How People Get Here

I’m always curious to know how people find my blog. Because of this, I’m always checking my referral reports to find out where people are coming from. Today’s top traffic driver? “Ashton Kutcher Tin Lizzy’s“. No less than 15% of today’s visitor’s to this blog searched Google with those words, only to find little old me.

Given that I’ve just doubled my references to both Ashton Kutcher and Tin Lizzy’s, I wonder how many people will find me that way tomorrow.

Doing Poorly, Doing Well

I’m not a big stock market guy but, ever since the market (largely) bottomed out at the end of last year, I’ve been doing some trading to encourage my savings to grow a little faster. Through February, I was just about break even. Since March, I’ve been doing pretty well.

Yesterday, I moved into two new positions. I took a stake in both Borders (BGP) and Bank of America (BAC). Today was both my best and worst single day since I opened my brokerage account.  Borders gained me something like 22% today before triggering a limit order to sell. Bank of America, however, lost me close to 9%.

Guess which stock had the bulk of my money?

I sure hope Bank of America rebounds tomorrow.

My Brush With Fame

Had dinner with a few friend’s at Tin Lizzy’s tonight. It was a great night to sit out on the patio and consume a few jalapeno margaritas. We got there a little early and it was a good thing we did. The wait to get a table outside was rather lengthy for a Monday night.

Turns out that, unbeknownst to me, Ashton Kutcher was at the next table and all the young ladies were trying to find a good angle to take his photograph. Because he was literally right behind me, I’m sure in a good number of photos with him. I guess that makes me famous.

For the record, he seemed like a normal enough guy. I wouldn’t have marked him out at all without the tittering of the girls at our table. All in all, my impression of him is markedly improved.

Too bad Demi wasn’t with him.

Doing Good, Doing Bad

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting here enjoying a little peace and quiet and a whole bunch of coffee. Saturday is typically the day when I rest and relax and enjoy my coffee but my Saturday this week was rather more eventful than not.  Because of this, I’m postponing church until the 6 p.m. service and enjoying my Saturday morning routine on Sunday. Since I haven’t blogged in a while, I thought it best if I caught everyone up on my doings as well.

Thus far, it’s been a pretty busy weekend.  Friday started things off with a group gathering at some guy’s house to meet the founder of the Ugandan American Partnership Organization. The story of this young lady is quite amazing. At the age of 19, after her sophomore year in college, she and several friends decided to go to Africa for the summer.

You might well imagine that a young sorority girl might not care for the African heat, the mosquitos or the poverty and, it’s true, the young lady in question did not. But through a series of circumstances, she came in contact with a Ugandan woman overwhelmed by trying to care for a group of young orphans and decided she needed to help her in some way.

I won’t recount the story here but her intention to simply leave a little money and go her own way turned into a crusade to build a house for the orphans. That snowballed into the building of an orphange to house 180 kids and that grew into a non-profit responsible for five orphanages in Uganda.

The whole story is pretty impressive and certainly bears all the hallmarks of a tale in which God is at work in a big way. The thing that struck me is that she really didn’t want to do it, much as you and I don’t want to do things that might interfere with our own selfish wants and desires. But, because she said yes rather than no, God has wrought an amazing work from her efforts. It makes me wonder what opportunities I’ve turned down simply by saying no instead of yes. I encourage you to visit the site and watch some of the videos. I know we’re all inundated with images of Sally Strother and starving children in Africa but I think you’ll be struck by the founder’s tale.

And, if you are touched by the story and want to help, you can get a great deal at Tom’s Shoes. If you buy a pair of shoes through the website, Tom’s will donate $8.00 dollars and a pair of shoes to the cause. I am now eagerly awaiting the pair I purchased this morning. I got the “Brown Leaves”. Not sure I’ll wear them but, what the heck. It’s for a good cause.

So, that was Friday. Saturday was more self-centered. I didn’t get to hang in and drink coffee but did have a lot of fun. My friend Pepper invited me to accompany her and her beau to the Inman Park Festival and parade. I’d heard the parade was a lot of fun but have not had the chance previously to attend. The morning started with a bruncheon at her friend’s house and then we walked over to the parade route.

What with the large crowd, it was pretty difficult to find a good spot to watch the parade go by.  It was hot and we were being jostled and bumped and pushed and just generally having a disagreeable time.  As we made our way through the crowd, we spotted this beautiful mansion fronting the parade route. The house had a lovely rooftop patio and we thought it would be a great place from which to watch the parade, especially seeing as how there was a group of people gathered upon it to watch the parade.

What a great place to watch a parade!
What a great place to watch a parade!

We were definitely covetous of their view and their roost safely out of reach of the crowd.

We decided that, were we to loiter around the gate long enough, we could meet people as they were going in and score some kind of invitation to the gathering. So we loitered.

Much to our chagrin, many of the attendees failed to acknowledge our presence as they were climbing the stairs and passing within. It was at this time that we decided to do something bold. We simply invited ourselves.

Now, this is not something I would normally do.  Abiding by the rules is something deeply ingrained in my nature. When I’m out hiking and a sign says “don’t climb on the rocks”, I typically don’t climb on the rocks, even if no one is looking. And when someone puts up an eight-foot iron and brick wall around their beautifully manicured lawn, I tend to stay outside of it. Especially when someone is looking.

But not today. Pepper and Pete (her beau) led the way and I, sucking up my inhibitions, followed. I did tarry briefly before crossing the threshold of the gate. Apparently I’m much like a vampire. If you don’t invite me in, I have a hard time inviting myself.

Pete and Pepper surely thought I would blow their cover. The way to invite yourself to someone elses’ party is to act like you belong there. If you act like you belong, no one questions your presence. If you hesitate and look like you’re out of place, people notice and question whether or not you should be there. Knowing this, I sucked it up, kicked the rules in the stomach and passed within.

We strode boldly across the lawn to the front steps. We climbed the front steps to the porch. We crossed the porch in through the open doors, up two flights of stairs and into the line of people waiting to get on the roof. No one said a thing. We got several smiles and greetings that we returned, climbed onto the roof, found a good perch for viewing and proceeded to enjoy ourselves. It was awesome.

This was our view:

The crowd of peasants below.
The crowd of peasants below.

As you might gather from the photo, the view was not quite as grand as we imagined from the street. You really couldn’t see the parade. All you could see was the mass of people lining the route.

It was also just as hot on the roof and perhaps even more so since the sunlight was reflected off tarred shingles. There was a pleasant breeze but, after half-an-hour of mixing and mingling, we missed the vibrancy of the milling humanity. The thrill of naked and willful tresspassing faded and we descended from our perch, having conquered the castle of the bourgeoisie.

Plus, we were never able to successfully locate the keg. We were pretty sure there was one in the house somewhere.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on porches and patios, drinking and dining and whiling away the hours. It was a pleasant way to spend a day.

Now I have to get cleaned up to do it all again. Friend Kim is coming over and we’re traipsing down to the park. It’ll be good to get in some exercise but, at this point, the last thing I need is more sun. I missed a spot with the sunscreen yesterday and I look like someone tried to press the wrinkles out of my forehead with an actual iron. Either that or I’ve been suffering from spousal abuse. I look forward to the liver spots and cancerous growths of my age.

Until then, I’ll slather on more sunscreen and wear a hat. Maybe somebody will come up with a cure for all these things in the interim period. Sure hope so.

Anyway, I’m signing off. See you all soon. Thanks for stopping in. Even if you weren’t invited.

Still Here

Hi, all. I know I’ve been bad about keeping up the blog of late. Since my return from vacation, I’ve been vacationing from the blog. Honestly, it’s not because I haven’t had the time. It’s more that I haven’t felt the need to say anything or that there was anything worth saying. Minus the update to let you all know I’m still alive, I feel that way still. Who knows when I’ll be in the mood to blog next?

Soooo…feel free to talk amongst yourselves. I’ll be back soon, I promise.

Next Stop: Points West

Back in the clubhouse checking email before heading out for points west. Going to try to visit Mamma and maybe my cousin’s family before heading to mom and dad’s. Life at the beach has been relatively uneventful. We’ve done a great deal of nothing, punctuated by long periods of more nothing. It’s been relaxing.

We did hit up Jockey’s Ridge yesterday afternoon after lunch at Stack ‘Em High and some window shopping. Tiger and I climbed the ridge and had a lot of fun sliding down the dune. We had so much fun we did it twice. I had sand drifting in every crevice the rest of the afternoon. Nothing like jumping and sliding down a fifty foot sand dune for shoveling sand into your underpants. It was good times.

Charlie on the slopes of Jockey's Ridge, before the pants-load of sand.
Charlie on the slopes of Jockey's Ridge, before the pants-load of sand.

Dinner last night was “Red Drum Grille and Taproom“. It was another disappointing experience. With a name like Red Drum, you expect some great southern sea food, complete with piles of hush puppies. It was not to be. We inquired about hush puppies but there were none to be had.

I am developing a theory that the ethanol-fueled shortage of corn is driving the price of corn meal so high that restaurants are no longer able to afford hush puppies. If this is indeed the case, I will immediately contact my representatives to have the ethanol subsidies revoked. I was find with the high price of corn as long as it was only affecting the price of tortillas but when it starts to affect my fried corn-meal products, it’s hitting too close to home.

My alternate theory is that the transplanted Yankees do not know the value of a good hush puppy and, therefore, they have been removed from hush puppy serving establishments. If this is the case, my poor opinion of your average transplanted Yankee will sink even further. As it is, I think this was just a case of poorly managed expectations. The Red Drum bills itself as a “Grille and Taproom” and that’s what it is.  Only the name led me to expect good southern seafood.

In actuality, I got decent pub food and that really seems to be the focus of the restaurant. They had a great beer selection (some Highland brews, Fat Tire on special and a smattering of other stuff) and the food, while not what I expected, was decent. I ordered the fried flounder, expecting something floured and pan-fried. What I got was fish and chips: battered and deep-fried flounder fillet served with vinegar and fries. In other words, I got pub food.

We seriously considered driving around looking for hush puppies after the meal. If it hadn’t been so late, we probably would’ve. Instead, we stopped into the Dairy Queen for ice cream. It quickly dissipated any lingering disappointment in the meal or the menu of our chosen dinner place. I got a vanilla blizzard with Butterfinger and Heath Bar.  Yum.

Anyway, seeing as how I’ve been accused by many on Facebook of being addicted to the internet, I should probably sign off and go enjoy the sun and sand whilst I’m able. I’m leaving here after lunch to go spend a few hours with my grandmother and then heading on to see my folks. The one negative about vacation in North Carolina is that I have to spend the greater portion of it driving the length of the state in order to see everyone I have to see. It’s a good thing I like driving.

It’s also a good thing that gas is relatively cheap. I didn’t tell this story earlier but I nearly ran out of gas on the way to the beach. I left Durham with about an eighth of a tank and made it somewhere near Rocky Mount before the low fuel indicator lit up. I didn’t feel led to gas at any of the stops in Rocky Mount, striving instead to reach the Raceway in Tarboro.

Did you know that there is a relatively unpopulated stretch of highway between Rocky Mount and Tarboro? It’s true. It stretches for what seems like 25 or 30 miles, especially when you’re low on fuel. I was so worried about running out at some point that I shut off the air conditioning and reduced speed to 55 (in a 70 m.p.h. zone).

As it turned out, I exited the highway at a relatively remote exit, hoping against hope that I could find some out-of-the-way gas station.  Little did I know that, had I continued, the Raceway would’ve been at the next exit. I prayed and kept my fingers crossed and managed to come up on the back side of the Raceway by an accident of turns and circumstances.

Once spotted, I even passed two more gas stations to get there. Raceway always has the cheapest gas and I’m cheap enough to risk running out of gas to save thirteen cents a gallon. Anyway, the half-a-tank remaining should get me back there. Hope so, anyway, as that’s my planned stop for fuel on the way home. For those on the other end of my travels, I’ll see you soon, barring unforeseen circumstances. Like running out of gas.

And Happy Birthday to the Romanian!

Disappointing Beach Barbecue

Greetings from Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.  I only have a short while to update the blog before I have to abandon my wireless connection and grab lunch with my companions. We do not have readily accessible wi-fi (read: “free”) at the condo we’re occupying, much to our collective chagrins. We have to walk across the street to use the wi-fi in the clubhouse. This prevents hours of web surfing, emailing and Facebooking at each other from the comforts of the sofa. It’s probably for the best.

I got here yesterday in the middle of the afternoon and we’ve done little of note since that time.  We’ve napped, read, had a lot of coffee and been to one meal together. We decided to get “North Carolina” barbecue at a little restaurant off mile post 1 in Kitty Hawk called “High Cotton“.  I put the “North Carolina” in quotes because, while the restaurant bills itself as North Carolina style barbecue, it really isn’t.

In my experience, North Carolina barbecue means a couple of things. For one, there’s no red sauce. The sauce is a clearish, vinegar based sauce untainted by tomato sauce or molasses. High Cotton offered both a weak vinegar based sauce and  a sweet molasses based sauce on the table.  That was party foul number one.

In addition, various styles off ribs, chicken and beef brisket were on the menu.  In North Carolina, “barbecue” means one thing and one thing only: pulled, sliced or chopped pork. The most severe definition would limit it to chopped pork.  If you are going to serve other types of barbecued meat, you can’t call it North Carolina style.

There were various other indicators that the North Carolina styling was nothing but clever marketing. There were no hushpuppies or corn sticks. Corn sticks are on the menu but not served. You get a dryish cornbread instead.  The best North Carolina barbecue restaurants offer up awesome hushpuppies.

The restaurant also served beer. While it was low-brow canned beer, it is still a violation of the no-alcohol rule that is the default of most barbecue restaurants in Eastern North Carolina. I don’t know that all of these establishments don’t serve beer. I’ve just never, ever seen it on the menu. Barbecue in North Carolina is a family event and it’s typically accompanied by a Pepsi or sweetened tea.  The only time I’ve seen barbecue consumed with beer was at a family pig-picking.

Lastly, the pork itself didn’t fit the North Carolina barbecue mold. It was neither the color nor the texture nor the flavor nor the consistency that I’ve come to expect from good North Carolina barbecue. It was what I’ve come to expect from out-of-state establishments that bill themselves as “North Carolina” style while not really coming close to the heart and soul of North Carolina “cue”.  As with most of those experiences, this one left me just as disappointed. It’s been a long time since I had good North Carolina barbecue. I had the craving and, well, I have it still. I got chopped pork but I didn’t get NC barbecue.

And neither will you if you visit High Cotton. My three companions and I, all well versed in NC (and Virginia) bbq gave it 2 and-a-half stars on a five point scale. It has a long way to go if it wants to live up to the Eastern NC traditions of King’s, Wilber’s, Allen & Son or even second-tier (to me) establishments like Parker’s or Smithfield’s or The Murphy House.

I will say one good thing about High Cotton. The coconut chess pie was good stuff. It served to erase some of the disappointment in the meal. If you’re in Kitty Hawk and decide to stop in, skip the cue and grab the pie.

Alright, I’ve overstayed my time in the clubhouse. Time go go grab lunch. Maybe Pigman’s won’t be a total waste of time. I’ll let you know.

The Calm Before the Storm

It’s 11:43 a.m. I have, I think, roughly forty-five minutes before the Rug Rats return. Forty-five minutes of peace and calm before the madness begins again. Forty-five minutes until the shouting, screaming, hitting, kicking, climbing, jumping, crying, begging, laughing, dancing, candy-consuming little bundles of joy burst through the door screaming for Uncle Chawee. From that point on, I will be under assault by children.

Olin will come running to pounce on my peaceful rest and composure. He’ll climb onto it’s shoulders and beat it away with a tattoo of drumming hands, relentless in his desire to display his violent affection.  He’ll screech and whine and beg and plead until either he is allowed to play video games or until I play a video game whilst he watches, offering a non-stop stream of loud and repetitive advice.  I generally try to encourage him to play but he insists that I watch, ensuring my inability to concentrate on anything by constantly demanding that I “watch this!” “Watch this, Uncle Chawee! Watch! Are you watching? Watch me! You’re not watching. Look at me!”

Competing for my attention will be big sister Tato. (Tato used to be Toto but the littliest indian now refers to her as Tato. So will I.) Tato will be right behind little brother. As soon as his attention is split between me and the game, she’ll charge. “Will you play a game with me? Can we play cards? Will you come up to my room? You want to play “Scrabble”? Come with me! Come with me!”

This will, of course, infuriate Olin. “Chawee is watching me! Chawee! Look what I can do! Watch me! Watch me!”

And then the fight will start. Olin will insist I watch. Tato will insist I play with her. And the Littlest Indian, rapidly becoming my favorite of the three, will watch or do his own thing. He is the only one that does not appear to need me as a source of entertainment.  He’s pretty self-contained.

Occasionally he’ll join the fray, generally as an unwilling participant or pawn. He’s pushed aside, picked up and moved, commanded to act, commanded to stop acting or wielded as weapon or king-maker.  Our usual interaction involves him making a series of indistinguishable noises that approximate speech, mumbled around the shield of his pacifier.  I have no idea what he’s saying most of the time. His preferred method of communication is a whining grunt and a pointing finger.  “Uh! Uh!” <Finger point>. I generally nod and verbalize my agreement. This typically satisfies him and he goes about his business. We get along well.

***

I think there’s more to be said in this post but I hear a car door. At least I think it’s a car door. My peace is about to be shattered and time for blogging is coming to an end.  Maybe there will be more tonight when they finally drift away to bed.  One can only hope.

My fight or flight instinct is kicking in. Maybe I should hide. But where? The only place I’m safe is…ah, yes…the bathroom.  It’s the one private place for which they have a smidgin of respect.  I still have to lock the door and they hover outside the door waiting impatiently for me to emerge. They shout and bang on the door and shove little fingers underneath it, begging me to come out, but they can’t physically get to me while I’m in there.

But that won’t stop them from trying.

Too late. Tato is here. “Peaceful time is over!”,  she says.

Don’t I know it.

Going Home

Good evening! Not sure what I’m here to post but I figured I shouldn’t let another evening go by without putting something in this space. Do I have anything to say? Not really. I can’t say that ever stopped me from speaking in the past. Why should it stop me now?

Let’s deal with the minutia of the day, shall we? First off, and apropos of nothing, I forgot my belt this morning. It used to be that wearing a belt was not  a requirement in my daily dress. Now I find that I feel naked without it. I was self-conscious about my lack of accoutrement all day long. Kinda’ threw me off my game. Not quite as badly as wearing my underpants backwards all day but definitely in the same vein. Maybe I should start a checklist in the mornings to make sure I have everything I need and it’s all right-side forward before I leave the house every day.  Probably not a bad idea.

Song of the morning was “Berlin” by Intercept. I’ve blogged the lyrics to this song once already but it hasn’t made the morning mind rotation until now. It was rapidly overwhelmed upon wakefulness by an old camp favorite, “Rejoice in the Lord Always”. That’s a happy tune for a morning. It didn’t help me remember my belt but it was cheerful.

Heading home to North Carolina this weekend and looking forward to that in the extreme. In case you’ve been living under a rock or outside the United States, UNC is in the Final Four this weekend. The last time they won the championship, big brother Bigwig, niece Toto and I were in the Dean Dome watching the game on the big screen.

Toto was about four at the time and, with two minutes remaining in the game, had had enough. She was whining and ready to go home. With one minute to go in the game, the partisan crowd started to awaken to the fact that we were going to win and began to vocalize the same. Toto woke up immediately and did her best sorority girl impersonation all the way to Franklin Street. It was good times. Hopefully we can repeat the experience for the benefit of her little brother.

There are also others to see whilst I’m in NC.  I’m heading the beach for a few days with Tiger and Bee for our sorta’ annual outing.  I couldn’t make last year but we spent a lot of quality time the year previous MySpacing at one another from across the room. I hope Bee has a laptop this time because I’m certain we’ll Facebook the hell out of beach other this time.

Besides Tiger and Bee, I’ve got to see if I can’t make time for a few other friends while I’m traveling. Pooh for one. Haven’t seen her in some years and it’ll be good to catch up.

Jeffrey for another. Haven’t seen him in even more years. I don’t think I’ve seen him since our graduation from high school, really.  Jeffrey is one of my first, and oldest, friends.  I’ve been chatting some with him on Facebook and it’s really taken me back. I’ve been trying to think of a time when Jeffrey wasn’t my friend and I don’t seem to be able to remember that far back.  He just always seems to have been there. Since Kindgergarten at least. It seems like whatever I think about from my youth, Jeffrey was part of it. He was part of school, part of the swimming pool…just part of life.

And he always seems to have had a moustache, at least if my memory is correct. Jeffrey is one of those guys that, even when he’s clean shaven, you’d swear he had a moustache. It’ s like a moustache of the soul. It’s just part of who he is. I’m pretty sure it’s always been there, though not always visibly. Even when we were five. I’m pretty sure.

Anyway, Jeffrey was my first best friend. I remember this very clearly. David S., Steve Y., Jeffrey and I were…well, best friends, but once, when we were playing kickball, David turns to Steve and claimed him as his “best” friend. I remember feeling very territorial and, much as Britain and France raced one another to colonize the globe, I felt that I needed to call dibs on a best friend.  I turned to Jeffrey and asked if he wanted to be best friends, he said yes and that was that. We were best friends.

All four of us. But in pairs.

For a while there, it seems like we did everything together. We hung out at the pool in the summers, playing “Black Magic” or ping pong or whatever. We’d have sleepovers at somebodies house, doing stupid things like eating chili and then taking a laxative, just for “shits and giggles”. That was at David’s. At Jeffrey’s…well. I remember breaking into his father’s liquor cabinet once. That might’ve been the same night we spent mooning cars on the highway.

Yeah. That sounds plausible.

Funny thing is, I remember breaking into his father’s liquor cabinet but I don’t remember actually drinking. I’m pretty sure we didn’t. At least, I’m pretty sure I didn’t. I dunno. Maybe I did.

I’m one-hundred percent certain that we spent a good hour mooning cars on the highway, however. That was good times.

Sorry, Ma.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to some time in NC. I miss my folks and I miss my friends and I have to say that, for the first time in my 38 years, I’m a little homesick. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time in the past lately, remembering way back when. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe everybody else is getting old. Whatever it is, it’ll be good to go home again, if just for a while.

I think that’s it for me, folk. Bedtime beckons. Good night to all and, to those in NC, see you soon.