Category: Charlotte


On August 24th, 79AD, one day following Vulcanalia, the Roman festival for the god of fire, Mt Vesuvius erupted and buried the town of Pompeii in layers of ash and pumice.  At the time, those living in Pompeii were not even aware that the beautiful mountain dominating their horizon was an active volcano.  In fact, the hadn’t even a word yet for volcano in their vocabulary.

Charlotte, NC was one of only four cities in the United States granted permission to display for the next few months artifacts and the body casts of people, pets and even livestock uncovered in Pompeii.  

Today I took the girls to the exhibit.  I knew I couldn’t fully explain the devastation, so I did my best to help them understand what we would be seeing once we entered the exhibit by showing them a BBC film about the disaster and also by talking about what life would have been like for people living 2000 years ago.  

Inside the museum we saw frescos – (and we learned the word fresco translated into English means “fresh” and described the method of painting murals while the plaster was still wet, or fresh) – preserved by the hot ash ovens with bread still inside, jewelry, currency, and several types of amphorae which were large ceramic vessels that held oil, wine, fish or grain.  Inscribed on one of these amphora was the Latin word “Auctus” which gave rise to our English word meaning auction.  The writing also described the day the piece was sold at auction, “under a blue sky” and the name of either the buyer or the seller.  This information was relayed to us by a scholar and actress dressed as if she had just walked out of the first century.     

I didn’t realize we would be seeing the body-casts.  We were lead down a dark hall into a darkened room where only the eerie white casts of bodies could be seen.  These casts were made by Giuseppe Fiorelli who excavated the site during the nineteenth century.  According to Wiki, “During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was Fiorelli who realised these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies…”  Fiorelli devised a way of injecting plaster into the molds thus preserving the bodies of victims of Vesuvius down to the expressions on their faces.  

Even I was not prepared for the emotions that swept through me.  And my youngest begged to go home.  The sight was both compelling and humbling:   The dog chained and without hope of surviving; the couple holding each-other in one final embrace; the slaves whose legs were bound; the woman who tried in vain to cover her face with a cloth against the toxic plume; the pig whose ribs shown through patches of thick skin.  The images will haunt me for some time.  Not in the bad way you might imagine, but in a way that reminds us of our own mortality and keeps us present in the moment.  These casts are the ghosts of our history and they tell their own stories to us individually.  

A walk through uptown concluded our day in Pompeii where our cityscape, though taller, is not all that different.  We still build monuments to ourselves of marble and adorn these buildings with art and sculpture.  We walk the crowded streets full of bustling commerce.  And we walk among those more or less fortunate than ourselves in that imaginary hierarchy that means little in the scheme of things; for the slaves of Pompeii are remembered and revered alongside the wealthiest and most influential members of their society. 

Above: Bronze statues at Trade and Tryon, the Hearst Tower (my favorite building)

And I can’t leave out the gals who had a splendid adventure.  I love that Wolfy is just fixated on the Bank of America tower.  You can’t see the top when your standing at street level – it’s pretty magical for a little person.

I’m so sick of being treated like a lesser woman because I’m not gainfully employed while working as a mother to three children.  I’m not a SOCCER MOM (what the hell does this mean, really?!), or a STAY AT HOME MOM (I get out of the house plenty to walk the dog, get groceries, a walk in the park, etc.), or UNEMPLOYED (for tax-purposes only – if I were paid for the job I do, I’d be making six-figures), I used to write STUDENT as my profession because I was embarrassed to say MOTHER.  

When you get right down to it, what career is more important than motherhood?  We’re shaping the future.  Of course, I am not going to ask women not to work outside the home, but I would appreciate some RESPECT for the work I do as both a mother and person.  

I mean even those women labeled “soccer moms” whomever you are – I can only picture an AYSO soccer bumper-sticker on the back some mini-van – are individuals first before they fall under some broad-umbrella title.  We all share the same concerns over our children’s future; we all worry about things like global climate change, dental health, schools and education, crime-stats, time and yeah, even stuff like soccer schedules.  

Anyway, I just needed to vent.  I’ve not experienced much of this in Charlotte.  Actually quite the opposite!  A man behind me in line practically balled me out the other day when I apologized for taking too long getting my bags out of his way.  He said, “We should be helping you!  You’re the one balancing six bags of groceries and three children.”  No, I didn’t check for a ring.  🙂

There’s a man I pass often on my morning walks with Celli.  He looks like a young Morgan Freeman, always wearing a blue shirt and dark blue pants, with a worn, wise look across his face and sometimes a hat; sometimes not.  Always, he smiles warmly and says hello.  This morning, as he passed, I was busy listening to the foreman yelling at the Mexican men brought up from Texas to work on the condo development next door.  The foreman’s voice carried well, “What are you doing?  Don’t speak like that.  Don’t speak Spanish here!”

I was about to ball him out, when the Morgan Freeman man passed and I watched as he shook his head and smiled at the foreman.  It sort of took the wind out of my sails, and yet as I watched one of the Mexican men smile back I knew we were all in the same frame of mind.  The foreman was a creep, but we weren’t going to let it ruin our day.

Celli finished sniffing some shrub and I walked swiftly to catch up to the younger version of Morgan Freeman.  As I caught up, he looked down at me and raised his cup of coffee.  I said, “You look like you’re enjoying yourself.”  His walk was slow, his gaze always turning to take in the next sight.  He didn’t walk like the rest of the Uptown lot – with their fast-paced, eyes-forward, ears plugged into the iPod strapped around their pin-stripped arms.  “I take it all in,” he said gesturing to the magnificent city before us glittering in the new sunlight.  “Hmmm,” I said, “It really is the most beautiful part of the day.”  

“Yes it is!” he agreed, his stride not once faltering.  

I was holding a green bag full of smelly dog mess, so I felt it rude to continue walking beside him.  I hurried ahead to drop off the bag in the receptacle, but afterward, I stopped and let Celli sniff the grass.  I looked up at the city, at the trees framing it, and I listened for a moment to birds, the train, the sound of high-heels on concrete, of traffic, horns, a lawn-mower just over the hill cutting grass.  My stride was slower as I walked toward the building.  I was taking it all in.

Plastic bags are very difficult to recycle and very few make it to the recycling phase.  Most end up in landfills, or scattered across the country-side and in our waterways where they are ingested by smaller and smaller creatures until there’s a level of petroleum detectable all the way up the food-chain.  SO, the next time asks you whether you prefer paper or plastic, bring them cloth or tell them paper because it’s easily recycled.  Donate bags, if your store will accept them, or encourage a friend to bring his/her own bags when shopping.  It all makes a difference.  

Yesterday, when I asked the Home Economist about going to paper, I learned that this is the first week they are plastic-free!  I spoke with them about bag donation (since I think slowing the purchasing of paper bags (which come from beautiful CO2-absorbing trees) is a good next step).

Sunday mornings are always quiet in Uptown.  The business folk are home and the more playful bunch is sleeping off the night before; few people, if any, walk the streets.  This morning is no exception – except it is quieter.  And an eerie haze filters sunlight between buildings, casting odd shadows everywhere.  While walking Celli, I imagine I have slept through an alien invasion.  As I walk along the vacant tracks of the light rail, past abandoned construction equipment and vacant parking-lots, I can hear the voice of a man who has witnessed the terror.  He calls from the balcony of the Arlington, “What are you doing?  Get off the street; they’re coming, they’re coming!”  I see movement through the chain-link fence that separates our building from the site of the future condo development, but I think it is only my imagination.  Really, it’s the multi-dimensional space invaders, but it will be too late before I realize.  

So, that’s how I began my day – imaging an exciting, albeit morbid adventure that could be at any moment, and yet remains far enough away from reality, that I can still enjoy my peaceful morning walk.

This afternoon we drove out to Grandfather Mountain and did some exploration in the rain.  It was a **beautiful** trip and I hope to return sometime soon.  At the peak, Grandfather is over one mile high and there’s a suspension bridge leading to the peak that spans a forty-foot gorge one mile deep!  The girls enjoyed the wildlife – cougars, an eagle, bear, an otter, some deer and a muskrat that crossed the road while we were leaving.  Celli accompanied us and seemed to enjoy the mountain as much, if not more than anyone. 

Driving to the peak was exciting.  Our back wheels slid against the sharp inclines, and our truck was far too big for some of the 180-degree turns, but we managed and made it to the top with time to spare before the storm.

The storm hit hard some time after Hickory and seemed to be firing water and lightning at anything that moved.  In the city, the thunder roared and ricocheted between buildings – like War of the Worlds, only really wet. The rivers were swollen to twice their size – I guess this happens quickly down here.  Everyone drove with their hazards because the water was so deep on the roads and you couldn’t make out the other cars very well.  One of the things I love about this region is the rains storms – they last for hours, unlike Michigan where it seemed we would get bursts of a storm, but they would quickly fizzle (except in the winter when the snow seemed never-ending).  

We’ve enjoyed some fireworks in the city – reminds me so much of Harbor Days back home.  What a wonderful end to such an adventurous trip.  Tomorrow we hope to see the ocean!

Happy holiday everyone!  Have a safe, adventurous weekend.

The girls take a break beneath split-rock – One serious bolder.

Okay, they weren’t really wild like I told my mom.  They were as tame as could be and waiting for hand-outs from visitors.  

Popo and I take a break in the rain for one quick photo 5000+feet in the air.  Photo by Wolfy.

The Mile-high “swinging bridge”

 

The storm was raging by the time we reached Charlotte.  Cars, trucks and motorcyclists especially crowded under overpasses to wait for a clearing.  Visibility was crap and here you can see the hazards on the car ahead of us.  

My favorite stop along 321.  The only truly affordable and fun, hand-made locally shop I’ve found.

I love the drive into the mountains for all of the old farmsteads and homesteads, fruit-stands and the views!

In the heat, Celli cools off by lying on any concrete surface she can find:

We had an offer in on the Poe House, but it was countered and we decided not to counter again.  This was sort of a last ditch effort to find a house in Charlotte.  It’s now time for a break while we collect our thoughts, spend some time back home in Michigan and determine our course.  I wish things were easier right now, but nothing is easy in this economy, so why bother feeling down about it?  I’m going to have to buy another copy of the Grapes of Wrath, since my own copy is buried in some warehouse back home.  We (us, our country) are nowhere near the edge of turmoil experienced by those who survived the Depression or are we?  Is it simply that our poor are better hidden in the shadows cast off corporate buildings?  

I’m researching an ancestor of mine (or piggybacking off the research of my step-father), McDonald Clarke- known by many as “The Mad Poet” and revered for his eccentricities and his innocence.  He often found himself poor and alone, but many, including the best poets of his day, marveled at his uncanny ability to smile in the face of cruelty, to find decency in anyone and to seek out the stars through a large hole in his attic-room roof, rather than suffer the misery of defeat of being poor.  In his poem, Humility, Clarke writes,

“Do you call me poor, you slugger? // Won’t Posterity let me hug her, // And won’t she hug me back again? // Isn’t my pen // The Sceptre of Eternity, to wave //  Over Earth’s grave?”

And we are by no means poor, but we feel the pinch and empathetically are suffering with the worst off for we know these are families not unlike our own.  And because we have had to worry at times in our own lives about from where our next meal might come.  

The beauty in these times is that they are less superficial.  Sincerity seems to flow in all art, music, from the pen.  These are times when we build strong foundations – not of brick and mortar, but of friendships that will lead us through the hard times.  

“By calling me poor, you slugger,

Psho!  Psho!

I’m sure I don’t feel so –

So I should think

From this hurricane of ink.”  -MC

 

I can hardly believe it – I pay someone to make me dinner, box it up and *included* at no extra charge, I find little glass bottles of ketchup!  In an instant, life as I’ve known it just got better.

The girls are getting creative.  My oldest is blogging, and all of our girls are working on various art projects at the moment.  Yesterday, I set up Popo’s paint set and let them have at it.  Their creation was yummy.  

I’m always finding little things they’ve made like the magnet-flowers that began springing up the other day. Here we are in the center of a concrete jungle and our children have created a mini-garden out of magnets!  Let the sun shine in!

Erick and I are considering condo living, so we took a look at the Arlington, a 25+ story building on the light-rail.  It’s beautiful and the units were very spacious.  The top floor offered a magnificent view as well as a lap pool and fitness facility.  It’s just under 2K/month which isn’t bad considering we never use our car in Uptown, so the added cost would go into housing rather than fuel or vehicle maintenance.  Still, I think it would be best for us all to have some space outdoors in which to play and explore.  And a place where Celli and Lady could run free.  

All this creativity is exhausting!  

This city smells good.  I mean it’s just delicious.  And in total contrast to my high-anxiety mode entered into each time I step into the crowded streets, this week, I feel calm as the scent mimics the effect of lilac or lavender.  Could it be the crepe myrtle in full bloom?