A Penniless Traveler goes to the Opera – Asheville, NC

I’ve had people tell me they were penniless when they had a hundred dollars in the bank. If I had a hundred dollars in the bank, I’d be thrilled! When I say “penniless” I mean just that. That I do not have any negotiable currency, paper, coins, or plastic.

This week I find myself in hyped up, hipped out Asheville, North Carolina to see the opera and while not penniless, I am going to be working with less than forty dollars. So here are some tips and tricks for that. (If you want to know how to travel with no money, see my previous blog “https://twiztedtails.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/hotel-cheats-from-waystation/ ”)

I should also note that my lodgings are being paid for by my current employer, or this would be impossible. I also got my tickets in advance when money was more freely available.

First off, Asheville is actually easier without a car. Parking downtown and in most of the outlying areas is hard to find, competitive and expensive. Parking garages run in the $2 an hour range, with some rare instances of $5 “special event parking”. Daily parking adds up quickly. Almost all street parking is parallel and tight. A Smartcar is doable but a Ford F350 or any mid to large SUV or truck is a real stretch.

If at all possible, I recommend leaving your car or rental in the hotel lot, or even better catching the airport shuttle, taxi, or some friend going into town.

Asheville actually has a very good public transportation system with buses going to most destinations either every fifteen minutes, every hour, or every half hour, or every hour. Payment is in cash – but make sure you have change – or by bus pass which can be purchased at the bus station on Richland Avenue.

And most of the city is actually in walking distance from most of the hotels (West Asheville being the exception unless you can do a three mile walk.)

Secondly, Asheville restaurants range fall into just a few categories – cheap and fast, cheap and slow, expensive and fast, expensive and slow, and bars. These are all pretty well distributed around the city but the cheap stuff is mostly on the two major strips, Tunnel Road off downtown east and Patton Avenue across the Patton avenue River Bridge on Patton Avenue in what is technically West Asheville.

I got a hotel in West Asheville as I have a car and a gas per diem on this trip (WOW!) and mainly frequent McDonald’s and Burger King because of their dollar menus. $5 bucks is four sandwichs which is two meals. Hotel water and ice are the beverages.

To keep that from getting too monotonous I also went to a dollar store and purchased a box of tea, a bottled water (for the bottle), and a few packets of instant drink mix. I also got a package of cookies, a bag of chips, a box of oatmeal, a box of grits, a box of six Ramen noodles, and a package of eight slim jims. Total cost: $10 after tax.

I use the coffee machine in my room to make hot water for the tea, grits, noodles, and oatmeal. I also hit the free continental breakfast and make a show of getting breakfast for me and “my fiancee” (I have one but he’s not present.) which fills in any remaining mealtime holes.

I packed one bag which contains two shirts, two pants, undies, and one set of formal wear as well as three books, two DVDs, and my laptop. I wash my clothes in the sink with the provided shampoo, wash my body and hair with the provided soap bar, and then hang my clothes off the shower rail to dry. I will steam the wrinkles out of my formal wear by hanging them in the bathroom while I shower.

Instead of going out and spending money I do not have, I watch TV, use the room’s free wifi connection, and watch the DVDs I brought on my laptop.

I will be required to dine out twice this opera week and so I will be sticking to very small meals, salad and water and not drinking any alcohol and then coming back to my room for noodles in private.

And I will go see La Boheme looking like I stayed the night in the Downtown Radisson hotel rather than a cheap room off I-40. Manners and clothing make the man in public after all.

I may even land a gig doing further write ups and then I will be able to review Asheville from the money end. Til then, good journeys and “toi, toi”!



Vaccinations – a misadventure and some advice

Okay, so I went to my doctor’s office because I needed a tetanus shot. Unfortunately the only thing on hand was the new tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis vaccine.

To be fair the physician, a wonderful doctor who deserves NO blame for what follows, did ask me if I had ever had any problems with this vaccine.

I stated that I did not know but that I did not think so.

My bad.

I got the shot and left the office. I was unlucky in that my appointment was the last of the day. The nurse was locking up as I left.

About four minutes later I was suffering from severe anaphylactic shock.

Here I got lucky. My fiancee who was with me took my seriously when I said I was in deep shit and he went around the building and pounded on doors until he got the attention of the nurse inside.

And so fortunately I found myself back in the examination room I had just left getting poked with all kinds of needles.

I’m actually a bit hazy on the details but I believe they included a benedryl shot and a corticosteroid shot. I don’t think the epipen they had actually got used. I then spent thirty minutes on my back talking to the doctor and nurse as they monitored me until I was out of danger.

They saved my life.

The lesson here? Ignorance is not bliss and if you are doing traveling that involves vaccinations it would be a very good idea to know what your risks are and what allergies you may have.

That said, how can you protect yourself?

Get your vaccinations at a doctor’s office rather than a clinic. Try for an early appointment so you don’t have to worry about locked doors if something does go wrong.

Ask questions about any possible side effects and the incidences of an allergic reaction.

Remain in the clinic for fifteen minutes after the vaccinations – this is legally required in most states but a lot of doctors will let it slide. It is your responsibility to ask to wait and to explain why if challenged.

Keep a list of all vaccinations you have had and take it with you to the doctor’s. And if you are taking other drugs you might want to ask about interactions.

Since more and more laws about vaccination are coming into effect you are going to want to take more precautions than usual.

It is also a good idea to visit the CDC Yellow Book website to find out what diseases are in the area you are going to and what vaccinations are required. (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/content/yellowbook/home-2010.aspx )

You might also try their travel health page at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ .

And if you answer the question “Are you allergic to [drug]?” with “I don’t know?” then make sure your doctor will look out for you.

If it turns out you are allergic to something see that a big notation makes it into your medical records and also make a note of it yourself somewhere.

Trust me, with anaphylactic shock, once is more than enough.

Facebook and Deviant Art pages!

Hello, finally got a Facebook page up to go with this blog – you’ll find almost all of the travel photos I take there so I suggest you click the link off the home page..or here it is…


I have started with pictures of the USS Clamagore submarine located off Patriot’s Point in Charleston, SC.

Deviant artists should go to saintaspie.deviatart.com BUT please remember that full access to Deviant Art is for members only.

Feature: Well Bred Bakery & Café, Weaverville, NC

I wish to congratulate the people at the Well Bred Bakery and Cafe of Weaverville, NC on their excellent food and service. I had a huge eclair and a giant cup of coffee there during a quick stop over on my way north. Everything was delicious and the atmosphere was relaxing and comfortable. I hope to stop by there again and to talk to one of their staff for a fuller review on my way back through town this evening!

A review adjustment…

Obviously when I write restaurant reviews two things have happened, a) I have dined there and b) I have interviewed a member of the waitstaff. Unfortunately things do not always go well and so I write a negative review. Today I am removing one as my inside person, who is perhaps younger than I thought, has chosen to recant rather than risk being fired after seeing the big boss’s name in a recent comment. My insider fears that they will be fired and not be able to find another job in this economy. Therefore, I will remove my review but am going to say that ANY restaurant that allows cell phones, cell texting, or internet surfing by staff on the clock will not receive my patronage.


Pending…been sick and lazy, my bad

Okay, so stuff I will get to here in the next week barring the advent of Cthulu or the other guy…

  • A few featured article on Charleston, SC restaurants and also on the submarine, Clamagore and the ASW aircraft carrier, Yorktown. (With pictures)
  • Some more Charleston stuff on Meeting and King street, one for the antiquarian, the other for the club hounds.
  • Atomic travel
  • The upcoming Asheville, NC  presentation of La Boheme with pictures.
  • And another shot at Facebook. Sigh.

Day Trip Idea: The Lost Playwrights of Western NC

While not strictly a travel destination, I felt that this interesting group deserved at least an honorable mention as a cause of travel and as an interesting way to spend a day. 

Why “The Lost Playwrights”? Ask founder, Ludy Wilkie of Shelby to hear the truth, but the tongue in cheek reason is that like a strange nomadic tribe of word processing scribes, they never seem to meet in the same place for very long. The meetings are largely in the Hendersonville, NC area but have also been held in Shelby, NC and may be in other cities in the future. 

This is largely because the LPs are a nonprofit group of talented poets, novelists and, of course, playwrights and because there are no membership dues or any fees required. Attendance is open to all interested in the theater and written arts and people are encouraged to bring along something to be read. 

In a world where the arts are largely managed and dominated by production companies and where bake sales, ticket sales, and other fund raisers take up more time than the arts themselves, this is a very refreshing occurrence. 

The usual meetings include readings of the original works of the various members, commentary on the arts in general, and a good deal of socializing and storytellings on plays past or current. 

It’s a great place to hear a ghost story, to listen to a comedy, to hear a tragedy, and to meet the authors and actors that bring these works to the stage. 

Most of the members have a good deal of street cred as well with several published authors and produced playwrights in the group as well as actors, poets, and a few preforming musicians. 

Membership is large (over 250 according to the mailing list although usual only between twenty or thirty are physically present at any one time) and I can’t name everyone here but some of the regulars include playwrights Ludy Wilkie, Judy Carson Sloan, Jane Jones, and Tom Bennett, published authors D. Elaine “Dante” Calderin and Ned Condini, polished actor Gordon Pendarvis, and actor/technician/writer couple, Clyde and Debbie Keller. 

Other notable members include author Frank Talley, television and movie writer Ken Fitch, singer Holly Hamrick, and producer/technician Sam Stone. 

The last meeting included playwright and former Shelby Mayor, Les Roark and a reading from his play “Go West Old Man” a comedy about a classic con job gone wrong when east coast meets cowboy and which includes a side order of romance. 

Also present was female novelist, Brendan Legrand who is working on the novel, Sunday’s Child. 

Produced playwright, Tom Bennett presented one act from one of his slightly perverse and highly enjoyable plays, A Peculiar Party, about a bachelor party for the geriatric set complete with 70+ year old cake dancers and malodorous bridegrooms. There was quite a bit of scattered laughter and applause. 

Published horror and cyberpunk author, and youngest member, D. Elaine Calderin offered up the first chapter of her latest novel “It’s in the Blood” and actor, technician and baritone Clyde Keller did a remarkable cold reading of it for the group. Several people described it as “descriptive”. The author said more critique would have been welcome but acknowledges as the self-proclaimed dark side of the group she may have offended some of the writer/actor audience with the material. She adds she needs a shirt that reads “ I am not my characters”. 

And audience tested and approved playwright Judy Carson Sloan gave the LPs a funny scene set in an unlikely place as mother and daughter discuss life and death and moth holes in heavenly vestments. This play was well received and critics noted that it “flowed well” and “really seemed both natural and funny.” Mrs. Sloan also requested further input. 

Ludy Wilkie had a treat for his fellow members in the form of a theatrical adaptation of O’Henry’s classic Ransom of Red Chief. This was a fun little skit that has actually been produced once already and which was first introduced by the characters actually being led onstage by Rutherford County NC Sheriff Damon Huskey. 

Also present at this meeting were R.S. Haulk; Gordon Pendarvis; Brian Legrand; Deborah Keller.and newcomers Bob Scoggins; Janet Sims; Gary Kulas; and Dot Roark, all of whom either helped with the readings or offered news of productions and members not currently present.

This was also the meeting that included the tour of the Roger’s Theater – see the last blog for more on that one.

All in all an entertaining evening and a worthwhile day trip for the aspiring writer or culture lover. So if you are in Western North Carolina and would be interested in learning more or wish to get on the mailing list, please contact Mr. Ludy Wilkie at ludy@shelby.net

FEATURE: Shelby, NC, the Roger’s Theater, and why it’s worth the traffic hassles.

Today was spent in Shelby, North Carolina, a small to medium city located in WNC. What can I say about Shelby?

Well if you have an appointment there leave two hours early. The road system there is among the strangest in the ‘verse. Roads will oftimes run literally parallel with a four lane running next to a two line so that down the same path so that those in the four lane northbound pass literally inches from those on the southbound of the two lane. Imminent collision seems inevitable until you realize what’s going on. 

Road signs are not popular in Shelby, and neither are street numbers or formal place names. In fact, during my quest today the only place everyone could agree on as being in a geographically set location was the only one I knew how to get to…the hospital. 

The main strip – a four lane drag is 74/74 business/74 bypass/108 S all at the same time. Locals call it the drag, the strip, th main road, and the big road. After that forget it. I asked ten people for directions today to a street in downtown Shelby and received three blank stares (Uh…Washington St?) one set of very complex directions full of rights, lefts, churches, and water towers, and six responses to the effect of “ Well, you could go [directions] but maybe you best go [different directions]. What do you think, Shirl?” at which point the process repeats.

I finally bought a map in the Walgreen’s across from the hospital where a handsome and intelligent black gentleman gave me pinpoint precise directions. He was not from Shelby. He asked me not to tell where he was from. Thanks again, guy. 

But what else can I say about the region? Because once you get there it’s delightful.

It has one of the best hospitals in the state – I spent a lot of time there so I know first hand. Excellent mental health care network. Good employment rate. Lot of factories and mills…and some truly glorious architecture. I saw house ranging from New England Salt box to gingerbreaded Victorian as well as some nice Georgian and Edwardian pieces. Eve a few unusual twists on early Pyramidal and Mediterranean. 

But surprisingly, the coolest thing to me is that there is a thriving Arts and Music Scene and that there is also a hugely successful historic preservation group. As a writer and as an architecture buff, I found many things worth my while in Shelby. Houses, churches, and even private residences but for now I will focus on just one of them, tho, with more later for my fellow architectural tour buffs. 

At the confluence of high art and high historical ideals, I actually met one of the interesting people who feels that culture is an invaluable gift to children, students and to the people of his community instead of an onerous task best left to mouldering textbooks.

This individual in the person of a handsome younger man in suit coat and highly polished leather buckle boots was a Mr. Gary Kulas, a very interesting and possibly slightly eccentric (in a good way) man who dreams are large enough for outsiders to come and visit. 

Mr. Kulas’s latest project is the restoration of the intriguing Roger’s Theater in downtown Shelby.

This is a brave move and definitely an intriguing one in this day when the arts are near decease. 

The Rogers Theater, currently being restored to it’s former 1936 art deco grandeur, is located at 213 East Marion Street across from a goodly sized church. Mr. Kulas and crew are usually to be found there and are willing to offer tours and explanations to the curious and the socially conscious alike. 

I did a brief tour today in the company of the Lost Playwrights Society of WNC – all of which are just drooling to see one of their plays preformed in this soon to be available venue. 

The space is a large and interesting one and will in futurity harbor a luxurious and unique three hundred plus seating performance art center and banquet room of an elegance rarely seen in the more modern age. 

The main downstairs room is slated to see performances of live theater, dinner theater, cabaret, comedy, live music and other samplings of the local and international Arts community whereas the upstairs area is to become a full service one hundred and ten seat fine dining venue in what was once the playhouse’s balcony.

I can see that these are indeed not impossible goals. The building is spacious, live and airy and still quite full of the original late thirties energies that made it pop. It is a comfortably shaped hall with high ceilings and nice proportions and once fully modernized (soon to be handicap-equipped) it will be a luxurious one in an Ayn Rand-ish Art Deco Style. 

I will be posting some pictures of the current stage in restorations at my Facebook link and you can read all about the process and the dream of Mr. Kulas at their website www.rogerstheatershelby.com.

You will also find ways that you can help out on their page, and lend your name to the increasingly important Shelby arts scene and to the community at large.

It’s about to snow here in Western North Carolina

Preparing for the snow storm here tonight. Four to six inches, oh my! I remember being a child in Michigan and seeing twelve foot snows, I also at the ripe age of 33 remember when this area got four foot snows. Ah, climate change. But I digress. 

Since me and my brother, Dan,  were both raised by survivalists, we are better off than many – we both keep what out blood father called “oh shit kits” stored in our rooms and cars. Candles, flashlights, batteries and essential foods and meds are all on hand. We have a wood stove and plenty of wood. Lots of blankets. Canned food and can opener. Cast iron for cooking on the wood stove. (A trick better not tried with thin bottomed aluminum pans!) Stuff for our cats.  The only tricky bit is water as our well pump is electric – something we intend to rectify soon. I am filling up lots of gallon jugs tonight. I usually try to keep twenty or so on hand…and if it snows all the better. We can wash dishes, clothes, and so on in snow melt. At worst, I will be typing this on Steve’s laptop – on battery power – and sending it by analog landline before reading a book by candle light, eating a stove top meal of canned stuff, and then sleeping in a bedroll near the fire. We’ll stay better off than many. Last time we ended up hosting our  neighbors because they had no ideas and no tools for coping. Hopefully they learned something from that adventure and will be better off this time. 

And at the very worst, I go out into the woods and shoot a deer and find some edible lichen…but that seems unlikely. The worst I expect to face this go round -knocking on wood – is some dangerous driving, mostly caused by my fellow NC driver, all of whom seem to mistake their SUVs for tanks. People here seem to go absolutely crazy here at the sight of a single flake.

And perhaps a shortage of bread and milk – which I neither eat nor drink but which some people seem to feel are absolute essentials during a storm. No idea why.

But perhaps this would be a good time and place to post some basics for the modern dweller. So I am adding a new page link from the home page here call “There’s a storm coming. I need…” Check it out for a quick list of useful things that will help you survive the storm.

Coming soon…

Underground tours – trains, gold, and dead people?!? ; and crypt lodgings and nuclear tours – sleep next to a decommed Titan missle?!?! Stuff will be up soon…