*** UPDATE 18 Feb, 2014: Laurey’s sister has reported via Facebook that Laurey passed away early this morning. Keep her and her family in your thoughts. ***
*** Apologies for the initial misspelling of Laurey’s last name. Sorry for broken links as a result of the correction. ***
*** Remember that there are real people at the center of this situation, and they are dealing with real loss. Media attention can be very overwhelming. Please pay your tributes carefully. ***
On a troubling day last September a colleague and I had an argument in Laurey Masterton’s front yard. All around us birds were chirping and bees were buzzing.
No, really. Bees were actually buzzing. We were there, in fact, to photograph Laurey tending her bees. But she was running late, and I took the spare moment as an opportunity to start a fight about Asheville’s media. Last fall was a hard time to be a journalist here, and I was sick of it. I wanted to rant about how we were all just reinforcing our own narcissism, how nothing we covered was real, how our journalism had become a disguise for marketing — not for Asheville’s products, but for its egos.
Things were getting heated when Laurey drove up. I filed the argument under “To Be Continued” and rolled my eyes at her “Don’t Postpone Joy” bumper sticker, determined to remain unimpressed.
But one of Laurey Masterton’s super powers is the ability to shatter whatever self-serving illusions you’re trying to maintain. If you’ve met her, you know what I’m talking about. As soon as we shook hands I instantly felt ashamed of my cynicism, and uncomfortable with her staggering enthusiasm for life: The thing about Laurey is that she makes you expect a little more from yourself.
And over her shoulder, my colleague’s eyes were saying, “I told you so.”
Laurey seemed to understand that she’d met someone who might have a tendency to postpone joy. I imagine she gets that reaction a lot. So many people in Asheville are so tired of hearing the media blather on about how great we all are that, when you meet someone who’s actually genuine and kind, the first thing you feel is shame for forgetting people like Laurey really do exist.
I came away from our shoot wondering why I’d started that fight, when the solution was obvious: If you want things to be better, make them better.
This morning I read that Laurey’s health is rapidly declining. The media circus is in effect. So I’m here to tell you, as someone who worked in the thick of Asheville’s self-aggrandizing hype, that Laurey Masterton is the real deal. I only spent an hour with her, and I can’t claim to enumerate all her good works. But she changed my mind about things during a really rough time. And she makes this whole town expect a little more from itself.