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.
The 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.
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.
Most Americans and the select inhabitants of larger cities from around the world have seen the quintessential ‘Chinese takeout/buffet’. Most of us have one or two in our towns or in our neighborhoods. If you live in a larger city, you probably can smell the soy sauce laced smoke bellowing from exhaust pipes because it is more than likely within walking distance of your apartment. We walk in and order the chicken wings or that shrimp fried rice that you’ve been craving. You grab the soy sauce packets that end up littering your counter at your house and relish at the sound of the crack as you pull your chop sticks apart. But what about the facade? What about the mass-produced mock-Asian architecture that adorns the walls of our local Chinese restaurant? Do we notice the 6 foot high foo dog statue that wards off evil spirits from the Imperial Chinese Buffet? What about the elegant golden dragon that slinks his way up the colossal columns that adorn the entrance way?
Is our stomach so harmonized to the MSG laced food that an an invisible fengshui-esque force metaphorically draws us auspiciously to the food sitting in the pans that sit just above the water boiling beneath the buffet; or is it the seasoned wok being tolled back and forth over the flowering flame that is stir frying seasoned meats and vegetables that draws us in? Are we so caught up with our lives that even the architectural structure that was meticulously nominated by many a worried owner is now inconsequential to busy bystanders? Sadly it’s not just the adorned Chinese buffets that we miss. We truly are a generation that has forgotten to stop and smell the roses; or elevate our eyes to find the most minute bit of beauty in the Asian architecture outside of the local Chinese buffet.
Sometimes 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…
A couple of years ago, we found out that they were making a movie in my sleepy little home town of Rose Hill, NC. The movie that they were using part of our town for was the third Iron Man movie. Robert Downey Jr. and the Marvel cinematic universe moseyed into our little corner of North Carolina. The prop people turned the downtown area *which was very minimal* into a quaint little Tennessee town. Forgot to mention that they changed the state to Tennessee but kept the town name. Nevertheless, there are glimpses that we can notice in our every day lives in Rose Hill since the movie makers left town. One specific part that casts itself casually into my periphery every time that I pass it is a converted store front. The store never existed in our town but every time that I see it, I wish that it would have. I see that that the store would have sold comics and other things to fuel adolescent hobbies. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone in my comic collecting if the store had existed back then. Maybe I’d be the owner of it by now. All I know is the visceral longing for something that never was. The only thing that I do know is that the exterior facade of a store that never was still resides on Church St. in Rose Hill, NC.
Robert Downey Jr Iron Man promotional Image by and attributed to Edgar Meritano – Publicada en wikipedia, author sent original by email, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4008669
Toby’s Hobby Shop Photo credit to Chris Brown. 2017.
There have been many movies that have had a lasting impact on what would seem like an endless landscape of the pop culture horizon; but none have been as impactful as The Karate Kid. The 1984 classic (which resulted in many sequels and a remake) centered around a bullied teenager from New Jersey; who was having trouble fitting in to his new California home. Daniel is befriended by the handy man that works at theapartment complex that he and his mother have recently moved into. The handy man turns out to be a skilled martial artist and agrees to train Daniel to help him protect himself from the cluster of teenage hooligans that have tormented him. The bond ends up being the best thing for both the teacher and the student.
The movie’s emotional highs and lows, comedic fun and action have caused most of the world to have fallen in love with what is now an 80s classic and one of the most beloved movies of all time. One specific truth to this movie, as well as many movies and TV shows is that the actors that portray certain characters (and act in certain scenes) have the storyline hit too close to home. This is the case for the titular character of Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid franchise. As a Japanese American, despite his sickness early on in his life, joined his Japanese American family in an interment camp in the United States during WWII. During this time, many Japanese Americans were confined to internment camps while members of their family were fighting for the United States Army in Europe, Italy, southern France and Germany. The 442nd Regiment Combat Team infantry unit was composed almost entirely of soldiers who were Japanese Americans (primarily from Hawaii). With the motto “Go for Broke”, you can see why the 14,000 men that served in the 442nd Regiment earned 9,486 Purple Hearts, eight Presidential Unit Citations, and found 21 of its members receiving Medals of Honor.
Most of the Japanese Americans that fought in WWII were Nisei. A Nisei is a term in the Japanese language used in America to specify the children born in the US to Japanese-born immigrants (which were called Issei); while their grandchildren of the Japanese-born immigrants are called Sansei. These terms are based on the the Japanese words representing the numbers 1 (ichi), 2 (ni), and 3 (san). The immigrant males, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7th, 1941), were initially categorized as 4C aka enemy aliens (who were not subject to the draft) which was followed months after the attack on Pearl Harbor by President Roosevelt giving the military the authority to create internment camps for people of Japanese ancestry. This forced relocation from their residences to guarded relocation camps where more than 110,000 people from the West Coast (where two thirds were born in the US) were housed and set up martial law in Hawaii (due to the large population of citizens of Japanese history).
In the movie, Mr. Miyagi reveals that he served in the 442nd Regiment Combat Team ofthe United States Army (receiving many medals during his service). This was revealed when Daniel showed up to his house and found a drunken Mr. Miyagi celebrating an ‘anniversary’. It was revealed to be the anniversary of the dual loss of his wife and newborn son due to complications that arose during her childbirth at the Manzanar interment camp while he was in Europe serving in the 442nd Infantry during WWII. This extremely deep moment, brought a deeper reality to the Miyagi character but on the deeper scheme of things, shined a depressing light onto the reality of not only war but the interment camps which are a truly dark part of US history.
Featured Image: The Karate Kid image by and accredited to Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland – Karate Kid, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33780803
Pat Morita 1971 publicity photo by and accredited to George E. Marienthal Enterprises – eBay item photo front photo back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25183341
President Truman and other dignitaries saluting during the President’s review of the 442nd Regimental image by and accredited to Abbie Rowe, 1905-1967, Photographer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._National_Archives_and_Records_Administration”. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration”, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain.
USS Arizona attack during the Attack on Pearl Harbor image attributed to Unknown – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 295992.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43702
Denson Relocation Camp (Umbrella girl) by Tom Parker – Photograph by Tom Parker for Department of the Interior, War Relocation AuthorityThis media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 539345. Converted from .gif to .jpg and border cropped before upload., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4482065