Sunday, November 27, 2016

Quality Time with Charlotte

Well, the extended holiday revelry marched merrily on, when I woke up in Charlotte on Saturday morning. Since I had a 2+ hour drive back to my part of the state, I decided it'd be a grand idea to start my morning with a few activities--before sitting on my behind and staring at a highway. First up: a neighborhood known as Southend, which according to my online research is an area that's both historical (founded around the 1850s)...and newly revitalized (spruced up in the 1990s). Yep, totally sounds like my kinda place.

I drove into the city and presumed that the first order of business would be figuring out where to park. However, I quickly found an open spot...right on the street....without a meter. I admit this left me perplexed; with a great deal of my residential or recreational experience occurring in locations such as Bethesda, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and even Chapel Hill--all of which require you to pay at least a nominal fee to leave your vehicle--I was completely thrown by the unfamiliar concept of...FREE parking.

There were precious few other pedestrians around at this hour, but if anyone had been watching me, they probably would have thought I appeared mighty suspicious, walking around the cars in front of mine, reading the informational sign several times to make sure I understood it correctly, and searching for special permits, hidden kiosks where you were supposed to leave money...or tickets to prove one was not, in fact, meant to be there. Nope...nothing. Alrighty, then--I took a deep breath and strolled away...trying my best to exude an air of nonchalance...and innocence. (Or--at the very least--cluelessness, so if a Traffic Enforcement Officer questioned me, I could pull off a believable "But I really thought it was okay to park here, sir/ma'am!")

With that issue (hopefully) resolved, I could get on with...exploring. In my immediate line of sight were a couple of gorgeous houses (speaking to the "historical" nature), as well as some small, independent shops (that would be the "updated" character). As I walked down what seemed to be the main drag, I got a sense of Southend's hip-and-happening personality: funky boutiques; unique eateries, coffee shops, and brewpubs; creative art emporiums; modern-chic apartment buildings, and an impressive array of small businesses. All-in-all, it was a super-cool place to meander, on another dazzling Fall morning.

Next up: one more Fall hike for the weekend, at the McDowell Nature Preserve. (Fulfilling my personal mantra: "never miss an opportunity to tromp through the woods"...or something like that...) Brilliant Autumn colors all around, crisp leaves crunching underfoot...and a lovely lake to admire. What more could you want? After stretching my legs and breathing in the fresh outdoor air for a while, I was ready to tackle the pavement and return to the homestead...where I would be treated to one more night of house-to-myself.

To what did I owe this unexpected boon? You see, normally the boys choose to return from South Carolina on Saturday, as Husband prefers a "buffer day" between traveling and getting back to the daily grind. However, this year Derek threw a monkey wrench into that scenario, by stating that there were important college football games (apparently beginning at noon and continuing until, oh, approximately DAWN, to hear him tell it) that he'd miss if they were on the road.

Mind you, he delivered this with just a hint of incredulity in his voice, as though he were shocked that one would even consider being in an automobile, rather than in front of a television, for such momentous events. Although I did my best to repress it, I couldn't help giving a small snicker after his proclamation. My mistake--he rounded on me and snapped, "It's RIVALRY WEEK!"

Well! Right, then...forgive me for not taking you seriously! (By which I actually mean "Yes, I understand what you're saying...but please don't confuse me with someone who cares AT ALL." Carry on...) So the upshot is that they get an additional day of gluttony and nationally broadcasted sporting events...and I get the equally wonderful extra day of delicious leftovers, watching my own recorded shows, and storing up the atmosphere of quiet calm...for when the chaos--ahem..."my beloved family"...returns.

Hmmm...there's still pumpkin pie in the fridge...but with Thanksgiving officially over, I'm allowed (per my mother's teachings--bless her little pea pickin' heart) to listen to Christmas music...and decorate the house. Whoo hoo--I know how I'm using my Bonus Alone-Time!

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