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Friday, October 22, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
With all the effort I expend informing the uninformed and entertaining my readers, it was inevitable that I would need a break, which (frequent readers already know) consisted of a week in a place with warmer temperatures and an ocean around the corner. That was after a 15 hour drive (including periodic stops to fill the gas tank, eat, pee, and stretch), which sounds worse than it was because my friend Sandy kept me company and shared the driving.
There are three kinds of vacations: relaxation vacations, recreation vacations, and socializion vacations. Most vacations are a combination of the three. In my experience, most people don't understand the difference between recreation and relaxation, but that's another story for another time. This particular vacation was primarily, but not entirely, of the relaxation variety. We pretty much did what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it, and we didn't do anything we didn't want to do. What we wanted to do most days was go to the beach and eat.
With daytime temperatures consistently above normal all but one day, we did a lot of lying on the beach. We stayed at a house that is literally a three minute walk to the beach, but because there is no public parking in that vicinity, the beach is never crowded. That made it easy for us to pick a spot, plant our beach chairs, and vegetate. I did a lot of vegetating. And some swimming, because even though it's October, the Atlantic Ocean down around the Carolinas is still quite warm. And taking pictures, even though I had only the 3.2 megapixel camera on my BlackBerry Bold 9650. I managed to creatively get myself (or at least a couple small body parts) into the first picture I took of the beautiful beach (above). Yes, those are my toes in a pair of cheap flip-flops. BTW, you can click on this and any picture in this post to see a larger image. The rest of the pictures do not involve my feet.
Besides basking in the rays, one of the first things we did was stop at Mystic Treasures Jewelry to visit jewelry designer Tommy and his partner Judy, who also owns the Topsail Art Gallery next door. I know Tommy via my brother and sister-in-law, who are long-time frequent customers. Alas, both Sandy and I fell under Tommy's spell and bought jewelry from him. Sandy chose the Armada Hook bracelet, one of Tommy's original patented designs. I went with a slightly less pricy necklace and earring set, also hand-crafted by Tommy of fused glass with sand from the nearby beach fired in.
A less costly venture brought us to the mainland to visit the venerable Dr. Rootbeer and his Hall of Foam. Part soda fountain, part museum, it's loaded with vintage (and some reproduction) root beer memorabilia from around the world. Apparently this business venture was a way for Dr. Rootbeer to display his vast collection in a way that didn't drive Mrs. Rootbeer to divorce court. As for the edibles, my personal favorite menu item is the key lime float, made with vanilla ice cream and Lime Rickey soda. He also sells six-packs of his own recipe root beer plus, much to my delight, two other eclectic beverages I enjoy, Moxie and birch beer. No Dr Pepper, though.
Also close to the island are two U.S. Marine Corps installations, Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station. I have always thought that our Declaration of Indepencence should have included one additional self-evident truth: that Marines are hot. Some of them may have fugly faces, but from the neck down, there isn't a one of them I'd kick out of bed for eating crackers. So naturally, we had to do dinner out one evening near the installations so we could do some Marine-watching. We chose the Marina Cafe, which wasn't much to look at but had fabulous seafood. Dining on the deck at twilight, we selected one healthy entree (grilled mahi-mahi) and one not-so-healthy entree (fried seafood platter) and shared both. Thus it was that I had fried oysters for the first time in my life, but I hope not the last. The exceptional food somewhat made up for our disappointment over the fact that all the Marines we saw happened to be there with their pregnant wives or girlfriends.
At some point, we realized that the famous resort area of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was only a couple hours' drive south, and as it happened Sandy has old work friends there. They invited us down for an overnight, and on the way, we stopped at South Carolina's famous Willard's Fireworks. It wasn't that we had any particular desire to shoot off fireworks; we merely wanted to pick up some sparklers to bring home, where the state legislature doesn't have anything better to do than take our money and our fun. I suppose I am now officially a smuggler, although I came close to crossing over to the dark side about ten years ago when I briefly contemplated bringing back some Cuban cigars from Montreal. Anyhoo, I am now ready to rip next summer.
After arriving at Sandy's friends' house, going out to dinner with them, and enjoying a comfortable night's sleep, we slowly made our way back to the other Carolina, stopping at heart of Myrtle Beach to check out, you guessed it, the beach. It was much more crowded than what we had been experiencing on Topsail, but then Myrtle Beach is teeming with high-rise hotels and condominiums. Think a mini Miami Beach or Waikiki. Not my bag. But the beach was beautiful, and because it was a warm and sunny day (we'd had nothing but at that point) we kicked off our shoes and poked around the water's edge. This is probably the ideal time to be there if you like the area because the water is still warm enough for swimming, the sun is strong enough to get a bit of a tan, and the sun-worshippers are relatively few. My understanding is that Myrtle Beach draws thousands in October, but they're golfing, not swimming. You couldn't pay me enough to be there before labor day or during an April school vacation, when the beaches must be jammed with bodies.
Our streak of unseasonably warm weather ended on Friday, when it was only in the low to mid 70s. It was still sunny, though, and perfect weather for walking. We set out for a late morning walk to the Surf City pier, a perfect location for people-watching, especially if one enjoys watching people fishing off a quarter-mile long pier. It costs a dollar to walk onto the pier and $3 to fish; the money collected pays for beach refurbishment after storms. A worthy cause, I thought, and it was the best dollar I spent all vacation. I've never liked fishing, but it was surprisingly fun to watch those who did. It was also windy. Sandy was lucky to get the above shot of yours truly without hair blowing in my face. The next time I go, perhaps on a less breezy day, I'll bring a folding chair and a book and hang out for a couple hours.
All good things must come to an end, and so it was for my vacation. With another 15-hour trip ahead of us, we headed out early Saturday morning, but not before making one last trip to the beach. It was shortly before sunrise, the ocean was unusually calm, and a couple early risers had beaten us there to fish or walk their dogs. There is something awe-inspiring about watching day break over the Atlantic, knowing that it's already mid-day on the other side. But rather than feeling dwarfed by the sea, I tend to think of it in more intimate terms. For most of my adult life, being at the ocean has evoked memories of being on Cape Cod with my long-distance boyfriend. This time, before I walked back to my car, I imagined a day when I would be with him again. Maybe I'll be able to show him this very beach.
Those readers who know me personally are welcome to view the other 45 of the vacation pictures I took on my phone. Go to www.ITookThisOnMyPhone.com, and when you get there, type my first initial and last name onto the end of the URL. For example, http://www.itookthisonmyphone.com/dmother (except that my real name isn't Den Mother). Sorry, if you don't know my name, you're out of luck. I have pictures there of other people that I'm not comfortable making public. Don't take it personally.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Saturday, October 09, 2010
There come times in every woman's life when she must slow down and relax before life's stresses send her around the bend. My friend and co-worker, Sandy, and I each have reached one of those times, but for different reasons. Rather than hang around and risk going postal, we are instead going to the beach.
October is a nice time, weather-wise, to travel to the southern North Carolina coast. Average daily highs are in the 70s °F (about 21-27°C), with water temperatures still comfortable enough for a northerner to take a dip. The wild card is the possibility of hurricanes, the season for which is just tailing off. Fortunately, there is nothing in the forecast that will threaten us for the next week.
Many of the island's busiest establishments during the summer tourist months are closed for the season, but enough stays open to serve the year-round population. We will probably head down to Wilmington one evening to take my niece to dinner, thereby giving her a brief respite from college food. Perhaps another evening we'll find a watering hole up in Jacksonville, prime Marine-watching territory. The only other place I absolutely must get to is Dr. Rootbeer's Hall of Foam, a retro soda shop run by a native Midwesterner and former Connecticut resident who quit the rat race and moved south to enjoy life. I went there a few years ago and had the most delicious Key Lime float (Lime Rickie and vanilla ice cream). What will I try this time?
Friday, October 08, 2010
Thursday, October 07, 2010
The Den Mother takes seriously her responsibility to provide an important public service to her readers. With that in mind, I would like to pass along the following important communication I received today at work. You're welcome.
Do you have feelings of inadequacy?
Do you suffer from shyness?
Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?
Do you suffer exhaustion from the day to day grind?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Wine.
Wine is the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident about yourself and your actions. Wine can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you're ready and willing to do just about anything. You will notice the benefits of Wine almost immediately, and with a regimen of regular doses you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live.
Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past and you will discover many talents you never knew you had. Stop hiding and start living, with Wine.
Wine may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use Wine. However, women who wouldn't mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.
Side effects may include:
- Dry mouth
- Table dancing
- Erotic lustfulness
- Loss of motor control
- Loss of clothing
- Loss of money
- Loss of virginity
- A strong desire to sing Karaoke
- The consumption of Wine may make you think you are whispering when you are not.
- The consumption of Wine may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them.
- The consumption of Wine may cause you to think you can sing.
- The consumption of Wine may make you think you can logically converse with members of the opposite sex without spitting.
Long-time Boston sports reporter and anchor Bob Lobel had a little thing he did when reporting on outstanding accomplishments by athletes who once played in New England and then moved on to achieve great things elsewhere. After describing the notable feat, he concluded with the rhetorical question, "Why can't we get players like that?"
I suspect many a Torontonian said something similar upon hearing of last night's gem by erstwhile Blue Jay and current Phillies ace Roy Halladay. In game 1 of the divisional series against the Cincinnati Reds, the newly christened Doctober threw only the second no-hit game in Major League Baseball playoff history. Only a full-count walk to Cincy shortstop Jimmy Rollins in the fifth inning separated Halladay from the only player to have a perfect postseason game, the less exceptional Don Larsen, who might or might not have been hungover at the beginning of his perfect game for the Yankees against Brooklyn in the 1956 World Series. I presume Halladay was cold sober last night. He was also a bit more experienced than Larsen at this no-hit thing, having thrown his own perfect game on a hot southeast Florida day earlier this season against the Marlins.
Not bad for a guy who spent 11 major league seasons languishing in a Blue Jays uniform during a period when the team wasn't good enough to even mention their consecutive World Series championships almost two decades ago.
As Bob Lobel and his fellow Boston sports fans will attest, it sucks to be stuck on the outside looking in when someone you cheered for all those years gets it done for someone else. It is with that knowledge that I say it must suck large to be a Toronto fan this morning. But to look on the bright side, at least until tonight, the Leafs are tied for first place.
(Note: Cross-posted at the Triumphant Red Sox Blog.)