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”!

 

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

Roadside – Forest City, NC

An interesting day today. Whilst in search of a mechanic I found Linda Bedow – a fully qualified and licensed masseuse and bodywork therapist sitting in a floppy hat and a floppy camp chair selling massages and hot dogs at the side of the road.

Linda, a large-ish short haired lady with a great laugh and phenomenal hands who hangs out at the edge of the Dollar General parking lot across from the In and Out Car Inspections joint and the Montressori school in downtown Forest City.

I have no idea how much business she gets but it’s not enough. In the space of fifteen minutes I received the best chair massage I’ve ever had followed by one of the best hot dogs I’ve eaten, all for $12.00 USD.

That’s $10 for the massage and $2 for the dog.

The hot dog proved to be an organic all beef dog served on a warmed bun. I went with a chili cheese dog – add sauerkraut and relish with the usual condiments, but Linda also offered up slaw, jalapenos, and other dog toppers for the more discerning (or just plain hungry) customer.

And you could get a dry dog or a New York dog with everything all for the same 2 bucks.

The massage lasted fifteen minutes and was sheer delight. Linda has very good hands and she listens very well, so I got a shoulder/neck/back and lymph massage that was at just the right pressure to leave me feeling more than relaxed enough to face the rest of my day.

All in all an excellent deal all with roadside convenience…and I took her card. Want to meet her? Try her haunt there on Main Street, Forest City or call her at 1-828-919-7270

And if you get a chance, have a talk with her delightful friend and partner, Debbie – sorry, Debbie, I missed the last name – who is highly amusing and a perfect foil to Linda’s quieter side.

Definitely worth the time, your whole being with thank you later.