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

January 30 – February 1, 2015

Friday night we attended the pre-opening of Dashi Ramen, which, when it opens officially, will be the 2nd-closest restaurant to our house. McDonald’s being the first.

M has been on a sort of semi-committal not-overly-strict Paleo thing for a while, and while I do my own thing, I have tended to eschew carb-heavy meals. Although lately I can’t resist getting fries with my burger at Geer St. I’m going to blame the cold weather for that.

Anyway, point being that the last thing we need 3 blocks from home is a noodle place. So I’m actually really excited about the Izakaya portion of the place, where presumably a variety of meaty skewers await.

Billy & Kelli Cotter have been our friends since the early days of Toast, which was nearly as close to our then apartment in West Village as Dashi is to our current home. I’m pretty sure there were entire months when I ate at Toast at least four times a week.

Judging from what I saw the other night, Dashi is aiming at a slightly higher price-point, which might piss off some of the locals who’ve been dreaming of a giant $8 bowl of ramen, but which should hopefully also minimize the line-out-the-door factor that plagues so many other ramen joints around the country.

The space is gorgeous, the people are friendly (and we saw a lot of familiar faces, including the woman who was the longtime front-of-house manager at Panzanella), and the food was of course outstanding.

Saturday I took M’s dad to the Wal-Mart to shop for jeans. I think the last time I set foot in a Wal-Mart was on a trip to Kentucky to visit M’s mom, so I guess this was kind of appropriate. Wal-Mart sure is weird, though.

Saturday night we saw the Branford Marsalis Quartet at Baldwin Auditorium. Branford’s drummer had been misled into having the eggs & salmon at Elmo’s, and was laid up with some heavy-duty food poisoning at the start of the set, so Branford & his longtime pianist Joey Calderazzo tapped one of their former NCCU students, Tyler Leek, to sit in for the first half of the set. He did a solid job, particularly given that he’d only gotten the setlist two hours before the gig.

The whole evening was loose and goofy and felt more like a Tuesday-night club gig than a Saturday night university performing arts thing. Lots of clowning around and shout-outs to friends in the audience. And the music was outstanding. I’ve seen & heard plenty of avant-garde/modern jazz in my life, but I’m still partial to a quartet that swings (and a rhythm section that doesn’t take many solos).

Sunday was Sunday. There’s a new taco night menu at Dos Perros which has a couple more appetizers and a couple more large entrees in addition to the tacos. The barbacoa taco is gone, which is OK with me since it was always kind of overly damp. The biggest & most important change is hand-made tortillas! Huge step forward & one they should’ve taken the day they opened.

January 30 – February 1, 2015

January 26-29, 2015

A four-day span in which I flew to Atlanta, attended a career fair, had a fabulous dinner at Empire State South, and flew home again. And that was [literally] just what I did on Tuesday.

Monday night was the screening of Wise Blood at the Carolina, hosted by Lucinda Williams, whom I never saw, because I left as soon as the movie was over, because (a) I had to get up at 4:50 the next morning to go to the airport, and/or (b) oh my GOD the guy who hosts that film series is seriously the MOST obnoxious human being on earth.

Still, I really enjoyed seeing Wise Blood for the 4th or 5th time. It’s pretty much Brad Dourif’s finest hour, and I say this as someone who just watched Alien Resurrection a few days ago.

(I should note here that there is a new tumblr editor which refuses to let me insert any links, which is why there are no links in this post.)

Meanwhile, over in Greensboro, a city not significantly larger than Durham, they have arthouse cinemas which get new indie movies on a weekly basis, movies that will literally never play anywhere in the Triangle. Which I would actually greatly prefer to the endless retro retread series we have going on here.

Wednesday night I went to my first Refresh the Triangle in ages, a presentation by Anna Lewis of Viget, all about their internship program. It was actually really interesting to see what they do, and to realize that there’s a lot more variation, internship-wise, even in our industry, than I would have imagined.

Thursday I got nearly caught up after the past almost-two-weeks of travel and distraction. Which explains why this post is (a) cursory but also (b) existent. 

Other notes for posterity:

  • My favorite Durham restaurant, Gocciolina, was named Restaurant of the Year literally 6 months after it opened for the first time.
  • It was announced officially that Andrea Reusing is going to open a restaurant in Durham, in the ground floor of the new hotel that is about to open in my favorite building in town (no, not the 21c in the Hill Building – “The Durham” in the ultra-space-age Mutual Bank building next to the post office)
  • If all goes according to plan, Dashi Ramen will be open by early next week.
  • We may yet get Google Fiber.
  • The new Sleater-Kinney is STILL album of the year.

January 26-29, 2015