Tripp bade me goodbye and said he would return to Black Mountain when the construction on 44 Cherry Street was more complete and the Town Pump had become more “suitable.” He said when he heard “fine bars”, he expected something more like Selwyn Pub in Charlotte.
The following day, though, I was stopped in my tracks in front of The Goldfinch by a VW bus hand-painted with colorful swirls and hearts. pulling in to park. The doors opened up as it screeched to a halt. Out tumbled a crowd of people dressed in many shades of red and orange. They talked excitedly among themselves pointing and gesturing towards 44 Cherry St.
I couldn’t stand not to know what was going on, so I approached them, acting the part of good samaritan. “Can I help you all?” I asked, more out of curiosity than wanting to help.
They were clearly pleased with what they saw, as they chattered and smiled, pointing towards the building. “Well, yes,” said an elderly grey-haired woman who seemed to be in charge. “We are interested in taking over this building for our group. We saw the ad in the Charlotte Observer and hurried here as quickly as we could. This building looks ideal for our purposes. I hope we have arrived on time before someone else grabs it ahead of us.”
“I see,” I uttered cautiously. “I’m not sure if the units have been rented yet, but,” I warned, looking at their strange clothes and shabby van, “The rent is astronomical!”
“Oh, we are aware of the rent, but think that we would like to take all four units, or maybe even buy the building outright.”
I thought about Lorraine and her precious apartment and what she would think about this group taking over. “What sort of group are you, anyway?” I eyed the bright red and orange clothes.
Once again the grey-haired woman spoke, “We are followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Some of us lived in his ashram in Antelope Oregon, before the creeps from the government came after him and he had to flee for his life. I tried to help him fly out of Charlotte, but the feds stopped him and sent him to prison.”
“So wait a minute,” I said. “He went to prison and you are still his devotees? And didn’t he take your money and use it to buy a fleet of Rolls Royces?””
“Absolutely! He deserved the very best. He was a man of God and his teachings are priceless. This place would be an ideal location for an ashram for his followers.”
I tried to imagine the streets of Black Mountain overrun by devotees in shades of red. It was not a good fit, in my opinion. We already had enough religious groups represented in this small town. “Why Black Mountain, though? I think you’d be happier in a bigger place. or up at the Light Center outside town.”
“Haven’t you heard?” she responded. “Black Mountain is a spiritual vortex. This is the perfect place!”
Tourists in brand new Black Mountain tee shirts and caps eyed us suspiciously as they walked by.