Category: Uptown


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.

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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.

Shallow Hal

Everyone we’ve met in Charlotte has told us to re-watch Shallow Hal.  It was filmed entirely in Charlotte and watching it now that we lived here was far more fun than the first time around.  Good movie; great city.

I’m not going to go into detail about what happened where since I’m hoping our friends will all come stay with us and see it for themselves.

Today I drove out to Lake Norman to see a house for rent.  The house was beautiful, but moreover, seeing the lake got me thinking about something Erick said about Lake Norman being the largest fresh water lake other than the Great Lakes.  It’s an enormous sprawling lake with roads crossing at various points.  In fact, I believe it’s the only site in the US where a fatality occurred when a boat came out of the water and hit a moving car.  

Erick had to work late, so I drove to the house with the girls and brought Celli in place of him.  He asked me why I like taking the dog whenever he’s not in the car and I explained that while I’m driving, she leans back into the seat sideways and spends half her time concentrating on the road and the other half giving me kisses or puppy-dog eyes.  Who could ask for more?

On the way home, as I pulled onto Moorehead, I saw a man holding a cardboard sign on the side of the road.  In grim economic times, we see a lot of men asking for work, but this man’s sign read simply, “God bless you.”

I’m not religious, but it felt good to know someone believes in something enough to stand on the side of a dirty and dangerous road with such a simple message.  

I thought if I were to dedicate an afternoon to a message, my own sign would read, “You are loved.”

Click here for the last lecture.

Today is the last day of my twenties; tomorrow I turn 30.  I used to dread growing old, but in life post-cancer, growing old is a goal.  I thought the urge to reminisce would catch me off guard last minute; threatening to enact some hint of regret, but instead I feel content and satisfied in reaching my thirties.  

I’m also very glad to be in Michigan at this time in my life.  Two years ago on my birthday we took a trip to Mackinac Island.  I looked out over the bow of the boat at rainbows forming in the freshwater spray.  The wind whipped through our hair and out over the straits of Mackinac, the iron bridge took on a soft look in the bright sunlight.  It was a moment so well-engrained that while my body was secretly host to a silent mutation, I dreamed of my good-byes to family.  Each time I said goodbye in dreams, I walked into the spray and knew then I was passing into a new realm, though at the time I didn’t even believe in Santa Clause.  I discovered the lump two days later and my life was forever changed.  

In a way, being up here feels like the closing of some loop.  Like I’ve been here before, but my path has changed.  Left untreated, NHL kills within two-years.  Most recurrences take place within the first two years into remission.  Whatever the significance, this experience has completed a two-year cycle.  At a time when I believed I would regret the turning of a decade, I am elated to put my twenties behind me; to embark full-throttle on a new adventure; to leap into the next phase of my life uninhibited; to count rainbows on the spray and to take on the softer look wisdom grants us as we age.

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.

Needles have been replaced, sewing machine ramped up, socks and microfiber purchased in bulk and Sock Monsters are now sprouting up daily:  

In the beginning, there were socks.  Soon these socks were altered to form the tiny bodies of multi-fibered, colorful sock monsters.  All appendages are sewn together using a sewing machine and are attached by hand.  Next, the monsters are stuffed:

These three are brothers.  Erick suggested a more sophisticated line for those Uptown folk who match socks and underwear, so from pairs of casual socks found mainly inside loafers and beneath dockers, we’ve created the “Uptown Monsters.”  They’re all sewn up and are now ready for lips and eyes:

Buttons are chosen carefully by the girls to highlight various features and colors of each individual monster. The buttons are then pinned in place to verify proper color-coordination by our fully-certified crayon-carrying children.  Next, the monsters pose for baby monster photos and get to sit on the desk for the day in preparation for their future in the business of making-people-smile-at-work while raising money and awareness in the battle against cancer:

My youngest inspired the three-button sweater-vest concept.  She enjoys drawing sock-monsters as much as snuggling with them:

Thank-you for taking the time to learn more about these ever-curious oddities.

Bye.

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!