Book/Movie Recommendations - June 8, 2006
Gardening - June 10, 2006

Wandering in Hillsborough

Between work, dance, and church (with the occasional visit to the NC Botanical Gardens) we spend a lot of time in Chapel Hill, even though we live further north in Orange County.  I often regret that we don't get to spend more time closer to home (unless we're actually at home).  So, this evening I decided to wander around Hillsborough a bit. 

By the time I finished dinner, though, I ended up getting to the Orange County library only about twenty minutes before closing.  This library isn't as large (it only occupies the top floor of the building) or as heavily stocked as the libraries we go to in Chapel Hill and Raleigh.  However, what they do have is well-chosen and I almost always can find a few things to bring home - even if I only have twenty minutes. 

Today I brought home four books from the new book shelf.  One was a Star Trek book.  The biggest find for me was Charles de Lint's latest book, Widdershins.  Charles de Lint is one of my favorite fantasy authors, and one of the more unusual ones that I know.  His books go back and forth between "our world" and a fantasy world very easily, and they often involve music and musicians.  My favorite book of his is The Little Country, which I've reread numerous times (Interestingly, the Amazon page for The Little Country includes recommendations for it by other favorite authors of ours such as Jane Yolen, Patricia McKillip and Greg Bear).  The Little Country starts:

There were two things Janey Little loved best in the world: music and books, and not necessarily in that order...

One of the interesting non-fiction books I brought home is The Average American:  The Extraordinary Search for the Nation's Most Ordinary Citizen, by Kevin O'Keefe.  The Booklist review of it says:

What a thoroughly delightful book. One day it dawned on O'Keefe, a marketing executive with years of experience behind him, that although he had often referred to "the average American," he had no idea who that was, or what such a person would be like. So, using stacks of statistics and an encyclopedia's worth of educated guesses, he embarked on a nationwide quest to find him (or her). The book explores the whole notion of average. Is it just another word for mediocre? But how can that be true, if being average means being in the majority in all things? Some cities rebel so strongly against the average label that they seize on any distinction, no matter how trivial or ludicrous, to promote themselves as special. But does that approach devalue the idea of "special" until it, too, is effectively meaningless? At the end of the book, O'Keefe reveals the identity of the Average American, but it is the search itself--and the author's exploration of the whole concept of being average--that makes this curious book so illuminating and enjoyable

The other interesting non-fiction one is Rough Crossings:  Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution, by Simon Schama.  We've been watching his series,  A History of Britain so I was intrigued to find one of his books on a little known part of American history.  Here's part of the Pulisher's Weekly review:

By contrast with the usual hagiography, distinguished historian Schama has found a little-known story from this era that makes the Founding Fathers look not so glorious. The Revolution saw the first mass emancipation of slaves in the Americas--an emancipation, however, not done by the revolutionaries but by their enemies. Many American rebel leaders were slave owners. To hit them where it most hurt, Britain proclaimed freedom for all slaves of rebel masters who could make their way to British-controlled territory. Slaves deserted their horrified owners by the tens of thousands. One, who used his master's last name, was Henry Washington; another renamed himself British Freedom. The most subversive news in this book is that the British move so shocked many undecided Southern whites that it actually pushed them into the rebel camp: "Theirs was a revolution, first and foremost, mobilized to protect slavery." Even though they lost the war, most British officers honored their promise to the escaped slaves. The British commander in New York at the war's end, where some 3,000 runaway slaves had taken refuge, adamantly refused an irate Washington's demand to give them back. Instead, he put them on ships for Nova Scotia. And there, nearly a decade later, another saga began. More than a thousand ex-slaves accepted a British offer of land in Sierra Leone, a utopian colony newly founded by abolitionists, which for a few years in the 1790s was the first place on earth where women could vote. Sadly, however, financial problems and the British government's dismay at so much democracy soon brought an end to the self-rule the former slaves had been promised.

After the library, I walked around downtown Hillsborough for awhile.  I'm always surprised, given how pretty this area is, how few people walk down there in the evenings.  I can often walk all around the in town neighborhood and not pass anyone - something that rarely happens in my own neighborhood, which, with its lack of sidewalks, is supposedly not as "walkable" as downtown.  Anyway, tonight I passed three people which is more than usual, but still less than the number I passed while driving out of my own neighborhood.  After the rain came through this afternoon, it cooled off very nicely this evening.

The one place I did find people, of course, was the part of the Churton Street (the main street) where the wonderful-smelling restaurants are.  There's a little park behind the buildings on the Churton St., and tonight there was a small concert with the Stillhouse Bottom Band, an old-time music group - three guys alternating between fiddle, guitar, banjo and bass.  I stopped and listened for a few songs, including "Shady Grove" and one that I recognized, though the name they gave it, "Big Coyote," wasn't familiar.  There was also a gentleman clogging.  For a small town, Hillsborough has a lot of activities.


Next weekend is Hillsborough's big festival - Hog Day.  After living here for eight years, this is familiar to me, but it probably sounds strange to those of you who don't live in the southeast.  Barbeque is very important around here, and that's what Hog Day is about.  Or at least partly.  There's a barbeque cook-off on Friday night, and then Saturday is the main part of the festival with crafts, music, food, an antique car show, and lots of people trying to find places to park.  We take the shuttle in.  This year, Mike Cross will be doing a concert on Friday night which older son and I want to go hear.  I'm not buying tickets until it gets closer, however, so that I can see what the weather will be. 

We've always thought signs with happy pigs advertising barbeque to be rather bizarre. 



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