Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Go West

Over the 4th of July weekend, Willie and I took a little road trip to the western part of North Carolina and the eastern part of Tennessee.

After an overnight stay in Johnson City, where we stayed at Penny's house (Willie's dad's girlfriend) and heard some great bluegrass music, we drove a little north to Lake Watauga, where Penny has a boat house on the lake.

And although I had my first "Impeach Obama" bumper sticker sighting at the lake, it sure was pretty:

And exciting to sleep on a boat house complete with a toilet incinerator:

We then crossed over the NC border en route to Willie's grandma's mountain house.

Although I had been to the house a few times before, on this particular visit, I attended my very first rodeo.

I still regret not taking my first pony ride.

The cowboys pre-rodeo.

The opening credits of the rodeo came complete with lady cowboy riders, the Confederate flag, and about three different versions of "America the Beautiful."

After saying the Plede of Allegiance and singing the "Star Spangled Banner" ("the greatest song about the greatest country ever born," according to the rodeo MC), the audience stood and bowed their heads for the cowboy prayer. (My head was not bowed, but my mouth was gaping.)

And then it was time for the bareback riding event, where the cowboys attempt to stay on a bucking horse, holding on by just one hand tucked into the rigging (or whatever it's called), long enough to qualify past the buzzer.

Willie and I agreed that the bucking horses reminded us a little of Fonzie when he gets loose from the house.

And then it was time to go back up the mountain...

Visit some old friends...

(This cow would go nicely with my collection of white pets.)

And relax in the round house on Big Pine.

It was sad to leave,

But nothing that a little trip to Waffle House couldn't fix:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

There Is No Pavement Here

Well, the lack of sidewalks here has been trumped by the lack of paved streets. Willie and I have bought a house on a gravel dead-end road. In Durham, this exists about a mile north of downtown and fancy restaurants.

There was much discussion about the difference between a gravel road and a dirt road -- and which sounded better. But whatever you want to call it, this is our new street:

And this is our little house:

The house is cute and old and well rehabbed (by someone else, which was key). What sold us was the crazy two-thirds-of-an-acre backyard, which is partly wooded, fully fenced and backs up onto a wooded ravine.

Some shots of the main deck:

Our guardian fish:

My first vegetable garden:

Some blackberry bushes:

I used to make fun of people who compost (not really, but kinda), and, well, I take it all back, especially since composting turns out to be way more complicated than I thought:

The other crazy thing about the crazy backyard is that is has three out-buildings, complete with electricity, finished walls and floors, and AC units and space heaters:

That open structure to the right of the garage will eventually be a screened-in porch:

Fonzie is hot and happy running around like a semi-free dog in his backyard:

As for us, we've become instantly boring people to talk to, concerned about the standing water in the basement, the over-budget renovations, the cracks that just showed up in the ceiling in the second bedroom...and whether or not we live on a gravel road or a dirt road. We are boring but happy and really really darn lucky.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Last Night a Chicken Wing Saved My Life

Chicken wings have played a very significant role in my life in the past couple of weeks.

Most recently, I ate too many of them at a Super Bowl viewing party at my neighbor's house. But is there really such a thing as too many chicken wings, you might be asking yourself. I fully agree.

In and of itself, this shouldn't have been a significant event. Many people eat chicken wings while watching the Super Bowl. However, the difference between many people and me is that I annoyingly talked it up for days beforehand. Whether it was to add to my always-open-invitation pity party ("It's the only thing I'm looking forward to in the next week!" I whined to Willie), or to have something to tell my co-workers about my exciting weekend plans ("Eating chicken wings!"), I wasn't messing around with the wings.

Five days pre-game, I began conducting research on where to get chicken wings in Durham. And then I put full responsibility onto Willie for my wing happiness. "You better make this happen," I threatened him. We both knew I wasn't kidding.

One day pre-game, we drove around to several potential chicken wings spots. A couple of them no longer existed. We finally took a gamble on a small shack with a hand written sign.

But once the order of wings had been placed, I transferred my wing anxiety to a new fear: Since there would be multiple people at the Super Bowl party, what measures were in place to ensure that I would get enough chicken wings? No, I'm not proud of this self-centered-particularly-when-it-comes-to-food trait, but, yes, it's real.

In the end, there were plenty of chicken wings, of course. (Turns out I had nothing to fear but greed itself.) And the wings were absolutely delicious -- everything I could have ever wanted in a deep-fried-and-smothered-in-tear-inducing-hot-sauce wing.

The Super Bowl wing event wasn't the only Festivus miracle this season, however. Just a week before the Super Bowl, Fonzie had his own memorable chicken wing experience.

It was an average Sunday afternoon, and I was leaving the house to go run an errand. Fonzie, who never tries to escape when the front door is opened, decided that this was his chance. Within seconds, he was a free naked dog, collar-less because I had been using the training collar, which I only put on when I take the dog out.

I grabbed the leash and some treats, and Willie got on his bike to help with the rescue effort. Fonzie seemed excited to be out and free, as he started making his way down the block, milling around in peoples' backyards, and darting off whenever I got close. The treats were no help, and without any collar with which to grab Fonzie, it didn't even matter how close you got.

After twenty-five minutes of playing chase on the block, the rescue effort was starting to feel futile and all too reminiscent of the night Fonzie got loose a little over a year ago. As he started running down a second block and a different street, the reality began to sink in: I was just going to have to wait for him to come home on his own, and that wasn't going to be a fun waiting period.

I watched Fonzie dart in front of a car and felt my stomach drop. Just then, a car approaching me slowed down, and the woman in the passenger seat rolled down her window. This was so not the time to give anyone directions! But as the car came to a stop, the woman stuck her arm out of the window to offer me a half-eaten plate of chicken wings.

"Here, use these to try to get your dog back. Your dog is probably headed down there where there are lots of dogs," she said as she pointed in the direction Fonzie was running. "That's where our dog goes when he gets loose. In fact, why don't you get in the car and we'll take you there."

Unsure of whether or not I was having an out-of-body experience, I got in the back seat of the car. The woman's husband drove us the two blocks to a dead-end, run-down block.

Chicken wing plate in hand, I thanked the couple profusely and got out of the car. There were several little puppies running wild and a few bigger dogs chained up, and there was Fonize. Without strategizing, I held the first wing out to Fonize. He grabbed it and ran away behind one of the houses.

I followed him behind the house, and for the second wing, I wised up. I held out his collar -- a loose and fairly wide fastened circle -- and held the chicken wing to the side of it, so that Fonzie would have to put his head through the collar to get the chicken wing. In pursuit of the wing, he stuck his head through the loop, and snap, he was back in his collar.

"Got him!" I shouted to Willie, who had followed on his bike. Thirty-five minutes after the adventure began, it was over.

I was unbelievably relieved, pissed at Fonzie, and awe-inspired by these angels disguised as chicken wing people who had helped me get my dog back.

Luckily the couple had pointed out where they lived, so I was able to thank them with a plate of brownies the following week -- a drop in the bucket of how much gratitude I felt for them. They had reaffirmed my faith that people were nice and good and helpful, and they had confirmed something else I had suspected all along: chicken wings really are the answer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow Day. For Real.

This time, I was down with the hype. Despite my mockery of the snow days in 2009 -- the ones where the state shut down but the streets were melted and clear by 11:00 AM -- I was bitten by the media buzz of this storm. I brought it up in every possible conversation, I planned my work day around going out and getting milk, and I stood in line for forty-five minutes at the video store, just hours before the storm was supposed to hit.

It was a Friday night, so staying home from work wasn't a carrot. But gosh darnit, it was exciting. It was an event. And this time, the event delivered.

By Saturday morning, we were blanketed with five inches of snow. It continued to snow on and off for twenty-four hours with not a plow or a salt or sand truck in sight.

Which meant plenty of time to play in the snow with Fonzie:

White dog in snow: Can you spot Fonzie?

The snow brought out the wild in Fonzie -- the husky that should be up in Alaska pulling sleds and running like the wind.

So we dug up the stake and 30-foot leash from under the snow and let him run semi-free in the backyard.

Fonzie does that dog thing where he gets so excited that he wants to play bite you.

But he's actually not so tough in a snow ball fight.

Four nights after it first began to snow, schools are still closed, many businesses have yet to reopen, and most side streets have not seen a plow. And tomorrow brings another weather advisory of icy rain, which will only refreeze the slushy unplowed streets.

Go ahead, North Carolina Storm of 2010. I'm down right proud of you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Five Days on a Screen Saver

For our honeymoon, Willie and I flew to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, where Willie's friend hooked us up with a room at the sold out Punta Cana resort.

He also hooked us up with VIP treatment at the airport, which reminded me why being rich and famous wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

We spent five days and six nights at the resort, with Christmas falling smack in the middle of the trip.

It was easy to forget it was Christmas, except when this guy showed up.

The views were not too terrible.

Nor was the pool on the sea option.

The resort hosts an ecological reserve, in case you get sick of seeing so much baby blue.

This was our morning and afternoon routine.

(About half-way through our stay, we realized that there were several workers whose job it was to rake up the unsightly seaweed that would accumulate every couple of hours along the shore. Thank goodness is all I can say.)

And this is La Chozo, the best lunch spot ever, and where we ate lunch every day.

And this is what we ate for lunch every day.

Our mode of transportation on the resort.

Pretty easy to be happy campers when you're on vacation in the Carribean:

But life looks alright, too, back home in our yellow-tinted glasses in North Carolina.