Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Slice of Carolina Life

I am sitting at the Java Post, our little coffee shop at the beach.  Nothing but a gas station is close to the house where we stay, but it is a pleasant-enough drive to the Java Post each morning.  Bill, of course, is asleep.  As one should be at this hour on vacation.  I, however, am blessed with an insomniac's brain, so I am the one waiting in the parking lot for the coffee shop to open--vacation or not.

We drove down to Carteret a couple of days ago.  We had originally planned to take the bikes, but the weather looked unreliable, and we chose the car instead.  This was a good choice because it allowed us to really view the countryside--me especially, since I wasn't driving. We still took back roads, and I just so love the slice of life you see doing that.  There are grand houses with enormous fields of lawn; there are suburban-looking neighborhoods plunked down, cul-de-sacs and all, in the middle of rural stretches; there are mobile home neighborhoods, old homes on their last breaths of neglect, and makeshift shelters thrown together and crammed with life.  North Carolina has all of it, often right next to each other.

We pulled off for a potty break, and I perused the bulletin board outside the ladies' room.  A flyer advertised free day care for the children of migrant and seasonal farm workers.  A separate flyer offered alternative touch massage therapy for horses, and a third touted the upcoming truck pull featuring hot rod lawn mowers.

Back on the road, we passed an old municipal building--maybe it was a church, but it had more of a city-hall feel--that was unpainted brick, with vines growing all over it, and windows broken out, succumbing to the field it sat in just off the road.  I wondered what circumstance brought such a large and distinguished building to such a state of neglect.

I saw a very sad looking building, dirty, messy, neglected and depressing, with a hand-lettered sign out front that advertised "Cavy and Grandma's Thrift Shop."  We drove through Spivey's Corner, famous in these parts for their annual hog-calling competition. Spivey's Corner is pretty much one corner, with a gas station and a building I have come to love.  No idea what it does--or did--house but it is a painted brick structure with just enough age--and presumably sand-blasting--that the brick has the exact amount of wear and the perfect amount of paint remaining to look charming.  Whatever went on there, the building could tell tales, if we could just touch its walls and hear it.

We passed a gas station proudly offering the Official Fuel of NASCAR, and our favorite sign this trip was the "Cows R Us Farm," with the R backwards, as it should be.

That ride brought us to Wilmington and the afternoon there.  We didn't make it to the beach itself until well after dark, with the waves' crests appearing ghostily from the dark, the rhythmic sound of the ocean blending with the wind, and the eerie sense that the sand and the water teemed with life we couldn't see.

Yesterday was beach day.  The water was a perfect temperature for getting right in, and we dove past the breakers to the high swells, our toes seeking purchase in the moving sands, and rough seas tossing us sideways and back and forth. Bill was pretty much miserable the whole time, with every little thing conspiring against him.  Sun screen stung his eyes, his feet found every sharp surface, and his sun allergy brought hives to his back, shoulders and neck.  But he stuck it out with me because this is one of my favoritest things, to roll with the ocean and drift along.

I admit, though, when we first got out there, I struggled as well.  The water was extra rough, and the bottom kept changing.  I am not a strong swimmer, and I am really afraid of the ocean, with its strong currents and invisible creatures of all kinds.  When we first got out, I found myself in over my head--literally--and all efforts to swim were for naught, as the currents had a plan for me all their own.  I realized I would drown out there.  25 feet from shore.

Bill was a trooper, though.  Even when he felt a sudden and sharp pain in his foot.  He had been stepping on something sharp, even as he tried to move to sandier ground.  But this was different--this was a searing pain, he said later, all the way through his toe (the one right next to his big toe).  When the pain didn't relent, we moved toward shallow waters.  We sat where the tide was at its edge, the water just inches deep so we could see the little fishies scurrying in the froth.  He examined the cuts to his toe, and realized he had been stabbed by something that went entirely through his toe.  A large slash of an entry wound on one side bled into the water, and on the other side was a small cut where the end had barely made it through.  I asked if he thought he had just been pinched, but he could feel the wound going through, and he had felt the slash.  See?  These are the things that hide in the dark water.  And we just play there like it's ok.

But bless him, we went right back out, and we played more in the water until Bill's sun allergy was unbearable, and he had hives all over.

So we changed into dry clothes and checked out the shops near the house.  We bought cut glass bowls for our garden lighting project, and then went in for a nap.  This is a life we could get used to, stabby sea creatures and all.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Vacay 2013, Day One

This is a real thing, I'm about to tell you.  I didn't make it up.  It's real. They have a business license and everything.  We were headed to the Wimington Serpentarium (don't ever go there), and they are cash-only, so we went to the shop that is essentially next door, although you have to round the corner and go in from the other street, to use the ATM inside.  And this shop?  The one I didn't believe?  It's an oxygen bar.

Oxygen. Bar.

Perhaps you've heard of it.  Perhaps it is I who is so naive to the ways of the world--or the ways of people who have money to spend on such frivolity--but myself, I had no idea such a thing existed.

So here's the scoop.  They have a lovely and restful space--like what you find at a spa or massage place--and over on the left is a tall, wide table, with a row of bottles filled with liquid.  They are flavored?  Or are they scented?  With things like "springtime breeze" and "watermelon kiwi."  The plastic tubing runs into the bottle, pushes O2 through the springtime breeze, and out the other tube, which ended in a coupler.  Presumably, when you purchase your minutes, you get a clean cannula for your own nose to attach to the scent/flavor of your choice.

Nearby is a flyer with "O2 facts," and it is probably this that bothered me the most.  I mean, hey, if you want to hang out, breathing oxygen when it's not medically prescribed, and you think it helps with something, go for it.  After all, Michael Jackson, that bastion of sanity and health, used to walk around with an oxygen thingy.  You're not weird.  (And seriously, I feel a little guilty even writing this, because, honestly, if you like it, and you feel better, go for it.  I mean, I am a fan of Reiki, energy work, crystal therapy, and all that.  So yeah, this really isn't that weird.). But it's the fake science that wigs me out.  The fact sheet had incorrect facts on it, but also led you to believe, in that passive aggressive way of setting up incorrect conclusions from spurious data, that we were all slowly dying of oxygen deprivation, and a few minutes at an (pay-by-the-minute) oxygen bar would save our lives.

Then I remembered pages from the Bill Bryson book I just read where he describes the advent of refined sugar--people ate it till it blackened their teeth, and then having blackened teeth became a sign of wealth and prosperity.

So in some future book about life in the 21st century, an author will describe these oxygen bars as an example of how the rich showed off their wealth--they preferred their air watermelon kiwi scented. To breathe unscented air was just so gauche.

Unfortunately, I imagine we will HAVE TO breathe special air soon enough, and then I will feel extra bad about this blog.

But more importantly, we went to lunch with our friend Dave, and he took us all around Wilmington, filling us in on the history of the area. I love love LOVE the architecture of Wilmington. The houses are so beautiful, and we promised ourselves we would return to Wilmington for a weekend and make it a photographic journey. It is just so beautiful there.

We watched the paddle wheel river cruise boat go by, saw the horse-drawn carriages in town, walked by the old slave market, and I was drawn, as I always am, to the history and Americana of these river towns.  I love to imagine the lives spent here when the water was the access to the world.

I like to think of the absolutely vital supplies being delivered, how people counted on the shipments coming in time.  And I like to compare that to the richest of the people, who had more frivolous deliveries, like fine silks or expensive furnishings.  The equivalent, I suppose, of the oxygen bar up the street.

As I write this, NASA is moving its next Mars mission toward the launch pad for deployment this fall.  It has a cross-country journey ahead of it, in the belly of an Air Force cargo jet, before its big journey to Mars.  And I am thinking of how we will one day have "ports" on other planets, and how the lives there will turn on the supplies delivered.  For me, it will be the chocolate, and perhaps the eggplant, and maybe sweet potatoes.  The way certain things taste a certain way, and they are surely not going to be able to replicate the American sweet potato on Martian soil. Clothes, furnishings, and other non-edible stuff--I can adapt. But the flavors of home--that's what I would miss.

And here in Cape Carteret, we just purchased our annual Bogue Sound watermelon. They are truly special. I don't really like watermelon--never have (unless you're talking jolly rancher, in which case watermelon was da bomb)--but the Bogue Sound watermelon is a thing all its own.  It's on ice right now as I sit on the porch of Bill and Frances, feeling the ocean-past-the-island-and-over-the-sound breeze brush past my sandy toes. Now, this is air I would pay for.