Sketches from Asheville (July 2014)

The Battery Park Book Exchange. Asheville, NC
The Battery Park Book Exchange. Asheville, NC

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — July 3rd. Our slow-rolling arrival in Asheville is heralded by curvy two-lane highways through forested foothills. In the gullets of mountain tunnels we breathe incandescent yellow darkness; in the sunlight, fresh mountain air.

Once unpacked, I do yoga on the floor to stretch out sore muscles. The apartment we have is small, taken in with a glance, but clean, filled with sunlight. My extended arms in triangle pose reach halfway across the bedroom. We walk downtown, eat at a nice restaurant, sleep.

July 5th. The earthy scent of fresh ground coffee beans at 11am fill the apartment. Slowly, a return to habit.

July 8th. During lunch I read an article which told of a massacre in old Asheville. After a gunfight that left five dead in Hell’s Half Acre, sleepy citizens, roused from their warm beds, took guns lent by Finkelstein of Finkelstein’s Loan and Pawn and chased justice through the forests of the night. In a rhododendron thicket they eventually gunned down Will Harris, murderer and outlaw on the run, who thought to seek refuge in the sleepy mountain town but was undone by his own nature. The citizens, of course, returned all of Finkelstein’s guns.

July 16th. There’s a small bridge on Highway 26 where you go right over top of the Biltmore estate. Most drivers probably don’t know about the beautiful, expansive property that lies beneath them. But if you’re looking at just the right place, at just the right time, for a moment you can catch a glimpse of the chateau—and then it’s gone.

July 19th. An old man with thin white curls plays classical songs on his acoustic guitar. He sits next to a front window of the Battery Park Book Exchange, a sign for tips lying on the cushion next to his seat. The movement of his eyes make it look like he might be trying to to spot read some pieces, while he plays others from memory with his eyes closed. The movements of his fingers are sure, fast, controlled. I recognize a Beatles song, something from Mozart, something that might be Bach.

The stacks of the book store are tall, the walkways between them narrow. It seems appropriate somehow. There’s a sign for free ice cream (if you buy a book) above a cooler filled with Klondike bars.

I’ve never been in a bookstore that serves coffee and food and alcohol and sells books all at the same place. It seems like a dream. I wonder if it’s a combination of drinking laws and food service regulations that prevent more places like it one from existing, or simply a certain narrowness of conception.

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