Tag Archive: Charlotte


Obama in Charlotte, NC


It was like the line for the iPhone on steroids with an estimated twenty- to forty-thousand people filling the streets of Uptown Charlotte to see Sen. Barack Obama.  The speech was well worth the four-hour wait: Once again the young senator from Illinois delivered inspiration, energy and best of all a plan and a path to success as a nation.  He wasted little time rolling up his sleeves and getting to work talking with the people (us/you) about his energy policy, taxes and the economy, health care, education, and the war.  And each time he offered real solutions – Solutions implementable in the immediate future; including a near-term draw-down of troops in Iraq.  

Sen. Obama also talked again about his plan to offer money for school to those who volunteer in their communities or for their country – a plan that resonates with a country in need of unity.  

Looking behind us during the speech, it was a sea of supporters into the horizon.

The girls were tired and couldn’t see unless we lifted them above the crowd, but they were amazingly patient and eager to listen to the speech.

The Wachovia tower is reaching it’s upper levels.  Still much work to do, but by this time next year, the project should be close to finish.

Obama girls!

This day out in Uptown was also a reflective time for all of us.  We leave Friday for MI.  I’ll miss the architecture and the vibrance of the city, or better, I appreciate it. 

The Ratcliffe building sits atop (literally) a two-hundred year old building that once housed “Ratcliffe Flowers” in the 1950s.  The flower-shop is now a restaurant and the buildings style is preserved and protected by the larger condos that now surround it.  

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 was trying to think of a way to earn money the old fashioned way – with hard work, talent and determination.  My distant cousin became famous in New York selling his poetry on the street.  You paid him a quarter and he would recite a poem on the spot.  It got me thinking; How much is the written word worth?  

Would you pay a stranger on the street $5, $10, $500 for a personal poem written on the spot?  I suppose it depends a lot on the stranger and the buyer, but my thought was this:  Charge $5/five-line poem written out and incorporating some personal element from the buyer’s life.  Instead of flowers, significant others could buy a poem for their partners.  

I thought about calling myself the Daytime Literary Prostitute, but when I looked up definitions for prostitute online, it definitely includes some sexual act.  I can, however, whore myself out to the general populous as a writer desperately seeking liberation from rigid corporate structure.  I could avoid offensive language altogether and just have a shirt made up that says, “Writer for hire.”

Thoughts?

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.

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.

For the last several months, we’ve been looking at house after house.  We even made an offer on one house.  After firing our agent for other reasons, we sought out the help of some great agents, but at this point, I was beginning to get the feeling I really didn’t want to commit in the long-term to Charlotte.  With all of the pressure on us to buy in a “buyer’s market,” I was certain this was the way to go for us, but every time we approached a house, I found my stomach did somersaults.  It just didn’t feel right – and no matter how cool the house, it wasn’t home.  

So, now we’re on a rental hunt, but are taking it much less seriously and are committed only to the near-term: one year; maybe 18 months.  At that point we may reassess or buy something up north and continue renting down here.  We’ll save that really good, rock-bottom deal for another family who truly wishes to call the Carolinas “home.”

Little Cotton Rail

Senate earmarks $18M for Charlotte light rail
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The U.S. Senate’s proposed transportation budget for 2009 contains $18 million for expanding Charlotte’s light-rail system. That’s $8 million more than the Charlotte Area Transit System requested.The proposed 11-mile rail line extension would run from Ninth Street in uptown Charlotte to Interstate 485 on the northeast side of town.

The federal money would be used for preliminary engineering and assessing the environmental impact of construction and operation of the transit line.

“This is great news for the Lynx Blue Line extension and residents of the Charlotte region as we continue to provide them with more transportation choices,” says Keith Parker, chief executive of CATS. “While we do not expect the transportation appropriations legislation to be enacted until after the presidential election in November, and there is no guarantee that the funding level will hold, this is a step in the right direction.”

If the $18 million is approved, CATS will have received capital funding commitments of $40 million since March for bus, rail and rapid-transit projects. The funding has come from a range of sources, including the N.C. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Transit Administration.

The light rail extension would be a continuation of the 9-mile track that parallels South Boulevard from I-485 near Pineville to uptown Charlotte.

(The preceding appeared in the Charlotte Business Journal on July 14, 2008.)

July 16, 2008

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: