Tag Archive: NC


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.  

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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.

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.

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

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

 

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.  

 

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.