Letters to the editor

Bring back my Bonnie’s

History does repeat itself — and will continue to do so, like a nagging spouse, until we tell it to shut up. And then it will keep on wagging its tongue and finger, but we won’t pay it any mind.

Historical character, on the other hand, can get obliterated in a New York minute, and that’s that, end of conversation. Kind of like how your reporter kept getting hung up on in the middle of his conversations while calling around this neighborly little town trying to find out why Bonnie’s got kicked off the block [Buzz Worm:Another One Gets the Boot,” July 12].

No comment from me on that talking point. You wouldn’t be able to print what would come out of my mouth anyway without slandering some well-connected somebody or other. And truth be told, as far as I’m concerned, you could put all of my interest in Asheville’s nitpicky real-estate-gossip politics into an ashtray and still have room for a mighty big cigar.

Of course you might not have a place to buy said cigar.

I wholeheartedly believe that if we keep on going in the direction we are headed, we will eventually wind up right where we are going. And Bonnie’s Little Corner might not be there. But we will miss it dearly.

— Tom Kerr

For whom the drum tolls

The soul of a great city is defined by its culture, diversity and freedom of expression. In this regard, Asheville has always stood above other American cities. Its art scene, music and vibrant street life are the driving forces that attract people to it, notably its downtown.

One such attraction is the drumming circle — a spontaneous, eclectic celebration enjoyed by people from all walks of life, including families with young children. My wife and I, who live in Hendersonville, make a special effort to join the drumming circle each Friday. There’s just nothing like it anywhere we’ve been.

I understand there have been some recent complaints about the drumming. While the objections are certainly valid to those who made them, it’s not fair to treat downtown Asheville as if it were some quiet suburb or cloistered, gated community. To me, it’s just natural that a certain amount of hustle-bustle and street activity be accepted by those who choose to live in such a vibrant urban environment.

Not having a drumming circle will disappoint a large number of people — the very same people who have contributed to the life and soul of Asheville. It’s our hope that City Council can find some way to allow this wonderful event to continue.

— Marshall Gordon

Spreading the fairy dust

Thank you for the great write-up [“The Weight of Human Hours,” June 28].

I do love my life and my job as an artist (and I’m thankful that those were the first words in the article), but a couple of very important details of who I am and how I got to this position never made it into print. It was stated that I live in a mansion and own two vehicles, but the deeper truth is that I … live in a small apartment of this building [and] pull it off on an income of $9,000 a year or less.

More important, everything I have has come at the cost of the lives of both of my parents, [lost to] cancer. As much as I would wish it otherwise, a meager life-insurance settlement was the only thing [that] gave me a little financial freedom to get my art career started. I am nothing without their sacrifices and their wisdom.

[Recently] I have been seeing opportunities around me like never before. I’m applying creative energy into planning a Mardi Gras-caliber festival event that — if it works — will generate revenue for this city and bring artistic inspiration to people who deserve something rich and beautiful but cannot afford it. This will happen Sept. 11 and probably run through the whole weekend. I feel that certain powers have used Sept. 11 as an excuse to justify excessive bloodshed and violence, so I would like to put the call out to anyone who would like to … participate and help tie this community together in a way that’s never been done before, using Sept. 11 as a springboard for a peaceful, nonviolent movement of artistic creativity. E-mail me at Siege3@juno.

Anyway … I love the fact that as an African-American male, I can walk through the streets in the middle of the South, with a big pair of faerie wings over my shoulder, and feel comfortable. This is my home, and I wish to make the most of it creatively.

And on that subject, can someone tell me why police barricaded the community drum circle last Friday? That drum circle draws people from all over the country — people who then spend money all over the city. It is the most consistently lively event that we residents get to actively participate in and make happen. That drum circle is the heartbeat of downtown Asheville on a Friday night! And yet people were turned away by the police because one or two people called in about “noise” — in the heart of downtown on a Friday night — that was already scheduled to stop at 10 p.m. Poor decision-making like that can shut down an entire city’s vitality!

— C.J. Randall

Cultivating an ancient art

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a weekend workshop with Master Zhongxian Wu at the annual conference of the National Qigong Association in the summer of 2003. At the time, I was a part-time student at the Asheville School of Healing Arts, which taught traditional Chinese-medicine classes in its humble locale in Westgate Shopping Center.

I had never practiced qigong and was new to Chinese medicine in general. I entered the workshop that Saturday to find two dozen sweatpants-clad early birds scattered around a small Chinese man with long, shiny black hair. I settled in to inspect this supposed master.

Master Wu came to the United States from China in 2001, having worked for 12 years as an aerospace engineer. He was frail and weak as a child, and at age 9, he discovered qigong and taiji. Inspired by the immediate strengthening effects, he has continued his practice over the past 30 years.

Qigong is a form of physical, mental and spiritual cultivation. The ancient Chinese healing art combines slow series of movements with flowing breath to ease the mind and promote smooth qi (vital energy) flow thru the body. The internal martial art has been developed over thousands of years and is at the root of Chinese culture.

In the class, I was immediately moved by the power of whatever it was that we were doing. Master Wu gently led the smattering of New-Age stereotypes into a shaking exercise designed to loosen each of the body’s parts. We bobbed awkwardly, like infant ducklings, but after a handful of minutes I began to find my rhythm. As we eventually slowed to a stop, focusing inwardly, I noticed a shimmering reverberation throughout my body and lost myself in the hum of my own electricity. I now understood what he meant by qi.

As we were led through patterns of movements, I was astonished by their simplicity. Yet the more I watched, the more I noticed subtle intricacies of the form. When we finished, my body felt simultaneously relaxed and invigorated. This was what I was looking for and I never even knew I was looking for anything at all. I couldn’t wait to learn more.

I have now been practicing qigong daily for almost two years. I feel very fortunate to have found a teacher whom I trust and admire. There are many different styles of qigong and many different teachers. It is important to find a style and a teacher that suit you. And sometimes they find you.

Master Wu will be teaching at the Cosmic Chi Center in Swannanoa Aug. 4 through 9. For information on the workshop, go to artsofliving.com.

— Eric Usher

Stopping payment on the war machine

Some 40 years ago, circumstances and co-workers in Argentina became God’s instrument to help me move from the “who I was” to the “who I might become.” I accepted their suggestion that I return to the United States and try to do in the country of my birth what we had been trying to do in the country of their birth. Their call to ministry lives within me every day.

Returning to this country, I filed my income tax return and, for the first time, refused to pay the portion budgeted for war. I wrote the IRS a letter explaining why I could not pay for the war machine.

I became a United Farm Worker volunteer in California and later a Habitat for Humanity International volunteer in Georgia. Volunteer stipends of $5, $10, $25 per week permitted me to work as hard as I had ever worked in a salaried position, without ever needing to pay income tax. Later still, in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, I volunteered with the United Methodist Church at the Sager-Brown Center for Enabling Ministries in Louisiana.

With retirement came changes. My refusal to pay for the war machine and my growing concern for Third World women’s struggle to feed, clothe, educate and provide adequate medical care for themselves and their children led me to liquidate my IRA in order to provide small loans for some of those women. There are Third World mothers now who will be forced to watch their little ones die unless help is available now. There are others who will never reach their full potential unless help is available now. It became clear to me that now was the time for my gift to begin to help.

When a woman who receives the first small loan repays it, another woman may borrow. Each woman who receives a loan is enabled to start a small business, to roof her house or to buy school clothes and books for her children. She is empowered. When she repays her loan, she becomes an empowerer for another. This positive cycle has the potential to help only God knows how many. I am grateful for the idea of empowering people to empower others who need the strength of a small loan.

If I had my life to live over, I’d do some things differently, but I am not sorry that I made the funds available to mothers and children now. I am sorry the IRS robbed my California credit-union account in September 2004 and my bank account here in February 2005 — draining both to zero — but I have no regrets for refusing to pay for the war machine. Each time I remember, I am glad that the IRA fund will never be taken to build a killing army. Instead, that money will build a people’s cooperative interdependence and mutual respect — a better world for all. Still, the IRS wanted me to acquiesce and pay without fussing what I had refused to pay. I no longer had a bank account, so in August 2005, the IRS reduced my Social Security income.

As long as I live in this physical body, I have to live with me, so I continue to resist. Some inconveniences, some disappointments are nothing compared to the loss of life, health and potential that are direct results of war.

— Ruth Clark

Johnston’s out-of-tune but on target

I remember getting cassettes in the mid-1980s of Daniel Johnston’s home-made, packaged tapes with his hand-drawn artwork and [asking] — like Ken Hanke: Who the heck is this guy? But after the initial shock of his sometimes out-of-tune voice and simple guitar playing, I came to realize how … artistic this guy was. It’s the writing of the songs.

I find it quite amusing that Hanke goes to so much trouble (my god, how he goes on and on sometimes) to inform readers how much he knows about movies, culture and, heck, even opera, that he totally misses the boat when it comes to any music, not just Daniel Johnston’s [“The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” July 12 Xpress].

Where do I begin? Well, first off, Daniel Johnston’s music is not grunge. … Does [Hanke] even know what grunge music sounds like? [The fact that] a famous rocker like Kurt Cobain was spotted many times wearing a Daniel Johnston T-shirt doesn’t make Johnston’s music grunge. The hip-hop artist KRS One was spotted several times wearing a Charles Mingus T-shirt. Does that make KRS’ music jazz? I don’t think so.

Ken seems to have a hard time distinguishing between Daniel Johnston the musician/vocalist and Daniel Johnston the songwriter — two very, very different things. Sure, Johnston’s voice and guitar are mostly off-key and not in tune by any means, but that’s not the point. … It’s his songs, lyrics and musical compositions — not his vocal and guitar abilities — that get most of the musicians and critics to declare him the “greatest singer-songwriter alive today.”

Tell Hanke to maybe do a little bit of research on a subject (there are other things to research, Ken, besides movies) before deciding something is grunge. Just listen to the CD titled The Late Great Daniel Johnston, where you can hear over 17 artists and admirers do his songs justice. You can hear the beauty of Johnston’s lyrics and musical compositions come to light.

How can you hear Johnston sing the lyrics from “Story of An Artist” and still feel nothing:

“Listen up and I’ll tell a story/’Bout an artist growing old/Some would try for fame and glory/Others aren’t so bold

“Everyone and friends and family/Saying ‘Hey, get a job’/’Why do you do that only?’/’Why are you so odd?’

“‘We don’t like what you do’/’We don’t think anyone ever will’/’It’s a problem that you have’/’And these problems make you ill.'”

— Tito Chazo

Asheville designs another plus

Kudos to Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center for bringing the Design Science Lab to Asheville [Buzz Worm:Thinking Big,” July 5 Xpress].

It’s heartening to see Asheville chosen as the host site for an international event of this caliber because of our population’s interest in leading the way to solve the most pressing environmental, energy, education and health issues facing our society and planet today. It’s been a privilege to see so many local volunteers pulling together and donating their time to make this 10-day event — with participants from here and around the world — happen! I’m looking forward to seeing more of this in Asheville.

— Holly Beveridge
Asheville Design Science Lab Volunteer

Make harm reduction the goal

Though appreciative of the June 28 Mountain Xpress commentary, “Consider This: Low-cost Solutions to the AIDS Crisis” by Brian Elderbroom of the Common Sense Foundation, complete credit [should not] be given to the efforts of the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville for lower HIV-infection rates or case numbers in Western North Carolina.

As coordinator of NEPA since its 1994 inception, I know that we have reached only a small [portion] of the actual number of [intravenous] drug users in the region. We exchange several hundred needles per month on average [through] our continual but illegal operation — illegal due to the inability of the North Carolina General Assembly to enact any of the bills introduced over the years that would have made needle exchange legal.

Brian is correct that “North Carolina law prohibits needle exchange programs, despite the overwhelming research demonstrating their effectiveness.” The most current legislative effort, HB 411, stipulates four criteria to be met before any North Carolina county may operate a needle exchange program. Even before the bill has passed, Buncombe County demonstrated that it could meet three of them, and Guilford County demonstrated that it could meet all four. Still, our General Assembly men and women are not swayed to vote in favor of this scientifically proven HIV/hepatitis-prevention education strategy.

We [could] amend our paraphernalia laws in reference to injection equipment, potentially saving millions of health-care dollars [for] treatment and care of newly infected people each year. The savings in paying for prevention efforts up front far exceed the cost of care as a result of new infections (estimated by the N.C. Department of Health to be $300,000-plus per HIV infection). Moreover, NEPA has never advocated for state funding. Private funding sources exist; North Carolina just has to make the operation of needle-exchange programs legal.

So, I am grateful to Brian for his piece in this paper, but I am also grateful to the many local businesses that provide distribution access to free condoms and other accoutrements of HIV/STD/hepatitis prevention and education.

Finally, though a bit ironic, gratitude must be given to the ever-present and overly employed crack pipes in Asheville. You see, as crack [became] the more accessible drug-of-choice in WNC, fewer people have been injecting drugs. Crack use may lead to behaviors (including unprotected sex) that pose risks for HIV/STD/hepatitis, but crack moves us away from needle use.

I am still in favor of providing clean needles to folks who cannot access them. I will always be that advocate. [But] there are other HIV/STD/hepatitis-prevention efforts and variables helping to keep our numbers low.

Think of harm reduction as the goal. Accept people where they are on that spectrum. Support healthy interventions like comprehensive needle-exchange programs, and let’s continue to move forward with other important issues facing our communities.

— Michael Harney
NEPA Coordinator

Identifying the scarce man

Last May, Thomas Mustric, a substitute teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio, was suspended from his position for seven days. During a lunch break, he [had] mentioned to an inquiring co-worker his belief that 9/11 was an inside job. She promptly complained to her principal, who talked to the board of education, which suspended Mustric … for seven days in the county and permanently in that particular high school.

I relate very strongly to this story. I, too, am a substitute teacher, and I, too, am reluctant to believe the official story. However, I am happy to say that I live in a safe and open community that allows views to be expressed and explored, even if they are controversial. I love this town.

The importance of this open-minded spirit cannot be overstated. Only in this kind of atmosphere can an idea as frightening and as big as a “9/11 cover-up” really begin to be inspected and not suppressed.

There are aspects of 9/11 we cannot afford to ignore or dismiss … [such as] the NORAD stand down on 9/11, the absurdly explained collapse of building 7, the firefighter’s reports of bombs and explosions just before the collapse of each tower, the discovery of thermate (a controlled demolition explosive) at the site, plus oh, so much more.

Fortunately, the 9/11 truth movement is rapidly growing. The most recent Zogby poll found that 42 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. government and its 9/11 commission concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence that contradicts their official explanation … and that there is a cover-up.

Just as noteworthy is the rapidly growing list of reputable scholars, government officials and notable citizens who feel the official report is false, and that American forces are complicit in the events of 9/11.

While this is still virtually invisible in the mainstream media, a resolution to this issue is inevitable and … it will happen at the local level before it happens on the national level. Thanks, Mountain Xpress, for the forum, and thanks, Asheville, for being the open-minded community you are.

And to Mr. Mustric, I quote Mark Twain: “In the beginning of a change, the Patriot is a scarce man, Brave, Hated and Scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, For then it costs nothing to be a Patriot.”

— Matt McClure

About Webmaster
Mountain Xpress Webmaster Follow me @MXWebTeam

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.