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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Asheville: Appalachian Freak Magnet

Most people have a pretty concrete view of how they see Southern Culture.  When people think of the South they think of this.

To most people the South is all about Jesus, guns, and voting republican.  There is one city that proves that you can be Southern and pretty much be the exact opposite of that. 

Asheville, NC is smack dab in the Appalachian Mountains, but will redefine how you see in the South.   The percentage of homosexuals is 83% greater then the national average.  It votes almost 100% Democrat.  You will meet some of the most unusual people just walking down its streets.

My favorite thing to do in Asheville is to simply walk around and take in the weirdness of the city.

One of the biggest weekly events in Asheville is the weekly Drum Circle in the center of the City.

This is Appalachia!
Anyone with a drum can show up who wants to and pound away until their hearts content.  If you don't have a drum you can still show up and do some freaky dancing.

If you like less freaky dancing you may want to check out some of the local belly dancers.

Unfortunately the time we showed up, there wasn't much of a crowd.

Meet Xam

What is he doing?

Meditating to end suffering, of course.  You may question his methods, but that's definitely a worthy cause.

Asheville is packed with street performers.  It seems like there is someone plucking a guitar or a banjo on every corner.  The sad part of this is that while begging for money is illegal, busking for money is perfectly legal.  You will find plenty of amazing musicians on the street of Asheville, but occasionally you come across a sad meth addict plucking a guitar hoping that someone will throw him a buck.

This is "Now You See Them"

We came across them playing on the street and we liked them so much we bought 2 of there homemade CDs.  Several weeks later they won a local battle of the bands and released a studio album.  Before the end of the year we paid to see them in concert.

 "The Big Iron" is always a good place to find performers.  Here are some Hare Krishnas that were chanting and handing out cookies.  My daughter took one.  Unfortunately, I had to slap it out of her hand the second we walked around the corner.

With so many musical performers on the street, some musicians choose to take the extra step to make themselves stand out.

The very pale gentleman up there is one of Asheville's many Human Statues.  Generally they are performers who stay completely motionless until someone drops a tip in their bucket.  Once they have been tipped they begin to move and complete some action.  This gentleman plays a guitar and sings when tipped.

 This lady gives you a graceful bow.

This spandex clad girl does the robot.

This magnificent creature comes to life and poses.

This is the Silver Drum Girl.  She is probably the most well known street performer in Asheville.  When tipped she plays her drum like a wind up toy.  Whenever there are local issues involving street performers on the news she is the one they interview.

These vampires perform a whole sequence of actions as long as the tips keep coming.

There is no telling what you may encounter on any given night in Asheville.

That is "Sister Bad Habit" local celebrity and sell declared "Village Idiot".

Of course with all this madness going on someone has to keep law and order.  In Asheville we rely on our faithful Segway Cop.

I hope you have enjoyed this virtual trip through the zany streets of Asheville, NC.

Come check it out

The Carpetbagger

BTW, please check out My Flickr Photostream for more deep fried southern insanity.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

H.K. Edgerton, the Black Confederate

Quite a few years ago I saw a peculiar sight.  Me and my wife were driving through Sylva, NC and spotted an African-American man was walking down the sidewalk carrying a Confederate Flag.  My wife did a dangerous u-turn and I quickly snapped a picture of him as he rolled up his flag, got in a Van and disappeared.

After asking around I found that this man was H.K. Edgerton, an usual and controversial local figure.

A few years later I was innocently watching the local Christmas parade, flanking Santa Claus was H.K. Edgerton.  This time I chased him down on foot and introduced myself.  He happily posed for a picture.

So, who is this walking contradiction of a man?  Believe it or not H.K. Edgerton was previously the president of Asheville, NC chapter of the NAACP.  But at some point H.K. had a change in philosophy.  Edgerton became an activist whose primary purpose was to defend the confederate flag.  Edgerton has gone on marches to Texas and to D.C. trying to promote his Southern Heritage.  Every time there is a local controversy involving the Confederate Flag the newspaper lets Edgerton give his two cents.

The truly disturbing part is when you venture over to Edgerton.'s website.  Edgerton disputes that Slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War.  Even more troubling, Edgerton defends slavery, painting the relationship between slaves and their owners as harmonious and loving.  He also claims that African Americans fought for the confederacy, which is a questionable claim.  From what I have read, they were not allowed to be soldiers, but did have roles where they assisted on the battlefield.

One would wonder what would make a man seemingly betray his own heritage.  Well, take a look at THIS.  It turns out that at the events that H.K. attends he is not simply showing up at over a sense of confederate unity.  H.K. charges an appearance fee.  H.K. charges a 20,000 dollar appearance fee, plus mileage.

So, is Edgerton for real?  People who knew him as a NAACP president have expressed shock over his recent shift in views.  Does Edgerton really believe what he preaches, or is he cynically selling himself to Confederate apologists as a way to erase their guilt?  Maybe he laughs his way to the bank.

Anyway you look at it, Edgerton is a true Southern Enigma.

The Carpetbagger.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Some of My Favorite Taxidermy

As I document the South one of my favorite things to photograph is taxidermy.  Personally I like the kind of taxidermy that has character to it.   I like taxidermy that is a worn or has unique touches to it.  Here are some of my favorites.

The Zombie Bears of Cherokee

One of the first rules of taxidermy should be an obvious one: Don't keep your taxidermy outside.  Nothing can cause wear and tear on your specimens like exposure to wind, rain, living animals and knuckleheads.  In the wonderful vacation paradise of Cherokee, NC there are two very good examples.  There are a set of bears at two different shops that show that outdoor taxidermy is questionable.

Look at this poor fellow.  His fur has been almost petted completely off.  His paws have been reduced to little nubs.  His eyes are missing and his mouth has been turned into a trash can.  A few doors down lives this bear's little brother.

This little guy sits in a parking lot on a homemade skateboard.  As you can see his face has been rubbed off exposing the taxidermy form underneath.  This guy is apparently a few decades old as I have seen pictures in other people's old vacations photos.  Oddly enough he appears to have been brown at one point and it looks like he was spray painted back.  I haven't seen this guy in awhile and it looks like he may have finally been put out of his misery.

Bill the Buffalo

Those poor bears are not the only outdoor taxidermy in Cherokee, NC.  We also have Bill the Buffalo, who is a popular photo opportunity for tourists in Cherokee.

From what I can tell, Bill is very old as well, but he appears to be holding on a lot better then the bears.  The same can not be said about his little friend that is often parked next to him

I'm not really sure what that thing this.

The Nasty Old Possum

At the Guinness World Record Museum in Gatlinburg, TN I found one of my favorite taxidermied animals of all time.

Now nothing is really done very well about this piece.  I have never seen a Possum sit like that.  Worst of all they attempted to preserve the babies in the Possum's pouch, which creates a horrific and ghastly effect they were probably not going for.

Pup and Mr. Jordan

One day I was walking down the streets of Highlands, NC and found a peculiar site. 

The sign bellow this dog states that he is named "Pup" was and was run over by a truck, shot by a shotgun, poisoned, and survived heart worms only to die of Kidney Failure in 1994.  The gentlemen running the shop saw my interest and scooped up what appeared to be a living sleeping dog off the floor.

It was actually Mr. Jordan.  Pup's stepson, who also happens to be taxidermied.

Leak at the Museum

Apparently there was a leak in the ceiling of the Museum, but the Museum was kind enough to not cover up this display and let us see this curious display.

Strangest Way to Display Taxidermy I Have Ever Seen

Sparkles the Squirrel

I found this little squirrel tucked up under the windshield of a puck-up truck.  The owner of the truck saw me snapping pictures and was kind enough to take Sparkles out and put her on the hood of the truck so I could get some better pictures.  He said Sparkles was his "first confirmed kill" and that he always keeps her with him.

Obviously, being tucked up under a windshield and being exposed to the sun had a negative impact on little sparkles.

Dummy Riding a Bear Head

For some reason a lot of people find taxidermy very "creepy".  Another common phobia is ventriloquist dummies.  I think they go together like peanut butter and jelly.

They Think They're People

One popular method of livening up taxidermy is to add human elements to taxidermied animals.

You see, that could have just been a normal stuffed baboon, but you throw a hat on him and it adds a whole new element to his character.

Or check out this this firework shop Gator, not only decked out in clothes, but forced to stand up like a man.

And what is more adorable then animals doing people things, check out this adorable little turtle band.

Of course, my personal favorite has to be this adorable little cowboy squirrel.

Mortal Combat

Of course nothings spices up taxidermy like adding a little good old fashion violence.  Animals eating each other is a sure fire draw.

Check out this showdown between legendary rivals the Mongoose and the Cobra.

Or this leopard getting the best of this poor little Baboon.

Is it just me or are squirrels always coming up with the short end of the stick?

Of course why would you go through the trouble of stuffing two animals when a rubber frog would do just as good.

This bat was actually photographed at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, showing that even the most revered institutions can be guilty of displaying weird and confusing taxidermy.

It all gets a little dicey when you start including humans  into the mix as this possibly racially insensitive alligator mount shows.

The Scariest Thing I Have Ever Seen

I am have no idea what this is or was.


This is my favorite piece of taxidermy.  Tookie is my very own stuffed squirrel.  I found her sitting at the end of someone's driveway.  Until recently she sat on my desk at work, much to the horror of my boss.

The Carpetbagger