Good thing I’m not blogging today

Here are some of the items I would have posted yesterday had I been blogging. Which I’m not. ‘Cause I’m on vacation. Anyway:

  • We wanted to get an early start since we were heading all the way back to S.C., but while my wife was downstairs getting the free breakfast I decided to check my investments. My portfolio consists — that is, consisted — of about $1,300 worth of Knight Ridder stock. I’ve written of this brilliant move on my part before. Anyway, we ended up being delayed about half an hour, because I discovered that, instead of having been converted to cash in the sale of the company earlier this week, my investment had simply … disappeared. I had about $67 left in my e-trade account. First I got an Indian guy on the phone (he didn’t tell me his name, but if I had asked, he probably would have said it was "Steve"), who passed me to somebody else, who said I needed to talk to a "professional," who said I needed to talk to another "professional." I think the last guy I talked to said something — money, negotiable securities, something — should show up in my account in the next couple of days. I shrugged, and we got on the road. By the way, if you need investment advice, my services are available for a fee.
  • Before putting away the laptop, though, I checked to see if there was anyplace good to stop on the way for coffee. There was a Starbucks in Fredericksburg, a couple of hours out. (I have confessed in the past about my hateful Starbucks jones, which makes at least one of my coffee-drinking children ashamed of me.) It was at a place called "Central Park." I decided I could wait that long. You couldn’t miss Central Park, but it was very, very easy to miss something located within Central Park. I remember Alan Kahn talking about places where they had something like what he had in mind for the Village at Sandhill. This had to be one of them (I’m not in a position to check archives at the moment). This place was like the Village at Sandhill multiplied by Harbison to the power of the Mall of America — street after street of shops, strips and big boxes. The general layout was like Broadway at the Beach — winding lanes and such — but it went on and on and on. You know how terrorists dream of 72 virgins? This is what Burroughs and Chapin dream about. Only blind luck enabled me to find Starbucks in all that. I did stop and ask directions. Guess where? Where would be the last place in the world where you would be likely to find people who knew the way to a trendy-yuppie place like Starbucks? That’s right. Wal-Mart. I first asked the greeter, and when she looked up and had only one tooth in her head, my heart sank. I asked another employee, and she gave me very confident directions, but they were entirely wrong. Fortunately, I ran into it while on the way to the place she had pointed out. If was only a couple of hundred yards from Wal-Mart.
  • I stopped by the battlefield in Petersburg, because one of my great-great grandfathers had died there. I called my uncle from the visitors center to get him to remind me what unit he was with. He couldn’t remember, and my cousin who’s the genealogist was off someplace. But he did tell me that we had determined that great-great grandad had not died at Petersburg,Crater_1 but at a place called "Kingsburg." The ranger in the visitor’s center had never heard of it. So we went off to have a look at the Crater before getting back on the road.
  • The Crater was disappointing. I expected something about half a mile across. This wasn’t big enough to be a cellar for a small house. Ol’ Henry Pleasants didn’t use as much dynamite as Butch Cassidy, I suppose. Anyway, it was a glorious victory for South Carolinians, as the plaque I photographed (and will post when I get back to the house) attests. But it was a godawful mess. Forgive my levity. I kept saying to my wife as we drove through, looking for stop number 8, "Here we go, just breezing by, and all those men poured out their lifeblood atScplaque_1 every one of these stops." I am capable of being sober at times.
  • OK, this one’s weird. Anybody ever read The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove? If you haven’t, I’m not going to describe it to you, because it will lower your opinion of my reading tastes. But it’s really a lot better than it sounds. Anyway, it’s an alternative history novel, in which the South wins the war. Instead of being the famous man who created the Crater at Petersburg, Henry Pleasants appears in it as a POW released by the Confederacy after the war, who decides to settle in Nash County, NC. His Crater idea does occur to him in the novel, but within a completely different context. Anyway, Lt. Col. Pleasants was captured at the battle of Bealeton. Not familiar with that one? That’s because it only happened in the novel, after the course of history changed from what we know. But this novel, which I’ve read more than once, kept screwing up my sense of real history as I drove through Virginia and N.C. As we drove by the exit to Bealeton, I started to tell my wife, in a professorial tone, how this was the place where … and caught myself just in time, realizing that it never actually happened. Then I saw the Crater made by the real Col. Pleasants. Then we’re driving through N.C., and we enter Nash County. Then we pass by the exit for Nashville, where Nate Caudell lived. If I had seen a sign to Rivington, I really would have freaked out. You have to have read the book to understand that last one.
  • How come, when you’re looking for the junction between one Interstate and another, they don’t give you a little warning so you can be on the lookout for it? Paranoid about missing my turn, I kept looking obsessively at all the signs for about 50 miles. I wanted to get off 95 and onto 40 to Wilmington. You know when the gummint finally deigned to put up a sign telling me it was coming? Two miles away. If I had been in one of those semiconscious zones you get into while driving for just two minutes, I could have missed it. I didn’t, but still. Don’t you think they should tell a guy a little earlier.
  • I am never going to Wilmington again for the rest of my life. All we wanted to do was turn onto 17 and head down to the Strand. Easy, right? Not around there. I turned off looking for the waterfront areas where there might be a nice seafood place. We found nothing, and then could not get back onto 17. Really. I have a great sense of direction, if nothing else, but it was useless in that place. We were lost for an hour. Once I found the bloody bridge, though, it was easy. I was so glad to get out of North Carolina, and back home. So was my wife, and she’s actually from Tennessee.
  • They don’t even know how to have a beach town up there in N.C. The place was totally dead, and just looked like any other Southern town. As soon as we crossed the line, we were greeted by a fireworks place, then restaurants, tacky tourist traps, all sorts of crazy, bustling traffic and an Eagles or Wings on every block. People deride the Redneck Riviera, but it’s the Beach to me, and felt as homey and welcoming as my blue recliner at home. If only I had packed those ratty old slippers of mine.

Well, that’s enough. Like I said, good thing I’m not blogging today.

18 thoughts on “Good thing I’m not blogging today

  1. bill

    “My portfolio consists — that is, consisted — of about $1,300 worth of Knight Ridder stock. I’ve written of this brilliant move on my part before. Anyway, we ended up being delayed about half an hour, because I discovered that, instead of having been converted to cash in the sale of the company earlier this week, my investment had simply … disappeared. I had about $67 left in my e-trade account.”
    Sounds like you should take your portfolio to the nearest convenience store and buy some lottery tickets.

  2. LexWolf

    1. You must not have much of a portfolio if you haven’t gone through the changeover process several times already.
    2. Central Park might not be exactly your idea of retail heaven but apparently there was a commercial need for it and a bunch of businessmen filled it. EVen without getting permission from the competition or having to “justify their plan” to the likes of Randy. The need was there and it was filled – end of story. I have no doubt that the need for school choice (the only real school reform) is also there and would similarly be filled.
    3. Guns Of The South is great, as is most of Turtledove’s work once you accept his various tweaks in how things happened. Great entertainment speculating how different our lives would have been if the South had won, or Germany had won WW1, or if Britain had been against us and we had to fight them in Canada and so on. He even has one short story where the South is on its last military legs in the Civil War but refuses to surrender – the Yankees take over completely and totally reverse the black/white relationship. The main quibble I have with Turtledove is that he often tends to repeat himself more than once on some things. His WW1 series gives a prominent role to little St. Matthews right down the road from Columbia.
    4. On your next trip, try this to find your exits. Whether you have a printed road atlas or use the online travel advisories, they will usually give you the exit number of your exit. The mile markers in all the states around here correspond to those exits. Thus if your exit is # 56 you simply wait until you get to the 50s on the mile markers and you’ll know that you need to make a turn sometime soon.
    5. Given your difficulty understanding exit signs, your problems navigating Wilmington are probably also mostly operator error.
    6. What’s wrong with a beach place that doesn’t have all your tacky and crazy stuff? For an elitist, you seem to have very downmarket tastes, I must say.

  3. bill

    Robert Harris'”Fatherland”(early 90’s)is an excellent book about Hitler winning WWII,if you can accept a Joe Kennedy presidency.
    The only real school reform is reform school.

  4. Ready to Hurl

    “Guns of the South”– is that the one where the South wins because some Nazi travel back through time and introduces machine guns to the Confederacy?
    And, you admit to reading it more than once?

  5. LexWolf

    Actually those were South Africans from 2016 or something. Unlike Brad, I didn’t (and wouldn’t) read it more than once but it does have even the Confederacy turning against the South Africans in the end. The process of getting to that end is quite entertaining.

  6. Herb

    Brad, you are a riot. The way some people can’t refrain from insulting somebody even when they provide some humorous posts, is beyond me. Have a great time at the beach; I’m green with envy.
    Glad you got back South. I was afraid you would drown in PA.

  7. kc

    2. Central Park might not be exactly your idea of retail heaven but apparently there was a commercial need for it and a bunch of businessmen filled it. EVen without getting permission from the competition or having to “justify their plan” to the likes of Randy. The need was there and it was filled – end of story.
    Wow – you mean they filled the need even without the government giving vouchers to people to buy their product?
    How ’bout that.

  8. Brad Warthen

    LexWolf is correct. Nazis, indeed. It was the AWB.

    And I liked Central Park. There was just so much there that I found it hard to locate what I was looking for. Too bad I didn’t have this map. I hope Alan Kahn has success that approaches it. He’s a good guy, even though I did not want to see him putting minor-league baseball out there. (I have to confess that I don’t like Broadway at the Beach, and being a guy who loves traditions, I hate to see B&C shutting down the Pavilion.)

  9. Brad Warthen

    LexWolf, don’t you think “Guns of the South” was Turtledove’s best? I read the series in which we’re in the middle of WWII when the “Lizards” land. I thought the first book was engaging, but overall, I don’t think any of it measured up, as writing, to Guns of the South.
    And folks, I almost always read books I like more than once. I have favorite parts. My favorite part of Guns of the South was when Robert E. Lee first meets Andries Rhoodie, and he and his staff have to decide what they think of this “all-over-spots” man and his strange repeater.

  10. LexWolf

    The WW2 series with the Lizards is the worst one with the repetitions.
    Guns Of The South is one of Turtledove’s best, I agree, although I prefer How Few Remain. That one picks up in 1881 after the South won the Civil War although it’s not a sequel of “Guns”. The Confederacy buys the 2 northernmost provinces of Mexico to gain access to the Pacific Ocean and it’s off to the races. Before long, Germany is allied with the North while France and Britain throw in with the South. War rages on the North/South border as well as the border with British-controlled Canada.
    The WW1 series is also pretty good, featuring a General Custer who didn’t die against the Sioux and who instead winds up commanding the North’s forces. The ongoing WW2 series (not to be confused with the Lizard WW2 series) is also not bad. A single book I liked was In The Presence Of Mine Enemies set in a 2050 in which the Nazis won WW2, have conquered North America and a good chunk of the rest of the world, and have implemented the “Final SOlution” worldwide. Yet there are still some Jews even in Germany itself…. Also worthwhile is Ruled Britannia in which the Spanish Armada did manage to invade and conquer England and William Shakespeare is one of the leaders of the resistance.
    High literature Turtledove ain’t but he does make you think about how different history could have been if just a few things had gone a little differently. And he’s very entertaining and keeps things moving.

  11. LexWolf

    KC said: “Wow – you mean they filled the need even without the government giving vouchers to people to buy their product?”
    Why would there be any need for vouchers? After all, nobody taxed these consumers for products they could pick up at the Sears in Fredericksburg even while they still had to pay for any purchases they made in Central Park.

  12. Brad Warthen

    That was the things abou “Guns,” though. It WAS literature, even if not “high” lit. At least one serious civil war historian gave him high praise for the sensitive, perceptive manner in which he dealt with the central issues of the war.
    You know what else I like? The parts in which disparate people, even enemies, find common cause and become brothers in arms. Germans, Jews, Brits, Russians Japanese and Americans banding together to fight the greater common threat. Or, on a lesser scale, Nathan Bedford Forrest making peace with Lee in order to be allowed to help finish off the AWB guys. Sort of like LexWolf and me banding together to fight off invading hordes of cheese-eating surrender monkeys or something.
    Oh, and bill: Fatherland is excellent, but it bothers me that it is a cross-ripoff of two superior books: “SSGB” and “Gorky Park.”

  13. LexWolf

    Heh. We may not agree on much else except Turtledove but cheese-eating surrender monkeys are always fair game.

  14. Captain Worley

    I couldn’t make my way through either Guns or Fatherland, although I still have copies of both, should I decide to try again.
    Another good alternative history novel is Missile of October set in a present day America which is now a third world country due to the effects of a nuclear exchange sparked by the Cuban Missile Crisis. Pretty entertaining book.

  15. Chi2Midlands

    First time posting – enjoy your blog as a newly-transpanted Midlands resident.
    I have been to Central Park and I agree it is such an awful layout and completely disorienting. My wife and I just wanted some Chick-Fil-A waffle fries and it was a baffling ordeal to find and get to it. Even as a certified (urban) planner, I don’t mind the existence of big-box stores and fast-food joints. However, Central Park is so amazinly convoluted in its layout, it is extremely driver-unfriendly (there’s no point trying to complain about it being pedestrian-unfriendly – it’s off the interstate and will inevitably cater to cars).
    Oh, and the map on their website is just as confusing as the real thing. Just a bunch of engineering/architecture drawings with color-coded zones, and a cute oblique angle that doesn’t help. Heck, I can’t even find the Wal-Mart easily on it.
    I’m grateful for Mr. Kahn’s work and his vision for Sandhill (I agree that the ballpark shouldn’t go there, though). Living in exurban Northeast Richland, it’s nice to see a local businessman care about creating human commercial and mixed-use spaces (even if the “real” urbanites decry it as not being “authentic”, and the NIMBY suburban folks decry it for despoiling a bedroom community region (which is unsustainable in the long run)).

  16. VOA

    Although not as good as “Guns of the South”, a novel I read some years ago entitled “Gray Victory” (I think the writer’s name was Robert Skimin). No SF, just a scenario in which the South held Atlanta in 1864, Lincoln was defeated for re-election, and the South became an independent nation. The consequences were highly unpredictable –

  17. Ready to Hurl

    OK, VOA, I think that I could swallow the “Gray Victory” storyline a lot easier than the Turtledove hash.
    I think that having 20th Century apartheiders (Nazis, whatever) travel back in time with machine guns to tilt the balance is a pretty cheap and easy trick. Deus ex machina etc. It seems almost insulting to the reader but I haven’t read the book so it may have other redeeming characteristics.

  18. Brad Warthen

    They weren’t “machine guns,” they were automatic rifles — AK-47s.
    Toward the end of the book, when the Southerners realize what a threat the AWB actually is and try to take it out, the South Africans DO deploy some machine guns — but only for their own use AGAINST the Confederates.


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