Tag Archive: Bank of America


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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As a thick fog settled over the city, I packed up my camera and the girls and caught a train to Trade St. I wanted to discover what the Bank of America building looked like fading into the clouds.

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On my our way, we saw some really neat buildings whose curves and contours blended as well into the cityscape as the bank tower blended into the fog.

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And at Founders Hall we visited the museum and were fortunate to see some very important documents, signed by some very important people. Besides the fog, I wanted to take the girls to the bookstore. There, my youngest made a new friend, a giraffe she calls “Flower Rose.” It was there I picked up the first in a newer series of children’s books about the adventures of a tiny Siamese kitten known to his mother as Skippyjon Jones. It now comes officially highly recommended by yours truly.

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Following our bookstore adventure, we walked to Wachovia to meet Erick for lunch. Erick suggested, over the phone, we take the skyway to the Atrium, to the Overstreet Mall, to Wachovia Two… Or something like that.

I wouldn’t be able to tell you how to get there, but I can always get myself there. I love the adventure of going building to building through a maze of escalators, corridors, skyways, and parking garages just to avoid being drenched in a sudden rainfall. What might have amounted to less than a block of walking, quadruples in length, but is made up for in entertainment. Lunch was good, btw.

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On the way home, we were caught in a rainstorm, but the train waited and we made it home before the sudden showers could soak through our clothes. (Don’t the gals look happy?!)

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Around 4:30 each day crowds of people walk out of the city to their apartments, to meet the train or to find their cars.  The city closes down, except for the better eateries and a high-end market at 7th St. Station.  On the weekend, especially on Sunday, uptown resembles a ghost town.

Yesterday, we walked through the Bank of America Building, the tallest structure in Charlotte and central headquarters for the bank.  We also walked through several of the Wachovia buildings.  My favorite, the Ratcliffe, was built over top a structure originally erected in 1775.  To look at the building, you’d think it was just a brilliant architectural style; blending old and new (and it is, but literally).  The Ratcliffe sits on “The Green,” a beautiful garden complete with statues, fountains and walkways commemorating famous authors.  When I saw Rachel Carson‘s name, my eyes brimmed with tears.  Those who had designed the green had felt so important was Rachel’s work as to include her name along with Melville, Joyce, Cervantes, and Bronte.

Charlotte is full these sorts of discoveries.  At the original town center, you’ll find four larger-than-life bronze statues; two women, two men; representing the original settlers on the hill.  They’re beautiful; standing watch over commerce, over those timid adventurers like ourselves, necks craned at odd angles looking up at buildings stretching seamlessly into clouds.