Room redesign.

We're pulling a Trading Spaces in the living room here at 99 Vandalia, but without Page Davis, and I'm pretty sure that we've exceeded the time limit if the show. If Cheyenne and I were on a decorating show, it would be called something like “Room redesigns, beer and chicken wings” or “Let's paint for a while and then go eat some food.” It's all good though, and here is a quick preview before we finally transform the room this weekend.
You can see the wall color is kind of a sage-ish green with a hint of grey. The walls were originally beige. Then we chose a seashore blue tone, but the semi-gloss appearance made it look like a “pediatrician's office” according to our roommate, Greg. So...Cheyenne chose a greener tone with an eggshell finish. I thought the difference was going to be subtle, but in fact it is muuuuch better.

Also, check out this groovy chair that Cheyenne got on Craigslist! And it is sooooo comfortable!It's red leather, which is pretty sweet on it's own, but does not fit with the decorating scheme we are going for. So, she is going to stain the leather this weekend to a dark brown. I did not know you could do this, so I am curious to see how it will turn out and to see how easy it is.

The concept of the room is to make it a peaceful place, with the calming green walls, a new (being picked up today!) khaki colored couch, dark brown and rust curtains, and we're going to tie in the rust and dark brown throughout the room with pillows, wall hangings and a quick refinish of a couple pieces of furniture. It's going to be fabulous!
Check out this supercool, groovy chair!

I think Fred approves of it all.

But unfortunately, Fred has not been able to help with the painting process as much as he would like to-- his tail is too waggy and would stick to the walls!


Sons of Ralph on a sold-out Saturday.

Even in Asheville's off-season, where the locals complain it's cold and businesses are closed on Mondays, there is an abundance of fun options most every night...and too many to choose from on the weekends! It was the Fringe Arts Fest in Asheville this past weekend, a dance/music/fun fest put on by the local Bebe Theatre, where people can shamelessly fly their freak flag. My friend Roy and I waited in line for this one, which was to include a theatrical/musical city tour of Asheville on the famous La Zoom bus. We were among a sea of confusion, a man with green hair, a confused box office attendant, there was someone cawing like a bird and feeding people saltines on the street, and sadly we were a mere five people away from the tour being sold out.
So, as my glass is generally half full, I suggested we simply walk up the street and turn the corner in search of something equally as awesome to do (but next year, I'll be sure to get there sooner, to assure that I get a seat for that show!). Roy and I hoofed it up Congress Street and walked up to Patton Ave. (I'm quite proud of myself for learning how to navigate around this city), where he suggested we check out Jack of the Wood, an Irish Pub known for their live music and delicious, local brews.

And we found it. We walked through the door, as we happened upon possibly the two best seats in the house. We enjoyed a few delicious brown ales and porters and danced to Sons of Ralph, a traditional yet alternative bluegrass band. What fun! Check them out: www.sonsofralph.com They were named the best local band in Asheville, 8 out of the last 10 years!
This is Ralph. He's going to be 81 this year and has been playing the mandolin for over 7o years!
It sure was a find...I'll be back to see them again, for sure!


Bamberg, SC

I'd only been in Asheville for a few days when my father called one afternoon.
"I'm at Steve's house," he casually explained.
"Whaaa?" I asked. Steve lives in South Carolina. Apparently, my dad decided to do some traveling for a bit, and stopped at Steve and Dana's for a while, en route to visit his brother in Florida.
So I hopped in Janis for a couple of days to spend some time with my Pops...

It was about a three and a half hour trek to get to Bamburg, SC, just 50 minutes away from Columbia. It's beautiful out there, but it sure is flat and rural! There was an abundance of gorgeous architechture, but a lot of the buildings were vacant. My dad and I went out to lunch and walked around the downtown area, checking out antique shops and stores.

Steve and Dana live on a big piece of property where they raise dogs and horses. This is Dana and her pony, Patriot.

It's difficult to see, but that's my dad out there...cutting down an old oak tree with the horses. I think my dad has really gotten to love life on the farm...horses and all.

Brady, the Tuftan's lovable dog and farm mascot.
Thanks Steve and Dana for having me!


Obama Nation.

What a beautiful thing to look back on an important day in history and recall the details of what you were doing and how you were impacted so profoundly. As a recently transplanted resident to Asheville, I have been thrown in the middle of a flock of Obama Mamas and supporters, who had been waiting for this day for a long time. Don't get me wrong, I was and am 100% Obama. But there is something different in the North Carolina air that rings a bit louder than anywhere I have been since he began his campaign. The fundamental grass roots campaign that helped him win the election is still uniting the community through continued volunteering, faded Obama stickers on the back of car windows, hand painted lawn signs, and even the frequent cheer across a crowd of Yes we can!

I wasn't quite sure I realized the profundity of the situation until I sat and watched the inauguration at noon on Tuesday. When Obama won the election, I kissed and hugged a close friend and went to sleep feeling great about the brink of change our nation stood upon. But when he was inaugurated, I cried. I cried so hard and so unexpectedly as it all hit me at once. Granted we have a ways to go, but all of a sudden I realized I'm not as scared to look to the future. We have a black president. Someone who, amidst the complete chaos our country is in, calmly and confidently expresses that he is certain we can unite to make it strong again. Among so many other great things, we can take pride in our president once again.

All of this said, I don't want to get on a political soapbox, and politics is something that I rarely discuss with others. But Tuesday...this was not a night to be home in a city that comes alive after 10:00 and would be out joining hands in celebration of this amazing change. So while I was tired in the legs from a new dance class I had joined earlier that day (ugh...I am so out of shape!), and I had but a few bucks in my pocket, I went down to the Grey Eagle for the Obama Celebration. It was any other night at the Eagle since I have been there...the $2.50 drink specials...plywood floors...the smell of fried green tomatoes wafting in from the kitchen. But that night offered a certain magic in the air. Between the eclectic mix of a bluegrass and a sweet funk band, amidst the nag-champa filled dance floor, friends seemed to hug longer and smile harder when they greeted each other, chanting and stomping when the bands called out “Obama!” You could feel the change in the room alone, which made me excited for the rest of the world outside of the Grey Eagle, and all that is to come.

The evening's feature was 'Soul Driven Train,' a funky soul jam band, that ended the night in a beautiful drumming session.


Pop Asheville, part deux.

Night 2 of Pop Asheville. Didn't take as many pictures, but spent the night at the Grey Eagle (my official new favorite bar and club in the area), after riding around in the La Zoom bus because...well, because I could. Man that thing is so much fun! I caught 3 of the bands: Holiday Childress, The Champion and His Burning Flame and HeyPenny (shown below).
It was a more laxed evening, but the crowd was building at the Eagle to see the festival feature: StephaniesId. They were the band that started the phenomenom of PopAsheville last year, and played the last set of the evening. You should check them out on You Tube, if you get the chance...they're not going to be playing small venues for long!

The powerhouse lead singer, Stephanie Morgan, rocked the stage and captivated the audience with her amazing voice. And, she is absolutely adorable.

This was the We Are The World-ish ending to the festival. Oh, and look! It's Ami Worthen from Mad Tea Party over there!
So...that was my first weekend in Asheville. :o)

Pop Asheville! (part one)

So, I roll into town late at night, after stopping at Whole Foods for a couple bottles of cheap wine to share with my new roommates (Chey & Greg), who I was about to meet. I've been in the door a total of 4, maybe 5 minutes and I instantly like them both. Greg Brown, who is a stand-up comedian, happens to have a show that evening, which was beginning in something to the tune of 23 minutes (comedians have minutes down to a T, much like radio deejays, it seems). He was being featured in 'The Beards of Comedy Show,' which was playing at the Rocket Club up the street. The show was pretty funny...I had some broken, funky chair in the front row that kept sinking down to the floor, they had a $1.50 PBR beer special (my friend Josh would approve) and I of course snorted through a few jokes and got called out by at least one comedian on stage. It's funny stuff, this place is great, and I've been here for 47 minutes.

I head to the bar to order another round of these $1.50 beers, which are tasting mighty fine after the six and a half days of travel it took me to get to my destination. I notice that the bartender, Ken, is reading The Mountain Express, and tells me that “Pop Asheville is where it's at this weekend.” I was kind of planning on going anyways, as my roommate Chey had preemptively called me to purchase my ticket, thinking it would be a great introduction to the local music scene. I thank the bartender, decide that I have committed to this Pop Asheville event for the weekend, and grab a newspaper on my way out the door that evening.

Wow. Pop Asheville it was. 3 venues. 2 nights. Something like 34 bands. Transportation included. $15.00 per ticket. Amazing.

This was the bus that tooled us around for the evening: The La Zoom! Live music with every trip! I want to live on it.

Busdriver extraordinnaire.
My rooommate Cheyenne and her friend, Ruby!
Mmmm...$1.50 PBR on draft. Can't go wrong there. And I am monotone. Double bonus.

Umbrella Tree. Very cool.

Dancer vs. the Politician: super neat, Velvet Underground-ish band. The adorable German lead singer completely captivated the audience.

My favorite new band of the night: Ruby Slippers. This supercool Madonna-esque chick had a beautiful voice, which meshed well with some electronic beats and whatever that keyboard-y instrument is that that dude is playing. I will be sure to check them out again!

I took this one for you, Jim. First of all, who knew that Genny Cream Ale comes in glass? Second of all, I didn't know you could buy the stuff at bars!
This was the moment I discovered the sepia setting on my camera. Niiiiice. I will use that one a lot in my travels. Removing the color from a picture seems to capture a certain non-commercialized beauty that I love.
Ummm, so this is my shoe.

Mad Tea Party! I saw these guys play at the Northeast Kingdom Music Fest in Vermont two summers ago, then last winter in Bradford, Vermont. Post show, I said hello to them and it turns out, they live here. Funny I should catch them in Vermont of al places and then Asheville! But now I can catch them hopefully more often!

I love these guys and their unique rockabilly sound. And what's cooler than a chick with a ukulele?

Weeeeeeeeeeee! Ami Worthen rockin' it out!
What a ridiculously fun night! And that was just Friday!


And then...

After six and a half days of travel, my smelly socks and I crossed the border and finally made it to Asheville. Weeeeeeeeee!!


More Atlanta, Laura and some fabulous brews.

When I left the Henson exhibit at the Center for Puppertry Arts, I met up with Larry's friend, Laura at The Brick Store Pub (voted the country's second best brew pub!), who I'd never met in real life, but have been following her writing and blog for a while now (she's fabulous and you should check out her story). With only a few hours to spend in the city, Laura was nice enough to show me around and give me an alternative tour of Atlanta.

But first, I was starving and I was in a pub, so what else was I going to do but drink some brews? Kim (the bartender) gave me a sampling of the bar's favorites, and I had a few pints of the delishesness and ordered the hummus plate & homemade chicken fingers. I laughed because I thought this pile of (scrumptious, homemade) hummus looked like a muppet with black olive eyes. No? Well, then it was just because I had spent the entire day looking at Muppets. I thought the parking meter resembled Beeker.

Laura on a walk through Piedmont Park
We stopped at a little Irish Pub on our way back into town for a couple of beers. I chose 'Mama's Little Yellow Pill'- a Czech brew that was on special. Dee-lish! And, note the awesome fingerless gloves, or 'sloves' as I call them which are right beside that tasty brew. Polly made those for me and I wore them every day on my travels. They fit just right, but I had to take them off so I wouldn't get sausage grease on them:
I included this picture because most of you know how I feel about meat product in a casing. But hey, when in Rome... Laura ordered this meat plate, which featured everything from the pub's home smoked apple sausage, to prosciutto (or was it ham? or are those the same thing?), to pate (which tasted a lot like a tuna fish/butter combination). I wouldn't go so far as to say that I would order it again, but I gave it a try and it meshed well with the beer flavor.

Thanks, Laura Fries for a fun afternoon! It was nice to finally meet you!


It's the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational...

I've always been drawn to Jim Henson and his work in an almost indescribable way. I don't remember my first words, or my first day of school. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast, but I do recall the first sight of Big Bird on stage of Sesame Street Live at the New Haven Coliseum when I was barely potty-trained.

Something clicked in me at that ripe young age and I have been a fan of everything Muppets ever since. To this day I will watch the opening song to the Muppet Show over and over again to just be able to see the paint strokes and hand-carved quality of the set and see the details that formed what I think to be one of the most brilliant masterpieces of all time. Because it is not just the Muppets that I am oh-so-intrigued with. It is the mind of the late and great Jim Henson that has inspired me to do so many things in my life and has changed me.

The Smithsonian exhibit was a nice, colorful display, that guided you through the life of Jim and his many forms of creative media. From his graphic design (which I was excited to learn about!) to his cartooning to his comic books to his sculptures to commercials to the Muppets we all know and love, I was able to see this evolution, and see the pages in his sketchbook (which, by the way, were full of swirls and doodles in Sharpie and colored pencil). This was the down and dirty stuff....scribbles in faded marker on the back of a menu, covered in coffee stains that laid out ideas for sets and Muppet sketches. I stood before the actual original drawing for the set idea for the Muppet Show and my heart actually skipped a beat.

Then of course there was Kermit (who, little known fact, was originally constructed out of a ping pong ball and one of Jim's mother's old coats). There were some Dark Crystal characters. Ernie. Bert. And Rolph the dog made an appearance. I left there feeling inspired and changed. But I could have used a little more Muppet viewing. I wanted to stare at more of these creatures of wonder for hours and see the handiwork, the glue drips, the recycled materials and the stitches that they were made of.

So I randomly struck up conversation with the lady at the front desk (who, was nice enough to offer me the student discount, despite me not having any proof of the sort). She casually mentioned that there was a permanent display of the Muppets up the street at the Center for Puppetry Arts, a museum of only puppets, that was actually established with the help of Jim Henson.

Whaaa? I had no idea. I ran out the door hopped in Janis (my oh-so-reliable vehicle, who loves the warm weather!) as quickly as possible. If there were Muppets to be seen and they were in that town, I was not wasting time here.

The sun was shining and I felt as if I was heading down the yellow brick road. (Sidenote: I actually lost the top of my sunroof leaving the parking garage. Somehow I managed to make the clearance on the way in, but the incline on the way out snapped off the top to my sunroof and it flew off the back, leaving a gaping hole in my roof. A random jogger was passing by, saw this happen and handed me the sunroof. I know this should have phased me more than it did, but the whole transaction in my overly excited state reminded me for no reason at all of that scene in Muppets Take Manhattan, when Gregory Hines has his skates taken by Miss Piggy in the park. I know...they're not even related. But if you haven't seen it, you should at least You Tube that right away.)

Sunroofless, I found my way to the Puppet Museum (thankfully, I had a nice collection of colored duct tape that my friend Rox gave me for Christmas, so I did some quick repair on Janis), and there, amidst a flock of first graders on a field trip, and for a ridiculously discounted price (I think the front desk dude saw a sense of urgency in my eyes), I found it.

Ahhhhhh...Muppets (the signs said no photography, but if you drove 19 hours to see this, I think you would take pictures too...enjoy!) Jaw dropped, heart beating, I stood before these creatures and took it all in. I ate lunch out of the vending machine so that I could spend more time there, seeing how they were made, and how Jim's brilliant ideas were realized, from a napkin drawing to life-like puppets that have made their way into my heart. The Doozers. The Fraggles. Big Bird. Pigs in Space. The door knockers from the Labyrinth. The word amazing does not do this man's work any justice. He was pure genius.

Needless to say, I took away a lot from my day of Muppets and learning about Jim Henson. Most importantly I learned that it's important to just put your ideas out there, and try to acknowledge but excuse the fear (that I have come to know in creating) of rejection or the need to perfect everything before it is seen. While I am sure that there were many raised eyebrows at the sight of Jim's zany creations and ideas that began to surface in the 60's, he believed in himself and knew he had a worthwhile story to tell. And for the opportunity to learn his story, I am forever grateful.

Remember these guys? Mahna mahna! Doot-doot-doo-doot-doot...

I know these guys were behind glass. But you would practically smell the polyesther of Bert's super cool V-neck sweater.