Beat from the street (Feb. 13, 2018)

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. 

Sundance Henson, 45, unemployed, originally from Greensboro and his dog, Charlie

So if you had a life motto that you live by, what would it be?
“Do unto others.”

Do unto others?

Yeah, yeah.
“Yeah, I mean, I just try to be the best person I can be.”

“You know, I mean, I think it’s a shame. I was really a very, very liberal person until I moved here.”

Oh wow. That’s normally not how it goes.
“No, because everybody up here preaches that bullshit but they don’t live by it. I’ve been homeless on the street since August and they say they want this and they say they want that but they don’t do anything. You know what? Quit taking your trips to Guatemala and do something your damn self. If you want the government to do something, lead by example, you know? No, this town has changed me a lot. I moved here roughly 10 years ago and I was a completely different person. You know, up here it’s all talk and no do. You make it so that nothing’s affordable.”

“Nothing’s economic. I mean, good God, you can’t live here as a single person trying to make it. You can’t. You’ve gotta have three or four damn roommates. You’ve gotta work 60 hours a week. You don’t get to enjoy any of your environment because you’re so busy working. You don’t have time. Everybody wants this and they say they want change and blah, blah, blah but they don’t want to participate. They don’t. They want it to happen and then cheer it on from the sidelines. That’s not the way life works. Sorry, I’m 45. When I was 20, I believed that bullshit, same thing, free education, bullshit. Professors still need to get paid. Books still have to be bought. How’s education gonna be free? You want to tax the one percent? Great, I own five grocery stores. Guess what? You raise my taxes? Guess what’s gonna happen? I’m gonna raise my prices. So the middle class is always going to be responsible no matter what system of government we use and this place changed me. I’m so tired of hearing it up here.”

“I’m a homeless person walking around here. You should see the way they look down their fucking noses at me, you know? You wanna make change, you want to be a part of change? Get out there and create it. I’m tired of hearing it, you know? Don’t wait on the next man to do it. Don’t wait on the government to do it. It’s not gonna happen. They say trickle-down don’t work. Guess what? Sitting on the sidelines don’t either, you know? Point-blank, it doesn’t. It doesn’t and the system’s got us so strung up on this other bullshit that we’re missing the whole goddamn point as a society. It ain’t white versus black. It’s all smoke and mirrors.”

“You know what? Don’t take a vacation this year. Go buy a bunch of freaking groceries. Get out there and go buy a bunch of blankets. Come back and give them out to the homeless. You don’t bitch about it when the government don’t do it. Why would they? You know how you want to change your government? Get out here and do it yourself. Lead by example. ‘Cause I guaran-damn-tee ya, if enough voters get out here and start doing this shit, trust me, politicians will too, you know?”

That’s a good point, yeah. So do you have anything that inspires you creatively?
“You know, the world around me. I love it. I mean, I do. I’m a DJ as well. So, my inspirations turned from something positive into just complete and utter negativity for the last five years.”

“It really has. I just got my third degree. I sit in class as a 45-year-old man and listen to all this shit when I know. I’ve lived my life. I’ve owned a house. I’ve had families and I just listen to this shit and it’s just, like, wow, really? That ain’t the way it really is. You know, I think college is just so ill-preparing these kids.”

That’s interesting.
“Yeah, but like I said, Asheville’s changing.”

“Yeah, it really is. I mean, I love it. I do. But, so far, I’m thinking about a different coastline.”

What is one thing you like about Asheville?
“I mean, I love the whole downtown. I love the fact it’s local.  I’m a local. But once again, I hate the fact that if I light a cigarette here in the park, I go to jail.”

Yeah, $50 fine, right?
“Yeah, yeah. But meanwhile, I’m standing here and watch people stand outside the Bier Garden who aren’t local and bust out freaking windshields in cars and stand outside and drink, raise hell. I can sit here all day long, everyday, because I play chess. I can sit here everyday and watch tourists light cigarettes in this park and they’ll just be like, ‘Oh, please put it out.’ But you let me light a cigarette and they’re like, ‘Oh, hell no,’ here. You know, like I said, it’s changing up here.”

“But, I mean, I do love Asheville. I love the fact that it wants to change. I just hate the fact that all they do is talk about it. There’s no actions. There’s none and there’s never gonna be, you know? Because even when I first moved here 10 years ago, all the shit was local-owned.”

“Now, there are outside influences and they’re teetering the scales of money and why do you think none of the locals live down here? They all moved to West Asheville or out to Oakley or outside or Weaverville or Woodfin.”

Yeah, yeah, downtown’s unsustainable.
“It’s just, it’s not Asheville anymore. It used to be. I wish to hell it would go back being but it’s not, you know? What makes the world spin? Money. We can say it doesn’t. But it does.”

This interview was originally published in The Blue Banner.