Posts Tagged ‘DurhamNC’

Things to go, see and do in Durham: Part 1

December 12, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 12, 2015

Recently, I was asked about things to visit and do in Durham, where I’ve lived for about seven and a half years. I’ve split my response, which has been lightly edited, into three blog posts — this one about Duke-related places, a second one about Durham’s non-Duke stuff, and a third one covering miscellaneous items. Enjoy!


Duke University Chapel
401 Chapel Drive, Box 90974, Durham, NC 27708

I haven’t spent much time at any of the Triangle universities, but I personally find Duke’s grounds to be the most distinctive and the best of the Big Three for just walking around and soaking in the college atmosphere. (Note: This applies to West Campus, which some consider the institution’s heart, and to East Campus. Central Campus is best not mentioned, unless you’re visiting the Nasher or Sarah Duke Gardens.) For young kids, the best part of Duke to visit is probably the university chapel. Check in advance for tours or musical performances. The chapel is closed for renovations until spring 2016.


Cameron Indoor Stadium
115 Whitford Dr, Durham, NC 27708

College basketball fans either love or loathe the Duke University Blue Devils, which plays in one of the most famous arenas in the NCAA. I believe Cameron is generally open to the public for visits. During parts of the season, you can find Krzyzewskiville — a campsite inhabited by rabid student fans — set up outside the building. A museum and hall of fame is located next door to Cameron in the Schwartz/Butters Athletic Center at 306 Towerview Dr., Durham, NC 27708, 919-613-7500; it’s free of charge and open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on most weekdays, with additional hours tied to basketball and football games.

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Saturday morning: Some anecdotes

October 11, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 11, 2015

Early on Saturday morning, around 1:45, I was finishing up a blog post and was playing a game on my favorite Internet Scrabble app when I heard a series of short, staccato sounds: pop pop pop pop pop pop pop.

I frowned to myself. Were those fireworks? It seemed unlikely; the sounds had been too uniform, too regularly spaced. So, I asked myself, should I call the police?

I sighed and continued my game. Then I reached for my phone, except it wasn’t there — it was charging in the bedroom. I set my computer aside for a moment, grabbed the handset, sat back down with my laptop and scrolled through my contacts. I dialed the Durham police department and pressed 1 to connect to the non-emergency dispatcher. I gave my address and explained why I’d called. The operator asked where the noises had seemed to come from; I mumbled that they might have originated on Guess Road somewhere north-northwest of my location.

She asked what kind of gun I’d heard; I told her I had no idea. She asked if I’d seen or heard anything else; I hadn’t, and I told her so. When she asked if I wanted to speak with a police office, I said that I did only if one wanted to speak with me. The operator instructed me not to leave my house or put myself in danger; she also told me to call back if I heard anything further.

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My root canal!

September 4, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 4, 2015

If I was distressed by the prospect of getting dental work done back in June, it’s fair to say that my emotions were hovering just a smidge under absolutely terrified prior to the root canal that I had Thursday afternoon.

(Spoiler alert: Reader, I lived!)

A tooth near the back of my lower jaw on the starboard side of my face had been slated to get a crown. But when the dental hygienist first installed a temporary crown in July, the bite wasn’t right — the temp was too tall. I suffered with discomfort for a few days before returning to get things adjusted.

The dentist filed the corresponding tooth on the upper jaw to reduce the extent to which it came down; the hygienist then made additional adjustments to the temp. Because I was scheduled to leave for a vacation, the office arranged for me to return that Friday to have the crown permanently installed, something which I’d otherwise intended to get done upon my return in early August.

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Friday night at the ballpark — fireworks show!

August 25, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 25, 2015

Here are some photos that I took near the beginning of the fireworks show at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park after the home team’s 7-6 win in 14 innings over the Toledo Mud Hens.

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Friday night at the ballpark, Durham Bulls edition

August 25, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 25, 2015

On Friday night, I went to a ballgame for the first time in about two years. I ended up getting quite a show.

By happenstance, I bought tickets for myself and my friend D— that placed us in section 120 of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. I’d never sat in that part of the stadium, but it turns out to be right behind the Bulls bullpen. D— and I sat three rows behind the Durham relievers. We could see them stretch, start to warm up and chat with fans.

Durham Bulls relievers Kirby Yates and Parker Markel

Durham Bulls relievers Kirby Yates and Parker Markel sit in the home team’s bullpen at Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) during an extra-innings Minor League Baseball game on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, against the Toledo Mud Hens in Durham, N.C.

A very cute little girl, perhaps 5, was sitting immediately beside one end of the bullpen bench, which for the home team is mostly surrounded by a small concrete enclosure. (The visitors’ dugout is just a bench or two.) This girl talked regularly with the players. One of the pitchers had fun surreptitiously switching hats with a little boy who was sitting just behind the dugout.

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Some quick notes!

April 9, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 8, 2015

My computer’s been repaired. There’s a story in that, which I’ll get to later.

Also, the next few weeks are going to be a little hectic. Beginning tomorrow, I’ll be seeing about a dozen movies at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. After that, I’ve got a roughly weeklong trip coming up. Only following that will things begin to settle back to quote-unquote normal.

I’ve fallen behind a bit on my reviewing. The other week, I finished reading Frederick Reiken’s excellent Day for Night; in February, close readers may recall, I wrote about his earlier novel, The Lost Legends of New Jersey. And I’m in the middle of reading Margaret Atwood’s apocalyptic 2009 novel, The Year of the Flood. It’s well-written and compelling, but it’s also disturbing. That’s due to what happens to the book’s characters (and to its world at large) as well as to what Atwood is saying about how our species is treating planet Earth.

I’ll share my thoughts on both books at length at…well, at some point in the future. In the interim, I’m going to try to blog about most if not all of the documentaries I see at Full Frame, so brace for a bunch of film posts.

A few more notes about this here blog

April 9, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 9, 2015

Time to update my standard blog disclaimer!

In November 2012, I wrote the following:

With some exceptions noted below, I have not requested or received any free items to be reviewed on MEMwrites; nor do I plan to request any. The blog is an entirely voluntary venture for which I am receiving no financial compensation. The only reward I derive from MEMwrites is the satisfaction I get from writing and from being read.

All of the books and movies that I have been reviewing on MEMwrites have been chosen by me without any outside prompting. With some exceptions noted below, I have purchased all of the books and movies reviewed on the blog myself.

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On laughter and white privilege

April 3, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 3, 2015

Author’s note: Alas, my laptop is malfunctioning again, so I’m going to have to change up my blogging for the next several days until I get things in order. (Unfortunately, that may require the purchase of a new computer.) Here’s a short post based on some tweets I sent recently. MEM 

True, and kind of sad, story from Wednesday night about Chris Rock. 

It was trivia night at a downtown Durham, N.C., restaurant/bar. The crowd was largely Caucasian (as I am) and Asian. 

One trivia question was basically, “Which comedian posted pictures of himself being repeatedly pulled over by the police?”

Several minutes later, the M.C. gave the answers to that round of questions, including the above-mentioned one about Chris Rock.

The M.C. mentioned that some people incorrectly answered the question with “Will Ferrell” — who, of course, is white.

I laughed heartily at the thought of Will Ferrell being pulled over repeatedly. It just seemed totally ludicrous.

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Patting myself on the back: A random good deed

January 28, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 28, 2015

This past Saturday afternoon, I was sitting in DaisyCakes, a bakery on Foster Street near Central Park in Durham, N.C. With perhaps one exception, this was only the second time that I’d visited this establishment on a Saturday. I was a bit surprised by how crowded it was. People came in and out at a fairly steady pace.

I ordered some hot cocoa and took a seat on one of the benches along the north wall. I was sitting there, blogging about my recent “exploits” in a local charity Scrabble tournament, when a pair of people sat down at the table next to me. One of these individuals was a white man, maybe in his mid-30s. The other was an androgynous-looking fair-skinned, fair-haired person; I couldn’t decide if this person, who was sitting immediately to my right, was the man’s girlfriend or his son. After this pair finished eating lunch, they left the bakery.

A few minutes after that, I looked at the bench to my right. I was chagrined by what I saw: A small gray zip-up purse lying unattended on the seat.

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An unexpected lyric: A previously unknown (to me) Sinatra song suddenly summons nostalgia

December 2, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 2, 2014

Occasionally, echoes of my childhood home pop up at the least expected times — and in the least expected songs.

That’s just what happened to me around 2:30 this afternoon when I was sitting in DaisyCakes, a bakery in downtown Durham, N.C. The sound system was playing classic big band songs, one of which was sung by Frank Sinatra.

“Let’s take a boat to Bermuda,” crooned the man with the golden pipes as the song began. “Let’s take a plane to St. Paul.”

Nothing too remarkable here. But my ears pricked up midway through the next couplet:

Let’s grab a kayak to Quincy or Nyack.
Let’s get away from it all.

Quincy is a city of about 93,000 residents located some 11 miles south-southeast of Boston, Mass. One could kayak — or, more plausibly, sail in a boat powered by wind or an engine — from downtown Boston through the mouth of the Mystic River, pass Logan International Airport, take a southerly turn through the Boston Harbor Islands and proceed into Quincy Bay before landing at Merrymount Park in Quincy. I’ve never been to Quincy.

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Noontime at the Saturday polls: Notes and impressions from my early-voting excursion

October 29, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 29, 2014

Voting turned out to be a strangely festive experience this year.

I went to the Durham County Board of Elections around noon on Saturday, Oct. 25. Sometime this year, the board relocated from a single-story commercial office complex off of West Corporation Street to a building known as the Judicial Annex, which is downtown on Roxboro Street just north of Main.

(I think that happened this year. I remember stopping at the old offices to cast a ballot during early voting for the May primary immediately before departing on a trip to New York. Anyway…)

I’d never been in the Judicial Annex before, so the whole scene was a bit of a surprise. I parked in what had been (and may again become?) a pay lot located west of the annex and north of a building that locals used to call the new courthouse.

I don’t know how people refer to the so-called new courthouse now; sometime last year (again, I think), the new courthouse was replaced by an even newer, much larger and much more modern courthouse. In fact, I don’t even know what is currently being done with the building that I used to refer to as, simply, the county courthouse. (According my ever-so-correct parlance, the structure that many locals called the old courthouse was simply the “county administration building,” because it now houses the county manager’s office and several other Durham County employees.)

At any rate, I parked my car in the nearly full lot and walked east, stepping across the curb that delineates the parking lot from the pavement that surrounds the annex. This latter space was well populated with campaigners. There were people handing out flyers and (I think) stickers and buttons. There were people wearing matching T-shirts that variously seemed to be declaring support for different candidates and get-out-the-vote initiatives.

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Refresher seminar at the literacy center — or, The blog post that ends with a joke (or two)

October 24, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 24, 2014

Around the beginning of 2012, I saw in a flyer in a Durham, N.C., coffee shop. The shop was almost certainly Bean Traders, the Ninth Street establishment that has since been renamed Market Street.

That’s not important — what’s important is that the flyer was for the Durham Literacy Center, which was seeking volunteers to work as adult literacy tutors. I signed up for an orientation session, which I followed with a two-day training session with about a dozen other newbie tutors at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.

I was initially matched with a student who was an ex-con. He lived somewhere in northern Durham County, and his trip to the center’s adult literacy classrooms — which at the time were situated in a church auxiliary building — required an hour or more of bus travel.

At our second meeting, I gave my student five dollars. That was the last I saw of him; apparently, he got a job that prevented him from taking lessons.

Soon after that, the center matched me with another man — a Durham native, then in his late 40s, whom I’ll call T. We’ve worked together ever since March 2012, with some interruptions for holidays, travel and other things that happen.

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Soccer plus games: Précis of (parts of) a holiday weekend

July 7, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 7, 2014

Independence Day was another hot and humid Durham day. I bicycled to a coffee shop on Ninth Street in the afternoon. It closed early for the holiday, at 4 p.m. I went to a nearby grocery store to do some shopping: Peanut butter, salsa, popcorn, rice…

As I sat on the store’s porch, packing my backpack for the bicycle trip home, I realized that the day’s second World Cup quarterfinal match was still being played. I decided to go watch it.

I swung the straps of my now extremely heavy backpack over my shoulders and walked back to my bike on Perry Street. Then I pedaled east, across Broad Street and onto Duke University’s East Campus.

After cycling past the Duke dorms and gym and administrative and miscellaneous buildings, I emerged on Buchanan Avenue. I continued heading east on Dacian Avenue, across North Duke Street and onto the gravel byway that links to the South Ellerbee Creek Trail. I turned right and followed the asphalt ribbon to its southern terminus at Trinity Avenue. For the sake of exercise, I went a few extra blocks east on Trinity before hooking right on North Street and backtracking west on West Geer Street.

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Scenes from a Tuesday afternoon: Part 2

July 3, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 3, 2014

Previously on MEMwrites:

I brought my tea cup to the bus station and walked back to my car. There was soccer to be watched!

The World Cup was on! The United States men’s national team had advanced to the Round of 16, the first part of the knockout stage. I drove over to Geer Street and parked by Durham Athletic Park, former home of the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team, and then hiked up the hill to Rigsbee Avenue. Motorco Music Hall sits on the corner of those two roads, and I had a notion that the game was going to be shown on its screen.

This was true, but when I walked into Motorco’s main venue — the eponymous music hall, as it were — it was pretty packed. I decided after a moment that it wasn’t worth trying to fight my way through the crowd to find a seat, and I didn’t relish the prospect of standing throughout the match, which had already begun.

I wandered back outside, thinking of my options. Motorco has a secondary space, so I walked toward it. This smaller venue was pretty crowded, too, but the bay doors were open. (Motorco used to be a car dealership, naturally.) While I’d still have to stand, I’d be able to see the screen without squeezing between a dozen complete strangers. A nice bonus was that the side bar was pretty accessible.

I ordered a drink and a bratwurst and focused on the game, which was scoreless.

The action struck me as resembling the U.S. team’s last match, against Germany. The Belgians were much better than the Yanks at stringing together extended possessions. As a result, the Red Devils were able to launch a number of shots on goal. For the game, Belgium outshot the Americans, 38-14, with the Europeans getting more attempts on goal (27) than total tries for the U.S.

Fortunately, goalkeeper Tim Howard was in top form, absorbing or redirecting a World Cup–record 15 attempts. So the game remained scoreless when halftime came around. I gulped down some water — Motorco had put out some pitchers and plastic cups for the purpose — and tried to cool down.

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From spring to winter and back again: Wild weather swings over the last few months

March 2, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 2, 2014

Today, residents of North Carolina’s Piedmont enjoyed a beautiful spring day. The skies were clear, the sun was out and the mercury rose into the high 60s.

Today is Sunday, March 2, 2014.

Tomorrow, the high will be in the mid-50s. (These temperatures are all Fahrenheit, natch.) It’s going to be about 56 degrees around midnight. The temperature’s expected to drop below 40 degrees before 10 a.m. By 1 p.m. on Monday, March 3, 2014, the forecast for Durham, N.C., calls for 29 degrees with a 100 percent chance of precipitation — most likely sleet.

The sleet (traces of rain and snow may also come) should taper off by sunset, around 6:12 p.m. The temperature, however, will keep on declining. It could bottom out at around 15 degrees by the time Monday rolls into Tuesday.

But this isn’t the first time this has happened in recent months. In fact, this will be at least the third time since early December that North Carolina has experienced a wild change in temperatures and weather conditions.

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Snow problem: It’s not if people don’t get on the roads at the same time they’re being converted into ice rinks

February 15, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 15, 2014

On Friday, I wrote about my (very modest) snow-day misadventures. But I wanted to write a bit about the much more significant troubles that the South, and in particular my corner of it, have handling snow.

In Durham, North Carolina, a lot of area businesses and schools seemed to close around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. This appeared a bit silly to me at the time, but it turned out to be a great call. As previously noted, the snow started around a quarter to 1 that afternoon, and visibility and road conditions deteriorated very quickly.

So what happens when snow starts during business hours? Typically, lots of people jump on the roads to go home — the same roads that have suddenly become unsafe to travel, the same roads that are not scaled to handle virtually everyone traveling on them at the same time, and the same roads that, in most of the South, there are very few snowplows to clear.

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Fragrant flowers fill the New York City sidewalks with a certain kind of flair

August 6, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 3, 2013

Last week, I drove into Manhattan to meet an old school friend whom I had not seen socially in years. The rendezvous involved a fair amount of walking around the Upper West Side.

After dinner, Mark and I strolled downtown to get a drink at a wine and tapas bar he favors. We witnessed something that was perfectly mundane, at least for New Yorkers, yet struck me as being quite novel. We were passing a floral display that was being watered. Excess liquid dripped and splashed on the sidewalk. Fluid pooled and flowed across the sidewalk, draining toward the gutter. A burst of scent from the bouquets filled my nose as we ambled south along Broadway.

This is something that New Yorkers can see many times a day, but it had been years since I’d experienced it. Read the rest of this entry »

In the aftermath of murder, small lessons emerge

December 14, 2012

Author’s note: This is the third and probably final of three posts that I’ve written this week about my reaction to homicide. The earlier entries appeared on Wednesday and Thursday. Also, this item provides a little context for this story. Thank you for your interest in my blog!


I rarely take well to sudden or significant changes. Adjusting to someone’s new haircut; preparing to move to another city, or even another house; embarking on a new job, or departing an old one — all these transitions stress me in different ways.

The murder of Mohammed Arfan Sundal, the smiling man whose Indian restaurant was near my house, was the most sudden and significant change possible. As I tried to come to grips with the news the morning after his killing, I could feel my hands trembling. I spent much of Friday doing what I normally do — tweeting, reading, shopping for groceries — but nothing really felt normal.

I’ve written earlier about my work as a daily newspaper reporter and how it connected me, for the first time in my life, to various shocking and tragic murders. But the difference between the slayings I covered and the one at the Kabab and Curry House was that I’d never known any of those victims when they’d been alive.

I didn’t spend much time wondering about why or how Mohammed had been killed, or by whom. Reporters frequently seem to solve murders in movies or TV shows, but I never had. The truth, hopefully, would come out after the police made an arrest.  Read the rest of this entry »

Death and the cub reporter: My life and murder

December 13, 2012

Author’s note: This is the second entry in a series of related posts that began on Wednesday. I also posted this prologue the previous week. Thank you very much for reading!


I had lived a few relatively comfortable decades before I first got involved with murder. Then I changed careers and became a reporter for a small-town North Carolina newspaper.

I wasn’t officially the crime reporter at the paper. Then again, the paper was so small that sometimes I had to handle whatever kind of news story broke. The three-county area that we covered wasn’t home to that many people, but unfortunately, it seemed to have more than its share of crime.

And actually, one of my assignments was covering an entire county. Usually, that meant covering the local governing council and school board. But sometimes, it meant covering crime — and typically, the kind of crime we were interested in was murder. One of the years I worked the beat was astonishingly bloody: If memory serves, there were eight slayings in a county of about 20,000 people.

One night a man, apparently made paranoid by cocaine, starting shooting the folks on his driveway. Two died; one managed to escape despite a serious wound. It was the county’s first multiple homicide in many years. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to my neighborhood: A highly selective guided tour of the place where I live

December 7, 2012

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 7, 2012

Author’s note: I edited this entry slightly on Dec. 11, 2012, to correct the spelling of kabab (not kabob, as I originally had it) in a restaurant name. I’ll link to follow-up posts to this item once they’re online. Thanks for reading! MEM 


In the fall of 2011, I moved out of a very nice but bug-ridden old two-bedroom house in a lovely neighborhood. My new home, which was a much smaller and somewhat more affordable two-bedroom house, was just a mile away. Naturally, the neighborhood was…not quite as nice.

Not that there’s anything wrong with my neighbors, I hasten to add. The only ones I have spoken to live to one side of my house and across the street, and they’re fine. There are some other folks nearby whom I’ll wave at, but to whom I’ve really not spoken. Everyone seems pleasant. It’s basically a lower-middle class or working-class area.

A few families seem to be on their way up. Many are basically holding in place, including some older folks and people whom I see often enough that they may be on disability or else unemployed. A few might be on their way down. Some of the houses look lovely; rather more of them have a certain air of neglect and subtly advancing chaos that are at the least less elegant. There is a house near mine that appears to be vacant but has not been boarded up or vandalized.

The foot traffic that passes my house is much more diverse than the folks I used to see in my old home. There are definitely some sketchy people about. But I’ve never felt particularly nervous in my neighborhood.  Read the rest of this entry »

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