True story. My wife Lori and I were enjoying a delicious, refreshing IPA at the Wedge Brewery on Sunday afternoon, rewarding ourselves after a brutal trail run in the mid-day heat at Bent Creek (brutal, at least, by my estimation; Lori and our dog, Django, were just loping along the entire time, well ahead of me). The brewery in the Asheville River Arts District was relatively crowded and the sun was blazing, so we shared a shaded table with a couple about our age who invited us to sit after making friends with Django.
We soon found out they were from the Charleston area, he an engineer with Boeing and she a public school secretary. More interesting, however, is why they decided to come to the mountains for a long weekend: beer.
By Kathy Ross • Guest Columnist
In the last few weeks, I’ve been stuck between speaking my mind and doing what is best for my community. I hate it when systems operate that way, always believing wide-open debate is the best and most honest way to run government. But the remake of the Pigeon River Fund’s board put me up against that principle.
In 1997 the fund was created when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a license for what was then Carolina Power & Light, later Progress Energy, to use the Pigeon River to generate power at its Walters Plant. In exchange, the owner, now Duke Power, is to set aside money each year, building a fund to improve water quality, access and education.
By Doug Wingeier • Columnist
A group calling ourselves “Neighbors for Peace” have been holding a peace vigil in front of the Haywood County Courthouse nearly every Wednesday — rain or shine — since before the start of “Shock and Awe” in March 2003. At first we were met with some hostility by passersby who supported the Iraq War and thought that being for peace was unpatriotic. But gradually, over the 11 years since then, we have received more and more support and affirmation — in the form of waves, honks, V for victory signs, thank yous and some who stop to converse and even join us.
We still get the occasional finger, catcall, obscenity or argument, however. And recently a person walked up to us and angrily shouted several times in our faces, “You are offensive” — giving us no opportunity to respond. Some who stop are veterans home from Iraq or Afghanistan, and most of these — having personally experienced the horror and insanity of war — voice agreement with us.
The kids and I are in this strange new bonding phase of our relationship. For years, they displayed not the slightest interest in my personal history, even shrugging in absolute indifference when relatives pulled out old Polaroids to demonstrate the uncanny resemblance between me and them when I was their age.
Or we might be in the car, and an old song would come on the radio and remind me of a funny college story, which I would immediately begin narrating until it got sucked down and drowned in a vortex of moans and groans from the back seat.
The rapid pace of change these days often leaves many of us feeling helpless in its wake. Things change, then change some more, and finally a transformation so complete has taken place that very little of what we started with is familiar.
Think the music industry, or what the phone in your pocket will do. Crazy stuff.
But every now and again, one can look around and note things that haven’t changed that much. In some cases that is very reassuring; other times it’s scary.
For school systems in relatively poor, rural areas where resources are scarce and student achievement is low, there’s no magic bullet that will suddenly transform the public education system. No, it’s mostly just roll-up-your-sleeves hard work by teachers and administrators to make sure the job gets done to the best of one’s ability.
However, getting all of a county’s leaders on the same page so they can at least be educated about the needs and challenges facing teachers and students is a good move, and that’s just what is happening right now in Swain County. If this initial overture turns into a real relationship — and a willingness by county leaders to understand its school system — it will only mean good things for Swain students.
I think Jack Debnam was wise to delay action on the rewrite of the Jackson County steep slope rules until after the November election, but I don’t believe that will take politics out of the final decision on this issue.
No, to the contrary, the county board’s decision to delay action has provided voters with at least one issue to discuss and dissect ad infinitum in the coming election season. Sitting commissioners and candidates alike will be forced to stake out their position, and by the time voters step into the booth on Election Day, they will know where each candidate stands.
Friday afternoon on the deck. The kids are home from school, and the three of us are enjoying another beautiful spring day, watching the squirrels and chickadees compete for the bird seed strewn all over the deck, thanks to the regular suicide runs the squirrels make for the feeder in spite of the best efforts of our miniature dachshund, who patrols this area with alarming vigor, to deter them. We call him “The Sheriff.”
The kids have bowls of chocolate ice cream with M&Ms, and I am enjoying a rare glass of red wine. In the background, Ryan Adams is singing about trains derailing and love lost and how he wants to be somebody’s firecracker. Jack has a chocolate moustache.
By Don Livingston • Guest Columnist
Congress is not our most popular branch of government, not by a long shot. Its lowest job approval rating, according to one respectable polling organization, was 9 percent late last year. Earlier this year, this polling firm found that only 13 percent of the respondents in its scientific survey felt that Congress was doing a decent job. Congress’ average job approval rating since pollsters began probing for such feedback in the 1970s is around 33 percent. That’s certainly nothing to brag about.
By Doug Wingeier • Columnist
Good news! General Mills has recently announced that — in response to consumer pressure — it has removed GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) from its original Cheerios cereal. And Post has done the same with Grape Nuts. These are victories for folks like me who like our morning bowl of cereal but are wary of food products that are untested for consumer safety and identified by some studies as giving cause for concern. It’s too soon to celebrate, though, as General Mills has 11 other types of Cheerios (such as Multi-Grain and Honey Nut) that still contain GMOs.