I'm feeling very nostalgic tonight. I am currently sitting in a Hampton Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. I always get nostalgic when I come here. I am here on a work-related trip visiting the Thomas Wolfe Memorial and Zebulon Vance Birthplace. I had a nice visit at Wolfe this afternoon and am looking forward to spending the day at Vance tomorrow.
The reason I get nostalgic when I come here is because during the summers of 1994 and 1995 I worked on the staff at Montreat Conference Center, a Presbyterian conference center near Black Mountain. Those two summers were two of the best of my life. I realize in hindsight that I grew as a person a lot as a result of those two summers. I met a lot of really great people, some of which I still keep in touch with.
So let's examine the nostalgia. I started feeling it as soon as I was past Morganton on I-40 and saw the mountains looming up ahead of me. When I saw the Black Mountain/Montreat exit (#64) I started reminiscing in my mind about the time spent there. I went to the Asheville Mall this afternoon to kill some time and went to Pipes Ltd., the shop where I bought my very first pipe some 13 years ago. For old times sake, I bought an ounce of the blend I used to smoke from there called Asheville Mist. In a rather eery moment, I saw a friend's ex-fiancee walking in the mall with a child on her hip. She looked right at me, didn't speak, so I kept on walking. But how odd is it that I go to a place where I haven't been in at least 6 years and see someone I knew in a past life. Whoa! As I was leaving the mall, thunderstorm clouds had settled on the tops of the mountains and a cool rain was falling. I passed by the Chili's restaurant where I sat one night in 1995 drinking scotch with my friend Harvey. He was moving from Wilmington to New Mexico and stopped in Asheville for the night (the first leg of a seven day trip). Its the last time I saw Harvey. We exchange Christmas cards every year. He now lives in Arizona, is married, and has a child.
Anyway, as nostalgic as it all may be, I know that I would not want to live here again. Truth be told, I'm not really fond of snow and ice which kind of kills the mountains for me. Do I miss the area, yes. Do I love to come back, yes. But no matter what its still different now than it was a dozen years ago, ex-fiancees and tobacco stores aside. Asheville has grown immensely and is not the same place it was then. Most of the people that I really care about from those days no longer live here. But I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling every time I see those mountains looming ahead. And when I'm here its almost like living in a dream.