11/13/08: Finding Brecht in Chapel Hill/Offbeat in Durham

Shopping, Travel

The morning was grey and overcast, and it had been raining, but it wasn’t at the time I checked out of the hotel. There was a restaurant called the 501 Diner down the road from the hotel, and I ate breakfast there, and then drove on into the downtown area of Chapel Hill, which somewhat reminded me of Bloomington, Indiana.
The CD Alley store that I needed to visit wasn’t open yet, so I drove further down the street into Carrboro, where there was a cool used book store, and there I purchased several books by Bertolt Brecht. There was a coffee house across the street from the bookshop, so I stopped there for a latte, and by then CD Alley was open. Next door to the record shop was a Marxist-Socialist-Anarchist bookstore called Internationalist Books, and in there I found a book that I had been looking for about the Wilmington Ten case. The other music store in Chapel Hill, Back Door Music, turned out to be used only, and the rain had picked up somewhat when I visited there.
I then drove on to Durham, first to Bull City Records, which proved to be a vinyl only store, and then to Offbeat Music, which is one of the best record stores I had ever been in. The store was located in Brightleaf Square, former Liggett & Myers tobacco warehouses that had been turned into a collection of hip boutiques, shops and bistros. The store was full of used classical and jazz CDs, as well as great imports, and it was all I could do to keep from spending all my money there. A Brazilian bistro across the courtyard had good espresso and gelato, and then I drove on over to Raleigh, with the rain even heavier. I stopped at Schoolkids Records near the North Carolina State campus, as well as a coffee bar and two used record/bookstores, and then I drove through downtown over to the eastside, where there was a store called Mr. Freeze’s, not far from a housing project.
Further out on the northeast side was a store called Big Katt Records, and once I had left some promotional things there, I headed eastward toward Greensboro and Winston-Salem, making a brief detour into Burlington to stop at Keith’s CDs & Tapes. Finding a decent place to eat dinner proved to be far more difficult than I had imagined.
I passed on through Greensboro into Winston-Salem and got checked into my suite at the Residence Inn. I then decided to eat dinner at The Loop Pizza Grill, which was outstanding, and then I drove downtown looking for live jazz or at least a coffee bar. Winston-Salem’s downtown was dead, looking like it had experienced a half-renaissance that died aborning. Few places were open, although I did find a coffee bar, but, by the time I located a jazz event (in Greensboro) it was too late to go back over there. I finally drove back to my hotel and went to bed.

11/12/08: From Charleston to Wilmington to Chapel Hill

Breakfast, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Coffee, Coffee Bars, Desserts, Diners, Durham, Food, Hip Hop, Hotels, Indie rock, music, Myrtle Beach, Parks, Raleigh, rap, Record Stores, Restaurants, rock, Shopping, soul, Travel, Wilmington

A grey and overcast day, although the sun began to come out later in the morning. The hotel staff had recommended a breakfast place called the Bear-E-Patch, so I ate there before I made the rounds of record stores.
Monster Music and Movies is owned by the same Nashville firm that owns Pop Tunes in Memphis, but this store was nearly a block long and full of music. I noticed a new CD from the Numero group that featured the Young Disciples from East St. Louis, a group that had been formed as part of an anti-poverty program in the 1960’s, so I bought that, a new funk compilation from Soul Patrol and the new Mercury Rev CD. The girl that was working at Monster recommended that I head over to the Cat’s Music on Folly Road, but when I got there, they refused the promotional items and told me that they were closing down the store.
After walking around the harbor and taking pictures, I drove out to Loco Record Shop, and then back downtown to King Street, where there were a couple of stores. 52.5 was mostly a rock store, but there were a few jazz and rock items, and down the street was an old and intriguing store called Honest John’s Records and TV Repair. On the shelves were plenty of old LPs and a handful of old 45s, but I didn’t have time to look through them. Instead, wanting coffee, I used my iPhone to locate a place called Kudu Coffee, which was just across from the campus of the College of Charleston. In keeping with the name, the coffee house was decorated with African artifacts and artwork, and the coffee was very good. Driving further south on King, I ultimately came to the Battery, the wooded park at the tip of the peninsula featuring monuments, cannons, statues and stately mansions. Despite the wind, it was warm enough to walk around, and I took a lot of pictures, but it was much later in the day than I had intended, so at 3 PM, I headed across the Septima Clark Bridge onto Highway 17 for the drive to Wilmington.
I had driven this route in reverse a month before, going from Myrtle Beach to Charleston, but today the trip seemed to take forever, made worse by the traffic signals and endless snarls in Myrtle Beach. Once I crossed into North Carolina, I was still much further away from Wilmington than I had imagined, and by the time I arrived there, it was pitch black.
I approached Wilmington with some foreboding. From my reading, Wilmington had always been a place of riots and racial tension, the scene of the Wilmington Ten incident, so I half expected to see an old and decrepit port city of deteriorating buildings and was quite surprised to see the charming downtown with its restored buildings lit up for Christmas. Christmas choral music was drifting across the chilly night air (whether live or a tape I could never determine), and the threat of rain seemed imminent. After leaving some posters at CD Alley, I decided to walk around the corner to Port City Java for some coffee, but across the street I noticed an antiquarian bookshop, so I ducked in there and ended up buying several books about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Then I ran back across to the coffee bar for a latte to go, and then drove eastward from downtown. What my iPhone thought was a record store in a Black neighborhood east of downtown was actually a recording studio, but fortunately, that put me closer to Gravity Records, an indie rock store that nonetheless was thrilled to get some Pastor Troy promotional items. In the store they were playing a disc by a British singer named Richard Hawley, whom I had never heard of, but whose mournful, melodic tunefulness seemed to fit the dark, foggy, chilly night.
The guys at the store warned me that the trip to Raleigh on I-40 would take about 2 hours through rural lands of absolutely nothing, and they weren’t far from right. I was ravenously hungry, but the exits along the way either featured nothing or fast food. Raleigh seemed to be a place of feast or famine, with very expensive upscale restaurants and the usual diners and fast food, but little in-between. A promising-sounding steakhouse proved to be out of business, and another proved to be $30 and up for entrees. Finally, I discovered a mall in Durham where there was a Cheesecake Factory, and I stopped there, but, noticing a Champps Americana across the walkway from the Cheesecake Factory, I decided to eat there, thinking that it would be cheaper than Cheesecake Factory. It wasn’t, and the food, while basically good, didn’t stand out.
After a dessert and coffee at the Cheesecake Factory, I drove another few miles into Chapel Hill, and had no problem finding the Sheraton Hotel. My room proved to be very luxurious indeed, and I went straight to bed.

11/11/08: Augusta to Columbia to Charleston

Augusta, Breakfast, Charleston, Coffee, Coffee Bars, Columbia SC, Food, Hip Hop, music, rap, Record Stores, records, Shopping, Travel

A cool but sunny day. I went to breakfast at the Veranda Room of the Partridge Inn, a historic restored hotel near the famous golf club where the Masters is held every year. The view from the restaurant was great, but the food was average and overpriced. The rest of the morning was spent going around to a number of record shops and hip-hop clothing stores, after which I went downtown briefly in order to take some photos of the skyline and the fountain at the foot of James Brown Boulevard.
I made a brief stop at the Jury Room Coffee House across from City Hall, but, as they didn’t have any espresso drinks, I had only a gelato there, and then headed over to the Aroma Coffee and Wine Bar for a latte before I hit the road toward Columbia. There were several record stores in Columbia, and they were scattered across the city, and, as it was late in the day, it was getting dark, but I managed to visit all three of them, and then I continued on to Sumter.
There I left posters at the Music Gator, but I found the other store closed for the evening, and now I headed southwards toward I-95. Thoroughly hungry, but wanting to eat in Charleston, I made my way into the city, and having called to make sure that restaurants would still be open, I headed across the massive Septima Clark Bridge into Mount Pleasant, where there were several waterfront restaurants along Shem Creek.
I chose a seafood restaurant called JB’s, which was built with a view of the water, and I ate dinner there, although it was extremely cold both inside the restaurant and outdoors. After dinner, I resisted an impulse to go to Red’s next door where a band was playing, and instead, I drove down King Street to Market Square and a dessert cafe called Kaminsky’s, which I knew was open until 2 AM. I had a slice of chocolate peanut butter pie and a cup of coffee there, and then, with no information about any jazz clubs, I drove into West Ashley and checked into the hotel there. It was quite cold, but I managed to get my room warm and comfortable.

11/10/08: Mountain Brook Village/Dinner in Augusta

Augusta, Birmingham AL, Food, Hip Hop, music, rap, Restaurants, Travel

November 2008 002

November 2008 003
First day of my Select-O-Hits sponsored trip across the Carolinas promoting the new Pastor Troy album T.R.O.Y. At Birmingham, I drove into Mountain Brook to a pizza place called Bongiorno for lunch (okay but not outstanding). Mountain Brook, a “new town” which had apparently been built in the 1920’s or 1930’s, was primarily residential, but with three central “villages” that housed cafes and other businesses. I managed to pass though Atlanta with little difficulty, but it was getting dark earlier these days, and colder as well, especially at Augusta.
The rappers V-Tec and Hill met me at the T-Bonez steakhouse in Augusta for dinner, and then I drove downtown to the Metro Coffeehouse for a latte before heading out to Club 360 near Barton Village, which was supposedly having an event. There were a few cars there and a radio station van out front, but I changed my mind about going inside (I was really tired), and headed back to my room at the Courtyard hotel.