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Saturday, Aug. 31, 2002
Running in the background of my life is the quiet hum of the Benefactor. Soon to be the all encompassing surround sound of the Benefactor.

He's been spending his spring and summer pushing dirt all over the place. Big yellow earthmover trucks and bulldozers and cranes have transformed a marshy swamp into a place for building a town. To do that, they sucked sand out of the Bay and pumped it onto the site. How much sand? They raised the elevation of some 182 acres by 7 feet. That's a lot of sand. Why out of the Bay? It was sort of like creating an underwater roadway, a deepwater trough from a point out in the Bay to the very docking point of what will one day be a marina. Dredging, they call it. They dredge to make the water deeper, so that the keel of a million-dollar boat won't get hung up on the bottom. Just for fun, they dredged a channel one hundred yards wide by a mile and a half long.

Stu and I have monitored all this from time to time. We take little trips to the site, watch the endless parade of big-as-a-house trucks tool around. Watch streets take shape out of the sand. Waiting for the day when the Benefactor will walk out to the entrance gate with a green flag in hand and begin to wave it vigorously as we drive by. The race will surely be on, a race to build houses and stores and restaurants so that the well heeled can have a place to hang out when they're not slooping around the world in large fiberglass vessels.

We're very close to starting. Close enough that it came time for us to look seriously at the surrounding area for a new base of operations, an office, a shop. Yesterday we drove all over the place, up and down the Eastern Shore of Virginia, that curious little isthmus of land which dangles like a finger from the paw of Maryland. Looked at all sorts of property and commercial real estate. I had a print-out of prospective sites in my lap which I consulted as Stu drove. One of them sounded too good to be true, it was a little farther out than I'd like, but we went ahead and drove the extra 20 minutes to take a peek. To one of the myriad of little crabbing towns that dot the Eastern Shore.

"There's the street right there, hang a left", I said. "Hey, good zoning and it's right off the main drag. Look for number 1087."

"You look, I'm just the chauffeur. What's it supposed to look like, anyway?"

"Well, the ad says it's a stand alone brick building. Roof re-done in '96, new A/C, for sale or lease. And it's cheap. Probably some sort of junker for that price. 1100 block, slow down. There, on the corner. That's the one."

Stu pulled up in front of the brick edifice, and sure enough there was a new A/C unit on the side. Sure enough, the roof looked good. And surprisingly, the rest of the place looked to be in very good shape. Hard-piped electrical conduit neatly ran along the side, not one but two entrance doors off the street, a large front window. And the rest of the place had no windows at all, which suited us just fine, shop space doesn't warrant windows.

We like to spend a few minutes on these little adventures culling out the positives and negatives and generally just thinking out loud. Weighing the pros and cons. Rattling off potential problems and solutions. But one thing we didn't count on was the intangible, the cosmic, the coincidental. The large lighted letters over the front of the building advertising the nature of the previous occupant.

"Holy smokes, do you think it's a sign from God or something? This is like instant karma." Stu was clearly rattled, and he doesn't rattle easily. I must admit I had a bit of gooseflesh myself. How was it possible to drive all this way to a small out of the way town and see something so clearly manifest itself as an omen? It was our Burning Bush, our Great Salt Lake, our Cumberland Gap. I even blinked my eyes a few times to make sure that what I saw was real.

There it was, big as life. And I knew how Moses must have felt on Mt. Sinai.

'Welcome to your ABC Store! Discount Liquors and Beverages!'

No, it didn't have any leftover stock.

We checked that, first thing.

If you've made it this far, I'll give you a little taste of what we're getting ourselves into. Check out the stuff in this place, and bear in mind that none of it is beyond the stage of conceptual thinking just yet.

Except for a lot of sand. And a lot of navigatable water.

Hey Batten, wanna buy a house?

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