Wilmington, North Carolina: The sequel!

When my mom visited me last month we decided to visit Wilmington, North Carolina like we did last year and see some things we’d left unseen. First up…

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is at the end of a long road that is not on the way to anything else. You are never going to accidentally stumble upon this place. If you end up there, it’s because you purposely wanted to visit or because you got unbelievably lost.

Jelly fish

That said, it was worth the trip. It’s a mid-sized aquarium, smaller than the Baltimore Aquarium my parents took me to as a kid (where a bird pooped on my dad’s head in the tropical rain forest exhibit), but larger than my mom and I thought it would be. It’s very kid-friendly. There were interactive exhibits scattered throughout the building where you could play games, hunt for fossils, and more. There was even a shallow pool where you could pet horseshoe crabs and manta rays. Yes, I touched a manta ray! And I forgot to wash my hands before I had dinner later that night, but miraculously did not contract any diseases, thank goodness. They also had one of those spiral wishing wells that I loved as a kid, and still love actually, which is why I sent a penny off to spiral down it magically.

The aquarium is also home to Luna, the albino alligator, who is one of only 50 known albino alligators in existence.

Luna the albino

There was also the skeletal jaw of a megalodon, a creature I am very glad is extinct, because it could open its mouth as wide as I am tall.

Megalodon

The Fort Fisher location is one of four aquarium/aquarium-like locations in the state, one of which is my pier!

Jennette's Pier

Yes, they spell Jennette the same way I do! Jennette’s Pier is in the outer banks, which is something like a four hour drive from Chapel Hill. I did drop by Jennette’s Pier in 2009, but it was still under construction at that point, so all I saw was a sign. I’d like to get back there eventually, but don’t know when I will.

We stopped by the gift shop on the way out, which is where I bought a magnet that has little turtle floating in it.

Turtle magnet

I’ve started buying a magnet whenever I visit someplace new. I put them all on my refrigerator so I can be frequently reminded of all the cool trips I’ve taken. The collecting is coming along quite well:

Vacation magnets

The only down side is that when I travel home with them I’m paranoid that they’ll get too close to my computer hard drive and erase my data, or demagnetize my credit cards. Nothing awful has happened yet, but I’m hyper vigilant about it.

Kure Beach

After visiting the aquarium we headed to Kure Beach, but stopped to gawk at a seaside wedding among the trees on the way there.

Wedding

As we continued on our way we would pass large, two-story, beachware stores every block or two. Instead of having a Starbucks on every corner, they had these brightly colored buildings advertising end-of-season sales. I don’t know how they stay in business. I guess the flip-flop industry is way more profitable than I assumed. My mom got so distracted by a large, pink store in the distance that we nearly slammed into the back of a car that had stopped to make a left turn. These buildings are road hazards!

We lucked into a great parking spot near the Kure Beach pier. It took us a minute to figure out how to get onto the pier though because the chain link gate we thought was the entrance was locked. It turns out you have to go through a building to get onto the pier. I suppose this is so they have a chance to sell you souvenirs and fish bait. Please don’t get the two confused! We arrived about an hour until sunset, so the pier was really busy. My mom said that was because the best time to catch fish is at sunrise or sunset. Coincidentally this is also the best time to kill wasps, which I learned during my moving-in experience four years earlier.

Kure Beach pier

As we walked to the end of the pier we noticed there was a pelican just chilling out on the top of a wooden shelter.

Kure Beach pelican

After that we headed back to the hotel. The next day we took a day trip to…

Mrytle Beach

The only thing I knew about Mrytle Beach is that it was the place the mother wanted to retire to in the movie October Sky. I know that’s totally random, and I have no idea why I remember that particular detail about that movie. It takes a little over an hour to drive there from Wilmington, and then it took us awhile to find parking. We finally settled on a spot by a parking meter and fed it lots of quarters before heading to the boardwalk.

Myrtle Beach

Mrytle Beach has a nice little boardwalk, though it’s nowhere near as massive as the one at Ocean City, Maryland that I visited as a kid. Still, it’s a good place to watch the ocean, take a walk, and buy an ice cream cone in one of 50 flavors. There was a ferris wheel, an arcade, and other attractions like a Ripley’s Believe it Or Not museum that had a cardboard box in front of it that said “Free Kittens” that would then blast a loud sound at you when you peered in.

We only stayed for an hour or so before heading back to Wilmington, and then back to Chapel Hill the next day. Overall it was a great trip and I’m fairly certain I’ve washed off all the manta ray germs on my hands by this point.

Uh, my bad, but I don’t actually like to be called Jen.

Jen

When I named my blog JenFul several years ago someone told me that would make people start calling me “Jen.” I laughed and was like, sure, right, whatever, that is totally not going to happen. If you understand the concept of foreshadowing at all then you’ve probably figured out that, yes, actually, that did totally happen. People call me Jen all the time–in emails, in Facebook comments, and even once or twice in person. And it’s kind of driving me crazy.

Jen is a perfectly lovely name. I have at least three friends named Jen. There’s Jen L. and Jen S. and Jen T. and I would happily have brunch or drinks with them any time and let them sleep on my couch if they ever so desired. However, I myself am not a Jen. I’m just not. I’m Jennette. When I was a kid I was Jenny, but that didn’t really fit and wasn’t unique since every other girl my age was named Jennifer and many of them went by Jenny too. So when we moved during kindergarten I switched to Jennette and I have never looked back.

I like that my name is unique enough that I rarely ever run into any else named Jennette or Jeannette or Jeanette or Johnette or what have you. But it’s also not so weird that people haven’t heard of it before. It is difficult for people to spell correctly, which is annoying, but I’ve become used to that over the years. However that’s also partly the reason I chose the name JenFul for my blog because I knew no one would ever be able to spell my first name correctly in a domain. I figured jenful.com was easier to remember.

Unfortunately this means people that interact with me mainly through my blog have started calling me Jen. And it’s totally my own fault! I wish I could remember who told me this was going to happen because they were extremely prescient and I should have listened to them. Sadly though, I don’t know what to do about it. I supposed I could move my blog over to jennettefulda.com and hope people can find it by Googling. Google is smart enough to suggest that you spell my name correctly, which has earned them my eternal love.

Google spells my name right

I do like the nickname JenFul a lot though. If people were calling me JenFul instead of Jen, I would be fine with it. But they’re not. So someday when I have some free time to redesign all my web sites (like in 2018) I might change the blog name. I dunno. In the meantime, if you write to me, please don’t call me Jen. Thanks! I should probably add that to the FAQ on the contact form, but no one seems to read that anyway. (NO! I DO NOT WANT YOUR GUEST POST! GO AWAY, PLEASE!!)

That will teach me not to make late-night grocery runs

I saw something sail past my face into my car before I’d even finished opening the door, but it was a dark and rainy night, literally, so I couldn’t see what. I thought it must have been a leaf or a moth, but that was wishful thinking because what had actually jumped into my car, literally, was–

A FROG!!! A $#&*%^#* FROG!!! IN MY CAR!!! HOLY FREAKING $%^$^!!!

So, um, I was a little freaked out.

Not my actual terrorist, but close enough

Usually when I’m walking through a dark parking lot I’m worried about another human being forcing his way into my car, not an amphibian. I looked inside and saw the small yet slimy creature chilling out on my dashboard like it was his favorite lily pad. I put my groceries on the front seat and left the driver’s side door open while I went around to the other side. That’s where I found a straw in my trash which I used to start prodding the trespasser out. The vanilla shake I’d gotten at the drive-through might not have been the best caloric decision, but it was totally worth it at this moment. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to herd a frog because instead of letting me push him he’d make a sudden leap without me knowing exactly where he’d land (please, please, please, not in my hair).

Then I noticed that the guy I’d helped find Sensodyne in the dental hygiene aisle had strolled out of the store and was giving me a look which probably meant, “I hope this crazy lady didn’t poison my toothpaste.” I blurted out that there was a frog in my car, because when you have a frog in your car you feel a deep need to tell everyone that, “Oh my freakin’ God, there is a frog in my car. Can you believe this actually happened?” By the time he came over all we could see were the moist impressions the creature’s little froggy legs had left on my dashboard. “Geez, I hope you find it before it dies in your car,” said Mr. Sensitive Teeth who was about three frog-leaps ahead of me in this game because I hadn’t yet contemplated what a dead frog would smell like in a car parked in hot, summer weather.

I couldn’t see the frog, so I got in, started the car and said a small prayer that nothing was going to leap into my face as I was driving down the road. though that would make for a hilarious accident report. That’s when I spotted the little leaping menace wedged between the windshield and the dashboard on my far left. I opened the door, poked the frog with the straw again which caused it not to leap outside, but onto the shoulder of my buckled seat belt. Finally with a final poke it leapt outside and I slammed the door as fast as I could. Well, I’m 99% sure it leapt outside. I guess we’ll know in a few days, won’t we? If not, the next thing I’ll be buying from the grocery store is air fresheners.

Like the back of my hand

Evidently I really do know the back of my hand like the back of my hand because I had a minor freak out last week when a mole magically appeared on my left hand.

New dark mole

I’m 99% sure it was not there during the prior 33 years and some-odd months of my life, but suddenly it was there. At first I thought it was just dirt, but it wouldn’t wash off. It wasn’t a scab either because I couldn’t pick it off. It was either a new mole or someone had tattooed a dot on my hand while I slept.

It didn’t have any attributes of skin cancer (see the A, B, C, D, E of skin cancer here), so I was just going to write it off as one of the many weird things that happens when your body ages. It must be the next step after the development of that one, curly dark hair I have to pluck off my chin once a month. Not much longer until I’ll need to trim my nose hairs, right?

Then something even weirder happened. The mole got magically lighter!

Magically lighter mole

Fortunately I had taken a photo of the dark mole two days ago in preparation for blogging about it, so I have proof that this happened and I’m not hallucinating. But seriously, what the hell is going on here? I’ve heard of freckles lightening and darkening depending on how much exposure they have to the sun, but this thing changed color instantly. Is it going to get dark again? Disappear completely?

Has anyone else had this happen to them? Are there any dermatologists reading that have experience with magically disappearing moles? I’ll be keeping an eye on it, for sure.

If you’ve ever used a smartphone at a movie theater, please tell me why

Movie theater

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy last week and although the movie was great, the people around me were horrible. I had to ask not one but two women to please stop using their smartphones during the film. (One of these women also basically felt up my thigh as she got out of her seat during the credits, but being groped by a stranger is a whole different kind of horrible.) While I’m glad I’ve conquered the social anxiety that would have once prevented me from asking a stranger to knock that shit off, I find myself genuinely clueless as to why this kind of thing happens in the first place.

It’s undeniable that flashing a bright screen around a dark theatre will distract the people around you, and I assume that most people know that doing so is rude and annoying. Yet I can’t remember a time in the last year what I went to a movie theatre and somebody didn’t do that. All of which leaves me asking the question, why? WHY? WHY?!

I can only think of two acceptable reasons for using a smartphone during a movie:

1) If you know you might be having a family emergency. Perhaps someone close to you is gravely ill. Maybe someone is expecting a baby that could be born at any minute. In these cases I can understand why you’d want to quickly check your text messages during a show.

2) If the movie is really, really, really bad. Like 3% rating on RottenTomatoes.com bad. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation bad. So bad that tweeting or texting someone to tell them about the badness of the film is the only way for you to get any enjoyment out of the movie at all.

Other than that, why are some people incapable of putting away their phones? It concerns me, and not in a patronizing, I-feel-so-sorry-for-you kind of way, but in a genuine, you-are-interacting-with-your-phone-like-it’s-an-addictive-substance-and-you-need-help kind of way. Some people can’t seem to spend more than 10 or 15 minutes away from their phones, just like some people have to sneak out for a smoke break every hour or two. It reminds me of a scene from an episode of The Office (which I can’t seem to find on YouTube) where Ryan is asked to hand over his phone to a bartender during a round of trivia the coworkers are about to play. Ryan isn’t able to do it and just backs away, shaking his head, unable to be parted from his phone.

I understand how attached we can become to our phones. There have been two times when I thought I’d lost mine and the freak out that ensued made me realize I may as well start calling it “my precious” in a Gollum-like accent. I like my phone very, very much. I also understand the appeal of using a phone while you’re doing something else. I have been known to play Candy Crush Saga as a rerun of Castle is playing on the TV. Even right now I’m not content just to be typing a blog entry, but also have Star Trek on in the background, though I have the volume off. I understand that desire to seek a bit more stimulation, to check in on what other people are doing, to not be bored (and to split infinitives).

That said, I can step away from my phone when I need to. When my mom and I were at Dollywood I went basically all day without checking Twitter or Facebook. When I was at Dollywood, I was present at Dollywood. I watched the glass makers and metal smiths and the fiddle shows, and when I came back and saw people on Twitter complaining about the iPhone interface design changes, the chatter all seemed dumb and unimportant in comparison to going out and having a new experience, even if that experience was at a place called Dollywood.

It seems like some people are losing the ability to be present at the place they are, to focus just on what is in front of them. If you’re at the movie theater, be present at the movie theatre. The environment is designed to immerse you in the experience. The lights are turned off and the speakers surround you. You’ve paid ten dollars and left your home to be there. Why are some people not content to be there, but also must be elsewhere too?

I think this is partly a generational thing. Kids who were raised on multiple screens might not be as annoyed by this or even view it as problematic behavior as a thirty-something woman like me who remembers the days when you had to sit in a theater and do nothing while you waited for the film to start. No trivia slides. NOTHING. I occasionally brought a magazine with me if I was seeing a movie alone. Magazines do not light up in the dark.

It seems like this is not a problem that is going to go away, so I see only three possible solutions.

1) Have a smartphone section, just like we used to have a smoking section in restaurants. Instead of air pollution we’d corral light pollution. No phone calls allowed, but if you sit in the back five rows you’d be free to use your screen as much as you want.

2) Distribute blinders for patrons who don’t want to be distracted by screens, like the kind put on horses during a race. If you can’t see to the left or right you won’t be distracted by the light of a phone. Of course you would also be much easier to mug during the film.

3) Before each movie ask everyone around you if they plan on using their smartphone during the film, and if they do then move to another seat. This one sounds like the only plan I could actually implement, and I’m seriously considering doing this from now on.

I also have some questions for my readers. No one will be taken to task or shamed for their replies. You don’t even have to use your real name or email address on this one entry. Total amnesty granted.

Have any of you ever used a smartphone during a movie? If so, what were you using it for and why? Did you view it as rude behavior and if so, did you care?

Thanks!

Keep reading: 

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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  • I find myself singing along to the songs at the grocery store a lot lately. I don't know what this means, but it can't be good.

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