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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday April 28, 2009
       Uncle Jack's penultimate (for this trip) visit to the beach this morning was replete with thrills. There were enough clouds in the sky for the sun to light up in spectacular fashion, two deer were cavorting at the water's edge when he arrived and spooked them into a frantic dash toward the dunes, and a couple of randy gulls did their part to ensure the survival of the species while his Sony Cybershot recorded the act for posterity. (Eve Turek he is not in the nature photography department, obviously).
       It looks like another freakishly flawless day in store for the Outer Banks. Lucky are those few tourists who, like Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J., planned their spring vacations for this week in April. They will be heading back to Charm City tomorrow morning, the Mini loaded with books from their Nags Head house, whence they will start looking forward to another visit next month.
       Have a great day.


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5:50 a.m. Wednesday

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Ditto, with zoom.

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6:10. Right on time.

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Pelicans skimming the waves at sunrise. Always a pretty sight.

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There are two deer in this fuzzy picture, making tracks for the nearest dune.

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And here are some of the tracks they made.

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Beach porn. Two gulls getting it on for the camera.

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Time for a post-coital cigarette. There must be a butt around here somewhere.

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The mess in front of Seagull Drive continues into yet another season.

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As does this stranded orphan. At least the oozing septic tank has been removed from the beach. Progress is measured in small steps in Sonag.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:29 AM

Comments [6]



Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday April 27, 2009
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. successfully ran the gamut of thousands of roaring motorcycles on the bypass Saturday and eventually found sanctuary in deepest South Nags Head where the murmur of the surf actually blotted out the blatting of unmufflered Harleys most of the time. Their first walk on the beach revealed that little had changed in the year since they departed Sonag for their summer sojourn in Camden, Maine. Sandbags that the Coastal Resources Commission ordered removed by May 1 of 2008 are still firmly in place and uglier than ever after battering by the winter storms. Due to lower-than-normal spring tides the beach is wide and inviting except in those spots where the detritus of long-gone cottages has surfaced once more to threaten bodily harm to incautious surfers and swimmers.
       It does not appear that any beachfront houses in Sonag succumbed to the ravages of the winter northeasters but at least one familiar cottage has been bitten by the foreclosure bug---the oft-battered house at the end of East James Street, two doors from Uncle Jack’s former domicile. The present owner bought it about 18 months after Isabel had nearly wrecked it with the aid of a $446,000 loan from a shortsighted (possibly blind) bank and now, after four years of ceaseless struggle to keep it rentable he seems to have given up on it. The auction at the courthouse steps in Manteo is scheduled for May 22. (See below for pictures the bankers apparently never saw before they approved a nearly half-million dollar loan on this endangered property).

       Sunrises on Sunday and Monday mornings were less than spectacular but the overall ambience of the beach at 6 a.m. is sufficiently pleasant to make early rising very rewarding. There were few humans present at that hour but the usual complement of locals (sandpipers, gulls, pelicans, porpoises, sandcrabs) was out in force. The weather is flawless and is predicted to remain perfect for the next several days so Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are counting their blessings.
       Now that most of the Harley Hogs have returned to their pens they plan to venture forth onto the Bypass and Beach Road today to see what the developers have been up to this winter, if anything. They did notice on the way down that a new Food Lion-anchored shopping center is going up a mile or so north of Jockey’s Ridge. Presumably it will be ready to open by summer so that no tourist will have to drive more than half a mile to the nearest supermarket. That is surely a blessing in these troubled times.
Stay tuned.
      



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Sunrise 6 a.m. Sunday.

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Nary a soul to the north.

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Nor to the south.

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Sunrise 6 a.m. Monday.

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A herd of deer strolled the Sonag beach before sunrise Monday. Their tracks were visible for over a mile.

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To be sold at a foreclosure auction on May 22.

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Same house the day after Isabel in 2003.

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Bulldozed dunes, circa 2005. The owners tried but Mother Nature is relentless.

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Scenic Sonag.

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At high tide this mess will be in the surf, waiting for the unwary.

posted by Uncle Jack at 3:42 PM

Comments [9]



Friday, April 24, 2009
Sherwood Gardens, Friday, April 24, 2009
       A couple of weeks ago Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. hiked the half-mile from their apartment to Sherwood Gardens in the lovely Guilford neighborhood next door. As he mentioned then the gardens are the site each spring of one of the most spectacular displays of tulips to be found anywhere outside the Netherlands. At their last visit the flowers had not yet bloomed but the magical transformation happened while they were in New Orleans so yesterday they returned to ogle and take pictures to enjoy when they can no longer make it up the hill.
       The good burghers of Guilford are justly proud of their little park and have prepared a website to tell the world about it. Click on the link below Uncle Jack's pictures to learn more about this magnificent horticultural happening--the pride of Baltimore.
       Tomorrow Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. will make an early visit to the Farmers' Market for their weekly supply of fruits and veggies (and sticky buns, of course) and then point the Mini toward South Nags Head where they will play tourist for a few days for the first time since moving to Bawlmer. As you can imagine they are thrilled to death to learn (belatedly) that this is "Bike Week" on the Outer Banks. They briefly considered continuing on down to the peace and quiet of some family-oriented resort like Myrtle Beach but have decided to hunker down in Sonag, earplugs in place, and wait until they can return to tranquil Baltimore. (Just kidding. They can hardly wait to get home even though it's going to be Hog Heaven this weekend.)
       See you on the beach if the wind isn't blowing too hard out of the northeast.
      
             


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The tulips come in many hues.

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Pinkish.

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Pink and yellow.

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Orange, with one red interloper.

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Yaller.

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A little bit of everything.

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This witchy-looking tree stands guard over the park.

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Between the tulips and the trees Sherwood Gardens is a feast for the eyes and the soul.

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Almost a match.

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Young nature lovers enjoy an outdoor chess board in their own way. Flora and fauna of the city.

link: http://www.guilfordnews.com/sherwood/

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:52 AM

Comments [5]



Wednesday, April 22, 2009
What a Party!! Tuesday, April 21, 2009
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are back in Bawlmer, exhausted but happy after three fun-filled days at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans.       This was the 26th FQF, the 4th since Katrina and by far the biggest and best of the 15 or so they have enjoyed. The music was fantastic, the food delectable, the weather perfect and the crowd big enough to assure that the vendors all made enough money to want to do it again next year.
       For readers who may be heading for NOLA for Jazz Fest they can offer a couple of suggestions that might be helpful. The space in one corner of Jackson Square formerly occupied by Madeleine's, empty since Katrina, is now the home of a neat new eatery called "Stanley". (This is the same Stanley that enjoyed a brief pre-Katrina existence on Decatur a while back). The new iteration of Stanley is likely to be a fixture on that prime corner for a long time. Try it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or in the afternoon when it offers a fabulous menu of ice cream treats. It's a bit pricey (Uncle Jack's root beer float cost almost $5} but the ambience is a lot better than the airport where a small ice cream cone could cost that much. There is no better place in town for breakfast unless you are patient enough to suffer the lines at the Cafe du Monde which reached colossal lengths this weekend.
       Recession notwithstanding New Orleans seems to be back on its feet again with lots of construction work keeping unemployment down and demand for living space pushing real estate prices up. With the fourth anniversary of Katrina coming up in August the Big Easy finally has some reason to celebrate.
       For a free sample of some great New Orleans-style piano playing go to YouTube and type "Tom McDermott plays Death Ray Boogie" into the search bar. You'll be glad you did. Tom is something else.


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One of the many great bands offering three days of free music from bandstands all over the French Quarter.

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Part of the crowd in Jackson Square on opening day. Food and drink vendors from many of the city's hundreds of restaurants offer their wares at reasonable prices during FQF.

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The legendary clarinetist Pete Fountain (who lost everything except his life to Katrina) played a few numbers with the FQF All Stars on opening day. (Third from left in the picture)

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St. Louis Cathedral, always an awe-inspiring sight.

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The street artists were out in force. Some of this stuff is as bad as anything Uncle Jack has ever seen in the Museum of Modern Art and it's a lot cheaper.

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The Lucky Dog vendors had three great days. New Orleans cuisine at its finest.

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The Mississippi is swollen with melted ice and snow from Minnesota causing the Natchez some trouble docking.

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Abita is the local beer of choice now that Jax and Dixie are gone. Good stuff, made with water from Abita Springs just north of the city. Pairs well with muffulettas.

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Tom McDermott, Uncle Jack's favorite piano player, and clarinetist Tim Laughlin at Snug Harbor Sunday afternoon. Great music---and FREE.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:28 AM

Comments [0]



Thursday, April 16, 2009
FQF, Thursday April 16, 2009
                                         

              Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are going to New Orleans this weekend to spend the very few shekels they have left after paying their income tax. They are going down there for the annual French Quarter Jazz Festival which for jazz nuts
like them is like Heaven might turn out to be for other people who are not as much into earthly delights as they are.
       He should explain right away that the French Quarter Festival is not to be confused with the Jazz and Heritage Festival which is kind of a musical zoo they put on down there every year but later in the spring. They hold it out at the race track and thousands of people mill around out there in the mud or dust, whichever it happens to be at the time, drinking Bud Lite with both hands and listening to l4 kinds of music all at the same time. Uncle Jack would not go to the Jazz and Heritage Festival even if they gave the beer away, which should giveyou some idea how bad it is.
              The French Quarter Jazz Festival is another kettle of crayfish because it is devoted entirely to that music which is the finest flowering of the human intelligence as far as
Uncle Jack is concerned, namely New Orleans style jazz, often called "Dixieland" for short.
       If you think Uncle Jack is exaggerating he can refer you to the words of the late Leonard Bernstein, world class musical guru and longtime conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra who once said "In all of music there is nothing as exciting as a good Dixieland band."
       And when he said that he really meant "all of music" including Bach and Beethoven and the Beatles and even Madonna. Anyway who is Uncle Jack to argue with Leonard Bernstein?

                     New Orleans is one of the few remaining places on the planet where jazz lovers like Uncle Jack can still hear the real stuff played by great musicians in smoky dives on into the wee hours of the morning just like it used to be in the old days before the rock and roll disaster changed everything---probably forever.
       This weekend thousands of Dixieland lovers and dozens of bands from all over the country and the world will flock to the French Quarter for a three-day celebration of this musical endangered species. Not surprisingly a large proportion of the celebrants and many of the musicians, too, will be a bit long in the tooth as they say over at the horse hospital.                    
       It never ceases to amaze Uncle Jack how many Dixieland Jazz musicians continue to perform well even into their eighties but he thinks he knows why. The music is so much fun to play and to listen to that it must stimulate some kind of anti-aging hormone in them just the way Swedish rye bread does in Uncle
Jack.
                     It is just the opposite with players of rock and roll and modern jazz and rap and other such debased forms of musical expression who tend to lead miserably unhappy lives, produce
wretched sounds, and die young---although not young enough in many cases if you ask Uncle Jack.
       Anyway he looks forward to a wonderful weekend of great jazz alternating with terrific meals, not all of which will cost more than a small car. He is leaving his laptop at home in Baltimore so don’t bother looking for another blog entry until next Tuesday at the earliest. Have a good weekend.

P.S. To hear a sample of great jazz by Duke Heitger's band go to YouTube and type in "French Quarter Festival, April 12, 2008". Uncle Jack's video from last year has been viewed over 2000 times and you saw it here first.
             
                                                                                                                                    
                                                                                   















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Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the musical Marsalis clan, at Snug Harbor last year.

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The Jazz Vipers, a young group, tear up Donna's Bar and Grill at FQF last year.

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Preservation Hall band at FQF last year.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:48 AM

Comments [5]



Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Taxing week, Tuesday April 14, 2009
       Uncle Jack looked at the calendar the other day and decided he had better get going on his taxes. It's pretty obvious that the government is going to need every penny they can squeeze out of him and Mrs. U.J. this year to bail all those rich bankers out of the mess they made so he is being extra careful not to take too many imaginary deductions. He is not in the running for any high level jobs in the government so he probably doesn't have to be quite so careful but he always keeps in mind that he has about a one in thirty million chance of being audited and that keeps him fairly honest.
       Except for taking a walk every day he and Mrs. U.J. haven't done anything exciting since his last weblog entry (nothing he could talk about in a family-oriented blog anyway) so he did some scrounging around in the archives again and tried to find something relevant to this time of year and this is what he found:




                                   From the Mailbag

Dear Uncle Jack,
I saw some politicians on the TV the other day and they were yelling at each other about something called a "fat tax." I couldn't tell exactly what they were saying because they all yell at the same time, but I was wondering if they really are planning to put a special tax on fat people.
       Do you know anything about this, Uncle Jack?
                                         
                                                               Pleasingly Plump
                                                               Avon                                                              
                                                                                   
Dear Pleasingly,
       Uncle Jack is happy to tell you that you heard wrong. For right now at least you do not have to worry about paying an extra tax just because you are metrically challenged. Those politicians were actually talking about a “flat tax”.
       He is not going to try to explain what a "flat tax" is because he does not understand it himself. It must be a very good deal for rich people, though, because they are the only ones who seem to be pushing it.
       Anyway Uncle Jack is not going to lose any sleep over the flat tax because he is sure there is not a fat (or flat) chance that the U.S. Congress is going to pass a flat tax in his lifetime---or even in this century, whichever comes first.
       He says this because he knows that even though we have some of the finest congressmen that money can buy, they are not the kind of people who rush into things. Uncle Jack will be happy if they just get a budget passed so there will be no interruption in the flow of his entitlements.

                                                        Flatly,
                                                                     
                                                        Uncle Jack

Dear Uncle Jack,
You mentioned in your last column that you did not yet have a computer but you said you could learn how to use one if you really wanted to. The way you said it sounded like you really are afraid of computers because you think you are too old and decrepit to learn how to use one without going crazy in the process.
       I just wanted to let you know that I was at least as old and decrepit as you are now when I decided to get my first computer and I'm very glad I did. It was not easy to follow all those crazy instructions at first and a lot of the stuff I wrote is floating around out in cyberspace somewhere because I could never get it back out of memory or wherever I accidentally put it.
       But that was years ago and now I wonder how I got along without my computer as long as I did. I spend most of my time now racing around on the information highway like some kind of digitalized Junior Johnson. If you want to know the
truth I would rather have my little Powerbook sitting on my lap than most of the nurses they have here at the home.
       My advice to you, Uncle Jack, is just do it, and I am not talking about tennis shoes.
                                          Old Dog      
                                          Gritheaven                                                                                                        


Dear Dog,      
       You are probably not going to believe this but since he wrote the column of which you speak he has gone up to Sears Roebuck in Chesapeake and got himself a brand new laptop word processor and he can tell you he is having almost as much fun as he did on his recent honeymoon which he should hasten to say was a lot of fun in case Mrs. Uncle Jack should happen to read this.
       He has to confess that the main reason he finally broke down and got a word processor is that he left his rusty old Underwood typewriter in a bucket of WD-40 so long that the roller dissolved. The typewriter repair man located a secondhand roller on a typewriter in Bangladesh where they are still using them but it would have cost almost as much as his new computer so he "just did it" like they tell you over at Reebok.
       Uncle Jack is pleased to report that he is mastering his word processor much faster than he thought he could when he first looked at the instruction book and fainted. He is way past "How to Start" now and he hopes in a few days he will be through "Save to Memory" so he can start to sleep nights again. He appreciates your encouraging words and he can tell you there is no turning back now.

                                                                                                  Digitally,

Uncle Jack

P.S. He couldn't get all the words to behave but that's par for the course when Uncle Jack gets behind a computer even today.

                                                                                                   


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Easter Sunday was a beautiful day in Bawlmer. They took a walk through the campus and found this clever kinetic sculpture in front of one of the engineeing buildings.

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Luckily there was only a gentle breeze on Sunday or the whole thing would have blown apart. Or maybe that was the idea.

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Gilman Hall, the oldest building on campus, is getting a multi-million dollar makeover that will take another year to complete.

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Uncle Jack would love to know this story behind this peculiar site on Charles Street near the campus.

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:29 PM

Comments [4]



Friday, April 10, 2009
Gorgeous Guilford, Friday April 10, 2009
              Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. got lucky when they bought their condo in the Baltimore neighborhood known as Charles Village. They knew that Charles Village had been identified by the Urban Planning Institute as one of the “top ten urban neighborhoods” in the country (a distinction that still seems a bit dubious even though they agree that it’s a great place to live) but what they didn’t know is that Charles Village abuts what is generally agreed to be Baltimore’s loveliest residential area---the community known as “Guilford”.       One of the entrances to Guilford (not gated) is right across the street from their condo building and as they discovered yesterday it’s a delightful place to walk.
       Unlike Charles Village which consists largely of older rowhouses and high-rise apartment buildings, Guilford is made up almost entirely of free-standing houses, many of them palatial, on large, beautifully landscaped lots. Also unlike Charles Village, which was the product of many developers building many rowhouses in helter-skelter fashion, Guilford was built to a master plan from the beginning---and what a plan it was. The developers hired no less than the fabled Olmsted Brothers company, designers of Central Park in New York City, to come up with a plan for a truly elegant community that would attract Baltimore’s finest to move out to Guilford where they could live in baronial splendor among their own kind.
              Construction was slowed by the first world war but in the 20’s and 30’s Guilford took off and began to grow rapidly into the spectacularly beautiful neighborhood it is today. As the pictures suggest the houses are distinctive---products of some of the outstanding architects of the day---and are set amongst a forest of mature trees of every kind as well as exquisitely maintained lawns and gardens. An owners’ association enforces stringent rules aimed at maintaining the beauty of the neighborhood (not to mention property values) through controlling what individual owners may do with their property. The entire community is, in fact, on the Register of Historic Places which further restricts what can be done with individual properties.
              As they ambled through Guilford, oohing and aahing and taking pictures, Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. engaged in conversation with a number of residents who were out walking their dogs or puttering in their gardens. They were pleasantly surprised by the cordiality of the natives who could be expected to be a bit stand-offish toward peasants wandering about on their turf. One gentleman allowed as how his family used to vacation on the Outer Banks in bygone times but had stopped when the horrendous week-end traffic jams made the trip too arduous. Yogi Berra’s oft-quoted observation that his favorite place was “so crowded that nobody goes there any more” would seem to apply.
              In any case Guilford is a wonderful amenity for older condo dwellers who need to get out of their barcaloungers and engage in the kind of heart-healthy exercise provided by walking. To be able to walk amidst such beauty at no extra charge is priceless. Thank goodness for rich people.
             


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An inviting sidewalk.

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This one has 28 rooms we were told and has some connection with a descendant of Napoleon.

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Any Frenchman would be right at home in this faux chateau.

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The magnolias and dogwoods are fabulous right now. There are hundreds in Guilford, many of them quite old.

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Another cozy retreat.

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The architect didn't seem to know quite what he had in mind when he designed this place.

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Sherwood Gardens in Guilford will get a blog entry of its own as soon as the tulips blossom.

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A grove of trees in Sherwood Gardens. A great place for moms to bring the kids during the day.

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Guilford is home to the Episcopal Cathedral, right across the street from our condo building. Uncle Jack is thinking about sitting on those steps on Easter Sunday morning and begging for alms.

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Going out of Guilford toward Uncle Jack's humble abode, University One Condominiums.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:31 PM

Comments [4]



Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Birds Fly, Wednesday April 8, 2009
       It was a cold, windy day in Charm City yesterday but few of the locals noticed. They were still basking in the warm glow of the Orioles' Opening Day trouncing of the mighty New York Yankees the night before. How long the euphoria will last is anybody's guess because the same two teams will go at it again tonight and it seems very unlikely to Uncle Jack that the Orioles could beat the Yankees two games in a row.
       This kind of negative thinking has no place in Baltimore, though, so he will be careful to conceal his disdain for baseball in general and the Orioles in particular. His attitude is subject to change, of course, if the Birds begin to mount a serious pennant drive and he gets swept up by the mounting excitement of his fellow Baltimorons.
       In the meantime, however, the beginning of another long season of the dullest outdoor game ever invented (with the possible exception of soccer) gives him an opportunity to recycle yet another ancient column from the archives.

                            Hitting the Cut-Off Man
                                                                                                                                            Dear Uncle Jack,
I have wanted to ask you a question about baseball for a long time but I had to wait for my husband to die, which he did, thank goodness, during a doubleheader last Saturday
afternoon. If you want to know the truth he was dead for four hours before I even noticed which did not surprise me because every time he turned on the TV to watch a baseball game he would fall asleep immediately and he would not wake up again until it was over.
Except when I would try to sneak in and change the channel to Miami Vice or something he would open one eye and mumble "gottawatchaballgame" and as soon as I switched back to the game he would fall asleep again.
Needless to say I was forced to endure a lot of baseball during the 35 years we were married and my question to you is this: How could there be such a thing as insomnia in the world as long as there is baseball on TV? I would rather watch two communists play chess than have to sit there while a bunch of overpaid slobs stand around and scratch themselves and spit and wait for something exciting to happen which hardly ever does except when some bimbo runs on the field and starts taking off her clothes.
So if you are so smart maybe you can tell me what is so great about baseball that they have to put six games on TV every night.

Baseball Widow
Southern Shores

Dear Widow,
Uncle Jack's heart goes out to your departed husband who must have suffered greatly during his long and unfortunate marriage to such a sarcastic person as yourself. It is fairly obvious to Uncle Jack that you have not even tried to learn enough about the great game of baseball so that you too could understand and appreciate it as much as your late husband did.
Take the spitting, for example. If you gave your husband a chance he could have opened your eyes to the wonderful world of spitting in which there is never a dull moment if you know what to watch for. He could have told you about the various types of chewing tobacco which produce the almost infinite variety of spitting styles which trained observers like Uncle Jack and your late husband could use to glean valuable information as the game proceeded.
For example, Uncle Jack can tell you almost to the minute when a manager is going to change pitchers just by the amount of tobacco juice running down his chin. And if they have a good cameraman who knows how to move in close to the cheek area Uncle Jack can tell you if the manager is working on a gob of real Red Man or just some wimp-type chew that comes in little packets like Lipton's tea and tastes like Wrigley's spearmint.
And he can tell you it makes a lot of difference over a whole season if the manager is a real man who can handle a real chew or if he is some kind of sissy who goes for one of the designer brands. This is not something you can hide from your players for very long, especially when they are sober.
And there is a lot more to baseball than just spitting, too. If you know the game you can tell what kind of underwear a pitcher is wearing just by the way he handles himself on the mound.
Anyway there is a lot more Uncle Jack could tell you about baseball if he had time such as "hitting the cut-off man" which is so important that if a player cannot learn to do it right he might as well quit baseball and go on unemployment just like everybody else.
Sportingly,
Uncle Jack

       Have a nice day if you possibly can.


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Michael Sabatino, age 4 months, "sleeps like a baby" through his sister Sophia's raucous 4th birthday party.

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Johns Hopkins students take to the grass on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

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The beautifully landscaped campus is coming alive with the warmer weather of late.

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Dogwoods and azaleas are in full bloom everywhere. The campus is a great place to go walking.

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This statue of a sponge diver stands outside of Mattin Hall for some reason.

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These century-old rehabbed row houses are in Uncle Jack's neighborhood. Many are occupied by Johns Hopkins students and faculty.

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Owners have individualized them in various ways. They are known collectively as the "painted ladies" of Charles Village.

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This apartment complex was quite fashionable when it opened in 1929---and still is. Most of the apartments from that era have been razed and replaced.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:21 AM

Comments [10]



Sunday, April 5, 2009
Busy week in Bawlmer, Sunday, April 5, 2009
       How busy? So busy that Uncle Jack completely forgot that the Tarheels were playing Villanova Saturday night and he wound up at a concert by the Johns Hopkins Symphony instead. Not that he has any regrets; the concert was one of the most inspiring and enjoyable events he has experienced in many years and it gave him confidence that there is yet hope for American higher education, March Madness notwithstanding. The student musicians, few of whom were music majors, performed magnificently before an overflow crowd of their fellow students, faculty members and townspeople like Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. The entire evening was an overwhelmingly positive experience that helped, if only briefly, to counter the bad news that assaults us from all quarters at all times these days.
       In addition to the main program (concertos by Chopin and St. Saens for piano and cello respectively) there was "lagniappe" as they say in New Orleans in the form of a bassoon quintet who played four delightful short pieces including Gounod's "Funeral March for a Marionette" which many in the audience immediately recognized as the source of the theme music for Alfred Hitchcock's TV program of a few years ago. Uncle Jack managed to record part of it which he uploaded to YouTube where it can be seen and heard by anyone who is curious about what a bassoon quintet sounds like. (Type "Bassoon quintet plays Hitchcock music" into the YouTube search bar).
       A week-long visit from Mrs. U.J.'s sister stimulated a surge of cultural activity including a Baltimore Symphony concert, a performance by a Russian ballet company at the Lyric Theater, and a visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art which is handily located on the Johns Hopkins campus across the street. These uplifting activities were interspersed with a number of memorable meals in several of Bawlmer's excellent eating places.
       They didn't know quite what to expect from a place in Fell's Point called Miss Irene's which has just reopened after a two-year transformation from waterfront dive into a tastefully elegant restaurant and bar whose ambience, food and service should put it in the top tier of local dining places. Former patrons of Miss Irene's have expressed their dismay at the loss of yet another lowdown bar to the forces of gentrification but Uncle Jack can direct them to a place up the street called "Ledbetter's" where nothing has been changed in the past 30 years, indluding the towels in the men's john.
       For lunch on Friday they chose "Da Mimmo", one of the many revered restaurants in Little Italy, because of their justly famous three-course luncheon special which is one of the truly great bargains in the world of fine dining.
(Apparently they use it as a loss leader to attract new patrons). It's a delightful place with a long history but on this occasion it was completely devoid of customers other than Uncle Jack's party of three. Two waiters, a chef, a busboy, a maitre'd and a bartender can hardly be supported on the proceeds from three bargain lunches.
       Judging from their experiences at the Lebanese Taverna and Miss Irene's where they were also nearly the only customers, the restaurants of Baltimore have fallen upon hard times. He would not be surprised if this turns out to be true on the Outer Banks as well and the failure rate of local eateries will be even greater than usual.
       Charm City is busting out all over with flowering shrubs and trees and daffodils and it is a sight to behold. Spring has definitely sprung and Uncle Jack is pleased to report that the mini-skirt is apparently the costume of choice for the Johns Hopkins co-eds this year. Hubba hubba.             


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Miss Irene's on Thames Street, pronounced "Thaymes" by common folk and "Tems" by the Chamber of Commerce.

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"Da Mimmo" sans customers at noon on Friday. What a pity.

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Monument Square in full bloom. Baltimore is an astonishingly beautiful city.

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Self-explanatory.

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Soloists and conductor receive a standing ovation, richly deserved.

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The bassoon quintet is called "48 Feet" after the combined length of their instruments, one of which is a contra-bassoon.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:00 PM

Comments [2]



Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Back to normal, Wednesday April 1, 2009
       Happy April Fool's day to all. Uncle Jack is not fooling when he reports that his comely surgeon checked him out yesterday and said that he was good to go---driving, walking, climbing stairs, etc. Her only caveat was against lifting---nothing heavier than a phone book---for the next two months. Inasmuch as a bottle of Pilsner Urquell weighs a lot less than even the Nags Head phone book he has no problem with that injunction.

       To celebrate his good fortune Mrs. U.J. took him to lunch at a new downtown restaurant called the Lebanese Taverna where they scoffed a couple of platters of assorted middle eastern culinary delights like raw kibbee, (rarely obtainable in restaurants any more because of health concerns and potential lawsuits) falafel, baba ganouge, hummus, and baclava. Unfortunately for the owners a new skyscraper is under construction next door and the street in front of the restaurant was blocked off, making it very difficult for potential customers to reach ever since it opened three months ago. Uncle Jack hopes it will survive this calamity because the food is almost as good as it was at Samreny's in Pittsburgh back in the old days before he moved to Nags Head. Needless to say their waitress was supremely attentive because they were literally the only customers in the place at 1 p.m.
       The other high point of the week was the arrival via UPS of Uncle Jack's new percolator coffee maker. (Younger readers may not know what he is talking about so he has provided a picture below). He was wallowing in nostalgia a week or so ago and happened to mention to Mrs. U.J. how fondly he remembered his mother's coffee pot which made a lovely burbling sound as it "perked" her several daily pots of Ann Page coffee from the A & P store. He compared it unfavorably with the dreadful little "Mr. Coffee" he has been using in recent years which not only refuses to make cheerful noises but imbues each and every cup of brewed coffee, no matter how exotic and expensive, with a faint aftertaste of plastic.
              His search for a percolator at Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy having failed (apparently the Chinese don't make them) Mrs. U.J., who is not averse to cruising upscale stores, learned at Williams-Sonoma that Cuisinart still sells
percolators and promptly ordered one for him.
Now his biggest problem is resisting the temptation to make several pots a day just to listen to the percolator. Life is an endless struggle, is it not?


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Uncle Jack's new percolator doing its happy burbling thing.

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Some day, if the Lebanese Taverna survives, patrons will enjoy this view of the inner harbor, now obscured by a construction fence.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:55 AM

Comments [10]




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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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