Rock on

I’ve recently returned from a trip to North Carolina, and my experiment with posting from my phone wasn’t a particularly resounding success. The pictures looked fine on a three-inch screen, but blown up in all its PC glory, the blog came off a bit puny.

So now I’m subjecting you to the afternoon I spent with my two boys in Chimney Rock, NC, which is moderately famous for having been the location for many of the scenes in Last of the Mohicans. (The main attraction of this film, though, as every red-blooded American woman knows, is Daniel Day-Lewis. Sooo much sexier than Abraham Lincoln, and I’m speaking as someone who almost majored in history.)

Anyhoo, juicy Hawkeye notwithstanding, the scenery of Western North Carolina is beautiful, and equipped with camera and offspring, we ventured out to view some of it.

Here is the aforementioned Chimney Rock, around which a state park has been constructed.

It’s large, don’t get me wrong, and somewhat more impressive than this picture presents.

Of much more interest to the members of our little party, though, was the Broad River, which runs alongside the road leading to Chimney Rock Park and behind the row of shops and tiny tourist cottages that line it. (Not to be confused, by the way, with the French Broad River, which sounds as though it were named for a character in Moulin Rouge!)

The trees may be bare but the weather was warm, and much time was spent hanging out on the rocks and skipping stones.

Also posing for photo ops. He was, he informed me, sitting as he would for a school picture, but with a real backdrop.

Older brother decided to go with a Mohicans stance.

It might have been only early spring, but there was quite a bit of evidence of new life along the river. Here we found some lamb’s ear growing wild. Though I didn’t include anything in the photo to provide scale, you’ll have to trust me that this was about the size of a cabbage.

Nearby was a bush struggling with some new growth.

Speaking of growth, growing boys need to touch, jump, run, and otherwise terrify their mothers around rushing water.

I know this doesn’t look all that scary from your safe vantage point there in front of your computer screen, but trust me, he’s running.

After some quality time on the river, we crossed this actual rock bridge (not a particularly unusual sight if  you’ve been to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, but still, this was a nice example) and made our way to Cutseyville.

Here is one of the sights you may behold in Chimney Rock, instruments of torture!

I lie; they are pieces of antique rock-climbing equipment. Nobody expects the Spanish Rock-Climbing Equipment!

We stopped by Chimney Rock Gemstone Mine, a nice little store featuring rocks of all sorts, some wrought into jewelry, others laying about for the simple admiring. Now, Trassie, when he’s not scaring me to death by leaping across uneven terrain, can be found playing Minecraft, an interesting single- or multi-user game that’s been described as “Legos for adults.” As the name suggests, the Minecraft world requires a lot of mining, in addition to building, so naturally Trassie is interested in rocks and gems.

He is the proud new owner of a hunk of emerald calcite, which he paid for with his Own Money. (Amusingly, at least to me, that link goes to a site called Kids Love Rocks.)

Not to be outdone, Christopher also made an Own Money purchase, but I didn’t have a presence of mind to document his acquisition of a deadly weapon, er, pocket knife. Is is, however, an “assisted open” knife, which as best I can tell is a polite term for “legal switchblade.” He’s been mockingly threatening to cut me ever since, and every time he says it, I hear Rocky saying “cut me, Mick.”

Documentation of this trip wouldn’t be complete without some evidence of my presence, so here for your admiration is a shot of me loafing on a rock, clad of course in my most comfortable boots.

As it turns out, they aren’t a particularly good choice for sure-footedness on slippery river rocks but who cares? I LOOKED GOOD.

And no trip with two sons would be complete without snickering at something. In our case, it was one of the stores in the village, which proudly presents, in cartoon form, a happy Chimney Rock. As I began snapping away for this photo, Trassie started to ask why I was taking a picture of the store, but the words died on his lips and he collapsed into a fit of snickering worthy of someone who can’t say “balls” or “nuts” without extended periods of mirth. Yes, we all three stood in the street laughing like 15-year-old boys, and only one of us had an excuse.

Yes, I am the mother of boys.

We never did make it to the boot store; a closed Harley shop promised it had another store somewhere along the (one) road through town, but I never saw it. Which means of course it doesn’t exist, for can you believe there was a shoe store within a few hundred yards that I couldn’t smell out? Of course not. So no new boots or boot yearning for me. Although I did notice, upon our return to Lexington, an billboard advertising a boot store with a gorgeous pair of Luccheses about a mile high.

But I digress.

I took more silly pictures of the boys.

And a little more scenery.

We got some cokes at the Ye Olde Store and we felt we had DONE Chimney Rock.

Let me tell you: We had a ball.

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Big shoes to fill

Yesterday morning I was astonished to hear, along with the rest the world, via my AP News app on my phone that Benedict XVI is parking the Popemobile — permanently.

It seems unreal. Popes don’t resign! Popes pope until they poop out. There’s HISTORY here! Not since 1415 has one of them just decided, “eh, I’ve had enough of this gig. I no longer wish to preside over my own country and live in the Freaking Vatican.”

“Also, I wish for my head to be removed from the Pope Room tables at Buca di Beppo.”

Seriously, how could you give that up?

And then there’s the red shoes. I know, I know. I’ve made this point before. So sue me — shoes are an absorbing topic. And look what I found at the Pope Shoes Tumblr. (Can you believe it? a Tumblr devoted to Pope shoes?)

HOLY HUARACHES, BENEDICT! Sandals or slip-ons, textured leather to smooth, St. Peter’s throne shall never run out of options!

The pontiff was given this selection when he was touring Mexico last March. I ask you — how does one literally walk away from a job where people give you rooms full of shoes just for showing up?

All kidding aside, it’s because of his advanced age that Benedict has decided to give up the Holy Ghost. Early speculation had it that he determined that Pope John Paul II’s long years of decline were not a history he wanted to repeat. Sayeth the Associated Press:

Declaring that he lacks the strength to do his job, Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign Feb. 28 – becoming the first pontiff to step down in 600 years. His decision sets the stage for a mid-March conclave to elect a new leader for a Roman Catholic Church in deep turmoil.

The 85-year-old pope dropped the bombshell in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest collaborators even though he had made clear previously that he would step down if he became too old or infirm to carry on.

In Benedict’s own words:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited” to the demands of being the pope, he told the cardinals.

“In order to govern the bark (ship) of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary – strengths which in the last few months, have deteriorated in me,” he said.

Now that everyone’s read The Davinci Code, there’s going to be several weeks of intense interest in Rome. Will plots be hatched? Will the fate of the world hinge on a decision of the College of Cardinals? Will Tom Hanks be involved?

We’ll all just have to wait for the other shoe to drop.

This is not a shameless bid for attention

Oh, who am I kidding. This is 2012 and this is the Internet. It’s all about the attention, baby

Today’s my birthday, and in a Facebook World that means everyone you’ve ever gazed for some unspecified minimum of time — both in actual real life and cyberspace — qualifies for Friend Status and thus wishes you Happy Birthday.

This gives you the totally misguided notion that all these people actually remember your birthday, have it marked on their Cute Kitties wall calendar, and count down the days mentally til the day they can joyously wish you feliz cumpleaños, joyeux anniversaire, or 생일.

This year is not a Significant birthday, except in  my own little mind. For it is, dear readers, the last year I can claim a “4” in the tens place, the last year before what I’ve fondly decided to call the F Word enters my life, and the last year before I am required to submit to the regular maintenance indignity perpetrated upon the American public known as the colonoscopy.

Ah, that’s a fun thing to read with your morning coffee, no?

And seriously, I do not mind growing old, for I have my own personal old fart to grow old with. He’s a decade my senior, and like most Baby Boomers, has experienced every nuance of aging long before I ever got there, and so by this time, the whole thing is old hat. Gray hair? Yes, he’s got that in abundance, and he cheerfully reminds me how ever so much grayer it is since the day he married me. Some gray hairs have crept into my coif too, but I like to think of them as cheap highlighter, and pretend that I look this way on purpose.

Today I plan to do what I do best, which is crack jokes and preside as editor of a publication. I’ve been informed there will be an departmental Birthday Lunch and I have indicated I will attend. I am wearing with wild excitement the birthday gift Mr. Gray Hair presented me with this morning, a deliciously blingie  snake rope necklace, and, as always I am clad in cowboy boots.

My children are healthy, I’ve got a roof over my head, and there are doughnuts in the world. Happy birthday to me!

These boots were made for barfin’

You don’t have to tell me about it. I know.

I freely admit that I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at shoes on the several zillion Internet pages devoted to footwear.

I write frequently about the absorbing topic of shoes. I wear shoes — every single day — and notice, every single day, the shoes upon the feet of everyone I know and nearly everyone I encounter.

And since I like shoes so damned much, I rarely find a shoe that I absolutely abhor. Oh, I have tried to be a H8ER but somehow I’ve managed to round out my shoe wardrobe with Crocs and clogs alike … and so that you know I do have taste, let me state that they in no way make up the bulk of that wardrobe.

So anyway, it was with great surprise that a couple days ago I ran across a boot that was so hideous, so repellent, so transformationally butt-ugly that I not only gasped in horror when I saw them, I (and I do not say this lightly) I actually had a nightmare about them.

Run. Run for your lifeIt is true. Just look at these things, would you? They are the Vivienne Westwood Regent Boot and they retail for a whopping $725. Now, despite my professed love for shoes, I am truly not a haute couture shoe maven extraordinaire. No, those fashionistas who really know their stuff would no doubt laugh at my provincialism when it comes to high-end footwear. Oh, I would generally know a Christian Louboutin when I saw one, and for a while I got a weekly email from Ferragamo just so I could sigh over beauty that would never be mine. But honestly, I know very little about Vivienne Westwood, and a little Googling shows me that most of her stuff is a tad funky and even appealing, speaking as someone who strives for a look beyond the boring normal.

There’s nothing normal about the Regent Boot.

I can’t find a photo online of someone actually wearing this thing, but I have to believe the Caucasian-buff leg tone would make any wearer’s own gams look like East Germany female weightlifters’. I shudder to think what … what … toe would be conjured up by a startled onlooker to a gal garbed in the Regent. It is also amusing to think of what an African American lady might look like clad in these numbers. (Not that any black woman with taste would be caught dead in these boots — even with an appropriately shaded suede calf.)

The 4-inch heel, while interesting apart from its configuration as some sort of frightening faux-mule, just makes my blood run cold. Who wants the appearance of their very own heel to resemble that of a young orangutan fresh from the jungle?

So while most of my nightmares are much more run-of-the-mill — you know, a zombie here, a haunted house there — this boot was able to transcend such normal nightmare fodder and give me an actual footwear night terror. Which is really saying something given, as I say, how much I think about shoes.

I’m probably going to have to go back to that weekly Ferragamo newsletter to get over it.