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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Sunrise in Bawlmer, Wednesday, December 31, 2008

     The penultimate day of 2008 passed uneventfully yesterday but the ultimate day is fraught with promise.  After viewing a spectacular sunrise (see pictures below) Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are planning their first visit to the Walters Gallery,  Baltimore's premier shrine to the visual arts.  This time he will remember to take his camera and record the event for posterity.  (How  artists daubing paint on canvas could possibly match the splendor of this morning's celestial display is another question).


     As their final cultural activity of 2008 (actually the first of 2009) they will try very hard to stay awake long enough to hear at least part of a live broadcast emanating from one of their favorite jazz joints, Donna's Bar and Grill in New Orleans. Donna's is one of the regular venues for their two favorite musicians, pianist Tom McDermott  and clarinetist Evan Christopher, and tonight some 200 PBS radio stations  will broadcast their fabulous playing live from that funky hole-in-the-wall on Rampart Street.  The hour is ungodly---12:15-1:30 a.m. EST---but they are going to give it their best shot.


     Uncle Jack will be back with a report on the Walters tomorrow but until then he and Mrs. U.J. wish every reader a very Happy New Year.


    



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7:10 a.m.

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7:20

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7:25 Eat your heart out, Monet, or whoever.

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7:30 With zoom.

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The Jazz Vipers hold forth at Donna's Bar and Grill last April. Tonight it's Tom McDermott and Evan Christopher's chance to shine before a nationwide audience of insomniacs.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:16 AM

Comments [4]



Monday, December 29, 2008
Busy in Bawlmer, Monday December 29, 2008

      With their first Christmas in Baltimore behind them, a delightful one for sure, Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have resumed exploring their new hometown, an enterprise that will probably occupy their spare time for the rest of their lives.


     Saturday morning was partially consumed by an obligatory visit to a gigantic mall in Towson, a suburb just north of the city, where Uncle Jack exchanged his most treasured Christmas gift, a pair of size 10 Uggs boots, for a pair of size 11 Uggs boots which he will actually be able to wear when winter finally arrives, which it surely will one of these days. It was a sign of these parlous economic times that their footsteps fairly echoed in the cavernous hallways of this shiny temple of commerce. They were in an out of the Nordstrom shoe department in minutes and wound up spending most of their time trying to figure out where they had parked the Mini.


      Due to their lack of mall smarts it took them a half-hour to find it which was longer than it took to reach their next destination---the ancient Lexington Market in the heart of downtown Bawlmer. According to their Visitors Guide the Lexington is the oldest marketplace of its kind in continuous operation in the entire country, dating to 1752 when it would have been entirely possible for any number of the Founding Fathers to stop by for a few oysters on the half-shell plucked fresh from the then unpolluted waters of nearby Chesapeake Bay.  For all he knows the succulent bivalves Uncle Jack lunched on may have been flown in from southeast Asia but washed down with a plastic cup of Bud they were mighty tasty.  There is much more to be said about the Lexington Market but he will save it for a time when he has remembered to bring his camera. For an old sociologist like Uncle Jack it's a fascinating subject upon which to ruminate.


     Sunday, too, was full of adventure and delight which included a tour of the Homewood Museum on the Johns Hopkins campus a short walk from their apartment.  Homewood is the perfectly preserved summer home of John Carroll, son of the John Carroll who signed the Declaration of Independence.  It was built at the turn of the 19th century and was the centerpiece of the 130 acre estate that eventually became the Johns Hopkins campus.


     As the only Sunday afternoon visitors Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. were treated to a personal guided tour by a delightful volunteer docent named Bill Sharp who answered all their many questions about the history of this remarkable building which experts consider to be one of the finest examples of  Federalist architecture extant.  Uncle Jack was so enthralled by the interior of the house that he forgot to take pictures but readers who are interested could always google the museum's extensive website for further information.  "Homewood Museum, Baltimore" should do it.   



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Sunrise this morning.

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Sophia and cousin Siloni exploring the loot on Christmas morning while Michael catches a few winks in the background. His time will come.

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Homewood Museum, north side.

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The original privy, constructed in 1801, now under renovation. According to Bill Sharp it's a seven-holer, which fact gives rise to all sorts of speculation.

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This bronze of Baltimore poet Sidney Lanier graces the east entrance to the JHU campus.

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This lifesize non-bronze of Spidey greets visitors to the comic book shop in the Rotunda shopping center near Uncle Jack's apartment. More about the Rotunda later.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:13 AM

Comments [8]



Friday, December 26, 2008
Super sunrise in Baltimore, Friday December 26, 2008

      Uncle Jack had planned to present a pictorial essay on the beauties of the Johns Hopkins campus which he and Mrs. U.J. explored yesterday but he forgot his camera so that will have to wait until another time.  He can tell you that they had absolutely no idea how magnificent the university grounds and buildings are and he looks forward to his next stroll through the campus---camera in hand this time.


     Fortunately he did have his Sony at hand when the sun came up this morning.  The pictures speak for themselves.



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7 a.m.

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A few minutes later.

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And a few minutes after that. Definitely worth getting up for, but thanks to kindly old Uncle Jack you didn't have to.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:02 AM

Comments [1]



Thursday, December 25, 2008
Christmas Sunrise in Baltimore, December 25, 2008
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL FROM UNCLE JACK AND MRS. U.J.


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Sunny and 45F is the forecast for Baltimore today. A long walk through the Johns Hopkins campus (long overdue) is in order.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:28 AM

Comments [3]



Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Fire in Camden, Wednesday December 24, 2008

      Uncle Jack once experienced a fire that nearly destroyed his framing shop at Yellowhouse Gallery many years ago.  He remembers how devastated he was at that time so his heart goes out to the owners of the new restaurant under construction on the waterfront in Camden, pictures of which have appeared from time to time in his weblog.


      It all went up in flames last night---a dreadful Christmas present for the owners, the builders and the people of Camden. Uncle Jack's friend Holly Anderson of the Village Soup online newspaper lives just a few blocks from the waterfront.  She was on the scene very quickly and filed an excellent report  which readers can view by clicking on the following link:


http://knox.villagesoup.com/Government/story.cfm?storyID=139836


P.S.  He is happy to report that the nasty bug has moved on and he and Mrs. U.J. are looking forward to a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with the grandchildren tonight.  Merry Christmas to all.


 


posted by Uncle Jack at 7:55 AM

Comments [7]



Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Bugged in Ballmer--Tuesday December 23, 2008

    Uncle Jack apologizes for his unusually long absence from cyberspace but he has been rendered "non compass Memphis" as Pogo used to say by a nasty bug.  He will return with another blog entry as soon as he feels up to it.  


    If you would like to see why he is happy they didn't go to Camden this weekend instead of last, click on this URL or paste it into your browser.


http://knox.villagesoup.com/Community/story.cfm?StoryID=139482


posted by Uncle Jack at 2:03 PM

Comments [1]



Saturday, December 20, 2008
Monty Python lives, Saturday December 20, 2008

     Uncle Jack feels sometimes like his life is devolving into a series of Monty Python sketches.  On Thursday, for example, he had two small packages of Christmas presents ready to mail which he took to the UPS drop at Staples in order to avoid what he thought would be long lines at the post office.


     There were only two people ahead of him in line at Staples and he had visions of being on his way again in a few minutes.  Wrong.  He hadn't noticed that Customer No. 1 had no fewer than eight packages to send, each of which required the typing in of addresses and phone numbers, the printing and signing of receipts in duplicate and the printing and affixing of mailing labels. It's a labor-intensive, time-consuming process even when all goes well but this day all did not go well.


     First the receipt printer ran out of paper halfway through the first customer's order.  The clerk, who did not know how to refill the printer, summoned the manager for assistance. He arrived in due time and dispatched her to the copy center for paper. While waiting for her to return he used his portable P.A. device to summon a second clerk to the UPS drop.


    The replacement clerk arrived a few minutes later looking very unhappy about his new assignment and we all waited while the manager wrestled the printer into submission.  Clerk No. 2, who was obviously ill-equipped for the task, slowly but surely completed Customer No. 1's order and she departed with a "never again will I bring a package to the Staples UPS drop" glower on her face .


     Customer No. 2 had only one small package, bless her, but little did Uncle Jack know how much trouble that little sucker was about to cause.  First the computer into which the basic shipping info had been entered balked and refused to display the cost of shipping.  Once again the manager was summoned and after pushing a few buttons he told the clerk to "try it now".  He "tried it now" with exactly the same result.  Clerk summons manager again who in turn uses his everready portable PA system to call a third clerk who is apparently the store's de facto IT specialist. 


      The new man, who positively exudes competence and confidence pushes a couple of buttons and miraculously a shipping charge appears in the appropriate place.  Customer nearly faints as she sees what it will cost to UPS her tiny package to an address only a few miles away.  She protests that there must be some mistake but the Staples reps, three of them in concert now, insist that the price is right.  Customer sweeps up her little box and stomps off with a now-familiar "I will never set foot in a Staples store again" glower on her face.


     Now, after 45 minutes it is Uncle Jack's turn.  Because he is a first-time customer it takes a bit longer to prime the computer but all the necessary info is soon forthcoming, including the shipping cost for his first package which weighs about ten pounds and is going to an address in Massachusetts. (The cost is slightly less than Customer No. 2 was asked to pay for her minuscule package going to suburban Baltimore).


     Package No. 1 takes, comparatively, no time to process and Package No. 2 was looking good right up until the label printer jammed.  Unjamming printers is obviously not in Clerk No. 2's job description so once again the manager is summoned.  After ten minutes of intense activity propelled by barely controlled rage the balky device is cleared, Uncle Jack's label is printed and the sketch is over.  Elapsed time 1.5 hours.  And they said Job was patient.


    Next stop the nearby post office where Uncle Jack needs only to buy stamps for his 20 Christmas cards.  With great trepidation he enters the lobby where he is greeted by no fewer than three clerks who are standing around talking to each other because they have no customers. Aargh.


      Friday morning's event,  the annual Christmas Pageant at Cedarcroft School, helped him to forget his mailing miseries of the day before.  If there is anything funnier than a preschool Christmas Pageant he can't imagine what it would be.  Not even Monty Python is in the same league.


    


    



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A twenty-second Suzuki violin recital. Uncle Jack almost missed it completely.

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The kindergardeners set a high standard for deportment and performance.

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The three-year-olds with Sophia third from the right, somewhat awed by her first sight of the audience. Red eye is rampant.

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Isabella, third from left, joins the four-year-olds in a rousing rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas. You had to hear it to believe it. "FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!!!!" twelve times. (The hand movements need a little work obviously). It was a blast.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:16 AM

Comments [5]



Thursday, December 18, 2008
Rockin' Ballmer, Thursday, December 18, 2008

     Between Christmas card writing, package wrapping and various aspects of child care Uncle Jack has had no chance whatsoever to explore his newly adopted city for the past couple of days. (He knows where the two nearest post offices are now as well as a Staples with a UPS drop but they hardly count as major cultural highlights of Charm City).


      He did, however, have a memorable experience yesterday, namely the hour-and-half he spent in a rocking chair with one Michael Sabatino, not quite one month old, asleep on his shoulder. Michael had been screaming bloody murder when Mrs. U.J. handed him over but after a few minutes in Uncle Jack's apparently soothing custody he miraculously subsided and they both headed for the comfortable rocking chair now ensconced in the Sabatino living room for just this purpose.


     The first half hour was blissful,  with Michael so quiet that Mrs. U.J. felt compelled to check twice to see if he was breathing.  Uncle Jack rocked in smug satisfaction while contemplating a lucrative new career as an infant soporificist.


     A few minutes later boredom began to set in and he started to look about for a possible source of amusement during what was slowly metamorphosing into a struggle with the forces of ennui.  The Sunday New York Times sat in a tantalizing heap on a nearby coffee table but Uncle Jack dared not reach for it because of the danger of upsetting the delicate equilibrium he had established with his somnolent Sabatino.  Ditto for the TV remote.


      He decided to relax, go-with-the-flow and enjoy this unusual opportunity to just sit in a comfortable chair and let his mind wander, first backward over the salient points of his own life---the Great Depression into which he had been born, the Second World War (billed as the War to End All Wars---or was that the First World War?),  the Korean War in which he had participated fleetingly, the Vietnamese War, the First Gulf War, the Second Gulf War, the beginnings of the Second Great Depression....


     Better, he thought, he should think about the wonders that await Michael in his lifetime.  He got as far as the First Nuclear War and decided that wasn't a very good idea either.  In the meantime his left arm, upon which Michael's now massive weight was pressing, had gone numb along with his nether regions and the necessity to move became compelling no matter what the effect on his comatose companion.


      Lucky for him Mrs. U.J. had completed her grandmotherly duties in the kitchen and came to his rescue just as Michael started to thrash about in search of his voice which he located just as Uncle Jack handed him over.  (bottle-for-tat one could say in the absence of his mother).


      Levity aside, he really enjoyed his "quality time" with little Michael and he is happy to know that he will most likely get to do it again very soon.  Stay tuned.    



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The sun has not been seen for days in Baltimore but here's a Sonag sunrise from last year about this time.

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And another from Camden.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:50 AM

Comments [7]



Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Camden redux, Tuesday December 16, 2008

     Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. made a quick trip to Camden, Maine this weekend to settle their affairs up there. With all the other changes in their lives it became obvious recently that another lengthy sojourn in that lovely town was not in the cards (or in their bank account)---at least not this summer.


      The trip was arduous but educational in one significant way---it confirmed their belief that they could never endure a Maine winter.  When they arrived on Saturday night tens of thousands of folks in the Camden area were without power as a result of an ice storm two days earlier. While their apartment did have power it didn’t seem to make very much difference.  They bumped the thermostat up to 74 from its winter setting of 50 before they went out to dinner (lobster of course) but when they returned two hours later the baseboard heaters had raised the temperature only to 51 so they wound up sleeping in all their clothes---including hats.  By 7 a.m. the temperature had rocketed up to 55.


       They packed up all their summer clothing Sunday morning and bid farewell to their beloved Mini Too which is now back in the loving care of the very nice man who sold it to them last spring.  On the way out of town in their rental car (something called a Cobalt which drove like an oversprung barge compared to the Mini) they stopped at Reny’s department store to pick up some Maine delicacies to give as Christmas presents (and to enjoy themselves when they are overcome by lust for wild blueberry jam or lobster infused maple syrup).


        Mrs. U.J. made the fatal decision to carry these items onto our AirTran plane rather than trying to cram them into our bulging luggage.  As you might imagine the ever-vigilant Transportation Safety folks had other ideas.  In spite of the fact that every item was a sealed tin which would have required extraordinary effort to open, each was determined to contain a liquid and was therefore verboten.  Uncle Jack started to protest but he realized from previous experience that to protest too vigorously could have dire results.  Uncle Jack could have been known henceforth as the “Kippers in Mustard Sauce Bomber” but he wisely decided to back off.  Lucky for them they had time for Mrs. U.J. to relocate their checked luggage and cram the offending items into it---a happy ending for sure.


       And now they are back in Baltimore where the weatherman promises the sun will not be seen for the next five days.  At least it will be warm enough so Uncle Jack will not have to sleep with his clothes on.



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The sun still rises over Camden Harbor. Sunday morning it hid behind Curtis Island. The outside temperature was 15 degrees F.

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This humongous icicle formed right where they used to park the Mini. The debris was deposited by a recent storm.

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The condo development next door is getting a new deck this winter.

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At low tide it looks like this.

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Nothing much going on at Wayfarer Marine---not outside anyway.

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Nothing much happening in the harbor either.

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The new waterfront restaurant and inn, started in late October, will be ready for business come spring.

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This incredible ginger bread house was created by the chefs at Sweet Sensations in Rockport where Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. had lunch on Sunday on the way out of town. It is to be auctioned for charity.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:16 AM

Comments [6]



Saturday, December 13, 2008
Sunrise in Ballmer, Saturday December 13, 2008

    The rain stopped and the sun finally made an appearance yesterday afternoon but it was too late to do any exploring so once again no pictures of fair Baltimore.  Sunrise this morning was something less than spectacular but Uncle Jack was up so he took a couple of pictures anyway. In these troubled times the mere fact that the sun appeared on time is something to be celebrated.


     Uncle Jack is a bit rushed this morning as he and Mrs. U.J. are going out of town for a couple of days and they have to get to the airport.  He won't be taking his laptop along so don't bother to look for another blog entry until Tuesday at the earliest.  Have a lovely weekend if you possibly can with the holidays bearing down on us like an out-of-control 18 wheeler.



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6:45 this morning.

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7:15 this morning.

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Neither snow nor rain....shall stay these courageous grandmothers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:02 AM

Comments [1]



Friday, December 12, 2008
Soggy Baltimore, Friday December 12, 2008

     


     Uncle Jack wanted to get out and explore some more of his new home town yesterday but it was not to be.  It was raining when he got up in the morning and it was still raining when he went to bed. He is not complaining, though.  He knows there are millions of people right here in the U.S., many of them farmers, who would give almost anything for the rain that fell on Baltimore yesterday. He is one lucky dude to be living in a place where it rains regularly and washes all the dirt and grime down into the Chesapeake Bay which is o.k. because all the crabs and oysters died a long time ago anyway.  


      Because he doesn't have anything new to say about Baltimore today he thought he would do a bit of reminiscing about the Outer Banks.  He resurrected this piece from the archives because a couple of weeks ago he drove past the former site of the venerable Croatan Inn which in its final years had metamorphosed into Quagmire's, a popular watering hole and restaurant. The charming old building has been replaced by a huge condo development  which to Uncle Jack's eyes is an architectural monstrosity. It is all too typical of of what has been happening to much of the Outer Banks over the past 30 years and it saddens him to see it as the following rant suggests.


                 Adios Quagmire's   


The news that Quagmire's in KDH will close on September 18 has sent Uncle Jack into a veritable swoon of nostalgia. It was about 20 years ago now that a group of somewhat disheveled young men came into his framing shop at Yellowhouse Gallery on a cold December day. They told him they were about to open a new restaurant in a little building about a block south of Yellowhouse on the Beach Road in Nags Head. Uncle Jack knew the building well. Over the years it had housed a number of restaurants including, for a short while, Nags Head's only Chinese take-out joint. Its most recent occupant had been a delightful, offbeat bistro created by Bob and Jan Kannry called Gandolph's. The brief, happy life of Gandolph's was cut short by a kitchen fire that gutted the interior after which the building stood empty for a couple of years. Uncle Jack doubted that anyone would be foolhardy enough to try to clean up the mess and open yet another eatery in such an unpromising location but much to his astonishment the guys who came to his framing shop that day planned to do just that. And they were going to open for business in January, the absolute nadir of the season. They called the place "Quagmire's" which wasn't going to help a bit in Uncle Jack's estimation. Furthermore they had no pictures to hang on the freshly painted walls of their new restaurant and that was why they had come to the framing shop. Oh yes, and they also had no money with which to buy said pictures. Would softheaded old Uncle Jack let them pick out a dozen or so posters and get them framed with no money down and only a promise to pay for them when they could? He has to confess that he thought their chances of success were somewhere between slim and none but the place was nearby and he could always go get the pictures back if things didn't work out. So they hung the pictures, opened the restaurant and the rest is history. Quag's immediately became one of the most popular places of its kind on the Outer Banks and the pictures were paid for in full before the tourist season even started. Uncle Jack learned later that "Quagmire" was the nickname of John Kirchmier, one of the intrepid partners in the business along with his friend Will Thorpe. A few years later Will bought out John's share and renamed the booming business "Tortuga's Lie" while John went on to open the very popular "Goombay's" on the Beach Road in KDH. Later he bought the old Croatan Inn building on the oceanfront nearby (which had housed a popular restaurant called "Papagayo's" for years). He renamed it "Quagmire's" which, like its earlier incarnation, quickly became a favorite destination for locals and visitors alike. (Not to be outdone, Will later sold Tortuga's to two of his longtime associates and opened the popular "Rundown Cafe" in Kitty Hawk which he later sold and opened his equally busy "High Cotton" North Carolina BBQ restaurant, also in Kitty Hawk. While Uncle Jack is saddened to learn of the demise of the latest iteration of Quagmire's and the historic building which housed it, his bosom swells with pride that he was involved in even a tiny way at the beginnings of the successful careers of two hardworking and talented local restaurateurs who have provided the Outer Banks with such excellent alternatives to the colorless franchised food emporiums that are creeping like kudzu across the local restaurant scene.


Applebee's anyone?


    


posted by Uncle Jack at 7:00 AM

Comments [10]



Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Unrise in Baltimore, Wednesday, December 10, 2008

      The sun has abdicated from Baltimore for the past couple of days and this morning it's raining rather hard.  The good news is that the cold front has departed and relatively balmy temperatures have returned, at least for the nonce.


     Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have been deeply immersed in various aspects of child care, the raison d'etre for their present visit to Baltimore, so their further explorations of Charm City have been curtailed for the moment.  Until they get up to speed again here's a divertissement (Uncle Jack didn't take two years of French for nothing)  from the deep archives if you need something (anything!) to pass the time.


                  Outer Banks Trivia


      Uncle Jack has spent a fair amount of his life trying to figure out some way to get rich and famous without working but he has not come up with anything yet and sometimes he wonders if he ever will. He is not a quitter though so he keeps trying to think of something at all times and he usually manages to stay fairly cheerful even though he is still poor and unknown.
     The only time Uncle Jack gets a little depressed is when he hears about how some other person has come up with a terrific money-making idea he should have thought of himself and how
that person is getting filthy rich.
      This happened to him last week when he read in the paper about this man who invented a new game called College Trivia or something like that which is just like Trivial Pursuit except that all the questions are just like the questions they put
in the "SAT Test" which is what all the high school graduates take if they want to get into college.
      Uncle Jack is a high school graduate as he might have mentioned once or twice before and he remembers how he had to take that test and how hard the questions were and how nice it would be if you could study up for it before you took it.
      It is a very hard test to study for, though, because the questions are fairly dumb for the most part and you tend to fall asleep before you get very far into your studying and thatis why it was so smart for that man to put it into the form of a game.
      People will enjoy almost anything if you make a game out of it and that is why even something as stupid as football has caught on and is now quite popular in some circles. The same thing is happening with the SAT Test game which is making several people very rich and Uncle Jack very jealous.
    Like he said before, though, he never gives up and it did not take him very long to come up with a new game which he is calling Outer Banks Trivia and he is hoping it will catch on enough so he can make a down payment on a new secondhand Jeep or maybe even a Hummer.
      So far he has only had time to think of a few questions for his new game but maybe they will give you some idea of how it will go:


l. Manteo is
a. more often mispronounced by tourists than Rodanthe.
b. less often mispronounced by tourists than Wanchese.
c. more often mispronounced by tourists than Bodie Island.
d. less often mispronounced by tourists than Duck.
e. more often ducked by tourists than mispronounced.


2. Chicamacomico is
a. the way a few people spell Chicamacomico.
b. Colonel Sanders' favorite vacation spot.
c. an Indian word meaning "two feet of water covering Highway l2.”
d. what they used to call Avon before they found out that "Chicamacomico" was too long to fit over the door of the new post office.


3. Which of the following best describes the town of SouthernShores?
a. "Gateway to Duck"
b. "Nine Holes and a Nap"
c. "Pentagon-by-the-Sea"
d. “The Outer Banks best-planned, best-governed and most beautiful residential community.”


4. Nags Head is to Kill Devil Hills as
a. Salvo is to Waves
b. Buxton is to Avon
c. Hatteras Village is to Frisco
d. Southern Shores is to Sodom and Gomorrah
e. all of the above


5. "Development" is to "Outer Banks" as 
a. fertilizer is to flowers
b. rape is to virgin
c. McDonalds is to ground beef
d. H-bomb is to Hiroshima
  
     Anyway that's the way Uncle Jack's Outer Banks Trivia game will go and he will be happy to get lots of contributions from his readers so he does not have to do all the hard thinking himself. And if he does finally get rich he promises to spread his wealth around, too, especially in the bars and restaurants.


 



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Highly trained grandmother at work. There's a baby boy named Michael Burke Sabatino somewhere in that bundle.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:27 AM

Comments [5]



Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunrise in Charm City, Monday, December 8, 2008

    Strange that it should be colder in Baltimore right now than it is in Camden, Maine but it is.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. were scoping out the neighborhood Whole Foods store late Saturday afternoon when it started to snow but thanks to the Mini’s excellent traction they were able to get home without participating in one of the 50 or so fender benders caused by slick roads in the Baltimore area.  By noon Sunday the snow had disappeared but no doubt it was only a harbinger of blizzards to come. In the words of our soon-to-be-former president, “Bring ‘em on”.  Uncle Jack is ready.


     He is well aware that those who would question his sanity for trading winters on the balmy Outer Banks for the same in the icy latitudes of Baltimore.  Having grown up in northern Wisconsin he can understand that but he has learned that there is more to life than mere snow-avoidance.  As he enters an advanced state of dotage he recognizes the importance of propinquity to a world class medical facility whose functionaries may be able to figure out what’s wrong with him when he is no longer able to tell them himself.  He read somewhere that the Johns Hopkins Medical Center has been rated Number One in the nation for the past 18 years and that’s good enough for him. (From his new apartment he should be able to crawl to it if necessary).


     As he grows older he has also developed a heightened need for intellectual stimulation.  Again Baltimore would appear to fill the bill because a perusal of the TV listings for the coming week reveals that he will be able to watch no fewer than 5 NBA games in the next seven days (in addition to Jeopardy).  He may have already mentioned that Johns Hopkins University is across the street and a Barnes and Noble is only a block away should the time come when even LeBron James is not enough.


     He and Mrs. U.J. can now testify that Mrs. Chang, owner of Harry's Bagel Shop down the street, makes a perfectly acceptable "whole wheat everything" so Sunday mornings look good.  She doesn't speak English very well but she's open all year and that's what counts in the bagel department.


      And how about that sunrise this morning!


     


    


    



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6:45 this morning.

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7:00 a.m. Skip down a few pictures for the finale at 7:15.

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The Sabatino basement was a scene of wild celebration on Saturday when Isabella (in pink)turned five. This is the cupcake-decorating phase.

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Smashing the pinata is apparently an old Baltimore custom at birthday parties.

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Isabella and little sister Sophia contemplating the virginal birthday cake. (With apologies to Rembrandt).

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Little brother Michael, age 2 weeks, slept through the whole thing, and who could blame him. Providing the cozy environment is his Mom, Mrs. U.J.'s daughter Colleen.

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Not bad for a Monday morning.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:28 AM

Comments [10]



Saturday, December 6, 2008
Sunrise in Ballmer, Saturday December 6, 2008

         Yesterday was Mrs. U.J.’s granddaughter Isabella’s fifth birthday so like the good grandma she is she took Isabella to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas extravaganza complete with Rockettes and assorted other singers and dancers which was doing a kind of practice run in a theater downtown before moving up to New York City for the holidays.  This turned out to be a rather expensive mistake as the show was a bit over the top in the noise department for the ears of a sensitive five-year-old and also too long by half.  It did, however, give Uncle Jack (a.k.a the chauffeur) an opportunity to explore downtown Baltimore for a couple of hours on foot.


        Like all good tourists he headed first for the Visitors Center in the Inner Harbor to pick up a map and a clutch of brochures describing the many delights of Charm City (?) before repairing to a waterfront restaurant where he consumed a near-perfect Reuben while watching boats come and go in the harbor.  Baltimoreans are proud of their harbor and it was easy for Uncle Jack to see why.  It has to be one of the premier public spaces in America and he is looking forward to spending a lot of time wandering around down there when the weather warms up again, possibly in May.


       Most of downtown Baltimore seems to have been transformed from supremely shabby to impressively shiny in the many years since his last visit way back when “The Block” was one of the city’s best-known tourist attractions.  While a lot of older buildings have given way to glitzy new hotels, high-rise condos, office buildings and athletic stadia like iconic Orioles Park, many 19th and even 18th century architectural gems have been beautifully preserved and add authentic charm to the traffic-choked business district. Baltimore, on the surface at least, appears to be booming.


      If Uncle Jack is beginning to sound like a shill for the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce there is a reason.  As some readers may already know, he and Mrs. U.J. are in the process of making it their new home and this eventuality took a big step toward reality yesterday when they made an offer on a condo across the street from the main entrance to the Johns Hopkins campus in an area called Charles Village---recently selected by the American Planning Association as one of the top ten neighborhoods in urban America. They were incredibly lucky to find a dwelling they love at a price they can afford in a wonderful location after only a few days of looking.  


      Needless to say Uncle Jack will have much more to say about this life-changing move in forthcoming episodes.  For the time being at least Will has kindly allowed him to continuing blogging on the OBX Connection even though his status has reverted to “tourist”, just as it was 40 years ago when he first crossed the old two-lane Wright Memorial Bridge after an exhausting ten-hour drive from Pittsburgh.


Stay tuned to learn more than you probably ever wanted to know about Baltimore.



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6:30 this morning.

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Forty minutes later.

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The Inner Harbor with USS Constellation, the 18th century sister ship of "Old Ironsides" (USS Constitution) which resides in Boston. That is not the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the right.

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More of the Inner Harbor.

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This sculpture in the Inner Harbor is called Ecstasy of Love. To Uncle Jack it looks more like a person who just touched a live wire. He is what is known as a Philistine.

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He is not sure what this sculpture represents but it could be a Krispy Kreme donut with chopsticks.

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The Visitors Center. Snazzy.

posted by Uncle Jack at 1:07 PM

Comments [13]



Thursday, December 4, 2008
Sunrise in Ballmer, Thursday December 8, 2008

        Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are gradually getting settled in their new digs in Baltimore.  As usual when he moves into a new place he has had to spend an inordinate amount of time conversing with technicians employed by the local internet service provider which, in the case of Ballmer, is the mighty Comcast corporation.  He is pleased to report that Comcast’s geeks are actually located in a call center somewhere in Maryland and the ones he has spoken with actually speak tolerable English and have really tried to help.  He is hoping that with another session or two they will actually succeed in getting both him and Mrs. U.J. online simultaneously; a consummation devoutly to be wished as Hamlet said.  (There is no doubt in Uncle Jack’s mind that Hamlet would not have hesitated to make his quietus with that bare bodkin if he had had to deal with internet service providers very often).


      Unlike their apartment in Camden this one comes with a television. Out of curiosity last evening (after acing Jeopardy) Uncle Jack started clicking through the stations to see what was on.  He gave up when he got to channel 350 and still hadn’t found anything worth watching although he has to admit that some of the Pay per View channels sounded intriguing.


     They did a bit of exploring in the neighborhood this morning and have located the nearest Whole Foods store which is housed in a handsome old 19th century mill building about a mile away.  He is hoping they saved enough money by recycling an old building so they can charge a little less for their pomegranate juice but he is not counting on it. Even more important---do they stock White Cat popping corn? These are the kinds of vital issues that occupy Uncle Jack's mind now that the election is over.


     


      


 



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6:30 this morning, Thursday.

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A bit later.

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Still later.

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Actual sunrise at 7:10 is anticlimactic.

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The same view in daylight. They say the leaves were gorgeous a few weeks ago.

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Looking toward downtown and the inner harbor with zoom. Church in the foreground is one of what seems to be about a thousand in Baltimore.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:30 AM

Comments [8]



Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Sunrise in Baltimore, Tuesday December 2, 2008

     Just a quicky to let everybody know that Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have arrived safely in the Monument City after a six-hour slosh through steady rain which included their closest brush with highway disaster so far when a nutcase in front of them decided to change lanes without signalling and nearly ran into them.  Only Mrs. U.J.'s piercing scream and the Mini's responsive handling saved the day. I-95 near Washington in the rain is a nightmare even without lunatic drivers.


    They are now ensconced in a neat apartment on the ninth floor of a high-rise on North Charles avenue, adjacent to the Johns Hopkins campus. Their view of the city is breathtaking, day and night, and the wall of east-facing windows should provide Uncle Jack with some spectacular sunrises, photographable from the comfort of his living room, as are the pics below. 


     More when we get settled, perhaps in a couple of days. 


 



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6:45 this morning. The harbor is visible in the extreme right, about 35 blocks south on Charles street.

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About a half-hour later. Not a cloud in the sky this morning which augurs well for unloading the Mini.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:40 AM

Comments [9]




click picture for more
Uncle Jack lived in Nags Head for 35 years before he moved to Baltimore a couple of years ago. He still has a house in South Nags Head which he and Mrs. U.J. visit every chance they get.
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