Friday, June 21, 2013

Waterfront Town Becomes the Extender 'Family'

Heading back to River Run and lunch! ... on beautiful Broad Creek near the convergence with Ship's Creek.

When I first moved to Oriental, NC,  Regina, one of the talented healers (one of the many unexpected perks of this small coastal town!) said to me, "I moved here in 1996 with my husband and shortly, thereafter, we split up.  But, I never felt alone even though I was brand new in this little town.  In a very short time I had friends that I knew would last a lifetime and now I consider this town (of about 1000 residents) my entire extended family".

I bought a house here just about 5 years ago and recently realized that I feel the exact same way.  My 80 (something.... still doesn't like to divulge her exact age ;-) year old Mom lives with me.  After a falling accident last December, she has needed much more care and I briefly thought of moving back North to be closer to a sister for help.  The thought of leaving friends, the Ole Theatre, my book club, daily walks by the water and fishing pier at Lou Mac Park, and peacefully mild winters aside, I was ready to do the best thing for my Mom and my own needs for help and support.

But, sometime, while I was pondering the move and considering logistics a wonderful thing happened.  I looked around one day and realized my 'extended family' had already filled in the gaps!  A caring and oh, so giving support system had grown up around me and my Mother and come into full bloom while I wasn't even looking!
Loren, our Newest Family Member

 I mentioned to a neighbor that I had to look into getting a ramp built for when my Mom was coming home and out of the assisted nursing rehab facility.  It seemed that a word was all it took and before I knew it, a group of men from one of the local churches were making a ramp off my back deck.   A nurse from another church showed up (not like churches at all -- just all community outreach groups) to get my list of needs.... "You'll need caregivers if you want to keep working at all, right?  The coordinating of P/T's,  O/T's, the CNAs and doctor visits along with 7 nights per week and 7 mornings per week will be more than you can or probably want to handle.  I suggest getting at least two caregivers you can count on for at least 40 hours per week to start".

Bless her and the following weeks' parade of concerned community members coming by to bring food, give smart advice from first hand experience, offer names and phone numbers of companions and home caregivers with great reputations, hold Mom's hand, hold MY hand, say a prayer and offer temporary fill-in help...   Wow.  My learning curve was surely cut down by 95% in time and effort.

Recently at lunch with one of my Mom's fill-in caregivers, head cheerleaders, devoted exercise physiologist and message therapist! and her husband at their lovely waterfront home, the topic of Mom came up.   I was moved to tears when my friend looked me point blank and said, "if anything ever happened to you we would simply move your Mom here with us, right Hon?"  He nodded his head so matter-of-factly, I knew there was no question that these two angels had become my siblings.

Perhaps, it's because so many of us are middle-aged,  from the North East, and we share many a common bond:
love of the outdoors, especially WATER!
wanting less crowds and more nature more months of the year,
sharing in the losses and other prices paid to leave our Northern homes and friends behind

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, little town.... (below was taken during one of the three whole weeks of winter -- brrrrr, it got all the way down to 40 degrees that night)....

Corny as all get out I love this small town.  Yep, we have Christmas Parades, annual dog parades, Art Festivals, Croaker Festivals, Dragon Festivals, Mum Festivals and music Festivals of all kinds and I think every single one of them is just to raise money for a charity  --  so they say.  I think they are just really for everyone to get together to enjoy each other and sniff out the next neighbor in need ;-)

And, did I mention that the boating, fishing, and sailing is as good as it gets in any part of the world?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Oriental NC's got DRAGONS

Oriental has a beach?? (shhhhhhh)

See the teeny weeny 50' wide strip of white sand? That's Oriental's town beach. You won't see it on any town map because it's a secret... one of the many that locals may want you to discover only gradually after you've displayed, perhaps, a kindred appreciation for their unique humor and what some would call an eccentric display of creative imaginations at work -- once you do, they open up like steamed clams! If you are not open to 'it', you may never 'get it' and you'll miss a deeper and richer experience for it.

View from 'the beach'

Look closely, this
has a very official-looking
State seal on it

In addition to sporting one of the prettiest views of the widest river mouth in the Continental U.S., at Pamlico Sound, it is purported to be a 'Wildlife Nesting Area' for an exotic creature. I had glanced at this sign several times and wondered why one would put a public beach atop a wildlife nesting area, but, only upon the 20th or so visit did I bother to read the details: North Carolina DRAGON (Draco Guardianas Carolinus) nesting area? Like a flash backward slide show, I saw the anals of my memory bring forth a variety of related pictures that I had filed away under 'find explanation later'. Like the DRAGON bumper stickers and license plate frames I'd seen during every visit to this unusual town, the dragon T-Shirts at local souvenir shops, and my brother's casual mentioning of 'missing the New Year's Dragon parade' in Oriental last winter. Oh yes! Wasn't that a DRAGON floating in the little duck pond near my favorite coffee shop in town?

'Sure enough' I thought as I walked the few blocks down to the Tiki Bar and The Bean -- 'downtown Oriental'.... (for an up close photo of this gorgeous glass in-laid floating sculpture, click onto

Now I felt I really needed to get to the bottom of this and one of the regulars on the porch of The Bean (he always greets me with a "Welcome to Walmart" when I walk up the stairway for a good cup of Java) sent me to 'The Dragon Shoppe" for the whole story on the Dragon theme of Oriental.

The sign for "The Dragon Shoppe" was one of those snapshots I had tucked away and I knew exactly where I'd seen it. The young girl behind the counter must have thought I was a little odd when I walked in quickly, just a little exerted from the 4 block jog in the steamy 90 degree air and asked, 'do you know the story of the dragon'? Unfortunately, she had no idea what I was talking about. Feeling more defeated than I should admit, I turned to go when I noticed a framed newspaper clipping at the edge of the countertop by the door entitled, "The Story of Oriental's Dragon". Aha!

So, it goes: Nobody knows why, but, sometime in the early 1960's a fun story began to spin about the ship for whom the town was named, "The Oriental", that was wrecked off the coast around nearby Bodie Island (the federal transport sank in 1862 and Rebecca Midyette found the name plate on the beach -- the whole town liked the name, so, 'Smith's Creek' became 'Oriental'). The ship, coming from the exotic lands of the Orient was carrying dragon's eggs, the insiders say. Apparently, dragons have a one hundred or so year gestation period. By 1965, the 'toddler' dragon felt old enough to come out to play on New Year's EVE. Thus the New Year's Eve Dragon parade of Oriental was born. Nobody knows where or how it found a mate, but, their offspring, not nearly as shy as its 'Dad' (the one that only comes out once a year), hangs out day and night at the Duck Pond flaunting its sparkling dragon scales to all who pass by.
So, what's the story with this red polka-dotted baby dragon that hangs out at the nesting area? When are all the nests going to spurn the plethora of eggs buried at the beach? Has somebody yet to spin a few explanations or are these answers just more secrets I need to dig deeper for? to
I walked back to the duck pond to take a closer look at the bronze plaque at the duck pond's edge. There are 50 names of 'Sponsors of the Dragon' that donated money to the talented and playful sculptor. There are countless townsfolk that donated their weekends, cranes, canoes, and time on meetings and launchings (an earlier dragon lost its buoyancy and a monumental 'operation and overhaul' took place). So, this is no single whim of an eccentric, quirky vacationer. This is the real mission that magnetized the playful imaginations of a collective consciousness of the entire town!
Oriental seems to be a place where 'playing make believe' by 'grown-ups' is accepted if not even applauded. Yes, it was just plain fun to research and write this story. I think they may have very big secrets here worth seeking out -- like playing make believe is STILL a whole lot of fun for ALL ages! Probably quite good for the heart and soul, too.
(I promise that I'll be the first to tell you when the eggs hatch on the beach).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shagging on the Carolina Coast

Another first! My new friend, Regina, asked me a few weeks ago if I wanted to take SHAG lessons. My assessment of her character persuaded me that whatever 'Shagging' was, it was likely not illegal (nor had any relationship to Austin Power's definition of the word). I was somewhat relieved when she explained that I would need to acquire some leather soled dancing shoes!
Just about any music with a beat can be used to accompany this fancy-footed subtly hip-swaying jive. Gratefully, Sylvia Anders, our twinkle-eyed instructor (always looks like she is harboring a comical and strictly classified secret!) likes the R&B sound -- a favorite of mine.
My 80 year old Mom, a Swing Dance trophy winner in her day, glanced at a Youtube video I had surfed up ('How to Shag Tonight") and said, "oh, that's just the Jitterbug". But, we beg to differ Gracie! According to John Hook, author of "Shagging in the Carolinas" ( Shag pre-dated the Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug by some 4 decades. Just when Billboard announced, in 1945, "Swing is Dead", "Beach Music" emerged on the Carolina Coastal Jukeboxes and Shag returned with a big force. And, it hasn't gone away -- around these parts anyway.
From Atlantic Beach, to New Bern, down to Surf City and Myrtle Beach one can find more Shag Clubs than perhaps, even, sailing clubs. I cannot help but snicker when I imagine Austin Powers landing on the Atlantic Beach strip viewing the billboard: "Shag with your Friends on the best hardwood floors in town", "Shag all Night for Free", as the beach clubs advertise. No wonder Sylvia has that gleam in her eye. She's been shagging all of her life!
See below, from youtube, "Learn How to Shag" -- even if you think you know all there is to know about shagging, you and Austin Powers may still learn a few good moves.

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Insights into Dad, Real Estate, and Swansboro, NC

As kids, during the late 60's and 70's, we visited various sailing ports of North Carolina with our Father, Seth Hiller. We camped on Ocracoke Island, sailed over to Beaufort to meet some of his friends, or moored the boat in Oriental's harbor for the night and rented bikes for some sightseeing the next morning. Swansboro, Bayboro, Morehead City.... "where are we today, Dad"?

Later in life, my Dad left his architectural firm in NYC to create some long-term projects for Duke University. One of those assignments brought him back to the coast of N. Carolina to Beaufort. Inset is a photo of the North Carolina Maritime Museum designed by my Dad circa 1989.

After being estranged from the area for almost 2 decades, he fell in love with 'the sailing capital of the world' all over again. He also fell in love with Pat, a beautiful blue-eyed Beaufort Realtor

Last night at my birthday dinner, my brother brought out a pile of old drawings of my Dad's and it was amazing to glean some unusual insight into his ideas and future dreams just prior to his departure. To my surprise and delight, there was sketch after sketch of a future rejuvenated Swansboro; replete with a boardwalk, restaurants, cafes, shops, townhomes and docks for nautical visitors!
Also just prior to his passing, unbeknownst to me, he and Pat were in the process of refurbishing an historic beauty on Elm St. in the quiet downtown waterfront area. He had also recently purchased a gorgeous chunk of that now prized waterfront land! Isn't that the one we had to sell for a pittance in 1993?
Apparently, he was planning a very busy 'retirement' in Swansboro.
I am sure his heart is warmed, as mine is, by the knowledge that this 'Friendly City By the Sea' has just about grown up and lived up to his dream over the last decade. He's probably enjoying a good 'I told you so', as well. What would that waterfront commercial Real Estate be worth if we kids would have held on to it???

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why I love my new home

Since moving here, I have experienced many 'firsts' in my life:

I assisted at a chowder cook-off and met the Mayor of my new small coastal town.

Entered an annual dog parade (benefits a local dog and cat shelter) with my 3-legged 'Pomahuahua', "JoyZee" and won 'Best in Show'! Our neighbor, Maxine (aka Dorothy) won Funniest in show!

And, for instance, just this morning from my front porch, I looked up from my computer to witness a B.B. King blasting golfcart putter by with a friendly white-haired waving fellow. The front of his custom canvas topper read, "WARNING, Watch for Dogs In Street". His yellow scarf-clad chocolate labradore led the jovial parade of two.

Eccentric? Definitely -- but, adhering to the definition of eccentric ('departing from the established norm of pattern) surprises and delights continually around these waterfront hamlets of North Carolina. Who doesn't want to be incessantly delighted? JoyZee, we're definitely not in Long Island any more!