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INDY Week editor Lisa Sorg's blog

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wait for the white man: Counting the jaywalkers in Durham

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Security guards have been hanging out at the corner of Blackwell and Pettigrew streets in Durham all week, tiny steno pads in hand, their pages crammed with hash marks. Yesterday I overheard one of them discussing the problem of jaywalking with some passersby. "Can you get in trouble for jaywalking?" one pedestrian asked. "Sure you can. The police can ticket you if they catch you," the guard replied, eyeing me as I was, well, jaywalking toward the American Tobacco Campus. Ever since I heard that police were ticketing people who trespassed on Norfolk Southern property—for months, I had been...

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Friday, March 14, 2014

At Southpoint cinemas, art imitates life and vice versa

Posted By on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 10:16 AM

I went to Southpoint Cinemas recently to see Her, one of my favorite films of the last five years. Afterward in the lobby, I noticed one of those arcade games in which you use the jaws of life to extract a toy from a plastic enclosure.  On the wall behind me was a poster for the new Muppets movie (it opens March 20), and its reflection in the plastic created this surreal juxtaposition of life and art. It was so perfect that I had to shoot it with my iPhone. Tethered to technology, I felt like my life was...

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Prodigal Farm: Where goats are livin' the dream

Posted By on Sun, Mar 9, 2014 at 1:00 PM

The previous day's ice storm had zapped the power at Prodigal Farm in Rougemont, but the goats didn't care. There was hay to munch, visitors to greet and hoof-trimming and vaccinations to be endured. Evelyn, her belly bulbous and heavy in the morning, delivered triplets by mid-afternoon: two boys and a girl. The father, Excalibur, aka, Chubby Cheeks, was in another pasture and did not learn of his progeny. This newborn, just an hour old, was already romping around. Kathryn Spann and Dave Krabb started Prodigal Farm in 2007. Environmentally sustainable and Animal Welfare Approved, the farm produces...

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Scenes from Main Street in Durham: Performing a ritual on Ash Wednesday

Posted By on Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Last night the streets of downtown Durham were teeming with Fat Tuesday revelers; today people walked down Main Street with ashes on their forehead.  Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent in Christian traditions, the beginning of 46 days of repentance, introspection and spiritual awakening. In downtown Durham this morning, the Rev. Taylor W. Mills, senior pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, and two congregants performed the Imposition of the Ashes on several passersby near Main and Market streets. The church members did not proselytize, and quietly offered the ritual. Among those accepting the offer was Keeva Kase. A...

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

A sweet ride: Stumbling upon a 1950s Buick Roadmaster

Posted By on Sun, Mar 2, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Since my dad worked for General Motors for 35 years, I have a weak spot for cars. (I have fond memories of my dad's 1970 silver GTO, 1968 red Chevelle and 1972 black El Camino.) The mid-century models, in particular, seem so stylish and noble, unlike many of today's vehicles, which are merely utilitarian: Get from Point A to Point B and once every six months clean out the crumbs from between the seats. On Jersey Street behind the tortilleria, someone had parked this gorgeous Buick, possibly a 1951or 1952 Roadmaster Riviera. On the side of the car is the...

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Scenes from Ninth Street: The bark is worse than the bite

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 8:35 AM

I frequent Ninth Street, stopping by The Regulator Bookshop, grabbing coffee at Market Street and lunch at Banh's. But I've been going down their with more mindfulness lately, to gather string, as we say in the journalism world, for a future story about the historic street. Last week I heard yipping. Not barking. Yipping. At construction workers, kids, any passerby. Apparently these three dogs, dressed like jailbirds, were impatiently waiting for their owner to return. The editor's blog documents life in the Triangle in photographs and stories....

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

On Duke's East Campus, a low-wire act

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Besides the fact this guy is apparently practicing to be the next Wallenda, the other interesting detail is that he has pink toenails....

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

The east side of Ninth Street: genuine Durham

Posted By on Sun, Feb 16, 2014 at 5:45 PM

The snow had nearly melted in Durham, and the warmth lured people to the benches and chairs along Ninth Street.  On a bench in front of Market Street coffee, I overhead a two college women discussing whether it is safe for Duke and UNC students to travel to rival turf to watch a basketball game. Near Dain's Place, people prayed at a table before eating their lunch. And outside the Ox & Rabbit, a man playing a Fender Squire guitar through a tiny amp.   I peeked around the corner where a copper frog stands in front of Native Threads....

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

HKonJ: Tens of thousands converge on Raleigh for a day of solidarity

Posted By on Sun, Feb 9, 2014 at 9:09 AM

On a sidewalk near the McDonald's on South Wilmington Street, I overheard three people discussing the HKonJ march. I have no idea about their political persuasion, but considering their use of the term "they," instead of "we," I'm guessing the trio were not participating in the march. "They're protesting everything," one person said. "Look, there's someone protesting fracking." Yes, we are. And the legalization, even promotion, of fracking is just one of the GOP's destructive policies that brought ten of thousands of people—we've heard estimates of 25,000 up to 80,000—to Raleigh on Saturday. Education, health care, unemployment, women's rights,...

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Smile, you're on Aqueti camera

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 12:23 PM

When I saw the enormous contraption—two people had rigged a camera about the size of a banker's box with wires and cables extending from the back— at the corner of Corcoran and Main streets this morning, I immediately thought, "surveillance." NSA. Google Street View. A spy satellite fallen to Earth. But it was none of the above (supposedly). Instead Aqueti, a new company founded by Duke electrical engineering professor David Brady, was testing a camera that produces panoramic, high-resolution digital images and streaming video. Scott McCain and Susan Prochnow were shooting the buildings at the corner to build a portfolio of images...

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Characters of downtown Durham: The man with 17 children

Posted By on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 2:03 PM

"Hey, I got a story." Willie got up from a bench and swaggered across the pocket park at Mangum and Main streets in Durham. He wore a coat embossed with yellow, red and green outlines of Africa. He smiled as he approached me at the corner, where I had been chatting with another man, Larry, who had been pushing a shopping cart full of aluminum cans. "OK, what's your story?" I replied. "I have 17 children." "By the same woman? I hope not, because I would feel sorry for her." "By four women. Seven by one, then four, three...

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Unearthed: a 1930s photo of the Liberty Cafe

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 10:31 AM

A reader passed along a link to a photo of the former Liberty Cafe, located inside Liberty Warehouse. It's in the public domain, having been shot by Marion Wolcott Post in circa 1939 for the U.S. Farm Security Administration. The original nitrate negative is at the Library of Congress. Apparently the cafe was a 24-hour joint that served Miller High Life. It closed years ago; now the warehouse is also bound for the wrecking ball, to be replaced with condos and stores....

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A child's drum kit in the hazy shade of winter

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 1:09 PM

I first saw this child's drum kit last summer, in a nearby front yard, although I never heard anyone play it or even sit on the throne. I always carry a small notebook to jot down ideas, future photographs and random (and often kooky) thoughts. At some point I wrote: "Photograph drum kit if it ever snows." I remembered the note and the kit this morning. Since my camera batteries were fully drained, I shot it with my iPhone. It doesn't snow often here, and I didn't want to wait another year....

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Friday, January 17, 2014

His dream was to get a guitar, and now he has one to perform in Durham

Posted By on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Zac, aka Casper View—his stage name—has been panhandling in downtown Durham most of the winter. He used to play a fake guitar; I photographed him for a previous blog post, "Cardboard guitar blues." His dream was to get a real guitar, and someone from a neighboring office building kindly him gave him one, an Oscar Schmidt acoustic model. Here Casper is on Day 2 of guitar ownership, with his dog, Lela.  Lisa Sorg is the editor of the INDY. Her blog documents the small moments of life in the Triangle in photographs and stories—as a reminder of why we live...

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Paging Alfred Hitchcock: Gulls find a heat island far from the coast

Posted By on Sun, Jan 12, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Even though Durham is 150 miles from the East Coast, I occasionally see seagulls roosting in parking lots. Cities have ample garbage, ideal for foraging, and heat islands perfect for roasting in the sun. These appear to be ring-billed gulls, which have adapted to suburban living far from the beach. The New York Times explains why some gulls have taken a shining to parking lots. A flock of seagulls landed in South Square today. A couple hardy ones rode the thermals. The rest grounded themselves and puffed up their wings as they tried to stay warm....

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Homeless person's bed is gone, but not the wealth disparity

Posted By on Sat, Jan 11, 2014 at 11:50 AM

About 10 days ago, we published a photo essay "30 feet separates the haves from the have nots"—online on Dec. 30 and then in the print edition on Jan. 2. It concerned the wealth disparity in downtown Durham: half-million dollar condos at Main and Mangum streets right across from where a homeless person had made a bed of newspapers in the long grass. Well, within a week the long grass, which was elegant and lovely, had been shorn down to nubs; the bed is gone and the area is exposed to the elements. Nearby bushes had been trimmed back...

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Third Fork Creek is in trouble

Posted By on Sun, Jan 5, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Third Fork Creek in Durham, which, if followed to its final destination, dumps into the Atlantic Ocean, is one of the city’s dirtiest waterways. It is nearly a dead zone for fish and aquatic life, which may explain in part why I haven’t seen as many herons along its banks in Forest Hill Park. The creek, which is on the state’s list of impaired waterways, runs through densely populated urban areas, the source of most of the pollution. Its headwaters are near Forest Hills Park and N.C. Central University and head southeast through Hope Valley and Woodcroft, into Jordan...

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Hey readers, are these boxers from the old Ringside?

Posted By on Sat, Jan 4, 2014 at 3:21 PM

On a recent dingy day, I spotted these boxers plastered to the facade of the building at 715 N. Washington St. It's just north of the old Durham Athletic Park, and houses the Durham Bike Co-op and The Shadowbox. It seemed like I had seen the boxers before, but I couldn't place them. It's a pretty desolate stretch as far as pedestrians go, and the co-op has been closed for the holidays; no one was at Shadowbox, either. But after waiting for a while I met a guy on the street who said these boxers may have been salvaged from...

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A scene from A Streetcar Named Desire, if staged by grade school kids

Posted By on Wed, Jan 1, 2014 at 10:59 AM

On this porch in Durham, it appears that Stanley Kowalski left his calling card. Lisa Sorg is the editor of the INDY. Her blog documents the small moments of life in the Triangle in photographs and stories—as a reminder to why we live here....

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Monday, December 30, 2013

From the Kress Building to the corner, 30 feet separates the haves and the have nots

Posted By on Mon, Dec 30, 2013 at 8:14 AM

The historic Kress Building in downtown Durham epitomizes luxury and elegance: The condos, the largest of which, at more than 1,800 square feet runs nearly $500,000, feature bamboo wood floors, penthouse views, private terraces, 10-to-12-foot ceilings, and, as a real estate website detailed,  "handsome quartz counters in the kitchen and bath." Directly across Main Street where it intersects with Mangum is a pocket park with benches. Less than five steps from the street corner, grows a patch of brush that provides a bulwark against the wind and cold. It can also serve as camouflage, because unless you part the grass...

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Angels wanna wear his red shoes

Posted By on Sun, Dec 29, 2013 at 7:57 AM

The streets of downtown Durham were nearly empty on Thursday morning, the day after Christmas, and I felt sure there would be no people to photograph. Then this man sauntered down the street, burdened with two bulging backpacks. That's what caught my eye, the backpacks. I shot just one picture and moved on. Only after I downloaded the photo did I notice the preponderance of red—in the shoes, scarf, fire hydrant and bows—that carries your eye through the frame.  That's the beauty of street photography: If you put in the time and the miles, an automatic part of your brain...

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Salvation Army's holiday tree about human trafficking

Posted By on Thu, Dec 26, 2013 at 3:01 PM

The day after Christmas, the streets of Durham were nearly vacant (except, apparently, the parking attendants who tagged me with a ticket). A friend and I wandered down to the American Tobacco Campus lawn to see the 20 or so holiday trees decorated by local charities including the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, Eno River Association, the Therapeutic Riding Center.  Initially, I was offended by the tree adorned by The Salvation Army of Wake County. What are ultra-feminized dolls with anorexic figures surrounded by fake money doing on a holiday tree? Did a pimp decorate this tannenbaum? And then I figured...

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Away in a manger, it's both sentimental and surreal

Posted By on Tue, Dec 24, 2013 at 8:05 PM

For the past week I've walked by this Nativity scene, which is part of an elaborate tableau at a house in Durham's Morehead Hill neighborhood. The sentimentalist in me was struck by the earnestness of the lights and decorations; the cynic in me found it surreal. I had seen the Nativity only during the day. But on Christmas Eve night, I worked up the courage to ask the homeowner, whose name is Jane, if I could take a picture of her creation. She told me her husband is a landscaper; he built the word "L O V E" from sticks,...

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Flag-nado!

Posted By on Sun, Dec 22, 2013 at 3:19 PM

It was 72 degrees this morning—not April 22, but Dec. 22, if you awoke thinking you must have hibernated all winter. Winds were brisk. The atmosphere felt unstable, soupy, and the light filtered through the clouds in narrow shafts.  At City Hall Plaza in downtown Durham, the U.S. and North Carolina flags had descended their mast until they touched the ground. Since it's Sunday, no one is around City Hall to raise them, so I watched the flags contort themselves in the stiff breeze and graze the ground between gusts. I lay on the ground on the...

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Man vs. nature. Tree vs. parking deck. Who wins?

Posted By on Sat, Dec 21, 2013 at 5:58 PM

The spiral ramp of the 658-space Corcoran Street parking garage is something to behold. Enter through the back off Ramseur Street, and the weight of all that concrete—buttressed by a few seemingly spindly poles—makes you feel like the garage could collapse at any moment. Since I rarely drive to work, I walk by here almost every day but never park inside. I spotted this tree, which bisects the ramp, and marveled at the rigidity of the manmade structure (and I say manmade because this is an old parking deck and it's unlikely any women worked on it) and how...

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