Hello, Asheville — it’s me again. This time, I am mildly annoyed. (This is a good sign, since it is a fact that, when I get irked, I have a history of declaring war on the city and proposing ritual floggings for certain city employees.) Not this time, though.
Nope. This time, I am biting the tit that prints me. Being that I am not usually a tit-biter (which probably keeps me in print), I shall give Jeff (my editor) a gentle nip, and hope to survive as a guest columnist. If I don’t, it was fun for a while.
First off, the tiny photo at the head of this column is out of date (it goes back to the days when my hair was long). It was long because the woman in my life back then thought it was sexy that way. Sadly, both she and the long hair required too much maintenance. I prefer my hair shorter now — and the current woman in my life. At the very least, maintenance costs have been reduced by half.
Secondly, my editor seems to view me as a “one-trick pony” — the physically challenged contributor. Frankly, I prefer being called a cripple. Being “physically challenged” seems to me to imply that I am not trying hard enough physically.
Jeff (my editor) wanted me to update you good people on the progress the city has made on handicapped accessibility. This is a fine and noble thought. It does, however, ignore the fact that I have seven college degrees — and other ideas. Jeff now says he wouldn’t mind my being a guest columnist — as long as my column speaks directly to local issues. If one extends this logic, the Mountain Xpress becomes an alternative, liberal reaction to William Buckley’s National Review. (In philosophy — my degree area — we call that reductio ad absurdum.)
But I’d best address the task to which I was assigned, if I expect Jeff to print this at all — and, hopefully, in its entirety.
Change has come slowly with curbcuts and the like. I was fortunate enough to get three more minutes of fame recently, when Heather Childers from WLOS-TV did a bit on the topic. Though she did a fine job, I feel obligated to note that photojournalists rely greatly on the expertise of the camera operator. Sadly, Mark [the camera guy] didn’t get any credit for making Mark Combs, Oliver Gajda and me look good. Further, the camera guy had to huff around with a camera that weighs about as much as a ’53 Buick.
In case you missed us, Mark Combs is now Oliver’s boss, and Oliver is tasked with the accessibility issue (as the city’s pedestrian-and-bicycle coordinator). When I first met Oliver, he was an intern with the city, working on the project with Mark. He evidently did a good job, for he is now a city employee and working his young butt off .
But from up close, I could see the stress lines on Oliver’s face — the marks of a man who has come to the immutable conclusion that sheer dedication and commitment never oil the wheels of change, for money is the universal lubricant.
Both men were proud of their charts and layouts depicting our city’s future, and hopeful about the funding to make magical changes immediately. Yet, I could sense in the lads some of the quiet desperation that comes from interminably waiting for that magical lubricant — funding.
Change is happening Asheville, but not at a speed that would satisfy any of us. That is the downside. The upside is that change is coming at all. As I told Oliver, I fought for 15 years to get the Asheville Transit folks to purchase wheelchair-accessible buses. I hoped that would help him from becoming a jaded cynic, like me.
[Alan Wilcox lives in downtown Asheville.]