“You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. ”

Beach Weekend

I love the beach. And while I certainly wouldn’t mind being closer, I appreciate that Wrightsville Beach is only two hours away down a wide open highway. That short distance makes Wrightsville a de facto destination for me and my wife when we need a short getaway or a long weekend at the beach. Naturally, we’ve picked up a few favorite spots over the years. After visiting a few weeks ago and then again last weekend, I decided it was time to document the tried and true routine that serves as the backdrop of almost every trip.

We usually make it into town around lunch time or a little after, and the first day we like to stop by South Beach Grill for lunch on our way to the beach. Overall I’d say the food is pretty decent – definitely unique and more than you’d expect from what you see on the outside. We love sitting out on the covered patio. The view of the adjacent thoroughfare isn’t ideal, but the road noise as terrible as you’d think and there’s a decent view of the sound and marshes that really shines if you happen to be dining during sundown.

The next stop for us is usually the beach. Wrightsville Beach has a pretty expansive beachfront – plenty of room even on busy days when limited parking helps control the crowd more than anything else. And the water speaks for itself. Last weekend, I was neck deep in the water and I could still see my feet.

After a couple of hours on the beach, we’re ready to check-in to our hotel, shower, then head out for dinner, leading us to perhaps the most polarizing recommendation: Oceanic. Oceanic is your typical popular destination restaurant; you know the type of place where if you told a local you were going there they would condescendingly roll their eyes or patronizingly tell you, “oh yeah it’s … good”. Here’s the thing – Oceanic, much like the name implies, has a monopoly on the best ocean view or pier dining experience in Wrightsville Beach. Even if you have to settle for a window seat inside, the view is fantastic and is worth whatever opinion you have of the food. Much like South Beach Grill, the food is decent. I won’t promise you the meal of your life, but if you like eating on a pier or outside in general, the outdoor seating at Oceanic is worth waiting for.

I’ve never been a nightlife guy, though occasionally, my wife and I will venture out to a cocktail bar for drinks. On one of our trips last year, we spent an evening in nearby downtown Wilmington and had some drinks at Manna Ave. Like anyone else these days, I’m into bourbon and I enjoyed the bourbon cocktails on the menu. Manna Ave also happens to be the bar that introduced me to my everyday bourbon, Eagle Rare.

With most of our trips ending late Sunday morning, our stop on the way out of town is Sweet & Savory. A friend of mine who grew up in Wilmington mentioned it to me a few years ago and it’s been a staple of our weekend getaways ever since. I love the omelettes, usually something southwest or veggie in nature. One time they had a special southwest themed omelette featuring black beans that changed the way I look at breakfast menus and black beans. Timing is everything, as there’s typically a wait, but I don’t think we’ve waited much longer than 20 minutes during the last couple of visits.

That’s a weekend trip to Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach for us in a nutshell. I’m terrible about falling into a routine and hitting up the same spots – especially when it’s a place I only visit a few times a year – so I’m sure there are ton of classic gems I’m overlooking. Not only that, the area is growing like crazy and probably spawning new and interesting spots to check out.

And There Are Two

Two of Raleigh’s best restaurants made Southern Living’s Top 100 Restaurants in the South. Poole’s Diner and Stanbury represent the City of Oaks but quite a few other Triangle and Elsewhere, North Carolina restaurants made the list so be sure to check out the list. It took me a long time to grow up and grow out of chain restaurants, but I don’t think I could have picked a better time to jump on the bandwagon. Poole’s Diner is a personal favorite of mine and has long been on my list to write about since starting this site but I can’t land on a narrative. Stanbury was recently recommended to me and I’ve been trying for a while to get out to Chapel Hill to try Lantern. Mmmm, food is good.

(Hat tip: New Raleigh)

O Me! O Life!

My favorite movie of all time is Good Will Hunting. Forgive my ignorance, movie aficionados, but like most sentimental favorites it was the right screenplay, starring the right people, hitting a particular stride at a particular moment in the marathon of my life. Most notable among them was Robin Williams, who previously primarily occupied only the funny bone in my mind’s eye of his collective body of work. Hook, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Comic Relief specials on HBO and what little memory I have of Mork and Mindy reruns informed my early impression of a performer who would later gain much more of my adoration and respect. I know his early work from Dead Poet Society now, but I did not know it then. I am all the more appreciative today that Apple so elegantly reminded me of it earlier this year.

How apropos that we have such a memory, never more than a quick search away, of such a man reciting the eloquent words of Whitman. Robin Williams, a man who breathed invigorating life into moments subdued and moments electric. He was a man who could take over a scene with “phenomenal cosmic power” or deliver it with the delicacy, and constraint of an “itty bitty living space”. Just give the man the moment, and he contributed his verse. Dear Robin, thank you for being here.

Hair of the Dog

As many of us try to recover from the World Cup hangover there is no greater cure than the Premier League (EPL), which kicks off Saturday, August 16th. With the TV rights migrating to NBC Sports last year there is no reason to miss any of the action as every match is now broadcast on the NBC family of networks. Gone are the days of only seeing United or Arsenal on an early fall morning. You can now look up Leicester City on a map and become a Fox, or become a fan of the club no one knows is in London, Crystal Palace. I am of course a fan of the bandwagon express, Manchester United, due in large part to the fact that when I began watching the Champions League in the late 90’s they were the only team on ESPN. Enough defending my fandom, its time to move on to the season at hand. As you may or may not know, I hate prediction columns, even if I am better than average. There will be plenty of predictions columns out there so I will simply give you the top 4 and the bottom 3 (I’d recommend against selecting a team from the bottom 3)

Top 4

1. Chelsea – They have made some smart buys (Fabergas, Costa, and Luis) and some head scratchers (Drogba on a free), but they have the best manager and weren’t far off last year. The re-signing of Matic should give them some grit in the midfield which is always the fulcrum for the Special One’s special teams.

2. Manchester City – The noisy neighbors lifted the trophy last year and have done nothing to hint at a dip in form. They also have Yaya and as long as he is making his marauding runs through the midfield I will be scared, very scared. I just think Chelsea have done a little more.

3. Arsenal – They have made the most noise in the offseason adding Chile star Alexis Sanchez and Debuchy to provide cover. If they can find a way to sign Sami Khedira, I believe they can challenge for the top 2. Wenger is still a great manager and he always finds a way to play beautiful football.

4. Manchester United – After the unmitigated disaster that was David Moyes 10 month tenure, the crazy Louis Van Gaal takes the helm. He is a nut and will give Mourinho’s ego a run for its money (this guy claimed he was responsible for Argentina’s Sergio Romero making the key penalty saves in the World Cup Semi’s since he coached him in the Netherlands 10 years earlier), but he is quality. Rooney is at the top of his game and they have added Luke Shaw and the one that got away last year in Ander Herrera. These signings along with a couple more that are surely to follow should give United enough to sneak back into the top 4.

Just Missing Out – Liverpool (No Suarez), Tottenham (they are Tottenham), Everton ($45m for Lukaku?)

Bottom 3

While no one wants to be a part of the relegation fight, it often produces some of the year’s best matches. Generally, two of the promoted teams get sucked back down and one will survive to fight in the top flight one more year.

18. Southampton – This is the trickiest of the predictions as I am tipping QPR to stay up at the southern club’s expense. We still don’t know what they will do with the bags of cash they have received from their fire sale, but we know they will have to pay a premium for whatever they buy. It will take time for the team to gel and while the former Dutch star turned manager Ronald Koemen may be a star in the making, it may all be too late.

19. Leicester – Leicester have spent some money and after winning the Championship have the chops to win, but I am not sure it will be enough.

20. Burnley – It is going to be a long year for the Clarets

In order to enhance the experience and keep up with the action, I highly recommend you check out the Men in Blazers and their weekly pod on the Grantland Network as well as all the Guardian’s football coverage including Football Weekly.

The Premier League is a grind, but well worth the follow so pick a team and get the beers in.

Photo Credit: “Stretford End” by Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.