Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Whole Year in Asheville

Today marks our one-year anniversary in Asheville. When we left Los Angeles last year, friends assured us that a year would fly by, and it has. We had a long list of trips, adventures and goals on our agenda when we started, and we've done a pretty good job of getting through them. Going in, I thought we'd do everything we wanted to do within the first couple of months, then be bored for the rest of the year. What I didn't expect was how completely the people here would accept us and integrate us into their lives.

I've learned a lot about myself over the past year, some good and some bad. I've always been an outsider and an observer. Part of that comes from being a writer and part of it is a protection device. Michael is the kind of person who jumps into any situation, eyes wide open, arms outstretched. I tend to hang back, watch for a while, figure out who the players are, what dangers are in store, then slowly ease into the situation. This fundamental difference has always been there, but didn't become so obvious and so, well, problematic, until every situation we were in was brand new.

I have made an effort over the past year to be less reserved and more open in new situations. But I know I'll never be the sort of person who just vomits myself all over new people, and I've come to forgive myself for that and own it. If it takes you a year to get to know me, that's fine with me. If you give up an hour or so into it, that's fine, too. I understand.

The people we have met here, those who have befriended us, have been incredible. While I always view new people with suspicion, the people of Asheville embraced us right away and welcomed us into their homes, their families and their lives. While our novelty as the new guys in town has worn off, their friendship has remained, and I am humbled by that and grateful. It makes me wonder how I would even begin to do the same for someone new to Los Angeles. We would get new neighbors from time to time back in L.A., and I realize now that the most I ever did was nod to them on my way to and from work.

When we were back in L.A. recently, a friend stood us up for dinner and wasn't answering his phone. We sat in the restaurant, trying to figure out what to do. A year ago, I'm sure I would have just shrugged and ordered without him. After months in Asheville, though, where neighbors check on each other and bring over cake, I decided we needed to go to his house and check on him, to make sure he wasn't hurt. It was an unexpected practical application of what I've learned here, in the land where hearts are on sleeves most of the time.

(But just a word about the cake. The first time a neighbor brought over baked goods, we couldn't bring ourselves to eat it, convinced a stranger bringing us something must have some sinister intention. "Clearly, she wants to poison us, so some nice heterosexual family will move in when we're gone." We got over that quickly, though, because, you know, it's cake.)

One thing I didn't learn here, because I knew it all along, is that I'm not the outdoorsy type. The scenery here is gorgeous, and I love looking at it...from a distance or from the car. I don't want to be in the scenery. I don't want to camp or hike or splash in waterfalls or swimmin' holes. A lot of people move to Asheville to do all that stuff. I did not. I've given all these things a try since being here, and I didn't experience any sort of epiphany, except the confirmation that, no, I'm not the outdoorsy type. I know it's like moving to L.A. and proclaiming you don't like sunshine. But that's the way it is. Plus, my misery makes everyone else miserable, and that's no fun. The big drawback to my refusal to be in the great outdoors is that there's no one to look out for Michael and to tell him not to jump off cliffs or pick up rattlesnakes. So, he's on his own. I will make sure his insurance card is tacked to his shirt before he goes out, though.

Right now, the immediate future is clear. We're staying in Asheville a while longer. The non-immediate future is less clear. A year ago, that would have bothered me more than it does now. Whenever people ask me why we moved, I always say we wanted to have an adventure. How many people get to just take off and try something so completely different and new? It sounds grand. But what do you do after the adventure? Go back home? Go somewhere else? Stay where you are? What happens next? I guess that's the next adventure.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Somewhere That's Green

We returned from our vacation in Mexico and our trip to Los Angeles to find Asheville transformed. When we left, there were but a few signs of spring. When we awoke the morning after our arrival, we found a green canopy covering the yard and mountains that can only be described as lush. (Which, coincidentally, is how I'm often described, as well.)

Somehow I don't remember it being this green last year. We had just gotten used to seeing the other houses across the lake, and now they're completely obscured by the trees again. All the rain we've been getting has helped, I'm sure. Though Henry doesn't like it. The low rumbling sounds of thunder just send him over the edge. Poor Michael was up with him most of last night, because the thunder makes Henry so anxious and nutty, which then makes us anxious and nutty.

They're both asleep in the living room now, no rainclouds in sight. Though, I'm sure that will change by this afternoon.

I'm not sure if it's spring fever or post-vacation malaise, but I'm finding it hard to get motivated and do everything I need to do. I'm not only walking by the empty suitcases every day, saying, "Eh, I'll put 'em away later," but I seem to be walking by everything else, as well. I'm sure I'll snap out of it sooner or later.

This afternoon is the first Downtown After Five of the season, which is a monthly street festival during the summer. Maybe some music, drinks and social activity will snap me out of my doldrums.

I have a zillion photos to upload, so I'll try to get to work on that this weekend. If not, you'll at least know that I'm very earnestly thinking about doing it.