Letter writer: The City of Lights has nothing on The Paris of the South

Graphic by Lori Deaton

This letter’s purpose is ostensibly to praise Milton Ready’s Oct. 14 opinion piece, “Anywhere But Asheville,” but bear with me. At age 70, I ramble some.

I loved Professor Ready’s witty, astute put-downs of Asheville’s detractors. Yet I confess my bias: 1973 saw UNCA , in a fit of despair, give me a diploma summa cum laude. I thus hold a soft spot in my heart — and head — for professor Ready’s former workplace. He’s wise to select Mars Hill, site of a … college … for retirement, where he may dwell serenely among academic inferiors, I suppose; “anywhere but Asheville.”

Oh, yes, I remind myself, the Poo-pooers of The Paris of the South — well! The nerve of some folks! Notre Dame? St. Lawerence’s. The Louvre? Pack Place! Montmartre and the Left Bank? The French Broad River between Amboy Road and the Smoky Park bridges! The Palace of Versailles? The Cecils’ cozy chateau! Rude waiters in Le Place Pigalle? I’ll put those holders of master’s degrees in Asheville who snarl, “I’ll be your server” against those Froggie tyros anytime! … The City of Lights wants to take on The Land of the Sky? Sacre bleu! Hey, suck it up, Gay Paree! Even us rural heteros know you’re losers here!

P.S. At least we’ve progressed a little from H.L. Mencken’s descriptions of the 1920s South as “The Sahara of the Bozart” (spoonerism: “Beaux Arts.”)

— Tom Graham
“Elderly hick”

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4 thoughts on “Letter writer: The City of Lights has nothing on The Paris of the South

  1. The Real World

    Funny and clever letter!

    Regarding the P.S. — indeed the operative words are “a little”.

    • Yared Sharot

      “The Paris of the South”

      Uh, no. We don’t have terrorists killing 150 people at a time with fully automatic weapons. Paris is a major metropolis. Asheville is not.

  2. henry

    This is a well written and thoughtful letter. I grow up and lived in New Orleans 30 years and now live in Asheville. I moved here after living in a very rural Appalachian area of SW VA. I described moving to Asheville as being between New Orleans and SWVA, and I do mean geographically. New Orleans is also described as the Paris of the South. There are a few very similar characteristics of bohemian culture here in Asheville, but on a much smaller and more restricted level. Given the French influence in New Orleans, going back to ownership, a comparison to Paris is easy to make on multiple levels. New Orleans has a multicultural heritage; French, Creole, African, Canadian, etc. I enjoy and lived in Appalachian for 30 years, but it has a heritage based on Scotch and Irish immigrants. Asheville has its own unique characteristics, but, in my opinion, it’s not the Paris of the South. There’s no French Quarter.

    • hauntedheadnc

      “Paris of the South” has been Asheville’s nickname since the late 1800’s when travel writers and the society pages were swooning over “George’s place” and Asheville’s cultural offerings and resort facilities. It stuck. Whether or not it is valid is irrelevant. Most places’ nicknames don’t make much sense, not to mention the fact that “Paris of Such-and-such” as a nickname is as common as dirt. Another common nickname for the time was “Queen City,” of which there are at least three that come immediately to mind. All those kinds of nicknames ever described was a place that was nicer than what you’d expect for its region. On a scale of 1 to 10 of things worth getting het up over, the whole things scores a 0.5.

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