I Arrived in Asheville

Asheville is the #8 best place to live: Please don’t move here.

Asheville was recently cited on the Froddor Guide as the 8th best place in America to live (out of 331 municipalities.) The guide cited affordable housing, good public schools, natural beauty and a good location for e-commerce businesses.

And yet, I urge you NOT to move here.

You see, it is people like me who are ruining this place.

Every time I drive along the major highway at “rush hour” going the speed limit (50 m.p.h.) I wince at the prospect of this quaint little thoroughfare becoming the nightmare 405 (right now, Asheville highways are more like the 90 at three a.m. – virtually empty.)

When I hear of “bidding wars” for West Asheville homes, I cringe. (Although, with the price of a 1000 sq. ft. 3 bedroom starting at $80,000, it’s less like a bidding “war” and more like a bidding “police action.”)

When every other person I meet has lived here for less than 9 months, I – Oh, I’m running out of self-reflexive verbs. But you get the idea.

The bad guys here are Ex-Floridians. We hate the Ex-Floridians, damn them all to Miami (or whatever passes for Hell these days.)

I hate the Ex-Floridians too. I have to hate them. As long as I do, no one will have time to hate the Ex-Californians.


Well, you can take the girl out of L.A., but you can’t take L.A. out of the girl. Not in six weeks, you can’t.

Saffie is going around saying that her birthday party will be “Peter Pan MEETS Little House on the Prairie MEETS Little Red Riding Hood.” (You know, two meets.)

A baffled mother said to her, “You mean, like Godzilla meets Mothra?” Saffron rolled her eyes.


It’s happened! Someone finally called me “boy”!

Here’s how: I went to get my car inspected so I could put on my new NC license plate (STX-1157).

Now car inspections in Asheville are not the same as in the rest of the country.

According to everyone here, you should not expect to get jacked by some Hispanic mechanic on Lincoln Blvd. like when you go to get your smog check.

An Asheville inspection is also not like having your automobile held for ransom by a South Philly protozoan until the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles has to call up and threaten him with an investigation before all your car’s “serious mechanical problems” suddenly evaporate like money in the wallet of an SUV owner.

Oh, no. Here down South, the inspection costs $8 and is mostly concerned with whether your headlights work and if your Jesus bumper sticker is peeling (mine isn’t.)

So, on Friday, April 9th at 3:11 p.m. I went to the local inspection station expecting some Southern courtesy, only to be confronted with another tired old cliche:   The slouchy gas station attendant in greasy overalls and pushed-back baseball cap.

There he sat, slouched back in his greasy chair, surrounded by precarious mounds of black, grease-coated auto parts for automobiles that have not existed since the Johnson administration, and yet, would easily find their way into your 2004 Toyoto Camry if you brought it in for a service.

“Wach Can I Do Fer You Boy?” says he slouching up to his full height.

I was at a loss for words. Never in my whole life, not even when I was a boy, had I ever been called “boy.”

In the next two seconds this is what raced through my mind:

1) He isn’t a black man talking down to me.

2) I’m not a black man being talked down to.

3) I have a week-old growth of beard and look 45 today.

4) Where does he get off calling me “boy”? He looks like he’s in high-school.

5) Every episode of the “Dukes of Hazzard.”

6) That scene in Westerns where the Bad Sheriff says to the new guy in town, “Don’t go stirring things up, boy.”

7) Is this the Asheville gay scene that I’ve heard about?

8) Should I barrel roll over the roof of my Saturn Wagon and slide gracefully into the open window before peeling out of the parking lot?


In any case, the guy who does inspections was out fishing or something (yes, I know, more cliches) so I have to go back Monday.

A point of etiquette: Have we already cemented our relationship, or can I try calling him “boy”? If so, what will happen?


The slouchy young guy who called me “boy” was not there when I returned! In his place were two older and even slouchier mechanics. They told me that the guy who does the State Inspections would be back “in half an hour, or sometime today.”

I slouched to my car, bitterly disappointed. Along the way home, I spied another inspection station. I was reluctant to try it because it seemed too clean and prosperous. As luck would have it, they were willing to do the inspection immediately, so I got to see how it works:

STEP 1: The mechanic gets into my Saturn, closes the door, rolls up the windows and lights a Winston-Salem cigarette.

STEP 2: He reverses, does a 3-point turn and drives into garage.

STEP 3: He emerges exactly 3 minutes later and demands $9.10, having completed the inspection.

Now, I’m no fool. In 3 minutes, not even Scotty, the chief engineer of the Enterprise, could conduct a thorough inspection.

Especially since half that time he spent adhering the inspection sticker to the lower left-hand corner of the windshield.

Later, I learned from a neighbor that I had, by Asheville standards, been practically racked over the coals by my inspector. At the station he goes to, the mechanic looks at him, says, “You’re not the law, are you?” and hands him the sticker without even eye-balling the car. [This is NOT an exaggeration.]

From the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles Inspection Certificate, under the heading “Safety Equipment”:


Headlights              Approved/Disapproved

Parking Lights            Approved/Disapproved

Foot Brake*            Approved/Disapproved


*this could be the hole in the floor that you put your foot through to slow your pickup down on your gravel driveway – which we actually have.


Emergency Brake            Approved/Disapproved

Steering Mechanism* Approved/Disapproved


*the certificate does not go into more details. Apparently, two pieces of clothesline or a rudder is acceptable


Tires*                        Approved/Disapproved


*Again, there is a shocking lack of specificity. Does this include the two sets of tires currently breeding mosquito larvae in my neighbor’s front yard?


And the list goes on until I realize that I’ve never really thought of things like headlights or tires as “safety equipment.” In the past, foot brakes and headlights and lots of the stuff on the list have generally come under the heading of “the basic minimum crap that every single car ever made since 1924 has come equipped with, standard.”

Until you see some of the cars driving around here and you wonder….

Even more bizarre is the last item on the list:

Window Tinting Visible Light Transmission 35% Tolerance (-3% for meter.) – which was neither approved nor disapproved on my certificate.

What this is and why I don’t have both remain a deep and enfolding mystery to me.

Am I in danger?



Me:             Hi, I’m calling about the horse manure that I saw listed in the IWanna.

Farmer:            Horse manure.

Me:            Yeah, well I just need your address and how much you’re asking for it?

Farmer:            Where do you live?

Me:            Haywood and Fairfax. Just give me your address, I’ll look you up on Mapquest*

*This is a running joke in our house, and obviously he’s not going to answer me. I only asked him to crack up Nishima.

Farmer:            *Groan* So, if you take Haywood down to…

*Much, much later*

Farmer:            …the big white farm is mine. That pile of horse manure out front is the one I’m selling [as opposed to all the other not-for-sale horse manure piles scattered about my property.] You can have it all for forty bucks.

Me:            How many pickup truck loads do you think it is? [I’m feeling really savvy asking this.]

Farmer:            *Groan* So I’ll be out all morning but I’ll be back by 9.

Me:            9? Do you mean 9 p.m.?

Farmer:            9 a.m.

“So I’ll be out all morning but I’ll be back by 9.” I’ve been saying that continually for the past 48 hours like a mantra. It was all I could resist to say to him, “Boy, I know a whole Industry of people where 9 a.m. is the time your personal trainer wakes you out of a drug-induced stupor.”



I found out that all the prostitutes hang out at a local gas station, hilariously named “BJs” (like the service they provide.)

Everyone in the neighborhood thinks this is hysterical (except for the old black lady who stood up at a recent town hall meeting and said, “If all you rich white men from North Asheville weren’t driving down here looking for action, we wouldn’t have a problem at BJs.”)

A new slogan for BJs: We’re a full service pump.


“BJs: A pimp at every pump.”

My wife earnestly believes that the local hookers actually chose BJ *intentionally* because of the punning nature of its name! Or maybe she would just like to live in a world where crack ho’s liked to riff on language.

My friend Wolf just popped his head into my office and declared that Asheville has the ugliest hookers in the world (he’s never been to Tijuana) but that we more than make up for it by also having the easiest girls in the world. (Unverified statement.)

In other low-life news, the local crack dealer moved out. Apparently, he was only renting. It says a lot about West Asheville’s renaissance where even the local crack dealer gets pissed off by the rising property values. My best tenant, though. He always paid in twenties.

Gotta go. We’re at the edge of a time-zone and although it’s bright day outside it’s way past my dinner.



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