Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nags Head Produce

Awright. Before we go further, the first issue I need to address is behavior modification, specifically from our visitors who arrive via Hwy 168/158 in Curituck, and to a lesser extent, our locals.

By tradition, the roadside food stands located in Currituck have been where our visitors stop to pick up items before they arrive on the Outer Banks. Strangely, when I go north in the wee hours of the morning, I see Sysco (a national food service provider) trucks parked at these stands, unloading product. I've always wondered how much of what they sell is really from their farms, versus the same "imported" food one gets from the grocery store. If you are a local and do all of your shopping at Harris Teeter or Food Lion...take a breath, slow down, and stop by Nags Head Produce.

Enter Nags Head Produce. Now, you can drive right on down to the Outer Banks without stopping for fresh produce. And, you won't see Sysco trucks at this stand. This is not to say that everything they sell is locally grown, a very few exotic items, such as pineapples are sold as an accommodation. But the stuff that counts; the NC Silver Queen Corn, the tomatoes, onions, new potatoes, snap beans, and other "truck" vegetables are delivered by local farmers and producers, most all of which are within a few hours drive to the Outer Banks. There are multiple deliveries each week, so chances are, the corn you purchase was picked the day before! Get that kind of freshness at Food Lion!

Operated by Bo and Anna Taylor, two folks I know and can endorse without hesitation, there is a dual commitment here; to fresh food, and to support local and regional farmers, giving them an alternative market to the corporate giants who often force their prices on the farmer. Anna is very interested in this type of "farm to fork" chain, and many of us are striving hard to put pump some of the benefits of our huge tourism market into nearby farmers and seafood producers.

Virtually every nearby county grows fresh produce; especially tomatoes, potatoes, corn, cabbage, peanuts, and beans, so there is no reason to consume food that has spent considerable time on a truck, or that was picked before it was ready so it could ripen along the way.

They are located in Nags Head, at MP 10.75 on the Bypass, just south of Gateway Bank, in an large empty parking lot adjacent to the colorful shops of Central Square. Soon, large colorful umbrellas will festoon the spot, so look for them as you head south. By cutting through the Gateway Bank lot, you can leave via a traffic light controlled intersection, so if you need to go north, no worries!!!

Do yourself a healthy favor, and more importantly, help support the real local economy, including our family farms, and stop by Nags Head Produce.
My wife, a tomato lover, pronounced yesterday's purchase a major success as she consumer a tomato sandwich. The Silver Queen corn is going down tomorrow, I'll report on it later.

As a reminder, we accept no payments or other remuneration for this blog, all reviews and features on local establishments are my own content, and the opinions expressed are my own. In many cases, the business profiled is not aware they have been featured in this blog.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Our Wives Aren't Planning On Us Being Around

Married men over 50 are constantly reminded of the risks inherent with our gender. According to our doctors, our cholesterol levels resemble the final scores in a cricket match. Many of our friends have had bypasses.

And then there are those freakin' Colonial Penn Life Insurance commercials. You know the basic plot; two widows talking at a post-funeral gathering about how the newest member of the Widow's Club was able to ease her pain by collecting on a $10,000 policy that costs $12 a month. So she uses some of the money to bury the old man under the Pittosporums in the back yard, taking the remainder to Cancun and renting her a Cabana boy for the week. In any event, one never sees two men commiserating over how to spend the insurance spoils from their wife's demise.

But why do men die before their spouses? Until now, science has only been able to muster a few theoretical possibilities. They are:

1. The stress of forces exerted on males in the work force.
2. Male addiction to red meat, beer, and cigars.
3. We die before women because we want to.

But now, science has actually proffered an empirically based, laboratory tested explanation for why men cross over to the white light so much earlier. It is based on the actions of particles known as free radicals. These little atoms bounce around our bodies, colliding with important stuff like DNA and cell membranes, beer receptors, wet tee-shirt contest activators, NFL football processors, and BBQ Grill motor skills, all of which break down and eventually kill us.

But free radicals should exist in women as well as men. If so, why do they attack men earlier and cause more damage? Here is where the scientific research, conducted by the Salvo School of Audio Research discovered an interesting correlation between sound waves and free radicals.

On the Bell Curve below, the horizontal axis depicts the average distribution of married female vocal wavelengths. The vertical axis measures the shrillness or nagging factor. Note that if these data points represented single women in the "courting" or "pre-mating" stage, the Bell Curve would be virtually flat.

The distribution indicates the vast majority of married women fall into the "high shrillness/nagging" category.

Next, scientists projected the married female voice onto male test subjects, equipped with nano-cameras cruising their blood streams, measuring the effects of the married female voice on the movement of free radicals in the male bloodstream.

Chart 1 depicts the first question researches had wives ask the male subjects: "Doesn't the garbage can look full?". As you can see, the free radical molecules are widely disbursed and happy. Chart 2, about 30 minutes later had the women exclaiming "Wow, don't you think the garbage can is starting to smell?". The free radicals become slightly more agitated.

Chart 3, a mere 20 seconds later had the females ask "Are YOU listening to even a single word I've said?". Now the molecules are very excited, careening off every cell membrane in the male body. By Question 4, "WHAT'S MORE IMPORTANT, THE FOOTBALL GAME OR MY NEEDS?", the free radicals are active across all five wavelengths. Note the color has changed from black to gray. The man has suffered a heart attack, and everything, including the free radicals, are now in shock and slowly dying.

Now that we can recognize the cause, what is the antidote?

QuietComfort® 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones

Available online at Crutchfield, Amazon, and other fine stores.

Cypress Creek/Water Street/Elizabeth City

I made a trip to Elizabeth City last week with my new compadres to meet with some real estate movers and shakers in that market. We had a great time. I worked in Elizabeth City for four years as a City Exec for a really horrible bank, commuting from the OBX to there every day. While the work environment sucked, the people I met were so much fun, I considered the experience a net plus. Besides the great people, beautiful river, and constantly improving downtown section, there are a number of great restaurants.

Cypress Creek Grill, owned by transplanted Texan Bobby Plough was my favorite, and I always make a point to eat there when in Elizabeth City. Bobby makes the best beef brisket I've ever sampled. (Normally Thursday for lunch and dinner, but this is a special and not guaranteed. Call Wednesday to see if its going to be available on Thursday). But my favorite is the Spring Mix & Scallop Salad with Orange Ginger dressing. It's a $10 salad, but there are plenty of parmesian encrusted scallops included, almost a meal in itself. Plenty of other wraps, po boys and even burgers to choose from.

I'm looking forward to working in Elizabeth City more often, and re-aquainting myself with all of the downtown shops, restaurants, and people.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Island Deli, Mile Post 9

Remember the days when we had at least two local, friendly, and awesome deli's? I used to love (no...worship!) the Dip'N'Deli (where Food Dudes is now located on the Beach Road), and Mrs. T's (where Staple's now "resides"). I miss both of those establishments tremendously, and still hold out some hope the Dynamic Duo that ran the "DnD" will reprise their role one more time.

Since those closings, we've had to settle for Subway and Quizno's. In a jam, both choices are fine, yet very predictable. But, as chain stores, a Subway in Nags Head differs little from a Subway in Cairns, Australia.

Enter Bryan and Russell Lowe. You know them as the brother's who have kept the tie dye psychedelic tee-shirt alive. Their small store on the Beach Road, Island Dyes, expanded and added a much larger store in Salvo, where tattoos, pottery, and even cigars are available.

Now they're at it again, this time with Island Deli, Mile Post 9, at the new "Hairoics Center", on the west side across from Taco Bell. Bryan and Russell are two of the friendliest guys you'll ever meet, and they are bona fide beach people. One is as likely to find them on the actual sand beach, at the "Y", or supporting a local charity as they are to be hard at work in their businesses.

The Island Deli shows the promise of filling the current void in local deli's, although in a modern style versus the deli kitsch of yore; the kind of deli's we frequented as kids.

Let's start with the sidelights, which are actually highlights. There is a huge coffee bar, with every style and combination imaginable. One can also take their coffee in bulk; whole or ground at $16/lb. Breakfast is served ALL day at this deli, something late risers (after late nights) like myself appreciate. Breakfast fare come in sandwich form, offering nine different bread styles, various meats, as well as burritos and bagels.

Lunch is where things get even better. There is some Italian heritage in the Lowe family tree, and it comes through in an awesome Italian sub ($6.99 w/chips), and the even better homemade Meatball Sub (same price, same "mmmmm" factor). I have yet to try the Lasagna, but I hear its "the bomb", and available for carry out dinners.

For those concerned with their health and longevity the menu includes the "Ginger" (cracked pepper Boar's Head turkey, havarti cheese, avocado, baby greens, tomato on ciabatta bread with Boar's Head sun-dried pesto sauce). The Island Chicken sandwich features lemon-pepper chicken, and tuna or chicken salad as well as homemade hummus can be made into a sandwich or taken out at $5.49/lb. They even offer potato salad.

Finally, there are burgers, and an actual carry out deli counter with Boar's Head products.

The prices here are actually less expensive than Quizno's (where lunch for two ran $14 today), and the food quality far superior. The coffee bar looks to be a place for individuals to gather in the morning and for lunch, and I predict that over time, Island Deli will attract a strong local following.

Two thumbs up from my point of view, and worth a visit. Give them a shot and pay a visit!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Red and A White Wine Review: Juan Gil and Nobilis

I mentioned on my FB page the other day a very inexpensive Spanish red I had paired with some lasagna. It was the 2006 Juan Gil from the Jumilla region. The grape in Spain is called underline;">Monastrell, which is the same varietal as Mourvedre, one of the Big Three grapes of the Rhone region in France. Deep cherry and licorice, almost a bit jammy. The tannins were firm, but not overwhelming. Nose of tobacco. In my opinion, this is a quaffable wine that also goes well with something like lasagna, especially if the main course is not overly spicy. Locally, try Big City Wine across "the bridge".

Tonight, I switched gears and grilled boneless chicken breasts marinated for two days in a mesquite-lime sauce. With this I chose a non-vintage (as they all are in this varietal) Nobilis Vinho Verde. This Portuguese wine is usually made the same year it is drunk, so this was likely a 2008 or 2009 bottle. Vinho Verde is slightly effervescent, and clears the palate. The Nobilis was definitely possessed of a slight fizz, and there was a hint of limey-citrus. Overall, though, it tasted more like a wine spritzer than a real wine, and was not as good as other brands in this varietal. For a drink by the pool, however, I'd give it a go. Total Wine in Chesapeake, about $11.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pelosi Explains Amnesia; Obama Proposes New Terrorist Handling Procedures

President Barak Obama, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced new, more humane treatment methods for prisoners captured in what was formerly called the War on Terror.

Pelosi, recovering from a bout of amnesia that occurred around the time she first heard, in secret testimony, that waterboarding was being used on high-profile prisoners, now says she does remember knowing about the torture, but due to peer pressure, amnesia, and a Botox frozen mouth at the time of the hearings, she was unable to voice her concerns. Later, her aide attended this hearing and forgot to tell her about what he heard:

But there’s no dispute that on Feb. 4, 2003 — five months after Pelosi’s September meeting — CIA officials briefed Pelosi aide Michael Sheehy and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), then the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, on the specific techniques that had been used on Zubaydah — including waterboarding.

The amnesia was apparently also caused by repeated Botox and facelift procedures, side effects Pelosi, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, and the New York Times all blamed on President Bush's refusal to fund research into women's medical needs. Pelosi, who sponsored H.R. 2741, "A Woman's Right to Look Like a Madame Tussaud Wax Figure", agreed.

The new plan calls for the "Gitmo", Cuba facility to be closed and the prisoners relocated to a Hampton Inn Suites in Mississippi.

When asked if the new facility might be a "tad plush" for suspected terrorists, Pelosi replied: "Like, its in Mississippi. Other than Burbank, what could be worse?" The New York Times agreed in an op-ed piece the next day. "Besides", Pelosi related, "Only a continental breakfast is available, and the prisoners must toast their own bagels". When told the mostly Muslim prisoners probably don't eat bagels, given the food's pedigree, Pelosi said her Gulfstream G-5 was warming up and beat a hasty retreat.

Obama, who also promised to remove the prisoners from the current non-civilian judicial process practiced in Guantanamo, sought to ease conservative fears the prisoners would now be granted full Constitutional rights and that secret information would be revealed in their hearings.

Instead, Obama struck a compromise between the closed semi-military court system now in place and fully open Federal judicial trials by recruiting the following three-judge panel:

The trials will be telecast on PBS, sponsored by TARP funds from General Motors, Chrysler, Wells Fargo and Citibank. The typical mid-day audience of PBS stations is 36 people nationwide, noted Obama, so if any secrets are revealed, no one will actually hear about them. In addition, after the trial, the defendants will get to talk about their verdict on the way out of the court room with host Harvey Levin.

As to interrogation methods, Obama announced the replacement of "Waterboarding" with a new technique, called "Bottomboarding" and revealed a new interrogation device that was approved by both the Democrat National Committee and the American Medical Association:

Obama said he felt that if the prisoners were given time to contemplate "what they have done", and denied their Juicy Box during the maximum 15-minute sessions, more information on future terror plans would be obtained than occurred using more severe techniques practiced by the previous Administration.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sergeant Dulan “Earl” Murray, RIP

At 3:13AM this morning, while most of our were sound asleep, Nags Head Police Sergeant "Earl" Murray was responding to a burglary call. In short, he was doing what all police officers do 24 hours a day; serve and protect. On his way to the call, his vehicle hydroplaned on Hwy. 158 right in front of Villa Dunes Drive, crashing into one of the large, concrete utility poles on the east side of the road. He died as a result of that accident.

Sgt. Murray had been a police officer for 26 years, and left behind a wife and two daughters. According to a press release from Town Manager Charlie Cameron, a former police officer and the previous Chief of the Nags Head Police Department, Sgt. Murray was the first NHPD officer killed in the line of duty.

As former town Mayor Bob Muller mentioned in an email, this was Charlie Cameron's last day as Town Manager, and this tragedy made the day's event doubly cruel for the town, and for our former Town Manager. I am sure Mr. Cameron knows more than most of us the true cost of serving the public. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends, colleagues, and other Public Safety personnel serving in Dare County.

It is a thankless job, and one we seldom think about until a tragedy such as this occurs.

The picture above depicts a Nags Head Police vehicle, parked at the scene of the accident, adorned with flowers. An officer from Southern Shores was standing silently along with another person. It was a sad site to see as I arrived home today.

Additional Info:

Link to the Officer Down Memorial Page for Sgt. Murray.

Funeral information:

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, May 19 at 2 p.m. at Holy Reedemer Catholic Church at 301 W. Kitty Hawk Road in Kitty Hawk.

This is the largest church sanctuary on the Outer Banks, and we thank Holy Redeemer for having the funeral at their facility. This is how we live and work on the Outer Banks, and its a beautiful thing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Happy & Satisified In Nags Head

I have lived in the Town of Nags Head since about 1993. In all those years, one of the attributes of living in this fine town has been satisfaction with the town government. Throughout these 15+ years, Nags Head, unlike other Dare County locales, has been blessed with what most citizens would deem a competent and intelligent Board of Commissioners, excellent Town Managers, and a general feeling of well-being among the residents with the disposition of our government. In all of my years of living here, I can't say that I've ever really had a complaint with any elected official, nor any of the senior town administrators--from Town Manager to Public Works, Zoning, and Public Safety.

As a student of politics, this struck me as somewhat unusual. Today, this document arrived in the mail (click to enlarge)

That's right, its the Annual Nags Head Water Quality Report. I am sure the production of this report is required by some State or Federal agency with a staff of thousands and a budget of millions, but most years, I toss it in the garbage before entering the house. For some reason, this year, I actually brought it inside and read it in its entirety.

I was glad to know, for example, that there is no uranium in our water. I would think that a bad thing. It also keeps Iranians and North Korean agents from mining our water to make nuclear devices. Chlorine levels were on the high end, which I expected. Every time I come home from vacation and turn on a faucet after a week or two of absence, my house smells like a public swimming pool.

But buried in the fine print, under arsenic, Beta/Photon Emitters (Beam Me Up Scotty!), and Haloacetic Acids were "Other Components". And therein lies the answer with Nags Head's citizens level of satisfaction with our government. Here are the components of our water supply in this oft-ignored category:

Chardonnay: 150 parts per million (ppm)
Vodka-chlorine flavored-300 ppm
Zantac: 1,000 ppm
Nicorette: 300 ppm
THC: one bong hit per million
Jagermeister: 200 ppm
Barry Manilow Music: 1 song per million

And now we know the secret to Nags Head citizen's satisfaction with local government.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2009

Caution: Long post--Click for Larger Views

Instead of the multi-volume posts I wrote in prior years, I decided to simply upload some pictures with short commentary on this year's "Jazz Fest". I do want to emphasize for anyone not contemplating attending because "Jazz" is the primary name, rest assured that every type of music from rock to pop, zydeco, old jazz, fusion jazz, gospel, ska, Motown, beach, and reggae are included. If you love music and food, you are missing a great event during the day, in addition to the pleasures of a great town after dark!

Jazz Fest runs two weekends in April-May; part one is a Fri-Sat-Sun event, part two is a Thur-Sun event. We always go the second half since there are more days and the grand finale bands are always on the last Sunday.

In Lafayette Square, a business-residential district just off the French Quarter, there is a Wednesday in the Square every week, sort of like the Friday night events at the waterfront in Norfolk. Big name NOLA locals and semi-locals like Marcia Ball, Kermit Ruffin and others show up. Lots of food and beer! We went this year, and saw Marcia Ball, one of my favorite singers, and Marva Wright, the famed gospel singer.

Next up, was Wednesday night on Bourbon Street. Rose & I made a night of it, eating at Felix's first, where I had raw oysters and a catfish Po'Boy. Then on to a couple of bars--Rock n Roll Bourbon Street and The Front Door, where we closed out at 3AM. The Front Door had a heavier rock band, doing perfect covers of AC-DC, Black Sabbath and others. The house band at Rock n Roll covered 70's to 90's song, with a female lead who was born to sing Janis Joplin tunes. I think we "won" a couples dance "award" at one of the locales.

The service staff, as you can see, were quite homely. I doubt any of them made much in the way of tips.

Of course, under the influence of to-go beverages at all bars and six-shot hurricanes, grown adults who are otherwise quite proper can become very silly...
On to the Fest....Emmylou Harris, showing no signs of slowing down during an hour-long set.

Attire is always a great part of Jazz Fest. Below we have a popular "button" since Katrina: "Make Levees-Not War", a Chicken Hat many wore and one I coveted, but was unable to locate the vendor, and the guy in the robe. Not sure if he was commando underneath or not, but it didn't look all that comfy.

Fuzz guitar, steel pedal, psychedelic, and a sort of Beck-style marked indie-rock band Rotary Downs, a New Orleans favorite. Somewhere in all of that confusion emerges a hint of Louisiana influences.

On a proportional scale, we spend the most time at the Fais Do Do stage, which features Cajun and Zydeco acts exclusively. This year was a new treat for me, Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys. Her music is zydeco with an infusion of sultry R&B and lyrics which gravitate to the slightly naughty. She's full of energy and her band incredibly talented.

Next up, Higher Heights, a reggae band with some ska influences straight from the Caribbean. On a second listening from their website, a lot of the music sounded the same to me, but at Jazz Fest, it hit the mood for that day perfectly. We sat our chairs down, chowed down on some food, beer, and water, and enjoyed the show.

A famous New Orleans musical family, the Neville's, now bring us the Charmaine Neville Band, a combination of New Orleans style jazz (heavy piano and sax) and funk, put to a toe-tapping, danceable beat. Charmaine was probably one of the most pleasant surprises of the week, and I'd recommend checking out her music.

Marsalis is another famous jazz name. This time it was the younger brother, Delfeayo, and his great trombone. Smooth and brassy jazz, in the indoor tent, where misters provided a respite from the 90 degree heat.

I can't remember the band she sang with, but Ellen Smith came up to the stage and wowed the audience with a strong set. This was the old style Ella Fitzgerald jazz vocals, with the sultry voice and the usual you're-a-no-good-man-but-I-love-you theme. She can shake her hips and belt out a tune, and I'll be searching for her vocals on the Internet somewhere.

Patty Griffin, a native of Maine was up at the Fais Do Do stage, although her style is more of a soulful folksy-blues, with some rock overtones. Think of a more uptemp Emmylou Harris, who is one of her supporters.

If Hank Williams was an early superstar of recorded country music, D.L. Menard (with his band, the Louisiana Aces) would hold the same title for Cajun music. This music is slightly different from zydeco, more country-western in style and use of Cajun lyrics. One really had to pay attention when D.L. spoke, his accent was so heavy. But you could tell he was a true musician; a man who doesn't need sound mixers, recordinig booths, or electronic aids in making his music sound good.

I didn't take pictures of Bon Jovi, because the crowd was huge and I wasn't interested enough to wade through the throng to get a close up picture...

At Congo Square, the Ivorie Spectacle was a group not from the Ivory Coast, but adoptive of their music and dance, replete with "hi-life" style drum beats, stilt dancing, fire-eatng, all of which is choregraphed by Seguenon Kone.

Brass jazz bands, with their white "milkman" uniforms are about as New Orleans as one can get, and many contemporary jazz stars, such as Kermit Ruffin, got their start in such bands. The music is fun, the musicians enjoy playing, and the crowd responds. Below is the Paulin Brothers Brass Band...

And finally, Neil Young. Again, too large a crowd to get a nice picture, so you have to settle for the Jumbotron view. Young same several oldies; Rockin' In the Free World, Old Man, Cinnamon Girl, The Needle and the Damage Down, and smartly avoided Southern Man. He did a great cover of The Beatles "A Day in the Life", and then about 30 minutes of stuff from his newer albums that very few found interesting. I noticed the scent of hemp increased greatly when Neil broke out the new music!

While the food inside is nothing short of divine, the New Orleans government waives the rules, so to speak, and allows the poorer residents who live adjacent to the fair grounds to sell food, souviniers, and even beer without a license. Believe it or not, we were starved after a day of eating, and while waiting for our "ride", a pre-arranged deal that is not exactly illegal but avoids the 1 hour line for cabs and shuttles, I had the best fried catfish sandwich ever at this ad hoc eatery:

Here, the "girls" enjoy Rosemint tea and Cajun food...

And here's a picture of the 2009 gang....

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Viva Mexican Grill

I finally tried the new Viva Mexican Grill, located in South Beach Plaza (MP 11 on the Bypass) next door to the addictive Dunkin' Donuts in Nags Head.

One of my readers left comments on his/her experience on a prior post. Those comments were roughly... "not as good as Chipotle about equal to Moe's Southwest Grill", pricey and would have larger servings and table service at La Fogota".

I agree, but only to a small extent. For those unfamiliar with Chipotle and Moe's, these are higher end fast food Tex-Mex fare that are far superior to Taco Bell. Both are pricier than the "Bell", but the food is awesome and well worth the extra expense. My first Chipotle experience was at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, and my first Moe's was in Virginia Beach. Both chains have now moved into Tidewater, with locations in Va. Beach and Chesapeake.

Viva's is laid out in the same fashion as the above two chains. You enter a cafeteria style line, and choose combinations of ingredients to build either a burrito or a taco (hard or soft). You start with the bread, then pick your sides (black beans/rice, etc), then build your main course. You can choose from chicken or steak (no ground beef, and sadly, no pork like Chipotle's), add veggies, sour cream, and then pick from five kinds of salsa. All are good, but beware--the hot is HOT!

Chips are extra, and cost $1.99, but large enough for two. I would suggest they offer a smaller order of chips for those dining alone, and would also add to that a combo offering.

I had the steak taco's with the verde (green chili's) salsa and lots of extra cillantro. Three tacos ran $6.29, a bit pricey, but in my opinion, well worth the cost given the taste. Add the tortilla chips and coke, and the lunch came to about $11, about average for non-franchised restaurants. I haven't tried a burrito yet, but they look smaller than Chipotle's.

My opinion is that I'll eat here often, probably never returning to Taco Bell. The style is different than La Fogota; more east coast Mexican with Cancun-style pico de gallo and salsa with real tomatoes rather than tomato paste. The steak in the taco was excellent, much better than greasy ground beef found elsewhere. The owners are sisters who hail from Mexico, so the food is authentic.

My vote-- a tad pricey, not as awesome as Chipotle's, but a great alternative to Taco Bell, and a different lunch experience than La Fogota (which I love and dine at almost every Friday). Go there and give them a try.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Visitor's Bureau-More Thoughts-Part 2

Regardless of how one feels about the resignation of the Director of our Visitor's Bureau, we have to look now to the "new" Bureau and its future.

Some comments circulating about the "next move" have given me some heartburn. Apparently, the current Board is engaging a "head hunter" to find prospective candidates to present to the Board.

It seems to me the first thing the new Board should do is find an interim director for the summer season. I would recommend a "retired" political figure with requisite experience in managing the workforce, representing Dare County in public relative to tourism issues, and most importantly, digging into the organization itself--correcting wrongs if present, and leaving intact what works. With all the issues floating before the public, real or imagined, it makes no sense to bring a new permanent Director to the job if their first order of business is cleaning up a public relations nightmare.

In regards to the permanent Director, I would urge the Board to not only engage a search firm, but open up the application process for local candidates to submit their own resumes.

I am not a fan of recruiting firms as my experience with them is that they rarely perform as advertised. Even high-end firms do little in the way of pre-qualifying candidates. Most of them will simply pick up the phone and try to locate some current tourism bureau director in another city looking to move up, or even move down to a slower pace. They'll throw stuff against our "wall", hoping one of them will stick, and walk away with a hefty fee. If we are bound and determined to hire someone already in such a position, surely after all this time, some of the major players in Dare County should have an idea of folks running bureau's in other towns possessed of good reputations and results. Let's reach out to them directly, if that is the route we are going to take.

I would recommend a different course, at least at the outset....

Off the top of my head, I can name a half-dozen or more local personalities that already possess the skill set to successfully manage the Visitor's Bureau. I'm not sure how a search firm would reach out to those folks, since none of them are currently employed as "directors" of an existing bureau. But within the civic, Chamber, real estate, banking, insurance and even media circles, I firmly believe we have enough local talent to award the position to home grown candidates.

Dare County is a complicated place. We have distinct geographic communities. Our politics are rough and tumble. A tourism director will also need to grapple with development and controversies such as beach nourishment and Federal beach closures. The diversity of tourism opportunities is tremendous, ranging from golf, to charter fishing, surf fishing, ORV driving, kayaking, surfing, wind and sail sports, and nature excursions. It would take years for a newcomer to assimilate all of this, yet many locals already know the "score" and probably have good ideas on how to improve upon what we already possess. In my opinion, an outsider is far more likely to fail or struggle attempting to juggle all the various issues versus a seasoned local.

Visitor's Bureau--More Thoughts-Part 1

The Outer Banks Sentinel has again published an article on the Outer Banks Visitor's Bureau. In this instance, the paper reports the resignation of the director, Carolyn McCormick, and also outlines reputed extravagances and what we as bankers might call "dual control" issues concerning the handling of expenses.

The article is fairly damning, and if true, raises legitimate concerns. My major complaint here is that almost the entire piece is based upon a source consisting of one former Board member. I have absolutely no reason to doubt either the newspaper or the "source" as I know both the writer and the source. However, charges with this level of gravitas should be backed up by other confirmations, especially, other Board members, past or current. Lacking such collaboration, one still walks away from the issue not sure wherein lies the truth.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

GEICO Gecko Dies Tragically At New Orleans Jazz Fest

An otherwise exciting Grand Finale to the 2009 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was marred by the tragic death of the GEICO Gecko at the Fais Do Do stage.

The famed British gecko, seen here in happier times, was partying at the Sheraton Hotel VIP tent, which was adjacent to the famous Fais Do Do stage. These tents are reserved for the creme de la creme
of Jazz Fest attendees and the guests are feted with free booze and catered
local cuisine.


About mid-way through the night's final set, the Gecko, who had been imbibing Plymouth Gin & Tonics in quantity, left the safety of the VIP tent and attempted to dance with several girls doing the Cajun two-step.

At that moment, a Loggerhead Shrike swooped down from an overhead power line, grabbed the Gecko, and returned to his roost. Below is the last known picture of the famed icon of insurance:

{Enlarge for better view of the Gecko}

Ironically, as a non-human, the Gecko did not carry GEICO Life Insurance, and his 1,500 offspring will likely become wards of the United Kingdom.