Friday, April 25, 2008

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville is my home town. I work here. I own a house here, where I live with Carol, my wife, my love, my partner, and Rita, our dog. I've lived here longer than any other place on Earth. And yet, I do not feel that I know it well enough. I know my way around. I can name streets. I know many people. I have a sense of its history, the flow of its growth as a city and crossroads in the western North Carolina mountains. A warmth flows into my heart each time I see its familiar skyline, and an even greater warmth when I return after a long trip away. But I do not know it as intimately as I might, or as I feel I ought to. As both citizen and anthropologist, I have a responsibility to know Asheville intimately -- how it varies one side to the other, neighborhood to next, along a street, in forest or meadow (within a mile of Pack Square, downtown, there are small woods and fields where one can see a Cooper's hawk snatch a mourning dove midair or the prehistoric coursings of a pair of piliated woodpeckers amid the trees). But I am keenest to know my neighbors, to learn how they see this city we share, how they see the same place similarly and differently. How might our different Ashevilles give us new understandings of our similar and different selves?

So a note to situate my neighborhood: Just above the center of the picture of Asheville above is an oval area bordered on the west by the French Broad River and River Road and on the east by Broadway Avenue, which intersects with River Road to the north. Broadway runs south toward downtown (the cluster of blue place marks). The southern border of the oval area is marked by Interstate 240, which runs through downtown. This oval is Montford, my neighborhood.

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