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, 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 at 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.