Saturday, July 31, 2010


Yes, I slept in a bit this morning. It was nice to enjoy a second and third cup of coffee while watching the surf of the Atlantic dance in the early morning sunlight. It was checkout day, but we were not rushing.

We pulled out of the driveway at 10:13, just a little past the appointed time, and dropped off the key. With nothing but time ahead of us we did a little bit of shopping and filled the coolers with ice. And then, we headed back to the beach.

The sun wasn't blazing as it had been all week, but that was just fine. The lighter beach crowd made for a few quiet hours. A pod of dolphins frolicked about 100 yards from shore. Schools of fish jumped near the water's edge and gulls swept in for an early afternoon snack. The tide was receding, and in the process left quite the beachcomber's treasure.

After a quick change of clothes we were on our way. Stop number one was the local grocer for road snacks. Next, a late lunch...delicious. We pulled out at 3:40, made two stops along the way and I arrived home at 9:40. Six hours...not too shabby.

I therefore proclaim The Escape a success.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Escape

With the beach week coming to a close we've spent the last day or so coming up with our escape plan. As many may know checkout Saturday can create quite the traffic jam. We love staying in the small town of Frisco, away from the crowds of Nags Head and Kitty Hawk. Unfortunately, when we head north to go home we drive through both beach towns, and a quite a few others. That means we pick up traffic as we go.

The last time we left on a Saturday the usual 6-hour trip took 9 hours. Part of the delay was certainly little Mary's bout of car sickness that lasted pretty much the entire journey. Even with the occasional pull over and puke stop we still found ourselves in traffic jam after traffic jam with heads leaning against the window in frustration. Our goal is to avoid a repeat of the situation.

Fortunately, little Mary isn't so little anymore. She hasn't quite overcome her problems with motion sickness, but she has figured out a way to keep herself from getting sick. So, at least we have one issue taken care of. We've also decided to leave much later than usual.

Sure, the early bird gets the worm, but when it comes to getting off Hatteras Island the early bird still gets to deal with insane traffic as well. Tomorrow morning, instead of getting up and 6:00am and dragging our tired, sunburned bodies to the car we are sleeping in a bit and skipping back down to the beach for a few more hours of sun and surf. We'll pack up about 2:00 or 3:00, shower at a public restroom/shower facility and start home. Somewhere around 4:00 or 5:00 we'll stop for an early dinner. Afterwards, we'll head home; hopefully it will be nothing but smooth sailing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reality Check

I didn't expect my car to fail to start this evening. The engine fired up in the end, so that's good. Maybe the starter is going up or something like that.

But really...even more unexpected, was the cowboy that sidled up next to me in his ten gallon hat and red pickup truck.

"Ya need some help, maam?"

I let him know I was fine, I could call my sister for help if needed.

"Well, I just gotta go feed ma' horses and I can come back and help if ya need it."

He drove off into the sunset. I did a quick double-check of my surroundings--Pamlico Sound to my right, the Atlantic Ocean to my left. It wasn't Wyoming; I really was still in North Carolina.

I turned the key and the engine turned over... then it was my turn to drive off into the sunset.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Gift From the Sea

The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea.

These are the opening words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's novel, Gifts From The Sea. It's a book I've read a few times, although not recently. Nonetheless, my thoughts have circled back to the book several times during my weeklong stay on the coast of North Carolina.

My memory of the book was first awakened yesterday as I sat on the beach reading Barbara Kingsolver's latest, The Lacuna. It's a work of historical fiction that outlines the history of Mexico and the United States from the late 1920s to the 1950s. Lindbergh is just one of the cast of famous characters encountered by the main character as he lives and records his life in Mexico and the US. Mention is made of Lindbergh's father, Dwight, and his life as a US ambassador in Mexico. Apparently it was while he was living in Mexico that he thought to invite Charles Lindbergh down for a goodwill tour. In turn, he introduced him to his daughter. A short time later they were engaged.

So, I guess Anne Morrow Lindbergh was still with me this morning as I walked along the beach at sunrise. I strolled along the deserted beach at 6:00 AM with a few other early risers and watched the sun paint a pink rag of sky along the horizon. I walked slowly with my head in a downward gaze in search of the one thing I'd been unable to locate all week...sea glass. I've never had much luck finding sea glass on the Outer Banks; I think I've managed to locate a two, maybe three shards. Even though I'd already been searching for three days, I still held out hope that I'd find something.

And then...there it was. A sparkle of green surrounded by the blacks, browns and pearls of washed up shells. It was one, very small, gift from the sea. Patience paid off.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Slow Ride

I took a slow ride around Hatteras this afternoon. Mileage wise it wasn't all that far, but I ended up being out for about 3 hours. I started by heading south on Rt. 12 from my current location of Frisco to the village of Hatteras. I did a bit of browsing at some village shops and meandered along the side streets that shoot to the left and right off of the main road. I stopped to photograph the sand dunes and searched a few small beach areas for hidden treasures. I found a few dead fish heads-not exactly the treasure I was in search of.

My last stop was a walk along the shores of Pamlico Sound in hopes of getting a better view of the Brown Pelicans that often rest there. The shell that stood up in the shallow water and moved sideways just a bit amused me. It stopped and drew in its legs after sensing my presence, looking like any other shell on the ground. Yet, another unexpected find.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Good Day

It was a perfect beach day-- a gentle breeze, calm seas with waves breaking just right for those with a touch of Thalassophobia , water temperature of about 80 degrees and nary a cloud in the sky.

Vacation doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

On the Beach

The wind whipped along the beach at about 16 mph today, making for some rather painful sunbathing. It was tough to stay planted in the sand with fine grains of matter pelting my legs. The water was rough; white caps and waves crashed onto the shore sideways. I watched more than a few sea gulls and piping plovers get blown an inch or two after a surprise gust.

My perch for the day was down near the water's edge, where the sand is damp and not as likely to blow around. The ocean roared as a brief of pelicans sailed along in search of their daily catch. Bossy seagulls tried their best to steal snacks from who ever they could. Kite surfers sailed through the air with ease; their backs turned to the wind.

I had two books on hand to read but after 3 hours had read only 3 pages. There was so much else to see.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Let Down

My car let me down today...a first. It wouldn't start. I guess after seven years of starting without hesitation I shouldn't be too upset. But did it have to happen when I was two and half hours from home and on my way to a week of beach side bliss?

I also found out that the police are not allowed to give you a jump. Fortunately, my sister and I had just met up along the way so it was just a matter of finding the jumper cables in my car and making the connection.

A new battery is on its way.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pizza Night

How many homes in the US or the world for that matter see Friday night as pizza night?

I like pizza...I really like good pizza. I'm partial to thin crust pizza. You know the kind you can get by the slice in Brooklyn? Yeah, that's pretty good.

My college roommate always asked for extra sauce on hers. I never got it, but learned to live with it.

I had a nice little Mediterranean pizza tonight from a place that recently opened a few blocks away. It was a tasty thin crust, topped with fresh mozzarella, fresh spinach, chicken, Kalamata olives, red onions and fresh basil.

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cool It

The power blinked off a few times today, most likely an electrical overload kind of thing from all those air conditioning units chugging away.

We didn't have air conditioning when I was a kid. Central air was a luxury so if there was any kind of cool air it came from a window unit or a fan. The fans worked out okay, but they were nowhere as nice as the cold air that blew out of those sleek little boxes of chilled airflow.

My parents had a unit in their bedroom. Us kids went to bed with cool washcloths and window fans.

...A fine example of a class society...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's All Here...

Ayers Variety and Hardware smells like mothballs. However, that shouldn't make one turn away. It's not the hardware part of the store that's interesting; it's the variety thing. The place has whatever you need...or should I say whatever you're looking for that you can't find anywhere else.

If it's lumber you're looking for, sure, go to Home Depot or Lowes because Ayers doesn't have much in that department. But, if you're looking for the screw for the bottom of your Christmas tree stand you'll probably find it here. If you're looking for a place to re-screen the insert of the storm door for under $2o they'll do it. And if you're out there wondering where to find a rabbit's foot, to offer luck to a friend who has a big test in the morning? Yup, they have that too.

It's a small town kind of place in a pretty big town.

It's all there. Whatever you need or what you didn't even know you needed.

Did I mention they sell pink flamingos for the yard as well?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Order Up

Certainly one of the highpoints about summer vacation is having the time to go out to eat. Today was a good day, as I ate lunch and dinner at two different restaurants.

The great thing about eating out is it usually involves meeting up with friends. Today was no exception. I met up with some work friends for lunch and college friends for dinner. Both groups proved to be great fun and relaxing.

The other good thing about eating out is, of course, the food. The two restaurants I visited today offered a variety of food. However, if I had to vote for my favorite I'd have to go with the lunchtime establishment. My Cobb salad with chicken had just the right amount of dressing with nice little tomatoes all chopped up and a little blue cheese on top. It was all very yummy.

Dinner was just okay. I had a chicken Panini sandwich, which was fine, but the French fries were a little off. I don't know what I would do to make them better, maybe make them a little crispier.

Really, I think the big difference between the two dining experiences boils down to service. I never felt like I was missing something at lunch. The waitress was always there with drink refills and presented the check at the end of the meal with precision.

Dinner was a little different. Even though we were sitting at the bar, where it should be easy to get the attention of the wait staff, we seemed to always be waiting for their attention. It was the service that detracted from the dinner experience.

Service...I think that's the key.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Good Kind of Tired

There's nothing like a long overdue trip to the gym to make one realize just how out of shape they've become. That was my lot in life today. I'm now into my third week of summer vacation and that great summer exercise plan in my head has gone nowhere. It would be easy to place blame on the nasty sinus infection that took me down for pretty much the first two weeks of vacation. But then again, maybe it's time to stop looking for a scapegoat and get moving.

The workout started with a little elliptical time. Ten minutes into it I was thinking it was time to get off. That's the hard part...perseverance...staying with something when you don't want to. I'm glad I stayed with it because within the next ten minutes, with sweat seeping out of my pores, I began to feel different. I was happy to let the bad habits and lack of exercise pour out of me; I could feel change in the making.

With my adrenaline pumping after a good bit of "ellipticizing" I was feeling the need to lunge. I must have been delirious-I have always hated lunges. I still do, but I was in some sort of aerobic haze, the kind that makes you do things you don't usually do.

In the end, I survived it all. I walked out about 90 minutes later feeling a good kind of tired and just a little sore.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Damn This Traffic Jam

Traffic jams. That's what I've been thinking about lately-mostly because I found myself in some sort of traffic situation on numerous occasions over the weekend.

I'm lucky to have a ten minute commute to work. I live pretty close to my workplace so I don't deal with commuter traffic on a day-to-day basis. I wonder if more daily traffic experiences would toughen me up a little. Would they build my patience threshold when stuck in a car that's not moving while staring at nothing but brake lights? I doubt it and in the long run I'd rather not experiment with the possible outcomes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Life's Checklist

One thing on my lifelong "to do" list is to experience an earthquake. I got my wish at 5:04 this morning. I happened to be spending the night a little north of DC in the suburb of Germantown, MD. Sometime in the early morning I was awoken by a sound that I didn't recognize. In my state of slumber I didn't take much time to try and figure out what it was. In fact, I never even opened my eyes. I assumed there was an accident on the highway near the hotel. Apparently, it didn't worry me too much because within thirty seconds I had rolled over and gone back to sleep.

Turns out, it was indeed an earthquake...

So I can take experience an earthquake off the list, but I think I might add experience an earthquake while awake.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back Again

It feels good to be home, or maybe I should say it felt good to be home. I returned from my trip to New York on Wednesday evening and spent most of Thursday at home doing the necessary post travel things that need to be done. It felt great to wake up in my own bed without the need to get up and be anywhere.

The "home sweet home" feeling lasted until about 4:00 pm today when I climbed back in the car and headed to Germantown, MD to watch my niece play in a lacrosse tournament. Germantown is about 27 miles from my house, in the DC area that means about an hour and a half in the car. Welcome home.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Watching You, Watching Me

One of my least favorite places in New York is inundated with lights and people. My niece loves it there, so after the play last night we took a quick stroll through the neon three-ring circus known as Times Square. There's a grandstand at one end and tables with chairs spread along a few of the blocked off streets that converge to form the square. It was 10:30 at night and there was nary a free seat in the house. People sat everywhere to take in the chaos and do a bit of people watching. I just wonder- did they know they were really just watching each other?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There's No Place Like...

So it turns out the Wicked Witch wasn't really that evil after all. At least that's what I found out tonight after watching the show "Wicked" at the Gershwin Theater in NYC. I haven't been to all that many Broadway shows, but I'm always fascinated by the way the scenery moves about and how a stage with nothing more than a few simple set pieces can be magically transformed into something like Oz.

Yes, there were monkeys and witches flying through the air. Songs were sung, dancers danced and through it all the audience watched with intent as though they were really a part of all that was happening.

Monday, July 12, 2010

From the Pod on 51st St.

Tonight I find myself in the comfort of my 10 x 7 foot room at the Pod Hotel on E. 51st St. in New York. Other than three weeks that I spent sleeping on a train--in the seat, not a bunk car--it's the smallest place I've ever slept in. There's no bathroom in the room, that would be down the hall. There is a set of steel bunk beds and a small sink for water access and brushing. Each bed comes complete with it's own 10 inch flat screen TV, no remote necessary as it is easily manipulated by stretching out one's hand from the comfort of the bed. The best part was the price...a mere $139 with tax per night. The last time I stayed in New York I paid $350 a night, so by staying in the cheaper Pod quarters I am able to stay for two nights instead of one.

Tonight's tourist activity was to head to the "Top of the Rock," the observation deck on the 70th floor of Rockefeller Center. It was a little hazy; but New York still looked great. The expanse of Central Park and all its greenery, framed by the tall buildings that line the perimeter was something to see. So was the Empire State building standing tall with red and white lights lighting up the tippy-top.

Yes, it's pretty darn small here in the pod, but the city outside of my window is big and full of surprises.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


My niece turned 14 today. I can't remember a thing about being 14. I guess it's a pretty big deal, but I noticed that birthday cards do not mark 14 as a special year. You can buy a card for any age boy or girl from 1 to 13, but then there's nothing for 14. Of course, 16 gets a special card as does 18 and 21, but 14? It get's nothing.

I'm sure it was a remarkable day for Megan, but Hallmark doesn't seem to agree.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Towels, Band Aids and Lotions...oh my

Today's happiness comes from a newly organized linen closet. It seems impossible that towels and other bathroom odds and ends can become an unruly mess, but after ten months or so of this and that it happens. Beach towels start fraternizing with bathroom towels. Medicine baskets become cluttered, Band Aids jump from their storage boxes and lotions and gels of all sorts turn into a sordid mess.

The best way to start the reorganization process is with a clean slate. I cleared each shelf in the closet and threw all the contents on my bed. Next, I slowly combed through the contents and decided what could stay and what must go. An old sling from shoulder surgery five years ago needed to go, as did cold tablets that were way past their expiration date.

What was left went back on the shelves in an orderly fashion. Beach towels on one shelf, bath towels on another. Hopefully, everyone will stay in their assigned space for the next few months.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Papers, Papers, Papers

Today's organizational chore involved finding the piles of writing around the house and storing all those pages of words into one place. I've been involved with a writing group for some time now and the monthly meetings have added up to quite a pile of work. For a while it was easy to contain everyone's writing in the red folder I started with, but after a year that wasn't working anymore. I eventually moved onto a brown accordion file. It took a while longer for that to fill up but it did, and before long I was finding piles of writing all over the house.

I recently came across an old, plastic filing box. For now, everyone's writing is sorted by individual author. The next step is to organize individual writing by date. I'm sure that's going to take some time; because I know I'll reread everything as I sort...I'm looking forward to looking back.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What was That?

I did a bit of a double take as I walked up the hill to the laundry room this afternoon. The birds were out feeding, as usual; they were happily chomping away on the seed that my neighbor puts out for them each day. It was such a familiar scene that it would have been easy to walk right by without a thought- then a mixture of blue and white that I haven't seen before caught the corner of my eye. I stopped to get a better look. The blue and white blur flew up to the roof of the house and I continued on to the laundry room.

I looked again as I returned to my house and really, I gasped just a bit when I saw the small canary-like bird perched on the branch the tree I was standing under. I wasn't the only one surprised by the sight. A squirrel stood frozen, peering at the same strange creature a mere 15 inches from his glance.

The head was gray with small white stripes and the body was mostly white, except for a bright blue spot on the chest. My assumption is that what we had here was a runaway canary. A cursory search on Craigslist didn't help any, so it seems my new, feathered friend will have to carry on life as a runaway. Fortunately, he's found a good food source so things might just work out.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ring, Ring

The Good Humor man is missing. At least he's missing from my neighborhood. When I was younger the Good Humor truck was a nightly ritual. The familiar sound of the ringing bells sent kids on a mad dash for change, anything that could be put toward an ice cream sandwich or a toasted almond bar.

If the truck was close to the house it was often necessary to send someone out to the curb to stop the driver while money was added up to insure that everyone could get a little something.

By the end of the summer even the neighbor's dog would bark when he heard the bells. He seemed to know if he was really lucky there might be an ice cream cup for him as well.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hot 'Nuff For Ya?

Oscar Wilde said, "conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative." With temperatures in the triple digits today the weather is about the only thing people are talking about. Not surprisingly the discussion is pretty bland. The news reporters can't stop talking about the weather--the problem is there just isn't that much to talk about. Once the high temperature for the day, 102, was revealed, what else is there to say? 102 degrees. That's hot. Really hot. Extremely hot.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Missing Out

I watched the fireworks light up the capital city from the comfort of my couch last night. It just didn't feel right. I'd much rather have been among the crowd sitting somewhere along the banks of the Potomac watching the colors explode over the Washington Monument. I have no problem watching everyone else ring in the New Year from the comfort of home, but when it comes to Independence Day I prefer to be right there in the thick of things. I love all the stuff that comes with it: the parades, the frog jumping contests and the fireworks. Today I heard the 4th of July being described as one big American picnic. I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend this year, but plan on making it next year, that's for sure.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


My pharynx would rather not contribute today. I don't really know what a sore throat looks like but it feels like coarse paper is rolled up in my throat, on top of that, it has been inflated just a bit making the passageway to my lungs just a little smaller. The aching I feel goes way past my throat...all the way to the ears.

I guess I'm whining a bit.

There used to be a blessing of the throat ceremony at mass. It fell on the Feast Day of St. Blaise, February 3.

I missed it this the meantime the tea is brewing in the kitchen with honey and lemon nearby.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Change in Status

I checked the Facebook news this morning and was surprised to see that a good friend of mine had changed her relationship status to single. Surprising because she's been married for about 20 years now. Fortunately, I don't know that many couples that have divorced. The ones that I do know of, both good friends from college, struggled with the decision to separate and later divorce. The whole process was difficult on the couples involved and the friends that had known them before and during their marriage.

The Facebook announcement is just plain weird.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Still feeling sick and even less motivated than yesterday. Therefore, not much was accomplished today. I stepped out the front door to retrieve the paper this morning but never went farther outside than that one foot on the pavement. The cold has settled in my chest. Sporadic barks emit from way down in my lungs as I try to break up the yuck that is inside me.

I do hope the sickness finds its way out of me soon. I hate to miss all that good weather out there.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's A Beautiful Day

The weather today was an anomaly for summertime in the DC area. When I awoke about 7:30 and opened to front door in search of the morning paper I was surprised at the cool temperature and low humidity. It's July 1 but the cool air and gentle breeze made it feel more like October 1.

Still dealing with a nasty cold made it hard to motivate at first but I soon decided to put the cold on the back burner and get out and enjoy the gift of a July day without heat and humidity. I started by throwing open the windows and welcoming the cool breeze as it playfully moved its way through the house.

Next on the agenda was an impromptu visit to the Aquatic Gardens. Water lilies and lotus flowers were in full bloom throughout the gardens. Red winged blackbirds darted through the air in search of a place to perch. Geese gathered in small groups and pecked their way along the path nibbling on grass. Missing were the large turtles I've seen in the past, but fortunately small ones could be seen leaving me to believe that in the next few years I will see the big guys back in the pond where they belong.