Category: Uptown


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?  

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Erick joined us right before the march began and the whole family (including Celli Belle) walked to raise money for research to beat cancer.  We met so many nice people and beautiful pups.  There must have been over a hundred dogs and their families.  Along the walk, there were water bowls and wading pools.  The police escorted the march, so we were able to spread out across the street and it was then you could see just how many people were out early in the morning heat in support of a cure.  Warm fuzzies all over.

Later, Erick, the girls and I walked down to the festivities in Uptown.  We saw the Calypso Tumblers performing on the street – VERY cool and wild.  I hadn’t heard of them until yesterday, but they’re amazing stage performers.  We watched them jump over a line of people about 10 deep.  Crazy stuff.

After a few hours in Uptown Erick and I thought it might be fun to take the train down to Pineville, so we purchased day passes and hopped the train.  We had to stand the entire 20-minute ride, which at 70mph, was pretty exciting and when we arrived in Pineville the temperature had soared to 100 degrees, so we were pretty slow-moving, but nonetheless determined to have a good time.  We meandered through shops and enjoyed milkshakes and a lot of water before boarding the train for home.  And this is when things got strange again.

I’ve mentioned openly before seeing “ghosts,” but I haven’t had the pleasure while here in Charlotte to see much other than the overriding face of fast-paced life all around.  Maybe it was because I was more relaxed than usual, having found a seat for the ride home; or perhaps I was suffering from a heat-stroke induced hallucination, but regardless, yesterday I saw my first “ghost” in Charlotte.  

I heard a boy laugh and I turned my head in time to see a little boy, about nine-years-old, approaching my girls.  He wanted to engage them, but clearly they couldn’t see him.  He faded out, but I remember him clearly.  He was black, wearing a little-league uniform with the colors green and yellow.  The cap had a lot of yellow on the front and he showed me a ball – the ball also had a lot of yellow.  He was connected somehow to a man seated behind me and I got the feeling he was someone’s brother.  I didn’t get the feeling of grief that might accompany a parent losing a child, but rather one that might accompany someone losing a peer.  I also felt like his passing was sudden – so accident or sudden death by other means – not a drawn-out illness.  I also felt like his death happened some time ago – more than 10 years.  

Those were the feelings that accompanied the vision.  I’m sharing the experience here for future reference.

As I have mentioned in the past, it is my belief that these visions may be a glimpse of someone else’s projected thought.  The strange thing was I saw the boy before the man connected to the boy got on the train.  

 

Things are really heating up here in the south.  I’ve heard it rumored that running in the summer air down here is like swimming.  Only underwater, you try not to breathe – outside, you haven’t a choice. It’s a challenge to get enough air right now, but I think this will only help in the long run (pardon the pun). 

I’m amazed at all the support coming in via email and comments regarding the upcoming fund-raising and half-marathon and all I can say is **Thank-you!**  It means a whole heck of a lot to see both friends and strangers reach out with encouragement.  Agreeing to run a marathon is not an easy decision and in this case it’s compounded by the fund-raising goal.  I’m in a new town where I know very few people and I’m not a natural runner.  As with the cancer-battle, this isn’t an act of physical endurance as much it is pure determination.      

This morning, near the end of my run, I thought about the people I’ve met who’ve inspired me.  Thinking of them took away the awareness of my fatigue and allowed me to make one more stride after one more stride until I crossed the imaginary finish-line.  Out of breath from trying to breathe in the thick air, I thought to myself, only twelve more miles to go!  Right now it doesn’t seem possible, but with each stride I’m a little closer to my end goal.  And as a team of mothers and fathers; sisters and brothers; husbands and wives and children; taking on this disease and running full tilt toward a cure; stride by stride, we’re that much closer to our goal for a cure.  

Tomorrow, Celli and I are walking for a cure for human and canine cancers: The 2008 Dogs Walk Against Cancer.  Lymphoma is a common cancer for dogs, so we’re proud to be taking part in an event to raise money and awareness for we two-leggers and our four-legged friends.

Thank-you again for your support!

I found this delicious phrase on a Cafe’ Press bumper sticker raising money for breast cancer awareness.  It’s time to start brain-storming fund-raising ideas and today I’ve been looking into selling items online to raise $2400.  I’m looking for funny catch phrases like F$%& Cancer or Kick Cancer’s Butt: Been there, done that!  I’m hoping for bumper-stickers, mugs and t-shirts.  Feel free to share your catch-phrases and ideas!  

I’m considering goofy things like “Pet a beagle for a dollar” on the sidewalk, so really, no idea is too silly to post.

Obama and Clinton

We plugged in the television last night and sat back for an evening of politics and politico on CNN.  As they announced Obama had clinched the nomination, the CNN panned to a video taken at a bar just down the street in our very excited city- where crowds of people cheered and celebrated the long-awaited end to a hotly contested primary.  I think a lot of people felt both elation and a hint of sadness knowing one of our incredible candidates would not be nominated.  And yet, Clinton gave little indication she was willing to concede despite the numbers.  In fact, she acted as if she was this country’s last hope (to paraphrase).  

That was a huge disappointment to me.  I expected more from such a well-respected leader.  I anticipated the same kind of speech given by Obama – one that accentuated the dedication of all this season’s candidates; a speech that might unify the party and the country.  Instead, Clinton seemed unwilling to accept she did not win the nomination and rather than asking her supporters to stand with Obama, her words were often divisive.   

I am proud of this country for throwing such enormous support behind both candidates regardless of race or gender.  I’m thrilled to feel such excitement over a primary!  What a feat for the Democratic party to not only have one remarkable candidate who beat the odds: We had two!  

So regardless of what happens the rest of the week with the Clinton-Obama struggle, I’m proud today to be an American.  And for the first time in my adult life, I believe the old wounds of this nation will be healed with the kind of unifying spirit Obama has brought to the ticket. 

 

May 30, 2008

Beneath our fourth-floor-flat; somewhere on the sidewalk or in a nest fitted into the canopy of some tree, or maybe over the top of a gutter; I hear a mockingbird chic crying.  Well into the afternoon he or she utters peep after tiny peep into the thick air until you learn to ignore it as you might ignore the fire alarm with a low battery:  Beep…  beep.

Into the night, the chirping continues, though by this time I am only loosely aware of the sound emanating from some poor hapless creature outside my window.  It isn’t until after midnight, when my family is sleeping and the soothing fan is oscillating from its post across the room that I rediscover the little peeper in my head. 

“Peep,” it calls out; lonely.  “Peep,” it says, “I’m hungry.”  As the night wears on it begins to think, “Peep,”  “Come on guys; this isn’t funny.”  Where are you?  The little bird has been abandoned.  I consider getting up to investigate- but I am tired and my youngest child has a fever and has spent the day in the ER, so I wait it out.  Maybe the little bird will go to sleep. 

After midnight:  Peep, peep.  Peep.  Peep.  “Help me, I’m all alone!”  Poor bird.  I should get up and help it.  I am walking into the heat of the southern early summer, through the heavy fire door of my fourth-floor flat, down cement halls, barefoot and cautiously aware of my vulnerability.   I float into the smoky elevator that quacks at every floor and out through the gated door where I stand looking up at my darkened windows feeling very alone in the world.  Peep, I think to myself, peep.

“Peep” the bird cries and awakens me to the fact that I am only standing at an open window four protected floors above him.  Peep, I cry out inside.  

My oldest is learning to sew.  Her first project was a sock doll, she calls Quad.  The project book, Stupid Sock Creatures, labels him “Claude,” but I think Quad suits him nicely with his four bulbous appendages. We all figured this would cheer Erick up at work, so we’re making him carry Quad to the office this morning.  That in itself; the image of my husband dressed in a suit carrying the stripped sock creature under his arm, is enough to keep me smiling for the rest of the day.

 

Above is an image of the narrow peninsula uncovered for less than a decade at a time every 75 years, where Erick and I were married in 2000.  I stopped there earlier this month and the water has reclaimed a good half of what was there originally.  In another year, we’ll have to wade into the water to show the girls were Mommy and Daddy were wed. 

 

Yesterday for Popo’s birthday, we took a long walk down past Dilworth, through the historic neighborhood, catching the new old-fashioned trolley into Uptown and back to Tea-Rex for afternoon tea.  The trolley was a great experience; just us and a driver passionate about trolleys.  The driver showed the girls how to operate the trolley and let them ring the bell and even showed them how to switch tracks.  He then took us up to the trolley barn where we saw one of Charlotte’s original trolleys, No. 85, built in 1927 and still in operation today.  (Trolley photos taken with my phone.)

         

Yesterday afternoon was spent celebrating Po-po’s 7th time around.  She received art supplies, tools, and lots of requested clothes.  Her favorite gift was a set of magnets.  She spent hours playing with them.

Also celebrating a birthday was my beloved Poe House; added to the historic register the same day my own Po made her debut into this world.  Also see Poe Stairs.

  

Following our showing of the Poe House on Saturday, we drove farther into the mountains and stopped for lunch at a little bar perched on the edge of the world.  Our view from the restaurant: 

On our way home from the Poe House, I took a self-portrait.  I always glow like that after seeing historic homes and mountains in the same day.  // Erick has been practicing up on guitar and banjo and the girls enjoy dancing to the music. 

  

It was an eventful weekend and we’re about to begin the first of weekdays with Jasmine tea.  May you (may we all!) have a wonder-filled, adventurous week!

 

 


Our week back in Elk Rapids, MI afforded me some time for reflection on all of the recent changes in our lives. We spent the majority of our time near the water; either on East Bay or Lake Michigan, but I made it a point to visit the chain and made a special visit to the old willow whose boughs sweep the currents of Elk River.  We used to climb out onto limbs as thick as barrels over the water to watch fish make their struggles toward the falls.  Treasures found along the shore were tucked safely beneath the tangled roots born bare by sand.  I climbed Johnny Rock and took photos of each of the girls on the early day’s swimmer’s stone; once a goal for swimmers near the newly erected harbor: The goal, uprooted; now a monument. 

Despite a lingering chill in the air, something in the metered pulse of the waves sliding up against sand only to be swept back again brought me into the moment and gave me time to center.  It was clear all at once I have not felt centered for some time in Charlotte.  It’s also clear I’ll need to find some way of “chilling out” now that I’m back in the city.  

It is strange returning home after a long absence, but I haven’t been away very long.  For me, this trip was about saying goodbye and reveling in the emotion unveiled through the process of letting go.  It was about replacing my grief for losing money on our house with gratitude we weren’t one of the dozen new foreclosures in the paper each day.  And about recognizing my ability to travel cross-country in good time with little worry.  This trip also reminded me that no amount of distance can squelch a good friendship.  And no matter how mature we become, we can still wade ankle-deep in Lake Michigan, jump waves tracing lines in the sand, and climb trees.  

On my way home to Charlotte, I occasionally glanced back in the rearview mirror at the thin horizon and worried about when I would return, but mostly my eyes were trained forward on the adventurous mountains ahead, and on the road immediately before me.  When I was a child, it was the road that moved as our car stood still, but yesterday, I accelerated past those reservations I’ve had about moving forward in this new life.  Despite warnings about dangerous cross-winds and steep grades, I was determined to make this trip work- determined not only to reach the destination, but as the saying goes, to enjoy the journey. 

And now for some theme-appropriate Walt Whitman: 

O living always, always dying!

O the burials of me, past and present!

O me, while I stride ahead, material visible, imperious as ever!

O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not – I am content; )

O to disengage myself from those corpses of me which I turn and look at where I cast them!

To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses behind!

Please click photos to link to flickr photos of our travels.

 

The traffic congestion along Independence is thick at rush hour and we were already running late.  I knew this event was important to Popo; the look she gave me when I said I was too tired to fight traffic in 80-degree weather was enough for Erick to volunteer to drive us.  With traffic stopped, I looked back at my oldest daughter and said apologetically, “I’m sorry, I think we’ve missed most of the speech, Honey, we’re going to have to turn around.”  What I didn’t know was that we weren’t the only people running late on the way to the Barack Obama rally this afternoon.  

As traffic idled in the heat a siren grew louder coming up behind us.  We watched as a slow procession of police cars and unmarked SUVs snaked its way past our truck.  “Here he comes!” Erick said excitedly.  I waved and whistled and suddenly being stuck in traffic didn’t seem so bad.

Unfortunately I was so excited I forgot about the camera in my lap, so this photo was taken as one of the last police cars passed.  

Popo and I arrived just minutes after Obama and found ourselves standing amid a crowd far larger than the Clinton rally and with noticeable decibel differences.  The sound erupting from the crowd as Obama entered the room was overwhelming.  This wasn’t just a candidate, this was our hero.  This was a man who came from meager beginnings to run for office of President of the United States.  

Popo brought her hand-made sign saying simply:  I love you OBAMA.  I didn’t teach her to choose one candidate over the others.  I’m not the kind of person who tells my children what to think about political candidates.  Instead, I’ve educated them.  I took them to Clinton’s rally*, but the difference between the two candidates, even from my perspective, was incredibly noticeable.  Clinton’s crowd was interested in seeing her, but there wasn’t the same feeling of enthusiasm; the connection Obama makes with individual voters.  He doesn’t just spill political rhetoric, he identifies with real problems and offers innovative solutions.  He’s proposing a plan that allows students to earn $4000 toward college tuition in exchange for military or volunteer services.  If you sign up to help adults learn to read, or assist at a shelter, you will receive money for college.  As Obama put it, “If you invest in America, America will invest in you.”

Amid criticism over his former pastor, Obama told the crowd about his grand-father who fought in WWII. He went on to explain that his grandfather received money for college as part of the GI bill.  Later, his grandparents were able to buy a home with an affordable FHA loan.  His own mother, a single mother, was able to go back to school and Obama received scholarships and federal aid affording him the opportunity to get a quality education.  “People question my patriotism?  I owe our country everything!”  As he said this, my eyes brimmed with tears.  So impassioned were his words, “I love our country!”   It’s been a while since I’ve felt patriotism myself, but the truth is, I love what this country could become again and when I hear Obama speak, I truly feel my hope restored.   [And while we were at the speech, Erick was out voting.]

Notice the news media writing as Obama speaks?  The photographers were uploading photos to these laptops and Popo and I watched as they updated live continually throughout the speech.  Pretty cool.  I wondered how many of these guys were bloggers. 

*John McCain has not made a recent stop to Charlotte.