Enjoying the void | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It

Enjoying the void 

It's late afternoon in downtown Durham. After days of gloom, the sky has finally cleared and the low-slung vista of chunky warehouses, auto shops and a few high-rise office buildings spreads to the horizon. My 5-year-old is carrying a paper bag full of old machine parts we've just bought at the Scrap Exchange art recycling store. We walk down Foster Street to King's Sandwich shop for a snack. We're the only people walking but at this hour, the streets are plenty busy with cars and trucks heading elsewhere in Durham. The hum-and-bump of tires on uneven pavement punctuates our conversation.

"Mom, why aren't there any houses downtown?" Sam wants to know.

"Well, when the downtown was built, it was built as a place for business," I say. "Not for houses." His expression tells me he thinks that's a strange idea indeed.

We order our milkshake and take a seat at one of the metal picnic tables under the awning at King's. From here, we have a clear view of the emptiness that is downtown--the ballpark without its bull, the warehouses with twin "for lease" signs for eyes, the lonely stretches that seem to have stopped breathing.

In the 10 years I've lived in Durham, downtown has clung to life by its fingernails. Yes, Manbites Dog theater is here and the YMCA and the soon-to-be Durham Central Park. But Wilma's Country Kitchen is long gone from Corcoran Street, as are most of the other lunch spots that used to dot the area. Even The N&O has deserted the inner, inner city for new quarters in Peabody Place, near Brightleaf Square.

In Raleigh, the decades-long wait for a downtown revival seems to be ending, with developers and city officials moving on plans for a new convention center, office tower and the reopening of Fayetteville Street Mall to traffic. A recent opinion poll of 600 Raleigh residents found more than a third would consider living downtown. As Mayor Meeker so aptly put it: "Wow!"

I want downtown Durham to thrive again, too. And plans for a public park and the possibility of a new social services complex seem like sensible uses for the emptiness--uses that match the way we live now, in an era when little boys find it odd that people ever shopped downtown.

But selfishly, at this late afternoon moment, I find myself savoring the void. Sam and I suck down our milkshakes in peace, listening to the comforting whine of traffic. Nothing else moves or makes noise. We stare at the open skyline and breathe the cool air. It's like contemplating an empty canvas, before that first deliberate splash of paint.

Join Us on the Porch
The Front Porch welcomes submissions, though we're sorry they can't all be acknowledged or returned. Send your contributions of up to 500 words to the Front Porch, Independent Weekly, P.O. Box 2690, Durham, NC, 27715. Or e-mail them to editors@indyweek.com.

Latest in Front Porch

More by Barbara Solow

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Nobody will be surprised to learn that Hocutt never went to Nam. He was in the Navy but washed out …

by Jefflenter on Raleigh bad boy no more (Front Porch)

I see his concern. Yes, it was a well written story and showed his caring side for sure. But not …

by Linda Bates Terrell on Motorcycle men (Front Porch)

Follow-up to my "nervous mom" comment. The last coupe of weeks we have been in many situations with individuals that …

by paulapowers on Governor's School blues (Front Porch)

Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Most Read

  1. Smug Revisionism (Letters to the Editor)
  2. Dot-con (Peripheral Visions)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation