Wednesday, March 05, 2008

This is kind of an interim post to keep the people to whom it matters up to date. Over the next month Abner and I are moving to a condominium downtown. I have committed to a year in this place, but it could be longer depending upon other events. The condo is small (roughly 1235 sq ft) with two bedrooms and two baths. It is, by far, the smallest place I have lived since I moved to my first house in the summer of 1974. The size issue is an important one since I moved from 2400 sq ft plus storage and garage in Sacramento, to 2100 here and now to about half the Sacramento house’s capacity but without any bulk storage. This will, I believe, force me to decide what is really important to have around, what is less important (which will go into storage) and what is an unmitigated waste, which will be either given away, sold, or thrown away.

During the period of the move, I suspect I won’t have a lot of time to stroll around photographing things and posting stories on the blog. I want to be moved in and reasonably organized by the time the first of my April visitors arrives on the 3rd. Tall order.

The goal here is to give me a place to live for a time while I figure out whether I want to and/or can afford to build the house I designed for my property in North Asheville, or if I would rather live downtown. If downtown ends up being the winner, I will look for a larger place to buy and will, within a year to two, move again. If I decide I want to go ahead and build, it will happen whenever I can afford it, and in the meantime, I will have this adventure of living in downtown Asheville. In some respects, this is coming full circle. When I first came to town in February of 2004, I checked out the possibility of buying a downtown condo, but I couldn’t afford anything that was big enough so I ended up with my house. Ironically, the places I looked at then have doubled in price so I still can’t afford them, but quite a bit of other inventory has hit the market so I have a few more choices. With the uncertainty nationwide in the real estate market, it is hard to guess what will happen here. Things appear to be slowing down in terms of volume of sales and time on the market, but prices don’t seem to have eroded yet. . .at least not in the more highly desirable areas like downtown.

So those of you who read this regularly may have to cut me some slack between now and early May. Between the move and 3 weeks of visitors in April, I am going to be a busy boy.

I had a strange experience at Asheville Radiology’s imaging center the other day. I went in for two imaging procedures my doc prescribed due to some neuro-weirdness that I have been feeling. When the scheduling person called me she told me to allow 45 minutes for both procedures and said that due to my 9:30 appointment, I would be out by 10:15. As should have been no surprise to me, they didn’t even get me into the procedure waiting area until 10:20. Anyway, while sitting in this particular room all by myself and wondering how long it would be before I finished and could proceed to my next appointment (scheduled for 10:30), I was surprised when a young woman walked in and yelled “Mr. Mullins”. Since I am not Mr. Mullins I just sat there and waited for her to conclude that her quarry wasn’t in the room, but she yelled it twice more. She simply stared at me and yelled Mr. Mullins like maybe I would change my mind and become him. Finally, she gave up, turned around, and left, clearly annoyed that I hadn’t cooperated with her. I know experiences like this happen on a daily basis but there was something a trifle surreal about it.

The move to the condo is under way but is filled with problems. The developers of the building haven’t quite finished things, and what they have finished is a little screwed up.

The doors are all cut too high so there are huge (1-3/4”) gaps between the doors and floors. Closet doors got cut to the correct length but they have no impact on sound transmission. The way things are right now, if someone farts in a condo down the hall, I will hear it in my bedroom.

There is this really nice deck that unfortunately doesn’t drain properly so every time it rains there is a pool out there. Not good. There are no mirrors, shower enclosures or glazing for any of the internal windows. I am supposed to meet with the owner to go over a lot of this stuff so she can push the developer to finish all these corrections sooner rather than later. I am supposed to move in on the 13th!

As I go through this moving process again, I am starting to realize that I will rarely be in Kenilworth again after the move. While this has been home for only a little more than 3 years, it nonetheless makes me think about what I will and won’t miss. It will be nice to be away from my neighbor who has become no more pleasant than he was the day he moved in. His wife continues to be as pleasant as she can be under the circumstances but I still will feel better when I don’t have to see his smirking face.

There are people in the neighborhood I will miss though. Robert and Angela who own and operate the Sweet Biscuit Inn a few blocks away are always pleasant and fun to visit with when Abner and I walk by. Besides, they leave a container of dog treats on their front steps for all the local dogs that walk by. Angela even got me ice to treat a bee sting in my foot once last summer. Great folks.

Then there is my buddy Dan. Dan lives in a tiny little house on a street most people don’t know exists. Abner and I started walking by a couple years ago when I realized that using his street allowed me to miss a house a block away where there are out of control adolescent and pre-adolescent terrorist children almost always on the sidewalk or in the street skateboarding and generally being a little too in-your-face for my taste. Dan tells me I have missed the real treat at that intersection though. Apparently the mother of the offending children is a belligerent drunk who is often screaming from her front door gripping a drink and the phone. She also apparently prefers to be shirtless and braless. He calls her “angry-drunk-titty-lady” and I have secretly hoped to spot her just once before we move.

I will miss Lori and Jay, and all the nice younger couples who have been producing babies like mad down at the bottom of Normandy Road. Even though I see little of all these people, it is always pleasant when I do encounter them. Regan is a phantom but I will even miss him. Then of course there is Kristin who was the first to welcome me to Normandy Road and continues to be one of the sweetest most generous people I have met. Alan and Jim are also people I only see a couple times a year but it is always fun and it was nice to know they were there.

So, off I go to downtown condo life. I will provide a full report of the move (which will no doubt be harrowing) and all the interesting things that happen once we are in. Until then. . . .
This month I am starting with a photo of Amanda and Abner. Amanda is one of the photographers at Biltmore House whom we have known for some time now. She has a serious allergy to dogs but is so smitten with Abner that she gives him the most affectionnate greetings imaginable anyway. I think as soon as she finishes lavishing him with love she probably has to race into the rest room to wash so as to not break out in some horrible rash. Talk about dedication.

The shot below is one I just couldn't resist posting. I have posted lots of shots of the Bass Pond, but this one was taken in the late afternoon in February and the combination of the spring buds on the trees and the very low sun angle produced this lush purplish effect.

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All three of these shots probably merit your clicking on them to see them full-size. Above is the view of Biltmore House from the lower terrace at The Inn. The photo below is of the City of Asheville from the Blue Ridge Parkway southeast of town.

The shot above is of Biltmore House from the Parkway. It is helpful to remember that when George and Edith Vanderbilt lived there, the land on which I stood to take this shot was not only on the estate but easily 15 or miles from the eastern edge.
The house is constantly being maintained and restored. These guys are working on some repair to the roofing slates above the Library wing.
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Canada Geese and a few ducks have returned to the Bass Pond, apparently to start nesting. It is so beautiful and serene there in the transitional period from winter to spring

The moss above is one I hadn't seen before. I am continually amazed at the variety of mosses that proliferate the forests here. Below is a shot of Black Angus at Biltmore on a very warm February afternoon. One of the calves was completely zonked out.
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From the left, Matt, Regie, Amy and I shamelessly posing on a dog walk. Spencer is barely visible in front of Regie and Bear is completely hidden other than his totally recognizable German Shepherd ears visible behind Abner. Getting all the people to look at the camera at the same time was an accomplishment. Hoping for cooperation of all the dogs was probably unreasonable.

These three shots are of Abner and Spencer playing after the walk. Bear started to get involved but wasn't sure how it would work with three dogs at the same time so he just kind of hung out and watched.

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In what I hope will be an ongoing effort to show more of urban Asheville to those of you who haven't been here, I am starting with the Basillica of St. Lawrence downtown. This baby is a must-see if you come to town. Amazing dome.

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Above is a shot of the Buncombe County Administration building with the new modern jail growing out the back. Below is one of many really wonderful examples of the success of the Art in Public Places program in downtown Asheville. I will post more as I get a chance to photograph them.

The shot above is looking south on Haywood Street, one of the principal downtown commercial streets. Almost all the buildings have housing above the street level. . .very renaissance. Below is a shot looking east from Haywood at the hills that separate downtown from East Asheville.
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These two shots show the views up and down Lexington Avenue from the balcony of my new condo. The lower shot is looking north at the Kress building (now condos and artsy stores) and the hills of North Asheville in the background.

Above is Abner in the as yet unfurnished great room of the condo. I take him over there pretty much every time I go so he is getting used to being downtown. The photo below is of the gorgeous Art Deco City Hall.
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Regie and I sometimes walk the dogs around Biltmore Forest where she and Eric live. It occurred to me that I have never posted photos of the Forest, or for that matter, much of town, so I am going to try to rectify that in the next few posts. The next group of houses are all in Biltmore Forest and will give you some of the flavor of the neighborhood.

The above photo is actually not a house, but the clubhouse for Biltmore Forest Country Club. I don't know why my camera decided to do this arty black and white shot with green being the only color that made it, but I liked the shot anyway.
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This is, in my opinion, an excellent example of why there should be design review. The gargantuan house below which is, in my opinion, one of the greater architectural travesties in Buncombe County, was recently completed directly across the street from the house you see above. I feel sorry for the owners of the one above.

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This is actually a gate house to a side entrance to Biltmore from Biltmore Forest. I am very enamored of the lanterns on top of the gateposts, one of which you can see below. Passholders at Biltmore get to use this entrance on days when the crowds are big enough to require timed entry into the house.

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