Mountain Xpress 12.09.20

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DEC. 9-15, 2020




10 KEEP ON TICKING Local preservationists look to the future

16 COVID VACCINES COMING SOON Locals take part in late-stage trial




18 GREEN ROUNDUP Ecusta Trail takes step forward; NC Arboretum launches birdwatching activities for kids; more

PAGE 6 COLLISION COURSE As Buncombe County’s population grows, the question of how to manage that growth becomes increasingly urgent — and a new Board of Commissioners seems likely to put a new county land use plan at the top of its agenda. Meanwhile, a successful effort to save the Enka clock tower highlights how locals are emphasizing historic preservation amid development pressures. COVER PHOTO Matt Henson COVER DESIGN Scott Southwick 4 LETTERS 4 CARTOON: MOLTON

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STAFF PUBLISHER: Jeff Fobes ASSISTANT TO THE PUBLISHER: Susan Hutchinson MANAGING EDITOR: Virginia Daffron OPINION EDITOR: Tracy Rose ASSISTANT EDITOR: Daniel Walton STAFF REPORTERS: Able Allen, Edwin Arnaudin, Thomas Calder, Laura Hackett, Molly Horak, Daniel Walton COMMUNITY CALENDAR & CLUBLAND: Madeline Forwerck MOVIE SECTION HOSTS: Edwin Arnaudin, Bruce Steele CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Peter Gregutt, Rob Mikulak REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS: Mark Barrett, Leslie Boyd, Bill Kopp, Cindy Kunst, Alli Marshall, Gina Smith, Kay West ADVERTISING, ART & DESIGN MANAGER: Susan Hutchinson LEAD DESIGNER: Scott Southwick GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Olivia Urban MEMBERSHIP AND DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR: Laura Hackett MARKETING ASSOCIATES: Sara Brecht, David Furr, Tiffany Wagner OPERATIONS MANAGER: Able Allen INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES & WEB: Bowman Kelley BOOKKEEPER: Amie Fowler-Tanner ADMINISTRATION, BILLING, HR: Able Allen DISTRIBUTION: Susan Hutchinson, Cindy Kunst DISTRIBUTION DRIVERS: Gary Alston, Tracy Houston, Henry Mitchell, Tiffany Narron, Kelley Quigley, Angelo Santa Maria, Carl & Debbie Schweiger



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Xpress seeks student art, writing for 2021 Kids Issue Attention, local kids and teens: Have you ever had a great idea you wanted to share with your friends and family — maybe even the entire world? Or maybe your great idea is just waiting to hatch. If so, here’s your chance to shine. For our 2021 Kids Issue, the theme is “My Great Idea.” Each March, Mountain Xpress publishes the creative and colorful work of Western North Carolina’s K-12 students. There is no fee to enter for possible publication, and the deadline for submissions is Friday, Jan. 29.


Students, here’s a way to get started. Think about some of the great ideas people have had over the years. For example: the invention of the telephone, the idea that everyone should be treated equally — or even the creation of the potato chip. What great idea do you have that might make life better for you and the people you know? Imagine how it would work and what you might need to put your idea into action. Are there any obstacles you’d have to overcome? How would you do it? Create art or writing to share your great idea.


Educators, parents and students, please send us the best work in the following categories: • Essays Essays should be no more than 350 words (though some exceptions can be made). Typed entries are encouraged. • Short fiction Fiction should be no more than 350 words (though some exceptions can be made). Typed entries are encouraged. • Poems Short-form poetry is preferred, with poems limited to a maximum of 30 lines. Typed submissions are encouraged. 4

DEC. 9-15, 2020

MY GREAT IDEA: It’s time for local K-12 students to create art and writing for possible publication in the 2021 Mountain Xpress Kids Issue. Deadline is Friday, Jan. 29. Photo by Getty Images • Art Art should be digitally photographed or be able to be photographed by Mountain Xpress. Photos of sculptures or models are also permissible. Artists’ statements are welcome. • Photos Photos should be high-resolution, digital photos between 200 KB and 6 MB (cellphone setting of “medium” size). Artists’ statements are welcome. • Deadline The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, to be considered for publication in Xpress’ March Kids Issue. Sorry, we cannot accept late entries this year. • Submit your work A link will be posted at mountainx. com to upload student work. • Returns Mailed or hand-delivered pieces may be picked up after the issue publishes, though Xpress cannot be responsible for their return. • Questions? Email Xpress editor Tracy Rose at We can’t wait to see what local kids and teens have to share!


— Tracy Rose  X


Public was sold out on Raytheon deal [On Nov. 17], the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the siting of an aerospace manufacturing facility on undeveloped forestland near Biltmore Park. Commissioners saw this as an economic boon to our community, as it will bring in an estimated 800 well-paying jobs. They even agreed to give Pratt & Whitney a $27 million tax incentive to locate here. At the meeting, commissioners asked no questions of the P&W representative. During the public comment period, over [20] speakers called in, all but [one] opposed the agreement for a variety of reasons, both humanitarian and environmental. Pratt & Whitney is a division of Raytheon Technologies, the third-largest military contractor in the world. Raytheon is the world’s top manufacturer of guided missiles and a leader in missile defense systems. In 2017, its sales were $23.9 billion. Its portfolio includes the Patriot missile system ( Raytheon has profited from selling military hardware to Saudi Arabia, which has been engaged in a bombardment of the country of Yemen that is so brutal, it is considered the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world. No questions were asked by the commissioners about how P&W products are used or their effects. No questions or information were given on the environmental effects on our

local land, air and water of locating such a plant here. In fact, the representative was painting a picture that P&W was a “green” company. P&W plant sites in Connecticut and Florida have created toxic waste sites. Apparently, this deal has been in the works for 15 months, but the public only learned of it in the last few weeks. The public comment period ultimately proved to be a charade, as our comments of concern did not motivate any of the commissioners to ask the P&W representative to address them. Clearly, this was a done deal, and the public was only let in on it after the decision was made. The unanimous vote confirmed that for me. Three commissioners stated that they had twinges of conscience about approving this deal with a leader in the U.S. war machine but felt the benefits to our area superseded those concerns. As a citizen of this area for over 43 years and a lifelong justice and peace advocate, I believe we have been sold out, perhaps similarly to how Judas sold out Jesus for a “few pieces of silver.” There are other options for providing economic betterment to the people of our region, ones that are not complicit in death and destruction. That tax incentive could have been used to bring industries to our area that are truly green and sustainable. But alas, Raytheon got here first. — Anne Craig Asheville




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DEC. 9-15, 2020



Best laid plans

New Commission to tackle county land use

BY DANIEL WALTON The intersection of Patton Avenue and New Leicester Highway in West Asheville goes by many names. Area drivers call it a headache, a pain or a snafu. In 2017, a Chicago law firm called it the most dangerous intersection in North Carolina. And urban planner Joe Minicozzi, principal of Asheville’s Urban3, calls it a “crappy suburban traffic vomitorium.” Similar snarls of multilane roadway, high traffic and sprawl mark many of Buncombe County’s major corridors. As the county’s population has grown by nearly 55,000 people since 2000, an increase of more than a quarter, businesses and housing have spread out from the city core of Asheville along roads such as Smokey Park Highway and Merrimon Avenue. “If you don’t plan for it, what usually happens is you get this kind of ooze of sprawl that you see all along Hendersonville Road on the south side, or what’s already happening on the west side in Candler,” Minicozzi offers as further examples of the trend. “Growth is happening, but it’s not coordinated.” County residents have taken notice, says Terri Wells. During the Democrat’s winning campaign to take a District 1 seat on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, she explains, land use planning was top of voters’ minds. “People are concerned about farm conservation, affordable housing, transportation and overall quality of life in our county,” Wells says of the residents she will represent in the county’s northwest. “Folks in Leicester have made it clear to me that they don’t

O PAVED CAN YOU SEE: The intersection of Patton Avenue and New Leicester Highway, which brings together over 20 lanes of traffic, was named the most dangerous intersection in North Carolina in 2017. Photo by Matt Henson want Leicester Highway to become like Hendersonville Road.” Buncombe government’s approach to all of these issues is anchored in its land use plan, a nearly 200-page document first approved in 1998 and last updated in 2013. In March, county staff had recommended that commissioners develop an entirely new plan in response to more than two decades of growth; although the board unanimously voted in favor, its members then cut a $400,000 allocation for the effort from the fiscal year 2020-21 budget in anticipation of pandemic-related revenue shortfalls.



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But with the new board that was sworn in on Dec. 7, a new land use plan is back on the agenda. Led by Chair Brownie Newman, the board includes six Democrats, the most since the body was expanded to seven members in 2012. On election night, Newman said that majority gave commissioners a mandate to pursue policies “that represent the goals and values of the community,” with land use among his top three priorities.


Democrat Parker Sloan, newly elected to represent District 3 in Buncombe’s southwest, suggests that the most effective land use planning may seem like a paradox. To protect the historically rural character of the county’s outlying areas, he says, officials need to adopt an “urban planning mindset.” Without policies and zoning maps that encourage density near major transportation routes, Sloan explains, Buncombe will incur “random and sprawling development, most of which is not affordable to most residents.” While he doesn’t flag any specific projects as emblematic of that sprawl, several recently approved or proposed housing developments — including the 687-unit The Farm at Pond Road — have been slated for undeveloped land along two-lane county roads.

To ensure that denser development remains affordable, Sloan favors the adoption of mandatory inclusionary zoning. Such a policy, which isn’t explicitly allowed by state law but has previously been enacted by North Carolina cities such as Chapel Hill and Davidson, would require all new housing developments to reserve some units for low- or moderate-income residents. He also emphasizes the role of pedestrian, bike and bus travel in reducing the strain on roads that might otherwise result from density. “While it’s true that we could make more progress, faster, if we had proactive, progressive support from the state government, there are a lot of land use policy decisions we can make that can make it more affordable for people to live and work in Buncombe County,” says Sloan, who served on the Buncombe County Planning Board before his election to the commission. At the same time as Buncombe builds up its major corridors, Wells adds, the county must work directly to preserve rural regions. As the director of community and agricultural programs for nonprofit WNC Communities, she says, she’s particularly attuned to farmland conservation in places such as Sandy Mush and Alexander. As previously reported by Xpress (see “Cultivating the future,” Sept. 23), Wells helped revise the county’s Farmland Protection Plan earlier this year while serving as vice chair of the Buncombe County Agricultural Advisory Board. She supports greater county funding for conservation easements, which prevent development on land in exchange for tax breaks, as well as outreach and education to area farmers. Beyond those proposals, Wells is waiting to suggest specific policy interventions until the county has gathered more input. “It is imperative that we have a community-based process as we update our comprehensive land use plan,” she says. “We need to have a clear understanding of the wants and needs of our community members and our various communities.”


In several respects, the board will be playing catch-up as it revises Buncombe’s approach to land use. After the county finished its 2013 land use plan update, explains Planning and Development Director Nathan Pennington, the N.C. General Assembly stripped the power of extraterritorial jurisdiction from

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OPEN 11:30 am - 3:30 pm 4:30 pm - 10 pm Open Until 11 pm Fri. & Sat. LAYING IT OUT: Nathan Pennington, Buncombe County’s planning and development director, shows off some of the documents he regularly consults when advising the county on land use. Photo by Daniel Walton Asheville and Weaverville. That made Buncombe responsible for zoning in the rapidly urbanizing 1-mile radius around those municipalities, a need the plan hadn’t considered in detail. And a 2012 state law sponsored by former Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, had removed cities’ ability to involuntarily annex adjacent areas. Due to the state’s Sullivan Act, Pennington continues, Asheville is the only city in North Carolina forbidden from charging higher water rates to customers outside its municipal limits, so officials have few ways to incentivize voluntary annexation. Therefore, the county will likely have to manage growth on Asheville’s fringes for the foreseeable future. “That was kind of a double whammy, if you will, in terms of how urban areas grew,” Pennington says. “This county has not historically been in the business of having to think about sidewalks or other urban amenities.” In the slightly more distant past, the majority of Buncombe residents were opposed to the concept of zoning altogether. A nonbinding referendum conducted in 1999 saw 55% of voters inveigh against the imposition of countywide zoning regulations. Jim Coman, a former county zoning administrator, served in that role as the commission debated its first countywide zoning rules in the late 2000s. He says that officials, mindful of potential pushback, chose to create meaningful zoning districts only in areas served by water and sewer lines. Most of the county’s outlying areas were zoned as open use — “which is very, very similar to saying anything goes” — a decision that he says went against his profession’s best practices.

“There is still a lot of impact in the county from the lack of serious zoning,” Coman explains. “One of the prime examples is Dollar General stores: They do pop up in areas of the county that are 90% residential, and the people really resent it. Any kind of use that has any amount of noise or light impacting the neighbors is usually an unwanted use.” While residents opposed to zoning were fearful that it would impinge on their rights to use and enjoy their properties, Coman continues, he argues that more regulation could have better preserved their quality of life. “[Zoning] puts restrictions only on the things that just about everyone in the community would say, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not something that should be located here,’” he says.


Even in areas with open use zoning, the county still exerts some influence through the Board of Adjustment. The volunteer body, appointed by the elected commissioners, must grant conditional permits for certain high-intensity uses such as concrete plants, hazardous waste facilities and large apartment developments. The board uses a quasi-judicial process, in which members serve as a de facto jury and residents opposing a development must meet strict standards of testimony. Over the past year, that’s led to frustration among some community members, who have felt cut out of decisions about major new projects. “The process is terrible. It’s confusing and expensive and unjustly favors


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NE W S the developers who have the time and money to engage their team of engineers and attorneys to carry out the work in their regular course of business,” says Kate Millar, president of the Malvern Hills Neighborhood Association, which has led opposition to a 660-unit housing development proposed for South Bear Creek Road just outside of Asheville city limits. “Meanwhile, Buncombe citizens are left trying to figure out the convoluted process and how to engage with it, often with only days until a hearing is scheduled to take place.” While Pennington emphasizes that any changes to Buncombe’s approval process should result from a community conversation, he notes that other municipalities and urbanizing counties throughout North Carolina are abandoning quasi-judicial hearings in favor of conditional zoning. Under that process, the elected Board of Commissioners would evaluate big projects and could consider all community input, not just sworn testimony from development experts. “Developers may have concerns about that because you’re adding two months to their project timeline,” Pennington notes. “But on the public side, you might feel like you’re being heard and have the ability to communicate more.” Wells did not respond to a question regarding her thoughts on the quasi-judicial process. But Sloan said he’d recommend conditional zoning to his fellow commissioners. “I believe it is incumbent on the county to use every tool it has to promote sustainable growth, manage expensive sprawl, protect our environment, meet housing demand, and provide for adequate public input,” he said.


Further complicating Buncombe’s land use planning is the county’s lack of control over roads. Unlike in states such as California and New York, Coman notes, all road construction in North Carolina is handled by the state Department of Transportation, cities or private developers, so county officials can’t directly decide how those paths are laid out. Without intentional road design, says Urban3’s Minicozzi, even parts of the county that have all the elements for compact development can succumb to a feeling of sprawl. He points to an area surrounding the intersection of New Leicester Highway and Mount Carmel Road: Within a few thousand feet of each other sit several multifamily housing developments, an Ingles supermarket, the Clyde A. Erwin High School complex and several restaurants, banks and small 8

DEC. 9-15, 2020


businesses. But many of those buildings sit on their own disconnected loops of road, and sidewalks are nowhere to be seen, making a car trip on busy New Leicester the most convenient way to get from one part of the area to another. “If you’re not connecting these blood vessels, what ends up happening is the aorta does all the work,” Minicozzi offers by way of analogy. “You can’t just have an aorta: You need to have veins. You need to have capillaries. That’s where the county’s in an awkward position.” Coman acknowledges that Buncombe has limited capacity to fix such problems. But he suggests that, through more aggressive zoning restrictions in developing areas, the county could keep existing roads from becoming overwhelmed with traffic from intensive uses. Greater zoning specificity, he adds, would also give the NCDOT better insight into where future needs might arise. “The DOT has to react to what happens in the county; the DOT can’t do road planning based on nothing at all,” Coman explains, noting that Buncombe’s large open use areas give little guidance about what future roads will be required. “I know some DOT officials who are very upset about the way things are allowed on just any kind of a road.” Buncombe County does engage with the DOT through the Community Transportation Advisory Board, Pennington says, as well as its membership on the Land of Sky Regional Council and French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization. And in the future, the county will seek to take advantage of the DOT’s Complete Streets Policy, which requires the state to build sidewalks and bike lanes that have been formally adopted in a local government plan when conducting road projects.


Pennington expects Buncombe’s upcoming land use plan to be critical for accommodating the county’s continued expansion. But he doesn’t anticipate that developing it will be easy. “One of the toughest conversations we’re going to have to have is what are the future growth areas, because that’s obviously the most controversial. If you build it, they will come,” Pennington says. “It’s tough to have because there are a number of founded concerns, and then there are a number of concerns amongst folks that just don’t want to see any more growth.” A strict anti-growth mentality, however, may fail to recognize Western North Carolina’s momentum as a draw for newcomers. Asheville was recently named the country’s seventh-best place to retire by, the latest in a litany of top-10 press honors. Visitors who first come to the area as tourists — Pennington calls Buncombe the “gateway community” for WNC — often find themselves wanting to live in the county. And the mountains offer a perceived haven for many coastal dwellers threatened by climate-driven extreme weather and higher tides. Coman, himself a Buncombe native, hopes that the decades of growth since county residents were last polled about zoning will have made land use regulation more palatable. Commissioners, he says, need to avoid a “smoke-and-mirrors show” with their new land use plan and consider serious changes. “Planning is constructive cooperation with the inevitable,” Coman continues. “And ‘inevitable’ boils down to what the community itself and the government and everyone involved thinks is inevitable.” X

Get a grip on development The Buncombe County Planning Department recently unveiled an online development tracker, available at Residents can search within a defined radius of any address to see all projects that are currently scheduled to go before the county Planning Board or Board of Adjustment. Each project’s webpage is updated with all relevant application documents and maps. The following major residential developments were scheduled to go before county officials for consideration as of press time: • 660 units, 20 S. Bear Creek, Board of Adjustment on Wednesday, Dec. 9 • 116 units, Enclave Phase II, Board of Adjustment on Wednesday, Dec. 9 • 72 lots, Rydele Heights, Planning Board on Monday, Dec. 21 • 18 lots, Woodland Trace, Planning Board TBD Major developments that have been approved over the past year include the following: • 180 units, Enka Main Street, Board of Adjustment on Nov. 18 • 852 units, Busbee, Board of Adjustment on Nov. 5 • 687 units, The Farm at Pond Road, Board of Adjustment on July 8 X



DEC. 9-15, 2020



Keep on ticking

Local preservationists look to the future

BY THOMAS CALDER For decades, workers set their watches by the clock tower that now looms over a vacant lot in Enka. As the last remaining building of the former American Enka Co., a rayon fiber manufacturer that opened in Asheville in the late 1920s and kept thousands employed through the Great Depression, the 139-foot structure now symbolizes the community’s industrial history. But in recent weeks — after an ad hoc group of concerned citizens petitioned against plans to raze the clock tower as part of a construction project by Greensboro-based Samet Co. — the edifice has taken on even greater meaning to many local historians, preservationists and community members: a win for recognition of the past in the face of present development. In a Nov. 25 press release, Brian Hall, director of development for Samet Co., stated that the clock tower would be incorporated into revised plans for the project. “All parties involved in the development of this area recognize the historic role the monument plays in Asheville’s history, and we would like the tower to stand for generations to come,” Hall declared. Amid the region’s booming real estate market, says Anne Chesky Smith, executive director of the Western North Carolina Historical Association, the effort to preserve the tower exemplifies how other local groups might organize when similar iconic structures or neighborhoods come under threat. Those leading the Enka charge solicited support not only from historical organizations, she points out, but also community members with deep connections to the former plant –– a strategy that ultimately


DEC. 9-15, 2020

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’: The Enka clock tower has stood for 92 years. When recent development plans sought to raze the structure, nearly 4,000 community members signed a petition against the measure. Photo by Thomas Calder paid off. “There is certainly strength in numbers,” Chesky Smith says of the nearly 4,000 signatures gathered in two weeks to protest the tower’s demolition.


Katherine Cutshall, collections manager for the North Carolina Room at Pack Memorial Library, notes that preservation is part of the way area residents define themselves. “The most important thing for developers to hear is what the community thinks about a given historical property,” she says. “Preservation and interpretation of historic properties and landmarks are ways that we as a culture reveal to outsiders what is most important to us.” The process for determining significant structures, continues Cutshall, needs to be ongoing. She suggests a regular survey of the community to identify unregistered historical properties and understand why those structures are viewed as important. That outreach is particularly crucial in the county’s rural areas, which Cutshall says often get overlooked for preservation efforts. Significant barns, springhouses


and other community structures become vulnerable to demolition as developers spread beyond Asheville’s urban core. Cutshall references the Sandy Mush High School building, which operates today as the Sandy Mush Community Center, as one such example. Though it lacks the prestige of a Richard Sharp Smith-designed mansion, the building still warrants preservation, she opines, because “it serves as an important community gathering place … for Sandy Mush and Leicester residents.” A similar dynamic is true for many less affluent neighborhoods within city limits, says Jessie Landl, executive director of the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County. Looking ahead, she’s especially concerned about the future of the Shiloh community, a historically Black neighborhood in South Asheville established in the 1880s. “There is some really special architecture in that neighborhood,” she says. “But I think we’re going to start seeing some serious development pressure there as well.”


Beyond the Preservation Society, Landl and other public historians are quick to note the Western Office of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources and the joint city-county Historic Resources Commission as major assets to the area’s local preservation efforts. But what’s missing, says Cutshall, are opportunities for greater collaboration within the field. “Right now, there is no group of local historians and preservationists that meets regularly to discuss what projects we’re all working on,” she says. A monthly exchange among organizations, she believes, could help anticipate — or de-escalate — potential threats to historic structures. Both Cutshall and Chesky Smith agree historians should do more than document the past: Public engagement and community service are essential. “It is important for historians to be present on city and county boards that make the decisions about how development occurs,” Chesky Smith says.




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PAST IS PROLOGUE: “I do think it is important that we know and consider where we’ve been as we consider where we are heading,” says Anne Chesky Smith, executive director of the Western North Carolina Historical Association. “Historians can help developers do that.” Photo by Thomas Calder That doesn’t always mean advocating for a historic structure to stay. Cutshall, along with archivist Elizabeth Harper, were among the 12 individuals selected to the Vance Monument Task Force. Both voted in the majority in the 11-1 decision

to remove the monument after 12 weeks of reviewing written public comments and participating in two virtual town hall sessions. “I voted on behalf of an overwhelming majority of commenters as well as my own personal convictions,” Cutshall explains. The monument’s construction, she explains, was the unilateral decision of George Pack, a lumber tycoon who arrived in Asheville in 1884, who donated the land that now makes up Pack Square to the city of Asheville near the turn of the 20th century. “Now we, as a community, have had this opportunity to reach a conclusion together, and I think that’s really the most important and impactful part of this decision,” Cutshall notes.


Within the private sector, however, historians are not often consulted, opening the door for ill-informed and controversial decisions. “My guess is that the developers who planned to raze the clock tower had no idea that it was of historical significance to residents,” says Cutshall. (Samet Co. representatives did not respond to a request for comment beyond their Nov. 25 press release.)

OUTSIDE CITY LIMITS: Too often, says Katherine Cutshall, collections manager for the North Carolina Room at Pack Memorial Library, rural communities get overlooked for preservation efforts. Photo courtesy of Cutshall At the Preservation Society, Landl regularly works to foster partnerships between her organization and developers. Unfortunately, she notes, it’s not always easy to get someone to return her phone calls. “It can be really challenging because they’re not invested in the community the

way we are,” she explains of developers from beyond WNC. “But I think that there are opportunities to educate developers coming in from out of town.” That education itself, emphasizes author David Whisnant, needs to be specific. “It seems to me there are aspects of Asheville’s history that have not been adequately dealt with,” he says. Workingclass, industrial and Black history are among the major topics that demand further research, he believes. “If those sectors of history can be foregrounded more often and be factored in as standard features of the larger history, then I think people will be alert to the needs for more grounded and more particularized discussions,” Whisnant continues, which in turn might lead developers to design more sophisticated and culturally attuned plans. Taking matters into his own hands, Whisnant is currently working on a written history of the Enka plant — highlighting both the company’s achievements and its shortcomings in the areas of race relations, gender equality and the environment. Whisnant, who grew up in the American Enka mill village in the 1940s, plans to publish his research on his blog, Asheville Junction, in the coming weeks.


Local experts acknowledge that a complex balance exists between preservation and progress. “We should know that it is impossible to save every historic structure in Buncombe County and Western North Carolina,” notes Cutshall. But there are benefits to saving what can be saved –– whether it’s a clock tower, a row of historic homes or a farmhouse. “While there will always be a need to build new structures, adaptively reusing existing structures — especially historic structures — creates, maintains and builds a sense of community,” explains Chesky Smith. “Not only does reuse … reduce our environmental impact, but these historic structures often feature elements that we can’t replicate anymore for a variety of reasons. In some cases, like homes that were built with American chestnut, the materials simply don’t exist anymore.” But ultimately, argues Cutshall, preservation decisions must come from the community itself, as happened with the Enka tower. “Together, ‘the public’ is a multitude of voices that will shape our historical memory,” she says. “So they should always have a say in the physical representations of that memory.” X




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Slow Art Friday: Women in a Material World Discussion led by touring docents Sylvie Horvath and Michelle Weitzman Dorf at Asheville Art Museum. FR (12/18), 12pm, Registration required, $10,

Thursday Night Live: Michael John Jazz In-gallery performance. TH (12/10), 6pm, Included with admission, Asheville Art Museum, 2 S Pack Square Womansong Reimagined Choir concert. TH (12/10), 7pm, Registration required, Free, Moogseum Tour: Exploring the Moog Modular Prototype Hosted by Michelle Moog-Koussa and Herb Deutsch. SU (12/13), 2pm, Registration required, $5-$100, Asheville Music School: Home for the Holidays Featuring Agent 23 Skidoo, Jonathan Scales, Free Planet Radio and more. TH (12/17), 6:30pm, Registration required, Free,

LITERARY Firestorm: Stay Home & Write(rs) Group




Journeymen supports adolescent boys on their paths to becoming men of integrity. Our cost-free program is now enrolling young men 12-17. Mentees participate in bi-weekly mentoring groups and a semi-annual Rites of Passage Adventure Weekend facilitated by men in the community.

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Community writing session. WE (12/9), 7pm, Registration required, Free, Malaprop's Author Discussion Andrés de la Casa-Huertas presents Reading Quirks. WE (12/9), 7pm, Registration required, YMI: Black Experience Book Club The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. TH (12/10), 6:30pm, Registration required, Free, Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award Celebration Recognition of finalists, hosted by Western North Carolina Historical Association. WE (12/16), 6pm, Registration required, $10, Notorious HBC (History Book Club) Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. TH (12/17), 7pm, Registration required, Free,

BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY Incredible Towns Business Network General meeting. WE (12/9), 11am, Registration required, Free, Deep Dive Lab: Craft a Speech Worth Sharing Western Women's Business Center webinar with Barrie Barton of Stand and Deliver. TH (12/10), 10am, Registration required, Free, Asheville Metro Economy Outlook Annual forecast and insights by economist Dr. James F. Smith. TH (12/10), 11:30am, Registration required, $35, Mountain BizWorks Orientation

Info session on lending and learning opportunities. FR (12/11), 10am, Registration required, Free, Creative Hub Studios: Disruptors Lunch Break Presentation and networking. TU (12/15), 11am, Free, Creative Hub Studios, 124 College St Young Professionals of Henderson County Networking social. TU (12/15), 5:30pm, Dry Falls Brewing, 425 Kanuga Rd, Hendersonville AFP: Donor-Centered Prospect Development The ethics of data privacy when prospecting, presented by T. Clay Buck and Ryan Woroniecki. WE (12/16), 11:30am, Registration required, $15,

CLASSES, MEETINGS & EVENTS Spanish Conversation Group For adult language learners. TH (12/17), 5pm, Free, Asheville Friends of Astrology Monthly meeting. FR (12/18), 7pm, ashevilleastrology

ECO ForestHer NC: Human Wildlife Interactions & Identifying Wildlife Webinar led by NC Wildlife Resources Commission. TH (12/10), 1pm, Registration required, Free, Hendersonville Green Drinks: Recycling What can and can't be recycled and why, presented by Christine Wittmeier. TH (12/10), 6pm, Registration required, Free,

ForestHer NC: Making Money on the Farm Women's land stewardship program led by Audubon conservation biologist Aimee Tomcho. FR (12/11), 2pm, Registration required, Free,

KIDS Miss Malaprop's Storytime Ages 3-9. WE (12/9), 10am, Free, Singing Creek Book Signing Featuring author Morgan Simmons and illustrator Don Wood, hosted by Great Smoky Mountains Association. TH (12/10), 4pm, Registration required, Free, Mills River Santa Tour Map of Santa’s stops: SA (12/12), 10am, Mills River How to Use a Compass Ages 10 and older. Register: WE (12/16), 1pm, Free, Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, 1401 Fish Hatchery Rd, Pisgah Forest

OUTDOORS Hemlock Restoration Initiative Hike-andTreat Educational hike and volunteer treatment day. Register: WE (12/9), 10am, Free, DuPont State Recreational Forest, Hendersonville Primitive Outdoor Skills for Families Ages 8 and older. Register: TH (12/10), 1pm, Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, 1401 Fish Hatchery Rd, Pisgah Forest Adopt-a-Highway Cleanup & Hike Hosted by Conserving Carolina. Register: SA (12/12), 10am-2pm, S Mills Gap Rd, Fruitland

WELLNESS Adult Eating Disorder Support Group Hosted by Carolina Resource Center for Eating Disorders. WE (12/9), 6pm, Registration required, Free, Homeplace Running Club Led by Raelin Reynolds. WE (12/9), 6pm, Free, Homeplace Beer, 6 S Main St, Burnsville

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DEC. 9-15, 2020


MountainCare: Coping with the Holidays Grief management workshop.

WE (12/9), 6pm, Registration required, $25, Tapping Into Serenity Emotional freedom technique session led by Nancy Allen of Recipe for Serenity. TH (12/10), 4pm, Registration required, Free, Steady Collective Syringe Access Outreach Free educational material, naloxone, syringes and supplies. TU (12/15), 2pm, Firestorm Books, 610 Haywood Rd

SPIRITUALITY Spiritual Care during COVID-19 Small group session with Pastor Ken. WE (12/9), 3pm, Registration required, Free, Grace Lutheran Church, 1245 6 Ave W, Hendersonville Jewish Power Hour Hosted by Rabbi Susskind. TH (12/10), 6pm, Free, zoom Groce UMC: A Course in Miracles Group Study Register to get Zoom link: 828-712-5472. MO (12/14), 6:30pm, Free

VOLUNTEERING Lake Logan Volunteer Thursday Maintenance, kitchen and office assistance. Register: brice@ TH (12/10), 9am, Lake Logan, 25 Wormy Chestnut Ln, Canton Conserving Carolina: Kudzu Warriors Invasive plant management. Register: MO (12/14), 9am, Norman Wilder Forest, US-176, Tryon Conserving Carolina: Rock Crushers Trail building and maintenance. Register: WE (12/16), 9:30am, Hickory Nut Gorge, Gerton Hemlock Volunteer Work Day w/ Forest Restoration Alliance Assistance with hemlock treatment and selective breeding program. Register: WE (12/16), 10am, Free, Mountain Research Station, 265 Test Farm Rd, Waynesville

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DEC. 9-15, 2020



COVID vaccines coming soon Locals take part in late-stage trial


in fact, received the vaccine. Tests on two friends who did the study with her were negative. In September, Denson got the second shot, which left her a little more sore and tired, but once again she felt better within a day. “I feel confident I got the real vaccine, but I’m still taking precautions,” she says, pointing to the potential for resuming more normal activities after the vaccine has reached a significant percentage of the population, which could happen by early summer 2021. “It’s sad to miss Thanksgiving but, c’mon, we’re six months away. Let’s skip this singular year so we can have dozens more holiday seasons.” As the pharmaceutical company Moderna seeks final approval for its COVID-19 vaccine, Kelly Denson is proud to be one of the people who helped make it happen. “A friend mentioned that the vaccine makers were looking for volunteers while we were social distancing, and I went down the rabbit hole of research,” says Denson, 41, who co-owns Skylark Realty. At that point, the vaccine was in the final round of testing, having already been through two smaller trials gauging its safety and effectiveness. The late-stage trial involved some 30,000 participants. The next step for Moderna as well as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, which also have promising vaccines in the works, is seeking an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, en route to full approval for widespread distribution. All three vaccines need two doses to be effective. “Phase 3 trials have a lot of safety precautions, and by the time we get to that, we know the vaccine is safe, and it is at least somewhat effective,” says Dr. Susan Mims, a physician who also has a master’s degree in public health. On Dec. 1, Mims was named interim CEO of the Dogwood Health Trust; she previously chaired the Department of Community and Public Health at Mountain Area Health Education Center.

EXPERIMENTAL TRIO: Kelly Denson, left, and friends Richard Brownstein and Melissa Reardon participated in the late-stage trial for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Roddy Wilder

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In drug trials, she explains, “The first two phases are small scale. Phase 1 will have just a few people, perhaps dozens. Phase 2 usually has several hundred people. By the time you get to Phase 3 ... you’re looking to see how it works in a wide, diverse group of people.” After spending several hours researching vaccine trials, Denson concluded that the Phase 3 test would be safe enough for her to participate. On Aug. 19, she drove to the test site in Spartanburg, S.C., and got the


first shot. Since it was a double-blind study, no one knew which participants actually received the vaccine, so Denson had to wait to find out whether she’d develop antibodies. A prior test had found none, meaning she hadn’t had COVID-19. After the shot, her arm was sore and she felt a little tired and achy, she says, but she was better by the next morning. Ten days later, Denson went to LabCorp for a $10 antibody test. It came back positive, meaning she had,


Although all three vaccines appear to work, there are differences that could affect distribution. Pfizer’s product needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, and Moderna’s at minus 20 Celsius. AstraZeneca’s vaccine, though slightly behind the other two in its development, is less expensive to produce and poses fewer logistical challenges, since it can be stored in conventional refrigeration units rather than specialized supercold freezers. But AstraZeneca’s late-stage trial showed an interesting blip: The vaccine was less than 70% effective when two full doses were administered, but when the first shot was mistakenly given as a half dose followed by a full dose the second time, the effectiveness rate exceeded 90%. That’s just one more mystery in dealing with a virus we still know so little about, says Mims. Another key question is how long each vaccine might convey immunity. “We know that viruses can mutate, which is why we need to get a flu shot every year, and we don’t know whether that will be true for COVID,” she explains. “This is a new, or novel, virus.” Right now, it looks as though the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will reach the market first, with emergency use authorization expected for at least one of them later this month. Once that happens, however, there’ll be questions about how the vaccines

“I feel confident I got the real vaccine, but I’m still taking precautions.” — Moderna vaccine trial participant Kelly Denson will be distributed and who gets them when, Mims points out. At a Dec. 1 press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper said the state will probably start getting the Pfizer vaccine later this month. The initial shipment is expected to be about 85,000 doses, with a similar amount of the Moderna vaccine to follow soon after. All of this is conditional on prompt FDA approval. As production ramps up, the state expects to receive weekly shipments of as-yet-unknown quantities of the vaccines. At the same press conference, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the first doses will be given to hospital, health care and long-term care workers. Those with two or more chronic conditions will be next, probably beginning sometime in January. As supplies increase, the vaccines will be made available to residents in long-term care, people over age 65 and others. Eventually, additional vaccines may be approved that could be better suited to specific populations, notes Mims. And whichever one people receive, they’ll have to go back for the second shot even if the first one leaves them feeling fatigued and achy. In Western North Carolina, health care providers will work together through the WNC Health Network to make the necessary decisions and optimize vaccine distribution, says spokesperson Adrienne Ammerman. Founded 25 years ago, the nonprofit works to improve communication and increase purchasing efficiency among the region’s hospitals and health systems.

“When a vaccine does become available, we’ll transition to vaccine communications,” says Ammerman. “The groundwork is already there, so we can be really effective in getting the word out.” In addition, she continues, the lines of communication are open between medical and public health professionals, which will facilitate quicker logistical decisions. Other concerns, though, might hinder those efforts. A newly released study by The Commonwealth Fund outlines potential obstacles to a successful national rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Citing data on both flu and H1N1 vaccination rates that “fell well below the 70% threshold that is believed to be necessary to reach herd immunity,” the study predicts that COVID vaccines will face similar challenges. Racial and cultural inequities are among the issues mentioned. Closer to home, skepticism about vaccines in general — and particularly those produced on such an accelerated schedule — could prove to be yet another factor. A High Point University poll released Dec. 3 found North Carolina residents sharply divided: 42% of respondents said they’d get vaccinated if a vaccine were available within the next 12 months; 31% said they wouldn’t, and the remaining 27% were unsure or didn’t answer the question. The percentages were similar for a vaccine released within the next six months. Meanwhile, Buncombe has consistently led all North Carolina counties in the number of schoolchildren whose parents claim a religious

exemption to avoid the required vaccinations (see “Rise in Immunization Exemptions Threatens Community Health, Doctors Say,” Feb. 10, 2019, Xpress). It isn’t clear to what extent those concerns might extend to a COVID vaccine. For her part, however, Denson harbors no such doubts. She posted on Facebook about her own experience, seeking to reassure folks who are skeptical about vaccines.

“I hope that in knowing that I have been given the vaccine and that it is safe and effective, it will give some of you a peace of mind that the future is bright and hopeful,” she wrote. “I look forward to hugging and dancing and live music and not wearing a mask and dinner parties and restaurants and so many things that make life the great joy that it is. And, friends, those things are not that far away. Don’t give up: Keep wearing your mask.” X


Among other things, the network helps hospitals and local government departments educate residents about health issues. The results of its studies, done every three years, are shared with all members, making it easier for providers in the most rural counties to obtain needed data. Meetings have continued online throughout the pandemic, and since March, the group has been coordinating an educational campaign in Haywood, Jackson, Graham, Transylvania and Henderson counties aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. MOUNTAINX.COM

DEC. 9-15, 2020


GREEN ROUNDUP by Daniel Walton |

Conserving Carolina under contract for Ecusta Trail A new 19-mile greenway between Hendersonville and Brevard is now on track — pun fully intended. On Nov. 18, nonprofit Conserving Carolina announced that it had entered a contract to buy an unused rail corridor between the two cities for conversion into the Ecusta Trail. Partners in the purchase include the N.C. Department of Transportation, which awarded Conserving Carolina a $6.4 million grant toward the trail; Henderson County, which extended a short-term loan for the nonprofit to cover the transaction; and the tourism authorities of both Henderson and Transylvania counties, which have committed occupancy taxes. The nonprofit Friends of the Ecusta Trail has been advocating for the project since 2009. Trail supporters, including state Sen. Chuck Edwards and retired Rep. Chuck McGrady, have suggested that the Ecusta would fill a similar niche as the Virginia Creeper Trail and Swamp Rabbit Trail, drawing running enthusiasts and bikers from throughout the area and creating economic activity. As previously reported by Xpress, it would also comprise a key east-west corridor


DEC. 9-15, 2020

of the proposed Hellbender Regional Trail, a web of Western North Carolina greenways stretching over 150 miles. (See “Chance in Hellbender,” Sept. 2.) Additional funding will still be needed to convert the railbed into a greenway. And because the purchase will take place under the federal railbanking program, the line could be restored to railroad use if an operator were to pay fair market value for the land. “We are excited to go down this path with the local community on this important rails to trails project,” said Laura McNichol, a spokesperson for the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad, which currently owns the corridor. “We look forward to the day this trail is up and running for each of the communities along the line to enjoy it in the years to come.”

NC Arboretum launches ecoEXPLORE bird-watching activities

Kids stuck at home during the coming pandemic winter have a fun way


THE PATH AHEAD: This railroad trestle in Etowah could be converted to serve pedestrians and cyclists as part of the 19-mile Ecusta Trail. Photo courtesy of Conserving Carolina to engage with the outdoors thanks to The N.C. Arboretum. As part of the arboretum’s ecoEXPLORE program, young bird-watchers can participate in Ornithology Season through Sunday, Feb. 8. Each week, arboretum staff will release a new “Bird Break” video that highlights a local avian species and gives details of its appearance, songs and habitat. Participants can then photograph birds in their own neighborhoods and complete educational challenges to earn ecoEXPLORE points, which they can redeem for prizes such as binoculars or a bird call. Photos from ecoEXPLORE are uploaded to iNaturalist, a citizen-science platform used by researchers to track the changing distribution of wildlife. At the close of Ornithology Season, UNC Asheville professor Andrew Laughlin will share a virtual presentation celebrating the participants’ contributions to knowledge about local birds. More information and registration are available at Other updates are available through

the ecoEXPLORE Instagram pages.



Hear ye, hear ye

• Asheville officials are seeking public input as they update the city’s greenway, accessibility and pedestrian plans. Two online surveys on the subject are open through Thursday, Dec. 31, at • Changes to the discharge permit for the wastewater treatment plant at Evergreen Packaging’s Canton paper mill, including elimination of some monitoring requirements for wastewater color, will be considered at a virtual hearing on Thursday, Jan. 21. Comments can also be emailed with “Blue Ridge Paper Products” in the subject line to publiccomments@ or mailed to the attention of Blue Ridge Paper Products Permit at 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699. More information at • Regulatory changes to hunting, fishing and game land use proposed

by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are up for public comment through Monday, Feb. 1. An online public hearing on the new rules is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 21. More information available at • The U.S. Forest Service is seeking comments on a proposal to construct an additional trail access to Graveyard Fields from the John Rock Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Comments may be submitted online at or mailed to the attention of Jeff Owenby at 1600 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768. • The Friends of DuPont Forest, a nonprofit supporting the Henderson and Transylvania county state for-

est, seeks volunteers to serve on its board beginning in April. More information and application information at

• Conserving Carolina opened a new 2-mile connector trail between Bearwallow Mountain and Wildcat Rock. The path is part of the nonprofit’s plan for the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail, a proposed network with over 130 miles of interlocking trails across Buncombe, Henderson, Polk and Rutherford counties. • Several Western North Carolina impoundments were recently stocked with surplus trout by the NCWRC to improve recreational fishing opportunities. A full list of stocked waters is available at • The National Park Service reminds visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway that sections of the road will be closed throughout the winter for scheduled maintenance and weather-related safety. A full list of locations and planned dates for closures is available at

LOOK OUT: Young ornithologists can earn prizes by bird-watching through The N.C. Arboretum’s ecoEXPLORE program. Photo courtesy of The N.C. Arboretum

Get out and see

Community kudos

• Asheville-based nonprofit EcoForesters honored the Pitillo family, including landowners Bruce and Teresa Pitillo, as EcoForesters of the Year for their work in forest stewardship. The city of Asheville’s watershed management team, led

CAST AWAY: The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission once again is stocking trout in select area reservoirs. Photo by Melissa McGaw, courtesy of NCWRC by Lee Hensley, received the Root Cause Award, while N.C. State professor Mark Megalos received a lifetime achievement award. • Evergreen Packaging, which operates the Canton paper mill, earned the American Forest and Paper Association’s 2020 Leadership in Sustainability Award. A press release announcing the award highlighted

the company’s role in developing the Smallholder Access Program, as has previously been reported by Xpress. (See “Little plots, big plans,” Nov. 6, 2019.) • Seven local organizations were awarded over $248,000 from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina’s Pigeon River Fund. Grants include $50,000 to the Haywood Waterways Association for program support, $45,150 to the Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation and Development Council to improve water quality in the Ivy Creek watershed and $44,500 to the Environmental Quality Institute for water quality monitoring. • Buncombe County gave over $95,000 in community recreation grants to support “inclusive access to recreational, fitness and wellness activities.” Of 19 nonprofit recipients, 10 received the maximum award of $6,000, including Asheville GreenWorks for Hominy Creek Greenway repairs, the Shiloh Community Association for an expanded community garden and the WNC Disc Golf Association for course repairs at the Buncombe County Sports Park. X

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DEC. 9-15, 2020



The greens team

Seed savers, farmers, writers and chefs collaborate for Collard Week BY KAY WEST

dinner bar & patio delivery now available via KickbackAvl and Takeout Central now open wed - mon 4:30 - 9 When chef Ashleigh Shanti was growing up in Virginia, collards were a table staple. Her mother stewed them in stock for everyday eating, and for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter meals, the greens got special treatment, cooked with seasoning meat like ham hocks or smoked turkey necks. But because collards were such a common offering, Shanti confesses, she disliked them as a child. And that perspective didn’t change until friends she brought home on weekends from Hampton University, the historically Black college she attended, raved about her mom’s collard dishes. “Seeing other people appreciate them was kind of key in making me appreciate them,” says the former Benne on Eagle chef de cuisine. Shanti, who departed Benne in November with the goal of building her own Asheville restaurant group, now loves the humble collard and has found many uses for it, particularly during her time at Benne on Eagle, where she celebrated and explored Appalachian, West African and Black American — especially Southern — culinary culture, traditions, ingredients and methods. Shanti will demonstrate a collard salad, incorporating four preparations of the green, as she joins seed savers, farmers and historians Monday-Thursday, Dec. 14-17, to host virtual conversations for the inaugural Collard Week.


It was at Benne on Eagle that Shanti met Chris Smith, author of James Beard Foundation Award-winning book The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration, executive director of the Utopian Seed Project and co-creator of the Heirloom Collard Project and Collard Week. Their first conversation began with okra then expanded to collards and the remarkable number of varieties being chronicled by the Heirloom Collard Project. “There are very few people who make you want to stop in the midst of a 16-hour day to talk,” she says with a laugh. “But when he told me about Utopian Seed Project and the Collards project, he was so captivating, and I loved everything he said.” The Heirloom Collard Project was germinated at the 2016 Monticello 20

DEC. 9-15, 2020


MIXING IT UP: Chef Ashleigh Shanti demonstrates her collard salad recipe for Collard Week 2020. Photo by Chris Smith Harvest Festival, an annual food conference held at Thomas Jefferson’s historic home in Virginia. Ira Wallace, an organic grower, author and worker/owner of the cooperative Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Virginia, had been in discussion for a couple of years with the Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s collection of more than 60 rare heirloom varieties of collard seeds from the U.S. Southeast — most of them from North and South Carolina. Smith joined the conversation during the conference. “We began to talk about

how we could get this wonderful diversity of collards appreciated and grown through what we called the Heirloom Collard Project,” he recalls. Wallace and the Seed Savers Exchange had requested a small quantity of each of the varieties to take to trial, and Wallace began growing them all. “I thought I had seen a lot of collards growing up in Florida and professionally, but nothing like this number and variety,” says Wallace. Smith designed a website for the project at that time, but after some internal shuffling at Seed Savers Exchange, he

says, the effort went dormant until last January, when he ran into Wallace at the Virginia Agricultural Conference and they decided to regenerate the Heirloom Collard Project. Working Food, a Florida nonprofit dedicated to cultivating and sustaining a resilient food community, soon jumped in to collaborate, and Seed Savers Exchange came back on board as well.


The four groups began meeting monthly, establishing eight trial-site farms around the country, each growing the 20 varieties of collards featured in the 2020 collard trial. Smith operates one of the trial sites on a strip of land at Franny’s Farm in Leicester, and Wallace has one at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Virginia. Additionally, over 200 backyard gardeners nationwide signed up to each grow three randomly distributed collard varieties. Both the farmers and the gardeners feed their results into an app created by SeedLinked software company, which, Smith explains, will “use some fancy math” to collect and process the data to determine the varieties that are the tenderest, most disease-resistant, tastiest and most frost-tolerant, for example. SeedLinked data and photographs will be presented during Collard Week, which was developed by the Culinary Breeding Network in Portland, Ore. “They got wind of what we were doing with the trials, reached out and told us they were already organizing virtual celebrations

of different crops and wanted to do one on collards,” Smith explains. “They have run point on that with the technology and funding and are hosting the event.” The four-day virtual event will feature daily or twice-daily presentations, kicking off with one by historian and James Beard Foundation Award-winning author Michael Twitty. Wallace, Seed Savers Exchange and SeedLinked will present updates and results from this year’s trials, and the conference will conclude with Shanti’s cooking demo and a Collard Happy Hour. Smith began harvesting from his 20 varieties in October, and he brought Shanti samples of each. Her favorite — and the one she will use in the collard salad demo — is Tabitha Dykes. “We wanted to demonstrate using the whole plant,” Shanti says. “I’m using the raw, stripped collard leaves as the salad green, a quick-pickle of the stems to add acidity, the dressing is a collard chermoula, and we’ll fry some leaves for a collard chip garnish.” The happy hour Zoom event, Smith says, will allow conference attendees to meet, virtually mingle and ask questions with 15 collard experts. “We found a gin-based collard cocktail and will provide the recipe for that in advance so everyone can salute the collard with their cocktail,” he adds. “I am a big fan of gin, so I am really looking forward to sampling that.” For information on the Heirloom Collard Project and Collard Week registration, speakers and schedules, visit X


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Country compliance

Rural breweries face distinct pandemic challenges

Regardless of its size, every brewery has faced an assortment of challenges during the long COVID-19 pandemic. It’s true with the busy South Slope breweries in downtown Asheville and with small-town rural breweries, which have faced their own set of issues as they push into the cold winter months. Masks have been required since June for all North Carolina businesses. Just before Thanksgiving, Gov. Roy Cooper strengthened the law, and at restaurants and breweries, customers must keep a mask on at all times unless actively drinking or eating. In Asheville and Buncombe County, officials have made it clear that violations could lead to fines or even temporary closures. But in outlying areas, guidance has not been as clear, and it’s been mostly up to business owners to require masks — often for customers from other states without

MASKED MAN: Homeplace Beer Co. owner John Silver requires customers at his Burnsville taproom to wear masks, a decision that’s led to backlash from visitors from states without such mandates. Photo courtesy of Homeplace Beer Co. mask laws. Some drinkers have not wanted to don a mask and have sometimes strongly objected to putting one on. In Burnsville, the lone wet town in otherwise dry Yancey County, business bounced back at Homeplace Beer Co. after reopening in May. “We laid off all our staff in March, but we were able to hire back almost everyone,” says owner John Silver. Before the pandemic, Homeplace could accommodate about 200 people indoors, but current restrictions limit its capacity to around 40-50 with an additional 150 outdoors, the same as before the pandemic. Initially, Silver notes that he only “strongly suggested” that customers wear masks. “Our county government has not enforced [the state mask law],” he says. “[North Carolina] seems to be leaving it up to municipalities to 22

DEC. 9-15, 2020


enforce it.” But now, he’s requiring masks inside. “I would say that 90% of the people who come in wear masks,” he says. “We knew that when we decided to do this, it would alienate some people. We’ve had instances with people storming off or getting confrontational. Most of the issues we have had are with people from Florida and South Carolina.” For Jackson County-based Innovation Brewing, which has taprooms in Sylva, Dillsboro and Cullowhee, pub business is about 50% of what it was before the pandemic, says co-owner Nicole Dexter. The tasting rooms are open but with limited seating and no bar seats. “[During the pandemic], we’ve always been masks-on anytime you are standing,” she says. ­ “When you are seated at a table is the only time you can take a mask off. It’s not

optional. If you don’t want to do that, you can’t stay.” She continues, “Everybody locally has been fine [with wearing masks]. The only issues have been with people from out of state, where they don’t have the same requirements we have in North Carolina. W ­ e’ve had a few outbursts from people. It’s just them yelling at us, then leaving.” Thanks to spacious open-air covered areas at all three locations, Dexter says that most of the business at Innovation is from outdoor sales — and 100% at the Cullowhee taproom, which is not currently open indoors. With colder weather moving in, she’s anticipating “a lean winter,” but expects a decent amount of sales via the brewery’s canned beer, which is distributed through Budweiser of Asheville. When the pandemic began, Whiteside Brewing Co. in Cashiers, also in Jackson County, had a “tough time of it,” according to brewery owner Bob Dews. The brewery also has a restaurant, which he notes has been a big boost. “We are very rural and we have a big green area [for outdoor business],” he says. Despite the public health crisis, Dews says that tourism in Cashiers “spiked” during summer. (“People were looking to get outside and go hiking,” he says.) But he also knows there are a significant number of people who have “hunkered down” and are not getting out as much as before the pandemic. As for indoor business, seating is spread out, and all employees are masked. Dews has seen some visitors who do not want to wear a mask, “but it’s pretty rare. We recognize that people are in a tense situation, and tempers are easy to flare.” Over at Mad Co. Brew House — which now makes beer at its sister company, Laconia Ale Works, in Sparta — bartender KeKe O’Regan reports that business has been steady. “In Marshall, there really aren’t other [pubs],” she says. About 50% of the brewery’s customers go outside to enjoy beer or pizza, and Mad Co. requires masks to be worn while moving around indoors. “We’ve been pretty strict about that,” O’Regan says. “We’ve only had two people where we had to turn down service. People who come in here have been very compliant.” X


DEC. 9-15, 2020



New wave revival

Allan Day realizes new wave musical dreams after 40-year journey BY BILL KOPP When punk and new wave were exploding in New York City in the late 1970s and early ’80s, Allan Day wasn’t old enough to drive a car, much less play a gig in a bar. But the New Jersey youth was inspired to his core by the sounds coming out of the metropolis across the Hudson River. So, he wrote an album’s worth of original songs with the intention of eventually recording and performing them with a group. But when the band he envisioned failed to take shape, he got on with his life. Now, several decades later and 700 miles away, Day is belatedly realizing his teen dream with the self-titled debut album by The Discs, which was released on Oct. 30. Though the dozen songs were recorded in Asheville in July, The Discs virtually screams “1979.” When Day wrote the tunes, he was deeply immersed in the cutting-edge music of that era. “We were hearing and reading about this new movement called punk rock,” he says. “And I had a very good friend of mine turn me on to the Ramones.” That Ramones album — 1978’s Road to Ruin — was a catalyst. “I saw them at a free concert in Central Park. That just blew everything open,” Day recalls. “I started investigating, looking to see if there were any other groups in the genre.” He quickly discovered bands from England as well, including the Sex Pistols, The Clash and the Buzzcocks. Day, who by that point had been studying guitar for several years, was captivated. He feels the new sounds “opened my world up to what could be possible

ALLAN IS A PUNK: Inspired by the punk and new wave of New York City and London, teenager Allan Day (seen here in 1979) conceived of his own band, The Discs, and wrote an album’s worth of songs. Four decades later, that teen dream has become a reality. Photo courtesy of Day in terms of message delivery through music.” He was also intrigued by the straightforward nature of punk and new wave. “There wasn’t a lot of special skill needed on your instrument to actually play this music,” he notes. “And I liked

the fact that it harkened back to roots rock and roll.” Punk’s loud, often aggressive tone was likewise appealing to his teenage sensibilities. “All of these things coalesced for me and gave me an opportunity to write

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DEC. 9-15, 2020


songs and have a voice at a time where I didn’t have one,” Day says. “And that’s when I started to write this batch of material for this fictitious band, The Discs.” After teaming with a like-minded friend who sang, Day ran an ad in the local paper, looking for a bassist and drummer. A promising response came from a bassist who modeled her style upon the work of Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth. “We loved the idea of [potentially] having a woman in the band,” Day says. But when they went to meet the bassist, she was a no-show. Eventually, the concept of The Discs — with a name inspired in part by British group The Records — faded into memory, and Day moved on to playing other styles of music, including hard rock, metal, power pop, acoustic/ambient and other genres. But Day’s typewritten songs never went away, and right after he relocated to Asheville this past summer to pursue postgraduate work, he decided to revive his long-dormant musical project. He dug out the old songs and found that they still held up melodically and lyrically. “That kid was really on to something,” he says with a chuckle. As he explains on The Discs’ Bandcamp page, some of his “chord progressions [were] committed to memory, some [songs were] demoed over the years, others coaxed from the recesses [of memory].” Working alone, save the help of a socially distanced recording engineer at MAG Audio Technologies in Mills River — this was in the middle of a pandemic, after all — and with financing via an Indiegogo fundraiser, Day created The Discs’ debut album and resisted any inclination to “update” or otherwise change the songs he had written as a teen. “I didn’t want to alter the vision of that kid,” Day says. “Ninety-nine percent of the recording remains faithful to the original vision.” With its stripped-down, no-reverb aesthetic, Road to Ruin would provide a template for The Discs’ production values. On record, The Discs sound like a cross between Johnny Burnette’s Rock and Roll Trio and the Buzzcocks. And the songwriter’s mix of passion, angst and youthful exuberance shines through on catchy, edgy rockers like “Misanthropist” and “Father of Profanity.” On the Bandcamp page, Day sums up his motivation for making the long-delayed album: “Because recording and releasing a Discs album in hellish 2020 would simply be more fun than not doing so.” Yet The Discs’ story doesn’t end with the release of the new album. When it’s responsible and practical to do so, Day plans to assemble a full band to play live and record more of his original “old new wave” songs, whose style he believes is timeless: “When you think about newer genres like pop punk, they’re just updated versions of bands like the Ramones or the Buzzcocks.” X

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DEC. 9-15, 2020


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Before relocating to Fletcher in 2011, Arlene Duane Hemingway made her career as a musician and teacher in the Long Island, N.Y., public school system. Near the end of her professional tenure, she discovered the art of the drabble. For those unfamiliar with the form, a drabble is a work of microfiction written in exactly 100 words. The concept is simple, but Hemingway says the process itself is demanding. “You have to pay attention to every word,” she explains. “Repetition is not good, and your descriptions have to be rich and detailed to the max.” After more than a decade of crafting drabbles, Hemingway (no relation to author Ernest Hemingway) published her debut collection, A Twist of Lemon: 100 Curious Stories in Exactly 100 Words, earlier this year. The stories, which are not intended for younger readers, range in topic and tone. Some involve introspective tales of heartbreak, while others feature loud and violent acts. In between is ample humor, suspense, irony, love and hope — and all hitting that prescribed drabble mark of 100 words.


Not surprisingly, there is often plenty of material left over once Hemingway wraps up a drabble. “But that’s part of the joy in writing them,” she says. “I can literally sit for hours at the computer — I don’t need music or anything. I just craft and cut and craft and cut until I’ve got it.” But the writing itself, Hemingway continues, is never immediate. Story concepts come to her from a variety of sources. Some are through overheard conversations, others arrive by way of the news, and a few appear as random thoughts in her head. However they land, Hemingway typically notes the impression down on a sheet of paper and places it in an envelope with the rest of her ideas. “When I feel I have the time to write, I’ll go through that envelope and throw them all out on the table and something will speak to me,” she says. “It’s almost as if it says, ‘I’ve been in here for a while — it’s time to come forth.’”


Along with sharing her stories with readers, Hemingway hopes her col26

DEC. 9-15, 2020


Local writer finds meaning through brevity

NOTHING LIKE THE DRABBLE: After discovering the literary form later in her life, local resident and author Arlene Duane Hemingway says she is hooked on the drabble. Photo by Michelle Citrin Studios lection functions as an avenue for change and self-improvement. Less intimidating than a novel or even a short story, she sees the drabble as an ideal introduction to leisure reading — or, in some cases, adult literacy. In a similar vein, Hemingway believes the form could encourage others to write. She notes that one former student now uses the model as a way to document her family history. The short, 100-word limit makes an otherwise heavy task far more manageable. “Drabbles are not as formidable as writing a book,” Hemingway says. “Of

course, if you write enough of them, you can combine them together and create a family chronology.” But above all, Hemingway hopes A Twist of Lemon introduces more people to the drabble itself. “It’s almost as if I’m supposed to reenergize the form itself and make it popular,” she says. “I don’t know if that’s part of my life plan. But I just think there is nothing like the drabble, and I’m hooked.”

— Thomas Calder  X

Wearing Sunday Best on Tuesday Editor’s note: The following is one of Arlene Duane Hemingway’s drabbles. Jim, a railroad man, summoned the courage to visit his neighbor. Declining to sit when invited, he thrust a dog-eared envelope at her. “Been thinkin’ a long time, Bertha. I’d like a favor.” “What kind you want for all this money?” “Li’l home cookin’. That’s all. Wife’s gone. Got no family.” Bertha paused, then smiled. “My pleasure.” Jim refused to take the money back. Whenever Jim got home, he headed straight for Bertha’s kitchen. After a year, Bertha told Jim she enjoyed his company but would stop cooking unless he stopped paying her. After the nuptials, Jim paid for everything. X


Online Event= q WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9 OKLAWAHA BREWING CO. French Broad Valley Mountain Music Jam, 6pm SWEETEN CREEK BREWING Jonathan Calhoun & Friends, 6pm 185 KING STREET Trivia & Games, 7pm TRISKELION BREWERY InterActive TriskaTrivia, 7pm TWIN LEAF BREWERY Open Mic w/ Thomas Yon, 7pm ISIS MUSIC HALL q Del Rey & Steve James (blues, folk), 7pm, RABBIT RABBIT Slice of Life Rooftop Comedy, 7:30pm THE GREY EAGLE Andy Shauf (indie, rock), 8pm SOVEREIGN KAVA Q Poetry Open Mic, 8:30pm, THE PAPER MILL LOUNGE Karaoke X, 9pm

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10 LAZY HIKER BREWING SYLVA Open Jam, 5pm RABBIT RABBIT Silent Cinema: Gremlins, 5:45pm SWEETEN CREEK BREWING Open Mic w/ Thomas Yon, 6pm THE JOINT NEXT DOOR Mr Jimmy (blues), 6pm 185 KING STREET Clint Roberts Trio, 7pm

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12 BURNTSHIRT VINEYARDS Barrett Davis (rock, country), 2pm SWEETEN CREEK BREWING Pleasure Chest Duo (blues, soul), 3pm BATTERY PARK BOOK EXCHANGE Dinah's Daydream (jazz), 4pm 185 KING STREET Songs from the Road Band (bluegrass), 7pm EL GALLO Dinner & Beats w/ Phantom Pantone DJ Collective, 7pm ISIS MUSIC HALL John Doyle (Celtic folk), 7pm

TRISKELION BREWERY InterActive TriskaTrivia, 7pm

WILD WING CAFE Karaoke Night, 9:30pm

TWIN LEAF BREWERY Open Mic w/ Thomas Yon, 7pm

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13 HAZEL TWENTY Boutique Beats w/ Phantom Pantone DJ Collective, 12pm ONE WORLD BREWING WEST Sunday Jazz Jam Brunch w/ Jason DeCristofaro, 1:30pm

EL GALLO Dinner & Beats w/ Phantom Pantone DJ Collective, 7pm ISIS MUSIC HALL The Darren Nicholson Band (bluegrass), 7pm THE GREY EAGLE Sam Burchfield (folk), 7pm

ONE WORLD BREWING WEST The Soulamanders (folk, reggae), 6pm

OKLAWAHA BREWING CO. Kid Billy (solo multi-instrumentalist), 6:30pm,

TRISKELION BREWERY Jason's Technicolor Cabaret: Music & Comedy, 7pm ICONIC KITCHEN & DRINKS Dinner & Beats w/ Phantom Pantone DJ Collective, 8pm

ISIS MUSIC HALL Happy Holidays w/ Love Bubble (pop, jazz, oldies), 7pm


OKLAWAHA BREWING CO. It Takes All Kinds Open Mic Night, 7pm

185 KING STREET Andrew Thelston Band (rock), 7pm

SOVEREIGN KAVA Q Poetry Open Mic, 8:30pm,


185 KING STREET Cruz Contreras of The Black Lillies (Americana), 6:30pm

THE GREY EAGLE Mike Cooley of Drive-by Truckers, 6:30pm and 9pm

TRISKELION BREWERY JC & the Boomerang Band (Irish trad, folk), 6pm

TRISKELION BREWERY Jason's Technicolor Cabaret: Music & Comedy, 7pm

SWEETEN CREEK BREWING Roots & Dore (blues), 6pm

RABBIT RABBIT Slice of Life Rooftop Comedy, 7:30pm


SWEETEN CREEK BREWING Open Mic w/ Thomas Yon, 6pm

185 KING STREET Open Electric Jam, 6pm

HIGHLAND BREWING CO. Nerdy Talk Trivia, 6pm


185 KING STREET Trivia & Games, 7pm


SWEETEN CREEK BREWING Mr Jimmy (blues), 2pm

ISIS MUSIC HALL Christmas with The Currys (folk, pop-rock), 7pm

ICONIC KITCHEN & DRINKS Dinner & Beats w/ Phantom Pantone DJ Collective, 8pm

THINK GLOBAL: “Our music has its foundation in heritage and tradition, but we’re creating a music that also feels reflective of the times right now,” says Leah Smith of world folk band Rising Appalachia. The group’s work is fueled by visions of social justice and unity, combining global music influences with elements of Southern roots. Anchored by Smith and sister Chloe, pictured, the six-piece collective plays a virtual concert Tuesday, Dec. 15, 8 p.m. $15. Photo courtesy of the band

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15 OKLAWAHA BREWING CO. Team Trivia Tuesday, 6pm ONLINE q Rising Appalachia (world folk), 8pm,

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16 OKLAWAHA BREWING CO. French Broad Valley Mountain Music Jam, 6pm SWEETEN CREEK BREWING Patrick Zimmerman (solo acoustic), 6pm


DEC. 9-15, 2020



Hosted by the Asheville Movie Guys EDWIN ARNAUDIN HHHHH



Billie HHHHH DIRECTOR: James Erskine PLAYERS: Billie Holiday DOCUMENTARY NOT RATED Billie, a compelling, beautifully crafted documentary about the life, loves and music of legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday, begins with a mystery and ends with two tragedies. One tragedy, of course, is Holiday’s passing at the age of 44 — handcuffed and under arrest for drug charges as she lay dying in a hospital bed. The other involves journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl, who spent decades compiling interviews and notes in a quest to write the definitive biography of her musical idol, but whose life was also cut short before she could finish it. Kuehl’s body was found on a Washington, D.C., sidewalk in 1978, and the manner of her death is still unresolved. Written and directed by James Erskine (Sachin: A Billion Dreams), Billie uses Kuehl’s cassette-taped interviews with people who knew — or claimed to know — Holiday’s history, sexuality, psychology and motivations. These previously unreleased tapes are given texture by dozens of professional and candid photographs, radio interviews and newspaper clippings — and, most importantly, by Holiday’s voice: a pained, raspy angel, always seemingly on the verge of tears. If you can listen to Holiday singing “God Bless the Child,” “Solitude” or “Strange Fruit” and feel nothing, this movie is not for you — nor, perhaps, is jazz. 28


DEC. 9-15, 2020

Kuehl, however, was deeply moved. As a white, Jewish, New York teen, she became entranced by Holiday’s music. Kuehl’s story is compelling as well. Over a span of eight years, she doggedly tracked down sources and filled more than 120 tapes with comprehensive, often fraught interviews with Holiday’s childhood friends, abusers, bandmates, jail officials, FBI agents involved with her cases and legendary artists like Sarah Vaughn and Count Basie. Yet Erskine wisely keeps the documentary centered on Holiday, an artistic genius who navigated racism, poverty, fame, addiction and misogynoir — a form of sexism targeted specifically at Black women. Read the full review at Available to rent via Amazon Video, iTunes and other streaming services REVIEWED BY MELISSA WILLIAMS

76 Days HHHHS DIRECTORS: Weixi Chen, Anonymous, Hao Wu DOCUMENTARY NOT RATED If the title 76 Days reminds you of the zombie film 28 Days, you’re onto something. This harrowing documentary traces the course of the COVID-19 pandemic within four hospitals during a 76-day lockdown at the disease’s epicenter in Wuhan, China, and some early scenes — such as sick people clamoring at a locked door — are reminiscent of a horror film. Except


this is scarier: As the U.S. approaches a winter in which the virus appears to be spreading unchecked, the crowding and chaos in Wuhan’s wards may be a glimpse of our immediate future. The health care workers here are all shrouded, head to toe, in protective suits with gloves, booties, masks and face shields, so don’t expect to be able to tell who’s who, or even which hospital is which. For once, though, such details don’t much matter. The point of the film is to put viewers in the middle of the disaster — which it certainly does. The footage was shot by Weixi Chen and an anonymous co-director in Wuhan, who uploaded their video to “the cloud” daily by circumventing the government’s Great Firewall (intended to constrict internet access). The movie was then assembled by co-director Hao Wu, a Chinese filmmaker living in New York City. 76 Days is an amazingly timely and gripping document, and Wu and his collaborators capture not just the overarching crisis but also moving human moments: exhausted workers napping in the hall, telephone calls to loved ones, a worker disinfecting items from a box of mobile phones and ID cards left behind by the dead. Some patients — one of them a woman about to give birth — are followed to give the film some continuity and narrative, but the impact of the personal stories is secondary to the impression of an unparalleled collective effort. It makes one wonder whether egocentric Americans will even be able to come close to this unity of mission when our time comes. REVIEWED BY BRUCE STEELE BCSTEELE@GMAIL.COM

Another Round

Melissa Williams

James Rosario

Michelle Keenan

It also doesn’t hurt that the film reunites him with his The Hunt star, Mads Mikkelsen, one of the most likable actors of the 21st century thus far and a consistently engaging presence here as Martin, part of a quartet of teacher friends (in pre-pandemic times) who feel painfully out of touch with their families, students and themselves. To combat the ennui, young buck — read: 40-year-old — Nikolaj (Magnus Millang, The Commune) suggests that they test out Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud’s theory that humans are uptight and generally not living their best lives because their blood alcohol levels are too low. Agreeing to sustain and not exceed a 0.05% BAL and incorporating Ernest Hemingway’s method of not imbibing past 8 p.m. in order to function the next day, the pals endure an amusingly rough initiation period but soon hit their respective grooves. Like slightly buzzed versions of Robin Williams’ John Keating in Dead Poets Society, they incorporate creative teaching methods to inspire the students, resulting in such rousing scenes as chorus teacher Peter (Lars Ranthe, also from The Hunt) conducting his young vocalists to harmonious beauty and gym instructor Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen, ditto) spurring a seemingly hopeless young soccer player to success. Any clue of why the spark has left these men’s lives might have made their quest to reclaim it even more thrilling. But despite being essentially male clichés in a midlife crisis — the epitome of rote storytelling — the four are so enthralling together and individually that the lack of originality is easily forgivable. Read the full review at



DIRECTOR: Thomas Vinterberg PLAYERS: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang COMEDY/DRAMA NOT RATED

Crock of Gold HHHHS

Warm, humane, hilarious and touching, Another Round is the kind of narrative film one might expect Mike Leigh or Hirokazu Kore-eda to release in 2020. Instead, this cinematic balm comes courtesy of Danish writer/director Thomas Vinterberg (Far from the Madding Crowd), a filmmaker of similar talents who’s been building to this kind of realistic, entertaining and emotionally complex work for the past 30 years.

DIRECTOR: Julien Temple PLAYERS: Shane MacGowan, Johnny Depp, Siobhan MacGowan DOCUMENTARY NOT RATED. I was 12 years old the first time I heard The Pogues on St. Patrick’s Day in 1990. They were the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live,” and I remember thinking, “That singer is really drunk.” Eleven years later, nearly to the day, I found

myself hitchhiking 250 miles to see Shane MacGowan and the Popes at First Avenue in Minneapolis. With no ticket and no money, I somehow still got into the show — and the singer was still really drunk. Needless to say, I’ve been a fan of MacGowan and his various musical endeavors (especially The Pogues) for quite some time — and this appreciation is reflected in my love for Crock of Gold, the documentary about his life. However, in the interest of full disclosure, if you don’t share this fandom on some level, Crock of Gold may leave you a bit lost or even confused. Helped by wonderfully anarchic animation and spectacular archival footage, Crock of Gold moves seamlessly from MacGowan’s whiskey-soaked and musicfilled childhood in rural Ireland to the chaos and vice of London’s emerging punk scene. Director Julien Temple (Earth Girls Are Easy) blends these seemingly disparate worlds with a riotous celebration of their rebellious similarities, culminating in the formation of The Pogues in 1982. At a glance, it may be hard to understand why MacGowan could possibly be so revered in so many circles, but through Temple’s examination of the singer-songwriter’s exceptionally tumultuous career, an undeniable beauty punches through the unrefined veneer. MacGowan is not pretty, and neither is his story, but both are so full of life you can’t help but sing along and toast to times long gone. Read the full review at REVIEWED BY JAMES ROSARIO JAMESROSARIO1977@GMAIL.COM

Mayor HHHH DIRECTOR: David Osit PLAYERS: Musa Hadid DOCUMENTARY NOT RATED Though primarily an inspiring tale of maintaining dignity in the face of overwhelming odds, Mayor is also a pretty decent Christmas movie. David Osit’s documentary chronicles the second mayoral term of Musa Hadid in Ramallah, Palestine, during which the statesman strives to make his Israelioccupied city as hospitable as possible. The charismatic man’s efforts include installing a beautiful fountain in front of City Hall, improving waste management and traveling the world to drum up support for Palestinian independence — but also decorating the town square with a giant Christmas tree and attending all sorts of holiday celebrations. This refreshing depiction of liberal values in a misunderstood region is augmented by numerous gorgeous vistas, and the combination of stunning sights and

peace-loving people sends a strong message that Ramallah is worth preserving and that its citizens deserve a life greater than what amounts to that of captives. Mayor is also one of the first films to illustrate the impact of President Trump’s foreign policy decisions, specifically his decision to recognize Jerusalem — a holy city to both Israel and Palestine — as the Israeli capital and establish a U.S. embassy there. The shocking news leads to Palestinian protests, and loyal servant that he is, Hadid finds himself dangerously close to his constituents’ clashes with Israeli soldiers, resulting in a pair of harrowing sequences reminiscent of scenes of unrest in U.S. cities this past summer. But as tense as these moments are, they also excel at building sympathy for a true Palestinian state — and if that’s not enough, there’s also “Jingle Bells” to keep things from getting too morbid. REVIEWED BY EDWIN ARNAUDIN EARNAUDIN@MOUNTAINX.COM

Sound of Metal HHHH DIRECTOR: Darius Marder PLAYERS: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cookei DRAMA RATED R

suffering a sudden and permanent hearing loss. Co-screenwriter Darius Marder’s directorial debut could easily have fallen prey to the usual trappings of stories about physical or emotional challenges. Where many films in this category are overly sentimental or emotionally manipulative, Sound of Metal is not. Instead, Marder leans into the relatable concept of losing one’s hard-fought inner peace, taking Ruben (Riz Ahmed) way outside his comfort zone to find resolution. When touring life with his girlfriend/bandmate (Olivia Cooke) is upended and his sobriety threatened, Ruben rails against his diagnosis, looking for a “fix” for the problem with the ferocity of an addict. Ahmed’s performance as Ruben is razor sharp, and from American Sign Language to drumming, he invests a lot in the role. It’s as if he surrendered to the part in a way that’s likely to be extremely difficult for a hearing person to fathom. The cacophony of emotions is made even more palpable by Nicolas Becker’s brilliant sound design. Read the full review at Available to stream via Amazon Prime Video REVIEWED BY MICHELLE KEENAN MKEENAN@BPR.ORG

Sonically alarming, arrestingly emotional and alternately suffocating and cathartic, Sound of Metal may be the year’s most visceral cinematic experience — albeit ironically from the comfort of your couch. The film tells the story of a heavy metal drummer’s journey into deafness after

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FREEWILL ASTROLOGY ARIES (March 21-April 19): According to Taoist scholar Chad Hansen, “Western philosophers have endlessly analyzed and dissected a cluster of terms thought to be central to our thinking,” such as truth, beauty, reason, knowledge, belief, mind and goodness. But he reports that they’ve never turned their attention to a central concept of Chinese philosophy: the Tao, which might be defined as the natural, unpredictable flow of life’s ever-changing rhythms. I think that you Aries people, more than any other sign of the zodiac, have the greatest potential to cultivate an intuitive sense of how to align yourselves vigorously with the Tao. And you’re in prime time to do just that. TAURUS (April 20-May 20): What’s the cause of the rumbling at the core of your soul? How do we explain the smoke and steam that are rising from the lower depths? From what I can discern, the fire down below and the water down below are interacting to produce an almost supernatural state of volatile yet numinous grace. This is a good thing! You may soon begin having visions of eerie loveliness and earthshaking peace. The clarity that will eventually emerge may at first seem dark, but if you maintain your poise it will bloom like a thousand moons. GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Author and student Raquel Isabelle de Alderete writes wittily about her paradoxical desires and contradictory qualities. In accordance with current astrological omens, I encourage you to ruminate about your own. For inspiration, read her testimony: “I want to be untouchably beautiful but I also don’t want to care about how I look. I want to be at the top of my class but I also just want to do as best as I can without driving myself to the edge. I want to be a mystery that’s open to everybody. A romantic that never falls in love. Both the bird and the cat.” CANCER (June 21-July 22): What would it take for you to muster just a bit more courage so as to change what needs to be changed? How could you summon the extra excitement and willpower necessary to finally make progress on a dilemma that has stumped you? I’m happy to inform you that cosmic rhythms will soon be shifting in such a way as to make these breakthroughs more possible. For best results, shed any tendencies you might have to feel sorry for yourself or to believe you’re powerless. LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Novelist Tom Robbins says you have the power to change how you perceive the world. You can change reality — and how reality responds to you — by the way you look at it and interpret it. This counsel is especially useful for you right now, Leo. You have an unparalleled opportunity to reconfigure the way you apprehend things and thereby transform the world you live in. So I suggest you set your intention. Vow that for the next two weeks, every experience will bring you a fresh invitation to find out something you didn’t know before. VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was reelected in 2019. During his campaign, the Virgo-born politician arranged to be photographed while wearing the saffron robes of a Hindu priest and meditating in an austere Himalayan cave. Why did he do it? To appeal to religious voters. But later it was revealed that the “cave” was in a cozy retreat center that provides regular meals, electricity, phone service and attentive attendants. It will be crucial for you to shun this type of fakery in 2021, Virgo. Your success will depend on you being as authentic, genuine and honest as you can possibly be. Now is an excellent time to set your intention and start getting yourself in that pure frame of mind.


DEC. 9-15, 2020

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): When author Ernest Hemingway was working on the manuscript for his novel A Farewell to Arms, he asked his colleague F. Scott Fitzgerald to offer critique. Fitzgerald obliged with a 10-page analysis that advised a different ending, among other suggestions. Hemingway wasn’t pleased. “Kiss my ass,” he wrote back to Fitzgerald. I suggest a different approach for you, Libra. In my view, now is a good time to solicit feedback and mirroring from trusted allies. What do they think and how do they feel about the current state of your life and work? If they do respond, take at least some of it to heart. SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Mistletoe is a parasite that grows on trees, weakening them. On the other hand, it has been a sacred plant in European tradition. People once thought it conferred magical protection. It was called “all-heal” and regarded as a medicine that could cure numerous illnesses. Even today, it’s used in Europe as a remedy for colon cancer. And of course mistletoe is also an icon meant to encourage kissing. After studying your astrological potentials, I’m proposing that mistletoe serve as one of your symbolic power objects in the coming months. Why? Because I suspect that you will regularly deal with potencies and energies that could potentially be either problematic or regenerative. You’ll have to be alert to ensure that they express primarily as healing agents. SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): I’m envisioning a scene in which you’re sitting on a chair at a kitchen table. At the center of the table is a white vase holding 18 long-stemmed red roses. The rest of the table’s surface is filled with piles of money, which you have just unloaded from five mysterious suitcases you found at your front door. All of that cash is yours, having been given to you no-strings-attached by an anonymous donor. You’re in joyful shock as you contemplate the implications of this miraculous gift. Your imagination floods with fantasies about how different your life can become. Now, Sagittarius, I invite you to dream up at least three further wonderfully positive fantasies involving good financial luck. That’s the medicine you need right now. CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Boisterous Capricorn novelist Patricia Highsmith (1921–1995) once made the following New Year’s Eve Toast: “To all the devils, lusts, passions, greeds, envies, loves, hates, strange desires, enemies ghostly and real, the army of memories, with which I do battle — may they never give me peace.” Right now I suspect you may be tempted to make a similar toast. As crazy-making as your current challenges are, they are entertaining and growth-inducing. You may even have become a bit addicted to them. But in the interests of your long-term sanity, I will ask you to cut back on your “enjoyment” of all this uproar. Please consider a retreat into an intense self-nurturing phase. AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): In the French city of Strasbourg, there’s a wine cellar built in the year 1395. Among its treasures is a barrel filled with 450 liters of wine that was originally produced in 1472. According to legend, this ancient beverage has been tasted on just three occasions. The last time was to celebrate the French army’s liberation of Strasbourg from German occupation in 1944. If I had the power, I would propose serving it to you Aquarians in honor of your tribe’s heroic efforts to survive — and even thrive — during the ordeals of 2020. I’m predicting that life in 2021 will have more grace and progress because of how you have dealt with this year’s challenges. PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): There are too many authorities, experts, know-it-alls and arrogant ideologues trying to tell us all what to do and how to do it. Fortunately, the cosmic rhythms are now aligned in such a way as to help you free yourself from those despots and bullies. Here’s more good news: Cosmic rhythms are also aligned to free you from the nagging voices in your own head that harass you with fearful fantasies and threaten you with punishment if you aren’t perfect.




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T HE N E W Y O R K T I M E S C R O S S W O R D PU ZZLE edited by Will Shortz


1 Change from “Gojira” to “Godzilla,” say 4 Options when picking locks? 8 Covers a lot, in a way 13 Jobs creation 15 Laugh riot 16 Group whose teens go through rumspringa 17 Euro, Zloty 19 ___ Motel 20 Frolicking river mammals 21 Salon competitor 23 What many students look forward to: Abbr. 24 0-0, say 26 Indigo, Cerulean 30 Pool table surface 32 Recharge, in a way 34 Many major retailers 35 Skull and Bones members 37 Keebler cracker brand 39 Conk 40 Macaw, Tern 43 Reward for a successful defense, in brief 45 “Rumor has it …” 46 Trade 48 Subject of many articles in Allure and Seventeen 50 It may get a light gloss 52 Slips 54 Noon, Eleven 56 Sky safety org. 58 Ming in the Basketball Hall of Fame 59 In ___ (developing) 61 Serene 63 Minute Maid Park pro 66 Satellite, Pulitzer 68 Reeves of “The Matrix” 69 Singe 70 Pennsylvania’s Flagship City 71 Sentiment in a teenager’s diary





No. 1104

4 14





24 31 35

25 33




50 55






47 52




1 Go extinct 2 High and dry 3 In France it’s “le 14 juillet” 4 “Anybody up for it?” 5 F-, for one 6 Takes a turn, in a board game 7 13-Across accessories 8 Top choices for one’s birthday? 9 Tiny organism 10 Itinerary word 11 F1 neighbor 12 “Silence!” 14 Stock at a salon 18 TV personality who once said in an ad, “The only thing bolder than Fuze Iced Tea is ME!” 22 Facebook offerings: Abbr. 25 N.W.A member known as “The Godfather of Gangsta Rap”

51 56






72 Vehicle with a medallion 73 Trophy case locale














22 26




19 21













53 58


67 70 73

27 Something in a book lover’s wallet 28 Game akin to crazy eights 29 Medium strength? 31 Cook of Apple 33 Of prisons 36 “Tell me already!” 38 Roman font feature 41 Minty herb 42 She may be ruminating 43 Grp. concerned with gutters and pins 44 Lady bird 47 Midwest expanse 49 Results of some drivers’ mistakes

51 Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls 53 Dripping 55 At attention 57 In the manner of 60 Factory-inspecting org. 62 Something a magician may conjure 63 Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor ___ Lorde 64 D.C. V.I.P. 65 It must do it 67 “___ et Lux” (motto for Tufts University)





















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DEC. 9-15, 2020



DEC. 9-15, 2020