were actually trying to send the message that they recognize they were moving to a new area and were trying to adapt to the local culture rather than imposing their own on it. I’m sure it was eye-opening to be flayed for talking about their home. To those of us who have moved here we are bewildered and shocked to hear people talk about “expensive” housing prices. I’m always tempted to have a “Hold my beer” moment when they go on about housing costs. To many people moving here this IS about moving somewhere cheaper. It is all relevant and many people who moved here can no doubt relate because they may have moved HERE because the same thing was happening where they came from.

      Rather than attack these people, how about acknowledging their good intentions to try to fit in and point out how they can help? I encourage you all to reread these comments and ask yourself why anyone would want to help if this is how they’d be treated. We may not be Southern but we were always told about “Southern hospitality.” Was that a myth?

      • Arizona Man

        Have you ever met a Californian? All they do is talk about how much they like California better and try to impose it on you.

        • Ca is a cesspool

          Not sure what kind of ‘Californians’ you meet but as someone born and raised there, and now living in NC my second time, if only for a few months now, Ca is a cesspool and a dump. Anyone who feels otherwise lives in a bubble. It’s overcrowded, people are angry and beyond rude, my rent to share a bedroom in a two bedroom apartment was $1800/mo. In a rough area of town. I was broke and in debt all the time.
          I love the Asheville area. I love the people, the mindset and the attitude. Screw CA.

          • Marisa Munoz-Vourakis

            Wow, based on your response you sound pretty angry in general! What happened to the so-called “Southern Hospitality” that people speak of? Based on many of these comments, it sounds like it doesn’t exist.
            How about welcoming them to their new community instead of berating them? How do you know that they won’t help the less fortunate in Asheville once they are settled? Time to be better than these comments, folks!!!

        • James

          As a native Californian I assure you I only expound on the glories of California in March when I’m ready for winter to be over.

      • Marisa Munoz-Vourakis

        Agreed. An awful lot of perhaps envious or jealous people responding angrily to a positive post for Asheville! Folks, how about welcoming them into this wonderful community before you bash them! The ink isn’t even dry on their mortgage papers. #WhersIsTheLove

  1. jano

    I think this article is a taunt. The photo says it, typical of the asheville: joke’s on you mentality.

  2. C-Law

    What!? No masks!!!!

    I’m simply outraged!!!! OUTRAGED!!!!!

    /sarc

    PS—dimes to dollars they consider themselves exemplary “progressive-liberals!” Bay Area/Sonoma to their downsized $500K+ “shack” in “Appa-latchuh”…damn these kinds of limousine liberals nauseate me. Ha!

    Asheville has gotten EXACTLY the government and culture it DESERVES due to transplants like these!

    • Lou

      Money and bleeding hearts don’t make a liberal…not an effective one anyway. I am a proud progressive liberal and I think they sound like morons.

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  3. NFB

    1. Actually “you-ins” (or, really, youuns”) is OK. It’s a little more “backwoods” mountains than y’all, but it is far ahead of “youse guys.”

    2. Whether or not you intended it, this piece comes across strongly like you want us to praise and thank you for moving here. Not the most auspicious, but bonus points for learning that in these parts it is ap-a-LATCH-a and not ap-a-LAY-cha.

    3. #2 is especially annoying given that you casually mention that you spend half a million dollars on a house. To be sure, that much is peanuts in San Francisco, but it is the kind of money that is pricing so many out of Asheville, including a significant number of people whose roots go back far enough that they actually use the word “y’all” in an unironic manner, and likely have known people who use and/or used the word “you-ins” (or, more accurately “youuns”) in daily speech

    4. Welcome to Asheville. However by moving here you have no removed yourselves from any business in complaining, publicly or privately, about other people moving here after you and thus adding to traffic, driving up the overall cost of living, destroying the local environment, or adding to growth problems in any way, as they will simply be doing what “y’all/youuns have already done — moving here.

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    • J. law

      People move places…not really anyones place to make judgements about it.. other than the native americans from this region whom where wiped out so we could complain about how each others foot print is further destroying a once pristine land. I dont think any one living in asheville has “roots” that go back far enough to give them a right to be so bitchy about Americans from some other stolen piece of land deciding to move to this one.
      Ya’ll are tripp’n!

      • Brittany

        Well said! Asheville was my goal and even though I felt the article to be a bit braggy lol these comments are so unwelcoming that I’m glad our move has been pushed to Virginia. I’m from East TN true southern heart but even I got negative comments about moving there because I’m currently stuck in FL. I just wanted to get back to my roots but was still met with unwelcoming comments.
        To the couple, Good luck living there..

      • Marisa Munoz-Vourakis

        Exactly! It seems there are a lot of whiney people on this feed who simply do not have any sense of welcoming people to their new community in any way, shape or form. They Did Not Create the Housing Cost Issues in Asheville! How about thanking them for moving to such a beautiful area that you already Love! Would a little kindness hurt?

    • LC

      Welcome to Asheville. I wish you a nice experience, no regrets , many friends, and good health.

      • NFB

        You missed my point.

        I was not complaining about people moving her. My criticism was about people who move here and then start complaining about other people doing the same thing. You see it frequently in letters to MX and the ACT, and in comments at public hearings about new development. “I moved here from (fill in the blank) and since then Asheville has been growing too much and is ruining why I moved here” as if their moving here doesn’t contribute to that process.

        My point was simply letting this couple know that others will be doing what they did and that they should remember that before they grouse about how their new home is being ruined by developers trying to accommodate them.

        As for roots in Asheville, I don’t know how far back you mean but I was born and raised here and my ancestors go back in the region to about the time of the American Revolution. No, that doesn’t give me some sort of moral pass in taking to a soap box to complain about people moving here, and you are right in your comments about the Cherokee.

  4. Harold

    “…death-defying trip to North Carolina…”

    Clearly, you’ve never been a Blackhawk door gunner in Helmand Province, ridden out a storm in the North Atlantic, done a day of honest labor, or been in a Siberian gulag. Because if you had done any of those truly death-defying things, you would never write such rubbish. And you definitely would not have the sheer gall to consider a cross-country road-trip with one million dollars in your pocket from the sale of your home in the Hollywood Hills anything even approaching uncomfortable let alone death-defying. What other harrowing tales can you tell? Did you once have to pick up your own dry-cleaning on a slightly cool and overcast day? Do tell…

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  5. GoHome

    This is the most cringe-worthy shit I’ve ever read. What’s wrong with Asheville? People like this.

  6. Rose

    This is tone-deaf and displays very little respect for the people who live here and have lived here for a long time. People like you drive up our housing prices. Go back to California.

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  7. JC

    What exactly is the point of this article? Are we supposed to congratulate someone for moving into a house sight unseen and spending 500,000 to call themselves southerners? How laughable. It’s folks like y’all that are killing the wonderful vibe Asheville had for many years prior to severe gentrification and the housing market becoming to saturated with people like you for any locals to compete…

    Congrats I guess? Maybe don’t publicize how much money you spend on a house if you want to fit in with locals -.-

    And Mountain X, I normally enjoy your articles but this is the most tone deaf article I’ve seen here in a while.

  8. Reality Check

    Hhmm, more people who moved to AVL basically on a whim and after spending only a few days. This couple look to be of mature ages too. You’d think they’d approach such a huge life change more pragmatically and carefully.

    Hate to be a kill-joy but, that was an extremely risky whim to indulge. Should they change their minds in a few years; want to move elsewhere and the economy remains in a bad way, there will be very few (any?) buyers of a house at that price range in the metro.

    Certainly, I do wish them ‘good luck’.

  9. J Michael Brown

    Welcome to AVL! I’m 8th generation. Our daughter lives in San Francisco! Pastor J Michael Brown.

  10. Joy

    Does anyone actually care about this transplant story? Why is it more special than other transplant story mountain xpress? 🤦🏻‍♀️🤮

  11. Dave Cole

    This is possibly the most tone deaf, out of touch thing that I’ve seen the X-press publish in quite a while.

    You know what we DON’T need while residents are scrambling to make ends meet? We don’t need stories of the jolly privileged white rich people keeping it impossible for locals to live in our own town.

    Oh, they just moved here on a breezy whim. “Now we’re southern I guess.” Seriously, you PUBLISH this shit?

    • Reality Check

      I, at least, am thankful to see you clearly evidence your racism, in all it’s ugliness.

      See, free speech is a good thing. It’s how we learn about people. There’s also an ageist below, who slams boomers.
      I do love true colors as they are very valuable to see.

      • Critical Thinking in Short Supply

        As racism is institutionalized oppression, one cannot be “racist” against white people. Prejudice, perhaps, but not racist.

        • Reality Check

          Good grief! You do not understand even the basic definition. Racism IS prejudice, by definition. Did your parents not teach you about it? Seems that you’ve relied on modern, biased media or politicians to teach you. Bad plan!

          Let’s make it very simple — there was ZERO reason for anyone to speak of the race of the couple in the article and at least 3 commenters did. To do so was to imply a negative of some kind purely based on their skin color. That is racist.

          This statement is patently absurd, “one cannot be “racist” against white people”. It’s not even worth addressing, it’s so juvenile. You have much to learn about this issue and I’d suggest upgrading your sources and employing the words in your own handle…. ‘critical thinking’.

        • G Man

          “As racism is institutionalized oppression, one cannot be “racist” against white people.”

          This is, hands down, the most ironic and idiotic thing I have read or heard all month.

  12. asheville voice

    It’s shameful that the mountain express would run this yuppy-praising puff-piece in the middle of one of the worst financial moments in our area’s history. People are about to lose their livelihoods and you’re giving a voice to someone who has enough money to speculate on a +500k house on the other side of a continent and chuckles at learning to say “y’all”? How about writing a few articles on affordable housing and eviction resources for the rest of us, to try to make amends for this exercise in poor editorial judgement?

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  13. LB

    Mountain XPress, please protect your readers from this type of self congratulatory, nauseating writing.

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  14. Dee

    Is this supposed to be a commercial? Because it sounds like a commercial…like, you could tack on “and so should you!” at the end of the headline and it’d be right at home.

    • C-Law

      Dee—you’re on to something!

      Maybe this was some kind of AVL TDA ad buy!?

      PS—and here’s what Parvin had to say about their last stop in Cloverdale, CA:

      “Things began to change about four years ago, he said, when he was invited to take part in the annual Asti Tour di Vine bicycle ride sponsored by the Cloverdale Rotary.

      The first year we came, Janet and I were captivated by the beautiful scenery and the great bicycling routes. The next year, we discovered the town, the art and the people.

      Last year, we just knew in our hearts this is where we were supposed to be. I figured if I couldn’t write, at least we could live where I could cycle and wear shorts most of the year.”

      Roy and Janet! You were right the first time, you were supposed to be in Cloverdale! Go home, or maybe go back to Jersey where you are actually from! Nobody cares what a hard-knock life you’ve had.

      ****in’ BOOMERS!!

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  15. henry

    Hopefully, our new west coast transfers will read these comments and try to understand the feelings of less fortunate residents. Thousands of Asheville service workers are unemployed now, face eviction and very limited living resources. Rental housing costs are comparable to major urban areas. Bragging about buying a half-million home sight unseen comes across as very unaware and insensitive to these issues. It’s hard to put out the welcome mat when daily living is a struggle for so many. It’s better to be quiet about your largess, than to reveal your self-centeredness. Back off your “Look at how special we are” attitude and work on trying to understand what’s going on here. This article has not been helpful to you.

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  16. Savage

    Is this a joke?
    I’m astonished that the Xpress would post this tone deaf of an article.

    You are not now, nor will you ever will be Southern.
    Death defying? No one made you move to your cushy new house.
    This article gets worse and worse and worse as you read it.

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  17. Annie

    Hi Roy and Janet (I’m assuming you’ll read this, since Roy wrote this piece) I don’t much care to engage with the comments, so thought I’d speak directly to you. Welcome to Asheville- it’s a beautiful town, and the Appalachian mountains really are something special. Since you’re new to the area, I’d like to offer you a little perspective about why your piece is, frankly, enraging to so many locals… The comments here are only half as bad as how people are discussing your piece on Facebook.

    We are a service-industry powered economy with low wages and a very high cost of living (maybe not compared to California, but compared to many places, and exorbitant compared to the rest of the South). Did you know that our cost of living is higher than the US National Average? But have a median household income $15,000 LESS than the US median household income? WOW! Can you guess what the main factor that causes this disparity is? Yep, it’s the housing cost here!

    I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve watched scrimp and save every penny they can in the city they’ve lived in forever (sometimes, literally, generationally lived here forever- actual Southerners), only to be finally trying to buying a house and be outbid, site unseen, by cash buyers from across the country who have never been to Asheville- OVER AND OVER. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve seen evicted from their homes because buyers from California bought the property and have to get rid of those pesky old tenants before they can jack up the rent to start making money faster.

    And these buyers are people that never been a part of our communities, never contributed to making Asheville a better place for all, and have NO IDEA the effect that purchases like these have on the housing economy in Asheville. It sounds like you purchased a house to live here- so that’s a step better than the many “real estate investors” who never set foot here, buy up properties, evict the tenants, slap in a new fridge and some new paint, and put it back on the rental market at 50% higher rent.

    I don’t hate Asheville transplants. I am one myself. Many, many of my favorite, most creative, vibrant, community powerhouses are Asheville transplants. But you have to decide you want to be a part of our COMMUNITY not just our housing market. So now that you’re here, it would be great to ask yourself what are YOU going to do to help make Asheville better? How are you going to work to improve the community for all, all the way across the economic spectrum from you?

    It sounds like you have plenty of cash to spare. Perhaps you can contribute to truly affordable housing? Can you create sustainable, fair wage jobs for locals? There has been a rich arts scene in Asheville that has been constantly priced out, had shut down to make way for more breweries, and soon won’t be a part of Asheville – got any ideas there? There’s some fantastic local initiatives to help address homelessness, and other issues that have been exacerbated by the economic pressures we face here. Learn about them, contribute to them.

    I have one last tip for you on how to make friends here: people born and raised in the South (sometimes generations upon generations) do NOT like it when people who were not call themselves Southern. Being Southern isn’t a zip code, it’s a set of deep cultural traditions (yes, Southern heritage, and no, not in the confederate flag way), It’s not something they like being claimed by people who just got here 2 months ago (or 2 years, or maybe even 2 decades).

    Sounds like the people of Asheville have given you a lot to consider, and I hope you take the opportunity to be more intentional and aware of your neighbors moving forward.

    • JanNC

      Right on, Annie. Good advice.

      FYI, My mom retired (at age 88) after 60+ years of running 2 downtown businesses with my dad, and decided she wanted to retire where her cousins live in The Triangle area (don’t know where that is, Roy and Janet? You’ll need to look that up) because she said it was difficult to go to everyday places–to the grocery, to the PO, to work–without my then one-year deceased dad whose large welcoming (to her) family had been in Asheville since 1887. Almost all of those family members had already passed away by this time. When her friends questioned why she was leaving, my Richmond-native mom replied with that twinkle in her eye, “I’m not really an Asheville native. I’ve only been here for 62 years.”

      It was tongue in cheek, but she spoke truth. She was in Asheville for 62 years, but she was still a Richmonder. Just like no matter where I go, I’ll always be an Ashevillian. Is that a southern thing? Maybe. Maybe not. New Yorkers are always New Yorkers no matter where they go and I’m sure people from other places must have that feeling, but not all of them will. I do think it’s a southern thing to think of yourself as being “a [wherever-they-grew-up]-er”.

    • TJ

      Fourth Gen native says “thumbs up” to this response. And that you should write an article and not these bozos.

  18. Amanda

    Oh, joy. Another wealthy white couple moved here
    Just what this town desperately needed.

    You don’t just become a Southerner by dropping half a million on a house and moving to the South. It’s growing up having your accent made fun of and learning to code-switch if you want to be perceived as intelligent, of watching your communities face economic hardship born out of higher ups keeping rural people from advancing. It’s an unwritten code of conduct that’s a mixture of generosity and thrift, of hospitality and distrust of outsiders. My family has lived in these mountains for over 300 years, on every branch I could trace, a mixture of Cherokee, Scottish, and Irish. Appalachian people are both humble and proud, and have a fortitude that I doubt you could even begin to imagine.

    Congrats on your house. Maybe soon you’ll learn about the housing crisis facing people who have lived here for generations. Maybe you’ll find out that what YOU have seen of Asheville is a thin veneer that hides the meat of this town. And know that you are Californian who moved to the South, and absolutely not a Southerner. We aren’t an identity for you to try on and play pretend at.

    Oh, and kiss my grits.

    • BigJerm

      This is an equally annoying take. The “muh heritage” part specifically.

    • Reality Check

      Amanda – Please describe what their skin color has to do with any of this?
      Be as specific as possible because to many of us, I imagine, you went out on a very suspect limb.

  19. No. Just no.

    moving to the south and calling yourself a southerner is cultural appropriation.
    we struggle for this name. we struggle for this title. we’ve been made fun of all of our lives for being Appalachian by anyone other than Appalachians. every representation of Southerners i see in media is making fun of our accent, calling us dumb, backwards, inbred, poor as dirt. making fun of our food traditions. our whole culture.
    southerners got issues. everybody got issues.
    but there is no magic number of years where you become a Southerner after living here.
    i’m a proud Appalachian. these are my people, my traditions, my spiritual lineage and my culture, and I can trace them back to the island on scotland where we came from, and how some of the traditions flowed. if white people have lost their roots and their traditions and their spirituality, those of us with roots here can find it in the depths of southern culture.
    did y’all know our deep south Appalachian accent is the closest thing alive nowadays to “the Queens English” or Shakespearean English, because of the relative isolation of our mountains here and the migrations? the deeper you get into the mountains, the more one hears “thee” and “thou” and “bretheren” being used in daily language. it’s not just church talking. this is literally where the word Hillbilly has its roots. Hill William. Hill William Shakespeare. Seriously. Hillbilly (Shakespeare).

    now how those folx took land and property from native americans………..that’s another layer. a big one.

    i think you have forgotten completely how to “establish your seriousness” about moving to asheville, seeing as how you know nothing about us.
    maybe sit quiet while you do a little pandemic-time education in your swanky new house, while the locals get evicted because this entire town is a service industry town in a massive economic crisis. maybe plan your praxis for this community while you settle in, by listening to the community for a while first. if you’re going to plant your ass here and call it a pansy, you might as well contribute something of value.

  20. Sandra

    Wow so they moved here to be catered to by people who can’t afford to eat or pay their rent right now. These people are the problem here. I cant believe you would publish such a pandering piece of trash while asheville is coming up on the biggest homelessness crisis it has ever seen.

  21. Brittany

    Mountain X, please reconsider publishing tone deaf pieces like this in the future.

  22. Lou

    Here is another “key insider tip on fitting in”. Don’t happily advertise buying a home that costs over half a mil in a town whose locals are being forced to leave in record numbers because people like YOU pushed the cost of living beyond what people are paid in this overblown, pretentious, decaying town.

  23. Aimee

    Another great example of being part of the problem. This is exactly who is making it impossible for anyone other than millionaires to live here.

  24. HarveyMushman

    You’re not Southern now, nor will you ever be. Please leave all the California in California. Also, tip well, don’t ask for a discount, on anything.

  25. Bess

    Welcome to Asheville! I hope that you find great friends and figure out meaningful ways to plug in to the community. Stay safe!

  26. Laura

    Hello,

    Here is what you have to know.

    The city is badly segregated. To be in the South means being extra aware of how Jim Crow laws shape our town. 2000 Black families were forced out of their homes in the 80s to create a really wide street barely anyone uses and space for some municipal buildings. But it was really to develop the East side of town. 2000 families. Remember that number. Learn the history here. http://nchumanities.org/sites/default/files/documents/Crossroads%20Summer%202010%20for%20web.pdf

    And help us build justice. Learn about our BLM movement, about how the cops destroyed a medic stand and made international news. You have moved to a dishonorable city where many are working to make it better. You seem well-off so you are in a position to use your privilege. Many of us are doing so. You are now part of a horrific story. Now you can help us make it better.

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    • Enlightened Enigma

      black families were displaced WAY before the 80s… segregationist democrackkks did all that in Asheville starting in the 1940s and just look at it now…more recent segregationists like David Jones, Gene Bell and David Nash continue the suffrage on these government plantations that breed lots of crime. AVL has more than any other nc city…why?

  27. Jessie Monaghan

    First, you are not southerners, you are people from California who moved here. A Few tips about being Southern. You do not drop the info on what you spent on your house , bad manners. It is considered not only bad manners, but insensitive to he situation here in regard to the housing crisis, not to mention the economic stress caused bu the pandemic. Boo boo you cannot make friends right away. How do you think the rest of us are coping? And flaunting you’re white privilege at a time like this is especially tone deaf. Why don’t you take that other half million and invest in some local social needs. And don’t brag about it, that is also very bad manners. Mts Xpress, shame on you for even publishing this offensive and insensitive piece.

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  28. Roy Parvin

    Thanks so much for reading! I’m sorry the amount of money spent on our Asheville house might have given the wrong idea. I’m basically a starving, lesser known writer who largely got by on grants and teaching. A few years ago, I had the unbelievably lucky circumstance of having one of my little-read novellas turned into a movie in France. The movie bombed, but I got enough money to buy a nice house. I still pretty much live like a starving writer.

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    • Denise O

      Oh Roy….the above paragraph would have been a much better place from which to open your article.
      It may take awhile for you to “get” where all the comments are coming from.
      It’s not any one detail of the article, it’s the extremely cheerful first person voice – of privilege – and if you can’t see it, hear it, and acknowledge it, folks are gonna be even MORE offended.
      Asheville can be a ruthless mirror for some of us in many ways. Something for us all to ponder, perhaps…
      If you are really living “like a starving writer”, I don’t know how you’re going to afford the property taxes. Mine are over $2400/year on my house tax valued at $180K and every year it’s a struggle to cobble the money together. I live in neighborhood near you and imagine your property bill (even at tax value less than price paid) could be rather staggering.
      PLEASE: Go get your FREE Welcome To Asheville music CD at the “POETREE” with my complements. You’re welcome.

    • Peter Robbins

      You shouldn’t have clarified anything, Roy. To be a true Southerner, you must be misunderstood.

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      • bsummers

        I’m misunderstood all the time. Does that make me a true Southerner? Be aware, any answer you give will be held up as proof I was right.

        • Peter Robbins

          Being misunderstood is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. To be a true Southerner, you must also be pointlessly quarrelsome. And that goes for the rest of you’uns (pronounced as one syllable) who don’t know your pronouns.

    • Gina

      This comment is the equivalent of “oh y’all think the article was bad – hold my beer”.

    • ChrisB13

      Can drop a half mil on a house site unseen and you are really gonna say that you are basically a starving artist… Perception eschewed much!?! Right, well your article was a mistake… but a major mistake by Mtn Express… Very insensitive… But, we are used to out of town wealthy folks taking every advantage of our mountains and people… I did investigate you before making my reply… I do not need to add to the comments of how painful an article like this is for us… As we are truly starving.. some artists and some just regular ole service industry folks… I’d say that only about 1% of us could ever consider dropping half million on a home and still consider ourselves starving artists… actually, I only think a very deluded person would ever attempt such a statement…
      I see that you are a native NJ… and found where y’all were meant to be after riding your bike in CA… and were recently back end of Nov… proclaimed the honorary Mayor! Wow… How easily you guys thumbed around to find virtually your next home beckoning to you… What was wrong with NJ? Maybe your career?… What was wrong w/CA? I did not find in my research the type of community service orientation that y’all are… Seems like your good at writing stories about yourself and your hardships…
      Maybe one day you can write a book and I hope that it’s title is something like… “How we Northeners won the Hearts and Respect of our Southern Neighbors”… After Royally F-In it up with a pseudo life/death journey across America 2020″…. And I hope it is full of details upon which you stayed… and served… in whatever capacity that you have to offer… We are generations and hundreds of yrs deep here… and our own offspring can not afford a home… maybe a trailer… maybe living with 5 other roomates or in parents basements well into their 30’s… Severe Gentrification… especially caused by wealthy folks abandoning their own responsibilities to their own towns… to come live the good (cheap/affordable) life at our expense…
      If you did donate to charities back home… I hope you now with as much extreme expediency that you got your butts here…. cancel those and invest in the hometown that you have invaded… Many don’t… and we see that and you will always be invaders in that case…
      We have extreme poverty here… real starving people… low paying jobs… Non-Union right to work state… inequality of justice of POC and persons without wealth…. lack of access to affordable healthcare, affordable housing…. a growing homeless population… an ever growing disenfranchised local citizenry… You serve this community as much as you serve yourself… and you may gain some Southern respect… You will NEVER BE a Southerner… but, you can try and as long as you are going to be here… until your next calling locality… I encourage that effort… (Hey, use the need to be closer to your East Coast aging mother as a reason… that’ll garner at least a little more Southern heart… We all Love our Momma’s)… Wishing us all the best….

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    • GarretKWoodward

      If this is really Roy responding, I’ve got to jump in here. I wasn’t going to comment, but the audacity of saying you’re a “starving writer” really irked me. If you were living in San Francisco and have 500K to simply put down on a house (sight unseen), you’re not a starving writer. If you’re receiving grants from the likes of the National Endowment of the Arts, you’re not a starving writer. If anything, saying you’re a starving writer does a disservice to those who actually are struggling to find creative and financial stability in the realm of the written word. Myself, I’ve been a professional writer and journalist for 14 years. My annual full-time salary at a reputable newspaper is a tiny (tiny, tiny) fraction of what your new Asheville house cost. Even with my modest one-bedroom apartment, beat up pickup truck and being about one financial crisis from being broke, I still consider myself one of the lucky ones. So, please don’t use “starving writer.” As well, you can’t “be” — you just “are,” you know? Aside from that, don’t even feel the need to defeat your hard work and success, nor should you mention it (and specific monetary figures) in such a public realm. For me, I came here for work. After years of being underemployed in New York. I was able to find steady work in Western North Carolina and pay my bills accordingly. I don’t claim to be a Southerner. I’m a New Yorker, or a “Damn Yankee,” as they say. I spend most of my career running around these mountains and writing about the unique people, places and things that make the history and culture so rich and vibrant. Eight years here and I still love what I do and where I live, even if it is an old postage stamp one-bedroom apartment. WNC is one of the most beautiful and special places on the planet. And should be respected as so, whether you’re visiting or relocating here. Tread lightly, I say. I would surmise your intent with this piece was something coming from a good place, but simply it fell flat. We’ve all eaten our hats at one point or another in our lifetime. And I’ll be the last to “cast the first stone.” Please take this whole “thing” as a learning experience. I do wish you and yours much love and light here. Heck, let’s even grab a beer sometime. Email: Garret@SmokyMountainNews.com.

    • KFA

      Oh my…you missed one important lesson in your How to Become a “Southerner” training: it’s beyond tacky to brag about how much you paid for your house and how you attained your wealth, unless there’s a scandalous story, like your mama ran a liquor house and a brothel. Starving artist…really! You eat ramen noodles for every meal? Sell plasma? Scrape resin out of your bowl when you wanna get high? And your “little read novella”…ugh, your just pouring more gasoline on your fire, dude.

    • James

      Hang in there. I understand where you were coming from. The vast majority of people who live here don’t think this way or certainly won’t say it to your face this viciously. There is always culture shock for people who move to other parts of America. People who move from the South are often shocked by how things are done in California or NY (and often are even more shocked by how expensive it is for everything. Someday we will have to explain Mello Roos taxes to our neighbors…) I find it is simplest to say everything is relative.

      We’ve learned the benefits of slowing down. Not getting aggravated over slow drivers. How to take pleasure in listening to the pleasant exchanges between the grocery clerk and the customer rather than quietly wish they’d hurry up so you can get to your next errand. And inwardly remind yourself that the price you paid for your house will mean more property taxes going to help fund the services and wonderful missions like paying reparations the City Council has approved. Something we like to remind our friends “back home” when they ask why in the world did we move to Asheville. It was worth it for us and I’m sure it will be to you. Welcome!

        • James

          Yep. Pretty spot on based on my wonderful experience living here thus far. Every time we found ourselves thinking some of the things they say in he article we reminded ourselves that the good things he points out are why we moved here. It takes some time to adjust is all.

        • Reality Check

          That column was weak. He was glossing-over, applying a shiny veneer, as is completely common in the Southeastern USA. Make the surface look pretty.

          Try getting the unvarnished truth; the ugly but, very real, facts about anything from people raised in the region — that will be an uncommon occurrence. However, much of population of the rest of the country values sincerity and straightforwardness immensely. I’d argue that dichotomy is one of the biggest culture shocks for those that move to the region. Also, this: “people genuinely care about people in a way they don’t anywhere else” — is substantially untrue. Again, he has bought into surface appearances. He should write another column and let us know what happened when the chips were down.

      • Headhunter

        The only truly southern reply to this entire situation. Kudos to you!

        For the uninitiated, a true Southerner can end any sentence with “Bless his/her/your heart” leaving the recipient wondering if the swig of human kindness they just swallowed is sweet or sour. The statement conveys compassion and kindness while also subtly hiding a small amount of malice. My old school southern mother once told me, ” Son, you don’t have to like anyone but, you do have to be polite”. Based on the comments so far, I’d say most of the fine folks here are either from somewhere else or, they’ve forgotten their manners. Good luck in your new town Mr. Parvin. And, to the rest of you fine folks pitchin’ fits, bless your hearts.

        • Reality Check

          Yes, your explanation provides a nice example of the underlying snark and dishonesty that is common in Southern culture. Astonishingly, as you did, they define those behaviors as “good manners”. However, only in their provincial minds is it.

          I think it’s all quite fitting that the Parvins, who appear to have made an impulsive decision based on little actual time spent in AVL, can learn much from this comment thread. It has a pretty wide representation of the locals. At least the transplants are straightforward with their thoughts while the locals deliver syrupy falsity and deceptive undertones. The Parvins should re-read this thread many times. It’s all here.

          • Headhunter

            Well bless your heart…….(said with all of the syrupy falsity and deceptive undertones that my simple, Southern, provincial mind can muster).

    • T. Muppington Puppington

      You’re still doing it amigo. Humble brag elsewhere. However, I do understand. I used to humble brag about a big job I’d gotten or a wonderful career event similarly. Mine was due to low self esteem.

      Tell us more about your wonderful Mountain view. 😉

  29. Raven

    Why is this article even here? Please, Mountain Xpress, this is beyond offensive.

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  30. Janet and Roy, I apologize on behalf of Asheville for the vitriol expressed in many of these comments. Welcome to Asheville. I lived in the Bay Area, and I grew up here as an outsider when my parents moved us to Asheville. My father was a Mayo Clinic educated surgeon who fell in love with this area and brought his expertise here to serve. The synergy of outsiders and natives has always made Asheville the remarkable place that it is.

  31. space turtle

    MountainX! This article is disgusting… It’s ALMOST satire, but somehow isn’t … What the heck? I’ve just been feeling proud and spreading the good word about MountainX for publishing the article on young black leadership at the protests here… and the vance historical article… Now I feel embarrassed to have sung your praises. This article makes me sad for MountainX and sad for Asheville. This feels like a direct advertisement for gentrification. Gross!! I’m sure someone got paid well to print this.

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  32. Broadway Barney

    I’ve lived in Asheville for all of my 64 years and my ole’ home town has become so dad gum homogeneous (I hope that’s politically correct) that people often ask; “Where are you from? I LOVE your accent!” My reply is always the same; “St. Joseph’s Hospital.” I guess I’d just say; “Welcome to Asheville!” Folks from around here come in all different stripes … educated, some less so, liberals, conservatives, black, brown, white, etc. Most are good, hard working people with a healthy helping of good, ole’ common sense. I bet you’ll fit in and make some good friends. I will give you one small piece of cautionary advice … don’t tell these mountain folks that you “bought your house sight unseen”. We just won’t be able to wrap our heads around that sorta thinking.

  33. Big Al

    I cannot decided which is worse, an in-comer “progressive” yuppy couple with too much money and too little sense,

    or

    the other “usual suspect” incomers, the penniless hipsters who move here for “the vibe”, only to pay $1200/month to rent one half of a trailer or the closet of a subdivided house in the adjacent county, work three jobs (choose from barista, bartender, waitress, dog-walker, yoga “guru”, Uber/Lyft driver) then demand that the government provide them a living wage, affordable housing and healthcare as “rights”.

    no to mention

    The UNC-A grads who earn degrees in poetry and pottery, then stay in Asheville with their “hipster vibe” friends and demand that the public buy (and the government subsidize) their overrated art.

    All three should be smart enough to move on to greener, smarter pastures, but all three will stay and crowd each other out before pulling each other down and tearing each other apart like crabs in a barrel.

    Welcome to Troll City.

    • ChrisB13

      Yeah, I forgot about the penniless hipster participants… I’ll have to admit… there is something to what you say there too…

    • C-Law

      Well done Big Al!!!

      Your post has absolutely won the comments section of this letter!

      You have perfectly summed up why Asheville sucks so bad and has the local government and “scene” that it does!

      Bravo! Well Done!!

      “Troll City” indeed! Haha!

      Shabbat Shalom y’uns…

  34. luther blissett

    Yeah, I can see why this has been busy. I suppose if we’re offering advice, it’d include learning what not to talk about (e.g. what you paid for a house), not treating the place like an extended vacation home or TDA ad, and understanding why WNC natives and many long-term residents are being priced out of living here, which is due to a whole lot of things.

    For what it’s worth, the median price of a house in Sonoma County is $615,000, which may get you a 3 bed-2 bath; the median price of a house in Buncombe is $315,000 and 2,000 sq. ft. which is obviously skewed by the Biltmore Forest / gated subdivision top end.

    https://calmatters.org/housing/2018/05/what-a-500000-home-looks-like-around-california-and-how-it-shapes-where-we-move/

    People move; modest NY/FL/CA housing will always translate into something very nice almost anywhere else. It’s not hugely different than moving out to a self-build and a few acres in Candler or Madison County if you bought a home in Montford back in the day. If you move to a place, live in a place, not just at a place.

  35. Gina

    The fact that you think eating out of a cooler while spreading your west coast germs through out the country during a pandemic = death defying for *you*.

    That sent me.

  36. Confucius say… may you always stay upwind in downtown Asheville in the dead of summer…y’all.
    Or is it Karma that says …I hope the wind blows continuously your way when in downtown Asheville!

  37. Laura Ullman

    Maybe they’ll get real local and have a book reading at firestorm.

  38. Steve Q

    So you’ve come to ruin here like you did in California? Please go back.

  39. Nah

    MountainXpress !!?? 🤢🤑🤢🤑🤢
    Why are you giving *more* space to ppl who are celebrating their blantant disregard of displacement?

  40. Jason Williams

    You over-payed for your house, but you can stay. Just don’t buy any Jonas Gerard overmantles for it.

  41. David Mc

    “As of 10 weeks ago, we officially became Southerners.”

    No, you’re just another annoying pair of transplants.

  42. RaleighBound

    This is one odd article and I agree with the other soul bound southerners here- its extremely odd having out of towners refer you a move in as “death defying” and discussing their riches. Here’s a new cultural lesson of the south other than saying y’all and whatnot- a whole lot people here are poor. Get outta town for a few miles and you see the true nature of the south. With more people like y’all moving in here, the true essence of the south gets pushed further and further out and our true culture and community is whitewashed in favor for a few yanks and their hatred of anything that isn’t wholeheartedly white. y’all move in here and cry that the south is racist whilst you drive out entire black communities from their homes because it’s not “proper” enough for you. This article is extremely tone deaf considering how hard the south has had it for years- especially with the loss of industrialization, COVID, and post 2008.

    Living in Asheville for school has really shown me something different- Raleigh has it’s umm…. Gentrification with a capital G. However I feel that since it’s more than just a college town it has some southern charm. But having most of my family be from rural NC, either on the western or eastern bend- oh lord. Some parts of Raleigh and Asheville can be so pretentious, mainly from the folks that moved down here in 2008 because their rich pappy thought it would be a smart business move to move down here. I remember when Raleigh was a collection of farm roads. I miss that. It’s sad seeing the people I grew up with and the communities I knew be torn down because of privileged white folk who think that they’re providing the saving grace- whilst in reality they are making it wholeheartedly worse.

    Anyways welcome to the south, continue to gentrify communities because thats “better for you.”

  43. sharonk

    As a recent transplant to the Asheville area myself, I’m saddened to read the number of downright nasty comments directed at this couple. My husband and I moved here in March, a dream we’d had for at least 15 years, and one we are fortunate to have made into a reality. For more than four decades our lives in New York City were enhanced by the diversity of the residents, but we saw neighborhoods change over time – often with resistance by those who’d had roots there. Real estate values skyrocketed over the years – artists who’d thrived in SoHo were priced out, the Lower Eastside went from tenements to multi-million dollar condos. Change happens. Everywhere.
    Sometimes people leave their beloved cities and towns because they, too, find it is just too damn expensive to survive there. Some crave a change in lifestyle, have a desire to be surrounded by beauty, fresh air, and quiet – and with that might come the blessing of seeing a good return on the property they sold.
    The meanness of the responses shocks me, perhaps because we’ve been welcomed here so warmly. If you’re so angry about the changes you see, don’t blame them – blame the developers, the towns that issue permits for “communities” where the prices of homes are in the half million dollar and up range. I don’t think it’s because I, too, am a “newbie” here, but I found the writer’s essay delightful. It showed humor, an appreciation for the joys of Asheville, and an energy to embrace all that is here. I, for one, would be happy to meet them, just as I’m happy to meet long-time residents. There’s a lot we can learn from one another.

    • NFB

      It should also be noted that Asheville has always been something of a mix of southern and mountain. It’s more mountain than the eastern part of the state, and more southern than many more rural parts of WNC. Mountaineers have often been looked down on by not just northerners but by flatland southerners.

      To our new residents, if you are reading these comments, please tread carefully. Asheville is a mix of natives, newcomers who fit in well, and newcomers who don’t so much. The former type of newcomer loves and appreciates that mix, the later simply wants to turn Asheville into wherever they moved here from and acts as if natives belong in some sort of museum. (I can’t tell you how many times someone has gasped and said “I”ve never met a native before” when they learn I am one. Shindig on the Green is every bit as a valid cultural form as the Asheville Lyric Opera.

      Some of the reactions you have gotten here have gotten have indeed been harsh, but take it as a learning experience. You article has stuck a nerve in a town struggling with growth, the lack if affordable housing, and a dearth of living wage jobs.

    • NFB

      ” If you’re so angry about the changes you see, don’t blame them – blame the developers, the towns that issue permits for “communities” where the prices of homes are in the half million dollar and up range.”

      The developers are simply responding to the demand brought about by people moving here.

      They cycle is an old one in Asheville. People move here, developers build new houses for them, people who have moved here then complain about how Asheville and the mountains are being ruined by people moving here developers building new housing for them. An awful lot of people who have moved here want to shut the door behind them.

    • G Man

      You moved here from NYC in March? Are you the one who brought that wonderful corona-gift here?

    • sharonk

      Good try, but having arrived healthy, you can rest assured that unlike many shoppers in any local Ingles, I never appear in public without a mask and I socially distance. I want remain healthy to enjoy the many pleasures of this area for years to come, while being a good, contributing citizen, respecting others.

  44. Jon Dee

    Welcome to Asheville! Hope you enjoy all these judgmental angry comments. There are welcoming and kind people here too:)

  45. JustMe

    Lived in CA for 3 years and can say this is 100% accurate. In fact, I had California’s declare CA was the best state in the US to live in. When I politely asked where else they had lived (I was a military kid and had moved 7 times by 18 yrs old) they gave me a blank stare. Come to find out some of them had never left the state.
    Arrogance at it’s worst and now they are all moving to other places to ultimately push their CA bullshit on the rest of us because somehow their utopia is no longer working in their home state…

  46. Peter Robbins

    Fuggedaboutit. Southerners have been hatin’ on outsiders since Mr. Douglas gentrified Hooterville. The guy we should admire is the hayseed who saw these Californians coming with half a million in cash falling out of their pockets. He’s my cultural hero.

  47. Sonia H.

    The anger people are responding with says more about the people of Asheville than it does about this couple. COVID devastated the local economy, which is precisely why it’s a good thing wealthy people move to Asheville. Their dollars will go toward your businesses.

    • G Man

      COVID didn’t devastate anything, local government did the devastating.

      COVID was just delivered to us by someone from NY. Their dollars won’t be going to the numerous businesses that will never re-open, will they?

  48. Sarah Hartmann

    It’s truly heartbreaking how many people are bullying this new couple who thought Asheville was a blessed paradise.
    It’s not. Asheville either sucks you in or spits you out. And if you’re successful, you’ll find yourself on the side of the spittoon.

  49. T

    Yes, exactly what NC needs right now. More out of state people with so much cash they buy homes sight unseen jacking up the already out of control housing prices and further contributing to homelessness and rampant inequality in the state.

    Meanwhile I know local disabled veterans who were born and raised here, served their country in warzones across the globe, and now live in a tiny dump because that’s all they can afford.

    Yay.

  50. reader_zero

    I really do wish the subjects of this story had had some insight into how unsympathetically they would come across to the majority of the readers of the MountainX. I imagine they didn’t intend to present themselves in this manner, but what was the “hook” of the story? “We’re rich enough to buy a fancy house… but really struggling artists at heart?” I don’t see the human interest in _that_, nor can I see any way in such a story could do anything other that present the subjects in an unflattering light. More about _what_ the author had written, _why_ they chose Asheville, _how_ they hope to become part of the community; just about _anything_ other than how much they spent on a home would have been better. What it means to some natives to “be from here” is to be able to trace your roots back to before the USA existed on the land where you currently live; to say “I guess we’re Southern now” is so tone-deaf as to be astonishing. If I should meet either of these two, rest assured I will be polite and pleasant, and welcoming. And be assured I will not forget. Because that is how we locals are, for better or worse; for as a local boy once said, we locals go “back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

  51. G Man

    I recently drove a rental car with NY plates on it. Does that make me a New Yorker now?

  52. Eric Luling

    In 2010, I moved to Asheville from Los Angeles, quietly, with a whisper, out of respect and an understanding of the town and community I had fallen in love with, so many years ago, when I worked on a project, here, for a couple months back in the ‘90s.
    I made a pact with myself that I would move here, someday.
    I knew I would be an outsider and was determined that my move have as little impact as possible on my new neighbors.
    I knew I needed to earn my place in this community.
    But, again, quietly and with respect.
    I recommend the same, especially for my fellow Californians.
    We are guests until our actions, and words, decide otherwise.

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