If you’ve traveled at all during the pandemic, you may be familiar with the phenomenon of the ‘grab bag’ in lieu of the breakfast that most fair-to-middlin’ hotels include with your room. We found this at once disappointing and hilarious, although in truth we’d be unwilling to eat from a buffet where others had insinuated their unclean hands. We assumed Starbucks would be our best bet during our boots-on-the-ground trip down to Wilmington, and it was, the times the staff got our orders right, or even had what we wanted (more than once, the counter help chirped, Sorry—we’re out of that!).
In general, our travel revealed a country with its nose bloodied and a few bruises about its torso and limbs. Even gigantic new shopping centers here and there were missing their anchor stores, in their place papered-over windows and above the entrance the outline of signage for whatever business once carried on commerce there. And for surviving businesses, at least in the corporate restaurant industry, this chapter is not fully finished. We had a couple of unfortunate dining experiences, where there were not enough staff to get the job done, and the staff that existed seemed thoroughly divested in the work. That is too bad, but The Chef would possibly maintain some places deserve to close.
Not the case at 12 Bones in Asheville, where we spent the second leg of our trip visiting my twenty-something and his roommate and seeing their new digs. This outing for barbecue had been planned for weeks, anticipated with relish, and didn’t disappoint. But after all, we knew what to expect after our first visit there a few years ago; this time we tried the other location next to my kiddo’s place, which offers every bit the exceptional culinary experience as its counterpart.
Our young friends humored us the next day and agreed to some time tooling around in Biltmore Village, where we shopped a little, and then explored the campus of All Souls, the Episcopal Cathedral there, an exquisite church conceived and funded by George Vanderbilt, designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt (who also designed Biltmore House), and completed in 1896; today it remains the anchor of the Village. I’ve never attended a service nor been inside, will someday. It was an exquisite afternoon and allowed me to assuage my unrequited inner architect.
Thence to Asheville’s edgy River Arts District, for a little break at a coffee shop and more exploring; my kiddo suggested this neighborhood and it was a good call. We didn’t go inside any of the galleries, but my camera lens managed to capture a little bit of the old and industrial that remains untouched and thrives cheek to jowl with the new commerce in the area.
While we observed the ducks a man sitting nearby held a small dog on his lap and waved and smiled and so we waved and smiled right back, and then he asked my kid whether he wanted to know more about Jesus. We were hot and tired by then and so that seemed a perfect cue for us to scoot on home, where this surprise greeted us right outside the fellas’ condominium:
Our visit also included a yummy lunch of lamb, rice, and vegetables served with pita the two of them prepared for us, and later on an exquisite dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant. We also caught up with one of David’s chef friends from way, way back, who lives with his family in Asheville, which was so enjoyable. But our time there was too short, our vacation was way too short, and we were possibly a bit too preoccupied. And that is the way things go when you’re about to whap a great big ‘ole reset button as we are. Our Vermont listing is live, the house has been shown five times already, and we are now knee deep in the process of sorting, washing, and packing our worldly possessions, again, and designating the balance for tossing, donating, or tag-sale-ing. As I mentioned to somebody yesterday, the dominoes have commenced falling.
In less than two months we’ll call ourselves residents of Wilmington, North Carolina. And maybe it’ll be time for me to rethink this blog, or start another one on new, sandier soil.