Letter to city council re: ongoing street closures

Dear Council, Tom Bonfield, & downtown water main replacement project management:
As the water main replacement project drags into the autumn, my sympathies continue to lie with the downtown merchants who have suffered through multiple weekends of lost revenue, with seemingly no end in sight. I can’t help but feel that this project is being managed by people who have never worked in a retail business, and who feel no sense of accountability to the citizens & business owners whose taxes fund the work being done. It reminds me of the terribly planned downtown streetscape project of a decade ago, which drove Ringside out of business. Did we learn nothing from that project?
It adds insult to injury, then, when Mangum Street remains closed on a Sunday when apparently no work is actually being done. I’ll direct you to the tweet below, from the poor folks at Dos Perros, who have been impacted harder than nearly all other downtown businesses by this work:

It’s all very well and good to say that this is a once-every-90-years project (although one is compelled to ask: why are we replacing all of it at once, rather than staggering the replacement of sections, to spread out both the cost and the impact to businesses?) — but for the businesses being impacted, it’s a potentially cataclysmic event. Good city planning should take the reality of commercial business into account, particularly now that so many citizens have invested so much in revitalizing downtown. This project is being managed as though it were taking place in the downtown of 1995, a place that nobody wanted or needed to go after dark or on weekends.

Surely the Durham of 1995 is not the city you wish to be managing — so perhaps you & your contractors should alter your actions to reflect the reality we currently live in?

Warmest regards,
Ross Grady

Letter to city council re: ongoing street closures

Nov 3 – 17, 2015

This diary is failing as a diary if I only update it once every two weeks, because for me the whole point would be to augment my generally terrible memory. But my memory is so terrible that after 2 weeks I haven’t the foggiest idea of what went on.

We were on vacation from November 12-17, so presumably the 3-11 were spent working extra-hard to get ahead of things before leaving. Right? Nowadays basically all I do is work & then read alternating entries in the Elvis Cole & Parker detective/crime/noir series, so it’s a safe bet there was some of that going on.

And watching episodes of Master of None along with literally everyone else I read on the internet. Not much to be said there that hasn’t already been said. It’s good. Watch it if you have Netflix. If you don’t, you’ll probably survive.

Saturday the 7th, at least, I went out in public & saw Too Many Friends at the Pinhook for the debut of my friend Reese’s new band (and their excellent album). It was good. It wore me out.

We went on vacation on Thursday the 12th, and I did a reasonably good job of ignoring social & other media, so I felt like I was watching people react to the terrorist attacks in Paris from a distance. I don’t know that this added any clarity to my perception of any of it. You can zoom way out & it becomes a story about 500 years of imperialism (or 1000 years of European Christian hegemony). Or you can zoom way in & it becomes a story of disaffected unemployed young people in the suburbs of Paris.

People talk about the Internet as the greatest democratizing force the world has ever known, and it’s true. It’s just as full of lies and propaganda as all the other media, but it positions that stuff alongside truth in a way that heightens the power of both.

It’s easy to tell people that nihilistic violence isn’t the solution to the problems that confront them, but too often it seems like the only alternative presented is to continue living exactly the same life, forever.

Our vacation was to Savannah and Charleston, prompted by a national Masters division weightlifting competition in Savannah. M lifts; I watch.

It was interesting to get to compare the two cities back to back. Savannah is kind of like Charleston’s drunker cousin, I guess. It has all those beautiful squares, but it also has booze in go-cups, insanely complicated one-way streets, and largely forgettable food. (With the exception of The Florence, which I can wholeheartedly recommend).

Charleston is the neat-freak who studies hard & gets good grades & still likes to booze it up after dark. Amazing food, a surfeit of cocktail bars, and a shitton of white people who love some historical markers and who would just as soon not talk about slavery if they can avoid it.

Seriously. We took an impromptu guided tour of one of Charleston’s architecturally significant homes. 45 minutes, a dozen rooms, endless monologue about the furnishings & the marriages of the family who owned it — and a single small room off the gift shop that provided the only mention of the fact that the guy who built the house was an importer of dry goods, lumber, and, oh yeah, people. And that he had 8-12 people enslaved in his household to make his beds & cook his meals.

I have the impression that some other museum-homes do a better job of presenting the whole picture, but the only way Charleston could truly convey the Whole Picture would be to replace every one of the literally hundreds of historical plaques on half the buildings downtown with new ones that say “built by enslaved people; paid for by profits from buying and selling enslaved people, and stealing their labor.” I mean, that wouldn’t be nearly enough, but it would be a start. Because you’re swimming in it down there, and thus everyone ignores it as much as they possibly can.

Like literally: Are you down in the historic district? Is the house bigger than a breadbox? Was it built before 1865? Enslaved people built it, and probably worked to maintain the white people who lived in it. Would it be redundant to put a sign on every single pastel building down there? Yes. That’s the whole point.

But man they have some good restaurants. The Ordinary was the best meal of the trip (better than Husk! albeit not by much). The cocktails at the Gin Joint were outstanding. We may not go back anytime soon, but I’ll remember those things as well.

Nov 3 – 17, 2015