From Asheville, North Carolina to Snaggy Mountain
and Back to Woodruff, South Carolina
By The Late Mitchell Warren
The world is in disarray. Politicians connive, lie and scheme their way to make another billion dollars a day to keep the corporatist economy going. Wars break out in any continent at any given time. Celebrities lecture us on the value of peace while endorsing war-mongering candidates. News channels fan the flames of war by reporting one-sided stories designed to influence public opinion into supporting one political party’s agenda.
Meanwhile, a world away, there exists a huge and growing subculture of independent-minded youth who bring hope to the future of the world. Those who diss the millennial and Gen-Y culture (as iPad-pushing slackers) obviously haven’t spent any actual time with them, asking them about their values and their vision for humanity.
What often people do discover, and what this gonzo journalist discovered, as you sit down and “break beer” with a bunch of young and unfettered creatives, is that they DO have plenty to say—but mainstream corporate society doesn’t want to listen to any of it.
They don’t care about bipartisan politics. They eschew greed and self-serving billionaire agendas posing as charity work. They don’t so much endorse corporation-sponsored globalism, as much as they simply endorse a Lennon-esque paradise of no countries, no religion, no owned possessions and no forgiven hypocrisy from the elite.
They live unpretentiously, sharing their resources, and giving each other the respect that “mature society” denies them. As I toured the scene of “Snaggy Mountain”, a fairly new Airbnb sensation and artist colony located in southern North Carolina, I was comforted by a wonderful thought—that despite the doomsday scenario the mainstream media is painting, there is great optimism for the future of our world, especially if millennials are allowed to start painting their portrait of a kinder, gentler America.
One less concerned with imperialism, and more concerned with the really important things in life: Like discussing philosophy while munching on edible plants, promoting sustainable green living while discussing the finer nuances of forgotten poets and film directors, and rocking on, and listening to a beautiful young woman singing “I Don’t Want Love in a Box”, armed with nothing more than a guitar and a big dream.
It’s enough to make an old cynic like Late Mitchell Warren smile in relief, that maybe, if we give love a chance, the world might look like colorful mushrooms rather than ending in a mushroom cloud.
There Will Be Snag
Snaggy Mountain, with 67 acres of lush green forest, innumerable flora, and amid a backdrop of gigantic mountains, glistens like a life-size terrarium in Mother Earth’s hands. With its rolling hills, freely wandering animal life (including a flock of protesting ducks and chickens that boldly blocked traffic to protect their home) and a variety of shacks, buses and chicken-coops remodeled into trippy artist studios, Snaggy Mountain evokes strong creative feelings out of its visitors. Named after “snags” from all the surrounding plants, this is a mountain bustling with life.
I came expecting the opposite of a hotel experience and it’s a good state of mind to have approaching the retreat. It’s a come-and-go-as-you-please haven of dreamers. There was no door man to wish you forced pleasantries, no bell to ring for service, no televisions or DVD players and no five-star breakfast. So if one was expecting to be entertained and waited on—like most Americans city dwellers who would just as soon stomp all over untainted farmlands frantically looking for a Starbucks—one might be insulted.
But to the hippie soul-searcher looking for inspiration and keeping an open-mind, there is plenty to love about a small assembly of artisans who trust each other and respect each other’s art. It was the first place I’ve felt truly secure materially (didn’t feel like anyone was going to run off with my laptop) and spiritually (wasn’t worrying about any superfine Christian or cop rummaging through my private bags looking for evidence of deviancy).
Among the many characters I spoke with (most of whom shied away from being mentioned publicly) were psychics, musicians, teachers, artists, a particularly charming Native American actor, and the Snag Master himself, farmer and musician extraordinaire Jared, who presided over the mountain in quiet grace. He looked like an adorable cross between Andy from Toy Story and Jim Morrison. He even gave us two Gingko plants as a going away present, perhaps in appreciation of our gift of a self-fertilizing Kiwi plant. There was some hardcore farming talk going on that went way over my head…luckily, Jared gave me a mouth-tingling edible flower and we chatted about much more relatable chicken parables for the next ten minutes. Now THAT I can talk about…
The artists were delighted by my wife’s miniature and terrarium collection, while I got to promote my book “The End of the Magical Kingdom: The Evil Princess” and play Fur Elise drunkenly on the piano, while some of the artists started randomly dancing and hoola-hooping to Beethoven’s beat. Because why the hell not?
Psychics, Ghosts and Vortexes
I imagined I might run into a psychic during my time visiting Asheville and Burnsville, since it is the Vortex Capital of the United States. I was delighted to speak to a psychic, off the clock, and just one on one, without the obligation of predicting my presumably dark future.
I teased her a bit, wondering why so much negativity follows me around in life and if there is any psychic explanation for such phenomenon. The sage said, in so many words, that the reality we create in our minds becomes the physical reality we leave behind us, and put in front of us. And then I realized, that although perhaps I am gifted with a degree of prophetic sensitivity and equal part cynicism, that my negative vibes probably come from a different place.
Raised in the city, from Northern Hollywood, California, to Fort Worth, Texas, to Woodruff, South Carolina, all this gonzo journalist has ever known has been Urban Paranoia. The critical eye of others, and the harsh scrutiny one’s self, was a warped perspective developed by false religion, honed by political brainwashing, and kept alive by corporatist propaganda. After speaking with Snagtown Leader Jared and asking him where he fell in the religious/political category, he proudly decreed that he was without label. A thought that I totally digged, given how a stubborn adherence to Right and Left labels are slowly tearing the country apart piece by piece.
“Once you limit yourself to labels,” I said (or maybe he said, I forget which of us, since we talk and think alike) you stop believing in things for yourself and start believing the dogma of others who want to explain to you how you’re supposed to think and behave.”
This is indeed the flaw of urban living, and perhaps much of the American Imperialist perspective—the warrior-king idea that we must civilize all lands, help them become enlightened, and bully them into thinking more like us “Rational Decent Folk”. We don’t just bring negativity with us—it passes on from land to land, like a virus. Not the good kind of “virus” as in “I’m going viral, man!” but in the traditional sense—a permeating, destructive force that eats away at life. Hate, like energy, can never be destroyed—only transferred. Converted. Or in the best case scenario, healed, and turned into something more peaceful. That’s definitely the vibe I felt during my stay.
Shortly after, Jared hopped on a ball and began juggling because why not end a deep discussion on morality and ethics with some real epic clowning?
Mount Mitchell proved to be a small portent of wonderful evil all its own, with gargantuan views of mountains, a sudden temperature drop after driving miles into the sky, and crazy zigzagging roads that my poor car will probably never forgive me for.
I could even blame the ferocity of Mount Mitchell, Asheville and Burnsville for killing my Garmin, since the lowest point of the trip was having to use a dying Garmin (fading in and out after low battery) to travel to corporatist pig Wal-Mart, in hopes of buying a Tom-Tom so we could continue our journey.
We ended the supernatural part of the vacation by going on a Haunted Hearse Tour courtesy of Dark Ride Tours hosted by the creepy gentleman, a Mister Virgil Nightshade and his mute, hooded driver. He drove the wife and I around a 1972 Cadillac Hearse, which he and the psychic from earlier, swears is haunted with a few spirits.
My wife neglected to tell me that this was actually a “haunted house” tour, and not just another boring ghost-hunting tour that would inevitably turn up nothing. Instead, I spoke to spirits, heard demons banging against the car, and saw ghosts appearing disappearing on camera throughout the night. Nice prank…the joke was on me!
I couldn’t resist asking the “Ghost” if he had a problem with Late Mitchell Warren, and the answer was inevitably YES. The EMF detector was going crazy when I started asking questions.
My thought on it was the ghost apparently felt my novel was too antagonistic and artsy and that the next one should really go mainstream, you know like that super-boring, raisin-testicled, war-mongering, Kubrick-bashing and bad driver to boot, Stephen King. (Stephen King was unavailable for comment because he was too busy jerking himself off with hundred dollar bills laughing about dead kids in Syria)
But the Haunted Hearse Tour was indeed the final nail in a coffin of independent-minded fun. Virgil Nightshade was indeed a class-act, even when he abandoned us in the backseat of the car after a demonic presence appeared—so dignified, really, to give an elegant speech explaining his cowardice.
Harsh Reminder That I Still Live Too Close to the City
To end the trip, which was saturated with sweetness thanks to some lovely stops at the “French Broad Chocolate Lounge” and a donut shop called “Hole”, we were off to see Looking Glass Falls Pisgah Forest, a waterfall attraction that seemed to be the perfect ending to an eco-tour escape vacation.
Unfortunately the new Tom-Tom unit wouldn’t let us anywhere near Highway 276, because according to local news, police closed off the route to the public and were in pursuit of an armed criminal somewhere in the area.
More of Late Mitchell Warren’s palpable negativity or just coincidence? Or maybe a stubborn reminder that the farther you go into the city, the more Cold Urban Hell awaits you, always just a few miles south of your dreams.
In contrast to the ghastly violence and hateful rhetoric of the mainstream world, there is an entire subculture of kids who are thinking bigger than war, commerce and close-minded patriotism.
They think with their heart rather than TV-manipulated media hysteria. Their emotion comes from the earth, not from the tentative things of this world and the old, dying generation of Democrats and Republicans that insist on seeing the world in dollars and cents. Someday a new generation will rise, and after seeing the harmony of young people too smart for the world that ignores them, I now have the faith that they can rebuild these old shacks of the 20th century into something artistic and beautiful.
One stark image stands out from my stay at Snag Mountain—that of a young shaggy haired fellow using an iPad. Products come and go but people are constantly evolving for the better. Steve Jobs, the heartless and mean-spirited inventor of the iPad is dead. Now his fruitage rests, not in the hands of Tim Cook who presides over a slowly sinking ship, but in the hands of a young artist who dares to make more creative and peaceable use of this weapon of evil.
I was surprised at how friendly everyone was in Burnsville and Asheville, and random people I met at “Rad Dawgz” hot dog shop, who were more than willing to play a ukulele and then show us their YouTube video. Turns out the one fellow almost won the big miniature radio controlled aircraft contest but bowed out because a technicality. Who knew there were so many politics in the world of miniatures?
Even walking back to my car from Downtown Asheville, NC I was impressed at just how jolly every soul was. After being thrown into a close face-to-face encounter with a homeless man, who asked not for money but for my Jerusalem Garden Cafe leftovers, I decided to give him two boxes worth, figuring he would appreciate it for more than I. He not only said God Bless You, but sang loudly throughout the square, “I got some good dinner tonight!”, after which a whole group of his contemporaries came and joined him. It might have been a beautiful scene…although I can only imagine the sorrow / horror on his face when learning that my leftovers were, in fact, vegetarian. Er, sorry about that.
The vortexes of Asheville North Carolina and beyond are certainly keeping our spirits attune to a new dimension of thought. A future world in which hippies still dream, even as the powers that be gradually lose their tight grip on humanity.
I hope that more people make an effort to join artist residency programs and farm-friendly eco-tours, as this journalist / novelist was certainly inspired by what he saw. These guys will snag your soul. They’re a thorn in the side of Big Business, Mother Earth’s own firm handshake that won’t let go until you listen to her voice.
The Late Mitchell Warren is the author of The End of the Magical Kingdom trilogy, an Anti-Disney parody and political satire. When he’s not bleeding on the page, he sometimes travels around the country and corrupts the youth.