Tag Archive: 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.

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.

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.

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. 

 

 

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!

 

The old farm house on some acreage turned out to be a structural nightmare in the wait right across from a gas station.  Not exactly my dream, but the latest disappointment spurred a discussion between husband, realtor and I about what it is we want from a property in Charlotte.  We concluded we would like to have land and an old house in which to put down roots, but the fact remains, by Charlotte’s standards, we’re not in the financial position to find what we want.  The next best thing involves temporary thinking with long-term goal-setting.  I ran a search of houses priced below $200K near Charlotte, but with some yard.  Some are bank-owned, some are just older and in need of minor updates and a few are new, but small.  All will house a family our size for the next few years and will likely sell for more than what we pay (which will be nice for a change).  In the meantime, we will pad our savings and hopefully in a few years, I’ll have my book published, Erick will have moved up and we’ll be in a financial position to revisit property back home in Michigan.  Or maybe, we’ll do some traveling.  Whichever, we’ll need to fund our dreams with something a bit more concrete than wishful thinking.  

Since living in the city, I’ve chosen my favorite elevators, which makes me think I think too much about things like my favorite elevators.  Our bathroom self-cleans and I no longer need to polish my jewelry – something in the water does it for me.  I don’t need a light-light; I just open the shades a little.

What I really love about the city are the relentless botanical and animal species; plant-life splintering concrete; tree roots curling asphalt along Providence; kamikaze inchworms dive-bombing tourists in the park.  Nature doing what nature does best: Filling a niche; a gap in our ecosystem fueled by arrogance and perpetuated by ignorance.  

Ayn Rand glorified man and his hunger for dominance in this world; his ability to hold fire in his fingertips. We see empty fountains in downtown Charlotte because we’re in the midst of a water shortage and one man says to me, What does it matter if a couple of fountains are turned on?  It matters because we’ve taken for-granted the value of water, the value of our resources.  We spill blood, oil, water; we order too much and leave our plates half-full and pass men on the street half-starved, but worry only that our fountains have been drained. 

Ah, the city ignites within us a sense of invulnerability.  It leads us all to believe the thin membrane of glass separating them from us is thicker than it really is. 

Do Not Dump – Drains into Creek

Due to rain, the festivities were moved indoors.  My middle child is a Clinton supporter and I wanted her to have an opportunity to see Hillary Clinton up close and since Clinton’s daughter accompanied her mother, I thought a mother-daughter night out to see a historic mother-daughter duo might be fun.  We stood near the stage and listened as other senators endorsed the NY senator.  We heard a country music star sing the National Anthem and then the lights dimmed and in walked the Clintons.  I had to hold Ava up over the crowd so she could see them.

Half way through, we decided to find seats and that’s when Erick surprised me with the rest of our posse.  He said he thought seeing Hillary Clinton speak might inspire our daughters to think big.  I was proud of him for trekking out on his own for the sake of our girls because though we’re 4/5 Obama supporters, I was still proud to see Clinton standing up for America; promoting “green”-collared jobs, talking about renewable energy and in general taking a stand where so many have abandoned the post.  

After the speech, we walked down to Rock Bottom, a great brewery in Uptown.  There we experienced several fire-drills and some great food (though I was too excited to eat).  

Afterward, we took the train to Bland Street for some Baklava at Greek Isles.  And that concluded our busy evening.

And off-topic slightly: We were crossing Tryon the other night when suddenly a car came around the corner going too fast.  With my entire family in harm’s way, I did what any mom would do and stuck my knee out to take the impact.  Fortunately the car stopped before it struck my knee or family, but I had to laugh that I imagined I could stop that big car with my knee.  And then it occurred to me that perhaps we mothers do have super-human strength and that had that car hit my knee, it would have hit a barrier of pure self-less parental dedication.