Tuesday, May 18, 2021

So Long, Nathan Bedford!

 On April 11, 2011, I raised the issue of Forrest Drive in this blog. Was it named after notorious Confederate general and founder of the Ku Klux Klan Nathan Bedford Forrest? I was certain it was, but, expecting pushback if I said so, I didn't make a stand. I simply raised the issue and said it was likely.

There were no comments on the blog, but I recall a bit of whitesplaining on the e-lists of the day, and some posts about changing the name of the street. Having made my suggestion, I didn't press the issue. I rather wish I had.

The name has finally been changed, and I was thrilled to hear the news.

Friday, December 20, 2019

I Have Turned Comments Off

Due to occasional spamming, and because there have been no recent posts, I have turned comments off. I am especially tired of spammers giving me false praise and being sure to leave their URLs. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Gone Four Years!

It's been more than four years since I sold my home on Pine Drive in Pine Lake and moved north. I've adjusted more or less to life and people in New Jersey, but I still miss the South and Pine Lake in particular.

I get back to Atlanta at least once a year, but it's a bittersweet trip. I find my old house looking sad with a blue tarp and the lake looking as beautiful as always. My most recent trip was a sad one; the son of my BFF was murdered only a mile or two from Pine Lake shortly after Christmas. I visited old friends, but it was a gloomy trip that reminded me that things aren't so very safe even near the city on the lake.

I still routinely remove spam comments on the Windows and Doors post on this blog. I changed the name to W*nd*ws and D**rs, but unscrupulous people from all around the world leave their links. I follow Tommy Conlon's adventures on Facebook, and I routinely receive e-mails about the city. My Pine Lake Yahoo Group remains active, but it and the other lists have largely been replaced by the Pine Lake FaceBook page--to which I subscribe.

Pine Lake will forever have a special place in my heart, but my marriage is perfect and it's unlikely I will live in the South again.

I recently took a road trip to Nashville and Memphis and New Orleans. Nashville is another of my old home towns, and I enjoyed it immensely even as I visited family and marveled at how much things can change in a few years. Memphis I didn't like so much. New Orleans I have always loved, but we spent days dodging Hurricane Barry and our time there was cut short. Still, I had time to eat beans and rice and jambalaya and blackened redfish and beignets at Cafe du Monde. I hated that we missed Atlanta, but I'm determined to make a visit before the end of the year.

I cook my own grits these days, for there ain't one grit to be seen in northern New Jersey. Not even Cracker Barrel has them! I miss country ham and biscuits and Captain D's and Krispy Kreme and the lunches at Ingles--especially the collard greens. New Jersey has no end of diners and bagel palaces and pizza joints, but is sorely lacking in the food I love. Mostly I miss my Pine Lake friends. I'm always happy to hear news from the city on the lake.

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.


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.