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Friday, June 30, 2006
Sonag sunrise Friday June 30, 2006

     This has not been a good week for vacationers what with the incessant rain, the high surf producing truncated beaches and riptides and red flags at the lifeguard stands.  Uncle Jack extends his sincere sympathy to all those whose annual week at the beach has been something of a washout.  He hopes that those of you from the flood-ravaged areas to the north will not return home tomorrow to find your houses under water.  That would be too much.

     Today is starting out like it could develop into a perfect beach day.  One out of seven is not very good but it's better than none. Enjoy.

    For those of you who are chained to your desks on this lovely Friday here's another gleaning from the archive to help pass the time:

                 Don’t Touch Nothin’

                     A One-Act Play

                    By Pier Andello

Scene: A souvenir shop somewhere on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is 11 a.m. on a typically hot and humid August day. The clerk hastily gulps her fourth Valium of the morning as three tow-headed children, ages 5, 4 and 2 burst through the door followed moments later by their tanned but haggard parents, mother carrying a small baby.

Clerk: (with feigned cheerfulness born of economic necessity) “Morning folks. Can I help you?”

Male Parent: “No thanks. Just browsing.”

Female Parent: “I don’t want you kids to touch NOTHIN', understand? (Her eyes glazed, she is unable to perceive that her three ambulatory children are simultaneously touching 47 breakable objects as she speaks).

Clerk: (With grim smile) “Just let me know if I can help.” (She watches in resigned horror as children proceed to touch all 4, 738 items in the shop in two minutes and 51 seconds flat. Pretty good time, she notes, but not a record for three children under six).

Five-year-old: (Brandishing ceramic replica of Cape Hatteras lighthouse, exquisitely crafted by skilled Chinese artisans and authentic in every respect except for the mauve and yellow stripes). “Mommy I want one of these get me one of these I want one PLEASE.”

Female parent: “Rocky I told you not to touch anything. Now put that back where you got it right now and DON’T TOUCH NOTHIN'!!”

Five-year-old: (Tosses ceramic lighthouse into barrel filled with pink sponge rubber porpoises) “I hate you. You never buy me nothin' I want.” (Aims vicious kick at table containing 200 plastic replicas of Wright brothers first glider).

Four-year-old: “Daddy I has to go tee-tee.”

Male parent: (Deeply engrossed in study of poster displaying numerous deeply bronzed and oiled female torsos) “Huh?”

Four-year-old: “Daddy I has to go tee-tee real bad.”

Male parent: (To female parent who is unsuccessfully trying to quiet screaming infant) “Debbie has to go, hon. Can you take her somewhere?”

Female parent: (Shouting to clerk over screams of deranged infant) “You got a bathroom in here?”

Clerk: (Praying that the Lord will not strike her dead on the spot for telling a monstrous lie) “I’m sorry but the nearest bathroom is over at the Visitors’ Center in Kitty Hawk which is about 12 miles from here so you better get going before it’s too late.”

Two-and-a-half-year old: “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh” (Having knocked over pyramid display constructed of 750 imported ceramic ashtrays inscribed “Fun in the Sun. Nags Heap, N.C. Summer 2006” which had taken the owner three slow days in June to stack).

Female parent: “Dammit Rambo, I told you not to touch nothin'’. Now put those things back the way they were because we got to go.”

Male parent: (Still ogling oiled nudes) “Why don’t you take the kids out to the car, hon, while I buy this poster for the family room.”

Clerk: (Reaching for Valium bottle as first family departs and new group enters)

“Y’all come back soon, hear?”

                            THE END

Moral: Retail is not pretty.

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5:35 a.m. Not much going on.

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5:50 Thick clouds on the horizon have delayed the sun's first appearance but it has finally broken through.

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Here to stay from the looks of it at 6 a.m.

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It was extreme low tide at 6 a.m. producing a wide expanse of flat sand interspersed with large shellbeds. Plenty of room for everybody, at least until high tide when most of this will be covered.

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Ditto looking north.

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Sand has begun to cover up the ugly mess in front of this cottage. It was actually possible to get around it this morning without having to climb over sandbags.

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One last look at the sun. We have seen so little of it lately that it deserves our attention.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:56 AM

Comments [2]

Thursday, June 29, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Thursday June 29, 2006

  The penultimate day of June arrived shrouded in mist and clouds with only a shred of light here and there in the sky to suggest that a sunrise was happening out there somewhere.

    It was close to low tide at 5:45 a.m. revealing an extremely wide, flat expanse of gravelly sand extending up to the edge of the drop-offs which range from one to five feet high.  In some places the newly formed drop-offs are coterminous with the remains of last year's berms making for a rather precipitous trip from the top of the berm to the beach below.

     Where all that sand went and when it will return are mysteries at this point.  In the meantime beachgoers are still able to negotiate the drop-offs and find places to sit where they can talk about how strange the beach looks right now.

     Yesterday was warm, humid and cloudy with occasional glimpses of sunshine. Today is starting out like another yesterday but who knows what it might be like in a few hours.

    Here's another oldie from the archives in the guest bedroom closet:

                             Cereal Cynic

Uncle Jack is not sure why he bought a box of Wheaties a couple of weeks ago but he did and he is working his way through it at a fairly good clip. He used to eat a lot of Wheaties when he was a kid but to tell the truth he never liked them all that much because if you ask him they got soggy too quick. That is the main reason that when he grew up he switched over to those nature cereals which are full of hard stuff like nuts and seeds and dried coconut husks which are still crunchy enough to break your fillings an hour after you pour the milk on.

The main thing Uncle Jack liked about Wheaties when he was a kid was the boxes. He was always a great reader even at a very early age and the Wheaties boxes always had plenty of interesting stuff to read such as testimonials from famous athletes who always said they wouldn’t have amounted to much except for eating a bowl of Wheaties every day.

Uncle Jack suspects that was the main reason he kept on eating Wheaties even though he wasn’t too crazy about them and he did wonder sometimes how that mushy mess in the bottom of your bowl could turn you into a superstar like Joe DiMaggio who could win the hand (and everything else attached to it) of somebody like Marilyn Monroe.

Later on he found out that those famous athletes actually got paid for saying they liked Wheaties and right then he turned into the cynical, doubting person he has remained to this day.

Like he said he does not know what compelled him to buy a box of Wheaties after all these years but he can tell you that after reading the box every morning for the past couple of weeks they have hardly changed at all. They have this picture of a smiling football star on the back and on the inside there was a nice picture of another football player who is one of the 25 “Hot Superstars” he can get if he buys 24 more boxes of Wheaties.

Also the box had a coupon which he can send in with $19.95 and get a videotape called “Learning Football the NFL Way” where these superstars will teach you the fundamentals such as how to pick a good agent, how to beat a urine test, and how to set up a deferred payment plan that will keep you in Wheaties long after the ligaments in your knees have turned to tomato aspic.

Uncle Jack is just kidding. They probably have some stuff in there about blocking and tackling and being a good sport, too, with demonstrations of how to help the opposing quarterback to his feet after you have broken both of his legs.

The side panel of the Wheaties box is still the same, too, with all that stuff about nutrition such as how one bowl gives you 4% of all the protein you need for the whole day (as long as you go right back to bed and stay there). Uncle Jack is not sure how that compares with one regular Krispy Kreme glazed but he did notice that the second main ingredient in Wheaties is sugar which is what they are probably talking about when they say that Wheaties give you “Energy that you need to get going“.

Anyway Uncle Jack really did enjoy his box of Wheaties and he was happy to learn that some things in this world never change. Next week: What Joe DiMaggio really liked for breakfast.

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Uncle Jack regrets to report that this is your sunrise picture for today, taken at 5:55 a.m.

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The Outer Banks pier is down there somewhere but you can't even see the lights this morning.

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The ocean has calmed down a lot since yesterday and probably won't do any more sand removal at high tide today. Isn't this a lovely sight?

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The striations are almost like rings in a tree, each one representing a different condition of the beach in years past.

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This neighborhood pigeon was the only bird Uncle Jack saw on the beach this morning. Strange.

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These birds were in the water last evening while he tried to use the Elph's sound recording function. He succeeded in recording the sound of the waves and playing it back from the camera, but........

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....after he downloaded the pictures into his computer he couldn't get any sound to come out of them. Does anybody know what he's doing wrong?

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:49 AM

Comments [5]

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Sonag Unrise, Wednesday June 28, 2006

      "Rain, rain go away" would be an appropriate mantra for vacationers on the Outer Banks today after yesterday's nearly non-stop deluge.  Right now it looks like more of the same with overcast skies and not even a hint of a sunrise this morning.

      Uncle Jack did go up to the beach at putative sunrise and took a couple of pictures before his Elph battery went dead.  He put in the back-up battery he always carries with him only to discover that it had not survived its fourth trip through the washer-dryer cycle yesterday.  He is going to try drying it out in the microwave this morning but he doesn't hold out much hope for it.

     The surf is still up this morning and has continued to chop away at the beach which has lost a zillion tons of  sand in the last few days. Uncle Jack's walk this morning was cut short by the reappearance of a wall of hitherto covered-up sandbags in front of one cottage.  Only the agile and intrepid will be able to get past it today.  So much for the "public beach".

     The wind has shifted to the southwest so perhaps the waves will die down today and some of the lost sand will begin to return.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Mother Nature to cover up those ugly sandbags again and restore the beach to its normal state of flatness.

     The picture below from the Coastland Times says something about the trustworthiness of the Army Corps of Engineers. They maintain the fiction that the ditch in South Nags Head is a "navigable waterway" so they can get more money out of the federal treasury.  (Any resemblance to the scam artists in New Orleans is purely coincidental).  Because of this the N.C. Department of Transportation which owns the ditch won't clean it because they have to get permission from the Corps first. Incredible.

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This picture from the Coastland Times says a lot about the trustworthiness of the Army Corps of Engineers. This is the weed-choked drainage ditch along the west side of Old Oregon Inlet Road in Sonag which the Corps calls a "navigable waterway".

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Sorry folks but this was the scene at sunrise this morning.

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Sonag has a whole new beach this morning courtesy of Mother Nature who has taken away the old one, hopefully only temporarily.

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Shell fragment collectors should be able to fill their buckets in no time this morning.

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Connoisseurs of concrete should also have a field day.

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This is as far as Uncle Jack could get this morning. This is one of the consequences of allowing cottage owners to armor their property with giant sandbags. You can have sandbags or you can have a beach but not both, as Professor Pilkey says.

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At this point a wave got him up to the knees and he decided to turn back.

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The drop-offs are a geologist's delight, showing layers of sand going back probably several years. Uncle Jack guesses that the thick top layer is made up mostly of Currituck County sand that has washed down from last year's berms, very little of which rem

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The faint pinkness in the northeastern sky indicates that the sun was around here somewhere. This was the last shot before the battery died.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:40 AM

Comments [2]

Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Sonag Unrise, Tuesday June 27, 2006

     Those big black clouds that have been hanging around in the western sky finally moved in on South Nags Head last evening.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. were still on the beach, concluding their evening walk to Jennette's pier, when the downpour started. Needless to say they were drenched by the time they got home. Fortunately the Elph stayed dry and will live to pixelate again.

    But not this morning.  Rain is still falling steadily and there was not even  a hint of a sunrise at the appointed time. By not leaving the house  Uncle Jack gained some time to read about the calamitous hydrological events in the Washington, D.C. area yesterday and he thanks Mother Nature for sparing us (so far) from anything even remotely resembling that deluge.

    He is continuing to turn over rocks in the guest bedroom closet and yesterday unearthed this rumination on the subject of crickets from days gone by:

          Crickets Are Our Friends

Dear Uncle Jack,

I have a problem I hope you can help me with. First I should tell you that I am not exactly what you would call a liberated woman. I have never had a real job unless you want to call raising five kids on the kind of money my husband makes picking up aluminum cans on the bypass a real job.

Anyway the kids are grown up now and I guess I don’t have a very good excuse for not going out and getting a real estate license like everybody else but I can never keep a straight face when I tell a lie so I don’t think I would be very good at real estate.

Besides I do get a lot of satisfaction out of staying home and doing housework, especially since the kids moved out and I don’t have to pick up after them any more. Cleaning is my strong suit and I am not bragging when I tell you that my house is a cinch to turn up in the Pine Sol Hall of Fame one of these days.

I always try to keep my house so clean that if President Bush and Laura should knock on my door some day and want to use the bathroom I will not be embarrassed and don’t laugh because exciting things like that have happened to ordinary housewives like myself more than once.

I have to give some credit for my clean house to my husband because he helps a lot by going up to the Burger King when he needs to go to the bathroom and that cuts my workload down at least 50% right there.

I suppose that by now you are wondering what my problem is and I am going to tell you even though it is really embarrassing to talk about it like this in public. My problem is crickets and I have tried every way I can think of to get them out of my house but they are still chirping away like crazy. Can you imagine how I would feel if Laura Bush was in the bathroom sometime and a cricket crawled out from under the plunger and hopped in her lap or something? Please help me Uncle Jack. You are my only hope.

Mrs. Clean

Nags Head

Dear Mrs. Clean,

First of all Uncle Jack will tell you that you are not alone in the cricket department. Everybody Uncle Jack knows on the Outer Banks has crickets in their house and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Also he would not be surprised if President and Mrs. Bush have crickets in their Texas ranchhouse so they are probably used to having crickets jump out in front of them at all hours of the day and night.

If you are wondering how crickets get into your house in the first place Uncle Jack would guess that your husband brings most of them in with him when he comes back from the Burger King. You might want to think about letting him use the bathroom at home, especially at night when the crickets tend to move around the most.

Nothing really works, though, so you might as well get used to having a few crickets in your house no matter what you do. Think of them as part of God’s plan for the world and try to relax and enjoy their humorous antics. That’s what Uncle Jack does and he can tell you that after he has had a few sips of Jack Daniel’s in the evening he thinks those crickets are just as funny as anything on TV with the possible exception of Fox News.

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These are the clouds that brought our Monday evening stroll on the beach to a sodden halt at about 8 p.m.

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Intrepid walker braves heavy surf which continues to chop away at miles of beach in South Nags Head. Uncle Jack has never before seen such extensive erosion of this kind. The cause remains a mystery to him.

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It was too rough for sensible people to go into the water yesterday so many of them devoted their time to creating some remarkable sand sculptures. This magnificent construction was half gone by the time we got back to it on our return trip from Jennette

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Another view showing the proximity of the angry sea. Further proof that it's not a good idea to build close to the ocean no matter what you happen to be building.

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This is true for Mayan temples....

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....as well as sand turtles. Both had a short life yesterday.

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This drop-off, six feet high in places, extends for miles, off and on, in South Nags Head. A very unusual phenomenon in Uncle Jack's experience.

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The 20 mph wind out of the southeast was ideal for getting heavy kites off the ground.

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Some rather spectacular cloud formations appeared before the rains came last evening.

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Uncle Jack couldn't produce a sunrise picture this morning but perhaps this photo of little Macy from Louisville, Kentucky will do until the next sunrise comes along. Is she adorable or what?

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:34 AM

Comments [5]

Monday, June 26, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Monday June 26, 2006

     It's the dawn of a new week and a very pretty one it was.  There is a strong, steady wind blowing out of the southeast for the third day in a row and it has built up some serious waves that have been chopping away at the beach for the past several high tides.  The combination of a serious drop-off and heavy surf may very well bring out the red flags this morning.  Definitely not a good day to be in the water.

     Here is yet another long-buried nugget from the archives:


We seem to have a lot of mosquitoes around here right now and it’s got a lot of people upset. To hear some of them talk you would think the mosquitoes are the worst natural disaster to hit the Outer Banks since the Ash Wednesday storm. Uncle Jack has heard so much complaining about mosquitoes lately that he thinks it’s about time to set the record straight.

One thing he knows is that compared to the mosquitoes up in northern Wisconsin where Uncle Jack grew up, the Dare County mosquito shouldn’t even be called a mosquito. Wisconsin mosquitoes and their first cousins, Minnesota mosquitoes, are truly a breed apart. A northern mosquito is to a Dare County mosquito as open heart surgery is to a haircut.

A bite from a local mosquito, Uncle Jack has discovered, is like a good hickey. It itches for a while, it feels good when you scratch it, and then it goes away. A bite from a Wisconsin mosquito is, to use a popular local metaphor, another kettle of fish. The Wisconsin mosquito has a stinger the size of a paring knife and a bite that could rouse a dozing hippopotamus (if one ever wandered that far north).

The life cycle of a Wisconsin mosquito bite is anywhere from seven to ten days. For the first few days and nights you scratch constantly. Scratching only makes matters worse but there’s nothing you can do about it so you scratch. You scratch and scratch until the itching stops which is right after the pain and bleeding start. After a few more days scabs form over the wounds.

Kids in northern Wisconsin keep themselves awake in school by picking their mosquito bite scabs which keeps them occupied right up to Thanksgiving vacation, after which they switch over to peeling dead skin off their frozen ears.

The best place Uncle Jack ever found to get away from mosquitoes was Pittsburgh where he lived for 17 years and never saw a mosquito that whole time. Scientists have discovered that the air in Pittsburgh in those days had the exact same chemical composition as “Off” insect repellent.

He has heard that the air in Pittsburgh is much better since they shut down all the steel mills but he is afraid to go up there and find out because the mosquitoes might be back.

Hope y'all have a nice day and week. Stay out of the water unless it's in a swimming pool.

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5:30 a.m. Worth getting up for.

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Ditto, looking southeast.

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Even the western clouds were painted pink.

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5:45 a.m. First glimpse through the haze on the horizon.

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Here to stay at 6 a.m.

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Sunday afternoon at the foot of James Street in South Nags Head. This is about as big a crowd as ever collects in this vicinity. Not exactly Coney Island.

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The surf was quite wild last evening. These rafters were pummeled sufficiently to make them quit after this ride.

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Uncle Jack hasn't seen this nasty pipe since Isabel uncovered it almost three years ago. It marks the location of a cottage that once stood here. Fair warning to those who build on the ocean front.

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The brown cliffs of Sonag.

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Ominous clouds in the western sky last evening but still no rain in South Nags Head.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:57 AM

Comments [8]

Sunday, June 25, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Wedding, Sunday June 25, 2006

     Uncle Jack has often said that you never know what you are going to find on the beach at 5:30 in the morning and today was a good example.  He didn't expect to see a full-fledged wedding complete with musicians, ring-bearers, bride, groom and preacher this morning but there it was.  They were plighting their troth just as the sun came over the horizon which is pretty darned romantic if you ask Uncle Jack.

    It's another warm, humid, misty morning on the Outer Banks.  Yesterday's predicted afternoon thundershowers never materialized, at least not in South Nags Head, but already a line of huge clouds has formed on the western horizon and again the weatherman predicts late afternoon thundershowers.  He has to be right sometime.

    Here's another piece of flotsam (or maybe it's jetsam) from the archives:


                     Mad About Food

If Uncle Jack has any talent at all it is his ability to remain calm---even to the point of dozing off---in the face of extreme provocation. He almost never gets mad enough to spit, even when he should. Throughout his life his ability to ignore, avoid, or overlook aggravation has kept him out of more trouble than he can remember and it has enabled him, if not to prosper, at least to survive.

For example, Uncle Jack’s tranquil nature made it possible for him to teach school for five years without killing or permanently injuring a single child. It also served him well during his time of greatest stress---the five months he endured as editor of a small weekly newspaper. And it played a vital part in enabling him to stay married to one person for nearly 37 years---a feat which that person aptly described as “a pyrrhic victory for apathy over rationality”.

Uncle Jack’s unflappability is basically organic, he believes, and is attributable to the blandness of his childhood diet which consisted largely of calm foods like oatmeal, macaroni and velveeta cheese, Wonder bread soaked in warm milk, and other soothing delights from his mother’s Calvin Coolidge cookbook.

This probably explains why, when he does start to get a little bit perturbed about something, it is almost always about food. On occasion it has happened at a really nice restaurant by which he means a restaurant where you sit down at a table and they serve something besides hamburgers and pizza and they bring your food on real dishes that can be washed and used again and the cheapest thing on the menu is the “fish du jour” for $9.95.

Sometimes it makes Uncle Jack a little bit peevish when he discovers that the “fish du jour”, which is rectangular, was probably caught a couple of years ago somewhere near Indonesia, and the french fries are made out of some kind of compressed potato substitute, and the tartar sauce he put in his coffee by mistake because he thought it was “non-dairy creamer” tastes like mosquito repellent, and the waitress acts like she is doing him a big favor by putting down her Harlequin romance  long enough to bring him his dinner before the grease hardens.

One day last week Uncle Jack was standing in line at the supermarket check-out counter with his week’s supply of “mixed fryer parts” which is mostly necks and gizzards and pituitary glands; a can of generic string beans with leaves and stems, and some other choice items that were marked down because the cans were bent or the boxes were falling apart.

He is standing there waiting with his pitiful basket of stuff while this really cute girl in Calvin Klein jeans and Manolo Blahnik flip-flops unloads her cartload of sirloin steaks and Oreo cookies and Fritos and Pepsi and other basic commodities like that---all of which she pays for with food stamps. Fortunately she had enough real money to buy a carton of Marlboros and two six-packs of Michelob Light to help wash down those sirloins.

Uncle Jack stood there staring at his package of mixed fryer parts that was starting to leak and he was just about mad enough to write a letter to President Reagan to tell him about this woman buying sirloin steaks with food stamps so he woud have another example of welfare fraud to talk about at his next news conference. But all of a sudden this lovely woman flashes a big smile and says, breathlessly, “Aren’t you Uncle Jack who writes for the Current? I just love your column!”

Suddenly Uncle Jack sees the truth, which is that this obviously intelligent young person is clearly a victim of circumstances who should not be blamed for the flaws in a much-needed but poorly administered program of public assistance. Besides, nobody who likes Uncle Jack’s column should have to subsist on a diet of chicken glands and generic vegetables like he does.

That very same day Uncle Jack read in the paper that Moody Air Force Base in Georgia spent $500,000 last year just to add four lanes to their bowling alley. He hopes that President Reagan saw that article, too, and he will mention it in his next press conference. After all, $500,000 could have bought a lot of Fritos and Pepsi for a lot of hungry kids.


     (And now Uncle Jack is off to New York Bagels to pick up four whole wheat everythings and the Sunday New York Times which has the acrostic puzzle this week. It is the best of all possible worlds.)

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5:30 a.m.

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The wedding party is ready.

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Here comes the bride at 5:45.

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And here comes the sun. Perfect timing.

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Another scorcher on the way.

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Ominous clouds at sunset last evening. Nary a drop fell in South Nags Head but it must have been raining somewhere.

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For some reason the ocean has been hacking away at the beach in some places and forming steep drop-offs like this one.

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Getting out of the water and up onto the beach can be a challenge, especially if you're a tad overweight like this young man.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:06 AM

Comments [6]

Saturday, June 24, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Saturday June 24, 2006

     The weatherperson said it was 77 F on the beach at 5:30 but Uncle Jack thinks he lied.  A heavy mist chilled the air considerably and made him wish he had worn a jacket.  The sun broke through in a blaze of glory, though, and it looks like another hot day in store, at least until the afternoon thunderstorms arrive.

     It was beastly hot all day yesterday but it cooled off quickly in the evening which provided perfect conditions for a stroll down to the pier and back.  Except for one childish adult who was setting off fireworks that produced clouds of noxious blue smoke that sent dozens of people, including Uncle Jack and Mres. U.J. scurrying in search of breathable air it was a lovely evening. Why do people do idiotic things like that he wonders.

     Here's yet another tidbit from the archives:

               Perils of Reading

Uncle Jack read a story in the paper last week that said Americans are reading more now than they ever have before. The article said the scientists who found this out were surprised because they thought a lot of people had stopped reading and just watched TV all the time when they were not out jogging.

Uncle Jack was not surprised, though, because he knows how much reading he does himself every day. Every day he reads the Raleigh News and Observer, the New York Times, and the top half of the Elizabeth City Advance which is all he can see through the window of the vending machine in front of New York Bagels.

Every week he reads the New Yorker magazine which keeps him up to date on cultural events in the Big Apple and also the Coastland Times which does the same for the Greater Manteo Metropolitan Area including Stumpy Point, Coinjock, and Buffalo City.

Every month he peruses the National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine and the 4000 pieces of junk mail he gets because advertisers think that anybody who subscribes to these magazines must have a lot of spare cash to spend on Norman Rockwell collector plates, goosedown comforters, cheese-of-the-month clubs and other high-class stuff like that. Those advertisers could save themselves a lot of trouble if they knew that all those fancy magazines Uncle Jack reads are Christmas gifts from his upscale friends.

Anyway those are just a few of the things he reads in the privacy of his own home. Whenever he has to go to the doctor or dentist he also gets to read the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Tax Shelter Newsletter, American Legion magazine, Readers Digest, and Humpty Dumpty.

So Uncle Jack really does a lot of reading every day and he is not surprised that other people are reading more, either, because most American people are very much like Uncle Jack even though they are not all high school graduates. If you ask Uncle Jack the main reason Americans are reading more than they used to is TV.

If you are going to watch TV very much it is a good idea to have something to read in your lap at all times. This will help you to keep from dozing off during the long, boring stretches between Energizer Bunny commercials. With practice you will be able to learn to read with one eye and watch TV with the other. There is hardly ever anything on TV that you have to watch with both eyes so you will not miss out on anything if you do this.

When something worthwhile does come on, like "Baywatch" for example, you can quickly switch over to watching with both eyes. Uncle Jack should warn you, though, that reading is not as safe as watching TV. You never know when you are going to read something that could be very harmful to your mental health.

You can imagine how he felt last week when he read in the paper that scientists have found out that fish experience pain just like people do. They say that when you hook a fish the fish feels just like you would if you had a hook in your mouth and some idiot was jerking it around.

If you want to know the truth this is something Uncle Jack would rather not know about. He would much rather go through life believing that fish do not feel pain, that bloodworms enjoy being dismembered and impaled, and the crabs are actually grateful when you dump them into boiling water and pour red pepper in their eyes.

This is the kind of caring, thoughtful person Uncle Jack is. He does not think any human being has the right to inflict pain on any other living creature who is not a member of his immediate family.

When he reads in the paper that it really does hurt a bloodworm when you cut a little piece off the end, and what you are watching is a worm writhing in agony when you do that, it is enough to make Uncle Jack want to give up reading altogether.

   Have a nice weekend y'all.

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5:30 a.m.

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Ditto in a slightly different direction. The whole sky was lit up at this point.

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Mist obscured the pier this morning. Ethereal.

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The sun finally made an appearance through the mist about twenty minutes after official sunrise.

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And now it's about to disappear again behind that ominous looking cloud. The waves were beautifully shaped this morning and should be great for surfing and bodyboarding.

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This stealth bomber replica was obviously the product of hours of painstaking work. By morning it had been reduced to a pile of sand by vandals.

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Clouds in the western sky were spectacular last evening.

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Laundry day at the beach.

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James Tierney of Richmond demonstrates the fine art of skimboarding in a tidal pool which unfortunately had nearly vanished an hour or so later. James and friends put on quite a show while it lasted.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:00 AM

Comments [4]

Friday, June 23, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Friday June 23, 2006

   When it's hot and humid on the Outer Banks at 5:30 in the morning you know that summer is here to stay. Yesterday was a scorcher and it looks like more of the same today. Uncle Jack invested in a new cooling system a few months ago and he is mighty glad he did in spite of the stupefying cost.

     Sunrise was on the puny side this morning but welcome as a sign that Mother Nature has granted us another day to enjoy, especially those of us who have good air conditioners.

    Here's another bon-bon from the archives:

              From the Mailbag

Dear Uncle Jack,

I enjoyed my visit to the Outer Banks last month but I got very confused because I kept seeing signs that said “Bodie Island” and “Pea Island” and “Hatteras Island” but I could never find any islands. Does “island” mean something different on the Outer Banks than it does in other places?

Geography Major

Chapel Hill

Dear Major,

You have unwittingly discovered one more example of the wisdom, patience and frugality of the hardy folk who settled this fragile strand known as the Outer Banks. Bodie Island (pronounced “body” as in Pamela Anderson) and all the other non-islands you name, really were islands at one time. When the inlets filled up and they weren’t islands any more nobody bothered to change the signs because everybody who lives here knows that one of these days---maybe next week---they’re going to be islands again.


Uncle Jack

     Have a nice day, all.  If you're driving down here this weekend be careful.  The traffic is beyond belief.

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5:35 a.m.

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5:45. Right on time.

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Picturesque pelicans. Uncle Jack apologizes for the tilt but he had to snap this quickly.

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At this point Uncle Jack decided to go home and have a cup of tea.

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Which caused him to miss this burst of color at about 6:05. He must learn to be more patient.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:55 AM

Comments [0]

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Thursday June 22, 2006

     "Ethereal beauty" is the cliche Uncle Jack has chosen to describe what he found at the beach at 5:30 this morning. All the familiar landmarks like the fishing piers and the ugly sandbagged cottages and the blocky Comfort Inn South were shrouded in mist which softened their contours and gave them a kind of fuzzy dignity they do not normally possess.

     The temperature must have risen 15 degrees in the half hour he spent on the beach and there is every indication that this will be a quintessentially hot and muggy day on the Outer Banks.  It was much the same yesterday until thunderstorms rolled in late in the afternoon followed by heavy rain in the early evening which washed out Uncle Jack's usual post-prandial stroll on the beach. No pictures of the day's crop of sand castles for which he apologizes.

    Those who read yesterday's blog entry will recall that Uncle Jack expressed his concern that the Outer Banks may be falling behind some of the more advanced beach resorts like Atlantic City, New Jersey which offer a host of amenities much sought after by modern, upscale beachgoers.

    As it turns out he needn't have worried as this story in Tuesday's Coastland Times suggests:

Outer Banks Harley-Davidson awarded NC State HOG Rally 2007

For the very first time, Outer Banks Harley-Davidson's HOG Chapter has been awarded the North Carolina State HOG Rally for 2007.

Both the North Carolina Harley-Davidson dealerships and their associated Harley Owners group chapters voted to hold next year's rally in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Greg Berryman, Outer Banks Harley-Davidson's HOG director, said he is looking forward to the opportunity, as rally coordinator, to bring in HOG chapters from all over the state and out of state to experience all the Outer Banks has to offer.

Hosted by Nags Head Harley-Davidson, Kitty Hawk Harley-Davidson and Outer Banks Harley-Davidson, the event will take place April 26-28, 2007. Great riding opportunities, fun and games, live band parades and bike shows all help make state rallies special. But what sets each state rally apart is a heavy dose of home state pride. Held in the majestic Smokey Mountains of Ashville(sic) this year, the Outer Banks will showcase the picturesque coast and beaches of North Carolina in 2007.

Maurice Slaughter, owner of the Outer Banks Harley-Davidson dealerships, said he was honored that his HOG chapter was selected and is confident that the Outer Banks/NC State HOG Rally will be one to remember. He believes from the mountains to the ocean, North Carolina is one of the most scenic states on the East Coast and that the Outer Banks will be a great destination to get out and ride.


     Uncle Jack did a little research on this event and found that it drew about 2000 motorcycle enthusiasts to Asheville this year who dropped about $2 million into the cash registers of businesses in that area. No doubt local purveyors of food and drink are already salivating over the prospect of slopping that many hogs over a three day period.

     Finding parking places for that many bikes at one time will surely be difficult so Uncle Jack has decided to do his bit by leaving town for the duration thereby giving up whatever parking spaces he might have occupied at popular local attractions such as the Elizabethan Gardens and Hooters.

     Bottom line this wonderful recognition by the N.C. HOG owners group would seem to drive a final stake into the heart of the quaint notion that the Outer Banks can maintain its reputation as a "family oriented" destination.  Watch out, Myrtle Beach! We are oinking at your heels.



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5:30 a.m. looking north. The fog comes on little cat feet.....

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Ditto, looking south from Whitecap street in South Nags Head.

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Ditto, looking almost straight up. A tiny crescent moon is visible if your monitor is up to it.

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The sun managed to climb over the fog bank by about 5:55.

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Here to stay at 6 a.m.

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The surf was especially pretty this morning. Beautifully formed waves fanned out on the scalloped beach in graceful patterns on the incoming tide.

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One happy old dude preparing to tie into a celebratory plate of Swedish pancakes with sour cream and lingonberries on his 76th birthday yesterday. (Thanks to Mrs. U.J., the best cook this side of Stockholm)

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:20 AM

Comments [21]

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Summer Solstice, Wednesday June 21, 2006

     The longest day of the year already feels like it could be the hottest one so far.  Everything is dripping with humidity this morning and the sky is only partly cloudy so the sun will be cooking beachgoers unmercifully today.

      After a gloomy start yesterday turned rapidly into a fabulous beach day.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. went for a walk down to the O.B. pier after dinner when it had cooled off enough and were treated to a rare sight.  Scores of dolphins had come in very close to shore and were feeding like a bunch of ravenous bluefish.  Several of them leaped completely out of the water and there was much slapping of tails as they  maneuvered through the schools of fish. People lined the beach for a mile, oohing and aahing and trying to capture the sight in their cameras. Uncle Jack can only hope they were more successful than he was.

     Here's another column from the archives to help pass the time. (It's going to be a long day):

      The Murmur of the Waves

Being a high school graduate is something Uncle Jack takes fairly seriously. He always tries to eat right and keep fit and get plenty of rest so he will be in top shape if the President calls and wants his help with anything. He also does a terrific amount of reading every day so he can keep up with all the current events that are going on in all those little countries that were not even on the map when he studied geography in grade school such as Kuwait and Iraq.

He is careful about what he reads, too, because he knows there are only so many hours in the day and by the time he has finished toiling in his quaint little art gallery by the sea and had his dinner there is not a whole lot of time left to keep himself well informed. This is why he goes to the trouble and expense of getting the Sunday New York Times every week because as far as he is concerned the New York Times is right up there with Parade Magazine when it comes to keeping a person up to speed on current events..

If Uncle Jack wants to know something about Michael Jackson’s glandular imbalances he goes right to Parade Magazine but if he wants to know about more important things like what the Moslems are up to over in the Middle East there is no substitute for the Sunday New York Times even though it does not come in until Tuesday afternoon over at Cahoon‘s grocery.

Uncle Jack has learned many amazing things by reading the New York Times and he can tell you it is worth waiting for. Last week, for example, he saw this big advertisement for a brand new condominium they are building in this highly advanced ocean resort called Atlantic City which is somewhere up in New Jersey. This is what it says about this new condominium which looks from the picture like it might be slightly larger than the Empire State Building:

You awake to the murmur of the waves below. And the sun sparkling off the surf. It’s a perfect morning for coffee on your terrace. The view of beach and boardwalk and bay is nothing short of spectacular.

The concierge rings you up to confirm your tickets to the show and the catering arrangements for the supper party you’re hosting afterwards. Now the only thing to decide is whether to take a dip in the pool before your tennis date or after.

Where are you? At home. At Ocean Club. A very private, very privileged world of luxury. A world whose pool, tennis court and health spa make it your own special resort. A world whose exotic shops, private clubs and restaurants give it a special excitement. A world whose available services---limousine, concierge, catering---make you and your guests feel as special as you are.

In a city of spectaculars, Ocean Club is unique. Studio, one, two, and three-bedroom condominium residences are still to be had at prices from $180,000 to over $1,000,000. Located between the Golden Nugget and Tropicana casinos.

Well you can imagine how Uncle Jack felt when he got through reading all that. He can tell you he is really ashamed that he lives in one of those old-fashioned resorts where the people are so backward they still actually swim in the ocean instead of sitting up on their terraces and listening to it murmur.

Also as far as he knows there is not one single concierge anywhere on the Outer Banks from Duck to Ocracoke and if that is not backward he doesn’t know what is. He even called up the Dare County library to find out what a concierge is and they could not even find it in the big dictionary they have over there.

So it looks to Uncle Jack like the Outer Banks has a long way to go to catch up with the more advanced resorts like Atlantic City and we are all going to have to work hard and pull together. And the first thing we have to do is get rid of all those backward laws against having tall buildings on the ocean front. It seems fairly plain that the kind of classy people who go to advanced resorts like to look at the ocean from fairly high up where they never have to worry about getting salt spray in their Jacuzzis.

And isn’t that what we all want deep down inside?



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5:45 a.m. An inauspicious beginning for the longest day of the year.

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Some pelicans came by to liven things up a little.

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Followed by some more pelicans a minute later.

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Fishermen were out in force this morning. Uncle Jack has yet to see one catch a fish. At least it keeps them off the bypass for a while.

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The Outer Banks pier was loaded Tuesday evening. A great viewing stand for the dolphin show.

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This was about the best Uncle Jack could do, dolphinwise. The Elph is not a Hasselblad and Uncle Jack's reaction time is approximately that of a brain-damaged sloth.

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This young man was ready to join the dolphins if they came in any closer. Probably not a good idea when they're feeding.

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The sunset was pretty but Uncle Jack was so preoccupied with the dolphins that he missed that, too.

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A few of the hundreds who came out to watch the dolphin show which continued until it got too dark to see them any longer. It was more fun than a trip to Sea World.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:07 AM

Comments [7]

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Sonag Unrise Tuesday June 20, 2006

     The next to the longest day of 2006 is starting out to be one of the gloomiest.  Uncle Jack walked up to the beach at 5:30 with his morning mug of Twining's Earl Grey tea in hand but he stayed only long enough to take three pictures of the gray expanse of cloud and water that greeted him.  It was obvious that sunrise would not be visible this morning and a light drizzle was starting to fall so he beat a hasty retreat.

      This very brief sojourn with the beach gave him more time to peruse the New York Times on line which he does every morning.  Nothing like starting the day by reading "All the News That's Fit to Print" which these days seems to be almost uniformly bad. From Afghanistan to Zaire the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket.  Of course it always has so Uncle Jack doesn't let it get to him or he wouldn't be able to get out of bed and take his sunrise pictures every day.

     This morning's issue does contain a long and interesting article on the possible impact of global warming on the world's coastlines which made him sit up and take notice.  The Outer Banks is mentioned a couple of times and it certainly is worth reading by anybody who lives on a barrier island whether he or she owns oceanfront property or not.  Click on the following URL or if that doesn't work paste it into your browser's address line to get to the article quickly:


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Looking due east at "sunrise". This is definitely not screensaver material.

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Ditto looking north toward Jennette's pier.

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And south toward the Outer Banks pier. A good day to hit the shops.

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Last evening's post-prandial stroll up to Jennette's pier and back yielded this pretty sunset photo. Monday was a perfect beach day.

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There was a stiff breeze out of the southwest last evening which is what it took to get this hefty kite off the ground. Thereby hangs a tail.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:50 AM

Comments [7]

Monday, June 19, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Monday June 19, 2006

     Sunday turned out to be a magnificent beach day and today looks already like it could be another.  The sun was obscured behind thick clouds on the horizon at official sunrise but it did make a brief appearance a few minutes later before vanishing again. Pretty but not spectacular.

     The pelicans were putting on an airshow this morning, diving from great heights into the water in search of breakfast.  How they manage to keep from breaking their necks is a mystery to Uncle Jack.  Another mystery is what happened to all the sandpipers.  He hasn't seen a single one for the past several days.  They may have gone to parts of the beach where there aren't so many people all the time but who knows.  He misses them in any case.

    Here's another oldie from the archives:

                  From the Mailbag

Dear Uncle Jack,

I am one of those unfortunate people who gets to spend his two week summer vacation on the Outer Banks and then he is miserable the rest of the year because he is not down there. Believe me I could have quit my lousy job at Cleveland Gear and Screw and moved down there years ago except for my wife who does not think she could stand it down there in the winter with nothing to keep her brain alive.

We have been married for 42 years and raised 13 children so I do not feel it would be right just to dump her, especially since I got laid off at Cleveland Gear and Screw right before Christmas and my unemployment is due to run out this month.

You probably read in the paper where Cleveland Gear got out of the machine parts business and into frozen pirogis and they are doing real good, too, but I could never get the hang of that computerized potato peeler they put me on so they canned me without so much as a Timex watch after 35 years.

So now I mostly shovel snow out of the driveway and count the days until my wife gets her annual vacation from the Burger Bistro over on Cuyahoga Avenue. They made her the manager over there after only two days on the job when they found out she could read and write, both.

Anyway I know things are changing fast on the Outer Banks and winter isn’t like it used to be down there so I was hoping you could say a few words of encouragement to my wife so she would at least start thinking about the possibility of maybe moving down there for good some day.

Milo Minderbinder

Cleveland, Ohio

Dear Milo,

Uncle Jack receives many letters from unhappy persons such as yourself and he is pleased to tell you he has good news for all of you. You are absolutely right when you guess that winter is not like it used to be in the old days when winter started the day after Labor Day and ended on Memorial Day. If you want to know the truth it has got to the point where you can hardly tell the difference between winter down here and winter in Cleveland except we do not have any snow down here which is not all bad if you ask Uncle Jack.

When it comes to new cultural developments he hardly knows where to start. For one thing they are building a big addition onto the bowling alley and they are planning to bring the Pro Bowlers tour in here next winter which the wife will have to admit is a major cultural event and a big step up from those tacky karate fights they put on over at Roller World last year.

In case the Mrs. is into more intellectual pursuits Uncle Jack should mention the Great Books discussion club they have over at the Senior Center every Thursday night. They started out with “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and they are working their way up to Sidney Sheldon’s best-selling trilogy “Lust”, “Depravity” and “More Lust and Depravity”.and Uncle Jack can tell you those discussions have gotten to the point where they have to station a whole EMS crew over there on Thursday nights just to watch out for heart attacks.

Anyway it is a whole new ball game down here in the winter and there is no reason why your wife should not be happy, especially with all those new designer drugs they have on the market now. So like they always say on Wheel of Fortune, “Come on Down!!”


Uncle Jack

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5:30 a.m. Looking southeast.

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There's a sun over there somewhere.

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Sure enough.

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Here to stay. It should get into the 80's again today.

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Sunset last night was actually prettier.

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Too busy to watch the sunset.

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Another paileolithic structure.

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This one is beyond the pail, and so was that pun.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:54 AM

Comments [2]

Sunday, June 18, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Sunday June 18, 2006

     The sun came up this morning at the appointed time but promptly disappeared behind a thick bank of clouds on the horizon.  Not a very spectacular entrance as the pictures attest.  Unlike yesterday the sky is completely overcast and it's hard to tell where this day is going.

     Aside from being a perfect beach day which prompted another early-evening walk up to Jennette's pier and back, yesterday was enlivened by the arrival of the latest edition of "Nags Head Lines", the official publication of the Town of Nags Head, of which this was issue number 63. Uncle Jack really enjoys reading "Lines" because it is full of information about things the town government is doing to make his life richer and fuller and also suggestions of things that he can do to be a better citizen of the town.

     Issue number 63 might be called the "water conservation issue" because that is the main topic and it is full of wonderful hints about how Uncle Jack can reduce his water consumption and thus make it unnecessary for the town to invest in yet another expensive reverse osmosis plant which could cause  taxes to rise.

    For example he is exhorted not to leave the water running while he brushes his teeth which, it is said, could save up to 50 gallons each time.  Obviously the writer has never watched Uncle Jack brush his teeth because it never takes him more than ten seconds and even if he left the water running full blast he would not use more than a gallon but it is still good advice because many people may be much more enthusiastic about dental hygiene than he is.

     Also he is urged not to irrigate his landscape every day which will be very easy for him to comply with because except for watering the tomatoes during exceptionally dry periods he has never once irrigated his "landscape" which consists largely of indigenous weeds which seem to grow fantastically well without his help. Actually, as a resident of the former wetland known as South Nags Head, his "landscape" needs pumping out at least as often as it needs irrigation.

      Anyway he gets a chuckle out of the town's  annual plea to conserve water because never do the words "swimming pool" or "jacuzzi" appear in it. Is it too much to ask that the owners of these water-hogging conveniences leave them unfilled during periods of peak water demand---such as June, July, and August?  Uncle Jack would be happy to stop brushing his teeth entirely during those months if swimming pool owners would do their part to conserve water. He is sure that they don't want their taxes to go up any more than Uncle Jack does.

     Anyway he really enjoyed reading the newsletter which contained much more interesting stuff than just the annual water conservation instructions.  He was especially pleased to read about the grand opening of the new South Nags Head fire station which is not only very good looking but also very near his house which could come in handy during the summer fireworks season which is now upon us. He hopes the firemen are encouraged to use as much water as they think they need to put out all the grass fires ignited by careless fireworks enthusiasts this summer.

     All kidding aside "Nags Head Lines" is an excellent, informative publication of which the town fathers and mothers can be justly proud. Uncle Jack considers himself very fortunate to live in Nags Head if for no other reason than the excellence of the Public Works department which does a fantastic job of hauling away his empties month in and month out. He salutes them.




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5:30 a.m.

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5:45 Ho hum.

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Last night's sunset was far more picturesque.

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You never know what you might see when you take a walk on the beach in South Nags Head.

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A happy couple. Uncle Jack is not sure if they're married yet or not.

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A heartwarming sight. Love among the sea oats.

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The little guy in the yellow bathing suit was ecstatic about what appeared to be his first encounter with the ocean.

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The Comfort Inn South at least makes an attempt at hiding its unsightly pile of sandbags during the summer. Apparently they ran out of paint and lattice before the job was finished.

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Yet another fanciful sand sculpture. Here today gone tomorrow.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:01 AM

Comments [3]

Saturday, June 17, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Saturday June 17, 2006

      What a morning!  Gulls swooping and diving, porpoises feeding in close to the beach, flat, clean sand that invites long walks, a sky full of pink clouds, 65 degrees heading for 80.  Uncle Jack almost wept for the people he saw on Whitecap Street getting reluctantly into their overstuffed cars at 5:30 a.m. and heading back to Ohio.

     Some of the pictures below were taken last evening around sunset when Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. enjoyed a stroll down to the Outer Banks Pier and back.  It was one of those absolutely perfect evenings that make a person want to chuck everything and move to the Outer Banks for good.  If only the houses didn't cost so much.

     Everything is relative though.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. went walking in a residential neighborhood just behind the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach last Friday morning and stopped to look at a house for sale a block back from the beach.  It was a nice house but nothing at all spectacular.  We each guessed at what the asking price might be before looking at the informational brochure;  Mrs. U.J. guessed $500,000 and Uncle Jack estimated $750,000. They didn't know whether to laugh or cry when they found that it was actually $4 million.

     In the next block they passed a nondescript two-story concrete block building of uncertain vintage containing four small two-bedroom condominiums.  One of them was for sale for $500,000---a block from the ocean with no ocean view.  (Every day on his way to the beach Uncle Jack passes a very nice three-bedroom house on Whitecap Street just three  back from the ocean with a lovely view of the water from the spacious deck.  The asking price is only $515,000 which by Rehoboth Beach standards is a giveaway).

    What this suggests to Uncle Jack is that  Outer Banks real estate prices have nowhere to go but up in spite of the current lull in the market. "Affordable housing" is already an oxymoron on the Outer Banks but it looks like we ain't seen nothing yet.

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5:30 a.m Worth getting up for and then some.

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This young lady was making the first tracks in an otherwise pristine beach. The sand is so firm it's almost like running on a sidewalk.

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Gulls and pelicans were chowing down on what must have been a sizable school of fish just off the beach. Dolphins were getting a piece of the action, too, but Uncle Jack could not catch one with the Elph whose shutter speed leaves a bit to be desired.

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Sunrise was almost an afterthought this morning but it came off right on time at 5:45.

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Friday evening was perfect for kite-flying which is what this gentleman is attempting to do without much success.

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It was also perfect for volleyball.

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And fishing on the Outer Banks pier.

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And just strolling, en famille.

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This magnificent sand castle washed away over night on the high tide.

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But this handsome turtle was just far enough back to live to see another day. There's a moral in here somewhere.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:27 AM

Comments [3]

Friday, June 16, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Friday June 16, 2006

     The first day of the second half of June looks like a winner.  Not a cloud in the sky this morning, the beach flat and clean, the surf calm. No rain in sight for a change.  Just a lovely day to be on the Outer Banks.  Uncle Jack's heart goes out to all you folks who are stuck in some godawful place over on the mainland.


      Here's another selection from the archives:


Dear Uncle Jack,

I have been reading a lot about how the people who own all those big houses up in Corolla want the state to build a bridge across from the Currituck County mainland to the Outer Banks. They say it will help to relieve traffic congestion and also help to get people out of there in case of a hurricane. Do you think they ought to build a bridge up there, Uncle Jack?

Lorna Dune                                           Kitty Hawk

P.S. If they do build that bridge can you think of any way an ordinary person like myself could make a buck out of it?

Dear Lorna,

Uncle Jack is glad you asked him about this because he has been thinking about traffic a lot lately, mostly while waiting to make left turns on the Bypass but other times, too, like the other day when he drove to Norfolk and saw the cars in the southbound lanes of highway 158 backed up bumper-to-bumper from Kitty Hawk all the way back to Grandy.

If you want to know the truth he was a little surprised to see that traffic jam up in Currituck County because he thought it was supposed to be a thing of the past since they made the highway five lanes all the way to Norfolk and doubled the size of the Wright Brothers bridge.

Back in the 70’s before he moved here he would have to crawl through the gauntlet of Currituck County pig farms on two-lane highway 158 and creep across Currituck Sound on the old two-lane bridge and he could hardly wait until they widened the road and built the new bridge so he could breeze right on down to Nags Head at a steady 50 mph.

In those days there wasn’t even a stoplight at Duck Road because hardly anybody except real estate speculators ever wanted to go up that way because there was nothing up there except huge tracts of empty land from the ocean to the sound.

He knows exactly how those people feel who want a new bridge across the sound up north because it will save them a lot of aggravation, especially on week-ends when the rental houses change over. He can even imagine that for a couple of years after the new bridge opens they will think they have died and gone to heaven before reality sets in again and the southbound traffic to the new bridge starts to back up somewhere near Williamsburg, Virginia. Then the clamor will begin to four-lane the bridge which will take another ten years and eventually bring another brief respite before gridlock sets in again.

In the meantime traffic will have steadily increased on the Bypass and pressure will mount to construct a 30-mile-long overpass (probably to be called the Uberbypass) on top of the existing five-lane highway 158 through Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head (which will be renamed the Marc Basnight Memorial Service Road), all of which will connect to the new (two-lane?) Bonner Bridge to Greater Metropolitan Hatteras.

Anyway, to answer your question, Uncle Jack thinks they will have to build a bridge across Currituck Sound some day. In the short run it will solve a problem and in the long run compound it, just like every other traffic “improvement” they have made around here in the last 30 years. (Can you believe that in 1970 there was only one stoplight in all of Dare County?)

If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack does not think there is any solution to the traffic problem on the Outer Banks. It will continue to get worse as the years go by and there is not much anybody can do about it except Mother Nature who could decide to wipe the slate clean one of these days.

The bottom line is that if visitors keep coming to the Outer Banks in droves they are going to have to learn to put up with most of the same aggravating problems they came here to escape. And those of us who live here will have to do the same.

Fatalistically                                        Uncle Jack

P.S. You don’t have to wait for the new bridge to open to make some money. You could go out on highway 158 any Saturday or Sunday afternoon and peddle Prozac car-to-car to the folks who are parked out there waiting to make the left turn up to Duck.

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5:30 a.m. Not a soul on the beach in either direction. Uncle Jack feels almost guilty about having this all to himself, even for five minutes which is about as long as his solitude lasted.

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Ten minutes later, the first glimpse. Only five days to go before the summer solstice when the sun starts heading south again and the days begin to get shorter.

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Up she comes. One sun's width every two minutes if Uncle Jack remembers his Farmer's Almanac rightly.

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Uncle Jack never gets tired of watching this progression.

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Clear sailing from here on. Not a cloud in the sky.

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This gent may not catch a fish but on a morning like this he probably doesn't care.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:31 AM

Comments [6]

Thursday, June 15, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Thursday June 15, 2006

     Well Alberto has come and gone and we should hope that all the rest of this summer's hurricanes should be so benign.  He huffed and puffed for a little while last evening and blew Uncle Jack's trash can down but Katrina he was not.  Rain fell off and on all day yesterday presenting Outer Banks merchants with a welcome mid-week bonus.  Confucius or somebody (maybe it was J.C. Penney) once said that a rainy day is worth a thousand bucks in the till and he knew whereof he spoke even though his numbers may not be entirely accurate.

      Sunrise this morning was a bit of a fizzle but it was sheer pleasure to walk a mile on a beach that was as clean and flat and firm as it has been in months thanks to Alberto.  Oddly enough Uncle Jack did not see a single sandpiper or gull during his half hour on the beach although he did spot one crow and one pigeon. The habits of shore birds are a mystery that he will be happy to continue to explore as long as he can walk.

      Here's another artifact from the archaeological dig Uncle Jack is conducting in the guest bedroom closet:

    Uncle Jack’s Mailbag

Dear Uncle Jack,

On the Outer Banks, what’s the difference between a “native” and a “local”?



Dear Tourist,

A local is somebody who lives here all year round but isn’t a native. Most locals used to live in or near Pittsburgh. Locals are permitted to leave the Outer Banks for up to three weeks during January or February. If they stay away longer they are shunned by other locals who sneer at them and call them tourists.

A native is somebody whose family has always lived here. Natives never leave the Outer Banks except to join the Coast Guard.

Natives converse with each other in an unintelligible tongue which linguists believe to be an early form of English. Many natives carry on the ancient trades and crafts of their forefathers such as hunting, fishing, crabbing and selling real estate.

As far as Uncle Jack has been able to determine there are no important anatomical differences between natives and locals that would prevent them from mating.


Uncle Jack




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5:30 a.m. Not too promising.

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5:50 a.m. A faint presence can be detected just above the horizon.

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From here on it's peek-a-boo time.

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Now you see it now you don't.

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Alberto did a first rate job of tidying up the South Nags Head beach. Not a beer can in sight.

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In either direction. The crud on the beach in this picture is the partially buried remains of old sandbags which it will take a Katrina to remove.

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The turtle patrol rolls by at 6 a.m. What a great job. When he gets old and decrepit and can't walk anymore Uncle Jack is going to volunteer for the turtle patrol.

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A man and his dog. The eternal struggle for dominance. (Even when there's not a tree or hydrant in sight).

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:05 AM

Comments [6]

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Wednesday June 14, 2006

     Alberto is not supposed to reach the Outer Banks until late this afternoon but you would never know it this morning.  The sky is completely overcast and enough rain is falling to keep Uncle Jack and the Elph indoors.  This is shaping up to be a fairly miserable day around here with steady rain and increasing winds as Alberto passes by.  On top of all this Uncle Jack has an appointment with his dentist to have two ancient fillings replaced this morning. When it rains it pours as the Morton's Salt Company used to say.  Maybe they still do.

     Uncle Jack has been thinking a lot about whether the Town of Nags Head should buy its own dredge for beach renourishment purposes but he hasn't made up his mind yet. After visiting Rehoboth Beach, Delaware last week he has to wonder if only one dredge is going to be enough to do the job of stopping the ocean in its tracks.

    The folks in Rehoboth spent $18 million (three quarters of it play money from the Federal government) last year to hire a rent-a-dredge to widen just just a couple of  miles of its beach. A significant amount of that dredged sand has already washed away even though there haven't been any serious storms since the dredge departed.  There is every reason to believe that they will have to do it all over again before long.

      Considering that the Nags Head beach is 14 miles long and historically even more vulnerable to storms than Rehoboth it doesn't seem likely to Uncle Jack that one dredge will be nearly enough to do the job, especially if it has to go into a rental program from time to time to raise cash to help pay for itself.

      Uncle Jack is inclined to think that this might be a good time  for the town to explore the cost effectiveness of buying two or three dredges now instead of just one.  They certainly will never be cheaper than they are right now what with inflation and all.  Anyway it's something to think about on a rainy day and if anybody out there has any ideas about this he would love to hear them.  


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You deserve a decent sunrise today. This is from December of last year.

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This is from a month earlier.

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And this from Memorial Day a year ago.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:17 AM

Comments [5]

Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Tuesday June 13, 2006

     Uncle Jack is pleased to report that he and Mrs. U.J. survived seven hours of white-knuckle driving through intermittent cloudbursts on Interstates 265, 95, 295, 264, and 64 and highways 168 and 158 yesterday.  The Mini performed magnificently in its role as the filling in a truck sandwich most of the way from Baltimore to Nags Head. There is nothing quite as terrifying as having a gigantic 18-wheeler riding on your back bumper at 65 mph with his lights flashing and horn honking and you have nowhere to go to get out of his way---especially in a Mini.  

       Uncle Jack slept so well last night he almost didn't wake up in time for his usual sunrise stroll.  He left home in such a rush he forgot to bring his spare battery for the Elph which went dead after only a couple of shots.  Lucky for him there wasn't much to take pictures of because of the thick cloud cover on the horizon.  Furthermore it was chilly and windy on the beach so he beat a hasty retreat.  He was hoping for something better after five days away but c'est la vie. Tomorrow is another day perhaps.

Here's another gleaning from Uncle Jack's archive of old Outer Banks Current columns. It seems like a hundred years ago that folks were arguing about what to do with the Hatteras Lighthouse:

                Uncle Jack's Mailbag

Dear Uncle Jack,

All I have been reading about in the paper lately is that stupid  lighthouse down on Hatteras. What is such a big deal about lighthouses anyway. Nobody needs them anymore since they invented radar and sonar and all  that stuff so why spend a lot of money trying to keep a lighthouse from falling down when there are so many other things that need doing like building an elevated highway from Oregon Inlet to Buxton?

You're pretty smart, Uncle Jack, so I presume you agree with me that they ought to let the lighthouse fall in the drink but I wouldn't be surprised if you were too chicken to come right out and admit it in public.

Len Fresnel


Dear Len,

First of all Uncle Jack would like to say that if he thought it would be best to let the lighthouse fall in the ocean he would come right out and say it. He is not running for office so there is no reason for him to lie about what he really thinks.

      If you want to know the truth he has thought a lot about the lighthouse over the 26 years he has lived here and he has to confess sometimes he thinks one thing and sometimes he thinks something else depending on what was the last thing he read in the paper (and sometimes what was the last thing he drank).

Right now he is leaning toward letting it fall in the ocean, primarily because it would be so much fun to watch on TV. Uncle Jack has seen those movies on TV where they put a lot of dynamite in a building and blow it up and the whole thing falls down in a big heap of rubble and he never fails to get a big kick out of watching that, especially when they do it in slow motion about six times.

He can hardly imagine what a thrill it would be to watch that lighthouse fall into the ocean due to natural causes without the use of any artificial substances such as dynamite. Uncle Jack is pretty sure that an event like this would get terrific ratings on the TV and if the people in charge of the lighthouse played their cards right they could make enough money out of it to build a much nicer, higher lighthouse with all the amenities such as jacuzzis and elevators and skyboxes where the big corporations could entertain politicians and other important people and write it off as a business expense.

        If Uncle Jack was in charge he would start right away to put out a line of T-shirts each one of which would have a day, hour and minute printed on it and the proceeds would go into a big pool and the person who has the closest time to when the lighthouse falls down would win a nice prize like breakfast at Sam and Omies and the rest of the money would go toward building a bigger and better lighthouse in a safer place like over behind the reverse osmosis plant.

      Uncle Jack knows this will not be a very popular idea with many people who have a strong emotional attachment to the present lighthouse (and not just because it is the biggest phallic symbol on the East Coast south of the Washington monument).

    But he would remind them that the present lighthouse is not the first to stand in that place or even the second so it is not as though something like this has never happened before. Each succeeding lighthouse has been bigger and better than the one before and there is no reason this could not be the case again. Everybody would have to watch out to make sure the contractors did not try to build it out of particle board but that does not seem like an insurmountable problem.

Uncle Jack has many more ideas about how to deal with the lighthouse quandary but he is running out of space and will have to save them for the future, assuming there is one.


Uncle Jack

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5:40 a.m. The beach is totally deserted except for Uncle Jack and four pigeons.

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A brief glimpse of Old Sol before he disappeared behind the clouds again and Uncle Jack's battery went dead. Not exactly screen-saver quality.

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Even the pelicans seemed to have stayed in bed this morning. These two are the only ones he saw in 15 minutes.

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Sophia Sabatino warming up for her appearance in the World Cup championships in 2022. She ran Uncle Jack ragged for three days so maybe she can do the same thing to the Czechoslovakians next time around.

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Mrs. U.J. goes one-on-one with her granddaughter Isabella Sabatino in the Play-Doh playoffs. It may not look like it but the care and feeding of two lively granddaughters is hard work.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:35 AM

Comments [5]

Saturday, June 10, 2006
More Rehoboth Beach pics, 6/10/06

     There is nothing quite as much fun as a good boardwalk and Rehoboth Beach's could serve as a model.  Popcorn anyone?

     We expect to be back in Nags Head for the sunrise on Tuesday. Have a great week-end.

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Most everybody was still sleeping when this was taken. It gets crowded by noon. No bicycles after 10 a.m. and no skateboards any time.

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Side view of the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel, built in 1997. A delightful faux-Victorian hostelry which is just slightly over the top in terms of decor.

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Front view. Our room actually had a jacuzzi in it and a balcony overlooking the ocean. Frightfully expensive but the night's stay was a gift we really enjoyed.

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This taffy place is a landmark on the boardwalk which has all kinds of low-key old timey entertainments like skee-ball, ring toss, shooting galleries, carousel, bumper cars, etc. Neat.

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Looking north from our balcony. Access to the beach is through fenced openings through the berm about every 50 yards. There are lifeguard stands at each opening.

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This mansion near the south end of the boardwalk has an osprey nest on the roof. We saw four osprey roosting here and there among the gables when we walked by.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:08 AM

Comments [2]

Friday, June 9, 2006
Sunrise in Rehoboth Beach, Friday June 9, 2006

     Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. arrived in Rehoboth Beach at about 3 p.m. on Thursday and left at noon today, Friday.  It was not a long visit but it was most enjoyable and a real revelation.  Neither of us had visited Rehoboth in over 30 years and we feared the worst but we were both pleasantly surprised.

      Somehow the part of town fronting on the boardwalk---the old heart of the city---has retained much of its charm.  In fact it looks better than ever after a major facelift in which overhead power lines were buried and sidewalks and streets were repaved and new lighting installed.  We walked the entire length of the newly refurbished mile-long boardwalk twice and enjoyed it thoroughly.  Everything is clean as a whistle due to the small army of sanitation workers who comb every surface every day--- including the beach which is immaculate.

     Last year Rehoboth widened 2.5 miles of beach with sand pumped from offshore and constructed a low berm running the length of the boardwalk.  The project cost $18 million of which three-fourths came from the feds in what might be one of the last federally funded beach replenishment efforts.  The beach seemed quite narrow to us and several locals we talked with said that at least a third of the sand pumped onto the beach last year has already disappeared.  It will be interesting to see what happens to the rest if a hurricane moves up the coast this summer.

     As charming as old Rehoboth is the area around it is a disaster.  Imagine the bypass and multiply by ten and you will have some idea of what Route 1, the coastal highway that connects Ocean City, Bethany Beach, Rehoboth and the other shore points in that area is like.  Rehoboth alone has four (!) Tanger outlet malls sandwiched in among dozens of big box stores of every kind.

       Real estate in Rehoboth is even more insanely expensive than it is on the Outer Banks. We picked up a descriptive brochure in front of a fairly ordinary looking house a block back from the beach (Uncle Jack guessed that the asking price might be $750 thousand at the outside). The price tag was $4 million.  A very small two-bedroom condo in a nondescript old concrete block quadruplex two blocks from the beach was $500 thousand.

     More from Rehoboth Beach tomorrow if babysitting permits.





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From our hotel room window at 5:20 a.m. Uncle Jack managed not to wake up Mrs. U.J.

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Ditto at 5:40. Looks familiar doesn't it?

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The boardwalk at Ocean City.

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The beach at O. City. It seemed strange to see so many people on the beach on a chilly weekday afternoon in June.

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This concrete bulkhead protects the boardwalk from damage during winter northeasters.

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Ocean City is a lot like Virginia Beach with regard to the number of highrise hotels and condos lining the boardwalk.

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These things are all over the place. This is a small one.

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Rehoboth Beach rules. They enforce them, too.

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The replenished berm and beach at Rehoboth. Finished in April of this year.

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A gravel pit at the edge of the water. The injury rate for swimmers has increased sharply since renourishment because the surf no longer breaks naturally and creates drop-offs at the water's edge.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:04 PM

Comments [3]

Thursday, June 8, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Thursday June 8, 2006

    Uncle Jack has gassed up the Mini and he and Mrs. U.J. are heading for Baltimore bright and early this morning.  They will be driving up the Eastern Shore and plan to spend the night in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, scene of a recent $18 million dollar beach replenishment effort, after cruising through Ocean City, Md. and the other beach communities between O. City and Rehoboth.

     He will have the Elph all charged up and ready to take pictures along the way but he doesn't know when he will be able to post another blog entry due to the press of babysitting duties in Baltimore.

     Sunrise this morning was a bit puny.  Not a cloud in the sky except on the horizon.  Should be a lovely beach day.  Ciao.

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5:45 a.m.

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5:50 Passing parade.

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Right on time. More pelicans going who knows where.

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And still more pelicans.

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This is all the excitement Uncle Jack can stand for one morning.

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The beach was shell city this morning. No doubt the sand cover will return on the next tide or two as it always does.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:25 AM

Comments [3]

Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Wednesday June 8, 2006

     Mother Nature put on another magnificent cloud show this morning with the sun relegated to a behind-the-scenes role.  Every kind of cloud from cumulo nimbus to cirro stratus was on display in a continually changing panorama that was awe inspiring to watch.

     The same chilly northeast breeze that drove visitors off the beach and into the arms of merchants yesterday is still with us this morning. The surf is a bit riled up, the beach is steep and it looks like a good day to stay out of the water. All retail clerks should eat a good, hearty breakfast this morning because it looks like another busy one.

      Here's another true fish story from Uncle Jack's bottomless archives:

                        Fishing the Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the ribs were not bad either.

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5:45 a.m. Not too promising.

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The sun is back there somewhere.

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Still no sun but the backlighting is impressive.

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Ditto again. This is about as colorful as it got.

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The pelicans (hundreds of them this morning) had to fight a stiff breeze out of the northeast.

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The nearshore surf is ugly this morning. Riptide country.

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Gulls and sandpipers were having a hard time feeding because of the rough surf. Dumpster-diving time for the gulls anyway.

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It's 6 a.m. Do you know where your children are? This mother obviously does. Wonder how she got them all up at this ungodly hour.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:02 AM

Comments [2]

Tuesday, June 6, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Tuesday June 6, 2006

     Sunrise was a bit of a disappointment this morning inasmuch as the sun had still not made an appearance a full half-hour after the appointed time.  Massive banks of clouds got in the way and prevented the sky from lighting up in the pinks and oranges that make for better pictures.  C'est la vie.

      It was unseasonably chilly on the beach at 5:45 a.m. which cut the morning crowd down to two people Uncle Jack spotted way off in the distance toward Jennette's pier.  The weatherman is not promising much for today---a high of 68 and a 60% chance of rain.  A great day for the retail merchants who no doubt wait with 'bated breath.  He is not terribly unhappy that he is no longer one of them.


     Here's yesterday's gleaning from Uncle Jack's newspaper column archives:

               Thank God It’s Wednesday

Back when Uncle Jack was the editor of a small weekly newspaper Wednesday was always the high water mark in the toilet bowl of his life. That was because the paper "went to press", as they say in the journalism racket, at noon on Wednesday. By noon on Wednesday there was nothing more that Uncle Jack

could do to, or for, the Outer Banks Current. The world could come to an end at l2:0l p.m. on Wednesday but readers of the Current wouldn't find out about it until a week from Thursday.

Maybe that is why Uncle Jack always felt like going fishing on Wednesday afternoons. He could waste time on his favorite fishing pier without feeling like he should be doing something more worthwhile like writing another editorial about the beach erosion crisis or cleaning the rust out from under his typewriter.

When he remembers what those Wednesday afternoons on the fishing pier were usually like, though, he wonders why he kept doing it. Fishing is not something he is terrifically good at, like he is at sitting on the porch and rocking, for example.

If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack is so bad at fishing that they even started kidding him about it over at the fishing pier. Every time they saw him coming with his plastic bucket full of rusty tackle and his K-Mart rod and reel they would say "Here comes Uncle Jack, it must be time for the fish

to stop biting", and other humorous things like that.

Uncle Jack would make believe he didn't hear any of it and he would go right on out to his favorite place at the end of the pier where he came very close to catching a fish once back in l978. The rest of the afternoon would go something like this:

Uncle Jack squeezes in between an eight-year-old boy and his grandmother who are bottom fishing and he reaches into his plastic bucket for his brand new red and white jerk jigger. He is not quite sure how he snags the back of his hand but that is what he does. Little boy and grandmother watch intently while

Uncle Jack carefully unhooks the only thing he will catch all afternoon---his own hand.

After the bleeding stops Uncle Jack is ready to make his first cast, his heart pounding with the thrill of the hunt. With an easy flick of the wrist he propels his shiny new lure toward the horizon. "Pop" goes Uncle Jack's mildewed line and "Splash" goes his jerk jigger as it joins the millions of dollars worth

of tackle---much of it his own---already lining the bottom around his favorite fishing pier. Uncle Jack makes a mental note that the cost of his next fish, if he ever catches one, has just gone up by $4.50.

Noticing that little boy and grandmother each caught two fish while he was unhooking his hand, Uncle Jack decides to try bottom fishing for a while. He starts hacking up the mullet that has already added $2.50 to the cost of the fish he might catch some day and tries to force a couple of pieces onto the rusty hooks of his bottom rig. He wonders why hooks that won't go through mullet skin seem to penetrate his own so easily.

With a practiced, lazy underhand toss Uncle Jack puts his bottom rig exactly where he wants it---twenty yards straight out from the pier. Unfortunately this is directly over grandmother's line which he discovers when she hooks another croaker and everything gets tangled into such a mess that Uncle Jack has to cut his own line to get it straightened out again.

Uncle Jack tries to remember his own sainted mother while he listens to this old crone yell at him that people who don't know how to fish should not be allowed on fishing piers and other things that he could not print in a family newspaper.

For the next two hours, chunk by luscious chunk of mullet, Uncle Jack enriches the lives of countless truly needy crabs who show their appreciation by tangling themselves in his hooks at every opportunity. Finally, tired and weak with thirst, Uncle Jack tosses his bottom rig, loaded with his last two pieces

of sun-dried mullet, as far as he can in what he is sure is a final, futile effort.

He barely has time to take in the slack when WHAM, he gets a strike so hard it almost pulls the rod out of his hands. Uncle Jack fumbles with the tension control on his corroded Gaylord Perry signature reel but as usual he is too slow. "Pop" goes his line again.

"What happened, mister?" asks the little boy.

"I don't know, son", says Uncle Jack in his best John Wayne drawl, but I know I just lost the biggest king mackerel I ever saw".

Uncle Jack didn't get away with it, though, because some good old boy in a "Junior Johnson Pit Crew" tee shirt heard what he said and he took his beer can out of his mouth long enough to say "King mackerel my a__. That was a f______g dogfish broke his line".

After that final insult Uncle Jack picks up his plastic bucket, lighter now by $7.00 worth of bait and tackle, and heads for home. He feels calm, relaxed, refreshed and ready to face another stress-filled week as editor of a small weekly newspaper.

Nothing restores the soul like fishing. Uncle Jack knows.


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5:45 a.m.

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Looking southeast toward the O.B. pier. Nasty looking clouds. Uncle Jack would not like to be going out of Oregon Inlet on a charter this morning.

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This is as good as it got this morning. Uncle Jack gave up at 6:10 and went home.

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Breeze is still trying to rid the South Nags Head beach of the menace of sand crabs. He never gives up.

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Sometimes he really gets carried away. (just kidding).

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This massive sand structure built yesterday only partially survived last night's high tide.

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Lots of deer tracks on the beach this morning. Let's hope they stay on the beach and out of Mrs. U.J.'s tomato patch.

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Speaking of which-----it won't be long now.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:03 AM

Comments [8]

Monday, June 5, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Monday June 5, 2006

    Uncle Jack took advantage of a five minute lull in this morning's downpour to bring you a couple of post-sunrise shots from the rain-soaked beach in South Nags Head.  After a flawless day of  sunshine and cool, off-ocean breezes yesterday the rainclouds moved in last night and they are still hanging around.  It could still turn out to be a nice beach day today but it doesn't look like it right now.  If the sun is shining in Canton, Ahia (or wherever) consider yourselves lucky  you're not here.


Here's an allegedly funny piece from the archives to help cheer you up at work today. (During your lunch hour, of course).

                  Suddenly Last Summer


                     A One-Act Play Written

                For the Theatre of the Absurd



                              Pier Andello


Time: Mid-morning on an overcast Wednesday in early June, only a few days into a new tourist season.

Place: A small poster gallery and framing shop somewhere on the Outer Banks.

Characters: Uncle Jack, the kindly old proprietor

Male tourist

Female tourist

Male tourist #2

Female tourist #2


UJ: Mornin' folks. Can I help.......

MT & FT (in unison): Just browsing.

UJ: Where you folks from?

MT: Ahia

UJ: Wow! What part of Ahia?

MT: Up by Canton.

UJ: Ah yes. Canton. Home of the Bulldogs.

MT: Huh?

UJ: Bulldogs. Used to be a famous football team.

MT: Musta been before my time.

UJ: I used to live in Pittsburgh which is right up by Ohio.

MT: No kidding. I used to have a cousin lived in Pittsburgh.

UJ: It's a small world, that's for sure. Your first visit to the Outer Banks?

MT: Nope. Been comin' down here for 25 years.

UJ: Wow. You must like it down here.

MT: Used to like it a lot more. Too many people down here now. They're wreckin' the place.

UJ: Who's wreckin' the place?

MT: All them developers. They ought to string 'em up.

UJ: (after driving #3 finishing nail into left index finger) Damn!

FT: There ought to be a law against all this building.

UJ: (Sagely) It's a free country you know. You can't stop people from building on their own property.

MT: Well you better do something before it's too late. Nobody from Ahia is gonna wanna come down here anymore if you keep this up.

UJ: (Sagely) Well it's still not half as bad as a lot of other places and besides, all these new stores and everything mean jobs for a lot of people. I'll bet if all this growth was happening up in Canton a lot of people would be happy about it.

MT: (Looks away in disgust as Uncle Jack neatly slices off tip of left index finger with mat knife) I don't care. We came down here to get away from all the noise and traffic and people and now it's all down here, too.

UJ: (Sagely) Well you might as well try to get used to it and enjoy yourselves because there is nothing you or anybody else can do about it and it's going to keep on like this right up to the next bad hurricane and then it will start all over again.

MT: Well, Myrt. See anything you like?

FT: (Brandishing swatch of maroon naugahyde) Can't find anything that goes with the couch. You got any other art galleries around here might have a seascape with some maroon in it?

UJ: You could try Wal-Mart.

MT: Nice talkin' to you son. You take care of that finger and look us up if you ever get to Canton.

UJ: Y'all come back now, hear?

                          Scene Two

Time: Ten minutes later.

UJ: Mornin' folks. Can I help........

MT2 & FT2: (in unison) Just browsing.

UJ: Where you folks from?

MT2: Ahia.

UJ: (After dropping crate of glass on foot) Damn!


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6 a.m. Looking southeast.

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The sun was well on its way before Uncle Jack got to the beach this morning.

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Stephen from Texas is gone and so is his magnificent sea monster. This is all that remained this morning. (See last Saturday's entry for a picture of the beast in its original glory).

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Mrs. Uncle Jack will have to drive through this lake to get to the beach road this morning. Yesterday it was a dry hole.

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Lucky were the visitors who arrived on Saturday. Sunday was as perfect a beach day as it is possible to imagine.

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This is about as crowded as it ever gets in South Nags Head. Visitors must wonder just how urgent beach renourishment actually is.

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This house near the Outer Banks Pier seems to have weathered recent storms quite well even though the owner refused to allow the town to construct an ugly FEMA berm made of Currituck clay/sand in front of it.

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This sand crab stopped scuttling long enough to pose for a picture at Uncle Jack's feet yesterday afternoon. A rarity.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:36 AM

Comments [2]

Sunday, June 4, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Sunday June 4, 2006

     Looks like another hot and humid day is in store for the Outer Banks today.  It cooled off a bit after yesterday afternoon's frog-strangling thundershowers but the temperature is rising rapidly again and will no doubt get to 80 or thereabouts by noon.  Not a breath of air was stirring on the beach this morning and the humidity is 94% so walking very far required more effort than Uncle Jack was prepared to make before he had his first cup of  Twining's Earl Grey tea.

      Yesterday's foray into the archives produced this epistle from some years back:


                  Uncle Jack’s Mailbag


Dear Uncle Jack,

You keep writing all the time about fishing and fishermen and what I want to know is what is so great about catching fish? I mean it is a well known scientific fact that all fish are fairly stupid and bluefish, which is what they catch the most around here, do not even register on the Fish IQ Scale they are so dense.

So how can any normal person get excited about outsmarting a fish, and also why would any normal person stand out there in the wind and rain and totally wear himself out trying to catch more of those pathetic creatures than anybody else? I mean you can be a lot smarter than a bluefish and still not get into law school or even West Point.So what does it all prove, Uncle Jack?

Duck Hunter                                                   Swan Quarter

Dear Duck,

Uncle Jack is very glad you asked him about this because fishing is something he knows a lot about and he is always happy for a chance to answer questions about his favorite sport. He can see why it might be hard for somebody who does not know anything about fishing to understand why a perfectly normal person would spend upwards of $30,000 on an SUV just so he could go surf fishing a few times a year.

Also he can understand how you might wonder why a normal person would spend thousands of dollars on rods and reels and lures and sinkers and waders and foul weather clothes and coolers and bottle openers just to catch a few fish which he could buy at the fish market with no trouble at all for less than the cost of the shrimp he used for bait.

Also Uncle Jack can understand why an ignorant person such as yourself who does not know anything about fishing might wonder why any normal person would stand out in the wind and rain and cold all day just to prove that he is smarter than a fish, which is not, as you have rightly pointed out, a major intellectual achievement.

He can also appreciate why you might not understand why so many fishermen go to the trouble and expense of coming to the Outer Banks fishing tournaments from all over the U.S. and wearing themselves to a frazzle for two days just to try to prove they are better than anybody else when it comes to outsmarting fish (which is a dubious distinction as you have rightly pointed out).

And even though you did not mention it, Uncle Jack would be willing to bet that you would also wonder why fishermen work so hard to catch more fish than they can eat so they wind up cleaning them and packing them away in their freezers and keeping them there at great expense until they have to throw them all away to make room for next year’s fish.

Uncle Jack is sure there are many more questions you could ask about fishing but the answer to all of them, which he is now going to tell you, would be the same. Fishermen go to all the trouble and expense of fishing for the same reason that some people will spend $100,000 on a sailboat which they only use a few times each year and when they do use them chances are they will wind up wet and cold and tired which is something they could accomplish a lot faster and cheaper if they just stood in a cold shower and did deep knee bends until they collapsed.

Anyway Uncle Jack is glad he could answer all your questions about fishing and he hopes you will not hesitate to write to him again the next time you are confused about anything.

Piscatorially                                                       Uncle Jack

P.S. He does not have the slightest idea why any normal person would go duck hunting so please do not ask him about that.

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5:45 a.m.

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Ditto, looking north. A quintessential thunderhead.

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5:48 a.m. Official sunrise is now occurring although it's a little hard to see behind the clouds.

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A belated appearance but welcome nevertheless.

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And now it's teatime.

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Stephen's magnificent sea monster is a bit the worse for wear this morning. Yesterday's torrential rain beat it down and high tide last night removed half of it. Sic transit gloria mundi. Tyrannosaurus Rex didn't last all that long either.

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The turtle patrol is on the job at 6 a.m. Does he actually get paid for this Uncle Jack wonders? That's his kind of job.

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The season is obviously upon us. Uncle Jack has not seen this many people on the beach in Sonag at 6 a.m. since last August.

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Nostalgia time. Anybody remember the Wharf Restaurant? This is what replaced it.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:10 AM

Comments [3]

Saturday, June 3, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Saturday June 3, 2006

     Not the most exciting sunrise of the week but well worth getting up for. The wind is out of the southwest this morning so it's already quite warm and humid.  Yesterday was a scorcher, probably the hottest day so far this year, and today promises to be another.  Not a good morning to be packing the car for the long drive home. Do everybody in the car a favor and take a shower before you head up the road.

    Yesterday's digging in the archives turned up this little essay from days gone by.  The sentiments expressed are probably still as valid today as they were 20 years ago.

                 STAY WHERE YOU ARE

Dear Uncle Jack,

I am one of the two million Pennsylvania residents who are planning to move to the Outer Banks to live as soon as they can figure out some way to swing it. You have been living there for quite a while now, Uncle Jack, and I was wondering if you had any advice for us.

Envious Eddy

Johnstown, Pa.

Dear Eddy,

You are right about one thing. Uncle Jack is getting to be quite an old timer on the Outer Banks. Just last week he was looking at his Acme Auto Parts calendar (which he has been doing fairly often this month because of the terrific picture of “Miss Valve Lifter” who is really good looking and all she is wearing is one hubcap).

All of a sudden it dawned on him that it is 1984 and he has been living down here for four years now and the way things are changing on the Outer Banks these days four years is a pretty long time.

Uncle Jack really enjoys being an old timer, too, because he can rare back in his rocking chair and tell all kinds of stories about what it was like in the old days when men were men---back before the Seamark when you had to drive all the way to Norfolk every time you wanted bibb lettuce in your salad.

He can remember some really amazing things like the day they brought in the first prefabricated condominium on a truck for example. If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack and the first prefabricated condominium arrived on the Outer Banks at about the same time and he is not quite sure what to make of that. It could be an omen of some kind but he is not sure what.

Anyway he could go on and on about all the amazing things that have happened around here in the past four years but if he did he would not have room to give you the advice you asked for which is DON’T MOVE DOWN HERE! Stay in Johnstown and pray for another flood and you will be better off.

You sound like one of those people who came down here and spent a few days on vacation and caught some fish and had a good time and now you think you want to live here. Well Uncle Jack has lived here long enough to tell you that life on the Outer Banks is not just one long vacation. You have to be able to put up with a lot of hardship and frustration like Uncle Jack did last Sunday which he is going to tell you about so brace yourself.

Last Sunday Uncle Jack drove all the way down to Cape Hatteras in his new second hand Jeep which is now 24 pounds lighter than it was when he bought it which he knows because that is how much rust he has swept up out of the driveway since last September.

Anyway he drove for hours through that government refuge down there where all you ever see is weird looking birds and juvenile delinquents trying to dig their vans out of the sand and finally he got to Cape Point and started fishing. He fished his heart out for two hours and he used up an entire $1.50 mullet for bait and HE NEVER GOT A BITE!

And neither did Mrs. Uncle Jack or their friends so they had to give up and just sat there in the sun and drank beer and ate fried chicken instead of catching fish which is what they drove all the way down there to do in the first place.

After a while they drove up to Ramp 23 by Salvo and they fished for a long time and they used up another whole mullet and THEY NEVER GOT A BITE! By then the beer was gone and the fried chicken was gone so all they could do was go home and make a pitcher of martinis and sit on the deck and watch the sun go down over Roanoke Sound and talk about what a rotten day it had been..

Anyway that should give you an idea of the kind of disappointment and frustration and heartache you would have to live with all the time if you moved down here. If you have plenty of beer and fried chicken up there in Johnstown take Uncle Jack’s advice and stay there. You will be a lot happier in the long run.


Uncle Jack

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5:40 a.m.

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Ditto, looking northheast.

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5:45 Slowly but surely a little corner of the horizon brightens.

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Right on time for the four zillionth time.

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Looking like it's here to stay.

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Look what crawled out of the sea last night.

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This monster is about 15 feet long---a major addition to Uncle Jack's gallery of beach art.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:35 AM

Comments [3]

Friday, June 2, 2006
Sonag sunrise Friday June 2, 2006

      This was definitely a sunrise worth getting up at an ungodly hour for and Uncle Jack almost missed it.  He stayed up way past his bedtime watching the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks race up and down the floor in pursuit of the NBA Western Conference championship and it nearly wore him out.

     There's an old  saying "Red sky at morning, sailor take warning" but all indications are that this will be another gorgeous day for beachgoers.  The sky was more pink than red this morning anyway so maybe that doesn't count.

    Uncle Jack did a little more foraging in the guest bedroom closet yesterday and ran across this memoir-peroration from days gone by about days gone by:

                      Sands of Time

Uncle Jack was thinking the other day that he has been around here so long now he could legitimately call himself an old-timer. Not a real old-timer like some of the older natives but maybe some sort of senior level carpetbagger at least. Anyway he has been letting his mind wander back over the 37 years since he crossed the Currituck bridge and drove down the Bypass for the first time.

He cannot remember exactly how many buildings were already beginning to clutter up the Bypass in 1969 but there weren’t very many. The only ones he can remember for sure are the ABC store and the Sportsman’s Diner which was about the only restaurant in town, especially in the winter which in those days lasted from Labor Day to about the middle of June.

There was no stoplight at the main intersection at Colington Road then because when the DOT installed one of those car counters it rusted out before it got to 100 cars.

The first 7-11 was still a gleam in some accountant’s eye over at the Southland Corporation and all the gourmet food lovers used to line up at the Trading Post when the Pepperidge Farm truck came in from Norfolk on Fridays.

The Kentucky Fried Chicken at Whalebone Junction was the only franchise food place and if you were really lucky you would not have to wait in line more than 30 minutes to get your order which gave new meaning to the term “fast food“.

The Nags Head Town Hall was that little white building across from Jockey‘s Ridge where they keep a small fire truck now. It was big enough back then because the town only had one policeman to handle the drunk drivers (which is what they called them in those days before they invented the bloodless euphemism "DUI") and one clerk to answer the phone and collect the taxes.

She did not have much to do either because the town taxes didn‘t amount to much. Uncle Jack remembers when he could pay his out of the loose change in his sock drawer and still have enough left over for a piece of Mrs. Hayman‘s lemon chess pie at the Arlington Hotel.

Those were the days when Duck was still at the end of the earth and South Nags Head was like a voluptuous virgin about to be ravished by a gang of randy developers. He remembers when they built that strange domed Bucky Fuller house way down at the end of South Nags Head and how wide the beach was in front of it and how fast that beach disappeared and left those domes sort of hanging in mid-air. It was not much more than ten years from start to finish as he recalls.

That was when the developers started carving South Nags Head up into little lots running north and south instead of deep lots running east and west from the ocean to the road. This was a very smart thing to do if you were in the business of selling lots but it was not so smart if you are one of the people who is now watching his expensive oceanfront lot vanish from under his expensive oceanfront house which he cannot move back because some peasant built his shack on the cheap lot behind him.

Uncle Jack remembers lots of hurricanes from Ginger in 1970 right up to Isabel and what they did to South Nags Head where he has lived for the past 15 years or so. He has to wonder how anybody who has lived around here for a few years can seriously talk about something called “erosion control” much less want to spend countless millions of dollars trying to achieve it.

“Erosion control” sounds like it belongs in the same category with “military intelligence” and “computer literacy”---ideas that self-destruct when you think about them. You can believe that “erosion control” is possible and you can spend endless amounts of money trying to prove it but it always seems to be a few million dollars ahead of you. At least it seems that way to Uncle Jack and he has been around here watching the ocean carefully for a long time.

For a lot less money the commissioners could put up some nice signs at the end of each bridge leading to the Outer Banks and on the signs they could put a message something like this: “WARNING! You are entering an unstable barrier island which is known to shift around a lot when the wind blows. BUILD AT YOUR OWN RISK!”

Uncle Jack is smart enough to know that signs like that would not keep some people from building whatever the law allows as close to the ocean as they can put it but in the long run they could save the taxpayers a pile of money about the size of Jockey’s Ridge.


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Walking up Whitecap Street toward the beach at 5:40 Uncle Jack could tell this would be something special.

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Even prettier with no houses in the way.

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Looking southeast at 5:45.

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Pelicans passing.

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It took a while to fight through the clouds but the sun finally showed up around 5:50.

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Obviously here to stay.

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It's going to be a hot one.

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Remnants of a pail-eolithic village? Aargh.

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This handsome cliffside property in Sonag could be yours if you have about $1 million and a craving to live dangerously.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:19 AM

Comments [6]

Thursday, June 1, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Thursday June 1, 2006

     The air was so thick this morning Uncle Jack could have used a machete to hack his way up to the beach.  In the absence of any perceptible breeze the no-see-ums were out in force at dawn so he didn't hang around too long.  The sun was hidden behind a thick bank of thunderheads and didn't make an appearance until at least 20 minutes after official sunrise and even then it was being very coy.  Looks like the first day of June will be another warm, humid perfect beach day on the Outer Banks---just like the last day of May.

      Uncle Jack is continuing his archaeological exploration of the closet in the guest bedroom and this is what he found yesterday:


Fellow Outer Bankers, as we stand at the (threshhold, brink, precipice: choose one) of another glorious Season in the Sun, let us pause for a moment to examine together the state of our beloved sandspit.

Even the cynics and naysayers in our midst will agree that the past year was one of unprecedented growth, prosperity and progress and other good stuff like that. Consider the following economic indicators:

Foreign Trade. Never has the Outer Banks enjoyed a more favorable balance of trade with the outside world than it does today. Latest Chamber of Commerce figures show that our mainland visitors spent far more on T-shirts, lighthouse replicas and ceramic seagulls last year than Outer Bankers spent at Sam’s Club and Circuit City in Norfolk put together. While it is unfortunate that the resulting surplus had to be divided amongst so many deserving merchants and that many therefore find themselves in straitened circumstances they should take heart from the fact that only a few dozen new shops just like theirs will be opening this summer.

The Environment. Last year saw tremendous progress toward the worthy goal of eliminating what is perhaps the Number One public health menace of the Outer Banks, namely flying sand. Uncle Jack is pleased to report that last year alone more than 27 square miles of unhealthy sand dunes, a major source of airborne particles, were brought under control through the copious application of asphalt and concrete. He is now able to predict with complete confidence that by the year 2020 the scourge of flying sand will be naught but an unpleasant memory in the minds of a handful of surviving senior citizens.

Uncle Jack must admit that in spite of the best efforts of our enlightened lawmakers a few environmental challenges remain. The Atlantic Ocean, of course, is one of them. Year after year the ocean continues to demonstrate callous disregard for one of our most cherished and fundamental principles---the basic human right of property owners to build fourteen-bedroom rental houses wherever they please.

Uncle Jack is sure that you will agree that it is time to take whatever measures may be necessary to put the ocean in its place and therefore he is pleased to reveal at this time his Master Plan to Stem the Tide At No Cost to the Taxpayers of Dare County.

Phase 1 of this simple but elegant strategy calls for the immediate replenishment of the South Nags Head beaches with sand from the unsightly pile known as “Jockey’s Ridge State Park” (presently located at the 12 milepost directly across the Bypass from Austin’s Fish Market.) This project will pay for itself through the sale of millions of dollars worth of oceanfront lots thus created.

Uncle Jack has calculated that if each unemployed person in Dare County next winter were required to carry one shovelful of sand from Jockey’s Ridge to South Nags Head before cashing his unemployment check the entire operation could be completed by the end of February.

Space does not permit further elucidation of Uncle Jack’s Master Plan at this time but you may rest assured that like our esteemed President he will stay the course until it is accomplished come hell or high water. Especially high water.

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5:45 a.m.

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Ditto, looking southeast.

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Twenty minutes later and still no sun.

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A tantalizing glimpse before the no-see-ums drove Uncle Jack back to the sanctuary of his screened porch.

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This appears to be a scale model of recent development in Dubai.

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Debby and Mike from Front Royal, Virginia stopped by Yellowhouse Gallery yesterday to introduce their new MINI to Uncle Jack's. Nice looking couple.

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They look good from the front, too.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:44 AM

Comments [4]

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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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