You tread on angels in downtown Asheville, North Carolina where there are distinct squares embedded in the sidewalk every few meters. Each has an intricate carving of an angel. They are a tribute to the great American writer Thomas Wolfe. He was born and raised in Asheville and wrote his famous semi- autobiographical novel Look Homeward Angel about growing up there. There’s a towering angel sculpture in the city centre with a quote from Wolfe’s novel engraved on its base.
We walked on Wolfe’s angels during our visit to Asheville last weekend. We spent an idyllic day exploring a city I’d describe as a funky gem. Before we even pulled into our parking spot we’d passed businesses like The Hookah- Hook Up, The Thirsty Monk, Bolts and Nuts (it was a car garage), Wicked Weed Brewing, The Loft, Third Dog Bakery, French Broad Food Co-op, and Olive and Kickin’. There was a studio that provided tattoos and piercings, another establishment that specialized in African hair braiding, and Finkelstein’s Loan Office established in 1903. Besides lending you money Finkelstein’s could also sell you guns and ammo and repair your watch. Most intriguing might have been The Orange Peel a nightclub that advertised itself as a place of ‘social aid and pleasure.’
We began our day in the Green Sage Café with substantial, cradle in your hand mugs of flavorful coffee and just out of the oven buttermilk biscuits slathered with butter and lots of berry-berry jam. Later we wandered through town.
The huge illuminated stars in the window of an art studio dazzled my eyes, as did the sleek fashionable dressed mannequin sporting angel wings outside a beauty shop. My husband Dave stopped to pluck a tune on a handcrafted dulcimer in the Appalachian Strings studioand try out one of the custom-built rocking chairs outside a furniture store.
And then to our surprise we came upon a Ten Thousand Villages store, owned and operated by Mennonite Central Committee. We went inside. “Yes,” one of the friendly clerks informed us, “there is a Mennonite Church nearby, Asheville Mennonite.” Later Dave and I drove out to find the church. We planned to attend services there Sunday morning but an expected freezing rainstorm forced us leave Asheville earlier than we’d planned.
Asheville has dozens and dozens of art studios, outdoor murals and interesting public art. “It’s a real mecca for visual artists of all kinds,” a waitress informed us later in the day. “ I’m a photographer from Mississippi and I moved here to be part of the vibrant art and music scene.
We spent about an hour in the Asheville Art Museum. They were featuring an exhibit called Rebels With A Cause about female American artists trying to break into the male dominated art establishment from 1850-1950. The museum was also showing cutting edge animated films and had a glimmering set of massive rainbow mobiles dominating its lobby. At the nearby theatre a poster informed us that Winnipeg’s own Chic Gamine had played there just a month before.
We ended our day at the Mellow Mushroom where they claim to ‘feed your head.’ I posed with a psychedelic sculpture on a park bench on the patio before we went inside where the wait for our food passed quickly as we took in all the unique artwork around us.
I tried a local wine and Dave a local beer. They went perfectly with the six massive hot pretzels we’d ordered in three different flavors with three different dipping sauces. We were mellow indeed by the end of our meal.
What did I write about during this week last year?