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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Walking 'Round Asheville, NC

The Happy Wanderers

A good friend and I spent the last weekend walkin' the streets of Asheville, NC. The small city's inhabitants certainly lived up to their reputation as an eclectic bunch who spurn the corporate world! The city keeps all the major corporate chains out near the interstate and away from downtown where it wishes to keep small independent businesses. We found this to be true and indeed heard that Starbucks opened a store downtown which the residents soon boycotted. The end result was the store's closure. Politics aside, we had a nice time!

We arrived hungry on Friday and decided to have a pizza pie at the Mellow Mushroom. I was shocked to find the bill actually charged me substantially less than the menu's price for my Guinness and the local Pisgah stout (ok, but sorry, not up to the Guinness standard). So I gave our waitress "Dr. Girlfriend" a nice tip for the favor. We wandered the streets a bit and ended up at Barley's pool hall where the man in charge upstairs gave me a severe brow-beating for ordering a Guinness in "Beer City USA". We tasted a couple of his local (supposedly superior...) brews but once again, sorry, I'll stick with the Guinness. Anyhow, my eyes were off and Debi gave me a beating even getting serious enough to pull out the rake on a couple of occasions and applying it with expert level skill. Who'd woudda thunk it??

Asheville's Drum Pit

The city is quite small and the downtown area full of cool lil shops. We usually found a place to park and spent the rest of the day strolling around. Friday evening we found ourselves at Triangle Park as bongo players from around town kept arriving for what apparently is a regular Friday night drum pit. I was impressed with the many different types of drums and bongos - one set in particular was made of the most beautiful wood I'd ever seen on bongos. I totally wish I had had my LP bongos so I could have sat in on that action. As with every good drum pit there was the obligatory dancers ("spinners" in Grateful Dead parlance) in tie-dye and curls. Meanwhile, a hacky sack game started up with a dude we called simply "black shorts" who definitely was of the expert level and better than any hacky-sacker I ever witnessed - including sackers on the beaches of San Diego. He was amazingly quick and seldom failed to impress when the sack came his way.

The four beers I had quickly made me realize I was not the party animal pub-crawler I used to be and we retired to the hotel to rest up for Saturday.

On Sat morning we found a free parkin' spot (who-hooo!) and a great place for smoothies (complete with mango!) at the Marble Slab ice-cream parlor. Later, it being Cinco de Mayo on Sat, we stopped at a small Mexican place for a Margarita and were shocked to see them going for $10! Even a Mohito was $7.50...grrr....but Debi treated us (me being a tight-ass and grumbling too much...) and we also had chips & salsa noting that the salsa was liberally sprinkled with pumpkin seeds - a first for me. We walked around the rest of the day until we were walked out and retired once again to hotel to rest up for dinner.

The dining highlight of the trip was our discovery of Strada Italiano on Broadway street. They make their own bread and deserts and when we asked the waiter what was good, he paused, and said "You know what, I am gonna tell you guys the truth. Usually when I get asked that question I try to pick something on the menu, but in reality I have worked here 4 years and *everything* on this menu is good - you cannot go wrong! Debi loves shrimp so she had the scampi and I went for the Frutta di Mare. Oh my god...muscles, shrimp, scallops, and whitefish over linguini with a garlic butter sauce - seriously? The waiter was quick to bring us more bread when I told him I wanted to sop up the sauce and my bowl looked like it had been licked clean when I was finished! Sooo friggin' tasty! When desert time came we decided to go for the lemon cheesecake as Debi wanted to know if I thought it was as good as mine (that I am always braggin' about). She said she only wanted a bite or two, but when it came and she tasted it, zow-eee! We both dug it. It was so light and fluffy...and yeah, better than mine by a long shot. It melted in your mouth. Anyhow, maybe I have just been in Crossville too long, but 5 starts for Strada Italiano. I hope to go back and eat all my meals there until I make my way through the entire menu. Very reasonably priced too.

The weather was nice and cool for the most part, even too cool one night. We didn't take many pictures but Debi did bring her camera and I've included a couple. But we missed the one of the 21 year old girl who, startled by once of the endless fire-trucks coming through downtown with sirens blaring (what is up with all the fire-truck calls in downtown Asheville??) started runing across the street in high heels and totally busted her butt - sprawled out across the middle of the road with her tattoo'd back pointing to the stars and the "supermoon" which was out again that night. We thought her girlfriend was gonna pee in her pants laughing. We moved on, me thinking how nice it would be to be that young again.

Meanwhile, back here at home, the garden finally got a bit of rain and is coming back to life after the two mild frosts awhile back.

The Garden

Potatoes in front, 200 year old garlic (flower buds can be seen in front of rain barrel), asparagus, kale, spinach, chard, carrots, and a single lonely pumpkin plant, the lone punkin' survivor of the frost. Funny, but the best carrot plant I have is growing out of the compost box. A healthy potato plant is also springing up in the box.

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