Fall Break, Day Four: Where Normal is Weird
A Promise for Exiles

Fall Break, Day Five: Bits and Pieces

Stationwagon 8:10 a.m.  Every morning I vow to have only cereal, skim milk, and juice, a typical home breakfast.  Every morning I fail.  Up this morning: bacon, onion, cheese omelet; cantaloupe, strawberries, and honeydew melon; pancakes with maple syrup; bacon; sausage.  Could I possibly have left anything out?

Outside the breakfast window, a crow is dive-bombing a hawk's tree-top nest, repeatedly circling and dipping low, almost touching the nest, finally succeeding in rousting the hawk and then pursuing him as he flew away.  I'm wondering if this is prejudice, bullying, or what the offense to the crow was.

Visiting the Blackbird Frame and Art Shop on Merrimon Avenue, I tour one art gallery in which I like everything I see, including the works of abstract art by our artist friend Carol Bomer.  Carol uses biblical imagery and words of Scripture to accentuate her multi-media works.  Amazing to enter a gallery and not find the ugly and disturbing among the work there.

I enjoyed the prompt service, friendly help, and ambience of Jan Davis Tires, where I had my punctured tire replaced.  Walking among the rows and rows of tires, the smell of rubber and grease reminded me of regular visits as a boy to the tire store with my Dad, where we would watch the lifts go up and down, feel the tires, talk about the news with mechanics, and drink Cokes.  It was a fascinating place, full of men doing important, noisy things with drills and air pumps.  Jan Davis Tires has that same feel, with an outdoor lift where I could stand and watch my car go up and down (seen the underside of your car lately?), watch a swarm of mechanics work their magic (in less than ten minutes), and soak up the bustle and sound of a busy small business.  I'm not sure where the hipsters get their tires replaced, as I saw no tattooes, body piercings, or purple hair.  Maybe they ride bikes?  But I like it here.

Speaking of the hip, we had lunch on the outdoor patio of the local Mellow Mushroom, along with an annoying yellowjacket.  Our server had dreadlocks and body piercings, of course.  Another home of the hippie-techno-peasants.  Like Alice's Restaurant.

While my wife is shopping at New Morning Gallery in Biltmore Sqaure, in historic Biltmore Village, my kids watch Lord of the Rings in the car ON A BEAUTIFUL DAY while I play the old geezer on a park bench, reading an interview in Christianity Today with Christian Smith, entitled "Lost in Translation," in which he talks about his new book, Souls in Transition.  Asked about the traits of religious American teenagers who retain a high faith commitment as emerging adults, he lists parents as primary and, secondarily, says that "Another factor is youth having established devotional lives—that is, praying, reading Scripture—during the teenage years. Those who do so as teenagers are much more likely than those who don't to continue doing so into emerging adulthood."  I'm convicted by my spotty, on-again-off-again devotional habits.  Like Godward punctuation on my conviction, the church bells from the local Episcopal church chime.

Because the leaves are not at peak for Fall color in Asheville, south of Biltmore we pick up the Blue Ridge Parkway, hoping that the gradual change in elevation would reveal more colorful leaves.  It didn't.  Still, it was beautiful.  We made it halfway to Craggy Gardens before we reluctantly turned around.  At 5:00, it was what painters and photographers call "the golden hour," the slanted light giving a warm glow to leaves and meadows and stands of trees that stretch as far as I can see.  Everytime I come on the Parkway, I am thankful for the foresight of those who designed this road and left it commerce-free, for hard-working depression area men who cut the roads, built stone bridges, and sent money home; and for a Creator who made such a variegated lanscape simply for our pleasure.

I'm even thankful for Ike (Dwight D. Eisenhower) who, in the name of defense, created highways like the I-40 I now entered, that can carry me to this beautiful place with reasonable ease.

We stopped at Deweys Bakery in Winston-Salem to stock up on Moravian buns and sugarcake (and were the delighted recipients of extra sugar cakes, as the store was closing for the evening --- "good things come to those who wait, are late, and procrastinate"), and then had dinner at the Hero House, a place with the best souvlaki, heros, and chopped salads in North Carolina.

Did I tell you I  appreciated the interstate highway system? I lied.  I despise I-40/I-85 between Winston-Salem and Durham which, for most of its length, is like an extended strip shopping center framed by concrete parking lots.  What were they thinking?

Everyone fell asleep, but me.

As I turn the corner for home, I've got that happy-sad feeling of vacation over.  But Dorothy said it well: "There's no place like home."  10:30 p.m.