By: Ken Boone
It must have been the fresh mountain air. I swear that my body went into shock when I got out of the car and inhaled. Being a native New Yorker, I was used to breathing smog. Not the more famous Los Angeles variety, but an equally nasty East Coast combination of fog and pollution.
The first time I went to Asheville was to attend a memorial service for Celia’s mother. We weren’t married yet, but were engaged, so I was being introduced to her relatives as their future in-law. They were very nice people who immediately accepted me. In particular, her uncle, aunt, and two cousins from Florida literally blew me away with their instant smiles and enthusiastic hugs!
At the time, we could only afford to stay at the hotel one night. We had recently incurred an expense that kept a prolonged hold on our credit card. Hearing about our plight, her oldest sister offered to help, which I politely declined. Her husband told Celia that, since she loved me, they were committed to loving me too. Innocent until proven guilty - such a novel concept in my world!
Her other sister’s husband picked up our check when we all went out to eat after the service. I didn’t get a chance to turn down that offer. When I went over to thank him, he jumped into a conversation about road trips through Western New York State, my former home. He didn’t want acknowledgment for his generosity, he just wanted a chance to get to chat; one in-law to another. I made a vow right then that they would never have to worry about their little sister being in good hands. I think I kept my word. (Editor’s note from Celia, Ken has *most definitely* kept his word!!!)
We returned to that beautiful city in the Blue Ridge Mountains a couple years later to attend Celia’s class reunion. It was then that I realized that she was a star in that neck of the woods, when she played, sang , and tore down the house. Again, I met plenty of nice people who immediately accepted me. In fact, some even asked what year I graduated from that school. I never attended school there, but they included me and made me feel like an alumnus anyway.
Over the past eight-plus years, we’ve made dozens of trips up the mountain and through the woods to Celia’s hometown of Candler, which is technically Asheville-Adjacent. Most trips involved us performing our music at Celia’s home church as a piano/bass duet with Celia providing lead vocals. The congregation almost always joined in, enthusiastically singing and raising the rafters with their volume. We have done everything from playing for their morning church services, to being featured artists at their church’s 100th Anniversary Celebration weekend! We even had the opportunity to play on the grounds of the world-famous Biltmore House at the wedding of friends. As always, we were warmly embraced. Some kind friends even lobbied for us to start looking for a house there.
Now, I don’t think I’ve told you about the significant divide in our home. Well, here goes – Celia is a devout vegetarian while I’m a hard-core carnivore. There, I said it! The gulf is wide, but we make it work. A lot of her home church functions end with a huge vegetarian meal. They have potluck dinners just about every week. That was new to me because my home church had them maybe once a year. At Celia’s church potlucks, even I usually have two helpings. Then we always stop by a locally owned Ingle’s Supermarket for a $5.00 carnivore’s feast for me. Ingle’s Supermarkets are one of the reasons I’d love to live in Asheville!
Speaking of stages and potlucks, we were hoping to find a place that could be a reasonable facsimile of Celia’s church a little closer to home. Asheville is a 2+ hour drive, even after we discovered a shortcut. Our faithful car (Blue) got us there and back without any problems whatsoever.
After a bit of exploring, we thought we found a church home relatively close to where we live. It’s a beautiful structure, though quite a bit smaller than the church in Asheville. Upon closer examination it had a bit of a pretentious air to it. They guarded their stage from outside musicians as if it were Carnegie Hall. When it came to their potlucks, they routinely ran out of food before everyone was served. This happened several times we were in attendance, where we didn’t eat anything. To rectify that issue, they began advertising potlucks weeks in advance, repeatedly asking people to bring enough food for themselves and enough to share with others. I wondered to myself if their church budget couldn’t even cover plastic utensils? (Note to self: Because I keep referencing this flock, maybe I need some professional help to move past them!)
It’s my understanding that both churches are currently experiencing huge financial challenges. In fact, organized religion is in a state of decline. It is my sincere hope that both churches find their way to spiritual and financial stability, because they serve a purpose in this world. Celia and I can’t help them with the spiritual part. They both have competent, highly qualified pastors, who we really like!
What they don’t understand is that we can help with the financial challenges. You see, both churches have great stages, with great pianos, sound systems, and wonderful acoustics. Did I tell you that Celia and I do fundraising seminars and concerts? We’ll gladly perform at the church close by because they are close by. We’d jump at the chance to return to the church in the mountains because, among many things, the fresh mountain air, and they have a group of folks who would love for us to move there!
But wait... there's more!
About the Author
As owner of the Descant Music & Media Group, Ken is a creator and producer of several podcast shows. He is also a music producer, as well as a writer and an accountant for small businesses and nonprofits.