#GoVote2014 : My First Election Day Ballot

I had intended to get into the early vote line, as I’d done back in 2008, but stuff kept preventing me from going. Well to be truthful, the “stuff” was cold, blustery weather! Especially the case on Saturday. So, I ended up putting it off till today.

I’d looked up where the appropriate polling station was, and thought initially that I could access it by walking. It’s only just over a quarter mile away, after all. But after taking out the GPS and walking to my apartment complex’s leasing office, and finding that I was getting no closer to that location, I almost just gave up and stayed home. Well this happened after I ventured inside of the office and asked a worker who didn’t seem to speak much English if she had any idea where the polling station was.

Once I got home though, I fired up the Uber app and it said I could get a ride within two minutes. After the craziness I’ve seen in articles about this company charging people insane fares over Halloween, I was kind of hesitant to book a ride on this possibly busy night as well. I love the service, but if they charge me $500 I would be quite unhappy, to say the least!

A car arrived, fortunately with a driver who had seen me before. As we rolled up, he said “oh yeah, looks like a voting place. The line stretches nearly off of the sidewalk!”

I hopped out, thankful that the temperature was only in the mid 60s or so, and gingerly made my way toward the line’s first occupants. A woman who was on her way out helped me to find where everyone else was.

I was initially assisted by a kind person who said she works in RTP, went to school in Boston, and was originally from DC. She ended up having to leave, because her husband called saying he needed a ride.

Then, I was attached to, well, a nice but definitely opinionated person. She made her political views known for at least the next 15 minutes, causing me to chuckle a little if anything. I suppose it is a good thing to be so passionate about your beliefs, but I am saddened by the amount of vitreal that results from said these days. I mean disagreements, or perhaps more accurately differences of opinion on how policy should be enacted and who should do it are fine. After all, how would this voting thing work if such differences didn’t exist. We just need to re-remember how to listen to each other and be willing to hear things that are quite contrary to our own positions.

So I listened to her chatter as we inched our way toward the hot room, where we were again split into lines based on our last name’s place in the alphabet. This led me to be passed on to a third individual, who told me she’s currently attending Durham Tech and studying Early Childhood. She said she sees me outside of my door on a regular basis, and also offered to give me a ride once the voting was complete. Really kind person.

After another 20 minutes or so, we finally approached the table. We were asked if we had a picture ID, but told we didn’t need to display them for this election. They will be needed for the next. I’d registered to vote at the DMV when renewing my ID anyway, so I was good there.

Next, the woman thumbed through her list of names, confirmed that I was indeed on it, and presented me with a ballot. My new friend then took me over to a guy to inquire about the accessible voting machine, and he said he often uses it because it’s “cool”.

The ballot was fed into the machine, and off I went. That guy was attempting to talk to me as I listened to the instructions, but I finally got him to hold up long enough. There were also paper coverings on the earpieces, I guess so we don’t run the risk of transmitting germs from others’ dirty ears. A Braille display was present at the bottom of the machine, but it didn’t seem to be doing much other than posting the line “Insert ballot”. I would bet though that I could have done more to activate if, if I’d needed that service.

I have to say that it was quite empowering to be able to make my own choices and have time to go through the whole list. As noted in my 08 post, I didn’t get the chance then because of impatient folks saying they didn’t want to set the machine up. I will insist from now on that I be granted such access though, just as any other eligible American has the right to make his or her own voting choices without interference from others.

I was surprised that there were so many, especially the long list of judges whom I hardly know anyway. It took me maybe 5 minutes to work my way through all of the names, then a good little while for the machine to finish “Processing,” then we were on our way. I’d arrived at 5:15 or so, and think I hit the door out nearly an hour later. I don’t know how that looks with regards to other polling stations, but it didn’t seem too bad during the after work crush. Plus, I’ve rarely met so many people at the same time.

I confess that I haven’t voted nearly as often as I should, well ok that was only my second time so doing actually. But my ability to do so in this community continues to demonstrate the unprecedented level of access I have to resources here. This is why I would really like to remain here for a long time if at all possible. Not excluding some big, as yet unforeseen opportunity to relocate to a big city and great new job, but barring that I’m pretty happy right here in this little apartment.

I am also exceedingly pleased with the fact that so much is now accessible to persons who are blind, deafblind, with other kinds of disabilities and the like. Goodness knows we still have a long way to go. But as I sat in front of that machine participating in a widely watched state election, I thought about the brave men and women, African Americans, persons with disabilities, etc, who put their lives on the line to ensure that I could take that seat. I’m reading Edge of Eternity, Ken Follett’s last in a 20th Century trilogy that takes place mostly in the 60s. He puts his characters in the place of the major historical events of that era, I suppose revealing little-known details of what it was actually like on the ground. It has definitely given me a new appreciation, and if I can help it, I will vote forever going forward. Thank you.

#TransitThursday : On Uplifting Passengers and Drivers

This post inspired by the most recent on GoTriangle’s blog entitled A Shout out to Operator George Walker, in which we were asked to recount our good experiences aboard Triangle Transit buses.

It never takes long for a routine to develop. Both in coming to and leaving work, I have encountered individuals who do surprisingly small things that make a big difference in the day’s direction. I suppose they are aware of the effect they have, but it never hurts to acknowledge in a formal way.

At 6 AM, I arrive at the Durham Station transportation center, where I await the usually timely 700 bus. This will take me to the Regional Transportation Center, (RTC), which is right across the lot from my employer. Usually I have my iPhone in hand, headset on, and some interesting programming to try and keep myself awake.

I think maybe a month and a half ago, I heard something unique as we approached the dropoff point. The driver, I guess an older woman but don’t know for sure, began talking to us on the PA. Ever since, she usually offers some word of encouragement, and makes a point of saying hi and bye to each passenger as we board and disembark.

She also has a pretty good singing voice. I admit I got a bit nervous when she began singing “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” while navigating the winding roads near RTC. Fortunately though, she left the “clap”ping to us. We were all highly amused though, stomping and cheering by the time we arrived. The smile I had on my face after that, and after so many of her fun interventions, caused me to easily sail through at least the first half of the day before my head began to bob on a stick. I know she probably feels pretty tired herself, and so think it’s great that she takes the time to inject that little bit of life into her regular passengers.

The other person from whom I regularly draw energy hops on to ride in the afternoons. I’ve searched this blog high and low, and am surprised to discover that I hadn’t yet written about her, at least not in a way that I can think to find. I guess I’ve just done so in other circles.

Our initial contact happened, because she was concerned that I might find it difficult to get home safely through a forecast storm, maybe in mid April. I ensured her that I would be fine, and unwittingly, a friendship was born.

We only get two minutes, if traffic causes us to slow up enough, so the getting-to-know-you has occurred in fits and starts. She is an older, wiser, person with whom I talk a lot about my employment goals. Doing so leaves me feeling more positive, and also helps me think things through.

I enjoy watching the camaraderie she has with her colleagues, as they all band together to help each other out when needed. She has also helped me run errands on occasion, and would have allowed me to join their group for a fun night out in Durham if I’d not been too slow on the uptake with regards to checking messages. I would say that if there’s anything I most enjoy about public transit, it would be this kind of community-building.

So thank you drivers and passengers for helping to add some spice to what would in many cases be drab workdays. As always, I hope that I give at least half as good as I get.

The Dinner

Well, I promised to write a bit about my experience attending the dinner for those who had received or were receiving the Thorpe-Mitchell Diversity Leadership Fund Scholarship. So, I will attempt to do just that.

A cool and somewhat gloomy Thursday dawned, but I felt satisfied that I would get a shorter workday. I knew that in order to arrive in Chapel Hill so that Dr. Mitchell, my former grad school mentor, could pick me up; I would have to depart from the jobsite around 2:15. Before catching the 805 bus at 2:30, I finally scuttled across the lot and picked up 2 7-day Triangle Transit bus passes. For some odd reason, they never gave me one for this month, so I’d been having to cobble together enough cash to board every morning. This was a pain.

It had been two years (2!) since I last ventured over to UNC Chapel Hill’s Health Sciences Library, where I lived during my grad school days. So I guess it shouldn’t have been too surprising that I couldn’t remember things as well as I’d thought I might. After detours into grass and accidentally sliding inside of other buildings, I arrived at the School of Medicine in which my mentor’s office is contained. The sounds of students and smell of mingling perfumes flooded me with nostalgia and longing to be back in that circle.

She was at that moment engaged in another appointment, so I cooled my heels in the reception area and played with GPS apps, learning what all was nearby. Much of UNC is labeled, which is pretty cool.

Then we were off. The get-together was to be held at the Hampton Inn Chapel Hill Carrboro, which was not far at all away from the med school. So we arrived early, as it was to start at 5, went to wash hands and all that fun stuff, and settled in.

I had a name tag on, and so as I sat there a confusing array of people stopped by to say hi and inquire about the status of my life, what I was hoping to do, etc. All of the other recipients, as well as nearly everyone else there, works in the Allied Health field. This is a broad area, covering careers from Rehab Counseling (which is what I had tried) to Occupational Therapy, Clinical Laboratory Science, and Speech Language Pathology, to name a few. And most of them actually had decent jobs, too.

We were to give a short speech detailing what we had achieved, how the scholarship had helped us, and why we felt that diversity of culture, gender, and thought was necessary in the field of Allied Health. And, well, I don’t know what I said. I had ideas, but guess I was a bit intimidated by my own current position and desire not to come across as a negative ned. I croaked something about appreciating the award, it having been my second such after being named a Ronald E. McNair Research intern in 2001. McNair was the first African American astronaut who sadly lost his life in the Challenger explosion. As I’ve probably said before, that program’s goal is to increase participation of underrepresented groups at the graduate level. So, I feel I still have a high mandate to become more successful somehow, also in order to reimburse the scholarship fund I got while at UNC. I want to help others to have a better opportunity to get where they want to be as well.

With regards to networking, a couple of the individuals I spoke with are going to see about finding me some contacts to learn about journalism or communication studies programs. I met and was assisted in getting food by a nice young woman from Texas who now works at Duke doing something that sounded over my head. Haha.

For eating, they mostly had finger food. I had a few meatballs, a delicious little turkey sandwich with all kinds of stuff in it, some brie cheese, (whatever that is,) tuna, and a delicious brownie. Because I was unaware that my turn to speak would be next, I found myself hastily ramming the last of that brownie into my mouth as I made my way to the podium. This may be why I had a hard time talking in straight sentences: chocolate can amp you up!

And that’s really all that happened at the dinner. My phone also told my mentor how to get back to my apartment, and she says that now we will stay in touch and I might go over there to chill with her and her husband sometimes as I did while in grad school. She really is like a mother to so many of us.

Now I just need to try and ride the forward momentum gained from that experience to new heights, and hopefully stay up there this time! It was strange going back to the same old job on Friday, but also I felt better as I could see that tiny pinprick of light shining at the end of the proverbial tunnel. More soon.

Preparatory Thoughts

In pondering the next few days, I am inspired by a couple of my good blogger friends. I will mention them when referring to what they have said that so inspires me.

So here we are yet again, having arrived at that time of year when things either will or won’t change. Grad school? Some new way into my desired career? I’m still not entirely sure, but I do think long and hard about it as I jam light sticks into the packs each day.

Last week, I had a job evaluation. The supervisor concluded that I have indeed improved in nearly every area, and especially in speed of packaging and quality of the final product. These areas of growth didn’t necessarily occur passively, but rather I had to generate some active strategies to cut down on wasted time and still maintain or increase efficiency. I believe that these strategies will be useful for me wherever I end up.

I posted about this on Facebook, and some suggested that I should just make sure not to settle or even be too entirely pleased with my current situation. Well there is some truth to that, but I believe that in order to get what we want, we have to work hard on taking a more positive inclination to our lives. I’m telling myself this more than anyone else, because I’ve never been particularly good at doing so. I can gain something useful from this little job, if only that I can pay rent, travel, and get the stuff, especially iPhone and accessory-related, that continue to enhance my independence.

I’ve been pondering this since reading Amy Juicebox’s post What I’m Thankful For after their Canadian Thanksgiving celebration. Thanksgiving, MMM food! Anyway, I’ll try not to think about that just yet, as while it will mean bountiful food, it will also portend the beginning of the real cold months.

Second, I dove-tail a bit off of Natasha Ramsey’s post entitled Passion? Do I know what it is? Do you? Boy am I ever trying to figure this out! I posed this question to my Twitter followers once: does everyone have at least one thing that they’re good at? If so, how do we find it. I’m not really sure if I can move on until I do, but then how will I find it if I don’t actually move on. It’s the old chicken and egg problem.

I’m hoping to get some kind of momentum by attending the Thorpe-Mitchell Diversity Scholarship dinner this Thursday. I had won this scholarship while in grad school, which then led me to meet Dr. Brenda Mitchell, the person I considered my mentor. It’s been far too long since I last spoke with her, mainly because I have so little time outside of employment to venture over to the University of North Carolina. So, it will be nice to catch up with her and the rest of those folks, and I’ll try not to get too down on myself based on my current situation.

The thing is, they want us to speak to the audience about where we’re going and how the scholarship may have ultimately helped us get there. I know what people have to say regarding my possibly returning to grad school and largely agree. Have I thoroughly considered other options? Will I be financially prepared. Well, I hope so. Very tentatively starting conversations with people about Master’s programs in either Communication Studies or Journalism. As far as I know, grad school is still my best chance to make more happen. And the thing for which I feel the gratest passion is this thing I’m doing right now: writing/blogging. So, I’d like to take a shot at making something happen with that. As I learned last time, you may as well not even mess with grad school unless you’re going to be able to find that drive! So, we’ll see. Still a long way to go before I know what will happen.

I suspect I will post a bit about my experience at this scholarship dinner. I think it’s pretty cool that I was even still invited. How do you feel about your current job/career? Is it anywhere near your passion, assuming you’ve figured out what that is?

Ramblings on a Crisp Day

Hello. I have to admit I’m feeling a bit uninspired, but need to try and type something out anyway. So, I am sitting under the sun, for it is so cold out that one must be in sun to enjoy it if that one is me, and just letting my brain wheels spin.

I guess the first piece of news, which most of you already know, is that I got my iPhone 6 on Friday. It’s both longer and wider than the 4S, and amazingly thin. The unit is subtly faster than my other one as well, as I’m noticing that apps start up immediately on launch. And the battery life is fantastic! I’ve been running it, outside of the hours I took for sleep of course, almost continuously since 1 PM yesterday, and it’s still at 20% charge. My 4S definitely couldn’t do that.

Thus far, there are only a couple of things I don’t really like, and I think they’re more iOS 8 related. First, there is no way to turn off key echo in VoiceOver. This isn’t a big deal, but it probably slows me down a bit as I pound away on the screen. Also, the A button in particular only works intermittently, with me having to swipe away and back in many cases in order to input it. I do like that autocorrect seems to be less intrusive, in that it doesn’t make that pop-up sound but will just correct the word once you hit space. I need to figure out how to more adequately use the predict feature, but once I do I think that will be pretty cool as well.

I downloaded Alex, the voice that Apple had already included with VoiceOver for the Mac but only just put onto the iPhone. I like it, I suppose, but am just so used to Samantha, the American voice that had been there since this software was made for use on iOS, that I ultimately had to go back to her. I just feel I understand more of what she says at a higher speech rate. People’s milage with this may vary, though.

And now for something completely different in this largely pointless post: a topic I’ve not talked about much in a while. What am I reading. Well, I currently have two titles going, trying hard to get that somewhat low year’s book count of 26 up before we end it.I’ve read others by both of these authors before.

The first is Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is about what I assume is a little-known war in Nigeria, a Civil war of sorts between that country and a breakaway southern country called Biafra. (Assuming I spelled that correctly, having consumed it in audio). The story is told through the perspectives of three main characters, a house servant boy, the mystress of that same house, and her sister’s boyfriend. The latter is a white man originally from England, who has come to live in Nigeria and is writing a book on his experiences there, and particularly in the war.

It is a beautiful story, but kind of sad as so many kids slowly starve to death in villages that have been cut off by the warring Nigerians. While it does show that side of Africa, the side we often think of in referring to it, this novel also demonstrates that there was a substantial middle class even at those times. Some work for the area’s major university, while others are employed by the government. Some live in a sprawling oceanfront house, while others reside in a village near the city. I’ve heard Adichie talk about how she wishes to show those in the west that such parts of African society do exist.

The other I’m reading is Earthbound, by Elaine Calloway. The third in her Elemental Clans series, it takes place in Portlant. The earth elemental is attempting to stop the Acobi fallen angels from taking young girls into tunnels dug into the riverside and torturing them. He must also do battle with a woman who lives in a pressure-cooker family of workers in a business who try to get her to further develop the riverfront in a way that would thwart his plans.

As always with her books, the best part is the amazing description of the town and its surrounding scenery. I’ve also read the other two books in this series, Water’s Blood, which I think I reviewed earlier, and Raging Fire. They take place in New Orleans and New York respectively.

And now I’ll disconnect and continue listening to this Carolina Panthers game as I sit outside here at Dunkin Donuts. Given that we are a virtual mash unit lately, with so many of our players hurt, I’m surprised that we are at present winning 7-0. Hope we can hold on. More soon.

Home: Alone

In his song Still In Love, Luther tells us that “a house is not a home if there’s no one there to hold you tight”. I often think about this wordplay, that involving the terms “house” and “home”, and whether it actually has significance.

Today, the 23rd of September, marks the time when, two years ago, I moved back into what I guess I still call home for the last time. Well barring any unforeseen circumstances, of course. In contrast to this one, that Sunday was still dripping with the refuse of summer as we squeezed what remained of my belongings into my family’s car and trundled off for the small town of Pinebluff, North Carolina.

I lived there for almost exactly four months, departing on an icy late January day for my current residence. To me, “home” came to mean a place where I no longer had to worry about what I was going to eat, or making sure that the meaningful bills were paid. I did have to maintain my cell phone bill, but otherwise all of that was back out of my hands. It was a bit of a welcome reprieve, and one which I now wish I had allowed myself to enjoy more than I did.

Instead, I spent much of that time kind of to myself, and pondering how I would get back into the larger world. Granted, I shouldn’t have wanted to remain there forever, but I just think I should have slipped into the role of “brother” and “Uncle” more thoroughly, as I don’t really know if I’ll experience these roles in as profound and constant a way again, or at least anytime soon.

I have my own apartment now, of course, and had one before that September day two years ago. Yet I don’t think I ever really called those rentals home. Is this because they both have had an air of draftiness? I guess industrial, like a giant space that isn’t really meant to absorb all of the memories, emotions, etc that make up a life.

Or is it because I have occupied these units by myself. Waking up on major holidays, which I haven’t done as much since relocating to Durham but certainly did in Carrboro, with no one around brings with it an attendant sadness and distance, reminiscent of the room with “Nothing there but gloom” that Luther refers to later in his song.

Well, I had stayed with my cousin in a unit that also had that somewhat unhomely feeling from 2003 till 2009, but perhaps because he was there most of the time also, it did at least seem to hold more of a sentimental value when I prepared to depart. I do recall spending one of those weird holidays, the first time we woke to a quiet Christmas in that same 2003 year that we arrived, with store-bought burgers and a plate that arrived later in the night. It still wasn’t as tough as some of those days in 09/10.

So I say all that to ask: what makes “home” to you? Do you still refer to your parent(s) place in this way exclusively? Does it become different once or if you have children. I suspect home is a place where you really have those family roots laink regardless of what role you actually play in said family. Just some thoughts as we begin the seasons where such bonds become more profound and important: cold, drippy, less ideal for meeting people outside of the household. Chime in!

Summer Wrap: Stream of Consciousness

Even writing those words makes me want to cry buckets of tears. Already, we have reached the last weekend of official summer. I’m taking it all in though, enjoying a stiff breeze outside as I type and planning to remain out here nearly all day.

Hey, at least I had fun. This summer was characterized by more travel than I’ve been able to do in a long time: highlighted by trips to Las Vegas, Atlanta, and the usual repeated visits to Charlotte. I didn’t really finish my Atlanta story, but think I can still remember it well enough to capture the rest. I may do that tomorrow. I just went through a particularly bad period where I hadn’t really felt motivated, but one thing I can say for the Fall is it does fill me with the idea that things may turn the corner. That has rarely actually happened, but one has to think that eventually it will.

One thing I especially enjoyed during the month of August, though it seems to have quieted down lately, is making a new friend in the area. She is the kind of person who reminds me of others in my family, such as my Aunt who sadly is no longer living, as she loves to walk.

We took a stroll to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a couple miles away from here maybe, and listened to the animals and kids waddle by while taking in the aromas of almost every kind of plant imaginable.

Then we went to a wine tasting at our local grocery store, where I drank enough to feel it a bit but not anymore. It doesn’t take much for this lightweight, of course.

With her, I learned where our pool is, as she’s a huge fan of swimming, more about the bus system, and that there are even a couple more places around here that I need to visit for their menus. Plus, she helped me to acquire and consume my requisite summer watermelon, MMM! I guess it wasn’t as good as it could have been, but one should expect that from grocery store fruit in my opinion.

That kind of serendipitous encounter can bring so much richness to a person’s life, for sure. I appreciated the patience she had not only in assisting me, but doing so while managing her two young children as well.

And now, I must go back into a post-summer savings mode, to try and recover from the wild financial flins I took this year. Well hey, I worked all summer too, so had to have a bit of fun! The last big thing I’ve done is upgrade to the iPhone 6, because my 4S is giving me all kinds of trouble lately and it’s just time to move on from that thing anyway. The 6 won’t get here for probably another couple of weeks though, as it’s being shipped and they’re probably backed up all the way to the Pacific in orders. I think I can make it till then, though.

So, what was the most interesting thing you did this summer? Meet any new people?

And finally, I want to thank the owner of this blog for publishing a few of my older posts. It got me some recognition, which is cool. More soon, and go Panthers! Off to a 2-0 start, and we have a nationally televised game against the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow night. Football is one of the only things I do like about colder times.

A Birthday, The Middle

Happy Saturday! And a big birthday milestone reached for me, my 35th. (I almost typed 354th, but that would be something entirely different for sure).

The somewhat morbid side of me became curious: what might my life expectancy be. According to this chart in Wikipedia, which I’ll admit I don’t entirely understand, the US is 34th in national life expectancy rates, at about 78 years? My grandparents lived at least until their 80s, so presumably if I start to eat healthier than I do now I shouldn’t even be halfway to the end. In any event, 35 just sounds like a nice round number, and a good place from which to evaluate and take stock of one’s outcome thus far.

Things are certainly getting better for me. It was at this point last year really that I suddenly became much more familiar with my surrounding neighborhood. Probably since then, I’ve only been to Chapel Hill a handful of times. I’ve already written many times though about my treks to the strip of restaurants that contain Dunkin Donuts, most notably my Regulars post. I love this area, feel quite attached to it, and will remain here if I find desirable employment nearby. I think that may happen within my next year. Optimistic? Maybe, but so much momentum seems to be building.

For some time, I’d wanted to explore a local restaurant here in Durham. While I rail against the “chain”edness of everything, I still too often end up spending my money in such establishments. I must admit that this is because chains tend to be cheaper, and I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to get.

Today though, I opted to finally venture over to Geer Street Garden. Located at 636 Foster Street, which I find odd as it is named after the street on whose corner it sits, its main claim to fame is “real, downhome food”.

Before departing, I attempt to look up the menu on the iPhone as I usually like to. It seems though that Google Maps is losing some of its accessibility, as loading it now causes my phone to act eradically at best. I get to where I can tap on the menu, but give up on trying to read it after it refreshes and throws me back to refreshes and throws me back to back to the beginning of the line ugh! I finally just opt to call and check on how crowded things are, as I usually like to do, then I summon my Uber ride.

(Wanna use my Uber code? Please? johnm1014.)

I arrive at the restaurant, and am asked if I wish to go to the outdoor patio. Of course! The night is nearly windless, and drier than I’d expected given the forecast of all rain. I’d also gotten lots of sun earlier therein, too. This of course improves my mood.

I sit at a small table, the loner table I guess, and listen to the people as they filter in. Kids running around the porch and screaming. Music playing. Me sitting there, attempting to play with my iPhone in the data dead zone.

The server comes over, and I quickly decide to have the lasagna plate special, with garlic bread and a side salad. For my initial drink, I have lemonade.

The salad is covered in balsamic dressing. This non-foodie thinks that’s a vinegrette? Whatever it is, it tastes like vinegar. There was mostly lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes.

The lasagna reminds me of what real lasagna tastes like. Piping hot, delicious cheese and sauce, and nice, real chunks of ground beef. I even enjoy the crunchy stuff on the side of the bowl.

And the bread? Oh, man. It has little peppers therein, and real garlic that somehow tops any garlic bread I’ve ever had. I savor each bite, mixing it with the last of that yummy dish.

Ah, I don’t like that their online menu is image-based, so I can’t review the kind of drink I had. I ask the server for something local, especially a beer.

“Do you like cider”

Um, I think so” I reply.

I think he tells me I am drinking something called Cristin’s Hard Cider? It tastes delicious, but more like a wine than anything. I am not really sure if it has much of an effect on me either.

Finally, I decide for dessert to have Keylime pie. I get that to go though, and as of the writing of this entry, I haven’t consumed it. I hope it will be good.

Another server, a woman, helps me back out front and waits with me while I summon my return Uber ride. We chat amiably for the few minutes it takes for the vehicle to arrive, and I am off home. After getting a bit lost in this sometimes confusing complex, I come back inside and call it a day.

This was a fun birthday, about as much as I could ask for as an adult. I like that I heard from so many old friends via Facebook and Twitter, and managed to make a couple of new ones. Very interested to see what year 36 will bring.

Going On A Coaster Ride

As this summer is ending far more quickly than I would like, I thought it would be fun to continue reflecting on reasons why I enjoy the season so much. The only experiences I’ve really written about thus far are attending summer camps and old-time traditions of ice cream and car-cruising with the family. For the next few entries, I will talk about my trips to amusement parks, public pool jaunts, and standing beside the awe-inspiring Atlantic Ocean.

Have you ever been to an amusement park? It’s hard for me to imagine that one hasn’t, especially in the US and I guess most European countries. With that line of thought, I wonder exactly how many amusement parks there are.

In my hometown of Charlotte, we have Carowinds. I think I saw in an article that someone wrote about his experiences with the Thunder Road and White Lightning roller coasters that this park opened in 1976? It is built right on the North Carolina/South Carolina line, which creates a fun photo opportunity of shooting oneself while standing in both states. I think many of the coasters traverse the line as riders hurtle along as well.

The first time I can remember going, I was probably 7 or so. I think back then, they’d give out vouchers to attend the park for kids who had achieved perfect attendance at school. This is likely the only way our family of seven, including my cousin; my mom, dad, and Aunt could have gotten into the park at the same time.

We would stop by Bojangle’s to procure giant boxes of chicken and biscuits that we would leave the park to consume around lunch time, in lieu of the expensive fare provided inside. Better make sure the stamps on our hands could clearly be seen!

Back in those days, we had a big hatchback, and so a lot of us kids would squeeze in back with the trunk flung wide open, trying not to be sucked out by the roaring wind. I wonder if that sort of thing could even be done today? Probably a bit crazy, but fun.

Man, was I ever the cry baby back then. And it didn’t help that my biological father would pick on me constantly about it, calling me “sissy” in particular. He kept urging me to try riding Thunder Road, even though I was probably too short to do so then anyway. Not to mention terrified just by the sound and screaming people! Back in those days, I enjoyed smaller stuff like the Octopus, Metiorite (“Enjoy your flight, on the Metiorite!”) and swings that more like sucked you high into the air and spun faster and faster while doing so.

I eventually did try the coasters though, probably at age 10 or so. All that anticipation builds while standing in line, and I nearly got sick before getting on.

It’s probably more of an adventure for blind folks, as we can’t see what’s going to come beyond that hill. I was always amused by the clicking sound it makes as we slowly work our way up.

“Ah, I don’t think this is gonna be too bad.” I thought.

Till we leveled out, and woosh! Down we flew, with screeching metal and the shrill roar of voices reverberating off of the tunnel walls until those sounds became indistinguishable from one another. I felt the bar press toward my lap as I rose a bit from the seat and pulled the bar down towards me. There would be a few seconds of reprieve, allowing me to think it was over, then off we shot again! After that, I couldn’t get enough.

On that day, I rode Thunder Road, the Carolina Cyclone, (first time I’d even gone upside down on a ride,) and the Carolina Gold Rush. I was never brave enough to ride White Lightning, because I’d heard about it jumping the tracks and getting stuck a few times. I think they eventually shut that one down, if I’m not mistaken.

The ones that really terrified me though were the water rides! See my previously mentioned fear of water. There was one called the Waterlog, which would bump ominously against the side of its enclosure as we raced downhill toward the pool there. The sides were so low that I feared losing an arm or plain being thrown from the boat. In retrospect though, I suppose I enjoyed it.

At both Carowinds and Six Flags over Georgia in Atlanta, I rode what is basically the same stand-up coaster. At our park, it’s known as the Vortex, while down there they called it BatMan. A sighted person showed me how frighteningly close we come to the ground on one of the big turns on that thing.

Probably the most unnerving experience I know of someone having on that ride happened to my sister. She squeezed on the bars as the ride sped around the bend, and the bar came up as if unlocked! This caused her to hang in the air for the remainder of the ride, hoping she’d have enough strength to hold on until it stopped. Thinking of that makes me feel queasy. I think stuff like that may be why they’ve installed belts on most of those rides nowadays to offer additional security.

So which parks have you visited? What were the names of your favorite coasters? Do you know if they still exist?

Post-Convention: Writer’s Block and Finding Me

So, I’ve been back from my fun trip to Las Vegas for a bit over two weeks now, and I’ve not been able to think of anything particularly interesting to write about. I feel a bit dry, just trying to keep going from day to day. But my goal is to make at least one entry per week, so let’s see if I can just capture a hodge podge of my thoughts.

One of the things that has made this period better is spending two consecutive weekends with my cousin: the previous down in Charlotte and this one here in Durham. This was especially nice, as I opted, after asking my supervisor if I had enough time to do so, to take off of work on Friday and chill at home. My cousin had arrived on Thursday night.

We just did a lot of talking, harkening back to long ago days when we would often stay awake into the early morning hours, watching sports and gnawing on pizza slices. As far as baseball goes, I guess I’m an Atlanta Braves fan, as much as I’m a fan of any team. I like the sport, but wish we could get our own major league team somewhere in North Carolina. This isn’t likely to happen anytime soon though, given the many minor league franchises we have speckled throughout the state. Anyway, we listened to the Braves lose to the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1. They seemed unable to do much of anything.

On Friday, I figured we might want to get out of the apartment for a bit. So, I used Uber, the service I mentioned a few entries ago, to take us over to the Waffle House on Hillsboro Road, about 1.5 miles away. I’m starting to use this service more and more frequently, finding that it is regularly cheaper than cabs and probably more reliable as well. I had them take me over to the DMV to get that expired ID card renewed, and going straight from work it was probably about $7 less than I would have paid otherwise. I also took them back to the Amtrak station when leaving Charlotte last weekend, and sent my cousin to the Durham Amtrak when he left yesterday via Uber. This last after there was some miscommunication that occurred when my favorite cabbie hadn’t let me know she wouldn’t be available to pick him up and was sending another cab. When that cab arrived and told me I’d called for a cab, I insisted that I hadn’t. I mean, it’s a strange thing to have happen when one isn’t expecting it. My cousin had planned to catch the 2:33 train out, but because of that snafu he ended up having to wait for the 7:48 train.

If you’d like to try Uber, and it’s available in your area, why not get us both free rides by using my code at sign-up: johnm1014 . Thanks.

And, not much else. I hear tell that we may get at least one final burst of summer. I sure hope so! Right now, it doesn’t seem as if the sun has shone since at least Wednesday. Anyone who knows me knows I begin to feel deprived after such a long time without that warmth. On Friday, we had to brave heavy rains and gusts, and were lucky to emerge with our hearing aids in tact. It was definitely fun.

I am doing a lot of reading and acquiring books with the Amazon gift card I was given for my participation in the Braille study at ACB. So far, I’ve gotten Earthbound, by my good online friend Elaine Calloway, the third in her Elemental Clan series. I also got one that sounds fascinating to me called Fasten Your Seatbelts: A Flight Attendant’s Adventures 36, 000 Feet and Below, by Christine Churchill. I read Heather Poole, another famous flight attendant’s book Cruising Attitude at about this time last year, and feel that it will help me continue my travels, if only in my mind.

Not that I have any idea when I’ll have time to read these books, on top of the stuff I’m already reading from Audible and/or the NLS, but we shall see. Certainly the iPhone does make that easier.

Let’s hope I have more fun stuff to write about in the near future. Till then, I’m off to enjoy what remains of my weekend, and perhaps catch a bit of tonight’s preseason NFL opener between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. That’s right, it’s already time for American football again. Too fast does time go.