Don't believe it? We've got 50 ways to prove you wrong.
Whether you're on a tight budget or just don't need to drop some dough to have a good time, here's hoping you'll find that the opportunities described below are worth the price ($0) and then some. They're a free reminder of just how many local people and places are dedicated to providing what we want or need -- even if we don't pay them for it.
This guide to what can be done and had in Asheville for nothing may surprise many, but it's hardly comprehensive; surely many more freebies exist that didn't make this list. So let's not stop here: Do yourself and your neighbors a favor, and help us spread the word. In the comment field at the end of this article, you can post your own free tips; or you can e-mail them to us at email@example.com and we'll post them online with this article.
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. But getting what you don't pay for can be pretty sweet too.
1: See the world on film
Lovers of Almodóvar, Bergman, Fellini, Godard and other grand filmmakers rejoice! Courtyard Gallery offers a gem of a film series titled Classic Cinema From Around the World. Every Friday night at 8 p.m., organizer of the series and Courtyard Gallery owner Carlos Steward aspires "to present the best of world cinema" to the Asheville community -- for free. For a preview of the week's offering, Xpress' very own Ken Hanke pens a review of each upcoming film in his column "Cranky Hanke." Courtyard Gallery is located at 9 Walnut St. (enter at Walnut next to Scully's or at 13 Carolina Lane). Also of note: Courtyard's Thursday-night open mic, from 9 p.m. to midnight -- which is podcast to some 50,000 subscribers. — M.D.
2: Laugh at people
"The best thing that's great about seeing the OxyMorons for free is that you don't have to pay for it," explains comedian Graham Livengood. The troupe performs an unpredictable show based around improv games and audience suggestions every Friday at 9:30 p.m. at the Asheville Brewing Company (77 Coxe Ave.). The show is free, but donations are encouraged, as is the ordering of a few drinks to lubricate the laughing process. As Livengood says, "Our shows are best when the beer flows like wine." Visit www.OxyMoronsNC.com for more info. — S.S.
3: Get out of debt
When it rains, it pours: Your car needs a new transmission, your credit card is getting a workout, and rent's due. If you're facing financial troubles, take heart: The Consumer Credit Counseling Service can help -- and they'll never send a bill. The nonprofit agency, located at 50 S. French Broad Ave., offers free confidential budget, credit and housing counseling. Certified professionals help consumers formulate plans for getting out of debt and onto solid financial ground. To schedule an appointment, call 1-800-737-5485. — R.B.
4: Fix your bike
At the Asheville Bike ReCyclery, there's no such thing as worthless junk. The collection of recycled gears, brake cables, handlebars, shifters and the like offers raw ingredients for fixing a bike or building a new one. Haven't got a clue how to use a wrench? The volunteer bike mechanics can teach you. The ReCyclery is at 173 W. Haywood St. and Riverside Drive. Hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. Call the shop at 255-7916. — R.B.
5: Be a "freecyler"
Asheville's Freecycle is the e-mail list where unwanted but perfectly useful items go to be reborn as somebody else's "score." A quick glance reveals that a washing machine, a mattress, scrap metal, a living room chair and a bike helmet were all offered and snatched up by Freecylers over a span of several days. If you decide to join, be warned: Free stuff goes fast. To join the listserv, you must have an e-mail address with Yahoo! (visit groups.yahoo.com/group/Asheville-Freecycle for more information). — R.B.
6: Get Quad-raphonic
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer, UNC-Asheville's Concerts on the Quad are low-key music events that make Mondays not so very Monday-ish. The six-week series, held outside (or inLipinsky Auditorium during rain) is the perfect opportunity to pack a picnic and enjoy a variety of bands. "UNCA is absolutely delighted that this popular family-friendly series has become an area tradition," says Office of Cultural & Special Events Director Bunny Halton-Subkis. "Long-time patrons as well as folks brand new to the region should come experience ... lovely green spaces, excellent local and regional music, great food and fellowship." Concerts on the Quad continue through Monday, July 16, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Info: 251-6227. —A.M.
7: Get down, downtown
It doesn't get much better than knocking back a couple of beers and dancing in the streets, unless it's knocking back a couple of beers and dancing in the streets when it's legal and there are barricades to ward off motor vehicles. Downtown After Five is the Asheville Downtown Association's way of making the city rock on selected summer Fridays: June 15, July 20, Aug. 17 and Sept. 21. — C.B.
8: Curb your consumption
Saving energy is good for the bottom line, especially when it costs nothing to figure out how to do it. Waste Reduction Partners helps Western North Carolina businesses curb energy consumption, generate less garbage and improve environmental-management practices. The team of volunteer engineers, architects and scientists offers free on-site assessments and technical assistance to businesses interested in saving money and going green. Visit www.landofsky.org/wrp/services.htm for more. — R.B.
9: Rock out
The Colburn Gem and Mineral Museum (located in Pack Place, 2 S. Pack Square) is a regional, well, gem. The museum's primary collection includes 4,500 specimens from North Carolina and around the world, while the fossil collection tops 500 specimens. On the first Wednesday of each month, admission is free from 3 to 5 p.m. Asked if the event draws any takers, Michelle Kelly, who heads up visitor services, said, "O-oh, yeah. This place turns into the Natural History Museum in New York City. People line up at the door." For more information, call 254-7162. — C.B.
10: Dumpster dive
For the treasure hunter -- and the none-too-queasy -- there are illicit outlets of free stuff all over town. It's called Dumpster diving (not that we condone, or, for that matter, condemn such a thing). Local charity thrift stores regularly toss items that are not suitable for their shelves, and let's not forget about grocers and restaurants who jettison potentially edible food every day. "I know a lot of people who do it," says Mayla, who dives herself, and whose real name is not Mayla. "Everything they eat is Dumpstered." Since DD-ers need to protect the juiciest locations, the best sites are often kept within the circle. If you find a choice spot, make sure to keep an eye out -- rummaging through Dumpsters runs afoul of some merchants and the long arm of the law. — B.P.
11: Buzz your biz
Have a great business idea, but aren't sure what step to take next? Mountain BizWorks offers free once-a-week information sessions to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to learn about the nonprofits' business training and financing services. As Resource Specialist Annie Price explains, "Many of the great small businesses that give Asheville its unique identity have received support from Mountain BizWorks. People come to us with their business idea, and together we work forward to make their dream become a reality." To find out when the next information session will be, visit www.mountainbizworks.org and click on "Events Calendar." — M.D.
12: Get your art on
At first glance, the Asheville Art Museum, located in Pack Place, gives scant suggestion of the treasure trove it houses. Inside, three floors of galleries contain works by regional artists as well as rotating national and international collections. The museum's permanent collection explores the search for self. Art enthusiasts can browse the displays free of charge on the first Wednesday of each month from 3 to 5 p.m. Free Wednesdays have been happening since at least 1992, according to museum staffer Rebecca Lynch-Maas. "It's just a great way to help the community," she says. Info: 253-3227. — A.M.
13: Do a body good
The idea of going inside yourself is redolent of yogis and T.M. gurus, but at the Health Adventure (in Pack Place at 2 S. Pack Square), the inward journey is more corporeal. Kids (of any age) can learn a lot about what makes a body tick from permanent and traveling exhibits. Admission is free on the first Wednesday of each month from 3 to 5 p.m. "When you come, know that there's going to be a ton of other folks here," warns Marketing Coordinator Donna Anderson. "We have 150 to 300 visitors on free days." For more info, call 254-6373. — C.B.
14: Train for the GED
No high-school diploma? Study for your GED (General Educational Development) at no charge courtesy of A-B Tech, at class sites around Buncombe and Madison counties. (You will need $7.50 to take the GED test when you're ready). Just need to improve your reading or math? Adult Basic Education classes are also free, available to anyone without a diploma whose placement score is below high-school level. "If they're testing at high-school level," explains recruiter Cheryl Holder, "they've accomplished what they could in our classes." For more info, visit www.abtech.edu/ce/basicskills-hrd or call 254-1921, ext. 433. — N.H.
15: Eat (or serve) breakfast
Breakfast: It's not just for the homeless anymore. Every Sunday morning at 9:30, a circle of hungry people gathers at downtown's Pritchard Park to have breakfast. On the menu are ham biscuits, eggs, fruit, pastries, coffee and juice, but the the Rev. Amy Cantrell says the real nourishment is social interaction. Cantrell, who has fought for the right to serve the meals under recent scrutiny by surrounding business owners and city leaders, says breakfasting together can break down boundaries. We "eat very segregated," she says. "It is important to eat with people who are different from us." And though homeless people certainly show up for the meal, she says, everyone is invited. — B.P.
16: Let Xpress help you sell out
You not only get Asheville's best newspaper for free each week (that would be the Xpress, by the way), you can also run free classifieds in the Musicians' Bulletin and Pet Xchange sections for ads of 20 words or less. Any sale items costing less than $100 also are free. But wait, there's more: Online, you can post your own free ads for a whole host of things, provided you're not too wordy (and check out our new listings of free stuff that's up for grabs). For all the details, visit www.mountainxclassifieds.com, or call and ask for Carol Ann Jacobs at 251-1333, ext. 110. — H.L.M.
17: Veg out with videos
Desperate to watch a video, but don't feel like spending any money? Consider the film offerings of the Buncombe County public libraries. Sure, the selection isn't as good as, say, Orbit DVD, but you can't beat the price. "Unless it's a Hollywood feature film, it's free," says Library Director Ed Sheary. "That means that all the documentaries, educational films and children's videos are available for regular checkout." And in the event you've just got to see a feature film, you can check them out for loose change. One dollar gets you a video for an entire week. — S.S.
18: Make your mark
The Buncombe County Sheriff's Department has initiated Project I.D. to encourage residents to mark personal property so it can be more easily recovered if stolen. To that end, the department has provided etching tools to all 12 branches of the Asheville-Buncombe library system. Library Director Ed Sheary explains that the tools are currently available for one-week check-out at 11 libraries. "One of the Dremel tools was stolen from the Swannanoa Library," he told us. "It was discovered missing on Sunday, May 27." Sheary noted that, regrettably, the missing tool had not been etched with ownership info. — C.B.
19: Visit the Arboretum
Most days, the North Carolina Arboretum charges a $6 parking fee per car to get in. Granted, the place would be a steal at twice the price -- stately trees, groomed trails, flowers in a multitude of hues, you get the picture. But every Tuesday, the 426-acre facility waives its parking fee, and admission is free. That's right -- free! Stop dreaming and start planning, cheapskate. For directions and hours, visit www.ncarboretum.org or call 665-2492. — K.P.
20: Treat the kids to a movie
Beaucatcher 7 on Tunnel Road participates in Regal Cinemas' annual, nationwide summer program. Free kids' movies run every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m., June 12 through Aug. 8 (visit www.regalcinemas.com/freefamilyflicks for a list of titles). Local mom Rebecca Herrmann remarks: "The free movies are a great way to break up the week -- a way to be indoors to beat the heat as well as have good entertainment for the whole family. ... We would love to see more family-oriented businesses offer such services." Call 298-1234 to double-check local listings. — M.M.B.
21: Learn to salsa
Latin dance is all the rage in these parts, but if your moves are hindered by the white-man's overbite and you're putting all your stock in the "Macarena," you'd better get some expert advice. Thank el dio there's help out there. Every Wednesday, Old Europe's Z-Lounge hosts "salsa night," with free hour-long classes beginning at 8 p.m. For more information, call Andres Montoya at 216-1452. And if the sound of the accordion raises a blush, learn the Argentine tango every second Sunday, also at Z-Lounge, beginning at 6 p.m. and going until 9 p.m. The lounge is located at 41 N. Lexington Ave. downtown. — K.P.
22: Stroll through history
You don't have to drop a week's salary on dinner or a room to enjoy the grand old ambience of storied Asheville institution the Grove Park Inn, former residence of F. Scott Fitzgerald and rumored haunt of the nationally known "Pink Lady" ghost. The building's various cavernous lobbies are open to those who just want to chill fireside in a rocker or take in the Inn's numerous old-photo displays, antiques and special exhibitions (such as the nationally publicized Gingerbread House Competition at holiday time). "We have a lot of history," notes GPI Public Relations Manager Christine Lowe. Visit www.groveparkinn.com for details. — M.M.B.
23: Walk in splendor
As Lowell had it, "And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days." Visitors to the Botanical Gardens at UNC-Asheville (151 W.T. Weaver Blvd.) appear to agree. Volunteer Margaret Robinson reports, "On a nice day at this time of year, people are popping out of the woodwork around here." The gardens are free and open to the public 365 days a year, from sunup to sundown. The 10-acre grounds, crisscrossed by walking trails and streams, host approximately 700 species of native plants. For more info, call 252-5190. — C.B.
24: Be a drama queen
The Montford Park Players offer up a dramatic rarity: free outdoor theater. "This is the 35th continuous season," says Managing Director John Russell. "We got a congratulatory letter from the governor." So pack a picnic and a blanket or folding chair, and visit Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre any Friday, Saturday or Sunday from June 15 through Oct. 14 to get some free culture. The season starts with Romeo and Juliet, June 15-July 8; play time is 7:30 p.m. Visit www.montfordparkplayers.org or call 254-5146 for more information. — N.H.
25: Journey through cyberspace
"Use of the library's computers comes with your library card," explains Buncombe County Public Libraries Director Ed Sheary. "If you're a Buncombe County resident, it's free." Card-holders are allowed up to 55 minutes on the library's computers per day, courtesy of the county. And, if you've got a WiFi-ready laptop, you can also use Pack Library's WiFi hotspot to get online (although Sheary notes that the service is still a little on the glitchy side). And what if you're visiting from out of town and don't have a library card? The price spikes to a draconian $1 per use. As Sheary notes, "That's still a pretty good deal." — S.S.
26: Take a dip
Escape the teeming summer crowds, and the cost of various pools, by taking a cool dip in the area's blessed bevy of lakes and waterways. Swimming holes abound in WNC -- as long as you know where to find them -- and they usually have great scenery to boot. If your own little hole of watery bliss is getting a bit stale, visit www.swimmingholes.org. Not only can you find descriptions of and directions to various swimming holes in WNC, you can find free holes (including hot springs) nationwide. And, if you're in a sharing mood, you can add your own swimming holes to the list for others to enjoy. — H.L.M.
27: ¡Aprenda inglés!
English as a Second Language -- a course designed to improve reading, speaking, writing and cultural skills for non-natives -- is offered at no charge by A-B Tech, serving close to 1,000 (predominantly Spanish and Russian) students each year. The next sessions begin in July: Register for morning classes on Monday, July 10, at 8:15 a.m.; for evening classes, on Tuesday, July 10, at 5:15 p.m. -- but show up early. "There usually a line at least two hours long," coordinator Jennifer Hill says of evening registration. For information, visit www.abtech.edu/ce/basicskills/esl/default.asp or call 254-1921, ext. 131. — N.H.
28: See a movie under the stars
Bring a camping chair -- but no outside booze or pets -- to the back parking lot of the Bledsoe Building in West Asheville, where for four years now, Orbit DVD and the Westville Pub have hosted monthly screenings of the Walk-In-Theater. And that's on a big screen mind you. This year's lineup is already in full swing, but if you missed Ghostbusters and Clash of the Titans, you can still catch films on the second Friday of every month through October. While past years have focused on kid-friendly films, the latest selection mixes in something for the adults as well. Check out www.westvillepub.com/movie.htm for what's on the big screen. — B.P.
29: Be advised
Free advice is often said to be worth what you pay for it, but that isn't true if your problem involves garden plants and the adviser is an expert. The Buncombe County Center of the N.C. Agricultural Extension Service hosts a Master Gardener Hotline (252-5522) where volunteers are standing by. Carolyn Bingham answered the phone last week and told Xpress, "Right now we're getting a lot of queries about hemlock woolly adelgids and the freeze. If we can't answer a question immediately, we research it and get the answers people need." — C.B.
30: Book it
You may be of the opinion that books are so 20th century, but someone's still checking them out. On the strength of bestsellers and children's books, this year the Buncombe County library system expects to have circulation numbers in the 1.5 million range. System-wide (meaning Pack Memorial Library in Asheville and its dozen branches), there are a half-million books available for your perusal. And while some may be eager to declare printed matter dead, Library Director Ed Sheary says we've got a ways to go before that happens -- if ever. "Circulation of what we call 'recreation literature,' meaning bestsellers, continues to climb," says Sheary. "And children's books, especially picture books, are not going away any time soon, at least not in the foreseeable future." Johannes Gutenberg would be so proud. For more info, pay a visit to www.buncombecounty.org or call 250-4711. — K.P.
31: Learn the Brazilian street-fighting dance
Whip around in a fluid frenzy, sweeping legs and arms low to the ground before engaging a slow-motion cartwheel ... well, maybe not yet, but you have to start somewhere. An intro class into the Brazilian martial art/dance Capoeira is free on first and third Saturdays, and you will be grouped with other beginners, so there is less of a chance of getting whupped. "It can be a really intense workout," says Jesse Berg, one of three instructors. "And it can be kind of intimidating when there are [more] skilled people there." Intro classes also include traditional Brazilian music and Portuguese singing. Visit www.capoeiraasheville.org for details. — B.P.
32: Align your chi
The beds arrived in Asheville two years ago, and it is hard to imagine a more fertile market. Blending Eastern and Western medical techniques like acupressure, massage and chiropractics, the Migun Thermal beds (at Migun of Asheville, 900 Hendersonville Road, Suite 103) purport to provide a one-of-a-kind massage experience. And if traffic is any indication, the 200 to 300 patrons a day who spend a half-hour on the beds can't be all wrong. Sessions on the beds are free, but the first visit requires an orientation session -- and don't forget your two towels. migunofasheville.tripod.com or 274-9722. — B.P.
33: Pick and grin
The Folk Heritage Committee, part of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce Community Betterment Foundation, produces the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and Shindig on the Green. Shindig offers free bluegrass and old-timey music at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, two blocks east of downtown Asheville. Music and dancing starts about sundown on Saturdays: June 30, July 7, 14 and 21, Aug. 11, 18 and 25, and Sept. 1. Susie Anderson of Blue Ridge Music loves it. "What I admire about the Folk Heritage Committee is that they do it every year and really help support acoustic music in the area," she says. — C.B.
34: Borrow some art
Diamonds may be forever, but what about art? Who says you have to have the same old paintings adorning your walls? Add some spice and variety to your abode or office -- and freak out your friends and co-workers in the process -- simply by patronizing your local library. Goodbye velvet Elvis, hello Van Gogh. Art prints are available at Pack Memorial Library downtown and at the South Asheville (Oakley) Branch. The prints can be checked out for four weeks. Call Pack Memorial at 250-4700, or the South Asheville Branch at 274-1007. — H.L.M.
35: Turn some pages
Browsers aren't going to find a bestseller, but they will find old textbooks, computer guides and maybe even a Britannica in the free-book bin outside of Mr. K's Used Books, Music & More, which is located in the River Ridge Shopping Center east of town. Co-owner of the bookstore Mary Winter affirms, "All books have value, and if we can't sell them, we hope they find a home." The free bin is rolled outside next to the front door during open hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Info: 299-1145. — M.D.
36: Get health care, part 1
More than 38,000 people in Buncombe County have no medical insurance. That's the bad news. The good news? The Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry (ABCCM) is here to help. The clinic on Livingston Street in Asheville provides acute and episodic health care services for the uninsured and underinsured of Buncombe County. The ministry serves individuals who have no private insurance, are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare, and who meet designated income guidelines. The Ministry provides medical, dental and pharmacy services through the use of professional volunteers in the community. Call 259-5339. — H.L.M.
37: Get health care, part 2
When health problems get severe -- and the cost is simply too much to bear -- the Buncombe County Medical Society Foundation's nationally renowned Project Access helps those in need. In a program geared mainly toward persons with serious injuries or illnesses requiring specialized or continuing care, hundreds of local Project Access physicians donate their services for free to those who meet certain income guidelines and other requirements. Visit www.projectaccessonline.org or call 274-6989. — H.L.M.
38: Wrap that rascal!
A used condom is a sad, cast-off thing, pale as a ghost and slippery as a banana peel. But fresh from the wrapper, it is wonderful -- a tiny life-ring that promises (at least a few minutes of) anxiety-free pleasure. In most cases a condom will prevent pregnancy, and, when properly used, keeps out all but the most cunning STDs. A godsend! A liberating object! A public-health coup!
To get some for free, visit these places, but please try to do it tactfully:
• Buncombe Couny Health Center; 35 Woodfin St.; 250-5203.
• Planned Parenthood; 603 Biltmore Ave.; 252-7928.
• Western North Carolina Aids Project; 30 Orchard St.; 252-7489. — K.P.
39: Drink on someone else's dime
Asheville has done much to cultivate and preserve its bohemian image, and one thing that helps is the regularity with which local merchants serve up free wine and beer. Sure, you can become a conspicuous figure at these sort of social gatherings -- a pest, even -- but a few free snifters now and then won't make you a hanger-on, will they? For at least a thimble-sized cup of cheer, try these establishments:
• Bruisin' Ales; 66 Broadway; 252-8999
Free beer tastings every other Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. Emphasis on Belgian beers, the Impressionists of the malt world. Owner Jeff Atalla says he doesn't mind all the attention, and even subscribes to a practice he calls "beerlanthropy."
• The Weinhaus; 86 Patton Ave.; 254-6453
Free tastings of "value wines" every Saturday starting at 2 p.m. The third Saturday of every month is a "themed tasting," running from 2 to 4 p.m.
• The Wine Guy; 1200 Hendersonville Road; 277-1120
Free tastings every Saturday, except the last one of the month, beginning at 3 p.m. — K.P.
40: Get down to business
Starting a business can be fraught with peril -- or just downright confusing. But the local chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives is here to help, with tons of free assistance for neophyte entrepreneurs. SCORE volunteers are real-world professionals with time-tested knowledge who donate thousands of hours to help businesses succeed. Counselors are experts in such areas as accounting, finance marketing, management and business-plan preparation. Men and women members donate their time and expertise as mentors. They guide clients through the logical, step-by-step development of a new business idea into a startup or an existing business challenge/opportunity to a plan of action. Visit wwww.ashevillescore.org or call 271-4786. — H.L.M.
41: Come clean
STDs are, like, a huge bummer. They can be life-threatening, painful and disfiguring, and that's just for starters. The good news is you cacn keep yourself free of them by not having sex. But if you've had carnal congress and find yourself face-to-face with odd discharges, unusual bumps or a nagging sense of personal doom, spare yourself the anxiety and keep your partner(s) safe: Get tested. The Buncombe County Health Center at 35 Woodfin St. offers free testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Results are confidential, and counseling comes with every visit. To make an appointment, call 250-5109. The clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. — K.P.
42: See what Craig's got for you
Asheville's Craigslist (www.asheville.craigslist.org) has a free section under the "for sale" category. Recent offers include baby chickens, a "practically brand new shawm" (a reed instrument similar to that of an oboe, evidently), and moving boxes. The most intriguing item, though, is a "mystery object" described thusly: "If you know what this is and you want it, you are welcome to have it. Someone gave it to me (they didn't know what it was either) and I can't use it because I don't have a clue what it's for. I think it might be some sort of bottle opener?" — R.B.
43: Go wireless
Are you an Internet addict? If so, you live in the right place. Courtesy of Buncombe County, downtown Asheville has been a giant outdoor WiFi hotspot since 2005, allowing almost anyone with a modern laptop to access the Internet from a humble park bench. And while the signal can be a bit touch-and-go, depending on your location, that hasn't stopped people from using it, according to Buncombe County IT Director Glen Hughes. "It appears to be very popular," he says. "Since we initiated the service, we've had more than 80,000 individual sessions, and it's used by a good number of people every day." The cost? Zilch. Just connect, agree to the terms of service, and you're online. — S.S.
44: Needle yourself
The AIDS activist was out dropping off condoms in barbershops when Xpress first called. But Michael Harney, whose name is synonymous with the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville, also provides free "injection equipment" in his mission to prevent AIDS and hepatitis. The program mostly serves heroin and cocaine users, he says, but he "would like to be open eventually to diabetes [patients]" in the elderly, low-income population. For sterile 27- to 30-gauge needles, cookers, cotton swabs, bandages or those life-preserving condoms, call Harney/NEPA at 274-8397, or at the Western N.C. AIDS Project, 252-7489, ext. 311. — N.H.
45: Read all about it
We'd bet the store that Asheville has more independent news and cultural publications than any other city in North Carolina. So if you've got time on your hands, find a park bench and enjoy one or more of the following (loosely categorized and probably not all-inclusive). You won't even need wireless.
News weeklies: Mountain Xpress (of course, we get to go first!), Asheville Daily Planet, La Voz Independiente, The Asheville Tribune (and sister pubs, The Weaverville Tribune and The Hendersonville Tribune), Smoky Mountain News (sadly, we can no longer list the Asheville Global Report, which ceased its print publication on May 24).
News monthlies: The Urban News, Bold Life.
Specialty pubs: The Laurel of Asheville, The Indie, New Life Journal, Out in Asheville, Rapid River Arts and Culture Magazine, Spirit in the Smokies, WNC Woman, WNC Parent, Wild Mountain Times. — N.H.
46: Graze in the incredible Edible Park
When temperatures are so high that heat mirages rise from the blacktop, one needn't venture far to find cool, leafy refuge. Downhill from the Stephens-Lee Center (30 George Washington Carver) lies the Edible Park, a shaded grove of fruit trees open to everybody. Thanks to the efforts of expert gardener Bill Whipple and the Bountiful Cities Project, scrumptious mulberries and other free, tasty morsels grow there for all. Occasionally, of course, the park needs some freely given TLC of its own. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to lend a helping hand. — R.B.
47: Experience the paranormal
There's something strange about the back room of the Classie Moon Thrift Boutique (36 Battery Park Ave.) -- something very strange. Most of the store is full of men's and women's fashions, but the back doubles as the Asheville Paranormal Museum, a free collection of oddities and signs of mystery collected by owner Jessica Warren's older brother, the noted local paranormal researcher Joshua P. Warren. Casts of Bigfoot tracks, various ghost-hunting photos and devices, a replica of an alien -- you want it, you got it. "A lot of people come around the corner and say, 'Oh my god, what is this?" Jessica says of unsuspecting customers who encounter the museum. The store -- and the free museum -- are open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. Call 252-3492. — J.E.
48: Find out if you're preggers
Nothing quite has the power to change a life like pregnancy. One day you're gliding through this world blithe and carefree; the next, you've got a little potential someone inside of you. The news can be good or bad depending on your perspective, but regardless, it helps to have a definitive word on what's going on in there. With that in mind, the Buncombe County Health Center (35 Woodfin St.) offers free pregnancy testing. No appointment is needed for the service, which is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the center. For more information, call 250-5000. — K.P.
49: Park it
"Normally, downtown there are not usually free spaces," says Asheville Parking Services Director Harry Brown. And with new construction and a revised city-parking plan, even the few remaining free spots may soon be metered. In the meantime, here's an incomplete list of rare and endangered free downtown parking (but pay close attention, as the city-parking situation is constantly in flux):
• The Lexington Avenue lot underneath the I-240 overpass, soon to be paved and regulated.
• Two-hour spots are located along Coxe Avenue past the Transit Station.
• A handful of spots on S. Market Street that are unregulated (for the time being), and 12 more near Sycamore Lane at the end of S. Market. — B.P.
50: Visit the literary departed
They're gone, but not forgotten -- and some late local literary greats decided to stay here for the long haul in Riverside Cemetery. For instance, Asheville's prodigal son, Thomas Wolfe, is buried there, as is famed short-story writer O. Henry. For the less literary minded, the cemetery -- which holds more than 13,000 souls amid forested, rolling hills -- is also the permanent home of Zebulon Vance (North Carolina's Civil War governor), George Mesa (a Japanese nature photographer who helped make the Blue Ridge Mountains famous) and even one of Abraham Lincoln's bodyguards. To get there, head down Montford Avenue away from downtown Asheville and follow the signs. It's free to visit; hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during daylight-saving time and until 6 p.m. the rest of the year. Visit 350-2066 for more info. — J.E.
[Photographs by Jonathan Welch, unless otherwise noted. Contributors to this article, noted with their initials, include Cecil Bothwell, Rebecca Bowe, Mannie Dalton, Jon Elliston, Nelda Holder, Melanie McGee-Bianchi, Hal L. Millard, Alli Marshall, Brian Postelle, Kent Priestley and Steve Shanafelt.]
Free yourself, and your Asheville will follow
Consider this guide to free Asheville a work in progress -- and one that can grow with a little free love from you. Xpress wants to know which freebies we missed and share them with the community.
So give a little. Send your "free Asheville" tips to email@example.com, and we'll add them to this article's Web page. Better yet, post your own free tip in the comment section below. And keep checking there for updates.
After all, it's free.
Beyond dollars and debt, there's LETS
Members of Asheville's Local Exchange Trading System can learn how to salsa, brush up on HTML programming, receive physical therapy or get fresh, organic greens -- all without paying a dime.
But each member does have to donate an item or offer a service of his or her own in return. What's given in exchange is determined by each individual set of skills, scheduling flexibility and specialization. Massage, construction work, furniture or homemade crafts are common examples.
Simply put, LETS is a fledgling effort to facilitate the exchange of goods and services without the use of money. The system operates through "indirect trade," meaning it is organized around a pool of "credits" and "commitments" rather than a one-to-one bartering system.
"This region has an amazing diversity of skills and resources, but has always been cash poor," says Scott Evans, a Haywood County native and one of several organizers who spent eight months fine-tuning the exchange system. "LETS offers a whole new way for us to exchange goods and services outside the constraints of the existing dollar-economy."
Upon joining, LETS members receive a receipt book and a directory listing of other members' "offers" and "wants." It's up to individuals to contact one another to arrange trades and work out the value of credits (or "LETS") exchanged. In order to "spend" or receive LETS for goods or services, members use the directory to find the right fit.
The organizers say the intention is to build trust and familiarity among community members, relocalize the economy and reduce reliance on foreign imports. The group charges no interest on accounts, and for now, there's no membership fee. "Somewhere down the line, there might be a $10-a-year membership fee," Evans says. "But as of now, it is entirely free to join."
The concept is based on an international model. Local organizer Kila Donovan first encountered LETS six years ago while traveling in Scotland.
At press time, there were 76 Asheville LETS members, and some 300 offers and wants posted in the member directory. For now, the system remains on the fringe, but participants hope to generate more interest and diversify the range of goods and services that can be exchanged using LETS.
To learn more, visit the Web site (www.ashevillelets.org) or attend the LETS kick-off party and cookout on Saturday, June 9, in Asheville's Aston Park. There will be an orientation at 1 p.m. for anyone interested in joining, and a cookout from 2 to 5 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring something to grill or a potluck dish to share. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 627-9060.
— Rebecca Bowe