Thursday, June 30, 2011

Carolina Diary I

Well, hey there! How ya'll been?

I've decided to keep a diary of my time here in Carolina, but only because I love it so, and only when the spirit moves me as I have other more pressing writing to do while I'm inspired to do it. Besides, I don't see anyone posting comments beggin me to start up again. So I guess I'll just do as I please. It wouldn't kill you to let me know if you care whether I do this or not, you know. You know who you are, and that criticism doesn't include Av, or Tee, or Lynn, or anyone else who's taken the time to tell me it matters to them.

white neighborhood surfer graffitti

Wrightsville beach

downtown wilmington along the river

I know I’ve been remiss, and I’m sorry to disappoint those of you care, few in number as you may be; but I’ve been busy. I’ll try and explain below. It would be a real shame for me not to tell ya’ll about Wilmington, North Carolina. I’ve been here off and on for about a month now. (Two week break in Charleston, was my last post I think. Am headed back there mid July for Tee’s birthday.) Wilmington’s one of those has-been kinda towns you find all over America these days that break your heart. But this one is trying real hard to come back from the undead, and to some degree it has succeeded. It’s kindof ‘arty’. The “historic downtown” is the usual setup of several blocks of eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings, architecturally varied, not a one of them like the other, colorful and intriguing (I swear there’s an historical plaque every ten feet). Many still have huge hand painted advertisements on the three story brick side walls, and people seem willing to just let those be, which is nice. This being the south, nearly everything is brick, except for the old clapboard manses and bungalows that line every street, porches ubiquitous, some quite grand, but even the modest ones are charming. There are quaint and palatial residential areas, lots of them between the Cape Fear River (town center) and the beach, that put Hodge Road in Princeton to shame. Southern leisure abounds.

And I like it. You know the first thing on my mind is What’s To Eat? I am happy to report that I can get a meal that brings tears to my eyes, grateful for my taste buds, a meal, in fact, as good as or better than meal I’ve had in the states, no lie, at the divine Manna on Princess St. for less then forty bucks, wine, dessert and tip included. I mean absolutely to die for food – menu changes daily - in a place owned by two modest, genuinely friendly fellas, not a pretentious bone in their bodies. Always good jazz playing. Friendly folks at the bar. Manna does not think itself King Tut precious, just tries really hard to make mouthwateringly perfect food and treat customers with respect, and they succeed. Perfect service. I have had two meals there to date and felt like I’d died and gone to heaven with every bite. They make a pretty mean Mai Tai too. I have given up pedicures in order to be able to eat there once a week; now doing toes myself, with predictable results. But who ever really gets right down and looks at a woman's toes, unless you're really really lucky, and my luck just hasn't been that good to date. I like Manna better than anywhere I've eaten in Charleston, but then, I didn’t get to La Fourchette there, or a few other places I would have liked to try. Husk (in Charleston) was a pleasant enough brunch on the veranda when I was there, but just ok. Nice light buttermilk dressing on the salad of greens and teeny pickled tomatoes. I thought my catfish was a little mushy and the Slo Gin Fizz a disappointment.

I digress… back to Wilmington. There’s also Indochine. To * Die * For. Everybody who’s anybody eats here – very popular spot. Always packed. You have never in all your born days dined at an Asian place like this. Talk about eclectic. Solange, the owner, came over to our table recently to say bonsoir and we chatted in French and didn’t I just love that. She’s Vietnamese French and gorgeous and a fab cook, seriously creative menu, and if I start trying to tell you about it that’s all I’ll have room for. But there are tea houses out back of the lively indoor dining room where you can sit as well and little koi ponds and all. Muriel and Janice and I eat there most often. It’s kitchy but cool, pretty cheap too for the quality, incomparable ambience, (belly dancer Fridays) and amazing service from The World’s Best Waitress Ever, Sondra. I’m serious. She is THE best waitress I’ve ever seen. Good MaiTai too. (I’m on a Mai tai kick as you may have guessed.)

If you get too far from town out in the boonies, you find this (see next photo).... how do I know? I was there.

And it's why I have yet to set my butt on what is supposed to be the gorgeous beach here, Wrightsville. Only ten minutes away, Can you imagine? But I’ve been engaged in regrouping and trying to land on my feet, (not to mention writing) after canceling what was supposed to be a long term house sitting gig for a woman north of here a bit who advertised on; said her hubby was a Marine in Afghanistan (caution light goes on) but that she was a yoga teacher (caution light flickers off). But as it turned out, it was so bad I stayed one night and split at dawn next morning (the cat had peed my bed – pew!). There wasn’t a single exterior door in the place that still had all its hinges intact. It was one of those prefab things, I tried to see the positives, truly I did, but there just weren’t any, in what I can only describe as a locale right out of Deliverance, complete with muscle truck filled yards sporting massive confederate flags lining the sketchy FIVE MILE dirt road into the piney woods. I notice plenty of people here never even think about opening a window for fresh air; they are painted or rotted shut, some of em. It’s just central air conditioning all the time, and you’re grateful for it, let me tell you, when it’s 98 in the shade every feckin day.

I like that word ‘feckin’. Got it from that Irish play I saw at Spoleto in Charleston last month, The Cripple of Innishman. Every other word of that production was ‘feckin’. Cracked me up every time they said it with their little Irish accents.

Spanish moss is not a parasite, it drips benignly from the branches of everything in long fronds, romantic and gently waving, soft and free, in the breezes here, not ghostly at all really. Since I was a child in LA and my brother and I used to walk slowly through the long drooping willows on the way to school, chanting, "Open the gates for the kind and queen!" I have adored anything that, when I breeze on through it, makes me feel like royalty arriving somewhere.

Anyway, I beat it out of the Piney Woods Cretin Development and scurried on back to my home away from home, The French House, in Wilmington, and to a serious dose of TLC at Janice’s again. Such a solace, that place. You just feel like everything’s gonna be alright when you’re there. Lemonade on the porch swing in the afternoon… Then I found this room to rent (French House fab but pricey) not too far from the town center, near a wifi coffee joint (no tv or internet chez moi – “backwoods” comes in many guises), and rented it for the month, or maybe two. Not more than that. Just long enough to add a chapter to my novel and start my new non-fiction project. Advertising this place as “furnished” is a stretch. There isn’t a chair or table to write at (I’ve discovered a nice nook at the university library that suits for writing – UNCW is a gorgeous campus). The last tenant kindly covered this monstrous sofa with a sheet to hide its badly deteriorated ‘upholstery’ (it’s completely shredded). But the Bed’s not bad, I have a hot plate, a toaster oven, a nuker (amazing how it's come to be an accepted truth in American that no one cooks, they just heat things up) – but a great tub for baths, and AC and a ceiling fan, and a veritable jungle outside the window, and that makes it ok. Janice kindly loaned me some cotton sheets and a nice white matelasse coverlet. I always travel with my own pillow now. It’s full of dreams. Bought a big poofy Euro one at Marshall's covered in a nice wild chintz to cheer things up. Won’t be here long though. I could never make it in the tropics. The critters can be scary.

Seriously, a bug the size of the Concord flew in here the other night and scared me half to death. Little fecker snuck in the window crack over the screen – they’re like mice, they can flatten themselves to nothing – dive bombed in and buzzed 3 feet across the room before I knew what happened. It was one of those ‘Carolina roaches’, actually a beetle I think, but they look like, ok, imagine this please, a GIANT COCKROACH! Three/four inches if it was a speck. I went after it viciously, armed with a double thick paper towel, squished it, made a huge crunching noise, shivering with disgust, cursing the thing as I tossed it, paper towel and all, out the door, yelling “fecking fecker!”. I mean, youda thought it was a poisonous snake the way I reacted. Chile, it freaked me out.

Reminded me of the time at Mormon Lake Lodge in ‘73 when the rats nominated themselves the Let’s Wake Cath Up Committee one morning. .. .... (musing) I used to have a pretty nice house in Maine. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Lessons in humility are good for the soul. Tryin to Keep it simple.

Check back for installment two soon. I have to tell you about the flora here. It is out of this world amazing.

So, for anyone who cares, I’m back. But only when the spirit moves me. See? I’m turning all slow and southern right before your eyes.

And BTW, those feckers on the US Supreme Court can kiss my patootie for their decision last week to deny the low wage, discriminated against, working people of America legal recourse . Why don’t those guys get real jobs? It’s a perfect example of the old Irish saying; Much wants more. Stingy feckers. Let's see a Tweet of Clarence Thomas' pubes eh? Someone's gotta have that somewhere!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Momentary lull will ensue as no WIFI is available without major hassle for moi... last look at Charleston....

another gracious Charleston doorway

A real Magnolia blossom:
the flower that's bigger than your head?

the battery... and parks