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”!

 

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.

Okay, so a few of your screws are REALLY loose…

"Upscale" private room

Like the shades? They belong to an RN named David. It was the only way I would consent to be photographed.  

Okay, an example of involuntary travel here. For whatever reason you have just found yourself in either a mental health wing/floor at a hospital or have your own room at your local Sunnyvale Asylum. I’ve done this one a few times; and the rules are a little different for the two and also depend on whether you are there of your own free-ish will, i.e. sane enough to ask someone to take you to one, or rather arrived there in the back of a police car with or without handcuffs.

In the worst case scenario, you have either just tried to off yourself or have gone batshit in a public place but in such away you did not hurt anyone else. (If someone else is hurt, the process is different and usually includes a cell.) Next you were processed at your local ER and it was decided that you were going to live. Step two of the process is an either/or. You will be 

a) escorted to a tighter security mental health wing of the hospital where you will be very throughly searched outside and in and then watched for 72 hours. And I do mean watched. You will not sleep, eat, or pee alone. You will be dressed in either a hospital robe or in sweat shorts and a cotton one piece shirt so that you will not be able to conceal anything or hang yourself. All of your personal effects will be taken from you…and you will be entirely reliant on staff for care. After that there will be a communal evaluation by your physicians to decide whether or not you need longer term care. During that watch period you will not be allowed to communicate at all with the outside world. Or they with you. 

b) taken directly to a long term care facility where you will be watched for seven days with all of the above occurring again but in less pleasant surroundings. 

In either place, there will be medications, dietary restrictions, restricted visitation rights (if any), and almost no civil rights until your doctors adjudge you sane enough not to hurt yourself or others. Restraints -physical and chemical – can also play a role. As can electroshock therapy. 

My best advice to involuntaries? Co-operate. Do what you are told when you are told and do not play games with your keepers. Believe me they have seen it all. And they can hold you as long as they choose. And stay away from the other patients as much as you can. They might be crazier than you are. Nonetheless try not to be offensive to them either, it is a good idea to cultivate a polite aloofness here.

If you are a voluntary committal, then almost all of the above still happens but you have more rights. You can contact people in the outside world and you can have more regular visitors. You may be allowed to keep some of your possessions, and will certainly be allowed to keep your own clothes within reason. Dangerous items will still be taken away from you, however, and you will have to go through the watch period. You have more say in the course of treatment and in your daily schedule. You can discharge yourself from care at almost any time. I still recommend being courteous to employees and to your medical aid workers. They can always decide that you might need to have your status change to “involuntary” if you make their lives too hard or dangerous. 

I will write more and more in depth on this topic later but those are the very basics…there are obviously more things to cover, like the difference in private and public facilities and the levels of care, how much this is going to cost you ( mentally, physically, and financially), and what to expect in system. I’ll cover all that later when I am not so tired.

Hotel cheats from waystation

I spent this weekend in a transitional hotel between a hospital and home. So I had lodgings but no food or cash or credit for two days whilst I waited on my designated ride. 

Here is where some of the more useful hotel tricks came into play. 

First I raided the hotel lobby’s pile of complimentary items. 

Dinner: 

Ingredients… 

three packages of ketchup

1 cup of hot water (made using the lobby coffee pot)

one salt packet 

Instant tomato soup. Put the ketchup in the cup with the salt. Add the hot water. Stir with a coffee stir stick. 

Beverage – cup of hot water over three free Star peppermint hard candies from the counter. Peppermint “tea”. 

Bath: 

Run as hot as possible and fill to drain hole…as water begins to gurgle out, turn on shower at same speed as the drain plug so that water level and temperature remain constant. Bath with complimentary soap bar, wash hair with same. 

Clean clothes after bath: 

I only had two changes of clothes on me and was damned if I was putting them back on dirty.Took clothes and wet them in the bath water, took them out and lathered them heavily in the complimentary shampoo. Sprayed them under the shower attachment and sloshed them repeatedly in the bath tub. Let out bath and rinsed them in the shower spray and in clean water. Wrung them out very throughly and hung them over shower rail to dry and turned on infrared heating lamps. 

Wrapped self in towels and slept. 

Morning: 

Dressed in dry clothes and went down to free continental breakfast. Grabbed two of everything, three of the cereals and fruits. Grabbed cocoa packets in fours/teas in fours. Snagged four cups, milk in two, juice in two and bowls and lots of condiments and groused under breath the whole time about the rest of the family being too lazy to come out for food for other guests’ benefit.

Returned to room, ate, washed cups and bowls in bar soap. Put the rest of the food and washed clothes in my zipper bag. Go for a walk so maid can do up room and provide more soap, shampoo, etc. 

Lunch/Dinner: Scrounged foods from this morning. Reused cups and bowls after washing in sink with new bar of soap left by maid.

Repeat bath and put on clothes that are clean. Repeat wash of dirty clothes. 

Next morning repeat scrounging for food stuffs. Discovered a nearby Walmart and ate samples, too.

And so forth. 

This kept me respectable for the required two days until I could get my ride home. And all for free – save the room which was paid in advance.