Sunday, August 31, 2008

Spring in the Blue Ridge

Bro 2 lived in North Carolina for awhile, and it was always a treat for this midwesterner to go visit him. The North Carolina that I saw, primarily western and central, was incredibly beautiful: smoky blue mountains softening to gently rolling hills, mile after mile of jewel-toned rhododendrons or "rhodies."

I fell in love with Asheville, as does just about everyone who visits, but I fell in hate with Biltmore; it struck me as pretty creepy. The idea of massing that level of wealth during the early industrial revolution, when thousands of families struggled just to put food on the table. I don’t deny its beauty... but what a monument to excess, to conspicuous consumption, to an almost-successful attempt to establish a class system in the USA. On a spiritual level, I found it horrifying: let them eat cake, indeed. But Asheville? If it’s not the most beautiful city in the U.S., it’s in the top five.

On another visit, we enjoyed a several-day timeshare on Lake Lure, which has to be one of the best-kept secrets in the country. Again, spectacular scenery, painful paradox between new wealth and old poverty.

Bro’s home base was Winston-Salem, or WinSay, as the locals call it. There’s a lot of construction going on as it becomes more and more “discovered,” but the city itself retains its original character and charm.

Even more than the scenery, which usually ranged from lovely to spectacular, I really fell for the people of NC. I know, there are good people and bad people every-
where, but in NC, most people were friendly and caring, interested and interesting.

We had a few laughs, Bro and I, over the language barrier. It’s more than a lilt, more than a twang, at least to our midwestern ears. I always think of the following exchange with his company’s receptionist, one of Bro’s first conversations after moving to WinSay.

Her: Didja see them flares on the highway today?
Bro: Flares? No, I didn’t see them. Was there an accident?
Her: No, it was flares, all along the highway!
Bro (confused): Flares.. all along the highway... was it a construction zone?
Her (exasperated): No, no, it was flares, silly. FLARES! You know, lahk daisies.
Lillies. FLARES.

So there you have it: yet another reason to love North Carolina. All the spring flares.


josh williams said...

Me Ma is from NC from the Eastern part, near the ocean. My Grandparents where both of recent immigrant decent so they only had a spare bit of land and little wealth.
My Grandfather who was born on July 4th 1900 I spent a great deal of time with him as well as my Irish Grandmother Katie, McNellis or Kelly depending on the family.
I do know it was quite an experience when I visited Ireland in 1999 and when we reached the area's North of Galway I met more and more elderly women who reminded me of my grandmother,not only in looks but in the cadence of their speech. My grandmother had an NC accent but she had not lost the cadence. Very odd, and I am very grateful I was able to find a bit of her on a trip to the Eire.
I have visited NC over a hundred times, (large carbon footprint) and just within the last few years I have finally stopped and visited Asheville. I have a good friend who moved his family their or he moved their to create a family with his wife and I do love the city and the mountains, I have yet to visit the Biltmore Estate but I do agree, the money would have been better spent on helping others.
Thats all I just had to say I am very found of NC as well.In fact my good friend Dr. Pepper, a true Ole Miss Cajun (PHD in Cell Biology) quit calling me a Yankee when he visited the coast years ago on a fishing trip gone awry. (It may be redundant to speak of fishing trips and things gone wrong)
It took over forty years but I did finally stop at Ashville and I do admit I love the place.

josh williams said...

I just read my comment. My Kingdom for an Editor!

La Cootina said...

Ha! Save your kingdom. Sometimes when the words run like a babbling brook, you find a freshwater pearl or two in there.

How nice you got to spend time with both grandparents, and experience both cultures: the Irish and the Carolin-ish. I still hope to visit the eastern side of the state. And...maybe Ireland as well!