Sunday, January 1, 2023

A Carolina Beach New Year’s

Following what has become a longstanding New Year’s tradition, Brugger and I joined up with frequent traveling companions Terry & Beth to celebrate, this year bound for Carolina Beach, NC, about four hours down the road from us. Late morning on Friday, 12/30, Ms. B. and I departed Greensboro, and after stopping for lunch and a few geocaches, we arrived at our destination no more than five minutes before our compadres. None of us had been here before, so we weren’t sure what to expect crowd-wise; happily, the locale isn’t deserted, but neither do we face a huge and/or oppressive crush of homo sapiens. I suspect, however, that on our return trip, traffic will be a monster, particularly as we approach the fuckin Triad. Because it’s the fuckin Triad.
A lovely little graveyard we found while
geocaching on the way into Carolina Beach

Some time ago, food evangelist Guy Fieri apparently gave the nearby Cork and Fork restaurant a glowing recommendation on Drive-Ins, Diners, and Dives, and it’s now Carolina Beach’s top-rated restaurant. So, for dinner, we decided to check it out. It’s an appealing enough location, with a menu that features a wide variety of burgers, eclectic bar food, and an extensive wine list. Unfortunately, they did not have our first wine selection in stock, nor any of their renowned duck wings, which I had hoped to sample. We ended up ordering a bottle of a decent syrah, and I went for the Hay Dios Mio burger, a massive construct of dead cow, chipotle mayo, jalapeño jack cheese, ghost pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, and jalapeños on a brioche bun. Make no mistake, it was danged good, yet I couldn’t say that it racks up with some of the better burgers we can snag back home. That said, apart from some of our choices being unavailable, we had no complaints about the food.

Afterward, we hung out in our apartment for a while, mostly sampling various treats we had on hand. A late and most enjoyable night it turned out to be.

Saturday, 12/31, most of us slept in until at last 8:00 a.m. (we are old) and, once up, drank massive — MASSIVE — quantities of Good Morning America. Brugger and I took a long walk on the beach, which was shrouded with a dense layer of fog. This fit in perfectly with tradition, I reckon, for each New Year’s that we’ve spent at the beach, thick fog has been a constant companion. Hey, I like it.
A foggy morning on the beach
A well-fed seagull taking flight, caught by Ms. B.’s camera
Eventually, we trucked up to Wilmington proper, where we found vittles and wine (a lovely syrah) at a little place called The Vine. I ordered a trio of pulled pork sliders, which I rate very, very high on the scale of pulled pork goodness. The service and atmosphere were perfect, so we give top marks all around to The Vine.

We rambled forth, shopped, geocached, and eventually ended up at another little wine bar called The Fortunate Glass. Fact: this wine bar has the most extensive wine list of any establishment in my experience that I can recall. It took a while, but we selected a bottle of wine — this one an incredible Crianza — and ordered a few munchies (or maybe a few too many munchies). I chose a paté plate that I thought would probably be a wee appetizer-type thingummy, but no... it was a massive bunch of puréed dead critter, and though I enjoyed it, it was too much to finish.

I grabbed a few more geocaches, one at a fascinating location — a military surplus store at which one may find a vintage jet fighter, a couple of cannons, and a few other examples of military hardware parked right out front. The geocache lurks in a somewhat difficult-to-access location amid the fixtures, which presented me with an unexpected challenge. Eventually, I ended up calling geocaching buddy Mike, a.k.a. MWFerrell65, who lives in the Triangle but — coincidentally — happened to be caching in the Carolina Beach/Wilmington area at the same time as us. How handy!

Back at our apartment, we hung out and made merry for a while. Ms. B. and I took another long walk on the beach before heading back to prepare for the chiming of the hour. That put our hoofing-it distance at about four miles for the day. Once again settled in our place, we celebrated the changing of the year with a toast — not champagne but some excellent red wine.

Woo-fuckin-hoo, goodbye, 22.
Terry, Beth, Brugger, Old Dude
The jet plane appears to have sprouted a pair of legs. Wonder what that could be about?
Our Carolina Beach lodgings by night
The bombs bursting in air a mile or so up the beach
Sunday, 1/1/23: Most of us (well, only Brugger, really) slept in a bit later than usual. Once we were all up and going (hurry up, Brugger!), we buzzed back to Wilmington, where we took to wandering along the Cape Fear River on the River Walk. We found lunch at a nice enough establishment called Rooster & The Crow. Again, a few menu items were unavailable, but none of us came away hungry. I had fried chicken, one of their house specialties. Not bad — though, again, no more remarkable than the fare we can find at numerous joints back home. Mind you, I’m so not complaining, for I quite understand the difficulties resulting from supply issues, and none of us are scratching the earth to seek subsistence. It was all a treat, as far as I am concerned.

Once done with the feeding frenzy, we split up — Terry to hunt drinks and football at a sports bar; Brugger and Beth to shop for all kinds of shopping things; and I to geocache. I found a bunch — enough to damn near clear out Wilmington’s historic district. A couple of these were ingenious, highly creative hides, and I had a physical challenge or two to keep me invigorated. A lovely afternoon indeed!

And tomorrow... off we go.
The USS North Carolina, seen from Wilmington’s River Walk
Another view as the sun settled lower in the sky
Our last toast as our evening drew to a close
Some great things happened in 2022. The most significant include the releases of my collection, Fugue Devil: Resurgence from Black Raven Books, and my latest entry in Elizabeth Massie’s Ameri-Scares series for young readers, Georgia: The Haunting of Tate’s Mill from Crossroad Press. On the writing front, I’ve got a new novel in the works as well as a new editing gig — easily the biggest such project I’ve taken on in decades. It will be announced in the coming weeks. Now, it behooves me to ask: if you’ve read any of my work, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or any site that will help spread the word. Reviews are critical to authors, and I assure you, every little bit helps. I very much appreciate everyone who has taken the time to post a review, whether short and to the point or long and in-depth.

Early in 2022, I retired from my position of 23 years at The Mailbox, although I continue to do freelance work for the company. Brugger and I took a few trips to Michigan to visit her parents, who are still managing pretty well on their own but are reaching that age where they need a bit more assistance. In the fall, Kimberly and I also visited Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which is one of my favorite places on Earth. Such a beautiful location, with countless waterfalls, trails, quaint little towns, massive forests, and many opportunities for hiking and geocaching (I claimed my 14,000th geocache in Michigan on our Thanksgiving trip, thus maintaining my average of about 1,000 cache finds per year).

In May, Ms. B. and I spent an excellent week in Chicago, visiting my old stomping grounds and many good friends from days of yore — Bill Gudmundson, Ed Godziszewski, Bob Issel, and more. On this trip, we spent a few days in Nashville, TN, and saw Colin Hay perform; an excellent show. The only downside was that we came home with the covidz. Fortunately, they turned out to be very mild cases.

In July, I attended my first Necon in a quarter of a century. Reigniting some personal relationships, building new ones, and simply hanging out with so many of my peers in the writing business was the proverbial breath of fresh air and helped jump-start some projects I’ve had in mind to produce.

I made two pilgrimages to Gainesville, Georgia, where I spent so much time as a youth at my grandparents’ place (and in the fall, I made a day trip to my old alma mater, the University of Georgia, in Athens). The highlight of my most recent visit was making the personal acquaintance of author and professor Leverett Butts, whose book, Guns of the Waste Land: Departure, I reviewed here. I will be speaking to his literature class about Fugue Devil: Resurgence coming up in February.

In November, after far too long, I was able to visit with friend, fellow writer, and proprietor of Crossroad Press, Mr. David Niall Wilson, plus his wife, Trish, and their family in Hertford, NC. That was an excellent, memorable, and much-needed trip. We’ve all been friends for many, many years, but it’s far too rare for our paths to cross. I hope the next gap between visits isn’t nearly so long.

Along with all the loveliness, challenges and stressors aplenty struck over the course of the year, though none as dire as those we dealt with during those years of my mom’s long decline and eventual passing and then my brother succumbing to leukemia. It’s clear that 2023 will pose plenty of challenges of its own; I hope we all not only weather them but prosper in every respect.

Be well, and Happy Fookin’ New Year to the lot of ye.

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