The power: Dr. Carl Mumpower puts you in the chair
Q: Dear Dr. Mumpower, I’ve been struggling with questions of identity a lot lately. How can I explain my nonbinary gender expression to friends and family members?
A: I am very sorry for this difficulty forced on you by troublemakers in today’s society. We need to get back to a worldview that celebrates wholesome family values like those exemplified by GOP leaders. Contemplating the way President Donald Trump, for example, has expressed his gender can provide a model for living unimpeded by doubt, self-reflection and inconvenient state and federal laws.
Q: Dear Dr. Mumpower, I’m experiencing debilitating panic attacks. Whenever I look at Asheville City Hall, all I can see is a rainbow flag draped over the side of our municipal building. And when I drive down Biltmore Avenue, doing my best to avoid braking for pedestrians, I keep imagining topless women thronging the streets, brazenly shaking their mammary appendages. How can I come humbly before God in prayer, knowing these things are going on and there’s nothing I can do to stop them (having already emptied my bank account to support the Angry Taxpayers)?
A: I am familiar with the despair you describe and I assure you that rational and utterly inflexible people do still live in Asheville, though we’ve been forced deeper and deeper into the shadows. It’s hard to accept that the average age of attendees at Council of Independent Business Owners meetings is pushing 83, and it’s even more dispiriting to contemplate the never-ending pain of the city’s vindictive discontinuation of leaf-sucking vacuum trucks. Since you’ve exhausted your financial resources, I’d urge you to repeat this mantra when you feel a panic attack coming on: “Meadows, McHenry, Tillis, Burr, Edwards, gerrymander, gerrymander, gerrymander.”
Q: Dear Dr. Mumpower, my wife and I have been married for 14 years. What should we do to keep the magic alive?
A: From time to time, a husband and wife should enjoy direct contact with one another’s private parts. I know what you’re thinking: only for the purposes of procreation, right? At the risk of sounding like a crazy liberal, no, baby-making isn’t just for baby-making. You might even engage in these acts in positions other than lying face-to-face, man on top. If you are going to attempt that, be sure to hit the gym regularly to stay in peak physical condition.
One last thing, and I can’t stress this enough, pee-pee to poo-poo contact may be tempting for those trying to spice things up, but it’s simply not God’s way.
It’s easy being green with Julie Mayfield
Q: Dear Council member Mayfield, I’m an environmentalist, but I struggle to find ways to balance my beliefs with other responsibilities and commitments. For example, my job requires frequent travel.
A: The nature of the travel plays an important role in determining its impact. Traveling to conferences devoted to talking with other people about how deeply you care about the environment produces 50 percent less carbon than traveling to places like Disneyland, football games and outlet malls, studies have shown. Similarly, vacations in Europe, Asia or South America produce less greenhouse gasses if 1.) You spend at least one day looking at art; 2.) You stay in no more than one Airbnb; 3.) You attempt to speak the local language.
Q: Dear Council member Mayfield, how has combining your leadership position at MountainTrue with a seat on City Council allowed you to advocate for local environmental priorities?
A: I’m proud to say that, during the time Duke Energy’s peaker natural gas plant wouldn’t have been under construction anyway, we’ve been engaged in a first-of-its-kind collaborative PR effort — I mean, energy demand reduction initiative — with Buncombe County and Duke.
But holding office hasn’t done a thing to stop my nightmares about the Interstate 26 Connector project. If there were anything I could do to stop this project — short of, say, pissing off Chuck McGrady or Kit Cramer — I would do it.
All in all, politics is the best way I know of to perpetuate the delusion that humanity gives a crap about the environment while we wait for the effects of climate change to catch up with us.
Q: Dear Council member Mayfield, I am a housekeeper at a local hotel and I depend on Asheville’s bus system to get to work. While my supervisor understands that I can only be as reliable as the bus I ride, I’m worried that one of these days her patience will run out. What is City Council doing to improve the transit system’s performance for people like me?
A: Unlike in previous years, when the transit management contract and broken buses were used as excuses for missed routes and late arrivals, transit riders today have been presented with a whole new set of promises that aren’t being kept. I think you’ll find that increased city spending on transit will provide even colder comfort when you still can’t get where you need to go.
Dear Abby the Spoon Lady
A: Absolutely not. It’s all fun and games until someone gets an eye put out. Can you imagine what that would do to my YouTube viewership?
A: Only when I am forced to it by a knucklehead trying to cross me on the boxcar.
A: An abomination. I don’t go in for that sort of mutant nonsense. The right tool for the job is the name of the game in musical cutlery, and the right tool is a spoon.
Q: Teaspoons or tablespoons?
A: I don’t like tea, it gives me a headache. I only drink coffee with a quarter cup of sugar. You gotta keep those fingers jittery to make the spoons fly.
Q: Big spoon or little spoon?
A: Both. Sometimes at the same time.
Q: I really enjoyed your recent collaboration with rock legend Dave Grohl. What’s his favorite implement/piece of tableware?
A: You mean besides his ax? I kid, of course. Grohl tells me he is a great lover of the oyster fork. And, rebel that he is, he sometimes goes off the rails and uses them to eat pickles rather than their intended seafood purpose.
The Man-splainer: Mayor Esther Manheimer tells it like it is
Q: Dear Mayor Manheimer, I’m concerned with the city’s focus on amenities geared toward the tourist industry at the expense of those who live and work in Asheville. What is the city doing to make areas like downtown more local-friendly?
A: Well actually, it depends on your definition of the words “tourist” and “local.” We prefer to consider visitors to Asheville “potential residents.” In this sense, new hotels and tourism-centric spending are for our residents — future residents who will pay ridiculous prices for food and housing. At the same time, high rents and rapid gentrification will cause many current residents to seek out other communities for their needs, rendering them inconsequential.
So if you look at it that way, we’re not catering to tourists so much as forcing the rest of you out.
Q: Dear Mayor Manheimer, local government has been rocked by several high-profile scandals over the past couple years, leading many to question the city’s transparency in how it communicates with the public. What are you doing to make city government more transparent?
A: Well actually, I’m glad you asked that question. We’re working on several initiatives at the moment: Council member Vijay Kapoor is spearheading the “Casper Task Force” to look at the viability of using spectral consultants to oversee our public relations offices. Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler, meanwhile, has been touting the glass ceiling — literally, a glass ceiling over all of our offices, where constituents can watch over us like animals in the zoo.
Q: Dear Mayor Manheimer, what would be your fashion advice to young people just starting out in their professional careers?
A: Well actually, you want to streamline your look.
If you identify as a woman, you can’t go wrong with a sheath dress, worn with a jacket to give it some structure. Remove the jacket to flash your amazing guns … I mean, to keep your cool in different environments throughout the day. Heels can never be too high. In fact, adding a platform sole to a 3 1/2-inch wedge heel is one of my favorite tricks.
Guys should … heck, I don’t know. Take a page out of my book and always brush your teeth before every meeting, even if it means exposing your mouth to water from the pipes in City Hall. That fresh feeling can get you through just about anything, including an onslaught at the podium from Chris Peterson or Brother Christopher.
Q: Dear Mayor Manheimer, are you a fan of multitasking, or do you prefer to focus on one thing at a time?
A: Well actually, studies show that we get more done … Oh, wait a sec, let me pause my fitness tracker. Now, as I was saying, we get a lot more done if we prioritize and finish each … Oops, my son is calling. Hold on. … Right. Um, at my synagogue, we’ve been talking about being in the moment, which is a concept I find especially … Gwen, can I call you back in 15? I swear I’ll get right back to you … This reminds me of my first job, working for Meals on Wheels in Asheville’s most underprivileged communities. Those seniors just wanted someone to take some time to … You know, I’m due in court in two minutes, but if you haven’t got what you need, let’s talk again tomorrow, OK?
Take it to the bank with Al Whitesides
Q: Dear Mr. Whitesides, it’s time to begin getting my seventh-grader college-ready. What subjects should she focus on?
A: In my 40 years as a banker, I mostly used math and communications skills. Your child should think long and hard about what career path in a bank she might want to pursue. If your child wants to be a teller, pay extra attention to arithmetic. If, on the other hand, she wants to be a financial adviser or account manager, a broader range of skills is needed, including English and even some history.
Q: Dear Mr. Whitesides, I am trying to potty-train my child. Any tips?
A: In my 40 years as a banker, I never wet my pants. Not once. I attribute my success to the power of positive thinking and keeping good clean records of each time nature called. If you stay calm and track the patterns of bodily functions, it’s easy to predict the next time you will need to make a deposit.
Q: Dear Mr. Whitesides, my husband and I are fighting over who should take on which chores and when. What’s the best way to divide things fairly?
A: In my 40 years as a banker, most of my disputes involved money. Now that I think about it, the only times I have ever come out ahead in arguments with my wife were when the disagreement was about fiscal matters. Have you tried fighting about money instead?
Bothstradamus: Musings and predictions from futurist Cecil Bothwell
Q: Dear Bothstradamus, where the heck is my flying car?
A: It should have been here by now… Roads are already a thing of the past and parking more so. Look, just build your own — an idiot could do it. Take one of those big-ass fans, like they have at The Orange Peel, hook it up to your driveshaft, geared vertically, and surround the whole thing with a rubber skirt stitched together from old bike inner tubes. You’ve got yourself a hovercraft. That’s halfway there; just fill in the rest of the solutions and you’ve got it.
Q: Dear Bothstradamus, I can’t find any housing I can afford within my budget of $600 per month in the city of Asheville. What should I do?
A: Hang in there just a couple more months, because the solution is close at hand. Even as we speak, I’m finalizing a plan with city Transportation Director Ken Putnam to transform all city-owned parking decks into low-cost housing. We’re close to a breakthrough on the biggest technical challenge: keeping inhabitants from rolling down the ramps as they sleep. Restroom facilities are already in place in each stair tower, and extra dispensers of worse-than-urine fragrance have been installed. But it’s only possible if we can get City Council to grow a pair and fund real solutions like this instead of blowing money on half measures.
Q: Dear Bothstradamus, how will Asheville deal with the effects of climate change?
A: Simple: We just recycle our nuclear war plan. We’re going to rebuild the city in the abandoned catacombs below downtown. Talks have already begun with the mole people and rats who currently occupy those tunnels, and we’ve offered them a nice incentive package of leftover hot dogs from McCormick Field to sell their property.
Q: Dear Bothstradamus, the Pit of Despair used to be closed off by a chain-link fence and surfaced in granite. Now it’s … well, the same thing, but with a gate and a couple of picnic tables. Is this your 21st-century vision for this important piece of city-owned property?
A: The park of the future takes time. Still, the view of the Basilica from Charlie Thomas’ Haywood Street condos looks pretty great these days, if I do say so myself.
Q: Dear Bothstradamus, you aren’t on City Council anymore. Why should I care what you have to say?
A: Who doesn’t want to hear what an opinionated old white guy has to say on things he only understands peripherally?