Well on this foggy mountain top, not 40 miles from where The Carter Family first heard, learnt and played ‘Foggy Mountain Top’ the temperature has dropped to 51F so I’m in bed, wearing my PJ’s and as many blankets as I can find in my eco friendly Air BnB that uses “passive solar heating strategies to keep the house warm”. It’s cold and damp and raining cats and dogs outside.
I left Philadelphia this morning in pouring rain and our delayed Frontier Airlines A3somethingorother bumped its way South to Charlotte where the rain was even heavier. I’m told the drive from Charlotte up to Appalachia and the Smoky Mountains is beautiful. Sadly it was raining so hard I saw nothing but spray from the semi’s hauling either side of me. As we climbed into the cloud I couldn’t even see brake lights ahead, but I could hear my grumbling stomach. Unfortunately the weather was so bad that I didn’t dare leave the Freeway to find lunch in case I ended up on another road entirely. There was no digital phone signal so my SatNav didn’t work and I had mislaid my hand-written directions – at least Thelma had Louise to read the map.
My meeting with Paul Heumiller – yoga master, yogi and dealer in $20,000 custom made guitars was scheduled for 15 minutes after I’d eventually found The Ashevillage Sanctuary and Movement Collective, my AirBnB, so I just had time to dump my bag in my room before I went to seek my guru.
I could have easily taken a dislike to a person whose mission in life is to “aim for everything I do to be for a higher purpose and to be the best human being I can” but I didn’t. He struck me as one of the most genuine and truly energising people I’ve met.
Paul runs a business called Dream Guitars, itself a ‘watch out there’s a shyster about’ alert in the very name of the company. (Trivia – the German Jewish term shyster derives from scheisser, meaning literally “one who defecates” so it really isn’t that nice a term anyway). He represents about 50 single luthiers who build top end, one off custom made guitars with eye-watering price tags and wait times that often run into years. However Paul struck me as a man with a mission not to empty the wallets of the gullibly wealthy but to fulfil dreams for people who want their perfect guitar to be made for them and to support the artisan builder along the way.
We had a fascinating couple of hours discussion over the finest curry North Carolina can provide before agreeing to meet again in his ‘salon de guitar‘ tomorrow… but not before I’ve cut up my credit cards and cancelled my bank account overdraft facility in preparation.
I close my computer for the night to see if I can somehow stop the ill-fitting but undoubtedly eco-friendly windows from rattling as the rain has started even harder than before.
In the morning it’s still raining and after a cool eco-friendly shower I head into Asheville for a restorative breakfast. It comes in the shape of a dish called ‘Eggs Betty’ at a local restaurant – Tupelo Honey. I looked high and low for evidence of a grumpy Irish singer wearing a pork-pie hat but to no avail.
‘Betty’ appears to be ham and eggs over ‘corn grits’ with a version of Hollandaise to up the calorific content – a sort of Southern take on Benedict. It sounds indulgent but was the healthiest sounding thing on the menu…. I could have gone for the Deep Fried BLT!
The one meal gets me through the day which I spend traipsing round the rain sodden streets of Asheville. I’m working myself up to a second session with The Guitar Guru.
(This blog entry was first published as part of a private series of blogs made in October 2015. I have only recently uploaded them to my blog site… so you may have read it before)