I’m not sure how to feel about my vacation last week. In some ways, it seemed so wrong to be having a good time in N. Topsail Beach while the suffering was going on down in the south. To be honest, many of us were torn between watching the news and seeing what was happening, and salvaging our own much-needed vacation by pushing that away – it would become all too real once we returned to the ‘Real World’.

The Good

I love North Topsail Beach – it’s a great town with nothing to do. Nothing? Yes – and that’s what makes it perfect. We went to the grocery store 5 miles away for groceries a couple of times, with a stop at the cheesy souveneir place once for t-shirts, and other than that, we never really left the house. Our daily schedule:

  1. Get up
  2. Feed the dogs
  3. Walk the dogs on the beach
  4. Put the dogs on the deck to nap
  5. Go out and do some photography
  6. Take the dogs out to the beach to play, swim, body surf
  7. Go back for lunch and let dogs nap
  8. Head back to the beach for the afternoon – sometimes with dogs, sometimes without, sometimes with margs, sometimes without
  9. Go back in for dinner
  10. Take dogs for evening walk
  11. Grab a beer/drink, and prepare for night of cards, games, talking
  12. Fall asleep

Pretty simple life, actually – and I loved it. There was no hassle about going to boardwalk, finding a restaurant with a less-than-2-hour wait, no crowded beaches. Just photography, relaxation, watching the dogs, hanging out with relatives. It was all good.


Some of the highlights of our trip:

  • Deep Sea Fishing – although I didn’t catch anything and the seas were a bit rough for some members of our group
  • Dogs’ first visit to the beach – both Oakley and Miles LOVED the beach. They both learned to swim in the ocean (you know, leaping over incoming waves, avoiding getting crashed into the surf), and Oakley actually figured out how to body surf. They were depressed when we left.
  • Kayaking – We had both a 1-man and a 2-man kayak. I enjoyed going out a few times, trying to catch up to porpoise, watching the terns fish just off of the boat, and in general enjoying the exercise.
  • Fun & Games – I finally got to play Axis & Allies again, as well as Taboo, Cranium, and our own personal Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament. Every night was something new, including the 1st Annual Topsail Beach Beer Tasting, which featured samplings of Ommegang Rare Vos, Ommegang Three Philosophers and Chimay Grand Reserve.
  • Food – I ate extremely well and terribly this week. There was always food around, including great subs by my father, delicious treats by my cousin and awesome dinners by everyone. The food was great, the seafood was plentiful (who can argue with $60 for 16 pounds of fresh-caught shrimp?), and it was a good atmosphere. Everyone picked a night for their dinner-making, and the menu varied – but was always good.
  • Photography – Now that I was armed with a Nikon D70, I was looking forward to taking some shots of shorebirds, seabirds and whatever came into view. I wasn’t disappointed, adding some new birds (5 new species) and also getting shots of birds that I struggled to photograph the last time I was down there using a Pentax POS. I also got pictures of some really cool dragonflies, 8 new species of butterfly (hey, when the birds are boring in summer…), and a lizard. You can check out my pictures here
Whirlabout Salt Marsh Skipper 6-lined Racerunner Odd Sandwich Tern Royal Tern

The Bad

Actually, there wasn’t much bad this week, other than the occassional newscast to make us have a moment of silent reverence for the disaster unfolding. I did realize how much of an asshat I am when I left the power cord for my laptop at work and had to have it FedExed to me so that I could put on the airs of actually doing some work (didn’t happen, really). What work I did try to do was stymied by the block on long-distance internet that the house had. Local numbers from global internet servers worked, local NJ numbers for an independent ISP did not. Oh well – it kept me away from the ‘net most of the week…

I also spent more time playing with the dogs (NOT a bad thing) which left my reading to a minimal amount – I only finished 2 books and started a 3rd. Usually, I get through 4 in the week… stay tuned for reviews.

Of course, gas prices rising more than 70 cents per gallon in NC while we were there, coupled with a $30 limit per purchase, wasn’t fun. We went from a fill-up of the Pathfinder being $42 to over $60. But that pales in comparison to…

The Ugly

How else can you describe the disaster that unfolded while we were down there. No, I’m not talking about the Phillies or my fantasy draft, but the Mother of All Bad Hurricanes, Katrina. I’m still in awe of the devestation she caused. New Orleans as the city I visited no longer exists. Luckily, the historic French Quarter escaped relatively unscathed, but most of the rest of the city will need to be razed and rebuilt. The pictures and descriptions were bad enough, but the stories were worse. The lack of substantial aid by the government (point of note – I didn’t elect this boob), aid workers being unable to get to those who needed help, the huge scale of destruction. Even worse, to see the depravity of what was happening down there after the storm turned my stomach. The looting was bad enough (just what the hell are these people going to do with those 3 new TVs they stole – considering they have no home, no power … oh, and no broadcasts), but to hear about rescuers being shot at is deplorable. As far as I’m concerned, if you fire upon a military rescue helicopter, you’re fair game for a bullet between the eyes yourself.

And New Orleans isn’t the only place that was wiped from the face of the earth by the storm. Small towns in Mississippi and Louisiana were crushed by the storm and the accompanying 20+ foot storm surge. You hear less about them, but this note from Van’s cousin drove it home for me. Other stories I have read detail entire towns being wiped out. Those that were trapped are probably dead, and many of those bodies will probably never be recovered.

I’m sad at everything I see, everything I read. I don’t have rescue experience, I’m not a doctor and I don’t have the skills to help out down there, but I can donate, and so can you. Please donate if you can.

Katrina Links


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