Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Douglas Airport noted for its quaint distraction

"With the latest terrorist incident over U.S. skies, air travelers are more on edge than usual and security lines are even longer," writes the Associated Press. "But if you're looking for something to distract yourself from all the worries and the waiting, a few airports actually offer unique attractions."

One of those is Charlotte Douglas International, thanks to its nod to the Southern way of passing the time.

"Pull up a rocking chair, make yourself comfy and set awhile. That's not the usual expectation at an airport, but the atrium at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina is lined with trees and white wooden rocking chairs, just like what you might find on a friendly Southern front porch. The rockers were first placed in the atrium in 1997 as part of a photo exhibit called 'Porchsitting,' but they were so popular that they became a permanent fixture.

"The rockers, made by Portico Furniture, have now been installed in 16 other airports, including Seattle, San Diego and Dallas/Fort Worth."

(Image from AP/Charlotte Douglas International Airport)

Monday, December 28, 2009

What will you be dropping (or raising) this New Year's?

New York has perhaps the most famous "dropping" on New Year's Eve when the Big Apple descends on, well, the Big Apple. But what other things get dropped across North Carolina on New Year's?

Here in Raleigh, we are quite proud of our giant acorn.

Mount Olive drops a pickle while Carolina Beach -- appropriately enough -- drops a beach ball.

They like to shoot in the air in Cherryville.

Charlotte will be trying something new this year. The Queen City's First Night event will climax with the raising -- yes, raising -- of a crown.

[T]he Queen's lighted crown will be hoisted 25 feet just before midnight Thursday to part the curtain on the new year [says the Charlotte Observer].

"We like the symbolism of hope's rising," said Moira Quinn, spokeswoman for Charlotte Center City Partners, the organization producing the festivities. "It's the rising of a new year, and shutting the door on a year that was tough on a lot of people."

So what about your city or town? How will you ring in the new year?

Quick hits: A hostel in AVL, what to do with Christmas trees, polar plans for the zoo and religion

Sweet Peas Hostel opens above Asheville brewery
"The new much-awaited Lexington Avenue Brewery will not be open for the holidays. But there is room at the inn upstairs," says the Citizen-Times.

"The Sweet Peas hostel, on the second on the floor of the brewery building, has already taken a number of reservations, owner Mike Healy said. The accommodations are basic, but clean and efficient, with 16 bunks, another 24 sleeping spaces on “pods” (something like the old railroad Pullman cars) and two private rooms.

"Sweet Peas will also offer a kitchen for guests to cook meals. Bed prices range $28-$60. The Sweet Peas entrance at 23 Rankin Ave. will be separate from the brewery. ..."

Christmas trees used to prevent beach erosion
"Coastal North Carolina communities are collecting old Christmas trees and sticking them in sand dunes to combat beach erosion.

"The Daily News of Jacksonville reported Monday that after stripping the ornaments and untangling the lights, coastal residents can recycle their trees at the Fort Macon State Park. Park officials will stake the trees along the sand dune line in areas where the beach is eroding. Officials expect to receive more than 1,000 trees this year.

"The retired Christmas trees serve the same purpose as fences without the expense. Park officials say the trees' needles collect blowing sand and can promote beach vegetation growth. ..."

N.C. Zoo plans polar bear exhibit expansion

"Officials at the N.C. Zoo are hoping a multimillion-dollar expansion of its polar bear exhibit will lead to expansion in the number of inhabitants in the exhibit.

"The News & Record of Greensboro reports that officials want to create a polar bear breeding program at the zoo, a move that could mean additional revenue.

"The $4.7 million expansion to the polar bear exhibit will accommodate some of the critical elements female bears crave in raising cubs: space and privacy. ..."

69 percent of North Carolinians value religion

"The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life just released their State by State Religious Commitment Analysis . Basically, that measures how the population from each state in the union values religion, how frequently they attend religious services, belief in God and the frequency of prayer," reports the Star-News' Amanda Greene. "(Did I mention I love these guys? Always great blog fodder!)

"North Carolina consistently ranked in the top 10 states with the highest numbers of believers in each category. Overall, 69 percent of North Carolinians value the importance of religion. ..."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy holidays, Nawth Cackylacky!

As we're approaching the end of the year, we're beginning to see lots of holiday-themed e-cards. Below are a few that I've received and wanted to share. If you have any that you've received that are N.C.-related, feel free to email me at collards12@yahoo.com and I'll post them. (And please don't solicit your own organization or business.)

From the Blowing Rock Visitors Center:

From N.C. State University:

From the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) at NCSU:

Hopefully there will be more to come!

'The Gift of the Magi'

This story by North Carolina's own O. Henry (real name William Sidney Porter) has become a Christmas-time staple. As Wikipedia puts it, the story "about young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money" is a "sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving."

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

The Gift of the Magi
By O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy birthday, South of the Border

South of the Border, that Interstate 95 "icon for motorists," has turned 60. So happy birthday, SOB!

The brightly lighted facility features more than a dozen shops, six restaurants, a small amusement park and a motel with 300 rooms, but travelers and employees acknowledge that it's not the same place it used to be [says the Associated Press].

Suzanne Pelt, head of public relations and personnel and a 25-year employee of South of the Border, offered an explanation for that change. "We have lots of competition now that we didn't have in years past. It used to be that we were the only motel between New York and Miami," she said.

I've stated it multiple times: as a young North Carolinian, I was devastated when I finally discovered that Pedro's home was not in my home state but was instead in one of the two "mountains of conceit," South Carolina. I quickly got over it, thinking that N.C. was better off not being associated with the tackiness that is South of the Border. However, I've proven wishy-washy in recent years; there's something so quintessentially iconic and Southern about the place. Though I probably wouldn't stop there in a million years, I'm glad it's still around.
(Photo from MSJE.org)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Banker ponies get new fillies

WRAL reports that a couple of new new fillies have been added to the herd of wild horses at Shackleford Banks.

National Parks wildlife rangers introduced the fillies, Sacajawea and Jitterbug, to the Shackleford Banks herd and released them this week.

Sacajawea and Jitterbug are of the same Banker bred as the herd, which numbers around 110 horses.

The National Park Services adopted the fillies from the Foundation for Shackleford Horses, which manages the herd and conducts genetics research.

(Image courtesy of the Foundation)

Quick hits: North Carolinians are pretty happy, and WCU makes a banjo player a doctor

N.C. ranks 13th for happy Americans

"People in sunny, outdoorsy states -- Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida -- say they're the happiest Americans, and researchers say they think they know why," says the AP.

"A new study comparing self-described pleasant feelings with objective measures of good living found these folks generally have reason to feel fine.

"The places where people are most likely to report happiness also tend to rate high on studies comparing such things as climate, crime rates, air quality and schools. ...

"Ranking No. 1 in happiness was Louisiana, home of Dixieland music and Cajun/Creole cooking. ...

"Rounding out the happy five were Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona.

"North Carolina ranked No. 13 for happiness, while neighboring Virginia trailed at 27th.

"California is 46th.

"Last in happiness is New York state.

And ...

"So North Carolinians rank 13th as the happiest Americans?

"Well, yeah, we can work with that. Being in the top 20 is OK. It’s all right. Something to be happy about," says the News & Record's Eddie Wooten.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has measured happiness, talking to 1.3 million Americans from 2005 to 2008.

"The places where people are most likely to report happiness also tend to rate high on studies comparing things such as climate, crime rates, air quality, schools and taxes, The Associated Press reports. ...

Banjo master to get WCU doctorate

"Call it an early holiday gift that can't be beat — famed mountain banjo picker Marc Pruett is getting an honorary doctorate on Saturday at Western Carolina University," says the Citizen-Times.

"t's the cap on a memorable year for Pruett, one of the region's premier bluegrass stars, who plays with the group Balsam Range. This fall, the band had a No. 1 hit on the bluegrass charts with the cut 'Last Train to Kitty Hawk.”'

" 'You could have knocked me over with a feather,' Pruett said when he heard he was getting the degree. 'At first, I thought it was a prank. But it's a very humbling experience.'

"Pruett, raised in Haywood County, is a 1974 Western Carolina University graduate. The school usually bestows two honorary doctorates a year, said WCU spokesman Randall Holcombe. Pruett was selected for his 'achievements as a professional musician and in appreciation for … love of the traditional culture of the Southern Appalachian mountains,' the degree reads. ..."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Queen City's on fire

The announcement yesterday of Brian Moynihan as CEO of Bank of America in all likelihood puts to rest any fears of the bank leaving Charlotte anytime soon.

The bank's headquarters will remain here, Moynihan said in an interview, adding that his office will be in Charlotte. Moynihan's Boston ties had raised concerns about his commitment to Charlotte [according to the Observer].

"We're committed to maintaining everything we do for Charlotte," said Moynihan, a Boston-based executive who said he hadn't thought about where he will live yet. "It's just that simple."

The decision gives the bank's employees, including about 15,000 in Charlotte, a known commodity as their next leader. But the choice is also likely to agitate investors who wanted a fresh start and to raise questions about the bank's ability to attract a big-name CEO from outside the company.

This is the second bit of good/great economic news for Charlotte over the past couple of days. Appliance maker Electrolux announced earlier that its headquarters will move to Charlotte, employing close to 800 people.

Charlotte's new mayor, Anthony Foxx, said Moynihan told him Wednesday evening "very emphatically that Charlotte is and will remain the headquarters."

The two agreed to meet soon, Foxx said. ...

The city, which lost Wachovia's headquarters in last fall's financial implosion, has fretted about the potential for losing Bank of America since Lewis unexpectedly announced Sept. 30 that he would retire at the end of this year. ...

[Former Mayor Pat McCrory] called the headquarters announcements "a sign that Charlotte continues to be a competitive city for major corporations."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hall, Moore, Bullock earn Globe nominations

Native North Carolinians Michael C. Hall and Julianne Moore received Golden Globe nominations Tuesday, while East Carolina alumnus Sandra Bullock picked up two.

Hall, who is from Raleigh, was nominated for best actor in a television drama for his title role in “Dexter.” Moore, an Army brat born in Fayetteville, was nominated for best supporting actress in a dramatic motion picture for “A Single Man.”

Bullock pulled off a rare double, earning best actress nominations in drama (“The Blind Side”) and comedy (“The Proposal”).

N.C. State alum Zach Galifianakis starred in “The Hangover,” which was nominated for best comedy.

This is Hall’s fourth consecutive Golden Globe nomination for “Dexter,” Moore’s fifth Globe nod and Bullock’s fourth.

Ricky Gervais will host the Golden Globe Awards on NBC on Jan. 17.

Golden Globe nominations | Michael C. Hall | Julianne Moore
Sandra Bullock | The Proposal

It was good enough for Thomas Jefferson ...

We toured Monticello on a recent trip to Charlottesville. Down in TJ's cellar was a note about the kinds of wines that our third president enjoyed. He liked Madeira. He liked port.

He also liked North Carolina wine. REALLY liked it.

In fact, in 1817 Jefferson -- according to the Jefferson Encyclopedia -- "gave the state of North Carolina credit for producing 'the first specimen of an exquisite wine,' Scuppernong, and praised its 'fine aroma, and chrystalline transparence.' " It should also be noted that by 1826, "[w]ith the exception of a 'sufficient' quantity of Scuppernong, all the wines on hand in the Monticello cellar at the time of Jefferson's death came from southern France."

Not bad praise at all.

So why do wine snobs still look down their noses at the "sweet" wines?

Sweet wines - or "comfort wines," as this poster states -- are those "familiar, simple wines that are inseparably linked to fond memories, or places, or events. While they typically don’t receive rave reviews from wine critics and won’t be showcased in glossy periodicals, they do have merit."

Sounds fine to me.

Krispy Kreme about to go crazy in Asia

Winston-Salem-based doughnut (some call them little bits of Heaven) maker Krispy Kreme said that one of its franchisees has opened the doughnut maker's first store in Shanghai, China.

"KKD Lotte Holdings Company Ltd. operates the new shop at the In-Point Shopping Mall on the Wu-Jiang pedestrian walkway. KKD Lotte also is Krispy Kreme's franchisee in the Republic of Korea and Japan, according to a news release [via the News & Record].

"This is the first of 35 Krispy Kreme shops the franchisee plans to open during the next five years [emphasis mine]."

Quick hits: Some football news

Edwards leaves Boone an ASU graduate
"Last weekend was a very significant couple of days for Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards," says the Citizen-Times' Keith Jarrett.

"On Saturday, the senior lefthander completed one of the greatest college football careers in the history of the sport in a 24-17 loss at Montana in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs.

"And Sunday he walked through the graduation line at Boone, earning a degree in graphic arts and imaging technology in 3 1/2 years.

"The team returned from Montana around 6 a.m. Sunday, and Edwards made it to the 2 p.m. graduation ceremony.

"Just 2.8 percent of ASU's latest graduating class received degrees in less than four years. ...

"He finished with 14,753 yards of offense in 51 career games, averaging 289 yards of offense per game. That career total is second all-time in FCS history, behind only Steve McNair (16,823 yards at Alcorn State from 1991-94). ..."

Applaud UNCC for seizing opportunity

"A lot of reasonable people are telling UNCC that this is not the time to commit to football.

"So when is that time?" asks Tom Sorensen.

"There never has been a good time to start football.

"There never will be a good time. ...

"Football is not official yet. Charlotte still has to meet next month with the UNC system's Board of Governors, who will approve or decline the football initiative in February. Charlotte also has to get approval from the Legislature.

"But the 49ers are closer than they have ever been, and instead of approaching prospective ticket buyers with a concept, they can go with confidence.

"I understand that student fees will jump. I understand that ticket sales - the school has sold 3,207 - have been disappointing. I understand that football isn't as essential as business or English, and that only in the SEC can students major in Gridiron.

"But college is more than academics. Football offers students a reason to stay on campus and alumni a reason to return. The 49ers are Charlotte's school, and some of us will be moved to drive there for the first time and perhaps realize why. ..."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

First Raleigh, now Ocracoke: Kate Spade honors N.C. with handbags

A couple of years ago, our sister blog reported that high-fashion handbag maker Kate Spade had honored Raleigh, the state capital, with a line of inspired handbags.

"The capital of North Carolina, Raleigh is a city known for its warmth and vitality, said Kate Spade's website at the time. "What's less known is that it was a center for modernist architecture from the late '40s through the '60s. Crafted from haircalf and woven into our custom pattern, the Raleigh group is a bit of textured luxury.

So what's left to remember of that period in Raleigh, other than the bags? The best-known structure is probably Dorton Arena, designed by Matthew Nowicki. But there are also a slew of homes in Raleigh, including the Kamphoefner House designed by Henry Kamphoefner at 3060 Granville Drive and the Matsumoto House designed by George Matsumoto at 821 Runnymede Road.

The bags, similarly, have the clean lines of the midcentury modernist movement. But they don't come cheap. The least expensive of the three, at $695, is the Raleigh Suede Small, a woven soft pony and suede bag trimmed with calfskin patent leather in charcoal gray or chocolate brown.

Now, the designer has gone a few hours east of Raleigh for more inspiration. Ocracoke Island has a couple of bags in its honor. [Lowercase type-face is straight from the KS website.]

"part of north carolina's outer banks, okracoke island is reached only by ferry, which only adds to the island's quiet splendor. in 100% cotton canvas coated with a shimmery finish and leather handles and trim, our stevie satchel is resort-ready. a zip-top closure and tie detailing make it a lovely mix of femininity and practically. simply slip in your essentials for a day at the office (or choose to play hooky and head for the shore)."

Quick hits: Cheap Trick to film 'One Tree Hill' episode, and the Asheville baseball team is for sale

Cheap Trick filming 'One Tree Hill' episode

"... According to Warner Bros., rock band Cheap Trick will be in town this week to film an episode of the Wilmington-made TV drama. The band will perform during a 1980s-themed benefit to raise money for Tree Hill High arts programs," says the Star-News.

"The band has been around since the 1970s playing a mix of pop and punk that has earned Cheap Trick 40 gold and platinum albums. ..."

Asheville Tourists for sale

"Two members of the corporation that owns Asheville's minor league baseball team said talks are being held about selling the Tourists," according to the Citizen-Times.

"Officials from Palace Sports & Entertainment in Detroit, which own the Tourists, didn't return phone calls Monday.

"But Mike Bauer, who is based in Asheville and is the executive director of Palace Baseball, said negotiations to sell the team to an unnamed party are ongoing. ..."

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Slump? What slump?

"Wary shoppers may be slashing their gift lists, but one Christmas tradition appears to be recession proof: the tree," says the News & Observer.

" 'People are going to have 'em a Christmas tree,' said Sheila Barrier, a Burke County tree grower who set up shop at the State Farmers Market this month.

"Even as the economic crisis gripped the nation last year, statewide sales of live Christmas trees were off less than 1 percent from 2007. And many growers say this year's sales are starting off stronger than last year's."

I can only speak for myself and my family, but we once again trotted out to the State Farmer's Market to pick out our tree. And what a deal! In the past couple of years, a 7-8-foot Alleghany County tree would run us about $65-75. Not this year. The tree we selected had a tag price of $59, but we were offered it for $50. We possibly could have gotten it for less.

So, the lesson here, support your local/state economy. N.C. Christmas trees may not cost as much as you think this year.

Christmas trees make up a small fraction of the state's $10 billion farm economy, bringing in about $100 million a year for North Carolina farmers. But they have become a bright spot for the agriculture industry as it has been battered by declining profit from meat, nursery plants and other high-value products.

Western North Carolina farmers grow about a quarter of the nation's Christmas trees, putting the state second in the nation. Oregon is first.

Some tree buyers say the Christmas tree is more important than the piles of gifts under it.

"It's the memory-making part," said Elizabeth Langfahl of Raleigh, who was buying a tree this week with her two daughters, 3 and 6. "My girls can't tell you what they got last year, but they remember getting the Christmas tree."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Quick hits: 'Christmas Town USA' lights up the night, and the Nature Conservancy saves a mountain

McAdenville lights up the night
"The Gaston County town of McAdenville transformed into Christmas Town USA Tuesday night," says the Charlotte Observer.

"For the 54th straight year, hundreds of buildings in the town are decorated with lights and other holiday displays. The switch to turn it all on was flipped at 4 p.m.

"McAdenville's lights – which annually attract an estimated 300,000 vehicles – date back to 1956, when Pharr Yarns installed lights at its plant and worked with residents to put lights on homes. ..."

Nature Conservancy saves a mountain (yes, a mountain)

"The Nature Conservancy has acquired 466 acres at the summit of Little Yellow Mountain in Avery and Mitchell counties, the organization announced Tuesday.

"The 5,504-foot mountain is one of the higher peaks in the Southern Appalachians and is part of a large corridor of protected land in the Greater Roan Highlands. Little Yellow can be seen prominently from the Appalachian Trail and Big Yellow Mountain Preserve. It is also part of the Audubon Society's Roan Mountain Important Bird Area," says the Citizen-Times.

"New York-based Open Space Institute proved a $1.2 million low-interest loan for the project, enabling the conservancy to reduce the total cost of the project, they said. ..."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Parkway aims to save vistas

From the Citizen-Times:

Private development is eating away at the Blue Ridge Parkway's biggest asset, and parkway managers say their ability to do anything about it is limited.

Surveys show that long-range scenic views are the main reason people visit the parkway — and they are not coming to see trophy homes on ridge tops.

Standing at the parkway's Bad Fork Overlook near Bent Creek Gap southwest of Asheville, Hendersonville resident Henry Simmons said recently he visits the parkway “just to see the sights, to see the way the overlooks look at different times of the day.”

Much of the land along the parkway “is already developing,” Simmons said. “At some of the lookouts, you can just see the difference.”

The rapid escalation of home prices and home construction that Western North Carolina saw during most of this decade has brought more large homes to areas easily seen from the parkway. ...

It's the most N.C. time of the year

I meant to reference this subject last week -- you know, BEFORE Thanksgiving -- but, alas, t'is better late than never.

Granted, these numbers are a couple of years old (too much work to research the new ones), but the point is still valid.

"I've always found it somewhat fascinating that beginning with Thanskgiving, millions of Americans will indulge in goods that are dominated by the state of North Carolina," yours truly wrote almost [two years ago] ...

At that time, the state was the second-largest turkey-producing state after Minnesota. (And probably is still.)

And then there are the sweet potatoes.

North Carolina has been the number one producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture. "Today more than 40% of the natinal [sic] supply of sweet potatoes comes from North Carolina."

And, finally, the holiday season closes out with Christmas trees.

"The North Carolina Christmas Tree Industry is ranked second in the nation in number of trees harvested and first in the nation in terms of dollars made per tree," according to the N.C. Christmas Tree Association.

"The North Carolina Fraser fir has been judged the Nation's best through a contest sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association and chosen for the official White House Christmas tree nine times (more than any other species) 1971, 1973, 1982, 1984, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2005, and 2007 [and 2008]."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, North Carolina!

We here at the Society offer our warmest holiday wishes to you and yours. We can't speak for everyone, but we feel blessed to live in this wonderful state.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. ...

They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. ...

-From Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, "this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Battleship N.C. featured on 'Ghost Hunters Academy'

Tune into the SyFy channel tonight at 10 for "Ghost Hunters Academy," which will devote an episode to supposed hauntings on-board the USS North Carolina in Wilmington.

"Ten sailors died in action aboard the North Carolina during World War II. For decades, visitors have reported strange phenomena aboard the vessel, including hatches opening and closing and strange noises. Many of the tales were collected by longtime caretaker Danny Bradshaw in his book, 'Ghosts of the Battleship North Carolina,' available at the memorial's gift shop," according to the Star-News.

In addition, visitors (as well as Bradshaw) have "seen the figure of a blonde man in passageways. Another figure sometimes appears in portholes. Doors and hatches open and close without explanation, and paranormal research groups report recording electronic voice phenomena (EVPs)," according to MyReporter.com.

(Image from Military.cz)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quick hits: A 'good year' projected for N.C. films, and how far away is Barstow?

'Good year' seen for local film industry
"Two statements earned spontaneous applause during the Cucalorus Film Festival State of the State address Thursday at Thalian Hall[ according to the Star-News].

"Both came from EUE/Screen Gems Executive Vice President Bill Vassar. The first put into words what most of the 100 or so people there have been hoping for since the 25 percent film incentives bill was passed in the spring by the N.C. General Assembly.

" 'We’re going to have a good year next year,' Vassar said. ...

"An audience member wanted to know if Wilmington or North Carolina in general could ever compete with Hollywood.

"Tenney replied with a simple, 'Yes.' He said his business, Southern Gothic Productions, has already proven this. It is an independent film company that has raised money in North Carolina, produced scripts by local writers, used local actors and employed local crew. ..."

'Barstow, Calif. 2,554' sign stolen, won't be replaced

"Want to know how far it is from the eastern end of Interstate 40 in North Carolina to the western end in California? Punch it into your GPS or try MapQuest.

"The Star-News of Wilmington reported today a popular sign showing the distance between Wilmington and the end of I-40 in Barstow, Calif., has been stolen for at least the fourth time — and the last.

"State transportation engineer Joe Chance says with the repeated thefts, there won't be another sign reading 'Barstow, Calif. 2,554.' ..."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poll: Southerners OK with federal help, even more OK with help for jobs

A new poll shows that people in the section of the country that has historically been more interested in states' sovereignty wishes the federal government would do more about job losses and the economy.

The Winthrop Poll of 866 respondents in 11 Southern states found the economy was the top concern of four in 10 - the same share of people who said they were concerned about losing their job, according to the AP.

Overall, the economy was the biggest worry for 39 percent of the Southerners, followed by health care and unemployment at 12 percent each. Meanwhile, 38 percent said they were somewhat concerned or very concerned about possibly losing their jobs during the next year. ...

The poll found abundant finger-pointing for the economic mess as nearly three-quarters of the respondents said banks and financial institutions took unnecessary risks and shouldered a "good amount" or "great deal" of the blame. The same percentage blamed economic problems on consumers for taking on too much debt and big businesses for poor management decisions.

Getting out of the nation's financial mess is something the government should take the lead on, the poll respondents overwhelmingly said.

Nearly 72 percent said they favored new government programs to create jobs. Meanwhile, 63 percent said the federal government needs to give aid to states in serious financial trouble. Those positions were strongest among Democrats and independents, while Republicans were narrowly opposed.

Nonetheless, nearly 58 percent of the Southerners polled said the current federal stimulus efforts were making things worse or having no effect. ...

The Winthrop Poll also found a sizable number of people who weren't decided on a national health care overhaul, the nation's biggest ongoing political and policy debate. Southerners were asked if they'd call on their federal legislators to vote for or against the legislation. Just under a third said they would encourage a vote for the bill and 42 percent said they'd encourage a vote against it. ...

The Winthrop Poll involved randomly dialed land and cellular telephone interviews with 886 people 18 and older in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The interviews were conducted between Oct. 24 and Nov. 7. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Parkway at 75: Asheville almost didn't get route

The Citizen-Times is doing a series on the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This first article looks at how Asheville -- the unofficial capital of Western N.C. -- almost didn't get a route to the scenic drive.

"It is hard to imagine Asheville without the Blue Ridge Parkway.

"For most visitors and locals, it seems as though the 469-mile road has always wound through the mountains of Western North Carolina, providing stunning views and access to miles of hiking. ...

"It was a very real possibility that the Blue Ridge Parkway could have bypassed much of Western North Carolina, dipping into the state and passing through Blowing Rock and Linville before heading into Tennessee and terminating at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"It was the hard lobbying of Asheville's tourism boosters, including the chamber of commerce and the newspaper, the Asheville Citizen, state highway officials and well-connected politicians that persuaded federal officials to choose the high-mountain route through Asheville and points west before ending in the Smokies. ...

"As the Blue Ridge Parkway prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2010, it is important to remember that the parkway was not always a done deal, said Dan Brown, former superintendent of the parkway and president of Blue Ridge Parkway 75 Inc., the organization heading up anniversary activities. ..."

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

WRAL explores the 'Devil's Tramping Ground'

I've noted before my childhood love of North Carolina's wild and varied ghost stories and general spookiness. One of my favorites has always been the "Devil's Tramping Ground" in Chatham County.

A couple of years ago I described it as the place where "Old Beelzebub himself apparently does his nightly planning here by walking in a circle. (A circle that never disappears!!!)"

My friend Chris took some video of the place back then; now WRAL has joined in with its "Tar Heel Traveler" series.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quick hits: Avetts to close out MerleFest and 'Mockingbird' actress dies in Highlands

Avett Brothers to close out MerleFest
The Avett Brothers announced via email last night that their only North Carolina performance of the first six months of 2010 (they're doing a New Year's Eve show in Asheville, of course) will be as the closing act of MerleFest on May 2nd (at around 3:30 p.m.)

"We have attended MerleFest, as fans and as performers, since 1994," says the Avetts. "There is not a finer or more welcoming music festival in the country. Those who make their way to Wilkes Community College for the event this year will find, as they would any year, a sincere and friendly place where the music is as colorful and beautiful as the North Carolina countryside that leads them there. MerleFest offers four days of absolute quality for the music-loving family. For us, in terms of performance, it is very much like coming home."

'To Kill a Mockinbird' actress dies in Highlands
"Actress Collin Wilcox-Paxton, who portrayed the false accuser in the movie classic 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' died of brain cancer just months after the diagnosis. She was 74," according to the AP.

"Her husband, Scott Paxton, confirmed Thursday that she died Oct. 14 in Highlands in the southwest part of the state. No funeral was held. Instead, the family held a service before her death.

" 'It's pretty special being at your own memorial,' said her husband of more than 30 years.

"She was diagnosed Aug. 11 with three brain tumors, he said.

"The actress played Mayella Ewell in the movie based on Harper Lee's Pulitzer-winning novel. Her role as the young white woman who accuses a black man of beating and raping her in her home was brief but memorable. ...

"Her roles in the 1990s included television series and movies that were filmed near her hometown in the North Carolina mountains. They included 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,' which director Clint Eastwood filmed in Savannah, Ga., and the inspirational TV series 'Christy,' about a teacher in the early 1900s in remote Appalachia. ..."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

UK mayor to dig for Lost Colony roots

From the North Devon (UK) Gazette ...

THE search for links between Bideford and the earliest American settlers will take the town's Mayor, Cllr Andy Powell, to North Carolina next month.

Mr Powell is planning to join high profile archaeologist Professor Mark Horton, one of the team from the television series Coast, and a small group of Americans on a series of exploratory digs on the outer banks region of North Carolina. ...

Aim of the North Carolina project is to establish whether Bidefordians were among the founding fathers of America.

It is believed some could have been among the Lost Colonists who landed on Roanoke Island in the 1580s- more than 30 years before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Plymouth.

The 117 men, women and children disappeared, but it is hoped to establish that they did not perish, but moved on to live with the local native American tribes to become the first permanent settlers of the continent.

In collaboration with an American research group, next month's test digs will examine areas where artefacts have been discovered, including what appear to be Elizabethan bricks - known to have been used as ballast in the ships of colonists - pieces of pottery and even parts of what could be an Elizabethan ship. ...

Through genealogy and modern DNA testing it is also hoped to establish links between people from Bideford and families in America that can be traced back to this era.

After publication of a list of the Lost Colonists' names earlier this year, Barnstaple businessman Philip Milton became the first local person to have his DNA tested.

Although several matches were found with Americans, genealogical research has not yet been able to take these as far back in time as the Lost Colony.

Five other families whose names might fit with the list had now also come forward, said Mr Powell. DNA test kits had been sent for from a laboratory in Texas, which would also test them.

ECU to open dental clinics in Ahoskie, EC and Sylva

East Carolina's somewhat controversial dental school is slated to open in 2011. Until then, the university will place dental clinics in three locations in the state in order to increase access to dental care in North Carolina.

The three locations will be in Elizabeth City, Ahoskie and Sylva, according to reports.

North Carolina's ratio of dentists to the population is below the national average. Four counties don't have dentists at all, and dentists in five more counties are close to retirement.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Appropriate: NASCAR Hall's first class has N.C. feel

It only makes sense that NASCAR's intitial Hall of Fame class would have a decidedly North Carolina feel to it.

After 60 years of racing, months of speculation and a final, spirited discussion among voters, the five men named Wednesday as the first inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame – Bill France Sr., Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Jr. and Junior Johnson – came as no surprise [said the Charlotte Observer].

The sport's founding father and his son (the Frances), the sport's all-time winningest driver and seven-time champion (Petty), another seven-time champion (Earnhardt) and one of the most successful driver/owners ever (Johnson) will be inducted into the new uptown Hall of Fame on May 23, 2010.

Petty is the pride of Randleman and Randolph County; a statue of Earnhardt stands sentinel over Kannapolis; and Johnson ran 'shine in the N.C. hills before running to greatness in the sport.

The building that will house the hall is owned by the city of Charlotte and operated by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

The $195 million hall will feature a theater, NASCAR memorabilia and interactive exhibits. The city is paying for most of the building construction through a hotel/motel tax. The rest of the funding comes from bank loans backed by sponsorships and sales of commemorative bricks.

It is scheduled to open in May.

Fore more, check out these Observer profiles:




(For some enjoyable reading -- and fantastic reporting -- check out Tom Wolfe's profile on Johnson from the 1965 issue of Esquire.)

N.C.-originated Carlyle to close

The signs are up at Carlyle & Co., the jewelry store chain that started in Greensboro in the 1920s: its days are numbered.

The restructuring firm that owns Carlyle & Co. Jewelers will close all 34 of the high-end stores in 10 states, including three in the Triad [says the News & Record].

The move will end an enterprise that had its beginning with a single store in Greensboro in 1922 .

Employees of what was once a family-operated chain with more than $100 million in annual sales said they had seen the end coming after the onset of the recession.

This is a sad thing to see. My sister once worked at a Carlyle in Greenville and still has fond memories of it. I bought my wife's engagement ring there; we'll have to find somewhere else to get it cleaned from now on, I reckon. We've even become friends with folks who work there.

And while I always hated the fact that this company sponsored an all-sports trophy between UNC and Duke (choosing to leave out N.C. State, Wake Forest and other N.C. schools and/or believing that people actually care about such a thing), I am still sad to see this most North Carolina of companies close.

Quick hits: Map of waterfalls & Charleston market to get face lift

New map is out on Western N.C. waterfalls
"Larry Odoski had become adept at answering outdoors questions.

"As the proprietor of Outdoor Paths, a map and guidebook shop in Black Mountain for several years before closing last year, Odoski answered constant questions, such as 'What's the name of that mountain?' 'How do I get to the Blue Ridge Parkway?' and 'Where can I go hiking?'

" But by far the most popular question was: 'Where are the waterfalls?'" says the Asheville Citizen-Times.

“ 'People were always asking where they could find waterfalls and which was the closest waterfall,' Odoski said. 'That's why a lot of people come to Western North Carolina — to see the waterfalls. I just listened to what people wanted and decided to make a map for them.'

" The result — about a year in the making — is the 'Waterfalls of North Carolina' map, produced by Odoski's Outdoors Paths Publishing company. The 26-by-28-inch topographic map shows the location of 301 waterfalls on one side of the map, which is printed on waterproof, tear-proof paper. ..."

Historic Charleston market to get upgrades, repairs
"Charleston's open air City Market, one of the most popular visitor attractions in South Carolina, is getting a $5 million face-lift, city officials said Tuesday," according to the AP.

"Millions of visitors come to the market each year to buy everything from sweetgrass baskets and local art to jewelry and regional foods.

" 'Few visitors to Charleston would consider a visit to Charleston complete if they don't come to the City Market,' said Mayor Joseph Riley. 'We want to make sure our local citizens see this as a personal treasure for them as well.'

"Work begins in January on repairing roofs, painting, repointing brick, adding signs and other upgrades to the existing market buildings which date to the early 1800s and were last improved more than 35 years ago. ..."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Report: N.C. top place in America to build data center

Rick Smith over at The Skinny reports that the state of North Carolina is the place in the United States for a company to locate a new data center, says a new report from consulting firm Tishman Technologies.

The New York company notes that the U.S. is the second best country in the global market for data centers due to a variety of factors. Iceland is ranked first.

North Carolina is ranked first ahead of Tennessee.

“There is an overwhelming shift in the business world today to build data centers in the most economically efficient locations in the world because the means and technology to do so exist now more than ever before, and the economic pressures to keep operating costs contained are formidable,” said Ronald Bowman, Jr., author of “The Green Guide to Power: Thinking Outside the Grid” and “Business Continuity Planning: A Strategic Implementation Guide,” the guy who wrote the report.

Iceland ranked first due to low energy costs and free cooling, while America ranked second because of low energy costs, favorable labor and fiber optics.

The rest of the top 10:

3. China
4. Latvia
5. India
6. Russia
7. Canada
8. Japan
9. New Zealand
10. United Arab Emirates

More worry that BofA may leave the Queen City

It was alluded to before that with the loss of Ken Lewis as CEO, Charlotte-based Bank of America may just pick up and leave in the not-so-distant future. The Charlotte Observer today has a more in-depth look at how this concern is being viewed in Charlotte.

"Some bank insiders worry that the new commander might be less committed to keeping the base here. They fear that the corporate offices could be uprooted to New York or Boston or another city, perhaps because the new CEO wants to make a dramatic statement of change - or because the person simply doesn't want to live here," says the paper.

"Charlotte and state leaders say they're determined to keep the hometown bank in its hometown, especially after losing Wachovia's headquarters last year. Gov. Bev Perdue has been talking with bank officials, shareholders and community leaders about the bank's future since Lewis announced two weeks ago that he plans to retire by year's end, Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said."

According to the Observer, BofA employs some 15,000 people in Charlotte, not counting a number of smaller businesses. The bank is, in short, "the sole reason that Charlotte can still claim to be the country's No. 2 banking center, a title that has defined it for years."

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat and member of the House Financial Services Committee, said he hasn't heard anything about Bank of America leaving beyond the concerns of local city leaders - worries he attributed to insecurities from the Queen City.

He said the concerns might say more about Charlotte than about Bank of America.

"It's a reflection of how we sometimes view ourselves as a city - the poor little Southern victim," he said. "We forget the advantages Charlotte has. ... We just have to get over the victim mentality."

For most of this decade, Charlotte has worried that the bank would move to New York, the home to most of its big-bank peers. In 1998, the concern was over a switch to the West Coast, when the bank - then called NationsBank - bought BankAmerica in San Francisco.


Some experts said that a new Bank of America CEO might want to move the headquarters to make a statement - perhaps to signal that the bank is shutting the door on a troubled year and a half. Or the new leader might want to signal that the bank is not just a consumer bank, but a bona fide Wall Street firm, especially after its Jan. 1 purchase of Merrill Lynch.


On Tuesday night, The Wall Street Journal reported that the bank had hired search firm Russell Reynolds Associates Inc. to assist in the CEO search - which could be a signal that the new leader is more likely to come from outside the bank.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Did 'Southerness' save lives on Sully's plane?

The Charlotte Observer has an interesting piece about Flight 1549, the plane that skidded into the Hudson River but was originally bound for the Queen City.

Apparently passengers on board recall a sense of calm during the terrifying moments. The reason? The fact that a bunch (100 of the 150 or so) of people on the plane were from the South.

"While there were sporadic acts of ugliness in the chaos after the splashdown - at least two passengers said their seat-cushion floatation devices were snatched by others - an inbred politeness seemed to be at work, says William Prochnau, author of 'Miracle on the Hudson: The Survivors of Flight 1549.'

" 'There's something to that,' says Prochnau, who assembled the stories of 118 of the 150 passengers for the book co-written by his wife, Laura Parker. Prochnau said in researching the book, they learned that whenever someone felt a rising sense of panic, others in the group settled them genteelly and guided them through the ordeal. About 100 of the passengers were from the South," says the Observer.

Even when the ferries pulled up to the bobbing fuselage to pluck passengers from wings and rafts, there was a cry of "women and children first," a gesture some female passengers later considered an arcane courtesy, Prochnau says.

"Certainly children first and those who needed assistance," Theresa Leahy, a Bank of America executive aboard the flight, says in the book.

"I appreciate the humanity that's happening there, that people are putting someone else ahead of themselves. But in an evacuation situation where time could be lost or other things could happen? ... You have to do the thing that's most efficient."

Other tales in the book include how the cabin filled with a putrid smell of burned geese and fuel after the impact and how a cacophony of prayers broke out - Christian, Muslim, Jewish - during the descent.

Mike Kollmansberger, an evangelical Christian from Lexington, S.C., says in the book he was certain they would all perish, but he was at peace: "I'm going to hit this water and go see the lord Jesus in 15 seconds."

Lori Lightner of Tega Cay, S.C., recalled thinking before the crash that her husband should collect double on the life insurance because she was on a work trip for Belk's. "Maybe it's a strange thing to do, thinking about your insurance when you are dying, but I'm a practical person."

What do you think? Is there something to this theory?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Western N.C.: Let the explosion of fall colors begin

"Leaf hunting and viewing will consume travelers, tourists and native North Carolinians alike over the next few weeks as colors in the high forests reach an exhilarating peak," says the Asheville Citizen-Times. "It is anybody's guess where the leaves will change first or fall last but conventional wisdom says the higher the elevation, the later the color change."

The paper goes on to recommend 10 "spectacular vistas" from which one can "experience the remarkable hues of changing maple, ash, oak and more," starting with the highest elevations and making their way down ... down ... down.

These images are my own. Click through to the article for more.

Blowing Rock


Chimey Rock Village

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The 'Wolfpack State' is the sixth most popular

North Carolina is one good-looking state, according to a new poll.

The Triangle Business Journal reports that North Carolina tied with Arizona and Washington as the sixth most popular states in the nation when it comes to where people want to live, according to a Harris Interactive poll.

“The most popular states and cities where large numbers of people would like to live tend to attract tourists and business,” according to a Harris news release. “They are places where people like to take vacations and where companies like to have their offices and factories.”

It apparently helps to have a coastline. California was No. 1 for the sixth year in a row, with Florida and Hawaii next in line followed by Texas and Colorado.

"Despite North Carolina’s popularity, no cities within the state made the list of cities people would most like to live in or near. Among cities, New York City took the top spot in the poll, followed by Denver and San Francisco," said the TBJ.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Fall Destinations: Leaves, Scots and seafood

Great Smokies a Top 10 Fall Destination

"The Great Smoky Mountains are a breathtaking sight, especially in fall when the mountain foliage turns to radiant shades of crimson, orange, and purple," says ShermansTravel.

"Nestled between North Carolina and Tennessee, the most-visited National Park in the United States is home to 100 species of trees with an awesome display of turning leaves.

"Peak fall colors are predicted for mid-October through early November; the most memorable foliage coming courtesy of sugar maples, scarlet oaks, sweetgums, red maples, and hickories."

Laurinburg brings Scottish heritage back

"Rona Wilkie stood in the shade playing a Scottish tune on her fiddle as a crowd gathered around on the grounds of Centre Presbyterian Church in Maxton Thursday afternoon.

"Wilkie, a native of Oban, Scotland, gave the locals a sample of the music she will perform this weekend during the Scotland County Highland Games in Laurinburg," says the Fayetteville Observer.

"Wilkie, a student at the University of Edinburgh, is a Gaelic singer and fiddler. She was selected to perform at the inaugural Scotland County Highland Games on the grounds of the John Blue Home and Historical Complex. ..."

A site for seafood

"After you’ve filled up with shrimp, crab, fish and other treats at this year’s N.C. Seafood Festival be sure to take home some tips for cooking up dishes of your own.

"The award-winning Cooking with the Chefs tent is back for a second year with chefs from Raleigh and the coast demonstrating their preparation of dishes featuring locally harvested seafood. Experts will also be on hand to share recipes and resources you can use to do the same at home," says the Jacksonville Daily News.

"A joint effort with the Carteret Catch program, the festival’s newest event is designed to promote and educate the public about local seafood while also entertaining them with the talents of area chefs. Joining the line-up this year is 18 Seaboard’s Jason Smith, who is known for buying local. ..."

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The end of the road in sight for the great BofA-Charlotte relationship?

Bank of America has been synonymous with Charlotte for so long that the word that CEO Ken Lewis is stepping down sent shockwaves through the Carolinas as people began to face the reality that that bank-city relationship may be in the final days.

"The decision means the end of Lewis' four-decade career and raises questions about whether the company can continue its tradition of hiring its leader from within," says the Charlotte Observer. "The move also spurs concerns about whether the bank will maintain its Charlotte headquarters, which has become more entrenched under Lewis."

Like BB&T and Wachovia, Bank of America has historically been a North Carolina bank, going through the names of North Carolina National Bank (NCNB), NationsBank and then Bank of America. (Full disclosure: My father retired from working more than 30 years with Bank of America.) The thought that Lewis' departure could mean a fracture between the bank and the Queen City -- and thus the state -- is disheartening.

In Charlotte, stacked with bank employees, retirees and investors, Lewis' departure was embraced by some who said he had become a distraction for the bank. They noted declining morale after the bank cut thousands of jobs in the Merrill deal. They also criticized Lewis' failure to line up a successor.

Others said the bank was losing an important figure.

"Ken is a great leader," former Bank of America chief financial officer Marc Oken said. "He has accomplished a lot over time as CEO. I have nothing but admiration for what he has done for the company." ...

(Image from http://www.zillyphoto.com/Clients/NCNB%20Bank%20brochure.htm)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Avett Brothers' new album drops [industry term] today

We're big fans of the Avett Brothers here. And I, for one, am extremely excited about their new album, "I and Love and You," which is released today. (Heard it via NPR's site; it's very good. The one complaint: no song with a North Carolina-centric title. Oh well.)

"It's their first album on Columbia Records and was produced by Rick Rubin, co-chairman of the label and producer for artists from Johnny Cash to Jay-Z to Metallica," says the Charlotte Observer. "On pre-orders alone, 'I and Love and You' hit the top 50 on Amazon.com.

"It's possible, of course, that this week turns out to be as good as it gets. The record could tumble down the charts, the part-time fans could wander off, and before long the Avetts could slide back down the hill they've spent all these years climbing.

"It's also possible, of course, that the opposite could happen.

"On major labels like Columbia - home of Dylan and Springsteen, Celine Dion and Beyonce - records routinely sell in the hundreds of thousands, and the top artists sell millions.

" 'We are at the table now,' says Dolph Ramseur, the band's manager. 'We're at the point where, if the general public likes the record ... well, things could happen that we can barely imagine.' "

The boys played Letterman last night. Unfortunately, their local affiliate in the Charlotte area cut away. Those of us in Raleigh got to see/hear the entire title track. (You can see it here also.)

The Charlotte Observer has done a very good job of tracking the band over the past week or so, so no need to re-hash here.

Update: As of 4p.m., "I and Love and You" is up to No. 22 on the Amazon chart.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quick hits: Tupelo Honey plans second joint, and the American chestnut makes a comeback

Tupelo Honey plans second Asheville restaurant
"Tupelo Honey Café plans to open a second Asheville location by early next year," says the Citizen-Times.

"The popular downtown eatery will open a larger restaurant in the former Stir Fry Café building at 1829 Hendersonville Road in south Asheville by mid January or early February, owner Steve Frabitore said.

"The original restaurant at 12 College St. will remain, he said.

" 'You will walk in and immediately recognize that it’s Tupelo Honey Café,' Frabitore said of the new site. ..."

Altered chestnut trees succeed
"In stands of tiny trees in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia blooms the hope of restoring a mighty giant, as scientists try to bring back the American chestnut from near extinction.

"Five hundred blight-resistant American chestnut saplings are thriving a year after they were planted in three national forests, a milestone in the long-term effort to re-establish the tree in its native habitat," says the N&O. "Reviving the chestnut, decimated by a fungus, would reverse one of the worst ecological disasters in the nation's history, reviving a major source of food and lumber that forest animals and humans have missed for more than a century.

"The cutting-edge genetic research that offers the promise of a blight-resistant hybrid could, if successful, also be used to stop the damage to U.S. forests by other exotic pests, such as bark beetles, the woolly adelgid and Dutch elm disease.

" 'If it works, there is a long line of similar ecological problems that are waiting for similar kinds of solutions,' said Ron Sederoff, a professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at N.C. State. 'There are 100 different threatened trees in our American forest, and each one has a disease or a pest that potentially could do as much damage as the blight did to the American chestnut.' ..."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Irish road bowling comes to the mountains

Heck, I've just gotten used to Cornhole being the game du jour, and now comes word from the N.C. mountains that there may be a new game on which to latch: Irish road bowling.

"Irish road bowling is a sport best played on winding country roads, with lots of hills," says the Citizen-Times.

" 'Of course, Western North Carolina has quite a bit of those,' said Justin Hunter, one of the founders of the newly formed Asheville Irish Road Bowling Association. 'Plus it's an outdoor sport and relaxed, which fits the personality of the area.'"

Road bowling is an old sport, dating back about 350 years. It was originally played by Irish soldiers. A road bowler hurls a 28-ounce cannonball, called a bowl or a bullet, roughly the size of a tennis ball, toward a designated finish line between 1-1.5 miles away. Unlike conventional bowling, there are no pins to knock down. The bowler who takes the fewest tosses to reach the finish line wins. ...

Hunter grew up in West Virginia, home to one of the sport's three major associations in the United States; Hunter's father co-founded the association in Ireland, W.Va., in 1995. When Hunter moved to Asheville, he brought road bowling with him, and in March, the association had its first meeting.

About 15 people regularly play matches here, usually on a stretch of Grandview Road near the Buncombe-Madison county line. On a Sunday afternoon in early September, the road bowlers gathered there for a match. ...

You're on alert, Cornhole.

(Photo from Steve Dixon, Citizen-Times)