29 February 2016

Working for the Mission

What did I do yesterday? I did some volunteer work for a local food mission (a.k.a. food bank, food pantry, restaurant du cœur), helping my sister, our cousin, and her son, who volunteer there on a regular basis. I'm a rank part-timer, of course, since I don't live here.

The place is called Martha's Mission Cupboard, and it was set up by a group of local churches more than 20 years ago as a way to provide food assistance to people in need. The clients are approved by the Carteret County Social Services as truly needful before they qualify for food assistance.

Martha's Mission takes cash donations from the public and from churches, and purchases a good part of the food the volunteers distribute. It also takes donations of food — canned goods, bread, bakery items, fresh fruit and vegetables, etc. — from local supermarkets, for example, and from charities that organize food drives.

My small part in all this is to spend Sunday mornings, while I'm here, helping my cousin and sister pick up big boxes of food donated by a local supermarket called Food Lion, load them into our cars, take them to the Mission, sort everything out, and pack the perishable items into big refrigerators and freezers. (As an aside, it's interesting that the Food Lion chain, founded in North Carolina nearly 40 years ago, is now owned by a Belgian grocery company.)

Helping out on Sunday mornings is just a three- or four-hour commitment for me. My sister works at the Mission on Sundays and Mondays, and often on Fridays. She is still employed part-time as an optician the other days of the week. My cousin is actually the full-time (and volunteer) operations manager at Martha's Mission. My mother has been a volunteer there for a couple of decades, spending an afternoon or two at the Mission every week.

28 February 2016

North Carolina history, and a salt marsh

North Carolina was the first of the 13 British colonies in North America to vote for independence from the Crown. On May 20, 1775, the colony's authorities authorized its representatives in the (North American) Continental Congress to express their resolve by so voting.

The N.C. Provincial Congress, meeting in the town of Halifax near the Virginia border, issued the following statement:
“It appears to your Committee that pursuant to the Plan concerted by the British Ministry for subjugating America, the King and Parliament of Great Britain have usurped a Power over the Persons and Properties of the People unlimited and uncontrouled and disregarding their humble Petitions for Peace, Liberty and safety, have made divers Legislative Acts, denouncing War Famine and every Species of Calamity daily employed in destroying the People and committing the most horrid devastations on the Country.”
The second date on the flag, April 12, 1776, marks the signing of a document known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, pre-dating by a few months the more famous Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson and published on July 4 of the same year in Philadelphia. Mecklenburg County, N.C., includes the town of Charlotte, which is now the biggest city in the two Carolinas.

The photos here show the view out of my mother's bedroom windows.

The retirement complex where she lives backs up to a salt marsh in Morehead City.

The marsh is full of birds, mammals, fish, and shellfish. Not to mention insects...

Above shows you what the retirement complex looks like. There are apartments for 100 residents, who have to be at least 62 years old to live here. Sometimes I wonder if I might end up spending my final days here... but I'll most likely stay in France to the bitter end.

27 February 2016

More waves

I hope this isn't too much of a [good] thing, but here it is. Yesterday my sister and I drove over to the beach to see what it looked like since the wind has died down some.

As you can see above, there is still a lot of surf. And, below, still a lot of sun glinting on the water.

And in the three photos below, quite a few waves. Breakers. Surf.

There was less wind than the day before, but it was, or at least felt, colder. There were fewer people out than there were last Sunday, but that's normal for a weekday.

I grew up swimming in these waters, but not in February. Only Canadians would risk going in the ocean here in February.

We locals didn't start swimming here until May or June, when the water had warmed up quite a bit. Air and water temperatures are in the 80s in ºF (high 20s in ºC) by the end of summer. If you dived in and swam out to the Gulf Stream (it's too far to swim to, but not really very far offshore), you might drift all the way to the French, English, or Irish coast.

26 February 2016

A stiff breeze and some rough surf

After the storm clouds cleared Wednesday night — we were lucky — the weather turned bright, sunny, and chilly. I drove over to the beach again yesterday morning to see how things looked over there.

What seems to be a straight strand of sand actually curves noticeably to the south when you look west. Or is that some kind of illusion?

A foamy surf close-up

I was standing on the beach at about where the red dot is, looking west, when I took my photos. MA lives where I put the green dot, in Morehead City, a mile north.

Houses and sand fences on the beach

Silver surf

Sea foam on the beach

The ocean was pretty rough and a stiff breeze was blowing in from the west-southwest. The breeze was not cold or unpleasant, as long as you weren't in a place where blowing sand was a nuisance — and I wasn't.

25 February 2016

L'Hôpital du comté

I just spent nearly 36 hours in the hospital, but not as a patient. My mother was hospitalized for a couple of days. You might wonder what a hospital in a small Southern U.S. town (pop. 8,000) looks like.

The new main entrance, a tall atrium, is a fairly recent addition. So is the hospital's name. Until recently it was Carteret General Hospital. Now it's Carteret Health Care — in case people don't know what "hospital" means, I guess. Please pronounce Carteret as [KAR-tuh-ret], with the stress on the first syllable and not the last.

Morehead City is the largest municipality in the county. It was named for the 19th century governor of North Carolina named John Motley Morehead, who sponsored the town's founding and development in the decade preceding the American Civil War.

Above is a door mat for you to wipe your feet on as you enter the hospital. The weather is rainy.

The view from the window of the hospital room was the one above. Not too reassuring, I'd say.

There are a lot of big old live oak trees on the hospital grounds, and many of them lost big limbs two or three years ago when a tornado tracked through the area.

P.S. Here's a screen capture of Accuweather's radar data at 8:45 p.m. Eastern Time Wednesday 2/24. I'll let you know tomorrow if we were hit by any big storms or tornadoes. The front was drifting eastward and the cells along it were moving northward.

24 February 2016

Sea birds

I've been more busy than ever and I haven't had time to blog. Here are a couple of photos from my afternoon at the beach on Sunday.

There is some chance that life will get back to normal today. Time will tell. Sorry to be mysterious...

23 February 2016

More beachy photos

Here are some more photos from my Sunday afternoon excursion. The beach at Morehead City is a 25-mile-long strand of sand along a barrier island that protects the mainland from the Atlantic Ocean. It faces south and is bathed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

Of course warm would be an exaggeration at this time of year. All the same, I was surprised at how mild and pleasant the southwest breeze felt Sunday afternoon. The inland waters of the sounds and rivers, which are not as deep, seem to be much colder than the ocean itself, and breezes blowing across them are chilly.

Late Sunday afternoon we — my sister, a cousin, her son, me, and MA — drove to a place called South River (pop. 300) to visit and have dinner with friends who've lived there for the past six or seven years after relocating from Florida. They have a great house built on pilings at the edge of a creek that flows into South River, which is more tidal than fast-flowing.

One of the South River friends is a guy I grew up with here back in the 1950s and '60s. We have a lot of memories of Morehead City the way it used to be (our families were neighbors and friends), and we had a lot of catching up to do since we hadn't seen each other in, probably, 35 years. His wife comes from Buffalo, NY. It's a 45-minute drive through woods and marshes from Morehead City to South River, where there are no grocery stores or other services.

My mother wore herself out over the weekend, so she rested yesterday. I had to do some laundry. It's supposed to turn rainy for the rest of the week, but most of yesterday was like Sunday weatherwise. I bought a jar of Polish sauerkraut at the supermarket in the morning and tried it with some local pork sausage. It was, well, too "sauer"  I'm afraid. I should have rinsed it in running water after I took it out of the jar and before I seasoned it and heated it up. That's what I do with sauerkraut in France, though it's not sold in a jar but raw and in bulk. It's milder and better. I'll rinse the next batch when I take it out of the jar.

P.S. For dinner I had a shrimpburger from El's Drive In, a local institution.

22 February 2016

A February day at the beach

I finally took a couple of hours off from my duties here and drove the two or three miles over to the beach yesterday afternoon. It was a bluish gray day with a breeze, but not at all chilly considering the season — even right on the beach.

I was surprised to see as many people on the beach as I did. They weren't exactly in bathing suits, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

What you see above is the end of a fishing pier. It's open to the public for a fee. Fishermen can cast their lines and try their luck in ocean waters. The pier might be closed for the season right now.

It's nice to be able to walk your dog on the beach in February. I miss Callie and I think she would happy to take such a walk on her 9th birthday, which is today.

21 February 2016


...of color. I'm still posting photos from my day in Paris. I'll tell you a secret: I haven't taken a single picture since I've been in North Carolina. I'm too busy — so busy that I nearly forgot to prepare this blog post for today.

Paris. Years ago, a couple of guys who were our neighbors in San Francisco went to the City of Light for a week-long visit. When they came back and started telling us about their adventures, they tried to remember the name of a certain café that they had liked a lot. No luck — the name had escaped them. One said to the other: "You remember, it was the place with the red awning."

Walt and I couldn't help but laugh. It seems like about half if not three-quarters of the cafés in Paris have red awnings. Restaurants too, like the pizzeria above, which is near the Cluny museum and the intersection of the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the Boulevard Saint-Michel. The first photo, up above, shows the red awning of the Bistrot du Marché, near the Place Monge in the 5th arrondissement.

In the nearby Cluny-La Sorbonne metro station, the arched ceiling of the subway tunnel is decorated with the colorful tile design you see in this shot. It's too bad that moisture is damaging it, but that's the kind of thing that happens underground.

20 February 2016

L'Eglise Notre-Dame de Lorette

The existing Notre-Dame de Lorette church was built starting in 1823, over a period of 13 years. It replaced an early 18th century chapel of the same name. The neighborhood, which was then outside the city proper, was developing, and there were no nearby churches, so a new one was called for.

Cabarets and guinguettes lined the rue des Martyrs, which runs up the slope of Montmartre to the north. The nearby Sacré-Cœur and Trinité churches didn't yet exist. Notre-Dame de Lorette was built in the neo-classical style that was much in vogue at the time.

By the way, lorette, for a time, was used as a slang term used to describe a person we might in English call a young woman "of ill repute". There were a lot of what might be called « petites maisons » in what was a rough and tumble neighborhood 200 years ago.

Remember, just on the north side of this neighborhood is the Place Pigalle. I guess it all went with the territory. Some things don't change.

In the 1970s, I knew an American woman — a fellow student and teacher — who lived on a street off the Rue des Martyrs, just behind the Notre-Dame de Lorette church. She was not a lorette. (I don't know why I am writing this...) I've walked by the church hundreds of time but I've never been inside.

Whatever. I liked this window display in a shop next to the church. I'm not sure what it is supposed to represent. Are these little statuettes in candy? Soap? Always expect the unexpected in Paris.

19 February 2016

L'Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité

There are two well-known 19th century churches in the Paris neighborhood where I spent a couple of hours wandering the streets Monday afternoon. The neighborhood is in the 9th arrondissement, just north of the Opéra Garnier and the Galeries Lafayette department store and not far from the Gare Saint-Lazare.

L'Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité is the larger of the two churches. It was built in six years' time in the 1860s when the Baron Haussmann decided to relocate an older church of the same name to the present site. The building is 90 meters (295 feet) long and the bell tower is 65 meters (213 feet) high.

I've still never been inside the Trinité church, even though I've walked past it hundreds of times, especially during the years when I was commuting on trains in and out of the Gare Saint-Lazare.

The statues on the four corners of the bell tower represent saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

One of the church's claims to fame is that the funeral of the composer Hector Berlioz was held here in March 1869. The façade is decorated in Italian Renaissance style, with elements of Gothic and French Renaissance architecture. An iron and steel framework, while nowhere visible, reinforces the structure.

I like the way the face on the left side of the photo seems to be peering down over the wall of the tower.

The other church in the neighborhood is the Eglise Notre-Dame de Lorette. I took some photos there too...

18 February 2016

Couleur locale (à Paris)

One of the treats for the eye along the streets of Paris is all the colorful displays at produce markets  you see in every neighborhood in the city. (Another color accent is all the red café and restaurant awnings.) Here are a few produce markets I noticed on Monday in Paris as I walked around town.

The shop above is on the Rue des Martyrs, what is called a rue commerçante that runs from behind the Notre-Dame de Lorette church toward the north up the slope of the Butte Montmartre.

Above is another shop on the other side of the city, near the Place Monge not too far from the Panthéon. There is a big outdoor market on the Place Monge (5th arrondissement) two or three times a week.

And finally, here's another produce shop on the rue des Martyrs. You see shops and displays like these all over the city.

I'm in North Carolina, where the weather is beautiful. Temperatures will be approaching 68ºF (20ºC) over the next few days and through the weekend. Not much to report otherwise. I'm recovering from jet lag. Today is my mother's birthday.