Tag: university of north carolina
If there’s anything Ace and I enjoy more than sitting on the beach, it would be sitting on the beach and eating a sandwich.
But don’t go jumping to any conclusions.
The beach is where we have been since Friday — and where we still are, a good day after we were supposed to leave.
Extracting ourselves from the beach is always hard. It’s as difficult as trying to get the sand out of your swimsuit. No matter how much you rinse, a little always lingers, then falls out once you get home and unpack, as if to to remind you of your good times, and that you need to vacuum.
This, as best as I can recall, is our fourth visit to the reunion of University of North Carolina college buddies that my friends in Wilmington host at their beach house every year. Most of us were members of the class of ’75. We reminisce, update each other on what’s been going on in our lives, eat heartily, drink some, sing, dance, act silly and play in the ocean.
I have to to say most of them seem to be holding up quite well — even though we’re all nearing 60.
At 60, or even 59, which I will turn next month, it’s more important than ever — and a far bigger battle — to stay in shape.
Between watching the Olympics and sitting on the shore, I’m seeing — not ogling, mind you, just seeing — a lot of young, tanned and toned bodies, all of which serve to reinforce that point. Exercise is vital and should be part of your daily regimen. I may try it some day.
We’ve had a few walks on the beach, and I did engage in one strenuous ping pong match, beating my opponent handily, but the beach to me has always been about relaxing, and I am very good at that.
The other night, we broke out the guitars and played some songs. As our host thumbed through the pages of a songbook, naming songs, she came upon “When I’m 64,” by the Beatles.
“Wow,” she commented. “We’re almost there.”
We skipped singing that one.
I remember how old 64 sounded when that song came out — truly ancient. One that age is bound to be decrepit. But I have a feeling, when it comes to this particular group, they’ll cruise right through that year, and still be reflecting the kid that, thankfully, seems to remain inside each of them (some more than others).
My plan is to come every year, and — if they still need me, if they’ll still feed me –especially that year.
Perhaps by then I’ll be in shape.
(Disclaimer: That is not my sandwich in the photo above. That’s not my body, either. But that is my dog.)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 6th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, aging, animals, beach, bodies, dogs, fit, friends, health, north carolina, olympics, pets, reunion, sandwich, toned, travels with ace, university of north carolina, when i'm 64, wilmington
Friendships — like rose bushes, newborns and wimpy dogs – need to be nurtured.
But it’s good to know that, even when you’ve done a piss poor job at that, friendships have a kudzu-like ability to survive.
When I reunited with two college roommates on a camping trip in the mountains of North Carolina last week — one I’ve seen every five or so years, one I haven’t so much as exchanged words with in probably 20 – we picked up right where we likely left off, with a beer.
My ex-roommate George and I were originally planning to rent an RV and drive to Missouri. It was to be one of the final treks in my year of dogging it across America for Travels with Ace – a visit to Warrrensburg, where the phrase “man’s best friend” is said to have originated.
(Actually, what lawyer George Graham Vest said, in an 1870 courtroom speech, was that a dog was “the one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world.” Over the years, it was made more sound-bite friendly.)
Vest was representing Charles Burden, whose black and tan hound, Old Drum, had been shot by a neighboring farmer. Burden was seeking recompense, and won. He was awarded $50. There’s a statue of Old Drum in Warrensburg at the Johnson County Courthouse, and I figured Ace and I should see it.
After checking the mileage to Warrensburg, the rates to rent an RV, and my bank account, I decided against the trip, and George and I came up with an alternate plan — camping for a few days in the mountains, and inviting our friend John, who we had planned to visit, to join us at the campground instead.
George drove down from Fredericksburg, Va. — leaving his elderly dog Puck at home. Remembering the soggy camping experience Ace and I had in Provincetown, Mass., I persuaded George that we should stay in Winston-Salem for a day, waiting for the rain to leave the mountains.
On Wednesday, we loaded up my car, putting, in deference to Ace, as much as we could on the roof, including, once he was loaded into the backseat, the handicapped ramp he has been using to get in and out since he was diagnosed with a herniated disc.
Not fully over that, despite two rounds of drugs, Ace, up until we left, had still been emitting the occasional wimper, and was still being very careful whenever he shook his head.
George, Ace and I checked into the Davidson River Campground in Pisgah National Forest, which had been recommended by John, who lives in nearby Waynesville. We pitched, with some difficulty, my tent, sat back proudly to admire it despite some slight lopsidedness, then headed to nearby Brevard for provisions.
We picked up three steaks, some corn on the cob and, at George’s insistence, some make-your-own salads. To give you some idea of the kind of guy George is, he called John at work to ask him what ingredients he wanted in his salad. I would never have done that. Rather than ponder a friend’s salad preferences, I would have gotten macaroni and cheese.
I gave in to George’s carb-counting ways, built myself a salad and grabbed three different packets of salad dressing.
We got some charcoal, and beer, and a cherry pie, and bananas, and on our way back to the campground, where firewood was $5 a bundle, opted instead for some cheaper wood at a convenience store.
He went at it with great gusto and attention to detail, beginning a highly meticulous process of gathering kindling, and, much to Ace’s displeasure, snapping it into fire-pit-sized pieces.
Ace, who tends to get edgy when camping, freaked out about the noise of sticks being snapped and began seeking places to hide, jumping into the back of the car (without the aid of the ramp) and cowering in fear.
He’d have the same reaction every time the fire, once we got it burning, popped. His eyes would grow big, his curly upright tail would disappear between his legs and he’d slink back over to the car and hop in.
I attempted to reason with him, explaining he was in no danger, and he seemed to listen.
I told him to man up, or dog up, as the case may be — that we were tough and hearty campers, or at least pretending to be. But then the fire would crackle and he’d be back in the car again. He must have jumped in and out of the car 10 times, once squeezing through to sit in the front seat and be at a greater distance from the fire.
Eventually I gave up and let him rest there, figuring he would work up his courage and come out once the steaks hit the grill.
He brought his own firewood, which unlike that which we bought actually burned instead of just producing huge clouds of smoke. He brought a chair, an Arctic-rated sleeping bag, a bottle of wine, corkscrew and wineglasses. We discovered the next day that he had cloaked himself in long underwear as well — a wise decision, as it turned out.
On top of that, our campsite was located right next to a construction project. Crews were sandblasting an old pedestrian bridge that crossed over the Davidson River and will be returned there when work is complete.
We missed most of the sandblasting, being out on another excursion, and only had to put up with about 30 minutes of noise and dust.
That’s what they get for letting the non-planner do the planning.
As my steaks approached doneness — we’d splurged on filets — and the corn turned a golden brown, we turned to the question of salad dressing. I’d picked up a packet of raspberry vinaigrette, a red pepper vinaigrette and a sesame-ginger at the grocery store, the only choices at the salad bar.
We spent a good ten minutes deciding who should get which salad dressing — an unusually long time considering two of us really didn’t care at all, or at least pretended we didn’t, while George voiced a distinct preference for the raspberry vinaigrette.
Eventually, we got the matter settled — George got raspberry, John got red pepper vinaigrette and I got sesame ginger — and enjoyed a fine dinner. (I really wanted that red pepper vinaigrette.)
After dinner, we talked, sat around the fire and drank — once the wine was gone — more beer. We got caught up on each other’s children, and worked to figure out who lived with whom when back in our college days.
John seemed to have the best memory for that kind of detail, I the worst. Still, it’s amazing how, with a little push from friends, memories can return, and then, like dry wood tossed in a fire, spark yet more.
Once our firewood supply — and reminiscence supply — began running low, we headed into the tent, joining Ace who had chosen to seek refuge there, coming out only for some steak handouts. He seemed happy that everyone was finally settling down in one place, and that it was away from the fire.
Lined up in a row, Ace next to me with his paw on my hand, we all went to sleep. I was first up in the morning and started making coffee. Ace peeked out of the opening in the tent, but decided to say there, settling in between John and George.
After a breakfast of bananas and cherry pie, we took a short hike along the river. Later we went into Brevard for lunch. George’s cell phone and mine didn’t get a signal at the campground — not a good thing for a doctor (both John and George are of the medical persuasion), but no big deal for me.
Besides, it was the price one pays when one ventures deep (about a half mile) into the woods and leaves civilization behind. We were too busy being rugged to let that bother us.
Whenever we went into town, service would kick in and reveal our messages, and during lunch George did get an important phone call. It was his hairdresser, informing him that the salon had gotten in some of the product he uses — transforming gel.
That led to a brief round of making fun of George, led by George himself.
Later in afternoon, we decided to wash our dishes from the night before, even though the campground urges people not to do so. We went to the nearby bathroom and I assumed a lookout position while George washed our three plates.
I stopped in my tracks, then backed up, quaking in my sneakers and having visions of finding the snake in my sleeping bag later that night. Just as I had with Ace the night before, I was now telling myself to “man up,” which is surprising because I really dislike that phrase.
George didn’t seem alarmed at all. He seemed pretty sure it was — though exceedingly large — a harmless black snake. But I wasn’t about to let a guy who uses raspberry vinaigrette and transforming gel be my field guide to snakes in the wild.
We took the long way back to the campsite to get the camera and seek out John’s opinion — he being mountain-born and the most wilderness-savvy among us.
John agreed that it probably wasn’t a killer. He, too, wasn’t the least bit bothered by it. Then again, he was leaving that afternoon.
When George and I, after some card-playing and beer-drinking, went to sleep that night — in my case not before a subtle patting down of my sleeping bag — I can assure you that snake was the most distant thing from my mind.
Or at least I pretended it was.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 24th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, beer, brevard, camp, campfire, campground, camping, camping with dogs, college, davidson river, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fears, fire, friends, friendship, man up, man's best friend, manliness, manly, memories, men, mountains, neurosis, noise, noises, north carolina, old drum, old freinds, pets, phobias, phrase, pisgah national forest, pretense, raspberry vinaigrette, reminiscing, road trip, roommates, salad, scary, sleeping bags, snakes, sticks, tent, transforming gel, travel, travels with ace, unc, university of north carolina, usa
Here in the waning days of Travels With Ace – it has been just about a year since we pulled out of Baltimore some 27,000 miles ago — our journey is going in a different direction.
We’re heading to the past, for multiple reasons.
One: Oftentimes you can get to the past pretty easily — without burning a lot of gas. Sometimes it can be a matter of letting your fingers do the walking through a dusty box of photographs, digging up that family tree your uncle once assembled, asking questions of your parents you never asked before, or getting in touch with a relative you’ve never met. While visiting the past we will, of course, continue to live in the moment (Ace insists upon it).
Two: We humans, in addition to getting too busy to live in the moment, also get so rushed to get where we’re going that we fail to appreciate where we’ve been. And even though the pace of our travels across America was more full dawdle than full throttle, life before that, jammed as it was with deadlines and pushy editors, is in some ways a blur. Sometimes the only thing that slows us down to a reasonable pace – enough to appreciate life, smell the roses, all that crap – is our dog.
Three: Our travels triggered memories, many grown hazy. That, along with the return to the state of my birth, to the town of my birth, to the exact same house of my birth, has sparked my interest in how I came to be on the planet. Realizing that I probably know more about the heritage of my dog than I do my own, prompts me to put at least a little effort into investigating the latter.
Not long after I got Ace six years ago, I decided – because I was constantly being asked what kind of dog he was, and since almost everything about him was a mystery, from his age to his breed to how he ended up in Baltimore’s animal shelter – to find out what I could about his roots.
The result was a seven-part series in the Baltimore Sun about his heritage. In addition to being lengthy, it had a lot of those hanging thoughts set off between dashes — like in the paragraph above, and, hey, now this one, too — because that’s the way I think and because I like making dashes.
The investigation included searching records, pestering the shelter he came from, consultations with veterinarians, at-home DNA tests to determine his breed, wandering the zip code he came from in hopes he would be recognized, and even turning to an animal communicator — an attempt to get the story from the horse’s mouth, which in this case was a dog.
I learned Ace had been a stray, wandering the streets, spotted by a citizen who called animal control. He was picked up in southwest Baltimore and taken to the city’s animal shelter, where he was labeled a hound mix, and where he’d stay a couple of months.
I met him while visiting the shelter for research on a story about volunteerism. Three days later, I was back to fill out the paperwork and adopt him.
I’ve had three DNA breed tests conducted on Ace — not so much because I was dying to know what he’s made up of, but for the purposes of that story, and subsequent ones that tested the tests that were hitting the market.
All three had slightly different results — but the breeds that showed up were Rottweiler, Akita, chow and pit bull (unless you are a landlord or insurance company or other form of breed nazi, in which case he is a, um … cat.)
Tracking down Ace’s heritage gave me more than just an answer for the dozen people a day who asked what kind of dog he was. By using methods scientific and spiritual — and neither of those is foolproof — the project gave me a better understanding of what made him him, convinced me that environment plays at least as large a role in a creature’s development as genes, and showed me that being pure of breed, unless you’re the AKC or a breeder, isn’t the most important thing in the world, or maybe even desirable.
The four breeds, all of at least some ill repute, joined together, in his case, to produce 130 pounds of gentle, mellow sweetness, enabling him to serve as a therapy dog for others, ward off evil humans by his size alone and keep me sane on the side.
I’m a mutt, too — the product of a mother whose roots are Welsh, a father whose are German and Irish, not to mention I’m a cross between a southerner and a Yankee.
Those are my parents at the top of this entry, youthfully frolicking it appears, in the yard of my father’s father’s house in Saugerties, New York.
Here they are again — not frolicking.
The photo of my father was taken while he was serving in the Army in Korea (and, yes, the typewriter is mightier than the sword, or at least it used to be.)
The photo of my mother — though she appears to be multi-tasking before it was called that — is a staged one, shot to illustrate a 1950s era newspaper story about newfangled kitchen appliances. While homemaking was among her skills, she was not a stay-at-home housewife, but among those groundbreaking women who stepped into newspaper work when journalism was still mainly a boys-only pursuit.
My father’s parents met in Newark — the New Jersey one — when both were working at the laundry that my great grandfather, who immigrated from Germany, owned. They married and later moved to Saugerties, N.Y., where they’d raise three boys in a big white farmhouse.
My mother, meanwhile, grew up in Asheboro, N.C., where her family dates back to Revolutionary War days. Her father owned a furniture company that, seeing how well coffins sold, made the transition to full-fledged funeral home and, later, a chain of them.
So, in one way of looking at it, I owe my existence to dirty laundry and dead bodies — those being the lifeblood of the industries that enabled my parents’ respective families to make enough money to send them off to college.
They both ended up at the University of North Carolina, studying journalism — a pursuit that traditionally draws its practitioners from those with egos too big and egos too small; people with a desire to change the world, or at least see it; the nosey, the gossipy, the terminally curious, the perpetually suspicious, and those who lack any truly marketable skills.
After graduation, getting newspaper jobs, getting married and moving to Winston-Salem — eventually into the apartment I have recently re-occupied — they had their their first child, my sister.
She was about three years old when my father got called upon to serve in Korea.
Upon returning from his stint there, pretty immediately as I understand it, I was conceived, in the room I now sleep in.
Not long after his return he was off again — one of the journalists invited to witness atomic bomb tests in Nevada.
Unlike area residents and, possibly, him, I was not subjected to any fallout from that, for I was already forming in the womb by the time he left. While, in subsequent years, I would have to hide under my elementary school desk during bomb drills, I was otherwise unaffected by the Cold War’s psychological shrapnel, I think.
A few months after my father witnessed that spectacle, there came another one — me. For one year, I slept, peed, cried, spit up and crawled here in the apartment I moved into last month.
Being here hasn’t automatically rekindled memories. There is only the vaguest sense that I’ve been here before. The doorbell, and it’s actually a bell — you turn the crank and it rings — struck me as familiar. The first time it rang, I did a dog-like head tilt (but didn’t start barking). Was it stirring an infant memory, or just my imagination?
At the age of one, I’d be moved — temporarily — to Boston when my father was selected to be a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. Instead of returning to North Carolina after that year, my parents moved to New York, where my father had gotten a job at Newsday.
After 10 years there — we lived in Huntington, where my parents would have another son — we moved to Houston, where my father would work at the Houston Post, and my mother at the Houston Chronicle.
Their marriage would implode about the time I was 12, After their divorce, I lived with my mom in Houston and later Raleigh, spending summers with my father in Connecticutt and Colorado.
I, like them, would end up at the University of North Carolina, and, like them, in journalism — and as a result I would see both dead bodies and dirty laundry, but plenty of joyous and inspiring things as well.
I, like my father, would have the privilege of getting a fellowship (a Knight Fellowship, at Stanford University), be involved in winning my newspaper a Pulitzer Prize (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1987), bounce around to a lot of different newspapers and get divorced twice.
After about 35 years in newspapers, I left to write a book, and produce my own website. And a year ago, in a rare show of spontaneity, I put my belongings in storage, moved out of my house and hit the road with Ace, to see America, and its dogs, and blog about it.
During those travels, we made some stops at places of my past — my grandfather’s house in New York, Houston, where our house in Raleigh used to be, and Tucson, the site of my first real newspaper job — and doing so sparked a desire to remember more and learn more about my past, and about my family roots, whitebread as they may be.
Among the many things I learned, or had reaffirmed, on our trip were not to take my dog for granted, or my friends, or my family.
Since coming to Winston-Salem, I’ve been rummaging through old boxes of family stuff, reconnecting with relatives, and learning more about my family history and working on better remembering my own life as well — all those memories that got shoved aside to make room for new ones. For the next few weeks, we’ll continue doing that, including taking at least two more trips, the kind that do burn gas, before we wrap things up.
A little further down the road, we’ll be visiting a battlefield and a cemetery and seeking to shed some light on this question:
Why, on June 19 (which is also my sister’s birthday), 1771, was my great great great great great great great grandfather hung?
Posted by jwoestendiek May 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, atom bomb, atomic bomb, author, background, bill woestendiek, birth, book, breeds, dead bodies, dirty laundry, dna, dog inc., dog's country, dogscountry, family, heritage, history, home, homeplace, houston, jo woestendiek, john woestendiek, journalism, korean war, memories, mix, mixed, new york, ohmidog!, past, pugh, road trip, roots, testing, travels with ace, tree, unearthing, university of north carolina, what kind of dog is that, winston-salem journal, woestendiek, writer
It was the sort of scene I can’t walk past: A muttly looking dog, a white-bearded homeless guy and a handmade cardboard sign offering: “Dog Tricks 1$.”
On the sidewalk along Franklin Street — the main drag in Chapel Hill — Mark Williams, after offering me some room on his bench, said he and his dog, Two Beans, have been homeless for about a year. “Work’s kind of slow now” in the construction /handyman/odd jobs field, he explained.
The dog trick — Two Beans knows only one — helps rake in enough money for meals.
I’d gone to Chapel Hill for a meeting of the Board of Advisers of the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, an esteemed panel on which I still serve, despite having left my most recent newspaper job a year ago, and despite – other than doing some revisions on the book I left the business to write, and writing this website — being unemployed.
Twice a year at UNC, members of the board gather to hear what the school is up to in terms of research, fund-raising and curriculum changes, which are coming pretty fast and furious nowadays as the industry, facing declining profits, continues to try to pull new tricks out of its hat, or in some cases get a whole new hat.
This meeting was a special one because it’s the journalism school’s 100 birthday — a benchmark the university’s basketball program also hit this year. That’s pretty old, but there are older journalism schools, I learned during the festivities, such as the highly respected one at the University of Missouri, which was the nation’s first.
Getting ready to pick up my dog Ace (who I’d dropped off for a bath during the meeting) and leave town, I was walking down Franklin Street. Doing that always triggers memories of my days as a student. Thirty-four years ago, I was getting ready to graduate with my degree in journalism, and I was sending job applications to newspapers across the country. I used the seventy-some rejection letters I got then to wallpaper my room.
It dawned on me that, today, I’m in sort of the same situation – job hunting, getting a few rejections, and much more often getting no response at all. At least in the good old days they sent you a form letter. Today, many companies often don’t even bother to acknowledge receipt of your application. While students are still finding jobs, the journalism job market — like journalism — seems tighter, shallower and meaner than ever.
So bleak, in fact, that when I saw Mark Williams’ sign, I ever so briefly considered getting my own piece of cardboard, picking up my dog and setting up shop on the next bench down, offering higher-priced, upscale dog tricks (the Starbucks approach) for $5 to cover gas for my trip home.
Two Beans’ trick requires a dollar bill. Having only a $10, I asked Williams if that would work. He pocketed the ten dollar bill and pulled from his other pocket a crumpled one dollar bill. “Now go back in that alley and hide it somewhere, and Two Beans will find it.”
I wedged the bill behind a drainpipe, about waist high, and sure enough, Two Beans, when I called, came around the corner sniffed around, pulled it out, and brought it dutfifully to his master.
Williams got the dog from a friend, shortly before he began a stretch of life on the streets. He named him Two Beans, he said, because the dog — a golden retriever-Rhodesian ridgeback mix, he suspects — is not neutered. Williams said police don’t give him any trouble about his street business. “They’d rather me do this than just be panhandling like these other guys,” he said.
In addition to providing some income — as much as $70 a day when there’s a home football game – Two Beans makes life on the streets “a little less miserable,” Williams said. He said teaching Two Beans the trick cost him $3, because the dog ate the first three dollar bills
As we sat and talked, Williams, originally from Greenville, N.C., revealed that he once wrote a book about dog training. It was only 20 pages and, so it wouldn’t cost him much to mail it out, weighed only an ounce. “It was basically plagiarized, and not very good.” He took out an ad in the National Enquirer, offering the mini-book for sale for $3. He says he only sold two copies, one to a customer in Virginia Beach, another to a customer in Acapulco — making him, he joked, an “international author.”
When he learned I was a former newspaper reporter, Williams revealed that his family was in journalism as well: His grandfather, Walter Williams, founded the journalism school at the University of Missouri.
“That’s the nation’s first journalism school,” I said.
“Yup,” he answered.
Coincidentally, I’d also recently applied for a job there, in my continuing quest to sniff out writing/teaching/multi-media positions. I received an emailed rejection, one of at least a dozen so far.
I don’t print out my emailed rejections. They don’t have the cool logos on them that I once found decorative enough to serve as wall art. I think I also take them a little more personally, now that I have experience and credentials. So I won’t be using them as wallpaper — either the kind you put on your wall, or the kind on your computer.
Instead, I’ll keep plugging along, like Williams, and waiting for the better times I keep hearing are ahead.
Until then … dog trick, anyone?
Posted by jwoestendiek October 20th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: application, chapel hill, dog, dog tricks, economy, employment, franklin street, homeless, job, job market, jobs, journalism, journalism school, mark williams, mass communication, north carolina, one dollar dog tricks, panhandle, rejection, school, two beans, university of missouri, university of north carolina
Ace, being both neutered and neutral, isn’t normally one to take sides, but he will be pulling for the University of North Carolina Tarheels in tonight’s final four game against Villanova, at his master’s command.
In Chapel Hill yesterday, Ace, after picking up a new bandana, attended a journalism school picnic for some retiring professors — and got to enjoy some Bullock’s barbecue, once when high winds flipped my plate over, again when a kindly Bullock’s employee brought him a plateful.
In addition to a little gas, Ace also got to pass along his best wishes to the retiring – or halfway retiring — professor Donald Shaw, who, many years ago taught Ace’s master a thing or two, including calling things by their correct names. So make that School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Best of luck to Donald, and if I may — against his teachings — be slightly less than objective:
Posted by jwoestendiek April 4th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, basketball, blog, blogging, chapel hill, donald shaw, final four, journalism, mass communication, ncaa, ohmidog!, professor, tarheels, tournament, university of north carolina, villanova