So I lost my shit on Twitter last night. Twitter is a bad place to lose one’s shit, in part because it’s where I usually go to say things like, wow, I sure lost my shit! And now that I have done it on Twitter, I don’t have anywhere to say that. Which is probably why I’m saying it here, but also because I sort of want to examine what it was exactly that made me lose my shit. The immediate cause was yet another bad meal in yet another overpriced West Asheville restaurant but there’s more to it, more underlying that issue. It would be easy to say, well, I was just drunk, but, uh, I wasn’t. Or not very.
I went to the bar with some friends after work, had a couple of drinks, met my friend Jay there and the two of us decided to go out to eat. This is expensive for me, eating out, and I’ve been doing it more than I really should lately – I really shouldn’t do it at all, like ever, like period, full stop, never – but, okay, let’s just go somewhere cheapish. How about this place nearby? OK, let’s go there, I went there once when they first opened a fairly long for West Asheville time ago, it wasn’t very good, I never went back. But let’s give it another try. Well. It was a Saturday night so I suppose I should have expected it: that place was packed. It also had a huge TV screen going and tons of hip young people in their twenties and thirties and many, many shrieking children. It was bright and jammed and loud and horribly trendy in a kind of weird fake way like you would expect more in the suburbs: yeah, no. So we said, okay, let’s go somewhere else, what about this place? Oh it is too far to walk, I don’t want to drive, let’s go to this place, I went there once, when it first opened, it wasn’t very good, but let’s give it another try. It was mostly deserted, which should have been a clue.
It has gotten kind of absurdly tough to be a vegetarian in Asheville, which is interesting in its own right and functions as a handy metaphor for a lot that has changed here in the last five or so years. This used to be the most vegetarian friendly town maybe anywhere, but, no longer. I think some of that is that the children raised by vegetarian hippie parents have all grown up and demanded bacon and lots of it but some of it is, yes, the gentrification and standardization and, oh god, I could and probably will go on and on. Suffice it to say that there is not a lot on the menu at this place – or at any place these days that isn’t purely vegetarian – for vegetarians. So, of my two options, I ordered a beet burger. A beet burger, it turns out, is some beets beaten up with egg and flour, fried, and served with half an avocado and a slice of tomato on top and a pot of mustard. That’s it. No discernible seasoning. No sauce. No anything, really. I looked at it and it looked at me and I tried, I tried slathering mustard on the beets and then I thought, what the FUCK am I doing? This is ridiculous. Worse, this is $9 worth of ridiculous and I’m hungry and it takes me about an hour to earn $9 and I don’t want to work an hour for unseasoned beets. It is not like it’s hard to make a sauce for beets, you know, you can do a sour cream one with dill or a white sauce or a tzatziki – there are options here. Mustard should really not be one of them.
So I sent it back – I have hardly ever done this in my whole life but I did it last night – and the waiter was very nice, which is why I overtipped him for taking it back and I got the stinkeye from the kitchen crew and paid $10 for a small glass of Spanish bubbly white wine and so by the time I got home I was in a fine mood, let me tell you. I had a similar fiasco at a different West Asheville restaurant about six weeks ago and so I thought about that and about the pizza we ordered from a West Asheville place about three weeks ago that took two and a half hours to arrive and when it did was stone cold and nearly inedible anyway. And then I thought, who the fuck were all those shiny people watching football with small children, what was that bright, sterile, trendy place and where did my neighborhood go? Where am I? There didn’t used to be a lot in West Asheville but what there was was dependably mediocre and affordable and comfortably grotty. Now, what we have is so expensive it is enough to break my admittedly tiny monthly budget and it’s pretty much horrible across the board. The only really good restaurant meal I’ve had in Asheville in the last YEAR was at Kathmandu. And that, in this “foodie” city, is bullshit and a goddamn shame.
But then, the taxes keep going up and the water bill has just gone way up again and meanwhile, the infrastructure is crumbling around us and there is less coming back to the citizens than there used to be and that is a goddamn shame, too. There are probably more cops, but there are less festivals. Well, you have to pay more, they say, because there are more people now and so the infrastructure needs fixing. Well, hello, perhaps the ones who lured the new people to town should be fixing that. Maybe the developers who have added more than 30 houses in a six block radius around my house in the last three years should have to pay a rather hefty percentage of their budget into infrastructure updates. Maybe we should say, FUCK NO, there can not be any more growth. Maybe we need to stop this shit. Enough, you know, is enough eventually. Or so you would think, but it is too late anyway.
I just, I don’t know, I am tired of this. I used to love my city and my neighborhood and I used to be okay with being poor – but now I am poorer than I ever was before and it wears on you after a while. I need to fix my roof and my plumbing and a whole host of other things and I can’t. I will probably have to beg you all for money to pay the house taxes this year and eventually, you know, this sort of thing gets old. It was one thing when we were all in the same boat – and I think there are a lot more of us who are a lot poorer than people will admit to or say out loud (which is the subject of whole other essay I want to write someday) but lately, in this neighborhood, I feel like the odd one out, the last surviving poor person and sometimes it is very goddamn tough to go on being nice about it.