Click here for Next Section
logo A Country Rag
Appalachian Home

Red Leaf, photo by Gary Gerhart
"The LDS Articles of Faith state: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. Freedom is the preeminent doctrine of the gospel, more important than any other doctrine including righteousness. Remember, in the Council in Heaven , it was Lucifer's goal to force us to be righteous. It was Heavenly Father's plan that we be allowed to choose between good and evil for ourselves. By his own actions, Heavenly Father told us freedom, even if we would choose wrong, was more important than compelled righteousness. For example, both Heavenly Father and Lucifer proposed that abortions and other murders would be held a serious breech against the commandments of God. The difference between the two plans was that Heavenly Father would allow abortions to happen due to the principles of moral agency, while Lucifer would institute principles depriving us of free will and making abortions impossible." -- The Fall of Democracy in America by W. John Walsh, Church of the Latter Day Saints
graphic: Red Leaf, photo by Gary Gerhart, Jonesborough Designer Craftsmen

Overlooking One Real Thing

by Jeannette Harris

August 21, 2001 -- A few days ago, Sylva NC's City Lights Bookstore held a reception for its founder, Gary Carden, in honor of his Mason Jars in the Flood receiving AWA's Book of the Year Award. The perfect excuse, I think, for an "altitude adjustment" and what better place than the Smokies. For all their problems with air pollution and assaults on habitat, there is nothing like winding through the top of the world with mountains and mist forever, or so it seems. The traffic is light except around major cities like Asheville, and "rivers run through it."

Amidst a warren of rooms and shelves to the ceiling and less, with books new and old, a back reception area offers buffet-style specialties, as Gary attends that names and interests are shared and conversation flows with the wine. Sculptress Collene Karcher discusses a sample of her work on display. Poet Kay Byer comments on experiences in publishing and promotion. Recently retired author John Quinnett shares haikus and recent explorations on the West Coast. A note on one table reads: "Since Gary is hearing impaired, you may wish to write him a note," inviting visitors to leave personal messages in a box of colored papers.

Gratefully I accept an offer to spend some time on Gary's three- acre homestead of gardens and forest break. Again he is piling me with books and quotes and photos and "Don't you know....?" Jack, an incorrigible (according to three trainers) replacement companion for the departed Teddie, eats (the left) one of my two favorite black suede high heel shoes. The ones with the cute little strap in the back which he enjoyed particularly if destruction is a measure. The corner of a book. A CD. We are continuing the course on Appalachia, consciousness, psychic life as thunder and lightning rage on the side porch now covered helpfully with a screen tent. Jack likes coffee and I cover mine with a hand before it goes the way of my shoe. Breakfast at a local hangout by the river is continued disultory and literary dissection, including on a local article reviewing Gary’s work.

Some time later, I find myself driving the Main Street of Cherokee, Qualla Boundary -- past Western Steer, brightly dyed red feathers, Pizza Hut, Best Western and Hardee’s -- looking for one real thing. The first night’s motel room has a window on the river; the second night’s is less expensive and perfect -- sliding doors to a balcony by chortling riffles and a man casting and catching trout all evening from the next balcony over.

I leaf through my addiction, piles of pamphlets and newspapers and brochures picked up along my travels. The sliding glass doors stay open. Stars drift in. Checking out, I nod to the tattooed fisherman and his blonde companion. “Do you eat the fish?” “I’d love to,” he says, “but there’s nowhere to cook it.”

There must be a non-franchise restaurant somewhere. I’ve become obsessed with the search and finally settle on one that specializes in cinnamon buns. In questioning the manager on duty as to the freshness and variety of breakfast offerings, I learn the cafe is a Canadian franchise. I buy that morning’s specialty, a creme-filled croissant, and allow it to dribble down my blouse as I sit on a tastefully-constructed front deck overlooking the four-lane highway.

The night before, awaiting takeout from Pizza Hut, I’d stumbled across a shuttered, privately-owned Heritage Museum of the Cherokee and head in the direction of Saunooke Village. Dr.and Mrs. Abrams have a collection that would cover 50,000 square feet if that were available. The shop and gallery’s 2,000 hold indescribable beauty -- paintings, sculptures, artifacts whose history is explained by the self-guided tour’s audio. I believe I will stay forever, but nicotine (Tahoe is the locally-produced brand) calls and I have a visit to the Casino planned.

There’s a shuttle from the generous public parking area to the slots and a tall, luxurious hotel is going up beside them. My only experience with one-armed bandits being from movies, I expect glazed and crazed fanatics mindlessly pulling levers amidst flashing lights and yells and fights and smoke rising everywhere.

This is not the East Coast. The Cherokee Casino is a friendly, relatively quiet place, at least on a weekday afternoon. Slots flash decorously and I feel that their attendees are local people on break from work, as well as visitors, families and single folk. Having discovered years ago that I enjoy the watching part of gambling much more than the losing part, I wander and sit unobtrusively through the rows and rows of cloverleafs and apples and other inventive crytographs whirring and popping up. Each machine has a lot of buttons and looks like it might be more complicated than my computer. There is a learning slot at the front but I never get around to it.

Eating I don’t have a learning curve on and the Fresh Market buffets beckon. There are chef’s specialties from Italy, Mexico, China, America Southern, America not-Southern, salads, breads. Sampling each, I discover near the checkout counter an unforgiveable dessert bar of artistically displayed and decorated pastries, baked or boiled, as well as gourmet ice cream with choice of toppings.
"the 'nam war ended in 1975 btw, and there was alot more to it than the US bombing / mining hanoi. as for the rest about how the price of freedom is the blood of non-liberals, well, lots of liberals die in your wars. its called the draft. thank you for killing us for your ideology. we really appreciate being forced to die in your holy wars against commies, "ay rabs", and all your other delusional paranoias. liberals are fully able to die on their own without your help, from martin luther king to the west virginia coal field wars to the pro-labor people who died fighting to feed their families, to the woman voting rights people killed for asking to vote." -- anonymous messageboard post, Netslaves
Click for Netslaves website
I will have just one small cake. And then I will have just one more small other piece, with a tiny scoop of butter pecan ice cream on top, and a spoonful of strawberries, and a few chopped nuts. And I will just have a stomach ache but will not double over and will walk straight, knowing that I saved meal money for the next day or so of the trip, past all the blinking slots begging for quarters, for the shuttle bus to my car, where I may throw up.

Qualla Boundary is as confusing to exit for me as Asheville. Detours and wrong roads are interesting though and after several forays in the wrong direction I find a back road to Bryson City, a town name recognizable as being in the general direction of Junaluska where Gary is conducting elderhostels this week. It turns out later that I've driven the wrong way off the main highway and, despite meticulously drawn directions, end up at the Performing Arts Center in Waynesville, which is closed.

I do know the way to Asheville though.

Days Inn has a fifth floor room with balcony overlooking a monumental scarlet-colored sculpture. Malaprops has espresso and scones, chapbooks, magazines, newspapers, unusual greeting cards, volumes of good and different literature, and little tables on the sidewalk to listen and watch the City in the Sky’s gabbing polyglot. Blue Spiral displays a magnificent retrospective of Will Henry Stevens and the most extraordinary animal construction embedded of glistening found silver and gold objets d’arts.

Abandoning Biltmore and Greenville plans, I drive home. I want to start a collection of silver and gold to make a dog that won’t tear or eat or bark.

Forgiving, Gary pronounces it “astounding” that I missed a place so well marked. I promise to find Junaluska on my next trip up.

Poster for live performances "...I want to infect the body politic. I want to unleash a viral epidemic of truth. Eventually this desire, taking shape in fits and starts, became my calling, guiding my strange'career' in culture jamming and guerrilla media provocations. I soon came to see, however, that lies are also viruses. Lies and myth and kitsch and advertising jingles and corporate logos and mood rings and the idea that free trade is free--all of these are viruses. I came to think of the matrix of hearts and minds and media as a vast theater of viral warfare. In his book Media Virus!, Douglas Rushkoff describes it like this: "Media viruses spread through the datasphere the same way biological ones spread through the body or a community. But instead of traveling along an organic circulatory system, a media virus travels through the networks of the mediascape. The 'protein shell' of a media virus might be an event, invention, technology, system of thought, musical riff, visual image, scientific theory, sex scandal, clothing style, or even a pop hero-as long as it can catch our attention. Any one of these media virus shells will search out the receptive nooks and crannies in popular culture and stick on anywhere it is noticed. Once attached, the virus injects its more hidden agendas into the datastream in the form of ideological code-not genes but a conceptual equivalent we now call 'memes.' Like real genetic material, these memes infiltrate the way we do business, educate ourselves, interact with one another-even the way we perceive 'reality.'" -- Andrew Boyd, Truth is a Virus

Graphic: Poster for live play performances

text and computer graphics © Jeannette Harris, October 2001. All rights reserved.

Click here for Next Section
(Gas Lamps and Cobblestones)