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Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Unrise in Sonag, Tuesday April 29, 2008

     Uncle Jack regrets to report that the penultimate day of April has begun without a sunrise.  The sky is completely overcast and black rain clouds are hovering overhead in all directions.  He did walk up to the beach at 6 a.m. but beat a hasty retreat lest he be rained upon before breakfast which might have put him in a surly mood.

     He also regrets that this will be his last weblog entry for a week or so until he and Mrs. U.J. fetch up in Camden, Maine where the Time-Warner cable guy is scheduled to hook them up to the internet on Tuesday, May 6.  Needless to say he will miss the beach from time to time during the next six months but he comforts himself with the knowledge that Maine has its charms in the summer, not the least of which is the absence of heat and humidity.

    See you all in a week.

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6 a.m. This little sliver of pink was as close as we came to a sunrise this morning.

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Dark clouds to the north.

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And also to the south, east and west. More rain appears to be imminent.

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It could have been worse.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:07 AM

Comments [9]

Monday, April 28, 2008
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday April 28, 2008

     It's a splendid morning on the Outer Banks---so far.  The weatherman is a little dubious about the rest of the day but the sunrise was more than adequate to justify a trip to the beach at 6 a.m. Uncle Jack made a short video of the proceedings which is viewable by clicking on the YouTube link below the pictures.  If you can spare four minutes in your busy day you might find it as relaxing as a Prozac.

     The motorcycles are gone and a preternatural quiet has settled over the Outer Banks.  Hallelujah.

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6 a.m.

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Looking south from Whitecap street at 6 a.m.

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Official sunrise was at 6:14 and the sun showed up a little later after climbing over the clouds.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srgRqv9_Yek

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:52 AM

Comments [5]

Sunday, April 27, 2008
Unrise in Sonag, Sunday April 27, 2008

     No sunrise pics this morning.  A light drizzle is ushering in the day and the eastern sky is totally obscured by clouds.  It could clear up later but then again it might not.  No doubt this is a matter of great import for the several thousand bikers in town for the weekend. Riding up and down the beach road in the rain can't be a whole lot of fun.

     Yesterday was another kettle of fish to use a popular local metaphor.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. took a break from preparing for their forthcoming trip to Maine to go for a long walk on the beach in the 19-20 milepost area.  Except for a few gusts of wind that blew sand in their faces it was a perfect beach day.  As an added pleasure the roar of a bulldozer provided welcome relief from the incessating blatting cacophony of cruising motorcycles.

     Have a lovely Sunday wherever you are.


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The wind was blowing offshore yesterday and the ocean was as flat as Uncle Jack has seen it in months. Sandpipers are returning in droves.

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Even at very low tide some sandbagged buildings block the way for beachwalkers. This will change as of May 1, of course, by which time all uncovered sandbags will have been removed. (LOL)

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At first Uncle Jack thought this might be some kind of minimalist sculpture on the beach but closer inspection reveals a defunct (and presumably disconnected) power line in the Surfside Drive area.

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Mother Nature pushed her beach a few more feet westward in recent weeks, revealing yet another septic tank and drainfield, neither of which is still functioning, one hopes.

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Like generals, old sandbags never die. These were part of the town's ill-advised and futile "Great Wall of Surfside Drive" which Mother Nature destroyed years ago. Unfortunately the remnants keep reappearing.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:59 AM

Comments [1]

Saturday, April 26, 2008
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday April 26, 2008

    Early indications suggest that this will be a spectacularly beautiful spring day on the Outer Banks.  At dawn the temperature was already in the 60's, the wind is calm and the ocean flat.  The perfection of the day will be marred only by the roar of thousands of motorcycles blatting their way up and down the beach road and the bypass every waking minute. (Waking minutes are the about the only kind available during Bike Week). 

  One defense against motorcycle noise, of course, is to hook up your i-Pod and turn it up to maximum volume. Uncle Jack is happy to report that music written and performed by his talented only begotten son Eric is now available for download into your i-Pod through the miracle of i-Tunes.  His favorite is a song Eric wrote nearly 20 years ago called "Mayberry" in which he expresses his desire to live in that idyllic community and tells the reasons why.

    To hear samples of "Mayberry" and Eric's other tunes go to i-Tunes and type "Paul Drake" (his nom-de musique) or "Fink Records Review" into the search bar. All of the tracks in the "Fink" album were written and performed by Eric under a number of inventive names. As i-Tunes users know, membership is free and songs may be downloaded for a mere 99 cents each. By all means check it out by clicking on the i-Tunes link below the pictures.

    And have a pleasant weekend.


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6 a.m.

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6:15. Official sunrise.

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With zoom.

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6:25. Here to stay.

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The ancient pier house was the first part of Jennette's pier to disappear.

link: http://www.itunes-malls.com/itunes.php

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:25 AM

Comments [0]

Friday, April 25, 2008
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday April 25, 2008

     Looks like a great day for every kind of outdoor activity including tooling your Harley up and down the beach road from dawn to dark.  Uncle Jack was escorted back from Virginia yesterday by a phalanx of hawgs on their way to what is now known as "Bike Week" on the Outer Banks.

     What was once viewed with alarm by the protectors of the image of the OBX as a "family-oriented" destination is now trumpeted as a roaring success, which it surely is, and a major "shot in the arm" for local businesses. This is certainly true for family-oriented beer and boobs venues like Hooter's, whose parking lot yesterday resembled the Tanger Mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  The "shot in the arm" metaphor works well for the local tattoo parlors as well. Why ride all the way to Myrtle Beach when you can have fun so much closer to home?

      Crossing the Wright Bridge yesterday Uncle Jack counted five osprey occupying nests on those abandoned Vepco poles in Currituck Sound---a welcome sight.  He also saw one circling over the surf in South Nags Head this morning looking for his breakfast.  The osprey won't be providing much of a shot in the arm for local businesses but it's nice to have them back anyway.


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6 a.m. this morning.

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6:15. Official sunrise.

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A few minutes later, with zoom.

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Ditto, with pelicans. Uncle Jack also saw two porpoises leap completely out of the water but couldn't get a picture.

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This bulldozer has six days to cover all the sandbags in Sonag. It isn't going to happen, obviously.

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This would be a good place to start, though.

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In another few weeks this photo will no longer be possible. The wreckers have descended on the storm-ravaged remains of Jennette's pier and it will soon be but a memory.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:46 AM

Comments [3]

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Foggy blog, Thursday April 24, 2008

     The fog is so thick this morning that Uncle Jack despaired of finding his way to the beach much less finding a sunrise when he got there.  He has to drive to Virginia Beach this morning to get a new set of tires for the Mini which he will do very slowly from the looks of it. He had better get a move on.

     (Pictures of the new tires tomorrow).


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The fog came on little cat feet....

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:25 AM

Comments [3]

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Sunrise (YES!) in Sonag, Wednesday April 30, 2008
     Uncle Jack slept right through it but he is happy to report that there was a proper sunrise this morning.  An hour later the sun is still visible which augurs well for at least a partially rainless day. The standing water in South Nags Head is beginning to seep into the ground which is the only place most of it has to go, drainage being what it is in these parts. Watching water seep into the ground is not particularly exciting but it is a pleasant way to spend the day so Uncle Jack is going to get to it.

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A welcome sight.

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The ocean is still a bit riled up but much calmer than yesterday.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:53 AM

Comments [2]

Tuesday, April 22, 2008
News from the swamp, Tuesday April 22, 2008

       Into each life some rain must fall......but this is getting ridiculous.  Uncle Jack is not sure how much rain fell yesterday in Sonag but Hatteras set a new record for the date with 2 inches and he would be willing to bet that not a drop less fell here.  And it's still raining this morning. The sky is completely overcast and the sun has yet to make an appearance more than an hour after official sunrise. Enough already.

     Uncle Jack read an article in the New York Times this morning which bemoans the fact that about a third of American students drop out of high school before graduation.  This reminded him of a piece he wrote for the newspaper many years ago, to wit:

   Uncle Jack read this very interesting story in the paper last week where it said that almost half the grown-ups in North Carolina never got through high school.
   The paper also said that most of these people who never got through high school are what they call "functional illiterates" which means they can't read more than a few easy words like
"BUDWEISER" and "STOP" and a lot of them are not too good at "STOP" either.
   The man who wrote the story said it scared him to think that so many people in North Carolina never got through high school but he never did say what he was afraid of. The story was in
a Virginia paper, though, so maybe he was afraid they are all going to move up to Virginia and go on welfare or something.
   Well if you ask Uncle Jack there is a lot to be said for people who never bothered to finish high school, and he believes this even though he is a bona fide high school graduate himself.
   When you stop to think about it most of the really bad problems in the world were caused by high school graduates---like the atom bomb, for instance.
   All those scientists who invented the atom bomb were high school graduates and some of them even had a year or two of college and you would think they would have enough sense not to invent something that could blow up the whole world.
   You would never catch anybody from N.C. doing something like that, that's for sure. The only thing North Carolina people ever invented that even comes close to the atom bomb is moonshine
and that only kills a few people every year.
   It is the same thing with stock car racing which North Carolina people also invented. More people were killed by those atom bombs they dropped on Japan than by all the races they have had in Charlotte since Junior Johnson dropped out of grade school and bought his first pre-owned Impala.
   The atom bomb is not the only bad thing high school graduates have done, either. Every place you look these days you can find high school graduates making a mess of things.
   Take the economy, for example, which is always in a mess for one reason or another. You should not be surprised when Uncle Jack tells you that practically all the economists in the U.S. are high school graduates---and so are all the lawyers
they hire to keep them out of jail.
   Also most of the people who have those big government jobs up in Washington, D.C. are high school graduates and that includes Senator Helms and Senator Faircloth, both. Uncle Jack knows you will find that hard to believe but you will have to
take his word for it.
   Nowadays you can even find high school graduates in the small towns. Uncle Jack has noticed that whenever there is a small town that has a really serious drainage problem or something like that you will almost always find a high school graduate on the board of commissioners.
   Anyway Uncle Jack got invited to a pig-pickin' in Nags Head a couple of days after he read that story in the Virginia paper and he thinks it would do the man who wrote it a lot of good if he could go to a pig-pickin' too. Maybe he wouldn't be so
scared of people from N.C. any more.
   There were a whole lot of people at the pig-pickin' Uncle Jack went to and except for himself not a single one of them was a high school graduate as far as he could tell. If any of them were they sure didn't let on.
  And one thing they showed is that you don't have to have a high school education to know how to cook a pig. You could not buy a meal that good outside of N.C. for all the money in the world.
    Also Uncle Jack saw a lot of people at the pig pickin' who could show you how big their last bluefish was even when they had a plate of pig in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other. 
Uncle Jack is pretty sure that anybody with that kind of coordination is not going to have any trouble putting Toyotas together even if he never saw the inside of a high school.
   Anyway Uncle Jack is glad to learn that North Carolina has not made a big rush to jump on the education bandwagon. The sooner this country gets over the idea that everybody has to be a high school graduate the better off we will be.
   Maybe it's time for Uncle Jack to run for school board. He could save the taxpayers some real money.






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Much of South Nags Head looks like this this morning, and the rain is still coming down.

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Lake Whitecap is back but at least it has a concrete bottom under it now.

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If the rain ever stops the planned deconstruction of Jennette's Pier can begin.

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The ocean is wild again this morning pushed by a strong east wind.

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Looking south from Whitecap street into the fog.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:27 AM

Comments [5]

Monday, April 21, 2008
Unrise in Sonag, Monday April 21, 2008

     As predicted, yesterday turned out to be a good day to watch basketball games on TV.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. started to walk to the Outer Banks pier around noon but they were only  halfway when the rain started and by the time they got back home they were sodden. It rained all afternoon and then around dinner time the thunder and lightning moved in and continued raucously until the wee hours.  Uncle Jack pleads loss of sleep as his excuse for not rising before dawn this morning but as it turned out a great mass of clouds over the ocean blocked the sunrise anyway.

     More rain is forecast for today and still more for Tuesday and already the low-lying areas of Sonag are beginning to resemble Pogo habitat which was, as older readers will remember, the Okeefenokee Swamp.  All the standing water reminded Uncle Jack of a piece he wrote for the paper many years ago on the subject of drainage, to wit:


   Uncle Jack has been thinking a lot lately about ditches. This is not something he would normally think about very much but with all the water standing around everywhere in Nags Head
after the big rain last week and everybody talking about drainage all the time he could not help remembering the ditches of his childhood.
   When Uncle Jack was a kid ditches were just about the number one source of entertainment in his neighborhood, especially in the spring when the snow started to melt. Uncle Jack should
back up and explain that he grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin near the Arctic Circle where it started snowing right after Labor Day and it kept right on snowing right up to Memorial
   During that time, known as "winter", shoveling snow was the number one source of recreation. Nobody in Uncle Jack's hometown ever went skiing or anything like that because they were
always too tired from shoveling snow.
   In the spring, which usually came around the first week of June and lasted about four or five days, the sun would come out and the temperature would go way up to 35 degrees above zero and the snow would start to melt. This is where the ditches
came in. Uncle Jack's home town did not have too much in the way of culture but it did have wonderful ditches. During the spring when the snow was melting people would refer to Uncle
Jack's home town as the Venice of Northern Wisconsin and they were not exaggerating very much either.
   Uncle Jack can still remember how the old people would stand out by the ditches in front of their houses when the water was running good and they would nod to each other and smile and
say things like "By golly, Lars, she's really running good today, ain't she". People really knew how to appreciate a good ditch in those days, that's for sure.
   The old people would watch Uncle Jack and the other kids playing in the ditches just the way they did when they were kids and they would say things like "Watch out you don't get sucked into the culvert" just like their mothers and fathers
used to say to them. As far as Uncle Jack knows, nobody in his neighborhood ever actually got sucked into the culvert but he thinks that could be what happened to Dorothy Magnuson's cat
in the spring of '39.
   Building dams in the ditches and flooding the street was one thing Uncle Jack and his friends used to do but racing boats was more fun and you did not get yelled at by the old people as much, either, when you raced boats. Uncle Jack and his friends would make boats out of chunks of wood or whatever and then they would see whose boat could get from Seventh Street to the culvert first.
   This was how they got to practice some of the skills they would need when they grew up such as how to cheat and get away with it and how to win an argument even when you know you are
   On the first Saturday of spring (which was also the last Saturday of spring) Uncle Jack and his friends would have the Big Culvert Race which was where everybody let their boats get
sucked into the culvert and then they would jump on their bicycles and ride down to where the culvert emptied out through a big pipe right into Lake Superior. Then they would sit there
and wait to see whose boat came out first and you can probably imagine how exciting that was.
   Uncle Jack is not going to tell you some of the things he saw that came out of that pipe and went right into Lake Superior because you might be eating lunch or something. He will say
that after he saw what came out of that pipe he could never get up much enthusiasm for swimming in Lake Superior and it wasn't because it never completely thawed out, either.
   But mostly Uncle Jack has very fond memories of the ditches he played in and he would like to tell all the people in Nags Head who have a lot of water standing in their yards that they
should not be afraid of ditches. He knows from experience that ditches are not only useful for getting the water out of your yard but they are also a good source of wholesome, inexpensive
entertainment for the whole family and something the community can be proud of.
   But watch out you don't get sucked into the culvert.


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You deserve a little color in your life on a Monday morning. This is a sunrise over Camden harbor one day last September. Uncle Jack has been thinking about Camden a lot lately.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:20 AM

Comments [4]

Sunday, April 20, 2008
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday April 20, 2008

       Looks like a gorgeous spring Sunday in Paradise, at least until the thunderstorms roll in from the west this afternoon.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. should have plenty of time for a leisurely walk on the beach before the Lakers and the Nuggets duke it out at 3 p.m.

     The NBA playoffs this year have awakened memories of the golden years when the entire elongated sweaty series---the whole season actually---would culminate in a titanic struggle between Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Byrd's Celtics.  It's not a sure thing but it could happen again this year.  If yesterday's games are an adumbration this could be a truly memorable season of playoffs.

     Uncle Jack read an article on the sandbag situation in the Myrtle Beach Sun-Times this morning which has left him even more confused than he was before.  See if you can make any sense out of this excerpt:

"The spark for the discussion in North Carolina now is a letter the state's Division of Coastal Management sent last fall to owners of property where there are known sandbags.

Michele Walker, spokeswoman for the state's Division of Coastal Management, said Ocean Isle's east end residents misunderstood the letter to mean their sandbags had to be removed by May 1.

The letter said that owners of sandbags whose permits had expired and which weren't covered with sand and vegetation must remove them by May 1. That didn't apply to the east end, where permits still had three years, so the state is allowing the current work as a maintenance project.

North Carolina has 370 known sandbag structures. Each structure could require hundreds or thousands of sandbags.

The most sandbag structures, 174, are in Brunswick County, according to the division's Web site. In Brunswick County's case, most were permitted locally before the state took over the process in 1996. The state wants the old bags out, Walker said, but it will permit new ones to replace them if they are justified.

East end residents must dig the old sandbags out of the surf and remove them before work can begin on replacement bags. The new line of sandbags can be no taller than 6 feet - a rule in both states - and the sand must be encased in polypropelene bags that measure 3 feet to 5 feet wide and 7 feet to15 feet long.

Many involved in the discussions in both South and North Carolina say that ultimately, money is likely to be the final boundary between the Atlantic and at least some beachfront property owners.

Money that the state is asked to pay, towns are made to pay and residents must provide.

"It's an incredibly complex situation. There's no silver-bullet answer." said Davis of the Coastal Conservation League.

"It's really a local issue," said Burger.

And an individual one, said Miller.

"If you have an aging home, you have to make a decision to keep repairing it or do something else," he said.

"It's an economic decision."

Both states' official policies lean toward not opposing what is seen as inevitable. Retreat, in other words. The disruptions and uncertainties that conjures are not comfortable to whole towns, governments and residents alike."

     "Uncertainties" would appear to be the operative word here if you ask Uncle Jack.


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6:15 a.m.

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6:30. The sun tops a range of clouds on the horizon.

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Ted and Jada, separated for three months by the wintertime defection of Ted's owners, resume their friendship by frolicking in the icy surf. Happiness is another dog to play with.

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Yesterday's sunny sky and balmy temperature brought hordes of people to the beach, relatively speaking.

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The little guys are back, too. A welcome sight.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:54 AM

Comments [5]

Saturday, April 19, 2008
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday April 19, 2008

     Yesterday turned out to be everything the weatherman predicted it would be and today is starting out like another winner.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. took a stroll on the beach yesterday afternoon around 5 p.m. where they found numerous persons still lounging around, reluctant to let go of a day that was just about perfect in every respect. Another long walk is in store for later today so look for more pictures tomorrow.

     Enjoy the weekend if you can in these parlous times. 

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6:15 a.m.

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This could be the summer that this derelict house near the 19 mile post finally falls on somebody.

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The septic tank nearly went to sea during this week's heavy surf. Mother Nature appears to be trying to make up for the inaction of local government.

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Most of the new sandfencing in this area survived the onslaught of wind and waves this week. Some took a beating.

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This detritus marks the former location of a house that was long ago moved back. This would be a great time to get it off the beach.

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The Outer Banks pier was nearly deserted at 5 p.m. yesterday. That probably won't be the case today when the temperature reaches the mid-70's.

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This family pretty much had the beach to themselves yesterday afternoon.

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There's no getting around it, sandbags can create problems for erstwhile beach walkers.(This house was moved back many years ago from its original location 90 feet east).

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:04 AM

Comments [6]

Friday, April 18, 2008
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday April 18, 2008

     For the first time in weeks it was a sheer pleasure for Uncle Jack to stroll up to the beach and photograph the sunrise this morning. The north wind has gone away, the air is already warmish and heading for the mid-70's, and the sky is cloudless. Definitely conducive to a long walk on the beach later at low tide.

     He made a short video of the surf and sun this morning.  Click on the YouTube link below to see it.  Breeze, the crab-digging terrier, makes a cameo appearance.  Her YouTube video debut ("Cute dog digs for crabs") has been viewed over 20,000 times to date. A star is born. (Watch her make a quick dump this morning, ala Paris Hilton).


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6:20 a.m. The sun is rising almost due east now.

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6:25. Punctuality thy name is sun.

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6:30. Click on the YouTube link below to watch four minutes worth.

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The weeds are likely to stay where they are until the next northeaster. The waves are still substantial but even at high tide last night they didn't reach them.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmyqbLDg2XI

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:08 AM

Comments [7]

Thursday, April 17, 2008
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday April 17, 2008

     The wind has died down a bit since yesterday morning but the huge surf continues.  If anything the waves are even bigger.  Lucky for ocean front homeowners they seem to be stopping just short of doing any real damage.  Uncle Jack longs for a day when it will be warm enough to walk on the beach again but it doesn't look like today will be the day. Perhaps he will cheer himself up by buying a new set of tires for the Mini.

     Uncle Jack seems to be spending an inordinate amount of his time in retirement sorting out and throwing away tons of stuff he has accumulated over the past 78 years.  Yesterday he ran across a box full of floppy disks from the days when he was deeply into eBay and he and Meg Whitman were still relatively young.  He still has one old computer that can read floppies so he took a walk down memory lane for a couple of hours. Amongst the hoary disks he found a few that were filled with columns he wrote for the Outer Banks Sentinel so long ago that even faithful readers of long duration may have forgotten them.  Here's one of them:

   Sometimes Uncle Jack wonders why he never amounted to anything even though he is a high school graduate and also enjoyed many
other advantages including a nagging mother.
   Here he is entering the stage of advanced decrepitude with hardly enough money to buy a bloodworm when the spots are running
and all around him he sees people half his age pulling $20,000 boats behind their $40,000 4WD pick-up trucks and living in $500,000 houses and going off on vacations to places Mrs. Stonebreaker never even mentioned in geography class.
   Uncle Jack knew he must have done something wrong somewhere along the way but he didn't know what it was until last week when he read this article in the paper about clothes.
   This article had a lot of good advice in it for people who want to amount to something and it is too bad Uncle Jack didn't read it 45 years ago because he might have been a success today
instead of not having two nickels to rub together.
   This is one thing Uncle Jack did not know:
   "For any kind of business career, one needs, at minimum, three good suits. They do not have to be tailor-made, but you should go to some trouble to make sure they fit. If you can find a good custom tailor who will do alterations, it's worth
the time and effort."
   You can see what Uncle Jack was up against right there because he can tell you he has never owned more than one suit at a time in his whole life and he has never owned a suit that fit.
   Every suit Uncle Jack ever bought from J.C. Penney or Sears Roebuck seemed to fit o.k. when he was standing in front of those triple mirrors in the store but as soon as he got home and he bent  over to get a beer out of the bottom shelf of the
refrigerator his suit would try to cut off his arm at the armpit.

   Also it would always turn out that the pants were too long and Uncle Jack could not afford to go to a tailor so he would fix the cuffs with paper clips.
   According to this article you cannot make a very good impression in most business circles if you go around with paper clips holding up your cuffs.
   "Shirts should be white or plain light blue; cotton is best. They should not have contrasting collars, oddly shaped collars, or French cuffs."
   Uncle Jack was glad to read that about shirts because shirts were one thing he thought he did right. Most of the time he wears a light blue shirt made of l00 per cent cotton that does
not have any strange kind of collar or cuffs.
   Wearing the right kind of shirt does not seem to have done him any good in the business world, though, and he would hate to think it was just because his light blue l00 per cent cotton
shirt has "I Got Crabs at Austin Fish Company" written on the front.
   "Shoes should be simple, too. Plain black lace-up shoes without fancy stitching or thick soles are all one needs; and they should be meticulously polished."
   Uncle Jack really goofed when it comes to shoes because he usually wears plastic shower clogs from Taiwan except when he is going out to a fancy restaurant like Sam and Omie's he puts
on his fake Nike running shoes from the shoe department at Ace Hardware. Neither one of them takes a very good shine, either.
   Most of the time, though, he goes barefoot and the newspaper article says this is definitely not the way to get ahead unless you are Jimmy Buffett.
   "If you want to get ahead you should dress for success. To my knowledge nobody objects to a dark blue suit, a plain shirt and a dark tie."
   If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack is not so sure he wants to be a success any more since he read that article in the newspaper.
   If the price of success is having to wear a dark blue suit, a dark tie, and black leather shoes all the time he thinks maybe there is something to be said for being a failure.

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6:20 a.m.

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Ditto, with 3x zoom.

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6:26 a.m.

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Ditto. Uncle Jack tried to hide behind a house to get out of the wind but it didn't work.

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It appears that half the grass in the Sargasso Sea has wound up on the beach in Sonag after last night's high tide.

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Looking south from Whitecap street.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:46 AM

Comments [4]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday April 16, 2008

       Hallelujah.  After nearly two weeks of "unrises" Uncle Jack was finally able to catch the sun in the act this morning.  It is still exceedingly cold up on the beach (what little beach there is) but he hung around long enough to watch it top the horizon. An inspiring sight to be sure, as always.

       The surf is still up as the pictures show and a strong, chill wind out of the northeast is pushing billows of foam before it.  There will be no beachwalking or sandcastle building this day.

      The airlines have been getting so much bad press lately that Uncle Jack feels obligated to offer kudos to both Delta and Southwest who carried him and Mrs. U.J. to and from New Orleans in exemplary fashion.  Every one of the four takeoffs and landings occurred either on time or early and every piece of baggage reached the carousels almost as soon as they did.  This was so miraculous that Uncle Jack is thinking about applying for canonization.

       Have a nice day.


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6:20 a.m.

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6:27 Right on time.

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Foam to the north.

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And foam to the south.

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The pelicans (lots of them this morning) were struggling to make headway against a 20 knot wind.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:32 AM

Comments [3]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday April 15, 2008

     Uncle Jack is happy to report that he and Mrs. U.J. have returned safely from their four-day sojourn in warm, sunny, crime-ridden New Orleans.  Nothing seems to have changed here while they were gone---the wind is still blowing fiercely from the northeast, the sky is overcast and the temperature is anything but springlike.  They are almost ready to go back and take their chances with the Big Easy's army of brazen bandits.

     Actually the recent crime wave seems to have subsided while they were there, possibly because the streets were swarming with people at all hours of the day and night.  This was, from all accounts, the most successful French Quarter Festival in its 25 year history and Uncle Jack would not argue with that assessment.  The weather was flawless all three days of the event, the French Quarter sparkled and the music was better than ever. 

     Uncle Jack's heartless cardiologist would have been appalled at the way he ignored his heart-healthy diet for the past three days.  His sins included beignets loaded with powdered sugar for breakfast one morning and almond croissants another.  Dinners included crawfish crepes stuffed with goat cheese, creme brule, crawfish etouffe, sweetbreads and entire loaves of warm, crusty french bread.  And for lunch, muffulettas from the Central Grocery and oyster po-boys at Felix's Oyster Bar.  He gained five pounds in four days which will now require several weeks of semi-starvation to get rid of. He is not complaining, it was a great weekend.



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Donna's Bar and Grill on Rampart Street is the quintessential funky New Orleans jazz joint. On our first night in town we listened to a crazy band called the Jazz Vipers until almost midnight.

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Legendary clarinetist Pete Fountain joined the New Orleans All-Stars at the opening concert in Jackson Square. Pete lost everything to Katrina and has also survived serious bouts of illness but is now able to do an occasional gig again.

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The muffuletta line at the Central Grocery on Decatur Street. This establishment is one of the Big Easy's treasures along with Antoine's and Felix's Oyster House.

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Jackson Square is one of America's loveliest public spaces. It looked spectacular this weekend with every bush, flower and tree in full bloom.

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The Mississippi is higher than it has been since the great flood of 1973. The Bonnet-Carre spillway was opened on Saturday to take off some of the pressure on the N.O. levees.

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Bourbon Street is as uncouth as ever. Bandstands were set up on several corners where various bands from all over gave free concerts, mostly of tradional New Orleans jazz.

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One of the great shrines to obesity in the U.S.--the Cafe du Monde, purveyor of those lovely little sugar-coated balls of fat known as beignets. Forget Krispy Kreme.

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The Duke Heitger band played in front of Galatoire's restaurant on Bourbon Street where a wedding reception was in progress. Click on the YouTube link for some great music and uninhibited dancing in the street.

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"Uncle Bubby" (with umbrella) is a French Q. Festival regular. Here he dances in front of the bandstand to a tune written in his honor by clarinettist Tim Laughlin.

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This gent brought his own tuba to lean on between gigs.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ7TttssUjU

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:01 AM

Comments [6]

Thursday, April 10, 2008
Big Easy here we come, Thursday April 10, 2008

    Uncle Jack didn't have time to get to the beach this morning but he did take a quick glance at the Times-Picayune to see what's going on in NOLA.  Needless to say he wasn't too pleased to read this article but looking on the bright side, as he always tries to do, maybe he and Mrs. U.J. will be able to pick up one of those $2500 rewards.  That would pay for a lot of Abita Amber and muffulettas. If he is not back on line by Tuesday morning you will know what happened.

Rash of holdups hit Quarter, Uptown

Robberies are close, about same time

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

From staff reports

Robbery sprees Saturday morning and early Tuesday morning have Uptown and French Quarter police detectives scrambling to catch the gunmen, police said.

In the most recent crimes, two men are believed to have committed two robberies within minutes and a block of each other Tuesday about 1:45 a.m., police said.

A 40-year-old woman and a 40-year-old man told police they were approached by two armed men in the 900 block of Dumaine Street who stole a purse and a wallet. The woman was pistol-whipped with the butt of the gun during the robbery, suffering a minor cut to the chin, police said.

Two minutes later, two women, 38 and 22, reported being approached from the rear by two armed men who demanded their belongings at gunpoint in the 900 block of St. Philip Street. The men escaped with two purses containing money, two cell phones and other personal effects, police said.

Less than four hours earlier and about two blocks away in the 1000 block of Orleans Street, a gunman approached two women, 26 and 47, from the rear and took a purse and a grocery bag, telling them to run, police said. Police said they were trying to determine whether that man was one of the two men who committed the later holdups.

On Saturday, police believe another man committed four robberies in a 50-minute span between 8:10 a.m. and 9 a.m., police said.

The robberies occurred in the 800 block of Short Street, the 8300 block of Zimpel Street, the intersection of Dante and Freret streets, and the 1200 block of Joseph Street, police said. In only one of the crimes -- on Joseph Street -- did the man display a gun.

Police had made no arrests and apparently had no suspects in any of these crimes Tuesday night.

Police asked anyone with information on the suspects in the crimes to call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111, or toll free at 877 903 7867. Callers don't have to give their names to be eligible for a reward of up to $2,500 for tips leading to the indictment, police said.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:52 AM

Comments [3]

Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Unrise in Sonag, Wednesday April 9, 2008

     At least the wind has died down a little. That's the only good news, weatherwise, from South Nags Head this morning.  The sky is completely overcast, the sun is nowhere to be seen for the umpteenth consecutive day, and yes, it's still raining.  All of this is wreaking havoc with Uncle Jack's sinuses which he will be happy to transport to New Orleans tomorrow where the expected high temperature will be in the mid-80's.

     He drove up to look at the ocean for a few minutes yesterday afternoon during a lull in the drizzle.  It was wild and crazy as the pictures can only suggest but it should calm down a good bit now that the northeast wind has subsided.  If conditions permit later in the day Uncle Jack will try to get back to the beach on foot to look around.

     Now that March Madness is behind us many sports fans have turned their attention to baseball which, for some inexplicable reason, is still referred to as our national sport.  Uncle Jack is not too crazy about baseball as he hopes he made clear in this letter he wrote to a reader many years ago and which he discovered on a floppy disk (remember floppy disks?) yesterday, to wit:

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 into real estate just like everybody else.

Uncle Jack


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Looking northeast into a 25 knot wind Tuesday afternoon. The noise was deafening.

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Some sandbags took a pounding but South Nags Head generally appeared to have escaped this mild northeaster without serious damage.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:09 AM

Comments [4]

Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Unrise in Sonag, Tuesday April 8, 2008

      "These are the times that try men's souls".  Thomas Paine (1776)

     Paine wasn't referring to the weather on the Outer Banks, of course, and neither is Uncle Jack this morning.  He admits to a certain amount of annoyance that the sun hasn't been seen in these parts for nearly a week now but that is hardly enough to "try his soul".  This, too, shall pass and in any case he is going to New Orleans on Thursday for a weekend of sun and jazz and jambalaya that should take his mind off the dismal weather for a while.

     What has really tested his equanimity this week is the shocking announcement yesterday that Dick Vitale will be ushered into the hallowed Basketball Hall of Fame this fall.  Had this news come on April 1 he could have laughed it off but it is apparently true.  This obnoxious, posturing windbag whose asinine verbal antics have enraged sensitive college basketball watchers like Uncle Jack for decades will take an unwarranted place of honor in the pantheon of basketball's greatest luminaries, men of genuine accomplishment like Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Larry Bird. What a travesty. Uncle Jack's sense of the basic rightness of all things basketball has been shaken to the core. He may never recover.

     In the meantime the foul weather of the past week continues unabated.  Darkness at noon, gusty wind out of the northeast pushing billows of foam down a virtually non-existent beach while intermittent rain squalls discourage outdoor activity of any kind. 

    Have a nice day.





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Just in case you have forgotten what a sunrise looks like.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:40 AM

Comments [6]

Monday, April 7, 2008
Unrise in Sonag, Monday April 7, 2008

    Another day, another drizzle.  No sunrise.  Damp.  Windy. Yuk.

    The rain stopped long enough to permit a hasty walk on the beach yesterday afternoon. The wind blew fiercely out of the north, propelling Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. south to the Outer Banks pier at a rapid clip.  To avoid blowing sand they walked home by way of the magnificent Multi-use Pedestrian Facility, a.k.a. sidewalk, which runs the entire length of South Nags Head and is truly a magnificent amenity for visitors and locals alike. Kudos to the Town Fathers for this wise expenditure of public funds.

     Yellowhouse Gallery is open again for the season so Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. paid a visit on Saturday to see what the new owners, Eve and Pete Turek, have been up to this winter.  They were not disappointed.  The gallery has never looked better and it's overflowing with new art work of all kinds. 

     Yellowhouse is also sporting a spiffy new website designed by Eve, Pete and Will.   Check it out at www.yellowhousegallery.com to get an idea of what you will find when you get a chance to visit in person.   You'll love it.

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A lonely beach for sure Sunday afternoon.

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Uncle Jack has never understood how pelicans are able to glide into a stiff wind and still make headway.

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Oceanfront home ownership is a never-ending struggle.

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A slow afternoon on the pier.

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Damfino either.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:05 AM

Comments [2]

Sunday, April 6, 2008
Unrise in Sonag, Sunday April 6, 2008
     Still raining.  No sunrise.  No pictures. Time to start building an ark.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:23 AM

Comments [3]

Saturday, April 5, 2008
Unrise in Sonag, Saturday April 5, 2008

     Nothing to report this morning except that it's raining again. No sunrise this morning.  It did clear up long enough yesterday afternoon for a walk on the beach.  It was 72 degrees at 5 p.m. but a strong wind from the southwest blew enough sand around to make it less than pleasant at times.

      This looks like a good day for indoor activities such as taking long naps which is what Uncle Jack plans to do so he will be able to stay up past his bed time tonight and watch a select group of student-athletes from the University of North Carolina engage a similar assemblage of student-athletes from the University of Kansas in a friendly game of basketball. (He has an elegant hair shirt that he wears on very special occasions like this). 

     As a former college professor it gives him great pleasure to watch students who have chosen their major subject with care and have worked hard to master the knowledge and skills that will guarantee them financial success in their post-college endeavors.  He is especially admiring of those who do so well in their freshmen year that they can abandon their educational pursuits without ever having to demonstrate that they can read and write. There will be several players in tonight's games who have been forced to rub their noses in "higher education" for at least part of one year because the NBA no longer hires players directly from high school.  The NCAA tournament provides them with an opportunity to showcase their talents before signing their multi-million dollar contracts.  (Watch for the little Nike "swoosh" marks on their uniforms which indicate that their universities have turned their "student-athletes" into running billboards for a shoe company).

    You can see why Uncle Jack will need his hair shirt to watch this disgusting display of greed and cupidity in high places.


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Yesterday's outstanding sand sculpture. Here today gone tomorrow.

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Another view.

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This abandoned pit was deep enough to cause a serious accident. Not smart.

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If the British artist Damien Hirst hung this in his gallery with his name on it it would be worth a million.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:57 AM

Comments [4]

Friday, April 4, 2008
Unrise in Sonag, Friday April 4, 2008

     It's that time of the year when  Senior Citizens Day at the Harris-Teeter, is often the high point of the week for retired folks like Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J.  "Thank God It's Thursday" will probably never inspire a chain of mediocre restaurants but the two-for-the-price-of-one specials on prune juice and bran flakes at H-T mean more to the average old person anyway.

     He did get up at dawn yesterday and trudge up to the beach but the sunrise was so uninspiring that he decided not to post it.  He hoped for something better this morning but it was not to be. Nothing but dark clouds everywhere with the threat of rain so pervasive that he decided to fuggedaboutit as they say in New Jersey. That is why he posted yesterday's sunrise today.

    For the past two weeks his dining room table has been littered with various tax forms which he  successfully ignored until yesterday afternoon when he finally pulled himself together and filled in all the blanks and wrote the hated annual checks to the IRS and the NCDOR, both of which were probably bigger than they would have been if he had known what he was doing. 

     He looked in his 1040A booklet for the annual letter from the IRS commissioner where he asks if you would like to make an additional contribution to help lower the national debt which always breaks him up.  Apparently he didn't have the gall to put that in there this year after what President Bush and Congress have done to the debt which is now such a black hole that it threatens to swallow the entire economy.                              He did get a sardonic chuckle out of the "IRS Mission" statement on the first page which is "To provide America's taxpayers top-quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all".  If only Congress and the President had acted with "integrity and fairness to all" when they wrote the tax laws he wouldn't think that was so funny.

     Anyway it's Friday and that's probably a good thing for most people--unless they have to spend the week-end at H & R Block. Time is running out.




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6:40 a.m. yesterday.

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6:45 a.m. Even with a 3x zoom you could barely see the sun. It was all downhill from here.

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The new, improved Whitecap Street in back of Uncle Jack's house. The smooth surface should cut easily two minutes off the time it takes him to roll his garbage can out to the road.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:35 AM

Comments [1]

Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Unrise (again) in Sonag, Wednesday April 3, 2008

     It's another cold, windy, sunless day in Sonag. Uncle Jack slept in again this morning but he didn't miss a thing in the sunrise department. It rained on and off all day yesterday and today looks like more of the same.  So much for spring.

     He has been reading in the paper about the big foofara down on Hatteras over beach driving.  Apparently some poor judge has to decide on April whether or not to ban all driving on the beach at Cape Point .  Needless to say the legions of fishermen who have enjoyed the privilege of driving their cars and trucks out to the Point are apoplectic at the prospect and Uncle Jack can understand why.

      He lost interest in fishing long before he got his Mini (arguably the world's worst beach-driving vehicle) but many years ago he used to go to the Point often, first in his Jeep CJ-7 and later in his Suzuki Samurai.  He can testify that there are few activities on earth that are more fun than driving to the point and watching people fish and drink beer and make fools of themselves.

     His all-time greatest experience in the schadenfreude department was the day he watched a good-old-boy in his brand new chrome-encrusted Ford-150 pick-up try to gun it across the little outlet creek that sometimes forms between the pond and the ocean. Moses he was not;  the front wheels got stuck in the quicksand, the creek widened and swept the truck into the ocean where it sat submerged in the surf for more than an hour before a wrecker arrived to winch it back onto the beach. Unfortunately this was before digital photography or it would have been a big hit on YouTube.

      Uncle Jack remembered writing a piece about fishing the point a long time ago and here it is:

               Fishing the Point


    Last Sunday was one of those days Uncle Jack used to dream about back when his body was living in Pittsburgh but his mind was on the Outer Banks.  It was warm but not too warm and the sun was shining the way it only shines on the Outer Banks and it was his day off so naturally he felt this powerful urge to go fishing.

     He went down to the garage and fished his trusty $4.95 Gaylord Perry signature reel out of the bucket of WD-40 where he keeps it between fishing trips and screwed it onto his trusty Junior Johnson signature flounder rod and headed for the beach in his (t)rusty new secondhand Jeep on which he has eight payments to go before he will own what is left of it outright.

     He used his time-tested fishing strategy which is where he drives down the beach until he comes to somebody who is catching fish which is where he stops and tries to bum enough bait so he can fish there too.  This is a very good plan as long as somebody somewhere is catching fish but if you want to know the truth he drove from one end of Nags Head to the other and he only saw one man fishing and he was not catching anything.

     Uncle Jack is not sure where all the fishermen were but he would not be surprised if they were all sitting in dark rooms somewhere watching the Steelers and Redskins which is a fairly dumb thing to do on a nice Sunday afternoon but he has done it enough times himself so he is not entitled to cast aspersions.

     Anyway this lone fisherman mumbled something about how he caught a hundred flounders down at Cape Point the day before and Uncle Jack is the kind of fool who believes stuff like that so he drove right straight down there.  He was very lucky to find a good parking place only about a half a mile from the point so he could walk over there and watch all the crazy people standing up to their armpits in freezing water and fishing like there was no tomorrow which is probably close to the truth if what you have to do tomorrow is pack up and drive back to New Jersey.

     Anyway he watched for a long time and the only person who caught anything at all was a small boy who snagged a broken conch shell with his Hopkins.  Needless to say Uncle Jack did not even both to bait his hooks and bye and bye he decided to head on over to Bubba’s Barbecue and pick up a slab of ribs for dinner which he can tell you is not a bad substitute for flounder when you are in a pinch.

     You can imagine how a sensitive person like Uncle must have felt when he turned the key of his new secondhand Jeep and all he heard  was  a puny little buzzing noise instead of the full-throated roar of his powerful gas-guzzling engine.  His worst nightmare had finally happened---his Jeep was dead in the sand at Cape Point and he didn’t know how to fix it.

     Lucky for him, though, a lot of fishermen who did not have anything better to do, such as catch fish, came over and peered into his engine and poked and prodded at all the various wires in there and after a while they all agreed that what Uncle Jack needed was a new Bendix which was news to him because he did not even know he had a Bendix in the first place.

     The only Bendix he ever heard of  besides William Bendix, the actor, was the old Bendix washer Mrs. Uncle Jack used to have which had a rubber tub which would collapse at just the right time and squeeze all the water out of the clothes.  It worked real well, too, until the time Uncle Jack forgot and left his Swiss Army knife in his pocket with the corkscrew in the open position.

     Anyway a nice man with a rifle in the back window of his pickup truck finally came along and gave him a tow and got his Jeep started again and he did not even wait for Uncle Jack to thank him before he was gone.  If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack has never been too crazy about people who ride around with guns in their pickup trucks but he decided right then and there to send a generous contribution to the National Rifle Association and he is even thinking about voting for Charlton Heston if he ever runs for president.

     It was a few minutes later before his radiator hose broke and that is another sad story but Uncle Jack does not wish to dwell any longer on his misfortunes. He can tell you he crossed the Bonner Bridge at sunset and what he saw was enough to make him forget all the trials and tribulations of the day.

     And the ribs were not bad either.


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Intermittent rain did not keep these intrepid roofers from their appointed shingles yesterday.

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Beloved Lake Whitecap is no more. One of the concrete guys said the time had come to either fill it or stock it with fish. Uncle Jack agrees.

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Uncle Jack always wanted to do this. (Watch, that is).

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:40 AM

Comments [6]

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After retiring in 2005 after 35 years as owner/operator of Yellowhouse Gallery and Annex on the Beach Road in Nags Head, Uncle Jack, accompanied by Mrs. Uncle Jack (a.k.a. Susan), commenced to travel extensively. This blog is a chronicle of their ramblings around the U.S. (in their redoubtable Mini Cooper convertible) as well as visits to England, Ireland, France, Italy, and Malta, interspersed with lengthy stays in South Nags Head and Baltimore between trips. He took a lot of pictures along the way, many of which are posted along with each blog entry.
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