Day Trip: Wilmington, North Carolina


I’d like to say that day-tripping to Wilmington, North Carolina with my mom was my own idea, but I was just copying what my friend Shauna did when she visited last year. (But she did it without my mom, of course.) It’s a bit sad when someone from Scotland knows more about the vacation spots in your state than you do, but, eh. It saved me a lot of research time! (Confidential to Shauna: What have you heard about the Smokey Mountains?)

Wilmington is a coastal town that’s a little less than three hours away from where I live in Chapel Hill. It’s a fairly straight shot down I-40 too, so it’s hard to get lost. After spending an hour at the mechanic’s getting my car battery replaced (see previous entry) and beating Candy Crush Saga level 79 in the lobby (Yes! Finally!), we took off. It was Memorial Day weekend, traffic was heavy, and there was a burned out shell of a car on the other side of the highway. Then we drove past a 1.6 mile queue of cars, many with their doors open and their owners milling around, forming a new civilization because they would now be living there indefinitely.

We stayed at the Country Inn & Suites which I would recommend. Lovely staff. Free cookies. What else do you need? The hotel was about equidistant from the historic downtown and Wrightsville Beach, which were the two main places we wanted to visit.

Historic downtown

We drove downtown and I did a phenomenal job of parallel parking my car. (Whenever this happens I feel the need to brag about it.) Then we took the trolley tour around the historic district which is one of the largest in any American city. We saw lots of houses like this:

Gingerbread house

There was another house I didn’t photograph that included a door to the outside in every single room on the ground floor. That would drive me crazy because I’m paranoid about checking the locks. One deadbolt and chain is enough for me to worry about, thank you very much.

As we were driving around, sometimes you’d see a paved road with random patches of cobblestones. The tour guide told us this happened because residents of the historic district didn’t approve of the city paving over the cobblestones, so during construction they’d go out in the middle of the night with pick axes and dig up the road work.

I also learned that Wilmington is the home town of NBA star Michael Jordan and journalist David Brinkley. I did not learn that it was also the birthplace of Edward Snowden, NSA leaker, because he hadn’t done any leaking yet, but it’s his home town too!

Unplanned dinner plans

After that my mom and I decided to grab dinner at a barbeque place called Sticky Fingers that she’d looked up in her AAA tour book. When we got there all we saw was a building that looked like it’d been in a fire. Then when we were watching TV the next night we saw this:

Sticky Fingers

“That’s Sticky Fingers!” I exclaimed, fumbling for the pause button on the DVR remote during a promo ad. That’s right, we’d tried to have dinner at a rebel base featured in the post-apocalyptic TV show Revolution. Sticky Fingers had not burned down. It had closed a year ago and since then been used as a film set. This is particularly funny because that building is located at an extremely busy traffic intersection, definitely NOT in the abandoned city in the photo. I was surprised to learn that they film a lot in this town because Wilmington’s tv/movie industry is one of the largest in the country. It’s where they filmed shows like Dawson’s Creek and currently Under the Dome as well as Revolution.

Instead of Sticky Fingers, we went to Indochine, a restaurant my mother had spotted on the road on our way to the rebel base, which turns out to be the top-rated Wilmington restaurant on Yelp. Score one for Mom!

#1 on Yelp

Their outside patio was beautifully decorated, and they even had live music that night. We arrived just before a huge dinner crowd too, so all in all everything worked out great.

Indochine patio

Live music at Indochine

We headed back to the hotel and veged out for the rest of the night. Like so many hotels, the TV in our room was a hi-def, flat-screen but it was using analog cable service, so everything looked low-res and incorrectly proportioned. When I was flipping through I had no idea what channel I was on or what show was being broadcast, which was incredibly annoying. Then I realized my life used to be like this ALL THE TIME. Anyone else remember the Preview Channel?

Airlie Gardens

I went to bed that night worrying that the car might not start in the morning despite the new battery (I told you I worry), but thankfully it did. We enjoyed the free continental breakfast, checked out, and headed to Airlie Gardens. It used to be a private estate, but is now open to the public (after your pay the $8 fee). It’s also home to the 460-something-year-old Airlie Oak tree. Please do not climb even though it would be totally awesome to climb.

Airlie Oak

The gardens were really lovely. There was a marked trail we could follow that took us past various art, a sculpture garden built from old bottles, a butterfly garden with real live butterflies, a swan pond with real live swans, and a wedding setting up with real live wedding guests.

Sculpture garden

Swan lake

The place was large enough that it took an hour or so to get through, but wasn’t so large that I felt like I’d missed anything. It edges up against the sea, so you could smell some salty air at spots too.

Wrightsville Beach

After that we headed towards Wrightsville Beach to get lunch, when we were stopped by a-DUN, DUN, DUN-drawbridge. The bridge had just started to go up and my mother, being more experienced than me, knew it would take some time before it came down again. So we pulled a u-turn and had lunch at Sonic instead.

Sonic is my favorite place that can’t stay in business. They are a drive-up restaurant which means you park, order from your car, and an attendant brings your food out to you. They have delicious desserts like cream slushes. The only problem is they couldn’t seem to remain open in Indianapolis, which is where I used to live. A Sonic opened on SR-135 and then closed within a year or two. Then another one opened on Southport Road and it closed too. It was very frustrating! So when I am in a town with a Sonic I like to stop in. I don’t think they’re a regular part of a healthy eating plan, but they’re a fun treat from time to time.

After that we headed back to Wrightsville Beach, which I believe is technically a different town than Wilmington. It took awhile because we spent a lot of time sitting at red lights. We spent a lot of time in Wilmington just sitting at traffic lights, which was rather frustrating. I’m going to guess it isn’t always like this and we were just stuck in Memorial Day traffic.

Wrightsville Beach is very, very long and very, very narrow. It’s connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, and it’s definitely not a place I’d like to be during a hurricane. We drove all the way up and down the long, long road that was parallel to the beach, but behind a dune and various houses so you couldn’t actually see the beach. There were parking spots all along the road, but every single one of them was full. The longer and longer we drove the dumber and dumber I felt in comparison to the people who’d parked on the mainland that we’d seen walking up the causeway on the way here.

We’d given up on finding a parking space and sadly were going to leave without seeing the beach when-EUREKA!- we spotted two girls getting in a car. They pulled out of their spot and we swooped in, like air filling a vacuum. We’d lucked into getting a spot right next to an entryway to the beach, so we strolled up and enjoyed the view for awhile. We also took this picture:

Me and Mom at the beach

And while this is a good photo of my mom and me, I’m more fascinated by the woman who managed to step perfectly into the frame between our heads. Doesn’t she look like she just stepped out of a catalog and wants to sell me sandals and a tote bag?

Catalog model

One interesting thing my mom observed is that no one at the beach had a tattoo. Once she pointed it out I realized it was true. Does anyone know what was up with that? Tattoos seem to be pretty common these days. Do people without tattoos tend to congregate togther? Are tattooed people extra wary of skin damage caused by UV rays?

When we walked back to our car a guy in a van pulled up on the grass between us and the beach asking if we were leaving. Once we did, he swooped into the spot and must have confounded the people in the car actually on the road who thought they were about to get the spot.

Then we drove home and I’m happy to report we had absolutely no car problems on the way there or back. It was a lovely day trip and I’m so glad I stole the idea from Shauna!

Easily confused with paradise

Arabic writer

I met Mohammad Ali at the Raleigh Persian Festival last May, though he wasn’t the one who floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. (At least, I have no proof that he does.) I swear to God that was his real name, or at least the name he’d written on his name tag, so maybe he was just playing with us. He was at a booth where you could get your name written in Arabic, which I took him up on.

"Jennette" in Arabic

Interestingly, this is similar to the Arabic word “jannat” or “jannah” which means paradise. This is the eternal paradise, similar to the Christian concept of heaven. Please don’t call me Heaven though since that sounds a bit too much like a stripper name.

"Paradise" in Arabic

I’m pretty sure I matched the correct writing to the right word, but it’s possible I flipped those. If so, forgive me, I don’t speak Arabic or I’d open up my own booth.

This is the second time I’ve had my name translated to a foreign language. The first time happened when my book Chocolate & Vicodin was translated into Chinese and I learned my name was Zhen Nai Te Fa Er Da. I don’t know if that sounds like a stripper name or not.

Updated at 3:00pm ET: Readers of this blog more familiar with the language let me know that not only had I flipped the words, I had them upside down. Whoops! I guess this post should have been titled “Easily Confused.” I have now updated the images so they are correct (I hope). You will need to refresh your browser to see the proper images if you loaded the page before I posted this notice. I think this serves as further proof that you should never ever get a tattoo in a foreign language unless you’re 100% sure what it says :)

Oh, and the proper term for the language is Persian-Farsi, not Arabic although it was written in Arabic script.

Review: “In the Kingdom of the Sick” by Laurie Edwards

In the Kingdom of the Sick

Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this book to review.

I should start this post with an apology because I was supposed to review this book when it came out two months ago. However, as someone who lives in the kingdom of the sick mentioned in the title, I have become somewhat unreliable. I hate that I’ve become unreliable, but I don’t really know what I can do about it when my head hurts and a bright computer screen is not the cure. I’ve had a few rather blah months, as you can probably tell by my lack of writing recently. When I was feeling well I had to prioritize paying work, and I kept pushing back this review again and again. All of which is to say I’ve been an asshole, particularly since Laurie Edwards was kind enough to blurb my book Chocolate & Vicodin a few years ago. Laurie, I’m sorry. Hopefully as another resident of the kingdom of the sick you’ll understand and pardon me.

Ok, so, the book! I was excited to get a copy of this book because I really enjoyed Laurie Edwards’ first book, Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties which was like getting good advice from a big sister who was also chronically ill. Laurie has PCD (primary ciliary dyskinesia) which is an extremely rare lung disorder, and she also suffers from bronchiectasis, thyroid disease, and celiac disease because, you know, life’s not hard enough. Let’s throw a gluten allergy in there while we’re at it!

As the subtitle suggests, Laurie’s book is “a social history of chronic illness in America.” Although this is a more academic book than her first one, at its heart it’s still about the people who live with chronic illness, which is why I connected with it. It’s about how other people view those of us who are chronically ill (rightly and more often wrongly), the problems we run into, the way technology and other people affect how we cope, and how all of these things have changed (or not changed) over time. Because I suffer from New Daily Persistent Headache, I’m usually only exposed to the slice of this experience that involves head pain. It was interesting to get a wider view and see how people with illnesses like Lyme disease, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, diabetes or other chronic diseases face similar challenges and stereotypes

Edwards has done extensive research on the topic, which you can tell by checking out the lengthy bibliography and notes section. She also interviewed lots of people who are quoted throughout the book which helps illuminate different perspectives on topics as well as mix up the narrative. While this book is heavier than Life Disrupted was (both figuratively and literally since this one’s a hardback), it remains readable, and hopefully it can help people who don’t live with chronic illness better understand those of us who do. Because really, you might be one of us some day. That’s not a threat. That’s just statistics.

BTW, if you’re curious about the title, the phrase “kingdom of the sick” comes from an essay by Susan Sontag titled Illness as a Metaphor which she wrote in 1978. I read it a few years ago and it’s fairly interesting in its own right, although all the talk about tuberculosis makes it seem dated. It’s only 87 pages according to Amazon, and there’s evidently a follow-up that I haven’t read which extends her ideas in light of the AIDS crisis. As Sontag stated in the opening paragraph of that original work:

Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.

I currently own a condo in the kingdom of the sick! Don’t be jealous. (I know, you’re not. Pretend you are though, ok?) And although Laurie Edwards lives there too, she makes a really great neighbor.

Laurie EdwardsIf you’d like to know more, you can check out an interview with Laurie Edwards on NPR’s Fresh Air. (Are you impressed? I’m impressed. If I ever make it on NPR I will consider myself made, and I don’t think my appearance on Marketplace Money asking about my 401K rollover complications counts.)

Or you could just go ahead and purchase the book on Amazon. After you do, catch up with Laurie on, Facebook, and Twitter.

The closest IKEA is in the parking lot

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear someone is living behind our local dumpster.

Dumpster furniture set

More likely, it just means the college students are moving out over the summer. At night, I like to imagine that the raccoons are hosting tea parties back there.

I am not the Jennette you are looking for

It started with this tweet:

He likes me!

It’s not impossible that a stranger would tweet that they like me. Hell, a stranger once tweeted that they hated me. But my blog and book audience skews female, and it seemed unlikely that someone who appears to be a young, average-weight, male was a die-hard fan of Half-Assed. Upon closer inspection I realized he was actually spreading the word that @TooDopeAlexis likes me, but his profile presents him as a young male too, as well as a two-time TreeGameChamp (whatever the hell that is) who was surprisingly diligent in using the proper trademark symbol when setting his name to Spider-Man™. So again, not my typical fan. The whole thing reminded me of grade school when boys would make fun of each other by teasing that they liked the dorkiest girl on the playground-usually me!

Not typical fan

Then there was this:

Anything for a follow

While it’s flattering to think that GabbiXxx is just, OMG, *gasp*, dying for me to follow her, pleez, pleez, pleez, I started to think something was up. After I got a third tweet that has since been deleted, I checked that user’s timeline and discovered they’d also sent a tweet to @jennettemccurdy. Puzzle solved. I had been confused with Jennette McCurdy, a blond, 20-something, Disney tween queen. This happens at the grocery store too. ALL. THE. TIME.

Not me

The real culprit here? Autocorrect, the prankster of the Internet, the Loki of the keyboard, the single best source of LOLs since I had a fourth grade teacher named Mrs. Horney. (This really happened. I don’t joke about LOLs.) Evidently if you use the official Twitter app for your mobile phone and start typing an @ reply, autocorrect tries to guess who you want to tweet. As you can see below, Jennette McCurdy and I are the top two choices because not many people spell “Jennette” the way we do. I’m not sure if I’m always the top choice, or if I’m just the top choice on my phone because it knows I’m logged in. I don’t know why my phone would think I want to tweet myself. I’m not that lonely, I swear.

Damn you, autocorrect!

Jennette McCurdy has 3,000,000+ followers and 3 of them have incorrectly tweeted me, so that means one in a million of them don’t know how to use autocorrect. I suppose this is bound to happen again in the future. Not much I can do about it, other than change my Twitter name, which is not happening. All I can hope is that she never has an epic Amanda Bynes breakdown. God knows what kind of tweets I’d get then.

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Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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