A barbecue at Rudy's house
Real estate agent hype to the contrary, the Durham-Chapel Hill area is pretty built up by now; our wild spaces have been "improved" at a reckless rate by well-connected developers who bulldoze hundreds of acres at a time - ignoring all lip-service laws about trees and stormwater runoff - and erect scores of huge cookie-cutter houses with hefty price tags and tiny front lawns. "The Village of Chapel Hill" my eye.
Luckily, there are areas which have yet to be discovered by these rapacious improvers.
For instance, drive a fairly major road around here and you may see a discreet road sign marking what appears to be a long rutted driveway disappearing into the trees.
This dirt trail rises through the trees, past farm fields, past another driveway sporting a self-important road sign (this "road" is named after somebody's favorite ball team), taking you so high you can see the "pickle building" and, my friend Rudy claims, the Shearon Harris nuclear facility far in the distance.
The road gets worse and worse. Its low point is almost always full of water; at this mini-pond's muddy verge one often sees deer, musing picturesquely as if they think they're okapi at a Serengeti watering hole.
I bump through this wet area very slowly because my van hasn't had functioning shock absorbers for several years.
The road then rises again and one starts to see partly - or mostly - demolished or rotted outbuildings, some covered with vines, dotted around the fields and woods. This area used to have an evocative nickname; it was covertly inhabited by undomesticated hippies, living without electricity or running water, who eventually inadvertently burned down most of the buildings while in a state of, uh, oneness with the universe.
Pass the vine-covered ruins and turn left and you've come to my friend Rudy's antique outbuilding in the woods. She and her sons - whom she raised from babies there when it had only an outhouse! - often see coyotes - which raise pups nearby and feast on feral cats - and a gigantic black snake which lives under their old tobacco barn.
Rudy and I met on match.com (another story) and turned out to be quite compatible, being somewhat eccentric women who live in the woods and suspect themselves too strong-minded to find suitable mates among the men who populate our wimpy, red-state millennium.
I email her every morning so somebody in the world will know I'm still alive.
My son Zed and I went over there for a barbecue last night. We brought hamburger and Zed and Melina's famous "Don't Inhale" homemade sauce. One of Rudy's sons made space for us on the grill while he cooked scores of vegetable shishkebobs, watched by his cheerful, attentive harem of three gorgeous young women. (All four of them left fairly early to head off to Mt. Airy and stake out a good piece of real estate prior to the fiddlers' convention.)
We all enjoyed Loco Pops, popsicles made locally by somebody with a restless imagination. They come in multiple flavors and are unlabeled - you might get strawberries and cream, but on the other hand you might get raspberry and chile peppers, chocolate with rosemary, lime and basil, or tamarind.
The high point of the evening, for me, was meeting Wayne. He is a man of legendary status, a taciturn and ingenious jack-of-all-trades who's helped Rudy, over the years, turn her place from a packhouse (without electricity or running water) into an elegantly landscaped, gorgeous home with many ingenious improvements I will not describe as it's possible they were devised and executed without the official stamp of the local Grand Viziers.
Lately, Rudy's dog ate a raccoon; when she called the vet to inquire about his rabies shots, the vet ratted him out to the authorities. Then did the Grand Viziers sent henchmen to Rudy's home many, many times, to capture and destroy this tainted dog. (To be fair, they gave her the choice of having him (1) euthanized or (2) sent to spend 6 weeks in the pokey at Rudy's expense - but a virus sweeping through the animal shelter has killed quite a few dogs lately.) In response, invoking the principle of civil disobedience, Rudy sent her dog into exile many, many miles away. She visits him frequently on - as she is opposed to gasoline - her recumbent bike.
There are no mercury vapor "security lights" up on Rudy's hill, so as Zed and I bumped cautiously home we could see the stars.
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