Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Main Street, the East End and the Wooly Adelgid

In February I visited Asheville, North Carolina. The week before I'd been in Raleigh and spring was swelling in the bushes. I was sure that I'd have the joys of early spring during my trip. I was there as part of a celebration of Asheville history as captured in the photographs of Andrea Clark, which were on exhibit at the public library. I was enthralled by her remarkable photos of a lost place, destroyed for road widening. While there, the newspapers reported on two topics that also caught my eye: the plans for Downtown Asheville and the wooly adelgid, which is attacking the hemlock forests which dominate the mountainsides. Thinking about Clark's photographs, downtown planning and ecological disaster helped me to grasp a point that my urbanism teacher, Michel Cantal-Dupart, has made many times. Cities are complex ecological systems, and demand that we consider questions from the perspective of history, our hopes for the future and the current ecological realities. I was delighted that my thoughts on this topic were recently published in Asheville's Urban News.

I had gone to Asheville expecting early spring, but forgetting that spring is notoriously unstable, hot one day and cold the next. And even, as in this case, snowing. A snowstorm hit, and absent plows and sanders, the snow shut the city and its airport down. I was delighted to find that Bistro 1896, which was a couple of blocks from my hotel, was open for lunch and dinner through the storm and its aftermath. The restaurant had a delicious menu, light, flavorful, and fun. It is a place that captures the charm and friendliness of the region. I highly recommend it, should you happen to find yourself in Asheville.

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