Thursday, April 30, 2009

Riverrun again

We took my son Nate to see the classic 1928 Harold Lloyd comedy film Speedy, which was the final event of the 2009 Riverrun International Film Festival. The presentation was exceptionally interesting because of the musical accompaniment provided by the Alloy Orchestra. The synchronization of the music with the action on the screen was so good that it was easy to forget that the music was live. There was a baseball subtheme, with Babe Ruth in a funny cameo. (Yankee Stadium - the real one - also had a cameo role.) The restored print of the film was surprisingly "clean." I liked the opportunity Riverrun provided to see a bit of the NC School of the Arts campus. Jon found the parking signs in the parking lot of the Gateway Y a bit ambiguous. Do they mean "no parking at all" or "no parking except for those attending Riverrun?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More Walk-N-Wheels

Summit students once again bravely headed out on foot or bike to school...with an escort of parents, teachers, and a police officer to help them cross Reynolda Road. Despite the largely symbolic nature of this effort (for example, my son Nate and I have to drive past Summit School to get to the meet-up place), I am impressed that 261 Summit students (almost 45% of the student body population) did not arrive by car last Wednesday. I learned that the correct term for those who walk or bike to school or work is "active commuter." The number of "active commuters" looks even higher today than it was last week. I liked seeing the students walking across the church parking lot with the yellow pedestrian sign lurking at the edge of the photo, but it was hard to find a car-free interval in which to snap a good picture.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Another walk, another obelisk

Monday evening's walk was highly productive, despite a near-lethal tree pollen count. We re-located Traemor (it's closer to Jefferson Middle School than we originally thought). Susan still likes it because of its smaller houses, attractive brick facades, and new-urbanish feel (houses close together! a back alley! sidewalks!), but has two additional comments. First, it is now clear to her that Traemor's charm is enhanced by the surrounding developments being so unlovely; second, despite having a neighborly plan, Traemor was devoid of life this fine spring evening. Possibly it is simply too perfect to live in? While pondering the lessons of Traemor, we spied an obelisk in the cemetary of the Mount Tabor United Methodist Church on Robinhood Road. This attractive obelisk dates from the 1920s, but the cemetary turned out to be much older and more interesting than someone who occasionally drives by would imagine. This will be worth a return visit.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The mailboxes of Winston-Salem

No walk on Sunday because we went to the RiverRun International Film Festival and saw the excellent Goodbye Solo, directed by Winston-Salem native, Ramin Bahrani. It was an added treat that this film was shot almost entirely in Winston-Salem. (Even better, the film's website provides an online map that pinpoints the key locations in the film.) So today's post introduces a continuing theme of this blog: mailboxes. This is a rich topic because there are mysteries surrounding the implementation of regulations related to mailboxes (curbside vs. doorside?) and because some homeowners take the challenge of personalizing their mailboxes very seriously. Jon turns out to have a knack for capturing the essence of mailboxes in pleasing photographs. We saw this mailbox on one of our first walks this spring.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Oodles of obelisks

My son Nate and I found two more obelisks this morning, hidden in plain view. Here's a photo of the yellow one. We also successfully tracked our Sunday walk. It would be interesting to know the function of these obelisks...I can see that Jon also walked right past them this morning.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

No time to walk

The title of this post is not entirely accurate, as Jon is managing to squeeze in a walk almost every day. But the WFU Spring Dance Concert and Friday wine kept us off the streets of Winston-Salem last night, so here is the end of the tale of the Winston-Salem obelisk.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Turtle days...

If you enjoy viewing and photographing wildlife, the boggiest, swampiest parts of Reynolda Gardens are now overflowing with turtles large and small. Professor Miles Silman of the WFU Department of Biology told me today that they are yellow-bellied sliders (Trachemys scripta). The proper name for a turtle's bottom shell is plastron, so if you could get close enough to turn one of these turtles over, you should see a yellow plastron. The biggest yellow-bellied sliders at Reynolda are probably 20 or 30 years old. As the photo shows, Jon was much more successful at turtle photography on his Thursday walk than I was a day earlier, although his Path Tracker ap failed him once again (I'm not blaming the turtles).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A visit to the Winston-Salem obelisk

No walk on Wednesday because we went to see a dance performance by Alban Elved, which collaborates with dance programs at area high schools. The performance was at the Reynolds Auditorium, and this gave us an opportunity to re-visit one of last summer's discoveries, the Winston-Salem obelisk. Obelisks were first used as monuments in ancient Egypt. The oldest surviving Egyptian obelisk is found at the site of the ancient city of Heliopolis, and was erected around 1900 BCE. The world's tallest obelisk is the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., erected in 1884. We suspect that there are other obelisks in Winston-Salem (most likely in cemetaries or hidden in gardens) but haven't yet found any. What is an obelisk? It is simply a tall stone pillar having a rectangular cross section that tapers towards a pyramidal top, although some definitions specify that a true obelisk must be monolithic (which this one seems to be). Jon took this photo the evening of July 17, 2008. The origin of the Winston-Salem obelisk will be revealed in a later post.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Path Tracker can be imperfect, walking to Summit, and the shyness of turtles

Tuesday evening's walk fell short on two counts. We set out in search of "Traemor," a small development we discovered last year. For various reasons that will be expanded upon in a future post, Susan considers this the most desirable neighborhood in Winston-Salem. But we could not relocate it - that is, it clearly isn't where we think it is - and had to give up the search as darkness fell. Our dismay was compounded when we found that Path Tracker had utterly failed us and therefore we have no record of this walk: Here are two observations from Wednesday morning. First, Summit School students have been meeting on the Wake Forest campus every Wednesday morning in April to walk together to Summit School. Admirable (and fun) as this is, these little walks highlight one of Winston-Salem's shortcomings - the lack of pedestrian crossings over or under its parkways. Almost all of the children meeting in a campus parking lot these Wednesday mornings live close enough to Summit to walk or bike to school, but cannot do so because there is no way they can safely cross Silas Creek Parkway. Second, the turtles of Lake Katherine were out basking in the sun in unusually large numbers around 9 AM Wednesday morning. But all but one of the more than a dozen I initially saw immediately dove back into the water the moment I left the path to take a photograph.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Path Track is sometimes perfect

Jon is relentlessly using his iPhone Path Track ap. I am impressed by the quality of some of the "tracks" it captures. Yesterday evening we walked in a hurry before the rain in Reynolda Gardens. The Path Track record of our walk is very accurate. This is far superior to my original idea of using a fine-point black Sharpie on my laminated map of Winston-Salem. Here's the link to this track:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Many interesting things are hidden in plain view in Winston-Salem

This photograph is from a walk we took in the Ardmore neighborhood on the evening of September 4, 2008. I think this place is called the Alspaugh Cemetary, but further information would be very much appreciated. I like how Jon was able to capture the sun through the trees in the upper right of this photograph. The place was quiet, even somber, but we felt a little celebratory because, following a tip from a friend, we had been looking for this place off and on all summer.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What is this blog about?

Jon and Susan have been walking the streets of Winston-Salem for about a year. They typically walk in the evening, after Susan has finished listening to Marketplace on WFDD. If you had asked them at the time why they walked, they would have likely said to have an opportunity to exercise and get to know each other. But after only a few evenings of walking and talking, it became apparent that the walks were less about exercise and friendly conversation and more about the opportunity for close observation of a city that can be impartially described as "unwelcoming to pedestrians." By mid-summer they were walking and talking several hours most evenings of the week (with the exception of Fridays, which are set aside for wine on a year-round basis).

These walks dispelled Susan's strong initial impression that she and Jon were utterly incompatible, as they revealed the following. First, both are easily bored, so that they tend to keep moving and hence cover a lot of ground; also, by mutual agreement, they rarely cover the same ground twice. Second, both are more curious about the commonplace and ordinary than the exotic. Their tacit motto might be "the unexceptional is not uninteresting."

Jon and Susan walked miles and miles in Winston-Salem last summer. In the course of their walks they learned much about the city's past and the city as it is today. They sometimes feel that they can glimpse the Winston-Salem of the future. Jon frequently took photographs, but overall they did an extremely poor job keeping a record of their observations. This blog represents their attempt to keep better records in 2009.

Jon takes almost all of the photographs. Susan will write most of the blog entries. Because Susan purchased as many maps as possible when she moved to Winston-Salem in 2004, she owns the street atlas that was used to track the 2008 walks. This year Jon is using the Path Tracker ap on his iPhone to record the routes - not to see in advance where they are going, but to look back at where they have been.

The cul-de-sacs of Winston-Salem are calling...