Thursday, August 25, 2011

High in the Smokies with Valerie Hoh

Dennis and Valerie, Bryson City, N.C. August 2011
Twice lately people have sent to me photographs of bears walking in their back yards—one photo accompanied by an invitation to visit Asheville. No thanks. Why don’t you come here? I said.  So a couple of weeks ago Valerie Hoh and her husband, Dennis, came to our vacation rental house in the Smoky Mountains. We’d rented a big house there for a reunion with our kids. By Monday the kids had all left. We’d rented the house for the entire week. So we invited Valerie and Dennis over—they live in Asheville—to share in the pleasure of the Smoky Mountain air and a refrigerator full of left-behind food. We’d over-shopped, of course, and everyone had arrived with treats. There were melons and
Valerie and June feeling special in Hip-Hop Wraps
peaches and tomatoes and peppers and onions and cheese, bacon and eggs. We needed help!
    For many years Valerie and Dennis lived in Key West. An artist with a head for business as well as design, Valerie operated the store Pandemonium, on Duval Street. It featured beautiful and artistic things to wear and use and live with. In the same building she opened a gallery of work by Cindy Wynn, another truly innovative artist. Wynn creates furniture out of discarded metal and steel objects. Valerie called the store/museum Reworx.  Perhaps it was ahead of its time. Reworx didn’t seem to catch on.
    In 2005 Valerie and Dennis decided that Key West had become too challenging financially, and that Asheville would be a more manageable place to live. They sold their Key West house at the height of the real estate boom, and moved to Asheville. Valerie says she hasn’t regretted the move for a single second. Of course they do spend two months in Key West each winter and that’s gotta take the sting out of spending the other 10 months in bear country. 
Flip-Flop Hip-Hopper Miguel Perez in Valerie Hoh
    Valerie is also interested in cooking, and together, in the mountains, we fashioned several divine meals. Valerie, described by our mutual friend Jon Hynes as “a sort of life coach”, is full of great information and advice on a wide variety of subjects, from food, to fabric, to finance. She is currently involved in a movement to prevent a condominium complex from being built in her neighborhood. Valerie says she is making a name for herself in Asheville as a political activist, yet another focus of her bright light. She maintains her sparkling vitality with Tai Chi as well as a daily exercises called Somatics. Dennis does a set of yoga poses and stretches each morning. They meditate daily.
     One afternoon, as we danced together, Valerie told me that in Asheville Dennis goes to a studio where he dances to the 5Rhythms, a sort of philosophy of dance and movement by Gabrielle Roth. I downloaded some 5Rhythm music onto my iPod and dance to it at the beach. When people see me gyrating to the rhythms in my head, they stare, and I tell them: "Valerie Hoh made me do it!"
Michael Keith, in Valerie Hoh, 1987. "You should be a work of art or wear one." Oscar Wilde. I married one.

Anne, in Valerie Hoh, at our wedding, 1988.
    One day Valerie wrapped a fabulous thing around my head, wearable art by Valerie Hoh. It’s called a hip-hop wrap and she says it makes you feel special to wear it. It does! I call it my “Hoh Do-Rag.” As in “Hoh does” ... and does and does! One night she wore her hip-hop wrap and I wore mine and we took photographs—for you! 
     Last night son Miguel, producer of a brand of music he calls “flip-flop hip-hop”, expertly wrapped the Valerie Do around his head as if he’d done it a thousand times before. Then he posed for my camera.
    In February, Valerie stages a show of her incredible fashions at Key West's Gardens Hotel. There is music, food and drink, and since Valerie does everything she does with drama, wit and flair, the show is a terrific event. Her devoted Key West fans show up to socialize and have a look at what new ideas Valerie has brought to life. The pieces are for sale, too. In the meantime, check out Valerie’s stuff at  Plug in to see Cindy Wynn's wild works. 
     Wondering who else has a bear in their back yard? Our great friends Eugenie and Tad Malek in Northampton, Mass.  Eugenie is a brilliant world class pianist, who I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing since my childhood.  But that’s another blog. In the meantime, I gotta say, those art-loving bears get around!

 Check out Flip-Flop Hip-Hop featuring our son Miguel here:


  1. I’ve just stumbled upon your lovely blog. I look forward to popping by again for some more inspiration! I'm just new into blogging this year & have put together a daily blog on design, fashion, food, travel and anything pretty. and for everything chic and coastal

    I had a lot of fun putting them together maybe you would like to check them out if you have a spare minute.