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
discusses a sample of her work on display. Poet
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
-- 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
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
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
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.
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.
"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|
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
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
displays a magnificent retrospective of
Will Henry Stevens
and the most extraordinary animal construction embedded of
glistening found silver and gold objets d’arts.
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
Forgiving, Gary pronounces it “astounding” that I missed a
place so well marked. I promise to find Junaluska on my next trip