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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Prick up your ears, Durham: Listening Point, where you can take in the soundscape

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 8:19 PM

[This story was updated Wednesday morning.] Among the many reasons I love Ninth Street in Durham is because it's the onIy place, with the exception of a university campus, where people still post flyers on kiosks and light poles. This old-school way of communicating—not via social media, which does not require you to leave your chair (or your bed)—reaches people who walk around, look around and, in this case, listen. At Ninth and Perry streets, this flyer was stapled to a lamp post. It was 8:45 on a Tuesday morning. I stopped, although I admit I did not close my...

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

A rare and beautiful moment at University Tower—the Green Weenie—in Durham

Posted By on Sun, May 18, 2014 at 9:36 AM

The Pickle. The Green Weenie. The Dallas Phallus: For the past 29 years, University Tower has been derided for its resemblance to a fully erect male member. And with a leafy forest at its base ... well, let's move on. In 1985, when Texas developer Tommy F. Stone built the 17-story tower on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, its flamboyance turned that portion of Durham's skyline into a punch line. The essence of Durham, at least at the time, was mettle and grit, not metal and glass. So placing the tower at the western gateway to the city was like placing giant...

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

INDY wins three Green Eyeshade awards

Posted By on Tue, May 6, 2014 at 8:34 AM

John H. Tucker's story about an innovative  yet controversial program to prevent domestic violence won second place in the non-dailies division of the 2014 Green Eyeshade Awards, sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists. The article was honored in the Courts & the Law reporting category. Lisa Sorg won two second-place honors, one in public affairs reporting for "Appetite for Destruction," a story about North Carolina's new gun laws that allow patrons with valid conceal-carry permits to bring weapons into bars and restaurants. She also was recognized for a body of work in the Serious Commentary category: "Tit for tat," which analyzed the proposed state...

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

An evil stepmother and a sad princess: Just another Saturday morning in Durham

Posted By on Sat, Apr 26, 2014 at 1:55 PM

"I went to the Durham Farmers Market this morning," I once commented to my husband after a particularly colorful trip. "It was very Portlandia." "Really?" he replied. "Was anyone nursing a python?"  Even though I occasionally poke fun at the Saturday Durham Farmers Market for bordering on hipster preciousness, it's one of my favorite rituals of the Bull City—and the best place to people watch.   This morning, among the baskets of strawberries and field loads of greens, the Legacy Repertory Company in Durham was plugging its performance of Cinderella at the Carolina Theatre on Saturday, May 10.  The evil stepmother with the large...

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

As part of Paradoxos, artists brighten the green wall in Durham

Posted By on Sun, Apr 13, 2014 at 9:05 PM

For those of you who frequent downtown Durham, the green wall is an unfortunate punchline, a reminder of failed developments during the Great Recession. The building has no roof (but there is a piano inside), and at one time it was feared the green wall was so unstable it could fall. But the green wall is also a landmark that I've grown fond of. I can see the facade, its paint exfoliated over the years by the elements, from my office window. I love the adjacent green space, a de facto park, where the Woolworth's Building used to be. ...

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Small moments at St. Stephen's AME in Liberty, N.C.

Posted By on Sat, Apr 12, 2014 at 3:37 PM

St. Stephen's AME Church in Liberty, N.C., sits adjacent to the former Randolph High School, an African-American public school the powers that be closed in 1965. Even though Randolph High was new—less than 20 years old—and accredited with advanced science and math programs, the school board determined it should close and the black kids should be bussed to the white Liberty High School. Liberty,  population 2,668, is about 20 miles south of Burlington in Randolph County. It's about 45 minutes west of Chapel Hill. Although Randolph High has been designated a cultural heritage center, it is nonetheless dilapidated and...

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Friday, April 11, 2014

This Durham corner is sick: McPherson Hospital as it becomes a Residence Inn

Posted By on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 3:58 PM

When I arrived in Durham nearly eight years ago, one of my first views was the old McPherson Hospital. It was in ruin then, and in ruin it has remained. It always depressed me to see one of Durham's architectural and historic legacy sites in that state of entropy. Part of the 1926 building has already been demolished, and now it's being denuded as it transforms into a Residence Inn.  It appears that the entrance is being "preserved," but as for the rest of the 143-room chain hotel, well, the drawing of the finished product is not impressive. I...

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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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