INDY Week 4.21.21

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Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill April 21, 2021


FRESH Even Ashley Christensen wasn’t immune to the tumult of 2020. But on the cusp of opening three locations of her new fast-casual restaurant, she’s looking forward. BY LAYLA KHOURY-HANOLD, P. 16

Raleigh W Durham W Chapel Hill VOL. 38 NO. 14



A new bill would make online impersonation a felony. BY GEOFF WEST


Asian American business owners in Durham describe fear amid a rise in hate crimes and violence across the country. BY HANNAH MIAO


Raleigh nightlife returns as COVID-19 metrics creep up among young people. BY LEIGH TAUSS AND JANE PORTER


An Orange County outreach program is helping unhoused residents. BY SARA PEQUEÑO


Durham's 'Can Opener' bridge claimed dozens of victims last year. BY CARMELA GUAGLIANONE

ARTS & CULTURE 16 Ashley Christensen is looking forward. BY LAYLA KHOURY-HANOLD 18 Chatting with the Triangle's busiest brewer. BY JOHN A. PARADISO 19 The vintage block keeping the spirit of downtown Chapel Hill alive. BY BRIAN HOWE

20 The unsung creatives of hip-hop.


THE REGULARS 3 15 Minutes

4 Quickbait


COVER Photo by Jade Wilson / Design by Jon Fuller


Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald


Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño

Editor in Chief Jane Porter Managing Editor Geoff West Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards

Copy Editor Abigail O'Neill Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods

Senior Writer Leigh Tauss


April 21, 2021

Contributors Madeline Crone, Jameela F. Dallis, Michaela Dwyer, Grant Golden, Spencer Griffith, Lucas Hubbard, Brian Howe, Kyesha Jennings, Glenn McDonald, Anna Mudd, Dan Ruccia, Nick Williams Interns Emma Lee Kenfield



Creative Director

Director of Sales John Hurld

Annie Maynard Graphic Designer

Jon Fuller Staff Photographer

Jade Wilson

Raleigh Sales Manager MaryAnn Kearns

C I RC U L ATI O N Berry Media Group

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Last week we wrote about former N.C. Governor Pat McCrory’s hapless return to politics in his announcement that he’s running for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2022. Readers had thoughts.

“He screwed us before, he’ll do it again,” wrote Facebook commenter PAM MCCLURE. “Comes off as Mr Aw Shucks but is really Mr Destroyer.” “No thanks, we already went through his leadership and became the mean-spirited laughing stock of the nation,” wrote commenter SARA FELSEN. “No need for an encore.” “That would be quite an elevation for “Coal Ash” McCrory, from bathroom monitor for a radio station to US Senator,” wrote commenter ROB LIGON. McCrory, whose legacy ultimately lies with HB 2, the bathroom bill that economically decimated the state, made the announcement while more anti-trans legislation is running through the General Assembly. In print, our story about a bill that would deny transgender North Carolinians under age 21 gender-affirming health care, has some readers asking questions. “Once 18 they can [do] what they want medically,” says Facebook commenter CHRIS HOWELL. “Is there ANY other medical procedure that is prohibited to an 18 yr old that isn’t to a 21 yr old?” “It seems very important for extremist Republican authoritarians to keep fighting new culture wars,” says commenter AARON AVERILL. “I wonder why? ” Commenter ROB AXTELL thinks he has the answer: “Money and power.” That sounds about right to us.






Meziah Smith, age 17

What do you think makes you stand out in competitions?

High school student

I’ve been told that I’m a very emotional performer. I put a lot of emotions and personal connection into the poems that I choose. I can express and kind of breathe through them when I’m performing them. So it doesn’t just feel like I picked that poem, and I’m just gonna recite it. I want to actually show that I know this poem. With Poetry Out Loud, one of the big scoring portions is evidence of understanding and dramatic appropriateness. I make sure that I eat, sleep, and breathe the poems that I pick, so I understand what the author is saying and how to show that with dramatic appropriateness.


Next month, Meziah Smith will represent North Carolina’s Knightdale High School of Collaborative Design in the upcoming Poetry Out Loud competition. Competitors read poetry aloud, competing for a $20,000 prize and the title of National Champion.

When did you realize your love for reading poetry? I’ve always liked poetry, especially reading it from different authors. I used to be very soft-spoken. And if something were to bother me, or if I was having a bad day, I wouldn’t verbalize how I was feeling. But getting into Poetry Out Loud, I’ve definitely found my voice, and I’m able to express myself a lot better with poetry. Last year, I didn’t advance, so I made it my goal to come back this year and [advance to the national competition].

Who is your favorite poet and are you choosing to recite him or her this year? My all-time favorite poet, Edgar Allan Poe, has a few really amazing poems. Anytime somebody asks me that, he’s the first person I think about because he was an unconventional writer in life. This time, I’m using poems from African American women that are kind of centered around the themes of being an African American woman in today’s society.

How would it feel to be national champion as a 10th grader and win the $20,000 scholarship? Being a sophomore, and competing with people who are juniors and seniors is super intimidating. Winning as a sophomore, I feel like I encourage other people who think, you know, I can’t win because I’m a sophomore. Me personally, I didn’t think I would get this far as a sophomore. I didn’t even think last year when I was a freshman that I would have gotten as far as I did. And winning this scholarship to go to Georgetown, which has been my dream school for what feels like forever now, and knowing that it was my hard work and my passion for poetry that got me there, would be amazing. W

April 21, 2021


I North Carolina

t’s vaccine season! And no one is immune to the exciting prospect of life approaching something akin to normalcy. It’s almost difficult to imagine gathering again in public spaces for concerts, athletic events, worship services, beach vacations, festivals, and movie nights.

Durham County


Vaccination Situation


(The verdict on the end of virtual meetings is still out.) Who among us by race and ethnicity in the Triangle has already received their first “jab?” State public health officials say 3,534,340 people in North Carolina had as of April 15 received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Key White Black/African American Asians and Pacific Islanders American Indian or Alaskan Native Other/Undisclosed Hispanic Not Hispanic

3.5% 1.7%

Percent of the total population Percent of the population partially vaccinated







3.8% 0.7%

Percent of the total population


Percent of the population partially vaccinated


of the total state population is partially vaccinated

5.9% 1%

Percent of the total population Percent of the population partially vaccinated

55% 57.2%

38.1% 25.6%

10.1% 6.7% 0.4%

Percent of the total population Percent of the population partially vaccinated



of the total county population is partially vaccinated


Orange County

Wake County


Percent of the total population


Percent of the population partially vaccinated


21.9% 14.8%

8.1% 9.2% 8.9%



Percent of the total population Percent of the population partially vaccinated


of the total county population is partially vaccinated



Percent of the total population


Percent of the population partially vaccinated


12.4% 8.5% 8.7% 8.2% 8.3% 0.3%

Percent of the total population Percent of the population partially vaccinated


8.6% 7.1%

of the total county population is partially vaccinated

Source: N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, U.S. Census Bureau 4

April 21, 2021


North Carolina

Identity Politics State lawmakers are pushing legislation that would turn online impersonation into a felony offense BY GEOFF WEST


West Texas man hijacked his ex-girlfriend’s email address to create a fake profile of her on a dating website. In Utah, a policeman was suspended after someone posted racist remarks on a Facebook profile created to look like his wife’s account. Meanwhile, a Louisiana man stole a stranger’s photos to pretend to be a woman on social media as a way to lure women into sending him illicit photos. The West Texas and Louisiana men were both arrested under state laws prohibiting someone from impersonating another online with the intent to do harm. No such law exists in Utah, however, where law enforcement could do little to stop the defamation. Texas and Louisiana are the outliers: online impersonation when coupled with malicious intent is illegal in only a handful of states, but it could be outlawed soon in North Carolina, too. House Bill 341 would make it a felony, punishable by up to 25 months in jail, for a person to use email, text messages, or a fake social media account to impersonate someone with the intent of “harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding.” Last week, the bill passed the House unanimously, 118-0, with two absentees en route to a hearing before the Senate Rules Committee. The bill’s primary sponsor, Republican Rep. Donna White of Clayton, says she filed the bill after a conversation with two constituents—a young married couple—whose reputation and small business had been damaged by someone impersonating them on social media. White says two people created a bogus Facebook page in the likeness of the busi-

ness owners then posted messages on the page that made it appear as though they were racist. The imposters also created other fictitious Facebook accounts to comment on those racist remarks as a way to spread them across social media. “So, they were kind of doing two things,” White says. “They were impersonating, and then they were responding to their own impersonation.” The business owners reported the scam to law enforcement, who were willing to help and had identified the perpetrators, White says, “But they didn’t have the teeth to do anything because there was no law.” Word of the racist remarks from what appeared to be the business owners started spreading in the community, she says, and it soon had real-world consequences. “They were really losing business badly.” Under the proposal, stealing someone’s information to hijack their online identity or creating a completely bogus profile using another person’s image would both be criminal offenses when coupled with malicious intent. The language of the North Carolina bill mimics statutes already adopted in at least 10 other states, which have criminalized online impersonation uniquely from other cybercrimes, such as identity theft, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. The origin of e-personation laws can be traced back to the 2006 suicide of a Missouri teenager named Megan Meier, who was duped by the MySpace profile of what appeared to be an attractive boy named Josh Evans. The two teens flirted for weeks until Evans eventually turned on Meier and wrote, “The world would be a better place without you.” She later hung herself.


An investigation revealed there was no Josh Evans. The MySpace profile was created by a 47-year-old mother of one of Meier’s former friends as a way to retaliate for Meier allegedly spreading rumors about her daughter. The mother, Lori Drew, was convicted under a federal computer fraud statute, but the conviction was overturned on appeal after a federal court ruled the law did not apply to Drew’s actions. Meier’s death and Drew’s acquittal received widespread media attention and led to state lawmakers across the country racing to criminalize cyberbullying against minors. But state law hasn’t kept pace with this new type of online harassment, says Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry, a Republican from Lenoir County. Perry, a member of the Senate Rules Committee that will consider White’s bill, also introduced legislation this session to ban online impersonation. Similar to White’s story, Perry says he was motivated to author the bill following a disturbing conversation with a troubled constituent who had a family member whose life was turned upside down by an imposter. “A third party created some social media accounts in this person’s name,” Perry says, “and they did some very vile things, and really brought up a lot of very inflammatory subjects in the most inflammatory means possible.”

The fake account spread on social media, he says, “and you had hundreds of thousands of people who were upset with this person who did nothing.” The victim received death threats and was concerned for their life, he says. As he listened to the story, Perry says he realized the person who created the fictitious account had found a loophole in state law that needed closing. “This can do a lot of damage to someone.” Joseph Kennedy, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor who specializes in cybercrime, says there is some disagreement in the legal community over how lawmakers should handle e-personations. “Some believe that such conduct can be addressed more simply through existing criminal fraud statutes,” Kennedy said in an email to the INDY. “It is a matter of debate among legal scholars whether special computer crimes should be created to deal with conduct that existing crimes already cover. One issue is whether using a specially created computer crime clarifies the law or needlessly complicates it.” But the victims in White and Perry’s districts turned to legislators only after learning law enforcement could do little to stop the activity. Perry says the law needs updating to keep pace with technology. “There’s a warm blanket of anonymity out there that makes people do some really bold and nasty things,” he says. “It’s such a gray area. The law didn’t contemplate issues such as this.”W

April 21, 2021




Trying Times Asian American business owners in Durham describe fear amid national rise in hate and violence BY HANNAH MIAO


eated in the back of his Durham restaurant, Kenny Wong recounts fleeing Vietnam at eight years old as one of hundreds of thousands of “boat people”— refugees who left the country by sea after the Vietnam War. He and his family spent seven days on the Pacific Ocean with more than 50 people on a tiny vessel, surviving hunger, dehydration, and an encounter with pirates. “I don’t think anything can get me down,” Wong says. But lately, it’s been difficult to stay afloat. Wong opened Secrets Pho & Noodle Bar last July after years of wanting to run his own Vietnamese restaurant. When he signed the lease in September 2019, there was no way to predict that a global coronavirus pandemic would ravage the economy and devastate the food service industry. On top of the day-to-day challenges of operating a restaurant within COVID-19 restrictions, Secrets was recently broken into twice within one month: first on February 7 then again on March 3. The restaurant was already losing up to about $1,000 a day, Wong says. Having to shut down for repairs for roughly a week didn’t help. “It did take a serious emotional toll on us,” says Secrets manager Henessee Asaro. “And then when the second one happened, we were asking, why again? And why us again?” Durham small businesses have seen an uptick in commercial burglaries amid the pandemic, local crime data show. But for Asian-owned establishments, the attacks also come amid a rise in discrimination and violence targeting Asians and Asian Ameri6

April 21, 2021

cans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The national advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate received 3,795 reports of hate incidents toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from March 19, 2020, to February 28, 2021—35 percent of which occurred at businesses. A shooting spree targeting three Asian businesses in Atlanta in March that left eight people dead, including six Asian women, has only heightened the sense of fear in Asian American communities. “It’s definitely frightening,” says Janet Lee, owner of ZenFish Poké Bar. The eatery has three locations in the Triangle area, one of which is a few doors down from Secrets on Ninth Street. Lee says there was an attempted burglary at ZenFish’s Ninth Street location around the same time Secrets was broken into in February. She purchased pepper spray for each store and stopped carrying cash onsite. “You’re kind of in a battle with yourself thinking if it’s targeted towards Asians or if it just happens to be like a lot of other break-ins,” Lee says. “Having someone break into your restaurant or business is horrible, whether it is Asian hate or not. But if it is Asian hate, it’s even worse. They’re not only targeting your business, but they’re targeting your race because of who you are.” Durham police spokesperson Lamont Minor says the department is not currently investigating any incidents at Asian-owned businesses as potential hate crimes. “We have no reason to believe that there is a specific target to Asian restaurants at this time,” Minor said in an email.

Kenny Wong, owner of Secrets Pho & Noodle Bar Mayor Steve Schewel noted that the Durham police department has worked closely with a group of Asian restaurant owners over the last several years after several Asian-owned eateries were targeted for robberies. Durham Chinese restaurant owner Hong Zheng was shot and killed during an armed attack in 2018. “We know that there is a wave of antiAsian violence in our country now, and we cannot—and will not—accept that in Durham,” Schewel said in an email. “We welcome and embrace our Asian communities in Durham, and we will do everything in our power to protect them.”


Lawrence Yoo, owner of the Durham restaurant Sushioki and lead pastor at Waypoint Church, recalls experiencing at least two racist attacks in the past year. In one incident, he was driving home after closing Sushioki for the night when the driver in front of him stopped their car and proceeded to shout racial slurs and profanities at him. Growing up the son of Korean immigrant small-business owners, Yoo says robberies were a constant fear, even an expectation. “People used to think that Asians would keep a lot more cash, which is just not the case anymore,” he says. “I used to be at

home waiting and praying for my parents to get home safe every night after they closed out the restaurant. I’ve been living with that fear for a while.” Apart from burglaries, many Asian-owned establishments began experiencing the effects of the pandemic long before statewide lockdowns last March. National news outlets reported that some Asian small businesses across the country saw drops in revenue early in 2020 amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak originating in China, despite few reported COVID cases in the United States at the time and no evidence of coronavirus transmission through food. Advocates say anti-Asian sentiments have been stoked by the rhetoric of leaders like former President Donald Trump, who continually referred to the coronavirus in racialized terms such as “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu.” “If you look at comments online, there are people who for a long time would not go to a Chinese restaurant,” says Heidi Kim, director of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Asian American Center. “There probably are people who still are not going to Asian restaurants or Asian supermarkets.” Many Asian immigrant small-business owners also have difficulty applying for COVID relief from governmental loans like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or other institutional resources due to language barriers, says Ricky Leung, senior director of programs for the advocacy group North Carolina Asian Americans Together. “A lot of issues our communities run into during the pandemic aren’t necessarily something that’s unique to the pandemic,” Leung says. Wong, owner of Secrets, hasn’t been able to apply for PPP loans because the restaurant wasn’t operating before February 2020, an eligibility requirement of the program. “It’s tough. Right now, I’m using all of my resources. It’s really difficult to raise money,” Wong says. “Sometimes people ask, ‘How are you doing? How do you stay open at this time?’ I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry.” These days, Wong is focused on keeping Secrets’ doors open and his 10 employees paid, healthy, and safe. He wants his restaurant to inspire his two children, who are 12 and 15 years old, and believes in his mission of serving the Durham community with healthy, traditional Vietnamese cuisine—from a bowl of pho to banh mi to his personal favorite, egg noodles. “I just have to take it every day,” Wong says. “Every morning is a second chance.” W

April 21, 2021



Raleigh Glenwood Avenue on Friday, April 16, 2021 PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

Rocky Rebound As Raleigh nightlife returns with the proliferation of vaccines and lifting of restrictions, there’s been an uptick in COVID-19 cases among younger folks BY LEIGH TAUSS AND JANE PORTER


s drag performers Alex Thee Rabbit and Naomi Dix pranced along a neon-lit stage at Ruby Deluxe Friday night, owner Timothy Lemuel hustled behind the bar, mixing jalapeno Mountain Dew margaritas for the three dozen or so customers seated inside. Every few minutes he’d duck out from the bar to cue up the lights or dash backstage to give a performer their five-minute warning. In the time of COVID, it’s the best night the Raleigh club has seen in a while, but it’s still a fraction of what the business was before the pandemic when 200 weekend warriors would crowd into the LGBTQ haunt on Salisbury Street. “We built our business on a sweaty dance floor and right now everyone is seated. It’s not the same, ” Lemuel told the INDY. “My particular niche clientele isn’t so positive that everything is safe yet so they are still a little sheepish.” Lemuel has been more cautious than many club owners in Raleigh as the city’s nightlife revives with the lifting of regulations. Bars and restaurants, which Gov. Roy Cooper ordered to cut off alcohol sales by 9 p.m. during the height of the pandemic, may now stay open until 2 a.m. But downtown’s economic recovery, entwined with the public’s comfort level returning to nightlife, is far from balanced. 8

April 21, 2021

It’s easy to see why. On Friday, the Fayetteville Street corridor remained mostly a ghost town—you could hear the cheese hit the pavement from an oversized slice at Benny Capitale’s—while a stroll down Glenwood South could have you believe the pandemic never happened with hoards of maskless twenty-somethings in crop tops and Bermuda shorts packed into Milk Bar and Cornerstone. And the sales data makes that even more clear, according to Downtown Raleigh Alliance CEO Bill King. By the end of February, food and beverage sales had rebounded to 62 percent of what they were pre-COVID, up from a low of 16 percent last year. “There is a bit of unevenness to the recovery that has happened in those sales,” King says. “The west side of downtown— Glenwood South, and the Warehouse District—are closer to their pre-COVID levels. The eastern half of downtown— Fayetteville Street and Moore Square—are still further off.” Part of that is the slow return of office staff downtown, with many workers still enjoying the option to work from home. But business owners will tell you there’s also a cultural divide separating the mile-long stretch between Glenwood South and Fayetteville Street.

Bars and restaurants in the downtown core either shuttered completely or severely limited operations during the pandemic’s height. It was the responsible thing to do, says Paul Siler, who owns nightclubs Kings and Neptunes and neighboring restaurant Garland. “In our little nucleus of that part of downtown, I think everybody has been really careful,” Siler told the INDY. “But if you’re going to include Glenwood South in downtown, that’s a whole different ball game. To me, Glenwood South may as well be in Atlanta.” Lemuel had similar thoughts. “Without being hateful, throughout COVID there’s been a whole group of people that have been going out and throwing caution aside and it’s reflected on the bars they go to,” Lemuel says. “You can see which bars cater to that group of people.” Another set of numbers seems to bear that truth out. Although vaccines are now available to all age groups in North Carolina and a quarter of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated, young folks are seeing an uptick in cases, according to state epidemiologist Zack Moore, who works for North Carolina’s Division of Public Health. “It is a glass half empty, glass half full thing,” Moore told the INDY. “The rates in the older population have dropped so dramatically since vaccination first rolled out and that has been great to see. Our 65-and-older population has seen dramatic improvements in case rates, in hospitalizations, in outbreaks—but it is the younger populations where we are seeing increases now, particularly 18 to 24-year-olds and that is where there has been the biggest increase.” One major concern is the emergence of new variants of the virus, which may be able to transmit more easily and in new ways. But it’s difficult to blame the uptick in cases on any one thing, including nightlife, Moore says. “We know [COVID] is spread most easily where people are close together and they’re indoors and can’t use masks consistently and bars are at top of that list and indoor dining is also a place where we have very solid evidence that transmission is more likely,” Moore says. “So we are always concerned about those but it’s really hard to tie our current trends to one particular change that was made.” The good news is as more folks become vaccinated the better the outlook is overall and Moore is hopeful the current trends in younger populations won’t snowball into something worse. Lemuel is cautiously optimistic, too. As vaccinations proliferate, he hopes his patrons will feel safe enough to return soon. “I think we’re weeks away from doing a lot of business by comparison,” Lemuel says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the governor changed the capacity restrictions in the next month or two. We might be on the cusp of a really big summer.” W


Orange County Franklin Street in Chapel Hill PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

Closer to Home An Orange County outreach program is helping the county’s unhoused residents find their homes for the long haul BY SARA PEQUEÑ0


o one wants to talk about it, but homelessness can’t be willed out of sight. It’s visible in the sleeping bags and bags of clothes tucked into corners of Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, but it exists outside the periphery, too. Even for people who work within the community, it’s uncomfortable. “I feel discomfort when I see someone experiencing homelessness who’s panhandling or that kind of thing because I know in my heart that it’s not right,” says Corey Root. “In our society, we have enough to go around, but for whatever reason, that’s not happening and that makes me feel uncomfortable.” Root is the manager of the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, part of the county government that oversees how we address homelessness in our community. In 2020, the partnership began four programs that shifted the way local government interacts with homelessness.

The group’s mantra is “housing first.” This concept is fairly new but growing in popularity: the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has started to use this method instead of the transitional housing model they have recommended for years. The issue with transitional housing, Root says, is that it isn’t a permanent solution—and by HUD’s definition, folks in transitional housing are still homeless. “What we would see with this transitional housing is the long length of time that people are experiencing homelessness—say three months in the shelter, two years in a transitional housing program,” Root says. “That’s two years and three months that you’ve been experiencing homelessness, that you’re not in your space where you make the rules and where you feel comfortable.” This also gets at a big issue in Orange County. Root says shelters in the county are almost always full and have long waitlists; you can’t show up day-of and get a bed for the

night. There are also people who have lived in these shelters for years without a permanent housing solution. In April 2020, the partnership created a housing helpline for people to call, a housing access coordinator who works with landlords to find permanent housing, and rapid re-housing, which offers aid so folks can get into housing as soon as possible. From April to December, the partnership received more than 9,900 calls and 7,000 emails from people on the verge of homelessness or already homeless. “We see it over and over and over again—once folks are able to get into housing, a lot of other things are able to just sort of settle out a little bit,” Root says. “That stress and constant trauma is able to settle down so that folks are able to work on other things.” Another issue that has plagued Orange County for years is the lack of a street outreach program with long-term connections. One has existed within the Chapel Hill Police Department since the early 1970s, around the time public housing began losing funding. The outreach team’s supervisor, Megan Johnson, says it was one of the first programs in the country. The issue, she says, is that unsheltered people’s lives are crises. “That crisis is still going to be there,” she says of the help they can offer. “They still likely don’t have anywhere to sleep tonight.” That’s where the partnership’s Street Outreach, Harm Reduction and Deflection (SOHRAD) program comes in. Instead of immediate care, like what’s offered by CHPD, they work solely with the unsheltered residents of Orange County. “They’re on Franklin Street really regularly, out at the campsites, at jail, in the hospital, that kind of thing,” Root says. “They’re really out and about, they don’t just sit behind a desk and file reports.” Their focus is on the long-term: making connections with the folks they meet so that they feel comfortable speaking with the caseworkers. They ask people if they want help and what they need. If someone doesn’t want help, the group doesn’t give up. They’ll ask again the next time they’re out and about. Both SOHRAD and the CHPD crisis program are alternatives to policing and incarceration. If there isn’t an immediate danger, other community members have a safe space to call. But it requires other community members to know the difference between “danger” and “discomfort,” Root says, mentioning that folks usually conflate the two. “[Discomfort’s] important, and that’s something we should listen to and act on,” Root says. “But that doesn’t mean that there’s danger.” W

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Stills from six of the 162 videos from COPYRIGHT JÜRGEN HENN – 11FOOT8.COM

A Bridge Too Far

Durham’s ‘Can Opener’ bridge defeated dozens of ambitious truck drivers last year BY CARMELA GUAGLIANONE 12

April 21, 2021


he stoplight is red and the “OVERHEIGHT MUST TURN” sign flashes urgently as a semi-truck waits at the intersection. The driver has a moment to consider turning before impact with the railroad bridge above Gregson Street. Instead they keep going and approach the bridge at a crawl, hesitate, then charge on. Wrong move. The crash on November 13, 2020, was just one of more than 160 recorded in this very spot, the scars etched onto the bridge’s protective beam. The beam is the real foe, unmoving and unforgiving. Its scratches are an inventory of human error, of man versus metal (man losing). The bridge at the Norfolk Southern–Gregson Street Underpass is known to the world as the Can Opener for the merciless way the beam peels the tops off of unsuspecting trucks. To watch it (160-plus times!) is like seeing a giant hand pull the tab on a can of sardines and seeing the metal curve to unveil the prize within. Since 2008, the Can Opener has developed a cult following well beyond Durham. The website and its YouTube channel, operated by Jurgen Henn, an IT manager for the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, have shared videos of the crashes from cameras Henn set up at his office in nearby Brightleaf Square, and, later, in a shop kitty-corner to the bridge. Henn, who has worked in Brightleaf Square since 2002, got the idea to start recording the videos after a couple of years of hearing trucks smashing into the beam. His YouTube channel had a slow start but now has 164,000 followers. A typical video will get more than 1 million views.

To understand the Can Opener, I watched every video. As I sat in cafes around Durham, I watched hours of scrapes, smashes, and crashes, and catalogued the human error, the reliability of steel, and the fragility of sheet metal and fiberglass. I laughed and gasped and winced. People stared. This is what I learned, spiced with some quotes from police reports that give you a flavor of the action. VEHICLE 1 WAS IN THE RIGHT LANE OF TRAFFIC TRAVELING SOUTH ON GREGSON ST WHEN IT COLLIDED WITH THE OVERHEAD BRIDGE GUARD JUST SOUTH OF W PEABODY ST Drivers cause the crashes, but in the videos, you don’t see the people very much. They exist in the periphery: innocent bystanders shielding themselves from debris or drivers who jump out of the trucks and throw their hats in frustration. The trucks become animated and the people

are minimized to supporting characters. From what I could tell watching all the videos as well as reading accident reports and news coverage, very few injuries have been reported, and no one has died in the crashes. The majority of the harm seems to be to the drivers’ pride. While each crash is its own special snowflake, I identified three main types of encounters: the Curious Cat, the Bullet, and the Barbershop Shave. The Curious Cat takes a hesitant approach; like a troublemaking feline, the driver suspects something is amiss but can’t stop themselves from exploring. Their foot barely touching the gas, they ease toward the bridge. (Perhaps they believe if they are quiet enough, the Can Opener won’t notice the oversize trailer!) Then they hear the unmistakable bang and metallic scrape from above as the beam peels away their roof. Because they’ve gone slowly, some are able to shift into reverse and delicately extract themselves; others need to be rescued. The Bullet is the most exciting of the Can Opener crashes. The driver approaches with velocity, seemingly unaware of the trap that lies ahead. The impact causes a whiplash, like a dog jerked back by their leash—the cabs sometimes lifted into the air by the impact of the beam. The top layer of aluminum is sometimes guillotined to varying degrees, usually triggering Newton’s first law (objects in motion stay in motion), ensnared where it is crumpled by the equal and opposite force of the wrinkled metal. And then there is the Barbershop Shave. These trucks almost clear the height requirement, and usually make it most of the way through without much damage—but they leave with a kiss from the bridge. Debris rains down like rice at a wedding, marking union. DRIVER 1 SAID THAT HIS TRUCK IS MEASURED AT 12’4”; SIGNAGE FOR THE OVERPASS INDICATED THE CLEARANCE IS 12’4” The North Carolina Department of Transportation has futilely tried to stop the crashes over the years. When I spoke with them, they made it clear that there’s only so much they can do, as the bridge is technically the property of the North Carolina Railroad Company. “You know from our standpoint, we’ve done everything we can do to help the situation,” said Marty Homan, a spokesman at N.C. DOT. In 2013, new signs stating the height of the bridge were installed, in addition to

a static overhead caution “OVERHEIGHT MUST TURN” black and yellow sign, to make the clearance warnings more visible. Two hours later, there was a crash. In 2016, traffic lights were added to the overhead warning that forces drivers to stop, stare at the now height-activated electronic “OVERHEIGHT MUST TURN” sign, and ponder their options before they crash into the beam. That day, the camera recorded some successes from the new setup. Two months later, an Excel Moving and Storage truck crashed into the beam. In 2019, the North Carolina Railroad Company threw the N.C. DOT a bone—it raised the overpass 8 inches to 12-foot4-inches. The project was not to prevent damage to trucks, but to level the tracks above. Crews lifted the bridge on hydraulic jacks, re-graded the tracks, and placed shims on the old foundation to add height. They also took the opportunity to spruce up the paint job. And to accent the bridge’s fresh, unjaded, bright yellow protective beam (installed to replace the one tormented by years of violence) N.C. DOT positioned new height warning signs. Still, the bridge is more than a foot below standard overpass height. “You know, there are multiple signs, there are literally flashing lights that tell you, you’re about to strike the bridge. We can’t really do anything about it,” says Homan, “Because again … it’s not our bridge.” Three weeks after the 2019 renovation, an Idealease box truck hit the beam and lost a piece of its roof. DRIVER 1 STATED HE WAS NEW TO THE AREA, WAS DISTRACTED BY THE GPS/ NAVIGATION UNIT, DID NOT SEE EITHER OF THE OVER HEIGHT SIGNS OF THE ROAD, DID NOT SEE THE LED AND FLASHING SIGN HE WAS OVER HEIGHT, AND CRASHED INTO THE IRON RAIL PROTECTING ACTUAL RAILROAD BRIDGE Drivers on Gregson heading toward the underpass are inundated by warnings of their impending doom, but some still crash into the bridge. How can that be? The problem is not unique to the Can Opener. Traffic sign experts and traffic engineers from across the globe are baffled and intrigued by this question of road sign efficacy. “Criteria for the Design and Evaluation of Traffic Sign Symbols,” a 1988 study published by Robert Dewar, explores var-

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April 21, 2021


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Readers' Club Sale!

Saturday and Sunday, April 24-25, Readers' Club and Readers' Club Plus+ members receive 20% off all eligible items in store and online. Save $15 off an annual membership to Readers' Club Plus+ during the sale, and never miss out on FREE media mail shipping, which is ending Mother's Day.


Down Home Concerts

PineCone members pre-sale: April 13-19 Tickets on sale to the general public: April 20, 10 a.m.

Listen to the latest podcasts on Bookin’

Salamishah Tillet, In Search of The Color Purple: The Story of an American Masterpiece



Friday, May 7

The Gibson Brothers


Friday, May 14

Balsam Range

Virtual Event


4.21 7PM

Ross King, The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance

Thursday, May 20


with Cate Lineberry


4.24 11AM


4.26 7PM

Darren Farrell & Maya Tatsukawa, Dandelion Magic A new picture book for ages 3+

Threa Almontaser, Wild Fox of Yemen: Poems with Eduardo C. Corral

Thursday, June 10

Fireside Collective with GRAHAM SHARP

Thursday, June 17

Amythyst Kiah with ALEXA ROSE Friday, July 9

Molly Tuttle


4.27 7PM


4.28 7PM

Karla Holloway, Gone Missing in Harlem with Imani Perry

All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Downtown Raleigh Limited capacity, socially distanced seating; masks required | Livestream tickets available

Melissa Bernstein, Lifelines: An Inspirational Journey from Profound Darkness to Radiant Light

ious aspects about why signs work and don’t work. Dewar’s careful analysis found “understandability” and “conspicuity” to be the most valuable aspects of effective signaling. The report leaves a reader thinking that a combo like, “OVERHEIGHT MUST TURN,” surrounded by flashing lights, and accented with clearly noted height requirements, might persuade drivers not to crash into a railroad bridge. But apparently not. Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman writes that the signs aren’t flawed; we just have too many of them. Monderman believes that drivers have become numb to the forests of signs on many roads. They just tune them out. For clarity, look no farther than “Driver’s Cognitive Workload and Driving Performance under Traffic Sign Information Exposure in Complex Environments: A Case Study of the Highways in China”—a paper whose title seems to be a “cognitive workload” itself. It, too, makes the point that drivers are overloaded with stimuli and can’t process all the signs they see. Indeed, I noticed that many of the Can Opener’s victims are Penske or other rental trucks. That suggests the drivers might be unfamiliar with their trucks, unaware of their clearance, and don’t realize they need to be on the lookout for overheight signs. Henn, resident 11’8” (now +8”) expert, has some different ideas. “I think people are just distracted. They don’t expect it, sneaks up on them a little bit,” he said in an interview with The 9th Street Journal. “And the location is a little tricky because it’s a two-lane, one-way road between two relatively tall buildings. So the approach is really narrow.” On top of that, drivers are often speeding on this road. The speed limit is 25 mph; an impact at that speed would not cause Bullet-category damage. “If you haven’t been paying attention to the signs, you won’t catch the bridge, and by that time you’re on it,” he said. VEHICLE #1 COLLIDED WITH A LOW BRIDGE PROTECTION PILLAR, DAMAGING THE TOP OF THE BOX TRUCK. THE PILLAR PROTECTS THE RAILROAD BRIDGE THAT CROSSES OVER N GREGSON ST.

with Doug Bernstein All events are online. Register for Quail Ridge Books Virtual Events Series at • 919.828.1588 • North Hills 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, Raleigh, NC 27609 Offering FREE Media Mail shipping and contactless pickup!


April 21, 2021

ADDITIONAL SPONSORS: Irregardless Cafe, Our State Magazine • Box Office: 919-664-8333

To watch more than 160 of these collision videos is to understand the modern limits of onomatopoeia. Somewhere around video 30, “shhhhhhrhastpt,” “craaasttshp,” and “sRTkkkst” all start to tire of their intrigue.

Watching them is to realize, too, how few verbs there really are to describe the length, magnitude, and velocity of a large truck unknowingly stopped by a steel beam. “Collide,” used often in the police reports of the incidents, seems to forget that the tops of these trucks are flayed effortlessly. “Smash” ignores the delicate niche of the truck’s cab gliding under the bridge, only to be harangued back by the bar’s unsympathetic disposition. “Hit” is useless. I looked up synonyms for “decapitate.” I tried to be precise in my descriptions but found the terms of local trucking were a bit baffling. In the case of the box truck, stout or extended, the structure tends to be made up of dry freight aluminum sheeting within a heavy duty metal frame or fiberglass reinforced plywood, according to a US Truck Body brochure. Both styles are adorned with an aluminum “Zephyr” front nose and corner castings. This seems to be the piece that sustains the Can Opener’s initial blow. But the beam is not discriminating in its victims, and box varieties are not the only overpass underpassers with battlescars to show. Many campers will find themselves sweating in the summer months, as their RV’s AC units get plucked off by the beam. One trailer carrying a stable’s worth of hay lost two bales from the top of the pile to the team, and trailers alike often find themselves stacked too high for the bridge’s liking. The worst crashes look horrible. The top is guillotined with a swift but abrasive punch. In some cases, the roofing is rolled off with precision, like those fancy ice cream places that take a scoop and turn it into a tube. Depending, then, on the extent of the damage to the top, the sides begin to give. If the beam intersects at the right angle, the sides sometimes mangle from the get-go, and the whole truck box suffers a rupture. Every now and then, a driver is able to escape. When November’s 18-wheeler victim moved forward after its sneak approach, its cab bounced under the beam with a snap and pop. Thinking quickly, the driver dropped the air suspension and backed out to avoid further damage. After careful extraction, his box attachment escaped unscathed. The Can Opener was left hungry. THE VEHICLE WAS RETRIEVED BY ONE OF ITS COMPANIES REPRESENTATIVES AND CONTINUED IN MOTION. W This story was originally published in the 9th Street Journal.

In Remembrance of Daunte Wright WORDS + PHOTOGRAPHY BY JADE WILSON

The events of Sunday night in downtown Raleigh started off as a vigil in Moore Square to honor the life of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man shot and killed by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 11. The vigil’s attendees also chanted the name of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Mexican American child who was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer on March 29, and the names of others killed by cops. Demonstrators also made space to remember Jaida Peterson and Remy Fennell, two Black trans women who were recently murdered in Charlotte. Following the vigil, a march through the streets of downtown Raleigh began around 8 p.m. Roughly 10 minutes later, officers from the Raleigh Police Department started to follow the crowd, issuing warnings to the marchers to move on to the sidewalk. Some moved. The majority stayed in the street. Around 8:30 p.m., more than two dozen officers, suited and ready for combat, charged at the crowd using excessive force and intimidation tactics, leaving some demonstrators physically harmed. Twelve demonstrators were arrested for failing to disperse. The marchers were persistent in their resiliency until, around 9:15 p.m., they decided it was too unsafe for everyone still out. W

April 21, 2021


FO O D & D R I N K

Path of Most Resilience On the cusp of opening three locations of her new fast-casual restaurant, BB’s Crispy Chicken, Ashley Christensen reflects on the changing nature of the restaurant workplace BY LAYLA KHOURY-HANOLD


shley Christensen is looking forward. On the verge of opening a new restaurant chain, BB’s Crispy Chicken, and navigating what one hopes is the tail end of a brutal year for the restaurant industry, the nationally lauded, James Beard-award winning chef took her share of lumps in 2020. But she’s implementing changes to her company, AC Restaurants, that she owns with Kaitlyn Goalen, her wife and ACR’s executive director, that she hopes will help her forge a new, more equitable, more sustainable path forward. “This pandemic has exposed the extreme vulnerability of this industry,” Christensen says in an April phone interview with the INDY. “It’s time for restaurants to really step up and do what it takes to be less vulnerable to moments like this. And with that we end up with a lot more security for our people, for all the people. Just thinking about how many restaurant dollars go back into our economy and to our supply chain, it’s a big deal.” It is a big deal, and it has been an unimaginable year of loss for restaurants and their workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1.8 million restaurant and bar workers have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic. And, per the National Restaurant Association, more than 110,000 restaurants have closed. It’s also been one of difficult lessons, as national social justice reckonings further exposed the systemic fault lines endemic to the service industry. As many restaurant owners pick up the pieces and try to move on, there are 16

April 21, 2021

pressing questions: What might a safer, more secure future look like? And who will it protect? Christensen has been spared neither conflict nor loss in 2020. Last spring, she and Goalen faced the devastating task of furloughing and laying off most of ACR’s nearly 300 employees while trying to pivot and keep the operation afloat; ultimately, they closed Chuck’s, their downtown Raleigh burger joint. And, at the height of the fallout that consumed downtown Raleigh restaurants Bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana, ACR also came under scrutiny last summer when a former Poole’s Diner employee brought forward accounts of sexual assault that she alleged happened during her employment at ACR in 2017. In response, Christensen and Goalen wrote an open letter of apology to the employee, who said she felt that her experience had been mishandled. Christensen said she was unaware of the extent of the problems that existed at Poole’s Diner. But she’s been doing the work to make the work experience at her restaurants better. In 2016, ACR hired a human resources director. A new organizational infrastructure helped to create what Christensen and Goalen refer to as “the feedback loop,” which has facilitated communication between managers and employees. ACR also utilizes OPUS, a multilingual text-based app, so that non-native English speaking employees can access paid training on human resources guidelines. And while a divide between restaurants’ front-of-house and back-of-house staff,

Ashley Christensen on site of her new restaurant, BB’s Crispy Chicken. PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

marked by a wage disparity in which servers typically make much more than their kitchen counterparts, is standard, Christensen piloted a tip pooling model at her downtown pizza restaurant, Poole’side Pies, in 2019 to help address the disparity. Instead of the $2.13 servers are normally paid and expected to subsidize with tips, they start out paid the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Tips are shared among all employees—a model that Christensen will bring to BB’s as well. But compensation is only one piece of creating a better workplace. According to Mental Health America’s annual workplace reports, the food and beverage industry consistently ranks as one of the unhealthiest work environments due to the long hours, difficulty in taking time off, and high rates of substance and alcohol abuse. When Death & Taxes opened in 2015, ACR did so without its shift drink policy—a common practice (and perceived job perk) offering employees a free alcoholic beverage post-shift. Since then, ACR has implemented this policy across the board at the rest of its restaurants. This reflects a growing trend among Raleigh restaurateurs, including chef Scott Crawford, who eliminated staff consumption of alcohol in the workplace in 2019. And, at the start of 2020, ACR enrolled all its employees in an Emergency Assistance Program, which provides free ser-

vices, such as counseling sessions and financial education services, anonymously. ACR has also re-tooled its paid time off policies which were previously in place only for company managers. Now, all ACR hourly employees receive three days of paid sick leave plus bereavement time. Additionally, the company will close for a full week in August. “For a company of our size it takes a lot to fully close,” Goalen says. “But we knew coming into reopening and after everything our team has been through together, that we’d need that time.” Opening BB’s gave Christensen and Goalen a chance to rethink aspects of ACR’s model, too, they say, and build a different kind of outpost. Restaurants operate on notoriously thin margins, and in the case of higher-end, sit-down service restaurants— such as Poole’s Diner and Death & Taxes— the business model is based on maximizing diners in seats. The fast-food model is built on volume, and Christensen sees BB’s, a fast-service concept with an inviting dining room and a product that lends itself to both dine-in and take-out, as an additional revenue stream that will help create financial sustainability and an opportunity to reinvest in the company. “Part of the appeal was taking an idea and concept and creating more accessibility,” Christensen says. “It’s an interesting

way to reach more communities with what I view as a very accessible product, and to not tax the focus of the company we grew in service to downtown Raleigh.” Although BB’s menu pricing isn’t finalized yet, the basic chicken sandwich will sell for approximately $6. The first BB’s location, in Raleigh’s Midtown East, will open in June, followed by Durham’s University Hill and Cary’s Parkside Town Commons locations. But the notion of accessibility doesn’t apply only to the consumer. “[Our] downtown [restaurants] had so many [employees] coming from communities that, now, we’re popping BB’s up in,” Christensen says. “That was one of the barriers of entry to working downtown. Much like bringing that food to the communities who have asked for years, ‘When will you open something out here?,’ we’re also bringing those jobs to those places.” When Christensen began developing the BB’s menu, creating a fried chicken sandwich that was delicious, fresh, and crispy, was paramount. But she wanted to simplify the cooking process to broaden employment prospects for workers who may lack formal training in cooking. “The concept of BB’s is, by design, built to withstand a pandemic,” Christensen says. “[And there’s] much more opportunity [at BB’s] than in the majority of concepts we have in downtown.” Streamlining the cooking process also facilitates BB’s cross-training structure, in which a cashier will know how to make a chicken sandwich and a line cook can learn customer service skills. Christensen says cross-training is a way to bridge the frontand back-of-house divide. “The goal [at BB’s] is for every person in that building to know how to do all the jobs considered hourly jobs, and the tip pool will be shared with all hourly people,” Christensen explains. “[Employees] will achieve a much higher hourly rate than what is maybe considered standard in fast food, and in restaurants in general.” This also helps create sustainability—and stability—for hourly food service employees who often work multiple jobs to earn a living wage. “I have always loved the access to entry that this industry provides. We are at a pivotal moment where we can provide a path to a healthy, balanced, sustainable, financially equitable, and fulfilling career experience,” Christensen says. “BB’s was designed parallel to everything we desired to tune-up at ACR, so it benefits from nearly 14 years of hard-earned experience. I am beyond excited to open the doors of these buildings, old and new. They represent so much more than the physical gesture.” W

April 21, 2021


FO O D & D R I N K

Something’s Always Brewing Whit Baker may very well be the Triangle’s busiest brewer BY JOHN A. PARADISO


onventional wisdom holds that brewing beer is a healthy blend of art and science. Ask enough industry professionals, and you’ll learn that good beer is the result of consistent, repetitive procedures. You have to “hit your numbers” and maintain a sanitary brewing environment. But to the romantics in craft beer, the process is boundless creativity. A brewer is the ultimate experimenter, an alchemist crafting beautiful flavor combinations. The truth is somewhere in the middle—a marriage of curiosity and calculation. Few folks in the North Carolina craft beer scene embody that balance more than Whit Baker. The co-founder of the Triangle-area Bond Brothers Beer Co., Ancillary Fermentation and, most recently, Standard Beer + Food, Baker is deeply passionate about beer and tuned into that inner balance of science and art. Like many professional brewers, Baker discovered his love of brewing as an amateur homebrewer. His day job, at the time, was as a chemistry teacher at the Durham School of the Arts. As he developed his skills as a homebrewer, he sought more knowledge, more certifications, and, importantly, more feedback. “The only way you know how to make good beer is a lot of bad beer,” Baker says with a laugh. “Everybody who is good at something has messed things up prior to being good.” Ultimately, Baker’s dedication to the craft led him to his first project. Though he had applied to several breweries, Baker hadn’t landed a job in the industry. “I definitely didn’t know what I know now, but I knew what I was talking about,” he says. “I was credible.” In fact, Baker improved his homebrewing skills alongside Jeremy Bond, one of the eponymous Bond brothers. That connection led to the founding team of Bond Brothers Beer Co. meeting at a homebrew party. They stayed in touch, with Baker even judging a homebrew competition hosted by eventual co-founder Andy Schnitzer. As cliche as it might be, the question “should we start a brewery?” was thrown around. And the answer was an emphatic yes. After launching Bond in the spring of 2016, Baker settled into his role as brewmaster, maintaining creative control of the beer lineup. Here, he progressed his brewing 18

April 21, 2021

Whit Baker at Bond Brothers Beer Company


knowledge and earned an Advanced Cicerone certification. With a profound understanding for brewing science and an eye for experimentation, Baker built a traditional portfolio backed by unique, creative beers. On the well-known beer review site Untappd, Bond Brothers’ most popular beer is a straight-forward IPA with rotating hops. Its top rated beer? A pastry stout collaboration brewed with peanuts, cacao, vanilla, and salt. Several years later, Baker sought a new challenge. It began with Ancillary* Fermentation, a rotating beer popup series where each beer complemented the event’s them. The project emphasizes experience over product, though the beer is pretty great, too. Most recently, Baker launched Standard Beer + Food, a Raleigh brewpub that focuses on local, low-intervention products and creative food and beer pairings. “Bond was the first venture and we were going to do a little bit of everything,” recalls Baker. “The other projects have been about creative restraints. What’s fun for me is working inside those boxes.” At the center of each of these projects is quality beer. Within the first few sentences of talking with Baker, you’ll start hearing brewing jargon. Friends joke that drinking beer with Baker is kind of a pain. He’ll detect the off-flavors or defects in a mediocre beer. Or, he’ll be able to pinpoint the process that makes an excellent beer so special, like a magician revealing their own tricks. “The most artistic beers you’ve had typically end up mind-blowingly scientific,” Baker explains. “And if you ask them how they made it, it’s like ‘I hit these numbers.’”

But Baker isn’t pedantic and he doesn’t talk down to anyone. Science just happens to be his first language. “I definitely talk more about science in person because I’m really into beer and I’m fairly well certified in beer,” he says. “The base of it is science, you have to nail the science. Once you nail the science, you’re then able to move on to the art part.” Even after launching three projects, Baker isn’t satisfied. There are always improvements to be made, new creative frontiers to cross. “My brewer’s philosophy is you’re only as good as your last beer that you made,” he says. “And your restraints are only what you can think of.” The team at Bond Brothers is launching a new Cary location—Bond Brothers Eastside—which will incorporate live music, from open-nights to concerts, into the craft beer experience. Though Ancillary* Fermentation’s in-person events have been put on hold due to the pandemic, Baker and his team are seeking a taproom to find a permanent home for the creative project. Standard, which opened its doors in late 2020, is still finalizing its food program. “When our menu is nailed down, I’ll be modifying the beer recipes to match the kitchen more,” Baker says. Like an executive chef who no longer works in the kitchen, Baker is rarely in the brewhouse anymore. Rather, he leads the creative direction and works with a talented brew staff to dial in recipes and construct consistent, quality beers. I was surprised, though, to learn he still homebrews regularly. How does he find the time? I have no idea. But, if nothing else, Baker is a man obsessed with perfecting his craft. W



Saturday, May 1, noon (market)/6:00 p.m. (The Veldt) | Franklin and Graham Streets, Chapel Hill |

Groovy Baby A new psychedelic music festival is born on Midway, the vintage block keeping the spirit of old Chapel Hill alive downtown BY BRIAN HOWE


ollow the setting sun down Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill, and you’ll feel the shift as you pass the restaurant Mint. The businesses get cooler and funkier, with richer local terroir, and art spills into the streets. There’s the historic music venue Local 506 and the art space above it, Attic 506. There’s Beer Study, Syd’s Hair Shop, Rumors Boutique, and the venerable Italian Pizzeria III. It’s almost like traveling back to a time before Target and the Greenbridge condos, as if you could stroll into The Record Exchange or Pepper’s Pizza or Second Foundation, hearing the phantom strains of the street musicians in front of First Citizens Bank. The spell lasts all the way to The Baxter, the bar-arcade around the corner on Graham Street. But then, alas, like Orpheus, you turn around, and old Chapel Hill shimmers away. Aside from valiant artifacts like Carolina Coffee Shop and Sutton’s Drug Store, it’s prefab chains all the way to Morehead Planetarium. This vintage block is called Midway, and it’s largely the vision of Wendy Mann, who grew up in Chapel Hill in the seventies and eighties before plunging into the art and nightclub world from LA to New York. Returning years later to find her hometown much changed, she had a vision that was steeped in nostalgia but tempered by worldly experience. Once she became a co-owner of Midway in 2008, and then of Local 506 in 2019, she had the canvas to paint it on. And once she met Luva Zacharyj, another Chapel Hill prodigal, she had the perfect partner. Zacharyj had also grown up in Chapel Hill in the eighties, and she had also returned after circumnavigating the country, developing a dual career as a bar manager and a vintage seller. She had a shop called Southern Swank inside Raleigh’s Father and Son Antiques for more than a decade before transitioning back to bars. In 2019, Local 506 co-owner Rob Walsh asked her to come in to discuss a role there. That role would eventually turn out to be co-owner. It was then that she met Mann, who also founded the VibeHouse studios. They instantly connected over their similar histories. Their fast friendship was incorporated in January, when they started their own company, Wendy & Luva

Left: Daniel Chavis, Right: Luva Zacharyj, and Wendy Mann PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE SUBJECTS

LLC. Besides infusing an iconic rock dive with craft cocktails and local-artist pop-ups in the green room, their biggest endeavor is Midway Market, an outdoor artists-and-craftspeople market that, since November, has been sparking fond memories of Apple Chill, the street art festival that reigned for decades before being replaced by Festifall. Its first big outing as the pandemic abates, which was rain-delayed from April 24 to May 1 as this story went to press, features an extra extra dose of vintage Chapel Hill: a concert by The Veldt, which is also a warm-up for a new music festival. The project of twin brothers Daniel and Danny Chavis, The Veldt was one of the Chapel Hill indie bands swept up in the alt-rock gold rush of the early nineties, after Nirvana’s breakthrough. Until their acclaimed reunion several years ago, they were best known for the great 1994 album Afrodisiac and its gripping single, “Soul in a Jar.” A story in The Guardian in 2016 recounted their industry travails as a Black shoegaze-soul band that not only refused to conform to the stereotypes of either white or Black music but seemed to revel in scrambling them. Zacharyj and Daniel Chavis first bonded over their shared love of psychedelic music—which runs from the Woodstock rock groups through veins as divergent as the shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine, the dreampop of Cocteau Twins, and the garage rock of The Brian Jonestown Massacre—and the vintage fashion it wears, from buckskin fringes to writhing paisleys. “Shoegaze is just soul music turned up loud,” says Chavis. Inspired by the convivial atmosphere of touring Europe with the Brian Jonestown Massacre, he put on a festival

called Triangle Psych Fest at several Raleigh venues in 2018. He was planning a second outing—he wanted to do it on the roof of a Holiday Inn and call it the Holiday LoveIn—before COVID put a stop to that. The idea was revived in conversations among Chavis, Zacharyj, and Mike Benson, the former Station owner who is now working toward opening a beer garden on Midway. Chavis is reconceiving his psych fest under a new, still-undecided name and planning to roll it out this fall, in venues in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The Veldt concert is the first in a series of pop-up shows he’s booking at Midway and elsewhere to build up to the festival. “Luva and Benson, they’re part of the whole original Chapel Hill music scene. That’s how we know each other,” Chavis says. “Luva’s got a really great style, and for the feeling of it, I want to hark back to stuff they used to do in the sixties. There’s not a niche for that in the Triangle, between Hopscotch and the bluegrass festival.” At Midway Market, on May 1, the music will wend throughout the day. The market starts at noon, with more than 20 vendors selling art, handmade jewelry, clothes, crafts, and more. Food, beer, and coffee from the block’s plentiful restaurants will be on hand. Pretty Odd and Lazaris Pit will perform around 2:00 p.m. before The Veldt headlines at 6:00 p.m., inside the 506 with the front of the building opened to the street. The market is planned to return every other Saturday unless demand warrants going weekly—and given the vibrant but deeply lived-in atmosphere it’s infusing into Chapel Hill, it well might. W

April 21, 2021



Her Take: On Carolina Hip-Hop Ruben Rodriguez PHOTO BY 8-BIT PHOTOGRAPHY

INDY WEEK: When did you get started in graphic design? What sparked your interests? RODRIGUEZ: I got started in graphic

design around my junior year in high school. As a kid, I was always intrigued by art and creating things. I used to create my own sneaker magazine covers by drawing them. What made me turn my attention to graphic design was my older brother, who at the time was in college for that profession. He showed me a direction I could pursue with my passions for drawing and just creating ideas. Do you have formal training or were you self-taught?

I have formal training. I graduated from The Art Institute of Charlotte with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. The one thing I’m always consistently telling anybody that asks for advice is: Never stop being a student. I’m constantly learning tutorials on new techniques. I try to learn new things yearly because, in this profession, it changes every year so I’ve learned to adapt along with it. What software(s) do you use the most?

Hip-Hop’s Unsung Creatives Graphic design visionary Ruben Rodriguez has worked with musicians like J. Cole, G. Yamazawa, and Young Bull. And he’s just getting started. BY KYESHA JENNINGS | @kyeshajennings


ip-hop encompasses layered creative spaces. From the most visible—the artists and DJs—to the stylists, videographers, and photographers, the cultural and musical genre is full of creatives. Surprisingly, though, is that among these layers, graphic designers in hip-hop often receive scant acknowledgement. They are the primary visionaries behind merchandise, promotional and tour design, and album artwork. Here in the Triangle, graphic designers Reuben Rodriguez and Joseph “Headgraphix” Headen are the two most sought-out graphic designers, with visibility and creative work that expands outside of North Carolina. Over email, the INDY caught up with Rodriquez and Headen to learn more about their journey and participation/engagement with hip-hop culture via graphic design. This week’s column features Ruben Rodriguez. 20

April 21, 2021

I mostly use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. After those, I would say I use Adobe After Effects and Adobe InDesign. Was it always a goal of yours to make an income off of graphic design? How has the journey been?

When I initially graduated from college, I was dead set on finding a job with a design firm and building myself up that way. For years, I applied to plenty of jobs and it just never happened that way. After having a regular job and doing freelance at the same time, I realized it was time for me to try and make a living from this talent on my own merits. I’ve learned that I can be as successful as I want to be depending on how hard I work. As an entrepreneur, there is never a clock-out situation. How did you begin designing album artwork and logos for hip-hop artists?

I’ve always loved hip-hop. When I was in my teen years I actually wanted to rap,

so the love started there. It was an easy transition to designing for hip-hop artists. Once I started creating for artists, I just kept building through word of mouth. Doing that led me to work with some amazing people, whether local or global. I knew early on in my career that I would be able to create within so many different areas of design. I also knew that no matter what, designing within hip-hop would be a part of my path because hip-hop was a part of me. Do you have a favorite design you have made for a hip-hop client?

I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a favorite but if I had to choose one I would say one of the first designs I created for J. Cole back in 2013. I was asked to create some tour merch for his 2013 Born Sinner Tour. When he came to Charlotte I was invited to the show and he performed onstage wearing one of my shirts. It was one of those “I’m finally doing it” types of moments. That let me know I was on the right path. Who are some of the North Carolina artists you have worked with?

I’ve worked with the majority of the wellknown artists from NC such as J. Cole, Mez, G. Yamazawa, to the next wave of NC artists like Young Bull, Nance, Madrique, just to name a few....Some notable mainstream artists I’ve worked with include J. Cole, Saba, CyHi The Prynce, Mick Jenkins, Trevor Jackson, etc. Is there a graphic designer/photographer in the music industry you admire?

One of the biggest design inspirations for me is the former creative director for Kanye West, Joe R. Perez. He’s inspired me with a lot of things I’ve done over the years, and it’s cool to have a creative relationship with him as well. One of the photographers I admire in the music industry who also resides in N.C. is Chris Charles. What, if anything, do you wish for your designs to communicate?

If anything at all, I want my designs to communicate the love of the design. When I create, I try to create from an honest area. W

April 21, 2021




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If you just can’t wait, check out the current week’s answer key at, and click “puzzle pages.” Best of luck, and have fun! solution to last week’s puzzle


April 21, 2021



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April 21, 2021


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