Handy Tips and Info For the New In Town

We are finally at the end of the tourist season and into the beginning of the student season. They’re both great–don’t get me wrong by what I’m about to do here, but sometimes, I just want to make out a little pamphlet to hand out to people who visit or move here. So, here’s my little set of observations on life in this small mountain town.

  • Traffic through town is one way. There are two lanes so that people can drive slowly in the left lane to find a parking spot while being careful not to ram into someone backing out of said parking spot. People just going through town drive in the right hand lane. The left lane is NOT for you to zoom past the rest of us and when you WHAM into the back of my neighbor’s humongous pickup as he’s backing out of his spot in front of the barber shop, I am going to laugh at you.
  • When the young guy who mows your lawn tells you he saw that your car was ready for pick up from the body shop (when you never even talked to the boy about your car. ever. ever.), he is not a stalker. He’s just being neighborly. Everybody in town knows you’re car was in the shop even if you never told a soul.
  • It is quite rude not to accept vegetables from someone’s garden when offered. Unless you’re allergic, take them and do your best to eat them. People are proud of their gardens here and you’re rejecting them when you reject their produce. This also goes for canned goods, fresh eggs, fish and venison–if you’re lucky!
  • It is not a novel or new idea to buy local.
  • No, we do not have a single chain restaurant in town apart from fast food. Really. And not everyone is upset by that fact. We also have one Chinese Buffett and we are damned happy to have it, too!
  • Yes, we have yet another auto parts store that just opened. We have one of every kind known to man, plus a few locally owned.
  • The movie theater does not take credit cards and probably never will. Get over it. You’re seeing a first run movie at half the cost of the Big City and they have candy bars that are cheap enough to not require credit to purchase.
  • Downtown Cullowhee is that spot where they told you. It’s a laundry mat, tattoo shop, a few abandoned places that used to be stores. It’s not even a “wide spot’ in the road–it’s just a spot. Once you see the pizza place, you’ve already missed it.
  • This is a college town because there is a college here, but it is not like any other college town because there is no “there” there.
  • There is one Catholic church, two Episcopal churches, one Lutheran church and 9,584,625 Baptist churches. Oh and about half that number of Methodist.
  • Yes, there are churches here where people handle snakes. They are not in the yellow pages and do not really want you to visit and take their picture. They are not the Amish.
  • When someone asks you who your “people” are, they are not assuming you’re a different race or from another country. They want to know if you’re “local” or “outlander”.
  • No matter how long you’ve lived here, you are not a “local” unless your great grandmother was born here. For some, that still might not be good enough.
  • Just because you are an “outlander” does not mean that people don’t love you or that they aren’t glad you’re here. You can be an outlander and still make this your home.
  • It does not matter where you came from, nobody can drive on ice. Snow, yes. Ice, no. People slide on ice. See all those guys in giant pickups out playing in the snow and ice? They’re all volunteer firemen with massive life insurance policies whose wives have said, “sure honey, go out and play in the snow!”
  • Be nice to the volunteer firemen because that is all we have. And they will save your life.
  • If you see a funeral with a cremation then you know the person wasn’t “local”. There’s nothing wrong with cremation but people just do not do that here. They love the land and see nothing wrong with being planted in it.
  • We do not talk funny here and we do not have an “accent”.
  • A “painter” is a panther. “Yonder” means over there. (And, by the way, Shakespeare used that word so I suggest, unless you wish to show your literary ignorance, that you not make fun of it. Many of the colloquialisms of the area are directly linked to Olde English, so perhaps we speak more properly than you.)
  • Everybody is related. Or might as well be. Gossip at your own risk.
  • Big houses on the side of the mountain makes for an ugly mountain.
  • We are not Hillbillys. We are mountaineers.
  • Storytelling is a fine art.

They’re here

They’re here. The tourists, that is. Actually, they’re everywhere. Because I love this little town and I love the people who live and work here, I am glad that the tourists are here. There do seem to be quite a bit more of them than last year, probably due to the fact that it is so hot everywhere else in the world and, though it is still hot here, it’s nothing like other parts of the Southeast. Additionally, everyone is afraid of being attacked by rogue tarballs in Florida, so no one is heading that way this summer either.

So, they’ve come here. Driving slowly and weaving around as they look at the mountains. Ignoring everyone else around them. Walking down the center of the aisle at the grocery store or spreading out all across the sidewalk like…..like…..like they’ve got all the time in the world. Like they’re on vacation or something. Yeah, I know, THEY ARE on vacation. And I’m not. And neither are all of the people employed in vocations that interface with them.  And yet sometimes……not all the time and not with every single person that comes….. but sometimes it sure does seem that there are a few tourists who have a kind of frontal lobotomy before coming on their trip.

I’ve never lived in a town that had tourists before. I mean, certainly, there were travelers that came to the other places I’ve lived. They were, after all Bigger City and Really Big City and lots of people come to big cities. However, vacationers in a tourist town are different. I have not traveled extensively, at least in comparison to those whom I know who have traveled extensively, but I have seen this kind of tourist zombie before. In other countries they’re called ugly Americans though I do not know what we should call them here. I think Tourist Zombies does work quite well. They complain about people in Mexico and France not speaking English. They are rude and loud and critical and, from time to time, downright insulting. They sometimes seem to think that every local person is part of a Disney-style diorama installed for their critique and photo-op.

Somehow, I think they probably do not behave like this at home and are under some kind of inordinate stress brought about by the rigors of travel and the strain of waiting for the next highway exit with a McDonald’s and a bathroom, or close quarters with family members to whom they would like to do bodily harm.  Perhaps they do not realize that the store-clerk they are speaking with is not an animatronic machine at Epcot but is, in fact, a real live human just like them. Maybe the fact that they did not pack their entire brain for the trip causes the inability to function like a normal person.

Granted, I am not being fair to the majority of visitors to this area. Most come here because the love it here. The majority come here because they love the beauty of the mountains, the culture, the pace of life and so much more. Many love it so much that they move here on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. I agree with them–I love it here, too, and think it is the most beautiful place in the world.

So, perhaps the Zombie Tourist is a reminder for everyone and, I will confess, a reminder to myself as well: when packing for vacation, please do not forget your frontal lobe.

Half Day Off

Today was a half day off and I spent part of it in Dillsboro.  I can tell that spring is officially here, not because of flowers or pollen or warmer weather. I can tell because everywhere I go, people ask me something about my ‘visiting the area’. Tourist season is upon us. Before long, we will be beset by the one and only traffic woe we have in this area: the slow and confused vacationer. A friend of mine once said she wanted a bumper sticker that said “please get out of my way, I am not on vacation”. So I shopped for a bit in Dillsboro, determined that a half day off would not turn into a full day that just got started late. Got fudge from the chocolate shop to take home to mom in a few days and was sad to see that the fabric store is yet another small shop fallen prey to hard financial times. Apparently it closed last week. 

 Dillsboro Chocolate Shop Spring creeps up the mountain side and each day on my way home from work I can see more and more of the grey-brown coats of the mountains turning into their lovely spring dresses. Watching the seasons change is like seeing the tide marks on the sand as the ocean slinks in and out. Lovely flowers out in front of our church and also Jarrett Memorial Baptist Church. 

 flowersJarrett Memorial Baptist Church 

 But, perhaps most lovely of all are these Lenten Roses.  I think that’s what they are, though I could certainly be corrected if they are not. I just learned that they previously belonged to the mother of a parishioner and were replanted here upon the lady’s death. Quite nice, I think. 

 Lenten Rose