Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Yesterday evening RE/MAX Ocean Realty had their annual Christmas party. Over the past eleven years we’ve had some awesome parties because, whatever else you can say about a bunch of real estate agents, we know how to enjoy ourselves, especially when it involves free food and drink. But for me the occasion was bittersweet because my retirement date is fast approaching and I am sad to be leaving. I had hoped to get through the evening without tears but that was not to be. The owner of the company, John Stubbings, chose this occasion to say a few words about me. John lavished praise on me to the point of embarrassment, saying that I had done so much for the company and for him personally, following which the agents gave me a standing ovation. As the evening progressed, one agent after another came up to me and thanked me for everything I had done for them, telling me that they attribute their success in some way to the assistance I have provided over the years. To me, the assistance I provided was just part of my job; I was happy to help. But it became apparent to me that it meant much more than that to the people I helped.

One agent told me he was in a bad way when his marriage failed, and that I walked into his office and asked if he was OK and offered to listen if he needed to talk. He described it as the beginning of his being able to open up. Another associate reminded me how I had helped her learn Photoshop so she could manage her real estate web site. Several reminded me how I had patiently walked them through the decision to become a REMAX agent. Yet another reminded me how I had helped him study for his real estate exam. I had no idea. I really had no idea. I was astonished and humbled. And it really made me realize Read More

I’m what they refer to as a “short timer” now. Today, in preparation for my departure at the end of this month, I was replaced as Broker-In-Charge of my real estate firm. Feels weird. Up ’til now, I don’t think folks believed I was actually going to leave – everyone figured I’d change my mind. Now that it’s apparent I really am moving to Florida, everyone has started talking about how strange it is going to be not having me around. I’ve already had several goodbye lunches with friends and coworkers and every day gets just a little harder. Leaving the Outer Banks will not be especially difficult but leaving the people is another thing entirely. I have made such wonderful friends here during the past 11 years and I will miss everyone so much.

Late this afternoon, Colleen, a fellow agent who used to be my real estate assistant and is now a successful Broker in her own right, rushed into my office, plunked a shopping bag down on my desk, then rushed out saying she couldn’t watch me open it because she would cry. Instead, I sat all alone in the deserted building and dug through wads of multi-colored tissue paper to find a wall plaque containing the following verse: Read More

I am going to LOVE living in Sarasota! My apartment is five blocks from downtown and within walking distance of a huge Whole Foods Market, the main library, a 20-plex cinema, my bank headquarters, the Van Wesel Performing Arts Center, the Opera, the Symphony, at least 5 playhouses and probably 50 restaurants. The apartment is also only a few blocks from the bridge leading to Lido Beach on St. Armands Circle – close enough for me to bike to.

Blue clown sculpture in Sarasota Florida

Blue clown sculpture in Sarasota Florida

Butterfly clown sculpture in Sarasota Florida

Butterfly clown sculpture in Sarasota Florida

But the thing that strikes me most are the clowns of Sarasota. All around town are life size statues of clowns figures that have been painted and decorated by local artists. Since Sarasota was the traditional home of the Ringling Brothers Circus, and the Ringling family has been a tremendous benefactor of the city for many years, the clown theme makes sense. After being displayed for a time, the figures will be auctioned off to generate donations for a local children’s charity. What fun!

They say that the three most mistrusted professions in the world are car salesmen, real estate agents, and lawyers. Now, being a real estate agent myself, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that all real estate agents are lowlifes. There are a lot of good agents – great agents, in fact. Of course, there are a lot of very bad agents as well. As for lawyers I can’t make generalizations, since I have the world’s greatest attorney, Jay Wheless, here on the Outer Banks. And until this recent experience of buying a car, I would have said that there are a lot of good car salesmen, too, because I have been fortunate to have a relationship with Hal Chappell at Biggs GMC in Elizabeth City (Hal is wonderful!) But after this experience I have to believe that the good car salesman is an exception. I think the majority of them must be grown in pods where subliminal sleazy sales training techniques are endlessly broadcast during the cocooning process. When mature, these salesmen and women burst forth in all their glory, fully prepared to do whatever it takes to bully the customer into buying a a new car.

Toyota RAV4 in sage green

Toyota RAV4

My search for a Toyota Rav4 took me to five different dealerships in three different states. The closest North Carolina dealer is in Elizabeth City, which is an hour away from the Outer Banks, so I decided to call first and see if they had what I was looking for. I got some yahoo on the line who talked in circles and couldn’t give me a straight answer to any of my questions, so I decided I’d better make the hour drive and talk to someone face-to-face. “So, Ted (not his real name), what hours are you open?” “I’ll be here until eight tonight,” he replied. I tried again: “Well, I don’t know if I can come tonight – what are the dealership’s hours of operation?” “I’ll be here tomorrow and Wednesday,” he answered. Getting frustrated now, I became just a tad sarcastic: “Let me put it this way, Ted, is the dealership open seven days a week?” “I don’t work seven days a week,” he said. I gave up. “OK, Barbie – see you when you come in,” he said (I had introduced myself as Barbara). And this guy really thinks I’m gonna buy a $24,000 CAR from him?????

Time for Plan B. There are multiple Toyota dealers in the Tidewater area of Virginia, which is only an hour and a half from the Outer Banks. I hit the phones again. Read More

I’ve been working on my newest project for about ten days now and I have no one to blame but myself. I always think, “If I can just finish this job or that project, I’ll have more time and less stress in my life.” But the moment I scratch a few things off the list and have some free time, I scramble to take on another project. What’s up with that? It’s almost as if I WANT stress in my life – or maybe I just don’t know how to relax.

William W. Weibel, my Dad


Ten days ago (no doubt on a day when I had cleared the decks, so to speak, of all immediate projects and was wondering what to do with myself) I got the harebrained idea to buy my 81 year-old father an iPod for Christmas. This is not as crazy as it sounds. Like me, my father loves music. During the summer his stereo is on all day long – sometimes he even goes to bed and forgets to turn it off. I use the term “stereo” loosely. My two sisters and I try to keep Dad updated and “with it” but his stereo consists of an old 5-disk CD changer that doesn’t support mp3s and an even older turntable. So I figured that I could convert all his CDs to mp3s, load them on an iPod, buy a set of speakers with a dock and – Voila! – Dad would have access to a couple of thousand songs that he could listen to endlessly without having to change CDs.

My only problem was how to get my hands on his CD’s. I knew if I just leveled with him I would have a huge fight on my hands. Some years ago my sisters bought Mom and Dad a computer for their 50th Anniversary. Dad came unglued – ranted and raved for weeks that it was a waste of money, that it would never be used, etc. When he finally ran out of steam and accepted the fact that there was a computer in the house and it wasn’t going anywhere, he slowly (and on the sly) began learning how to use it. Now, some years and three computers later, Read More

Mother Nature put on a show today. It started this morning when I awoke to blessed sunshine pouring through my open bedroom windows. Normally my windows wouldn’t be open in December, but we’re having a mild spell (it got up to 75 degrees today) so I took advantage of it to enjoy the last hurrah before winter comes crashing in.

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

I finally made myself crawl out from under my nice warm down comforter and was stretching in the sunshine when I heard an unusual bird call. Perched in the very top of the tree closest to my rear deck was the largest Pileated Woodpecker I have ever seen. When I was younger I used to watch Woody Woodpecker cartoons. It wasn’t until I moved to the Outer Banks and saw my first Pileated, with its big red head and pointed head feathers, that I realized the cartoon character was based on an actual bird. I’ve only seen one other Pileated Woodpecker, some years ago, but I should have recognized it from its call alone – Ha-Ha-Ha-HA-ha! – just like good ol’ Woody. For those of you who are too young to remember Woody Woodpecker (am I dating myself??), here’s a photo of a Pileated Woodpecker, although it is not a photo I took.
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