Today as I paddled out it was absolutely calm. The ocean lay before me almost like a mirror and as I stood on my paddle board it was like I was standing on the heavens with only the board between me and the clouds beneath my feet. The water was clear and that depth added to illusion.. It was a little difficult maintaining my balance because this illusion of endless sky made me dizzy looking out with no horizon. I paddled and the only sound was the lapping of the water as my board parted the perfect reflected sky before me. It was so calm I imagined my wake trailing off behind me to the edge of infinity. I paddled on like this for an hour passing squads of surfers waiting sadly for swells, and on occasion, paddling desperately for waves that were too diminutive to ride. They were silent in their vigil. I kept paddling. I had immersed myself when I started but began to sweat in the breathless warmth as I paddled. Before me was a patch of water which broke the serene surface and there I came upon a swarm of cabbage head jellyfish. They were in numbers too great to count their bells undulating as they moved in the column of water. Because there were so many it seemed they were forming ranks; bulbous like so many helmets there were lines and lines of individuals forming a phalanx of watery sentinels or maybe it was just a trick my eyes were playing on me trying to make patterns of all that I saw.
As I turned to return there was simply a puff of breeze and the world changed. The sun breached from behind the veil of clouds in the east and it was if the world had awoke from slumber. There were whoops from bathers on shore as they reveled in small waves. The surface was no longer a mirror but shattered into a more prismatic normalcy. In front of me tiny bait fish broke the surface in unison just beyond the nose of my board escaping, if only briefly, that hunger which pursued them from below. There were great swaths of ocean where I could see the effects of eddies of wind; smooth over just in front and beyond that a band of tiny ripples which extended to the edge of my vision. I listened as the world awoke, then dug deeply with my paddle, and headed for home.
I started this blog in part to give people an insight into cool things we love about living here. My wife and I enjoy trying new things but when we find things that we truly enjoy and tend to be creatures of habit. The Tiki bar at the Ocean Grill on Thursday nights is one of those habits.
The Ocen Grill Tiki bar is what’s left of what was once Center Pier located in Carolina Beach. You can see an early photo along with other old pictures of fishing piers here. In 1996 hurricane Fran finished the process started by hurricane Bertha by and truncating the pier's length to the high tide mark. After Mother Nature worked her magic what was once a fishing pier was now suited to a higher purpose of providing frosty beverages and cool vibes to the thirsty beach throngs thus was born the Tiki bar.
Now normally a Tiki bar would be cool enough but Thursday’s are indeed the cherry on the proverbial Sundae Each Thursday night, weather permitting; bands situate at the end of the pier. The joint is run by Abbie and Dave Sinclair who came up with the idea of hosting bands on the pier and are often found mingling among the folks enjoying the music.
The Hawaiian band the Da Howlies was the first band to play this venue and they generally make a yearly appearance but the stage attracts a variety of acts and genres from surf, ska, reggae, rockabilly, to bluegrass. “Dex” Romweber of the Flat Duo Jets fame shows up each summer. The music starts around 7 and is over when the weekly fireworks start at 9. This year’s schedule is here.
Since we are from the area and firmly rooted with tons of family we often come heavy. Last night my sister, brother-in-law, my other sister visiting from Germany, my brother, sister-in-law, and a cousin visiting from Prague were there just to mention family. Our neighbors from downtown were there also and coincidentally the band that Thursday, Open Field, was staying at their house on Carolina Beach. Every week different friends, neighbors, business associates, are around and we meet new people every week. You don’t have to know anyone to enjoy the scene, but if you do show up, you are likely to know someone before you leave. Also if you befriend one of us you get the bunch…it’s a package deal.
There is really no venue which can compare. Families set up camps beside the pier and children play in the surf and wade in tide pools while the adults sit and listen. Surfers catch swells just off of the two pylons that are remnants of the pier from prior fishing days. The band stands in front of a backdrop of the ocean and sky which transitions from the “golden hour” glow into starry twilight. The pier sways and even bounces with the energy and movement of the music.
At 9 PM the weekly fireworks at the Carolina Beach boardwalk burst into the air marking the end of the Thursday evening revelry. The music comes to an end and the crowd turns to the north to watch the fireworks through to the finale. With the last boom, goodbyes are said and the crowd turns and ambles into the dark night towards the lights of the headlights already headed home.
As a family, we are spending the summer at Carolina Beach (historically Wilmington Beach). This is good as we are renovating our home downtown and because our daughter has found a job and is working at Uncle Vinny’s Pizzeria (shameless plug for my daughter).
Being at the beach my wife is up before the sun out on the ocean on her paddle board. She just bought a new paddle board and if the weather is good she is out as the sun rises spending hours in her daily meditative exercise after which she often regales us with her experiences with marine life including dolphins, leather back turtles, and even and confused alligator.
My wife, with her fervent love for paddling, encouraged me that I should perhaps consider taking it up. While I usually would surf, the swell this summer has been consistent, well in a word; missing. So my neighbor loaned me his paddle board which is a fair amount larger to accommodate me. He advised me: keep your eyes on the horizon, don’t stare down. This has been great advice and has helped me stay on my feet and on the board.
Now I started day one by pushing the board into and beyond the breakers and climbing on awkwardly and getting to my knees and paddling out. I can say after better than a half-century of living, paddling on my knees definitely wasn’t the most comfortable position ( So much for my catholic upbringing…). While I attempted several times to stand and paddle, each time quickly led to a flailing loss of balance followed by me hitting with a big “kerplunk”. My wife didn’t have to even look back to know where I was… Each morning I would repeat the pattern of the prior day but with each new day, I was able to stand for longer periods. A few days in my neighbor, who had loaned me the board, was out on the beach watching, so I stood and paddled for a long time, not wanting to embarrass myself and only fell three or four times over the course of my time on the water.
So over the course of days, my balance has improved and I can paddle over some pretty impressive swells. I’ve have paddled in and through endless scores of cabbage head jellyfish (fortunately they can’t sting most people but the numbers can still be a bit unnerving) and often through pods of dolphin. I’ve even met an important climatologist, also out for a paddle, while out one Sunday morning (he said the science is true –I guess he expects paddling will become how we get around in the future).
I have been paddling pretty diligently over the course of weeks and while I’m not getting the same bliss my wife claims, I do find paddling enjoyable, calming, and somewhat meditative. It is an enjoyable workout. The paddling is relatively easy, the real work is balance: great workout for the core, legs, and feet (Who knew so much of balance is in the feet?) and it improves muscles and mechanisms for balance which I expect will be more and more important as I get older.
Last Sunday on our paddle was pretty exciting. We saw the cabbage head jellyfish, our daily companions, as they bob up to the surface and then turn and jet back beneath, but also saw sea nettles (definitely didn’t want to fall on them). Kelly pointed out something next to my board which when I looked was definitely a shark. It was within three feet or so from my board and so I got a good look at was likely a six-foot bull or black tip. Really cool but not nearly as cool as the huge leather back turtle we saw later in our paddle.
Perhaps what is best is that paddling takes you away from everything else. It’s just you out on the ocean a respite from the noise, people and other distractions. Out there you can watch the sunlight playing across the patterns on the water, feel the wind, smell the clean salt air, and for a while at least be apart from all the noise, complications, and distractions and simply focus on the next pull of the paddle and the feel of the board as it crests the swell and you slide down its back. While it is a short trip from reality it takes you far and away and leaves you better, clearer and able to return and face whatever the day brings and if you’re lucky… it comes with dolphins…
I’ve spotted them again downtown. The equipment trucks, generators, costume trailers and porta potties, all the telltale signs that movie and TV productions are in the hood. Many new to the area might not recognize the signs but I was very excited to see them back just down the street on a sunny morning earlier this week.
I asked to take a picture of one of the trucks the “grips” use and the person I spoke with said that I had picked a great truck to photo. The guy who owned it has used that specific truck, the blue one, since he worked on the Goonies almost 35 years ago. I told him I was just excited to see them back.
Wilmington was once a thriving hub of entertainment activity with many people we knew working in the industry. We had a film studio with one of the largest sound stages and one of, if not the largest, special effects water tanks in the world. We would sometime go and watch for a while when they were filming. They filmed an episode of Sleepy Hollow right across the street at St. Mary’s where the kids went to grade school. Walked by Ms. Gold’s house where they filmed the Longest Ride and watched a scene play out with Lucie Hale, which thrilled my daughter, just across Third Street. Unfortunately do to some, in my opinion, short sighted policies by North Carolina and aggressive film promotion by other states like Georgia the film business dried up and for years and had all but disappeared.
It was exciting to see it scenes happen, sometimes catch a glimpse of the stars, and get to see the old home town on TV and even the big screen. I have even met tourist, whose sole purpose was to see the places depicted in their favorite shows, flying into Wilmington with fan maps and descriptions in hand. People still come for yearly conventions celebrating One Tree Hill. Fans of that show still sign the 6th street Bridge which was part of the opening credits for the show.
And you never knew who you would come across. Dennis Hopper loved Wilmington and bought a building downtown. Linda Lavin, best known for the TV show Alice moved a few blocks away and was active in the local theatre scene. I saw James Earl Jones chomping on a cigar at a street festival, sat behind Val Kilmer at breakfast, and sang Christmas carols for Orlando Jones who happened to be staying in my neighborhood. I know one of my favorite people of fame, and they know who they are, lives in the hood and is a fabulous part of the community.
Wilmington has missed the film industry, the jobs and money especially, but also the promotion of our beautiful area and the civic pride and attachment of being a part of those cultural touchstones. Our friend and neighbor Senator Peterson, along with others, has introduced a bill, SB57, to help address and improve the incentives for film production and I hope you will support him. It would be a shame to watch those trucks roll off again perhaps never to return…FIN
After my last blog post ideas have been flying fast and furious through my synapses so more material is coming. Also although my thoughts have been food centric and my business is real estate so perhaps not totally apropos but then kitchens are the focal point for most buyers and that is where we make food so there you have it.
Actually, my thoughts turn towards the complexities of life. I believe that nothing is simple and often state that fact especially when people use simple platitudes to explain situations. Almost everything, today it seems, consists of layers of nettlesome complexity. I really think life was likely always more complex than people perceived but now simplicity seems to have been devoured by complications.
Metaphorically I again turn to food. I was making lasagna for my friend’s family this week after they suffered a recent loss. It used to be lasagna was lasagna and if I were to make more you just needed more ingredients meat sauce, cheese, noodles, etc. Today though it’s not nearly so simple. My son has a glutton allergy so he wants red meat sauce, but with glutton free noodles. My daughter is a vegetarian (forbid she becomes vegan because that may be a bridge too far) so red veggie sauce, regular noodles. My wife Kelly for some reason has become somewhat allergic to nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, etc.) so crème vegetable sauce and regular noodles. All these iterations in addition to the original intent which was to make traditional lasagna with meat sauce just so everyone would have something they could and would eat.
Do I miss the days when I could simply make only one type of lasagna; absolutely. But while it took a bit more effort to manage the order and steps along with two extra pots I was able to make things that pleased the people I care about by realizing and somewhat embracing the complexity. Really all of them were delicious in their own way and really isn’t variety the spice of life? Additionally, the modern world isn’t always just more and more stuff to deal with. The modern world has given me oven ready noodles which are a godsend for making lasagna in my humble opinion.
So yes the world is more complex and that complexity can be vexing. Ignoring complexity won’t solve the problem. Perhaps the key is to accept that things are more complex and try to see and adapt to that reality. And just maybe wrapped up in all the other stuff are good things like variety and oven ready noodles.
Part of writing this blog was to talk about things that caught my attention, provoked thought, or simply amused me. Sadly these things have been fleeting in the past week or so and as a result, my blog has lagged a bit. As I sit here in my favorite haunts, I think I shall write about the thing that gets me up in the morning: coffee.
Now I’m not addicted to it (says I as I take a draw from my mug), but I am generally pleasant in the morning without. No, for me coffee is a social addiction. My alarm goes off each morning and I arise to go to my daily haunt for coffee but the primacy of my desire is to greet the day with similar souls who crave interaction. As I pull up to my early morning temple, the nagging thoughts of the day take a respite as I grab a cup and settle down at the big table. There lies before me is a stratum of interesting characters of different experiences and viewpoints gathered, wielding coffee as the excuse, clamoring to satisfy our truer addiction of personal contact.
The topics can be benign as discussing the weather or can become heated when talk turns political but the general affinity for and affability of those seated at the table usually plays to harmony. Not to say the harmony is absolute and people have been known to get up and leave and take sabbaticals, but most are drawn back over the course of time. The table in the morning hour generally has an unofficial seating chart with the right wing anchored by the elder statesman Mr. Max. Mr. Max, whose name “Lord Max” is on his chair, is at one end with more moderate and progressive views proceeding from that point. When my son would eat breakfast there Mr. Max, during each visit, taught my son how to shake hands like a gentleman and now people notice his firm handshake and direct eye contact. Mr. Jock at the other end of the table and political spectrum used to conspire with my son on how to make nerf weapons more lethal over breakfast and ended up teaching him how to use a plasma welder. The table has people who are teachers, construction workers, filmmakers, lawyers, a former city manager, artists, musicians, developers, prosecutors, engineers, salesmen, community and non-profit leaders, even nitpickers, and all add to the tapestry of experience, ideas and thought. Often there are assignments or exercises for the table to explore. Recently a daily word scramble, on which we often had to cheat with our smartphones, or today someone brought in a sheet to have those fill in the blank for non-gender pronouns. People arrive and leave, in daily patterns, as the hands of the clock move about the dial as the members proceed out to start the rest of their day.
In a world to often filled with discord this daily “coffee” reminds me of the communal part of society. It is a little piece of social harmony where fondness, respect, discretion, and even understanding finds purchase and perhaps is a seed that carries forth with us all as we depart back into our lives. If you have an opportunity to find something like this in your realm, I cannot recommend it more heartily. Otherwise, come to ours. We can always squeeze in one more chair and it comes with coffee…
We take our dog Pepper for a long walk almost every Sunday morning and during the course of our walk I will pick up recyclables, and some trash, but definitely recyclables and deposit them in bins along the way. I was involved revamping the UNCW recycling program several years back and we expanded the program to include electronic and plastic film, but after so many years and after all the news about no longer being able to export recycling, I wanted to know what is now recyclable?
According to the city of Wilmington, lots of stuff is recyclable through their curbside pickup. Milk cartons and plastic laundry baskets are accepted in the curbside bins, which surprised me. You wouldn’t know it but by looking in the contents of most trash receptacles, but many things such as aluminum cans and plastic drink bottles, are illegal to put in landfills in North Carolina. Additionally I found out was most if not all plastics (#1 through #7) are recyclable in the city of Wilmington which is not the case everywhere. Plastic film, such as wraps, bags, and flexible packaging are probably better recycled separately but that is easy enough since most supermarkets take them.
Electronics too can be picked by request for recycling and for others without curbside pickup UNCW recycles electronics through its E-Cycle program which is open to the community with proceeds going to benefit the university. Also, Best Buy takes most electronics and sometimes offers a trade-in value or other incentive like discounts on some items they accept. Cell phones, depending on the age, often have trade-in value with the carrier or it can do further good by donating it to groups like ECO-Cell that partners to protect endangered gorillas and chimpanzees. One element to remember is if you are recycling electronics like cell phones, computers or external disk drives, anything with personal information, follow recommendations on how to remove that information prior to handing it over to any recycler.
I feel a bit like I have hyperlinked you to death by now but recycling is important and the rules for recycling vary from community to community. In an effort to simplify things a bit here is a non-inclusive list of links to recycling in the area. I hope you will take a look and help us all do better.
New Hanover county recycling
Brunswick County recycling
Carolina Beach recycling
Kure Beach recycling
Pender County recycling
Wrightsville Beach recycling
A big welcome to all the people coming downtown for the Azalea Festival. Those of us who live in the downtown have two schools of thought; Flee or shelter in place. We love all of it really, but having thousands of people show up in your neighborhood, can be a bit much for anyone. And you can't blame those who flee the crowds, traffic, and congestion but that is not us: we do the full festival weekend but definitely from the neighborhood perspective.
Shelter in place is probably too harsh because we aren't huddled in the dark. We are just staying home. First rule is don't plan on leaving. In that aspect it is sort of like preparing for a storm. We get all the food and other essentials (beverages) and stock up before the onslaught of attendees. With all the people, restaurants and even bars can be really crowded, and a short jaunt to the store is likely to turn out to be neither short nor a jaunt. We do sometimes get street food, which is good for a meal or possibly two, but we don't want it to form your complete diet for the weekend. Better to have stuff at the house for the likely impromptu gatherings among the remaining neighbors.
Secondly we embrace the crowd at least for short periods. While we generally skip the parade except for hanging out on a neighbor's porch and watching the floats line up down third street. We do tend to wander through the street fair and enjoy seeing all the people and booths. We also especially enjoy the festival art show for a bit of culture and always vote for our favorites.
But we also embrace the alternative. You may not have heard of it but the Alt-Zalea festival on north Forth street but you really should know about it. The alternate celebration is the place to connect with a smaller and more local vibe. It always has great stuff with local arts and crafts vendors along with great local music. Its definitely worth checking out. It kicks off around noon basically after the parade. Brooklyn Cafe is a good first stop if you want a late start with great coffee and beignets, plus it has local artist set up all around.
We generally avoid the big headline shows and will skip Ice Cube this year. We actually hope to attend the Paper Stars at Palate this Saturday night. They play a great mix of original music and Palate is hard to beat on a warm spring evening. If bluegrass is more your thing our friends Masonboro Sound are playing at Edward Teach starting at 8. After the music there is a lighted bike parade and I'm pretty sure that shouldn't ever be missed.
So enjoy the flowers, pageantry, street fair and parade and welcome to our neighborhood. Those who haven't fled are glad you are here. Also don't forget the Alt-Zalea on north Fourth for a whole different experience. Hope to see you there...