Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day Trip - Ocracoke, NC

The Hatteras to Ocracoke ferry zigzags up the last, thin remnants of Hatteras Island before a brief jaunt through the inlet. A few minutes later, it tucks itself into the docks on Ocracoke and disgorges the twenty or so vehicles in an expedient and efficient manner. The caravan proceeds south on Highway 12 like camels across a desert, taking its occupants down the slither of blacktop that slices through the narrow island with the Pamlico Sound on the right and the Atlantic Ocean on the left. The thirteen mile drive to the village is punctuated by a few beach turnoffs, a campground, an airstrip and the famed but now corralled Ocracoke ponies. The ponies, former Spanish wild mustangs, managed to roam the island freely for upwards of 200 years before Highway 12 was paved. After this, the National Park Service penned the ponies in 1959. If your interest is in seeing what basically amounts to farm horses, it is worth the stop and free of charge.

At islands end, the tiny but vibrant village of Ocracoke greets visitors with small and quant shops that range from touristy to island trendy; OBX t-shirts are sold next to locally made jewelry. The village meanders in a crescent around Silver Lake Harbor which channels through “The Ditch” into Pamlico Sound. The harbor is home to fishing charters, parasailing and wave runner rentals. The narrow main street (still Highway 12) and several side, tree lined roads (with great monikers like Back Road and Lighthouse Road) offer limited parking but plenty of small village charm that encourages you to get out and walk.

The islands most famous and notorious tourist, Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard was killed near the island in November 1718. Not to miss a marketing chance of a lifetime, the village boasts a Blackbeard Lodge, Edward’s Of Ocracoke, Pirates Quay Condo Hotel and Teach’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit to name a few. Skull and cross bone flags are, needless to say, readily available.

A short walk up the aptly named British Cemetery Road leads to, you guessed it, the British Cemetery. In May of 1942, the HMS Bedfordshire was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off the coast with all hands lost. Four British Sailors, 2 identified and 2 not, washed up on shore and were interned at this small, well kept cemetery on Ocracoke beneath the British flag.

The 75 foot tall Ocracoke lighthouse, perched just southwest of the village proper was constructed in 1823 for a little under $12,000. Its white exterior is due to its coating of lime, salt, Spanish whiting (a type of chalk), rice, glue and boiling water. The lighthouse is the 2nd oldest in the United States and the oldest in North Carolina. Though it currently rests on private property, a boardwalk slips through the grounds next to the lighthouse keepers former residence and provides a close up view of the lighthouse and adjacent buildings.

Situated on Silver Lake Harbor is the Jolly Roger Restaurant, an outdoor eatery complete with sea gulls and docked boats. With a nice selection of micro-brew beers, my wife, two boys and I settled into a table and I ordered the 22oz Fat Tire Ale. The seafood is so fresh that the Bluefish sandwich advertised as the daily special had in fact not yet been brought in from the boat. Local mahi (not long ago still called the eco-unfriendky dolphin) was duly substitute and my wife pounced, though she was disappointed that there was only beer and wine served. I ordered the fish tacos which tasted of the sea and were augmented with wasabi mayonnaise. At $60 for the four of us for everything including a side order of hushpuppies, we were full and happy visitors.

We clipped along north back to the ferry dock and fed a few seagulls while we waited the ten minutes or so for the next batch of tourists to debark, then eased the van onto the deck for the 45 minute ride back to Hatteras. Ocracoke does not offer great adventure and thankfully it does not have go-cart tracks or splashy restaurants. It does possess island charm uncharacteristic of much of the east coast. Its gentle mix of tourist shtick and laid back, southern elegance makes it the perfect destination for a day trip from the outer banks.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I'm a Dad, I'm a Loser

Not so long ago, I could whip my kids at everything. I was physically dominating and intellectually superior. I was faster, stronger and smarter. Of course, these were also the days when my boys, twins, would still tell me they loved me and would jump in my lap on Saturday morning while I sat in my recliner and watched Sportcenter. Still, I gave them breaks. I played with them and let them beat me. Not all the time, but certainly quite often. Back then I was a loser by choice. When we played football, I’d fall to the ground with ease. I’d tumble down in a heap just to hear their pleasing, little boy laughs. When we played cards, I would be sure to let them win enough to keep their interest, peeking at their hands or tossing away winners while we played Go Fish. In our room I’d give them a good toss onto the bed, watching them bounce up and flail back down before I lay prone while they piled on. “I submit!” I’d yell, and they were the champions. When we played video games I’d maneuver in a way that let them get the best of me.

As I write this I consider my current standing and wonder if I was perhaps a bit overzealous in my desire to lose, as I fear it might have hindered my ability to ever reclaim my paternal, silverback role in the home. Right now, my boys (I say “my” but I really mean “our.” My wife, who deals with more bathroom humor than Alcosan does sewage, has managed to teach these two hellions grace, humility and kindness, and she gets many voluntary “I love yous.”) are in the back yard chucking a lacrosse ball around with their friends. I am quite certain they are not even aware I am here. I am also quite sure that their friends would speak to me before they would. Just today I was painfully reminded of how uncool I could be. We were walking across our cul-de-sac and I purposely grabbed my one son’s hand, just like the old days. He was so distracted that I felt his hand actually hold mine. After about two seconds, he realized his egregious error, and in one deft motion as if a caiman had sprung from a swamp and sunk his needle like teeth into him, ripped his hand away while spinning to face me and delivered a right legged kick to my shin. He laughed, his brother laughed and like a baby I said “Don’t kick me!”

My dilemma is now this; I have a hard time winning even when I want to. When we wrestle, I am in essence tangling with a 200 pound man with four arms, four legs, four knees and four elbows who possesses dexterity that is unparalleled, resilient stamina and no comprehension of his own strength. Multiple blows rein down on me with a ferocity of a young Mike Tyson. A favorite tactic is for one of them to distract me, or better yet choke me while the other runs at a full sprint from down the hall and launches himself kamikaze style into my rib cage. I become completely defensive and generally curl up in a ball until the beating stops or worse, when my wife says “Boys, you are going to hurt daddy!”

The last time I played Madden football on our game station against one of the boys, I was schooled to the tune of 88-0. That’s right; my son scored eleven touchdowns, and while he was at it, figured he should go for the two-point conversion every time. I ran three plays every series before punting and totaled about 25 yards. There wasn’t a beating like that since my 6th grade basketball team was thrashed by forty points at St. Malachy’s tournament and I threw up at center court after the game. After his fifth fade route touchdown off of play-action, I foolishly inquired as to how in God’s name he did it. He replied, “circle, triangle, triangle, R1, square, L2, circle.” I asked him if I couldn’t do it by simply hitting “square” on the controller because I had no idea where those other buttons even were, let alone being able to hit them in that exact order in under a second. While his fingers glided over the buttons like Yngwie Malmsteen’s over a fret board, mine fumbled about like tourists after a booze cruise in Barbados (I know of which I speak.)

I could go on but the point is this. They are eleven years old now and already do many things better than their old man, and in eleven more years will probably be doing everything better. They are tall, smart, athletic and handsome, and while they get supreme enjoyment from making a fool of me, or hurting me or otherwise just beating me, they never fail to show mom the attention she deserves. They may not sit on my lap anymore, but we still watch Sportcenter Saturday mornings. All of that is fine, because in eleven years and eleven after that I still get to be their dad. So there, tough guys, try to beat that out of your old man!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Title Madness

I had wanted to call this blog "Enjoy Every Sandwich." Someone else is obviously a fan of Warren Zevon as this was a quote he gave Dave Letterman on his last appearance not long before his death. So, I briefly considered "Sludge Factory," the title of an Alice In Chains song but decided the copyright lawyers would track me down. Looking around the kitchen desk I was sitting at for inspiration, there were three choices; 1) Class Picnic On June 9th (letter from school), 2) 1,789 Life-Changing Health, Fitness, Nutrition and Styke Tips (the cover of Men's Health Magazine), and 3) Deluxe Mixed Nuts (the empty jar sitting next to me.)
I was in a hurry to title this beast because I wanted to get out and drink with my wife and neighbors, it was Friday night after all. Looking around now, I guess I could have also gone with "Estimated Personal Savings Analysis