Asheville and Surrounds: Land of Contradictions


IMG_6575Gunrunners pic of AK-47 on one end of this multi-purpose building vies with “Jesus Is Lord” on the other. Seeming contradiction? This building’s in Tenn., a short distance from the NC border and Asheville, where we live 5 months of the year.

Asheville’s a friendly little place….A sweet haven in an eclectic pot.

Interesting boutiques and bistros….  But a short ways out of Asheville, one sees gun emporiums and Confederate flags.  And those flags aren’t “Flying Second,” as they’re supposed to do, deferring to the higher American flag on the pole. (see pic of one, on way to Saluda.) confederate flag on way to saluda

No, that Southern flag’s often flying alone, designating the fact that particular person is in oppositional mode to the government or still rooted in a Civil War mentality. In any case, one does notice.

I’ve often said Asheville’s “the Land of Older Hippies.”  In response to my own question, some years back “Who settles here?” I note:  Hippies with a little (or a lot of) money or their progeny…the next generation of “Concerned with the Environment”…”Anti-War.”..”Anti Corporate America.”

Even if some of us made our lifetime money in those very industries we slammed.  You see, we had to raise our families. We got married and then, to support our families, we went into businesses we often criticized. We sidelined our societal concerns.  We had to.

Little League, scouting, sports events, and dance lessons took our focus. We were ever-more-involved in our kids’ activities.

But now, when that phase is over, those of us who are lucky to have health and enough financial stability to make choices, find ourselves strangely drawn (is it serendipity?) to a unique enclave of the world…Asheville.

And Asheville is ‘unique.’

When people ask:  “What’s it like?” I tell them honestly, “Like nothing or nowhere you’ve ever been before.” I mean, “How many times do you go food shopping and hear minstrels strumming guitars, right outside the doors?” (See pic of Country Bear Jamboree-type minstrels who set up right outside Greenlife Grocery.) “Or therapists giving folks on-the-spot neck massages, while shoppers walk about?”country bear jamboree outside greenlife grocery

It’s not for everyone.

But it’s got its oddities, too. I can’t tell you how many times husband and I have gone for  ride in outlying countryside, only to discover “Dead End” after going down the road for 15 miles! (My GPS isn’t always reliable.)  And forget cell phone use–No towers in outlying regions.

And never be misled by the suffix “Cove” on road signs, such as Tunnel Cove Rd. My first year, (homesick as I was for the ocean), I went barreling down such a road, hoping to find water. That never happened. “Cove” in western North Carolina allegedly means “safe harbor”….metaphorically. Or more specifically, “between the mountains.”

What about the “liberal” label? Well, that depends on who’s asking…Folks here are liberal about what they’re liberal about.  For instance, there’s probably a heavy contingent that’s anti-gun (they’re the former Peacenik activists or children of same.) But they’re probably not averse to using violence to enforce their pacifist position.

Strangely enough, and because Asheville’s “All About Rights,” the Pacifists live shoulder-to-shoulder with guardians of their Second Amendment Rights, the Gun People. In short, that means:  The latter group loudly and openly  defend their right to have (and carry) guns.

Then, there are the super-religious types, spouting Christ’s message. Crosses appear (some vying with the Christ statue’s size, in Brazil) on hillsides reminding all that blood was spilled, and it was Jesus’s…for redemption of mankind. That message is often spelled out–graphically.

Vegans are another no-nonsense, sectarian group. Pretty carnivorous when it comes to their feeling about meat-eaters, tho’ and if folks sport fur, watch out! The fur flies.

Mostly, Asheville’s just waaayyy different from almost anywhere you’ve been. I don’t know exact numbers, but there are many older Americans here (like husband and me).  We’re unique in the fact we embrace our years as a badge of honor. “How so?” you ask…Answer? ” We’re not dying or bleaching our hair but allowing it to “go natural.” Many of us launch second or third careers, too, for we’ve still got that entrepreneurial spirit.

Yep, we’re knowledgeable about current issues and vocal as to what we support/reject…

But we’re still wearing our Birkenstocks..

Here’s the view of the “Gentle Mountains,” from the Blue Ridge Parkway, a few miles away from our second home…gentle mountains blue ridge parkwayWe hike a lot, while there, but I do miss the bike paths of New England (too hilly for me, in NC) where we live 7 months of the year.

For we can’t seem to give up Rhode Island,  our permanent home.

***Want some personal feedback about life in Asheville (because you’re considering a move,) but don’t want your question public?  Drop me an e-mail at

Next Monday’s post and lots of pictures:  “The Wedding”!!!! It’ll be fun and wildly different, I assure you.

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A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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