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Act 5, Scene 1: Irene's Twilight Zone

Act 5, Scene 1: Irene’s Twilight Zone See whole poem, "The Main Show," and index of scenes.  (Spotlight opens on the lobby of the theater.  Characters who remain in the lobby enter the theater, which remains dark.  Joan the nurse tells the tour guide to also go in, and the narrator hangs back awhile.) Joan: Go ahead in. I’ll stay with my patient.Anyway, this is a family…See More
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Julia Nunnally Duncan will be a featured author at Little Switzerland Books and Beans on Friday, August 30, from 3-5. A book signing will follow. Julia will read from her latest books A Neighborhood Changes, A Part of Me, and A Place That Was Home.See More
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Guide to Antebellum Flat Rock

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Nancy Werking Poling at Black Mountain Library

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Can women rescue the planet from ecological disaster?Nancy Werking Poling will launch her new novel, WHILE EARTH STILL SPEAKS, set in WNC. She'll tell the stories behind the story: How did Mary (more crone than virgin) get into the narrative? And Mary Surratt, a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth?See More
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Flat Rock history via a road

Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
Apr 8, 2019

The Top Ten Most Historically Resonant Local Stories of 2009

by Rob Neufeld

One: Bears. The black bear, along with the “cougar” are this region’s totem animals. This year, it’s human-bear negotiation time again! Governor Bev Perdue ran from one on her first trip to the state’s western mansion. A couple of months later, a hiker took a classic photo of an “aggressive” (read, “too-close”) bear walking in front of a gazing father and his two kids.

Two: Roads. The number one theme in our region’s economic history scores again with the I-26 planning tangle and the I-40 rock slide. In fact, cut mountains are crumbling everywhere. It reminds one of the slides that killed convicts building the railroad into Black Mountain.

Three: The Cherokee. Perhaps the clash between airplanes and ancestors in Macon County had set the year off. The Cherokee felt their strength with: a huge new hotel; a new school on hard-won land; drinking at Harrah’s; and a deal with Wal-Mart.

Four: The Cliffs. Spectacular high-end communities mushroomed and died, with few exceptions, in 2009. The Cliffs at High Carolina, still in the works, will attain mythical status in years to come. Its helipad symbolizes exclusivity. Its location is Davy Crockett territory. A billboard with a huge photo of its golf course designer, Tiger Woods, proclaims, “See What Inspired Me.”

Five: Skyscrapers and the Green Revolution. Asheville’s attempt to out-do the 1920s with a renaissance of skyscrapers didn’t get to building stage except for Hotel Indigo. Stewart Coleman’s plans for a parcel near City Hall ran into George Willis Pack’s ghostly hand. The Ellington, the Grove Park Inn’s high-rise condo dream on Biltmore Avenue, applied the name of the City Hall’s architect to its now-stalled vision, which includes a ballroom with a view, an accruing fund for “workforce housing,” and green technologies.

Six: Affordable Housing. Named a top priority by Asheville area planners year after year, considered the Achilles heel of local pride, affordable housing took a hit with loan freezes in 2009. Coming out of the year, the issue’s fate rides on stimulus funds, some of which has already gone to Mountain Housing Opportunities for apartments in West Asheville.

Seven: Dillsboro Dam. At the very close of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals said okay to Duke Power’s planned demolition of the 1913 dam, cherished for community and commercial reasons by residents. In January, a Superior Court judge will consider Jackson County’s eminent domain claim.

Eight: Swannanoa Incorporation. The popular movement to incorporate Swannanoa, organized by Swannanoa Pride in 2007, fell short in a November referendum. Among the various community-related developments in 2009—including Woodfin and Weaverville annexations—this one features a story about neighbors who have come back together after a contest.

Nine: Boating on the Chattooga. “Chattooga!” may one day be a musical, like “Oklahoma!”, but featuring the song, “Oh, the Angler and the Paddler Should Be Friends.” The U.S. Forest Service lifted the ban on boating on the Upper Chattooga in August. Designated a federal “Wild and Scenic River,” the Chattooga was the inspiration for James Dickey’s sensationalistic novel, “Deliverance”; and Ron Rash’s human portrayal, “Saints at the River.”

Ten: The Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway, along with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, have been the subjects to which history has been most applied in 2009. The 75th Anniversary of the Parkway kicked off in November, harbinger of a new age of conservation.

Other contenders for the top ten: the North Shore in Swain County; TVA emissions; zoning; the Asheville City Council election; the Richmond Hill fire; Popcorn Sutton; farm troubles and the farm fresh movement; the Volvo plant closing; pedestrian and bicyclist accidents; smoking bans; public prayer phase-outs; beer; eco-tourism; and RENCI at UNCA, a “Renaissance Computing Initiative.”

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I found myself nodding as I read the list and I don't even live near Asheville [though not from a lack of whining to spousal unit]. Size of cities notwithstanding, Portland Oregon finds itself scribbling down similar stories. Year after year citizens gather to form stakeholder associations. They then let loose to evangelize their beliefs, espouse their projects, and excoriate those who don't agree.

"Affordable housing" is code for low income as far as banks, developers and realtors are concerned. Social groups push back advocating mixed income neighborhoods, subsidizing those who lack the funds. NIMBYs pop up like dandelions. City councilors tell planning staff to come up with alternatives. Alternatives to what? Incomes have steadily declined for over a decade while housing costs have soared. Building material costs are through the roof. Then there's the flip side: "High end communities". These are generally 'sold' to the public on the basis of the taxes that will be payed by those more affluent. Wrong. Even during the best of times the taxes each homeowner pays doesn't equally contribute to schools or community health and welfare. Then there's the hidden subsidies that went down behind closed doors during project development.
Okay, by now you've figured out I'm not just a fiction writer....I admit it, I was a planning consultant for decades. The bottom line here before I get all wonky is: For all the conversation about "sustainable development" or sustainable anything, the real deal is this question: What is the carrying capacity of the town, county, region? There is such a fine line between entropy and sustainability that one miss and it all goes over the ledge. Sustainable development is being used like economic development was in the 80s and 90s. Technically, there's no such thing as economic development; there is development, and when done right it can become profitable...but there are no guarantees. It's speculative. Let's not make the same mistake with sustainable planning. Know the limits, define the limits and call it good. Over and out.
Chat away.....

Everyone wants change, as long as they don't have to do anything different.
I enjoyed reading your reply, Judith; and your favorite book list. Have you read Josephine Humphrey's novel, Nowhere Else on Earth? It's about mixed blood Lumbees in Eastern North Carolina?

I've always been interested in the cross-section of town planning and literature. But I have found close to no novels that show real-life conflicts and resolutions. Ron Rash puts town meetings into Saints at the River.

I also suspect that planning journals are full of great stories. I'm going to look around Western North Carolina and see if I can find a few reports that sound like great fiction.
Hey Rob! Glad you enjoyed my musings. I think literature unwittingly addresses community/town planning frequently without knowing it. I'm a history buff with the curiosity of a four year old [and attention span]. I find that for literature, or any writing for that matter is most successful when it creates a 'sense of place'.
The phrase is so overused I hesitate to write it but in its purest intent it is accurate. Take all the ways to express a sense of something and thread it through a place and suddenly you're there, if only in your mind. Words, images, structure. The interactions are infinite.
Info bit: I'm a 6th generation Texan who got stuck in Oregon for the time being. My roots are mostly Appalachian from 1730s on; Scot-Irish, French and Dutch who consistently intermarried into Shawnee/Lenape and Cherokee families. The land is in my blood as surely as our blood saturated the land.
Glad to see you here, Judith! *smiling* It's a great place for writers and readers!
Gee Kate, I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't come and peruse who was writing what and check out all the amazing blogs that hold me as tightly as any good book would. I'm there with ya'll when I come to this page. Now if I could just transport myself from time to time hehe.


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