‘It’s so quiet out here’

Living in eastern North Carolina doesn’t usually allow us to have a lot of snow during the winter; but thankfully a beautiful blanket of snow fell early this month. The snow reluctantly fell after a layer of wintery mix and ice so that made the roads somewhat impassable. This caused my wife to not be able to go to her antique/thrift store but the schools being shut down due to the dangerous road conditions allowed Daniel and myself to be home with her. Since we live on a small creek that leads to the Northeast Cape Fear; Daniel and myself set out on our trek the morning after it stopped snowing.

We walked our way through the inches of snow and relished in the site of the sun rising above the snow carpeted horizon. We meandered our way through the woods; walking on the grass that was smothered by the inches of snow. We walked down the snow kissed creek and appreciating God’s beautiful creations. We saw rabbits huddling in their underbrush dens and the melted spots of ground where deer had bedded themselves the night before. Daniel climbed fallen trees and laughed as he caused snow to cascade from the leaves on me as I stood below.

Daniel and myself finally found our way to a small tributary that leads to the creek. I used to sneak off to this spot when I was a child to draw, write or just to relax. Who am I kidding…most of the time when I was a kid, the dominant thought that shouted its way to the forefront of my thoughts was bouncing around the woods with a sword and pretending to be He-Man or Rambo; (I’m a child of the 80s…don’t hate. ;P)  but most of the time I used that place to just relax. It brought a sense of calm to me to share that moment with my son. Daniel and myself found ourselves enjoying the solitude of the silence. The lack of traffic out on the road that runs about a mile from our house or maybe it was the fact that we weren’t being distracted by uselessness on our smart phones or wasting our time watching TV. We were just enjoying something that we don’t get to experience that often…and times like those are worth their weight in gold.




Hotel Windows


The passenger elevator ascended to the 18th story of the Harrah’s New Orleans Casino & Hotel. The doors opened and we shuffled out of the open doors. We walked to the end of the hallway; hearing the metal doors of the elevator shut behind us. We were all exhausted from the non-stop drive from my mother-in-law’s house in South Carolina; but we were ready to explore the historic city. We were mere footsteps away from the historic French Quarter, within view of the mighty Mississippi River, and in the heart of one of the nation’s oldest cities.

When you stare out of a window onto the world that lies below, you can only speculate at the things that are to come. Over the years we have related old stories to new friends and narrated our lives like autobiographies; but every journey starts with a glance. But there is a certain level of separation that you feel when you observe the world below you through panes of glass. Despite being able to see what lies beyond the glass; those realities look very different when you’re face to face with them. Sometimes you just have to pull back that curtain and take a deep breath before venturing out into the world and  showing up as just another speck from the view of someone else’s 18th story window.


Anything but pedestrian

It may not take a genius to sit in quiet contemplation while staring at a body of water; but you may be one for taking that time to do so. I think that Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu said it best when she said that she, “go(es) to the ocean to calm down, to reconnect with the creator, to just be happy.” Ever since I can remember, I have had a love affair with the ocean. I would surf the waves when I was a teenager and the older that I get, the more I love just staring at the endless waves, cascading on the sandy shore. Being from Eastern North Carolina definitely has its perks because in my opinion, the beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. But the beaches are not the only place that has been a place of quiet contemplation.

I have mentioned before that my parents house was built 50 yards from a creek that is a tributary to the Northeast Cape Fear River. This creek connected to another small tributary that flows from a wetland area south. These tributaries met behind my parents house and the smaller tributary had a small waterfall. Over the banks of the small creek lied a huge fallen oak tree. I would sit with my back against this tree for hours listening to the sounds of the waterfall and watching a beautiful aspect of nature. There was nothing pedestrian about the situation. The sensory overload was anything but lackluster. This spot in the middle of a wooded area was my secret oasis; my serenity. I would grow older and hurricanes would tame the landscape as they saw fit. Water erodes. Trees fall down and rot. The spot does not look the same anymore but there are other spots that I frequent to try to find a break from the mundane.

On the banks of the Hollands Shelter Creek (a tributary of the Northeast Cape Fear River) sits Hollands Shelter Creek Restaurant. My family took me there when I was a kid and now that I have a kid of my own; we enjoy taking him. Daniel has always been fascinated with the river that flows by the seafood restaurant, so it seems only logical that his favorite place to go is to sit on the dock on the river, eat some ice cream and hopefully spot an alligator.



What can you see through Broken Windows?

IMG_0760The second story windows of the old Johnson Cotton Company building in Wallace, NC have become weathered. Some panes have been broken by the rock of a rebellious child or pine branch thrown by the forceful breeze of a summer storm. The lower level windows were bricked years ago, while the building’s front entrance houses a set of decorative metal framed display windows that lead you to the entrance of the long been shut down store. The recessed entrance is still inviting because it is now used as storage but the hints of its history peak through.

The now Historic Commercial District sat formidably as the nucleus of a booming railroad and agricultural town. This small Southern town is situated in the coastal plains region of North Carolina and lies in the southern edge of Duplin County. Wallace was originally incorporated in 1873 as the settlement known as Duplin Roads; but was incorporated as the town of Wallace (named after railroad official Steven Wallace) in 1899. Like many Southern railroad towns, the small town’s orthogonal grid developed along the railroad tracks. The small town grew and grew because it was an important transportation link between the large port city of Wilmington to the South and Faison to the North.

Over the years, Wallace continued to expand. Fast food restaurants were built on Highway 117 and businesses extended passed the grid pattern that once hugged the railroad. The one and two story brick buildings in this historic area now house offices or maybe even modern stores. Buildings whose foundations were laid in the late 19th and early 20th centuries found themselves booming in a post World War II period. So these historic buildings, like the Johnson Cotton Company; whose second story windows still peer down upon the renovated Train Depot; still scintillates above a town that they help inaugurate.


Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Famous Deadly Weapons

Before Lockheed Martin created the F-22 Raptor and even before the Kalashnikov family created the AK-47 during World War II; there were many weapons that were infamous for being deadly. Whether the wielder made the weapon famous or vice-versa, people knew that if they disobeyed the wielder or were on the wrong end of this weapon…then it ultimately meant their doom. With the sword first appearing during the Bronze Age; being made primarily out of copper and was uncovered at the Harappan sites in what is now present-day Pakistan. By the Middle Ages iron and steel swords were being mass produced and used in battle. Time went by and generals, kings, emperors, soldiers and all around bad-asses yielded swords and other weapons of mass destruction. This was however before the era of guns but as soon as primitive firearms came to be in 13th century China; the age of portably propelling projectiles utilizing gunpowder had begun. The era of modern firearms has led to automatic and assault rifles strong enough to pierce a tank’s thick skin. In this blog we will discuss historically famous weapons who made the wielder famous or the wielder made it famous. Weapons from mythology, movies, video games, TV shows, etc. will not be listed but with that being said; here are, in my opinion, are – Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Famous Deadly Weapons


Honorable MentionSmith & Wesson Schofield .45 revolver – One of the most notorious outlaws that lived in the annals of Old West history, Jesse James was without argument a robber. He and his top-break action Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver became somewhat of a folk hero after the Civil War. James and his brother Frank robbed banks in the former-Union territory and the press at the time portrayed him as the Confederate’s Robin Hood. Though his motives deviated from any ‘give-to-the-poor’ mentality, he and his revolver have went down in history none-the-less.


10. Tizona Sword – Formed in Córdoba, Spain from damascus steel in 1002 AD, the medieval sword known as Tizona was one of many swords owned by Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar aka El Cid. El Cid would use Tizona to fight against the Moors. Due to Tizona’s wielder, El Cid became known as one of King Alfonso VI’s most valuable asset. Tizona is now on display in the Museo de Burgos (Burgos Museum) in Spain and definitely helped El Cid become a Spanish hero.



9. The Fujiwara Kanenaga samurai sword – World War II is not a time that is known for samurai and ninja legends but the man known as “The Tiger of Malaya” is famous for his time in battle. Tomoyuki Yamashita was a general of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II and became legendary after he led the Japanese to conquer the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore. After WWII he was tried for the atrocities that took place in the Philippines and Singapore (specifically the Manila Massacre) which culminated with a controversial death sentence. The controversial case changed the way the United States rules in regards to military leaders responsible for war crimes (a law that is now known as the Yamashita Standard and has been added to the Geneva Conventions). The Fujiwara Kanenaga sword (created somewhere between 1640 and 1680) which was by his side during his military career is now displayed in the Military Arms wing of the West Point Military Museum.


hattori hanzo spear

8. Ieyasu spearHattori Hanzōs famous 14 foot long spear and ceremonial battle helmet are on display inside the Sainen-ji temple whose cemetery in Yotsuya, Tokyo house the remains of one of Japan’s most Japan’s most historical figures…during the greatest periods of samurai culture. Hanzō’s significance has bled beyond the immediate Samurai culture and is now a pop culture icon where his likeness is seen in many films, anime, manga, and comic books (mostly due to the fact that there were rumors of Hanzō’s supernatural abilities which were rumored to be teleportation, psychokinesis, and precognition). Hanzō was an expert tactician, and despite having many beautiful swords; he was known to be a master of spear fighting. He lived the last years of his life as a monk under the name “Sainen”. This brave ninja leader, born into a samurai class, will forever be known for his ferocity on the battlefield; and commitment to his leaders and the men that he commanded.



7. The Cutlass – The 15th Century French Pirate François l’Olonnais was as ruthless as they came and his cutlass was used as a tool to inflict pain and fear into fellow sea-goers. During his bloody reign as a French Pirate during the 1660s, led a fleet of upwards of eight ships housing over 400 pirates and even sailed alongside the infamous pirate Captain Morgan (yes the one that they named the rum after). He and his men raped/pillaged cities and preyed upon sea going vessels in a blood thirsty manner which earned him a reputation for being a cruel and ferocious pirate. “The Bane of Spain”, as he was so nicknamed, came to Central America where he pillaged the town of Puerto Cavallo in Honduras where he captured two Spaniards, drew out his cutlass, sliced open the chest of one of the men, pulled out his heart and began to ‘gnaw it with his teeth, like a ravenous wolf’. The surviving Spaniard showed l’Olonnais a clear passage to San Pedro, he and his crew were captured by the indigenous Kuna tribe where he was torn to pieces and eaten. Call it Karma…call it justification. I call it just an epic ending that a pirate with blood lust with be proud to call his own ending.


6. Smith & Wesson Model 3 – Upon the day of the most famous gunfight in American history ‘The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’; Wyatt Earp (sworn in as a temporary policeman); his older brother and town Marshal Virgil; his younger brother; Special Policeman Morgan; and temporary policeman Doc Holliday sought to end a long-simmering feud with a loosely organized group of outlaws called the Cowboys. The shootout took place around 3:00 on Wednesday, October 26, 1881 near the narrow lot on the side of C.S. Fly’s Photographic Studio on Fremont Street (despite the aforementioned name) in the town of Tombstone in the Arizona Territory. The gunfight was not relatively well known to the American public until Stuart Lake published the biography Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal; which began a myriad of pop culture references to the gun fight and subsequently Old West’s Superman: Wyatt Earp. Despite becoming the archetype for the stereotypical Old West story, Wyatt Earp didn’t actually carry a gun called “The Peacemaker” on the day of the infamous O.K. Corral gunfight (which in pop culture was conceived to be the Colt Buntline Special that Stuart Lake described in the biography). On the day of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Earp was carrying a Smith & Wesson Model 3 (with a modified 8-inch, 200 mm barrel) that he received as a gift from Mayor and Tombstone Epitaph editor John Clum. That gun and now Wyatt Earp are immortalized in the annals of pop culture forever.



6. Zulfiqar Scimitar – Muhammed, the prophet and founder of Islam, gave Ali (his cousin and son-in-law (not sure how that works)) a Scimitar at the Battle of Uhud. The scimitar, which is now a symbol of the Islamic faith and is admired by millions of people is a West Asian or South Asian curved blade sword. The sword was famously used during the Battle of the Trench where the Prophet Muhammed, Ali and other Muslim defenders built trenches to protect the city of Medina against the oncoming calvary. The sword became known as “Zulfiqar” and has been passed down from each new Imam (name for their religious leader) since the death of Ali.


nra bass reeves

4. Colt Single Action Army .45 Revolver – So a slave, born in 1838, learns of the abolishment of slavery after fleeding north into Indian Territory; he grows up to become the first African-American US Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi River; after he Bass_Reeveslearns the Indian languages and masters skills of hunting and tracking with the Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians. Sounds like a premise of a Hollywood blockbuster right? Well its the life story of one of the greatest lawmen in the history ofthe US. Bass Reeves and his Colt Single Action Army .45 Revolver are credited with more than 3,000 arrests and killed 14 outlaws in self defense. During his long career, he would track outlaws and criminals hundreds of miles through thorns, over mountains and through dangerous Indian territory to bring them back to meet justice at the hands of “The Hanging Judge” Judge Isaac Parker. Bass Reeves may not be a household name but that does not change the fact that he and his Colt Revolver overcame great odds and helped bring justice to dysfunctional land while being a real life Lone Ranger.


richard the lionheart with axe

3. Dane Battle Axe – A Victorian times King nicknamed “The Lionheart” wielding a twenty two pound steel battle axe on the field of battle sounds like another amazing image straight off the Hollywood big screen; but it is in reality true accounts of the King of England: Richard I of English aka Richard the Lionheart. Whether we agree with the crusades or not, no one can deny how ferocious of a site it would be to witness Richard the Lionheart wielding a Danish battle axe while attacking the Sultan Saladin and his army during the Battle of Jaffa.



2. Tonbo-Giri – From the late Sengoku to the early Edo period of Japan; Honda Tadakatsu rose from a proud Japanese Samurai to a general to a noble daimyō (also known as Lord) of Otaki (a town in Chiba, Japan). He was known as the greatest Samurai of Eastern Japan and earned a reputation for being a samurai among samurai. The veteran of over a 100 battles by the end of his life never once even suffered a significant wound and was known as “The Warrior who surpassed Death itself”. The reputed samurai was known for being a recognizable figure on the field of battle by his helmet, famously adorned with deer antlers, his horse Mikuniguro, and his spear which was named Tonbo-Giri aka the Dragonfly Cutter. It was named Tonbo-Giri or Dragonfly Cutter because as the legend goes, a dragonfly landed on the tip of the spear and it was so sharp that the dragonfly was cut in two. His fighting prowess led him to be known as one of the “Three Great Spears of Japan” and the spear itself has became a natural treasure of Japan.



  1. Scottish Longsword – The scabbard, hilt and belt of this sword were originally made with the dried skin of English commander Hugh Cressingham. Despite the sword being a pop culture symbol, the infamous 13th century “Guardian of Scotland” Sir William Wallace wielded the 6 lb, 4 feet by 4 inch sword during the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and in the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. William Wallace fought and was eventually executed for the freedom of his country. Today, in Scotland, he is known as a national hero; and everyone around the world knows of his Patriotism. What is now one of the most famous swords in the world (housed at the National Monument in Stirling, Scotland); William Wallace’s longsword invokes an image of freedom. Most of that is because of Mel Gibson’s portrayal of William Wallace in the 1995 blockbuster hit “Braveheart where he flung the 4 foot long sword through the sky while yelling “FREEDOM”. That scene is forever etched into the annals of Pop Culture and William Wallace and his longsword will forever be immortalized.


Featured Image Jesse James colleague image courtesy of NRA, Fair Use.
Espada Tizona sword image by and accredited to Infinauta – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8027534
General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s Fujiwara Kanenaga sword image by and accredited to William Maloney – Fair use, http://www.williammaloney.com/Aviation/WestPointMilitaryMuseum/WorldWarII/pages/19GeneralYamashitasSword.htm
Hattori Hanzo spear image – Fair use, twcenter.net
François l’Olonnais from “De Americaensche Zeerovers” by and attributed to Unknown, book by Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin – The Library of Congress presents The Buccaneers of America, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=134350
Smith & Wesson Model 3 display image by and accredited to Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=448083
Zulfiqar (split-bladed sword) from the Mughal period in India by and attributed to Royroydeb – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38680744
Bass Reeves photo with pistol image by and accredited to the NRA/American Rifleman, Fair Use – Bass Reeves American Rifleman article
Bass Reeves by Unknown, Fair Use – http://digital.library.okstate.edu/ENCYCLOPEDIA/entries/R/RE020.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27904696
Richard the Lionheart in Battle image – Fair use, Public Domain, Image
Honda Tadakatsu by and accredited to 不明。 unknown – 良玄寺所蔵品。現在は千葉県立中央博物館大多喜城分館にある。, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3397023
William Wallace Longsword by and attributed to Glenn J. Mason from Edinburgh, Scotland – 00022.jpg, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3534808

Waiting for Fermentation

I live in Rose Hill, NC; which is home to the largest winery in the South. Seriously. In my small town, we have an award winning winery that produces one of Martha Stewart’s favorite wines. I think that we as residents take for granted the scope of how big that the winery actually is. I think that we as consumers and residents as a whole don’t think about the items that we use. Let’s just take for instance, the wine that is produced around the world (sparkling wine, table wine, vermouth, white wine, red wine, whatever)…I don’t really think any of us think about the steps that it takes to get the grape hanging on the vine to the bottle that sits on the grocery store shelf.

According to the Wine Institute’s Preliminary research, United States residents alone consume an average of 949 million gallons of wine per year which equates to a total of 2.94 gallons of wine per resident; and with an average of 3.3 pounds of grapes going in to the creation of one bottle of wine, I can understand why I see so many fields of grapevines. The Duplin Winery has a tank capacity of over 1.7 million gallons of wine and sells over 450,000 cases of wine per year. The sweet cloying of wine lies thick in the air and the ambrosial aroma sticks to your skin as you walk among the towering tanks that house the wine whose creators are waiting for the cold fermentation process to produce a proper result.

The grapevines that I pass on a daily basis yield grapes that are used in the creation of a luscious liquid that is delivered to thirsty patrons around the world. The grape’s juice is squeezed from the fruit and transferred to the tanks whose behemoth bellies house the sweet muscadine juice until a time that the aluminum leviathan creatures will entrust its created bestowal upon the bottlers. The wine-makers carefully monitor the process and from the ‘terminus a quo’ of the spheroidal fruits to the transfiguration of the a delicious wine. The journey of the berry’s menial genesis into something so complex amazes me but with science a little bit of love…anything can happen.




Sometimes the structure of a photo is naturally layered

IMG_2975Sometimes photos just come into being as if God himself shuffles things artistically into place for our enjoyment. Sometimes the different layers that compose the structure of a photo, through happenstance, we witness the perfect blend of foreground and background and use of negative space. Sometimes, its the background that God has painted. Sometimes its a freshly plowed field. Sometimes its a formation of geese flying over at the perfect time. Sometimes the cat-o-nine tails and over laying branches from a nearby tree fall perfectly in place. Sometimes its the summer’s sun setting behind low lying clouds. And sometimes, just sometimes, despite being critical of yourself for taking ‘random photos’ you just need to stop and take that picture because you know that what you are seeing is beautiful. Sometimes…