Vickie Honeycutt was a much-loved teacher at my high school for decades. I had her for English. In spite of her universal popularity, I didn’t like her that much, and I don’t think she liked me either. She probably thought I was annoying.
She died quite young of cancer in 2010.
She gave a speech during the high school graduation exercises for the Class of 2000. The students chose her to give the speech for the Baccalaureate (that’s the ceremony that happens the night before the official graduation).
Here’s some quotes from the speech:
“Envy makes you bitter and vain.”
“If you break your neck, if you’re starving, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem.”
“There’s a difference between a lump in your porridge … and a lump of cancer.”
“Life is lumpy.”
“The world is beautiful.”
“If you don’t have your family, you don’t have very much.”
I was on a long train ride recently, and I traced out this trumpeting angel in Blender:
I love these angels! I recently found out you can see statues of some of them in Philadelphia, along the Schuylkill River. If you are in the area, I would definitely go check them out. They were really beautiful.
Spruce Pine is a little town in the mountains in North Carolina.
They have Oak St, which is the main street.
But off of Oak St is Low Street, which is just what its name implies, lower down the mountain slope.
And even lower than Low Street is the Riverside Park.
We were there in Riverside Park on a Friday, and stumbled upon a drum circle. I guess they were inspired by the famous one in Asheville. I have seen the Asheville one once, years ago, but I didn’t really like it, actually. It was super crowded and loud and it was quite late at night. At least, this is true if the big commotion I saw actually was the drum circle, and not some other frantic conclave that Asheville likes to do.
The Spruce Pine version, on the other hand, is just a group of people, sitting on wooden beams, in a gentle park, on sunny afternoons, and tapping out rhythms. Everyone brings their own drum; or actually, some people brings lots of drums, so they have extras to share if passersby want to join in.
Everyone just drums to their own beat, but it still sounded really nice! I think their ears are all attuned to listening to each other, and they seem to moderate and speed up all as a unit.
They call themselves the Riverside Rumble, and they asked me to share my photos on social media. So here I am!
Riverside Park in general is very nice. There’s a very high thin bridge over it — you climb a giant staircase to get to it, and then it takes you across the valley with the river and the railroad station, and when you get to the other side, you are “high” enough to be on level with “Low” Street 🙂
The bridge is quite romantic. But we also thought that maybe it could benefit from some of Biden’s infrastructure funds.
We went to the Dellinger Mill. It’s “in the middle of nowhere” but nowhere is very beautiful, very lovely. It’s in the North Carolina mountains close to Tennessee; it’s on a long winding road and nestled in trees. And it’s been there since 1867.
The man who owns it, Jack Dellinger, is 94 years old and was standing in pride of place at the very spot where corn meal pours out from a chute, explaining all about it. He held onto the wood beams around him as he stood there and reminisced.
I always thought that a mill would be a huge enterprise, but no, this one is so small and simple. And it’s the exact same structure, the exact same tools as when the mill was first built by Jack’s granddaddy Reuben in 1867. Or was it great-granddaddy? Mr. Jack pointed out to us a beam running under the platform — it was huge, and it came from an American chestnut tree — a species that’s now extinct. He said that once, a man showed up and offered 140,000 dollars for that beam, but Mr. Jack wouldn’t part with it. It would ruin the mill.
The mill uses still the same grinding stones as it did in 1867; and the same wheel; and the same belts to pull the wheel. The water is diverted from the Cane River, slipping through a wooden path built over our heads like an elevated avenue. It’s really cute, like a little roller coaster track, or like a secret tunnel (except we can all see it) where Cinderella’s mice go scurrying in the night. The mill wheel — which is really big — just needs a little bit of water in order to turn it, so the avenue for the mice is not watertight — underneath the chute it goes drip-drip-drip all along in rivulets.
Mr. Jack said that his great-granddaddy Reuben was married to Mary Jane. There’s an entry in the diary of Reuben’s brother, who lived just next-door, dated from 1869. It goes, “Mary Jane was smashed flat.” What happened was, the millers’ wives all had to help their husbands with the work, and as Mary Jane was working, her long skirts got caught in the grinding stones and she couldn’t get loose. She was only 31 😦 What an awful end.
Mr. Jack himself was always good in math at school, but he didn’t pursue that right after he finished with high school. Instead, he joined the army. They sent him to Alaska, where they could see Siberia upon take-off or landing of the Air Force plans (this part reminded me a bit of something Sarah Palin once said) and from there they sent him to Japan. This was during the Korean War.
When he was out of the army, he went to NC State to study electrical engineering on the GI Bill. And when he was done, I think he maybe went back to work in the army. But the army was paying 110 dollars a month, whereas an industry engineering job got you 5000 a year — and some engineers, depending on which company they worked for, got over twice that. He got an interview to be part of a submarine outfit, but he realized he didn’t fancy being in a tiny cabin underwater. So he passed on that, and it was lucky, because the next place he got an interview at was IBM. They told him, “we like your record, but we don’t have an opening for an electrical engineer. How would you like to be a computer software engineer instead?”
Jack said, “what’s that?” But he got the job anyways. This was 1958.
A few months later, he found himself up in Poughkeepsie, New York, freezing cold through the winters, working for IBM. His first assignment was working for a spy outfit. He needed a top level security clearance for that, so the FBI showed up in the NC mountains and interviewed everyone that Mr. Jack had ever known. They didn’t say why they were asking nosy questions about him, so everyone assumed he must be in trouble. We knew he’d come to no good.
Back in Poughkeepsie, Mr. Jack kept talking about how much he missed the South. His bosses didn’t understand what anyone would miss about the South, but to placate him, they finally transferred him to the Maryland office (that was the furthest south they could imagine anything being).
Maryland was not much better, though, with the cold winter, and the DC traffic was a nightmare. He kept asking his supervisor about an opening even further South, and finally, one day, a notice went up. It said, “volunteers wanted.” Usually when they asked for volunteers, that wasn’t good, but in this case, it said that IBM had won a 25 million dollar contract to help NASA land people on the moon (it was 1961 or 1963.) And they wanted people to go to Huntsville, Alabama, in order to work on that. Mr. Jack ran into his supervisor’s office right away, and right away, he was put on the team. He ended up on a team of seven engineers, and they wrote the computer program for the spacecraft that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. According to Mr. Jack, after it was all said and done, he had four Sprites with Neil Armstrong (it wasn’t actually Sprite, I’m just sanitizing.)
So that is the story of the Dellinger Mill in the North Carolina mountains.
The official botanical gardens for the whole state of North Carolina are attached to UNC Chapel Hill. Isn’t that special?
These gardens are a cluster of flowers and woodlands, and the offices and gift shop are sustainably built, and everything is so aggressively progressive and fresh, that it makes me guilty to think of driving a car there.
Or, you can walk or bike! Now, if you go onto the Garden’s website, they suggest you hike the connecting path from the University through the Coker Pinetum. Now first, why did they ever call it a ‘Pinetum’. I’m sure I never heard that word before.
Second, I’ve been on the Coker Pinetum before. At least, I think I was on it. We were stumbling through some sort of scraggly, unromantic, dark, surly, sullen clump of trees near a raging highway, and after several consultations trying to figure out if we were lost or not, we finally were spit out sort of near the Gardens.
I suggest a much better pathway if you want to walk to the Gardens. Go on Laurel Hill Road.
Now watch out, because if you look for the route on google maps, the very first option they give you is the Coker Pinetum scrabble.
You know how they also try to fool you? They not only try to entice you with the Coker Pinetum, but then they also tell you that it runs right by the ‘Meeting of the waters’ creek (seen in the map above). Who doesn’t want to go to a creek called Meeting of the Waters? But I don’t even remember seeing any such creek on my one sojourn to the Coker Pinetum.
So ask Google Maps instead for the Laurel Hill Road option.
Actually, the version you see above is not what Google Maps will give you initially. I tweaked it a little. My version is a little longer than the Google Maps version — but my version will let you walk the entirety of Laurel Hill Road. And you don’t want to miss it 🙂 It’s like stepping into a fairytale — flowers everywhere, a woodsy path with lots of twists and bends you can’t see much beyond — and when you get to it, there’s more woods and flowers and slopes. It’s not a road that serves you by being straight. It’s a road that goes where it wants to go, and you go along with it.
Just before you turn on it, you see this fine sight:
Union Street is the main street of Concord, North Carolina. It’s been partly closed off the past few months because they’re doing construction. But on Sunday, both sides of the street were blocked from traffic. So towards sunset, we set off to see what the occasion was. Maybe some kind of street festival, now that COVID is (hopefully) waning? I dropped my books off at the library, and then we walked further down the street. The street was indeed closed off — jammed up as it was with old cars.
‘Look!’ I said. ‘Maybe they’re going to a have a parade.’
It looked like a large outdoors museum. We were about to nestle ourselves among the cars and get a close look, when some men, heady with their authority and yet not as alert as they ought to have been, noticed we’d gone further than what was allowed.
‘Excuse us, you can’t go any further, you have to remain behind there, this is all closed off.’
‘A movie set.’
I nearly rolled my eyes. I supposed it was some rinky-dink group of high schoolers, or maybe a college project, filming with their cell phones, and because their dad was friends with the mayor, they’d managed to get downtown blocked for their own private uses.
But then we found out it was a famous book — a Judy Blume book — and with famous actors — like Oscar-level actors — Kathy Bates and Rachel McAdams. You know, the girl from the Notebook and from Mean Girls, everyone kept telling as, just in case you didn’t know who Rachel McAdams was.
Here in downtown Concord???!!!
We crossed to the other side of the road, and behind some orange cones, there were about 15 or 20 people. Kids, parents, everyone.
I asked a nice-looking older lady, wearing a mask (and I was also wearing a mask!) if she’d seen anything, been there a while? She pointed at two teenagers or young twenty-somethings and said, they’ve been here since 7:30. In the morning. (It was 8:20 pm by this time!). So they were able to tell us everything. First, who the actors were (Rachel McAdams, you know the Mean Girls girl), and they had decided to film here because they wanted to re-create New York City in the 1970s.
Imagine that! Downtown Concord being chosen as a fair copycat of New York City.
How, out of all the towns and cities in America, was Concord even on the radar of the movie people? I wondered out-loud.
No one knew, but then they told me that a few days ago, the movie had gone filming at the Moose Drugs in Mt. Pleasant. Ahahahahahahahahahaha — Mt. Pleasant — and Moose Drugs — is going to end up on movie screens around the country???? It’s literally a pigs-can-fly scenario. Granted, Moose Drugs does have a very old-timey feel — I’m sure it’s going to be perfect. But how in the world did Mt. Pleasant get on anyone’s radar for anything? Except if it’s Trump rallies, of course.
Any case, then they told me what they’d see throughout the day. First, the producers show up; then the extras come; and last come the main actors. So yes, they had seen Kathy Bates and Rachel McAdams and everyone, and the little girl who is starring as Margaret (“she was in the Antman”).
“They were filming the scene where they are moving out from their apartment in New York City, you know, that part in the book,” said the mom.
I nodded, though I’ve never read this book. (Though I’m planning on it now!)
“They spent five hours just filming the part where the Dad is closing the trunk of the car after they’ve packed everything up,” said the teen boy.
He said that they’d watched all of that happening, and then the actors had all retreated into another of the stores, one with a green awning or something, which was set up as a ‘green room’ (is that a real term or did I mis-hear) and that’s where the actors could recharge during the filming downtime. They were supposedly all in there at that very moment, as the sun was setting behind us.
The teen boy had on a hat with the logo A24 on it. He explained that it’s the parent company or something of Lionsgate — it’s Lionsgate that’s producing the film (that’s the one that also did Twilight and the Hunger Games). And that it was his dream to meet the producer who is the head of A24, who was also on set.
‘Did you see him?’ I asked.
‘I did see him,’ he said. ‘He was walking past and he came within this much of me,’ pointing at a spot 5 feet away.
And the mom added that at the end of the day, when the filming is all done, there’s a chance the actors and producers and everyone will come to to the little crowd avidly watching every move behind the orange cones, and that the guy with the hat was hoping to get it signed by the producer at that point!
Apparently, this all has been in the works for a while, because all week they had been transforming the look of Union Street to match with 1970s New York City. The sign for the ‘The Bistro’ is gone, replaced with a pizza parlor, and a blue phone booth as been installed. The teen girl showed me the picture she’d taken, earlier in the week, from when she’d gotten into the set as it was still being constructed and snapped a photo of herself in the phone booth.
I don’t know if they’ll be filming again in downtown Concord, but according to this casting call site, they will be filming somewhere else in Concord this coming Thursday.
And the family I was speaking to said that sometime in June, they’ll be filming in Southpark Mall.