My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 2

#14 4650 Bright Road, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

August 2001 – February 2002

Don’t get the wrong impression. Despite the address being Charlotte, this house was in the middle of the woods! It was in a spacious mobile home park. The park wasn’t the slightest bit crowded and nothing was in rows but tastefully higgledy-piggledy.

We had seen the advertisement in the paper. A single-wide mobile home was for sale. It was rundown and going for $1800! We went for a look and loved it. It would be fun to do up, so we bought it and moved in.

Well… um… it had cockroaches; not two or three cockroaches but thousands. We subsequently heard that the previous occupants used to tip their fatty frying pan waste on the ground just out the front door. I began scrubbing. All sorts of anti-cockroach baits were used. The numbers decreased a little. In the end we got in professional cockroach busters. It was a miracle! Within a couple of weeks there wasn’t a cockroach ever to be seen again.

I began painting inside, and sewing curtains. Eric, with his carpentry skills, began making pine window frames and edgings. Gradually, room by room, the place went from a dark brown hovel into a bright and sparkling abode! It really was a lovely house with three bedrooms, a sitting room, a dining room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Even the owner of the mobile home park came for a look and wanted to know what timber and paints and varnishes we had used to transform the place.

Our neighbours were interesting people. Paul, just across the way, worked at a nearby nuclear power plant. He was constantly high. If you needed to get drugs you could get them from the nuclear power plant! On many evenings he would bring home a prostitute, sometimes two or three, and leave them stranded when he left for work in the morning. With my car I got to know the road to Charlotte fairly well as I dropped them home. Paul would sometimes cook the most delicious “Boston Butt”*. It’s a recipe I still sometimes use to this day.

Another neighbour was Virgil. Virgil lived in a small, and from the outside rather rundown, mobile home in the corner of the park. He seemed a pleasant enough man, and would chat away about the weather and other such things when greeted. But you could tell by what he drove that he was rich! In fact he was the Cyclops (which is some sort of important position) in the KKK. He would apparently wear a purple robe. His entrance way was decorated with framed horrific photographs of black people hanging from trees. I saw the photos. The African American woman at the local drycleaners knew nothing of this. She cleaned his purple robe with a great deal of care, thinking him to be some sort of catholic bishop.

Eric not only was a top-class industrial chemist, but he spoke nine languages. The company he worked for was replacing their old fabric-dying machines with new state-of-the-art German ones. Multi-lingual Eric was sent to Germany to learn the process of using them. And, said I, having taken a little money out of the bank, take my bank card for the week away. You never know when you might need it.

There was one thing left to do in the bathroom renovations: a decent shower curtain. I got in the car to purchase one. As I hit the road there was a newsflash on the radio. 9/11. I turned the car around and went back home to watch things unfold on television. Unimportantly, but importantly nonetheless, Eric was stuck in Germany with my bank card! All flights were cancelled. Over the days I quickly ran out of money – and coffee. Neighbours wandered past and ask how I was doing. I said I’d kill for a cup of coffee. A large mug of coffee soon arrived!

After days of confusion Eric ended up in Amsterdam, spending his time going to van Gough exhibitions and the like. Eventually he made it back to Charlotte.

There were three small roads in our vicinity: Bright Road, Erly Road, and Bright and Erly Road. Bright and Erly had been settler families in the area. I love that!

We enjoyed our time very much at Bright Road. (I never knew that all those American deciduous trees could shed so many leaves! New Zealand native trees are evergreen). So many new experiences! Of course I had to occasionally fly to Canada and back to renew my visa. I was a tourist and in no recognized relationship to get residency. Sorry about that kindly American Readers, but that was the reality of the situation and one does as best as one can.

At work, Eric was promoted. The trouble was – it was in distant Asheville. We told the mobile park owner we had to move and he instantly bought our renovated house!

* Fall-Apart Boston Butt

 1 (4lb) Boston butt pork roast
 1/3 cup Worchestershire sauce
 3/4 cup light brown sugar
 1 cup apple juice

 Preheat oven 200°C. Lightly grease casserole or deep roasting dish.

 Soak Boston butt in Worchestershire sauce. Coat with brown sugar, pressing down to form a crust. Put in roasting pan. Pour apple juice in pan, not pouring over sugar-crusted roast. Cover pan tightly.

 Place roast in oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 100°C. Bake for about 5 hours. If the meat doesn't fall apart easily, cook for another half an hour.

 Note: this recipe can also be done in a crockpot. Put apple juice in the bottom of the crockpot and add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to the apple juice. Place the roast in. Set crockpot on high for 30 minutes, and then turn the setting to low and cook for 8 hours.

29 thoughts on “My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 2

  1. umashankar

    Your account is one of the finest picaresque accounts I have read. The colourful characters you have etched so vividly deserve full fledged novellas of their own. I was maddened by the thought how one could hand over one’s bank card to someone he has barely understood. I am sorry you have to leave the place.

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  2. badfinger20 (Max)

    This is exciting Bruce… I have to wonder how many times you two moved! I guess that kept life fresh…I’m anxious to find out.
    Roaches and the KKK…not a good start but it ended up good. Hope you two made a small profit anyway when you sold it.

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  3. The Hinoeuma

    Nice work on the trailer. BIG difference. It was lovely. The roaches, not so much. I can’t even imagine having to deal with that. ICK. I’ve had some “This End Up” furniture like that, too.

    Paul…McGuire Nuclear Station…Huntersville…Lake Norman. I have a good friend that lives in Mooresville. She and I met in Salemburg (Sampson County…eastern part of the state) as Driver License Examiners-in-training. She took me to Lake Norman and told me of the story of the old town that was flooded for it. Gotta have a body of water near a nuclear bomb…

    Virgil…oh dear god. It’s embarrassing to be a native North Carolinian with that crap.

    The Marine and I were in Virginia Beach when 9/11 happened. He had been at Camp Elmore (on the Norfolk Naval Base) that morning. He came home and told me that some idiot had just flown a plane into one of the Twin Towers. I’d been on the computer, job hunting. I immediately went to the TV. Just as I turned it on, I saw the second plane hit the second tower. The Marine was walking into the kitchen to make coffee. He got one foot onto the kitchen floor when the announcement came that the Pentagon had been hit. He abruptly stopped, pivoted, looked at me funny and said “I gotta go.” He dashed out the door and the base locked down. I don’t know what Def-Con rolled to but, the base went to Delta (threat level) from Alpha.

    Why couldn’t you renew your Visa in the US? Why Canada? Did you come to the US from New Zealand via Canada?

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    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Ha! I never thought of that. One thing I never mentioned was that the old oven exploded! There was glass and bits of meat everywhere! It didn’t make a big bang; it simply disintegrated. Fortunately the cockroaches had all gone at that stage.

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        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          No – I didn’t write about Tonga – but four of my year (12 in all) in the seminary were from Tonga – and we were locked in Novitiate for 365 days – as they did with RC religious novices in those days – so I got to know Tongans pretty well. Novitiate in those days had no contact with the “outside” world so us 12 have no other contact with any one. I wouldn’t swap the experience for anything! No radio, no TV no nothing other than ourselves. In fact we never got inside a building and it was bloody freezing!

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