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Monday, July 31, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday July 31, 2006

     How Uncle Jack suffers on behalf of his weblog readers. He was forced to sit in a serendipitous beach chair for over half an hour this morning waiting for the sun to appear with nothing to do except watch pelicans flying, sandpipers pecking, and sand crabs cleaning out their holes. He can tell you this is not the most exciting way to pass the time.  (Come to think of it maybe that's not so bad).

    It appears that July will go out the way it came in---sunny, hot and humid.  Perfect beach weather in other words. Lucky are the folks who chose a week or two in July for their vacations on the Outer Banks because they couldn't have asked for anything more.

     It's Monday and Uncle Jack offers his sincere condolences to all who have to go back to work this morning.  For the first summer in 37 years he is not one of them and he is loving every minute of it.

    Here's a brief reminiscence from the archives that might help you get through a minute or two of the agony of Monday:

           Go East Young Man

Dear Uncle Jack,

You wrote a column a while back about the broadening effects of travel and I was wondering if you have ever been to the far west.

Juan Tjese


Dear Juan,

It depends on how far west you are talking about. Uncle Jack has been over to Greenville a few times which is quite a ways west of the Dare County Sanitary Landfill which is fairly far west itself if you come right down to it, even though it is in East Lake.

If you are thinking about going west yourself, though, Uncle Jack thinks you would be better off to save your money and go south instead to some nice place like Frisco where you can at least get a nice plate of ribs.

The only cultural attraction he ever ran across out west was Simp’s Barbecue which was on 64 just this side of Plymouth where you could still get Coca Cola in those little eight-ounce glass bottles they used to have when he was a kid. He can tell you that a Simp’s barbecue sandwich with slaw and a couple of those little cokes made a real gourmet breakfast but after you burped a couple of times you might as well have turned around and come home because there was nothing west of Simp’s worth bothering with as far as he could tell.  And now that Simp's is closed forever there is absolutely no point in driving over there any more.

Back when he was in the navy a long time ago he did get to a place called the Far East and he was single at the time so he enjoyed meeting all the friendly ladies and he thought it would be nice to go back there and live forever but that is not the way it worked out.

Nowadays when he feels nostalgic for the sights and smells of the Far East he just goes over to the Wal-Mart and stands in the women’s clothing department for a while but he has to admit it isn’t quite the same.


Uncle Jack



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5:45 a.m.

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Over a half hour later the sun finally showed up in a rather unspectacular fashion but at least it was accompanied by a squadron of pelicans.

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This industrious sand crab helped Uncle Jack pass the time by cleaning out his hole right at his feet. They are weird little creatures to be sure.

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When the crab was in his hole Uncle Jack could fall back on the numerous sandpipers to provide a diversion from total ennui.

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It cooled off enough Sunday evening to permit a stroll on the beach near Sea Gull Drive. This row of sandbagged houses has completely usurped the beach so we were forced to walk south. Perhaps the town can prevent atrocities like this in the future?

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Immediately south of the sandbagged houses the beach is wide and inviting after the removal of a number of buildings (including the once notorious "Kuckoo's Nest") to the other side of the beach road.

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These young men professed to be digging their way to China which Uncle Jack reluctantly informed them is a hazardous thing to do when you are digging in sand. More than one such hole has buried the diggers.

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Another example of a gloriously pointless activity that must have engaged several people for several hours. If you had to do this for a living you couldn't be paid enough.

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Sunsets can be as pretty as sunrises sometimes. The narrowing of the beach here is caused by an ocean outfall pipe that blocks the normal flow of sand just as sandbags do.

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A ski-doo and kayak rental place just south of the Tanger Outlet Mall bit the dust this week. Possibly a preliminary to the enlarging of the Mall? Your reporter will keep a keen eye on further developments.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:37 AM

Comments [7]

Sunday, July 30, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday July 30, 2006

     The penultimate sunrise of July could hardly have been improved upon even though the sun itself never appeared.  Rather it stayed in the background and lit up one group of clouds after another around the sky in a fascinating display of color and shadow. All this coupled with a cool breeze from the west and greatly reduced humidity made the Sonag beach a lovely place to be this morning.

    Yesterday was another in a long series of scorchers. The hardworking carpenters took Saturday off to recuperate from their exertions on the Mini garage so Uncle Jack will be able to admire the solid, well-constructed roof structure until the plywood covers it up on Monday, weather permitting of course..

     It occurred to him while swatting at the biting flies around his ankles up on the beach this morning that this has been a summer completely free of mosquitoes.  The county's mosquito control program seems to have been wildly successful, at least in South Nags Head, because he has not seen or been bitten by a single mosquito this year in spite of the vast acreages of standing water that prevailed for weeks at a time.  It's almost scary.

    RJCTAHOE sent this to Uncle Jack yesterday and he thought it was so hilarious he should pass it on:

                          FEMALE POEM
> >
> >I want a man who's handsome, smart and strong
> >
> >One who loves to listen long.
> >One who thinks before he speaks
> >One who'll call, not wait for weeks.
> >I want him to be gainfully employed,
> >When I spend his cash, be not annoyed.
> >Pulls out my chair and opens my door,
> >Massages my back and begs to do more.
> >Oh! For a man who makes love to my mind
> >And knows what to answer to "how big is my behind?"
> >I want this man to love me to no end,
> >And always be my very best friend.
> >
>                        >MALE POEM
> >
> >I want a deaf-mute nymphomaniac
> >With huge boobs who owns a liquor store and a bass boat.
> >I know this doesn't rhyme and I don't give a shit

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5:45 a.m.

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6:00 a.m.

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6:30 The sun never actually showed but it put on a great sky show this morning.

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They told Uncle Jack when he was in the navy that this is called a mackerel sky. So that's what he calls it.

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Sunday Schmunday. The pelicans never take a day off.

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Another example of what happens when a house gets sandbagged. The waves have cut ten feet into the dune next door and this will continue until the next door house is forced to sandbag in self defense. Not good.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:25 AM

Comments [9]

Saturday, July 29, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Saturday July 29, 2006

     Nothing much to report in the sunrise department this morning except that there wasn't any.  The sky is completely overcast with clumps of dark rainclouds hovering in various sectors. If we don't get rain today it will be a miracle. This is undesirable for two reasons (l) the remaining tomatoes are starting to split from too much rain (2) the carpenters are poised to finish the roof on the Mini garage today but rain could mess things up again as it did earlier in the week and caused them to miss an entire day.  Mother Nature will do what she wants to do but Uncle Jack doesn't have to be happy about it.

     It was low tide at 6 this morning and the beach in the half-mile north of  the Outer Banks pier was not only firm and perfect for walking but as wide as he has ever seen it.  He suspects that a lot of the several million cubic yards of sand that recently departed the area in front of the Comfort Inn has come to rest here---at least for the moment.  He could be completely wrong of course.  Not even coastal geologists can figure out what goes on with beaches most of the time.

      He would like to take this opportunity to urge all locals who dislike sandbags as much as he does to attend the public hearing at the Nags Head Board of Commissioners mid-month meeting on Wednesday evening, August 16,  at 7 p.m. in the conference room under the water tower by the Nags Head Town Hall. You can be sure that the pro-sandbag folks will be out in force to protect their right to pile giant sandbags around their properties no matter what the cost to the beach or to the folks next door.  Several members of the board have expressed a desire to curb the use of sandbags in Nags Head but if they are to succeed they need the support of those who agree with them.

     Uncle Jack wrote a dissertation on this subject, complete with pictures, in his blog entry for May 12, 2005.  You can check it out in the archives for May of last year if you like.

   Rain or no rain he hopes you have a nice weekend wherever you are.

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Uncle Jack is sorry to report that this is as close as South Nags Head got to a sunrise this morning.

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Looking north from the Outer Banks pier. South Nags Head is definitely not "falling into the ocean" in this area no matter what county commissioner Johnson may think.

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This ambitious sand sculpture has survived for over two days because the builders had the foresight to put it way back from the surf. Would that all builders would have the sense to do the same.

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There were at least a hundred sandpipers in this one flock this morning. It is good to have them back as they are an endless source of amusement for the sedentary.

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Three species in one picture. Not bad for an amateur birder.

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Uncle Jack gets mad every time he has to walk around this mess.

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With the third window in place the Mini garage is really ready for the roof. Uncle Jack would hate to have to haul sheets of plywood up there in this heat but he is grateful to the three strong young men who will do it today, weather permitting.

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This racing car was on the beach in front of the Village at Nags Head Thursday night.

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It was chasing this one but will probably never catch it. It looks like the Fiat Abarth Zagato a friend owned a few years back. Almost as much fun as the Mini.

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Say "Cheese" everybody.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:46 AM

Comments [3]

Friday, July 28, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday July 28, 2006

     Yesterday felt like the hottest, most humid day of the summer so far on the Outer Banks and today looks like more of the same.  South Nags Head is a steambath already at 6 a.m. and scarcely a breath of air is stirring.  Uncle Jack has to confess that he feels a bit guilty about cowering in his air-conditioned house while the stalwart employees of the Bottom Line Construction Company toil away in the heat right outside his door.  They set the roof rafters yesterday which is probably the most exhausting part of building a house or garage.  He is not sure who makes Gatorade but judging from the number of empty bottles in the trash can this morning Uncle Jack should be buying their stock.

     In case you haven't noticed it's Friday and to help you get through the last long hours here's something from the archives to kill a little time with:

                            Modern Maturity

Ever since he had to have his gall bladder forcibly removed Uncle Jack has been thinking about what it means to grow old and he is happy to say that he is moderately optimistic about it at this point. He has had to take it easy this week while all the little holes the doctor punched in his stomach healed up so he has had a lot more time to read than he usually does and he really enjoyed it.

He started working his way down through the magazines that always pile up next to his barcalounger because he never has time to read them. He is now caught up on his National Geographics, Smithsonians, Atlantic Monthlies and New Yorkers and he feels so well informed he can hardly stand himself.

Anyway Uncle Jack got a good taste this week of what it would be like not to have to go to work every day and he has to say he can see some real merit in the retirement lifestyle. In fact he got so interested in retirement there for a couple of days that he actually read a couple of issues of Modern Maturity which he forgot to throw away at the post office which is what he usually does with them.

If any young persons are reading this he will explain that Modern Maturity is the magazine you get every month if you belong to the American Association of Retired People, better known as AARP, which is a good thing to be a member of if you are over 55 because they have terrorized motel owners all over the country into giving old people a 10 percent discount on their rooms.

He usually hates to read Modern Maturity because it is full of ads reminding vigorous old people like himself what is in store for them down the road such as motorized wheelchairs, Alzhimer’s pills, Medicare supplement plans, Florida mobile home developments and Viagra. The people who put out Modern Matuirity really knock themselves out to make old age sound like fun but the ads tell the truth.

He has to admit he really enjoyed this month’s issue though because it is full of articles about how computers can enhance the quality of life for older people---even more than Viagra in many cases. This was very meaningful to Uncle Jack because he has only recently embraced the computer and he can honestly say that he loves it and he knows that it will be a great comfort to him in his old age if he lives that long.

The single most depressing paragraph he has read in any magazine in the past five years is in Modern Maturity this month and he would like to share it with all those who threw their copies away at the post office. It is in an article about Martha Stewart who is described as “the woman America turns to for clever tips on how to…revitalize discarded lighting fixtures…” and this is what it says:

Stewart has 30 telephone and fax numbers and more than 40 separate phones as well as seven cellular phones….She owns and uses five Macintosh desktop computers, two Mac Power Book laptops, an IBM Thinkpad 770 notebook computer, and carries a laptop at all times…Her cars are equipped with fax machines and VCRs and her Chevy Suburban is a rolling office outfitted with a telephone, a laptop computer and a fax that doubles as a photocopier.

Uncle Jack’s advice to Martha Stewart: Get a life before you run over somebody with that Suburban and they lock you up for good.


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5:45 a.m. Dullsville.

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6:10 a.m. First peek through the clouds.

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California here I come---again.

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Uncle Jack didn't notice the broken piling yesterday but this is what caused the house to be condemned---not the illegal sandbags. He should have known.

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The sandpipers are back! There were several sizeable flocks skittering around the edge of the surf this morning for the first time in weeks.

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What would our visitors do without a Wings store on every corner?

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This gent was catching 4-ounce fish as fast as he could feed them bloodworms. What fun!

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God knows where these guys are headed. If somebody would pay him to do it Uncle Jack would be happy to try to find out.

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The Mini's new home is coming right along. The roof goes on today.

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The way this thing is put together it could double as a hurricane shelter.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:13 AM

Comments [7]

Thursday, July 27, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday July 27, 2006

     South Nags Head is like a huge outdoor sauna this morning. Uncle Jack walked the mile down to the Outer Banks pier and back while waiting for the sun to appear and probably lost a pound in the process.  The ocean is flat calm, there is scarcely a cloud in the sky and unless some kind of massive cold front moves in we are due for a humid scorcher today.

     Yesterday was not nearly as hot and not a drop of rain fell so the resident nailbangers made great progress on the Mini's new garage.  With any luck the roof will be on before the weekend.

     One of the high points of the day was a visit to the new Harris-Teeter supermarket in KDH which gives new meaning to the word super.  In his travels around the country Uncle Jack has seen a lot of  big grocery stores but this one raises the bar a couple of notches.  Organic cilantro is finally available on the Outer Banks. Huzzah!                                                                        They took their customary evening stroll on the beach in front of the Village at Nags Head in the section just south of the Village swimming pool.  Uncle Jack was amazed at the width of the beach in that vicinity right now.  Where all that lovely sand came from is a mystery to him.  What a pity it would be to cover it up with dredge spoil as the town commissioners seem wont to do.

     Here's another gleaning from the archives to help pass the time during lunch hour:

                        Wiring the South

Uncle Jack was very happy to read in the paper that the President came to North Carolina last week to talk about a subject near and dear to his heart and his pocketbook. Uncle Jack’s heart and pocketbook that is. What he talked about was the internet.

The President is a superb politician so you can never be sure what he really thinks about the internet or anything else for that matter. Whether he meant them or not, though, he surely did say all the right things in his speech down in Columbus County the other day.

“I don’t care if you don’t have a college degree. I don’t care if you never finished high school. You need to figure out how these computers work. You need to figure out how to get on the internet. You need to figure out how to do this because this is the future of America,” he said. And Uncle Jack says “Amen”.

As far as he knows the President did not specifically mention eBay but he is pretty sure that must be what he had in mind. Uncle Jack does not need any convincing that eBay is where it’s at in the future department and he will explain what he means in a minute.

The President and the Governor talked a lot about the “digital divide” between urban and rural parts of the country and the Governor unveiled his plan to wire up the entire state, urban and rural, for high-speed internet service within the next three years. He said the big telephone companies had agreed to help which is a good thing because they own all the wires, but he did not say how he would get them to do any more than they are already doing.

The paper said that only 20 percent of North Carolinians are hooked up to the internet now and our great state ranks 46th in the country in that category. Presumably we have been saved again by Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia which have traditionally rescued us Tarheels from total ignominy in so many areas of human endeavor.

And this brings Uncle Jack back to eBay where his chief stock in trade is old maps of Civil War battlefields in---you guessed it---Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and other parts of the South where not too many years ago politicians were touting indoor plumbing with the same fervor they accord the internet today. He is doing so well with only 20 percent of his potential customers hooked up that he can only imagine what riches may accrue when every rural hamlet in the South boasts high-speed internet access.

He agrees with the President that the future of the rural South lies in the internet, or more specifically eBay. He is convinced that one of the greatest untapped sources of wealth in America lies in the back (and front) yards of dilapidated houses all over the region. Those hitherto worthless accretions of discarded trucks and automobiles, appliances, farm implements, furniture and God knows what else now have a market. Ebayers will buy anything. Uncle Jack knows.

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5:45 a.m. Nothing much going on.

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This is as exciting as it got this morning. Not a cloud in the sky except on the horizon.

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It was low tide at 6 a.m. so Uncle Jack was able to get around these sandbagged cottages for the first time in a week.

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Much to his amazement this is what he saw nailed to the southernmost house. Could this be a harbinger of things to come? Stay tuned.

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Mrs. Uncle Jack explores the vast produce section at the new Harris-Teeter. Incredible.

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While Uncle Jack checks out his domain. Great selection of Merlots in the $3 a bottle range he favors.

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An auspicious moment. Too bad J.D. Salinger couldn't be here to see it. (This obscure literary reference is thrown in here for the delectation of all the high school graduates).

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We need to spend $30 million to improve this? (The beach in front of the Village at Nags Head)

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The S.S. Jenna awaits destruction by the incoming tide. One of several truly remarkable sand sculptures seen on our walk last evening.

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The end of a perfect day. Breaks your heart not to be here doesn't it?

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:37 AM

Comments [15]

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Rainy Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday July 26, 2006

     Uncle Jack didn't think there could be any rain left in the sky after yesterday's all day monsoon but he was wrong.  He no more than reached the beach at 5:45 this morning when it started to pour again and he was forced to take shelter in one of the several tents that are set up on the beach near Whitecap street.  There he was forced to sit on a damp beach chair for the next 45 minutes, drinking tea and watching the sun struggle into the cloudy sky while flocks of pelicans flew by, inches above the calm water. Sheer torture when he really wanted to be home reading about the continuing slaughter in the Middle East.  Nobody said that life on a barrier island was going to be easy.

     He has no idea how this day will develop. There are patches of blue sky here and there mingled with ominous black clouds that appear to be carrying vast amounts of moisture.  He hopes it will stay dry long enough for the Bottom Line Construction Company to make some progress on the Mini's new garage and also for him and Mrs. U.J. to take in the Grand Opening of the new Harris-Teeter in KDH.  This is likely to be the biggest social event on the Outer Banks since the Wright Brothers' 100th anniversary party a few years back.  Uncle Jack hopes that President Bush doesn't come this time and put a damper on everything.like he did then. Look for a full report on H-T in tomorrow's blog.

    In the meantime here's another bloviation from the archives:

         Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Uncle Jack read in the paper last week that Town of Nags Head officials are agonizing over how best to preserve the town’s “historic district”---the mile-long row of old cottages on the ocean front opposite Jockey’s Ridge. The recent issuance of a CAMA permit to demolish one of the old buildings because it is considered too unstable to move has reawakened interest in trying to find some way to preserve the historic character of that defining part of Nags Head.

According to the newspaper report “the board is considering entering the long and arduous process of creating a commission to regulate what can and cannot be done to the town’s historic homes”, which determination Uncle Jack applauds. But he is not sanguine about what such a commission could accomplish over the long haul. He says this because Mother Nature is one of the players in this game and she is likely to make up her own mind about what will happen to those delightful old buildings, regulations notwithstanding.

By pure coincidence Uncle Jack came to Nags Head for the first time in 1969, the same year that the National Geographic Magazine published in its September issue a comprehensive article about the Outer Banks. One of the illustrations for the piece as an aerial photograph of the old cottage row from the Arlington Hotel at the south to the First Colony Inn at the north. The photo was taken seven years after the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 by which time many of the surviving cottages had been moved back from the ocean---some for the third or fourth time. (Part of the substructure of one of the cottages is clearly visible at the edge of the surf at its previous location).

The venerable Arlington juts out like a sore thumb in the picture. Too large and ungainly to move, it stayed put until destroyed by a storm in 1973. Prior to its demise Uncle Jack ate many a delicious lunch and dinner in the Arlington’s superb dining room as the waves rolled under it and shook the building. For a while the Arlington was possibly the most exciting dining place in America---in more ways than one.

He once interviewed the owner, Mrs. Phoebe Hayman, who reminisced about the extremely wide beach that fronted the hotel when it was built in the early 30’s. It was so wide that she had to nag the lifeguards to carry their umbrellas and chairs all the way out to the water’s edge rather than setting them up halfway as they were wont to do.

The First Colony Inn was saved---not by declaring it a national treasure (which it is for no other reason than that Uncle Jack was the manager for two summers) but by cutting it into three pieces and moving it to a new location between the highways---far from the waves that were pounding it to pieces every winter in its last years on the oceanfront. But for its rescuers, the Lawrence family, it probably would have gone the way of the Arlington, or the Old Nagsheader which was deliberately torched in 1977, or the Croatan Inn, demolished in 2006.

Since that historic photo was taken in 1969, most of the old cottages have been moved backed yet again as storms have relentlessly chewed away at the beach in front of them. Nearly all have now been moved back as far as they can go---in effect their fate sealed by the building of the Beach Road in the early 30’s. Ironically the Beach Road caused them to be built in the first place and now, along with the ocean, it is their nemesis.

Some, like the First Colony, have been moved back across the road and more could follow, but it looks to Uncle Jack that in the foreseeable future, barring massive and endless expenditures for beach replenishment, the erstwhile “historic district” could be history.

It is possible, of course, that the geological processes which have shaped the Outer Banks over millennia could suddenly reverse themselves. And wouldn’t Uncle Jack have egg on his face if that happens!


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5:45 a.m.

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A misty morning which shortly turned into a rainy morning.

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A view from the tent of the first appearance of Old Sol nearly a half-hour after official sunrise.

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And here he is again just before disappearing into the clouds for good.

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Uncle Jack strolled up to the Comfort Inn at 5 p.m. yesterday after the rain stopped. He was not alone as you can see. Plenty of room for everybody, though. Doesn't look like beach renourishment is urgently needed in this part of South Nags Head does it.

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The situation is different a few hundred yards north where the beach has eroded on either side of the heavily sandbagged hotel. Another example of Professor Pilkey's admonition that you can have sandbags or you can have beaches but not both.

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Another example just south of Whitecap street. Lots of sandbags=narrow beach.

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Looking north from Whitecap, no sandbags=wide beach. This is definitely not rocket science.

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Uncle Jack is glad he doesn't live in Rehoboth Beach where they remove cigarette butts from the beach every morning with a $28,000 vacuum cleaner. He prefers a natural beach with plenty of concrete slabs like this one near the Comfort Inn.

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Getting down to the beach from the Yachtsman is fairly easy. Getting back home is a bit of a challenge right now.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:35 AM

Comments [7]

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday July 25, 2006

     The sun didn't make an appearance until twenty minutes after official sunrise but in the meantime it put on a glorious light show of pink and orange clouds all over the sky this morning. For a while it looked like a sunny day was in store but just as rapidly the sky has clouded completely and it looks like we could get more rain. Who knows. At least it has cooled off a bit.

     Another dozen tomatoes ripened yesterday and Mrs. Uncle Jack responded by churning out the first of what will be several batches of  her heavenly tomato sauce.  Nothing at the new Harris-Teeter which opens tomorrow could possibly match her sauce and the price is right too.  Along with the spectacular peaches and sweet corn available at Cahoon's grocery right now we are eating high on the hog in South Nags Head these days.

     And healthily, too.  After a year and a half on a diet heavy with vegetables and fruits and low in fat both Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are enjoying good health and have probably gotten a bit smug about how virtuous they are.  That's why this joke that turned up in the inbox yesterday (courtesy of obxtxn) really broke us up:

Sam and Carol were 85 years old, and had been married for sixty years. Though far from rich, they managed to get by because they watched their pennies.
They were both in very good health, largely due to the wife's insistence on healthy foods and exercise for the last decade. One day, their good health didn't help when they went on a rare vacation and their plane crashed, sending them off to Heaven. They reached the pearly gates, and there an escort was waiting to show them inside.
He took them to a beautiful mansion, furnished in gold and fine silks, with a fully stocked kitchen and a waterfall in the master bath And their favorite clothes hanging in the closet. They gasped in astonishment when he said, "Welcome to Heaven. This will be your home now."
Sam asked how much all this was going to cost.
"Why, nothing," their companion replied, "remember, this is your reward in Heaven."
Sam looked out the window and right there he saw a championship golf course, finer and more beautiful than any ever-built on Earth. "What are the greens fees?" grumbled the old man.
"This is heaven," the companion replied. "You can play for free,every day"
Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch, with every imaginable cuisine laid out before them, from seafood to steaks to exotic deserts, free flowing beverages.
"Don't even ask," said their companion to Sam. "This is Heaven, it is all free for you to enjoy."
The old man looked around and glanced nervously at Edith. "Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods, and the decaffeinated tea?" he asked.
"That's the best part," the companion replied. "You can eat and drink as much as you like of whatever you like, and you will never get fat or sick. This is Heaven!"
Sam pushed, "No gym to work out at?"
"Not unless you want to," was the answer.
"No testing my sugar or blood pressure or..."
"Never again. All you do here is enjoy yourself."
Sam glared at Edith and said, "You and your shitty bran muffins. We could have been here 15 years ago."



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5:45 a.m.

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5:55 a.m.

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The family that strolls together (at 6 a.m. yet!) stays together, at least until the kids are old enough to run away from home.

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6:05. Still no sign of the sun but who cares.

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6:20 a.m. Twenty minutes late and a bit of an anti-climax.

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The sandbags continue to take a toll. Another six inches of sand disappeared from under this stairway last night. It's now blocked off thank goodness.

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The Mini garage is finally underway, courtesy of Bottom Line Construction, Big Bob Kwiatkowski, Prop.

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Big Bob is appropriately named. He is just back from the 7-11 with a gallon of Gatorade, the working man's Veuve-Clicquot.

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The result of one long day's work by four excellent craftsmen. At this rate it should be done in a week.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:07 AM

Comments [6]

Monday, July 24, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Monday July 24, 2006

     What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday afternoon it was stupefyingly hot on the South Nags Head beach and this morning it was so chilly Uncle Jack, underdressed, could only stay for a few minutes lest he contract pneumonia.  It took only that long to ascertain that there would be no photogenic sunrise this morning so he didn't miss anything.

     The sky is almost completely overcast and the beach is shrouded in cool mist at 6 a.m. but who knows what the rest of the day will bring.  Yesterday started out totally unpromising but the afternoon was perfect for beachgoers before the rain started around 5 p.m. and continued for hours.

     The Sunday issue of the Outer Banks Sentinel contains a letter from a staunch and irate defender of sandbags which, in the interest of  fairness, Uncle Jack has reprinted below: 

Your paper recently ran an article on the front page, written by Charley Bunyea, regarding sand bags in South Nags Head. I was very disappointed at how one-sided the article was.

The entire focus of the article was from the viewpoint of the Town of Nags Head, without any consideration to the homeowners who have been placed in the position of having to sand bag their homes to protect them because the Town of Nags Head continues to do absolutely nothing to help. A true journalist would have looked at all sides of the story and done a little more research before putting such an article on the front page of the paper. It was almost as though the Town of Nags Head was paying for an info-mercial.

The Town of Nags Head has continued to do nothing about protecting the beaches in South Nags Head and has been spending ridiculous amounts of money to research beach replenishment over the past 30 years. It has been proven up and down the east coast that beach replenishment can work if invested in and done correctly. Debating the issue is not going to bring the beach or the tourists back. The homeowners have had no choice but to take matters into their own hands and spend their hard earned money to protect their homes and investments. If the people who are sand bagging did not do all they have done to save their homes, the beach would be even smaller and the homes behind the first tier would be gone as well. What people don't consider is the fact that those sand bags not only are saving the houses that are bagged, but are also protecting the houses and roads behind them. Where there are problems on the beach is where people have chosen not to sand bag, for whatever reason.

The Town Commissioners need to stop being so self serving (like Bob Oakes) and think about the homeowners that they supposedly represent. I have seen them over the many years spend money on stupid things like buses/trollies, which maybe two people rode and phone booths in residential areas, which never worked properly and were destroyed by the elements, before spending money on the one true thing that people are coming for...the beach. Maybe they need to go back and watch Field of Dreams...if they build it, people will come. Without the beach, tourists will continue to go further south to places like Bald Head Island and beyond and the town will continue to lose valuable revenue because they were too stupid to do anything about saving the beach. In 10 years, all it will be is a dream...the beach they could have had. It seems as though the only people who really care are the homeowners in South Nags Head who continue to do everything they can to protect their homes and the beach by sand bagging.

It would be nice if you, as a supposed non-biased journalist, would print both sides of the story as you should have done the first time.

Paula Jones Pennington

(A concerned citizen)


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6 a.m. Mother Nature must have slept in this morning. Uncle Jack should have, too.

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Misty to the south.

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And misty to the north. Chilly, too, with a damp breeze out of the north. New England weather.

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Yesterday afternoon was another story. This is around the 19.5 milepost in South Nags Head. There was a row of cottages here once. Fortunately they weren't sandbagged or there would be no place to sit.

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Ditto looking north. County Commissioner Mike Johnson said that South Nags Head was falling into the ocean and nobody wanted to come here any more. Has he ever visited South Nags Head, Uncle Jack wonders.

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Time for his nose to start itching.

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No sandbags messing up the beach in front of this house. A sign of responsible ownership, right Sparky?

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"It seems as though the only people who really care are the homeowners in South Nags Head who continue to do everything they can to protect their homes and the beach by sand bagging." Paula Jones Pennington (Concerned Citizen)

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This big chunk of concrete could break somebody's ankle when submerged. It's just south of Ciltvaira Street about 50 yards if the Town of Nags Head would like to send somebody to winch it off the beach. It must weigh 300 pounds.

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Who needs the Hilton when the Traveler's Inn at Whalebone Junction offers wireless internet? (And you can walk to Sam and Omie's next door!)

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:26 AM

Comments [956]

Sunday, July 23, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Sunday July 23, 2006

    Uncle Jack strolled up to the beach and took a couple of predawn pictures but beat a hasty retreat when he saw the huge black clouds bearing down on him from all directions.  It was quite obvious that there would be no visible sunrise so he feels no regret about wimping out; he reached his back door just as the first drops began to fall. There will be many more today from the looks of it.

     A good day to stay inside and hang the new Venetian blinds that arrived Friday.  (Can there really be a good day to hang Venetian blinds, he wonders?)

    If you are lucky enough to not have to hang Venetian blinds today here is something to read after you finish the Sunday paper:

                          High on the Hog

This was the week for the Nags Head Surf Fishing Club’s annual Pig Pickin’ and Social Hour so Uncle Jack does not have to tell you what kind of a week this was for him. As far as he is concerned this week ranks right up there with Thanksgiving in the eating department every year.

There is no way he can tell you how good the pig was this year except to say it was just as good as last year. If you were at the pig pickin’ last year you will know what he is talking about but if you were not there you are out of luck. Words fail him sometimes and this is one of them. While he was working on his second plate it occurred to him that this is probably where they got that old saying about “eating high on the hog”.

Actually it is hard to tell if you are eating high on the hog or not because they chop it up pretty fine and one piece looks a lot like the others by the time they get through. But no matter where it came from, high or low, it was all good and that applies to the fixin’s too.

As far as Uncle Jack is concerned the Spring Pig Pickin’ is one of the premiere events on the Outer Banks social calendar and he could tell that a lot of other people feel the same way because practically everybody there was wearing shoes, including Senator Basnight. Uncle Jack tried out his brand new state-of-the-art Pro-Keds which have the Velcro tabs instead of laces. He is pleased to tell you they held up very well and gave him good traction even late in the evening when the floor started getting fairly greasy in spots.

Just about everybody who is anybody was there including numerous political leaders who were easy to spot because they were trying to talk and shake hands and eat pig all at the same time so they tended to look a little more awkward than they really are.

Anyway it made Uncle Jack feel good to think that a person like himself who never even saw a bluefish until he was forty years old could be a member in good standing of a high-ranking organization like the Nags Head Surf Fishing Club. Only in America.

This was a big week in the eating department for another reason, too. Uncle Jack’s only begotten son came home from college for a few days and he brought several friends from China home with him. One of these friends insisted on doing all the cooking so being a gracious host and everything Uncle Jack did not argue about it for more than a few seconds.

He is glad he was gracious, too, because he wound up eating three of the best Chinese dinners he has ever had and he has had a lot of them. He got his share, too, because he ate with a fork in one hand and a spoon in the other which gave him quite an advantage over his guests who were doing the best they could with chopsticks. It is hard for Uncle Jack to figure out how there ever got to be a billion Chinese people when all they had to survive on was what they could get in their mouths with chopsticks. One of these days somebody is going to get very rich by taking a lot of forks and spoons over to China and calling them “high tech chopsticks”.

Anyway he hopes his son will come back soon with those same friends because he really enjoyed their visit and also he is hungry again already.

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5:45 a.m. The only patch of color in the sky was in the northeast.

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Everywhere else it was BLACK and ominous.

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This is as good as it got colorwise. 6 a.m. and no sign of the sun.

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Somebody sweated over this yesterday. Where they got the energy is anybody's guess because it was insufferably hot all day.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:34 AM

Comments [4]

Saturday, July 22, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Saturday July 22, 2006

     9 p.m. Saturday.  Much to Uncle Jack's astonishment the cable repairman arrived a few minutes ago and fixed our TV and internet connections which  he has been without since yesterday afternoon.  He takes back all the unkind things he said about Charter Communications today as it turned out not to be their fault.  It was the concrete guys who chopped the cable the other day and the emergency repairs they made did not hold up. What else can you expect from concrete guys?

      The sunrise was rather neat and it has been a hot, humid perfect beach day.  What more can a visitor ask in mid-July.

     Big ad in the Coastland Times today.  Harris-Teeter in KDH will open next Wednesday the 26th.  With any luck they will have raw almonds which have become a staple of  our diet. God knows what they will cost.

Tomorrow is another day.

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5:45 a.m. Saturday

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5:55 a.m.

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Ditto. Thunderheads in the south.

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First faint sighting, 6:05 a.m.

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Here to stay.

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The ocean is now cutting in on either side of the sandbags and chopping down the neighbors' dunes. Note the drop from the bottom of the steps. Disgusting.

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Concrete guys doing what they know best.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:09 PM

Comments [0]

Friday, July 21, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Friday July 21, 2006

     The surf is still up slightly this morning but otherwise Beryl the erstwhile tropical storm is but a memory on the Outer Banks.  Yesterday was a red flag day because of the threat of rip tides but it doesn't look like that will be the case today. 

     The sunrise was unspectacular but a few thunderheads on the southern horizon lit up for a while and put on a highly localized show of color.  No breeze at all and not much beach to walk on in some places because high tide coincided with sunrise. 

    The concrete guys spent the entire day yesterday sweating over the slab for Mini's new garage.  Uncle Jack concluded after watching them work that if he should be granted a new life after death that he would rather not return at all if he had to be a concrete guy.  That is one tough way to make a living---especially on a hot day in July.

    He stayed inside his cool house most of yesterday transcribing more old columns from the archives, of which the following is another sample.  You probably have better things to do than read this but at least it's commercial free:

               Requiem for Snug

Uncle Jack has seen a lot of changes along the Beach Road (a.k.a. N.C. highway 12) in Nags Head since he first used it back in 1969 to reach the First Colony Inn which was on the oceanfront in those days near the 13 milepost. Some years ago it was cut into three pieces and moved to a new location between the highways near the 16 milepost where it is enjoying a second life as an upscale boutique hotel.

While being sliced in thirds and trundled down the road like a wagon load of used lumber may seem a bit undignified it was a far better fate than most of the Beach Road’s older hostelries have met in the past 35 years. The gracious old Arlington of lemon chess pie fame collapsed in a storm in 1973. The Old Nagsheader, which stood in all its white wrap-around glory across the street from Uncle Jack’s Yellowhouse Gallery, succumbed to arson in 1977. More recently the Cabana East, the Olde London Inn, the Carolinian, the Beachcomber, the Sea Oatel and several others whose names he has forgotten have been demolished to make room on the ocean front for more of the giant particle board palaces which now dominate the rental market almost everywhere on the Outer Banks.

Uncle Jack has fond personal memories of most of these departed hostelries but it was the least of them, and by far the most eccentric, that he remembers best. It was a rooming house known to the general public as Snug Harbor but more often to its denizens (and the police) as Bug Harbor, Drug Harbor and Thug Harbor. The sagging three-story structure stood next door to Uncle Jack’s gallery near the 11 milepost and for over 20 years until its demise in 1999 was an almost constant source of both irritation and entertainment for him and his customers.

Living with Snug was like living next door to several TV shows simultaneously. Episodes of ER, The X-Files, Miami Vice, Studio Wrestling, and Sanford and Son could have been filmed in the parking lot. Many a dull day on the Beach Road was enlivened by the arrival of what seemed like half the armed forces of Dare County bent on apprehending some scraggly, shirtless, shoeless miscreant who had found temporary shelter within the sagging walls of what was probably the least discriminating hostelry on the entire East Coast. Uncle Jack often thought that moving in shackles from Snug Harbor to the county jail had to be a step up for many of its inhabitants.

For many years Uncle Jack shared a dumpster with the thirsty denizens of Snug Harbor and he was not surprised that the bottom of that sturdy steel receptacle rotted out in less than half the normal time. Now that he has seen what beer can do to the bottom of a dumpster he can only speculate on what it might be doing to his own innards.

Snug was mortally damaged by a fire in the attic during the winter of 1999 (the last of many fires over the years) and a few months later was demolished and carted off to the county landfill where it joins the remains of its spiritual cousins---the Foosball Palace, the Casino, the Aladdin and all the other slightly disreputable establishments that once gave the Beach Road its funky character. A huge frontloader accomplished in one week what the tenants had been trying to do for decades.

The lot still stands empty seven years later but Uncle Jack is sure that one of these days some cash-laden Yankee developer will come along and build another 10 bedroom, ten bath (9 more than Snug ever had) “cottage” on the premises but it won’t be the same. Blandness thy name is Beach Road.




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5:45 a.m.

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Thunderheads and lightning in the south.

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All lit up.

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Patches of pink.

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Meanwhile, back in the east, the sun makes a hazy and belated entrance.

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Roberto surveys his handiwork. Ready for the pour.

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Out with the old. One day this will be rip-rap somewhere.

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And in with the new. This state-of-the-art, front-pouring, $250,000 behemoth belongs to the Green Acres Concrete Company which wins the Uncle Jack Prize for most hilarious business name on the Outer Banks.

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Pouring concrete is a quick-weight-loss program in disguise. There are no old concrete guys for obvious reasons.

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Ready for the carpenters. Uncle Jack is pleased to recommend W.E.I.T. Concrete and Construction for all your concrete needs. They do a great job. Call Randy at 252-619-1952. Their motto: "We'll Make Your Yard Hard".

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:37 AM

Comments [901]

Thursday, July 20, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday July 20, 2006

     Tropical Storm Beryl must have been a terrible disappointment to the bean counters at the Weather Channel who sent Jim Cantore and his expense account all the way down to Nags Head to report on.......nothing.  Except for kicking up a slightly larger than normal surf and dropping a few scattered splatterings of rain Beryl was a non-event on the Outer Banks.

    It's a beautiful morning---still a bit humid but cooler than yesterday.  Not a cloud in the sky except on the horizon.  The beach in South Nags Head is a bit narrow in spots at high tide but there should be plenty of room for everybody everywhere when the tide recedes as it inevitably does.

     Here's another gleaning from the archives on one of Uncle Jack's perennial favorite topics:

                          Road Rage

Uncle Jack has had a slow leak in the left rear tire on his pre-rusted Plymouth Voyager for the past couple of weeks so he is starting to think it might be time for him to get a new car. It has almost 40,000 miles on it and the light bulb in the glove compartment is burned out so he thinks maybe the time has come.

Ordinarily he would just go over to Junior’s Chrysler place and trade it in on a new Voyager or Caravan or whatever they are calling them now but these are not ordinary times any more. As he has often said he spends most of his time now waiting to make left turns on the bypass and he has been thinking it might be smart to move himself into something a little more macho and aggressive in the car department.

It seems like most of the cars on the Outer Banks these days are either monster pickup trucks or what they call SUVs which are these big gas-guzzling, four-wheel-drive car/trucks which are apparently what the average housewife needs to get to the grocery store and back safely these days.

They all have names like “Expedition” and “Range Rover” which makes it sound like going to the Food Lion is like going on safari in Africa which is probably not too much of an exaggeration come to think of it with all those Mustangs and Cougars and Impalas and Broncos out there. Uncle Jack would rather tangle with a herd of wildebeests than some of the drivers he has seen on the bypass this summer.

Anyway he has been fantasizing about which car to buy but he couldn’t make up his mind until he read in the New York Times last week about this car called the Hummer which the General Motors company will be making from now on and which it hopes will be a big seller in years to come. (GM’s slogan, remember, is “What’s good for GM is good for America).

In case you are not quite up to speed on the latest developments in automotive science Uncle Jack will explain that the Hummer is a civilian version of the HumVee which is an army vehicle that looks like a Jeep on steroids. By “civilian version” they mean that the rocket launcher is an optional extra but Uncle Jack is willing to bet that within a couple of years all the HumVee armament will be standard equipment if driving gets any worse than it has been lately. When it comes to “road rage” we have not seen anything yet, he fears.

If you have not yet been frightened by a Hummer he will tell you that they are really big---over seven feet wide with nearly a foot-and-a-half of road clearance and weighing more than two Jeep Wagoneers put together, so you can see why they would appeal to the average American driver. The only reason they are not already stalled in traffic everywhere so you can get a good look at one is the $100,000 price tag which pretty much puts them out of the range of everybody except dot.com millionaires and timeshare salesmen right now.

Uncle Jack was reading the Hummer article in the New York Times the other day while he was waiting to make a left turn into the ABC store and there was this quote from a Mr. Schwartz of Bellevue, Washington who said “I love the fact that the Hummer is a tank, it’s like a tank with fashion, it’s like having your own war toy. I like something where I can look down into another car and give that knowing smile that says ‘I’m bigger than you’. It makes me feel powerful”. Mr. Schwartz is only a high school student but Ernest Hemingway could not have said it better if you ask Uncle Jack. He is not sure why Mike Tyson and Arnold Schwarzenegger feel like they have to drive Hummers because it seems to him that they would be fairly intimidating driving Honda Civics which they could pick up and throw at somebody if they had to.

As much as he would like to put himself behind the wheel of a Hummer Uncle Jack is probably going to have to settle for another wimpy Voyager which could not even take on a Suzuki Samurai in ordinary road combat. He simply cannot bring himself to buy a car that costs almost as much as a week’s vacation in London.

(P.S.  If you have been paying attention for the past year or so you know what he actually bought)

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5:45 a.m.

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Ten minutes later.

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6 a.m. First glimpse through an opening in the clouds.

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Still playing footsie with the clouds but obviously here to stay for another day.

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High tide was a bit higher than usual this morning.

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The beach is much wider to the north of Whitecap Street which is where Uncle Jack accesses the strand.

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This was the scene at about 5 p.m. yesterday. By then it had cooled off and there was a lovely breeze out of the northeast. Perfection on the beach.

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The concrete guys arrived yesterday---the first step toward providing the Mini with a new home. Watch it happen in this space for the next couple of weeks. (Did they manage to cut the Charter cable? Of course they did).

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:08 AM

Comments [5]

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Wednesday July 19, 2006

     Beryl hasn't amounted to much in Sonag so far.  The surf is up a little compared to yesterday and thick clouds on the horizon obscured the sunrise this morning.  The sky is quite dramatic in spite of the absence of sunlight with huge white thunderheads silhouetted against a very dark and ominous looking background.

      It's still hot and humid and it looks like a good beach day is brewing in spite of the storm which is well out to sea.  If the surf kicks up any more than it already has it will be a good day to stay out of the water.  The beach has a steep slant in many places which often produces rip tides that can catch swimmers off guard.  Dangerous stuff that has produced many a fatality over the years.

     Uncle Jack wrote a letter to the editor of the Coastland Times the other day in response to an earlier letter by his friend Bob Muller, former mayor of Nags Head, who is a staunch promoter of beach renourishment.  In case you don't have access to the Coastland Times, which does not have an online edition, here it is.  (Sparky may decide to keep his beer after he reads this):


To the Editor:

I would like to respond to my friend (former Nags Head mayor) Bob Muller‘s letter regarding the funding of the Town of Nags Head‘s proposed “go-it-alone“ beach renourishment plan. (July 13 issue) He says that “The property east of the beach road in the area proposed for nourishment in Nags Head makes up about 7 percent of the total of Dare County’s assessed property value” and he estimates that those oceanfront cottages probably collect more than 10 percent of the occupancy tax collected in the county …“and a hefty share of the sales tax as well”.

He goes on to say that “If these properties are lost either through long term erosion or storm damage that revenue will be lost to the towns and the county.” He adds that “They generate much more tax revenue than they consume and if they are lost that revenue will have to be made up by raising taxes of the rest of the county”.

I believe there are some serious flaws in this argument. First, while it may be true that these properties “generate much more tax revenue than they consume” at the present time, will this still be true when the town and county begin to spend untold millions of dollars, in perpetuity, to prevent their loss to long term erosion or storms? Where will the money come from to meet these vast and endless expenditures to save existing oceanfront structures from now until the end of time? Surely the taxes on those properties won’t be enough to do it and they will soon become liabilities, not assets, and the cost of preserving them will fall on all the county’s taxpayers.

At the root of the current controversy, it seems to me, is confusion between the need to “save our beaches” and the desire of some to “save the properties fronting the beaches”. These are two entirely different goals but the distinction seems to get lost in the rhetoric of those who argue that beach renourishment is the only way to cope with the realities of living (and investing in property) on a barrier island.

There is another far more rational and far less expensive way to “save the beaches” and that is to remove buildings from the beaches as they begin to encroach as was done in the vicinity of Surfside Drive in Nags Head. After spending untold amounts of money on ultimately futile efforts to fight Mother Nature with giant sandbags and towering berms in front of Surfside Drive, the town wisely decided to give up and after removing two derelict buildings (Mother Nature took care of the sandbags and berms) from the beach it is now restored to something resembling its natural state. Did we learn anything from the saga of Surfside Drive or will we repeat the same mistakes on a far grander scale by dumping dredge spoil on the entire 14 mile length of our beautiful Nags Head beaches and then having to do it all over again, and again and again?

There has been a mad scramble in recent years to develop every available inch of the Dare County coastline. Oceanfront property values have escalated beyond belief at least partly because investors in that property have not yet had to confront the hidden costs of oceanfront development, foremost of which is the cost of trying to keep the ocean out of oceanfront living rooms. Every northeaster and hurricane brings those costs more clearly into focus and what the argument today is really about is who is going to pay those costs and how.

I, for one, believe that Mother Nature has all the marbles and we might as well face up to it before we squander additional millions of dollars making her prove it again as she has in so many other places. I find it comforting that if she forced the removal of every oceanside structure in Nags Head over the next 50 or 100 years, at worst it would result in the loss of less than 10 percent of the county’s revenues---and even that is unlikely as remaining buildings became more valuable. And this is without factoring in the almost unimaginable cost of maintaining the status quo.

Then again I’m not unlucky enough to own oceanfront property so I can well understand how those who do might have a different view. In any case our embattled lawmakers have my sympathy as this basically political struggle plays out over the next millenium.


Jack Sandberg

South Nags Head

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5:45 a.m. looking north, the only patch of clear sky visible over the ocean.

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Looking south at the same time. Beryl is over there somewhere.

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This is where the sun was supposed to rise. Not this morning.

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Uncle Jack wanted to walk down to Dunes South and check out the rotten turtle carcass but this is as far as he could get. This place is really getting annoying.

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Somebody spent a lot of time on this construction yesterday. The next high tide will probably take it away. Sic transit gloria mundi.

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A final glimpse of the northern sky.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:51 AM

Comments [11]

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Tuesday July 18, 2006

     Uncle Jack wishes the Elph had a way of recording smells so that everybody could get a whiff of the turtle carcass that washed up near the Dunes South condos last night.  In Monty Python's terminology it is a defunct turtle that has been ripening for a very long time and until the appropriate authorities can decide who is responsible for disposing of it the beach for 200 yards around it will be uninhabitable this morning.  He used his zoom lens to get a couple of close ups and then beat a hasty retreat.

    It was an otherwise uninteresting morning, meaning that it was an almost exact duplicate of yesterday morning with not a cloud in the sky for the sun to play with.  The beach is flat and great for walking but even at 6 a.m. the heat and humidity were bad enough to drive Uncle Jack back to his air-conditioned domicile where he will spend the day praying that the electrical grid in South Nags Head will not fail today.

     He continues his excavations of the mother lode of old newspaper columns in the guest bedroom and here's one he found yesterday:

                The Joy of Taxes

This was an important week for Uncle Jack because he paid his property taxes to the Town of Nags Head and the County of Dare which he is always happy to do because it reminds him that he is one of the fortunate few who are able to call the Outer Banks of North Carolina home. It is an honor and privilege to pay his property taxes here instead of some wretched place like New York City where even Donald Trump cannot see the ocean from his living room window.

It is fairly obvious from Uncle Jack’s tax bills that both he and the Outer Banks have come a long way since 1970 when he first bought a home here. His house is worth ten times what he paid for it and his taxes are about thirty times higher and while he is not too good at higher math in spite of Mrs. Stonebreaker’s best efforts he figures that if the value of his house had kept pace with his taxes it would be right up there with the Biltmore today.

He knows there are many good reasons for his higher tax bill, of course. He noticed that “public safety” is one of the costliest parts of the budget and it reminds him that in the old days “public safety” was very economically provided by just two stalwart law enforcement officers---Sheriff Cahoon for Dare County and Chief Donnie Twyne for Nags Head---who between them managed to keep the Forces of Evil at bay from Hatteras Village to the Kill Devil Hills line. It is a measure of how far we have progressed on the Outer Banks that Sheriff Austin and Chief Cameron between them now command an army larger and better equipped than those of many Third World countries.

Even so they must struggle to contain the rising tide of crime that threatens to engulf us at all times. Where else in the country, Uncle Jack wonders, could one four-hour traffic check net as many miscreants as last week’s “Booze It, Lose It” session in Kitty Hawk. No fewer than 58 citizens were caught in the act of violating just about every law in the book from carrying a concealed weapon to motoring with an unfastened seatbelt. Who are these people, Uncle Jack wonders, and what part of New Jersey did they come from?

Anyway Uncle Jack comforts himself each year at this time by adding up all his property taxes and dividing by 365 which gives him the per jour cost of the various services he receives from local and county government which this year comes to a mere $5.19 per day---higher than it has ever been in his 30 years on the Outer Banks but still a bargain if you ask him.

For this paltry sum, less than he spends each day on the assortment of mind-altering beverages that help him to “knit up the raveled sleeve of care” as Shakespeare so aptly put it, he is pampered beyond belief by the legions of county and town employees who provide for his every need.

If local government did nothing more than remove his empties several times a week his taxes would be well spent but there is far, far more to extol. For example it gives him great comfort to know that when his liver finally gives out, as it must any day now, he will be speedily transported to the nearest emergency room by a Dare County EMS ambulance at no cost to his loved ones.

Also he knows that among the hundreds of town and county employees there must be many who are doing wonderful things for him every day that are not readily discernible to the naked eye.

Finally, but not least, he is grateful to the county for providing, however grudgingly, a school system that does a superb job of keeping large numbers of children and their skateboards off the streets most of the time, thereby improving immeasurably the quality of life for senior citizens on the Outer Banks.

You will never hear Uncle Jack complain about his local taxes. No sir. Those whiny Republicans among us don’t realize how lucky they are.

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5:45 a.m.

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6 a.m. Comin' through the haze.

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Here to stay, apparently.

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Look out California. Here she comes again.

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This curious canine, who did not wish to be identified, stakes her claim to the carcass over the loud protests of her owner, who did not wish to be identified.

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The tomatoes are coming! The tomatoes are coming!

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Time to make tomato sauce.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:17 AM

Comments [10]

Monday, July 17, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday July 17, 2006

     When he gets up early enough Uncle Jack takes a quick look at the New York Times online edition before he heads for the beach in the morning.  He is not sure why he does this because these days the New York Times is so full of bad news from every corner of the world that it is a terrible way to start the day .

     Lucky for him he is able to stroll up to a beautiful beach and walk along the shore and watch the sun come up and forget about the rest of the world---at least for a while. He is one lucky old dude.

     Nothing fancy about this morning's sunrise as the pictures show.  Not a cloud in the sky,  not nearly as humid as it has been the past few days, a coolish breeze from the northeast and perfect walking conditions sent him tooling down the beach at a pace intended to make up for his slothful behavior of  yesterday when he hardly set foot out of the house except to bring in more tomatoes.  They are coming so fast now that he is actually going to give a few to tomatoless friends today, safe in the knowledge that he can't possibly eat them all  himself . (He thinks this might be what President Bush  calls "compassionate conservatism").

     Anyway he hopes you are happy to be back at work this morning and he offers this tidbit from the archives to help pass the time between coffee breaks:


                     Taking Umbrage

A couple of weeks ago Uncle Jack mentioned how disgusted he was with an advertisement he saw in the New York Times which claims that wealth is a terrible burden for those who are unfortunate enough to possess it. It was almost enough to convince him he is better off being poor and he is seriously considering refusing his forthcoming tax refund on the grounds that he will go crazy trying to decide how to invest it.

Now there’s another advertisement running in all the upscale magazines (including the New York Times) that is equally obnoxious. It shows a man driving a shiny new Jaguar automobile and the ad copy reads “Your guidance counselor said you would never amount to anything. Your guidance counselor drives a minivan.” The clear implication of this statement is that people who drive minivans are failures and that people who drive Jaguars are successful.

Faithful readers of Uncle Jack’s column will understand why he would take umbrage at that conclusion---at least the high school graduates among them who know what umbrage means. They know, too, that he drives a minivan---a pre-rusted minivan that was two years old when he bought it “new” and is now seven years old all together.

This fact alone should move him out of the “failure” class and into the “abject failure” group, at least in the minds of those who believe that the kind of car you drive is the only acceptable measure of your accomplishment in life.

Uncle Jack was lucky that way back in high school he read a book that freed him once and for all of that kind of thinking. The book was called “Theory of the Leisure Class” which was written by another Scandinavian-American from Wisconsin named Thorstein Veblen. (Uncle Jack’s bosom swells with pride) and it explains the phenomenon of “conspicuous consumption” which is what drives people to buy bigger, flashier and more expensive cars than they really need.

When they do this, Veblen explained, they are really trying to tell other people “I am successful. I can drive to the post office in a car that you peasants can only envy.” Unfortunately, as Veblen points out, this kind of thinking only leads to dissatisfaction when, for example, the proud owner of a shiny new Ford Explorer has to park next to a shiny new Lincoln Navigator which is owned by someone who is obviously even more successful.

Regrettably the phenomenon of conspicuous consumption does not seem to extend to the public sector. Rarely do we hear people say “We are successful because we pay our teachers (and guidance counselors) a living wage and our classrooms are not overcrowded and our schools don’t leak.”

Anyway Uncle Jack would like to take this opportunity at the end of another school year to thank all those underpaid teachers and guidance counselors (who won’t be buying a new Jaguar this year) that he thinks they are the really successful people in our community and he greatly appreciates what they do.

He invites them to park next to his old pre-rusted Voyager any time they would like to feel superior to somebody else for once.

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5:56 a.m. Ho hum.

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Ditto, a few minutes later.

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Should be safe to go back home now.

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Who in Ohio or New Jersey would not want to trade places with these ladies. (That's a rhetorical question not worthy of a question mark).

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Does that look inviting or what. You could almost ride a bicycle on the sand this morning.

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

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A reminder that hurricane season is upon us. Will we get lucky again this summer?

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:18 AM

Comments [7]

Sunday, July 16, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Sunday July 16, 2006

     Lovers of extreme heat and humidity will be in their element again today.  It was slightly cooler than yesterday on the beach this morning but there is no doubt about which way the day will be going from here on. After he brings home the bagels and the New York Times around 7:30 Uncle Jack plans to hibernate for the rest of the day.

     He and Mrs. U.J. did the same yesterday to avoid the broiling heat and humidity but used the time to good advantage by making up a batch of gazpacho.  This required a good hour of  finely chopping the ingredients of this most refreshing chilled soup which include tomatoes, red, green and yellow peppers, scallions and garlic suspended in a broth of tomato juice, olive oil and assorted spices. It was delicious if he says so himself and there is plenty left over for lunch.

    The sunrise this morning was almost a carbon copy of yesterday's which is to say rather blah. The pictures speak for themselves.

   Here's another oldie from the archives which may be of special interest to all the serious beer drinkers out there:

       Nature’s Most Perfect Food

Uncle Jack’s grandson, Andy, turned 18 last week which means he is now legally old enough to do some fairly dumb things if he chooses to do them, such as smoke cigarettes and buy lottery tickets. Fortunately he is too smart to do these things or he would have started doing them a long time ago. Some things are much more fun to do when they are illegal, which is probably why so many kids quit smoking when they turn 18.

This is not true of everything, though, as Uncle Jack knows from his own experience, and one of the things it is not true of is drinking beer. He discovered nature’s most perfect food when he was 16 and it was love at first taste. Lucky for him he looked like he was 25 years old when he was 16 so he never had any trouble buying the stuff even though he was two years short of legal.

Unfortunately for Andy he lives in one of those states where you have to be 21 before you can buy beer legally, which makes it harder, but he has managed to get around this problem by learning how to make his own beer. Like his grandfather he consumes it in moderation and only at times of great ceremonial significance such as the rising and setting of the sun. Or the waxing of the moon. Or high tide. Or Thursday.

Next year Andy will be going to college where he will join some of the millions of college students who drink beer even though they are not yet 21. Several fraternities have already offered him a full four-year scholarship if he will pledge to brew at least 200 gallons of his famous porter each week.

Uncle Jack is kidding, of course, but he does have to wonder what was going on in the minds of the lawmakers who decided that college students are not old enough to drink beer. He could see how it might happen in some extremely virtuous and sparsely populated state like Utah but how could this be the law in such enlightened states as Massachusetts, where Andy lives, or even North Carolina which may not be exactly enlightened but where moonshine has been a tradition even longer than March Madness?

Uncle Jack would never urge college students to drink beer if they didn’t want to. But having been to college and seeing what goes on there he has to say that any law that prohibits beer drinking by any college student under 21 is destined to create a large criminal class who will spend a substantial part of every week enthusiastically breaking the law.

He has to wonder about the wisdom of a statute that turns half the future leaders of our country into chronic criminals even before they get to law school.

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5:45 a.m.

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Through the haze, dimly.

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On its way to points west.

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In a few hours this stretch of beach will become a giant open-air broiler.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:05 AM

Comments [2]

Saturday, July 15, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday July 15, 2006

     Uncle Jack is probably getting a little jaded but he has to say the sunrise did not amount to much this morning.  He had hopes for it when he saw all the interesting clouds in the east at 5:30 but the sun was a long time getting above the horizon and by the time it did it was too late.  He would apologize but it wasn't his fault.

     It's already over 80 degrees at 6 a.m., heading for 90+, and the air is thick and moist enough to make walking more like swimming which is a pity because the beach is like a broad sidewalk this morning.  He did stroll down to the Outer Banks pier and back and probably lost a pound in the process which entitles him to at least two beers today so it was worth the effort.

     Have a nice weekend wherever you are.  If you have to work today here's something cheerful to read on your coffee break:

               Ashes to Ashes

Uncle Jack got a very nice letter last week asking him to join a new Mausoleum Society they are starting up over on Roanoke Island. It was very exciting for him to get this letter because he hardly ever gets asked to join anything. The letter had a picture of their building which is very good looking and it should hold up pretty well, too, because they are going to build it out of granite instead of particle board which is what most of the new buildings around here are made of these days.

Anyway Uncle Jack was very interested in joining the Mausoleum Society until he found out what a mausoleum was. Now he is wondering how he got on their mailing list. That letter did start Uncle Jack thinking about what should be done with his mortal remains when he kicks the bucket, which he hopes won't be anytime soon but one never knows.

Different people in different parts of the world have certainly come up with a lot of interesting and unusual ways to dispose of their mortal remains. Uncle Jack knows quite a lot about this because many years ago his mother-in-law gave him a subscription to National Geographic magazine which she must have thought would be more uplifting for him than some of the other magazines he used to read before they quit selling them at the 7-ll.

It was more uplifting, too, in the long run. At first Uncle Jack would just skim through the National Geographic looking for pictures of topless native girls but after a while he started reading the words, too, and he learned many interesting things that way.

One thing he learned is that over in India they get rid of their mortal remains by building a big bonfire and burning them up. Another thing he learned is that Eskimos put their mortal remains on floating ice cakes and let them drift out to sea, but he is not sure if the E.P.A. lets them do that anymore.

If you want to know the truth none of these methods appeals to Uncle Jack very much. On the other hand he isn't too crazy about having his mortal remains buried in the ground either, especially around here where the water table is only about three inches down.

The mausoleum sounds a lot better because they say it is clean, dry, ventilated, above ground and permanent. It sounds a lot like being buried in a condo except for the part about "permanent". If you were looking for words to describe some of the condominiums they have built around here you surely wouldn't have too much use for "permanent".

Anyway Uncle Jack wouldn't mind if they just propped up his mortal remains in his favorite rocking chair on the deck and faced them toward the ocean. For the first few days it might be hard to tell if you were looking at Uncle Jack's mortal remains or Uncle Jack but eventually the seagulls would figure it out and do their thing

He knows this solution would not appeal to everybody and he wishes the Mausoleum Society the best of luck with their membership drive.








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5:40 a.m. It looked promising.

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First glimpse, 15 minutes after official sunrise.

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They probably wished they were walking downhill.

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This is as exciting as it got this morning.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:20 AM

Comments [5]

Friday, July 14, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Friday July 14, 2006

     It's a gloomy, drizzly morning in South Nags Head which will come as good news to the merchants who have kept lonely vigils in their shops for the past several days.  Unless present conditions change dramatically there won't be many visitors wasting their time on the beaches today.

    Uncle Jack did tiptoe through the scattered raindrops down to the Outer Banks pier and back but he regrets that at no time during his 45 minute stroll did the sun make an appearance.  The entire sky is overcast which may bring some relief from yesterday's tropical heat and humidity. But then again it could make it even worse.  You never know.

    Another Friday is here---the longest day of the week for the average wage slave. Here's another time-waster from the archive to help you through the day:

                     The Demon Sex

Dear Uncle Jack,

I have been reading a lot in the papers lately about how the Nags Head Commissioners are agonizing over what to do about dirty movies and topless bars and other sordid things like that which are threatening our way of life here on the Outer Banks. You live in Nags Head, Uncle Jack, so what do you think they ought to do.

Kari Nation


Dear Kari,

This is not a subject that Uncle Jack spends a whole lot of time worrying about but he has a few thoughts that he will be happy to share with you since you asked. For one thing he knows that people have been trying to deal with the Demon Sex for a very long time---even before there was a Bible to provide them with clear guidelines. You may not believe this but archaeologists have discovered that there were harlots roaming the earth, leading men astray, as early as the Fifth Century B.C.

Down through the centuries the good people have been trying every which way to stamp out the evil manifestations of the Demon Sex (along with his cousins the Demon Rum and the Demon Dope) but he has to be honest and tell you that it does not look like they have made very much progress so far.

It has gotten so bad that if Uncle Jack's flesh was any weaker he would be inclined to throw in the towel and let the bad people have their way with him.

But Uncle Jack remains strong in his resolve and he believes that the only way to turn the tide against the Demon Sex is to crack down even harder on his handymen (and handywomen).

To this end he suggests that during the off-season when the town police are not so busy writing speeding tickets they should go to work rounding up all the bad people such as the harlots and the men who consort with them and the people who traffic in naughty movies and the people who watch them and they should be stripped naked and tied to a stake in front of the Nags Head Town Hall (it is not too late to add a stake to the new complex and and it should not push the project over budget if the commissioners don't get conned into buying a fancy rhinestone stake from Tammi Bakker or somebody like that).

Then they should schedule regular public whippings and invite the mayors of all the towns and maybe other celebrities such as Pat Buchanan or Pat Robertson to do the honors. Uncle Jack is fairly confident that a spectacle of this nature would draw a good crowd and would go a long way toward stamping out the Demon Sex in our communities. Whether or not parents should bring their children would be up to them but if they decide to leave them home they should be aware of what they might be watching on TV.

Anyway there is a lot more Uncle Jack could say on this subject but he has run out of space and he is probably in big enough trouble already so he is going to stop right here.


Uncle Jack



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5:40 a.m. looking due east toward the rising (?) sun.

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Ditto, looking southeast toward the only opening in an otherwise uniformly gray sky.

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At 5:55, official sunrise, this faint patch of pink to the northeast was the only color in the sky.

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Ah but the beach was fabulous. Wide, flat, firm and perfect for walking. Why would anybody want to cover this up with dredge spoil?

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This sailboat apparently spent the night anchored off the Outer Banks pier. The ocean is rarely calm enough to permit this.

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Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor ugly sandbags can stay this intrepid Nags Head trash collector from the swift completion of his appointed round. Needless to say it's low tide or he wouldn't be doing this.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:05 AM

Comments [1]

Thursday, July 13, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Thursday July 13, 2006

      Some mornings are better than others and this is one of them.  Everything came together including a gorgeous but delicate sunrise, a flat, hard beach to walk on, spectacular cloud formations and wildlife all over the place.  Words fail.  Pictures (below) help.   Just a great day to be on the Outer Banks. 

     Uncle Jack was delighted to read in the Outer Banks Sentinel Online yesterday that the Nags Head  Commissioners have decided to try to do something to curb the proliferation of sandbags that in recent years have done so much to uglify the town while destroying the beach, especially in South Nags Head.  This is welcome news for him because as  readers know he has been harping on this subject ad nauseam for a very long time.  (To review one of his earliest bag bloviations go to the archives for May 2005 and scroll down to the entry for May 12).

     If you have not already checked out the Sentinel Online you will find an interesting article on the Nags Head situation in yesterday's issue at http://obsentinel.womacknewspapers.com/articles/2006/07/12/top_stories/tops173101.txt

    It's hard to predict what the commissioners might be able to accomplish given that sandbags will be allowed under state law whenever a community is actively planning beach renourishment but at the very least it's a gesture in the right direction.  Surely some of the worst violations of existing law can be dealt with for openers.  South Nags Head is rife with them.

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5:40 a.m.

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Ditto looking southeast.

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Ditto looking north. This beach is made for walking.

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The sun showed up right on time, 5:55 a.m.

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These two willetts are the first shore birds Uncle Jack has seen in weeks. Sandpipers seem to have deserted South Nags Head completely along with almost all their cousins among the wet sand feeders.

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Sandbags are currently permitted to a height of six feet. CAMA people say it's hard to enforce that regulation because of shifting sands. What could be hard about this one? It has been like this for years.

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Here it is from a slightly different perspective. Myopia thy name is CAMA.

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Sandbag City in South Nags Head.

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Unfortunately the Town of Nags Head provided a bad example by building (and rebuilding, and rebuilding...) this sandbag wall in front of Surfside Drive. Fortunately most of it washed away along with the colossal berm that once concealed the bags.

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Uncle Jack saw this box of books at Outer Banks Transit awaiting return from the Board of Education to Prentice-Hall, the educational publishing company, where somebody should be very embarrassed. At least they're not spelling books.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:00 AM

Comments [7]

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Wednesday July 12, 2006

     So far the folks who picked the second week of July for their Outer Banks vacations have made out like bandits.  Yesterday was another flawless beach day and it looks like today will be more of the same. Pity the poor merchants who depend on a crappy day now and then to boost sales.

     Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. did a pre-prandial peregrination up to Jennette's truncated pier at around 5 p.m. yesterday to check out the day's sand sculptures and survey the drop-off situation up near the Comfort Inn South.  It's a bit of a mess around there right now but at least the ocean has calmed down and the beach is wide enough to accommodate all comers except at high tide.

    Just in case you run out of vitally important things to do at work today here's another rumination from the archives (2001) to help pass the time:


Uncle Jack is pleased to report that he is writing this column on his 71st birthday. He and his apparently indestructible liver have survived another year together for which he is deeply grateful and more than a little amazed.

For younger persons who might be wondering what it is like to be 71 years old he can tell you it is not bad at all, especially if you feel good and you have a terrific spouse like Mrs. Uncle Jack to keep you on your toes, so to speak. He recommends it unequivocally to all those who might be thinking about becoming 71 themselves some day.

Being as old as he is he has become, by default, something of an expert on aging and he has to say he certainly had a lot of misconceptions about it when he was younger. He used to think that people who were 71 were really old but now he knows from personal experience that this is not true. It is people who are 91 who are really old.

He should probably thank his hardy Swedish ancestors for the fact that his body is almost completely intact with all the moving parts still moving, although not as often as they used to in some cases, and not as far. Only his tonsils and gall bladder are missing from the corpus he was born with and he has yet to figure out why they were installed in the first place. Perhaps they are God’s way of providing a little extra income for surgeons between wars.

One of the nicest things about getting older is that he doesn’t need as much sleep as he used to so he usually gets up very early in the morning. He has learned that the first two or three hours in the morning, before the rest of the world wakes up, can be priceless.

One day last week he watched a sunrise that was nearly as beautiful as any sunset he has ever seen. It was embellished by flocks of pelicans floating through a pink sky and pods of porpoises frolicking in the pink surf. He is sorry all you younger slug-a-beds missed it.

Anyway he could go on at much greater length about how nice it is to be 71 but he will conclude now by thanking the two major contributors to his geriatric bliss---Mrs. Uncle Jack and the Sunsweet Prune Company.

P.S.  Uncle Jack turned 76 a couple of weeks ago and nothing has changed except that he had to give up hard liquor. Now he makes his Manhattans with prune juice instead of bourbon and he is probably the better for it.  

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5:40 a.m.

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6 a.m.

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6:05 a.m. It didn't get any better than this.

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There was a lovely procession of thunderheads on the southern horizon this morning. Unfortunately they don't show up too well through the mist. The Elph did its best but he will probably have to clean the lens one of these days.

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The full moon had just about disappeared by 6 this morning but it surely lit up South Nags Head last night.

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This was one of yesterday's most ambitious sand sculptures. Like so many other ocean front structures have done, it disappeared over night.

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Ditto for this one.

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This buxom, bikini-clad wench was probably the most-photographed of yesterday's sculptures. She could turn up in Maxim one of these days as a sop to the sand-fetish demographic.

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This pile of wreckage is a little less dangerous on the beach than it was drifting in the surf a couple of days ago. T'would be nice if somebody would remove it before it gets loose again in the next storm.

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The White Cliffs of Dover? Nope. It's the drop-off in front of the defunct Bodie Island Beach Club in South Nags Head.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:17 AM

Comments [11]

Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Tuesday July 11, 2006

     The sun played hide-and-seek behind a gigantic thunderhead this morning and never did appear in full frontal mode. The clouds themselves were magnificent, though, and were well worth the price of admission which was to get out of bed at 5:30 a.m.

     The ocean is flat calm, the temperature is heading for the upper 80's, the wind is negligible, the beach seems to be bug-free (at least in the vicinity of Whitecap Street in South Nags Head) so it looks like another flawless beach day is coming up.  If you're on the Outer Banks, enjoy.  If not, Uncle Jack is sorry.  He will try to get some more pictures later today that may help to assuage your longing to be here.

    In the meantime here's another essay from days of yore which has relevance again as the price of oil again soars and the oil companies resume sniffing around the Outer Banks:

                      Drilling for Dollars

Dear Uncle Jack,

I read in the paper where the Chevron oil company wants to drill for oil about 40 miles out in the ocean off Hatteras. They say there is hardly any chance they will find anything but they are willing to spend a few million dollars to find out. Are those people nuts or what, Uncle Jack?



Dear Incredulous,

When he first read about this plan to drill for oil out in the ocean Uncle Jack thought it was pretty crazy, too, but then he started thinking about the other places they have gone looking for oil and it didn't seem so strange any more.

For one thing they found oil way up in the northern part of Alaska by the Arctic Circle and then they had to build a pipeline about a thousand miles long to carry it down to the nearest seaport which was a little fishing village called Valdez which you may remember reading about a couple of years ago when the tanker ran aground and spilled a zillion gallons of Valdez oil into the ocean up there.

Drilling a well off Hatteras would be a piece of cake compared to drilling wells on the Arctic Circle and if they did find oil they would only need a 40 mile long pipeline to pump it into the nearest fishing village. With a little luck Wanchese could be just as famous as Valdez some day.

If you ask Uncle Jack you have to give the oil companies credit for what they are trying to do which is to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. It is very scary to think that something like 70% of all the oil we burn up in our cars and trucks and airplanes---and most important our 4WD recreational vehicles---comes from unstable places like the Middle East and South America and Africa.

It is entirely possible that if Chevron brings in a big gusher or two out by the Gulf Stream America could reduce its dependence on foreign oil from 70% to maybe 69% for a couple of years before it runs out and they have to drill someplace else---like maybe off the end of Jennette's pier. By that time there could be so much oil on the beaches around here that nobody would care. Anyway Uncle Jack is glad that there are selfless, patriotic oil companies like Chevron who are willing to risk millions of dollars in what could well be a futile effort to free us from the specter of oil deprivation at the hands of greedy middle eastern potentates, some of whom probably do not even believe in the Bible.


Uncle Jack



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5:40 a.m. looking east.

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Ditto looking southeast. Beaucoups nuages dumping rain on the ocean instead of South Nags Head for a change.

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Looking north toward mist-shrouded Jennette's pier.

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A pretty cumulo nimbus if Uncle Jack remembers his cloud nomenclature correctly.

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Looking south toward the mist-shrouded Outer Banks pier. More cumulo nimbi.

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This is as close to an actual sunrise as it got this morning around 6:15. That huge cloud was moving slowly from south to north and blocking out the sun every time it was on the verge of appearing.

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And so it goes.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:18 AM

Comments [5]

Monday, July 10, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Monday July 10, 2006

     Looks like a lovely day is in store for those who have invested heavily in a week at the beach in South Nags Head.  The ocean has finally calmed down after nearly a week of rambunctiousness, the sky is only partly cloudy and the high temperature today is supposed to be in the low 80's.

     Uncle Jack sat in a borrowed lawn chair for a half-hour this morning watching a beautiful sky show unfold.  The perfection of the scene was marred only by some pesky biting insects which chewed on his ankles relentlessly the whole time.  If you plan to sit on the beach today he suggests bringing insect repellent with you or they will eat you alive.

     Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. walked a mile or so on the beach around noon yesterday from about the 19 milepost down to the Surfside Drive area. They have never seen so many people on the beach, no doubt reflecting the building boom that has consumed almost every empty lot south of Whalebone Junction.  Even so there was plenty of room for more on the wide, flat beach where Surfside Drive used to be before Mother Nature removed it.

     If you had to go back to work this morning here's a little something from the archives to help you pass the time:

                          Go Badgers

Uncle Jack has mentioned from time to time that he is a high school graduate of which he is very proud. One of the main reasons he is glad he graduated high school was that it made him eligible to go to college which he did and going to college made it possible for him to go to graduate school which he did and the upshot of all this was that he did not actually have to get a job until he was over 30 years old. Needless to say Uncle Jack is a strong believer in the value of higher education.

Uncle Jack was the first one in his family to go to college so he had to learn how to matriculate pretty much on his own. Back when he graduated from high school during the latter part of the Second Ice Age this was not too difficult, though, because every high school graduate in Wisconsin could go to the University of Wisconsin in Madison if he, she or it could figure out a way to get there.

Uncle Jack was lucky because he won a full-tuition scholarship to the university because of his incredible skill on the bass clarinet. That took care of the biggest stumbling block which was the annual $l00 tuition at the university which Uncle Jack did not have because he spent all his paper route savings on Leinenkugel's Old Style Lager during his fun-packed senior year in high school. Lucky for him his parents forgave him and sold the cow so he could go off to Madison with another $l00 to tide him over until he could get a job. If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack's first semester in college was very nearly his last because he had some trouble controlling himself when he found out you could drink beer all day in college if you wanted to which is not something you could do in high school except maybe on teacher workshop days.

Anyway he pulled himself together and passed all his courses and one day they herded him into the gym along with about 4000 other students and gave him his diploma and he can tell you that was a proud moment that lasted about three hours and made him very thirsty.

This was over 50 years ago and Uncle Jack is still as proud as punch to be a "Badger" which is the weird little animal they chose to be the symbol of the University which is probably a little better than a gopher or a groundhog but not by much. They all live underground and usually wind up as roadkill.

You would think that after 50 years the University of Wisconsin would have forgotten a totally undistinguished graduate like Uncle Jack who barely squeaked through and who anybody could have predicted would never amount to anything. This is not true, though, because just about every week for the last 50 years Uncle Jack has gotten at least one letter or bulletin or magazine from the University asking him to send money. What they don't know is that if Uncle Jack sent them every penny he has in the world it would not even cover the postage on all the mail he gets from them.

This week they want him to add his pittance to the many millions of dollars a few fatcats have donated for the purpose of building a new state-of-the-art football stadium so that all the Wisconsin students and alumni will not have to feel ashamed when teams come from other colleges where they have already spent millions of dollars on their stadiums.

If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack would really be proud of his "alma mater" (which is Latin for "great place to party") if they would write him a letter that says they are not going to spend another dime on bigtime sports facilities and they are no longer going to participate in the corrupt and indefensible foolishness which bigtime college athletics have become.

If he ever got a letter like that he would cheerfully quit drinking beer for a whole week and send them the money he saved and he can tell you we are talking big bucks here.


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5:45 a.m. Looks promising.

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The passing parade #1

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The passing parade #2.

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The passing parade #3. Dogs are great for picking up girls.

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All the comforts of home. Not much chance this tent will blow away.

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Halfway to China.

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Part of the Sunday crowd around the 19.5 milepost lifeguard stand. Lots of endangered swimmers were pulled from yesterday's deceptively treacherous surf by the rescue teams and other swimmers yesterday from what Uncle Jack heard.

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No it's not Coney Island.

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Still enough room for a pick-up football game just a few yards north. The blue umbrella at left marks the end of the remaining segment of Surfside Drive.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:15 AM

Comments [5]

Sunday, July 9, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Sunday July 9, 2006

     It's October in July on the Outer Banks.  Uncle Jack turned off the air conditioning and put on a jacket before strolling up to the beach this morning.  The air is cool and crisp, the sky is completely overcast and the ocean is still kicking up some surf although it has calmed down a lot since yesterday.

     It's another turnover day in the rental cottages which will produce another day of insanity on our beloved highway 158.  Home Depot and the Wal-Mart will have to survive without us for the next few weeks because to drive the length of the bypass in July and August is to court death. Uncle Jack tries to stay on the beach road which is less dangerous primarily because the speed limit is 35, there is no suicide lane and there are fewer businesses for drivers to try to locate when they should be watching the car in front of them. Lucky for him he is never in a rush to get anywhere any more.

      Other than the post office and the Seamark there are few reasons to venture onto the bypass. Another is New York Bagels to which he makes a pilgrimage every Sunday morning no matter what.  Muslims have Mecca.  Uncle Jack has New York Bagels.  He doesn't envy them one bit.

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5:45 a.m., looking north. Should be a nice day for surfing.

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Ditto looking east to what should be the rising sun.

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It did peek through a crack in the clouds very briefly at about 6 a.m. This is your sunrise fix for today, folks. Sorry.

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Uncle Jack picked this sign up off the beach this morning and put it back on the dune where Mother Nature will continue to ignore it.

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Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. went walking at 5 p.m. yesterday by which time the sun had come out, drawing numerous visitors to the beach. They were surprised that the No Swimming flags were not flying because the surf looked very dangerous.

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The area just south of the Comfort Inn continued to take a beating yesterday with each high tide chopping off a few more feet of the berm/dune.

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This raft of debris made up largely of pieces of broken sand fencing discouraged swimming in this area which was a good thing. The drop off was nearly six feet high here.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:20 AM

Comments [7]

Saturday, July 8, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Saturday July 8, 2006

     If you have to pack up the car and drive back to Ahia or wherever,  today would be a good day to do it.  There's a stiff wind blowing out of the northeast, the ocean is riled up and obviously unfit for swimming and the sky is full of ominous black clouds. It's never easy to end a vacation on the Outer Banks but Mother Nature is doing her best to make it less painful than it might otherwise be.

     Uncle Jack made his customary pilgrimage to the beach at 5:30 but he didn't stay long.  It was very obvious that there would be no visible sunrise this morning so there wasn't much incentive to hang around.  It was high tide and the ocean was chopping away again, creating new drop-offs and making walking difficult.

     He has been reading the book he mentioned the other day---"Against the Tide" by Cornelia Dean, science editor of the New York Times.  He is halfway through it but is already able to conclude that it is the best single book he knows of on the subject of so-called "beach erosion". It is a thoroughly researched and very well-written gathering of information from many sources about how Americans who live in close proximity to the sea have attempted (and are continuing to attempt) to cope with their precarious situation. 

     There is a wealth of knowledge in this book that is directly relevant to our predicament on the Outer Banks, and in fact many of her examples come directly from our experience here.  Uncle Jack will be extracting bits and pieces from the book in future weblog entries but he highly recommends that you get a copy of your own if you are interested in improving your understanding of this very complicated business.  Amazon.com lists many secondhand copies of the 1999 hardcover edition for as little as $2 plus about $3 shipping. You can't go wrong.

    Y'all have a nice weekend wherever you are.


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5:40 a.m. The sun is supposed to be over there somewhere.

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There was a sliver of pink in the northern sky but not enough to get excited about.

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The new drop-off line has moved a few feet closer to the dune during the night.

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The ugly carpet of broken sandbags in front of this house is covered this morning by water instead of sand. There hasn't been this much foam churned up since April.

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Yesterday morning no pelicans at all. This morning lots of pelicans as usual. Why? (Uncle Jack would love to get a big grant from somebody to sit on the beach and count pelicans as they fly by).

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Another view of the drop-off. Uncle Jack wonders if this phenomenon is not related to the berm-building project of last year. The beach is so steep that waves cut into it instead of sliding up it the way they would on an unmolested beach.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:56 AM

Comments [3]

Friday, July 7, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Friday July 7, 2006

     What a difference a day makes. Yesterday's placid ocean is gone, replaced by an angry-looking surf that will surely bring out the red flags today.  Waves are chopping away at the beach again forming an entirely new drop-off in many places so that reaching the water is like walking down a set of wide steps.

      Uncle Jack eschewed his usual walk this morning in favor of sitting in a serendipitous beach chair to watch the sun come up.  It was a peculiar sunrise as the pictures suggest. The sky is completely overcast but with an opening to the east through which the sun could eventually shine.  Eminently worth waiting for.

     Another oddity this morning was the total absence of pelicans and gulls.  Uncle Jack sat in his chair for nearly a half-hour and during that time not a single pelican or gull made an appearance either flying or on foot.  Odd. There must be a reason but he has no idea what it could be.

     Should be a boffo day at the outlet mall. The combination of nasty surf, a chilly breeze out of the northeast, red flags flying, poor beachwalking conditions---all on a Friday---should send legions of shoppers forth in search of solace through spending.

      Should you be chained to your computer up in Akron or somewhere here's another gleaning from the archives to help pass the time:


Dear Uncle Jack,

I read in Parade Magazine last Sunday that many famous actresses such as Farrah Faucett, Jessica Lange, Ursula Andress, Vanessa Redgrave and Catherine Deneuve have managed to have babies even though they don’t have husbands.

How do they do that, Uncle Jack?


Manns Harbor

Dear Incredulous,

Uncle Jack is sorry to tell you that this is one of the areas of human knowledge in which he is not quite up to snuff. He too has read in USA Today about various rich and famous women who have had babies without having husbands but he does not have a clue as to how they do it.

For a long time he thought maybe it had something to do with being rich enough so you could go to some clinic in Switzerland where they knew how to do it with mudpacks or something but he was wrong about that.

Later on he read in the paper where a lot of women who were not very rich at all were having babies even though they did not have husbands so it can’t have anything to do with being able to go to Switzerland. Some of these women were actually on welfare and they were not all high school graduates so it must not have anything to do with being rich or smart.

Anyway when Uncle Jack was in school Mrs. Stonebreaker taught him that you could only have babies if you had a husband and wife who were married to each other but it sure looks like it is not that way any more.

He probably could have made up a pretty good answer to your question if he put his mind to it but he is too honest to do that so it looks like you are going to have to write to Ann Landers or Miss Manners or somebody like that who is more up to date on where babies come from these days.

Next time ask Uncle Jack something about sports and he will try to do better.


Uncle Jack




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5:40 a.m.

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Ditto, looking north toward Jennette's pier.

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Official sunrise. Colors are deepening in the area where the sun is supposed to appear.

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Breakthrough. Always a reassuring sight.

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This could be the last time we see the sun all day.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:52 AM

Comments [2]

Thursday, July 6, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Thursday July 6, 2006

     Uncle Jack should have looked over his shoulder on the way to the beach this morning.  He would have seen the towering black cloud racing up from the southwest which a few minutes later drenched him thoroughly as he searched in vain for something resembling a sunrise.  Needless to say his morning stroll on the strand was short and wet and it looks like we are in for some more serious rain today. Enough already.

     Not so last evening which was one of those perfect sunset hours that come along once in a while on the Outer Banks.  The air was cool and dry and ideal for doing almost anything on the beach from playing volleyball to just sitting and staring at the ocean which large numbers of folks were doing. Uncle Jack hopes they enjoyed it while they could.

    Here is yet another old piece from the Current of long ago which seems just as appropriate now as it was then:


                   Tomato Lust

This was a terrific week for Uncle Jack because his long-awaited tomatoes are finally starting to ripen and he has already eaten his first dozen tomato sandwiches on Pepperidge Farm white bread slathered with mayonnaise and sprinkled with salt and pepper. On Uncle Jack's Calendar of Gustatory Events the Day of the First Homegrown Tomato is truly a red-letter day, looked forward to with unseemly anticipation which often involves drooling at inappropriate times.

Actually he is wrong to refer to them as "his" tomatoes because all he did was water them a few times and it was really Mrs. Uncle Jack who planted them and anointed them with Miracle-Gro at regular intervals and otherwise nurtured the humongous tomato patch which now threatens to engulf all of South Nags Head.

This is without a doubt the opus magnum of her long and brilliant gardening career and it promises to produce a flow of tomatoes during the next couple of months that has Uncle Jack seriously thinking about applying for an export license. Only in China or perhaps India are there enough hungry people to consume all the tomatoes that are lurking in her tomato jungle, ripening, ripening, ripening, day and night, ready to star in their own horror flick if Uncle Jack fails to keep them at bay.

Uncle Jack jests, of course. There can never be enough juicy ripe red tomatoes to satisfy his tomato lust but when he can no longer eat fast enough to keep up he knows that Mrs. Uncle Jack will start to make tomato sauce and he is pleased to tell you her sauce bears no resemblance whatsoever to the pallid concoctions purveyed by H.J. Heinz and the other mass merchants of tomatiocrity.

This is sauce that turns common spaghetti into something the Great Chefs of New Orleans could charge 50 bucks a plate for and never hear a murmur of protest. You could pour it over Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream and get compliments, that's how good it is. Uncle Jack wants you to know that he is truly sorry that nobody outside of his immediate family will ever experience the Joy of Sauce as he does throughout the long tomato-less winter. He is truly blessed and he knows it.


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This is where the sun was supposed to come up this morning right about now.

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More humongous rain clouds to the north.

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And to the west. This is the one that drenched him before he could get home.

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This was taken last evening. It may be the last time we see the sun for a while from the looks of the sky this morning.

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Sunset was quite pretty for a while.

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This cave carved into the drop-off south of the Comfort Inn gives an indication of the clay content of the sand hauled in from Currituck last year. Normal beach sand doesn't do this. Let's hope it doesn't collapse on a child.

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The beach is extremely narrow right now south of the Comfort Inn. A hundred yards south of this point the beach is wider than it has been for years. Go figure.

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Who are all these people on Uncle Jack's beach?

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This Mayan temple failed to survive high tide last night. Not a good idea to build so close to the ocean whether it's a sand castle or a 10 bedroom particle board palace.

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You can be sure that this beach scene will never be featured in a Visitors Bureau brochure. Let's hope the beach rescue folks never have to try to get around this in an emergency.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:04 AM

Comments [5]

Wednesday, July 5, 2006
Sonag Sunrise, Wednesday July 5, 2006

     South Nags Head appears to be returning to normal (whatever that is anymore) after the excitement of the Fourth. Uncle Jack strolled up to the beach at 5:45 this morning where he sat amongst the detritus of last night's illegal fireworks displays while waiting for the sun to come up.  While the sunrise was anything but spectacular it was sheer pleasure to sit in an abandoned beach chair for a half hour and watch the passing pelican parade while listening to the waves plop onto the beach.

     Much of the floodwater from Monday night's colossal rainstorm  has seeped into the already soggy ground or evaporated but much of Uncle Jack's yard is still under water.  He should be able to reach the tomato patch sometime today without having to put on his waders.

     No doubt it's back to work today for many readers.  Here's something from the archives to help while away the time:


               How Now, Palau?

Uncle Jack has been in retail for 32 years now but he never gets tired of shopkeeping because he never knows who is going to walk through the door next. He has met many interesting people over the years who have enriched his life with their stories as well as their credit cards.

He usually starts out by asking the visitor where he or she is from and most often the answer is "Ahia" or "Virginia" or something similarly unpromising but one day last week the answer was "Palau" which really got his attention. Uncle Jack knew from his in-depth study of world geography in the fourth grade that Palau was a tiny island country out in the south Pacific somewhere and he never expected to meet somebody from Palau in his shop on a tiny island off the east coast of the United States.

It turned out that his visitor was actually an American (from Virginia, naturally) who has been living in Palau for several years while he helps to oversee a roadbuilding project for the U.S. government. For reasons that are still not clear to Uncle Jack (nor to many of the approximately 19,000 residents of Palau, apparently) the American taxpayer is footing the bill for a $150 million, fifty-mile-long highway through thick jungle on the largest of Palau's islands.

Uncle Jack never ceases to be amazed at the generosity of the American people and he suspects that one reason for their munificence is that they seldom realize just how generous they are or where their money is going. For those who seek further enlightenment with regard to this particular act of charity he suggests that you Google "Palau highway project" on your computer and read a couple of the many reports available on the web.

On the other hand Uncle Jack may have already told you more than you want to know. At a time when the U.S. Government needs every penny it can get its hands on for beach replenishment it is hard to understand why it is lavishing $150 million on a dubious highway project in Palau. (He urges the county commissioners to find out who the Palauan lobbyist is and get him on the payroll quick. He may even work for coconuts).

One good thing about the Palau Project is that it momentarily took Uncle Jack's mind off matters closer to home, namely the Dare County Visitors Bureau's plan to enter a $150,000 float in next year's Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California. The float will be titled "The Outer Banks of North Carolina, Where Dreams Still Take Flight" and according to the Bureau "It's a unique and powerful opportunity to reach the world and showcase the Outer Banks of North Carolina".

Uncle Jack can only hope that they are wrong and this adventure will be no more successful than their $30,000 racing car bumper sticker scheme of a few years ago. Some 425 million people watch the Rose parade on TV and if only one tenth of 1% of them decide to visit the Outer Banks next year it will be Uncle Jack who takes flight along with his shattered dreams of living out the rest of his years in peace and quiet in this once-lovely place.

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5:45 a.m.

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Sunrise time but still no sun.

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First sight at 6:10.

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With pelicans added it's a pretty sight.

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The whole sun at last.

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That's all, fffffolks.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:49 AM

Comments [5]

Tuesday, July 4, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Tuesday July 4, 2006

     Mother Nature seemingly couldn't wait until the Fourth to show the Zambelli brothers what real fireworks look like. She put on a three-hour electrical spectacular last evening between 7 and 10 p.m. the likes of which Uncle Jack has rarely seen in his 37 summers on the Outer Banks.  The lightning show was accompanied by frightening explosions of thunder and torrential rain that has turned South Nags Head back into the swamp it  was before developers started filling it in---a process they obviously have never quite finished.

    Uncle Jack knows from long experience that portions of the beach road in Nags Head will remain at least partially under water for hours today which will push that many more cars onto the badly overtaxed bypass. Traffic on the Fourth of July weekend has been horrendous for the past several years but yesterday it simply became preposterous.  Uncle Jack does not even want to think about tonight's total gridlock as thousands of folks jockey their SUV's into position to watch the various fireworks displays. 

     Do yourself and your family a favor.  Stay home and watch fireworks on the tube.  Or pray for another deluge like last night's that will force cancellation of the whole thing.  Don't even think about driving anywhere this evening. You'll be glad you didn't.

      Have a nice day. Stay off the bypass.

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5:45 a.m.

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Ditto, a bit higher in the sky. The sun has to be over there somewhere.

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6:05 Better late than never.

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Actual sunrise was a bit of an anti-climax after the pre-dawn show.

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This tire came to rest on the Sonag beach last night after a long journey from a "tire reef" somewhere off Cape Henry. Mother Nature does not like tire reefs, apparently, because she broke this one and scattered the tires all down the coast.

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Apparently whoever dug this hole in the sand brought his own backhoe. Holes this size can be a menace when they collapse or even when they don't collapse.

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Parts of the beach in South Nags Head remain preternaturally wide after last week's sand-shuffling exercise by Mother Nature. Renourishment anyone?

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Hundreds of pelicans on the move again this morning, most of them in large flocks flying a foot or so above the water. Always a lovely sight.

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For the present Whitecap Street has been renamed Lake Whitecap.

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Uncle Jack keeps a plastic tub by the back steps to wash the sand off his feet. It floated away last night but it looks like he won't need it for a while.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:12 AM

Comments [1]

Monday, July 3, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Monday July 3, 2006

     Once again the only thing missing at sunrise was the sun.  It's an otherwise perfect morning in South Nags Head.  Flat sand to walk on, pelicans and surfers to watch, cool, clean air to breathe, perfectly shaped waves rolling through an otherwise flat calm sea. 

     The beach is beginning to show a bit of wear and tear---not from Mother Nature this time but from careless beachgoers who leave a lot of crap behind when they depart.  By the time the long 4th of July weekend is over the Sonag beaches at least are going to resemble the Dare County Sanitary Landfill.  What a pity.

     Yesterday was a scorcher----probably the hottest day of the year so far.  Uncle Jack guesses the extreme heat had something to do with the fact that all the power went off in his neighborhood (and possibly all of South Nags Head as far as he knows) at about 6:15 last evening and stayed off for an hour and a half.

     Lucky for him Mrs. Uncle Jack had the makings for a couple of ham, turkey and tomato sandwiches in the refrigerator because the Sunday night chicken didn't finish cooking until almost 9 p.m.

     There were times last evening when they could empathize with the residents of Baghdad and the Gaza strip with the power off, the air conditioner silent and  explosives going off all around them.  Between the littered beach and the illegal fireworks Uncle Jack is forced to conclude that some of this year's crop of vacationers in South Nags Head leave a bit to be desired as neighbors. At least they haven't burned anything down yet as far as he knows.

       Anyhoo he hopes you are having a pleasant Fourth wherever you are and that your neighbors are all thoughtful and considerate. (And also that you don't have three feet of mud in your living room as so many folks do this weekend).


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This is as close as Sonag got to a sunrise this morning.

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The pelicans were out in force, gliding in an out of the wave troughs as they are wont to do.

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They had to contest for some of those waves with a couple of early morning surfers who were getting some long, if not terribly exciting, rides.

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Like this one.

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At the risk of sounding like an old grouch Uncle Jack will say that he doesn't think much of people who stink up the beach with their illegal fireworks and then leave a mess for others to clean up.

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And that goes for beerdrinkers, too. (At least they don't produce clouds of noxious smoke---unless of course they are setting off fireworks while drinking their beer).

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The beach was incredibly wide in places this morning. Apparently a lot of the sand that washed away last week has just moved sideways a bit and created huge new sandbars which are observable at low tide.

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Other parts of the same stretch of beach (between the two South Nags Head piers) are much narrower where "bays" like this have formed. Weird.

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Mrs. U.J.'s tomato patch has gone wild with all the rain and heat we have had. More staking is obviously needed to keep the 'maters off the ground.

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Uncle Jack has been scoffing tomato sandwiches as fast as he can for a week now but they're getting ahead of him.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:15 AM

Comments [7]

Sunday, July 2, 2006
Sonag Sunrise Sunday July 2, 2006

     Uncle Jack could have stood in bed this morning and used yesterday's non-sunrise pictures again.  When the sun had not yet made an appearance twenty minutes after official sunrise he gave up and went home to his morning cup of  Twining's Earl Gray.

     He and Mrs. U.J. took their customary post-prandial stroll last evening and it was lovely.  Hard-packed sand to walk on at the edge of the water, cool breezes after a very hot day,  lots of happy campers out on the beach, and a gorgeous sunset.  Today could be more of the same from the early indications.

      Those of you who read the review of Cornelia Dean's book "Against the Tide" in yesterday's weblog and would like to get a copy cheap can go to Amazon.com where many used hardcover copies are available for under $5.00  including shipping.  Its publication price in 1999 was $73.50 so this is what you could call a bargain.  Uncle Jack has ordered a copy so you can expect to hear more about what she has to say in future weblogs.

    Uncle Jack's daughter Emily wrote to say that she sat next to  Cornelia Dean on a flight from San Francisco about twenty years ago.  Emily was traveling with her four-month-old daughter, Cornelia, at the time and Ms. Dean was delighted to encounter another Cornelia which is one of those girls' names like Eudora and Penelope that seems to be vanishing like the passenger pigeon. Small world.

    Here's another nugget from the mine of old Outer Banks Current columns stashed away in the guest bedroom closet:

            Unconventional Thinking

Dear Uncle Jack,

I read in the paper the other day where a lot of experts in the tourist trade are saying that Dare County was never going to amount to anything until we got a real convention center down here. I never heard of a convention center and I was hoping you could tell me what it is.

Common Mann

Mann’s Harbor

Dear Common,

Uncle Jack will be happy to answer your question. This is something he knows a lot about because he used to go to a lot of conventions himself before he moved to the Outer Banks and stopped going anywhere. He can tell you that a convention is where a group of people who are all in the same line of work will get together someplace once a year to talk about what is new in their line of work. For example if you were in the plumbing business you would go to the plumbers convention to find out what kind of new valves or washers the Japanese have come out with since last year. Or if you are in the car business you go to find out what new engines the Japanese have come out with and so on.

That is not the only reason people go to conventions, though. Uncle Jack found out a long time ago that the main reason why many people go to conventions is that they can go someplace where nobody knows them and they can fool around a little and also take it off their income tax.

People spend a lot of money when they go to conventions which is why so many towns have convention centers now. If you want conventions to come to your town you have to have a convention center with a room big enough so everybody can sit down at one time together and eat rubber chicken and listen to boring speeches. This is how they keep from feeling too guilty about going to the convention in the first place.

Anyway if Dare County does get a convention center then maybe instead of going to some warm, sunny place like Las Vegas in January or February the way they do now, some conventions might want to come to Dare County instead.

Right off hand Uncle Jack cannot personally think of anybody in his right mind who would rather come to Dare County in the winter but there are large numbers of demented people in the U.S. so you never know. Uncle Jack has read about some people called the Polar Bear Club who go swimming in the Monongahela River every New Years Day when the temperature is usually about four degrees above zero. Maybe they would like to have their convention here in January or February.

Uncle Jack is not sure if the masochists are organized yet but if they ever have a convention they would surely want to have it here in the winter. They could do all kinds of fun things like hiking to the top of Jockey’s Ridge in the nude during a northeaster and letting the sand tear the skin off their bodies.

If you want to know the truth, though, Uncle Jack is not too crazy about the idea of having a lot of conventions around here in the winter. He kind of likes having a few weeks each year when he does not have to wait twenty minutes to make a left turn onto the bypass. Also he is worried about what will happen when the gulls start dropping their clams on the convention center parking lot when it is full of cars. Who is going to pay for all those broken windshields?

This is why Uncle Jack does not think a convention center is anything Dare County needs to rush into right now---unless they want to give him the windshield replacement concession over there.


Uncle Jack








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6 a.m. The sun is back there somewhere presumably.

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The most colorful part of the sky this morning was in the south rather than the east.

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Once again last evening's sunset outshone this morning's sunrise.

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Here it is again with a flight of pelicans added.

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And here's a flight of pelicans without the sunset.

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This newly arrived fisherman is serious enough to set up multiple poles. 5 x 0=0 but that's o.k. as long as the beer holds out.

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Viewing stand?

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A bicycle built for seven. Great way for rambunctious teen-agers to work off steam.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:59 AM

Comments [2]

Saturday, July 1, 2006
Sonag Unrise, Saturday July 1, 2006

     June is gone and good riddance.  Unfortunately July has entered on a similarly soggy note.  Rain fell again during the night and  this morning thick clouds on the horizon completely obscured the sunrise as has happened several times this week. 

     All is not bleak, however.  The weatherperson calls for thundershowers late in the afternoon on some parts of the Outer Banks but it could still turn out to be a very nice beach day.  In South Nags Head Mother Nature has made up for some of her depredations of last week by returning some of the sand she took away and laying down a smooth, fresh carpet for beachgoers to cavort upon.  The ocean is relatively calm and eminently suitable for swimming and other water play.  Uncle Jack offers his condolences to all those who must depart today to make room for the incoming hordes of Fourth of July celebrants.  May it be dry where you live.

     As a public service to readers who may not be on the BeachHuggers mailing list Uncle Jack is attaching here an interesting communication from the BeachHugger-in-Chief which came in yesterday's email:

                   Coastal Developments

By Norman Boucher


Against the Tide by Cornelia Dean '69 (Columbia University Press, 279 pages, $24.95).

If you can see the ocean when you look out your living room window, this book does not contain good news. As tragically demonstrated by the hurricanes and storms that battered the central Atlantic coast this summer, beaches are not good places on which to build houses.

In Against the Tide, New York Times science editor Cornelia Dean explains with remarkable clarity that beaches are what geologists like to call a "dynamic" environment directly affected by natural actions many miles away. A river carrying silt to the sea, for example, deposits its load just offshore, where ocean currents both rearrange some of this sediment into sandbars and beaches near the river's mouth and carry literally tons of the stuff parallel to the coastline before depositing it at a distant beach. At the same time, rising sea levels, winter storms, and an inexorable process of erosion and rebuilding all contribute to making most beaches a temporary natural phenomenon. As one coastal geologist notes in Against the Tide, "There is no stasis at the shoreline. When people are building large buildings on the edge of the shoreline, why are they astounded when the shoreline shifts?"

The astonishment is rooted in the activities of what Dean labels the "constituency of ignorance." Many beaches are the location of some of the priciest real estate around, which means that the social and economic interests of many individuals and communities depend on beaches that stay put. As a result, many public heads are quite literally in the sand. "In a contest between the abstract idea that seawalls damage beaches," Dean writes about one common method for stabilizing shoreline, "and the all-too-certain reality that one's house is about to fall to the sea, reality wins out." It's a classic example of a conflict between humans and nature, and, predictably, the human response has been to dig in.

Dean is particularly good at making complex geophysical information easily accessible and is even better at sketching the many layers of conflict that coastline protection creates. Although she is an advocate for letting nature take its course wherever possible, Dean's integrity as a reporter keeps her away from the simplicities of the polemicist. She generally is critical of attempts to control beach erosion but includes in her book descriptions of techniques that seem to work, at least in a particular location on the short term.

Against the Tide describes the three ways communities battle beach erosion. The least effective is to "armor" the shoreline against offshore currents by building jetties or seawalls. Beach nourishment, the practice of building up a beach by pumping tons of sand onto it, can be more effective, although, because it may have to done yearly, the technique quickly becomes very expensive. Best of all, in Dean's view, is simply pulling buildings back from the shoreline, an alternative that is inconceivable to many coastal homeowners and hoteliers.

As environmentalists have long complained, the conflict over coastal development is fueled by a panoply of public policies that subtly encourage development along beaches. One of the most controversial is the National Flood Insurance Program, which aims to reduce federal disaster relief payouts by requiring stricter construction standards for buildings along the coast. Unfortunately, in exchange for following the stricter standards, property owners are allowed to buy federal flood insurance for just a few hundred dollars, a practice that, in the words of one geologist, is like insuring people who live on the lip of a volcano.

With so much at stake, public officials are unlikely to soon overhaul coastal-development policies. "American political institutions, even our national mythology, are ill-suited to the indeterminacy and elasticity of nature," Dean writes in one of Against the Tide's more eloquent passages. "Faced with a problem such as beach erosion, our reponse is to solve it, not to live with it. It would almost be un-American to concede that it is beyond us, that it is we who must adapt to the ocean, not the other way around."

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Unrise,5:50 a.m. Sorry folks.

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The beach looks very inviting this morning with a new layer of sand laid down by the last high tide which covered many of yesterdays shell beds.

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The only problem for beachgoers, especially the elderly and infirm like Uncle Jack, will be getting to it. Actually getting to it is not nearly as difficult as getting off of it.

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The Friday evening crowd on the beach in Sonag. Plenty of room for a football game or two at low tide.

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Or if football is not your game you can always dig holes in the sand.

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This "moon" jellyfish is an unusual creature which sublimates (sort of like evaporates) in a fairly short time after washing up on the beach. This is a big one, the first Uncle Jack has seen this year.

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Oops. Another deck hits the dirt, much earlier in the season than usual. Hopefully the renters brought parachutes.

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Sand fences took a beating during the past week, too. One of the joys of beachfront ownership.

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This terrified sand crab froze at Uncle Jack's approach, providing a rare photo op of one of Mother Nature's more diffident creatures.

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Sometimes a sunset, like last night's, can make up for a non-sunrise, like this morning's.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:10 AM

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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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