THIS IS WHAT SUMMER WAS MADE FOR — SWIMMING, TRAVELING, ESCAPING, PLAYING.
It’s time to get out and enjoy the beautiful Carolina weather, bask in its magnificent parks and pools, listen to the inimitable musical stylings or maybe just slow down the pace and enjoy a good read on the beach. In short, it’s time to do something that doesn’t involve your couch. So here we present a small sampling of what’s good about the Triad in the summertime. Give it a read, and then put it down, get outside and give yourselves a reason to complain about the weather when it starts to get cold.
Pages: Summertime literary escapes
In my awkward youth in rural Kentucky, I had the good fortune to belong to a family that took the Sunday edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader, a regional paper based in a city not quite as large as Greensboro. The paper’s opinions and ideas section devoted at least two pages every week in the late 1980s to books. Though the selection was somewhat geriatric for my tastes, they represented the most important strains of thought in the state: politics, history and the purest kind of writing: literature.
My friend Ron Whitehead likes to say — and I think he’s right — that there are more great writers in Kentucky per square mile than anywhere in the world, except perhaps Ireland. Back then, new releases from Wendell Berry, Ed McLanahan, Bobbie Ann Mason, James Baker Hall, Gurney Norman and James Still were regular occurrences.
In our patch of the North Carolina Piedmont, where does one find out about books these days? Although the daily newspaper with regular space devoted to books has gone the way of the department store, thankfully DG Martin maintains the lost art of the book review on UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Bookwatch” and the odd literary-focused column. In an age when last week’s New Yorker piece or the latest screed from Huffington Post delivered by Twitter or Facebook passes for deep reading, books seem hopelessly antiquated.
But it’s summertime, a period when time stretches into a somewhat more relaxed elongation, and a good book can still reveal the world.
And since social media, blogs and 24-hour cable have accelerated our habits of consumption, I’m going to posit that, counterintuitively, books now have a longer shelf life. So here’s a list of nine books, more or less, published in the past 12 months, in no particular order, that might be worth your while.
Winston-Salem poet-activist Monte Smith is, like me, a veteran of Anti-Racist Action and, unlike me, of Skinheads Against Racial
Prejudice, or SHARP. Long before we knew each other, my wife-to-be and I were both stunned observers as Smith verbally decapitated a poet who had the temerity to broach the topic of love at his revolution-themed Red Bull Word Clash on the top floor of the Kress Building in downtown Greensboro in 2005. Smith’s new book, Don’t Shoot the Hostages: Poetry and Social Commentary for the New World Survivalist, (2009) carries the same urgency. I don’t know how widely distributed it is, so I suggest visiting www.streetpoetmontesmith.com to obtain a copy.
Among rock writers, with the exception of perhaps Peter Guralnick, there is no living equal to Greil Marcus, whose When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison (PublicAffairs, 2010) hit the shelves in April. Counting the dead, Lester Bangs (who also loved Van Morrison) probably still reigns supreme.
Jerry Bledsoe may be the most prolific author who emerged from the grueling discipline of daily deadlines in newspaper journalism, but News & Record reporter Lorraine Ahearn – who is the object of Bledsoe’s obsessive crusade against political correctness in The Rhinoceros Times – gets the last laugh by being published in hardcover more recently.
The Man Who Became Santa Claus and Other Winter Tales (Cold Type Press, 2009) is a series of columns obviously geared toward another season, but those of us who are perpetually behind don’t quibble over such distinctions.
Forget about Christopher Hitchens and his new memoir Hitch 22. For a story about a woman of letters who chronicled and shaped the politics of her time – and completed a strange ideological journey from left to right – consider the life of Nell Battle Lewis, as detailed in Battling Nell: The Life of Southern Journalist Cornelia Battle Lewis, 1893-1956 by Alexander S. Leidholdt (Louisiana State University Press, 2009).
Lewis demolished gender barriers as a reporter and columnist for the Raleigh News & Observer from the 1920s through the 1950s, her sympathies coursing from common cause with the communist-led Gastonia textile strike of 1929 to staunch opposition to Brown v. Board of Education and the efforts to dismantle segregation that took form in the 1950s.
More recent (and local) history is detailed in Elizabeth Wheaton’s Codename Greenkil: The 1979 Greensboro Killings (University of Georgia Press, 2009), whose revised edition was released last year with an addendum about the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose final report was released in May 2006. Broaching the subject of Greensboro’s sadly maligned and ignored truth and reconciliation process, honorable mention has to go to Learning from Greensboro: Truth and Reconciliation in the United States by Lisa Magarrell and Joya Wesley (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008). Though somewhat clinical, extensive interviews with Greensboro citizens Ed Whitfield, Terry Austin, Mark Sills and Claudette Burroughs-White add particular insight.
Greensboro science fiction and fantasy writer Orson Scott Card has attracted fans from across the ideological spectrum, but his right-wing politics have become increasingly less subtle. Hidden Empire (Tor Books, 2009) comes with this warning from Publisher’s Weekly: “An evil dictator is named Idi De Gaulle, the bad guys machine-gun lives babies and FOX News gets prominent placement, but the only people likely to pick this up are those who share Card’s politics, rendering subtlety less necessary.”
Ancestors and Others: New and Selected Stories (St. Martin’s Press, 2009) by former state poet laureate and UNCG professor emeritus Fred Chappell needs no recommendation.
UNCG has cultivated a number of talented writers, going back to Randall Jarrell, a National Book Award-winning poet who taught at UNCG’s precursor, Woman’s College. Holly Goddard Jones, who currently teaches under graduate and graduate workshops in fiction writing at UNCG, continues that tradition of literary excellence. Her short story collection, Girl Trouble (Harper Perennial, 2009), concerns intertwined themes of love, violence and morality in a small Kentucky town. See what I mean about Kentucky writers?
In the year I took off between high school and college, I found myself drawn into the narrative web of two of Lee Smith’s novels, the country music-inspired Devil’s Dream and the Appalachian-gothic Oral History. More recently, I have found myself in the thrall of the political essays of Smith’s husband, Hal Crowther. Smith’s new collection of short stories, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger (Shannon Ravenel Books, 2010) deploys more contemporary characters.
A book is a friend. Get to know some new friends this summer.
Sounds: A summer of music
A palpable sense of anxiety hangs in the air about whether people will be able to stay employed, businesses will keep their doors open and household budgets will remain intact without taking on staggering debt. Maybe you can’t afford to take a trip to the beach this year. Maybe the plume of oil gushing from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico gives you a slightly sick feeling about the whole notion of hurtling down the interstate in a metal box fueled by carbons.
Stay home, as in the three cities of the Triad.
But don’t stay home, as in your house. Cities thrive on the active participation of people. You should go out and mix with the others. A not-so-well-kept secret is that there is a lot of music to be heard in any mid-to-large sized city in America that is either free or nearly so. Even some of the ticketed festivals sometimes throw in a freebie here and there. Consider it a post-market condition of abundance.
In downtown Greensboro this summer, Center City Park (www.centercitypark.org/events/index.php) hosts free concerts on the first Friday of every month in its Friday Night Live series. Highlights, in my estimation include Filthybird, Citified and Come Hell or High Water on Aug. 6; Decoration Ghost (including YES! Weekly Art Director Devender Sellars on guitar), Part Bear and Bronzed Chorus on Sept. 3; and Israel Darling, Emily Stewart & the Baby Teeth and Matty Sheets & the Blockheads on Oct. 1 (while the date exceeds the technical parameters of summer, the awesome status of the headliner merits inclusion in this list).
While an excessive streak of Protestant work ethic makes it difficult for me to entertain the notion of abandoning my duties midday on a Wednesday, the Tunes @ Noon series every Wednesday encourages just that. Three acts you’re advised to catch are Sam Frazier on June 30, Donna Hughes on July 28 and Silver Hill Mine on Aug. 11.
Though not quite so studded with talent as in previous years, Greensboro’s Fun Fourth (www.funfourthfestival.org) celebration includes a couple serious contenders — again, all free. The Kickoff Block Party, at the intersection of Summit, Lindsay and Church streets on July 2 features Nantucket and the Extraordinaires. The main event on July 3 includes Amelia’s Mechanics and Hobex, among others.
Downtown Winston-Salem Summer Music Series (www.dwsp.org/music), produced by the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, includes three different formats — all of which feature free music in outdoor settings. Some featured acts worth checking out in Alive After Five, which runs Thursday evenings at Corpening Plaza, include Shalini and Temperance League on June 24, Mad Tea Party on July 8, the Mantras on July 15 and Holy Ghost Tent Revival on Aug. 12.
Summer on Trade, which goes down at 6 th and Trade streets in the Arts District every Saturday night includes Matt Walsh on July 3 (a freebie of the Heavy Rebel Weekender — more on that later), Kelley & the Cowboys on July 10, Allison King Band on July 17, Big Ron Hunter on July 24, Caleb Caudle & the Bayonets on Aug. 7, the New Familiars on Aug. 14, the Martha Bassett Band on Aug. 21 and Brother Josephus & the Love Revolution Orchestra on Aug. 28.
Among the offerings in the Downtown Jazz series every Wednesday evening at Corpening Plaza, you might want to check out Joe Robinson and Stacy Looman.
Party on the Plank (www.partyontheplank.com) is not technically free, but it only costs $2 for everyone ages 10 and up. If you can’t swing that then you’re not broke, but you just don’t care too much for music, do you? The event transpires in the High Point Public Library upper parking lot every Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Likewise Jazz and the 5 Man Jesus Band perform on June 17. The Four for One Jazz Quartet and Calvin Edwards perform in an evening honoring native son John Coltrane on June 24. Blue Ridge James and the Fairlanes do the honors on July 1. The Speakers and Braco close the season on July 8.
While not free, the BB&T Beach Music Concert Series (www.chsnc.org/beach-music.html) at Festival Park in Greensboro is reasonably priced and draws talent in the genre equal to any other festival in the state. June 17 brings Jim Quick & Coastline, and June 24 finds Chairmen of the Board in town.
The mainstay of the five-week Eastern Music Festival (www.easternmusicfestival.org/index-splash.php) features students and professional musicians performing classical music works in endless permutations. Its EMF Fringe spinoff is generally a high-dollar ticket, but the level of talent also reflects more discernment than is typically seen in Triad bookings. Some notable dates: Doc Severinsen and el Ritmo de la Vida at Dana Auditorium on the campus of Guilford College on June 26, House of Fools and the Deluge at Natty Greene’s on July 1 (this one is absolutely free) and the New Riders of the Purple Sage at the Empire Room on July 8.
Most EMF events take place at venues in Greensboro, but Alamance County native Seth Walker’s homecoming at the Paramount
Theater in Burlington on July 15 marks an exception. The Kevn Kinney Band appears at the Grove Winery in Gibsonville on July 17. Amelia’s Mechanics resurfaces on July 25 for a free concert on Founder’s Lawn at Guilford College. The Tony Rice Unit’s July 29 concert at Triad Stage is subject to a cover charge, I’m afraid.
One notable offering in the EMF Jazz & Blues schedule: Freeport Jazz plays free at Print Works Bistro near the Proximity Hotel on July 2.
The Heavy Rebel Weekender (www.heavyrebel.net) at the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem over the Fourth of July weekend features more rock and roll, rockabilly, honky tonk and punk rock bands than you can shake a stick at — more than 85 in all — including Pinche Gringo, John Howie Jr. & the Rosewood Bluff, the Fairlanes, the Bo-Stevens.
The Magnolia Baroque Festival (www.magnoliabaroque.com), a classical affair, runs June 16-20 in Winston-Salem.
The Mosaic Festival is held in celebration of World Refugee Day at Festival Park in Greensboro on June 19.
See you out there.
Splash: A short list of public pools In between the cloying haze of pollen, the rinse of rain in the spring and the turning of the leaves in the fall, one thing is for certain in the North Carolina Piedmont Triad: It’s gonna get hot in a way it can only get in a landlocked place like this.
Sure, there are a few swimmable lakes tucked into county corners, but we have no beachfront to provide offshore breezes, no river to stir the stagnant summer air.
Fortunately we have a lot of public swimming pools in the Triad, and it would be hard to imagine surviving a summer without availing ourselves of the sweet release a dip into the cool water — or even a decent splash fight — provides.
So here’s an extensive — though not comprehensive — list of public swimming pools in the Triad.
Call ahead for hours and admission prices.
Bolton/Water Spray Playground; 1590 Bolton St., Winston-Salem; 336.659.4318 Happy Hill; 1230 Alder St.; 336.727.2199 Kernersville Family YMCA; 1113 W. Mountain St.; Kernersville; 336.996.2231 Kimberley Park/Water Spray Playground; 620 Burton St. , Winston-Salem; 336.727.2198 Mineral Spring; 4700 Ogburn Ave., Winston-Salem; 336.661.4990 Parkland; 1660 Brewer Road, Winston-Salem; 336.650.7688 Polo; 1850 Polo Road, Winston-Salem; 336.659.4308 Reynolds Park; 2450 Reynolds Park, Winston-Salem; 336.650.7645 Sprague; 1350 Sprague St., Winston-Salem 336.650.7681 Tanglewood Park; 4201 Manor House Circle, Clemmons; 336.778.6300
Bur-Mil Park; 5834 Bur-Mil Club Road, Greensboro; 336.373.3800 City Lake Park; 602 W. Main Street, Jamestown; 336.883.3501 Lindley Pool; 2914 Springwood Drive, Greensboro; 336.299.3226 Northeast Park; 4010 High Rock Road, Gibsonville; 336.375.7722 Peeler Pool; 1300 Sykes Ave., Greensboro; 336.373.5811 Warnersville Pool; 601 Doak St., Greensboro; 336.373.5809 Washington Terrace Pool; 101 Gordon St., High Point; 336.883.8599 Windsor Pool; 1601 E. Lee St., Greensboro; 336.373.5846
Play: The Triad’s parks
No matter how you look at it, we end up sitting on our asses a lot. Everyone agrees that, generally speaking, we as Americans are too accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle. The cause for some is a long day in a cubicle staring at a computer screen or perched at a desk listening to a teacher or professor lecture about something that you’ll never actually use in your life.
Then when we want to kick back we sit in front of bigger and better screens, or go out on the town and usually set up shop in a booth, table or barstool.
But now the cold winter is finally behind us and we are adequately thawed and ready to have some fun outside. Luckily the Triad is flush with community parks that are open to the public, totally free, and that offer a wide selection of activities and facilities for everyone.
A park is always fun. Parks are also a good to drag the kids away from the video games and their cell phones and let them appreciate what’s left of this region’s natural beauty. Go fishing, take a hike, ride a mountain bike course, play outdoor sports (maybe one you haven’t tried like Frisbee golf), learn to ride a horse — you can do all of those things and many more at our local community parks. You can certainly find something you’d love to spend an afternoon doing below.
Arboretum; 401 Ashland Drive, Greensboro; 336.292.2824: The Arboretum offers a dense canopy of trees, flowers and shrubs that shield the trails for bikers, joggers and walkers alike.
Barber Park; 1500 Dans Road, Greensboro; 336.373.5892: Located off East Florida Street, this park has a one-mile, multi-use trail surrounding the 109 acre park.
Bicentennial Greenway; 310 Forest Lawn Drive, Greensboro: This seven-mile paved stretch of greenway runs from High Point’s City Lake Park to the Piedmont Centre. Access points to the Greenway are located at the Piedmont Environmental Center, Gibson Park, Jamestown Golf Course, and the Piedmont Centre.
Bryan Park; NC Highway 150 and Doggett Road, Browns Summit; 336.641.3544: This park features hiking and biking trails in addition to a cross-country course, soccer and baseball fields.
Bur Mil Park; 5834 Bur-Mil Club Road, Greensboro; 336.373.3800: This park features hiking and biking trails and a program where people over 13 can borrow a bike and helmet to explore the trails. Other features of Bur-Mil Park include day camps for the kids and tennis courts.
Country Park; 3905 Nathanael Greene Drive, Greensboro; 336.373.3648: Offers walking and hiking trails for the visually impaired in addition to the Guilford County Veterans Memorial, two fishing ponds and nature, hiking and biking trails.
Gibson Park; 527 West Wendover, High Point; 336.454.0259: Located at, this park features baseball and softball fields, Greenway access, hiking trails, a soccer field and a 19 th century Historic Deep River Cabin.
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park; 2332 New Garden Road, Greensboro; 336.288.1776: National Park features trails for hiking, walking and biking in addition to a history museum.
Hagan-Stone Park; 5920 Hagan-Stone Park Road, Pleasant Garden; 336.674.0472: This park features a reconstructed 18 th century schoolhouse, handicapped accessible picnic areas, softball fields, volleyball courts, a horseshoe pit, campsites, a cross-country course and a 23-acre lake stocked with fish and with boats available for rent.
Northeast Park; 3421 Northeast Park Drive, Gibsonville; 336.375.7722: Off of Huffmine Mill Road this park has picnic areas, athletic fields, an equestrian center and trail, biking/hiking/paddle trails and a meeting and event center.
Piedmont Environmental Center; 1220 Penny Road, High Point; 336.883.8531: This nature preserve has 11 miles of trails and a walk-on Mapscape of the state.
Southwest Park; 6309 Southwest Park Drive, Greensboro; 336.676.7189: This park, on the shores of Lake Randleman, includes canoeing and kayaking, boat rental, a bird watching area, trails, fields and of course fishing.
Bethabara Greenway; 2147 Bethabara Road, Winston-Salem; 336.924.8191: A 2.7 mile alternately paved and unpaved greenway runs along Mill Creek, through Bethabara Park and from Reynolds Commons Shopping Center to Crown Oaks Apartments. Bikes allowed.
Bolton Wheelchair Park; 1590 Bolton Street, Winston-Salem: A quarter mile-wide paved trail with stations, is designed specifically for wheelchairs (no skateboards or skates allowed).
Horizons Park; 2835 Memorial Industrial School Road, Rural Hall; 336.703.2500: This park features a 2-acre (leash-free) dog park, a disc golf course and a mountain bike trail system in addition to other nature/hiking trails.
Tanglewood Park; 4201 Manor House Circle, Clemmons; 336.778.6300: In addition to a pool this park has two golf courses, horse stables, BMX racing, fishing and boating, mountain bike trails and six clay and four hard tennis courts.
Triad Park; 9652 East Mountain Street, Kernersville; 336.703.2500: Equipped with an indoor banquet facility, three picnic and gazebo shelters, picnic tables with grills, a hiking trail, horseshoes, sand volleyball courts, soccer and softball fields, a rock-climbing playground and a fishing pond.
Union Cross Park; 1935 Union Cross Road, Winston-Salem; 336.703.2500: This park has two softball fields, three tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, a lighted basketball court and horseshoe pits, along with playgrounds and a 90-person capacity picnic shelter.
Destinations: NC state parks by Keith T. Barber (Source: NC Division of Parks & Recreation website)
Chimney Rock State Park: Chimney Rock. Travel time from Piedmont Triad: 3 hours With its breathtaking rock formations and a “stairway to heaven” leading to the rock’s summit, Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park has been a favorite tourist destination since 1885, according to the NC Division of Parks & Recreation website. In 1902, Lucius B. Morse of Missouri reportedly purchased the park and his family later built a tunnel and elevator to the rock summit. A nature center and a series of hiking trails are also big attractions at Chimney Rock. The Chimney Rock area of the park is operated by a private owner and is open year round. A bit of movie trivia: Chimney Rock served as the setting for the final confrontation scene in the 1992 action adventure epic, The Last of the Mohicans.
Fort Fisher Recreation Area: Kure Beach. Travel time: 3 hours, 45 minutes Fort Fisher Recreation Area offers daytrippers a relaxing day at the beach, a lesson in state history and an opportunity to enjoy the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher in one fell swoop. Until the final days of the Civil War, Fort Fisher played a vital role in keeping North Carolina’s port of Wilmington open to blockade runners supplying the Confederate armies.
Fort Fisher fell to Union guns on Jan. 15, 1865 and the entire Confederacy would fall shortly thereafter. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is the most modern of the state’s three aquariums and offers fun for the entire family. Fort Fisher also offers tourists the opportunity to learn about endangered species like loggerhead sea turtles that are indigenous to the southeastern coast of North Carolina. The state park covers six miles of beach on the southern tip of Pleasure Island near Wilmington. The salt marsh, tidal creeks and mud flats offer naturalists the opportunity to explore the wonder of wildlife in a pristine setting.
Pilot Mountain State Park: Pilot Mountain. Travel time: 20 minutes Only 20 miles northeast of Winston-Salem, Pilot Mountain State Park offers tourists the opportunity to witness the wonder of “Jomeokee” or “great guide” as the Native Americans called it. The quartzite monadnock is part of the Sauratown Mountains, and rises 1,400 feet above the surrounding countryside. The park’s facilities are top-notch with challenging hiking trails that lead to the base of the big rock. Dedicated as a National Natural Landmark in 1976, Pilot Mountain State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities including picnicking, horseback riding, rafting and canoeing on the Yadkin River.
Mount Mitchell State Park: Burnsville. Travel time: 3 hours, 10 minutes The highest point east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell towers majestically above the North Carolina highlands. Rising a mile high, Mount Mitchell is part of the Black Mountain chain. Hikers and explorers are afforded the opportunity to climb the peak. Their reward is the astonishing vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and green valleys below. The 1,946acre park offers nature lovers a place to experience peaceful beauty and a summit to relax and reflect.
Grandfather Mountain: Linville. Travel time: 2 hours, 22 minutes The Grandfather Mountain attraction has been a tourist destination since the 1950s. Privately held for decades, the state reached an agreement with the owners in 2008 for the state parks system to purchase 2,456 acres along the crest of Grandfather Mountain to become North Carolina’s newest state park. The property was once known as the “backcountry” of Grandfather Mountain. The purchase of the land should help guarantee the mountain’s preservation for years to come. The Conservation Fund and the Nature Conservancy were instrumental in the state acquiring the land. The state also holds easements on an additional 4,000 acres of land around the attraction. For tourists, Grandfather Mountain’s big draws continue to be the fantastic views from the mile-high swinging bridge, and the park’s nature center, wildlife habitats and other amenities. Annual events like the Highland Games and the Singing on the Mountain ensure a steady stream of visitors year round.