One year ago I was sitting at a bar in Montana with my head on my plate. It was the beginning of a long stretch of sadness.
If you've ever flown from the West Coast to Asheville, you'll understand just how much of an endeavor it is, how many planes and Chicago-Midway layovers it entails.
If you've ever stood at the starting line of a Seattle winter, waiting for the gun to go off, the first rain to began that never ends, and you're already heartbroken, you know what a grueling and dismal place it is to be.
One year later. What a slog it's been. And always there was Amber, pushing me outside, laps around the lake with our dogs, dragging me to riotous tuesdays at the Tin Hat on Phinney Ridge, whiling away dark February mornings at Fiore while I drank my coffee and waited for the jolt of caffeine to hit, the 20 best minutes of my day.
Then when spring came and I was feeling a little better, she sort of upped the ante. She pushed me up rocks and off of cliffs (into water), we swung off rope swings and lead harder and harder routes, at one point she with a broken ankle climbing them one legged. She took me to Spokane, Canada, Idaho, Squamish, Leavenworth. She never worried too much about my sadness, my silent moods or long (agonizing) soliloquies about how I'd be broke and alone and living in the shitty apartment forever. She just figured I'd feel better in time, but for the time being could benefit from some company and from being outside.
She was on to something.
And then I got my act together, in no small part because of friends like her, and I packed up and took off. A year since leaving the boat and breaking up with Andrew and living in a small string of places not worth living in, and now I'm here.
Here is Western Carolina. Here is Waking Life in the morning with Erich, my boyfriend's front porch as he bangs on the piano, the trails at Bent Creek. Here is drinking cider at the bar with Yonton. Here is happy. Here is missing my friends in Seattle, thoughts of them a shimmering feeling, gilding every minute that goes by.
::::So Amber visited me, and we did too much and took too many photos for one post, so I'll begin by writing about the most important things, which are of course, the things we drank.
More than once he's dragged me to a nicer place downtown and whispered, "You're the only one I can go here with." Through a painful process of trial and error and weak espresso tossed into trashcans across town, we've found a few places that can rival a few of the best spots in Ballard.
I took Amber to Waking Life in the morning before mountain biking.
And High Five Coffee (which we both kept calling High Five Pie, obviously, anyone from Seattle ought to understand) to be treated with some of that classic barista attitude worthy of Fremont or even Capitol Hill, and a stunning wait time for anything, but the Chai is spicy and the cappuccinos are delicious. Here, slow mornings rolled into afternoon for poor Amber as she read with the dog, waiting for me to finally rise and stagger down the hill to join her.
One evening, after cold trail riding and fried chicken at homegrown, we went over to the newly opened Urban Orchards in West Asheville, owned by my friend Josie and her husband Shilo. We sat in that beautiful, warmly lit bar full of glowing maple and cherry, wrapped in fleece, red cheeked from the wind and nearly too tired to speak.
In a fantastic twist, a few of our good friends from Seattle were visiting Asheville at the same time, up from Atlanta where they've relocated to. They invited us to dinner out in the country and told us to brings something to drink. Feeling festive and indecisive, we went overboard, and showed up at their doorstep with red wine, two bottles of white wine, a bottle of champagne and a growler of Pale Ale from Pisghah brewing.
But mostly, we drank beer.
Black Ninja porter in the parking lot of Bent Creek and underneath the boulders at Rumbling Bald, pitchers of Orange Wheat Ale over rounds of Corn Hole at the Wedge, cold bottles around a table as we carved pumpkins, in a field in Tennessee wrapped in blankets in a freezing wind. Fitting, as Asheville is nicknamed Beer City, with more breweries per capita than any other town in the country....except Portland, maybe. (We care not about Portland.)
And on our last night together for a long time, we drank chocolate. Smoked maple and sea salt drinking chocolate and Indian Kulfi hot chocolate with rose water, pistachio and cardamom from The Chocolate Lounge.
I'll be back in a bit for a post about what we did between the ubiquitous imbibing, but until then, thank you for making the trip, Amber. And for everything else as well. Cheers.