For me, Saturday was a bright blue reminder of why we’re so lucky to live in Chapel Hill. Compared to other places, it’s just so easy and friendly.
Went out to get the paper and on the way in I saw my right rear tire was almost flat. It’s a brand new tire, so something weird must have happened. I used my stand-up bicycle pump, pretending I was detonating old buildings, until the tire was hard enough to endure the drive down to Eastgate BP.
There, the nice older attendant helped me unravel the air hose and asked what happened. I told him and he said, “Start the car and roll it a few feet forward and a few feet back, and leave the window open so I can tell you when to stop.”
I did what he said, and when he yelled “OK” I got out of the car. He pointed to a silver nail I had picked up in the brand new tread. “Can you fix it?” I asked.
He nodded. “Can I wait for it?”
“Fifteen, 20 minutes,” he said. “Wait inside where it’s warm.”
I told him I had a few things to do in Eastgate, so I’d be back.
I really didn’t since my mission was to get my tire inflated and/or fixed and pick up breakfast, but off I went, window shopping down the long side of the strip mall that has successfully reinvented itself for half a century. Passed Massage Envy, the Loop, Doncaster, Radio Shack and, finally, into one of my favorite stores, Steinmart. (Yes, I like brand names at the lowest possible prices).
Killing time, I went to the back and the sport coats and suits. Nothing in my exact size that caught my eye. On the way out, I stopped at the round racks with the 30% and 50% off signs on top. Quickly, sliding through the medium and large sections, I came across one of those smooth, elegant sport jackets that you immediately know is a Ralph Lauren.
“What’s that doing here?” I thought, since the Lauren stuff is usually at the back in the “high priced” section. I pulled up the left sleeve to see what size it was. 42 SHORT! Then I hunted for the Steinmart price tag, hanging somewhere. I was astonished. Sold retail anywhere else for $295, the original printed number had been marked down three times in red ink. The last price was 89 bucks.
I pulled out the jacket, checked it thoroughly for any imperfections and tried it on to make sure the size was marked correctly. Perfect fit. I took it up front and the very nice cashier asked if I had a Steinmart member card. I did, but it wasn’t in my wallet.
“Do you have a smart phone?” she asked. I said yes, without telling her I was too dumb to know everything it can do. She said to go on line and to their website and click on coupons, and I could get an additional 20 percent off. I did it, she scanned it and I walked out with a perfect $300 Lauren jacket for $71. What a country!
Returning to Eastgate BP, the car was sitting outside, ready to go. Pulling out the nail and plugging the hole cost 15 bucks, far better than a $200 new tire. Off I went, feeling like the luckiest guy in the world (or at least the east side of Chapel Hill).
Next stop was Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, where on weekend mornings the right lane of Franklin Street is usually backed up with cars waiting to get into the drive-through line. Instead of waiting, I looped around into the parking lot and decided to go inside and place my order. You can always count on a group of bleary-eyed students having an impromptu breakfast tailgate, and there they were.
Sunrise is one of Chapel Hill’s treasures, basically a shack with made-on-the-spot cinnamon rolls to die for and every kind of biscuit and sandwich you could want. The place is a throwback and always reminds me of Brady’s, which sat for years on the other side of Estes Drive, where the Siena is now. No one seems to mind that the line of cars closes off one lane of Franklin Street on many mornings.
Inside, I was amazed again how eight employees can fit into the small space and produce so much food so quickly. I watched my personal cinnamon roll be shaped, sprinkled and lathered with icing before it went into the oven. In a matter of minutes, I was on the way with my favorite 5-dollar to-go breakfast, a cinnamon roll, bacon and egg biscuit and hot chocolate.
At home, I sat down to watch the Ohio State-South Carolina game but was soon scanning the Time Warner Cable digital menu, which is not good for someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (OK, I’m outed). But the bank of HBO HD channels had the original movie M*A*S*H starting right now!
I wanted to see, after 42 years, if the movie held up as one of the funniest flicks ever made. It did and was actually funnier than I remember – thanks to a big flat screen and enhanced audio. I laughed and cackled through two hours of Hawkeye (Donald Sutherland), Trapper John (Elliott Gould), “Hot Lips” O’Houlihan (Sally Kellerman) and the rest of the wild, wacko cast, plus the so politically incorrect football game at the end that could never be shot today.
By 2 p.m., the temperature was warm enough for a bike ride, and on the weekends my route is about a 10-mile trek through the beautiful trails behind Finley Golf Course, where walkers, joggers and bikers can take their time and create their own loops. With Pandora radio on the Springsteen channel, you can quickly forget you are anywhere near anything. On the way in and out, I passed those gallant golfers working on their games at the Finley practice range in high-40’s weather.
At sunset, we lit our Christmas luminaries that had been laid out all over Meadowmont, and while it takes days to fill the bags with sand and candles, the 12 hours or so they last is simply spectacular. Jan and I drove through the neighborhood to check them all out.
It wasn’t even 6 o’clock yet. And there was still Carolina Basketball to come.