It’s nice to be home again.
Not that most folks would necessarily have noticed. That’s the way it is with laptopped journalism. You can write for any market from any place that’s WiFi-friendly. The ubiquitous 24/7 news cycle and enabling technology means setting up anywhere for hometown punditry.
In my case, it was Asheville, North Carolina, for the past two and half months. A city of about 90,000, it’s nestled amid the Blue Ridges of the Appalachian chain at about 2,000 feet. It has a cooler clime, a welcoming vibe, a buy-local/no-chain mentality, a state university and a downtown culture that is artsy, funky, diverse, progressive and entrepreneurial. Call it a mountainous Key West–or a mini Portland. It even has a Portlandia theme: “Keep Asheville Weird.” Yes, I did my part.
Its eclectic scene includes restaurant variety, old-school book stores, yoga studios, street musicians, well-patronized breweries, repurposed buildings, prominent art deco architecture, the Grove Park Inn, the Biltmore and no shortage of roof-top bars with sunset-mountain views. The area is embedded amid mountainous terrain that is aesthetically complemented by sunflowers, crepe myrtles and forests thick with hickory, maple, oak, sycamore and maple trees. Post cards don’t do it justice. The city proudly celebrates its hometown literary lodestar, Thomas Wolfe, of “Look Homeward, Angel” fame.
And like all places, it has its oddities and anomalies. Hills are no walk in the park. No wonder motorized bikes are a visitor draw. And the surrounding woods are home to more than squirrels and butterflies. They are also habitats for bears.
I still recall walking my dog about 9 o’clock at night, when I heard a neighbor call out: “There’s a bear out here. Better get inside.”
Asheville was a great place to visit in the summer, and we’ll be back. But Tampa is home. We’re lucky we live here. We are blessed to be in a city and region with so much potential being realized on an almost daily basis. We just have to vote accordingly to keep it going.
Had to work that in.