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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Wednesday May 31, 2006

     The ultimate day of May, 2006 dawned prettily.  It's already 70 degrees at 6 a.m. which adumbrates a nice day for visitors to sit on the beach and work on their skin cancers. Mosquitoes were out in force this morning for the first time this year but the sun should drive them back into their hiding places before long.

     No wind at all this morning.  Lots of birds dashing around, porpoises cruising, crabs scuttling hither and thither.  All in all a  very pleasant morning in South Nags Head.  Sorry you couldn't all be here but I think we will have to agree that life is cruel sometimes.

     Mrs. Uncle Jack was sweeping the dead crickets out from under the bed in the guest bedroom yesterday and made a most wonderful discovery.  Many years ago a very nice man named Mr. Varble from Kill Devil Hills dropped into Uncle Jack's framing shop and presented him out of the blue with a collection of all the columns he wrote for the old Outer Banks Current way back in the early 1980's.  This was one of the nicest gifts he ever received from anybody and he really treasured it.

      During the next few years he moved three times and somewhere along the way he lost track of the black ring binder full of columns which he has been searching for for years---until yesterday.  He has been having a lot of fun reliving that time back when Ronald Reagan was president and Grenada was our only enemy worth invading.  He has discovered that a few of the columns are still a propos after more than twenty years---especially the ones about hurricanes and beach erosion which seem to be  perennial problems here in our neighborhood.  Here's one of them:

                         Braving the Storm

Uncle Jack is not by nature a gloomy person. His outlook on life is basically cheerful even though he realizes full well that he could be run over by a fish truck at any time. “Every cloud has a silver lining” he insists. “It is always darkest before the dawn.” Platitudes like these are the basic building blocks from which his serenity is formed.

Nevertheless from time to time Uncle Jack does experience feelings of acute anxiety, usually brought on by sharp twinges in the vicinity of his liver, or by learning that scientists somewhere have discovered that another of his vices is carcinogenic.

Uncle Jack almost never suffers insomnia. Actually he finds it far more difficult to stay awake than to fall asleep. The majority of his waking hours could be accurately described as euphoric. His basically optimistic weltanschauung (he uses words like that whenever he can so that the pain of his high school education will not have been endured in vain) has made it possible for him to live contentedly on the Outer Banks. for many years.

A pessimist, Uncle Jack firmly believes, could not possibly live on the Outer Banks because there is too much to worry about. Take the melting polar ice caps , for example, which he did not learn about until three days after he sold his house in Pittsburgh 26 years ago. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” a friend asked him. “Surely you know that the polar ice caps are melting?”

Uncle Jack could not simply dismiss this peculiar warning as the ravings of a lunatic because it came from a Nobel Prize-winning scientist he used to play bridge with (which should give you some idea of the lofty circles Uncle Jack traveled in before he escaped to the Outer Banks for good).

What his friend was trying to tell him was that global warming is making the oceans rise and in a million years, give or take a couple of millennia, the Outer Banks will be completely under water. Needless to tell you this friend had a low opinion of local real estate as a long-term investment .

If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack does not spend a whole lot of time worrying about the melting polar ice caps but he has to confess that this is the time of year he does think a little bit about hurricanes once in a while. He has had just enough experience with hurricanes to make him wonder what he should do when the next one comes along, as it surely will.

Uncle Jack’s first hurricane was Ginger back in September 1970 which was a feeble little blow as hurricanes go, with maximum winds that never quite reached 100 miles per hour but he will never forget that night as long as he lives. For one thing it was the only time he ever saw rain come right through the walls (not the windows---the walls!) of his house. Even so he was better off than his friends whose sliding glass doors facing the ocean blew out at 3 a.m. and let the wind and rain redecorate their apartment for two hours.

What worries Uncle Jack most is that there are probably a hundred times as many people on the Outer Banks in the hurricane season now than there were in 1970 and there are still only two bridges. He can only hope that if a storm does come our way this season that every visitor and every resident will take it seriously. If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack has never heard a hurricane joke that he thought was funny.

On the bright side he also remembers that wonderful old saying “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good” which is especially true if you happen to be a roofer.


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5:40 a.m. All's well.

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Same time, looking southeast.

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It's back there somewhere behind those clouds.

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First appearance. 5:50 or thereabouts. Uncle Jack was too busy slapping mosquitoes to look at his watch.

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A flock of cormorants, the world's most ubiquitous bird, on the way to somewhere.

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This is about as good as it got this morning.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:03 AM

Comments [4]

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The fog came....Tuesday May 30, 2006

     Uncle Jack was reminded this morning of  Carl Sandburg's (no relation darn it) poem called "Fog" which goes something like this.  "The fog comes on little cat feet.  It sits looking at harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on." He never did understand why his fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Stonebreaker, called this a poem because it didn't rhyme but he learned later on that poems do not have to rhyme and they do not have to make any sense whatsoever either.

    Anyway there was so much fog sitting on silent haunches around here this morning that Uncle Jack could hardly find his way to the beach.  As far as he knows the sun came up at some point but he doesn't have a picture to prove it.

     He hopes that everybody got home safely from wherever they went for Memorial Day and that it won't be too depressing to have to go back to work this morning.  Here's something from Uncle Jack's bottomless pit of old columns to read if things get desperately boring at work today.

                      Rank Rankings

Uncle Jack has read a lot of dumb things in the paper in his time but he has never seen anything funnier than the story last week about which cities in the U.S. are the best ones to live in. It seems that these two “social scientists” (who will probably be arrested if they ever dare to set foot in Massachusetts) sat down with a bunch of census reports and tried to rank 277 American cities from “best” to “worst”. They say they looked at climate, housing, health, crime, transportation, education, recreation, the arts and economic opportunities in each place but they didn’t clutter up their minds by actually going to visit any of them.

They put all of their “findings”, which is a word scientists use to make it sound like they learned something important whether they did or not, into a book which is selling like hotcakes---especially in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Greensboro and Pittsburgh. This should not be surprising because according to the book these are the best four cities in the whole United States to live in.

By now you are probably getting some idea why Uncle Jack thought this was one of the dumbest things he has ever read in a newspaper, especially if you have ever been to Greensboro or Pittsburgh. Uncle Jack probably shouldn’t say anything about Greensboro because, like the authors of the book, he has never been there. But he does have a friend who lives in Greensboro and he knows this friend is going to be very surprised to learn that he is living in the third best city in the U.S. Maybe he will stop trying so hard to get out of there now.

Uncle Jack did serve some time in Pittsburgh, though, seventeen years to be exact, and he still has a lot of friends there that he might want to sponge off of sometime so he doesn’t want to say anything about Pittsburgh that might hurt their feelings. All he will say is that anybody who could “find” that Pittsburgh is the fourth best city in the whole U.S. to live in must have been smoking something that a lot of Uncle Jack’s pothead friends would cheerfully give their next unemployment check to get their hands on.

There is no end to the funny stuff in this book. In the “health” category, for instance , they rank New York City first, Los Angeles second and Chicago third. As near as Uncle Jack can figure out what this means is that when you get your head bashed in by a mugger there are more hospitals and more doctors to overcharge you than in any other cities. If you ask Uncle Jack anybody who could use the words “health” and “Los Angeles” in the same sentence probably has a lot of trouble tying his shoe laces in the morning.

The worst place in the U.S. to live, the book says, is Lawrence, Massachusetts which ranked 277th out of 277. The next worst place is supposed to be Fitchburg, Massachusetts which is just down the road from Lowell. Now it so happens that Uncle Jack has never been to Lawrence, Mass. but he has been to Fitchburg many times because that is where his daughter and grandchildren once lived and he definitely disagrees with the people who wrote this book as far as Fitchburg is concerned.

Anybody who has ever been there would certainly rank Fitchburg higher than 276th place. Uncle Jack personally thinks it ought to be rated no worse than 271 or maybe even 270. After all Fitchburg has one of the prettiest gray rivers in New England running right through it and it is the only city anywhere that Uncle Jack knows of that has a big boulder right smack in the middle of downtown that all the traffic has to detour around. People come from miles around just to stand and stare at that boulder and that alone should put it pretty high up in the entertainment category.

Uncle Jack doesn’t like to give any encouragement to people who write dumb books like this but he is going to ask the Dare County librarian to buy a copy. He really wants to find out some more about how Pittsburgh got to be ranked the fourth best city in the U.S. He wonders if maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce pretended to annex Pittsburgh last year.

But Greensboro? There isn’t any way to explain that.



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The 'hood in the fog.

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Looking north toward Jennette's Pier.

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Looking south toward the Outer Banks pier.

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Mrs. U.J.'s tomato patch is going gangbusters with lots of little tomatoes now visible. The green bugs should be showing up any day now to lay waste to them.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:43 AM

Comments [8]

Monday, May 29, 2006
Monday May 29, 2006, Memorial Day

        No "Sonag Sunrise" this morning.  Uncle Jack could tell before he left his house at 5:45 that he could have stood in bed.  Not only is the sky completely overcast but the wind is blowing in from the ocean carrying a fine mist that feels like rain.

        Lucky for him and Mrs. U.J. they got in a long walk on the beach yesterday which was about as perfect as they come.  Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the weather this morning he suspects that a lot of folks will be heading home a bit earlier than they had planned.  

        Is anybody out there old enough to remember when today was called "Decoration Day"? If so you're even older than Uncle Jack and that's quite an achievement. Congratulations.(And be careful around the grill).




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Sorry folks but this is what "Sunrise in South Nags Head" looked like this morning.

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Yesterday was quite another matter as this picture suggests.

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The Outer Banks fishing pier in South Nags Head enjoyed a banner day. Whether or not any fish got caught seems almost irrelevant on a day like this.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:26 AM

Comments [0]

Sunday, May 28, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Sunday May 28, 2006

      A somewhat less than thrilling sunrise this morning but the total gestalt of the beach was very pleasing.  Not too warm, not too windy, lots of pelicans on their way to some undisclosed location, dolphins by the dozen cruising north and quite close to the beach.  A nice place to be at 6 a.m.

     There was a time when Memorial Day weekend signalled the beginning of the summer season on the Outer Banks and it probably still does to some degree although most of the seasonal stores and restaurants have been open for months.  Uncle Jack likes to think that it still has some significance in the Outer Banks calendar so he is going to use it as an opportunity to reprint (for perhaps the twentieth time) his Advice to Houseguests which he wrote many years ago.  Folks who live here and are bracing for the onslaught of summer visitors may want to print out a fresh copy and fasten it to the refrigerator.

                 Advice for Houseguests

   Uncle Jack has lived on the Outer Banks long enough now to have noticed some very interesting things about the flora and fauna.
   One thing he has noticed is that there are lots of swans around here in the winter but hardly any in the summer.
   Another thing he has noticed is that houseguests are just the opposite of swans. You hardly ever see a houseguest around here in the winter but they are all over the place in
the summer. Come to think of it Uncle Jack has never seen a houseguest and a swan at the same time.
   Uncle Jack has noticed that the average houseguest tends to be a lot more trouble than the average swan. Swans eat out most of the time for one thing, and they never take showers.
   Houseguests spend most of their time sitting around the dining room table when they are not in the bathroom.
   Anyway Uncle Jack thought it would be a good idea to give some advice to houseguests who are planning to come to the OuterBanks. These suggestions are not "cast in concrete" as they
say over at Coastal Redi-Mix. Not everybody likes salted-in-the-shell peanuts, for instance, so you might not have to bring any if you are not staying with Uncle Jack.
   If you are planning to stay with Uncle Jack, though, you should probably memorize this whole thing:

   What to bring your host and hostess:  One half-gallon Rebel Yell bourbon per person (excluding children under 5), three cases Rolling Rock beer, six pounds medium shrimp (heads
off, please), two dozen steamed jumbo Jimmy crabs, two dozen clams, five pounds scallops, three dozen Silver Queen corn, one bushel Currituck peaches, three pounds Stilton cheese, two cases good imported red table wine (ditto white), two loaves French bread, five pounds salted-in-the-shell peanuts.
   Also bring assorted non-perishable items such as canned truffles and caviar that your host and hostess can enjoy next winter while watching the swans.
   Also bring sheets, pillow cases, towels, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, depilatories, aspirin, insect spray, styrofoam coolers and good books, all of which you should remember to forget when you leave.

   Chores your host and hostess should not have to do during your visit: Cook meals, wash dishes, take out garbage, clean bathtub, scratch dogs, mow lawn, make morning coffee, smile.

   Things you can do to entertain your host and hostess: Go to see "The Lost Colony" every night by yourselves. Talk about pleasant things like what you are planning to fix for dinner
tomorrow night or where you are planning to take your host and hostess for lunch. Do not talk about the horrible traffic on the Bypass or how the developers are ruining the Outer Banks
or how rotten the fishing is in the summer or how terrible the weather has been during your visit.
   Your host and hostess do not want to have to tell you how good the weather was last week, how great the fishing is in the spring and fall, or how easy it is to get across the Bypass in February. 
   If you do everything Uncle Jack has told you your host and hostess will think of you as houseguests who are really no trouble at all and they will ask you to come back again and
   If you are lucky they might ask you to come back next winter when the swans are here.


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5:45 a.m. Sunrise with pelicans.

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Sunrise with dolphin.

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Sunrise with pelican and dolphin.

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Saturday was hot and humid and sunny all day---a perfect beach day. As you can see the beaches of South Nags Head were mobbed with holiday visitors.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:56 AM

Comments [5]

Saturday, May 27, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Saturday May 27, 2006

   After four consecutive soggy, sunless days in Oregon Uncle Jack was hoping for a glorious Sonag sunrise this morning but it was not to be.  Last night's thunderstorm (accompanied by a spectacular lightning show) gave way to cloudy skies this morning which almost completely obscured any signs of the sun.  It was nice to see the ocean again anyway. Rivers are o.k. in a pinch but when it comes to water views there is nothing like a real ocean.

     He should take this opportunity to thank American Airlines for making his trip to Portland as painless as possible both going and coming.  All four flights involved took off and landed almost exactly on time or even early.  For this he was almost pathetically grateful.

     Both he and Mrs. Uncle Jack concluded after four days of stumbling around in the rain that while parts of Oregon and Washington are extremely beautiful they are basically unfit for human habitation.  The sun was visible for no more than 15 minutes total in the four days they were there and that is simply insufficient to sustain life for anyone who is accustomed to the kind of weather we enjoy on the Outer Banks most of the time.  Bill Gates can have it.

    Have a nice weekend.

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The birthday boy, Mrs. U.J.'s brother Greg, holding the stuffed piranha she gave him for his birthday. (Don't ask).

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Crossroads of America---O'Hare airport in Chicago on Memorial Day weekend. Getting in and out of O'Hare on time requires a miracle of which Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. were grateful recipients on this occasion.

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This was the precise moment the sun was supposed to make an appearance this morning.

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At least the clouds were pretty and the forecast is for a nice beach day for the hordes of Memorial Day weekend visitors.

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Plenty of room on the beach at 6 a.m.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:19 AM

Comments [1]

Thursday, May 25, 2006
Bonneville Dam, Thursday May 25, 2006

     Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. spent a delightful, albeit soggy, day on and near the mighty Columbia River today.  The birthday bash they are attending moved to a paddlewheeled excursion boat that docks about a mile north of famed Bonneville Dam and after a couple of hours on the river they visited the dam itself, a Corps of Engineers museum and a fish hatchery where millions of  salmon, trout and sturgeon fingerlings are raised each year in an attempt to revive the declining fish populations in the Columbia.

     The party ends Thursday night and they will be back on a plane at 8 a.m. Friday for the trip home via Chicago O'Hare.  On Memorial Day weekend.  God help them.

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Multnomah Falls near Bonneville Dam. Please turn your computer screen 90 degrees to the right for proper view.

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The "Columbia Gorge" awaits its load of partying passengers.

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The Bridge of the Gods just north of Bonneville Dam connecting Oregon and Washington state.

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Fishing platforms used by native Americans who have tribal rights to fish for salmon in the Columbia year round. They fish with nets on the ends of poles mostly.

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Part of Bonneville Dam, built in the early 1930's, the first of ten Columbia River dams built to provide hydro-electric power for the northwest.

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Remains of a large boat that ran into a rock many years ago. Now a favorite roost for cormorants.

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The splendid Corps of Engineers interpretive center at Bonneville Dam which contains the fish ladder viewing windows shown in the next pictures. (and much more)

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Ghostly fish swim upstream by way of fish ladders designed to help them around the dam.

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This ugly lamprey eel attached itself to the window, possibly to rest. Lampreys are anadromous as are salmon and some kinds of trout.

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This mammoth sturgeon is on display at the hatchery along with dozens of others. Columbia sturgeon can live for over 100 years and grow to over 1000 pounds.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:40 PM

Comments [2]

Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Portland, Oregon Tuesday May 23, 2006

After reading an article in the New York Times about the horrors of flying these days Uncle Jack was prepared for the worst when they headed for Portland, Oregon on Monday morning. His fears went unrealized, however, as the American Airlines flights from Norfolk to Dallas-Fort Worth and from the latter to Portland went off on time and without a hitch. He has been reading Francis Parkman, Jr.’s book called “The Oregon Trail” describing the ordeals of the early pioneers who went west in the 1840’s by oxcart and horse drawn wagon and it still amazes him that he covered the same distance in relative comfort in just a few hours (with a side trip to Texas) yesterday.

He and Mrs. U.J. are staying in a hotel called the Edgefield a few miles east of Portland overlooking the Columbia River. The resort occupies the former Multnomah County Poor Farm buildings which came perilously close to being torn down back in the 1980’s when they were purchased by the McMenamin brothers and converted into an amazing hostelry the likes of which Uncle Jack has never seen. The pictures below can only suggest what a unique place it is and he hopes to take more during the next couple of days.

Most of Tuesday was spent touring the Columbia River Gorge area nearby which offers some spectacular views of the river as well as several breathtaking waterfalls, the most striking of which is Multnomah Falls, the second highest year-round waterfall in the U.S. All three of the falls they saw today rival their much more famous counterparts in Yosemite and Yellowstone which they viewed last summer.

It rained last night. It rained all day today and the forecast for the next several days is “showers”. This is just the way it is around here in the spring they have been told so they will try to adapt as best they can to life in the Pacific northwest. The climate nearly drove Lewis and Clark crazy back in 1805 but they were here a lot longer and didn’t have the Edgefield to provide shelter. It must have been rough.

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Part of a mural in the ballroom of the Edgefield. Every wall in the place is covered in murals, paintings and historic photographs. Incredible.

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More of the mural which is at least 40 feet long.

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Part of the lush, dripping landscaping at the Edgefield.

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Part of the Columbia River Gorge, looking upstream.

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Ditto, downstream. Lewis and Clark were overwhelmed by the beauty of this area.

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One of the three falls, the name of which Uncle Jack can't remember.

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Another of the three falls. He will save Multnomah Falls for tomorrow.

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Another portion of the mighty Columbia, looking downstream.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:11 PM

Comments [4]

Monday, May 22, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Monday May 22, 2006

    Uncle Jack has to make this a quickie as he and Mrs. U.J. must be off for the Norfolk airport early this morning.  They are flying to Portland, Oregon today to help her brother Greg celebrate his 60th birthday. (Oh to be 60 again). They will be back on Friday but there won't be any Sonag Sunrises in this space until Saturday at the earliest.

     This morning's sunrise was lovely as the pictures suggest.  Again there is very chilly breeze blowing from the northeast but if today turns out like yesterday nobody on the Outer Banks will have cause for complaint.

     Uncle Jack doesn't know if they have the internet in Oregon yet but he'll check it out and if they do he will let you know.  Ciao.


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Definitely worth getting up for.

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The air got warm enough yesterday to lure a few brave souls into the water. They didn't stay long.

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Great day for the sandbucket brigade.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:40 AM

Comments [3]

Sunday, May 21, 2006
Sonag sunrise Sunday May 21, 2006

Uncle Jack could easily think of a few places he would rather be than on the beach in South Nags Head this morning....like in bed.  A chilly wind is blowing out of the northeast, the sky is overcast, the surf looks snarly, the usually entertaining birds are somewhere else.  If your vacation ends today and you must pack the car and go home you could hardly find a better day to do it.  Maybe it will be warm and sunny where you live.  Wouldn't that be nice?


    The voters of what is left of New Orleans went to the polls again yesterday and re-elected C. Ray Nagin to be the mayor of their unfortunate city.  Mr. Nagin would win hands down in any contest to select the World's Greatest Masochist if you ask Uncle Jack.

     After surviving the worst natural disaster to hit an American city since the San Francisco earthquake a century ago and enduring incredible abuse in the wake of it he is back for more of the same. Uncle Jack has to say he admires him for his willingness to take on one of the toughest tasks ever to face a public servant. He can't help thinking that his opponent, Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, is probably breathing deep sighs of relief this morning that he didn't win.   

    Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have spent a lot of time in the Big Easy over the past ten years and they have learned that there is never a dull moment in that wonderful city.  He wrote the following piece three years ago as they were getting ready to come home from a lengthy vacation there:

   Spring has sprung in New Orleans. Every flower, bush and tree in the French Quarter has exploded into bloom along with Uncle Jack's eyes and nose.  His stock market tip for the week: buy Kleenex.
   The arrival of spring in New Orleans is not always a time of rejoicing, however, and such is the case this year. Swollen by heavy rains and melting snow from upstream the Mississippi River is on a tear this month and local folks are justifiably anxious. New Orleans and much of the rest of southern Louisiana is dry land only by courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers and that fact alone is reason enough to strike
terror into the hearts of men. (Yes, it's the same Corps we know and love on the Outer Banks).
      Over the years the Corps has expended untold billions on "flood control" measures aimed  at keeping Ol' Man Ribber rollin' along to the Gulf of Mexico without any major detours. Mostly they have built "levees" which are huge earthen banks which keep the river from
overflowing most of the time, hence the term "waitin' on the levee" which is what a lot of people are doing right now.
   But levees alone are not always enough so the Corps has had to devise some much more complicated structures to tame the river. One of these is called the Bonnet Carre Spillway
which Uncle Jack has been reading a lot about lately because of what it will do to local fishermen when the Corps opens it.
   The good news is that the Spillway will drain off billions of gallons of filthy river water before it can get to  the streets of  New Orleans. The bad news is that this brown gumbo
of silt, pesticides, untreated sewage, and probably a little garlic gets diverted directly into Lake Ponchartrain, a huge brackish lake north of the city.                   
   What this does to Ponchartrain's resident population of shrimp and oysters is not pretty,  and not surprisingly there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth among the local fishermen whose livelihoods are destroyed along with the hapless crustaceans. (This double whammy comes only a few weeks after the Louisiana
legislature banned gillnets, presenting local commercial fishermen with the Herculean task of wresting a living from the Gulf  with rods and reels alone).
   Playing God with the Mississippi, as the Corps must do, is not fun, especially when it becomes necessary to rob Peter (the fisherman) to pay Paul (the industrialist downstream). More
than a few fishermen believe that a powerful Louisiana congressman played a role in the decision to divert the river into Lake Ponchartain rather than into a tributary that might have flooded shipyards in the congressman's home district. Most impartial observers seem to think the decision was scientific and not political but who can blame the fishermen for being a little paranoid?
   Anyway Uncle Jack's protracted vacation in New Orleans is rapidly drawing to an end  and he is happy to say  he is ready to go home. He has    often said there is never a dull moment
in the Big Easy but he has come to realize that at his stage of life dull moments can be very welcome. Lots of them.  
   If he doesn't see anything more exciting than a pelican diving into the ocean for the next eight months it will suit him just fine.

P.S.  God help Mayor Nagin.



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5:45 a.m.

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Ditto, but in a slightly different direction.

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5:54 a.m. Ho hum.

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This is about as exciting as it got.

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Tomorrow is another day, and another sunrise. Maybe.

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You can get buried on the beach...

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...or married on the beach. Or both.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:24 AM

Comments [2]

Saturday, May 20, 2006
Sonag sunrise Saturday May 20, 2006

     The sun made a brief appearance this morning, showing only a sliver of itself before sliding back under the covers which is what Uncle Jack probably should have done this morning.  Hard to say which way this day is going to go because there are ominous cloudbanks lurking in all directions.  We'll just have to wait and see.


     In case it turns out to be a gloomy day where you are Uncle Jack hopes you will get a chuckle out of the following apocryphal story he found in his closet this morning.  (He didn't write it and he doesn't think Dan Brown did either).

                         St. Peter's Vacation

It was time for St Peter's annual three-week vacation, and Jesus volunteered to fill in for him at the Pearly Gates.

"It's no big deal," St Peter explained.  "Just sit at the registration desk, and ask each person a little about his or her life.  Then, send them to
housekeeping to pick up their wings."

On the third day, Jesus looked up to see a bewildered old man standing in front of him.  He asked the old man to tell him something about himself.

"I'm a simple carpenter," said the old man.  "And once I had a son.  He was born in a very special way, and was unlike anyone else in the world. He
went through a great transformation even though he had holes in his hands and feet.  He was taken from me a long time ago, but his spirit lives on
forever. All over the world people tell his story."

By this time, Jesus was standing with his arms outstretched.  There were tears in his eyes, as he embraced the old man.  "Father," he cried. "It's
been so long."

The old man squinted, removed his glasses, stares blankly for a moment while he wiped the glasses, returned the glasses to his head, looked at Jesus again and said, "Pinocchio?" 

Have a nice day everybody.

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5:45 a.m.

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5:53 a.m. Official sunrise. Not much to it.

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That's all she wrote this morning.

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This little sandpiper had the foreshore all to himself this morning. For some reason most of the beach fauna were not around. Sleeping in on a gloomy Saturday morning perhaps.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:44 AM

Comments [2]

Friday, May 19, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Friday May 19, 2006

     Yet another beautiful morning in South Nags Head.  It rained last night and the air is cooler and crisper than yesterday but it looks like a lovely day in store.  All the usual suspects were present when Uncle Jack reached the beach at 5:45---gulls, pelicans, sandpipers, ospreys, pigeons, porpoises and a few people.  With only a few clouds at horizon level the sunrise was less than spectacular but welcome nevertheless.


     Uncle Jack spent some more time yesterday rooting through the archive of his old newspaper columns in the guest bedroom closet and he ran across this one from ten years ago which he thought would serve both as a remembrance of hurricanes past and a reminder that a brand new hurricane season is almost upon us.  Who knows what lies in store for us this year?  If we're lucky it will be another Bertha.  If we're not..........

              To Go or Not to Go

 Uncle Jack tried very hard to think of something to write about this week besides Hurricane Bertha because he was bored to tears with it before it was over but nothing came to mind so he is going to take the easy way out.
    North of Oregon Inlet anyway   Bertha was "deja vu all over again" as Proust used to say. Most of the time there was more wind emanating from the TV weather reporters than there was from the storm itself.
     Uncle Jack does join the thousands who mourn the tragic loss of the Forbes Candy  sign on the Beach Road in Nags Head. For as long as he can remember that remarkable structure has been a welcoming beacon to generations of taffy-deprived visitors and he knows that he is not the only one who will interpret its demise as a sure sign  from above that nothing lasts forever.    
    If you want to know the truth that is the way Uncle Jack has been interpreting nearly everything lately which accounts for his lengthy and somewhat sybaritic sojourns in places like New Orleans and Ireland in recent months. He knows that he, too, is quietly rusting away from the inside just like the Forbes sign  so he had better get a move on before he too falls in a crumpled heap for the last time.
         But Uncle Jack digresses from his chosen topic for today which is Hurricane Bertha. First he would like to say that Hurricane Bertha was much more fun than Hurricane Felix which was probably the longest and most boring non-event in the history of the Outer Banks.   The main reason Bertha was more enjoyable was that this time Uncle Jack and Mrs. Uncle Jack were alone whereas last year they had no less than eight relatives and friends  draped around the living room staring at the Weather Channel for what seemed like eternity at the time. He has concluded that hurricanes are definitely more fun when you are alone with the one you love than when you are stuck with a houseful of loved ones, no matter how much you love them, individually and collectively.
           Anyway Uncle Jack is glad he is just an  ordinary person who can make up his own mind about what to do when a hurricane comes and not one of those officials who has to make awesome  decisions like when to make the tourists leave and when to cut off the booze supply to the natives.
            He has to admit that in his greedier moments he thinks it might be better if those heavy decisions were made by a sub-committee of the Chamber of Commerce because it would surely be better for his cash flow. Every hurricane for the past 26 years has done more damage to Uncle Jack's cash flow than to his property or his loved ones and for that he should be truly thankful, but he isn't always. Uncle Jack is not perfect.
    He knows that  north of Oregon Inlet the last few evacuations  have turned out to be premature to say the least and they have definitely left him a poorer man. As a merchant it is painful for him to watch all those wallets and credit cards take flight when he knows in his  heart that they could safely stay and ride out the storm with him---preferably in his  shop.
    Nevertheless Uncle Jack is not about to quarrel withthe folks who have to decide whether or not the tourists should head for higher ground. Many times  he has not agreed with them but he has understood their dilemma.
    Nevertheless he has learned from experience that leaving the beach is a lot of trouble and also expensive so he has worked out his own personal formula for when to leave and when to stay. So far he has been right every time but he is going to keep his formula to himself because he knows that with hurricanes you might get only one chance to be wrong. The last thing Uncle Jack wants is for one of his readers to float out to sea  in a rental house just because Uncle Jack's formula needed a little fine tuning.


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5:45 a.m.

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First peep---ten minutes later.

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Obviously here to stay.

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When the sky turns blue behind the sun it's time for breakfast.

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The busy little sandpipers were out in force this morning. Uncle Jack was afraid they had abandoned this part of the beach in Sonag but he was wrong. Thank goodness.

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The strawberry patch in Point Harbor was partially submerged on Wednesday and probably even moreso after last night's deluge. A pity.

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Last year at this time it was dry as a bone.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:12 AM

Comments [4]

Thursday, May 18, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Thursday May 18, 2006

Just another flawless morning in South Nags Head.  Ho hum.  Whatever Uncle Jack said about yesterday holds true for today so he won't bother to repeat it.

     He and Mrs. U.J. had their big Corolla adventure yesterday as planned.  It started with a side trip to the U-Pick-Em strawberry patch in Point Harbor where they gathered a dishpan full of the succulent berries in twenty minutes of furious picking. 

      Perhaps two thirds of the berries in the sprawling field have been ruined by the torrential rains of last week but there are still so many good ones left that finding them is not a problem.  To get to the place just drive over the Wright Memorial bridge to Point Harbor and watch for the big sign on the right hand side just past the discount furniture places.  Turn right at the sign and drive in a few hundred yards.  The berries are great and the price is a tiny fraction of what you have to pay in the stores.

    After loading up on berries and making a brief stop at Home Depot they headed north into the Never-Neverland that is the Greater Duck-Corolla Metropolitan Area.  The tipping point into total awfulness was reached up there several years ago so nothing they saw yesterday was really shocking.  The vast empty spaces that once prevailed north of  Southern Shores are rapidly filling up with eye-popping architectural grotesqueries in the form of oversized rental cottages and sprawling shopping centers.   The new stuff isn't any more revolting than the old, there is just more of it every year. 

     Even on a Wednesday in May traffic was frustratingly slow and Uncle Jack tried to envision what it must be like to try to get from one place to another up there in the high season.  And what will it be like after another  five or ten years of  unrestrained development?  Lucky for Uncle Jack he doesn't have to worry about it.

    A trip to the northern Outer Banks always makes him feel a lot better about Nags Head and even Kill Devil Hills for that matter.


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5:45 and all's well in South Nags Head.

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Just another boring sunrise.

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Not a cloud in sight.

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A feisty terrier named Breeze has apparently decided to rid the South Nags Head beach of sand crabs.

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No crab is safe from this indefatigable hunter.

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Journey to the center of the earth?

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How am I doing?

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The new Harris-Teeter in Corolla is crawling with workers trying to get it ready to open next week.

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The new Hilton is almost as big as some of the houses in Corolla.

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The former Tanarama motel in KDH has become an eyesore and a vexing problem for the town commissioners who have been trying unsuccessfully to get rid of it for years. Uncle Jack is all for preservation but really.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:38 AM

Comments [10]

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
A Perfect Morning: Wednesday May 17, 2006

     Words fail Uncle Jack this morning when it comes to describing the scene on the beach in South Nags Head.  Dolphins by the dozen cavorting fifty yards offshore, osprey soaring, wheeling and diving into the surf, sandpipers darting hither and thither, gulls contemplating, cloudless sky, brilliant sunrise. If Mrs. Uncle Jack had not baked two loaves of Aunt Esther's incredible Swedish rye bread last night he would still be up on the beach trying to take it all in.

      He needs a good breakfast this morning because he and Mrs. U.J. are going to play tourist all day which can be exhausting.  They are going to drive up to Corolla in the Mini to visit some old friends who are vacationing up there. This will be quite an adventure because they have not been up that way for over a year so they don't quite know what to expect.

      Actually they do know what to expect and that is more of what they saw last time which was thousands of mega-houses, dozens of  strip shopping centers and many square miles of asphalt where not so long ago there was sand. Uncle Jack never feels more like an old timer than when he remembers what the northern beaches were like when he first came here 37 years ago.  It hurts to think about it.

     Anyway he will take the Elph along and perhaps he will be able to take some pictures of the new Harris-Teeter supermarket if he can find it. Food Lion and Harris-Teeter both in Corolla? We must be dreaming.



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5:45 Not a soul on the beach but Uncle Jack at this point. It won't last.

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Right on time. Uncle Jack took a dozen pictures this morning hoping that a dolphin would show up in one of them but it was not to be.

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He had better luck with the osprey. They cooperate by staying in one place (more or less) for a few seconds once in a while.

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A magnificent bird. Two of them were successful at fishing this morning and flew off toward their nests clutching their prizes in their talons.

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Meanwhile the sun was continuing to do its thing.

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A small boat with a big net heads for a fishing ground at top speed. Uncle Jack hopes he catches enough fish to pay for the gas he's burning.

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Almost forgot to mention the pelicans who were out in droves this morning, skimming the waves as is their wont.

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Wish you were here?

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:31 AM

Comments [10]

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Sonag sunrise, Tuesday May 16, 2006

   Old Sol was slow to arrive again this morning due to huge cloud banks on the horizon but worth waiting for as usual.  Again the beach has been swept clean by the overnight high tide and walking conditions are superb.  The sand is firm underfoot and there is little or no wind to impede progress either north or south.  A glorious morning to be alive and on the Outer Banks for sure.


     A few days ago Uncle Jack recycled some advice for high school graduates that he wrote a few years ago.  Here's another recycled column from days of yore---this one for teachers.  He guesses that nothing much has changed in the intervening years.


                 You Might Be a Teacher

    Uncle Jack has a friend named Roy who lives out in cyberspace somewhere and from time to time sends him funny things by e-mail which he calls "column fodder". It is nice to have a friend like Roy when you have to write a column every week and you feel like  you are essentially brain dead when the time comes to do it.
    This week Roy sent a piece called "You Might Be a Teacher If...." which is pretty dark humor but as an ex-teacher Uncle Jack can tell you it has the ring of truth so he is going to pass along a few excerpts:    
           YOU MIGHT BE A TEACHER IF......
    * you believe that the staff room should have a valium saltlick.
    * you can tell it's a full moon without ever looking outside.
    * marking all A's on the report card would make your life SO much simpler.
    * you believe in the aerial spraying of Prozac.
    * you encourage obnoxious parents to look into charter schools or home schooling.
    * you wonder how some parents managed to reproduce.
    And it goes on in that jocular vein for another page or two which Uncle Jack would be happy to e-mail to any teacher who wants to post it in the teachers' room next to the vending machine which is no substitute for a valium salt lick but it's all most teachers have.
    Speaking of vending machines Uncle Jack read in the paper this week that the Wake County schools over by Raleigh are thinking about making a deal with a soft drink company whereby the company would give the schools a ton of money to buy computers and whatever if the schools would agree to promote the company's products in the schools.
    If they signed up with Coca Cola they would sell only Coca Cola products in the vending machines and they would have Coca Cola ads on the school buses and maybe even the teachers would have little Coke logos tattooed on their foreheads.
    If you think this is the dumbest idea you have ever heard of and you think it could never happen Uncle Jack can tell you it has already happened in Texas which is usually second to California when it comes to bizarre behavior but appears to be clearly out in front on this one.
   And if you think it couldn't happen in the Gret Stet of North Carolina Uncle Jack can only quote the superintendent of the Wake County schools who says "You test where a community would want to be on this, of course. But I promise you this sort of thing is coming."
    Visionary thinkers like Uncle Jack would foresee a happy day ahead when schools no longer have to beg for money from politicians who are driven primarily by the need to keep property taxes down and thereby ensure their re-election.
    Why not fund schools entirely out of advertising revenues? "Get 'em while they're young" has been an axiom of advertising from day one so why not capitalize on it? Sell the schools to the highest bidders in every category from aardvarks to zircons and watch the money roll in.
   And where could the public schools find a better role model than the great University of North Carolina which recently sold
a portion of its  soul (and all of its soles) to the Nike Corporation? If Nike will pay millions to a university to flog its shoes what would they ante up to get kids thinking Nike in kindergarten. If this makes sense to you you might be a teacher.



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5:45 a.m.

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The sun finally makes an appearance at 6:10.

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Definitely worth waiting for.

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This mammoth house under construction in lower Sonag is an unusual combination of Old Nags Head vernacular style with art deco touches. Kinky.

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Sparky might recognize this much more unassuming house near Pelican Street which seems to have come through the winter storms very nicely.

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The gorgeous new beach that has replaced the former Surfside Drive. Hard to believe there once was a row of cottages covering up this lovely sand.

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This was the scene in Uncle Jack's back yard yesterday morning when a dump truck arrived with a load of topsoil to fill the void left by his departed storage shed.

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Unfortunately the heavy truck promptly sank to its hubcaps into the mire created by last week's monsoon rains and had to be winched out by a wrecker stationed across the street.

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Nags Head police stopped traffic on Old Oregon Inlet Road during the winching, proof that they don't spend ALL their time writing speeding tickets.

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Happy ending. Now Uncle Jack will need another load of topsoil to fill the ruts caused by the first load. Never a dull moment in Sonag.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:55 AM

Comments [6]

Monday, May 15, 2006
Sonag sunrise, Monday May 15, 2006

     The sun was nowhere to be seen at sunrise time this morning but it did struggle through the clouds and make a kind of peek-a-boo appearance over the next twenty minutes.  It was a lovely dawn nevertheless with the beach looking like it had been swept clean overnight, lots of gulls and sandpipers and pelicans doing their usual things and little or no wind to mess things up.

     It looked like somebody forgot to send Mother Nature a Mother's Day card yesterday because she was peevish enough to turn on her spigot around 11 a.m. and kept at least a fine spray falling all afternoon and into the evening. This was the kind of holiday weather Uncle Jack used to pray for when he was a retail merchant.  Now that he is an ordinary person he wishes the sun would shine all the time just like the tourists do.


       Here's another column from days of yore to while away a few minutes on a slow Monday if that's what it turns out to be.

                            Laptop Angst

    It is almost exactly two years since Uncle Jack started thinking about buying his first computer which is probably why he has started thinking about buying  his second computer. Everybody told him  that two years was about as long as you could own a computer before it became hopelessly obsolete and now he knows what they meant.
    Actually Uncle Jack’s laptop is not exactly obsolete for him.  It still does everything he needs it to do and every day he is learning new things it can do which amaze him.  It is much smarter than he is, that’s for sure. But it is still obsolete in the absolute sense of the word and that is why he is thinking about buying a new one.
     For one thing if he had a new computer he could do everything much faster than he does now and when you get to be as old as Uncle Jack this becomes very important. Instead of waiting for two minutes for somebody’s web page to load he would only have to wait one minute or even less if he had a new computer.  This may not seem like much to somebody who does not have a computer  or somebody who is young but he can tell you the difference between one minute and two minutes when you are sitting in front of a computer is like the difference between a Ford Fiesta and a Ferrari when you are trying to get to the ABC store before it closes. At  his age Uncle Jack has only so many downloads left and the more he can cram in the better as far as he is concerned.
    Also if he got a new computer it would have a bigger screen which could help a lot to keep Uncle Jack from going blind before his time. His laptop has a tiny little screen which he actually never noticed for the first year-and-a-half but now he realizes it is  undignified for a person of  Uncle Jack’s station in life  to have to squint the way he does with his little laptop.
     Also the keyboard of his laptop is too small for his large, arthuritic hands. He is forever touching the wrong keys which causes strange things to happen such as making everything he has written for the past twenty minutes disappear into cyberspace, never to be seen again except maybe by somebody at the CIA. His new computer will have a full-size keyboard just like his old Underwood Standard typewriter which was state-of-the-art when he bought it secondhand in 1948 and has not been improved upon.
    Uncle Jack is not the kind of person who can be talked into buying something he doesn’t really need but he has to say the various computer companies have done an excellent job of  keeping him informed about all the latest improvements in their new machines
and he can see how he could actually lead a richer and fuller life than he currently does if he had a new computer.
        For one thing he could  listen to music on his computer while he is doing his e-mail which could come in very handy whenever the  new NPR station goes dead for any reason or if he didn’t want to listen to the same Car Talk twice in the same weekend.
      There are many other reasons why Uncle Jack should probably get a new computer which he does not have time to enumerate and the reason he does not have time is that he needs all the time he can spare to figure out which new computer he should buy.  Last time he bought a Gateway because they were out in South Dakota and Uncle Jack liked to call up their technicans just to hear people who talk like he does.
     He read in the paper where Gateway has moved their head office to San Diego because they could not find any top executives who wanted to live in South Dakota so now they have lost their main advantage as far as Uncle Jack is concerned.  He might just as well buy his computer from somebody in Texas if he can get a few more gigabytes for the same amount of money.
    Anyway he wants to make it crystal clear that he has not absolutely made up his mind that he is going to get a new computer.  He is thinking about it, that’s all. That doesn’t mean he is going to get one necessarily.



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5:45 a.m. Doesn't look too promising.

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Official sunrise but with no sun.

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This is about as colorful as it got.

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Except for this brief appearance twenty minutes later.

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A gaggle of gulls surveys the scene.

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This unfortunate bluefish lost its head sometime during the night. His filleted carcass lies nearby providing a rather bony breakfast for the gulls.

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This Sonag cottage owner rappels back to her home after walking her dogs. This is part of the FEMA fitness program called "berm climbing" provided at no extra cost to South Nags Head visitors since last spring.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:46 AM

Comments [3]

Sunday, May 14, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Sunday May 14, 2006

    Mother's Day has dawned bright and beautiful on the Outer Banks which should make it easier for all you lucky moms out there to get up and fix breakfast for everybody.  What would they do without you, right?

     The beach in South Nags Head was gull city this morning for some reason.  Something must have run them out of their usual hangout in the Food Lion parking lot because they were all over the place squawking and chasing each other around and fighting over anything that even looked like it might be edible.  It was not exactly tranquil on the beach this morning but the sunrise was worth getting up for.


     Uncle Jack wrote a Mother's Day column once but he can never find it when he needs it.  He did remember that this is also graduation time in the nation's high schools so he decided to fill today's space with some advice to graduates he wrote a long time ago.  He knows the graduates are probably sleeping in but maybe some moms would want to print this out and read it to them this afternoon when they get up and want breakfast:

                               Listen Up, Grads

       It is high school graduation time again and as one of the oldest living high school graduates Uncle Jack feels it is incumbent upon himself to offer a few words of congratulation to the new graduates along with some gratuitous advice. For those who were not paying attention in English class (which was probably just about everybody) he will explain that “gratuitous” means “given, done, bestowed or obtained without charge or payment”.  In other words his advice is free. 
      He will also explain that “gratuitous” also means “being without apparent reason, cause or justification”, or in other words there is no reason for Uncle Jack to be giving advice to anybody.
     Unfortunately this is true.  The older he gets the less he thinks he knows for sure about anything.  If  there was something he knew about for sure and he could pass it on to the younger generation he could charge for it but there isn’t so he can’t..  He is not sure that anything he is going to say is right and if you take any of Uncle  Jack’s advice you are doing so at your own risk. He is putting this disclaimer in here just in case any of you grow up to be lawyers and decide you want to sue him for ruining your life.
     Right now this is all he can offer in the way of advice:

      1.  If you have not already done so, do not get your tongue pierced. It would make you look stupider than you probably are.  Then again, maybe not.  If you get your tongue pierced you are probably even stupider than you look.  You should know that many of the older dentists charge extra for cleaning tongue rings and over the long haul that could cut seriously into your beer money.  What you do to your navel is your own business as far as Uncle Jack is concerned.

       2.  Learn how to make money in the the stock market. Uncle Jack has always been afraid of the stock market and this is one of the main reasons he is so poor today. If he had bought $2500 worth of  Gateway stock two years ago instead of  his Gateway laptop he would have made more money than he has by slaving  hours every day trying to sell stuff over the internet.  On the other hand it is probably true that the main reason he is not living in the county poorhouse is that he never bought any stock.  If Uncle Jack had bought some IBM stock a few years ago it would have dropped l00 points overnight and they would probably be bankrupt now. On second thought forget the stock market.

      3.  Do not go see “Star Wars”.  Show the world that you are a person of intelligence and backbone who will not be manipulated by Hollywood hucksters into standing in line for hours and spending good beer money to watch an over-hyped piece of cinematic trash.  If you go to the K-Mart and buy a Star Wars sleeping bag or a Star Wars lunchbucket Uncle Jack will never speak to you again.  On the other hand because of eBay they could be worth more than IBM stock someday. Do they make Star Wars beer coolers?

      4.  Travel.  See the world before it blows up.  Start out by going to Stumpy Point or Engelhard and work your way up to Elizabeth City and when you feel like you are ready go to Norfolk.  They have a Sam’s Club up there and also an airport that can take you anywhere in the world you want to go if you have not spent all your money on tongue studs.  It is probably best right now to stay away from places where they hate Americans for one reason or another but there are still a couple of places in northern Canada where you could feel reasonably safe.
     Anyway Uncle Jack congratulates you for surviving high school and getting your diploma.  It’s not as easy as it used to be.


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The dawn's early light.

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The only clouds in the sky this morning were on the horizon. This seems to happen a lot for some reason.

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6 a.m. Moms: Do you know where your children are?

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A misty morning.

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This dolphin carcass (the fish not the mammal) is proof that somebody catches a fish once in a while in South Nags Head. This is not exactly the Miracle of Guadalupe but it's close.

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Few sights in the world are more edifying than watching a couple of gulls fighting over a fish carcass. They remind Uncle Jack of stock traders in the pit at the New York Stock Exchange.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:26 AM

Comments [2]

Saturday, May 13, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Saturday May 13, 2006

      It's another spectacularly beautiful morning on the Outer Banks.  The pictures really can't do justice to the totally ambience of the beach scene in South Nags Head which includes multi-colored clouds, gentle surf, flat sand, gulls, porpoises, pigeons, crows and a very few lucky people walking their lucky dogs. Visitors arriving today will think they have gone to heaven.


     Thanks to a link on the message board Uncle Jack has been reading about the beach renourishment project up at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware which was completed last fall at a cost (65% to the Federal treasury) of  $18 million. The project covered two and one half miles of beach which was widened to 125-150 feet using sand (and whatever) dredged from offshore. A substantial dune has been constructed in front of the boardwalk and elaborate sandfencing will funnel beachgoers through access pathways so as to keep them off the dune which has been planted with seagrass.

      The new beach and dune system seems to have survived its first winter quite well judging from the picture Uncle Jack saw (he has lost the link to the picture unfortunately) but there have been a few glitches along the way.  The number of injuries to swimmers shot up as they tried to cope with drop-offs and odd surf behavior at the edge of the newly constructed beach.

     Shell collectors, though, have reaped an unexpected bonanza as the following article from a Delaware newspaper reports:

The News Journal

Two live artillery shells and a timing device to detonate them were found on the beach in Rehoboth Beach today, prompting city police to close a 600-foot stretch of beach for about two hours.

The shells, believed to be relics from World War I, probably were pumped in from the Atlantic Ocean floor during a recent beach renourishment project, said Gregory J. Ferrese, Rehoboth’s city manager.

The shells were picked up by Delaware State Police, who handed them over to officials from Dover Air Force Base for disposal.

The shells were discovered by a beach visitor who picked them up and carried them to the lifeguard stand, said Kent Buckson, captain of the Rehoboth Beach Patrol. The lifeguards recognized the shells as military ordnance and directed the visitor to set them down.

“They were a little disappointed because they couldn’t keep it,” Buckson said.

City officials and state police urge people who find artillery shells on the beach to leave them where they are and contact state or local officials.

“They are very unstable.” said Master Cpl. Jeff Oldham, a spokesman for the Delaware State Police.

See complete coverage in Saturday’s News Journal and at delawareonline.com.
Contact Molly Murray at 856-7372 or mmurray@delawareonline.com.
Top of page

   It will be fascinating and instructive to watch the Rehoboth Beach project over the next few years as our lawmakers struggle to find a way to do the same thing here---without the help of the federal government this time.







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5:45 a.m. on the beach in South Nags Head

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5:55 a.m., official sunrise.

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Here to stay.

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This enormous cloud looks ominous but it drifted out to sea and disappeared.

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A passel of pigeons (who roost under the deck of a nearby house)enjoys a morning tete-a-tete. Two of them are progeny of the other two.

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Looking east up Whitecap street from Old Oregon Inlet Road at 6:10 a.m.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:13 AM

Comments [7]

Friday, May 12, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Friday May 12, 2006

      If conditions on the beach at 6 a.m. are any indication Outer Bankers and their visitors are in for a gorgeous day.  The sun was a little late arriving, having had to climb over a thick bank of clouds on the horizon, but it did finally show up and all appears to be well in the solar department.  Have a nice day wherever you are. T.G.I.F.?


     Here's another old column from the archives for your Friday afternoon perusal----something to do besides watching the clock.


    One nice thing about Uncle Jack's new laptop (he still calls it new because he hasn't spilled beer on it yet) is that when he absolutely has to sit down and write a column he does not have to stay inside. Right now, for example, he is sitting on his deck overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and it is a gorgeous day and he can watch the surfers and the pelicans and the dolphins while waiting for inspiration to descend from on high.
   If you want to know the truth this has been a fairly interesting week on the Outer Banks but most of the things that happened ranged from not very funny to tragic so Uncle Jack is not going to say anything about them for fear of being thought of as callous and insensitive.
    This is not something that bothers some people who have web pages on the internet though. There is one website called www.officialdarwinawards.com which is devoted to publicizing the bizarre ways that people find to "remove themselves from the gene pool" as they put it.
    For example there was the lawyer who tried to demonstrate the safety of his client's manufactured windows by hurling himself against one of them which was installed on the 34th floor of a condominium. The window held but the frame gave way and he plunged to his death along with the window, which was unhurt.
   From a distance this can actually seem funny, and not just because it involved a lawyer. Someday maybe the accidental burial on the beach near Hatteras Lighthouse this week will seem funny, but never to the friends and relatives of the victim you can be sure.
    If you want to know the truth there is so much funny stuff on the internet that if all of Uncle Jack's readers were hooked up he would just start giving out website addresses and forget about waiting for inspiration. He would let other people do the heavy lifting and then just pass it on---or pass it off as his own if he thought he could get away with it. There are no copyrights on the internet which makes it a godsend for unscrupulous lapsed Lutherans like Uncle Jack.
    Speaking of the unscrupulous Uncle Jack read in the paper this morning about the five doctors down in Florida who ripped off Medicare (a.k.a. the American taxpayer) for $50 million by creating a dummy homecare corporation which never did anything but submit bills to Medicare for services not provided to sick old people. If you ask Uncle Jack this is the kind of thing that could give doctors a bad name and he hopes that the honest doctors will think of some suitable punishment for them, like making them sit in their own waiting room  for the rest of their lives with nothing but an old copy of Jack and Jill magazine to read.
    It seems to Uncle Jack that what those doctors did is almost as bad as selling foodstamps to buy cigarettes which is the kind of fraud that many
conservative politicians seem most exercised about. Perhaps it is because  doctors tend to contribute more to political campaigns than welfare mothers do.                        
         Anyway it makes Uncle Jack sick in his stomach to read about doctors who have been blessed with the ability and the opportunity to heal the sick and make a lot of money at the
same time who would stoop to doing what these men did. He hopes they at least get kicked out of the country club but he knows it probably won't happen. There are too many well-heeled folks hanging around golf courses who would more likely admire them for their cleverness.
   Anyway it's nice up here on the deck and Uncle Jack hasn't cheated or stolen anything from anybody today so he feels like he can sit back and enjoy it. It's one of the small rewards of being halfway honest.





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5:45 a.m.

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6 a.m. Official sunrise but still no sign of the sun.

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Ten minutes later.

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Getting closer.

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Another day dawns.

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Not a cloud in the sky above the horizon.

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This gull took time out from foraging to watch the sun come up along with Uncle Jack. Good company.

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Looks inviting don't it?

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posted by Uncle Jack at 6:52 AM

Comments [5]

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Thursday May 10, 2006

     Sunrise came and went in short order this morning as the sun rose at the appointed time of 6 a.m. and after showing itself for a few minutes disappeared behind a thick cloudbank. After a clear moonlit night the entire sky is now clouded over and more rain appears to be in the offing. Yuk.

     An otherwise pedestrian beachwalk this morning was enlivened by the company of an old friend, Will Molyneux of Williamsburg, who is renting a cottage in South Nags Head this week. Will is a retired newsman who is a gentleman and a scholar and all around nice person. There aren't very many of us left so it was a pleasure to run into him on the beach.


      Uncle Jack has been plowing through his archive of ancient columns in the guest bedroom closet and found this one yesterday:

                      Wanchese Wings

 Uncle Jack is one of those people who really likes to read about cooking and restaurants and anything else that has to do with food. When he goes to the bookstore he is usually the only man in there sneaking peeks at the Joy of Cooking instead of The Joy of Sex. He always keeps an eye out for articles about food in the paper and he usually reads them two or three times so he is sure he hasn't missed anything.
 Last week, though, he read an article about food that was so awful he could hardly get through it even once. What it said was that some scientists think that penguins could become an important source of food for the hungry people of the world, who seem to be getting more numerous all the time.
 At first Uncle Jack thought this article was some kind of an April Fool joke but it wasn't. Those scientists really think we are going to have to start killing and eating penguins.
 Now Uncle Jack loves to eat and he will chew up just about anything you put in front of him including his napkin, but he hopes he will never get so hungry he would have to seriously consider eating a penguin---even a penguin stuffed with crabmeat.
 All of which reminds him of a conversation he had a while back with a man who really thinks that seagulls might become a pretty good source of food if things get any worse around here. He said the way the shrimp and fish are disappearing and the oysters and clams are getting polluted, the seagulls are going to be just about the only thing left to eat.
 This man had been thinking a lot about the problem and he had some very good ideas, too. For one thing he said that if the government decides to give up trying to keep Oregon Inlet open and the trawlers can't get to Wanchese any more they ought to turn the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park into the Wanchese Seagull Industrial Park. He said they could turn that trawler basin over there into a sanitary landfill and if they put in all the garbage from the best restaurants and the classier neighborhoods like Pine Island and Southern Shores they could probably attract about 3 million gulls a day from all over the east coast. All the unemployed fishermen could go over there and throw their nets over the gulls and then they could take them home for the women to pluck.
 Uncle Jack is not so sure this is such a good plan because he doesn't know if it is possible for somebody to get hungry enough to eat a seagull. He has read some stories about people who got lost at sea and managed to choke down an albatross or two when they didn't have anything else to eat for a few weeks so maybe it would work.
 He also read where some American company has been test-marketing batter-fried seagull over in Japan where they call it "Colonel Hunt's Roanoke Island Turkey". The article
said they really lap it up but that is not so surprising when you consider they practically live on raw fish over there.
 Uncle Jack has never tasted seagull but he would guess it must taste a little like raw croaker marinated in kerosene sauce.
 Anyway it is something to keep in mind for when there aren't any fish or shrimp or clams or even crabs left to catch. Maybe by that time they will be growing enough soybeans over on the mainland to feed everybody in the world, though. They are already making bacon out of soybeans so it probably won't be long before they figure out how to make a nice plump salty oyster out of soybeans, too.
 Uncle Jack can hardly wait.


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A small window of opportunity for the sun this morning.

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The crack of dawn.

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Close-up with zoom.

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Misty morning. Jennette's pier is up there somewhere.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:16 AM

Comments [3]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Wednesday May 9, 2006

    The beach was walkable for the first time in several days and the wind has abated which made Uncle Jack's sunrise stroll a sheer pleasure this morning.  The sunrise wasn't too shabby either as the pictures show. Looks like a lovely day in store for the Outer Banks with a high in the 70's.


     Uncle Jack experienced an epiphany of sorts yesterday which he would like to share with his faithful readers.  It happened when he attempted to log on to the internet and kept getting that ominous error message that says "this web page cannot be opened, etc. etc."

      His best guess was that there was something wrong with his relationship with Charter Communications so he put in a call to the robots at their 800 number.  (One of the delights of dealing with a global monster like Charter is that they seem to have no telephones in their local offices.  This could be a good thing as he is about to explain).

     He punched his way through the opening set of recorded choices until he finally got to the one which accurately described his dilemma---no internet connection---at which point a new recorded program kicked in which he had never encountered before. For a moment he actually thought he was listening to a live and very savvy human being (and probably very good looking, too, judging from her sultry voice).

     She started to ask Uncle Jack a series of simple  questions (e.g. Are you sure your computer is plugged in?) which he was able to answer successfully by saying either "yes" or "no" and gradually she led him to the climactic unplugging and replugging that restored connectivity to both of his computers. The whole experience was so pleasant and ultimately satisfying that were he not so happily married Uncle Jack would have asked her for a date.

      He could not help comparing this delightful experience with what happened the day before when he called the Charter robots to report that his TV cable was out.  This time he wound up talking to an actual human being who obviously wanted to help him but whose mastery of the English language was a definite impediment to success.  After what seemed like an eternity of "could you repeat thats" he finally got the picture---both in his mind and on the screen.

     If Uncle Jack had a job answering telephones he would be a little worried about his future prospects at this point.



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5:50 a.m. Ten minutes before sunrise.

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Looking north toward Jennette's Pier.

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First glimpse. 6 a.m.

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Here to stay.

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This gull actually found something to eat in the hard-packed clay/sand of South Nags Head.

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Uncle Jack is entirely too risk averse to be interested in this house but for someone with a highly developed sense of brinksmanship it could be a steal at only $871,000.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:56 AM

Comments [9]

Tuesday, May 9, 2006
Sonag Sunrise (Wow!) Tuesday May 9, 2006

     It's cold and windy up on the oceanfront again this morning and the foam is flying but the sunrise made the trek worthwhile as the pictures below demonstrate.  Sunrise coincided with high tide so Uncle Jack took all his photos while standing in one place----on the second step of the walkover at Whitecap Street while the waves rolled in under his feet.

     South Nags Head is still semi-submerged as the residue of Sunday night's downpour has nowhere to go.  All the available space underground was already taken by Friday night's torrential rains and water still won't flow uphill so it sits where it is, waiting to evaporate.

      Uncle Jack is still doing a slow burn over  that newspaper article yesterday in which a couple of Nags Head Commissioners are quoted as saying the public still needs to be educated about the desperate need for beach renourishment.  If you ask him it is the commissioners who need to be educating themselves about the realities of life on barrier islands.

      The overwhelming vote in favor of repealing the 1% sand tax suggests to him that the public is a lot better educated on this subject than they are usually given credit for by their elected officials, many of whom have a direct fiduciary interest in encouraging the massive expenditure of public funds in a misguided effort to protect their own oceanfront property. Uncle Jack is willing to believe that not a single one of them is motivated by this kind of self-interest but he could understand why others might not be so charitable.

     He is particularly disappointed by one commissioner's observation that everybody is in favor of beach renourishment as long as they don't have to pay for it or words to that effect.  Uncle Jack is sure that he is not the only person who objects to beach renourishment no matter who pays for it.  He and many others object in principle to the squandering of public funds on any activity that is doomed to failure and that will do much more harm than it does good.

      Anyway he has been trying to help by searching eBay for a good used dredge at a price the town can afford to pay but he hasn't found one yet.  Has Buddy Davis ever built a dredge he wonders.


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The sun was a little late making its first appearance this morning because of clouds on the horizon but it was worth waiting for in spite of the cold wind.

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6 a.m. Still waiting.

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Breakthrough at 6:05

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It was foam city in Sonag again this morning.

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Beachwalkers today will have to wait for low tide.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:24 AM

Comments [9]

Monday, May 8, 2006
Underwater, Monday May 8, 2006

It has rained all night again in South Nags Head and Uncle Jack is almost afraid to look outside for fear he might discover that the Mini has floated away. The Nags Head commissioners have been talking about buying a dredge (see newspaper article below) but he wonders if they ought to be looking for a good used Ark instead. (Maybe they can get N.O.A.A. to run it for them).

Uncle Jack’s Charter cable is out this morning, presumably drowned, so he has no idea when he may be able to post this entry. The “clipping” from Sunday’s Outer Banks Sentinel (see below) has a kind of timeless quality, though, inasmuch as the problem under discussion has been with us for a long time and is not about to go away.    Signs of incipient panic among the commissioners are beginning to show as they continue to try to invent cost-effective ways to halt the westward movement of the Outer Banks that has been going on for millennia and will continue until the end of time no matter what.

Read it and weep, Nags Head taxpayers:

Nags Head considers beach nourishment options

At Wednesday's board meeting, Nags Head commissioners were expected to discuss plans for a referendum on the proposed emergency beach nourishment plan but, instead, the discussion took a different turn.

With encouragement from Mayor Renee Cahoon, each commissioner provided their own ideas and opinions about the topic which has been discussed from a variety of perspectives for about four decades.

Following are the thoughts of each expressed Wednesday:

Commissioner Doug Remaley: "Due to global warming, oceans are rising and as a result there are projects like this going on all over the world. There are even people dredging up islands and putting resorts and small towns on them. There are two companies on the East Coast that are capable of doing this project for us, and they are currently involved with 22 other dredging projects, so if this passes, who is to say when we could ever get the project done.

"Nobody is even talking about giving us any money. The federal government and the state have been harping us lip service for the past 12 to 13 years, and it's time we started to look at how we can do this on our own. By looking at what has happened in the past, if we send this to the people, it's going to fail again. I don't think we have found all the avenues, but we need to look at building or buying our own dredge, borrowing money on property the town owns, hiring our own people, and doing our own thing.

"We need some strong fast research on how to do this. Because of the scenarios nationwide with Katrina and Rita, we could then lease our equipment out to others and make some money. This was brought up in the past, but nobody thought it was a good idea. I call it the fire boat scenario; nobody wanted a fire boat until one was needed. The fact that we can perform maintenance on our beaches after the project is done is just another reason to do this on our own."

Commissioner Anna Sadler: "I think the timing of Commissioner Remaley's idea is bad. Too bad someone didn't get the figures together before today. If we stop in the middle of what we've accomplished now and go with what Remaley is proposing, we may destroy any future hope for federal dollars at all. We have discussed beach nourishment to death. How long are we supposed to wait for the county-wide assurance on the federal funding? If we don't solve the problem in Nags Head, then who will? I'm not sure which scenario I approve in the emergency plan, but the time has come to make a decision.

"Stumpy Point voted unanimously in repealing the referendum, and they were the first recipient of beach nourishment in 1969. I ask, why would you fail something that you've already used? With the emergency plan, all will pay, some more than others, but some benefit more than others. Retreating is the only other answer, and that is not cheap either, you will pay for that, too. Now, don't sit back and say I'm not for beach nourishment and not be informed.

"The public has got to be educated, and they deserve to tell the board where to go from here. The beach has never been renourished, and that's like never putting oil in your own car. If Nags Head residents start deciding maintain the beach, which has never had any maintenance, then maybe we should dredge our own beach with our own dredge. We've got to save our own."

Commissioner Wayne Gray: "We want to take $30 million and put it on our beach but, at the same time, by letting people drive on it we aren't even trying to protect it. Driving on the beach has always been a hands-off thing that nobody ever wanted to talk about. I don't think the Nags Head people are ready for a referendum; they haven't been informed enough. I can't imagine beach nourishment lasting for five years like it has been proposed. What happens if it's gone in two years and we still have three years left to pay on it. What do you do then? Do we have a plan? My concern is that local tax-payers are going to be put in debt forever."

Commissioner Bob Oakes: "We've been waiting too long. Sometimes, making a decision fast is better than making no decision at all. Everybody is for beach nourishment as long as you ask them not to pay for it. We are a donor state. We send more money to the federal government than we bring in each year, and we still aren't seeing any help. Dare County donates a large amount of money to the state every year. We are also a donor town, giving a considerable amount of money to Dare County, annually. We have been stuck in the middle with a constant delaying action because we are fighting the ocean with sand bags. If we get a bad storm without beach nourishment then we are twice as worse off. It's impossible to get a perfectly equitable plan and, at the same time, there is a cost to doing nothing at all."

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The monsoon rains of Friday night had barely sunk into the ground when the skies opened again and drowned Uncle Jack's backyard even more than before.

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Mrs. Uncle Jack's hydroponic tomato patch.

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Mini-sota, Land of 10,000 Lakes.

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Resurfacing raised Old Oregon Inlet Road five inches but it obviously wasn't enough.

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This could be an SUV commercial.

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:16 PM

Comments [1]

Sunday, May 7, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Sunday May 8, 2006

     The bi-polar nature of the Outer Banks' weather for the past couple of weeks was in evidence again this morning.  Yesterday's balmy southwest breezes have given way to an icy wind out of the northeast and once again the sun has failed to make an appearance at the appointed time.

       At least it wasn't raining so Uncle Jack strolled up to the beach to record the non-event for posterity.  He walked south with the wind but not very far and he chickened out and returned home via the Multi-use Pedestrian Walkway,  parts of which are also ideal for kayaking after Friday night's monsoon.

        Looks like a great day for a long afternoon nap.

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Ten minutes before unrise.

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Unrise. 6:01 a.m.

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Yesterday's sand sculpture. Uncle Jack predicts there won't be much activity in the sand shaping department today, unless Mother Nature does it herself.

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Friday's leftover rain is still trying to figure out how to seep through concrete in some places.

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A rare photo op. America's largest and smallest cars parked in perfect harmony in front of the Nags Head post office yesterday morning.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:28 AM

Comments [2]

Saturday, May 6, 2006
Sonag Submerged, Saturday May 6, 2006

     South Nags Head is showing its true colors as an incipient swamp this morning after last night's torrential rains that seemed to go on and on, punctuated by occasional thunder and lightning. Uncle Jack's backyard looks like a canal in Venice and a light rain is still falling so there was no point in his venturing up to the beach to photograph a sunrise that was obviously not going to happen.

     Right now it looks like a dreary Saturday on the Outer Banks and he hopes that visitors will try to find solace by visiting the retail store of their choice today.  He will be spending his day in the friendly confines of Yellowhouse Gallery at the 11 milepost on the Beach Road in Nags Head and he promises to keep the light on for you.

     Every once in a while Uncle Jack puts on his thinking cap and grapples for a while with one of the profound problems facing humanity as Planet Earth hurtles through the void toward an uncertain future.  What follows is one of his efforts to make sense of the insensible;  like the others it was doomed to failure.

                              World Peace

      Uncle Jack is sorry to say that unlike many other deep thinkers he does not have a plan to bring peace to the world. If you want to know the truth he gave up on the idea of world peace a long time ago when he saw how badly the Swedes and Norwegians treated each other up in northern Wisconsin where he grew up.
 As far as Uncle Jack could see there was hardly any difference between Swedes and Norwegians. For one thing they both worshipped the same God (who seemed to be dead set against anybody having any fun) and they also ate the same unusual foods such as codfish soaked in lye and sausages made out of potatoes and a kind of flat bread that looked and tasted exactly like generic paper towels.
 If the old saying is true that "you are what you eat" he doesn't see how there could have been any difference at all between the Swedes and Norwegians.
 When it started getting cold in northern Wisconsin toward the end of August each year all the Swedes and Norwegians put on exactly the same kinds of wool sweaters and jackets and long underwear so you couldn't tell them apart that way.
 Also the Swedes and Norwegians agreed completely with each other that the Indians were no-good, lazy bums. Even the Finns agreed with them about that.
 Just about the only time Uncle Jack could tell a Norwegian and a Swede apart was when they were talking in their native languages but even then it wasn't easy. Besides they all spoke English most of the time anyway so almost everybody in northern Wisconsin sounded a lot like those dumb janitors named Sven you always see on TV sitcoms.
 You would think that people who are as much alike as the Swedes and Norwegians would get along pretty well together, especially when they had somebody else like the Indians to hate, but they didn't. Every time a bunch of Norwegians got together they would make jokes about the Swedes, and vice versa.
 Uncle Jack grew up among Swedes so he got to hear a lot of jokes about how dumb the Norwegians were and he can still remember some of them. One joke he remembers was about this group of Norwegians who got tired of hearing jokes about how dumb Norwegians are so they got together and decided to march on Washington and demonstrate in front of the White House. The last anybody heard from them they were half way to Seattle.
 Then there was the song that Norwegians always used to sing that started out "Ten thousands Swedes ran through the weeds pursued by one Norwegian...." but Uncle Jack doesn't know how the rest of it went because he never hung around long enough to find out.
 Uncle Jack never did see a Swede and a Norwegian actually get into a real fight but he is pretty sure they would have if it came down to something really important like who was going to get the last jar of pickled herring in the A & P store.
 Anyway Uncle Jack decided a long time ago that if the Swedes and Norwegians couldn't get along with each other then there wasn't much of a chance that the rest of the people in the world could, considering how strange most of them are.
 He would like to be more optimistic about it but it seems like every time he looks in the paper he sees another story about people off in some part of the world he never heard of fighting about something really dumb, like what is the correct wine to served with baked iguana.
 Uncle Jack did have one good idea about how to bring peace to the world but he had to give up on it when he figured out how much bourbon it would actually take.



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Lake Ciltvaira.

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Uncle Jack's new swimming pool.

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Soggy Mini.

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Whitecap Street canal.

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At least Uncle Jack won't have to water the tomatoes today.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:09 AM

Comments [1]

Friday, May 5, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Cinco de Mayo, 2006

     If early indications mean anything this should be a spectacularly lovely day on the Outer Banks.  The sunrise was rather pedestrian (if any sunrise could be described with that opprobrious term) but the beach is gorgeous and temperatures should reach 80 with little or no wind.  A great day to get out there and build up your collection of skate egg sacs.

      Mrs. U.J. plans to make her world-famous tacos for dinner in celebration of the holiday. If you're a little hazy about the significance of Cinco de Mayo you might want to check out this link:


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Morning twilight. 5:55 a.m.

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Here come da sun.

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The sun in its entirety at 6:05 a.m.

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Plenty of wide, flat beach to accommodate every South Nags Head visitor today. Fortunately nobody is trying to renourish it.

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A defunct skate (remember the parrot sketch?) joined the egg pouches littering the Sonag beach this morning.

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Lots of refurbishing going on at Bell's store which was most recently the home of Don Gato's restaurant. The newest incarnation will be called the Number 12 Tavern or something like that, perhaps because of its location near the 12 m.p. on the Beach rd.

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Sonag residents are rejoicing at the completion of widening and resurfacing of Old Oregon Inlet Rd. No longer will they need to take to the shoulder to avoid oncoming cement trucks.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:55 AM

Comments [8]

Thursday, May 4, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Thursday May 4, 2006

     Not a very exciting sunrise this morning but the beach is wide, flat and hard and perfect for walking which is what Uncle Jack did for a mile or so.  One never knows what will turn up on the sand after the overnight high tide and this morning it was skate egg pouches, a.k.a. "Devil's Purses".  Thousands of them are scattered up and down the beach in Sonag and anybody who could think of a commercial use for them would be on easy street.  Maybe FEMA could be persuaded to use them as a defense against beach erosion.  They would probably work as well as anything else they have tried.

     Not a cloud in the sky this morning and it looks like a beautiful day in store for the annual Ocracoke surf-fishing tournament.  Even if no fish turn up it will be a nice day to sit on the beach and drink beer which is a lot more fun than fishing anyway if you ask Uncle Jack.


      Here's another old Uncle Jack column from the deep archives in the guest bedroom closet. This is definitely unessential reading but it's free so what the heck.  

                   Nobody's Perfect                         
      Uncle Jack would be the first person to admit that he is not perfect.
 If you take them one at a time, most of Uncle Jack's minor flaws may not seem to amount to much but he can see that if you had to put up with all of them all the time they could get a little aggravating.
 For example, Uncle Jack knows he doesn't make a very good martini and he probably drinks more bourbon than he should and he has absolutely no ambition, but these are not exactly the kinds of faults that would make him dangerous to other people. A serial killer he is not. 
 If all he had to worry about was his minor deficiencies, Uncle Jack would have achieved his major goal in life, which is total serenity, a long time ago. Unfortunately he has this one really big defect and there doesn't seem to be anything he can do about it.
 Uncle Jack's worst flaw is that he can't seem to remember anything longer than about three or four seconds. He is always terrified that somebody is going to say something to him that starts with "You remember...." like in "You remember Bob and Edna Wimble," who are these people standing in front of him that Uncle Jack could swear he never laid eyes on before in his life. Or "You remember the funny waiter we had in the hotel in Dublin" when he can't even remember being in Dublin.
 Uncle Jack can never remember anybody's birthday (except for George Washington's and that was only because Mrs. Stonebreaker pounded it into his head in the fourth grade and he is afraid to forget it because she might come back and hit him on the knuckles with her ruler). He can't remember anniversaries or which of his friends' children he is the Godfather of or anything like that.
 Uncle Jack can never make just one trip to the hardware store like normal people because he always forgets something. When he remembers to make a list before he goes to the hardware store he either forgets the list or he forgets which pocket he put it in or he just forgets to look at it.
 It's even worse when he goes to the grocery store which is about every 32 minutes on the average. Uncle Jack figures that over the past 40 years he has worn out four sets of Sears Roebuck steel-belted radials just going back to the grocery store to get things he forgot the first time.
   For Uncle Jack, though, the really worst part of having such a poor memory is not being able to remember peoples' names. Uncle Jack is forever meeting people that he knows he must know (because they are hugging him or saying "It's nice to see you again, Uncle Jack") but he can't remember who they are.
 Sometimes this hurts the other peoples' feelings and it always makes Uncle Jack feel very embarrassed and stupid. The worst time is when he has to introduce members of his own family to other people and it takes him a long time to remember their names.
 There doesn't seem to be anything Uncle Jack can do about his bad memory though, because he has had it all his life (as far as he can remember). He has tried acupuncture and encounter groups and all the other cures but nothing seems to work.
 So Uncle Jack would just like to apologize to all the people he hasn't remembered in the past few months and also to all the people he won't remember next time he sees them. He wants them to know that he can't help it and it's nothing personal.
 Uncle Jack thought of a very funny ending for this piece, too, but unfortunately he can't remember what it was.



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5:55 a.m. Morning twilight.

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First sighting. 6:05 a.m.

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A couple of minutes later. No surprises here.

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Four minutes into a new day.

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Why did Mother Nature pick last night to deposit thousands of these strange critters on the South Nags Head beaches. The chances are good that we will never know. She is inscrutable for sure.

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The first sign of human activity on the beach in many days. This sand castle is somewhat the worse for being pummeled by torrential rain yesterday afternoon.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:04 AM

Comments [7]

Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Wednesday May 3, 2006

    At  last the almost week-long northeaster is over and a soft breeze out of the southwest promises temperatures in the high 70's today.  What a welcome contrast to the foam-tossing, sand-flinging, dune-chopping winds of the past few days which made beachwalking a virtual impossibility.  Lucky are the folks who picked this week to vacation on the Outer Banks even though the first couple of days left a bit to be desired.

     As if in celebration Mother Nature provided one of her better sunrises of the past month or so.  Uncle Jack debated for a few moments about whether or not to get out of bed at 5:45 but he's glad he did.


        Just in case this turns out to be a slow day at work Uncle Jack has added something for you to read when the boss isn't looking.  He wrote this a long time ago when he was a boy reporter for the Outer Banks Current newspaper.

                            FINAL EXAM

A long time ago Uncle Jack came to that fateful crossroad of life where he had to decide what he would do for a living. Actually it wasn't all that much of a decision because by that time he had it pretty well narrowed down to two possibilities---he could either work for a living or he could become a college professor.
 He didn't know any college professors then so he couldn't ask them what they thought he should do but he did know a lot of people who worked for a living and every single one of them told Uncle Jack to  be a college professor. It has to be better than working for
a living, they said.
 All Uncle Jack knew about it was what he read in the Reader's Digest about how college professors sat around all the time reading and smoking their pipes and drinking sherry in the afternoon and that sounded pretty good to him.
 So Uncle Jack decided to become a college professor and he kept on doing it long after he found out that you can't trust everything you read in the Reader's Digest.
 There were some things about being a college professor that Uncle Jack liked pretty much. Most of all he liked the vacations. There were many kinds of vacations but the one he liked the most was summer vacation because it lasted from the middle of May to the end of August and he could be in Nags Head the whole time.
 Another nice part of being a college professor was lunch. Uncle Jack would always arrange his teaching schedule so he would have plenty of time for lunch. He would go the faculty dining room and sit with his colleagues from all the many disciplines  (a "discipline" in college is what is called a "subject" in high school) and he would have many stimulating and high level conversations ranging over the entire intellectual spectrum---from the Steelers to the Pirates and back again.
 Besides vacation and lunch there was one other nice thing about being a college professor and that was having plenty of time to read. College professors actually get paid for sitting around and reading---it is their "work" in a manner of speaking.
 College professors are supposed to keep up on current events so every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, after his nap, Uncle Jack would go to the library and get out Time and Newsweek and even some of those hard magazines like Foreign Affairs that do not even have pictures in them. This is how he kept himself informed so that if one of his students ever asked him a question he would know the right answer like professors are supposed to.
 As it turned out, though, the only question Uncle Jack's students ever asked him was "Will this be on the final exam?" After a while he quit going to the library and just took longer naps instead.
 He did this for l7 years and every year it got a little harder for him to leave Nags Head at the end of summer vacation and go back to being a college professor. Lucky for him he found out that they needed a newspaper columnist in Nags Head and also that being a newspaper columnist was actually easier than being a college professor so he decided to get his mid-life crisis out of the way and move to Nags Head and become a newspaper columnist.
 One of the nicest things about being a newspaper columnist, he has learned, is that people ask him questions other than "Will this be on the final exam?" For example last week Mr. McCreery of Nags Head asked what is the best way to open those boxes that say "tear on dotted line" without tearing the whole box to shreds.
 Uncle Jack was sorry to tell Mr. McCreery that he doesn't know how to open those packages either and maybe it would be better to write to Heloise or Erma Bombeck about that. Uncle Jack did tell Mr. McCreery that he is one of the world's foremost authorities on opening bottles, though, and he would be glad to come over to his house and help if he has any trouble getting a cork out of a bottle of champagne or anything like that.


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5:50 a.m. Looks promising.

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On-time arrival as always. 6:05 a.m.

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More of the same.

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This was one of those mornings when the early riser is treated to two sunrises for the price of one.

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Here it comes again out of a bank of clouds.

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Only to disappear again behind another bank of clouds.

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Mother Nature has conducted her own "Operation Beach Sweep" the past few days leaving little for humans to pick up except the wreckage of a few sandfences.

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The weatherperson says it will be a perfect beach day today and a perfect beach awaits those who are lucky enough to be here right now.

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Beachgoers in some areas will have to do some scrambling to get to the beach. These sandbags piled haphazardly at the end of Dare Drive would present a real challenge even to a mountain goat.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:50 AM

Comments [8]

Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Tuesday May 2, 2006
    Uncle Jack had some computer trouble this morning and he has run out of time to do a proper weblog entry before he goes out to vote for Ray Midgett for County Commissioner and then to work.  Suffice it to say that it was cold and windy on the beach again this morning but at least the sun appeared and things are looking a little better weatherwise.

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6 a.m. and all's well.

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6:10 a.m. The appointed moment.

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Here to stay from the looks of it.

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Lots of foam being generated again this morning. It rolls down the beach like tumbleweed propelled by a 20 mph breeze from the north.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:58 AM

Comments [4]

Monday, May 1, 2006
Sunrise (Not!) in Sonag, Monday May 1, 2006

     It's a brand new month in South Nags Head but it's same old, same old in the weather department.  Strong winds out of the north for the fourth or fifth day in a row, temperatures in the low fifties going all the way up to the high fifties later, and mountainous seas crashing on the beaches night and day.

      Uncle Jack did not bother to walk up to the beach this morning as it was obvious there would be no sunrise.  Thick clouds rolled in yesterday afternoon and they continue to blanket the entire Outer Banks this morning. There are several compelling arguments for the wisdom of going back to bed and staying there until this goes away.

    Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. did take a spin around the neighborhood yesterday afternoon to see how South Nags head is holding up under Mother Nature's relentless assault.  He braved the wind and flying sand to take a few pictures of the newly widened beach at Seagull Drive which is a prime example (along with Surfside Drive) of what she can accomplish in the beach restoration department when given a fair chance.


     With hurricane season approaching Uncle Jack found his mind wandering back a couple of years to Isabel, our most recent visitor.  He found the following letter in his mailbag back in October 2003, right after the storm.

Dear Uncle Jack,
     I was over at the laundromat yesterday drying my socks and I heard some people say they thought the Weather Channel has figured out some way to cause hurricanes so they can boost their ratings and sell more advertising.  Do you think there is any truth to that, Uncle Jack?
                                              Dubious in Duck


Dear Dubious,
     Uncle Jack does not doubt for a minute that they would do it if they could but he thinks we will have to look to some Higher Power for an explanation of where Isabel came from.  Some of the goofier Democratic presidential candidates have suggested it could have been President Bush because he sure has a lot of reasons to want to take people's minds off Iraq and the economy for a while.  Uncle Jack never has been a believer in conspiracy theories, though, so he is reserving judgment until he sees more proof that the C.I.A. or the Energy Department or Rumsfeld or somebody masterminded this whole thing.
     He has to say it really worked,though, because he has hardly thought about Iraq for a whole week except for sympathizing with those people over there who have not had electricity for months.  He is not going to say that life without electricity is not worth living but he sure will be glad when he can go back to South Nags Head and trim his moustache again like a normal person.
                                              Uncle Jack


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Seagull Drive beach looking north from where the big yellow house called KooKoo's Nest once stood before it was moved last year.

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The same looking south from the end of what is left of Seagull Drive. Now that the houses and the sandbags are out of the way there is plenty of room for beachgoers to romp.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:04 AM

Comments [3]

click picture for more
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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