Thursday, January 31, 2008

Carolina on My Mind

You can click here for the musical background for this entry.

In Chapel Hill yesterday we drove past the John Edwards campaign headquarters. Vans from all the networks were out front. We speculated that perhaps Edwards was giving up his presidential bid. It was only later in the hotel room, flipping through channels, we saw that this was correct.

Yesterday was our last morning in one of our favorite cities, Chapel Hill, NC. After this it is on to new territory and schools we'll encounter for the first time as we go south, south, south in search of the sun.

First stop: Southern Pines, NC.

The name "Southern Pines" to me suggests a restaurant or the sign on the entrance to a suburban subdivision. The subdivision of course would have not a pine in sight. Suburban neighborhoods are usually named for what was plowed down to make way for the split level dwellings.

The city Southern Pines, by contrast, is aptly named. The drive is pine-lined and in January the mild temperatures give it a summer camp feel. (We haven't seen it in August. Ask us about the weather then, we may have a different impression)

The route to Southern Pines took us along Jefferson Davis Parkway, named in honor of the president of the Confederacy. Had the South succeeded in seceding, he would be the George Washington of a different nation, and John Edwards might have been campaigning to be president of the Confederate States. Without competition from Hillary Clinton and Brack Obama, we might never have seen vans outside his campaign headquarters.

It got me to thinking about the whole question of leaving the United States to form your own nation. One story that came to mind was that of the sovereign state of Winneconne.

In 1967 Wisconsin map makers failed to notice the entire town of Winneconne—with a then population of 1,200. The residents were miffed at the oversight so they decided to secede from the state of Wisconsin. They declared war on July 22, 1967. The issued a declaration of independence and designed a flag. The flag featured the new state’s motto: “We like it—Where?” Surrounded by the village’s official flower, fish, bird and animal—poison ivy, sheepshead, dodo and skunk.

To raise revenue for the sovereign state of Winneconne they set up a toll bridge over the Wolf River. They unveiled all of this at a festive ceremony. At the end of the day, they had collected about seven dollars in tolls. They agreed to return to the state if certain demands were met including erection of a sign at the junction of U.S. 41 and Wisconsin 110 pointing the way to Winnecone and inclusion of the village in the 1968 official state road map. As an alternative, leaders said they would consider annexation by another state, preferably one with better weather.

Negotiations began immediately and by noon the next day Winneconne was once again part of the state. Wisconsin now has a law making it illegal to declare war against the state. That didn’t stop Winneconne from taking a stand against Canada in 1976. After being left out of the 1976 Rand McNally Road Atlas Winneconne sent a letter to the Canadian prime minister seeking political asylum because “Nobody wants us.” When the leader failed to respond the members of the “How Dare They Do This To Us Again Committee of the Sovereign State of Winneconne” announced a ban on all Canadian imports and seized a cart load of beer from the local grocery store. According to the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern the committee conceded that it is possible their letter seeking asylum was mailed to the wrong person.

In any case, we are pleased that North Carolina is part of the United States and that we did not need special visas to visit the Carolina Performance Arts Center.

The studio has a special relationship with Infinity Ballet, one of our old friends. which we visited the day before. The British-born Sue Peterson is the director at Carolina Performance Arts Center and the students are instructed in Royal Academy of Dance Style.

Most of the students in Southern Pines were wearing green leotards, I wondered if this had something to do with the whole pine theme. Before class, Sue Peterson, standing in front of a torturous looking pilates machine, introduced Valery by reading his credits from a bio sheet. She asked him some questions and he occasionally turned to me for clairafication. English to English translation is one of my special jobs.

The students had all been given name tags which refused to stick to the fabric of their leotards so by the end of the class the floor was plastered with stickers reading "Mary" and "Alexa" and so on. In all, it was a lovely area and a welcoming class and we hope to go back.