Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A major part of childhood going away

When my family first moved to Dunn, N.C., in the mid-1980s, that small city had two movie theaters. There was the old Stewart Theater, the one-screen holdover from cinema's heyday. Then there was the Plaza, a newer, two-screen "multiplex" on the edge of town. I remember seeing "Gremlins" at the Stewart; it closed not long after. (It has now become a wonderful community theater facility.)

The Plaza kept on chugging, and for a city like Dunn it remained one of the few things for young people. Many a Friday night was spent first at the Plaza -- where your folks would drop you off -- and then followed by pizza at the Pizza Inn. You had to cross a busy highway -- on foot -- to get to the Pizza Inn. Relatively speaking, it wasn't that long ago; but looking back, it seems like a more innocent time. (Personal note: it was in the Plaza where I first, ahem, kissed a girl.)

Unfortunately, the Plaza's days are numbered. August 28 is the cinema's last day, even though it was recently refurbished. Regardless, one night last week only six customers paid to see a movie. And the assistant manager told the local paper that the last sell out was for "The Passion of the Christ" in 2004.

So, if kids in the Dunn-Coats-Erwin area are anything like we were, then probably the only thing left to do is to head out to the country and build bonfires. Yippee!

Any other N.C.-related "ghosts of childhood past" stories you want to share?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quick hits: Western North Carolina news and notes

State plans four-lane highway through national forest
"A four-lane highway that would cut through a portion of the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina would have little impact on the ecosystem, according to a new draft environmental impact study by the North Carolina Department of Transportation," according to Environmental News Service.

"Area conservation groups say that conclusion is wrong.

"The 10 mile section of the proposed Corridor K highway would run from Stecoah to Robbinsville in Graham County. NCDOT has not yet released specific dates and deadlines for a public comment period on the draft environmental impact study.

"The groups say the project is 'exorbitantly expensive, would pose a threat to local water quality, wildlife habitat and other natural resources, and would not be the boon to economic development it was conceived to be 40 years ago.' ..."

It's official: It's now Lenoir-Rhyne UNIVERSITY
"Red and black balloons lined Stasavich Place and pop music played over loudspeakers as crowds of students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members gathered to celebrate Lenoir-Rhyne's transformation from a college to a university Saturday morning," according to the Hickory Daily Record.

"The celebration recognized Lenoir-Rhyne's 117-year journey as young people lounged on grassy hills under shade trees to listen to university and community leaders who spoke in praise of the school's journey. ..."

Poverty rates up in Appalachian region
"The share of Appalachians living in poverty last year increased by 114,000 to 13.3 million, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday.

"But there was good news in the numbers," said the Associated Press. "Median incomes were up in all the 13 states that make up Appalachia except Kentucky, where the median income was $39,678. However, with the exception of Maryland and Virginia, those incomes across Appalachia still were below the national median of $50,233. ...

"Appalachia includes all of West Virginia and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. ..."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Unique to North Carolina

Today I finally spotted a U-Haul vehicle with a North Carolina-themed mural on its side. (It seems odd that this is the first time I've seen one; all the others have been for other states. I assume that's U-Haul's marketing plan: "Wow! There are sea turtles in South Dakota! I think I'll move there. Heck, I'll even use U-Haul!")

From a distance, I first spotted what looked like a Venus Fly Trap. I didn't have my eye glasses on, so I mumbled to myself, "that had better be North Carolina" -- after all Venus Fly Traps are native to (and almost totally found in) the Old North State.

It was.

(U-Haul's other N.C. mural is a Wright Brothers-themed one, which you can view here.)

Thinking about the Venus Fly Trap got me thinking about other things, people, places that are unique to North Carolina or are mostly found here.

Some suggestions?
-Calabash seafood
-Lexington barbecue
-Eastern-style barbecue

I'm sure there are more suggestions, but it's Friday, and I can think of no more. Any others?

Quick hits: Some good news for Loggerheads ... not so much for N.C. apples

Loggerheads nesting in bigger numbers
"Nearly two hours before dawn Wednesday, the beaches on Hilton Head Island are empty," writes Hilton Head Island Packet.

"The only sounds are of sloshing waves and the low hum of two all-terrain vehicles whose riders scan the 12 miles of beach for loggerhead hatchlings.

"This is a banner nesting year on Hilton Head, where 199 nests have been discovered. It is the second largest nesting season since 1985 – the year the local Sea Turtle Protection Project began.

"Loggerheads are setting records statewide and they're laying eggs in large numbers in North Carolina as well. Across South Carolina, more than 3,000 nests have been found and numbers are up in Georgia and Florida. But those numbers don't guarantee the species' continued survival.

"Despite strong nesting, biologists warn the population of these rare turtles, which can weigh up to 300 pounds and live to be 100 years old, is still at risk. ..."

Drought shrinks apple size
"The Henderson County apple crop could take a serious hit from the drought, with some growers estimating apple size will be down considerably," says the Asheville Citizen-Times.

"Apple processors and grocers want apples that are at least 2.5 inches in diameter, and growers usually have little trouble meeting that threshold. But the lack of rainfall this year has resulted in much smaller fruit in the county’s 6,146 acres of orchards.

" 'This year you’re probably looking at 70-80 percent of them that are going to be that size — at least 2 1/2 inches,' said Adam Pryor, president of the Blue Ridge Apple Growers Association. Pryor’s family grows 100 acres of apples in Henderson County’s Edneyville community.

" 'If we get a little bit of water in the next week or so, that could change. There’s still time for them to put some size on,' Pryor said.

"Marvin Owings, an extension agent and apple specialist with the Henderson County office of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, said the extent of the small-sized crop will depend on how much growers thinned out their trees this spring. The more apples they thinned, the larger the remaining fruit. ..."

(Loggerhead turtle baby photo from Wikipedia)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

OBX set to be the real star of 'Rodanthe'

Early reviews of the Nicholas Sparks-penned movie, "Nights in Rodanthe" have concluded that the real star of the movie is not Richard Gere or Diane Lane but the North Carolina coast itself.

On September 24 in Kill Devil Hills, the behind-the-scenes folks who worked on the movie -- which is set on the Outer Banks -- will get to see a screening of the movie. The next night, people in Wilmington will do the same.

The movie is based on the novel by Sparks, who lives in New Bern, and focuses on a relationship that develops when Gere's character visits an inn that Lane's character is caring for during a nor'easter," says the AP. A real nor'easter that later became Subtropical Storm Andrea developed during filming in May 2007.

In an interview last month, Sparks said the movie shows off North Carolina's coast.

"There are these scenes in Rodanthe, and you just get the wind-swept, austere beauty of the Outer Banks," he said. "It's co-mingled with a story that I'm proud to have written and that translated well to film."

Carolyn McCormick, managing director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, told the media she is working with Warner Bros. "for promotions such as a free stay on Hatteras Island and hopes to market the area abroad, where the bureau typically couldn't afford such promotions. In addition, the movie is targeted to women ages 40 and older, the same target market for the bureau, she said.

" 'They hit our target market, they showcase our incredible island' and it will show in international markets 'that we can't afford to be in on our own,' she said. 'And the title is Nights in Rodanthe. It couldn't get much better than that.' ..."

(Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dunn-born DMB member Moore dies unexpectedly

In sad news, Dave Matthews Band saxophonist LeRoi Moore, a founding member of the band, died unexpectedly on Tuesday from complications stemming from injuries he sustained in an ATV accident, the band's publicist told the media.

"Moore was taken to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, and had been rehabilitating at his L.A. home after the June 30 accident at his farm outside Charlottesville, Virginia."

I remember hearing/reading years ago that Moore was originally from North Carolina. I had no idea that he was actually born in my hometown of Dunn, N.C. Which means he can be added to the wonderfully eclectic mix of "I had no idea _____ was from Dunn!" list which includes "Father of the Airborne" William C. Lee and guitar great Link Wray, the Father of the Power Chord. (Also of note, I'll add, is that Jack Kerouak wrote about his brief hot dog-filled visit to Dunn in On The Road.)

Quick hits: The best in fall foliage and football

Fall foliage season longer than you think
"... Autumn comes early in Alaska, brushing Denali National Park with purple and gold in late August. In warmer climates and near sea level, fall colors can last well into November. Last year, trees in New York City's Central Park were still putting on a show the week before Thanksgiving," says the Associated Press.

"And while New England is the undisputed queen of classic autumn scenery, other regions brag about foliage too, from Yosemite National Park in California to North Carolina's mountains to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The U.S. Forest Service links to fall color reports in all but a few states at ...

"In most regions, color appears first in northerly areas and higher elevations, then gradually spreads to valleys, coastal areas and southerly regions. But precisely when the leaves turn, and how brilliant the colors will be, can't be predicted too far in advance, because it depends on early fall weather.

" 'One of the things that is really critical is cool nights,' said Howard Neufeld, a professor of plant physiology at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. 'Starting in September, if it starts to get cool but not below freezing, if you have clear cool days and cool nights, it stimulates fall color.' ..."

Speaking of Appalachian ...

"Three-time defending national champion Appalachian State has been ranked No. 1 in The Sports Network's preseason poll for the Football Championship Subdivision.

"Appalachian State received 97 of 101 first-place votes to easily outdistance No. 2 North Dakota State. Northern Iowa was third.

"Elon was ranked 15th," said news reports.

More on Decision '08: Krispy Kreme vs. Dunkin' Donuts

To me the decision is an easy one. When it comes down to doughnuts, the one -- and ONLY -- choice is Krispy Kreme.

But Dunkin' Donuts recently announced its decision to follow Barack Obama's route by actually challenging long-held supremacy in North Carolina. Dunkin' is battling Krispy Kreme -- a North Carolina staple -- on its own turf.

(Be sure to vote in our poll, to the right.)

Now, I will concede that DD has better coffee than KK. But that's like saying Papa Johns has better bread sticks than Pizza Hut. ("That's all well and good, but I'm more interested in the pizza!")
Greensboro News & Record columnist Lorraine Ahearn studies this highly-flammable subject today.

"Face it. Reporters are only human.

"And at a historic moment such as this, it's hard not to be swayed. Even the most hard-bitten and objective can stumble, succumbing to a bias that alienates us from the office coffee klatch, the after-church bake sale, even from our own breakfast nook.

"After all, this comes down to age and experience versus youthful optimism. In one corner, gravity, a track record and a promise of substance; in the other, lightness, resilience and buoyancy. When neither camp takes the low road, but instead offers a smorgasbord of possibilities, this is not an easy choice.

"But I confess. After one sample swig of Dunkin' Donuts Cocoanut Roast coffee at the West Wendover store opening Thursday, I'm rethinking my allegiance to Krispy Kreme. ..."

You're dead to me, Lorraine.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Oh, it's on now

"Dunkin' Donuts is going after Krispy Kreme, right in its hometown of Winston-Salem," says the Associated Press.

"Franchise operators for Dunkin' Donuts plan more than a dozen stores in Forsyth and Davie counties over the next four years. ...

"But the nation's largest coffee-and-doughnut franchise, Massachusetts-based Dunkin' Donuts, plans to challenge the hometown favorite.

"Sunny Patel plans five Dunkin' Donuts stores in northern Forsyth County. Sundeep Makhani told the Winston-Salem Journal he plans eight more stores in the area.

"Krispy Kreme spokesman Brian Little wouldn't talk about Dunkin' Donuts, but did say Krispy Kreme thinks there's room for everyone. ..."

Not in my household.

Quick hits: Why you should relocate to N.C. and Gullah culture gets some recognition

NC Magazine features its annual relocation guide and the top 5 reasons businesses should relocate to N.C.
"Business climate, education, government cooperation, quality of life and transportation are listed in the August issue of NC Magazine as the top five reasons businesses should relocate to North Carolina.

" 'The annual relocation guide is a great resource to people thinking about bringing their business to the area. North Carolina can offer great opportunity,' said Sherry Melton, vice president of communications for the North Carolina Chamber. ..."

N.C.'s Gullah culture gets some recognition
"When Michelle Lanier used to say the word 'Gullah' in Southeastern North Carolina, she was met with silence and blank stares.

"And when Lanier would try to explain the region's connection to the culture, which was formed by West African slaves, people would brush her off, saying the heritage was only a part of South Carolina's and Georgia's history," writes the Wilmington Star-News.

"For years the Gullah culture has been foreign to many people living in the region. Local residents didn't see the area's connection to the African slaves brought to coastal sea islands and towns in several southern states to cultivate rice.

"A federally funded heritage corridor, which extends from Jacksonville, Fla., north to New Hanover and Brunswick counties in North Carolina, was established in 2006 to recognize, interpret and preserve Gullah culture. The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor includes Georgia and South Carolina. ..."

Friday, August 15, 2008

N.C. cities are arts destinations

According to a press release, AmericanStyle magazine's annual readers' poll has ranked several North Carolina cities as among the best in the country for art.

Charlotte came in 17th (among 25) in the large-city category; Raleigh was No. 24 in mid-sized cities; Asheville was second among small cities; and Chapel Hill was ninth among small towns.

"In each winning city, there are artists, elected officials, arts councils and art lovers who have made a commitment to developing that city's galleries, museums and studios," said AmericanStyle publisher Wendy Rosen. "These cities recognize that cultivating the arts is good for their economy, but that is just the beginning. Look at some of our small-town winners: no matter its size, no matter how remote it is, a town can have an arts identity that generates good will, local pride and contributes to economic development."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Good eatin' in the Queen City

Southern Living proclaims that if you nibble "your way through Charlotte," then "you'll taste the New South."

"Shining on the Piedmont with a modern skyline and brimming with emerging restaurants, this is a city that savors the fresh and the new," says the publication.

"Charlotte's emergence on the food radar -- a recent and welcome debut -- combines fascinating ingredients: a surging urban renaissance, support from the country's No. 2 banking town, and fresh talent from the newest campus of Johnson & Wales University. This well-respected culinary school's 2004 relocation from Charleston, South Carolina, cemented Charlotte's position as the South's new food city."

Southern Living goes on to give a neighborhood-by-neighborhood tour of Charlotte eats, including Uptown ("Power lunches by day, buzzing nightlife after hours"), SouthPark ("Trendy and traditional," including The only Dean & DeLuca Wine Room in America) , and Plaza Midwood, Elizabeth and more ( an "edgy, eclectic" neighborhood).

Carolinas leading the way in Hispanic growth

The economies in North and South Carolina may be slowing down, but the population growth of Latinos is not.

"New Census data show South Carolina's Latino population ranked first among states in per capita growth from 2006 to 2007. North Carolina was third, with Tennessee between them," says the Charlotte Observer.

"The new arrivals come not only from Mexico, Central and South America, but also New York, New Jersey and California, where U.S. economic problems have taken a greater toll, immigrants and advocates say. Latinos continue to see the Carolinas as having more jobs, cheaper housing and a better climate. ...

"It's all about the jobs, says Angeles Ortega-Moore, executive director of the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte.

" 'The moment companies in Charlotte, or in any place, stop hiring undocumented people, that's the moment we will actually start seeing the decline,' she said. 'Enforcement is something people are willing to risk in order to provide for their families.' ...

"The Census says 633,488 Latinos lived in North Carolina in 2007, nearly an 8 percent increase from the year before. South Carolina had 168,000, up 8.73percent. Many experts believe the actual numbers are much higher. Nationwide, the Hispanic population is projected to nearly triple, from 46.7 million to 132.8 million by 2050 and nearly 1 in 3 U.S. residents would be Hispanic."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Folk musician Darling passes away in Chapel Hill

"Erik Darling, the reedy-voiced guitarist and banjo player who deftly stepped in when Pete Seeger left the pioneering folk music group The Weavers, has died after battling lymphoma," said the Associated Press. "He was 74."

Darling passed away in Chapel Hill on August 3.

The AP states that Darling was known for his hit "Walk Right In," as well as for his arrangement of the Southern crime ballad "Tom Dooley" -- which was based on the real-life story of Tom Dula. (Dula was a former Civil War soldier who was tried, convicted, and hanged in Statesville for the murder of his fiancée, Laura Foster. The trial and hanging received national publicity, and Dula became a folk legend. According to Wikipedia, there "was considerable controversy around his conviction and execution. In subsequent years, a folk song was written (entitled 'Tom Dooley,' based on the pronunciation in the local dialect), and many oral traditions were passed down, regarding the sensational occurrences surrounding the murder of Foster, and Dula's subsequent execution." Darling's arrangement would go on to be a hit for The Kingston Trio. That song topped the charts in 1958.)

Darling was also a member of the Tarriers, "known for its version of 'The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)' — the signature tune of Harry Belafonte."

He replaced venerable folks icon Seeger in the Weavers in the late 1950s, a few years after the band was blacklisted for its political views.

Weavers member Fred Hellerman told the AP that Darling moved to Chapel Hill a couple of years ago to be near Willard Svanoe, a fellow member of The Rooftop Singers, the band with which he recorded 'Walk Right In,' a No. 1 hit for Vanguard Records in 1963.

"He was an absolutely logical person to be brought in" after Seeger's departure, Hellerman said. "Of the next generation of Weavers, I mean he was so outstanding that it was hard then or even now to imagine who else we could have brought in other than Erik."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Our international readers seem interested in Link Wray, 'One Tree Hill' and Kristen Davis

Not sure if one can scientifically gleam much from the Dare Society's Feedjit traffic map; however, it sure seems like our international visitors have a keen interest in the following posts:

-'Sex' star Davis to launch fashion line at Belk (Peru, Canada, Bucharest)

-Wray's 'Rumble' among best guitar songs of all time (England)

-'One Tree Hill' picked up for sixth season (Bucharest, Bangkok)

-A visitor from Chile seems to be interested in musician Ryan Adams, while a Swedish visitor appears intrigued by the N.C. State-East Carolina rivalry.

These posts have been hit pretty often from our oversees (and across the border) friends. Why is that? Well, I can assume that anytime the word "sex" is in a title, it will probably fly up the search engines. Link Wray appears to have had quite the European following, so that one's understandable. Perhaps our Bucharest and Thai friends think the post about "One Tree Hill" is in regards to the U2 song and not the CW teen drama?

So, our international visitors: Welcome! And what was it that brought you here? Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

'Stay-cation, happy to get away'

If there is one brightside to the rising cost of gasoline, it is that tourists -- both from North Carolina and from our nearby neighbors -- may opt to enjoy what the Old North State has to offer instead of heading off to Disney World or Paris.

"Visitor spending increased 7.4 percent across North Carolina last year, to a record $17.1 billion, according to information released Tuesday by the state Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development," and according to

“Our very important state tourism industry continues to grow, even as the national economy is struggling,” Gov. Mike Easley said in a statement. “Tourism is a key economic driver, particularly for several of our rural and urban counties, and plays a critical role in adding new jobs to our economy and supports our other economic development efforts.”

Domestic travelers' expenditures reached $16.5 billion, up 7.2 percent from 2006, while international travelers’ expenditures increased to $607 million, a 13.2 percent jump from the previous year.

Visitor expenditures created 198,900 jobs and nearly $4.2 billion in payroll income statewide last year. Employment increased 2.2 percent, and payroll jumped 4.3 percent from 2006. Visitor spending also generated close to $2.7 billion in tax revenue for federal, state and local governments, up 4.6 percent from 2006.
Earlier reports had stated that our nice, clean beaches saw an increase in visitors, but apparently so did most Triangle-area counties.

"Wake County was one of six counties to register double-digit growth in visitor spending, with a 10.7 percent increase to almost $1.5 billion. Nash County saw the largest jump statewide at 12.7 percent, to $218 million," said the report.

"All Triangle-area counties saw increased tourism spending, except for Lee County, which registered a 0.4 percent decrease."

Who knew there was an Appian Way ... in N.C.?

While working on something completely unrelated, I came across this note in the Encyclopedia of North Carolina by William S. Powell:

The Appian Way of North Carolina "was a plank road built by the Fayetteville and Western Plank Road Company that extended 129 miles from Fayetteville to Bethania. Completed to Salem in 1853, it reached Bethania on 28 Oct. 1854 and at the time was the longest plank road in the world. The road's descriptive name suggests its important -- the ancient road of the same name built in in Italy in A.D. 312 extended 132 miles from Rome to modern Santa Maria Capua Vetere. Eventually continued into southern Italy, the Appian Way was considered to be the 'queen of long-distance roads.'"

Who knew?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Outer Banks are kinda popular

More people visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina in June than a year ago, despite rising gasoline prices -- or perhaps because of high prices.

"Statistics compiled by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau show a 7 percent rise in occupancy in June over the same period last year, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported," says the AP.

"The numbers showed, however, that restaurants experienced a slight decline in business, indicating that visitors spent less money once they arrived at their rental house. ..."

After all, they were probably homebound after spending a small fortune on gas.