Saturday, August 13
We left Charleston after a final explore on Saturday, August 13 and started our drive to Durham, North Carolina. The drive was a reasonable five hours, at least in comparison to the day before, and accompanied by nearly 70 wacky and fairly insensitive billboards for an aging tourist attraction called ‘Pedro’s South of the Border’ as we progressed up the highway. Billboards advertising pralines and canned goods, okra, mainly, started tapering off as we entered the northern of the Carolinas. While Durham was brand new to me, a friend and fellow MFA candidate had been singing its praises since they day we met (shout out to Amy Unell who also provided an unbelievably comprehensive list of Durham attributes and took us on a killer tour of Duke the next morning), and I was excited to see what we could fit into a condensed stop.
Happy to be out of the car by late afternoon we walked for hours by indulging our curiosity all over the city, trying to make some sense of the layout and mostly failing. Durham sprawls, it is wide open, there is a lot of diversity in building heights, minimal signage, and what isn’t brick is very light stone. It’s an excellent city for getting lost and the experiences that come from wandering without purpose; at one point we walked into a cupcake shop's birthday party and were welcomed to stay (southern hospitality is definitely a thing). Yet again it was incredibly hot outside, temperatures were in the high nineties with no sign of breeze, and the only signs of city life were a long line snaking down the block outside an ice cream shop that didn’t pop up until after dark, a trickle of individuals headed into a Lyle Lovett concert at Durham Performing Arts Center and the distant roar of a large group of people at a minor league Durham Bulls baseball game. Perhaps that’s where everyone was.
I had several thoughts wander through my head as we traveled and took in our surroundings. In efforts to understand the prevalence of bulls everywhere we stumbled upon the history of old tobacco and wandered through the converted tobacco buildings. I am torn with how intrigued I was with the old brick buildings and compounds, despite their origin in the needs of a terrible industry, but their history was alive and I couldn't help but feel a sort of attraction to the old brick buildings. Towards the end of the evening we were approached by a homeless man in a three piece suit and hat asking for money. I was taken by surprise both by his level of dress and the amount of clothing in relation to the extreme heat, but remembered that the man we encountered in Charleston asking for money was also fairly formally dressed. I’m very curious about this trend, but didn’t feel that it was my place to ask about his attire out of the blue. The next morning, after some incredible avocado toast that deserves special mention, Amy and her pup Luna drove us around Duke. As we saw some of the more iconic sites of the University, the Duke chapel among other landmarks, I wondered about the aesthetic and function of the college town. It felt so much like Amherst in a Southern way, perhaps there's a secret formula for developing such towns. Additionally, Durham felt fairly liberal and I know a lot of fantastic open-minded individuals that live or lived in North Carolina. How do such small liberal pockets easily exist in a state that can otherwise pass such atrocities as HB2 (the bathroom bill)? I collected these thoughts, questions and observations, unable to dive in to any of them with brain that was rapidly becoming saturated, and hope to revisit them as I continue breaking down my travels.
Durham was where I had one of my most meaningful connections and performance experiences of the entire trip. Amidst our long walk all over the city we found a mural in an empty lot. Sitting across the lot, staring into the mural, was a man in ripped, dirty clothing, speaking to himself, who identified himself as homeless. I was interested in the swoopy simple lines on the mural as a sort of dance language, and asked if it would be ok if I filmed a quick dance at the site. As I performed movement that was awkward and clunky as I tried to move in heat and sandals on gravel, he sat rapt by my improvisation. Upon finishing he enthusiastically expressed how much he enjoyed the impromptu performance. I was excited by the fact that perhaps I enhanced someone’s day-to-day experience with my project. This felt like progress, despite not having specifically defined sub-goals to accomplish during the trip.
For video click here.