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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Camden redux
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are renewing their acquaintance with Camden, Maine this week. A couple of years ago they lived in Camden for prolonged periods (May to November)and fell hopelessly in love with the place. They are pleased to report that nothing much has happened here since their last visit in late August 2010. The summer season has not really yet begun so the streets and shops are uncrowded and the weather cool and refreshing. They will hate to see the week end.

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No trip to Camden is complete without a visit to one of the fabled New Hampshire liquor stores that bracket I-95 near the state line.

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A persistent chilly drizzle is not enough to dissuade lobster roll lovers from lining up at the famous Red's Eats in Wiscasset.

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View from the back porch of our rental on Camden harbor.

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Mother duck keeps a close eye on her brood in Camden Harbor Park.

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The continuing spring melt keeps the Megunticook River at full flood into Camden harbor.

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The windjammer Grace Bailey leaves for a 4-day trip into Penobscot Bay, propelled by her yawl. She has no engine.

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Ditto the Angelique. Both schooners are over 100 years old and still working.

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The 88 foot racing yacht "Too Elusive", owned by the grandson of the founder of IBM, is getting tweaked at Wayfarer Marine in Camden.

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This enormous stinkpot was up on blocks Monday afternoon but gone by Tuesday morning.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:06 AM

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Thursday, June 23, 2011
       "Nag's Head has changed---but not completely:the sun still comes up out of the sea and goes down in the Sound. In calm weather, the little waves wash gently on the beach; March and September Northeasters drive ashore with sound and fury. And there is the old music of the salt sea wind in the pines and the booming surf in the distance, if the juke boxes and traffic noises are not too loud".

                                                 Tazewell H. Lamb
                                                 Easter Sunday 1952
       Uncle Jack wonders what Mr. Lamb would make of his beloved Nags Head today, especially on high holidays like Bike Week. In 1952 the "juke boxes" were pretty much confined to the Casino and the Bypass was still a gleam in the D.O.T. planners' eyes. He was right about two things---the sun still comes up in the sea and goes down in the sound. Huzzah.


       More change is coming to the Outer Banks, probably in the fairly near future, as the RBC Bank, formerly known as Centura Bank, formerly known as Planters Bank, metamorphoses once again into the PNC Bank. Uncle Jack goes way back with this institution and he has an artifact to prove it---a rubber stamp issued by Planters when he set up his Yellowhouse Gallery account, lo these many decades ago. The Planters Nags Head office was located in a small, free-standing building almost in front of the Carolinian Hotel. (R.I.P.)
       It is not unlikely that the ghost of Planters Bank will one day haunt the halls of another mega-bank "too big to fail" when the survivors of the most recent carnage finish cannibalizing the cripples.
"Plus ca change, plus la meme chose" as Uncle Jack learned in French 1 so many years ago.

       A change of scenery is in store for him and Mrs. U.J. this week as they head for Camden, Maine for a brief sojourn. He has been checking the weather frequently lately and it appears that at least a heavy sweater, if not a fleece-lined anorak, will be required for this last week in June. Last year they suffered through one of the worst heat waves ever to visit mid-coast Maine during the last week of August. Lucky for them Southwest does not charge for luggage so they will be able to go prepared for anything Mother Nature wants to throw at them.

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The beach replenishers are moving into more challenging territory now. Will these bags be allowed to stay in place? Stay tuned.

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And these?

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posted by Uncle Jack at 5:41 PM

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Monday, June 20, 2011
Wanchese Wings
       Uncle Jack read in the O.B. Voice this morning that the politicians over in Raleigh are giving serious thought to putting rockfish and speckled trout on the gamefish list which means that the commercial fishermen won't be able to catch them in their nets any more. If they pass that law it is going to make a lot of fishermen over in Wanchese very unhappy and also very poor unless they can figure out some other way to make a living.
       Lucky for them Uncle Jack anticipated this problem many years ago and wrote a column about it which he has fished out of the archives and is reprinting here today in timely fashion, to wit:

                                   Wanchese Wings

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

P.S. If anybody from Wanchese reads this he is JUST KIDDING!                                                       

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If the law passes expect to see many more happy fishermen like this one on the beach in Nags Head.

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The good old days.

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Sheer bliss.

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November sunrise.

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Terrific house for rent in South Nags Head. Senior citizen friendly. Google "Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage" for info.

posted by Uncle Jack at 1:12 PM

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Saturday, June 18, 2011
50th Anniversary
       Uncle Jack has been reading about the Nags Head 50th anniversary celebration and wishing he could be there to join in the festivities. Nags Head had only recently escaped the clutches of the Dare County Commissioners when he first set foot on the Outer Banks in 1969. By incorporating the Town Council was now free to make important decisions affecting the present and future of Nags Head instead of letting the county commissioners call all the shots. They could also collect taxes.
       South Nags Head was almost completely devoid of development back in those days. South of the Armada (later Ramada, now Comfort Inn) there were a few extremely unpretentious cottages strung along the beach road and a handful of others scattered among the dunes.
       As one would expect developers were lusting after this virgin territory and thinking of ways to maximize their investments in the land, much of it oceanfront.
       Some submitted proposals that would allow them to plat small lots from the ocean back to the beach road, served by streets perpendicular to the beach road which in some cases (Altoona Street, Surfside Drive, Seagull Drive and others)looped around and returned to the beach rood. This left many cottages exposed to the ocean with no room to move back if the sea encroached.
       A few wise heads, like Nags Head's first mayor, the late Carl Nunemaker, recognized the folly of this kind of development but the opportunity for greater profit (and greater tax revenues for the fledgling town) carried the day. The problem began to make itself evident in the early 70's when a storm took out part of Altoona street and the houses that were trapped between it and the ocean. Others have suffered similar fates down through the years.
       Uncle Jack himself, as naive as the rest when it came to oceanfront property, looked at a lot in a South Nags Head development but he couldn't afford the staggering price of $15,000 for a lot with no house on it. Instead he settled for a deep soundfront lot near the 16 milepost which included a three-bedroom house for the same price. The oceanfront lot he had looked at vanished in a storm a few years later.
       Fifty years later the present town council is grappling with the consequences of a shortsighted decision made by their forerunners decades ago. Their remedy is to pour costly sand in front of the threatened buildings and streets hoping that it will stick long enough to justify the staggering expense.
       Is this decision as short-sighted as the original one? Uncle Jack hopes he is still around five years from now when we might know the answer.

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Whatever became of all these sandbags, one wonders.

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For those who have been following the construction of the new Johns Hopkins library annex: this was a big day---they took down the big construction crane.

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Uncle Jack watched them put it up about 8 months ago and now he has seen them take it apart. Fascinating to watch.

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On to a big flatbed and off it went. By 6 p.m. it was all gone.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:37 PM

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Thursday, June 16, 2011
"Beach Rental"
       Uncle Jack saw a big full-page ad in last Sunday's New York Times Book Review section for a new book called "Beach Rental" by an author named Mary Kay Andrews. The ad said that the story was set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina so he thought he had better check it out, especially because he is in the beach rental business himself now.
       Uncle Jack has read several novels that were purportedly set on the Outer Banks that appeared to be written by authors who had spent little or no time on our beloved sandspit. Their many errors, some of them laughers, took a lot of fun out of reading them and he felt cheated by having his 'hood so grossly misrepresented.
       Was Mary Kay Andrews another one of these absentee authors? He found his answer on page 2:

              "Now she was on the Outer Banks proper. Signs for the little towns flashed by: Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Avalon Beach. The sun rose, and she was somehow shocked at how densely developed the beach front was here. She'd expected to see clumps of sea oats silhouetted against sparkling blue water; sailboats bobbing at anchor; great, gray shingled houses staring moodily out to sea; the occasional lighthouse. The reality was that so far, what she'd seen of the storied Outer Banks could just as well have been the Jersey Shore, Myrtle Beach, Fort Lauderdale, or any other East Coast tourist resort---meaning miles and miles of hotels and motels, restaurants, and strip shopping centers lining both sides of the road, and a shoreline packed with cheek-to-jowl condo complexes and huge, pastel-painted beach houses."

       Uncle Jack concluded that not only had Ms. Andrews visited the northern outer banks but she had her eyes open when she did. He is happy to report, though, that her initial reaction was tempered somewhat by her subsequent month-long stay in an oceanfront rental called "Ebbtide", a rather rundown and ramshackle house that from her excellent description could have been any one of a number of Nags Head houses that Uncle Jack knows very well.
       He is about half-way through "Summer Rental" and while it isn't exactly his cup of tea it's entertaining enough to keep him turning the pages. It's loaded with references to actual places in the area like Awful Arthur's, Mako Mike's and Jockey's Ridge and the plot has more twists and turns than the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's "chick-lit" for sure but it's fun. He hopes Steve at Manteo Booksellers has laid in a plentiful supply because this one could take off.
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. took advantage of gorgeous weather yesterday to rumble off to D.C. on the early morning commuter train ($7 round-trip for seniors) to visit the Newseum. They highly recommend it to any D.C. visitor who is at all interested in the news biz. It's extremely well done from the Edward R. Murrow retrospective to the cornbread in the cafeteria.



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The view from the sixth floor observation deck of the Newseum is spectacular.

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In all directions. The National Gallery is across the street.

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H.L. Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore, is well-remembered at the Newseum.

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Back in Charm City the addition to the JHU library is taking shape rapidly.

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Next time around Mary Kay Andrews might like to stay at Uncle Jack's House which is much better equipped than her fictional "Ebbtide". Google Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage for rates, availability and all that. Still some choice weeks left.

posted by Uncle Jack at 3:28 PM

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Monday, June 13, 2011
Old Nagsheader Fire
                     Uncle Jack just ran across a batch of pictures on the Outer Banks Vintage Scrapbook that brought back a flood of memories. They date back to the fall of 1978 when the Old Nagsheader hotel went up in flames in what was perhaps the most spectacular fire in Nags Head history.


       The Old Nagsheader was one of several hostelries built along the brand new Beach Road back in the early 1930's, a group that included the First Colony Inn and the Croatan Inn. By the 70's it had ceased to function as a hotel but the elegant dining room was still operating and a popular beer joint occupied a sand-floored space under the hotel building. The infamous Anderson-Stokes Realty company. developers from Ocean City, Maryland, had their offices on the first floor from which they set forth, unsuccessfully, to do to Nags Head what they had done to Ocean City. Luckily for the Outer Banks the severe recession of the early 70's thwarted their plans and the inevitable mega-development of the area was slowed for a few years.
       Uncle Jack was quite familiar with the Old Nagsheader by the time it burned because a year before, in the fall of 1977 they had purchased a little yellow house across the Beach Road from the hotel which was to become the new home for the art gallery that he and the first Mrs. U.J. had operated at the First Colony Inn for the preceding seven years. For lord knows what reason they named it "Pictures Unlimited" and did business under that ghastly rubric during the summer of 1978. (It was a summer-only business in those days because Uncle Jack was professing at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh and could only escape to Nags Head during the summer).
       Shortly after returning to Pittsburgh on Labor Day in 1978 a friend called from Nags Head to tell them that the Old Nagsheader was burning down but that they were not to worry because the firemen were spraying water on the shingle roof to keep it from catching fire. It was not until Thanksgiving that they could drive down to check out the scene and they were amazed by what they found.
       The gallery parking lot was still littered with large chunks of charred wood that had been blown across the road from the humongous fire. It was obvious that if the firemen had not been so alert and steadfast both the gallery and the rooming house known as Snug Harbor next door might well have gone up in flames themselves and there might never have been a Yellowhouse Gallery (which is what "Pictures Unlimited" became the following year).
       There were many rumors about what had caused the Old Nagsheader to catch fire. Perhaps the most prevalent and persistent was that the owner had torched it to remove it cheaply from the oceanfront tract it sat on to make way for new and more profitable structures. It was an imposing building and would have cost a fortune to demolish in the approved manner. It was also rumored that the owner had to pay a $100 fine for illegal burning. Uncle Jack doesn't know if any of the rumors are true but what the heck, that's what the internet is for, ain't it?

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Old Nagsheader burning 1978. Snug Harbor and "Pictures Unlimited" across the street.

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Firemen hosing down Snug Harbor, aka Bug Harbor and Drug Harbor. It was demolished some years later after fire damaged the upper floors.

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Firemen wetting down the future home of Yellowhouse Gallery. This house had been built by the original Nagsheader Hotel owners.

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At the peak of the fire both Snug and Yellowhouse were in grave danger.

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The white house behind Snug belonged to Al Rollins, for many years chairman of the N.H. Planning Board. The other building later became Yellowhouse Annex Frame Shop. It had originally been a beach cabana in front of the Old Nagsheader.

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Just a reminder that Uncle Jack's house in South Nags Head is for rent. Google Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage for info. Only one week left in July and two in August so there's no time to waste.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:05 PM

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Saturday, June 11, 2011
Nostalgia time---Part 1
       Uncle Jack, stranded in Baltimore for what looks like the whole summer, can't walk the beach the way he would like to so he is going to indulge in a bit of reminiscing instead. (With the help of some of the old blog entries and pictures that still miraculously reside in his hard drive).
       Uncle Jack's initial impressions of the Outer Banks were formed by the neighborhood he stayed in when he first arrived in 1969. This happened to be the vicinity of the First Colony Inn, directly across the road from Jockey's Ridge at the northern end of the row of old cottages now known as the historic district.
       He and his family spent their first two summers in the First Colony Inn and established what was later to become the Yellowhouse Gallery in a building on the hotel property. (That building was later damaged by a large truck that rolled down the hill from Austin's Seafood across the beach road but it's still around---part of the "historic village" that the late Carolista Baum had assembled behind her jewelry store near the 14 milepost). Yellowhouse operated as the First Colony Gallery until moving in 1977 to its present location at the 11 milepost. (Later the First Colony Inn itself was moved to a new location between the highways near the 16 milepost).
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. went for a stroll on the beach in the old neighborhood a while back and he must say he was pleased by what he saw. The beach in that area is without a doubt the widest and prettiest in all of Nags Head and probably KDH and Kitty Hawk, too for that matter.
       The berm builders stayed away from that area in 2004 so the beach is completely in its natural state. (He guesses that because there are no public accesses in the historic district it was not eligible for federal funds but he could be wrong about that).
Whatever the reason the beach looks very much as it did when Uncle Jack first saw it 42 years ago and it is gorgeous. The water's edge is teeming with sandpipers and gulls just as it always was.
       As the pictures below show, this magnificent beach exists today because the owners of those cottages have wisely moved them back over the years as the ocean began to encroach. They also made extensive use of sandfencing to help build up the dunes during the winter. Had they decided to pile walls of sandbags around them 15 or 20 years ago the area would look very different today.

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Looking south.

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Looking north.

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Exposed pilings after a storm show the previous locations of the cottages on the right.

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First Colony Gallery building in its present location behind the Surfside Plaza shopping center.

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First Colony Gallery, c. 1970, in its original location across from Austin's Seafood.

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This lovely sunroom is for rent along with the rest of Uncle Jack's House. Google Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage for more into about price and availability. Choice weeks still available in July and August.

posted by Uncle Jack at 2:35 PM

Comments [1]

Friday, June 10, 2011
From the sublime to the ridiculous
       All in one evening. Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. had the great pleasure of attending the final concert of the 2010-2011 Baltimore Symphony season last night. Music director Marin Alsop saved the best for the last by presenting the magnificent Verdi Requiem with all stops pulled---a 100+ voice choir imported from D.C., four world-class soloists, and the full symphony orchestra. You can believe him when he says that this is not something likely to turn up at the Music Showcase in Kitty Hawk any time soon. It was a sublime musical experience and he does not expect to hear anything quite like it again.
       With the glorious music still ringing in their ears and hearts they arrived home at 10 and tuned in the NBA playoff game between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks on the 55 inch, flat panel, high definition TV that takes up an obscene amount of their living room. For another hour they were transfixed by the spectacle of a dozen tall, tattooed millionaires racing up and down the floor trying frantically to stuff a ball through a hoop. He cannot deny that it was an exciting game but in the wake of a truly uplifting experience like the Verdi requiem he couldn't help sensing the absurdity of the whole scene.
       Will he, therefor, eschew the next playoff game on Saturday. Not a chance.
       The heatwave continues in Baltimore after reaching a high of 102 yesterday. Uncle Jack has huddled near his air conditioner all day so he hasn't really suffered but his heart goes out to his relatives in Minnesota where it also reached 102 yesterday. All they can do to escape the heat (and tornadoes) is to head for the root cellar and stay there 'til it's over.
       Uncle Jack was not surprised when the most recent round of "peace talks" between President Obama and Mr. Netanyahu of Israel came to naught. He was reminded of a piece he wrote on the subject of world peace a long time ago and he has dug it out of the archives for another look, to wit:

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


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Uncle Jack is in Baltimore at the moment so he couldn't take a picture of this morning's sunrise. So here's a nice one from a while back.

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This one was memorable, too.

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FEMA paid for this short-lived replacement of Seagull Drive after Hurricane Isabel took out the original. Perhaps the beach replenishment program will encourage them to do it again?

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A valiant effort. Where does all the sand go, one wonders. The house is gone now, too.

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Uncle Jack's screened porch. He will be happy to rent it to you along with the rest of the house. Google Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage for info. Week of June 18 still available + weeks in July and August.

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:43 PM

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Thursday, June 9, 2011
Sweating it out.
       Smoke or no smoke Uncle Jack finds himself longing for the Sonag beach this morning. Charm City is experiencing a heat wave the likes of which has not been seen around here since, well, last summer. It's 97 in the shade again without a breath of air stirring except from his air conditioner. The public schools, most of which have no cooling systems because when they were built nobody expected it to get this warm in June, are closed for the second day running. Naturally this has caused great consternation in many households which depend on the educational system for most of their child care.
       Actually the heat doesn't bother Uncle Jack all that much any more because at his age he is deeply into sedentary activities as a lifestyle. He spent most of yesterday in his barcalounger catching up on a three week backlog of New Yorker magazines and watching the Orioles win their third straight against the hapless Oakland Athletics (formerly the hapless Philadelphia Athletics).       The Orioles are striving manfully to reach .500 again, a lofty perch they occupied briefly earlier in the season. Uncle Jack is not complaining, though, because last year at this time they were in contention for the worst record ever in the American League.
       Uncle Jack was happy to read somewhere that the dredgers are gathering their forces to tackle the beach in front of the houses which once faced Surfside Drive in Sonag before it washed away. Actually it washed away twice because the Town of Nags Head rebuilt it once only to have it disappear again under relentless attack by Mother Nature.
       It is from Surfside south that the newly replenished beach will receive its most severe test. Much effort and expense have gone into trying to stabilize this part of the beach over a long stretch of time and nothing has worked yet as the pictures suggest. Uncle Jack can only hope that it will be different this time around but he has his doubts.

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These two houses, and many more, once stood east of Surfside with a substantial dune between them and the ocean. They are all gone.

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Mountains of sandbags have been interposed between the ocean and Surfside Drive at various times. They are long gone, thank goodness.

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A great berm was trucked in after Isabel. It was gone in less than a year, along with the street it was to protect.

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Another view of the short-lived berm.

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This walkway was built to carry foot traffic over the berm. Mute testimony to the amound of sand Mother Nature can move literally overnight.

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This adorable house in South Nags Head is for rent. A few choice weeks in July and August are still available. Google "Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage" for more info.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:28 PM

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Smoke gets in your eyes (sometimes)
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. left South Nags Head in a cloud of smoke Sunday morning---literally. He never thought he would see the day when he would be happy to escape to Baltimore to catch a breath of fresh air. His heart goes out to all the folks who checked into their rentals on Saturday afternoon only to awaken to the dense, acrid smog enveloping the neighborhood. Little did they know that two miles up the road the air was smoke-free or that before long the wind would shift and the smog would disappear. Or that the wind would shift again and blow it all back into Sonag. Patience and a pair of strong lungs are essentials for Outer Banks visitors and residents in these troubled times.
       Uncle Jack missed one of his favorite Baltimore entertainments while he was in Nags Head for the past few weeks---namely the graduation ceremonies at Johns Hopkins U. where over 6000 graduates received their degrees last week and are now ready to join the ranks of the unemployed in our sick economy. Anyway he loves to look at all the colorful robes the professors and administrators wear on this occasion which is something you never see on the Outer Banks. On the other hand he doesn't see many statuesque young ladies in bikinis in Baltimore so it's kind of tit for tat you could say.
       This is the time of year when the nation's high schools will be disgorging millions of young people with diplomas into the same miserable economy that will be unable to accommodate all of their better-educated older brothers and sisters.
All of which suggests that maybe the wisest young people of all were those who dropped out of high school early and grabbed those crappy jobs at McDonalds and Burger King before the college graduates could get to them. At least they have jobs and they're debt-free.
       Some years ago Uncle Jack wrote a piece in praise of high school dropouts and he has dragged it out of the archives for just this occasion, to wit:

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

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This is what he missed last week.

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This is what he didn't miss last week.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:06 PM

Comments [3]

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Unrise in Sonag, June 2, 2011
       Once again Uncle Jack's desire to photograph at least one decent sunrise before he has to return to Baltimore has been thwarted. He was up in plenty of time, neither fog nor smoke greeted him as he opened the front door at 5:30, but once again a thick bank of clouds on the eastern horizon obscured the sun as it presumably rose at 5:47. Instead he had to settle for a shot of the hopper dredge "Liberty Island" returning to its sand mine offshore to pick up another load. He will try again tomorrow.
       The good news is that even though the wind is blowing directly from the mainland there is almost no smoke smell this morning. The valiant firefighters who have been struggling with the stubborn blaze for weeks appear to have won their fight for which Uncle Jack says thank you from the bottom of his sinuses.
       "Whoopee" was the word of the day at Uncle Jack's house yesterday as a highly skilled gentleman by that name finished installing the complicated new glass shower enclosure in the newly renovated bathroom of the master bedroom, rendering said house completely ready for occupancy by the first set of renters who arrive on Saturday.
       For further information about the house and its remaining availability please Google "Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage" which will lead you to the appropriate website.

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5:47 was the appointed time but once again Mr. Sol was a no-show.

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The hopper dredge "Victory Island", soon to be joined by two more like it, heads out to pick up another load of sand.

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With zoom.

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Other than an occasional passing pelican these crows were Uncle Jack's only companions on the beach this morning.

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There was congestion in the sky yesterday afternoon with pelicans flying every which way. The artistic treatment only indicates that the Sony's battery is dying.

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Meanwhile, back in Mrs. U.J.'s back yard, her oleanders are going crazy.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:43 AM

Comments [1]

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