A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Grabtown North Carolina’

Smithfield and Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Posted by graywacke on December 18, 2017

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2381; A Landing A Day blog post number 815.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (35o 41.452’N, 77o 57.975’W) puts me in Cen-E North Carolina:

My local landing map shows many, many towns, with my two titular towns highlighted:

My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of Contentnea Creek:

The creek discharges to the Neuse River (4th hit); as you can see, the Neuse makes it down to Pamlico Sound, behind the Outer Banks.

Google Earth (GE) gives me a good look at my landing location:

And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:

I also get a good look at Contentnea Creek (just downstream from the Reservoir):

And here ‘tis:

So, I had a really tough time looking for that illusive hook.  Check out all of those towns near my landing (especially Wilson), but no hooks.  I spent an inordinate amount of time in my search.  But I had to go further and further away, and ended up with two a little less-than-inspirational hooks.

So, I’ll start with Smithfield.  Wiki notes that Ava Gardner was born in nearby Grabtown.  I searched for Grabtown, but couldn’t find it anywhere, so I’ll just trust Wikipedia that it’s somewhere near Smithfield.

Here she is:

So, here’s a bulleted, all-about-Ava list (pretty much from Wiki):

  • Born in 1922 in the afore-mentioned Grabtown, wherever that is
  • Raised in near-poverty; spent one year in secretarial school in Wilson (very close to my landing)
  • While visiting a sister in New York City, Ava’s picture was taken by her brother-in-law, a professional photographer. The photograph was placed in the display window of the photographer’s studio.
  • Some dude who worked for Loews theater (and was connected with MGM studios) saw the picture, and said “somebody should send this picture to MGM.”
  • She was interviewed by Al Altman, head of MGM’s talent department, and, with cameras rolling, was instructed to walk towards the camera, turn and walk away, then rearrange some flowers in a vase.
  • There was no attempt to record her voice because her Southern accent made it almost impossible for New Yorkers to understand her.
  • After seeing the film clip, Louis B. Mayer, head of the studio, sent a telegram to Altman: “She can’t sing, she can’t act, she can’t talk. She’s terrific!”
  • MGM’s first order of business was to provide her with a speech coach, as her Carolina drawl was nearly incomprehensible to them.
  • After a slow start with minor movie roles in the 1940s, Ava began getting roles in major movies with leading men such as Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, Clark Gable and Kirk Douglas.
  • Her personal life was more interesting; she married:
    • Mickey Rooney in 1942, divorced one year later due to Rooney’s “serial adultery.”
    • Band leader Artie Shaw in 1945, divorced one year later.
    • Frank Sinatra in 1951. The marriage was “tumultuous,” and lasted only 5 years, although they remained close throughout her life.
  • Ava was also a good friend to Howard Hughes through the 40s and 50s.
  • After divorcing Sinatra, she also became good friends with Ernest Hemingway (she had starred in the movie “The Sun Also Rises,” an adoption of Hemingway’s novel of the same name.)
  • She died in 1986 at age 67, of complications from smoking her entire life.

Pretty much confirming the above, here’s a quick You Tube bio:


In the movie “Show Boat,” her voice was dubbed when she sang a song.  I don’t know why, based on this video of the original take, with her singing:


And here’s a You Tube video of her 1954 appearance on the TV show “What’s My Line?”.  This is great, must-see TV:


Now, we’ll move from well south of my landing to well north, and the town of Rocky Mount.  Wiki notes that Thelonious Monk was born in Rocky Mount.

As likely known by nearly all my readers, Thelonious was a well-known and very accomplished jazz pianist (he died in 1986).   As known by some of my readers, I am also a piano player, but (of course), of minor skill and accomplishment.

Try as I might, I’ve never been able to embrace jazz.  Not as a listener, let alone as a piano player.  I remember back when we boomers were moving into our 40s, it became de rigueur to haughtily say something like, “I’m not rejecting rock ‘n roll, but I’m migrating to jazz.”

Not me.  I will remain a back-beat rock ‘n roller for the rest of my life.  The only jazz I can enjoy is jazz played with a back-beat rhythm (which rarely happens). 

Bottom line:  I would normally not feature Thelonious Monk, but will in this post for two reasons:  First, I landed in an incredibly hookless area – in fact, I normally would not feature Ava Gardner.  Second, Thelonious Monk has such a cool name, made all the more cool by his awesome middle name:  Sphere.

That’s right.  His given name is Thelonious Sphere Monk.  From Wiki:

Thelonious Sphere Monk was born on October 10, 1917, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and was the son of Thelonious and Barbara Monk.  Although his birth certificate does not list his middle name, it is taken from his maternal grandfather, Sphere Batts.

Although I’m no jazz fan (and therefore not a Thelonious Monk fan), he was a compelling character.  Always troubled (and suffering from bipolar disorder), he was passionately stubborn about his music in spite of a lack of commercial success.

From The Guardian (a very recent Jazz Music blog post by Candace Allen, 11/7/17):

Countering those who found Monk’s percussive, splay-fingered playing style untutored and crude, Juilliard-trained composer Hall Overton was among those who understood Monk’s genius, explaining that he “adjusted his finger pressure on the keys the way baseball pitchers do to the ball to make its path bend, curve or dip in flight.”  Tenor player Johnny Griffin said Monk’s music “was like leaves on a tree. His music grew from nowhere else but inside of him.”

He was a dedicated family man who worried about providing for his wife and children, but couldn’t give an inch. When you understand the inside the outside will be just fine, he’d say. Get inside the music and listen. Meanwhile, gigs and recording cash passed him.

When wearied beyond his considerable limits by his misdiagnosed and ignorantly medicated bipolar condition, ceaseless financial woes, his recording company’s unrelenting demands and the deaths of too many friends, Monk, in 1975, embraced the comforting mysteries of permanent silence. Taking refuge in the Weehawken NJ home of long-time friend and patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, he stopped playing the piano, emerging only for neighborhood walkabouts until he suffered a stroke in February 1982.  The stroke that would prove fatal, and he died in the loving arms of his wife Nellie, 12 days later.

From The Guardian article, here are three pictures.  In New York City in 1947:

Also in New York, in 1959:

What’s he smokin?

With the Baroness Pannonica in New York in 1964:

Here’s a You Tube video of  “Round Midnight:”


I’ll close with this lovely GE Panoramio shot of Lake Wilson – just north of Wilson – by Scott Thompson:

I love it when the reflection is a richer, deeper, version of reality . . .

That’ll do it . . .




© 2017 A Landing A Day




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