Beat from the street (February 21, 2017)

Many stories lurk throughout Asheville, whether they are behind the Vaudevillian jazz-folk played by buskers around Pritchard Park, the colorful businesses decorated with funky, hand-made crafts or the laughter echoing from a patio as locals and tourists alike enjoy delicious beer. 

G-Rock, 58, artist, originally from Baltimore 

G-Rock said he received his name at a Rainbow Gathering.
Photo by Dusty Albinger. 
“(G-Rock) was a gift to me by the Rainbow Family of Living Light in the year of 2007, over in Missouri. I went to my first Rainbow Family gathering there and received the gift of that name, G-Rock. They wanted to call me something else but I said no.”
What did they want to call you?
Like Jerry Garcia?
“No, Gerrymander. That’s the last name of this politician who got away with cheating. He moved district lines in his district to get more of his friends in his district. His last name was Gerry. That’s my first name, my nickname. When he was done, somebody at the newspaper looked, an artist, at the new district that Mr. Gerry just made. It looked like a salamander. The newspaper’s editor-in-chief looked at that and said, ‘We now have to call this political move a gerrymander.’ It’s not against the law to do, but it’s wrong. It’s allowed to shift district lines to get yourself voted into office. No, I’m not Gerry. I’m G-Rock.”
“I spent 49 years at the same address up there and left in 2007. In 2006, I became homeless in Baltimore for a year and then I went to my first gathering and continued jumping from hippie house to hippie house. I’ve been meeting a lot of open-minded people and here in Asheville, I meet a lot of people who love their dogma.”
Who love their what?
Dogma, oh, OK. What kind of dogmas would you say?
“It includes karma. Karma’s another form of dogma. There’s a bumper sticker, ‘My karma ran over your dogma.’”
“I am an artist. I have an artist’s heart. I have never been worthy as an artist, so I have never accepted donations for any of my artwork. When I create it, there’s so much fear in here. I don’t look at myself and say, ‘What? It’s beautiful!’ 
What kind of art do you make?
“I prefer a soft medium, a sculptor. I don’t pick up a hammer and chisel. I don’t take a knife and cut wood. I’d cut myself. Because of the joy of living in Asheville, I’ve been here for one year, a little more. I fell in love with Asheville within three days. This past year, so many beautiful things have been happening to me. Problems, physical that I’ve had dealt with. I’ve had an ear infection I had went with for thirty years and didn’t have to, it was cured here.”
That’s awesome.
“Yeah, I didn’t have an income. I couldn’t hear anything. Asheville’s Homeless Opportunity for Positive Empowerment, AHOPE. That’s the acronym that AHOPE stands for. They live up to their name. I have been positively empowered by everybody that’s in there. There are two or three different organizations. AHOPE is one. Homeward Bound is another. Path is another. Asheville is, I keep meeting some people that don’t like it. There are many, many people who don’t know how to love themselves and the rest of the world.”
Yeah, it’s very true.
“I know the power of love. It better come inward before you can get it to go outward.”
It’s very true. So if you have a life motto that you live by day-to-day, what would it be?
“I’ll give you what I want for my epitaph, for my grave marker, ‘See you later.’
“No, seriously. We are all eternal ones. That’s the last words I want somebody to hear from me, if it’s a person with a knife to my throat. That person’s going to hear me say, ‘See you later.’ Then we’re going to have some fun. That’s one of the best ones. I first heard it quoted when I was sitting there watching for the seventh time, ‘Cocoon.’ A bunch of older people in a hotel were talking about things. They were going down a list, things you’d like to do most: pick lint out of pockets. Most famous last words, ‘See you later.’ Unless, somebody around here told me, unless you’re a redneck. Your most famous last words will probably be, ‘Hey guys, watch this!’ and that’s it for you. Those wouldn’t be my last words.”
No, no, no. So, if you were to describe your style, what would you say, the way you dress?
“Free soul. There are all kinds of characteristics to it. I lived being taught by one person born in 1920, 1925. This was during the Depression. ‘Waste not, want not.’ I’m a green thinker. I waste nothing. I reuse, recycle, yeah. I’m a green thinker. I’m wearing green for that reason.”
“Green, green thinker.”
Oh, green, OK. I thought you said ‘grain.’
“I like brains, but they’re hard to find. They really are. Beef brain is very delicious if you cook it right. My dad showed me that. I tasted that bone marrow. My father saw how much I enjoyed the flavor. He then proceeded to find a Jewish butcher that he could get me brain from. I’ve only eaten it twice in my life. It’s weird-looking but delicious. Well, see, I’m kind of picky about what I eat. You put something on a plate in front of me and it’s not food, I’m going to refuse to eat it. If it is food, I’m trying it, at least once.”
Yeah, be adventurous.
“Yeah, I’m very ticklish, too.”
So if you were to describe some artistic influences that you have on your work, what would you say?
“I don’t do much, see? It’s been stifled by my past. I’m trying to break free from that. My artistic expressions will be in the future. There is one, really. There’s a past. There’s a future. There’s a present. They’re all the same thing, time.”
“Although I have read the book by Eckhart Tolle called ‘The Power of Now.’ Now, he says now is all you got. Now is eternal. Now is forever. The past has been happening without a now. It happened in the now. The future is happening now. Make the present your friend and not your enemy. You’re going to live a better life. That’s advice from Eckhart Tolle in one of his books.”
Yeah, it’s a great book.
“Yeah, I went to Malaprop’s. After I read it in there, I went to Malaprop’s and got ‘Practicing the Power of Now.”
Oh OK, that’s another one.
“It’s the handbook.”
Great. So if you were to say one thing you dislike about Asheville, what would you say?
“If it exists, I don’t need to spread it around with the power of the word. I’m not going to stop. If there is something about Asheville I totally do not like, I’m just going to accept it, OK? It is what it is. If I can change it, I’m not sure how much effort, how much energy I’m going to spend. It depends on what it is. No, I don’t keep a balance in my opinion of Asheville. I love it. It’s beautiful. There’s nothing bad about it. I have seen so much good happen here to me and other people, people helping out, homeless helping homeless out, wealthy helping homeless out, homeless helping wealthy out. Asheville is one big happy, in my opinion. That’s what I like to call it. Fill in the blanks.”
So, if you were to describe yourself in three words, which three words would you choose and why?
“Ooh, scriptural, from the Bible. The quote, alright, it’s in the Old Testament, the Psalm 91, it might be 92. It’s a criticism from our Father to judge his children. ‘You are children of the most high. I have said you are sons of God. Please start acting like it.’ It’s about the same. That’s a paraphrase. You are the king’s gift. We are baby gods. We should start acting like it. We have more power than we realize. When we get creative, it’s so sad that too often this creativity we come up with is called lies. We can get creative. I like to take a soda can, cut that in half, put that together again, tear the top out and give it to somebody with a bottle of rubbing alcohol and say here, go cook.”
“It heats up the food that’s in your piece of foil. It doesn’t smoke. Well, actually, there’s a lot of soot that kind of shows up. I accidentally put propane on my knee while I was trying to eat my ravioli. I’ll find a washer eventually.”
“Another reason I’m in Asheville. I’m just walking around looking for any of the many, many acquaintances I’ve made in the city throughout time. It’s getting easier to find somebody. That’s one thing I love about Asheville, Pritchard Park, the drum circle. If we choose to be happy, we’re gonna and help others, too. That’s what I do.”

Danny Arnette, 60, professional musician, originally from Goldsboro
Danny Arnette hopes to create a Jethro Tull-inspired
musical experience in Asheville. Photo by Dusty
“I’m a disabled veteran and I came here partly, too, because of the good things I heard about the VA Hospital. They’ve been wonderful to me. They’ve literally saved my life, so I’m really kind of out-and-about on a new start. But I really wanted to come here to get the music going. I’ve composed over a hundred original songs in the style of Jethro Tull. So, I really want to get a band together because I know the city will love music like this.”
Yeah, yeah. 
“He’s going to turn 70 this year, so we need some younger blood.”
Some fresh music.
“I’ve been around the world twice. I was born in Heidelberg, Germany, grew up in an army family, went into the army. I like the multi-culturalism here. I was the black sheep out of five kids in my family, so I fit in here now.”
Everyone who’s a little offbeat fits in in Asheville.
“Yeah, well, I was always the different one in the family, so I feel very comfortable here. I really do.”
“I have a degree from a conservatory. I used to sing opera. I’m a singer, composer, guitar player. I used to teach school. I taught school for five years, then I taught violin and I produced two violin prodigies in Goldsboro. So, I’m done saving the world like I thought I was going to do when I graduated from college. A lot of teachers get that feeling, you know, they’re going to go out and save the world but it was a lot different than I thought it was going to be.”
In what ways?
“The discipline and the respect in general weren’t there. You know, I grew up in a military family, so having respect was ingrained in us. I had this impression that the students, every time I came to school, would be ready to learn. Instead, I felt a lot of times that they were there to challenge me. So, you know, it’s not a comfortable feeling. You spend 30 years of your life doing that and you see a lot of retired teachers that were pretty spent. So I started teaching privately and building violins in Goldsboro. But I really want to bring Daniel Tull to life, stand on one leg.”
So if you were to describe a life motto that you live by on a day-to-day basis, what would you say it would be?
“Kindness, kindness, kindness. A lot of people can say things, but it’s in the doing that I think is the most important. There’s all different kinds of people and we can all live in peace if we respect each other. Having traveled around the world twice, I’ve met people from virtually every country. The more I see people around the world, the more I see we’re all pretty much the same. We’ve got the same needs, wants. I came here four years ago with my mother. We had a wedding in the family on Market Street and I didn’t know anything about Asheville, so I went out one day to explore and they were celebrating Earth Day, Lexington. I said, ‘This is cool. I’m coming here.’ 
Yeah, yeah. They love Earth Day, for sure. So if you were to describe your style, what would you describe it as?
Music and also your clothing style. 
“Gosh, I don’t really follow fads. I just don’t. I dress the way I want, comfortably, but I like to dress stylish, too. My music style is very eclectic. I was classically trained in a conservatory, but I embraced world music, jazz, rock. It’s hard to put a label on it because it’s so eclectic. So, I think that’s something that people here in Asheville will really enjoy.”
The music scene here is really strong. 
“I think, for me, I just felt that Asheville, the people in general were just very friendly, very easy to approach. I’ve lived in so many places where people don’t even talk to their next-door neighbors. You never see this in regular downtown areas across the country, so people are very friendly and that draws me to it.”
Yeah, it is a very open, inviting place. 
“So I don’t feel 60 and I feel that at this point in my life, that I’m really going out there doing what I always wanted to do. John Lennon said ‘Life is what happens to you — ’”
‘When you’re busy making other plans.’
“Right. So, this is something that I’ve always wanted to do, so I have the freedom now to do it and the VA has been here, just Asheville. I just felt like there was a healing place for me to come to and it really helped me. I mean, I grew up crippled. I had a stroke at nine.”
Whoa. That’s crazy.
“Yeah, I’m partially deaf but I ran a mile in four minutes, 26 seconds in the ninth grade, scored two touchdowns and ran for 205 yards in high school in a football game, so I’m kind of an overachiever.”
That’s awesome. Yeah. Yeah.
“I just feel like this is where I can call home.”
Is there anything you dislike about it?
“I’m not sure. I don’t think I’ve honestly ever thought about that. I just think that it’s kind of a melting pot of a city where it’s an accepted fact that everybody is different here. You know, generally I think everybody just gets along really well.”
Yeah. So if you were to describe yourself in three words, which three words would you use and why?
“Three worlds?”
Three words, not three worlds.
“Gee, I live in more than that. Three words? Geez. Happy and content. You don’t see that everyday with people. I think there’s a lot of anxiety in the world we live in. There’s a lot of unrest. There’s a lot of unsureness. People are unsure about the future and I think even recently with the election, it’s caused a lot of anxiety, you know?”
Yeah, it really has.
“So, I think Asheville’s very conscious about peace and about practical things like the environment. But I just see so many people in our world, even here, that are living on the edge, very anxious, unsure about things. I don’t know. For me, it’s just not there anymore.”
Yeah. You’ve reached a plateau.
“Yeah, so I feel like I’ve gone through the rough waters of life. You know, there’s a painting, a set of paintings in the Smithsonian, D.C., that shows a man in a boat. He was born there. The waters are calm. When he’s middle-aged, the waters are real rough and he’s fighting the waters and then when he’s old again, he’s back at the calm waters. So, I’m kind of back in the calm water now. I want to be a part of Asheville. I tracked down a robber when I was driving for Uber one night, threw a girl down right over there on Patton, Haywood and I caught him. A guy passed out in a bar one night, had a seizure and I saved him.”
Oh my God. 
“Well, I want to be a part of this city. I want the music definitely to do that, too. So, I’ve been a musician all my life. My family wasn’t sure what to do with me growing up. My father used to throw me out of my room on Saturdays, saying, ‘You’re not going to be sitting in there playing that damn flute all day.’ I usually busk when I am busking out on Lexington by the Chevron Bead Company.”
This column was originally published in The Blue Banner