Monday, December 29, 2008

Leaves Calm Traffic in Winston Salem

In Winston Salem, piles of rotting leaves languish on busy thoroughfares, narrowing two-way roads to one-way and forcing cars to slow.

The City has abandoned its customary pickup of leaves, brush, and limbs. Huge piles of organic material block roadways for months at a time.

The controversial strategy is part of an innovative program designed to calm traffic all over town, even in rich old white folks' neighborhoods. One resident, not a rich white folk, is angry.

"I couldn't take it anymore," he fumed. "The piles were blocking my mailbox and eating up my parking. What with the holidays, it was bad timing. I borrowed a friend's pick-up Saturday and hauled away as much as I could. I drove it out Bethania-Rural Hall Road and dumped it."

A similar program launched by the City last Fall attracted national interest. It successfully created cost-effective speedbumps, roundabouts and neckdowns, and is known locally as the "Bags and Bags of Garbage" initiative.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Gauntlet

I enjoy cooking for the holidays. Tofurky roast, my grandmother's stuffing, cranberry sauce. It's fun to plan the menu, and I'm quite happy with my local grocery store. But on the day before Christmas Eve, shopping grew harrowing.


It was so crowded, and I dearly hate people. Some customers careened wildly through the store with their carts, seemingly oblivious to the crowd and the fact that the universe doesn't revolve around them all the time. Or maybe it does--the rest of us got out of their way real quick-like.

Special others blocked traffic in aisles and chatted on cell phones as long lines of gridlocked angry shoppers formed behind them.

Customer's faces were screwed up as if they had bit into a lemon; others were scarred with stringbean frowns. I hurried out of the bakery after I'd been tailgated too long for my liking. And I dodged sullen women as I grabbed at boxes of frozen lima beans.

In front of the beer, I made an effort to reverse the downward trajectory of my own sour countenance should someone make eye contact. My half-hearted attempt to spread cheer met with baleful stares and warning glances.

Compulsively, I watched every single face I passed to see if someone, anyone--perhaps the little old ladies--would look at me and smile. They didn't. They couldn't. They were just plain scared.

My ordeal nearly over, I paid and left. Now--to make it across to the parking lot. I stood by the sidewalk in frigid air, my cart piled high, teetering dangerously. Car after car passed. Finally frostbite threatened and I edged into traffic.

All other planned errands for the day were cancelled immediately. I returned home at once, anxiously watching for careless drivers; optimistic that my husband would enjoy some private time of his own amidst the festive masses.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Someone's Daughter Is Now A Hate-Crime Survivor

Updated 12/27 to add fund information below.

I had trouble sleeping last night after what I read. A horrific hate crime was visited last week upon an openly gay woman in Richmond, California.

Police believe the woman was targeted due to the suspects' anti-gay bias. The victim got out of her car to visit a friend, and was attacked and raped by a multi-ethnic posse of hate-filled men.

Why do I mention multi-ethnic? Simply because I find it interesting how last week's hate crime victim may be this week's hate crime perpetrator. That victim could be any of us. A sister, a neighbor, a daughter.

Back in August, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs called attention to a rise in severe anti-lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (lgbt) violence across the country.

“We must continue to work to build a society where such violence is not tolerated,” said Avy Skolnik of NCAVP. “This is not a call for people to hide or to live in fear, but rather a call for people to take notice, to speak out, to not sweep incidents under the rug, and to support and look out for each other.”

All forms of intolerance need to be exposed. Learn ten ways to fight hate. Report discrimination so it can be documented and used to educate. In North Carolina, check out EqualityNC.

I'm disgusted, and I'm angry.

People desiring to help this individual may send a check made out to Community Violence Solutions, 2101 Van Ness Street, San Pablo, CA, 94806. On the check, donors should write "Richmond Jane Doe."

What else can we do?

Cross posted at BlueNC.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Building Goodwill

When my husband was out of town recently, I made some executive decisions and broke some unwritten rules.

I foraged in pantries, closets and other dark places; gathering clothing and items we had 'outgrown.' I made piles around the house; grabbing any unflattering sweaters, whether they belonged to me or not.

Unused Christmas gifts from last year, still in their original boxes, went in a pile. No--I'm not going to wrap and "re-gift" them. Barring dire circumstances (like being broke and needing to give someone a present), I think re-gifting is cheap, tacky, and usually obvious.

Then I got daring. Here and there in the dining room where wrapped gifts were stacked, I picked up Christmas presents intended for us, given by people who live far away. I carefully examined and shook each package. Occasionally my finger slipped under a flap of festive paper and tugged, or untied a ribbon and pried open one corner a box. I'd take a little peek inside.

And I congratulated myself on an uncanny sense to accurately discern which wrapped packages would probably need to go away. Some All of these gifts and all the piles went into my car.

At my local Goodwill donation center I dropped off two large garbage bags full of housewares and clothing.

"Do you need a receipt, ma'am?"

"No, thank you!"

I drove away feeling much lighter. Giving is good.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Afternoon on the West End Home Tour, 2008

The West End neighborhood of Winston Salem is an intriguing mix of beautiful historic homes, apartment buildings, and dilapidated rental properties. It was planned in 1890 by Jacob Lott Ludlow.

I feel as if I was born to live in the West End; I just haven't been able to make that happen yet. So with my first Christmas in Winston Salem drawing near, I partook in the annual Historic West End Holiday Tour 2008 last Sunday.

My friend and I began at the Bahnson House, where we registered and picked up information. We spent the afternoon going from one home to the next; quickly falling into a comfortable rhythm of critiquing exterior structures and landscaping as we approached each tour site.

Once inside, conversation flowed as as we discussed aspects of light, open space, and "souls" of houses. Sometimes we had less than positive opinions about what owners had done, but tried our best to be discreet. After all, we were extremely grateful they had opened their homes to us.

Well, we were mostly grateful.

One site on the tour was leased by businesses. Upon entry, we were invited to provide our e-mail address so local merchants could contact us. Um, no thank you.

After a quick look around I wanted to leave immediately. Something about the house felt sterile, and I'm thinking this property shouldn't have been on the tour. There's a time and place to hawk and peddle wares, but this didn't seem like a good one.

It seemed like a classic bait and switch; the bait being an old house. When my friend was cornered by a docent-saleslady, I fled outside like the true friend I am and waited in the cold for her to emerge.

At another tour site, a compelling photograph of a bride in her gown held my attention for an inordinate amount of time. I stood looking at it for what seemed five minutes or so when I noticed a docent eyeing me suspiciously. Quickly, I moved on to another part of the house.

There were memorable rooms in various houses: two baths in a home that shared delicious views of the same old tree. A gorgeous family room with huge windows. A dining room I hated to leave; beautiful in milky paint and sparse, perfect accents of furniture and accessories.

In one residence, we laughed at our frequent and gushing use of the word "love." "I love this table," and "I love those windows!" Then, "I LOVE that paint!"

I hope to make the Tour a yearly holiday ritual. Thanks to all involved for a wonderful day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

When Christmas Songs Attack

I enjoy listening to a little Christmas music during this season of
voracious consumption. While the Carpenters and Manilow can induce agitation and hysteria, they receive relatively scant airplay at present.

God is good!

Sadly, the festive spirit is all too quickly dampened when tortured by
godawful Christmas songs in super-heavy, nonstop rotation.

Here, my list of most hated Xmas tunes:

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Bruce Springsteen
The Boss sounds like a sloppy drunk guffawing and harrumphing through this holiday favorite. It's nasty. Shower afterwards.

Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
John Lennon, and Too Many Others.
Depressing downer. In Celine Dion's rendition, she fancies herself "soulful;" meanwhile, Sara McLachlan breaks and cracks her own voice to everyone's great displeasure.

Wonderful Christmas Time
Paul McCartney
WHY is this getting airplay? Vapid, annoying and grating. Remember Wings?

Jingle Bell Rock
Bobby Helms
See above.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders
Odd inflections. Tuneless caterwauling and sour notes. Braying. This one will curdle fresh milk in an instant, and you may not survive a listen. Pretty much a

Little Drummer Boy
Bob Seger
Atrocious dirge. Difficult to endure.

New this year!
O Holy Night
Gayken, Josh Groban, Celine Dion
Jerry Butler's version was a long favorite of mine. Now, thanks to them three, I've come to hate this song with a passion. It's so overplayed in Winston-Salem, I'll probably never be able to enjoy it again.

Silver Bells
Bing Crosby
Puts me in mind of a mean old alkie guzzling eggnog, careening into the tree and slapping people around. Stop it! Horrible song; should never be recorded by anyone, ever. Not even god Stevie Wonder.

That's it: Carly Kickslaw's most hated Christmas ditties. I've despised most of
them for years. Take my strong advice and avoid them if you can.

Coming Soon: my heartwarming list of holiday favorites.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hate, North Carolina-Style

In our capital city, racist graffiti threatening the life of Barack Obama was painted in NCSU's free expression tunnel. In Cullowee, a dead bear wearing Obama political signs was dumped at WCU. A "prank?" Or a message?

Twenty-eight organizations identified as "hate groups" blanket the state from Southport to Waynesville. Is North Carolina a haven for hate?

The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented hundreds of hate incidents across the country specifically linked to Obama's victory. Hate crimes are sobering, chilling, and heartbreaking.

What can we do as North Carolinians to fight this scourge? We must speak out against all forms of intolerance. Learn ten ways to fight hate. Get involved with a progressive movement
such as HK on J that helps us reach across racial
and other lines to focus on common ground.

Participate in groups (cultural, faith-based, social, academic) to join like-minded North Carolinians in celebrating our diversity. Connect with a local social justice group. Write, talk, reach out. Don't look away.

Positive change is here. Let's keep it going.

Cross posted at BlueNC.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Looking Up

On winter walks,

Nests once hidden are revealed in bare limbs.

Weak sunlight brightens trunks and branches.

Huge black crows gather in tree tops.

Sycamore seed balls move with the wind.

In the cold,

Looking up.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Still Lying After All These Years

President George W. Bush is still doing it. I wish I could believe the lies he told Charlie Gibson; maybe I'd feel better about the war, the carnage, and the mob evil that put us there.

I can't. I'm not able to fall for the crying in beer routine; the disgusting appeal for sympathy. The mound of untruths grows higher and higher, like a nasty pile of steaming, rotting garbage.

George W Bush Pictures, Images and Photos
A profound conversion is what it would take. For him to accept some culpability for the perverted agenda; for the reprehensible and calculated mission that forced the United States into war unneccessarily--it would require his being born again.

George W. Bush and mob friends: You did it! Well done. All worked as planned. The American people don't "like" you? Who cares?! Good work. "Mission Accomplished."

Cross posted at BlueNC.

Progressive Dems in Gso This Weekend to Grow Grassroots

Hordes of hopeful Democrats are expected to descend upon the Triad this weekend (Friday, December 5 & Saturday, December 6) as Greensboro hosts the 2008 Convention and Progressive Summit for the Progressive Democrats of North Carolina.

Saturday's keynote speaker will be Tim Carpenter, National Director of The Progressive Democrats of America. Founded in 2004, the group seeks

to build a party and government controlled by citizens, not corporate elites -- with policies that serve the broad public interest, not just private interests. As a grassroots PAC operating inside the Democratic Party, and outside in movements for peace and justice, PDA played a key role in the stunning electoral victory of November 2006. Our inside/outside strategy is guided by the belief that a lasting majority will require a revitalized Democratic Party built on firm progressive principles.
The Convention will take place at Bur-Mil Club House (5834 Bur-Mil Club Road, Greensboro) this Friday and Saturday. Details and registration information is available online with the Progressive Democrats of North Carolina.

Watch Out: Obama's Coming!

Be afraid.

Be very afraid.

Teams of Obama operatives are reportedly "swarming" federal agencies in Washington.

carnival of souls
They are asking, among other things, "Which is the division that has really run amok?"

I can smell the fear.

Fear is good.

Cross posted at BlueNC.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Minister

"Oh my God," I said this morning, waking with a start. "It's tonight. The Minister is coming tonight!"

The fact that I initiated contact with a Minister of the church we've been attending is, well, shocking. He will visit us tonight to talk about our becoming members, my son and I--as well as having our son baptized.

I grew up in a conservative Church of Christ. After I turned eighteen, it seemed I spent the bulk of my life trying to get as far away from it, and Christianity, as possible. Technically, my beliefs--or lack of--haven't changed in years.

This church is tolerant, inclusive, and has an obvious diversity of thought. Still, I wonder, am I somehow being dishonest? In church I sometimes feel as if I'm watching myself from afar, participating in primitive rituals shared by many.

Part of me fears I'll be "found out" before joining, that I'll be discovered and run out of town on a rail. I suppose cynics would think as long as I'm willing to write the church a check every week, they won't much care about my rather amorphous version of Christianity. Maybe that's true, but it still scares me. I try to be quiet.

Will we all pray together tonight? The idea both terrifies and excites me. Will the Minister merely go through the motions, reeling off some rote prayer for the occasion? I hope not.

I wonder whether I should remove the Obama paraphenalia--like the sign still on our glass front door. Could my buddha collection, scattered through every room of the house, set off alarm bells for our visitor? What about the pagan "San Simon" idol?

My anxiety deepens with the twilight. What was I thinking? I'm cleaning house frantically. The Obama stuff, the pagan saint, the buddhas. They'll all have to stay, I'm afraid. But I will clean the kitchen floor. And I'll offer the Minister freshly ground decaf and my best store-bought organic cookies.

"Get ready," I told my husband. "What do you mean?" he asked. "If you're planning a religious intervention for me, you'd better have a straitjacket." I smiled. Anything could happen.

Edited to add: The Minister never showed up. And I just ate a whole bunch of chocolate chip cookies.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Annual Presentation of Handel's "Messiah" in Winston December 7th

Soprano Elizabeth Pacheco Rose will sing in the local Mozart Club's presentation of George Frideric Handel's "Messiah" next weekend in Winston Salem. The Mozart Club describes Winston as
...a link in this "great chain of harmony" as the approximately 300 singers, representing the more than 225 church choirs and choral organizations of the Triad area and vicinity, unite their voices under the direction of an internationally renowned guest conductor in presenting the 75th Anniversary performance of "Messiah"....
The performance will be Sunday, December 7th, three clock, in Reynolds Auditorium (301 North Hawthorne Road, Winston Salem). It is free to the public but donations are appreciated.