Thursday, October 22, 2009

Too Dumb to Vote?

It sounds suspiciously like the Obama Administration is making the case that Democrats are too stupid to vote for the "right" candidates without those convenient labels on their ballots?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bull City Syndicate - Kinston's Concert Series

On June 4, 2009, I caught the initial installment of Kinston's occasional concert series for the summer that they are calling "Sand in the Streets." Pride of Kinston is sponsoring the concert series to promote Kinston's downtown.

I have to admit, I am one of the people that has been slightly more than skeptical about the idea that Kinston's strength is as a tourist attraction. But having said that, "Sand in the Streets" was an incredible evening.

First, the setting was one of the best that I have been in for this type of event. The concert was held (and will be held throughout the summer) at the Neuseway Park at the intersection of Gordon and Mitchell streets, just a couple of blocks from the King Street bridge in Kinston. The air was clear, the temperature was warm but not overpowering, and the trees and proximity to the Neuse River, which the park backs up to, gave a fresh-scrubbed aspect to the breezes blowing in off of the river.

It was a genuine family event. In one section was a group of teenagers playing hackeysack, in another was a mother playing catch with her small son. Just in front of the stage is a huge concrete slab for a dance area, and the number of three-year olds showing off their dance moves gave an air of cuteness to the evening that was worth the trip all by itself. Everywhere one looks throughout the park are couples and small groups sitting in gazebos, at picnic tables, and on park benches talking, laughing, or swaying to the music.

Parking is plentiful both in the park area and across the street in the large parking areas that back up to the downtown businesses. Various drinks and snacks were for sale, but admission to the concert itself was free.

Bull City Syndicate is a horn/funk band of the 1970s variety reminiscent (to me, at least) of K. C. and the Sunshine Band, minus the embarassing haircuts and clothing. The bass-heavy, accessible funk included a whole host of cover tunes that would have been familiar to anyone over the age of 20, including tunes by Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, Chicago, and K. C. and the Sunshine Band. A trio of singers, including the band's newest member, Charlotte Gregory, shared the crooning duties, but the distinctive sound of the band was at its finest when trumpet, trombone, and saxaphone was leading or intertwining with the traditional power rock core of guitars, bass, and drums.

I am oddly surprised every time that I go to a concert in which music from the 1970s or 1980s is played at the number of small children and teenagers who know the words to these songs from my own youth word for word. This time was no different.

The music was, as I say, upbeat, familiar to most, and expertly rendered. The showmanship of lead singer Dan Lantier was professional but fun - inviting the small children and teenagers gathered around the stage to sing, dance, and enjoy themselves.

The "Sand in the Streets" series continues from now through August 13 at Neuseway Park. Future bands include Teresa James (June 18), The Showmen (fireworks this night, July 4), Sweet Potato Pie (July 16), the Four Knights Band (July 30), and one of my own favorite bands to close the series - the Band of Oz (August 13).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Moon's Grill - High Point, NC

Moon's Grill is a small diner that has been in business for approximately 40 years, though previously under different names. Jamie G. and Erica B. recently took over management of the grill, and it is one of my favorite stops when in the Triad.

Echos of the theme song from the old sitcom, Cheers, ring in my head every time I walk through the doors. Seemingly for every person who enters a cheery greeting is shouted out from both the grill and behind the register, along with some inquiry as to "Where were you yesterday?" or "How is that project you are working on at the factory?" Moon's Grill is evidence that there really are still places in America, despite our increasing social polarization and alienation, where "everybody knows your name."

The decor of the grill is both happy and homemade, with candles on tables bearing positive-thinking slogans and Biblical art and verses on the walls. In the corner sits an old-fashioned quarter machine, and it is a rarity when someone is not camped out in front of it attempting to get a five- or ten-dollar bill to drop. Moon's is one of those places where it is permissible to stop in and read the paper for a while, and coffee is available, and fresh, all day.

"We have a mix of customers here," said Jamie G., one of two owners and regular employees (between Jamie and Erica there is 39 years of restaurant experience!). "Some are so unusual we call them 'Moon's Loons.' We could start our own psychiatrists office here in the back. We have a really interesting - but good-hearted - group."

Moon's is placed squarely in the old industrial section of High Point, NC, at 506 Prospect Street. The clientele is largely working class, with occasional large orders flowing in from an entire office or work area. However, there is a sprinkling of retirees who come in for conversation and coffee, firefighters, and even professionals, along with people who wander in from the surrounding neighborhoods.

The food itself is both delicious and filling, as one would expect in a grill that serves the industrial worker. One specialty is called the "Moon Burger," a two-patty burger with chili, slaw, and just about any other fixins that you might like. I was once told, "we can even put a hot dog on it for ya." The chili cheese wedges are a great side that can be ordered alongside the main dish. Corn dogs can be had for slightly more than a dollar, and there are five combo meals available (as of this writing) for $3.75, for the value-conscious.

However, Moons also branches out beyond the traditional American cuisine menu of the typical diner and adds three salads to the menu (I recommend the Crispy Chicken Salad) as well as homemade cookies and brownies on occasion.

Moon's Grill is at 506 Prospect Street in High Point, North Carolina, 27260. You can contact them by phone (and even phone in an order for pickup) at 336.885.7550. The grill is open Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The next time you are in the triad, program the address into your Garmin and visit one of the remaining friendly, filling, value-oriented diners that once was typical across the entire country. And tell them that The Carolinian sent you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Raleigh Tea Party

Below is amazing, candid, man-on-the-street video from the Raleigh, NC, Tea Party/Tax Protest on April 15, 2009.

Rumor has it that in the Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem area there were in excess of 2,500 in attendance at similar protests.


Young girl holding protest sign: "I'll pay my taxes AFTER I am nominated for cabinet" (1:00).

Dog wearing protest sign: "Fleeced by the IRS" (1:10).

Teenage girls holding a sign: "Money only grows on ACORN trees." and "Don't Tread on Me" flag (Gadsden battle flag).

Protest sign: "Liberty: All the Stimulus We Need" (2:28).

Businessman holding sign: "I am Not Your ATM" (3:51).

African-American woman sitting at book table with titles like, Obama: Why Black America Should Have Doubts, and Why The Conservative Mind Matters. (4:04).

Gadsden flags fly throughout, talk radio fans will hear a couple of familiar voices, and even those who are not gathered in protest seem to agree with the protest, judging from the car horns sounding.

There are four additional videos available on Youtube. Thanks to krb3141 for letting us borrow his videos. See the link below the video to click through to his page and view the remaining videos.

See krb3141's Youtube account of the Raleigh Tea Party.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

60 Years at Grainger Stadium

I grew up at Grainger Stadium.

I have enough experience at Grainger Stadium to remember an owner named Kuhlman, a batboy named Tex, successive generations of Eagles, Bluejays, and now Indians, and I have Tony Fernandez's autograph somewhere.

And yes, I knew Delmont Miller. My buddy Robert Dixon introduced me to him when we were all teens. And last night was the night that the stadium dedicated the press box to Delmont, who had spent so many nights supervising the scoreboard and commandeering the microphone.

My wife, though, has been to precious few baseball games in her life, and I am not exactly sure that she can distinguish (well) between baseball and golf. I have had to explain such advanced concepts as "bunt" and "double play" to her in the past.

Nevertheless, on April 11, 2009, we went out to Grainger Stadium with my now-retired mom and caught the game between the Kinston Indians and the Winston-Salem Dash. Oddly enough, just last year my wife and I had caught one of Winston-Salem's last games as the Warthogs. In my humble opinion, Warthogs was a better mascot name than is Dash. I don't exactly get all of this new age sports team abracadabra, though I have a vague hunch that it is all done in an attempt to "expand the sports market" to women. I have had enough of the abstract team names like Magic, Heat, Fire, and Dash. Whatever happened to Bulldogs? Lions? Warthogs? I presume that it won't be long before some team will rename itself the Rash. If it keeps up, I will someday buy a sports franchise and name it the Rage. But that is another story.

So we arrived relatively early and, true to form, having found our seats quickly found the concession stand. Now, I don't want to get into a rant here (partially because there is nothing to rant about - I was actually offered EXTRA jalepenos by one of the young girls working the concessions), but if they are gonna sell all that food, shouldn't some community spirit-mindedness also mandate that they offer not a seventh-inning stretch, but a seventh-inning gym membership? One heaping serving of nachos, one helping of fries, and one "Tribe Dog" (don't fall for it - a "Tribe dog" sounds like it ought to be as big as a hatchet or have a scalp on it or somehow be massively "all the way," but it only has onions and chili on it) furnishing the set-up for a bag of peanuts, and I was jazzed for the game.

The thing about minor league ball is that you truly never do know what is going to happen on a given night. When the Red Sox play the Brewers, we pretty well know how things are going to work out 90% of the time. But when the Kinston Indians play the Winston-Salem Rash (Flash? Mash? see the problem with these abstractions...?), the team that won the game 5-2 only the night before could very well find itself trailing by six runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Which sounds like a snoozer of a game. But as I sat there wondering if Kinston High School had showed up to play rather than an "Advanced A" minor league team, my eyes began to take in the sights from the stadium. And along the baselines, in the outfield, in the shadows of the stadium I saw memories....

I remember Grainger Stadium before they spent $1.2 million on stadium upgrades. I remember when the scoreboard had some guy hanging numbers on it. I remember when behind the foul lines on both sides there was a single set of bleachers, and lots of empty space, so that players used to come out of the dugout and play catch. Now, there is a huge animated scoreboard with flashing lights and coordinated sounds. Now, the area behind the foul lines is filled with bleachers.

Delmont and Tex, alas, are gone. Grady Little is gone. Tony Fernandez and Marty Pulley are gone. But I remember seeing Darryl Strawberry play in Grainger Stadium. And perhaps more importantly, I remember sitting there with a dozen dates, numerous family members, and my dear departed granddad.

And as I sat there through what seemed would likely be an excruciating game, I shared these memories with my wife. At least she knew who Darryl Strawberry was. Apparently her own granddad had something against drug-addled outfielders.

I boasted that I could predict when a foul ball would occur (and I can - a trick I picked up from listening to Harry Carey). Now she owes me some Dipping Dots.

And I told her stories about playing catch with my granddad when I became a member of Bethel Academy's baseball team. She smiled, but my mother got a tear in her eye.

We talked. We talked about family. We talked about hometown - and hometown legends. We talked about change. And I discovered that Grainger Stadium is a useful metaphor for how much change can take place, and yet everything still remain oddly... stable.

And in the bottom of the ninth, Kinston scored five runs and almost pulled it out.

Despite the loss, it wasn't a wasted night at all. It's not just that Indians baseball offers a "family friendly" atmosphere (though I have no complaints - even after one of the most lamebrained exercises in umpiring that I have ever personally witnessed, there was no cursing from the stands, though an encouraging round of "You're an idiot!" was enjoyed by all), but we had a great family night out. There is something about the ebb and flow of minor league baseball - perhaps with an emphasis on the ebb - that lends itself to reflection, bonding, and enough moments of rest to really contemplate what is important. It's an added plus when you can enjoy it all while holding your wife's hand and listening to Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" several times in a night.

The Kinston Eagles/Bluejays/Indians have been on the "cutting edge" (yes, that was an intentional malapropism) of family fun night for 60 years now. I know, because I first came to know Grainger Stadium and the Kinston team about 1978.

And for all of the changes, it is an odd comfort to be there and to remember that this is the place where I met Delmont, hung out with Robert, and first saw both Tony Fernandez and Darryl Strawberry.

And it was a joy to be able to share that time with my wife and mom.

So we lost 10-9. You can't win them all. And there is a dignity in not winning, but scratching back from awful umpiring and stranded baserunners to make a game out of it in the ninth inning, when a quarter of the crowd had already abandoned you in the seventh inning.

For 60 years, Kinston baseball has been offering not only family entertainment, but the occasional object lesson in life to those who take the time to indulge and reflect upon the real significance of what is, and isn't, going on around those bases.

And for the first time in nearly 20 years, it was good to be home.