29 July 2007

Local 'growth' on the move...the not-so-slow assault continues

As a part of my job, I sometimes get to travel around a few of the local towns here: delivering supplies, fixing errant computers, making last-minute package drop-offs and pick-ups. Sometimes to my support but more frequently to my displeasure, I see more and more of the 'open spaces' I used to enjoy have been gobbled up by one development land scheme or another. In some ways...and I'm not complaining about this, as I fully realise that parts of this country would kill for our problems with development and the needs for new housing...we are at a crossroads here. Full to the brink within existing communities, roads overrun with traffic as this area really has no major plans for public transport (other than a bus system), and everyone wanting to 'have land' for some peace and quiet, it's really no major surprise that rural and small town areas are under siege. Growth is eventual, growth is happening, and growth can be good. But sometimes growth advances unchecked, and without a full regard for what it takes down in its path.

The problem is that with growth, those coming from the larger more 'established' locales want those same amenities and comforts in their new, smaller digs. Such as malls. Such as coffee houses or fast food drive-thrus on every third corner. Such as large 'box-store' shopping chains. Such as businesses that seem to travel together in some sort of commercial packs...packs that eventually try to overtake and drive out their locally-owned counterparts. To only a measured degree (and only with some extreme government zoning rules) have these assaults been held back. The problem with growth...not only here locally but also on a national scale...is that just like with our interstate highway system, after a very short bit of time everything starts to look, and feel, and act the same. Many years ago, we Americans effectively killed off the great Route 66 Highway in favour of Interstates 85, 95, 40, 77, dozens of others. With Route 66 (and other great roads like it), the drivers knew where you were at all times and cared about the businesses and towns along the way, because each was unique. Unless you are of a certain age or unless you've actually been on on what's left of Route 66, you can't really 'get' what exactly you're missing now. Now (and Lord knows the WR and I can testify to this from our adventures driving back from western NC on I-40 two weeks ago), everything looks the same. Same restaurants, same gas stations, same rest stops, same hotels...no matter if it's Winston-Salem or Graham here, or even if you've been through several states and are just passing through to someplace else.

Somehow it hit me this last week just how much things are growing...again...here locally. And honestly, I thought were we pretty much at our max here, as Orange County is busting at the seams anyway with Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough alone. (According to Orange County's Economic Development Commission, although, the county grew only 5.6% from 2000-2005, in comparison to some other neighbouring counties which saw growth at an average of 14.6% for the same time period. For all intents and purposes, these three towns are all the county is now, and where one town stops and another begins is pretty much open for debate.) For instance, the other day I made several trips from work to our local storage unit and then onward to two recycling stops. I drove by 'the old neighbourhood' of where I used to live practically every trip. While I lived there in an old run-down and landscape-overrun house (hey, it was the college years, it was cheap and it was a great place to study), the streets of which it cornered itself on were only known, let alone used, by the locals who actually lived there. Unfortunately, on Wednesday, it was a traffic nightmare, as God only knows how many people were cutting through to avoid not one, but two, major construction projects...one essentially on each end of this formerly-tranquil street.

Yes, it's wonderful that Carrboro is getting a new high school (complete with virtual tour!), and yes, it's wonderful that a new mammoth park is under construction for all the new residents, but this great neighbourhood only knows of the endless stream of cars and people wanting to get to the movies, or Wendy's®, or the bank (a bank which was built in another large development just a few years ago and less than a mile away) just a minute or two quicker. But there is no longer any quiet here, in that area at least. And the residents know it: at least 5 houses in the neighbourhood are up for sale now...and no one used to sell their homes here...no one. The serious volleys of growth haven't even started being launched yet, and the area already has casualties. It was sad looking at what I once knew, and loved, so well...disappearing right in front of my eyes.

We are on-location witnesses to the creation of our own "Telegraph Road", the same that Dire Straits lamented decades ago. (YouTube (albeit shortened) video link here.) (Lyrics from LyricsFreak here.) (Ed: a fabulous song, maybe even their best, by a greatly under appreciated band, at least here in the States.)

Now, it sadly appears, that my good friends to the south in Chatham County and in Pittsboro specifically are next in the cross hairs. The quaint little antiques and small-town focused town (population of about 2,500) has not only caught the attention of dozens of new home buyers willing to commute to Raleigh or Chapel Hill or Cary, but (as one could probably predict) also commercial investors. Except the would-be commercial developers are thinking big scale...very big scale. A scale that would not only dwarf Pittsboro's business and commercial front as I and other locals know it, but also dwarf some of the largest commercial developments in the area.

From "The News & Observer" newspaper article of last Monday (ed: link to Crossroads Plaza my own):
This rural strip could become home to a shopping complex more than twice the size of Cary's Crossroads Plaza.

The Pittsboro Place development could have 2 million square feet of retail and commercial space and more than 300 residential units at a cost of up to $600 million, if developers are successful. The project, which would be built over 10 to 15 years, could include a movie theater, a bowling alley and various national chain restaurants in addition to retail stores.

Even by optimistic standards, Pittsboro is only supposed to grow to 7500 people in the next three years (although 'how' that will happen I'm not sure I understand, considering water supplies to new homes is/has been a major issue for years). Orange County citizens (15 miles+ to the north) already have places to shop at in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough; after all, Durham County is only about another 10 miles away from those customers. Citizens of Wake County (20 miles+ to the east) certainly have more than their share of sprawl growth in Apex, Holly Springs, and, of course, in Cary. (Cary is sometimes regarded/hated as the aspiring 'wanna-be place' to live in the Triangle region, and has the stores, zoning ordinances, and activities to prove it.) Areas west and south of Pittsboro are largely agricultural and rural...and even then, Siler City and Sanford still offer many shopping venues.

So, even if the Pittsboro population triples every three years for the next decade (which is impossible to fathom, let alone actualize, but work with me here) up to about 67,500 people, this new development will be (according to the "Chatham Journal Weekly" article) the approximate size of 6 Wal-Mart® SuperCenters, plus some additional parking, miscellaneous buildings, 300+ residential units, building towers and the like. Shoppers are notoriously lazy in the US compared to other parts of the world, so where are all of these shoppers...who exactly will sustain such a place as this project as clearly Pittsboro cannot keep tripling every three years...come from?? Are people in Cary and Chapel Hill and Durham really going to drive to Pittsboro to shop at the same stores more readily and locally available to them? Ummmm...no.

Dear bloody hell.

Someone has got to be kidding. Or smoking something really, really strong.

The county can't even provide reliable and cost-efficient water and septic hookups (even when we don't have to conserve water, unlike this year) to its new citizens, but this mammoth offering to the consumerism gods is actually under zoning consideration. Perhaps I shouldn't be crying over the fate of my lovely old south Chapel Hill area, but rather be focusing on Pittsboro and the likes of businesses such as S&T's Soda Shoppe instead (read my brief mention of Pittsboro and S&T's here). And maybe I should take more pictures before things change again...and perhaps change for the worst.

UPDATE: The meeting held at the Chatham County Courthouse from last week (mentioned in the above "News & Observer" article), attracted so many speakers to the hearing that it's being continued until tomorrow night, Monday July 30. (It's still being listed as 'TBA' for an exact location and time, but I will update as soon as I can get the correct information.) The meeting will be held at the Courthouse at the Pittsboro Circle (roundabout) at 6:30pm.

24 July 2007

Defeating the Inner Enemy, Roman Emperor style

So when I haven't been working on redoing my office space at work the last few days and fighting with my digital camera to release its photographic bounty to my Slide and Snapfish catalogs, I've been reading. In particular, an ancient text that's been extensively translated and fairly well cobbled together in a manageable paperback form. Forget Oprah, forget Dr. Phil, forget the countless shelves of 'self-improvement' books at Borders® or Barnes & Noble®. I think I've rediscovered one of the (if not 'the') earliest self-help books in history: "Meditations". Amazingly, it's still extremely applicable to today's life. And, equally amazingly, it was written by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (yes, the one portrayed by the late Sir Richard Harris in the Ridley Scott Oscar®-winning film ...he did actually exist).

The book itself is a series of notes that Aurelius made for himself, about his people, about his Stoic philosophy, about being above the lure of gluttony and distraction, about love, about life, and about death. Who knows if the version I'm reading is the way he intended the notes to be meshed together...and actually it's believed the notes were more of a 'private journal' for his eyes only so their 'passing on' to generations later probably was never intended. Still, it's a fascinating read and well worth some examination if you're a hopeless history and philosophy buff such as myself.

I recently purchased my latest copy of this book (newly translated and introduced by Gregory Hays) about two months ago, as I bought a second as a gift for a friend who was graduating from college. It had been ages since I was 'forced' to read it in high school, although I was always struck by the subject matter and the ease of understanding (for some reason, I'd always thought that Roman politicians and emperors spoke as formally as The Royal Shakespeare Company always portrayed them on television). It's really like deja vu all over again for me...and I'm rereading it every chance I can steal a free minute or two. In a weird way, it's nice to see that as much as mankind has progressed (or regressed, depending on your outlook for the day), the same issues we essentially struggle with now were the same with the Romans in their prime.

Today's excerpt (from Book 4), which caught my attention and reflection:
Nothing that goes on in anyone else's mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you.

Then where is harm to be found?

In your capacity to see it. Stop doing that and everything will be fine. Let the part of you that makes that judgment keep quiet even if the body it's attached to is stabbed or burnt, or stinking with pus, or consumed by cancer. Or to put it another way: It needs to realize that what happens to everyone --- bad and good alike --- is neither good nor bad. That what happens in every life --- lived naturally or not --- is neither natural nor unnatural.

Perhaps now we 'me me me' generation philosophers can figure out how to take that message to the masses for a better appreciation and understanding. Bumper sticker anyone?

22 July 2007

Bonding with HAL, Dave, and that Black Obelisk

Sorry for the delay in writing, folks. Been a little overwhelmed with some 'immediate' projects from work this week...and am still recovering from last week's adventure. Damn near broke a finger yesterday...which looks simply glorious today...and that's not helping typing and/or writing anything, either.

I am recovering...having returned safe and relatively sound...from the great western part of the state from last weekend's trip with Wise Ricky. And as time allows tomorrow, I will post a full review of The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and also some of the pics I was able to snap. I'm still a little sunburned from the daytime rays, but otherwise amazingly well relaxed. It was sorta like going away to a pine tree-covered tropical island, but also where everyone looks good in plaid.

I am still mentally recapping my Wednesday night adventure of seeing "2001: A Space Odyssey" over at The Colony Theatre in Raleigh. The turnout was actually far larger than I expected, and the concession stand exceptionally well-run. Correction, however, from Wednesday's post: refills for both soda and popcorn (all sizes) are now a (wait for it) whopping 50 cents each instead of free as I errantly stated. Unfortunately, the wine and beer selection was a little sparse for my pleasure, but then again I've been known to have a 'wish list' on file with at least two of the local Total Wine & More stores in town, too. All in all, the overall pleasure of the film and its presentation was top notch. Kudos also go to the staff member who made an excellent pre-movie dinner recommendation to me for The Peking Garden, right around the corner from them in the same shopping center. (Highly recommended, probably the best Chinese food I've had since Sydney or Melbourne.)

And this comes from a former manager and projectionist who sat there Wednesday night and could see every bad splice, cut, repair, and roller damaged blip on the print itself...which is now almost 30 years old, I realized. Despite all of this, Dolby Digital® (and better) was made for these kinds of productions. Moral to the story: never take a film buff and former movie perfectionist to a showing of a classic film if you just want to 'enjoy the movie' in an un-technical peace. Thank heavens I had good friends also there who know of my 'ways' and talked me out of making production and audio commentaries throughout. The fact that I even noticed the poor splicing and repairs themselves was enough for one friend to order the universal 'hush' order...only about 35 minutes into the film.

I have to admit, though, that even after repeated viewings some parts of the film always reveal themselves anew to me, causing a giggle at how Kubrick was both so off and so on about his interpretation of the future. This time, it was all of the commercial product placements (such as Pan American, Howard Johnson®, Hilton®, etc.) in the 'airport', as well as the electronic customs checkpoint with 'voice print identification' only. It's also interesting to see how many more people are sympathetic with HAL, the murderous but fault-denying master computer, now than when I first saw this film many moons ago. HAL's always had a conscience (albeit somewhat misplaced), but now he's got a burgeoning fan club. Lord, Kubrick truly did have some high hopes for us to achieve...but then again, it was a completely different world in 1968.

No, I have no new insights of my own into the film's ending from this latest viewing, but I did hear two very interesting theories from others:

  • (1) That the whole movie is about survival of the species at any cost (such as Dave 'tracking down and then disposing' of Frank for his own self-survival versus HAL), and concludes with Dave creating a family (that the space ship's intergalactic speed travel actually is a 'sperm' in search of a 'womb', if you will, that will eventually take hold, incubate and then rebirth Dave at the conclusion). So, this theory follows, Dave is and will be all of us...no matter if we be father, mother, daughter or son. "2001" is the simple journey of life as we know it, just set up in space and minus the daily water cooler chit-chat.


  • (2) A theory I have heard before several times in various film groups and/or classes: that the whole movie is Kubrick's statement on religion and a 'higher power', that the hypnotic black obelisk is nothing more and nothing less than whatever we project it to be. For some, that means everything and anything all-powerful; for others, that means only nothingness and impersonal matter. This theory, as I've heard it most asserted, is that the black obelisk is God. And God has been there since the beginning, and will be there in the end. What God can and cannot do depends entirely on how much power we place with Him/Her/It.

    I still don't necessarily 'get it', but three decades on, I have to give proper praise to any film that still generates this much loyalty and discussion. Hollywood simply does not make movies like this anymore...I would guess 40% of this masterpiece would end up on a cutting room floor somewhere if the suits in charge now controlled final edit. It's a horrible quagmire of muck we walk through in most new releases now, but it's 'what the people want', I guess. Why think, why question, why have an unknown resolution? 'We' apparently now want a certain standard fare, 'we' apparently will endure a higher level of mediocrity and a diminishing level of intelligence. Love him or hate him, but nothing was standard nor mediocre nor stupid about Kubrick and his works. And we movie fans, such as myself and all those attended Wednesday night, still acutely feel his loss.

    We viewers are taken to a 'higher plane' of thinking in this film, where it is understood we can, should and will ask questions afterwards. Where nudity and sophomoric humour doesn't need to be written in to make a script 'work'. Where inspiration for such later wonders as the "Star Wars©" saga and "Alien©" started from. Where music is not only allowed to run its full course for artistic addition, but also for its own artistic appreciation (for example, the closing credits finish a good two minutes before the closing music does). Where human error may or may not be our downfall, but for better or for worse, also where human emotion can still overwhelm the most disciplined of men...and machine.
  • 17 July 2007

    2001: An Interpretation Odyssey

    Tomorrow night's agenda is one of thematical problem-solving: I am determined to figure out (or at least talk to others who hopefully can) the meaning behind Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", a film I have seen so many times and not fully 'gotten it' I dare not count anymore. I am a not-so-closet Kubrick fan (much to the ire of my feminist-thinking friends), so seeing this on a big screen again is akin to declaring a national holiday. I am perfectly fine...and even enraptured with...the film (SPOILER ALERT! for the link) until the last reel. Then, I dunno...the whole thing goes to hell in a hand basket for me. Even after an extensive review of the Kubrick exhibition in Melbourne in January 2006, I still come away with more questions than answers. Tonight's my night to see this classic on the big screen and with other like-minded movie buffs. An answer, I believe, is out there, but I need to understand a bit better of what the question being posed is to actually know how to appropriately respond. Otherwise, no matter how many times I've viewed it, this classic just ends up as a question mark.

    Showing Wednesday, July 18, (one night only!) at The Colony Theatre in Raleigh. Tickets are $5 per person and the show starts at 7 or 8pm (seems to be some confusion on the start time for some reason). Their address is at 5438 Six Forks Road. (Yes, these are the fine people who give you free refills on soda and popcorn, and also provide the wonderfully cushy sofas to lounge on before and after the shows, too.) Beer and wine are also available..it is a heavy film.

    This is also part of their "Pop CultuRetro" shows The Colony hosts every month. The remaining ones (until the holidays, anyway) are:

    7/18 - 2001: A Space Odyssey
    8/15 - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
    9/19 - Chinatown
    10/17 - Donnie Darko

    If I come upon any earth-shattering insights as to tonight's feature, I'll pass them along. Sadly all my sci-fi friends have prior engagements or (heaven forbid) don't like Kubrick, so I watch as a film buff and not with the eyes of those who could provide an otherworldly-like appreciation. Who knows, though, my confusion may still remain after tonight...and I accept that possibility. Perhaps the only new knowledge I will obtain is just how much popcorn is 'too much' or how worn out my chosen seat truly is. Maybe I'll learn nothing when the lights go down, but I'll love the movie anyway. Perhaps 'knowing' the meaning to this Odyssey is, alas, simply just not to be. It's the journey and the questioning that really matters at the final cut.

    13 July 2007

    Celebrating the Family Spirit: Old and Renewed

    Very short post this morning as I'm preparing to go out of town...

    First, I have survived yet another of Mama's birthdays. Every year she ages, the more she and I become friends (although supposedly our first two years were great...then I became a Daddy's Girl). And once again she said/did something that reminded me that she also shares the birthday of another ass kicker, Roman Emperor Julius Caesar. Trust me when I tell you that explains a lot about her 'can do and take charge' personality. She was gifted with a surprise birthday cake and a meal with friends back home. And a happy birthday mention on her favourite radio station first thing this morning.

    From me she got a gift certificate for something she has always wanted to do: drive a NASCAR®-like stock car on a racetrack. So I got her a ride-along/drive-along session for next year with The Richard Petty Driving Experience. It is the closest thing I can give her that's close to being a NASCAR® driver. In a perfect world, I'd have her ride with our longtime fave driver, veteran driver and Ozarks native Mark Martin, or with my 'newer' driver, bad boy 2-time champ Tony Stewart, (the latter to pay Mama back for all the lectures she's given me as I suspect Smoke would scare the hell out of her), but since neither are possible, I'll take what I can get...LOL. I say next year because we need to brush up her high speed driving skills before we turn her out loose on a major speedway going in excess of 150mph. She'll scare the living hell out of people if she doesn't. As God as my witness, we'll try and schedule her Experience at a flat (versus embanked) track so as to limit bystander injury as much as possible. As excited as she was hearing about it this morning, I admit I can't wait for it for her, either. Mama wants to race more than I do and she was always the most spirited family member in the house. She's in her sixties now...time's a wastin' so it's time to go after it while we both still can.

    Let's go racin', Mama, let's go racin'. And a great, happy birthday to you, too.

    From the 2006 Torchlight Ceremony, ©Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

    Secondly, Wise Ricky and myself are heading off to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in the western part of the state. We'll be gone all weekend, and it certainly will be quite the show. Even though technically WR is Irish by heritage and not Scottish, I've got a double dosing in my family so I think we can squeeze him in under some sort of clause somehow...providing he doesn't insult somebody about the haggis or something. He does, however, have a growing collection of kilts (and actually prefers wearing them now more than trousers or jeans), so I suspect he'll feel quite at home. Our fave Scottish band Albannach will also be in attendance and performing. We're missing the first day of the ceremonies today, but the rest of the days should be a blast.

    Yes, I'm taking the camera and, yes, I will post the pics here. Hmmm...men wearing kilts throwing blunt instruments for competition and playing bagpipes, among many other activities...it's like a girl's fantasy from Braveheart come true or something (although the Games will be far more historically accurate). Packing the sunscreen and Walker's Shortbread as I type even...

    10 July 2007

    Another talent tragically lost, now going home

    It's rather weird...and frankly scary sometimes...what the universe serves up in its daily lottery of spiritual happenstance. Someone asks you about something you take for granted, you explain it and while doing so rethink what you know or what it means to you. And just when things are back in your mind all freshly paved and open again, the item or person or thing gets pulled away from you. In some cases, permanently. Enjoy what you have as long as you can, while you can...all that Hallmark© card kind of philosophy comes to mind. The ebb and flow of it all can be a little sobering.

    In my case, the cosmic 'gotcha' focuses on kudzu. To those of us here in the Southern part of Heaven, kudzu is this gloriously hardy plant that grows everywhere and will attach to anything...and, despite some of the best attempts known to man over recent generations, is damn near impossible to kill off. For a more in-depth explanation go here; for some local pictures of the Green Glory in all its splendour, go here. But kudzu also served a dual purpose and cause for pride here: it also is the name of a nationally-syndicated cartoon strip by North Carolina-raised Doug Marlette. Led by the well-intended but long-suffering Rev. Will B. Dunn, the cartoon featured things from a slightly more Southern, and occasionally satirically biting, perspective. In a way that "Doonesbury" attracts faithful readers who also follow politics and current events, "Kudzu" attracted a legion of fans who understood a slightly simpler way of life in the small town, a way of life in which the town Reverend would actually be playing in a pickup basketball game against competing 'heathen' faiths and still wanting to unabashedly gloat in victory.

    I mention this because about three weeks ago I was having a whole lengthy discussion about kudzu with a mate of mine from Oz. If something is bizarrely deadly or rare in its availability worldwide, it probably thrives in Oz; if something can wildly prosper on the rust of abandoned cars and tractors, it most certainly thrives in the South. My mate, not knowing about neither the 'never say die' plant nor the cartoon, made me scramble a bit to explain what each meant to the Southern fabric of life. Kudzu, in both forms in this case, is one of the prolific and strongest survivors of our culture to the masses...quiet, surprising, and stealthy in its appeal. (Now if we can just do something about the image presented of us by our Southern love for Moon Pies®, fried pork rinds/cracklins, and Cheerwine©.)

    Unfortunately, today brings us bad news: creator, gifted illustrator, and Pulitzer Prize® winner Marlette has tragically died in an automobile accident in which he was a passenger. While he had recently moved to my former haunt of Tulsa (and to a job at the "Tulsa World"), at the time of his death he was in Mississippi helping prep a high school musical production of "Kudzu". KOTV (which I seem to be unintentionally plugging a lot of late, sorry, try to 'spread the wealth' as I can) in Tulsa did a nice workup and interview with Marlette earlier in February of this year.

    Marlette's official site, for those unfamiliar with his great work (have patience as it loads). He did far more than just "Kudzu", but also was a gifted editorial cartoonist and novelist.

    And, as expected, the "World" does a superior job covering the death of one of their own. (In my opinion, the "World" is one of the best papers in the US, and certainly in the Midwest. Sometimes a bit too conservative for my political views, but it is from Oklahoma, after all, and that should be par for the course, frankly.) Specifically, check out the cartoons that won Marlette his widespread and well-deserved Pulitzer® acclaim.

    I, for one, will really miss my daily dose of Reverend Dunn and the fictional happy place of Bypass, North Carolina. Godspeed, Mr. Marlette, and always rest in peace knowing that your fine insights will be remembered by the many fans that you left behind here.

    09 July 2007

    Hi ho, hi ho: it's off to a backlog of work I go...flooding update, too

    Back, dear people, from a few days' away and am headed back into the old work homestead. Sorry for no advance warning: a chance to travel a bit elsewhere came available at the last minute on the 5th and I took to it like a woman on the Crusade.

    Despite my better judgment, though, I stayed away from work from last Tuesday until today completely and only called in 'to check in' about three times total...dear Lord, that may be a record. However, that may also be the absolute worst thing I could've done, too. If I haven't checked back in here by Wednesday morning, friends, please call the authorities as the papers on my desk most probably have toppled over and buried me alive. I'm not joking as much as you think.

    On a side note, I did hear back from Thespian and FOB Amanda and she is temporarily okay in Coffeyville. Dear friend even sounded relatively upbeat, all things considered. No news yet from dearest Melvin, but then again, that may be newly marriage-related, too, I understand. Hopefully no news is good news...at least for her. The poor town in specific, and the region in general, is something else altogether as both slowly recover. Returning to normalcy can't come soon enough.

    The bad news, though, is not over quite yet:
  • the original estimates of 40,000+ gallons of crude oil being spilt into the flood waters was apparently low, and the new totals now put that number in excess of 70,000+.
  • Nearby cities, towns and townships are under strict water restrictions and hazards (welcome to the neighbourhood, fecal coliform!).
  • The cleanup is slow, indeed, because of all of the health threats...and
  • a class action lawsuit has now been filed against Coffeyville Refineries, the refinery responsible for this agonizing oil spill.

    A video update can be seen here (from KOTV 6 in Tulsa, OK).
  • 02 July 2007

    Sending prayers to friends trying to make it through...

    Sometimes you just get thrown 'back into things' again. Like no matter how far you can leave from a place where you have friends, their emergency becomes your emergency. Time sorta stops still when you know someone close to you is suffering, everything else going on quickly takes a back seat. And right now some really good friends and loved ones are in a crisis.

    So, as I sit here in the midst of a drought that is gathering strength in North Cackalacky, dear friends more homewardly situated in SE Kansas and NE Oklahoma are suffering through a bad flood...and a very damaging oil spill.

    We always wondered what would happen should a storm of some sort (but admittedly we always wondered more about a F5 tornado more than anything) would hit the local refineries there. Now I guess we have an answer, and potentially an environmentally hellish one to boot.

    The Verdigris River, which runs right around southeastern Kansas, apparently has crested at 30.4 feet, close to 12 feet above flood stage in Coffeyville...after hours of nonstop and relentless rain poured down. And this in an area well known to be flat with not a lot of new business development to begin with. Depending who you talk to, as much as 35-40% of the town may be submerged by flood waters covered with a thick layer of released crude oil. Water restrictions are in effect, individual homes will have to be checked prior to allowing a re-entry, evacuations and rescues are ongoing...in short, a full-blown state of emergency has been called. Unknown amounts of chemicals may also have been released in the overflowing waters and/or in the oil leak. This flood and oil spill are devastating news.

    From The Associated Press story on My Way News:
    ...A pumping malfunction during the weekend allowed 42,000 gallons of crude oil to escape from the Coffeyville Resources refinery into the swollen Verdigris River in south-central Kansas, producing a floating slick that could be seen and smelled from the air.
    42,000 gallons of crude oil headed into a mostly rural area and possibly straight into drinking supplies as far down as Tulsa, Oklahoma...dear Lord. The whole region is/has always been interdependent on one another for jobs, oil, education, recreation...and now, survival. As anyone who has ever witnessed a natural disaster from afar and felt powerless as photos and news helicopters fly over old eating faves and friends' farms...you understand the sorrow I'm going through right now. These are honest people. Hard-working people. 'Handshake is as good as your word' kind of people. Proud and strong people. And with respect to my flesh and blood relatives in the Ozarks, these are my people and I pray with them, and for them, in this time of sorrow.

    Video on the Coffeyville (and surrounding area) (click on "Coffeyville flooding made worse by oil leak" from menu) flooding from KSHB-TV 41 from Kansas City.

    The Coffeyville Journal (Coffeyville, KS) has updates.

    The Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise (Bartlesville, OK) is reporting in from Green Country.

    And, of course, those long-standing professionals from KTUL Channel 8 in Tulsa, give some great coverage on the impact for those in NE Oklahoma and Tulsa. (Shame that Jack Bunds, Coffeyville native and former Sports Director for KTUL is no longer there to cover the story, though...)

    Dear Amanda, sweet thespian sis, and Melvin, wild child turned caregiver sis, please contact me ASAP and let me know how you're doing. I'm worried...