June 29, 2018, Crossville, TN-
I sent a text message to an online friend in Asheville, who would not have time for a short visit, and another to a friend in Knoxville, thinking she might be joining what I figured would be a gathering of old Xanga friends, tomorrow, in this town in the western foothills of Appalachia.
I spent time in both cities, en route to my destination. After bidding farewell to W, I headed north to I-40, then west to Asheville, stopping for an hour’s introduction to what is sure to be a key stop on future journeys across the South. I have said, and meant, that about so many places, that I may as well hop on a Greyhound local and be done with it. The thought is comforting, though, to say the least. It’s nice to feel welcomed, whether in new places or old.
Here are some scenes of downtown Asheville. Here is the lobby of Asheville Community Theater, with its stage areas both to the right and extending eastward from the lobby.
From this spot, near my parking place, on the north side, I walked back towards the city center. Art deco towers are not common in Appalachia, but the Jackson Building, built on the site of a tombstone shop run by William Oliver Wolfe, the father of novelist Thomas Wolfe, is such an edifice.
This braided girl, inspired perhaps by Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel”, is one of several statues that grace downtown.
Zebulon Baird Vance, like so many figures of the Confederacy, was a mass of contradictions. He reportedly taught some slaves to read, though that was never confirmed. A life-long Christian, he strongly advocated for total religious freedom, and fought against anti-Semitism. He sincerely believed that freed slaves were being manipulated by the Federal government and needed a time of separation from whites, thus his insistence on imposing racial segregation in North Carolina, during his post-war term as governor. This unfortunate series of actions has re-ignited a debate, as to whether his name should be removed from this obelisk, in Pack Square. Asheville, in recent years, has been a socially forward-thinking community. So, the Vance Memorial is something of an anomaly.
One other unique feature of Pack Square is a series of farm animal sculptures, whose purpose is unclear.
West of Pack Square, there are a number of small cafes. Being in the mood for a Cubano, I chose Bomba Latin Cafe. The place was a friendly introduction to Asheville’s active foodie scene and the sandwich was all a Cubano should be- freshly shaved pork, with shredded cabbage and small, diced bits of Habanero pepper, on a freshly-baked bun.
Well-nourished, I got back to my car, with six minutes to spare. I got in one more full view of downtown, from Pack Square, before heading back onto the freeway. Asheville City Hall is visible, in the background.
I had plenty of company, headed west, as I-40 was packed with people headed to the Great Smokies. Once past the exits to Boone, Cherokee and Gatlinburg, the sailing was a bit smoother. My primary stop in Knoxville was to service my Elantra, at Big O Tires. Being expected in Crossville by 5:30, or so, I headed straight here, once the service was finished. Knoxville has several places of fascination, not the least of which is my online friend’s art gallery. These wait for a visit more focused on that area.
Settling in to the serene home of L and C, I look forward to tomorrow’s gathering, however large or small it may turn out to be.