Arriving in Wilmington midday yesterday I was greeted with some inauspicious signs – a traffic jam on the Memorial (Draw) Bridge from a ship moving upriver, a very ripe plastic bag “fruit” hanging from a tree and road kill.  After spending time at Myrtle Beach, a lovely beach, but somewhat repetitive promenade (cheap beach clothes, miniature golf, Waffle House, Fireworks, liquor store, and then repeat) I am looking forward to learning about another historical city. 

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I will digress to share one experience while in Myrtle Beach, which includes an incorrect address, porn, and an art museum.  I typed the address to the Art Museum of Myrtle Beach into my Map App and headed north on Highway 17, not noticing the map said North Myrtle Beach, instead of Myrtle Beach.  Driving for about forty-five minutes I arrive at S Ocean Blvd, but know something is amiss when I see Badd Kitty, The Prrrrfect Store for Couples not once, but twice in the same block.  Siri has not been wrong yet, and wanting to see this through, I turn onto S Ocean and as I curve to the left and Siri tells me I have arrived at 3100 S Ocean, all I see is a boarded up house and vacant lot.  Driving quickly, I turn the corner to return to the highway driving by another X-Rated establishment.  Returning to the highway, Siri and I get our directions right and I backtrack for twenty minutes, and arrive at the Art Museum – without a stop at Badd Kitty. 

 

The weather has been beautiful.  Yesterday was in the thirties, cold, but the sunny.  The inauspicious welcome became auspicious as I toured the Bellamy Mansion, an historic house completed in 1860, six months before the Civil War began. The house sheltered the homeowners, their nine children and up to eleven or twelve slaves.  Occupied by a descendent until 1946, the home was restored by Preservation North Carolina.  The beauty was in the details and the angst in the separate living quarters for those whose work allowed the lifestyle to continue. 

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The privy room in the slave quarters. Both the laundry and the privy were on the first floor of the quarters, the slaves slept upstairs.

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Today was cloudy and cold, so I decided to drive the area and save the walking exploration for a warmer day.  The drive to Jacksonville was pleasant, although Jacksonville was not appealing to me – mostly law offices, a Marine base and tattoo parlors.  Stopping at North Topsail Beach for a walk, I spy two dolphins swimming close to shore almost paralleling my walking.  Brown pelicans fly low along the shore and other waterfowl bob on the water.  The contrast of the dunes with the sky is stunning dunes, the sand holds so many shells it looks as if someone has sown them like seeds, and there are two collies. 

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The collies came with a man whose name is Richard and who I dubbed Richard of the Beach.  He wore a brown flannel shirt, with a grey long john shirt underneath, grey sweatpants, and walking shoes.  The pockets of the flannel shirt were loaded with phone, glasses, and wallet.  His baseball cap said Sneads Ferry.  He was a stout man with a mostly grey goatee at least eight or ten inches long, which was blowing in the wind and moved as he spoke.  A hearing aid occupied his left ear.  The female collie ran over to me and he yelled, “They won’t bother you.”  I thought, “good,” and as I petted her, he came over to me. 

 

ROTB:  “Where are you from? “

Me:             “Texas, San Antonio”

ROTB:  “Oh.  Years ago I lived at Fort Hood.  My brother lived in Fort Worth and my sister outside of Fort Worth.  She worked 30 years for Bell Helicopter. “

Me:              Nodding.  “Do the dogs go in the water? “

ROTB:  “She does.  He is scared.  She and I have come here everyday since she was a little puppy.  Why are you here? “

Me:              “I am on a relocation recon mission.  How long have you lived here?”

ROTB:  “Eleven years.  I grew up in Morehead.  I came back here as soon as I could and I wanted to live with local people.  Morehead is not like that anymore.  Rich people from everywhere moved in and they moved there because they liked it the way it was. Then, as soon as they got there they changed it to be like where they were from.  So I moved to Sneads Ferry.  Now, that is local people.  People I can talk to. “

Me:  “Yeah, that happens everywhere. “

ROTB:  Turning his left ear my way.  “Why are you here? “

Me:  “I am looking for a new place to live. “

ROTB:  “What are you looking for? “

 

And my mind stood still.  I have a list, a spreadsheet of questions to answer about what I am looking for in a place to live.  I don’t think Richard of the Beach wanted to hear chapter and verse about my list, he just wanted a friendly conversation with the woman from Texas, a stranger on the beach he walks everyday with his two collies.    And I needed to be asked, “What are you looking for?” 

 

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I visited two other beaches, driving through Wilmington to Carolina and Kure Beaches and then backtracking to Wrightsville Beach.  On the way I saw a street sign for Salient Point, smiled at the double entendre and smiled again when I thought about deciding where I will move.  Wherever the final place, it will be close to water.  That is what I am looking for.

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