In Asheville, the medical marijuana legalization movement is ramping up. But does it really stand a chance?

by Jess McCuan and Cassady Sharp . photos by Matt Rose and Naomi Johnson

For years, people didn’t take Jean Marlowe seriously. Or rather, they took her story seriously, but they didn’t think her cause—legalizing medical marijuana—had a chance in North Carolina. Now, it might.

In 1986, Marlowe, who’s 58 and lives in Tryon, fell and crushed her left knee. She took prescription drugs to recover from the injury, but then came a constellation of symptoms including joint problems, muscle spasms and low back pain. She was misdiagnosed several times—doctors thought she had multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis—before an Asheville doctor diagnosed her with porphyria, a nervous system disorder that can cause everything from seizures to depression to heart trouble. She also has degenerative disc disease, and she’s lived for years with muscle spasms and pain. She says the only thing that helps is marijuana, and she reacts badly to other drugs. In 1995, she got a letter from the Social Security Administration giving her the okay to use marijuana. But since it is illegal to use cannabis for medical (or any other) purposes in North Carolina, she and her husband, Steve Marlowe, have been arrested a handful of times by federal and local authorities for possessing and growing it.

Click to read more ...

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 08:12PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments4 Comments | References26 References

For the Record

As Nazi war criminals testified, Paula Isenberg took notes. A 98-year-old recalls her role in history.

by Joanne O’Sullivan . photos by Matt Rose

Paula Isenberg still remembers the expression on a frail old Jewish man’s face as he testified just a few feet in front of her. He had watched his entire family being killed before his eyes. She recalls a Nazi camp doctor who covered his face with his hands while a prosecutor showed a film revealing the horrors of Buchenwald, a concentration camp that was one of the first and largest in Germany. She will never forget one of the first items entered into evidence at the Buchenwald trials: the shrunken head of a Polish prisoner, its thick, dark hair still attached.

Now 98, Isenberg lives in the Givens Estates retirement community in Asheville. Her mind is as sharp as ever, and she has nearly a century of memories. But some of the most powerful come from the time she served as court reporter for the women’s branch of the U.S. Army just after World War II.

In the early 1940s, as the war helped America pull out of the Great Depression, Isenberg was yearning for a bit more personal freedom. She was born in Borough Park, Brooklyn, in 1912 and had graduated from Brooklyn College in 1935, at the height of the Depression. There wasn’t much work available at the time, but she got a secretarial job in the women’s clothing business in Manhattan. She was unmarried and in her 20s, still living at home, pining for her own place. In those days, “nice Jewish girls didn’t rent rooms,” Isenberg says. Upon hearing that she wanted to live on her own, her father made it clear that wasn’t an option.

Click to read more ...

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 08:10PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments7 Comments | References14 References

Wine Groups Let Women Uncork

Without men, it’s no skin off their grapes.

by Erin McWhorter . photos by Rimas Zailskas and Matt Rose

They heard it through the grapevine. Or maybe they heard it from Jessica Gualano, owner of Asheville’s Wine Studio and an 11-year wine industry veteran. Her increasingly popular Girls on Grapes group, which she started in 2008, is just one example of a burgeoning national and local trend—pairing women and wine.

Gualano, 31, believes women are interested in wine groups because they can learn about a traditionally male-dominated subject in a pressure-free atmosphere. Not that wine is so macho. But it is one corner of the gastronomic universe that’s long been populated by men. Just try to name one famous female wine critic. (See?)

Gualano may not be a household name—yet—but she is a certified wine specialist with the American Society of Wine Educators, and she’s getting a degree from London’s Institute of Masters of Wine, a distinction only four American women have earned. Her expertise is in wines from France, Italy and Spain, and she has traveled to all three. Next month, she heads to France to help harvest grapes at a small Rhone Valley vineyard, Montirius.

Click to read more ...

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 08:09PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments6 Comments | References10 References

Holey Matrimony

Bobbie Goodrum has been serving up Krispy Kreme doughnuts for 22 years. Now, she plans to get married there.

by Kelly Drake . photo by Matt Rose

Bobbie Goodrum’s life has been one sweet journey. And if you’ve ever been to the drive-up window of the Krispy Kreme on Patton Avenue in Asheville, you can share it with her. If you make your way there often enough, she probably already knows your name—and your order. Some people’s quirky requests are a dead giveaway. Like Jeff, who pulls up regularly and asks for “Whatever’s the hottest and has caffeine with three sugars and four creams,” Goodrum recalls. Others are more common—just coffee, or doughnuts—but she still knows a regular when she hears one. “I know a lot of people’s voices,” she says.

Click to read more ...

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 08:06PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment

What Lies Beneath

The Gulf oil spill haunts a folk artist’s dreams.

by Ursula Gullow . photo by Anthony Bellemare

Cher Shaffer doesn’t just make art for fun. She makes art for healing. Regarding herself as a “spirit medium,” Shaffer says she never lacks for material. “All I have to do is be quiet for a few moments, and the images come to me. Whatever that image is, it has a life before it ever arrived on a piece of paper, or a canvas, or a piece of clay by my hand.”

Many of Shaffer’s newest pieces, both drawings and dolls, were created as a response to the Gulf Coast oil spill, and she sees them as a way to heal the environmental devastation there. Several drawings appear buoyant, but they came from a deep place within Shaffer. “I started to dream that I was in the ocean with the animals, watching the oil bubble up,” she says.

A collection of her drawings, including several oil-spill-themed pieces, runs from September 10 to October 31 at the Greenhill Center for NC Art in Greensboro. Another show, including oil-smeared dolls, is on display at the Petaluma Art Center in Petaluma, California, through September 19. She’ll show both drawings and dolls at the Atlanta Folk Fest later this month.

Click to read more ...

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 08:04PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

How to Look Your Best at the Fest

Our experts weigh in.

by Joanne O’Sullivan . photos by Jameykay Young

Festival season is upon us. Bele Chere’s gone, but Brewgrass, LAAFF (Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival) and LEAF (Lake Eden Arts Festival) are coming up, which means many more opportunities to see and be seen. And, alas, many opportunities for fashion faux pas. We’ve all seen the Daisy Dukes paired with the confederate flag bikini tops, the full-on goth ensemble with the oh-so-unseasonable combat boots. We asked a few local fashion experts to weigh in on what NOT to wear to this summer’s festivals, and a few tips on how to look fantastic instead.

Click to read more ...

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 08:01PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References7 References

Earning Her Stripes

A young professor turns 30 and is in desperate need of new duds.

by Mick Kelly . photo by Matt Rose

Heather Talley hurried ahead. After graduating from UNC Asheville, she was accepted at Vanderbilt University and finished her Ph.D. in sociology at age 27. Now, at 29, she’s a tenure-track professor in Western Carolina University’s department of anthropology and sociology, and she just wrapped up writing her first book. Career? Stellar. Style? It could use some sprucing up. In addition to often being mistaken for a student, Talley, the self-described “perennial single girl,” hasn’t had time to update her wardrobe in a while. I’m “startlingly attached to being in my twenties,” she says.

These days, she lives in downtown Asheville but drives to WCU in Cullowhee looking quite conservative—longish dresses, suit jackets. She occasionally wears jeans but generally tries to over-dress so that her colleagues and students will take her seriously. “In my end-of-year evaluations, one student wrote, ‘She doesn’t dress professionally.’ I thought, are you kidding me? I look like a church lady compared to my colleagues.”

Click to read more ...

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 07:58PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Urned Income

Adrienne Crowther’s demographic research spurred her to start an online urn company.

by Jess McCuan . photo by Anthony Bellemare

Adrienne Crowther wants people to think outside the box—the funerary box, that is. Her web-based Asheville company, Shine On Brightly, sells artful cremation urns and memorial objects, like jewelry, paintings and ash-filled paperweights. Unlike most funeral parlors, which sell mass-produced coffins and cremation vessels, Crowther’s are all handmade by some 30 local artists.

Crowther, 53, was executive director of the Asheville Area Arts Council from 2005 to 2007. Because of her AAAC connections and her longtime interest in the local art scene, she’s had no trouble linking up with WNC artists who make memorial pieces—like an ash-filled pendant for $430, or a “legacy poem” for $200. What’s been more challenging, though, is figuring out, as a first-time entrepreneur, how to steer her unusual business. A few years ago, she read a book, Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death. In it, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen describes various death-industry trends, including the fact that Baby Boomers (now between ages 46 and 64) are very interested in personalization—think eco-friendly funerals, or NASCAR funerals—ceremonies and items that give a sense for their personality.

Click to read more ...

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 07:57PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Funny Girl

photo by Anthony Bellemare . interview by Jess McCuan

Name: Ryan-Ashley Anderson

Age: 23

If you had a super power, what would it be? Night vision. I would always win at hide and seek.

And if you were a celebrity, who would you be? I guess Seinfeld. My secret desire is to be a stand-up comedian.

Are you funny? No. I don’t think I’m really that funny. I end up over-explaining. I give away the punch line. Things kind of fall flat. I end up thinking either I’m not funny or the rest of the world isn’t—and I’m pretty sure it’s not them.

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 07:54PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment

Miami Spice

photo by Anthony Bellemare  .  interview by Jess McCuan

Name: Sandra Bonzani

Age: 40

Where are you from? I was made in Cuba but born in Miami. I’m headed back to Miami soon. I’m like a fish without water here.

And what do you do here in Asheville? I’m a translator. I translate Spanish.

If you were a celebrity, who would you be? Angelina Jolie, of course. Because of Brad—and all those babies.

And if you could do something besides translate, what would that be? I’d be a poet. I’d write about flowers or something. Or Brad. With Brad, there would be plenty to write about.

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 07:53PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments4 Comments | References3 References

Full Bloom

interview and photo by Erin McWhorter

Name: Sylvia Elwyn

Age: 58

How did you start gardening? I’ve always had houseplants. After 20 years as a medical social worker, I became a serious gardener for the past 15 years.

If you were a celebrity, who would you be and why? Susan Sarandon. I admire her because she’s always struck me as being a very independent and genuine woman.

If you had a super power, what would it be? To have more blooms, and more gardens, of course.

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 07:51PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Economic Justice for All?

A former bartender takes the helm of a wage-focused nonprofit.

by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

One of her group’s core principles: Minimum wage just doesn’t cut it. “It’s in no way a living wage almost anywhere in this country,” says Vicki Meath, a 35-year-old single mom who took the executive director spot at Asheville’s Just Economics in early August. The nonprofit says the federal $7-an-hour minimum doesn’t go far enough in Asheville, where high housing and other costs mean the “living wage” is actually around $9.85 an hour with benefits and $11.35 without.

Meath recently got a first-hand look at Asheville’s tough job market. She’s spent most of her adult life as a community organizer, working for nonprofits like the environment-oriented Western Colorado Congress and later, Cleveland Jobs With Justice. When she moved to Asheville in 2007, she wanted a temporary job that was flexible enough to give her time with her nine-year-old daughter. She ended up bartending at Tripps restaurant on the east edge of downtown for three years—much longer than she would have preferred—simply because professional jobs were unavailable. “I believe Asheville grew a little faster than the job market,” she says.

In the coming months, Just Economics, which coalesced in 2000 but didn’t have full-time staff until 2007, will continue to ramp up its Living Wage Employer Certification Program. The program literally gives Asheville-area small businesses a stamp of approval (the logo looks like something you’d see on a bag of fair-trade coffee) if they pay employees Asheville’s living wage or offer other benefits. “We vote with our dollars daily,” she says. “As consumers, we need to support and spend our money with businesses that are responsible.”

For more info, go to

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 07:48PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

We're So Excite-TED

A big-ideas conference with Eustace Conway and a pledge of allegiance to the Earth.

by Jess McCuan  .  photo by Matt Rose

Speakers at last year’s TEDx Asheville conference pondered death and wondered whether dolphins could be people too. This year, we can’t wait to hear what Eustace Conway—hero of Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2002 book The Last American Man—and locals like Laurey Masterton have to say. Jennifer Saylor, TEDx Asheville’s executive director, says Breah Parker will lead the crowd in pledging allegiance to the Earth. Whatever else happens, Asheville’s second annual independently organized big-ideas rally should be interesting. And a bit smoother on the operations side. “This year, no one will be turned away,” says Saylor, who admits it was both a good and a bad thing that nearly 350 people stood in line but couldn’t attend the free event last year. This year, you must buy a $25 ticket in advance. Or, you can attend an off-site “watching party.” She promises that live streaming video (which somehow never came together last year) will work. The whole point, she says, is to build “an ongoing electronic community based around great ideas in Asheville and for Asheville.” Very ambitious indeed. August 29, The Orange Peel.

For the latest, go to or


Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 07:46PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References6 References

Washington Insider

Rebecca D’Angelo rolls out images from her days shooting for the Washington Post.

by Jess McCuan  .  photo by Rebecca D'Angelo

It was such a tough assignment: For seven years, Black Mountain photographer Rebecca D’Angelo had to drag herself to at least three glittering high-society Washington, D.C., parties each week. Okay, okay, so it wasn’t so harsh after all. “I love food. And I love free food,” says D’Angelo, who moved to Asheville in 2007. Once, she did get thrown out of the Library of Congress for sassing a security guard. And muscling in amongst a throng of other photographers was no picnic for someone as petite as D’Angelo. But there was plenty of payoff at these high-powered soirees, which she shot for a regular society page for the Washington Post. Like getting up close and personal with Muhammad Ali and both Clintons, or snapping a stunning portrait of Bono with a lipstick print on his cheek. D’Angelo shows off 30 or so of her best society pics from the late ‘90s and early ‘00s at her newish gallery, Studio 103, in Black Mountain this month.

Check out for more details.

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 07:44PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Editor's Note

Hooray for the new VERVE.

That’s what many of you have told us recently—in emails, on Facebook and at our party to launch the new re-designed July issue. “Love the big format,” says Asheville PR veteran Kathi Petersen. “I’m happy not to have to wait oh-so-long for the next edition to come out.” Asheville’s GEM Fund president Pat Argue says, “I love your new look and the fact that you’re now a monthly.” Please keep your comments coming. Let us know what you like and don’t, and what we can do differently in the future.

And please keep sending story ideas our way. This month, we’re writing about women in so many far-flung areas—from doughnuts to summer fashion to medical marijuana activism. Many of those came together because our readers recognized good story ideas and sent them in. One of the most remarkable pieces in this issue, Joanne O’Sullivan’s profile of Paula Isenberg (see page 42) came to us from Amy Fowler of CarePartners, a rehab and hospice organization in Asheville. Isenberg is 98, served as a court reporter in the U.S. Army during World War II, and Fowler and the CarePartners nursing staff knew she had a riveting tale to tell when they heard it. When you come across fascinating, sassy women, we hope you will continue to tell us about them.


Jess McCuan

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 07:41PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment