January 23, 2021
Things I Did
- Helped RM fiddle with the tuning of Punkin's carburetor. I'm not sure we've got it right yet, because if it's tuned to idle at the correct speed when hot, it won't idle at all when it's cold. I need to learn more about the fine points of carburation.
- Helped my dad, his firewood dealer, and the dealer's teenage son unload and stack some firewood.
- Rode up the Haw River and moved into my lodgings in Graham: a room in a huge old colonial built in 1919 by a general returning from World War I. In 1939, after seeing the plantation house in Gone With The Wind, he added some wings and named it Tara. Which, along with a nudge from my friend KC, inspired me to read about the history of white supremacy in the area (see below). The current owner of the house has themed my room to be the "tropical bird room". The decorating rule seems to be anything colored cyan, yellow, or pink and/or relating to birds or flowers. It's not incredibly sophisticated but it's kind of fun, and since the room is on the second story with windows looking out between the massive porch columns on one side and into trees on the other, it has a sort of tree house feel. It's angled so that sun comes in all day long, I have my own closet kitchenette and bathroom, and it's a short walk downtown. Not a bad place to spend a month. There's also a good-sized Celtic lever harp, and if I can find the tuning key I might fool around with it some.
- Watched Kevin Bacon bust a move in Footloose at the old Graham Cinema downtown. I'd already seen the movie a couple years ago, but hey, tickets were $2 and I enjoyed the second viewing as well. A lot of critics panned it as teen fluff, but I felt like the performances actually had some depth, especially compared to modern teen movies which are way more cartoonish. I also like how John Lithgow's character, who initially looks to be the bad guy, gets humanized and redeemed over the course of the movie.
- Rested a lot. Although the past few months have been a lot of fun, there hasn't been as much real down time as I'd expected there would be, and it's felt good to not have anything I need to do, not even keeping warm.
- Got a license plate for Punkin! I felt sure there would be some other paperwork they would ask me for, but no, once it got started the process went quite smoothly. I had to wait for the DMV supervisor to come back because nobody else was qualified to handle a bonded title, and there was a guy in line in front of me whose case was way more complicated than mine. According to him his estranged wife had taken out a restraining order and then arranged for him to inadvertently violate it, which led to him being thrown in jail for 22 months, during which time his girlfriend fraudulently sold all his stuff, including seven vehicles, maxed out all his credit cards, and committed insurance fraud for good measure. He was carrying a binder crammed with paperwork and said he'd been working to get everything straightened out since November. All my grumbles about dealing with bureaucracy suddenly felt petty.
- Lost most of the hair on my right hand trying to figure out how to light an acetylene torch. Then I did what I should have done in the first place and looked on YouTube, learned how to do it properly, and bent up some steel rod into a basic but hopefully serviceable set of side racks to hold up my saddlebags. I had planned out a much more elaborate design made from aluminum but as I put it together it became clear it wasn't going to be strong or resilient enough and would probably break the first time I dropped the bike. Keep it simple stupid... when will I learn?
Things I Learned
- Graham was where the Kirk-Holden War got kicked off when the African-American constable Wyatt Outlaw was lynched in 1870. Governor Holden declared martial law and brought in Colonel Kirk from Tennessee to restore order. At one point the KKK tried to take over my hometown of Pittsboro but was defeated in a bloody battle out in the Chatham County woods. But lest you think this was some kind of victory over white supremacy, Kirk was arrested and Holden was impeached, only being pardoned posthumously in 2011. The Graham City Council is considering a proposal to rename a local park after Wyatt Outlaw, we'll see how that goes. They didn't mention any of this in school.
- The Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 was a horrific suppression of a history that might have been. At that time the Democrats were the party of white supremacy and even had a paramilitary arm called the Red Shirts. The Fusionist party was an alliance of African-American Republicans with The People's Party, poor white cotton farmers aligned with the labor movement. When the Fusionists got elected to power in Wilmington NC, prominent Democrats started a massacre that killed hundreds of people and drove thousands more out into the swamps, never to return. After changing Wilmington's demographics by force, the Democrats were able to get back into elected office, and they instituted "Jim Crow" laws to divide people along racial lines and break the back of the Fusionist party or any potential successor. It worked and quickly spread to the rest of the Southeast. The coup leaders went on to hold powerful positions in local, state, and federal governments. Again, none of this was covered in the North Carolina school curriculum.
- Tall beds are more practical than I thought. A waist-high bed kind of allows you to swing onto and off of it with very little effort. The major downside is that if the covers hang off the side, gravity is always short-sheeting me.
- The smell of boxwood hedges in an old cemetery.
- Golden-orange lichen covering a rough dark gravestone, shining brilliantly on a cloudy day.
- A train shaking the ground as it passes with a cargo of lumber, liquid propane, scrap metal, corn syrup, potash, and graffiti.
- Sitting in the afternoon sun on a bench at the arboretum, watching people stroll by and a couple relaxing on a picnic blanket. Feels like spring is on its way.