Taking stock, freezing the frame

by Jordan Green

The holidays force us newsies to take stock of our lives, to make sure we’ve got something going on beyond the civic scrum that is a city, a state, a nation. As a one-time bachelor, it’s a time for me personally to feel immense gratitude to not only have a significant other but a complete family of in-laws who graciously fold me into their story.

A time for me to marvel that I could ever live as an island.

Listen to National Public Radio and you’ll hear people who ordinarily deliver the news of the swirl of events and personalities in the larger world get subjective and introspective and talk about their New Year’s resolutions. Crack the Sunday Times “Week in Review” section and there is a spread of photos chronicling the past year. What I once considered copouts and shortcuts in YES! Weekly’s year-end issue I now discover to be standard industry practices.

The Greensboro I encountered and saw fit to record over the holiday break was a Christmas Eve walk with my fiancée along the Warnersville section of the Downtown Greenway, where a pair of down-and-out men offered upbeat greeting; a futile drive through the Christmas rain in search of eggs making the circuit from Harris Teeter to Bestway to University General Store (all closed, of course); and a Sunday walk to church through Westerwood and College Hill (apartments for rent, new architectural details to regard).

From Christmas Eve roughly through New Year’s Day, no one — with the notable exception of a Nigerian airline passenger who wasn’t too handy with explosives — is making news. Hardly anyone is around to tell what happened. And not too many people are interested in hearing about it.

Yes, work continues. My fiancée pulled double shifts the day after Christmas and the day after that, working back to back at the art gallery and the hospital. Left to my own devices, I ended up poking around the Greensboro blogosphere. It’s a place I visit with a slight sense of secrecy and shame.

Good ole reliable Dr. Joe Guarino continues to post right through the season, taking only one day off for Christmas. The dean of conservative blogging in Greensboro has used my original reporting from two stories as fodder for his polemics within eight days, proving that I have at least one reader.

That’s admittedly pretty thin gruel, as they say.

Permit me then, dear reader, to reference some items both off-beat and sentimental that have commanded my attention on this Sunday evening as I wait for copy to land in my inbox from the Forsyth County Bureau, AKA Keith T. Barber.

The shot-callers at The Business Journal, the official organ of the Triad business establishment, couldn’t have anticipated what would befall Mark DeWeese when they named him one of their “10 toWatch for 2009” a year ago. Not only did DeWeese’s Graham-based EmpireHomes shut down under a flood of money-owed lawsuits and have itsheadquarters foreclosed, Managing Editor Justin Catanoso reports, butthe homebuilder was charged for felony obtaining money by falsepretenses for accepting a $25,000 check from a customer but notperforming any work. The charge was reportedly dismissed after DeWeesemade restitution.

I’m also moved reading a reflection by Maggie Jones in The New York Times Magazine onthe life of Crystal Lee Sutton, the North Carolina mill worker andunion activist whose involvement in the JP Stevens campaign in RoanokeRapids inspired the movie Norma Rae and who spent her final years in Burlington.

Joneswrites that Textile Workers Union of America organizer Eli Zivkovich“would later say that in his 20 years as an organizer he had neverknown anyone who matched Sutton’s zeal.”

Jones’next paragraph offers a timeless encapsulation of the limits ofprogress in North Carolina’s political culture: “Not all of RoanokeRapids was impressed. She was called a whore and treated like a pariah.Southern textile workers had a long history of resisting labororganizing. They had

beenfed anti-union rhetoric since childhood — from the pulpit and in theclassroom. The union would be a tool for black power; a union victorywould shut down every mill. When you are poor and desperate, a bad jobis better than no job.”

(Forthose who are interested in Sutton’s work and who find succor in thecause for which she lived, UNITE HERE International Union PresidentJohn Wilhelm will give the keynote speech at a celebration of Sutton’slegacy at the Glenwood Community Center in Greensboro on Jan. 9.)

Finally, it’s pleasurable to read Lloyd Grove’s review in the Times ofa new biography of Molly Ivins, whose column we ran until her death in2007 and who I met a decade earlier in Austin, Texas at a camp-in toprotest an antihomeless ordinance when she took a seat on the sidewalkwith a 40 oz. bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag.

Ivins,Grove writes, “was that rarest of endangered species, anunreconstructed Texas liberal. As a newspaper reporter, syndicatedcolumnist and public speaker, she built a body of work enlivened bypolitical passion and rollicking wit. She lampooned the TexasLegislature, the business establishment, the power elite and most ofall George W. Bush.”

May her example shine for us into the next decade.