the duchess and the bay breeze

Our van – Woody Van Hausen, first of his name – is a glorious friend and ally, but he is old and not so sturdy and therefor we seldom drive for more than 4-5 hours a day. Thus, heading up into the Smokey Mountains en route to Knoxville, we stopped for the night at a Walmart parking lot in Hendersonville, just outside Asheville. After a cold mountain night, we went for a quick workout and hot showers at a local gym and there, during our very final stretches, we met Duchess. Glorious Duchess is 77 and still waits tables twice a week at Bay Breeze, a local seafood restaurant. She is an advocate of hugs and their scientifically proven healing power. She has a mathematical formula which says that 7 hugs of 20 seconds each are the just-right-amount to heal ailments and keep degenerative diseases at bay. Duchess told us how state laws prohibit assisted-living staff from hugging the elderly, for health reasons. And so these seniors, many of whom are far from family and that have lost many of their friends, are devoid of that most basic thing – human touch. Many of the clientele of Bay Breeze are elderly, and Duchess, along with Bobbi the owner and the hostess, make sure to give each person a 20-second hug going in and another going out, 6 hugs in all. They then send these seniors on their way with a farewell of “Now go get that seventh hug yourself!”.

p.s. after farewell hugs with Duchess, we went to Bay Breeze where the food was good and the cakes were heavenly. A couple of ladies at the next table struck a conversation with us and we told them about the project. Hunter, our radiant waitress, overheard us talking and asked to hear more. She then went and brought Kayla and Bobbie, the aforementioned owner. All three ended up participating in the project, Bobbie wouldn’t let us pay for lunch, and we left for Asheville with full stomachs and hearts.

~ r

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