Asheville, The Art of War and Cheryl Strayed

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IMG_7658I started writing this from the Chili’s across from the Comfort Inn we’re staying at in Dentsville, South Carolina tonight.

The kids are staring at me after I just scolded them for replying to the waitress with their typical “ya,” or barely discernible grunt meant to infer  that yes, they would indeed like fries with their burger.

“This is the South, where people are polite, and when they ask you if you want fries with your burger, you say yes please,” I told them.

They replied with those barely discernible grunts meant to infer that they indeed understood what I was saying.

After a long evening with Jon in Cincinnati, I was up early, as is my usual habit. I showered, dressed and sat in bed for a while waiting to wake my sleeping wife and kids.

It was dreary and snowing lightly in downtown Cincinnati.

IMG_4852I’m admittedly a bit of a drill sergeant when it comes to getting back on the road in a timely manner.

Half asleep looking disheveled and in need of another three or four hours of sleep, they marched out to the car.

Trying to leave Cincinnati proved to be a nightmare with icy roads, numerous wrecks and holiday traffic.

Two hours after leaving downtown, we stopped at a Starbucks on the edge of town to caffeinate our highly pressurized veins.

We rolled through Lexington and the temperature warmed up to the mid 40s. The roads were dry and fast all the way to Knoxville, so we gassed up and ordered Subway for lunch.

My oldest ordered himself a footlong Italian BMT, and as I was sitting down to eat a six-inch Spicy Italian, I asked him where the other half of his sandwich was.

“I ate it,” he replied, dryly.

“You mean you inhaled it like a line of coke, didn’t you,” I replied, trying to be funny but having a hard time hiding my annoyance at his eating habits.

I was grumpy much of the ride. I chewed an entire bag of Trader Joe’s sunflower seeds and listened to the first five chapters of Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” while trying to clear my head of the last six months of work.

FullSizeRender (2)The Great Smoky Mountains remind me of something in a Tolkien novel. The road snakes through the dark and misty hills like a trail cut by a Gandalfian character on some quest.

I can’t tell if they are evil and and filled with Orcs. Or if they’e enchanted and filled with Elves.

Either way, Asheville sits like a little Rivendell in a pretty valley in the Great Smoky Mountains.

My plan was to stay in Asheville for the day and explore.

We stopped at Wedge Brewing Co. first, and the younger two played corn hole while the oldest slept in the car.

We ate at a Korean taco food truck in front of the brewery and enjoyed a couple of the brewery’s standard offerings. I drank a super hoppy IPA and then a double IPA. My wife had a couple of Belgians.

The place lived up to everything I’ve come to believe about Asheville after hearing friends talk about it for years.

In fact, Wedge Brewing reminded me a little of walking into the K-Hole in Missoula for the first time in the summer of 2007.

The magic of the industrial space and the sincere ribbing of the one and only Al Pils, one of several unique waitstaff at Missoula’s famous Kettlehouse Brewery, are part of the magic of experiencing it.

Wedge looked like an art studio with a brewery attached, and I’m fairly certain that’s actually what it is.

After a little more than an hour there, it became apparent to me the kids just weren’t into exploring. They were tired and just wanted to be somewhere.

Frustrated by their lack of a sense of adventure, I booked a hotel a couple of hours down the road and packed them all up for another short drive.

We made one last stop in Asheville at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe.

Malaprop's Bookstore and CafeI’ve been reading dead authors for a long, long time, and I’ve decided it’s time to read my own generations’ best writers. So I went in looking for Jonathan Safran Foer, Joshua Ferris, Philipp Meyer or Dinaw Mengestu.

I found newer books by Ferris and Meyer, when I wanted to read their earlier stuff. So I settled on “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Foer. And yes, I’ve seen the movie. But my goal is to try and understand my own generations’ writers better.

I’m finishing this post in my hotel room. There are palmettos outside our windows.

I don’t know if this is natural frustration that goes along with that time period when your kids are no longer little versions of you.

Or if it’s the realization that they can’t be coerced into liking the things you like.

Cheryl and I had a brief argument at Malaprop’s when Carson wanted to buy Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”

I argued that I had read it at his age, along with Machiavelli’s “The Prince.”

I told him it was more a book of quotes than a true narrative, so he settled on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” in a faux leather cover.

Whatever. He’s reading something that’s not a screen.

This was going to be my vacation day. My chance to explore a cool beer town. I spent most of it listening to an ill-prepared hiker attempting a 1,000-mile wilderness hike tell her backstory and pondering that strange place where your dreams go to die.

Fatherhood is a lot of sacrifice. Or it should be, I suppose. If you’re doing it right. At least that’s what I’ve always thought.

Lately, though, I’ve wondered about this idea of trying to preserve a little something that is your own.

For my dad, it’s his wood shop. That’s his little creative space. What comes out of it usually blesses other people, but I have to imagine it’s also therapeutic for him too.

Road trips used to be that way for me.

A chance to see new places, explore and create adventures out of thin air.

But road trips are not a wood shop. They’re not really a place where you go alone and come back with something beautiful.

So I suppose what I’m left with at the end of today is this. I either need to buy myself a motorcycle and start doing this on my own, or I need to go hike the Pacific Crest Trail.




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