Naked in Asheville
Billed as "the world's largest naked event since the dawn of the textile industry" by its organizers, the World Naked Bike Ride is coming to Asheville.
In 25 cities in 10 different countries, naked bike riders are expected to take to the streets on Saturday, June 12 as a "protest [against] oil dependency and [a celebration] of the power and individuality of our bodies," according to promoters.
Click onto the Asheville link at www.worldnakedbikeride.org and you'll read that "the bare riders will also be protesting involvement in Iraq, promoting peace, civil rights and their personal sovereignty."
J. Charles Banks, a 66-year local man who plans to ride the 2.1 mile route through town to protest "our dependence on foreign oil," says he's talked to others, both young and old, who plan to participate -- some traveling from as far away as Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Knoxville, Atlanta and even Miami.
The event is clothing-optional, says Banks, noting that talented body painters from Atlanta will be coming in to help with some artful decoration. "The motto is: Bare as you dare," he explains.
Though public nudity is illegal in our state, Banks notes that in Vancouver, where the event started several years ago, and in Seattle, which had its first naked bike ride last year, there have as yet been no arrests, even though public nudity is illegal in both cities.
How likely is it that Asheville will treat the event with the same hands-off attitude? Already, City Attorney Kurt Euler and the Asheville Police Department have made various attempts to contact organizers to let them know they need to obtain a permit for the event and that exposing one's private parts is illegal. "[We] wanted to work with them to ensure a safe and peaceful parade," says Euler.
On May 18, APD Captain Ted Lambert visited a planning meeting for the local event "to try to open the lines of communication," he reports, but "was never able to really identify a particular person who took credit for being an organizer."
Banks, who is adamant that "there are no organizers," explains that no one is willing to step up and work with the city because, under the N.C. state law, anyone who promotes an event like this could be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of five to 12 months in jail and/or a $250-$1,000 fine.
Even Euler admits that if organizers stepped forward now, he couldn't guarantee that there wouldn't be any repercussions. "Obviously, if you are openly advocating someone to break the law ... there is some inherent risk in that. ... The law is the law."
Still, he says, "If you're the organizers, you should at least try to make it as safe as you can for [participants]."
Interim Police Chief Ross Robinson doesn't want to speculate on what will happen on the day of the event, but, he notes, "We're prepared to enforce the law. We'll make the best call as we can at the time and hopefully everyone will be cooperative."
He adds, "We would [still] like to ensure everyone's safety in this situation, and that's why our door remains open. If people want to talk to us, we're glad to hear from them. As of this time, they haven't broken any law -- in my estimation anyway."
Banks, who survived a stint as a prisoner of war in Malta and two close calls with cancer, says being arrested doesn't frighten him. "Someone arresting me because my lingam is showing is far from something that's going to bother me," he notes. "If it came to be," he adds, "I will not pay the fine, and I will actually spend time in county jail."
The Asheville participants will gather at 11 a.m. June 12 for body painting and ride info at the parking lot by the French Broad Food Coop, and get underway at 1 p.m. The ride ends at the parking area between Classic Car Wash and Bruegger's Bagels. The businesses mentioned are not sponsoring or involved in the event.
-- Lisa Watters
Shindig in Shiloh
To cap off a week of neighborhood revitalization efforts, the South Asheville community of Shiloh is sponsoring a Community Day on Saturday, June 12, 12-4 p.m. at the Shiloh Community Center (121 Shiloh Road).
The free, family-friendly party will feature music, food, games, mini golf, an inflatable jumping gym, a dunking booth, arts and crafts, free credit reports (provided by First Citizens Bank), plus exhibits and booths by the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, Neighborhood Housing Services of Asheville and other nonprofits. There will also be a graduation ceremony for students of a financial-fitness class that was offered by NHS and Consumer Credit Counseling Services.
"We're really excited about all these activities," notes Marilyn Bass of NHS, which is cosponsoring the event with the Shiloh Community Center.
Shiloh Community Day is the culmination of a week's worth of neighborhood revitalization activities, which are also taking place around the country as part of National NeighborWorks Week, an effort that brings together residents, friends, co-workers and local leaders to transform communities. NeighborWorks is a network of more than 225 community-based organizations (including NHS) working to revitalize more than 2,500 communities. It is supported by the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, a national nonprofit.
The NeighborWorks Week in Asheville began on June 4 with an Open Forum and an update from the Shiloh Community Task Force. The keynote speaker at that event was J. Otis Smith, a consultant with Stand By Systems II, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in team development, conflict resolution, diversity and leadership motivation.
The week's activities include a Beautification Project on Wednesday, June 9, cosponsored by Quality Forward, in which kids from the Shiloh Community Center Day Camp will be planting annuals and perennials at the community center, and residents of the Shine On Others Recovery House will be doing the same at that facility.
Shiloh Community Day, says Bass, will give people a chance "to wind down from the work of the week."
For more information, call the NHS at 251-5054.
-- Lisa Watters
Party hardy for art
On the cusp of summer, the nonprofit Asheville Area Arts Council will stage an evening of parties on Saturday, June 19 to raise money for its work. Ticket holders will be able to attend three of five events, which are collectively designated the Pink Ball.
The evening begins with the Venetian Carnivale Patrons' Party (6-8 p.m. in the Gypsy Moon courtyard), featuring jugglers, musicians, masks and mimes, as well as authentic Italian cuisine.
Between 8 and 10 p.m., partiers must choose between Midnight in Montmartre at Tressa's (with French edibles, cool jazz and a cancan cabaret), Romance of the Red Sea (an Egyptian-themed journey into exotic and intoxicating delights at Celine's) and the Scandinavian Ice Ball (a smorgasbord at the Haywood Park Atrium, set in the Land of the Midnight Sun).
At 10 p.m., revelers will repair to the Orange Peel for the Celestial Pink Party at the Peel. There, organizers promise guests a Midsummer Night's dream come true.
Last year's event, dubbed the Orange Ball, sold out early, and organizers expect this year's tickets to go even more quickly.
For more information or to purchase tickets ($75), phone the Arts Council at 258-0710.
-- Cecil Bothwell
From couch potato to finish line -- secrets of marathon running revealed
Ironic as it may sound, running taught me to slow down. Running is my meditation; it gives my thoughts a place to go, releasing my fears and self-imposed limitations. When I am running regularly, I am less likely to run out on commitments and challenges. I am more grounded, more creative and more confident -- and I can eat more chocolate.
It all started when my friend Tina came to visit me from Utah. At the time, she was single, pregnant with her first child, and about to start law school. She looked healthy and strong. Clearly, she knew something I didn't. She told me her "secret" was running.
Despite being a confirmed couch potato, I was unable to ignore the power of her example. So I took the first step and made a 30-day commitment. Every day that month, I ran one mile around the UNCA track. I'd been "running in circles" for years, so it seemed like a good place to start.
I'm not going to lie. It felt awful. It was August. I was carrying 30 pounds more than I am now. For the first week or so, I was sure that when the 30 days were over, so was my running career. But somewhere in that month, a metamorphosis took place; my legs got a feel for the movement and my body began to feel like a machine.
I took the next step, and began running on the road. That led to running in local 5K (3 mile) races. I began to feel like an athlete and met some of the most amazing people in the local running community.
A little over a year had passed, when a poster at the Y caught my eye. The American Diabetes Association was seeking members for Team Diabetes to run a marathon and raise money for a good cause. My father and my good friend Suzin both suffer from this disease, so I took another step and accepted the challenge.
On October 29, 2000 in Ireland, I was reborn in a cool Dublin rain, given a new lease on life by completing that 26.2 mile race. I learned the value of showing up, the strength of a steady pace, and the power of putting one foot in front of the other. Those lessons have carried over to other areas of my life, and I am forever grateful to Tina and the other "giants" on whose shoulders I have been able to stand to see beyond what I thought I could do.
"When the time is right," says endurance athlete Stu Mittleman, "you will run, and once you do, you will open up the possibility that your life will never be the same." I know this to be true.
For more information on how you can get involved with Team in Training or The Nike 26.2 Women's Marathon, call Becky Upham at 254-4234 or come to a local information meeting at 6 p.m. on June 10 at the Central YMCA. The marathon is set for Oct. 24 in San Francisco.
-- Rachelle Sorensen
What comes around goes around
"Good Karma: Come and get you some," is the tagline for an unusual blood drive on Saturday, June 12 at the Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company (675 Merrimon Ave.).
The event will feature a bloodmobile on-site from 3-8:30 p.m.; entertainment by WNC's psychedelic garage popsters Echoes of Tyme at 8 p.m.; and the premier of Lunch Video Magazine's crash-and-burn kayak film You Gonna Eat That? at 9 p.m.
"We're trying to make a bit of a party out of it," explains Johan Forsberg, founder of bgood, a "sustainability solutions" company, which is co-sponsoring the event with the American Red Cross. "The Red Cross is really interested in getting new donors and this will be a way to maybe bring out some people who haven't donated in the past and hopefully get some action that way."
Potential donors are asked to make an appointment and are advised to eat well and drink plenty of water beforehand. They will also need to show an ID, preferably a photo ID.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 301-8735 or visit www.bgood.se.
-- Lisa Watters
Rabies level high this summer
Like last summer, rabies cases are being reported at above-normal rates in Buncombe County.
To protect domestic animals from contracting the deadly viral disease from wild animals, the Buncombe County Health Center and Buncombe County Animal Control strongly urge pet owners to have their animals vaccinated.
For $5 per animal, rabies vaccinations will be given to pets each Saturday this June from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the following locations: June 12 at Erwin High School, June 19 at Fairview Elementary School, and June 26 at North Buncombe Middle School in Weaverville.
Layton Long, director of environmental health at the Buncombe County Health Center and liaison to Buncombe Country Animal Control explains, "Since the disease will remain in Western North Carolina for several years, it is important for the public to be well informed about rabies."
Aside from vaccinating pets, Long urges residents to call Buncombe County Animal Control at 253-1195 if they see an animal acting strangely and to contact their physician or hospital emergency room if they come in contact with a possibly rabid animal.
At various times through the summer, Buncombe County government cable-TV channel will air a video about rabies. Check local listings for more details. The video is also available online at www.buncombecounty.org. To access the video, click on "Online Video" under "Helpful Links" and then select "Rabies in Buncombe County" under "Health Issues and Concerns."
-- Korie Ainspan
Accessible to all?
While many area restaurants are certified handicapped-accessible by local governments, this does not necessarily mean they are functionally convenient for people with disabilities, according to ACCESS Independent Living, a local advocacy group for the handicapped. For this reason, the non-profit group is creating its own certification based on more stringent criteria that the group says will be more useful for people with disabilities.
The project, Accessibility for All, will "train teams of volunteers to evaluate the capacity of downtown restaurants to accommodate customers with disabilities," who constitute roughly 35 percent of Buncombe's adult population, explains Carol Hubbard, executive director of ACCESS. Establishments that meet the project's requirements will receive signs to post indicating their certification. The project meets one part of the group's mission "to provide advocacy and leadership in the creation of an accessible community."
The kick-off training for Accessibility for All takes place on June 12 in the Haywood Park Hotel Atrium, on Haywood Street in downtown Asheville, from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Participants are promised a "hands-on, action-packed" training, as well as a free lunch at the restaurant they evaluate. Volunteers with disabilities are especially encouraged to attend. ACCESS requests that volunteers register as soon as possible.
For more information, call ACCESS at (828) 250-9929 or e-mail them at email@example.com.
-- Kori Ainspan
Public housing, public input
Public housing has been in the news a lot lately, most recently as part of a rancorous debate among Asheville City Council members over how best to address drug-related crime. But despite the division among city leaders over how to tackle the problem, major changes are about to occur at the Housing Authority of the city of Asheville.
After more than 25 years at the helm of the city department that runs public housing, Executive Director David Jones Jr. will be retiring at the end of this year.
With that departure in mind, the board of directors of the Housing Authority has announced that it is seeking candidates to fill Jones' position, and it wants the public's help in doing so. While the final hiring decision will be made by City Council, the Authority's board has invited the public to a community meeting to solicit input in its search for a replacement. Residents of public housing and concerned citizens will have an opportunity to discuss desired qualities and qualifications for the executive director's position.
The meeting will be held on June 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Housing Authority's offices located at 165 South French Broad Avenue.