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Interview with Karson Walston, transcript

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  • Transcript of interview with Karson Walston.
  • Walston 1 Interviewee: Karson Walston Interviewer: Travis Rountree and DJ Williams County: Jackson Date: March 18, 2021 Duration: 0:30:57 Travis Roundtree: Hello. Today's date is March the 18th, 2021. My name is Travis Roundtree, and I'm here with DJ Williams and Karson Walston. I guess we can start. Karson, can you tell us your preferred pronouns and also how long you've been living here in Jackson County? Karson Walston: My pronouns are he - all he. I have to correct Daddy every day. But I moved here in 2004. I was working out here and driving back and forth from Asheville. And I was like, "This is ridiculous." I was covering seven western counties and it was stupid to drive from Asheville every day to hit Cherokee and Graham County. TR: Wow. KW: Yeah. I mean, I was going to the ends of the state over here. And so I've been out here working since 2001, but I moved in ‘04. TR: Okay. And can you describe your business that you do? Which is just awesome. KW: I'm in pest control. So I service residential and commercial pest control. TR: Cool. And the name of it is? KW: The Bug Lads. TR: I love it. I love it. KW: We changed it from the original name and it works. TR: And what was the original? KW: The Bug Lady of WNC, and we just shortened it to The Bug Lads. So we're just doing business because it's a pain to have to change all that through the government. Because it's an S-corp, but it's still a corporation and the change of the name - it's just ridiculous. So I just went into the courthouse and did a doing business as. TR: Good. Awesome. And so you said you were in 2001 in Asheville. Where, where were you before that? KW: Still in Asheville. I moved to Asheville in ‘88. TR: Oh, wow. Okay. And where were you originally? KW: Raleigh. Walston 2 TR: Raleigh. Okay, cool. Cool. Right on. KW: I was born in the eastern part of the state, lived in Raleigh for quite a few years, and then moved out here in ‘88. I've been out here longer than I've been over there. TR: Wow. I know I had a friend of mine asked me about being Appalachian, and I consider myself a faux Appalachian, cause I'm not I'm from KW: You're transplanted. TR: But she was like, "You've lived in the mountains longer than anywhere else in your whole life. You're Appalachian now." So I'm like, okay, I'll take that. So can you just kind of describe living here in Jackson County, like good experiences, bad experiences? What's life been like here for you? And you just got married too, which is awesome. KW: Yes, I just got married. Life here is great. It's very laid back. Of course as I said I moved from Asheville. My friends were like, "What are you going to do about going out?" I said, “I think I've had enough of that.” Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, wore it out, and then burnt it. So, I mean, I've kind of been done with the big party dance scene. And then, you know, I moved out here. It was quiet. I was concentrating on work and then opened my business in 2010, went out on my own, and it's just been smooth sailing. I mean, I can't say smooth sailing. It was great until I changed. And I started losing a few customers and I was like, "Hmm, they didn't really care at all." So I was like, I knew I was going to lose some, but it didn't matter to me. I gained others along the way, because a lot of my business is word of mouth, because I know I can get to them pretty quick. But people look at me and say, "Why did you do that here?" I was like, "I own a business here. Where am I going?" TR: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. KW: I mean, I've just established my business here and you want me to move to change? No. Why don't you move to change TR: Exactly. That's exactly right. That's exactly right. So, how long has it been since you, since that happened, with your business and everything, or since the change? KW: Since the change? I started T in ‘17. November of ‘17, yeah. TR: Okay. Okay. That's great. KW: Yes, ‘17. TR: And can you describe, because you said your dad still has a hard time with using he pronouns. Can you describe, I mean if it's comfortable... KW: Oh, I only correct him on the name or the pronoun. I don't do both, because that's just overwhelming him. He's 80 plus years old. Yeah. And he's a little old fart. I mean, he is very set in his ways, and he was not real happy when I said I wanted to change my name. Of course, that's how I started. And then he didn't realize I was changing everything, but he ended up being my nurse for Walston 3 surgery. I had nobody else. Everybody else I had planned on skipped out and couldn't make it or whatever. And so he came and spent 10 days here and babysat. TR: Wow. And so did you have the surgery here in Jackson? KW: No, I had it in Charlotte. TR: Okay. Okay. Yeah. And one of our sort of things with this too is even to talk about like medical type of stuff too. Did it go well? How was that experience for you? KW: It went well. I used Cosmetic Concierge. In Charlotte, she comes highly recommended. I think everyone in her staff is trans. TR: Wow. That's fantastic. KW: I think everyone on her staff. Yeah. She was an army doctor. Yeah. She served in the army and all that. So somehow I really believe she is, but I don't, I don't know that she is, but her whole staff is trans, and they're very good staff. I had to have some minor repair on one side, and they let my future wife, at that point in time, go back there and watch because it was just a small procedure. But it was 10 days the staples came out. I went on, I went back to work. I didn't work because I wasn't able to lift, but I trained. I got to spend a whole month with my guy training him. TR: Wow. Wow. Knowing you, Karson, I know you would be right back at work too. KW: I drove dad. Dad and I drove to Charlotte to get the staples out, and then I drove home. He says, "If you can drive two and a half, three hours to get your staples out and drive back, you don't need me anymore. I'm going home in the morning." I said, "Okay, I'll call Russell to come get me and we'll go to work together." TR: Oh my gosh. That's awesome. That's awesome. KW: That guy got more training than probably I did when I started in pest control. TR: Wow. Wow. Wow. Yeah. That's amazing. And you just got married too. Can you tell us a little bit about your family life here and here in Jackson County? KW: It's great. She moved in two years ago. I had to go get her after my mother died and get her out of a relationship that wasn't really there. He just kept moving for better jobs. And in her job, you just don't pick up and move every time you feel like it. She's in the medical field, and you've got to give them more than a two week notice. And every time she got to where he was, he was ready to go again. And we just hit it off a year or so before and just had a great time together. We were always smiling. We were always laughing. Always talking. And she moved in two years ago, coming up March, March something. But the end of the month, end of this month, the two years. And she had everything ready for that wedding, so we used everything for this wedding. TR: Why not, right? Walston 4 KW: She found this place online that had wooden flowers, the boutonnières, the brides made her. She had a throw bouquet. She had her bouquet, the bridesmaid bouquets, all the boutonnières for mom and dad's and all that stuff. And so we used every bit of it. TR: And it was at The Paper Mill, right? KW: It was at The Paper Mill. And Craig Day knocked it out of the park. TR: That's great. That's great. And Craig is the owner operator of The Paper Mill. Yeah. KW: Right. Since the bridesmaids were already in place to go, he carried the end of her dress down the ramp because it had rained that morning. TR: That's lovely. That's so great. I saw some of the pictures. I think that either you posted or Craig posted on that. It was gorgeous. It was such a great - KW: We had a blast. That was perfect. It was small. It was just small enough and just big enough. And it just worked, it just ran smoothly. DJ Williams: Is marriage something that you always wanted? KW: Oh yeah. And believe it or not, she is what I always used to dream of as younger. When I was so young and trying to figure out who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be, my dreams always revolved around her. And I said, she's got to be out here somewhere. TR: Great. I just want to have rainbows and hearts confetti just explode. KW: I mean, I was like, "Where have you been?" And I was like, no, God didn't want me then. It had to been now. DJW: I love that. TR: And even the wedding took place during the pandemic too, right? I mean, it was just gorgeous. It was outside, and it's small and wonderful. I mean, it's one of those - KW: We had the perfect venue to do that. TR: So I guess one of the questions too, that I have here is, what do you hope for Jackson County in the future, I guess as far as like growth and inclusivity, those types of things. [laugh] What would you like to see more done here I guess would be another question. KW: I'd like to see more diversity on different boards. On government boards you don't have, I mean, there's not a lot of diversity on the boards of any board. TR: Of Course not. There is not. You're right. KW: It's not even black and white. Walston 5 TR: It's all white. All white, white men basically. Yeah. KW: Well there's a few women on a few boards. I don't think they hear the people enough. I don't think there's enough representation either, with the amount they have on the board. I don't think that's enough representation. It's too big of an area. I mean, that's just me. I don't know how that would work. Somebody asked me to run and I'm like, "I'm not running against Boyce Dietz. He's in my district. They, ain't no way I'd win against Boyce Dietz. He's Going to have to retire before anybody can take his spot. He's just, he's a strong man, which is what I want to be. And he is a voice. He listens to both sides. That's a good thing about him. And, I don't know if I could be that strong. I would like to think that I can and be a presence and listen to everybody. I mean, I would like to see the Jackson County commissioners and even the town commissioners have individual meetings of the people they represent. TR: Yes. Yes. KW: You've got your Cullowhee people and you've got your Cashiers people. That's a big area over there. That's like another country. TR: It really is. KW: It really is. But Boyce Dietz has got all of north right here, Balsam, and this area here. Yeah. That's a big area for even Boyce to handle all the conversations from that. TR: I didn't realize Balsam was... yeah, I guess it is included still. Wow. Wow. I didn't realize that. KW: Part of Balsam, you know, until you get to the Parkway. It's Jackson County. TR: That's amazing. No, I didn't realize that. That's that's wild. Wow. KW: You got one person trying to talk for all of Cashiers, even though a lot of those are part-time people. There are a lot of people that live there year round. So are you giving the same attention to your year round people that you're giving to your part-time people? If they're paying taxes here, they have a voice. TR: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. KW: I would love to run for something, but I just don't think I would ever kick Boyce off. TR: You never know. KW: I never know. TR: Karson, You have my vote. KW: Thank you. TR: You're welcome. And probably Kelly's and several other peoples' too. Can you say, in talking about Jackson County, what's one of your like favorite memories? I mean, your wedding obviously is a huge Walston 6 one, but what's one of your favorite memories that you've had here, living in this County and this area, I guess too? KW: Well, I guess watching the breweries come because basically they weren't any, and then Heinzelmannchen was the first one. Inno came in and just blew Heinzelmannchen out of the water. I mean, there's just no way to put it. TR: What was the first one? I don't think I've heard of it. KW: Heinzelmannchen. Don't ask me how to spell that. I'll go get you the growler and you can see it. TR: Where was it in town? KW: Where White Moon is. TR: No kidding. KW: Yep. That used to be the brewery. TR: How about that? No, I had no idea. That's really cool. KW: Yeah. That was the first one. And then Inno came in, Innovation came in, and Sneaky Squirrel was down at the Habitat Store. And he had a hard time opening because of TWSA because that was an old car dealership, and that was too much space, and they were asking him to pay an astronomical fee for water. And so he cut the building in half. TR: Oh my gosh. Wow. KW: And opened up half the building. The back part of the building was brewing and the front part was service and the other part was just storage. TR: That's really cool. And it's where the ReStore is on the other side of the road? KW: No, the ReStore, the Habitat ReStore. And then Balsam came in and then you've got your outsiders, which are a Lazy Hiker and Nantahala. And outsiders, meaning they brew somewhere else and bring it in. TR: And they're both in Bryson city, right? KW: No, Lazy Hiker is in Franklin. TR: That's right. Yeah. KW: So, I like to say there's lots of things to like about Jackson County. I mean, it's waterfall city County behind Transylvania County. I mean, it's right next to it. And they border at some point. At some point they border outside of Cashiers. And make sure you say Cashiers correctly. When you live there, it's Walston 7 "Cashers." When you don't live here, it's Cashiers. I got corrected. As soon as I got a home address here, everybody corrected me and said, "You live here, it's cashers." TR: Okay. Definitely corrected. But that and also I got to have Appalachian State because I went there for my master's and lived in Boone for nine years. And I have a sticker on my car, and I got yelled at, at a gas pump. One time they were like, "You can't have a Western and App State sticker." I'm like, "I damn well can, yeah." DKW: Yeah, I get that a lot too. KW: That's the thing. A lot of the professors kids here make them go to Appalachian because there's still mountains ,and they got to get away from home. TR: Yes. So many of them actually - KW: So many of them. There's some that will stay here, but a lot of them, the parents want them to know to get that feel of living. You know, if you want to go to stay in the mountains, go to Boone. TR: Yeah. And it's only two and a half hours. I was there a couple of weekends ago. It's not a far drive. It's an easy drive. KW: But I like everything about Jackson County. I mean, nothing's favorite. I guess, buying my house. TR: Can you talk a little bit... I know when I got here, first realizing that The Paper Mill was kind of sort of a gay bar-ish. So that made me feel better. Can you talk about being an LGBTQ person here in, in the County? Obviously we're friends, but what's that been like for you? Because you talked about when you, you lost some customers too. KW: Oh that, they were staunch Baptists. You can't deal with them. You can't deal with him either. TR: Who's that now? KW: Dad. They got to answer to somebody, and it ain't me. And I don't worry. I don't sweat the small stuff. If that's how you feel, that's how you feel. Everybody's got an opinion, like a butthole. Everybody's got one. TR: I wrote that on my mug right there. KW: I said that nicely, you know that. I don't force myself on anybody. And I don't expect anybody to force their opinions on me. So I don't force my opinions or my lifestyle. I would rather somebody ask me to my face than to ask my friends. And that's a thing that happens a lot. I have noticed that in my ever so many years I've been in this life, been on this earth, that people don't ask the question to who they want to learn it from. It's always, they want to hear the gossip before it, and after it, but not the person they're actually asking them about. If you want to know something, why don't you just go to the source? And a lot of people don't do that. I'm guilty of few things too. I mean, ain't nobody perfect or we wouldn't be here. But I've had a great reception of changing and people still have issues with the name, and that's okay. They go, "I'm sorry." I said, "It's a process." It's not an overnight thing. Especially when Walston 8 I've been here, you know, working out here for 17 years. And then change automatically and go, "Hey, you know, you got to call me somebody else now." So it's like introducing a new employee and they're like, "I don't like this employee. Maybe I do. I'm not sure." Then you get those and go, "No, I don't like this employee. I don't want you here anymore." I was like, fine. You deal with the other ones that want to sell you everything. I just tell you what you need. And I don't push the business. I mean, I'm not going to name names, but there are companies out there that once they get their foot in the door, will sell you everything that they offer. And I'm talking from insulation to encapsulating crawl spaces to the list goes on – gutter guards, more insulation in your crawl space. I mean, they just keep adding and adding adding, and that's their thing is they keep coming back and every quarter they'll go, "Oh, well you need this." And I go, "You need to do something about this. I can give you suggestions, but this is something y'all need to attend to. "I don't force it on them. But if I see something that needs to be attended to, I let them know. And I offer pest control. I don't know for all that other crap. I ain't got time for that. TR: I know you're already busy enough as it is. KW: I'm busy managing my business. That's what I'm busy at. TR: So one, and we can kind of wrap it up a little bit, but one question since this is for the archives at Western, one question I'd like to ask folks is, what kind of advice - so we obviously have students at Western who are coming out, in the process of coming out, or already are out at the school - what kind of advice like would you, would you tell them, or would you give them? KW: Use the services you have at school to help you through coming out. I went to a very private college, and I did not come out until college. And I knew nothing about the services at college, nothing. And I am pretty sure in that day and age, they didn't have any idea of what they were going to do with me if I did go to them. Because at first I thought I was being gay. And then I was like, "I'm still not happy in that body and in that connotation." And actually it took somebody at Western. I said, "If this kid can do this, I can do this." I don't care about the age difference or anything like that. But I said, "If somebody can do that in college, I can do it." And I just set my mind to it, called my doctor and said, this is what I want to do. She goes, "Okay. Let's get some blood work. Let's get you started." But you use the services that are offered. There is counseling services at Western. Every college has counseling services, and they are some very good people in those departments. I know quite a few of them. I would recommend that you stick with insurance. I did not realize that my therapist nor my surgeon were in my insurance plan. TR: Oh no. KW: Yeah. So all of that was out of pocket. TR: Karson, are you serious? KW: Yeah. And that was right when ACA came out. And you had to get it or you were really penalized on your tax return, and I didn't even think to check and see if they were listed as a provider on my insurance plan. So yeah, that was all out of pocket. But I did get to claim it on my insurance. TR: Oh, that's good. Walston 9 KW: Well on my tax return I did. Yeah. Follow your insurance. Cosmetic Concierge - they don't file. They charge you an extra hundred dollars to file on your insurance. And that's ridiculous when you're already paying insurance and pay an extra hundred dollars, but just follow your insurance. There are people out there that will help with the insurance and stuff. No, it's just make sure you follow insurance. Makes it a lot easier and simpler and there's ways to get around it. I mean, my doctor helped me a lot. My primary physician. TR: Is that person up here or down? KW: Yes, here. TR: Nice. Nice. I think just from hearing stories from other trans folks and just queer folks in general, it's so critically important to have a good doctor and to have a doctor that understands. And a facility like in Charlotte, like you went to, that's incredible to have that because I've heard some, and I'm sure you have too, heard horror stories about just bad experiences. KW: Yeah. Other places. I just wish I had probably gone closer and gone with insurance, but it still got done, and I'm thankful. I have never been this happy in my life. And then her moving here just made it that much more and than getting married. It just keeps topping. We just keep topping ourselves. We've remodeled basically. We've repainted the whole interior of the house, making it a home instead of a bachelor pad, and we are going to start children probably in the fall. TR: Wow. No Kidding. That's so exciting. KW: Yes, I can't wait. TR: I know. Again, hearts and rainbows explosion. Confetti. KW: I can't wait. I can't wait. Everything just keeps getting better and better. And we have three dogs now. We have a turtle and a beta fish and a hedgehog. Now we're going for the real walking, two legged people. And I'm like, "Okay." TR: That's great. That's so exciting. That's phenomenal. Well, ending on like such a great note. Do you have anything else that you'd like to ask or, or Karson, or anything else that you want to add? DJW: I just will say, just from listening to you so far, that what it sounds like is once you are able to live in your absolute truth and life just kind of just seems to take its charge and things just kind of go from there and once you're happy with yourself, really nothing else matters too much. That's right. That's really great to hear, and it's really inspiring to hear, especially at my age, coming up and now being able to be who I am and the world is kind of taking a shift of like, Okay, this is kind of where we are now. It's really nice to hear that you're living in that. And I hope to someday get to that point, you know? KW: Cool. You'll get there. DJW: Thank you so much. Walston 10 KW: Once you find what you really were supposed to do, it really does fall into place. And even losing the customers, my therapist says, "So what if you do, what are you scared of?" Your biggest step you've already overcome - that fear of taking that next step. So there can't be anything worse than that. There's really not. I mean, people are going to come and go in your life and the whole time and you'll just see who sticks around. So, Dad still has a hard time. He's 86, come on. So, that's going to be a hard change for him. My brothers have handled it well. I don't talk to them very often. I've got one in California and one in Wilson. Just live your dream. Live your dream. It comes, it just falls through, I mean, it just flows after that. TR: That's, that's perfect. And I'm going to stop the recording here in a minute, but I do want to thank you for sharing your story with us. Honestly, this was very inspiring. To find your true self and then life finds a way and happiness finds a way too. So, I'm going to stop the recording, but thank you. KW: You’re welcome. Cool!
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