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Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Olympic Porchsitting Redux
       Uncle Jack is happy to report that he and Mrs. U.J. are safely back in Charm City after a thrilling drive up I-95 on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Lucky for them no tractor trailers jack-knifed in front of them (a fairly common occurrence on 95, especially in the vicinity of D.C.)but the traffic was even heavier than usual and Mrs. U.J. had to pry his hands from the steering wheel when they finally got home after six hours of white-knuckle driving. Fortunately his fingers recovered their prehensility quickly and he was able to begin replenishing his bodily fluids in a manner of minutes after reaching the refrigerator.
       After the monsoon rains stopped, their ten day stay in South Nags Head was most enjoyable. One glorious day they lunched on Jennette's Pier while watching surfers battle giant waves kicked up by a tropical disturbance somewhere out to sea. What a pity a surfing tournament at the pier had to go off a couple of days earlier in a driving rain. It would have been fun to watch the experts show off their stuff on those tall breakers.
       Luckily they were able to attend the unofficial grand opening of the new Lowe's store in KDH---possibly the major cultural event of 2012 on the Outer Banks. After a half-hour of exploring the cavernous interior in search of a fly-swatter they gave up and went to Ace Hardware where they were in and out with their purchase in less time than it took to park at Lowe's.
       The prospect of another long, hot summer in Baltimore is lightened considerably by anticipation of a series of events that will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, much of which transpired in these environs. Uncle Jack is especially looking forward to the arrival of several dozen "tall ships" from all over the world a couple of weeks from now. Several will be tied up in the inner harbor and accessible to old salts like him. An exciting prospect, especially if a roving gang of teen-age hoodlums should happen to show up at the same time. Stay tuned.
       Uncle Jack would much rather be in Baltimore this summer than in London where they are hosting the 2012 Olympics. He and Mrs. U.J. have spent a lot of time in London and they know how stressed the public transportation facilities are in ordinary times. How they will cope with hundreds of thousands of additional riders all wanting to get out to the far East End at the same time is awful to contemplate.
       He remembered writing about the Olympics in Atlanta a few years ago and has drug that column out of the archives for this occasion. This is one of the 100 pieces included (along with a bunch of pictures) in his Kindle book which is available from the Amazon Kindle Library for a mere $4.99. Google "Uncle Jack's Outer Banks" Kindle edition for more info about this eBook and how you can download it to your computer or Kindle reader.

Olympic Porchsitting                                                                     

Lucky for Uncle Jack the Olympic Committee has not made Porchsitting into one of the official games yet because he is not too crazy about the idea of being in Atlanta at this time of the year, especially if he had to engage in serious competition with the best Porchsitters from all over the world in all that heat and humidity they have down there.
He knows it is only a matter of time before Porchsitting gets approved as an official Olympic Game because the AARP has been lobbying pretty hard for it the past couple of years and they usually get what they want.
Maybe if Uncle Jack is really lucky he will be able to compete in the summer games in London in the year 2012 because he has heard thay have very good beer over there and it is not so humid. Anyway he is going to keep honing his Porchsitting skills which he feels are already world class in some areas such as Osprey Appreciation, Porpoise-spotting, Gull-feeding from the Prone Position, Pelican-counting and Synchronized Rocking (with Mrs. Uncle Jack). He needs more polishing in a few others like Avoiding Eye Contact With the Renters Next Door. (He still has a tendency to let himself be drawn into banal conversations which cause him to lose concentration and which could cost him points in international competition).
Seriously, Uncle Jack has been trying to watch the Olympics on TV from time to time this week but he has to confess it is hard going. For one thing they have all these events which it is hard for him to believe that even the people who are competing would find them interesting, such as pommel horse riding. He knows he is bored when he starts looking forward to the next car commercial which is never more than 30 seconds away, fortunately.
Speaking of commercials Uncle Jack finds himself pining for the old days before TV when the athletes were all amateurs more-or-less and they competed against each other pretty much to see who was best instead of to see who was going to get the best shoe contract. It is hard to believe any more that not so many years ago the great Jim Thorpe had to give up his Olympic medals because he had made a few bucks playing semi-pro baseball. That sort of thing seems downright un-American now when every member of the U.S. men's basketball team is a multi-millionaire professional player and that's considered o.k.
Uncle Jack got a big kick out of an article he read somewhere this week by Roger Angell who is probably the best writer on the planet who chooses to waste his time writing about sports who points out the supreme irony of the American basketball "Dream Team". As strange as it sounds those filthy rich N.B.A. stars come as close as any of the olympic athletes to the old notion of competition for competition's sake. All that matters to them is showing the world that they are the very best at what they do.
No need to worry about finding corporate sponsors to foot the bill for year-round training camps. No worry on the part of the players about who is going to get the shoe contract----they have all the best ones already. They play for the sheer pleasure of playing and maybe a little bit for the fun of humiliating opponents from basketball hotspots like Argentina where most of the players were probably chasing cattle around the pampas until recently.
About the only fun a contrarian like Uncle Jack can get out of watching the Dream Team play is when some upstart bunch of former gauchos plays them dead even for ten minutes or so and occasionally pulls off a play that leaves five of the best players in the world looking for someplace to hide.
They can do this sometimes because they really are teams who have played together for a long time and basketball still is a team game in spite of the growing tendency toward domination by individal superstars. The Dream Team is more an aggregation of supremely talented individuals than it is a smoothly functioning team---as they demonstrated by falling all over each other in the early stages of the first game against Argentina.
But enough pontificating. It is time for Uncle Jack to return to the porch for another gruelling practice session. When the time comes to porchsit for his country he will be ready.
He could also use a nice shoe contract.

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Picture 1 Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage in South Nags Head might still be available for this coming week (June 2-9). Call the Cola Vaughan agency at 252-449-2652 for the latest word on availability for other weeks as well.

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Watch the Olympics on this 55 inch flat screen TV. For more pictures Google Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage.

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Picture 3 Looking south from Jennette's Pier on a sunny afternoon last week.

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Ditto looking north.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:42 AM

Comments [2]

Saturday, May 19, 2012
Monsoon Time
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. drove from Baltimore to South Nags Head last Tuesday in the rain. Wednesday it rained some more. Thursday it rained and Friday it rained some more. Today is Saturday and it has not rained as of 10:30 a.m. but it looks like it could. The water table in many parts of Sonag must be an inch above ground at this point if his back yard is any indication. The weatherman is predicting "unsettled weather" this weekend so who knows what might be in store for the next couple of days.
       Meanwhile over at the beach a northeaster is pounding away at the ocean front and driving erstwhile beachwalkers to shelter from the flying sand. Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. fled to the comfort of the new watering hole at the Outer Banks Pier where a large contingent of raucous guzzlers were happily engaged in what appeared to be a sincere attempt to drink all the beer in South Nags Head before dinner.
       Rain notwithstanding they are happy to be spending a few days in soggy Sonag before the first renters roll in on Memorial Day weekend. It looks like another banner season for rentals so they might not be able to return to their own house until October. Sob. Call Cola or Megan at 252-449-2652 to check on availability. As of today there are still a couple of weeks open in June and August. For more information about the house just Google "Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage" and click on the link.
       As a public service to all Outer Banks homeowners who are expecting visitors this summer Uncle Jack has exhumed his "Advice to Houseguests"
column from long ago and reprinted it below. He should mention that it is included among the 100 funny pieces in his Kindle book--"Uncle Jack's Outer Banks". Google the title for more information about the book and how to order it. An incredible bargain at $4.99 if he says so himself. And you don't need a Kindle to download it to your PC.

                            Advice for Houseguests

Uncle Jack has lived on the Outer Banks for a long time now and he has 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 waiting for food to appear 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 Outer Banks. These suggestions are not "cast in concrete" as they say over at Coastal Redi-Mix. Not everybody likes Stilton cheese, for instance, so you might not have to bring any if you are not staying with Uncle Jack.
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 Virginia Diner 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 express appreciation to 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 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 wonderful the weather was last week, how great the fishing is in the spring and fall, or how easy it is to cross the Bypass in February.
If you do everything Uncle Jack has suggested your host and hostess might invite you to come back again. If you are really lucky they might ask you to come back next winter when the swans are here.


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The ocean was wild Friday afternoon, driven by steady 30 knot winds out of the northeast. At this point the waves had created steep drop-offs in many places.

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Unknown persons, perhaps aliens impervious to blowing sand, dug this substantial hole in the beach in Sonag. It will be interesting to see if it survives the next couple of high tides. Stay tuned.

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No fishermen but lots of happy beer drinkers at the South Nags Head Pier on Friday afternoon.

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Uncle Jack's house is ideal for senior citizens like himself. All rooms on one floor only seven steps up from the ground. Three minute walk to the beach. Exquisitely furnished.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:51 AM

Comments [3]

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
How North Carolina Could Painlessly Save $400,000,000
              Uncle Jack read in the paper that the N.C. Department of Transportation has begun to turn its attention to the last remaining two-lane section of Highway 64 which runs through the swamps for about 27 miles from Columbia to Manns Harbor. This happens to be one of Uncle Jack’s favorite roads in the whole world so he was very upset when he heard that NCDOT was setting out to ruin it in the name of “Progress” and they were going to spend almost a half-billion dollars doing it at a time when the N.C. government can’t even afford to keep all the schools open.
       He has traveled that stretch of road dozens of times over the 40 years he lived on the Outer Banks (mostly to have his liver checked out at the Duke Medical Center) and he always looked forward to it because he never knew what he was going to see. One time it might be a bear sitting on the shoulder panhandling from passing cars and the next time an alligator sunning himself by one of the canals that line the road for 20 miles. At night he knew he had to watch out for deer crossing and also for Smoky Bears who lurked in the crossroads east of Columbia, eager to enrich the coffers of poor Tyrrell County with their ticket books.
       On a few lucky occasions he has reached the swing bridge on the Alligator River bridge just as it opened to permit the passage of an assortment of elegant sailing yachts and power boats on their way to or from Florida. While he is sure this is a major annoyance for many travelers who have urgent business to accomplish he always thought of it as comparable to stopping to smell the roses in other milieus.
              But the joys of traveling two-lane 64, soon to be made just another memory by the relentless planners of “Progress” at NCDOT, are nothing compared to the disruption and misery about to be visited upon the good souls who live (and whose ancestors lived) on the few bits of high ground in that swampy paradise.       Some of them (and their churches and graveyards) are going to be in the way and they will have to go. That is the way of progress. The “improved” road will probably shave the travel time from Columbia to Manns Harbor by as much as ten minutes and that is certainly worth $400,000,000 and disrupting the lives of a few dozen people who happen to enjoy living in alligator habitat.
              Those people are not impressed with the argument that the widening is essential to speed the removal of tourists from the Outer Banks in the event of hurricanes and neither is Uncle Jack. Driving west with the hope of eluding a hurricane is probably not the brightest thing to do but even when thousands have chosen to do it he knows of no evidence that the two-lane section of 64 has been a life-threatening bottleneck to would-be escapees.
       Having moved to Baltimore and depending for life support now on the good doctors at Johns Hopkins he may never again drive the exotic road from Manns Harbor to Columbia. He will mourn its passing, though, if his liver holds out long enough. In the meantime he wishes that some forward-looking group like the Chamber of Commerce or the Dare County Visitors Bureau would mount a campaign to save this priceless piece of eastern Carolina history for future generations to enjoy. Surely they can think of something better to do with $400,000,000---like renourishing the beaches from now until the end of time perhaps.
       Uncle Jack has long admired the fortitude and independent spirit of the folks who choose to live in the deep and watery recesses of mainland Dare County. He wrote this tribute many years ago and he has included it among the 100 pieces collected in his Kindle Book called "Uncle Jack's Outer Banks". You can download the book to your Kindle or PC for a mere $4.99. Google "Uncle Jack's Outer Banks" for more info.

                                          Fardley Place
Located on the Dare County mainland, not far from the picturesque village of Drainfield, Fardley Place is believed by local historians to be the site of the first permanent mobile home residence in the United States. According to records in the archives of the N.C. Department of Transportation, the Alpheus Fardley family of Nutley, New Jersey were en route to Florida in search of work when a flat tire on their "house trailer", as such vehicles were called in those days, brought their journey to a premature end on December l8, l928.
Unable to afford a tire patch, the penurious Fardleys were forced to remain parked on the shoulder of state highway 263 for several months, subsisting primarily on the remains of turtles and possums whose carcasses litter the roads in that area. Eventually the luckless travelers were befriended by a group of moderately xenophobic local residents who helped them move their trailer to a vacant field nearby. Once settled, the industrious Fardleys quickly found steady employment as scallop shuckers and in a few short years were able to replace their tiny domicile with a six-room, state-of-the-art, Conner "Palais de Versailles" model with indoor facilities.
The family remained in residence at Fardley Place until December l94l when "opportunity knocked" in the form of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. The senior Fardleys and their nine children promptly moved to the Norfolk area where they reportedly amassed a considerable fortune in shipbuilding, real estate, and fried chicken during World War II.
While no trace remains of the Fardley trailer, which was reportedly blown to a new location in Tyrrell County during Hurricane Hazel in l954, the cement blocks on which it stood are still clearly visible at low tide. The Fardley yard, however, has been preserved intact as a living museum of depression-era North Caroliniana.
Visitors may view (and children may climb on!) the remains of no fewer than 20 assorted Ford and Chevrolet vehicles (circa l926-38) which the Fardleys acquired and discarded during their l3 years in Dare County. Four partially collapsed sheds on the property shelter the rusting remnants of one of the most comprehensive collections of broken farm implements and household appliances ever assembled by a single family east of the Mississippi.
Lovingly cultivated by the ladies of the Drainfield Garden Club, the Fardley Yard also contains one of the largest displays of indigenous weeds in eastern North Carolina.
Fardley Place is open to the public every day and admission is free. From Nags Head drive west on highway 263 to Drainfield. Turn around at the Methodist Church and drive back exactly l.2 miles. Look for the miniature replica of Stonehenge cleverly fashioned out of cement blocks by the Men's Auxiliary of the Drainfield Garden Club.

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This amusing sign appeared in several places in Nags Head just before the recent "Bike Week". Uncle Jack wasn't around to hear how it worked but he has his doubts.

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Uncle Jack's delightful house in South Nags Head is still available for a few prime time weeks. Google "Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage" for more info.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:06 AM

Comments [7]

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