Last night I was sitting at home reading as the sun faded away, and the droning of crickets outside the house gradually drowned out the sound of the words on the page in front of me.
This is the sound of a summer night – crickets raising heck outside, intermittent frog croaks from the pond, steady whirring of ceiling fans, the tumble of cat feet zipping from one end of the house to the other (oh wait, that’s every night). In Alabama, where I grew up, the crickets sing louder and for months longer than they do where I presently live in the steely shadow of the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment’s sharp edge. These friendly neighborhood sirens are my favorite part of summer – perhaps because they catapult me back into happy childhood memories, perhaps because I’ve grown grumpy toward heat and they signal cool nighttime hours ahead.
I wonder – will the crickets start their racket when the moon eclipses the sun on Monday?
Lately I’ve been hesitant to seek out answers to questions like that. Not knowing what to pay attention to sometimes forces me to pay attention to everything, which usually ends in wonder and joy. So I think – for me anyway, tucked away in a pocket of woods somewhere – the eclipse should be a joyful experience. I can’t help but have certain expectations of astonishment, but I tend to expect that out of any ordinary day, so nothing new there.
After reading Annie Dillard’s essay “Total Eclipse,” I also expect to be at least a little weirded out. (Find it and other essays in anthologies here and here.)
There are going to be a whole lot of people here in Western North Carolina on Monday. I’ve heard predictions of mayhem – nothing new there either. Some of us locals aren’t too excited about the impending influx of bodies and vehicles, but I really hope we can recognize how lucky we are to live here, and be kind to each other. Aren’t we also lucky to live in a time when a total solar eclipse doesn’t portend doom and destruction any more than the relentless daily news cycle does? How cool is it that so many people in this state, this country, this world, are going to be staring up at the sky together in wonder and awe, and maybe a touch of primordial fear? The world needs more of that.
We’re being told to prepare supply-wise as we would for an impending winter storm, so I have an apocalypse-worthy cache of toilet paper at the house, and my snowshoes are primed and ready to go. (Wait – what?) I can only focus on doing one thing right at a time, so today I’ll get food and, if I remember, toothpaste.
Warm sunshine. Rainy days. Blooming plants. The Earth is alive in this wonderful Spring season! This is the perfect time to have Earth Day. I guess that is why in 1970, 47 years ago, the first Earth Day was observed. Earth Day is held to “demonstrate support for environmental protection”. Topics can include environmental clean up and awareness to endangered/extinct animals. What Earth Day looks like is unique to each community.
Some community groups come together to do clean ups and activities to promote taking care of our precious planet Earth like clean ups of local parks and waterways to keep the environment in good shape for wildlife.
In Jackson County they are having the annual Greening Up the Mountains Festival. It will be their 20th year of doing this and according to their website it is, “Strengthened by its early roots as an Earth Day celebration, the festival includes a focus on environmental protection, sustainability, and promotion of local businesses and civic groups.”
Fontana Regional Library has materials available to help you and your family learn about Earth Day including ideas of how to get you involved in keeping our Earth clean and healthy for years to come.
Taking care of our Earth is key to its survival. Take a moment and think about how you can make an impact whether you decide to start recycling regularly, plant something, or just take the initiative to clean up trash in your neighborhood. It all matters and your efforts do make a difference! Happy Earth Day!
National Library week is April 13-19th and we want to hear about how the library affects you! What’s your favorite activity at the library? Is there a program you come to every week? Do you have a book addiction that would empty your bank account if you had to buy books out-of-pocket? We want to hear your story!
At Fontana Regional Library, we have something for everyone! We’re not just a giant warehouse for books!
We’ve got study rooms, computers, wireless internet, reading/study spaces, meeting rooms. We plan activities for children, teens, and adults- from storytimes to reader’s theatre to lecture series to computer classes.
We provide spaces for many organizations and community groups- rug hookers, homeschool groups, gamers, homeowner’s associations, bird watchers, garden clubs, hikers, genealogical & historical groups, book clubs, writer’s groups, and so many more. Fontana Regional Library strives to be the heart of our community.
Here’s just a taste of some of the things you could find at the library:
For more information, check out some other articles about what we do at the library:
In part one, which can be found here, talked about many memorable events.
Part two certainly feels different for us, since we were older and theoretically wiser and more mature when they happened. There has also been a seismic shift in the way that news is watched and disseminated during this time period, and that certainly shows in our reflections.
Remember that these are listed in chronological order.
#10 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace May 19, 1999
Chris: By far the greatest and most defining movie moment of my life was seeing Star Wars in the theater. The star destroyer at the beginning just kept going and going. Nothing since can compare to that. So the anticipation for this movie was almost unbearable.
I didn’t go too crazy, though. I didn’t, like some did, buy tickets to other movies (such as A Bug’s Life and Wing Commander) just to watch the Phantom Menace trailer, and then leave before watching the movie I paid for. I did go with friends to the midnight toy premiere at the local Toys R Us. I didn’t buy much, since I was broke. I was fascinated that it coincided with a new run of Hot Wheels coming out, and there were guys there just for that. And I do mean guys. The crowd that night was almost all male. One thing that is cool over the last 15 years is seeing Star Wars fandom continue to expand. Used to be a big deal when some girl showed up at a con in a Leia slave girl outfit. Now they are everywhere.
I did see Episode I on opening night. Downright giddy when those famous first words appear. As for the movie itself, of course it couldn’t live up to the hype, and it remains my least favorite Star Wars movie. But I did see it again that opening weekend.
Chris: Talk about surreal. At that time I didn’t go into work at the library until after noon, so it was my “job” to watch the news and report any updates to my coworkers. It is still hard to believe that this sort of thing could happen in this day and age. And of course on TV we got to see the lawyers and political advisors and such go on and on and spin things, which was pretty unsavory. Watching it all you felt like you could go in there and do better than the people on TV were doing. But of course many of the people involved weren’t interested in the truth, necessarily, but in “winning”. That was their job.
The habit of waking up and watching the news first thing persisted with me for a long time, fueled by 9/11 and the Iraq war, when I would look for the reports of where troops had been killed that day to see if anyone I knew might be one of them.
Chris: I would literally bet money that everyone reading this recalls that day. That morning I got up and took my boys to school, and then went to a friend’s house to help her with her two little guys. So PBS was on the TV, and we didn’t hear about this right away. I get that they wouldn’t interrupt Sesame Street with breaking news, but I’ve always felt they should have put something on a crawl at the bottom of the screen indicating that something was happening.
My friend suddenly says she got an email saying that the towers had fallen. Of course I was skeptical, but changed the channel and watched in horror as events unfolded. We didn’t talk much as I watched and she surfed, excepting some early sharing of rumors. It was much more a case of sitting in stunned disbelief.
On a side note, one of those little guys I helped corral that day turned two the following February. He had no memories of 9/11, but he did have an early interest in airplanes. For his birthday I wanted to get him something similar to this, but no airplane toys were to be had. No one was selling any. The only airplanes I could find at all were fighter jets. And now that I think of it, that tot turns 14 this month, so my opening statement for this section may be false.
Christina: My memory of 9/11 begins with it being a beautiful morning. I was living in New Jersey at the time and was on my way to a graphic design class. The drive was a long one, so I put on Howard Stern, and they were debating about whether Pamela Anderson was flirting with Howard and/or his friends. Howard broke the news and they weren’t sure how serious it was, and like most people (including myself), they assumed it was an accident. After taking a look at the damage, they went back to teasing Howard about not getting to date Pamela Anderson. A few minutes passed, but then another interruption came, announcing that a second plane hit the towers.
Howard asked if it was a terrorist attack, and his crew stopped making jokes and started talking about the carnage. They played news audio for their listeners, and gasped in shock when it showed the second plane hit. “We’re under attack,” Howard shouted, clearly frightened. “We’re at war.”
Not too long after I got to my class, where my teacher and fellow students were perplexed by the Internet being down and their cell phones not working. I told them what I’d heard and the teacher called his wife, who confirmed the attack on the World Trade Center. All of us sat around, unsure of what to do besides speculate, but then my teacher got a call from his wife telling him about the attack on the Pentagon. He dismissed the class and told us to be careful. I didn’t have a clear view of the New York City highline, but I could see smoke on my way home.
Christina: While I am not religious, I have family members who are, and Pope John Paul II’s death marked the end of an era for many people of all faiths. The world got to see the process for finding a new pope, and I remember watching it at work in the break room. The jubilation of the crowd when the white smoke appeared and Pope Benedict made his first appearance is powerful to witness, no matter what your beliefs may be.
Christina: Those of us who have lived in Florida all have a hurricane story, and in 2004 Hurricane Charley directly hit my town. I worked in a bank at the time and we had to work out of a trailer with an armed guard we dubbed “Rambo”. The people of Louisiana had a much harder time, however, and watching the devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was a sobering experience.
Chris: I remember seeing the footage of refugees at the Superdome, and waiting for the helicopters to show up, bringing in supplies. Seemed unfathomable that wasn’t happening. With Hurricane Charley the response was very fast, and I was expecting the same for Katrina. Different storm on a different scale.
After Charley we had a National Guard unit up from Miami bivouacking in the library meeting room. This was Charlie Company, of course. Some library patrons were quite startled to see soldiers with rifles using the library computers.
Christina: Even though I grew up in Florida and I was born in South America, I tell people that I’m from New Jersey because that’s where I spent my childhood and I feel a kinship with the often-mocked state. The Sopranos is a cultural milestone, especially in the NJ/NY area, and with Italian Americans. I should know, as my dad’s side of the family is Italian (I’m adopted).
When a huge show like The Sopranos ends, there’s always mixed feelings, but it was certainly a huge event in the entertainment industry. My aunt confessed she was going to feel strange not being able to look forward to a new Sopranos episode, as it became such a part of her weekly routine. She, like millions of others, watched the final broadcast and mourned the unexpected death of James Gandolfini a few months ago.
Chris: I didn’t watch The Sopranos at first, not until I moved into an apartment with HBO. Once I watched one episode there was no going back. The buzz that everyone had about how the series would end, and the reactions once it did end, was fun to be part of. It was also fun years later having my father-in-law driving us about New Jersey and pointing out landmarks from the opening credits of the show.
Chris: Wow, what a night. It didn’t seem like it could be true until that final countdown to when the west coast polls closed and it became official. It was nice to see so much joy and celebration in politics, even if just for a little while.
Christina: I’d had a headache and mistakenly taken pain pills with a sleep aid, so I was drowsy when Jon Stewart announced Barack Obama won the election. I asked my husband if I was dreaming, but he confirmed it. It was a historic occasion, regardless of political views and subsequent events.
Kudos to Stephen Colbert for trying to stay in character, though you can see him noticeably tearing up.
Chris: Such an iconic figure. I remember how much of an event the Thriller video was when it was released. I may not always have liked his music so much, usually enjoying the Weird Al parodies more, and I remember refusing to see Captain Eo on a trip to EPCOT, but I had been hoping that he would find some peace in his life. His death was sad, and it was sad that it wasn’t very surprising.
The best part is at 3:38:
Christina: A tragic end to a tragic figure. I grew up in the 80s, when Michael Jackson was indeed the King of Pop, and watched him morph into an unrecognizable person who became fodder for late night talk show hosts. I personally loved Captain Eo and saw it about three times (but then again I was a little kid, so cut me some slack). It’s hard to look past the scandals and rumors, but I try to remember Michael Jackson as the ultimate entertainer, and not the obviously damaged man who didn’t know how to handle fame.
#2 Royal wedding (William and Kate) April 29, 2011
Chris: I was taken aback by how big a deal the royal wedding was. I can remember Charles and Diana’s being a big deal, but I thought this one would be less hyped. Boy was I wrong. And with social media these days there was no escaping the frenzy.
Christina: I’m not a royal family buff, but it was interesting to see all the hoopla about the royal wedding. Unlike his father, Prince William is rather handsome and likeable, and his then-fiance was a beautiful young woman, so it’s easy to see how the media was especially enamored with them. Those of us who had to work during the wedding didn’t have to worry about missing any pictures or footage, as social media replayed it all day and night. I’m just glad my wedding didn’t cause so much commotion.
#1 Announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death May 2, 2011
Christina: This breaking news update I got from Twitter, and once I saw it on news sites I turned on the TV to confirm it. People’s reactions were rather mixed, but it did feel like there was some closure after the attacks of September 11th.
Chris: When watching the news and seeing people running up to the White House and chanting USA! USA! I was struck by the similarities to the footage of people in the Middle East reacting to the 9/11 attacks. Human nature, I suppose.
Chris: It was fascinating while doing this blog to see the ways that news has changed over the years, both in the ways it is presented and in the ways that we watch it. From everyone having a favorite news anchor (since we all watched the nightly news) to now where the news reports on what people are saying on Twitter and Facebook things sure have changed over the years.
We saw such up-to-the-minute coverage of the Boston marathon bombing that we were virtually watching the hunt for the suspects in real time. We have many different and new ways of getting our news these days, and also new ways of sharing key events and happenings with each other.
Christina: Like most breaking news stories these days, I learned about the Boston marathon bombing on Twitter. I kept people up to date and followed the story as it happened. While social media does give way to rumors and speculation, it is a good way to keep informed and actually witness history unfolding.
With the recent anniversary of the JFK assassination, the memory of that fateful day hung in the air, with people asking each other, “Where were you when it happened?”
Some events are noteworthy enough that the memory of them is ingrained permanently. We can recall exactly where we were, what we were doing, and who was with us when we heard about a major incident. A few of those were the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the moon landing, Nixon resigning, the Jonestown massacre, John Lennon getting shot, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Lady Di’s Royal Wedding, and the last episode of M.A.S.H. Our family members can recall these vividly, such as my mother being in home economics class in junior high school and hearing an announcement over the PA system. My father can still remember coming home from work and hearing about John Lennon, then driving around in shock while listening to the radio play Beatles songs.
John Lennon’s death is announced:
Although we belong to a different generation, we have our own memories that invoke the question of “Where were you when…?” and we thought we’d take a closer look at them. If you have your own memories of these events, please share them with us in the comments.
We came up with a list of 21 events that one or both us have memorable memories of. We have them listed in chronological order from the oldest to the newest. You’ll find numbers 21 down through 11 below, and rest will be in a future blog post.
#21 Challenger Disaster January 28, 1986
Chris: When I was a schoolboy in Florida they would let us go outside and watch the space shuttles going up. All you could really see was the plume it left going up, since we were on the other side of the state. By 1986 the novelty had worn off so we weren’t outside watching, which is just as well. The one thing I really recall from hearing the news of the Challenger explosion is the surreal quality of it. It did no seem like it could be real.
Chris: What I remember about the Baby Jessica incident is the feeling of community that we all had. It was scary, but we had optimism. With so many people rooting for her, how could she not be rescued?
Christina: I remember watching the news and seeing someone use a doll as a model for Baby Jessica and showing illustrations of how she fell in the well. Of course I became paranoid and kept a careful eye on the ground for weeks after she was rescued.
Chris: Cold War fears lingered throughout the 80s, but I can’t imagine it was as bad for us then as it was in the 50s and 60s. Still, it was there. The main things I recall from the end of the Berlin Wall: President Reagan telling Gorbachev to tear down the wall, and, embarrassingly, David Hasselhoff
Chris: I have vague memories of seeing troops in Vietnam on the TV, and can recall watching, on the TVs in a store at the mall, news of the U.S. bombing Libya in 1986, but this was completely different. To be able to watch live bombings and missile strikes from my apartment was a real lesson in reality TV. I think it also helped me to start looking at the world in a different way, as an adult able to draw my own conclusions about what was happening.
Christina: What I remember my mother sitting me down and explaining that we were at war. I was about ten so I had an idea of what was going on but not why. She did her best to explain it, but social studies class went into it a bit farther.
#17 Johnny Carson leaves The Tonight Show May 22, 1992
Christina: I never really got into late night tv until I was older, but I knew Johnny Carson was a legend. Plus I knew this was a big deal with all the celebrities coming to say goodbye to Johnny, and all the clips they showed of him hosting the Tonight Show.
Chris: Waco stands out to me because it was the first kind of its thing that I saw that required waiting. It wasn’t hearing a report on something already happened, it was something that was happening now, or more precisely something that was going to happen. As the stand off dragged on I expected some type of peaceful resolution to occur. Instead there were tanks and flames, and we were all shocked.
Christina: My mom and I just watched the siege in stunned silence. I can remember my mom saying “There are children in there!” and shaking her head.
Chris: This was the first incident that I “heard” about. A friend said that OJ was on TV, and indeed, there he was, speeding along…or, well, driving slowly along.
Christina: The entire trial took the country by storm. Later I talked a teacher into showing the verdict announcement during class, but I can still recall seeing the Bronco chase on TV. My dad called and the first thing he said was “Are you seeing this?” and of course I was…it was all over the news, and would be for some time.
Chris: First there was seeing Kurt Loder report this on MTV, and seeing his hands shake really brought it home. And then there was the public memorial service, which I listened to at work on the radio, as Courtney read his suicide letter and commented on it (“Then why did you do it, Kurt?”). Kurt’s death seemed almost personal to me. I was living in Seattle at the time, and Nirvana was so imprinted onto the culture there. It was the first celebrity death that I recall truly affecting me.
Christina: My best friend called me with the news. I insisted that she was mistaken, but turned on the TV and saw that it was true. I was fourteen and it was the first time I cried over a celebrity death. The second time was when George Carlin died.
Christina: I’d just come home from school and was trying to get my homework out of the way so I could play some Sonic when my friend called me and said a building was bombed and looked like it had been cut in half. Even worse, it had been occupied when the bomb exploded and there were numerous deaths and injuries, most of them children. It was truly a terrifying sight.
Christina: I was on an AOL chat with someone and I had the TV on, and breaking news told of Lady Diana’s car accident. I told the person I was talking with, and we kept each other updated on the news as it was unfolding. It was almost like a precursor to Twitter, now that I think about it. The tragedy itself was disheartening, especially considering that Diana had left two children behind without a mother.
Christina: My dad and stepmother are Seinfeld fanatics, and while the show lagged near the end (and the last episode itself was lackluster), it remains a classic. Thanks to reruns, it garners new fans all the time, and the ratings of the last episode just prove how influential it was.
Saturday November 2nd from 1pm-5pm Jack the Dipper will be donating 10% of ice cream sales to the FRL Reading Rover Bookmobile!
Bring your neighbors, friends, and family to enjoy an ice cream treat and an afternoon of fun in support of the Reading Rover! Free face painting and children’s activities will be part of this event. In addition, the Reading Rover will be open for tours.
But the festivities don’t end there! Stay a little later (6-7 p.m.) to experience the 1st Annual Jack the Dipper Ice Cream Eating Contest. Western Carolina University students will compete for male and female ice cream eating champion bragging rights. The contest is an additional fundraiser benefiting the Reading Rover.
Here are the results of Rover’s travels for the 2012-2013 school year:
6,331 children experiencing Rover storytime
582 storytime programs presented
29 child care center visited monthly by the Rover
9,290 library materials checked out for use in child care centers
Rover costs nearly $8,100 a month to operate.
Why is a visit from Rover important?
Many area children do not have access to books and story time at home
Early exposure to books and reading provide vital pre-reading skills necessary to prepare children to read on their own.
But before we continue, we have to admit; we’re a little biased. We met while working in a library in Florida, and after we moved to North Carolina and started working for the Fontana Regional Library system (in different branches), we got married in the Jackson County Public Library in Sylva. We also incorporated our library love and history in our invitations, wedding favors, and decorations.
The bouquet was silk flowers and paper roses made from old books:
We gave out books as favors, and Christina created “book covers” for boxes of candy.
Here is the candy cover for Lolita. Each candy was tied to a particular book by theme:
The mother of the bride made these bookmarks utilizing old books:
The favors table, before the candy boxes were added. Note the library card catalog drawer. We had guests use old book pocket cards to write notes and leave them in the drawer.
In fact, our story isn’t very unusual. Libraries have been host to plenty of love stories. It begins innocently enough. You meet that new co-worker, or a patron introduces himself to you, and before you know it you’re getting married. Maybe even in a library.
Kristina, who works at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin, met her husband in the library:
“He had moved here from Asheville, and did not expect to be impressed by our small-town library. He had no idea what he was in store for! I noticed him because he knew his way around the whole library- the non-fiction books- not just the computer lab. And one afternoon when our paths crossed on the Greenway behind the library, that was when he decided he’d better introduce himself next time he saw me. Thank goodness he did! I had no idea I was ready to meet the man who wanted to grow old with me :)”
Ellen, who also works at the library in Franklin, shared this with us:
“I didn’t get married in a library, (there just happened to be one next to the dressing room, so I naturally thought pictures must be taken), but if a person is going to go non-traditional, I think it’s a perfect place to tie the knot. You’ve got your tropical beach weddings, outdoorsy mountain weddings, your “eloping to Las Vegas” type deals…these couples surround themselves with what they love. So why not a library? For book lovers…well it’s an obvious choice. ”
And Jeff, the Swain County Librarian in Bryson City, met his wife in one:
“I met my wife, who has a MLS, in a library. I was working at the Broward County Main Library and she was starting her first day on the job as a Graduate Intern. Within a couple months, she and I were dating (a secret from other library staff) and within a couple years we’d purchased a home together. It took us a little longer to tie the knot – six years.”
We can relate to Jeff’s story. Some of our co workers didn’t even know we were dating until Christina came to work one day with a diamond on her finger. Some of them were genuinely upset about this. We did a nice job of being professional at work and romantic at home. Did we mention that she showed up wearing that ring on February 15th?
We even worked the Dewey Decimal System into our invitations. Here is a piece of that:
“Chris and Christina made their way through life, going to high school in Florida (917.5904) and eventually working in a library (027), where they met.
Soon they discovered that they had similar tastes in movies (791.43), music (781), and humor (817). They even shared a love of professional wrestling, specifically the WWE (796.812). Their biggest love, though, was reading (028), which made working in a library convenient.”
Weddings and libraries really seem to fit together very well. Dottie, the Jackson County Librarian in Sylva, shared this story:
“I was honored to help with a wedding in the atrium of JCPL, January 1, 2012. The wedding was scheduled for Sunday afternoon so we worked on the decorations on Saturday evening. I spent an hour or more untangling a ginormous bunch of helium balloons complete with very long ribbons. Being quite tired, we decided to scatter the balloons around the atrium (yes, the ribbons were that long) and tie them down the next morning. I was the first one in on the wedding day. All the balloons were tangled in one bunch in the center of the atrium–the air movers in the ceiling evidently all blow toward the middle! Another hour was spent untangling the balloons and tying them securely to chairs!!
The day had been overcast, but just as the wedding ended, a double rainbow appeared over the mountains and seemed to end at the library. What a good omen for a start to a new journey!
New Year’s Day happens to be my birthday. And what did you do on your birthday? Untangled a zillion balloons…. At the reception, the newly wed couple serenaded me with “Happy Birthday” thus making peace with the balloon war and gifting me with a special day too.”
What you are about to read is the true story of two library bloggers and their daring Wrestlemania 29 adventures. This harrowing account is presented in a back and forth manner, taking you from the road trip itself to each of the exciting Wrestlemania matches.
As we recount this gritty tale we will weave plenty of literary connections into it. Links for book titles will take you to that book in the library catalog. Links for other things will take you places where you can learn more about the topic being discussed. And as always we will have a link at the end that will take you to a list of all the books mentioned in this blog.
Tuesday, Day 1: Usually a road trip starts out in the morning. You wake up early, finish loading the car, grab the coffee or Dew or energy drink, and head off. This story is different. This trip begins at night, in the dark. The goal was to leave from North Carolina Tuesday and to reach New Jersey in time on Wednesday to meet with friends that evening.
The day started with Christina running errands and me visiting the dentist. We both worked until 8:00 that evening. Once home we grabbed a bite to eat, finished packing, and loaded up the Jetta. Such excitement! Plugged in the iPod, queued up a new playlist, and headed out.
Travel note: the 6th generation iPod we have was bought last April to use for our wedding and reception. It held its battery charge for the entire drive up there, and same for the drive back. Learn more fun things with iPod : the missing manual.
Match 1: Oftentimes, WWE will have “dark matches” before shows, which means they aren’t televised. This being Wrestlemania, they had a “prematch” before the big show started. Unlike dark matches, this one was in fact televised and featured a title change.
Fun fact: If you read the introduction to Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things”, you’ll find a short story hidden in there. How cool is that?
Wednesday, Day 2: Midnight is when this day starts, driving through the mountains. Clear skies, clear roads, and good tunes. I-40 into Asheville, I-26 up through Tennessee, and then I-81 in Virginia. the bulk of our driving is on this interstate. We always seem to drive through the scenic areas when it is dark. Christina handles this stage of the driving. We stop at most rest areas to stretch and keep awake, stamping about in the cold.
We stop for a sit down meal at a Denny’s in Wytheville, VA. Nearing 4:00 am now. In our younger days staying up like this was much easier. But we have things to do and people to meet! Must push on!
Christina is able to keep it up until about dawn, and then I take over the driving. I discover that 5 Hour Energy does indeed work. We get through West Virginia and Maryland. The end seems to be within reach. Most of Pennsylvania is done, and we move onto I-78. As we get to the Bethlehem area I suddenly feel a tug on the steering wheel. Well, the road conditions in PA are not great. But I notice that the battery light is now on, and that the steering has gotten tight.
I don’t say anything at first. Once we come up to an exit with gas stations I let Christina know that we might have a wee bit of a problem. As we go off of the interstate I realize that the power steering is gone. I’m able to manhandle the car into the no parking zone of the first gas station we come across.
This is not good. A call to 411 to find a tow truck or similar service is not helpful. Christina inquires within the gas station and the woman there tells her that there is an auto parts store nearby. With limited directions I head off on foot. And what do I find directly next door to the gas station? A Chevrolet dealership that has a service department. Huh. What do you know. I head into there, and they are glad to be of assistance. They even send a guy over to drive our poor wounded car to their shop. Turns out that the power steering belt and arm are gone. They quote us a reasonable price and get to work. Takes longer than anticipated since they had to get the parts delivered, but they stick to the quote and soon get us on our way again. Not as disasterrific as it could have been.
Now the plan had been to get to the hotel, grab a few hours of sleep, and then meet up with Christina’s friend Mary and her boyfriend for dinner and such. But it is already into the afternoon, and we haven’t even made Jersey yet. Plans will have to change. Christina gets a hold of Mary and finds out that she is not in NJ either. She is in Philadelphia. In the hospital, to be precise. They had been in a serious car accident the previous night. Multiple fractures to both of them. This is really not good.
Mary (not her real name, by the way) is an aspiring wrestler, training with one of the independent wrestling companies. She was scheduled to make her in ring debut in July, but now has two broken legs and assorted other injuries. This is super not good. Now, let me jump ahead here and assure all of you loyal readers that Mary is going to be okay. She is done with the surgeries, should be up and walking next month, and doctors are optimistic that she can resume her squared circle dreams. She hopes to visit us here in Franklin in the coming weeks.
With heavy hearts we drive on, passing into NJ, onto the Garden State Parkway (toll only $1.50), and make it to Clifton and the Howard Johnson we had our reservations at. Luckily our room is on the first floor. We unload the car and hit a conveniently close by TGIF’s for dinner and much needed drinks. Back to the hotel and finally sleep, blessed sleep.
Travel note: I find out very quickly that people drive differently in NJ than in western NC. If there is the slightest gap they are going to take it. But once you realize this and expect to be cut off than it is not so bad and the traffic flows. It turns out that I am not the only person to notice differences in driving styles: Traffic: why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)
Match 2: When you’re a fan of anything, you learn to deal with crazed optimism and cynical defeat. I had high hopes that one of my favorite – okay, my favorite – wrestling stable known as The Shield would win their match. I’m used to not having things work out the way I want in the wrestling world, but I was hopeful. My hope was not futile, however, as they won! I was the only one who stood up in our section and cheered (The Shield are bad guys and are often booed. But hey, I tend to root for the bad guys.)
It sort of reminds me of when I first read The Stranger. The main character,Meursault, is by no means a good person, but when we read it, we care for him, as the story is told from his point of view. It forces us to see things from his perspective, and naturally, we try to empathize, even though he’s cruel. The same could be said about Lolita, or A Clockwork Orange.
Thursday, Day 3: I’ve never slept so well in a hotel room. I’m guessing that exhaustion has more to do with it than the comfort level of the room. We were up approximately 40 stress filled hours.
Any existing plans for the day having been trashed, we set out on a quest for supplies. Google maps works wonderfully for this. Simply zoom in on the area and most businesses are listed. And what do we find within minutes of our hotel? Anything and everything we need. Multiple restaurants, a grocery store, Trader Joe’s, Target, Barnes & Noble, a movie theater, multiple drug stores, a post office, a 24 hour Dunkin’ Donuts…jackpot.
The rest of the day is spent killing time in the hotel room. No matter where you go there is still not much on TV. Luckily there is a lot of Duck Dynasty on, as well as My Cat From Hell and a replay of the Mets losing. Not ideal vacation time but understandable all things considered.
The plan for that night was for us to meet up with Mary and her guy at the famous Caroline’s on Broadway. Here is a partial list of the comedians who have performed there: Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Robin Williams, and on and on. Joe, a professional wrestler whom Christina had become acquainted with via Twitter, was also supposed to be there.
The plan was that the ladies would hang out with Joe and us guys would busy ourselves talking about guy stuff, like this. But since Mary wasn’t going to make it, I told Christina that she should go ahead on her own. It took her way too long to get a cab, but it finally showed up and she headed off to New York City. I headed to bed.
Match 3: Two giant guys collide! One of them is Ryback, who is over 6 feet and almost 300 pounds, and the other is Mark Henry, legitimately billed as The World’s Strongest Man. Some of the weightlifting records that Henry set back in the 90s still stand today.
Speaking of records, most of you probably envision Les Miserables and War and Peaceas huge tomes. You’d be correct; both books are over 1400 pages. The record holder for the longest book goes to In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, though – it’s 4211 pages in seven volumes. That’s almost three times the size of War and Peace and Les Miserables.
Friday, Day 4: My day started with the hotel phone ringing. It was my wife, who was still in the city and wanted a ride back. The cab had been very expensive, and especially after emergency car repairs we weren’t exactly flushed with disposable cash. So I grabbed a stray bottle of 5 Hour Energy and my keys and headed out for my first venture into New York City. Yes, my first time was driving into the city on a weekday morning!
My route took me through the Lincoln Tunnel, which has a $13 toll. Luckily I had enough cash on me, because they don’t take debit cards at toll booths. (There is a business idea for someone.)
Once you come out of the tunnel there is a large intersection where all traffic laws seem to be suspended. I made sure to follow one of my personal driving laws (yield for bus) and made it through. I was amused by the guy in the red car who blasted away on his horn at the taxi and bus in front of him. He was a prime example of an exercise in futility. The woman in the car with him did not seem amused.
Once I cleared the Intersection of Doom successfully, and without making a wrong turn, I discovered something very interesting about driving in NYC. The streets are laid out in grids and and are numbered in a sensible fashion. Very different than driving in, say, downtown Atlanta. With good directions I had no problem finding my way. And thankfully no toll in the tunnel coming back out.
By now I am sure you are all wondering about Christina’s adventures in the city. Well, by the time she got there Caroline’s was closed. Luckily Joe was still about and the two of them strolled around. Some people might ask me, hey, weren’t you worried about your wife walking about NYC after midnight? And the answer is no, not particularly. The Times Square area is not notably dangerous, plus she was accompanied by a rather large man. She was pretty safe.
So they wandered along to a bar which wasn’t letting anyone else in since closing time was coming up. But the doorman actually recognized Joe and let them in any way for a drink on the house! Yay! And as these things tend to go, people were met, conversations engaged, and now as a larger group they closed down the bar and headed out in search of pizza. Being NYC it is totally normal to expect to find an open pizza place in the middle of the night. And they did. And before you know it, it is 7:00 am, Joe is heading back to his hotel, and Christina’s feet are aching and she decides to forego the cab fare. And I get to be the hero who rides in to her rescue! Well, okay, she didn’t actually need rescuing, but it was still a mighty feat to drive into the city as I did.
The rest of the day was spent largely waiting to see if we would be able to drive down to Philly to visit Mary in the hospital, but that didn’t work out. So we went and saw the excellent Evil Dead remake, watched SmackDown, and called it a night.
Travel note: we had lunch at Anthony’s, a surprisingly large chain of pizza places that was within walking distance of the hotel. First thing they said was that they only do thin crust pizzas in their coal-fired ovens. We said excellent! Also, they had dark beer on tap, which seems a bit of a rarity in NJ, in my limited experience. Wish I could make pizza like that.
Match 4: We were excited to see Daniel Bryan and Kane (better known as Team Hell No) in tag team action. We got to see them at a house show back in November, but seeing them defend their titles successfully was pretty awesome.
Team Hell No is fun because it involves a huge scary guy in a mask and a smaller, bearded “goat face” guy going around demanding hugs. It’s all because they were forced to undergo anger management classes and the results were…interesting.
Saturday, Day5: Another day spent waiting around. Everyone was very keen on a hospital visit, but things like “minimally invasive back surgery” (I may be mis-remembering the actual procedure) kept getting in the way. Mary also wanted to let us use her Wrestlemania tickets, since they were presumably better seats than ours. Believe me, that was not a big concern of ours at the time. But in the end again no visit. Bummer.
There was one interesting thing that happened on Saturday, though. The opening mechanism for the trunk of the car broke. At least the trunk was empty of anything important at the time. Turns out this happens with some frequency to this model. There is more than one video on YouTube about how to fix it.
Travel note: I find most hotel or motel showers to be subpar. There always seems to be an issue with them being too small, or not enough hot water, or some oddly configured curtain system that ensures you will flood the bathroom floor. But the shower in this room was great. Decent size, great water pressure, and plenty of hotness. The term “hotness”, in this case, applies equally to the water and my wife. Of course the toilet was a good six inches higher than they usually are. Heads in beds : a reckless memoir of hotels, hustles, and so-called hospitality .
Match5: Wrestling is an interesting business and often becomes surreal. Case in point: Fandango. His gimmick, or wrestling persona, is one of a ballroom dancer who flips out if you mispronounce his name. In his Wrestlemania debut, he fought and won against Chris Jericho, a wrestling veteran and one of my all time favorites.
Fandango winning in his first match at Wrestlemania is an impressive debut. Some other people who have had impressive debuts: V.C. Andrews with Flowers in the Attic, William Gibson with Neuromancer, and Ian Fleming with Casino Royale, the first book to feature James Bond. If you want to peruse through other literary debuts, Wikipedia has an impressive list, sorted alphabetically by title.
Stay tuned for Part 2, coming your way in two weeks!
October is probably best known for Halloween, but October has so much to offer! John educated us all about National Cyber Security Awareness Month, but did you know that October is also Squirrel Awareness Month? And that October 6th is Star Wars Reads Day? Check out Wikipedia for more October events and celebrate with us at the library!
If you’re celebrating National Cyber Security Month, How to be Invisible by J.J. Luna includes tips on cyber security as well as other avenues of protecting your home, your family, and your assets.
Macon County Public Library’s Children’s Area is in full celebration for Squirrel Awareness Month. They’ve got a book display with squirrel themed books and an acorn scavenger hunt! If you can’t make it by for the festivities, check out Nuts: a novel by Kacy Cook. It follows a girl who, against her parent’s wishes, wants to adopt a squirrel she found in her yard.
If you’re a Star Wars aficionado, you’ll definitely want to stop by your library to celebrate Star Wars Reads Day. Check out Darth Vader and Sonby Jeffrey Brown, which follows an alternate Star Wars reality. What if Darth Vader had been more than just Luke’s father? Darth Vader plays “dad” in this interesting take on inter-galactic parenting.
October 6th is World Food Day and the month of October is Celiac Sprue Awareness Month. Satisfy your palate and tame your insides with Alain Passard’s The Art of Cooking with Vegetables.
Celebrate Health Literacy Month with Zoobiquityby Barbara Natterson-Horowitz. “Zoobiquity” draws on a wide range of disciplines to explore the parallels between humans and animals and what nature can teach about the human mind and body, sharing case studies about animal and human commonalities to explain new developments in health care.
Several branches of the Fontana Regional Library are hosting “Star Wars Reads Day” events! Check the FRL calendar for more details! There will be coloring sheets, stickers, buttons, bookmarks, origami sheets, and more! At Macon County Public Library, there will be a raffle for the 20th anniversary edition of Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn and a children’s raffle for a copy of Star Wars: R2-D2 and Friends. Everyone is encouraged to deck yourself out in your favorite Star Wars gear or come dressed as your favorite character!
Fontana Regional Library also has tons of fun and new Star Wars books to check out!
Following an ambush by the Jedis, Sith Yaru Korsin fights a mutiny led by his own brother, leaving him no choice but to flee with the remaining loyal Siths to the outskirts of an unknown planet where they face plagues and predators.
This book will guide you through a few common scenarios in which you might have to speak to Wookiees. A sound module allows you to hear and practice correct pronunciation. Learning to understand and communicate this handful of phrases will impress you Wookiee acquaintances and keep you out of harm’s way.
There’s tons more, too! Stop in at your local Fontana Regional Library branch to check out the display, grab some memorabilia, and enter to win a prize!
The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat! The Olympics are in full swing (and will continue through August 12th) showcasing the rise, and sometimes nasty falls, of the world’s best athletes.
There’s been plenty of controversy over the Olympics: from doping allegations to teams throwing games; even the television broadcasts have come under fire! So while you’re waiting for your favorite games to come back from commercials, check out some of these Olympic reads:
“Private, the world’s most renowned investigation firm, has been commissioned to provide security for the 2012 Olympic games in London. When the games are threatened by a madman bent on returning the Olympics to their ancient glory, will they be able to uncover and stop him before he destroys the Olympics?”
“Cyclists Zoe and Kate are friends and athletic rivals for Olympic gold, while Kate and her husband Jack, also a world-class cyclist, must contend with the recurrence of their young daughter’s leukemia.”
“‘Dream Team’ documents the story of the Olympic squad that won the gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games, assessing the achievements and legacy of some of the NBA’s greatest players, including Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley.”
“August 1936: The eyes of the world are on Berlin, where Adolf Hitler is using the Olympic Games to showcase his powerful new regime. Cynical British journalist Richard Denham knows that the carefully staged spectacle masks the Nazis’ ruthless brutality, and he’s determined to report the truth.”
“The eyes of the world watched as three runners–dirt poor Johnny Hayes, who used to run barefoot through the streets of New York City; candymaker Dorando Pietri; and the famed Tom Longboat–converged for an epic battle at the 1908 London Olympics. Standing next to Cait Murphy’s Crazy ’08 as an invaluable look at a bygone sporting era, this dramatic narrative is aimed at the recordsetting number of marathon participants in the United States (more than 500,000 in 2010!) and nicely for the return of the Olympics to London in 2012”
“After fourteen-year-old Joey experiences her first kiss and learns that her best friend wants to quit competitive gymnastics, she considers giving up her dream of winning gold medals in order to have a normal life, even as her sister and assistant coach urge her to reach a new level.”
Speaking of literary Olympics, from 1912 to 1948 there actually were Olympic art competitions. The first gold medal in literature was awarded for a piece called “Ode au Sport” by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games. Of course, it was submitted under a pseudonym; we wouldn’t want any Olympic controversy, would we?