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Best of the Triangle 2011: Best Moments of the Triangle 

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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.

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

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

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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...

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

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