July 12, 2006

Today's Global Curiosity

Southport is a town at the mouth of the Cape Fear River just east of Oak Island. While on a day trip there during my vacation, I took these question-provoking pictures.

Why would a ship named YM Shanghai homeported in London (which is interesting enough)...

...be flying the French flag?

Posted by Chris at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 01, 2006

That Species Is Touristicus Dipshitticus

The screen door on the house next to us made a sound like a bird being sodomized, so much so that every time it opened, I looked around for the offending bird (not to mention the offended bird). It took me three days to realize there were no birds involved at all.

Posted by Chris at 12:09 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

June 30, 2006

The Ongoing Saga Of Long Beach Pier

Back in January, I discussed the sad demise of Long Beach Pier, one of the three fishing piers on Oak Island. At the time, they were planning on subdividing the beachfront property into eight lots for single-family homes:

The business sits on nine oceanfront lots and, at this point, there are eight residences planned, [real estate agent Libba] Motsinger said. One of the lots doesn’t perk, so three lots may be used to build two homes on part of the property, she explained.

Interesting thing: if you pick up a flier from the information box in front of the lots, you will find nine lots listed for sale (at prices from $1.1M to $1.5M).

Gee, I wonder what happened?

And incidentally, there's still nothing stopping one developer from buying all eight nine lots and building condos there.


Posted by Chris at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

In The End, It Mainly Boiled Down To Nautical Euphemisms For 'Hooters'

And speaking of my nephews, they quickly developed a code scheme for discussing women like boats, prompting statements like

Quite a set of pontoons on that boat there.
and (for hot jailbait)
Excellent superstructure, but I don't think she's seen enough seasons on the water yet.
but I claimed first prize with
That is one fine stern - I bet it would stand up to hours of pounding in heavy surf.

Posted by Chris at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

I Don't Know Why He Didn't Catch Anything - The Water Was Being Thoroughly Chummed

My wife's two nephews and the younger nephew's wife shared the house with us the first week (yes, my wife has adult nephews; her two brothers are (I think) 15 and 17 years older than she is). Anyway, Jeff took a deep-sea fishing trip on a headboat, going about 16 miles out. The water, though it looked pretty smooth from shore, featured 8-to-10-foot swells, and some people reacted worse to it than others. For instance, the 60ish guy who spent the entire two hour trip out puking into a bucket thoughtfully provided by one of the ship's mates.

That would have been bad enough, but it seemed that he insisted on a very vocal warmup for each spasm, and of course after the first fifteen minutes it's all dry heaves anyway, so it ended up sounding like "HuuuuuAAAAAAACKKKKKKKchk" about every thirty seconds. Lovely trip, and Jeff didn't even catch anything worth keeping.

So as he's explaining this to us upon his return, his brother Jim pointed out

Hey, you were outside the 12-mile limit. International waters - anything goes! You should have dumped the guy over the side!
and I added
'Ding! The captain has turned off the "U.S. Jurisdiction" light. You may move freely about the cabin and do whatever the hell you want, as long as it doesn't piss off the captain.'

After some more discussion, we came to the conclusion that dumping Sir Pukes-a-lot into the ocean would have been a bad move under the "don't piss off the captain" clause. Something about witnesses and lawsuits.

Update: Ehhhhhh, I guess not.

Posted by Chris at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

You're Not Cleared For That

The following events took place on Thursday, June 14.

I saw the local Coast Guard station's Defender-class boat go flying by the house several times - and the Water Rescue folks too - but I was never able to learn anything about what they were doing (hint: if you want to know what's really going on in a tourist island town, talk to the people who work at the fishing piers - they know everything).

Maybe it's all evil Government/space alien/corporate conspiracy crap, and Surface is really a documentary, and the alien/ancient/cloned/genetically engineered whateverthehellitis just ate somebody else.


Posted by Chris at 12:56 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

June 29, 2006

Hola Alberto, Madrechinga

The following post was written on Wednesday, June 14.

At this moment (11:15 AM), we're getting sun showers. Of course, with the wind from the southwest at 45MPH, that sprinkle feels like a thousand hot needles.

Naturally, we're out walking on the beach.

flower_goddess found an honest-to-God sand dollar, virtually unknown outside of its normal habitat of souvenir stands and t-shirt shops. Getting wind-driven sand embedded behind her ears was a small price to pay for such an exquisite find.

Posted by Chris at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

The Ocean Always Has The Last Word

I'll be posting things I wrote - in actual pencil, on actual paper - on vacation. Until they perfect the brain-to-Internet-ultra-WiFi interface, there's really no way around it.

The following post was written on Monday, June 12.

I'm not going to say the ocean kicked my ass while bodyboarding yesterday, but...

  • ...I had one run where I started out riding my board and finished with my board riding me.
  • ...I did my best impersonation of a dredge with my face.
  • ...I did my second-best impersonation with my suit.
  • ...I learned that the ocean does not like it when you give a victory whoop after catching a wave just right, and that it has ways of punishing you immediately (hint: it involves your mouth, still open with the whooping).

Posted by Chris at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

June 28, 2006

Today's Weather Forecast. And Tomorrow's. And The Next Day's.

I rarely bothered to look at the weather forecast while on vacation (except when Alberto came through) since I was fairly certain it would be

  • Sun: hot
  • Water: warm
  • Breeze: cool
  • Beer: cold
with a chance of afternoon thundershowers.

Posted by Chris at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

June 25, 2006


Also seen on the drive home yesterday, especially in the first two hours: about fifty minivans with cartop carriers. Of course, they're all headed for my island (in my mind, with apologies to James Taylor), so I have this Public Service Announcement for them:


Posted by Chris at 05:34 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

And It Was Drafting On A Minivan Full Of Kids With A Pro-Choice Sticker

Seen on the 13-plus-hour drive home yesterday: a car sporting a Jesus fish...

...and a Dead Head sticker.

Posted by Chris at 04:53 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

January 17, 2006


One of the things that I like the most about Oak Island is that despite the fact that vacation houses line both sides of the beach road for almost the entire ten-mile length of the island, it never really feels crowded. Sure, you'll see people up and down the beach, all day, every day, but it's never remotely as crowded as someplace like Myrtle Beach. I think a lot of that is due to almost all the accomodations being single-family homes rather than condos (there are a few condo complexes on the beach road now, but only one of them has more than a dozen or so units).

Unfortunately, that may be about to change. While we were there last year, we saw another 100-unit condo complex being built one street back from the beach road; we also heard credible rumors that Long Beach Pier, one of the three fishing piers on the island, was going to be sold in a divorce settlement. The financial combination of the (alleged) $9 million asking price and the (known) meager profitability of the pier more or less dictated that it would end up being sold to a developer, razed, and turned into new rental houses or condos.

Alas, that is exactly what has happened:

Fifty years to the week after an application was filed to build Long Beach Pier, the Oak Island landmark stands ready to be demolished.

The property is being sold and the pier will officially close January 6. A New Year’s Eve bonfire will be the center of attention at the last pier event.

Not to worry - they're going to build single family homes on the site. Probably.

The business sits on nine oceanfront lots and, at this point, there are eight residences planned, [real estate agent Libba] Motsinger said. One of the lots doesn’t perk, so three lots may be used to build two homes on part of the property, she explained.

But there will be only upscale single-family homes on the beachfront in the 2700 block of West Beach Drive.

“There will be no condos on this property,” Motsinger promised.
You can promise whatever the hell you want, Libba, but you're not the buyer, are you? What's to stop the buyer from saying "Eight houses? No, no, no, you misunderstood - I said eighty condo units. Sorry about that."

Maybe I'm overreacting, and I guess we won't know for sure until we get there in June, but I'm sorry to think this may be the last year we go to Oak Island.


Posted by Chris at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

December 27, 2005

Unfortunately, Establishing The Borders Of The Day Job Isn't Nearly As Easy

Whenever we visit my in-laws', I work on this big jigsaw puzzle. I usually spend a few hours each time we visit, and as I sat there staring at this half-completed puzzle looking for a pattern to emerge, it occured to me: staring at half-completed puzzles looking for patterns to emerge is exactly what I do at the day job.

Posted by Chris at 01:47 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

With The Requisite Grammatical Number Adjustments, Of Course

Just got back from Christmas weekend in the hometown.

Is it a bad sign when you go out drinking with old friends and wake up the next morning with sore knuckles but no memory of how they got sore?

It could be worse, I guess. Substitute "ass" for "knuckles" above.

Posted by Chris at 10:13 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 09, 2005

Another Example Caught In The Wild

You hear the jokes about old fat guys in Speedos, but you don't really think any of them would actually wear one, right?

Yeah, I used to think that, too, until I shot this picture on our third day on the island:

Who told him this looked good?

What I want to know is, how could he possibly look in the mirror and say, "Hell, yeah. I'm the man?"

Posted by Chris at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

An Example Caught In The Wild

I've been sent several pictures photoshopped to look like the one below, but I'd never seen an actual one until I took this one on vacation (for the record, it's the Citgo station next to the Pacific store on Long Beach Road leading to Oak Island).

Arm, Leg, First Born - an actual picture

The really depressing thing is that I wish gas were only $2.10 here - that's 35 cents less than it actually is right now.

Posted by Chris at 08:38 PM | Comments (3)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 06, 2005

No Word On Whether The Security Patrol Drove A Pickup With A Gun Rack

White Trash Wednesday

Whoops! I forgot today was White Trash Wednesday (that's a known side-effect of having a four-day weekend - my body still thinks it's Monday). I don't have anything ready, but I can talk about this, and I swear it's absolutely true:

On a drive through one of the many wooded areas in the vicinity of Oak Island, we came across a new white fence running along the road. After about a half-mile of this, we saw a gated boulevard entrance with a nice new guard shack. There was a sign identifying the gated community, but I don't remember what it was. Of course, the fence line continued on the other side of the entrance, but within a couple of hundred yards, we could see trailers on the other side. And I don't mean 'nice new manufactured housing that kinda looks like a regular house' trailers; I mean 'Cletus, get off your sister and drive your Uncle Dad to the county agent!' trailers.

A gated trailer park. Only in America.

It's White Trash Wednesday! Take the whole tour:

Posted by Chris at 07:10 PM | Comments (1)
Category: White Trash Wednesday

July 02, 2005

It Depends. Can We Charge Rent?

Recall that Chumley is Rabbit's husband and Choley is their daughter. Like the rest of us, Chumley gets a little goofy when he's on the island, and it was after a particularly goofy incident that this conversation took place:

Rabbit: "You guys want to adopt a kid?"
Us: "Sure; Choley's practically our daughter anyway."
Rabbit: "I was talking about Chumley."

Posted by Chris at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 01, 2005

Why I Ain't Like Normal Folks, Reason 32

Because I don't get ice cream headaches; I get ice cream chest pains. I was reminded of this when I was at the pier house last week and I got a Mountain Dew slushie for my son. I overfilled the damn thing, and had to suck down a nontrivial portion of it all at once just to get the lid on, and about ten seconds later I thought I was having a heart attack.

Of course, it was just cold shock to my esophagus, and I didn't help things by immediately taking a slug of beer, thinking that since it was warmer than the slushie, it would help (hint: IT DOESN'T), but still.

Posted by Chris at 05:28 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

June 28, 2005

What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

  1. Fresh blackberries make an excellent tequila chaser.
  2. If you inadvertently refer to these as your 'strappy sandals,' everybody will refer to you as 'a metrosexual,' despite all your protestations to the contrary.
  3. This goes double if you wear, at the beach, an outfit that actually matches (or, indeed, can even be called 'an outfit'). Specifically, navy blue shorts with yellow trim, a yellow tank top, and a LiveStrong bracelet.
  4. This goes triple if you bring five pairs of footwear to a two-week beach vacation and wear all of them by noon of day two (for those of you scoring at home, that's a regular pair of sneakers for the drive down, running shoes for running, flip-flops for negotiating the core-of-the-sun-hot sands to/from the beach from/to the deck, moccasins for schlepping about the cottage, and the aforementioned sandals for schlepping about town).
  5. Gorilla Glue will satisfactorily fix a delaminated boogie board.
  6. It will not, however, save you from getting ragdolled by a rogue wave and carrying home half the beach in your swimsuit.
  7. I would rather be in a boat with a drink on the rocks than in the drink with a boat on the rocks [h/t: The Lucky Fisherman restaurant].
  8. I can walk on water when properly motivated (i.e., when I step on something that moves underneath my feet).
  9. If I maintain my normal workout schedule and diet for two weeks, but drink beer every day at the same rate that I normally do just on weekends, I will gain three pounds.
  10. Your cell phone will stop working if it sits in a puddle of beer long enough.

Yes, I'm back. Now if I can only remember how to switch comments and trackbacks back on...

Posted by Chris at 03:48 PM | Comments (4)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 03, 2004

Scenes From A Vacation #2

WARNING: Vampire Monster Trucks Sighted In Area

Because being menaced by flying vampire monster trucks is what beach vacations are all about.

Posted by Chris at 06:19 PM | Comments (3)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 02, 2004

Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?

Just before we went down to Oak Island last year, two people drowned as a result of rip currents (Public Service Announcement: rip currents are dangerous but can be dealt with. If you're planning a trip to the ocean - or even one of the Great Lakes - this summer, stop reading this and go learn about them). Debra Teague, despite being unable to swim, went out to rescue her daughter Brandi from a rip current. She was able to save Brandi but drowned in the process.

For her heroism, Debra Teague was posthumosly awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for her actions. In a ceremony on June 12, the Coast Guard presented the medal to her family:

“(Debra) heard screams and saw her child in distress,” said Coast Guard senior chief Newman Cantrell. “She could not swim but reached Brandi and got her to shore. As any mother would do, she put the life of her children ahead of her own. Your mother was a very brave person,” he told them.

Randall Manes, a vacationer from Greensboro, helped Brandi and Jodi from the water that day and then tried to help Debra Teague struggling against the strong undercurrent. He also got caught in the powerful flow but made it back to shore.

Another man helped get Debra Teague to shore, where beachgoers attempted to revive her. She was later pronounced dead at Dosher Memorial Hospital.
My heart goes out to the family for their loss. But why am I writing about this? It's because of what happened next:
Brandi buried her head into her father’s side as rear admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara, commander of 5th Coast Guard District, pinned the medal over her heart.
Now let me get this straight. Poor Brandi is put on the spot in front of a bunch of strangers, explicitly reminded that her mother died to save her, and then 'Here, kid, here's a shiny medal.'?

Am I the only one who thinks this is unnecessarily cruel?

Posted by Chris at 03:47 PM | Comments (3)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

June 30, 2004

On Second Thought, Never Mind

I was all set to post a detailed entry on just how cool Oak Island was and how envious you all must be since I just spent two weeks there and you didn't. Then I read Steve's (of The Sporting Life) description of his recent trip to Alaska:

I almost didn't write about my trip to Alaska because, well, it's tough to keep vacation stories from putting people to sleep or sounding as if there's one underlying theme: "I went to this cool place and you didn't. And, even if you've been there before, I assure you it wasn't as good as my experience."
Boy, am I glad I read that first.

Anyway, I think I'll settle for short vignettes like this one: SmokeEater and I were sitting on the deck, just watching the ocean and enjoying adult beverages (it's amazing how much time you can spend just doing that). After a while, a woman came along, walking her little rat-dog along the water's edge.

SmokeEater says: "Well, she's using live bait, but I don't think she's working deep enough."

Posted by Chris at 07:39 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

June 28, 2004

Anniversary Dinner

Nineteen years ago on June 14, flower_goddess and I got married, so this year our anniversary was during our vacation on Oak Island. The first week, we split a beachfront house with our neighbors Chumley and Rabbit and their daughter Choley, and boy did they have an anniversary present for us. We were told to clear out of the house about 4 PM and not to return until summoned, so we headed out for some souvenir shopping until we got the all-clear by phone a couple hours later.

We were met at the bottom of the stairs by Rabbit, acting as hostess: "Welcome to Di's Dream; we've been expecting you. This way, please." She led us to our table (set for two, with flowers) on the decorated oceanfront deck. Choley then appeared with shrimp cocktails and glasses of wine. She told us that our salads would be arriving shortly, with the entree - chef's choice - soon after that.

Chef's choice turned out to be exquisitely grilled sirloins with stir-fried vegetables. Chumley came out and did his best snooty chef impersonation, simultaneously sucking up to us while implying that we weren't sufficiently high-class to deserve his creations. Dessert was ice cream with fresh blackberries, and our son served as busboy, efficiently clearing the table between courses.

A hundred-dollar meal with a million-dollar view, all brought to us by our neighbors.

Posted by Chris at 08:01 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

June 27, 2004

Scenes From A Vacation #1

SmokeEater: I bet you ten bucks I can juggle three jellyfish.
Me: Are you crazy? Those things will sting the living shit out of you!
SmokeEater: Not like those Man-O-War things - I mean the ones they have around here, with the little stubby tentacles. They're about the size of a softball, and if you keep them right-side-up you should be OK.


Me (sighing): OK, you're on. I'll go get my keys.

Twenty minutes later, in the ER at Dosher Memorial:

Dr. Larry: You tried to do what?!?

Posted by Chris at 11:00 PM | Comments (5)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 22, 2003

Incense, Sandals, and Dry Rubs: Stream-Of-Consciousness Vacation Memories

Finally pried the vacation pictures out of the digital camera I borrowed for this vacation (for those of you scoring at home: an HP315 camera, a 64MB CompactFlash card, and Windows XP do not play well together). Most of them aren't anything special, just standard vacation shots. There is one, however, that serves as another reminder (like this one) that only a few miles away from our tourist trap island is rural North Carolina: Blades R Us: Knives Swords Blowguns Incense

And speaking of our tourist trap island, I do have a word of advice: if you ever rent a beach house, make sure you get one with an outside shower, preferably enclosed. It's just the thing after a beachy afternoon to rid yourself of "Oak Island Dry Rub" - sea salt and beach sand, beer marinade optional (credit to Chumley for the expression).

And speaking of beach, here's a description of one of the hazards inherent in driving on an island that is mostly sand (from Oak Island/Southport's local paper, the State Port Pilot):

A 2001 Dodge ran into the rear of a 1994 Cadillac slowing down for a traffic light on East Oak Island Drive Sunday. The driver of the Dodge told officers her flip-flop shoe became caught between the brake pedal and the gas pedal as she moved toward the Cadillac.
--State Port Pilot, June 25, 2003, p. 7A

Posted by Chris at 03:39 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 11, 2003

Random Vacation Thoughts, Part IV

You get into kind of a rhythm when you rent a house at the beach (technically, across the street from the beach--the term is 'second row'). Wake up late, eat breakfast (early lunch, really), pack a cooler full of beer, hit the beach. When the cooler's empty, come back, eat lunch, reload the cooler, and return to the beach. When the cooler's empty again, you've pretty much had enough beach for the day, so you come back, rinse off in the shower underneath the house, then drip try in the breeze on the deck with more beer until dinner. After a seafood dinner that would have cost $40 per person back in Indiana, the serious drinking begins.

The amount of beer six determined adults can consume in this fashion is truly mind-boggling.

Of course, it's not just drinking beer. The surf on Oak Island was good enough for some decent bodyboarding; indeed, most days the hardest part was fighting your way out past the waves breaking right on the beach to get to the ones you want to ride. I claim no special skills here: mostly, I just jump out right in front of a wave and let it push me in to the beach. Occasionally, I hit one Just Right and actually get a good hard ride out of it. A couple of those in a row and I start thinking Dangerous Thoughts. F'rinstance: one time, I saw a benign-looking big wave, and I got cute and tried to ride across it instead of straight ahead. The ocean was having none of it. To punish me for my impudence, it rolled me, then flipped me, then, in a final indignity, cracked me in the head with my own board. I swallowed enough seawater to salt meals I'd crapped out three days ago, and I had an entire gravel pit in my swimsuit. And all I could think about was how fast I could get back out and catch another wave.

Posted by Chris at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 10, 2003

Random Vacation Thoughts, Part III

Whenever I travel, I like to pick up a copy of the local paper to get a feel for what kind of news the area residents are getting. Sometimes it's a daily, like the Lawton (OK) Constitution with its frequent attention to nearby Fort Sill. Other areas have a weekly paper, like my hometown Allegan (MI) County News. Anyway, it's easy to forget that even though I spent the last two weeks on a tourist trap island, only a few miles inland is rural North Carolina, where you get stories like this (courtesy of Oak Island/Southport's local paper, the State Port Pilot):

A resident of the 300 block of Liberty Road said she returned home from work Friday evening to find that her home had been entered. Officer C. Ledbetter said the woman reported a $100 radio, four cans of beer, and a roll of generic toilet paper were stolen. Police found no evidence.
--State Port Pilot, June 25, 2003, p. 7A

Posted by Chris at 07:58 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 09, 2003

Random Vacation Thoughts, Part II

One day on vacation, I was sitting on the front porch of the house, which overlooks Beach Drive, and the oceanfront houses, and the ocean, when I heard a stereo coming down the road. A long time later, the car that was the transport system for said stereo came into view. The car was a Mazda Protege5 four-door hatchback; the driver was a sullen twentyish male with the requisite baseball cap, Oakley shades, and B-pillar lean (you know what I'm talking about: the driver's seat is reclined nearly all the way back and the driver's head is leaning against the door pillar so it looks like there isn't actually anyone in the driver's seat at all). The only thing I could think of as he went by: "Dude, it doesn't matter how loud your stereo is or how cool you think you are--you're still driving a station wagon!"

Posted by Chris at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 07, 2003

Random Vacation Thoughts, Part I

I'm back from vacation, tanned (more or less), rested (definitely), and ready to run. I'll be emptying out the notebook over the next few days as I transcribe what I thought about while on Oak Island (not this one, this one). So let's get started.

I never understood the fascination with 'Southern' culture, usually manifested by the Confederate flag. I've always considered it a code word for redneck racism, but I could never quite quantify why until now. I was at a souvenir shop on Oak Island when I saw a t-shirt that said 'celebrating a rebirth of southern culture' or some stupid shit like that. On the back was a map of the US with the 'usual suspect' states highlighted, as well as one that surprised me--Missouri. I lived in Missouri for two years, and I know that the only people who fly the Confederate flag there are the same kind of shit-for-brains rednecks that fly the Confederate flag in other Northern states. Then it hit me--what all those states have in common. Before the Civil War, they were slave states. Thus, my conclusion: "Southern 'culture'" = "slavery."

I welcome any rational attempt to explain exactly where I got it wrong (hint: if your response contains the word 'Yankee,' it probably fails the rationality test and you submit it at your own risk. Especially egregious responses will be vigorously fisked).

Posted by Chris at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts

July 20, 2002

Vacation Is Good

We just got back from a week on the beach in North Carolina (here, for those of you scoring at home (satellite photo here)), and I was able to avoid any major sunburn. It's amazing what you can do with a 55-gallon drum of sunblock and a three-inch brush.

One of my favorite b-may (guest) rants is about proper respect for fire. 26 people in Lima, Peru are dead because these Einsteins didn't listen.

Posted by Chris at 06:52 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Random Vacation Thoughts