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Grace in the Blue Ridge Mountains

The Asheville, North Carolina restaurant was one of those common to our post-post-modern world. Open and airy with a wall of windows framing hanging plants. Casual to the point of paper   napkins. Sporting a list of local beers and — surprise — local wines. Tarted up with the kind of overtly ironic art on the walls where the painter has one statement and one image in his repertoire and repeats it ad nauseam. This time it seemed that the sensibility being trotted out was one of Hieronymous Bosch meets Hello Kitty.

The menu, a litany of updated regional classics such as black-eyed pea cakes, was relentlessly “improved” by garnishes such as avocados and Basmati rice. The joint’s “philosophy” — since all new restaurants must now publish a justifying manifesto along with their menu — centered on the now tedious homage to “local” “organic” produce and a dedication to “reviving tradition” — plus the removal of trans-fats. Collard greens, sweetened lima beans, and salty-sweet potatoes bracketed the entrees. In the center you’d find rib-eyes under slathers of sauteed onions, broiled slabs of local fish dusted with some orange spice, chickens with a roasted-on glaze, pork in five different variations, and dried cranberries slipped into cakes on the sly just when you thought it was safe.

It was a boutique version of the kind of food once common to the region, but that now survived either in roadside diners named “Granny’s” and “Hubert and Sal’s,” or at upscale nostalgic eateries such as this one. I suppose you could call it a “cuisine” — as the local magazines and guides are wont to do — but that word has too many curlicues. Call it “eats” and get on with it.

The diners seemed to agree and were not slow about getting on with their meals. One man to my right hulked over his plate like some Turkish sumo and ate mechanically as if his hands were backhoes in a mountain graveyard, the coffin inbound on the midnight train and the kinfolk getting antsy. Across from him, a slim woman ate in a punctuated manner and talked at him at the same time, her hand gestures angular and as precise as scalpels. He nodded dully as if barely feeling her opinions and just put his head down and ate right on through them, looking up just often enough and nodding just slightly enough that she might believe he was actually hearing her.

Hearing anyone was a sometimes thing in this room. It was one of those restaurants whose hard ceilings, walls, and floors made for a constant din and clatter and clang. You had to raise your voice to be heard over it, and — since raising your voice added to the din — it made you and everyone else speak ever louder until the yabble peaked, then plunged into brief silence as everyone lapsed back into murmurs. Then it began building, again, inevitably to shouts, and so on.

It was a down-home yuppified place with a pretty good kitchen and fine intentions. It was a place where you could get the same meal you could get at “Granny’s Country Kitchen” out along the highway, but you could rest assured that none of the boys from the hills — those with flag decals on the pickup’s bumper and a deer rifle on a rack in the rear window — would be smoking or farting or telling tales next to you. This privilege only cost you about three times as much.

This was downtown Asheville in the heart of the freshly gentrified, cosmopolitan zone and instead of pick-ups rattling down the streets, Porsches prowled growling in the night outside the rock-climbing gym. This was an armed cultural hamlet in the New South, guarded by down-home decorating parlors ready to give your custom log-cabin that shabby chic lived-in look; where the sentries were hair salons called “The People” with mirrors in front of each station resembling nothing so much as the guillotines that “The People” of France once used so effectively in solving their aristocracy problem. The difference here was that the new aristocracy of this region was busy admiring themselves in the mirrors of these guillotines with nary a Marat or Robespierre in sight. Instead, downtown Asheville — or at least some small section at the top of the hills — was relentlessly promoting our new secular religion of senseless and endless shopping opportunities.

Down in the gulch streets below the mini-Madison Avenue of Asheville, a wide variety of ethnic restaurants from the Jerusalem Cafe to Mela Indian foods jostles with used book stores and the ubiquitous tattoo parlors. Antique stores have arrived with a vengeance as have poodles and other toy breeds that bring with them shops devoted to “canine cuisine”. After all, once you’ve got a whole generation of 20 or 30 and sometimes 40 somethings that have elected to raise dogs rather than children, nothing is too good for your fur-faced kids, is it?

And where there are bakeries for dogs, there are restaurants whose owners handle regional foods as carefully as curators in a museum. In this, I admit, they do not do half-bad at the Early Girl Eatery where quick bread can be had at breakfast for three bucks a plate, and slow-cooked pork in the evening for fifteen. It’s not quite the roadside diner down in the hollar, but that land’s been bulldozed for one of the endless gated communities sprouting across the landscape in these parts like dubious toadstools. At least at the Early Girl you’re pretty sure the pork isn’t road kill. And even if it was, the sauces and seasoning would make up for it.

The check had come and I’d paid it. They’d filled the restaurant and turned it once since we’d been there. A popular place. A post-postmodern place, a place that was a sterling example of how we live now — the real and the regional reduced to a remembrance, the communities gated, the homes “maintenance -free.” History in a bottle, cleaned, pressed and with the trans-fats removed. Just the way we like it. Traditional in style but tradition-free in content. The experience without the meaning and not missing it.

As I got up to leave the family of six at the long table across from me was served with the quick flourish and satisfied air of presentation that is the style of serving these days. The was food steaming in front of them, but none of them made a move towards it. Instead, they talked quietly amongst themselves and seemed to come to a decision. They made their selection from among them. It was to be one of the daughters, a girl of about 17 I guessed. The din in the restaurant rose and fell, but the family of six sat quietly and then bowed their heads as one. Then they said grace.

I stood motionless at my table. I had, I thought, never seen this before in a restaurant. I’d seen it in private homes to be sure, but upon reflection I realized that I’d not seen it there in quite some time. And I was quite sure this was, for me, a rare event. I’d probably not been paying attention since it no doubt went on all the time, but still it was a startling moment. Perhaps I’d just been too long in Seattle where the only manifestations of spirit are flimsy; where the invocations are raised to a watery Buddhism or bloodless Unitarianism where God is impossibly distant if at all extant. Be that as it may, this simple act of saying grace did not so much shock me as still me. I paused to listen in. And the daughter did not disappoint.

Her’s was no gestural grace — “Bless this food. Amen. Let’s eat.” — but an extended meditation on the good fortune to find oneself among family and before a rich selection of food; an acknowledgment of an unusual level of being blessed by God, and a calling down of God’s grace on members of the family present and not present, and ending with a wish that God continue to bless the family, the community, the state and the country. Then, and only then, was “Amen” spoken and the meal begun.

Outside along the Asheville streets, it was a balmy evening. Down the block another restaurant offered “Exceptional International Vegetarian Food,” and a shop on the corner sold items imported from Africa whose purchase was purported to help suffering children here and there in that blighted continent. A local freebie paper picked off a stack had decided that a photo of a tribal protest in Santiago, Chile on the Dia de la Raza was important information for the citizens of this part of town. Down in the Asheville hipster-dopester-homeless gulch at a more cut-rate vegetarian restaurant, citizens with shaved heads, “message” t-shirts, multiple facial piercing and full-body tattoos were climbing the stairs in search of a bran muffin, bitching about George Bush, global warming, and their personal collection of STDs while complaining of residual racism in a city that seems more white than Seattle.

The road back to the house in the hills was dark and winding and you had to take it slow. Going back it was nice to know that somewhere, somehow, and for reasons that sometimes challenge all understanding, there were people still asking God to bless America.

[First published October 2007]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Glenda T. Goode February 20, 2019, 8:48 AM

    It seems that this article is even more relevant today. We see the ‘new agism’ sprouting all over the country as they Millenials, gen x y and z people all try to find meaning for their lives. Now, why would they do so in this manner?? That is to try to either be noble or to be reflective of a greater intellect?

    The answer lies in the education system as well as the new cultural norms we see. The new age curriculum strips away the pride that we used to hold for America with a new ‘appreciation’ of multiculturalism or globalism if you really want to be honest. Further, the eradication of what were cherished historical references such as monuments to the civil war and especially southern causes have essentially taken any local pride away from many communities and all that is left is the altruistic approach that our liberal leaders want the nation to embody.

    You can still find the old diners with the simple menus and without the ‘packaging’ of hoity toity society but you will have to get outside of the ‘woke’ communities in order to find it. This entails heading into the what the left thinks of as the cultural backwaters where social enlightenment has not taken hold. You run the risk of being a subject of scrutiny if you sport the piercings and statement oriented t shirts. These areas are getting harder and harder to find as they are being exterminated by the left as they seek to eradicate the classic American culture from our society.

    I am old enough to remember these places as being the hearts of their communities. Tradition and culture all wrapped up in a plate of homemade food that reminded you of where you came from and how good it is. Where I live at present these are getting terribly difficult to find and when you do find one, get what you can of them because progress and government are making them an endangered species.

  • churchladyiowa February 20, 2019, 9:22 AM

    Being the anal English major I would have been, my favorite on the menu list is “Tomtoes.” It could be several different things: tom cat digits, or a Thanksgiving turkey’s amputated claws. Heck, I say exhume Tom Edison to see if his feet are intact!

  • Marica February 20, 2019, 12:08 PM

    Reading the first paragraph, I thought it was Early Girl. By the first sentence of the second, I knew it. And sure enough, it was Early Girl. So let me set the record straight. Early Girl is awful. As is my custom when traveling anywhere that is— or pretends to be— The South, I ordered sausage gravy and biscuits. EG’s tarted up version I believe was with smoked bacon. Strange but, bacon. Awful. Actually, disgusting would describe it better. As if they’d dumped half a bottle of liquid smoke in it.

    I appreciate that this was not the point of the piece, just doing my own little spot of good work making sure no one here actually goes to EG when in Ashville. Also, don’t go to Ashville.

  • MIKE GUENTHER February 20, 2019, 12:47 PM

    Ashville is basically the Smokey Mountains version of San Francisco.

    Ashville and it’s environs have become unaffordable for normal folks. People selling their mountain land to developers for a pittance, to be broken up into 3/4 acre lots for upscale folk’s second, third or sometimes fourth vacation homes. I mean for sure, a “cabin” in the Smokey’s to go along with the ski chalet in Vail and the condo on the beach in South Florida.

    In Shelbyville IN working right now. There’s a cafe across the street from the job that is run by an 80+ yr old lady. It’s definitely good country cooking. They have a tenderloin sandwich, the meat is as big around as your head, plus fries is less than 6 bucks.

  • Anonymous February 20, 2019, 1:09 PM

    I find it ironic that Ashville is located in Buncome County:

    Anti-vaccination stronghold in N.C. hit with state’s worst chickenpox outbreak in 2 decades By Isaac Stanley-Becker • November 19, 2018

    Cases of chickenpox have been multiplying at the Asheville Waldorf* School, which serves children from nursery school to sixth grade in Asheville, N.C. About a dozen infections grew to 28 at the beginning of the month. By Friday, there were 36, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

    The outbreak ranks as the state’s worst since the chickenpox vaccine became available more than 20 years ago. Asheville Waldorf has one of the highest religious vaccination exemption rates in the state, according to data maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The private school has a higher rate of exemption on religious grounds than all but two other North Carolina schools, the Citizen-Times reported. During the 2017-18 school year, 19 of 28 kindergartners were exempt from at least one vaccine required by the state. Of the school’s 152 students, 110 had not received the chickenpox vaccine, the newspaper reported.

    “Buncombe County health official says area at high risk for measles outbreak” by Darren Botelho • Wednesday, February 6th 2019

    Buncombe County’s medical director issued a warning Wednesday after outbreaks hit 10 states, including nearby Georgia. … Jennifer Mullendore, medical director at Buncombe County Health and Human Services, said the area has a high number of unvaccinated students. “We are worried, and we do think that it was only a matter of time, if we get a case of measles in our community, it could spread widely,” Mullendore said.

    *not religious really, just hippy dippy. mostly dippy.

  • Walter Sobchak February 20, 2019, 1:10 PM

    I posted the above comment about diseased people in Ashville.

  • Rick February 20, 2019, 2:04 PM

    Asheville was such a nice place 50 years ago before the Yankees decided that maybe the south wasn’t so bad after all. There are a lot of cities I have no interest in even seeing again, Seattle, Portland, NYC, SF, LA, Austin, and now Asheville.

  • Montefrío February 22, 2019, 5:00 AM

    I had a partner from Madison County, adjacent to Buncome, and though a strange concatenation of circumstances ended up spending five months atop a mountain in Leicester (pronounced LEE-sester), on the other side of the French Broad River (good rafting). I’m a native NYer, preppy-Ivy version,something the locals noticed quickly. Nevertheless, we all got on well once they realized I was an unpretentious anachronism they’d nicknamed “the Philadelphia lawyer”, a phrase that is likely meaningless today. I was never taken for a hippy. This was in the mid-90s and hippy-dippy outlanders were not to be seen much outside Asheville proper, which to a degree still maintained its Old South charm . Even so, the first sketches of the handwriting on the wall could be seen.

    The place where I stayed is now an upscale subdivision. I shudder to think what Asheville, Mars Hill, etc., are like a quarter century later.

  • Nobody Atall February 22, 2019, 7:29 AM

    After an adulthood of living in major metro areas across the nation, Better Half and I recently moved “back home,” to my parents’ born-and-raised-small-town in an area somewhat outside of a major metro area in Flyover. Can’t be more relieved and relaxed to live here. There are no dogs-instead-of-children people here, though there are elderly widows with dogs instead of attentive adult children. Families here are usually small, but many younger couples are having bigger families than my generation typically did. There are twice as many churches as bars. Our favorite local eatery looks like a dump inside and out — the owner last decorated when she bought the place eleventy-some years ago, but the waitresses bring our preferred beverages as we choose a table and they ask whether we want a menu for that visit. They do not introduce themselves, and they obviously know most of the patrons personally from of old; perhaps in a few years, we will be in that group. Maybe the food is not as good as Mom’s food, because she could Cook! But it’s warming and filling and comforting and the same food my ancestors ate in this county going back 187 years. Prayer in public is a regular occurrence. The satisfaction of this connection with Time and Tradition has surprised me and made me ever more grateful. May G-d bless the United States of America and make all of us ever more grateful for the biggest privilege in the world — being an American.

  • Steve February 22, 2019, 8:14 AM

    I read this wonderful piece when it was first published and always regretted I had not copied and saved it. I’m mighty grateful to have stumbled upon it once again. Now its going into my archives for reference on some future day when I feel the walls closing in and am desperate for a ray of sunlight.

  • tscottme February 22, 2019, 1:21 PM

    The hippies have ruined Asheville and they are ruining Nashville, TN as we speak.

  • JoeDaddy September 27, 2020, 3:05 AM

    Asheville has become a $#i+Hole it a brief span of time. Mayor is a foreigner AND carpetbagger. Libtard city council. Police Admin. all recently resigned. Defunded Police by $700K. Rioters permanently injured a photographer this week and laughed about it. A’ville is for A-holes.

  • redclay7 September 27, 2020, 5:21 AM

    Even though the above story and comments are several years in the past, I see that many, probably inadvertently, have called Asheville, NC by what it has become, Ashville, the charred remainder/reminder of what once was an authentic NC mountain town. redclay7 9/27/20

  • Anonymous September 27, 2020, 5:52 AM

    Terrific article for sure, just reeking of a clothesless emperor. It reminded me of a thing I listened to the other day, related in a certain way. Hopefully, I’m not alone in the observation that history is in a large part biography, and biography in a large part forms history (especially in the telling of it). I picked up this idea from a lecture by Dr. Bill Marre a few years ago, a professor on the Fordham staff for many years and now past on, and then again recently from E. M. Jones. It’s as much the person telling it as it is the idea itself you could say; and so many ideas floating around today as accepted doctrine come from people who if we knew them personally, would be found wanting. The opposite may also be true. Was it Jeremiah who said it’s sweet going down but then… stomach pains.

  • Annie Rose September 27, 2020, 6:26 AM

    If you are ever passing through Tulsa, OK make sure to stop by the White River Fish Market in the north side of town. Down home and delicious southern cooking and friendly waitresses. Go hungry. The plates of food are huge. Not a fancy place. Your choices for seating are laminate booths, or long tables where you rub elbows with your neighbors. The restaurant is in a tiny strip mall with a crumbling parking lot. Go early, because the roughly 30 parking spaces fill up fast. Save room for homemade pie, that is in one of those circular cases that lets you admire it from all sides.

    • Jack November 11, 2021, 6:13 AM

      Annie, I lived in Tulsa for a little over 38 years and I’ve eaten at White River more times than I can remember. Bought a lot of stuff from its market, too; the gumbo is particularly good for that part of the world. My wife and I lived a few streets west of Harvard and South of 31st in the Ranch Acres area and we loved Brookside too. The only thing we disliked about Tulsa, actually all of Oklahoma, are its winters. They are often as cold as those you’d find in Kansas or Nebraska, without the excessive snow.

      My wife is from Memphis and we moved to the Deep South in 2o19 after being gone from this part of the world for 50 years. And after about a year ‘down he’ah I’ve come to miss Tulsa more than I ever imagined I might. It’s a great town and I had simply forgotten what it is like to live in a place where everything is designed and staffed to meet the increasing and demanding needs of the ubiquitous and indolent negro.

      • Annie Rose November 11, 2021, 7:08 AM

        My folks’ place in Tulsa was near 41st and Yale. They rented prior to that just north, closer to your area.

        I grew up in Tulsa from the age of seven and loved it. I have lived the past 30 years as a transplant in the Chicagoland area, but have frequently returned to Tulsa. Sadly, like all things, poor Tulsa is experiencing growing pains, and not in a good way. It is a fragile shell of what it used to be in the area I grew up.

        It’s rougher and much more crowded. While the beautiful gardens, museums, and Art Deco downtown buildings built by the oil industry barons are still wonderful, the local roads are often in disrepair and buildings are aging. The tall and striking Scottish Rite building still has boarded-up windows from the tornado from four years ago. The gentleman’s clubs -which are always invariably right next to a church- are only outpaced by the proliferation of weed shops-one on every corner just about. (No suburb in my area near Chicago has strip bars anymore, so why are they in Tulsa, which used to be a conservative and religious town?)

        The homeless continue to multiply and are now often seen passed out in even the nicest of areas. I literally tripped over half a dozen sitting around the door as I tried to leave a Walgreens in the affluent southern area of Tulsa. At a large gas station, there were groups of very rough guys just loitering and eyeing up customers and checking out their purchases as they exited the store. It was daytime, again in a very nice neighborhood and I felt threatened.

        My parent’s grocery store in their neighborhood now has a big burly security guard in uniform who keeps his hand on his gun as he checks out who is coming into the store. That being said, the people continue to be some of the nicest, Braum’s still has the best ice cream and cherry limeades, and Yvonne’s is still exactly the same, delicious.

  • Snakepit Kansas September 27, 2020, 7:03 AM

    I know the place! Me and a crew of guys were driving through Tulsa a few years ago and one in the group told us we had to eat at White River Fish Market. Your description is perfect, so I’ll give my keyboard a rest.

  • downeasthillbilly September 27, 2020, 7:38 AM

    There’s a cinderblock building outside of Farmville, NC. The Dixie Queen (un-woke to this day!) sits in a gravel lot on a 2-lane “highway,” with zero “ambiance” and the best seafood around. Come early. It fills up fast on Fridays. Esse quam videri.

  • ghostsniper September 27, 2020, 8:18 AM


    And then there is this little gem that we have indulged in many times and so have thousands of others as the parking lot is always slammed no matter the time of the day.


  • downeasthillbilly September 27, 2020, 9:07 AM

    Another unpretentious place on Hwy 301 inWilson, NC. The Beef Mastor
    (Old English, or so they say). AKA “This is a ribeye. How big a piece do you want?” Steak. Baked potato. Salad bar. That’s th menu. Beer. Wine. Even in the parking lot while you wait. Civilized behavior. People drive an hour and a half from Raleigh to eat here.

  • Terry September 27, 2020, 12:11 PM

    To me, this is a keeper:

    “One man to my right hulked over his plate like some Turkish sumo and ate mechanically as if his hands were backhoes in a mountain graveyard, the coffin inbound on the midnight train and the kinfolk getting antsy. Across from him, a slim woman ate in a punctuated manner and talked at him at the same time, her hand gestures angular and as precise as scalpels. He nodded dully as if barely feeling her opinions and just put his head down and ate right on through them, looking up just often enough and nodding just slightly enough that she might believe he was actually hearing her.”

    IMO, the current “Hippy” is not really a Hippy. The original Hippies as per sixties San Fran were fun to be around except for the non-bathing ones. Current “Hippies” are warmed over turds. Fakes if you will.

  • H September 27, 2020, 6:16 PM

    I like to work in rifle matches at new places as I ricochet about the country, and recently inflicted myself upon the Polk County Gun Club in Columbus, North Carolina, not far from Asheville. I can gleefully report that whatever has happened to Asheville hath not inflicted itself upon the good folk of Polk County. Had a great time with some great people who more or less demanded I go eat with them after the match, and one of them picked up my ticket and had it paid for before I could stop him. His young daughter has already earned her Distinguished Rifleman Badge and not even out of her teens yet; she easily outshot all the rest of us and did my heart a lot of good to see it. So, I had to tell all of y’all all of that before I could tell you this: Asheville may be the new Austin, but parts of North Carolina are still North Carolina. Go ye forth and find thee some of it.

  • TC September 27, 2020, 6:47 PM

    We were there six years ago for a conference, saw all the signs of Seattleization everywhere. Had lunch at a place called “Farmburger”, which was OK, but did leave a lot to be desired in terms of authenticity.

    Still, the first place I’d ever had a beer float…
    Enjoyed the magnificent Biltmore, and had front row seats for the Asheville Tourists, which were something like nine bucks, with beer and food delivered. I would go back just for Biltmore.

    Douchecanoes and Doucheoise in Asheville were nothing compared to the galactic-class assholes in Seattle and Portland. Not even a fair comparison.

  • Eric Blair September 28, 2020, 10:47 AM

    Lemme put in a pitch for fried perch platters. My hometown, Lorain OH. Slovak Club, corner of Broadway and 28th street, west of the mill. Friday nite you can eat at any restuarant in town with no wait, since folks are at the Slovak Club, the Slovenian Club, and every other small-op

    Perch fillets, homemade slaw, hand cut fries (or noodles and cabbage at the Slovenian Club) and homemade bread. Genesee Cream Ale at the bar.


    • gwbnyc November 11, 2021, 12:48 PM

      Scrimmaged at Admiral King in ’67.

      Family in Collinwood, all railroaders.

      Lotta kielbasa, potato pancakes, cabbage rolls.

      Slovenians&Cros; the Cro Home was a club as you describe, several others.

  • Gordon Scott September 28, 2020, 11:17 AM

    If you’re in Boston, near the North End, and it’s morning, look for Galleria Umberto. You’ll have to look hard; it’s not easy to see, but there will be a line. It’s only open from 11 a.m. until they run out of food, usually between 2 and 3 p.m. It is not gourmet, or even great, but it’s good, very inexpensive and worth the experience. There is a very short menu. There’s a hot case that holds the panzerotti, aroncinni, calzones and sandwiches. They just plop the Sicilian pizza pans on the counter, because that’s faster. Your guy will fill a box with all that you desire, include napkins and utensils, and then wrap the box with string. I got enough for three meals for $12.

    If you want sweets, I can recommend the Modern Cafe, go left out the door from Umberto’s. I was told by a friend who lives two houses down from Paul Revere’s place that Modern has the authentic cannoli, not the fakey touristy kind that Mike’s Pastry, right out from Umberto’s and across the street, serves. The display cases are filled with tarts and treats that look like those Japanese wax ones, absolutely perfect, except they’re real. I asked the fetching gal behind the Modern counter if it was true about authenticity. She assured me, perfectly serious, that it was true. Then she made me a cannoli and added the miniature chocolate chips.

    The North End looks like the Little Italy scenes you see in movies, right down to the old guys sitting outside the clubs.

  • Andrew R October 3, 2020, 8:31 AM

    “Hieronymous Bosch meets Hello Kitty.” What a disturbing image that creates.

    • Jack November 11, 2021, 6:16 AM

      Only for that damned cat.

  • Vanderleun October 3, 2020, 1:32 PM

    The pleasure is to serve.

  • Fa Cube Itches October 3, 2020, 4:11 PM

    What’s left of my family still lives in NC. Asheville used to be a pleasant place. Now, as a certain Cpl. Hicks will observe many years in the future, nuking the site from orbit is the only way to be sure.

  • gwbnyc November 11, 2021, 1:38 AM

    My brother attended Mars Hill (then junior) College near Asheville from June of ’61 through June of ’63. The area was “dry”, there were bars but you had to re-up as a member each time you went to one. “mountaineers” were still prevalent, bootlegging was pursued. he and his bought an old carhood for a few bucks, waxed it, and rode it longer than they cared to down a snowy mountainside. The campus would be closed at times due to bears. My father, mother, and I made the drive down from NE Ohio to drop my brother off. We got there on a Sunday, and drop him off we did, took maybe five minutes then we drove east across the state to my mother’s family near the Outer Banks. On that drive was the first time I saw segregated stores, restaurants, etc.

    My father played minor league baseball in eastern NC when he was a kid. He told us the story, once, of being in traffic court on a Saturday morning to pay a ticket. The case ahead of him was a black man who had killed his wife with a knife in a scuffle. After he had given his explanation the judge sentenced him to life in prison and banged the gavel.

  • Mike Austin November 11, 2021, 6:07 AM

    There you go again, Gerard, writing an essay 14 years ago that could have been penned this very morning. It is as finely written a piece on cultural decline as I have ever read.

    There still are, here and there in the rural outback of America, places where locals gather daily to breakfast or lunch, and to share stories of the world in which they live. Such places always have a huge, ancient menu right behind the counter, which is right in front of the kitchen. There will also be—of course—a large chalk board upon which will be inscribed—and spelling and grammar be damned—the Daily Special, the Soup of the Day, and the latest offering of pie and cake. You can find such eateries in towns such as this one:

    That would be Laverne, Oklahoma. It is described on its web page:

    “Laverne is a small, rural community located in NW Oklahoma. It was founded in 1889 with a one room sod post office. Pioneer settlers came to this area for the rich farm and ranch land and dreams of new opportunity.”

    I rode into Laverne on my Surly Ogre bicycle a few years ago. It took me eleven days of riding from Oklahoma City. There was one diner there. And one road through town, all side roads ending in farm land. If you ever eat at this diner, I recommend the fried chicken, dumplings and gravy. Marlboro and Budweiser are optional.

    There are many Lavernes in America, but they take effort to get to. Driving on the interstates guarantees you will never see them. Ride a bicycle or drive a car on county roads, jeep tracks and ancient pavement means that such towns appear every 20 miles or so. They are free of Applebee’s and fast food, but sometimes you will see a Denny’s. There will always be a local Mexican restaurant as well.

    Best to see this part of America soon. Before it is all gone with the wind.

  • MIKE GUENTHER November 11, 2021, 8:41 AM

    Some of the post modern, leftist rot has made its way from Asheville west through Waynesville across Balsam Gap to Jackson County and the environs of Sylva, Dillsboro and Cullowhee NC.

    When we first moved to Jackson County from San Diego CA after my junior year of high school in the summer of 1975, it was what I thought of at the time, as redneck hell. We started out living in the basement of my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Cullowhee and enrolled in Cullowhee High School. High School and Elementary School all rolled into one, 450+/- total students. Senior class of 45 students, a mixture of rednecks from back in the mountains and kids who’s parents worked at Western Carolina University. (My graduating class in San Diego had 2,500 students.)

    In Sylva, there is the Coffee Shop, still much the same as it was 50, 60 years ago. Just a little hole in the wall where all the locals hang out for breakfast and lunch.

    In Dillsboro, there was the Jarrett House, founded in 1884. It was a family style restaurant and hotel. I still remember our first meal their right after we moved to the area. There was ten of us and we took up the long table down the middle of the room. Fresh Mountain Trout, Roast Beef and Fried Chicken, plus all the fixin’s brought out on big platters and set in the middle of the table, just like a large family dinner at home.

    There was the Parkway Restaurant, named by Burt Reynolds as the worst restaurant he’d ever been in, during an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson after the filming of Deliverance, not because the food was bad,( it was actually very good), but because they wouldn’t allow him and his entourage to bring their beer and liquor into the restaurant. At the time, Jackson County was still a dry county.

    “Downtown” Cullowhee had the barbershop, a two seater with the front window facing the main drag across the street from the university, where during the spring and summer months, you had to pay attention because the owner, would be watching the girls walking by in their shorts and halter tops as he was cutting hair. He left me with a lopsided haircut one time, that I only noticed after I got in my car and looked in the rearview mirror.

    Main street Sylva is now full of fancy little wine bars, craft beer cafes and antique stores, sort of like a miniature version of Asheville. I don’t recognize the place now.

  • James ONeil November 11, 2021, 8:56 AM

    Hadn’t thought about it but it’s been well over two years since I’ve eaten out. Nothing to do with the Bad China Cold, mostly I suspect unconsciously following o’ Remus’ advice, avoiding crowds in the age of mass hysteria.