Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Jersey to Asheville

We had a rollicking good time in New Jersey with the Grossman clan (my mom's side of the family.) I'll let Pete tell you about that one. It will be more interesting than my report, since I experience the madness every year.

Woah. I haven't seen Ari's grandmother in a long while, and apparently I didn't remember much, because from the second we backed the bus into her parking community's house cluster, to the second we pulled away towards new adventures, she was more hilarious, constantly moving, and more on the ball than most people I know that aren't 90 years old. I could talk forever about the experience, but then we'd never have another post, and we're already behind. Basically, there was tons of amazing food (including chocolate mousse in crystal goblets), lots of fun, laughter, group singing while we played instruments, multi-generational conversations about influential experiences in their lives. We play tested a game in the making by our family friend Brent, and all crashed out after hitting the "Erlbaum wall". All in all, super fun (at times a little hectic, but always interesting).

Pete already told you about how we picked up our friend Andy, our stay in Baltimore, and picking up two more friends, Pete and Emily.

So we all departed from Baltimore, five aboard, and the travel on the bus became a party. Our first destination was Harrisonburg, Virginia, where we visited our friend John Doyon, who Pete, Andy and I went to Wihakowi with. John is a hilarious individual and a fantastic guitarist (www.myspace.com/johndoyon). We laughed a lot, played a little music, and learned the Camel Walk (video coming soon).

The next day we piled into the bus and headed south towards North Caroline'. We began to notice that we were definitely in the south. We stopped at a rest area in southern Virginia wearing T-shirts (this was about December 2.) We also felt the immediacy of being in the mountains, as opposed to having rolling hills on the central Vermont horizon.
A long drive and a gorgeous sunset later, we arrived at Andy’s dad’s house in Alexander, North Carolina, on the outskirts of Asheville. We met Jeff and Sheila, Andy’s dad and step-mom, and Shenny and Ben, Sheila’s daughter and her husband. We all walked along a ridge past a bunch of cows, to the house. Walking in the door, there was an immediate sensation of being at home and aroma of delicious food. There were guitars, ukuleles and banjos all over the house. We sat down to a steaming shepherd’s pie, then relaxed and played music. We went to sleep satisfied.
The next day we made a sprawling, delicious breakfast all together that was ready by about lunchtime. We took an exploratory walk through the woods and around the neighborhood in Alexandria. It's beautiful country down here. We then departed to Warren Wilson College, where a couple dear friends are attending. We went to the Eco-dorm, where our friend Hannah had some pizza dough ready. There was a cobb (mud and straw) oven outside the dorm with a fire blazing in it. Andy and I have both done semester programs  with Kroka Expeditions, a wilderness living school in New Hampshire and know Hannah and Oliver through that. It was absolutely wonderful to cook pizza with them and catch up. After homemade wood-fired pizza, an impromptu old time jam broke out, complete with dancing. Spontaneous old time jams are one of my favorite things in the world, and so it was great to introduce it to Pete, Pete and Emily. We then went to a student dance showcase, which was incredible. All the acts were high quality and varied, not what one might expect of a smallish hippie school. To give a sample, there was break dancing, a dancing/body percussion group, and a girl who did aerials and belly dancing at the same time, all while having a sword balanced on her head!
The next day we went to visit our friend Becca. She and her boyfriend Harrison have landed themselves a great living situation on a huge piece of land in a cozy house they converted from a chicken coop. They are doing construction for the Kombucha brewery next-door. There is a neat group of people also living on the land, all doing gardening and other land based projects. We helped them by splitting wood and doing chores, then made a big meal. The roasted veggies, pesto, and squash were complimented by home brewed root beer and hard apple cider, kombucha, and great company.
We then headed for Asheville. Pete, Pete and Emily explored downtown Asheville, while Becca, Harrison, Andy and I went to a concert of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The band combined old time, blues, ethnomusicology, minstrel era music, and lots of high spirited fun. Each one played a variety of instruments, including bones, jugs, saw, kazoo, banjo, guitar, fiddle, harmonica, and more. We also saw and danced with Warren Wilson people from the day before at the concert. The giddiness of the concert hasn’t quite gone away, as of two days later.
That's all for now.

A fancy hotel we saw in our walkthrough of Baltimore

John Doyon

Pete and Emily, where the sidewalk ends. Litterally. 

John, Ari and Andy


Harrisonburg, VA
Asheville, NC

Jeff and Sheila's house, amidst Appalachia

All these pictures are Asheville area

Pretty much gorgeous

Something dead on the railroad track

Surreal Guacamole

Cat lounging by guitar during Jam session

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