NCCAT Writer’s Conference-Day Three
Taking the role of a large phallic symbol for a poetry performance can be a jarring way to start your morning. The possibilities to a day that starts in such a manner are endless. Day three was truly varied. The activities for the seminar featured a wide variety and not a single one was a wasted effort, requiring only that the participant find their own application and level of interest. Granted, ‘living phallic symbol’ is a tough one to come to grips with but certainly not boring. Neither was the day.
At the end of day two, “the notes” had a chance to slip away for a few drinks in another place that was certainly not boring. Doug and Judy Eifert, part of ‘the Steeler Nation’, moved down from PA to Ocracoke and eventually opened their restaurant and pub “Dajio”–Doug And Judy In Ocracoke. From the curb, their place is tucked in nicely with the foliage and has a quaint and elegantly shabby appeal. The pub side that is open in winter has the prerequisite albums of Bob Marley that are up in any self-respecting beach bar. It’s patrons are as friendly as you hoped they would be. Daniel Isbreht and his buddy Chris walked in to shoot some pool and found themselves cornered by “the notes” and openly talking surf spots and wave travels. Daniel was genuine in having a chance to share some lore and local knowledge. When asked if they were worried they might give away some well-guarded secret, Chris could barely stop laughing. He backwashed a little in his own beer. “Around here,” Daniel explained, “we look for other people to surf with. There isn’t anyone else.” Do they get waves? Yeah, they get
waves. Sometimes great waves. Though it would be hard to have a bad time with the locals of the Ocracoke line-up. Conditions are fickle. No, really. Like most places on the East Coast, storm season and weather events create the best chance for solid surf. It’s no Shangri-la, they work hard to find the bars and keep an eye on the wind. It does have its payoffs. Hurrricane Bill, decent in most places, really stood out in Ocracoke.
Although the number of local and regular surfers may be small, they have a history and scene all their own. There are two long-standing shops on the island, Ride the Wind and BW’s. Right at the junction of Rt. 12 is the Ride the Wind surf and sail shop, which got the local nod from the bartender though both were praised. BW’s is the longer running of the two. The shop started in 1973 as the island’s first clothing retailer and in 1982 became the first surf shop. The enterprise was owned by Guy and Sally Newell before being taken over by their son, Brian Walters Newell, as a surf shop in 2005. Starting as a 147 square foot retail shop, it has grown and just recently moved to a new location along Rt. 12. Brian and Allison Newman were in putting the new gear together (as well as placing the highly coveted Birdwells shorts) and were as open to sharing their love of the surf as Daniel was and every bit as passionate as Captain Temple, Fiddlin’ Dave or even Kathy Hutchirson who runs a local grocery. Kathy greeted customers in the morning while reposed in a rocking chair. Discussion was made of the weather and family before anyone went about actually buying items. Kinda like going over to your aunt’s or uncle’s house and there being rows of merchandise and groceries too. Daniel, Brian and Allison were just a welcoming. They shared stories and tips and general nostalgia over the role of surfing on the island. Like Daniel, they too are well-travelled. Daniel gave stories of Mexico and Costa Rica while Brian and Allison talked of Sri Lanka (look for a new feature on Ocracoke surfing coming to print or “pages” very soon). All had history and tales. Brian was featured in Surfer Magazine opposite a page of then-12-year-old Kelly Slater (an east coast feature on storm surf entitled “Cold Fronts of Fury”). AS the opening to any good sea tale goes, “Now this here ain’t no lie.” Brian can tell you about the largest wave ridden (and witnessed-a big deal if you’re always surfing by yourself) by Howard Bennet and attested by his father Guy. While the chance to sneak to Buxton may not happen, “the notes” scouted a few likely sandbars for morning and any swell that may be left. What is there to say? After listening to such passion you got to give it a try.
The last session of the evening today featured another member of this amazing community out in the Atlantic. Marcy Brenner is a singer songwriter, who along with her husband, Lou Castro, and a host of friends have made a life within the island as musicians. She has been in films like Nights in Rodanthe and featured in the award-winning documentary Dead Girl Walking (click link for trailer and website) about her own life. Her songs are full of honest sentiment and true moments that are sometimes matched in opposite. Like the musical frame work of the title track Dead Girl Walking which has a bouncy little mandolin rhythm(composed on the ferry ride) and juxtaposed against the lyrics confessing a stronger sentiment of a life-awakening event backed by stronger melody. Marcy moved to the island in 1998 after leaving behind a life for which she found herself ill-suited and unfulfilled, battled through cancer and surgery, to now she is a full-time professional musician in a number of bands and projects. She is a regular feature at the Deepwater Theater on Ocracoke. When not there is abroad with her new documentary or her band Molasses Creek–named after the creek near the couple’s home (click on link for more). The audience in the main seminar room of NCCAT was captivated as she spoke openly and sang beautifully. No less entertained than any experience offered thus far, but definitely captivated (when the trailer of the documentary was over there were few dry eyes in the house). Listen for yourself at Soundside Records (click on the link for more). Ms. Brenner stayed late into the evening picking and signing with the musicians at the conference and chatting with the rest of us. A rare and welcomed opportunity.
This small community is a remarkable place. Those like Captain Rob to Fiddlin’ Dave, Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro and residents like Brian Newell and Daniel Isbreht are lucky to know an island of such personality and character. They are lucky to have the space to bring them all together or the respect to go about their day. I don’t live here and can’t drive past someone but they wave or nod hello. Probably because they didn’t see the morning’s performance poetry. A good day for starting as a phallus.
For the rest of the Day Three photos click below:
Tomorrow is a trip to Portsmouth Island with two long time residents of the island and a chance to step back in time several decades.
Keep checking for updates on full versions of all these stories and places you can find them in print.