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Friday, September 30, 2011
House arrest
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have been in Nags Head for a full week now and they still haven't been able to take a walk on the beach. Lke many other Outer Bankers this week they are virtually prisoners in their own homes, afraid to venture forth into the clouds of rapacious mosquitoes waiting for them on the other side of the screen door. He confesses that he made a mad dash to the store yesterday when his beer supply ran out but it cost him dearly in the form of mosquito bites on every square inch of exposed skin. This is not a good time to be on the Outer Banks even for people like Uncle Jack who would rather be here than anywhere else in the world no matter what.
       Dare County officials are doing their best to deal with this natural calamity but there really isn't much they can do about it except to spend money on what are basically exercises in futility, like aerial spraying. Cold and/or dry weather for a prolonged period will eventually do the little buggers in but until then it is the Outer Banker's lot to slap and scratch---or stay inside 24/7.
       In the meantime Uncle Jack is making a lot of progress on getting his book ready to uplosd to the Amazon Kindle library. This major event in publishing history could happen before the middle of October if daughter Emily can figure out how to do it. He read in the paper that Amazon is coming out with a new reading gadget of which they expect to sell two or three million before Christmas this year and another six million next year which is surely good news for perspiring authors like himself. Stay tuned for further developments.
       In the meantime here is another excerpt from his forthcoming opus magnum:

                     An Island by Any Other Name…

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

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


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The row of condemned houses in front of the remains of Sea Gull Drive in South Nags Head survived Irene and are now sitting in a pond of stagnant water on the newly replenished beach. Are they ripe for renovation now that they are out of immediate danger?

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An iconic retail establishment once occupied this space on the Beach Road in Nags Head. Can anybody remember what it was?

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:34 AM

Comments [8]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. drove from Baltimore to Nags Head in the rain on Saturday. It rained all night Saturday, all day Sunday, all night Sunday night, all day Monday and finally stopped sometime in the wee hours this morning. At this point South Nags Head looks like an extension of the Okeechobee Swamp with water standing everywhere with no place to go.
       He got up early this morning determined to take a picture of the first Sonag sunrise he has seen for many months. This was a mistake. Less than a minute after leaving the house he realized that he was being consumed alive by swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. He swatted as he trotted toward the beach, hoping that he would find relief at the water's edge but to no avail.
       Between slaps and swats he snapped a quick shot of the burgeoning sunrise and then ran like a maniac, arms flailing, back to the mosquito-free confines of his house where he intends to remain until the sun drives the little buggers into hiding for a few hours---he hopes.
       This was not his first encounter with mosquitoes of course. Nobody could live in Dare County for 40 years without suffering their particular form of torture. He doesn't remember which particular outbreak prompted him to write the piece attached below but it seems just as relevant today as it did then.


       We seem to have a lot of mosquitoes around here right now and it’s got a lot of people upset. To hear some of them talk you would think the mosquitoes are the worst natural disaster to hit the Outer Banks since the Ash Wednesday storm. Uncle Jack has heard so much complaining about mosquitoes lately that he thinks it’s about time to set the record straight.
              One thing he knows is that compared to the mosquitoes up in northern Wisconsin where Uncle Jack grew up, the Dare County mosquito shouldn’t even be called a mosquito. Wisconsin mosquitoes and their first cousins, Minnesota mosquitoes, are truly a breed apart. A northern mosquito is to a Dare County mosquito as open heart surgery is to a haircut.
       A bite from a local mosquito, Uncle Jack has discovered, is like a good hickey. It itches for a while, it feels good when you scratch it, and then it goes away. A bite from a Wisconsin mosquito is, to use a popular local metaphor, another kettle of fish. The Wisconsin mosquito has a stinger the size of a paring knife and a bite that could rouse a dozing hippopotamus (if one ever wandered that far north).
       The life cycle of a Wisconsin mosquito bite is anywhere from seven to ten days. For the first few days and nights you scratch constantly. Scratching only makes matters worse but there’s nothing you can do about it so you scratch. You scratch and scratch until the itching stops which is right after the pain and bleeding start. After a few more days scabs form over the wounds.
       Kids in northern Wisconsin keep themselves awake in school by picking their mosquito bite scabs which keeps them occupied right up to Thanksgiving vacation, after which they switch over to peeling dead skin off their frozen ears.
       The best place Uncle Jack ever found to get away from mosquitoes was Pittsburgh where he lived for 17 years and never saw a mosquito that whole time. Scientists discovered a long time ago that the air in Pittsburgh in those days had the exact same chemical composition as “Off” insect repellent.
       He has heard that the air in Pittsburgh is much better since they shut down all the steel mills but he is afraid to go up there and find out because the mosquitoes might be back.


       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. will be here in their renter-free house until the end of the week and he hopes to be able to get out to see the sights if the mosquitoes permit. If any of their 16 renters are reading this they want to thank them for taking such wonderful care of their home. In fact it looks a lot better than if we had stayed in it for the same length of time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday September 27, 2012, in haste, under duress.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:42 AM

Comments [2]

Monday, September 19, 2011
Excuses, excuses
       Uncle Jack hopes that all his readers, if he has any left, will forgive him for not posting a new entry on his blog for such a long time. He feels very guilty about this, of course, and he will try to do better in the future.
       Naturally he has numerous excuses for his bad behavior. For one thing the High Culture season has begun in Charm City so a lot of his time has been taken up by going to plays and concerts and lectures and watching the Ravens play on his 55 inch you-know-what.
              What has really been taking up most of his time for the past couple of weeks, though, is his forthcoming Kindle book. He was rooting around in some boxes full of stuff he brought to Baltimore from Nags Head a couple of years ago and hasn't laid eyes on since. Amongst the detritus he found a CD containing over a hundred of the columns he wrote for the Current and Sentinel over the past 30 years and it occurred to him that without too much effort he could make this priceless trove available to readers the world over by publishing it in the form of a Kindle eBook.
       He found out it wasn't quite as easy as he thought but he is plugging away at it and hopefully by the end of October it will be in the hands of Amazon.com and available to all at a ridiculously affordable price. More about this as the time approaches but in the meantime here is a sample which still resonates as we begin another season of professional football:

                                          Football Blues                                  

Dear Uncle Jack,
              I have been happily married for almost six months to a really swell guy but now that it's football season I'm beginning to wonder if I made a mistake. All my husband does on Saturday and Sunday anymore is sit on the couch and drink beer and watch football on TV with his rowdy friends.
              We used to do a lot of fun things on weekends like we would go over to Bodie Island and sit in one of the Park Service duck blinds and make believe we were in a jacuzzi in the Bahamas or we would go over to the mall and watch the seagulls drop their clams in the parking lot.
              Now he won't even go out of the house on weekends and when I say something about it he tells me to bug off. To tell you the truth, Uncle Jack, I'm almost desperate enough to pack my things and go home to Mom and I would do it, too, except that she watches football all the time herself and all she ever talks about is how she would like to sack some guy named Ressleberger, whoever he is.
       What can I do, Uncle Jack? You are my only hope.
                                                                                                  Football Widow
                                                                                                  Nags Head

Dear Widow,
       Uncle Jack is very glad you wrote to him because he knows what you are going through and he is pretty sure he can help you. But you have to put on your thinking cap and really try to understand what he is going to tell you which you probably won't like. First of all you have to realize that it is not your husband's fault that all he wants to do on weekends is watch football on TV. Ever since he was a tiny boy baby the various forces of society have been training him and shaping and preparing him for the day when he would be a man and it would be time for him to take his rightful place in front of the tube.
       Now that he is a man he has no choice. When he hears the voices of Terry or Big John or Dandy Don he must watch football, just like when you hear the voice that tells you it is time to clean the oven you cannot rest until the oven is clean. You must understand that men are supposed to watch football on TV and you should be glad that your husband is a real man and not some kind of wimp who spends his weekends riding around on a golf cart.
       If you can truly believe what Uncle Jack has told you so far you are well on the way toward getting through the football season and saving your marriage. All you have to do is find some constructive ways to spend your time and not bother your husband for the next few weekends. If you can clean the oven quietly that would be a good thing to do, but stay away from the refrigerator because you could be trampled. There is something about watching football on TV that makes men very thirsty, especially for Lite Beer from Miller.
       Some people will tell you to be a good sport and try to learn about football so you can sit in the living room and enjoy it with your husband and his friends. You must believe Uncle Jack when he tells you this is very bad advice. Your husband does not want you to watch football on TV with him because there are many things he would have to explain to you and it would take all the fun out of watching.
       For example, he would have to explain to you why the best play in football is the one where three or four enormous men jump on the little quarterback and try to separate his head from his body. When this play is successful, as it often is, the quarterback has to be carried off the field on a stretcher and taken directly to the emergency room. Also Uncle Jack is pretty sure your husband would not want you to see him drooling over the practically naked cheerleaders when they are bouncing around the sidelines the way they do.
       The best thing for you to do is to get out of the house completely on weekends. Fall is the very best time to transplant sandspurs, for example, or you might want to get together with some of the other football widows and drive up by Moyock and watch the leaves fall off the trees.
       Anyway Uncle Jack hopes he has helped you see some ways to get through football season and save your marriage, too. All it will take is a little understanding on your part.
                                                                                                                                            Uncle Jack

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:09 AM

Comments [6]

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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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