Posts Tagged ‘Durham N.C.’

Practicality, love and gloves: A few thoughts

November 30, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 30, 2017

I used to own a pair of hybrid glove-mittens. When I needed to keep my hands warm, I’d pull on the hybrids and make sure the mittens enveloped my fingers. When I needed to use my digits, I could pull the mitten-pocket away from my fingers and pin it on the back of my hand using Velcro patches. That left me sporting what were essentially fingerless gloves: except for the top inch or so of my eight fingers, my hands were completely covered. It was like having the best of both worlds!

These hybrids weren’t the most stylish item — then again, very very little of what I wear is — but they were incredibly practical. I wish I still had these hybrids, but alas, I lost track of them years ago.

One of the nicest gifts I ever got was given to me by Lady X when we were dating. She took a solo trip to Italy in the fall or winter. (I think this would have been towards the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011.) When she came back, she presented me with a pair of brown leather gloves. They fit quite comfortably and looked great. I was thrilled with them.

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The Friday that white supremacists (never really) came to town: Part 2 of 2

August 24, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 24, 2017

Author’s note: This post contains one word that is considered obscene and one usage of a notorious racial slur. The obscene word is part of the title of a famous rap songMEM

After returning to my car last Friday, I decamped for a coffee shop and finished writing about The Big Sick. Then I went back home and changed out of my sweaty clothes. Like I said, man, it was hot that day.

The rumors circulating on social media said that the white supremacists who had failed to show around noon might instead (or also) be planning to come around 4 p.m. A little after the hands on my watch pointed to that hour, I drove to another quiet residential neighborhood. I parked my car and began walking back to the courthouse.

At least one helicopter was still hovering in the air, but I found very little traffic when I arrived downtown. The block of Main between South Corcoran and North Mangum streets had been reopened. In fact, cars were allowed on Main as far east as Church Street, where there was a barricade. At least one police officer must have been standing there, but most of the people clustered around the blockade were regular people demonstrating against white supremacy. Some held banners and signs declaring their enthusiasm for diversity and tolerance.

It was at this point that I witnessed the first — and for me, really, the only — tense encounter of the day.

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The Friday that white supremacists (never really) came to town: Part 1 of 2

August 22, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 22, 2017

It was around 11 on Friday morning when I noticed a tweet saying that white supremacists were planning to march on downtown Durham at noon. I ate an early lunch and started preparing to go.

However, I dallied. This was partly because I was skeptical that any hate group would actually show up in what might be North Carolina’s most liberal city. Indeed, none of the tweets I saw from people who were downtown indicated that any white supremacists were showing up. But to be completely candid, I also dawdled for the very converse reason: Because I was afraid of the catastrophe that could occur if armed reactionaries did in fact turn out.

Many of the white-supremacist marchers at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month were heavily armed and obviously spoiling for violence. Moreover, on Thursday evening, I’d read a disturbing news story about a gun-toting militia group that had turned up at a San Antonio city council meeting. (The stated rationale was that an official of the This is Texas Freedom Force had received death threats after publicly opposing the council’s intention to move a Confederate monument.) If shooting had started in Charlottesville, or San Antonio, or Durham — or if some whack job decided to drive into a crowd, as happened in the town where Thomas Jefferson lived and founded a university — no one could guarantee the public’s safety.

However, when the Ku Klux Klan might roll into your town, able and available adults can’t just sit on the sidelines. So even though I showed up late, I did show up.

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Crime and misdemeanors: A crowd tears down a Confederate monument in my home town

August 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 15, 2017

It’s not every day that Durham, N.C., gets national attention — and it’s even rarer when the City of Medicine generates widespread news coverage for something other than college basketball. Unfortunately, despite being in town yesterday, I was completely unaware of what might be a seminal moment in an important national news story until a few hours after the event had taken place.

On Monday evening, protesters pulled down a monument to Confederate soldiers that stood in front of the Durham County Administration Building, which served as the county courthouse from 1916 through 1978. The statue in question was erected in 1924; the front of its pedestal reads, “In memory of ‘The Boys who Wore the Gray.’”

I won’t miss the statue; it venerated soldiers who, while they may have fought bravely, did so in service to a disloyal would-be nation that was dedicated to keeping black men, women and children in bondage.

Durham, like many American cities, is full of symbols of disdain for African-Americans, some more explicit than others. One example — subtler than the statue of the rebel soldier, but more prominent in a way — is the Durham Freeway, a.k.a. N.C. 147, an expressway built in the late 1960s that devastated a once-thriving black community named Hayti. These badges of dishonor can never be wholly erased; nor should they, for to plaster over past injustices is to invite their repetition. But neither should such affronts be afforded undeserved esteem.

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A short monograph on Triangle traffic; or, my Wednesday-afternoon trip to the airport

July 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 31, 2017

I’d planned on taking a trip the week that ended on Saturday, July 22. But I hadn’t planned on leaving on Wednesday the 19th, and I hadn’t planned on flying. However, an urgent situation arose, and it seemed best that I book an evening flight.

That afternoon, I went to a barcade in downtown Raleigh. I did this partly to help myself unwind for a bit before my flight, but I also did this because evening rush-hour in the Research Triangle tends to be heaviest going east from Durham to Raleigh, and Raleigh-Durham International Airport is located about halfway between the two cities.

(Sidebar: A significant disparity between housing and jobs helps fuel traffic holdups in the region, as does a lack of rail-based mass transit. The city of Raleigh, which forms the Triangle’s eastern vertex, is the most populous in the region. But a significant proportion of Raleigh residents work either in Chapel Hill, the site of the University of North Carolina and its major teaching hospital facility, or in Durham, which is home to Duke University, to Duke’s major teaching hospital facility and to North Carolina Central University, a large historically black state university.

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Cheeps and Chirps for April 2017 (more catch-up)

June 23, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 23, 2017

You got it: Yet more catching up from my Twitter feed!

• ZOMG Donald Trump!

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Return to outer space — recalling another not-so-terrific science-fiction adventure from the waning weeks of 1979

May 10, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 10, 2017

Occasionally, YouTube’s algorithms offer up something interesting. That happened the other week when I stumbled upon some video clips excerpted from The Black Hole, the poorly received 1979 film that was the first-ever Disney production to receive a PG rating.

When I looked up the film’s release date, I found that it came out on Dec. 21, 1979 — exactly two weeks after the premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I went to see The Black Hole in the cinema during its initial theatrical run, which meant that that month was full of science fiction excitement and disappointment.

The nearest art-house cinema to my current home is the Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham, N.C. The Carolina regularly shows old science fiction, horror and fantasy movies, and a few years ago, they brought in The Black Hole for a showing. Naturally, I went.

The film that had disappointed young me also disappointed adult me, albeit for somewhat different reasons. But that hasn’t stopped me from returning to movies (and occasionally books) that my younger self enjoyed. Which, not at all coincidentally, will be the topic of my next post…

Crash bang pop! (In which nothing much happens)

March 11, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 11, 2017

So about that car crash…

North Buchanan Boulevard is a quiet street; even more so at night. And as previously noted, this particular moment on this particular Saturday evening, things were especially quiet. So I was quite surprised when, as I crossed the intersection of Buchanan and West Knox Street, I heard a loud POP! and glimpsed a shower of sparks in my rear-view mirror.

I wasn’t sure what had just happened; rather incongruously, it seemed like someone had set off a single pyrotechnic item. Had a street light or maybe a transformer exploded?

The good samaritan in me felt the need to report this. Was this a matter for 911, or should I call the power company, or perhaps the police department’s non-emergency number. I didn’t know, in part because I did not know what had just happened.

I turned left at the next intersection, parked on Englewood Avenue, exited my car and began walking briskly back toward the site of the…well, whatever had just gone pop.

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A short drive through downtown Durham

March 9, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 9, 2017

Author’s note: The day after this blog post was original published, I adjusted one paragraph after realizing that I’d driven through the Brightleaf District closer to 7:40 p.m. than 8 p.m. As usual, additions are marked with boldface text; deletions, with a strikethrough line. MEM

I inserted myself into the wake of a car crash on Saturday night. This is the story of how I maneuvered myself into falling just short of actually witnessing the collision.

I’d spent much of the afternoon participating in World Tavern Poker’s North Carolina Central East Regional Championships at a hotel in Southeast Durham County. I’d played decently for much of the tournament, but I was never able to recover after I misplayed a hand during the 4,000–8,000 level.

The event had started with around 225 players, of whom the top 10 percent, or 23 players, would qualify to play in the National Championship Finals this spring. When I was eliminated, there were four tables of players; they weren’t keeping track of the exact number, but I went out around 35th or 40th — not bad, but not as good as the finish I’d had in the previous regionals.

Anyway, I was feeling somewhat morose and contemplative as I drove home that evening. When I left the hotel, I headed north on North Carolina 55 until I reached North Carolina Central University. I haven’t written at all about NCCU on my blog, but it has the distinction of being the nation’s first public supported liberal arts institution for African-Americans. I don’t pass by Central much — it’s on Durham’s east side, as opposed to Duke University, which has its main campus on the west side of the city and is much closer to where I live.

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Psst! Want to read a brilliant, scintillating anecdote? In that case, this isn’t the best blog post for you to check out

October 31, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 31, 2016

On the most recent episode of MEMwrites.wordpress.com:

Hurricane Matthew was sweeping along the coast of the Carolinas; the Triangle got some rain — at times heavy rain — along with some flooding and a bit of wind. But otherwise, little weather-related drama took place in my part of the Old North State.

I arrived at the coffee shop without incident and settled in for some hot tea, a snack and a bit of computing.

When the shop closed, I reapplied all my clothing, packed up my computer and headed south toward Ninth Street. Night had more or less fallen, but the wind seemed to have died down a bit, and the rain was unremarkable.

It’s at this point, by the way, that something interesting — but not too interesting — happened. I’ll describe it in a separate post.

And now: The interesting-but-not-too-interesting thing that happened!

By way of context, Joe Van Gogh in Durham, N.C., is located on what I think of as being the ground level of a two-story building on Broad Street. As one moves west toward Broad Street, the earth rises and crests. The upshot of this is that the building’s other level is lower — that is, a basement space. The exterior wall of the lower level is exposed to open air on the east side but effectively buried beneath the sidewalk on the west side.

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