It’s been a pretty incredible year, I’ve realized as I look back on the Live Local journey this year. My 2014 Live Local New Year’s resolutions were, and I quote:


“1. Pay off one more credit card and don’t put anything else on a card.

2. Finish the second-floor apartment at the bookstore, thereby putting several tradesmen to work.

3. Start shopping again.

4. Bring national attention to the Live Local movement.

5. Start an economics reading and discussion group.

6. Film incentives are a big priority for me this year; in fact, I hope they are for everyone.

7. Get back into charitable giving.

8. Explore our expanding transit options: We are in the beginning phases of getting back a passenger rail in Wilmington. Right now, it looks like we could have a dedicated bus to connect us with the rail line in Wilson. I plan to explore this, and report back to you about how it is working and what we can hope for soon. Also, I am determined to take a bus to the beach this year. I will keep you informed on my progress.”

As the year draws to a close, it is time to look back on our aspirations and attempts to evaluate where we are and where we hope to be. There is an old adage that man makes plans and the gods laugh. I think if anything demonstrates that sentiment, it is my ongoing plan to pay off my credit cards. I actually made pretty big strides this year, but I am still far from having either card paid off. The reality is that, given the likelihood of the next two years, I am not going to succeed with it anytime soon.

I was plodding along on my resolutions, and making steady but not remarkable, headway. We got about half the drywall hung in the apartment above the bookstore and some of the electrical work done, as well as the big-ticket item of the HVAC system. Before we stopped working on it, I did manage to employ several local trades people and buy supplies here, which was the major objective. The project is on hold until 2015 when, hopefully, we will pick it up again and see how far we can get.                

I completely failed at bringing national attention to the Live Local movement, and starting an economics reading and discussion group. The first failed because I honestly had no clear plan for doing it, which is pretty essential to accomplishing any goal. The second didin’t come to fruition due to a lack of time and focus. I may attempt this one again next year, because I think it is important and could be really transformative.

I did work actively for our film incentives. I even directly lobbied our state legislature. In spite of dire warnings, I still have hopes for our film industry and the economic future of our state.

On the charitable giving front, I finally paid off a pledge to Cape Fear Riverwatch. As well, I hope to pay off a pledge to WHQR from 2010 in the early part of next year. Charitable giving is important to our household and because the important work that the riverwatch does includes trying to protect our drinking water, it feels paramount. 

As far as starting to shop again, that ties in with exploring our transit options.  We are moving in the direction of getting passenger rail back to Wilmington in the next few years and right now, we are an Amtrak-served city. That means we can take a Greyhound shuttle to Wilson to pick up the train. In February I tested this service and took the train all the way across the U.S. to Eugene, Oregon. I ran a three-part series in encore, which detailed the trip and the successes of train travel. As a workaholic, I highly recommend this mode of transportation to anyone. I took an airplane home for comparison purposes and truly wish I hadn’t: Flying has turned into such a miserable experience. Train travel, however, is wonderful: good food, nice accommodations, the ability to spread out and work at every turn. I highly recommend it.

Another checkoff was a trip to Carolina Beach via Wave Transit bus. It was thrilling to use public transit to get to the beach unscathed and ready to enjoy a day in the sunshine. Frankly, I am ready to do it again as soon as the weather heats up.

But the shopping and transportation pieces meet together with this: “The Jock Brandis School of Grief Counseling,” as I like to call it. We bought two VWs: a ’65 Bug and ’67 Camper Bus. Before you scratch your head and wonder how we could afford this but didn’t pay off a credit card (which is a valid question), let me say that their combined prices wouldn’t have paid off even half of one of the cards. But sanding rust from VW sheet metal and learning to care for the VWs has been every bit as therapeutic as Jock predicted—and more. The world might be going to hell, but in the garage with a sander, it is just fine. I now have a great channel for frustration, anger, aggression, and sadness.

“It’s cheaper than therapy and you get transportation out of it, with no asinine insurance forms to fill out,” Jock commented. As usual, he’s right. So that’s really the major shopping I’ve been doing.

In a good-news-bad-news scenario our river keeper, Kemp Burdette, brought national attention repeatedly to the Duke coal-ash spill here. The bad news is that we had the spill at all. The good news is that it is getting attention rather than getting swept under the rug.

As well, Moral Mondays continued and included a stop here by the Reverend Barber. Somehow, I feel like people are starting to wear out from trying to get through the day. It takes a lot of energy to sustain the sort of energy that social and political change demands. Daily life intervenes and complacency, or even defeat, starts to set in. I know I fell regularly not just on a national or even state level. Frankly, there are a lot of days I just don’t even have the energy to try to be part of the conversation locally. But what is happening in our state demands our ongoing efforts. Though it wasn’t on my list of resolutions, it’s important enough for a mention to say that I need to work harder in the future.

On another note, the passing of Minna Kuuskoski and her troll store was a real loss on the Live Local front. The handmade toys by the Kuuskoski family personified so much of what Live Local is about. Conversely, the number of people who told me, “I always meant to go in there,” and now regret that they can’t, is really troubling. Small business needs you to walk in the door, not plan to eventually. We are not just set dressing to make this place pretty; we need to be part of an ongoing vibrant relationship in-order to survive.

In the weighing of it, four out of eight resolutions accomplished and two additional ones that are closer to completion is not a bad score. I wish it was better; I will try harder next year. I have a couple of weeks before I have to finalize my goals for 2015. Do you have any big plans for increasing your Live Local footprint next year?

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