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Best of the Triangle 2011: Best Moments of the Triangle 

On the verge of leaving home

My best moments in the Triangle are spontaneous. After living in Durham for 17 years, it's difficult to isolate one moment as the best, but those that stand out are those that made me see the Triangle in a new light. It seems that as I get closer and closer to leaving the Triangle in August, the moments become more unexpected and rich. And so the snapshots that come to mind are from my senior year in high school, the last time for a while that I'll live full-time in Durham.

Duke Gardens in late February. Going to a green, sundrenched lawn after a half-day of school, spreading out a picnic blanket, piling it high with food—packets of ham and turkey and cheese, boxes of Capri Sun and strawberries, bags of Hershey kisses and Swedish Fish, two Guglhupf baguettes and cheap Brie. And just lying there in the sun, snacking and talking and playing Apples to Apples with friends. It was a sort of lovely limbo after college applications were done and before we all knew where we would be next year. Past and future didn't seem quite as important as they usually did; moments in the present were important, vivid, happy.

And then there's the March night I got into college, and suddenly very little mattered except celebration. Homework was insignificant. My family drove to Magnolia Grill, where I had never been. Goat cheese on toast, laughter, texts of congratulations, noodle salad, sky darkening outside the window. That night at the restaurant connected things. It was the first restaurant my parents ate at when they moved to Durham, and it was the first restaurant I ate at when I found out I'd be leaving Durham. Now, when I drive by Magnolia, I have this joyful association with it, but I also see it as a place of transition, a quintessential Triangle restaurant as a symbol of leaving home.

Going to Rick's Diner during free periods at school seemed to weirdly capture many other moments in the Triangle. I felt simultaneously old and young as I sat with two friends at a table at Rick's, munching on eggs and biscuits and grits and drinking sweet tea. Rick's is a place of returning, somewhere my family goes for brunch after coming home from vacation. Now I sat there talking with my friends about college and leaving home. We were at the Rick's location in the recently renamed Hope Valley Plaza, and it was striking to see how much the plaza has changed over the years I've lived two minutes away from it. The new strip of restaurants where the Habitat store used to be, the majestic post office in place of the run-down blue-paneled original. Durham has grown up with me. —Ariel Katz

Katz is an intern at the Independent Weekly. She will attend Yale University in the fall.

Rooting for the home team

Pam and I arrived in Raleigh in 1987 pretty much by accident, but that's another story. People here were all excited about hosting the U.S. Olympic Festival, a national sports event of little consequence before it was held in the Triangle and, as far as I know, none thereafter. But it was huge here, a kind of coming-out party for the "region" as a place where big things were possible. Lacking employment, I volunteered for public relations duty and found myself one of thousands.

A little later I hooked on as staff to a state commission organizing for the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution, as everyone alive then learned from our efforts, was written in 1787 and ratified by the states over the next two years. (North Carolina famously rejected it in 1788 at a convention in Hillsborough—we insisted on a Bill of Rights, which Congress added the following year—then ratified it in Fayetteville in 1789, when UNC was chartered as the first public university in the new nation.)

I remember promoting the tour of the original Magna Carta through North Carolina. The great charter of English liberties, written in 1215, was enshrined under glass at one end of a specially equipped bus, which was paid for, as I recall, by one of President Reagan's rich Republican friends from Connecticut. All in all, the bus was a nifty traveling exhibit about the origins of our individual rights. But, I thought, who's going to come to see that, especially in the summer heat?

The answer: Thousands came. For two days, or maybe it was three, the line to get in snaked around the block by the old N.C. Museum of History by the state Capitol. History buffs? Yes. But it was more than that. It seemed to me that I'd arrived in a place where people showed up when they were called on. The Magna Carta is coming? We need to be there to show our support. We're hosting the Olympic Festival? It's got to be the best Olympic Festival ever.

I'm reminded of this by Scotty McCreery's American Idol victory. Before the final show, the producers staged a homecoming in Garner and another in wherever it was that the other finalist lives. Tuning in to hear the result, I caught the folks on WRAL going on about how the 30,000 people who showed up in Garner dwarfed the competition's turnout.

Well, yeah. We do get behind the home team. That's what makes this place fun. —Bob Geary

Geary is a staff writer for the Independent Weekly.

From the Triangle, a larger worldview

Growing up in a small town in eastern North Carolina, I have clear memories of my developmental experiences with the Triangle. My brother, Kenny, had left me behind at 10 years old in Havelock to go to UNC-Chapel Hill. I don't recall my exact feelings about his leaving, but I do recall the excitement and envy I had for him after my first visit.

The year was 1980, and there were more lovely and nubile young women on every corner than I had ever seen in my life. Being a prepubescent boy, I was agog at the possibilities.

Upon his first visit home, and every one after, he seeded me with his experiences that I had no access to in our culturally limited hometown. The books, comics, movies and especially music that he experienced via WXYC, the legendary college radio station at UNC, were my first exposure to the counterculture, and each left me with a buzz. He recorded his albums to cassette and left them to change my life. The Jam, Let's Active, Split Enz and early R.E.M. became the soundtrack that helped me develop my individuality while I felt everyone around me was drowning in classic rock.

Shortly after, I had my chance to experience it firsthand, when our parents let me spend a week with Kenny to help him move across town. There was the Cat's Cradle, Franklin Street, modern art and even college parties with beer and girls who burped! Wow. I felt like the first visitors to Willy Wonka in his chocolate factory. Everything was magical and unexpected. There was always something going on and too much to do. It was a far cry from my life in suburbia. With each return visit, my love for Chapel Hill grew, and to this day, as I enter town, I still get a tingle of excitement.

Durham, once dark, mysterious and dangerous to me, has now become my home and love since 1995, when Bob Fowler brought me here to be his wine buyer at the world-famous Fowler's Gourmet in Brightleaf Square. And even though my relationship with Durham was love at first sight, it has continued to grow on me furiously and steadily every year. Those six years at Fowler's helped transform me from an enthusiastic young man to what I am today. At Wine Authorities I'm exposed to the tastes and smells of someplace far away every day. Customers walking the aisles speaking more languages than I can keep up with, their worldly ways still spark my curiosity. To me, now a world traveler with roots just down the road, the Triangle has become a gateway to the world physically and especially metaphorically. —Craig Heffley

Heffley owns Wine Authorities, where there's always good music playing on the stereo.

The Fourth of July and a symphony

Sometimes the best Triangle moments happen every year. That's the case for me when it comes to the North Carolina Symphony Fourth of July concert at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. It's free, it's fun and it feels like home.

The afternoon starts with a quick bike ride along the wooded trail at Ritter Park. I carry in a blanket and some chairs to mark my family's spot on the patchwork that covers the lawn of the amphitheatre. A few hours later, we park and stroll over with a picnic. The talented symphony fires up as the sun sets behind the pines. The evening includes some sappy hand-holding with my wife. My kids may wave flags and tap their feet to a John Philip Sousa, Tchaikovsky or John Williams melody.

There's usually a good beer and a discussion with friends. Then the colorful fireworks prompt a happy moan from the crowd. Of course, there are variations to the moment. Like the year a thunderstorm canceled the fireworks and freaked out my daughter. Another time the traffic jam was so thick my kids had to jump out of the car to pee behind a bush.

Whatever happens, it's all good to me. No event connects me to the Triangle like that one. I can't wait until this year's concert. —Cullen Browder

Browder is a news anchor and reporter for WRAL-TV.

When Roosevelt and then Clinton came to town

The word Triangle would feel like an abstraction of corporate mind-sets if you had known only the three separate names of the towns before.

Durham was sweet tobacco suffocation, the drug you inhaled after driving the crooked 12-mile trip on the old road on bald Depression tires. Raleigh had more class.

Time gobbles up individual experience. Small is when people are the place, and live the myths: Mt. Moriah, Damascus, Hayti. Big is the Triangle arithmetically concocted in seminar and board rooms by professors and businessmen of the '50s. Money, ideals and plain old deals. A canny bid for the future.

The airport in the mid-'50s was nothing but a small, dirty white board shack, its bottom stained with red earth. You landed and walked onto a field of onion grass.

Since 1818, when James K. Polk came, Chapel Hill has attracted U.S. presidents. But the October night in 1993 when everybody lined up under the starry skies of Kenan Stadium to hear Bill Clinton was the apex. Spotlights, sound technology, high breath volume and huge TV screens eviscerated the stars. Only by looking past the edges could you feel small, see your breath and catch and hold the warmth of human bodies around you in the cold. You knew you were connected to the highest power of the US of A. So easy! A laugh.

It was the beginning of the brilliant, scallywag presidency, the mixture of saxophone and hambone, Oxford and oil, when he made surpluses, created NAFTA and dealt with the Rwandan genocide and the first attempt to damage the Twin Towers. Who could resist his genuine talent for caring? We feasted on his star outshining those obliterated in the night sky.

It thrust me back to 1938, when my family arrived in Chapel Hill from New England, demoted from riches to rags, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt came in December to give an early commencement ceremony. The Germans had marched into Sudetenland and war was imminent.

Roosevelt, unlike Clinton, did not come from Podunk or Hope, but Hyde Park. Humbled in his 40s by infantile paralysis (polio), maybe cured of noblesse oblige, he stopped along the dirt roads near Warm Springs to listen to farmers who could have been Clinton's forebears, in whose ratcheted, starving faces he found the power to grow beyond crutches.

He was scheduled to speak in Kenan Stadium but it rained, and we turned from the wooded paths and into Woollen Gym where, under kleig lights, in the steam of wet wool coats, he staggered to standing position and reared his head. His body was far away and small, and brought tears to the crowd's eyes because he was captain of state at the moment the country entered its destiny.

America was not bombed; it was the one country left safe and rich enough to subsidize the world.

But in those riches, I had not realized it was Roosevelt's wife, Eleanor, whose idea it was to create the National Youth Administration and create the job that paid my way through college. Not a president, but a presence, railed at me as a fellow traveler, nigger-lover and radical.

Then is now, and now then, ignorance is astonishing, even as we lived through each day without rccognizing or distinguishing roots from leaves. And now is then, even if we invert that ignorance in our present vision of the future. —Daphne Athas

Athas is the author of a memoir, Chapel Hill in Plain Sight: Notes From the Other Side of the Tracks. She is a lecturer in UNC's creative writing program; her novel Entering Ephesus was included on Time magazine's 1971 best fiction list.

A series of firsts

Roughly six months had passed since we signed off on the house in Chapel Hill. When the time came to move in, the country was reeling from the economic crisis that had hit two months prior. We couldn't sell our apartment in New York, which made it impossible for us to secure the financing on the Chapel Hill digs. So when we arrived in mid-October 2008, we moved into my in-laws' house.

It was a little bit Meet the Parents, a little bit No Exit, but we managed to get through relatively unscathed. We had no idea how long we would be there, or even if we'd end up with the house, and had started looking at rentals, just in the interest of our own sanity. It was mid-December when we finally got the news that the house was really ours. A few days into the new year, I stood on the porch and turned the key and entered. I had only seen it a few times, six months ago, so I felt like I was entering a new place. That was a key Triangle moment for me: standing in my first real house and finally being able to say "I'm home."

The third and final night of last year's inaugural Hopscotch Festival marked a series of firsts for me as a Triangle resident. It was my first night out in Raleigh, my first night ever working the door of a club, my first time hearing Phil Cook, someone whose name was familiar to me from articles I'd edited for the Indy but who was still basically an abstract concept to me. Sort of like Raleigh. My 7–10:30 p.m. shift went off without a hitch; I even made a couple of dudes who'd driven up from Virginia Beach very happy by selling them the last of the first come, first served tickets in my possession. They were right there to greet me with beers and high-fives when I went inside after my shift. As the night progressed through a hypnotic set by Marissa Nadler and rustic, jazz-tinged improvisation, I found myself chatting with people I'd sold tickets to as well as those who just looked like they were enjoying themselves. I could feel a spreading stupefied grin taking over. Here I was: warmed by an oceanic feeling I hadn't felt for a long time, enraptured and carried away, not just by the music but the simply being there. —David Klein

Klein is copy editor at the Independent Weekly.

click to enlarge Orquesta GarDel, a 12-piece salsa band based in North Carolina, plays to a large crowd at the Saxapahaw Rivermill Farmer's Market & Music Series. - PHOTO BY JEREMY M. LANGE
  • Photo by Jeremy M. Lange
  • Orquesta GarDel, a 12-piece salsa band based in North Carolina, plays to a large crowd at the Saxapahaw Rivermill Farmer's Market & Music Series.

Saxapahaw: Where life comes together

It's not surprising that my favorite moment is in Saxapahaw. Of all the happy, rewarding, inspiring things I've seen since returning to the Triangle after so many years away, I would have to say one of my favorites was witnessing Orquesta GarDel play the tiny Hay Wagon stage at the Saxapahaw Farmer's Market. The 13-member band squeezed on stage, pumping Nuyorican salsa standards and original tunes in the timba style of modern Havana across the bucolic hillsides of this historic mill town in North Carolina, and then the dancing began. Farmers, old-timers, gorgeous young things, babies and mommies, hoopers and hipsters took over the entire meadow, all of the market, spilling down to the riverside, and they danced. There were probably 2,000 people at the show and all of them must have been dancing. Some really knew how to, some were actually salsa dancing, but some of the older folks were waltzing, some doing various forms of swing and disco; the kids were just jumping up and down and twirling. It didn't matter—but it was beautiful. I've never seen anything like it. I don't think the village had ever seen anything like it, and it made me feel like the world was coming together in the best kind of way. —Heather LaGarde

LaGarde is an activist, music lover, filmmaker and community builder. She lives in Snow Camp in Alamance County.

An endless summer

I've never really managed to outgrow summer vacations. I'll forever be nostalgic about elementary and middle school, when summers were an endless stretch of sweat, swimming and sleepovers. In college, I learned that June through August was apparently the time to earn credits, to pad résumés. But under the pretense of summer school and summer jobs, I did squeeze in some vacations.

I spent my summer after freshman year in Durham. There were five of us crammed in a two-person apartment; we laid air mattresses side by side in the living room and lived out of suitcases. After my junior year, seven of us were stuffed in a two-bedroom apartment: three each in a bedroom and one in a closet. But during those summers we felt freer and were far happier than you could believe. Nothing was different, really, from the exultant days of youth. Summer was when the Duke workload had released its jaws and left us free to careen about Durham.

We traveled Ninth Street and Swift Avenue, a knot of flip-flops, sticky skin and deep friendship. We ate dinners at Brightleaf Square, marveling at the vaulted timbers and miraculously stout pillars of the tobacco warehouses. We rode the Robertson bus to Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, wearing Duke shirts and laughing at our childish daring. We went swimming on West Campus until the pool closed at dark, then walked home through the Duke Gardens reeking of chlorine and false bravado. On the day a storm knocked out our power, we lit candles and sat on the balcony to listen to the rain. The morning after, we sat again to smell the trees bright with dew, and watch the clouds stretch content across the sky, red-violet as a syrupy plum.

We never did do the usual summer vacation things, never went to the beach or took road trips or spent afternoons sharing ice cream sundaes. But summer vacations aren't so much about a list of things to do as a certain way of doing them. From the moment summer begins, it begins to end; the beauty of summer derives from its transience, in the acceptance that this sweet season lasts but three months. Under such a mortal awareness, every sight, smell, taste, touch, scent impresses itself dearer to one's memory. We lived frenetic, energetic, productive, reductive—in a kind of fierce desperation, an ideal microcosm of what it means to be alive. —Jason Lee

Lee is a summer intern at the Independent Weekly. He attends Duke University.

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY V.C. ROGERS

A drink from the Stanley Cup

I suppose in the grand scheme of things, it shouldn't matter. There was no birth, or celebration of familial ties awash with place and time; I made no swaggering stride towards anything other than acne and a hangover.

However, on Monday, June 19, 2006, I painted half of my jib red and the other white and assembled with other like-minded hockey neophytes to watch the Caroline Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup. I sat cross-legged in front of a giant projection TV screaming and exhausting adjectives as the final buzzer rang through the night like a signal to the world. The Triangle, and North Carolina, had just won their first professional sports title.

I called my father. He noticed the choked sound of tears bearing down on my voice. I high-fived cabbies on Glenwood Avenue, caught a beer dropped from the window of The Rockford and stood still at one point on the street ... watching the jubilation and hearing the echo of laughter and excelsior from all points.

We needed that night, for sure. The Hurricanes needed it, being banged into almost hospital-bound levels of injury after such struggle. Maybe it was the sheer joy of my friends and the world around me. Or maybe it took the five Edmonton Oilers fans who had all driven down to see Game 7.

They made my hockey guilt calm itself. It was OK for this Southern oasis to claim the ultimate title. "It's only a game, and that's important for us to remember, too." We made them feel welcome and allowed them to experience history alongside the fans, and they remarked on the beauty of our land, the closeness of our community and the solidity of our person. To them, I say thank you. And to that night, I owe a realization that keeps me here today. —Jay Winfry

Winfry bartends at Raleigh Times, where he once served Barack Obama.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY J.P. TROSTLE
  • Photo by J.P. Trostle

Land of the lost

When I moved to Durham in the summer of 2000, I knew nothing about this town except what I had seen in Bull Durham, and something about Duke having a basketball team. My new job had evening hours, which left me the day to explore my new home. Each morning I would pick a different direction and go.

I soon discovered my apartment was only a few yards off the American Tobacco Trail, and took to walking it as far as I could in the sweltering July heat. Coming from the mountains of central Pennsylvania, as I had at the time, the change in climate seemed pronounced. In an effort to acclimate, I pushed myself further along the trail, walking and sweating more each day.

One particularly steamy outing, shortly after a summer storm that did nothing to break the heat, I reached Rock Quarry Park, along the delightfully pungent Ellerbe Creek. My body and I made an agreement that we would turn around when we got to the other side of the clearing. As I passed the woods, I noticed a giant rock among the trees. Whereas central PA is nothing but boulders, Durham is decidedly lacking in huge stones lying about, so it struck me as odd—and that's when I saw the giant rock staring at me, its long neck poking through the leaves.

It was a dinosaur, and it was staring at me.

Of course, now I know it to be the much-abused life-size brontosaurus of the Museum of Life and Science's long-abandoned dinosaur trail and, thanks to a couple of pranksters who beheaded the creature two years ago, the now-restored, much-beloved local landmark.

But for a split second that swampy summer morning, not knowing I was around the corner from a children's museum, not knowing I would encounter a towering brontosaurus in the woods during my walk, for a moment, I knew what it felt like to see an actual dinosaur. —J.P. Trostle

Trostle is a graphic designer at the Independent Weekly.

Wedded to a city

For a guy who loves Durham, it was a long path from flirtation to going steady to the altar when I and a thousand friends took our "Marry Durham" vows.

Before we were even engaged, though, there was plenty of dating. And like most relationships, there are those times together that are just unforgettable. One of them in particular was my best Bull City moment.

It came a few years back, when I heard that Old West Durham's John Schelp was leading a history walk of the neighborhoods around Duke's East Campus.

I lived in one of those neighborhoods at the time, and being a visual person, I tended to imagine everything in the color-coded blocks cartographers use to differentiate areas. Those simple monikers ("Watts-Hillandale," "Walltown," "Trinity Park") are just zones on a map, sure; but they also create mental barriers between areas.

Us and them; yours and mine.

As we started walking from the corner of Ninth and Green, our crowd of dozens following John, I was fascinated to see my own home in a way that would never stand out on a two-dimensional rendering.

We saw how higher elevations provided refuge from the bottoms, where effluent and poverty and persons of color flowed. We saw how Durham and West Durham, formerly separate municipalities, merged into one, leading to the renaming of the ordinal letters and numbers that had marked the latter's streets. We saw the home of the principal in the Bassett Affair on one side of Buchanan, and the early dancing home of Madonna on the other.

It was a best moment for me for having the chance to meet so many of what were still new neighbors to me, and to see, in one very large crowd, the interest and passion so many had for a largely adopted hometown.

Most importantly, though, John walked us through Durham, as he is wont to do, in a way that crossed lines of our normal clustering. We'd wander up this street, down this street, duck through an alleyway for a sermon at the temple of Schelp songwriter fave John D. Loudermilk, wander through the grassy East Campus.

At first, something seemed wrong, even if just at an instinctual level; we weren't sticking to our lines on the map, but were instead taking our own, wandering path together through all of Durham.

But I guess that was the point, then, wasn't it? —Kevin Davis

Davis is the editor of the popular Durham blog Bull City Rising.

Longing for home, and finding a bit of it here

I grew up on Long Island, where my father played the double role of dad and college lacrosse coach, so the stickball game runs through my veins. I spent my Friday evenings running around in the blazing sun, stick in hand, trying to "lax" like the big girls did on the varsity team. On Saturday afternoons, I'd watch my dad's team play while my mom bopped me up and down on her lap. Early Sunday mornings consisted of me wrapped in an Adelphi University Lacrosse sweatshirt three sizes too big, plopped in a fold-up chair and dozing off to the sound of refs' whistles and voices shouting, "Get the ground ball!" and "Go to goal!"

At 15, I moved out of the hotbed of lacrosse to Raleigh, a lacrosse no-man's-land. I was 556 miles from my hometown, where playing lacrosse was a way of life that started at age 6. My dad became the varsity lacrosse coach at my high school, Ravenscroft, and I was no longer "the coach's daughter" in the same way that the term had applied to me on the Island. Now, instead of 40 big brothers that would sneak me extra brownies at the tailgates, find me when I'd hide from my parents under the bleachers and call me by my family nickname, "Beana," I had 20 or so guys my age that would constantly ask me if they had to run in practice, wouldn't date me because my dad coached them and called me "Kap."

It's been different, and I've missed the way it used to be.

Then, earlier this spring, the UNC men's lacrosse team came to Ravenscroft to play in our stadium against Limestone College. Limestone is one of the top Division II lacrosse teams that my dad played against when he coached for Adelphi. Limestone was now playing at my high school—the same team I had grown up cheering against from the stands. Except this time, instead of my dad pacing the sideline, clipboard in hand with a hat over his eyes to hide his expression, he was sitting beside me, holding my hand and smiling.

It was different, but a good different. As the game finished, and both teams shook hands, I instinctively diverted my attention toward the sideline. My eyes searched for the coaches as a little blonde girl wearing a Limestone College Lacrosse sweatshirt three sizes too big caught my eye. She skipped onto the field and into her dad's arms, and I knew exactly how she felt for being able to claim the coach as her dad.

I turned to my dad and gave him a hug, and in that moment, I have never felt more like the coach's daughter. —Kristine Kapatos

Kapatos completed her high school senior project at the Independent Weekly. She graduated from Ravenscroft School in Raleigh and will attend Queens College in Charlotte in the fall.

click to enlarge Marlin Stover, of the Charlotte Hornets beepball team, waits for a truck to pass so the game can resume. The team's fans stay quiet while the pitcher tosses the ball to the batter; he or she needs to hear the beep in order to hit the ball. - PHOTO BY JEREMY M. LANGE
  • Photo by Jeremy M. Lange
  • Marlin Stover, of the Charlotte Hornets beepball team, waits for a truck to pass so the game can resume. The team's fans stay quiet while the pitcher tosses the ball to the batter; he or she needs to hear the beep in order to hit the ball.

Time of the season

It is noon in August at Herndon Park in South Durham, where a din of buzzes and beeps rises from a ball diamond. Beepball is a fierce game played by fearless people. When the pitcher, the only person on the field who can see, lobs the ball to the batter, who is blind, it emits a beep. The ball, I imagine, sounds like Telstar, a satellite floating through space, a lonely beacon looking to make contact with someone or something.

The batter smacks the ball. Fielders feel for it by ear. A base buzzes. The batter runs toward it, cleats carving into clay. Behind me the stands erupt in whooping and hollering. Durham Sluggers win!

It is a Saturday afternoon in February at the Book Exchange. The store is in her final days, closing after 75 years, and she smells of old varnish, aging paper, dust and must. I caress her shopworn hardbacks with their frayed edges and sticky remnants of binding glue. I flip through her paperbacks, whose pages release a puff of fusty air that may have been trapped inside since the Korean War. Her floors groan. Her shelves groan. Just buy your books and go, she seems to say.

It is spring and the wisteria vines have sprung to life. The purple blooms give off an aroma that reminds me of the cavity-causing grape gum my teammates and I used to buy at the concession stand before our softball games.

After wisteria season it is time for honeysuckle. I step into a large bush and simply stand there, inhaling near the bees that are nursing on the blooms. I had cancer earlier this year. And now I don't. I am not afraid of bees.

It is midsummer and I'm trying to shake off the doldrums, so I stop at a panadería in my neighborhood, where I like to sniff the contrails of masa that stream from the exhaust fans.

Some days I head downtown, where once I've cleared the turbulence of scrambled eggs emanating from the Marriott Hotel kitchen, I enter the clear air of sugar and flour. At Ninth Street Bakery, I order a carrot megamuffin. The woman behind the counter has been up since 3 in the morning, but nonetheless is extremely chipper. She tells me, "Have a wonderful day." And I make a point of trying. —Lisa Sorg

Sorg is editor of the Independent Weekly.

A honeysuckle sorbet

What invasive species and its transformation into food would give rise to my most transformative Triangle experience? No, it's not kudzu or bamboo grass or starlings that I'm talking about, but that lovely scented treat from Southern childhood—honeysuckle.

How many of us spent the first hot days of May and early June risking ticks and chiggers as we plucked honeysuckle flowers? We pinched each flower's base and drew the anther through the blossom's cone to reveal a sweet drop of nectar. Like bees or hummingbirds, we would suckle on the honey. Repeat.

I could and did spend hours at a mass of vine learning in the process which of the flower colors indicated the sweetest drops. (Answer: Not the whitest nor the most yellow, but white going to yellow, a sort of middle-aged bloom, is the most tasty and most reliable.)

A few years back, I heard that Bill Smith at Crook's Corner had invented a new dessert treat that captured this experience and improved on it. I rushed down to Crook's and I wasn't disappointed. I was taken to a special section of foodie heaven, a place where the most formative tastes of my childhood were re-presented and re-formed and reimagined.

Bill had kept the distinctive honeysuckle flavor, made it both sweeter and cooler, by borrowing a cool extraction process from some Persian recipes for flower nectar ices. Bill's invention took me to the cool late May evenings spent along the vine-covered hedges picking flowers, but without the chiggers or ticks or—thanks to Crook's—the mosquitoes.

Since that first night at Crook's, I've started making my own batches of sorbet. I returned to being food for the insect pests. I've been back out in the summer heat—especially this past weekend. But I can stockpile the honeysuckle flavor for a while and make some new uses of the sorbet.

Since Bill was good enough to share his recipe in Seasoned in the South, I'll share one innovation here. Instead of putting the final liquid into an ice cream maker, I pour it into ice trays. Once the ice has solidly formed, serve about four cubes per chilled glass. Add two shots of good bourbon. Garnish with mint. Then, as with mint juleps, sip slowly while holding the glass from the bottom, allowing the heat of your palm to slightly warm the mixture.

Don't hurry. In time, you will be transported and transformed. —Paul Jones

Jones is the director of, a digital library of public domain and creative commons media administered by UNC's Office of Information Technology Services. He is a clinical associate professor at the UNC School of Journalism; he lives in Chapel Hill.

A lap dance and a homecoming

It was 1997, my freshman year at North Carolina Central University, and I was missing home. I was getting the scrub treatment as a walk-on for the football team, and it was overall just a pretty miserable time. Because I wasn't on the traveling squad for the football team, though, I got to stay behind and catch that year's homecoming show: Luke, Lil' Kim and a burgeoning (at that time, anyway) rapper named Jay-Z.

Luke was the headliner, and he brought out about 10 half-naked dancers who pulled my friend Jamie onstage, took his pants down and gave him a lap dance. Needless to say, that was Mr. Campbell's last appearance at Central.

After the show, Jamie, a few friends and I went to eat at Pan Pan (R.I.P.) and laughed like hell about all that happened that evening. On the drive back to Chidley Hall, we drove down the Durham Freeway and I took the city in and thought, "I can probably get used to this place." I've been in the area ever since. —Phonte Coleman

Coleman is a Grammy-nominated rapper and formerly of Little Brother.

A new perch

Most of my experiences in the Triangle come from the past three years I've spent as a student at UNC. I could recount a number of moments shared by thousands of my fellow Tar Heels, mostly due to our love of crowding Franklin Street until its seams burst. There was Halloween, Obama's win, beating Duke, winning the NCCA National Championship—and that was all just my freshman year. Those were great moments, and of course I was out there jumping over fires and singing "Hark the Sound" with the best of them, but I wouldn't say any of them are the best moment for me personally.

My best moment was shared with maybe eight people, the small staff of Uncharted, when the first issue came out with me as editor-in-chief.

I'm an anomaly at UNC, a journalism major who doesn't write for the Daily Tar Heel. Instead, I've devoted my extracurricular time to building a student magazine few have even heard of, Uncharted, an online magazine that focuses on the arts in Chapel Hill. Uncharted started my freshman year, but when I was a sophomore, the founding editor-in-chief resigned her post and named me as her successor. Immediately, I was given all of the responsibilities of the magazine, not just writing and editing articles and managing staff but also getting status as a student organization and publicizing the magazine. All of this was without any funding (yet another problem I had to figure out) or really any idea what I was doing. But I believed in the potential Uncharted had to be a great student magazine, and I still do, so I was willing to take on the stresses of the struggling, newborn magazine.

When I saw the finished product up on our website I felt accomplished, relieved and proud. It didn't matter that probably the only people who saw it were the staff and our friends and families. And I still feel proud whenever a new issue comes out; even if every time I tell someone I'm the editor of Uncharted I get a blank stare in return. —Rebecca Collins

Collins is a summer intern at the Independent Weekly. She attends UNC. Read Uncharted at

A passing of the sword

May 19, 2000: The Old Well stood to our side, flanked by beds of pink and white azaleas. My uniform was so tight I walked with my stomach clenched. My neck pulsed beneath the midnight blue choker-collar. Friends and family formed a half-moon around us as my father read me the Oath of Office.

"I, state your name, do solemnly swear," Dad stated in his booming bass.

"I, Rye Barcott, do solemnly swear ..." I stood at attention in my dress blues, eyes fixed on the jagged scar across my father's cheek. Thirty-five years earlier a bullet from a Viet Cong machine gun entered and somehow exited without chipping a tooth.

We continued, my father, then I.

" ... that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. ... So help me God."

My father whacked me on the shoulder, smiled, and pulled Mom and me into his embrace.

It wasn't until we were back at the old Chapel Hill Best Western motel that Dad approached me in the parking lot next to the forest of Southern pines. He opened the cargo hatch of the woody, my parents' aging wood-paneled Dodge Caravan, and turned to me. I braced myself for a lecture. Instead, he told me that it had been a special day for him, and that he hoped I would be able to keep a critical mind, wherever the Marine Corps took me. He hoped that I wouldn't allow myself or my men to be taken advantage of by others, no matter their rank or powers of persuasion.

As he turned to remove something from the cargo, a line from the Oath of Office flashed to mind: I will support and defend the Constitution. Our oath pledged allegiance to a body of ideas and a way of government, not to an individual or an ideology. I interpreted my father's advice as a way of saying that the nation commissioned us as officers to think and to be discerning with our leadership.

Dad faced me holding his Mameluke sword, palms-up, the flat edge of the blade resting against his heavily calloused hands. The blade glistened. I fingered it as a flood of emotions swelled over me. My father was not a warmonger. He even disliked the word "warrior," which he considered to be "belligerent" and "self-inflating." But I viewed him as a warrior. He was a warrior who loved peace and knew about unnecessary wars after having fought in one of them. Flawed leadership, however, did not detract from the need for a strong defense in a volatile world. Peace had to be guarded with a sword and citizens who would willingly put their lives on the line.

Dad's mouth was twitching the way it did the only two times I ever saw him tear up. He gestured to me with a nod, turned, and walked away into the forest. I sheathed the sword. He had done his part, and now it was time to do mine. —Rye Barcott

Barcott is the author of It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine's Path to Peace.

Oh, oh, it's magic

There was a time right after all the original, great alt-country bands in Raleigh had broken up. The Backsliders, 6 String Drag and Whiskeytown had all recently either imploded or faded away. Through some weird coincidence, probably due to the fact that I brought beer and liquor over to the house after Lakeside had closed for the night, Kenny Roby, Ryan Adams and Chip Robinson all ended up over at my house. From about 3 to 11 a.m., the three of those folks traded songs, sang covers and did their own versions of each other's songs. The only other person there that night was my girlfriend at the time, Kim Czornij. It must have made a pretty good impression on her, too. She went on to become a DJ at the Penguin, Wilmington's alt-country radio station. She is still fighting the good fight to this day.

As was the usual practice back then, we all pretty much slept in the next day. There was still a little afterglow from the vibe of the night before, so Ryan picked up the phone and asked Caitlin Cary and Johny Williams to meet us all down at Lakeside around 10 that night. I guess we put the word out on the Guitartown and No Depression bulletin boards, because when we got there there were probably 50 or 60 people milling around on a weekday night, waiting for something to happen.

Something happened, again. Everyone went upstairs and the five of those folks caught lightning in a bottle for the second time in 24 hours. They sat on the couches and played for us, while we all sprawled out on the floor or brought barstools up from downstairs. It went on until that dreaded hour when the lights came up and the alcohol stopped flowing. Everyone just sort of faded away into the night, with that
grin that folks get when they've just witnessed something magical.

Magical, indeed. —Van Alston

Alston owns Slim's in Raleigh and has been a longtime fixture in the local alt-country scene.

Correction (June 9, 2011): WXYC is the legendary college radio station at UNC-Chapel Hill (not Duke); this was an editing error. Thanks to the commenter below.

  • Local activists, artists, thinkers and businesspeople share their best moments of living in the Triangle

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J.P., If you hate to be a complainer then why are you repeating yourself?

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I hate to be a complainer, but the format for the "Best of" (including the ballot without multiple choice options, …

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I hate to be a complainer, but the format for the "Best of" (including the ballot without multiple choice options, …

by J.P. McPickleshitter on Best of the Triangle 2015 (Best of the Triangle)


It's Albemarle AVENUE. Not to nitpick but it sounds so much nicer.

by Mike Leary on Secrets inside the beltline (Best of the Triangle)

Virgil, blame the website! It's duplicatepposting & I can't erase the duplicate...

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