Saturday, May 31, 2014

Harvey Pekar

One of my favorite contemporary writers is Harvey Pekar. And he mainly wrote in comics format, gaining much deserved fame from his comic book AMERICAN SPLENDOR. That fame later translated into mass market books, television show appearances, and a movie based on his life and his experiences in translating his life stories into comics format.

I have pretty much never been disappointed in anything he wrote. It didn't matter what it was or what it was about, I always got a kick out of his work. He has been described often by the overused term "Everyman", but in Harvey's case it was true. His background may have been a little out of the norm (he was a Jew), but his life experience as a regular guy from the working class is familiar if you are also from the working class (as I am).

Harvey Pekar was a guy who wrote effectively about his day-to-day life in a manner that was truly engaging and often inspiring. In the past couple of years I've read a couple of his posthumous works, CLEVELAND, and NOT THE ISRAEL MY PARENTS PROMISED ME. And even now there are still a few of his works that I haven't read, but I've pretty much glommed everything of his that's out there.

Last week I was in a used bookstore and saw a Pekar book that I'd not only never encountered, but had never heard of. It's EGO & HUBRIS, The Michael Malice Story. Hey. It was new (to me) Pekar material, so I grabbed it. Now, normally I wouldn't have bought it used, since I like to support authors and used books don't give anything back to the writer. But it was only $4.95 and looked never to have even been read. Plus, as I discovered after I got it home, it's autographed by Harvey. I don't have anything autographed by him, so if it's the real deal, I scored. I've seen his signature, and this one looks genuine. (Somehow I think Harvey would approve of the deal.)

So. To the contents.

For the first time in my experience of reading Harvey Pekar, he wrote something that totally lost me.

The book is about a genuinely annoying fellow named Michael Malice. Initially I figured with a name like that and the self-important attitude generated by this waste that he was something invented by Pekar. Not only do I find the guy intensely unlikable, I cannot imagine Harvey Pekar having any interest in him whatsoever. He is the opposite of Harvey Pekar. The appeal of Pekar's work is that he cared about other humans, but the title character of this yarn is the epitome of selfishness and monstrosity. It had to be some kind of horror story that Pekar was writing.

So, in the midst of the book, I looked the guy up on our favorite contraption, the Internet. And, sure enough, he's real. An Ayn Rand-loving, right wing, pro-corporate, government-hating blowhard.

The book at that point became even harder for me to follow because...well...stinking asshole. His story was boring (beyond his description of his origin and ethnic upbringing), and I still can't fathom why Harvey Pekar thought that this fellow's ego was worth putting down on paper. Because it really isn't. He's a dime a dozen. He's one of the hordes of young Republican/Libertarian/Objectivist thugs who kiss rich ass hoping that some real money will be tossed their way by the owners of the asses they are lubing with their slimy tongues.

I don't get it.

Was Harvey being subversive? Was he presenting this guy's story, playing him for a fool to show us what a real creep Malice is?

Fuck if I know.

All I can tell you is that I had to put the volume down for a couple of days and let the toxins drain out so that I could finish it. As a biography (or autobiography), the book is truly boring. The fellow's life has not been interesting and why anyone would want to read about it, or empathize with this right wing clod is beyond me.

Oh, well. I guess not even Harvey Pekar could hit one out of the park every time at bat.

EGO & HUBRIS by Harvey Pekar and Gary Dumm.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Kite Boarding!

I'd heard of kite boarding. And I've seen video of people engaging in the sport. But I had no idea how popular it was on the Outer Banks. I guess it seems logical. You have a surfboard that is powered by a huge kite instead of wave power or a motor boat. And, since the Outer Banks have almost constant high winds, the place is just a kite boarding paradise.

Indeed...sometimes the low skies looked to have been invaded by giant bats! There were often dozens of folk out there on the water with their kites and boards.

So. Here are some images of a day we took to go see museums and parks and, along the way, saw many happy people kite boarding.

I focused in on six people kite boarding at this location. There were actually about two dozen in this one spot. (This was on the Pamlico Sound side of Hatteras, and not the Atlantic.)

The kites are well designed and really pretty.

Let's go surfin' now!

Full wind!

And the regular surfers just sat there waiting for the waves. That mainly didn't arrive.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On Hatteras Island

Our final camping destination was on Hatteras Island. We had chosen a private campground near Buxton as your spot to remain for the rest of our vacation. It was rather far down the chain of barrier islands, but was at the less developed part of the Outer Banks. As it turned out, it was a very good choice, as we very much did not care for the northern parts of the Outer Banks where building is out of control and the subsequent traffic and crowds make it almost impossible to have a good time.

Frisco Woods is an old-fashioned campground that has a lot of trees and grass with only part of the facility set up as a more modern business to which I like to refer as "parking lots". We set up our trailer in a grassy campsite with electric and water hookups. They do have sites with sewer hookups, but they're much more expensive and and offer no shade, being out in the open.

Overall, we did enjoy the Frisco Woods Campground, but the owner is a taciturn sort and was not the friendliest guy I'd ever encountered. Not a good trait if you're in the business of dealing with the public on a daily basis. But maybe that's why he was severe. His manner did prove out to be helpful when some college kids arrived in the campground and caused some trouble for some other campers--the guy descended on them like a shrike and put them in their places, after which they were practically Eagle Scouts.

The Ocracoke Lighthouse is completely surrounded and closed in by private property. But one of those properties has some kickass beautiful trees in the yard. Here was a particularly attractive live oak.

And this gnarled, old cedar tree was also beautiful.

We stopped at a National Seashore administered beach on the way to the second (and last) ferry ride. This is a renourished dune that had been washed away in a storm. Full of crushed road debris.

Our rig at the beach parking lot. We stopped just to see what an Outer Banks beach looks like.

Our stuff packed in like a couple of sardines in the last ferry.

We pass another loaded ferry on the way over.

Our campsite as Frisco Woods. At last!

Finally, we could relax. Note the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse beyond the dunes!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Ferry Ride!

After three days at the Cedar Point Campground we pulled up stakes and headed toward Cedar Island where we would catch the ferry over to Ocracoke Island. The two places (Cedar Point and Cedar Island) are in no way related--the names are just similar.

The State operates a number of large ferries to take people from the mainland over to Ocracoke Island. Ocracoke is a nice enough place and I'm sure it has a lot to offer, but because space is so limited there, we were unable to find a spot to park our truck and trailer to explore. So we made a quick visit once we were across the water and then headed directly north to take the free ferry that connects Ocracoke to Hatteras Island.

The ferry ride from Cedar Point to Ocracoke for our rig (truck and travel trailer) was only $30. I suppose part of the fee must be covered by state funds. The ferry we rode on was very nice and provided two air conditioned passenger cabins and a rooftop sitting area for those who just wanted to enjoy the fresh air.

The ride takes roughly two hours to get to Ocracoke. Then, once on the island there is another one-hour ferry ride to gain access to Cape Hatteras if you're headed north. So we spent a full three hours on ferries that day. The second leg was actually tiresome, as the novelty of riding the first ferry had pretty much worn off.

Nice little sign outside the Cedar Island visitor's center.

Our truck and Casita waiting in line at the ferry.

Carole, on board, waiting for departure.

Inside one of the passenger cabins.

I had been in the passenger cabin waiting for us to leave. So smooth was the departure that I didn't even know that we were underway until I walked out on deck! And I missed the dolphins tracking alongside the ship!


Looking down on our stuff from the deck above.

After a two-hour ride we arrive at Ocracoke Island!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bear Island

One day at Cedar Point we decided to drive over to Hammocks Beach State Park (just a few miles away) and take the ferry over to Bear Island to spend the morning and afternoon. Originally, it was named "Bare Island" due to the forest fire that had consumed the maritime forests there. But eventually it was renamed "Bear Island" to correspond with the nearby Bear Creek. There are no bears on the island and, other than a passing animal swimming over temporarily, there never has been.

One curious aspect of the island is that it was once owned by a wealthy surgeon who ended up deeding it to an African-American teachers union. At some point that union tried to develop the island as a resort but were unable to fund a bridge there. Instead, they signed it over to the State of NC as a minority state park (this was in the days of segregation) and it served a few years in that capacity before the Civil Rights Act went into effect and such things faded into history.

Today it's an unusual state park. The only access is by boat and the Hammocks Beach State Park provides a ferry service hourly to and from the island. Bear Island is pretty much pristine wilderness and is roughly five miles in length and a tad over half a mile in width. From the dock one has a half-mile hike to the beach over paved trail and boardwalk. On the beach the Park Service has a very nice series of bathhouses and one concession stand that is open during the summer months only. There are campsites on the island for overnight stays, and hot shower facilities for use by the campers.

We had a good time while we were there. In what would be a taste of things to come for the entire vacation, I saw almost no wildlife at all. Bear Island is supposed to be home to a number of species of wildlife but I saw none of them...only a few sandpipers. But the beach was vast and uncrowded and we did find much peace and quiet there.

The rear of the visitors center on the mainland portion of Hammocks Beach State Park. This is a nice, modern, state of the art facility. But the mainland bit of the park is just a jumping off point to the islands that make up the best portions.

Aboard the ferry, getting ready to head out.

We arrive at the Bear Island dock after a fifteen-minute ride.

The trail across the island to the beach.

One reason it was called "Bare" Island. The forest burned off some time in the past and on much of the island it has still not recovered.

At the beach there are extremely nice facilities for picnicking, showering, toilets, and even a concession stand that is open during the summer.

Solitude on the beach.

So much room to spread out that it was not crowded, at all.

One sign of a pristine barrier island are the large dunes.

Looking down the five-mile beachfront from our personal spot.

The interior of the island.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cedar Point

Our first campground on the trip was Cedar Point in the Croatan National Forest. It's not on the Outer Banks, but was a good place for us to stop for a couple of days before catching the ferry over to Ocracoke. This is a National Forest facility and, as usual, is very well run. Our National Parks and National Forests are the finest things ever created by our government. Hands down. All of that wonderful recreation to be had for a very low fee that helps to keep everything in good shape. I can't say enough good things about our Parks and Forests.

Cedar Point has power hookups for trailers and RVs, but not water hookups. It does provide a very beautiful bathhouse with flush toilets, sinks, and hot showers. So even if you don't have an onboard water system in your trailer, you can still take hot showers to wash off the sand and grit from the trips to the beach!

There is a lot to do and see in the vicinity of the campground. Nearby is a very nice state park (Hammocks Beach) and the commercialized Emerald Isle where you can find beach access just to go swimming or picnicking or surf fishing. In addition, Cedar Point offers access to the nearby marshes, creeks, and bay for kayaking and fishing. Plus, there are some good hiking trails.

Each campsite is paved and offers lots of room.

Here we were, all set up and ready to relax.

The "bedroom"! Set up for movies. We watched several films in the evenings when we returned from exploring, swimming, and kayaking.

Part of the Cedar Point Tideland Trail. About one mile in length. Very beautiful and right at the edge of the campground.

Sometimes I forget how beautiful the marshes can be.

On the trail as the sun was beginning to set.

Carole fires up the coals for dinner!

Carole is the best campground cook around! This meal was cooked all in foil!
On the Cedar Point Tideland Trail.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Very Little Wildlife

One big disappointment for me on this trip was a lack of wildlife. I had always heard great stories about the variety of bird life on the Outer Banks and was looking forward to spotting some rare species. Also, since we were going to be in the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge for one day I was thinking we would see some black bears (they're thick there) and maybe even a Red wolf (their numbers are growing in the Refuge).

But we saw very little in the way of wild creatures. Oh, we spotted the usual suspects: White-tailed deer, sliders, pelicans, osprey, red-winged blackbirds, terns, sandpipers, and the like. But nothing to get us excited. I've been told we were there at a good time to spot good numbers and ranges of animals...but the luck was not with us, in that respect.

Apparently it was egg-laying season for snapping turtles. To that end, we did manage to rescue two snapping turtles from very dangerous journeys across the highway. In both cases I pulled off the road and ran back to gather them up and transport them to a safer location. One of the turtles was rather small (I picked her up by the tail and placed her in a sand bucket), but the second one was pretty darned large and I had to corral her into a box and place her in the back of the truck. But we managed to take them to good, safe spots away from the road where they could find both shelter and nesting places.

The small snapping turtle in the sand bucket.

A final portrait before I showed her the pond.

As soon as she saw the water...she was off!


"HA! HA! You can't catch me now, human!"

"I'm out o' here!"

"The point of no return!"

And then, all but invisible.

Carole cheers me on from the boardwalk above the pond.