I see and sense the conflict between newcomers and Asheville natives. I’ve also read that the term “native” should be applied only to those carrying Cherokee blood. This is not new to me.
Time in one place carries a sense of propriety. I come from New Hampshire where these dynamics are, if not intensified, at least long-standing. I once asked a man if he was new to town. “Oh hardly. Ginger and I have been living in a development off Hopkinton Road for nearly seven years now.”
As a yankee, there’d be no sign of emotion, not a blink, but I silently muttered: Seven years, huh? I’ve got cats older than that. You’re talking to a man who lives within sight of the farmhouse he was raised in. The same farmhouse his father had lived in since his birth in 1912. The farmhouse that my grandfather moved to from his family home across town in the Sugar Hill area.
Seven years! Development! Ginger? What kind of a name is that? You’re talking to a man who’s paternal grandmother was Blanche; her twin sister was Bertha. Their other sisters were Gertrude, Maud and Lula — names you could build stonewalls with. And you’re offering me what, spices? Come back in 100 years and I’ll listen to you; come back in 200 and I’ll be impressed.
So I understand roots, bragging rights, that sense of propriety. And I will humbly regard myself as eternally new in Asheville. But here’s my broader perspective.
At the age of 22 and working for a manufacturer of sawmill equipment, I was tasked with visiting mills to film the equipment in operation. I took the company camera home for the weekend to figure it out, and shot some footage of a very small turtle on a woods road behind my house. On Monday I was hand-holding a Super 8mm camera to the sweet smell of white pine and the scream of a head saw.
Once the field work was done, the cutting and splicing began, because there would have been work stoppages, or perhaps there was footage where the equipment wasn’t functioning perfectly. There might also have been closeups of the sawyer, and a set of sawyer hands in those days averaged something less than 10 digits — so some discretion was in order.
But the splicing was easy. You’d just cut the film, removing the parts you didn’t want, then align the ends to be joined on a little gizmo that had pins to accommodate the sprocket holes, and you’d tape the ends together with a clear acetate tab that also had sprocket holes in it. With a little luck the film would run through the projector without a perceptible bounce. Without that luck, the film would get stuck, and you’d find yourself viewing what seemed to be a growing pond of algae — which was, of course, the film melting.
Edited footage from that day hung together well enough, though there was a certain blip at one point that proved irritating. Bad splice, I figured, and I went back in to improve it. But it wasn’t the splice, it was three inadvertent frames of a very small turtle on a woods road. And here’s the message: The Earth has been spinning for 4.5 billion years; in another 4.5 billion years, you, me, that farmhouse, the Cherokees, King Tut, Otzi the Iceman, the whole shebang, will cumulatively register as nothing more than a flicker of celluloid. Sobering stuff.
It has me re-considering what exactly I have right to lay claim to; wondering what toll my hubris already carries — whether proper penance is a price I will be able to pay; whether indeed I ought to cut to the chase, grit my teeth, confess my sin; promise to name my next cat Ginger.