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There are some things so wonderful that even if you have them on your “Life List” they still seem too fantastical to ever happen. For example, one day I hope to have dinner with all the past and present Orioles. I haven’t completely figured out how such an event might come to pass, but I do know that it will be an occasion honoring me as an Orioles fan and one that the attendees will feel honored and privileged to have been invited.

Today I experienced another incredible event. Last night, a chance moment in which we left the television unattended instead of our usual habit of fast-forwarding through commercials, my husband and I heard the news that Barak Obama was coming to UNC Charlotte, TODAY! This was remarkable on several accounts:
1) I am a student at UNCC, so I have free parking on campus.
2) Monday nights, I have class. This is the point in the semester when exams are administered. Last week I had an exam in my Tuesday night class and the exam in my Monday class isn’t until next week, leaving me free to cut to experience this historical moment.
3) I had the day off for reasons I choose to not disclose in a public forum that could later be used to incriminate me, allowing me the freedom to spend the entire day on campus ensuring a parking space and a place in line early enough for a reasonably good view of the podium.

Being there for Obama’s rally twenty-four hours before the election felt surreal, like one of those incredible things that a person is seldom lucky enough to experience. A part of history was made tonight, and I was there, watching Obama in person. Two and a half hours into the waiting, the skies opened up, unleashing pouring, driving rain onto twenty thousand tightly packed, but eager and happy voters. We weren’t allowed to bring in umbrellas (though some managed to smuggle them in) but none of us cared much how hard it rained, we didn’t care how soaked through we were, all that mattered was that we were there to see Obama in person.

More to follow…

Pictures are here.

As one might predict, because that’s just how things go, our last day in Bar Harbor was the best weather we had seen since arriving. The heavy rain from the previous day cleared up Saturday afternoon in time to allow us a short low tide walk across a sand bar to another island and to see a glorious sunset at the top of Cadillac Mountain.

The good news was that we hoped the weather forecast would be correct and had reserved a whale watching tour on Sunday. Mercifully, the weather was gorgeous. It was sunny and had warmed to the eighties, very useful and timely as conditions on the top deck of the tour boat are rather windy and cool as the boat races to the whale watching site, sixty minutes and 25 miles from shore.

Early into our hour whale scouting, I feared that the experience might be a disappointment. Though I am tall and seldom have trouble getting a view, this time, there was such a crowd gathered at the front of the boat that my view was nearly completely obscured. There were lots of whales and blows and I listened to the ooohs and ahhs, but I couldn’t get much more than a fleeting view of gray or splashing water as the last visible remnant before the whale took a terminal dive for another five or ten minutes underwater.

Eventually a sighting to the left side of the boat sent passengers running for a view, leaving a perfect opportunistic opening for me to steal a front row position, which I did immediately. From that point on, the experience was breath-taking. Each time a whale was visible, we waited with excited anticipation, watching for the undulations of the tail as it unfolded from skimming the ocean to a long, dramatic vertical arc as the final trace of the whale’s dive. It was utterly magnificent, and by far, the best experience of our entire vacation in Maine.

Whale Tail

Whale Tail

An updated picture link will be provided soon.

Help!! I am in the land of permanent winter. As a person of action, I am summoning your assistance. I need to do a sun dance, but I am not sure of the rules about this sort of thing. Do I need to stand outside and do it in the rain, or is it okay to do it inside my hotel room? Do I need a quorum or a minyan and do we all have to be together when the sun dance is performed? I don’t know the rules, but let’s take our chances. Please chant the following:

I’m Mister Sun
I’m Mister Heat Blister
I’m Mister Hundred and One
They call me Heat Miser,
What ever I touch
Starts to melt in my clutch
I’m too much!

I never want to see a day
That’s under sixty degrees
I’d rather have it eighty,
Ninety, one hundred degrees!

(See the video here.)

Please, Mr. Heat Miser, visit us in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Hello from Tucson, Arizona. We arrived safely last night after a few adventures. Here’s a quick run down of how it went…

Our day was off to an interesting start, and I hoped not an omen of things to come. My husband and I had a long to-do list before heading to work, namely cleaning up odds and ends around the house and the dishes left over from the previous night’s…okay…a couple of night’s dinners so that our colleague and friend who is house-sitting wouldn’t know us for the slovenly pigs that we are.

My husband will just love that I’m sharing this story, but he has only himself to blame for becoming the subject of my post. Lately, he has been struggling with a waxy build up in his left ear, making him deafer than usual. It’s a real nuisance when I’m trying to be discreet and whisper something to him. Completely oblivious to the social norms that govern the whisper or consideration for its potential catalyst, he replies in a loud voice, “WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” successfully getting the attention of everyone within a half mile radius, not only ruining a potentially funny moment, but often embarrassing me in the process.

Since drops aren’t very effective, we try to ameliorate my husband’s physical problem with ear candles. If you’ve never used an ear candle, here’s a brief explanation. You light fire to one end of a long skinny candle, lie on your side and stick the other, unlit, pointy end of the candle in your ear. As the candle burns down, it sucks the wax out of the ear and into the candle. Usually after doing the process a couple of times, there’s a noticeable improvement in hearing. (I use them too.) The important part of using the candles is to have someone with you to grab the candle and extinguish it at the right time. Without help, you have to guess what the safe point is without setting any part of your person or belongings on fire.

As I’ve complained to him many times, my husband’s problem is less with his hearing and more with his listening skills. He is very independent and even though I have repeatedly requested and admonished him for using the ear candles without me, he does it anyway, always insisting “everything will be fine,” usually accompanied by his snotty, British, eye-roll.

So there he lay on the sofa, candle burning away as I was buzzing about the house trying to check off the rest of the to-do list. My attention was on estimating how much more water I needed for the plant in the living room, which is so dry that the dirt has pulled away from the sides of the planter. It’s the same one that my husband insists is tropical and doesn’t need much water. Mind you, I’m not throwing stones. It’s not often you’ll see me wandering around the house with a watering can in hand. I bring the plants home and the rest is up to my husband to show whatever mercy he chooses in letting them live.

I was working my way into the kitchen when my husband bolted off the sofa with a flaming candle and excitedly announced, “I need water!” He let the candle burn down a little too far. I ran into the kitchen and while I was filling the water glass, the faucet seeming to flow ever so slowly, I heard shouting from the living room, “I’M ON FIRE! I’M ON FIRE!” Next, standing behind me at the sink, he announced that he had dropped the flaming candle on the floor.

I handed him the half-full glass, which he emptied completely onto the floor, extinguishing the candle in time to save the meager possessions we have sweat so hard through the years to acquire. I admit that while I was concerned for my husband, I was equally, maybe even a little more, concerned about burn marks on my hardwood floors. Having learned from those who came before me though, I had the presence of mind to ask, “Are you okay?” before I asked, “How is the floor?”

Fortunately, our floors were undamaged and my husband sustained only a small burn, much smaller than the injury I was going to inflict on him if the outcome had been different.

Nothing like a bit of excitement before a vacation, wondering if your house is going to burn to the ground before you even get the suitcases into the car.

The rest of the day was largely uneventful. USAIR didn’t pull any of their hateful antics, but due to considerable winds in Phoenix, we landed half an hour late for our connection. The layover between our connection to Tucson was originally only forty minutes, but the flight attendant assured us that all the other flights were likely delayed as well. As we were deplaning the agents were announcing the gates for connecting flights, noting the delayed ones. When she mentioned ours, “Tucson, B3…” it wasn’t followed by the hoped for “delayed.” We ran most of the long distance between the terminals and just as we reached our connection, the gate attendant was closing the door. “Wait!” I called. We had just barely made it. The attendant pushed us onto the runway, “Come on through so I can close the door before anyone else comes.” Ah, quality USAIR customer service. That’s what government bail-outs are for, after all. I hope no one else was running through the airport trying to catch our flight.

Once seated, we had the most entertaining pre-flight announcement I’ve ever heard. Given by the colorful, and slightly flaming Patrick, it started with, “Welcome aboard Flight 321 to Maui.” Since we had only barely made it to the plane and hadn’t even had time to double-check the monitors or our boarding passes, I questioned for a minute, “Didn’t it say Tucson on the board outside?” It wouldn’t be the first time I boarded the wrong plane, but it would have been the best boarding mistake I have made. No, no, he was only kidding. The rest of the announcement included gems like, “In the unlikely event of a water landing, wrap your arms through the seat cushion…” and “it will be yours to keep as your run across the desert.” We were informed of the cost of twenty-five cents per minute for oxygen, and five dollars each to buckle and unbuckle our seat belts. Fitting humor with all the recent surcharges for luggage. Apart from the few minutes of the flight when I questioned whether we really were lucky to have caught the flight, it all went very smoothly, and Patrick’s humor throughout (“in a few minutes, we will not be serving drinks and snacks due to the short duration of this flight”) made it that much more enjoyable.

Convinced that there was no way our luggage was going to show up in Tucson, we cataloged what we absolutely needed to get through the night and considered our options for procuring a toothbrush until such day as the rest of our luggage might arrive. (“So much for the surprise sexy dress I packed for dinner tonight,” I lamented privately.) However, to our astonishment, as if the chocolate chip cookie batter sacrifice I made to the Gods earlier in the week finally worked, there on the conveyor belt were both our bags!

A fine, fine day of travel!

I haven’t been blogging lately because we have been occupied with company. On Friday, my mom drove all the way from Baltimore to visit with us. We had a wonderful time even though it forced me to leave my safe place from the right corner of the sofa to experience life in a way similar to how I used to before my husband came along with television and high-speed Internet. (I blame him for all my sedentary ways.) Of course we had a lovely visit with my mom and I had to resist the urge to kidnap her when she left on Monday morning. It’s so hard to say goodbye to someone you love and miss so much. If only the weekends went as slowly as the work days, but in an enjoyable sort of way.

At least when your visitors go, they leave behind nice memories and a clean house (sometimes it seems like the only way to get the house clean).

See the pictures of Dupont Forest State Park and the Whitewater Olympic Trials at the National Whitewater Center right here in Charlotte.

Is it Thursday already? It’s hard to believe that almost a week has passed since I darkened the hallways at my office. Sadly, tomorrow it must start all over again. I only finished one from my large stack of library books and still haven’t made chocolate chip cookies. The days off go by so fast! I could weep.At least today we managed to leave the sofa for a short hike. South Mountains is one of my favorite parks. It has a waterfall, a standard feature of any North Carolina park, a hike along the river, somewhat challenging elevations, and even grills for public use. We got rain earlier in the week, so today was a perfect day to visit the park. The Falls are best to see after a good downpour when they’re full and gushing. Here are some pictures, many of which are very similar, but I can never get enough of this luscious place.

It’s the beautiful natural areas that I love so much about this area. Just an hour and a half away (which I know may be long by British standards), it’s such a treat to have something so lovely so nearby. The drive is so scenic too, passings scores of farms and fields in a rural America that is disappearing too fast.

Hope you enjoy the pictures.

 

Coincidentally, a few days ago, our local NPR talk show, Charlotte Talks did an interview with Moravians from Winston-Salem. I actually haven’t had time to listen to the whole podcast yet myself, but I did hear that they talked about the original settlers in Old Salem. If you’re interested, here’s the podcast.

Yesterday we spent the day touring Winston-Salem. I love touring historic places and thinking about how people lived a couple of hundred of years ago.

Here’s a short history of Salem, from my impeccable memory.

The Moravians settled Salem in 1766, from what I gathered, because it was in the middle of nowhere and a way to perpetuate the religion and keep its adherents brain-washed and uninfluenced by the rest of the world. In a word, a cult. The Moravians divided society into “choirs,” a group of like people: unmarried women, widows, single men, and those of like age. Each choir had its own tasks to perform, and I suppose, a built in support network. (I wondered what happened when a woman lost a spouse and had to enter the widows choir. Was she still allowed to have her former friends?)

At the time Salem was founded, it was the back country. A tavern was built to provide a place for travelers to stay, so that the rest of society could stay protected and not be influenced by the ideas and habits of strangers. (Moravian travelers would stay with other Moravians.) Alcohol was allowed, but moderation was encouraged. Women who stayed in the tavern were allowed to drink, but had to take their drink to their room. Men could drink and socialize in the common room and play games, as long as they weren’t betting or gambling games, which might cause bad feelings between visitors.

Travelers rented bed space, not a room, so it was possible that a traveler would be sharing a bed with another stranger. Men and women had separate rooms, of course, maybe different floors, I’m not sure. The bed support was rope, which wound back and forth underneath the “mattress.” One look and you pity the ages before chiropractic care. It was also easy to see how things like lice and crabs were easily spread. The mattress looked like a feather bed, something not easily cleaned. The whole thing looked unsanitary and gross, and I’m not a squeamish person. Maybe it’s not all that different than modern day hotels. Now I wish I hadn’t started thinking about this.

People of that age had to be good planners. The fire had to be started two hours before it was time to cook. The temperature was measured by a very scientific method of determining how long you could hold your hand over the fire. The food doesn’t seem too bad. They had fresh food from the garden, and the pets, or farm animals, depending on how you look at it. They even had cakes, nicely decorated too. In the late 1700s, particularly in the back country, sugar was a precious commodity, so people of that time consumed only a pound a year. Some studies say that Americans consume one to two pounds of sugar per <em>week</em>. Makes me want to bake a cake every day, because I can.

By the 1800s Moravians were educating girls as well as boys. Even though there was a law prohibiting teaching slaves to read and write in North Carolina in the 1850s, the Moravians continued to educate them. They had slaves though, so in essence, they were barely better than anyone else in the South. (I’ll save that diatribe for another day.)

Moravians were known as fair traders with good business sense. They were known for their pottery and something else, which I can’t remember at the moment. The Moravians focused on skilled trades rather than farming. The church protected the tradesmen by limiting competition in the village. In the interest of making sure that every family could support itself, there was only one master tradesman for each trade.

By the last decade of the 1700s, the Moravians were second in the country to have running water. The water ran to the public squares and major kitchens in the village. I found that pretty remarkable and impressive.

Here are some pictures from our trip. Most of the pictures are from the toy museum, which proves that children have always been spoiled and over-indulged when families had the financial means to do so.

There was more interesting stuff, but I can’t remember it at the moment. Hope you enjoy.

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