Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Tour of Pine Lake on my 68th Birthday


Here are photos taken from Barbara's car with my iPhone on our tour of the city. Recognize the houses?


Happy Birthday, Calvin Burgamy!



Back in the early years of this century Calvin Burgamy and I were political allies during a difficult time for Pine Lake

On Friday the 18th, just before I left Pine Lake, I rode with Barbara Whitlow to Calvin's house on the back side of the lake. It was his birthday also-- and as it turned out, we were born not only on the same day, but in the same year! He recently retired from Agnes Scott College, so we now share retirement, too. I love being retired!

I was able to stay only for a short while, but happy belated birthday, Calvin.

I met Calvin's wife, whose name I was told and promptly forgot. So sorry! It's a lifelong memory problem. Maybe someone will remind me of her name in the comments.

I'll just bet is was she who made this outrageous and beautiful sculpture.

I'm not sure who rides the scooter.



522 Pine


I was happy to see cars parked in the driveway of my old house at 522 Pine Drive. The gazebo looked good. The Carolina jessamine I planted long ago has finally covered the roof. When I moved away two-and-a-half years ago it still had a ways to go. The thatch across the roof and along the back is now thick, making for the shady gazebo I wanted.

I planted the blue spruce in the photo above in the spring of 1999, shortly after I moved in. It did well for a few years, but then, despite having been fed and watered, it began to grow spindly. When I left Pine Lake the sprucewas taller than me, but it seems shorter now, and, due to loss of foliage in the lower branches, is in danger of coming to be a Dr. Seuss tree. I'm not certain anything can be done with it. It just doesn't, I think, get enough sun.

Other vegetation is flourishing. The rose of sharon have grown thick and tall. They developed from a single two-foot branch I planted in the early 2000s. The Japanese maple, seen below, is tall and spindly, just like the one at my house in New Jersey. I suspect they both need more sun and someone who knows how to trim them. It might be too late for both.


The house itself was looking a little sad due to a blue tarp on the roof. The roof is clearly new, so I suspect there was problem with the installation. I was always afraid the roof would develop a leak, but it never did despite shingles that had gone smooth with age. I lowered the sale price by $5000 because it really needed a roof. How ironic the leak comes now, rather than then!

It doesn't show in the photos, but there seems to be a wooden ramp at the front of the house. I didn't look closely enough to see if it was finished or still a-building. I suspect the latter, as I didn't notice railings.

I miss my little house in Pine Lake. It's not that I don't live in a bigger and finer house now, and a house on a lake at that; it's because I miss the uniqueness of the land and people of Pine Lake. I am looking forward to my next visit.

Zzzzzz!


Barbara Hayes Whitlow caught me napping in her living room.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Stop


Guess where I saw my first street side tiny library. Yep, Pine Lake, on Laurel Road. I posted about it here, back in 2014, but here's the 2014 photo:


I was happy to come across a much larger library (at top) on my drive through the city with Barbara Whitlow and Christine Slocomb. It was also on the back part of the lake, but I didn't note the street, so I'm not sure if it's a newer version of the library on Laurel or another library entirely.

I keep thinking I would like to launch one of these. There's actually one on my street in Ringwood, New Jersey, but a second couldn't hurt.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

We Become Paid Miners

My Three Biggest Finds. The Purple Stone is Amethyst.
After the eclipse Rena and I decided to visit one of the many sapphire and ruby mines in the Franklin area. I mean, why not spend a few dollars and a few minutes and walk away a millionaire? It would be better, if dirtier, than playing the lottery. I ran a search on my phone, selected a mine more or less at random, and we were off.

"Do we want Upper Burningtown Road or Middle Burningtown Road?"
The GPS on my phone took us past the Franklin airport and continued deep, deep into the boonies. The terrain was rugged, but the roads were paved, which met Rena’s minimum requirements.

The directions kept on coming long after I lost the signal. I’m not sure how or why that works, but it somehow does. I was just congratulating myself when the phone, having drained its battery, died. Rena had no signal, either.


We kept going, blind, hoping for the best. The winding road and the many mountains were beautiful, but all signs were beginning to point toward Deliverance. We passed Clampit Cove Road. Named for Jed? Possibly. Deliberately misspelled? Probably. Note the bear sign.


Next was a dead end sign. Why are dead end signs ominous? I’m not sure, but they are. Certainly this one was, as it was followed immediately by a sign that read “Wrong turn. Thieves vandals and other trash will be shot." A full-sized Confederate flag backed up the threat. Tiny signs, however, kept beckoning us to the mine. Rena somehow didn’t see them, and I think she thought I was making them up.

Just as the road ended we found the mine. Signs warned us “Indian miners only beyond this point.” “Paid miners only.” Was it a private club?

“I’m getting a bad feeling about this,” I said to Rena. “Must be the banjo music.”


We considered leaving, but dragged ourselves out of the car and approached a ramshackle shed. Near the door, a man who looked like Santa Claus was talking to a man who looked rather like the grim reaper—about gems, of course. We stood there patiently, and they ignored us. We walked around them and went inside.

There we learned Indian miners were customers who pay to fill pails of dirt at the mine itself. Paid miners buy buckets already gathered and certainly seeded by mine personnel. We paid $25 for a two-gallon bucket of dirt and then we were paid miners and we were allowed in. We asked to be Indian miners, but were told it was too late in the day. My heart will forever be broken because I was not allowed to be an Indian miner.

At $25, $50, and $100 per bucket (for 1, 2.5, or 5 gallons sizes), it was certainly the most expensive dirt ever.


We were led to a trough, where we more or less played patty cake with the dirt, putting several handsful into a sieve and making and kneading mud cakes, hoping the sticky clay-based soil would wash away and reveal our fortunes. We were soon filthy.

What we saw when the mud was gone was rocks of assorted sizes; some of the rocks, though, were not rocks at all, but gemstones. The rocks that were clearly gemstones were in fact rocks and the rocks that looked like gemstones turned out to be rocks. Once past that confusion we had a good time playing in the mud. Rena liked the experience so much she bought a second bucket of dirt and we started all over again.


When the last of the mud was gone we each found ourselves with several handsful of gemstones of varied and assorted types and sizes. I think each of us thought the other had gotten the better deal and semi-seriously thought about drygulching one another, but all the mudslinging had left us weary, so we never got around to it—although what do I know about what Rena might have done in our hotel room in the dead of the night?

We made our way back to civilization and headed for our hotel, and immediately managed to find the most treacherous road in North Carolina. For some reason Rena was not enamored of steep heavily forested one-lane gravel roads with 200-foot drop offs and no guard rails. When we were a quarter mile in she stopped and refused to go any further until I told her the alternatives to proceeding were to back up or turn around, which would entail hanging either the front wheels or the back wheels over the edge of the cliff.

“Just 1.3 miles to go, Rena. You can do it. 1.2 miles. One mile! Just one mile!”

"What if a car comes the other way?"

"It won't happen." But of course, it did.

Happily, we reached pavement earlier than anticipated and were on our way to our motel in Maggie Valley.

The room was fine except for a pool of water on the bathroom floor. Rena swore she wasn’t responsible, but of the two of us only she had been in the bathroom. That made me suspicious.

We were soon cleaned up and sitting in big rocking chairs on the balcony, looking out on a rushing mountain stream and telling lies with our thumbs.

Saga of the Cinnamon Schapps


Rena and I packed away the cinnamon schnapps Barbara gave me, along with the rest of my eclipse equipment. Solar viewers. Check. Solar binoculars. Check. Go-Pro camera. Check. Digital SLR. Check. Big ass astronomical binoculars. Check. Big ass tripod for big ass astronomical binoculars. Check. Cinnamon schnapps. Check. Little red shot glasses for filling with cinnamon schnapps. Check.

Our intention was to break out the schnapps as totality approached.


The morning of Monday, August 17 found us in extreme Southwestern North Carolina, near the Georgia border. The evening before, after a meal at the famous Dillard House...


... we had checked out nearby Black Rock Mountain State Park. Black Rock Mountain was where, when I heard the park would be open for viewing at the summit, I planned to watch the eclipse. I had envisioned an open summit like that of nearby Brasstown Bald, but it seemed the entirety of Black Rock Mountain, or what we saw, anyway, was forested. Maybe not, as the above shot from the park's website suggests, but when a ranger told me the entire plan for the eclipse was to open the gates as usual at 7:30 am, allow cars in until the parking capacity was reached, and then lock the gates, I relocated our viewing to nearby Franklin, North Carolina. Our motel was there, anyway. It was a fortunate decision.

I had a wound on my leg that was looking inflamed, so after breakfast on Tuesday, Rena drove me to a walk-in clinic near our motel so I could get it checked. I was quickly in and out with a prescription for antibiotics. Downtown Franklin was filled with people there for the viewing, but the clinic had views so spectacular we decided we would watch from there rather than join the nearby throngs.

As the eclipse started started we set up chairs and our cooler under a tree. The husband of one of the clinic's staff members was already there, waiting for his wife to take her lunch break, and we chatted as the moon increasingly blacked out the sun.

Off to the south-- toward Dillard and Black Rock Mountain-- heavy clouds covered the horizon. The skies above Franklin, however, were clear.

When totality was about fifteen minutes away I went to the car to fetch my binoculars and the bottle of cinnamon schnapps Barbara Whitlow gave me for my birthday. In just the couple of minutes I was away a bank of clouds had condensed overhead and was moving northward toward the sun. It was clear they were going to be a problem. The clinic had closed for the totality and the couple watching with us were hurriedly packing their gear. They were, they said, going to drive northward, toward Cowee, to try to outrun the clouds. Just continue up the road, they said, and turn left on Highway 23.

Rena and I made the decision to follow, and as she went to get the car I dragged our gear to the curb so it would be staged for instant loading. When Rena popped the trunk I piled the gear inside and slammed the trunk and jumped into the passenger seat and we were on our way.

It's a good thing we relocated, as the eclipse was obscured in Franklin. Here's a video from the Asheville Citizen-Times.

There was no traffic on Highway 23. The few cars present were parked and their occupants outside, looking upward. We drove for five minutes at forty miles an hour, and when instinct told me it was time, I hollered "Stop!"


Rena pulled quickly onto the shoulder and we jumped out and looked upward and there was the sun, with only a sliver still visible. We had outpaced the clouds! Our view was, gloriously, unobscured.


Within seconds totality was upon us. Being as we were near the center of the totality zone, we had two minutes and forty-three seconds. Night suddenly fell. The temperature dropped, the planets became visible, and tree frogs and crickets began to chirp. As I looked directly at the sun with my naked eyes (allowable during totality) I could see bats and swallows flitting about in the sky. The corona of the sun was visible, and there was a big black hole in the sky where the sun usually was. It was an eerie and wonderful sight.


Having now seen an eclipse NEAR the zone of totality and an eclipse IN the zone of totality, I have to say that when it comes to solar eclipses, unlike horseshoes and hand grenades, close is NOT good enough.

Then it was over. The sun turned back on, as if with a switch, and within minutes it was daylight again.

Rena and I drove happily away. Only later did I realize that in our scurry we had not touched the schnapps!

I'm saving it for another occasion, I think maybe moon watching on some clear cold New Jersey night. I will think of Barbara when I drink it.

Fisherman's Catch Redux

On my birthday, Rena and I had dinner with two more of my friends at Fisherman's Catch, a family-owned restaurant at 4132 Stone Mountain Highway in Lilburn. (It's on the right, across the street from Krispy Kreme and Home Depot). It's easy to miss, but don't, or you'll be sorry.



The restaurant is slowly phasing out as the owner (who looks rather like Peter Fonda) approaches retirement. The sign above is a bit misleading; currently Tuesdays and Wednesdays have been phased out and Fisherman's Catch is now open only Thursday through Saturday. Thursday is all-you-can-eat crab legs day, so plan accordingly!

Since I neglected to take even a single photo during my visit, I'd like to give credit for the photo to the Food Near Snellville blog.

Since my move to the frozen north I have been seriously deprived of hush puppies and crab legs, and I made up for it by ordering a side of crab legs and an additional six hush puppies. Dinner was fried catfish, with a baked potato and a big salad for sides. It took some doing, but I managed to pass up the appetizer of fried clams. It's only $2.99!

At this point dining at Fisherman's Catch is mostly symbolic, a ritual to perform with Rena, since we have a history of eating there. I know some folks will prefer Red Lobster or Joe's Crab Shack over it, but the seafood there is several years closer to the ocean, and staff have always been attentive, and that works for me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sorry, Tommy!


My plan for Friday was to sit at the gazebo and greet people, but it was hot and by the time I rode MARTA and then took a non-air-conditioned cab from Indian Creek Station I was a bit warm, so I sheltered in the home of Barbara Hayes Whitlow. We stopped by the gazebo three or four times, but saw no one there-- which is reasonable, since why would they stay there if they dropped by to see me and I wasn't present.

My apologies to those who did stop by the gazebo, and especially to Tommy Conlon, who posted a photo of the empty gazebo on the Pine Lake FaceBook page. Tommy is one of my very favorite people, and I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to talk with him.

A Visit to Our Fair City


Seeing a solar eclipse from the zone of totality has long been on my bucket list, so the great 2017 eclipse was a great excuse to visit Pine Lake.

I flew early Friday morning (the 18th of August), which happened to be my birthday. By noon I was in the city

I unloaded at Barbara Whitlow's house. After a while Christine Slocomb came over and they took me to Red Chili Cafe, which lives at the site of the former Wendy's at Memorial and Hambrick.

My Friends Barbara Hayes Whitlow (L) and Christine Slocomb

As you might guess from the name, the restaurant has an Asian theme. Barbara and I had one of the daily specials, a catfish curry over rice and cubes of roasted potatoes. It was, no kidding, the best dish I've had in years.


The prices at Red Chili are quite reasonable, and it's a treasure. Certainly it makes much better use of the building than Wendy's ever did.

After lunch Barbara and Christine gave me a tour of Pine Lake, highlighting changes over the past two years. I used my iPhone to take photos and you will shortly be seeing them here.

Back at Barbara's house we had birthday cupcakes and I was presented with a cute birthday card and bottle of cinnamon schnapps to assist with eclipse watching.

Around five pm my friend Rena came to pick me up and she and I left for our eclipse adventure.

I love hanging out with Barbara and Christine and I only regret our friendship formed late in my time at Pine Lake. I wonder if I can persuade them to move to New Jersey.  Hey! We have a lake mere feet from our house and a guest bedroom! C'mon up! And thank you so much for lunch and cupcakes and schnapps and for showing me such a good time!

Stay tuned to this station for the saga of the cinnamon schnapps.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pine Lake Takes a Courageous Stand

Congratulations, Pine Lake and thank you to Mayor Melanie Hammet and the city council for declaring the city a safe haven for refugees. I am so proud!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pine Lake Misses Nita Townes



We are all saddened by the recent passing of Juanita (Nita) Townes of Pine Lake. Nita was 89 years old and spent most of her years in Pine Lake. She was there from the earliest days.

Nita always had a smile on her face and had a wonderful sense of humor. She was proud of her garden and was happy to share its bounty.