Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bobby Rollason -About Bonds & Friendship

At a remote hunting camp near Windsor, NC, where Bobby Rollason loved to hunt with his friends, a crowd gathered around a small tent, situated beneath a deer stand.

Three young Ft. Bragg soldiers flanked a table that held pictures, a wide screen TV, flowers, and the ashes of a fallen brother--Bobby Rollason.

Sherry Rollason, his wife opened the celebration--and that is what this was, a celebration of life. A formal funeral had been held in February when Bobby left us. This time, the focus was on giving Bobby a proper send off in a place he loved and spent much of his time.

About those bonds. I am not using the term in a strictly gender-based form. It transcends friendship and extends the bonds that link us so deeply that a kinship is felt even among people who have never met. And so it came that these three young U.S. Army soldiers made the drive from Ft. Bragg to Windsor, on a national holiday weekend--fittingly Memorial Day--to pay respects to a man who had served his county before they were born. They performed the ceremony with obvious pride, incredible care and dignity and true sincerity. An amazing bond that transcended a generation to bring these men together--the living and the fallen.

And then there was the hunting camp "brotherhood". Men from all walks of life, their wives and children. Some of those bonds that help start the camp began as localized friendships here and in other places. But as other men joined the camp the bond transcended mere friendship and became something else--a bond based on love of nature, a common interest in an ancient and honorable sport, and just plain fun--getting out into the woods, telling lies and stories, breaking bread together and having a good old time.

At the ceremony, an older couple unveiled a beautiful paining by the wife depicting a part of the camp with wild turkey in the field. It was hung from a tree and can be seen in the background of this photo. Sherry Rollason read poetry and passages of prose in an emotionally charged tribute to her husband. My friend, Jay Hart...every inch a "man's man" turned on a laptop and a widescreen TV powered from his vehicle. Here was this tough guy, stringing together two very tender and fitting country music songs and setting them to a string of photographs celebrating Bobby's life. From this unexpected source came a choreography so skillful that if the word "smile" was in the lyrics a picture of a smiling Bobby Rollason appeared at the self-same second. Who knew? An effort like that could only come from the heart--and the sense of brotherhood that tied these two men together. Grown men, well into their retirement years were crying. Men who had seen Vietnam and everything life throws at you over the decades.

Another bond came from the Masonic fraternity. In fact, because of the respect these young hunt club members had for Bobby, many desired to follow him into the Masonic family. Over the last two years of Bobby's life a half-dozen new men joined our lodge, most all of them coached by Rollason through the oral catechisms still required for advancement. Indeed, during my time here on the Outer Banks, I had worked more closely with Sherry--an appraiser who has always been on my top three list. But Bobby, desiring to bring his hunting brothers into a different brotherhood began to cross my path more often as he introduced more men into our lodge and made frequent appearances at our meetings.

From all of these, and other aspects of Bobby's life, the composition of the celebrants grew into an extended family. Wives and children of hunt club members. People from Windsor. Currituck. The Outer Banks.

I didn't know Bobby nearly as well as most of those gathered on this beautiful Saturday. But the presence of so many from three differing paths--the U.S. Army, an informal hunt club, and the Masonic fraternity--added to the normal friendships we make during life--says much about the person whose life we were celebrating. I wish I had been able to know him better during his time here.

After the ceremony we shared BBQ, fried chicken and all the accouterments of the simple Southern fare we all love. And there, in the form of a humble meal comes yet another bond--one tied to geography and the unique regional characteristics of northeastern North Carolina. The ring closes on itself and is indeed, eternal.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Audubon. Hypocrites?

Do we compete with the Outer Banks Sentinel? Sort of. But we at The Voice are friends with all other newspapers in the area, and Sandy Seamans and I have several links in the civic sector. Some time ago, even before I left banking, whispers were heard among Realtor's concerning Audubon's intention to sell their Currituck ocean front land to...developers. They did it once via a swap, and that gave us Pine Island and gave the Audubon some more soundside property.

Now they are selling the remainder of their ocean front in what was once a preserve. And, they are selling this land to developers. Not an invitation to beat up on developers; that is what they do. But surely a chance to maybe, for once, get the Outer Banks residents riled up about an interest group shutting down beaches on Hatteras and selling ocean front resort land to developers at ocean front prices (even if depressed from the good old days of 2002) one county north---because they say the land has no environmental value. A 1,000 foot corridor is needed to make a plover safe, but 9,000 of feet of beach (that's almost two miles) was worth trading away once, and selling now so that none remains. Right.

Multiple news sources are important to any society, even small towns. I neglected to follow this story up back in my blogging days, but Sandy did. So read it, and thank her. I already have.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rand Paul--Welcome to the Media Bias

I love my new Droid phone. One of its greatest features is three "home pages" you can scroll through at the slide of a finger that hold news widgets. Widget's are active mini-applications that look similar to large program icons which hold constantly updated information. My favorites are weather widgets (I have four) and news/sports (I have seven). The news widgets scroll new headlines all day.

I noticed within 48 hours of the libertarian leaning, Tea Party embracing Rand winning the Kentucky primary, the negative headlines began to appear. Rand was racist for questioning the reach of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He was a kook for asking Obama to basically stop using BP oil as a whipping boy for political expediency. (Apparently, Obama, after beating up on Bush over his lackluster Katrina performance has discovered that he can't solve a massive disaster by sheer personality either, so he has resorted to the very un-original tradition of beating up "Big Oil" for rhetorical points. Too bad it isn't helping the fish, birds, and residents).

The media loves this, and mark my words---a lot of effort will be expended on making sure a Tea Party politician never takes a seat in Washington. Now, it may turn out that Rand, like his father, will actually be a little kooky and may blow himself up. But I'm not surprised the negative media coverage started almost immediately. It's what we've come to expect.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bye Bye Arlen, Hello Paul

With the possible exception of Arlen Specter's defense of Clarence Thomas in the Supreme Court justice's nomination process, he never was much of a Republican. Or a Democrat. Instead, Specter was the epitome of what ails Washington, DC, our state capitals, and even local politics. A professional politician with the audacity to claim he switched parties so "he could continue to do good for the people of Pennsylvania", Specter appeared far more interested in holding on to his power base in the nation's capital.

His primary loss to Rep. Joe Sestack came in spite of a rousing endorsement from President Barak Obama coupled with a campaign rally appearance from the president. It appears members of both parties are finally in a mood to dump incumbents, especially those who have clung to power for decades.

Personally, I'd be happy to witness a new cadre of Republicans and Democrats, be they liberal, moderate, or conservative ride a wave into Washington this year. It would mark a sea change in American politics. In the past, voters tended to rebel against the party occupying the White House when things got tough. Now, they appear to have finally focused on where our problems actually lie--the members of both parties who occupy Congressional seats and tend to their own interests and those of special interests while disregarding the people's business.

Congratulations to Pennsylvania Democrats for choosing ideals over the status quo and rejecting the overblown rhetoric of their president.

Over in Kentucky, GOP primary voters performed the same dance. In this case, it wasn't an incumbent who lost, but the hand-picked successor of retiring Senator Jim Bunning, a former major league baseball player--the establishment GOP candidate.

Paul, a physician and the son of Texas GOP Rep. Ron Paul (a Republican congressman who once ran on the Libertarian ticket for President and has mounted two primary campaigns for the GOP presidential nod) ran with the open endorsement of the "Tea Party" movement in Kentucky--an association he embraced.

Whether or not Paul, who follows his father's libertarian instincts, can win a general election while maintaining ties to the Tea Party, is an open question. It is also an important issue for both Paul and the Tea Party groups, as the voting power of the new anti-tax movement will be put to the test in a relatively conservative state that is considered on the fringes of "southern" politics.

Either way, the establishment was dealt blows on both sides of the aisle. And that's important for the continued health of democracy in America.

Skeeter's--Colington Road

I will be writing a series of pieces for The Voice on local new, changed, or recently discovered OBX eateries. Realizing some of my readers don't scan our news site, I'll be adding mini-reviews here.

View Larger Map

First up is Skeeter's on Colington Road. This location has gone through a lot of iterations and owners in the past few years. Most of them have served up great food, but sadly, have failed. My suspicions are beach folks just don't wish to venture too far down Colington Road's windy curves to find a place to dine out. Too bad. Because Skeeter's is worth your while.

Owned by Anne and Gary High, with Anne doing the chef honors, Skeeter's offers great local style seafood and other menu items at a very affordable price. Even better, Anne, with the background to go with the cuisine, offers "Asian Night" every Thursday. The Thursday selections change from week to week. On my visit, it was egg rolls, shrimp toast, orange duck, crab Rangoon, pepper steak, pork rolls, and some killer shrimp fried rice. We went with a group of about ten, which is the only way to sample Asian food. By the end of the night, we had purchased almost every appetizer and entree on the menu--and loved every bite. The most expensive entree was only $12, and one can easily make a meal out of two or three of the reasonably priced appetizers and sides.

Our group is going back this week, and I plan to stop by on a regular menu night. Worth a visit, especially for our tourists. There is some beautiful scenery along Colington Road--lots of bridges, waters, streams and marsh. The outside eating area overlooks a quaint riparian water view where I've spied a Wood duck or two in the past.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

2010 Relay for Life Video Scenes Vol 2

These include the incredible "Cancer Survivor" birthday cakes submitted by many of the teams, including a short video of the three prize winners. Also a longer video of the cancer survivor walk. Survivors are the first to walk each year, typically with Queen's "We Are The Champions" playing. You can see my wife, Rose, with her pink Red Sox hat waving to the camera.

2010 Relay for Life Video Scenes Vol 1

First two videos include comments from Relay chair Bob Davis. Sorry about the wind noise!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Realy for Life 2010

People I know and love who will not mind my mentioning their names in conjunction with this cause:

Rose Lay: My wife. Survivor.
Ron Bennett: My former boss (and best boss ever) when I worked at Gateway Bank. Survivor.
Lori Hain: A business client and friend. Survivor.
Rhonda Lowman: Another friend and wife of one of my wife's partner's. Survivor.
Pat Eure: Wife of local artist Glenn Eure and a wonderful person in her own right. Survivor.
Sue Reynolds: Long time competitor and long time person I have never been able to catch up with in the lending game. Survivor.
Rufus Lay: My father, who died of prostate cancer.
Bob Davis: Max Media personality and one of the best people you will ever meet. Survivor.
The partner of my executive coach. Survivor.
My uncle Joe Abernathy who had leukemia and prostate cancer. Beat the leukemia, died of the prostate cancer.
Bro. John Schleter. A Masonic Lodge mentor of mine. Diagnosed with prostate cancer 27 years ago. Was pronounced cured at five years. Died 27 years later of prostate cancer.

And literally dozens of other friends, men and women, but the vast majority being women who have died, beaten, or are still fighting breast cancer. Men who fall to prostate cancer.

Relay in Dare and Currituck is tomorrow. You owe it to your fellow man and woman to be there. I've been going, raising money, and participating for close to fifteen years. This year, it's personal.

PLEASE come. PLEASE pledge your support with time, talents, or donations of money.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Friday Night on THE Island

Most people call the beach area of the Outer Banks an island, especially as we are classified a barrier island. In theory, ever since the inlets closed in Duck and points north, we're actually more of a skinny peninsula, or as a current popular bumper sticker states—a sandbar. In any event, the beach area has always been considered the place where the "action is", especially during the summer. Much of that has changed over time. The tacky but fun beach spots focused on beach music, rock music and even alternative tunes have gone. No more Casino, Carolinian, the Atlantis, or Mex-Econo. What dance/band places remain cater to a younger crowd and many of them spend more time fighting off noise complaints and attempting to fit into the "family beach" atmosphere the Outer Banks is currently utilizing as its model sales pitch. As I have aged, my desire to get out of the house on weekends remains-- yet my ability to enjoy what music is still available on the main beach has decreased. No knocks against the newer forms of music (some of which I like), but for the most part these are bands and crowds that belong to a younger generation.

Surprisingly, while the beach has waned as an entertainment venue for the 40+ crowd, Manteo has quietly evolved into something the older crowd can enjoy. First, and most importantly, the waterfront area features something the beach sadly lacks---a place where one can park their car and wander among restaurants, local shops open past six at night…and bands suited for my age group. A good place to start is Striper's, on Hwy 64/264, nestled into the Shallowbag condo and marina complex between McDonald's and Darrel's. A downstairs bar provides nice views, karaoke during the week, and acoustic bands on weekends. Upstairs, a private club exists where you can enjoy mixed drinks, but you have to become a member. Dinner there is pretty good, especially in the bar area for those more interested in music than fine dining. A full service restaurant t exists on the second floor.

Moving to the waterfront, three venues are within walking distance of one another—providing food, beer and wine (but no cocktails as liquor-by-the drink is still not legal in Manteo). The Full Moon and Poor Richard's both provide music at night, bar food, and in the case of Full Moon a full menu for those wishing finer dining. Full Moon also features NC & VA based microbrews on draft. Oretaga'z features a wine bar and southwestern fare.

And, unlike the beach area, which seems to have an aversion to any kind of outdoor celebrating or the closing of streets, Manteo has taken an opposite approach. From Dare Days to their art shows on the waterfront and the First Friday celebrations, which start around April and run through the summer---revelers and shoppers can enjoy outdoor bands of all manner, stores operating late at night, and the three aforementioned venues—all of which remain open after the street celebration is over.

This past Friday we spent most of our time at Poor Richard's. The band was a male/female duo from Richmond—Ominotago. Beau & Chelsea both play acoustic guitar, a bongo, and sing.

They harmonize well and Beau usually takes lead although I felt Chelsea displayed a far stronger and emotionally diverse range in her vocals. The band has several original tunes, some of which are quite catchy and radio play worthy. They also cover a wide range of music—from The Beatles to Sublime to Guess Who—but their interpretations are so far removed from the originals one is hard pressed to call them covers. What Joe Cocker did with covers on his vocals, Ominotago does with the musical arrangements as well as the vocals.

In any event, a fun night. First Friday is a great idea and something the stodgier beach towns should consider, especially in the shoulder seasons. And the existence of intimate food, drink and music venues close to one another is sadly missing from the beach area. I plan to spend more time in Manteo in the coming months.

The only drawback to such an excursion continues to be the relative lack of and incredibly high cost of taxi service in the area—especially where distances are involved. You have to drive to Manteo and then return to the beach in your own car, or plan on spending a small fortune on alternative transport. So concentrate on food and music and less on adult beverages if you make the trip.