Category Archives: This Really Happened

Online dating and men who like spaghetti

So, in guys’ online dating profiles, I always laugh a bit when fellas write, “I like the mountains and the desert and the beach.” What the hell else is there to like? Small hills? Slightly sloping plains? The Piedmont?

Or the other amusing detail – “I like Italian food and Mexican food.” I mean, who the fuck DOESN’T like spaghetti and tacos?? Or, “I like movies and tv shows.” Fascinating, dude, fascinating. At least tell me that your favorite movie is “Need for Speed” and then I can weed you out with confidence.  Another instant turnoff for all women I know is when a fella lists his university as “the school of hard knocks.”  Or, “Ladies, I work hard and play hard” – usually guys with wrap around sunglasses and hats on backwards like to toss that little vignette into the profile mix. 

I am, however, okay with the generic proclamation, “I have tattoos.” We can sort the quality of those out later. Which begs the question, could you date someone with REALLY bad tattoos who doesn’t even recognize they are of poor and dubious quality?

Angela’s Diving Diary from Curacao: cigarettes nearly ruined my dive trip

Angela’s Diving Diary, 1st week of September: couldn’t dive today. I spent so much money coming from the U.S. to Curacao to dive and scope out real estate to move here.  But I came mostly to dive.  And I learned a lesson – a valuable one – about the respiratory system. As some of you know, I quit smoking a few years ago. But a few nights ago I went out here in Curaçao and ended up smoking WAY too many menthol cigarettes. When I get a few gin drinks in me, the desire to smoke a cigarette comes on strong.  Way strong.  Drinking and smoking always used to go hand in hand for me.  So I started smoking cigarettes that night like I needed them to live.

And all of that smoking fucked up my throat – I wasn’t used to it.  That combined with 2 days of breathing compressed air from diving led to extreme irritation. I called the DAN medline today to ask if I should dive and received quite a lecture on how very bad it is for a diver to smoke and to not do it anymore.  I was told all of the biological effects on the lungs and how that didn’t jive with being underwater.  She said I may even end up with a respiratory infection and to not dive until it is checked out.
I’ve worked too hard and spent too much time and money to be a diver to mess it up with something this stupid.  I do not want to ever smoke again – ever. It is NOT worth it and not part of who I am anymore.
I think I thought I could incorporate some of my old lifestyle into my new one, but it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – the 2 do not go together anymore. I am not the same person I was – I used to love to party and be out all night and smoke all the cigarettes.  But I don’t know, I ain’t feeling it anymore.  Partying like
I am 35 just sounds exhausting to me.  And no good for my diving goals.
I have learned so much about who I am by being on this island and by diving. And those cigarettes must go FOREVER! I cannot believe I went there and I am kicking myself – these stupid things screwed up my Open Water certification plan today. I am really pissed at myself. #dontdostupidstuff #ilovecuracao #nevergiveup #girlgetyourprioritiesstraight [Editor’s Note: I did finish OW the next day, but still lost a day of diving in paradise because of smoking.]

Flee the dull grey office and dive into the ocean, baby. Or, be a cattle rancher.

Earlier this morning, a co-worker asked me how was my trip to Curaçao. I told him about finally getting Open Water and how this has inspired me to further immerse myself into the world of diving and ocean conservation. He told me about how much he used to love diving and that he got into it from a good buddy of his.

Jim: Yeah, my friend loved diving. He was obsessed with it. We worked in IT together at Verizon. He got sick of working in an office. So he decided to quit it all at 50 years old.
Angela: No shit, that’s awesome. To do what, be a dive instructor?
Jim: Well, to be part of a dive crew on a boat in the Caribbean.
Angela: At 50 years old? That’s some tough grunt work. Damn.
Jim: Exactly, he found out real quick that being on a dive crew is a young person’s game. Even though he was really fit and super healthy. He said he just couldn’t keep up the daily hustle.
Angela: So what did he do? Seems like the best thing to do when you get older is become a boat captain or maybe maybe run a dive shop. He could still have been an instructor.
Jim: Nope, he gave it all up and moved to Texas and became a cattle rancher. He’s still doing it. Loved it.
Angela: WOW. Well, the thing is, he tried out his dream for diving. Found out that wasn’t for him long term. At least he went for it. And then he went for another dream. Sounds like your friend knew one thing for sure – he was never going back into an office.
Jim: Exactly. I wish I could do what he did.
Angela (laughing): Jim, what the fuck are we doing here? Let’s just walk out right now. Let’s do it.
Jim: God, I wish we could. But, money, Angela. Money. Bills. Mortgages. Cars. Health insurance. RETIREMENT PLANS. That’s real life, Angela. Not scuba diving and cattle ranching.

And so ended my conversation with Jim. I’ll take diving and cattle ranching over life in an office any ole’ time. It’s ALL real life. But Jim has some legitimate points and concerns about making big life changes when you are older and feel you have more to lose. Stay tuned.
#nevergiveup #ilovecuracao #girlsthatscuba

Black folks, those illegal Mexicans you hate and the rural Christian academies of eastern N.C.: Long live the U.S.of A.!

by Angela Perez

There are no race problems in eastern North Carolina!  Who told you there were?  Those fanatics were pulling your leg, my friend, because black, white and Mexicans living Down East do indeed all still eat at the same Chinese buffet and cash their checks at the same banks.  Though, some are cashing welfare checks but, hell, somebody always is abusing the system, ain’t they?

But let’s just pretend, for a moment, the rumours WERE true.   That the rabble-rousing nay-sayers had a point.  If we go down that road, well, I suppose you could say that in the sometimes tense racial environment characterizing much of life in rural eastern North Carolina, there is a phenomenon that endlessly yet subtly fuels tension: it is called the private rural “Christian academy”.   But, like I said, those glum and laughable tales are way off the mark.

Those little Christian academies are an important part of rural life! These tin-roofed meccas of private kindergarten-through-high school education are typically funded and sponsored by the wealthy white farmers working the land around places like Buzzard’s Cross and Todd’s Crossroads and Jernigan’s Ridge and their families have worked that rich land and killed hogs for generations.   The schools usually support about 50 – 150 students tops and there is a delightful Christian element to daily learning that ensures not only will the children not have to be exposed to the shenanigans and general immoral attitude of black folks and Mexicans, but also the Lord Jesus will live in their hearts until they are called home to heaven.

These  hearty, salt-of-the-earth folks and their kids don’t generally know many black folks since they live in the rural parts of N.C., areas most of the the black people fled right after these farmers’ great-great grandfathers freed them from those happy-go-lucky days of slavery.   The wealthy male farmers, unfortunately, are still exposed to Mexicans since they employ many hundreds of them under the table to work the land, but the farmers make sure that the lewd and over-sexed Mexicans never come up to the big house for supper or lay eyes on their plump and delicious pale-skinned wives or the gentle blonde curls of their daughters.   Luckily, on the weekends, when Mexicans are swarming the rural countryside, the farmers’ wives and daughters are over at the mall in Raleigh, shopping for cute tops and nice bedding at Macy’s.  Such a fancy store and there’s always a 60% off sale on something!

Nowadays the only negroes they have to abide are those two they show on the Fox Network news channel all the time, that Obama and his uppity wife, I think they call her Flotus or something (black people name their children the craziest names and it’s been proven that those African names like Flotus can keep those children from being successful later in life).   If you look into the sky over eastern North Carolina, you can see all the wisps and clouds of earnest prayer, billowing up to the heavens, entreating Jesus and his father, God, to hurry up with the day they get those communists of color out of office and return to the good ole’ days when black people knew their place and Mexicans who did slip over the border were sent back home packing, that is, unless they worked in the fields for low wages or learned English and could make good tamales and salsa.

So back to the phenomenon of “Christian academies” that pepper the landscape in eastern N.C.  These bastions of pure and higher learning cost a few thousand a year and they are a wonderful enclave of white happiness and erudition where darker skin colors and sin don’t interfere with the 21st century like it does elsewhere.   No ebonics or baggy pants here!  No Mexican boys trying to kick those hideous soccer balls around on our pretty baseball field!  No Mexican girls with coconut oil in their hair and short Old Navy skirts trying to rape our freckled boys!  Once in a while, a wealthy family falls on hard times and the child or children must leave the sweet confines of the academy and attend public school.  Public school kids, those irascible hoodlums, often take great joy in the misfortune of these once-pampered white folks, but, having good Southern manners, they don’t say much about it to their faces.

Here on these Christian campuses, white doves are released every morning after prayer time and the girls still wear pink Espirit sweaters and Izod turtlenecks and the boys still wear white Don Johnson blazers, with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows.  When the women graduate, they are gifted 50 pounds of fat, which adheres to their middle-sections and thighs and they are granted a short haircut that’s full on the top and adorned with lovely white frosted tips.  They then have 2 white babies and attend a nearby church.  They still have rarely seen black people or Mexicans except at the grocery stores, which, for some reason, even in this day and time, are neither private nor overseered by wealthy local farmers.

Ah!  These elite academies prepare some of the the farmers’ kids for college!  Many, alas, are not ready for their exposure to knuckleheads from India and China and Africa once they hit the university grounds.  So, many will go to local universities, like East Carolina University or UNC-Wilmington, or Pitt Community College, mainly so they can rush home on the weekends and get away from the liberal, hawkish sinners of the world, especially the gay ones who walk around campus holding hands.  “It’s hell on Earth, mamma!” sob the farmers’ daughters who, alas, haven’t found husbands on campus because those gay men keep sticking their cocks where they don’t belong!  So, they rush back to the farm on Friday evenings after their last class and eat homemade fried chicken, collard greens, and biscuits and swill sweet tea, each lovely girl dreaming of that rosy-cheeked, well-to-do rural boy who will sweep her in his strong arms, make love to her, and whisper sweet promises that she will never, ever have to hold down a job or career of her own.  Or, at the very most, she’ll have to keep the accounting books for the local church, but only part-time.

The wealthy farmers’ kids who don’t get swept up in worldly desires and liberal values while away at college, usually, finally return home, or at least end up living in the “big city” that is closest to the farm, in places called Plymouth or Williamston, or New Bern or Rocky Mount.   Armed with their college degree, they become the heads of local banks or pharmacists or open a car dealership.   Since some of their biggest customers are, in fact, black people and Mexicans, they develop an easy camaraderie with them (as long as they don’t rob their stores!), but they still don’t want their children commingling with poor folks of any color, because poor folks are always up to no good.  So they continue to send their children to the elite country academy, even though nowadays that sometimes means having to drive an extra 30 – 45 minutes to get to the school instead of back in the day when attendees lived within a five-mile radius. But sometimes, my friends, you have to use up a lot of gas and have patience if you want to preserve those sweet, good old days!

That’s about it for now folks.  So, here’s to the private Christian academy and the good work they do to keep our Southern values afloat and alive.  Somebody has to do the hard work, and they know it mustn’t be those lazy black folks or illegal aliens who, for the love of Christ, don’t even bother to learn to speak English and are always driving drunk with no license.  No, this work must be done by God-fearing white people in big strong trucks, because that’s what made America what it is today!  Viva la U.S.A.!  Ooops – I’ve got to speak English if I’m going to be living on this glorious soil.  Long live the U.S.A.!

What I use Facebook for, people who get upset with other peoples’ posts, and your reasons for being on social media

Recently, a friend of mine was “scolded” by her morally upright friends and family for some of her “wild” Facebook posts – photos of her drinking and smoking.  They warned her that the world would think terribly of her and that she must stick to posting photos of her latest bowl of pho and of the autumn leaves changing.   That she was being perceived as a wild slut.  Also, I’ve seen a lot of posts from friends lately who are so upset by Facebook that they are going to have to check out for a while.  Here’s what I’m thinking about all of this:

I view social media as a form of self-expression – a way for me to be completely open, honest, and transparent.  And at the same time, I am able to mold and shape that self-expression in an artistic and thoughtful way that is still honest.  My posts are a way to combine reality and art in a public forum.  It’s a grand thing really, to be able to do this.   Social media is catharsis for me.  That’s why I am careful about who I friend – I don’t friend co-workers or family or people I think would not understand the extremes of my personality or self-expression.  They will easily misconstrue my posts.  The people who respond to my posts negatively or judgementally or argumentatively, I delete them.

I see people, and this happens to me sometimes too, getting frustrated and upset their experience with Facebook or the responses to their posts.  Anything you see from me on social media is a true expression of me and where my head is at that moment – or I wouldn’t have posted it.  I’ve had phases where I eschewed selfies and I’ve had phases where I posted a lot of selfies.  And I am sure there have been some who have been irritated by my “selfie” phase.  I post a lot of photos of my dog.  (If you are ever irritated by dog photos we weren’t meant to be friends anyway.)

There are a lot of posts of me going to shows and of me out on the town with friends and a lot of posts of me drinking gin and and about sex and men and even sometimes smoking and partying.  Of me traveling the world to snorkel, swim, and scuba dive. Because that’s my lifestyle.  If I posted something else, it wouldn’t be honest.  It wouldn’t be me.   My posts aren’t to celebrate self-destruction or self-glorification.  Jesus Christ, I ain’t 12 years old.  No my posts are part of my free and single lifestyle – the way I am currently choosing to live my life.

My posts reflect what is happening in my life – the good, the bad and the ugly.  If I was always knitting and baking cookies or had a baby, well, you’d see endless photos and posts about that.  But I don’t do those things.   No, I go to shows.  I love heavy metal.  I drink gin.  I swim and dive.  I read a lot.  I love Russian literature and Japanese and Chinese film.  I am in the dating scene right now.  I am getting laid now and again.  I like to write.  I have the sense of humor of a perverted 15-year-old boy sometimes.  This is who I am.  And my social media activity reflects that and is a lens for those activities and ideologies.

I love my family.  And I love my friends.  But at the end of the day, it’s my fucking life.  And I cannot and will never let anyone dictate what I do or how I do it.  In fact, unlike my girl friend, I cannot even fathom what I express about myself on social media being an issue.  If one of my family members or friends told me that my posts were too “wild” or “immoral,” well, once I stopped laughing I would tell them to go fuck themselves.  Period.  Then don’t look at my posts.  Delete me.  Unfollow me.

I’m going to express myself however the fuck I want to.  And the type of people I am friends with, for the most part, are eccentric, creative, wild, free, artistic, have similar interests, etc. and understand what I am doing with social media.  Those people do similar things, and many of you fascinate and entertain me on a daily basis.  (Also, I need social media to keep track of the shows I want to see and where I want to dive next.)  So many of you have similar lifestyles.  Or, maybe you have settled down, but HAD a similar lifestyle and you understand what I am expressing.  It’s funny, when I go out, most nights, there’s always someone who comes up to me and mentions how much they enjoy the things I share and express on Facebook.  And although in no way do I need validation for any fucking thing I do, it makes me feel good that somehow my self-expression meant something to someone else – high brow or low brow.  I like knowing that what I put out in the world makes someone else feel good.  Or better.  And, okay, at the end of the day, social media is a purely self-indulgent, selfish, giving, and sharing exercise for me – and I am fascinated by how words and photos manifest those states of being, of thinking.  The process of the ego and the id in the world.

What is social media for if it’s not to be a true expression of who you are?  No, no, no – it can never be a full expression.  But what is?  It’s not possible. I’ve thought long and hard about this.  We’re in a new era of sharing and understanding ourselves in relation to one another – now through this bizarre lens that isn’t going away.  You may say, but we’re not supposed to KNOW that much about one another.

I disagree.

Social media may evolve or morph, but it’s not going away.  If you don’t use it to parse out and create something that is utterly true to who you are, what’s the fucking point?  Social media is indeed, in 2019, an extension of ourselves.  Deny it all you want.  But it is.  It’s a new way to connect and communicate with the folks around us and friends far away.  People we’ve never met or didn’t know before.  In fact, there are people in Raleigh I’ve known through going out for over 10 years and I’ve learned more about them through Facebook than I ever did before and cultivated deeper friendships based on some of the information I found out which piqued my interest.

I use social media to express my psyche – insight for myself and those around me.  And the psyche is not a clean, ordered, moral place.  It is the opposite of that.  And people who claim to constantly live in a clean, ordered and moral place or who care about how perfect their lives look to other people, well, I don’t want or need those people in my life. It’s not honest.  It’s not genuine.   And I want to live genuinely.  The noble and the cowardly.  The high brow and the low brow.  The cool and the absolute idiocy.  The wise decisions and the really stupid, dumbass shit.  And everything in between.  And I want to express it through this incredible medium – through articulation I come to understand myself and the world around me better.  If you construct your life in a way that leaves the worst out, then I’m not being honest.   And that is not a life that I am going to live.   Ever.

 

Afternoon tea and race relations with Dottie and Elsie (near Raleigh)

It’s cold in the cavernous tea room and the riot of floral patterns on the wallpaper, tablecloths, and napkins is soothing even in the Garden of Eden chaos. I’m having High Tea at the little tea room in historic downtown Wake Forest. This creaky old place feels like your Southern granny’s fancy front parlor that no one was ever allowed to sit in. Two white-haired old gals wrapped in pearls and the powerful sweet scent of magnolia perfume are sitting at the table next to me.

I pretend to be reading my Dostoevsky novel but I’m really eavesdropping. They speak in that languorous Southern accent – the one that adds an extra syllable to every word, especially three-letter and four-letter words. “Here” is pronounced “he-ah” and “there” is pronounced “they-ah.” They are talking about the new preacher’s wife and what a terrible job she has done planning the annual Thanksgiving luncheon to be held this Sunday. “Bless her heart”, says Dottie. “She’s got all those people signed up to bring canned cranberry sauce and macaroni and cheese. But hardly anything else.”

“I know!” exclaims Elsie, sipping on her lavender tea. “She should have just asked each one of us in the ladies group to make her particular specialty.” She takes a bite of her crustless egg salad sandwich. “This egg salad isn’t as good as mine. As I was saying. I WOULD have made my pineapple upside down cake. All she had to do was ask.”

“Here, taste my cucumber sandwich,” says Dottie, pushing her plate towards Elsie with her silver tea spoon. “Too much cream cheese. Well, I’m going to make my pimento cheese but I’m not signing any sheet. Pastor loves my pimento cheese.”

“She’s pretty enough, the wife,” says Elsie. “But I don’t think she cooks much. He’s such a handsome man. She’d better take care.”
“Oh Elsie! You’re terrible!” titters Dottie. She slathers Devonshire cream on her butterscotch-walnut scone. “She’s funny. In a fun way, not a crazy Dix Hospital way.” (For those not from North Carolina, Dorothea Dix Hospital is an infamous, now-defunct, old mental institution in Raleigh started in the 1800s and only recently closed. Old folks refer to it as “Dix Hospital” or “Dix Hill”, which is the name of the hill the hospital was built on).

“She’s too flirty,” says Elsie. “She doesn’t seem all that bright to me. You should make your cornbread stuffing. With the pepper sherry. It’s the best thing you make. There really is too much cream cheese on this cucumber sandwich.”

NOTE: I have been typing this eavesdropped conversation on a mobile phone. Dottie and Elsie are discussing the best way to make a sweet potato casserole and a squash casserole. “You can tell we’re Southern,” giggles Dottie. “Indeed,” agrees the infinitely serious Elsie. (I’m going to try Dottie and Elsie’s recipe secrets and pass them off as my own.)

My oolong tea has grown cold. Damn. They are now speaking in hushed tones about a married woman at church who had an affair with a black man and had the prettiest little half-black girl. The church, evidently, still allows both mother and mixed-race child to attend with no judgement. Dottie and Elsie are nothing if not understanding.

white-meakin-teapot

extraordinary me: does he take his pants all the way off to do it

Tonight, while creating categories within my new dive-themed move to the Caribbean blog (sex, dating, diving, all-things-Curacao), I decided to be true to myself – the flaming liberal, social justice side of myself – and include a section about that.  Much of this particular section will be focused on ocean conservation but there will be many jabs at Trump. Conservatives may freely enjoy the dive-instructor-dick stories, but might want to judiciously avoid the “From the Mind of a Flaming Liberal”  category. And, to kick off the new blog category, I will share a little poem I wrote just for such an occasion:

extraordinary me
by angela perez

when trump eats breakfast
who sits next to him does he
crack a hardboiled egg on the presidential plate and pick up
greasy fried hashbrowns with his little orange nubs
does he watch t.v. while some kind of brown man fills
a crystal cup with ice cold Diet Coke.
last night did trump dream of lady pussies with
no hair and no body cajoling him
to press his cheek against a frozen window pane
and speak of joy not monstrously stitched
to that gray-gold empire where a Slavic wife scowls
in gossamer Dolce & Gabbana

is there a tanning bed in the white house
and does he tweet while shitting in the toilet
when he makes love, in what direction does his hair flow
Mr. President, do you fuck all-the-way naked or just pull your junk through an open zipper

oh people, my people, my bony heart is a graveyard of fake news and tan liars
who run away but don’t get far and then wither. Believe extraordinary me.

Memories: From Peckers in Raleigh to Pirozhki in Moscow (with collard greens with fatback on the brain)

by Angela Perez

My body takes issue with my intellectual pursuits.  In particular, with my adventures with food.  That’s right!  I consider food not a just a nagging means for survival or even some kind of guilty pleasure.

Cheese-laden grits and creamy coconut paletas unlock the meaning of universe, wrap my prune brain around the tragedy of man.

Musing on why all those super-jazzed always-nearly-jizzing young white guys with beards and tattoos sling craft beer and bake bread with ancient grains of Mesopotamia and wax poetic on authentic heritage hog bbq stimulates my mind.  Awwww, but fuck all that.  I haven’t felt like spinning yarns and navigating facts related to the intersections of food, race, class, and gender for a few hours now.

I’ll quit boring you about my foray into raising meat goats (as opposed to the kinder and more lovable pursuit of raising dairy goats – see, I want to roast these babies to make goat tacos and sell them.  …goddammit, I’m doing it again…I ought to apologize…).

Thing is, though, I’ve got no secret greetings.  No inane uplifting game plan.  Just a dusty hide stretched out and sagging from not spending enough time with just me.

People who can’t be alone scare the ever-loving shit out of me.  ‘Dem homosapien fumes and skin flakes all cloggin’ up my chi.   Endlessly making deals with myself to be happy, to achieve Nirvana…all wearing me slam the fuck out.

Angelita, that young woman of the people, vanished.   Endless fine distinctions regarding my expanding middle-aged body and mind are blue-veined and clear to me.   In all my years in Raleigh, I’ve observed a nightmare of eager peckers and shared living arrangements and over-priced fried chicken.  That foie gras torchon was the bomb though.

Finally, alert, I humbly request you hurl your attention at the bittersweet victories of Southern women.

pork

That time I was the only girl at BBQ camp.

We don’t want black kids walking down Main Street: a brief history of 4th Street Elementary in Plymouth, NC

by Angela Perez

My post a few months ago about the history of Washington County in eastern North Carolina was the most popular post in the history of this blog.   The story and photos got several thousand shares and thousands and thousands of hits.  The photos of the rubble of my former elementary school, 4th Street School, were especially popular with folks from Washington County.  Many Plymouth residents fondly remember attending that little brick school on the corner of Andrew Jackson and 4th streets.

What many people don’t know is the controversial history behind the school.  It was originally built for black students in the 1920s through grant money from the Rosenwald Fund, a fund created in 1917 by Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company.  The fund was intended to improve education for African-American students in the South, primarily through the building of schools for them since they could not attend school with white students.

Throughout the 1920s, W.F. Creadle, the supervisor of the Rosenwald Fund in Raleigh, corresponded with the Washington County school superintendent, John W. Darden, about procuring money for a school for black students in Plymouth.   On July 14, 1925, Creadle wrote to Darden with some exasperation:  “I am aware of the fact that we have written and conferred a great deal about the colored school situation at Plymouth, but I am still wondering if there is not some way we can do something about it…the colored people are anxious to raise money to help on the building and I have said to you before, we shall be glad to give you $1,500 from the Rosenwald Fund.”  The black community in Plymouth was, apparently, ready to take advantage of the available grant money but no action was being taken by the Washington County Board of Education.

Finally, in the summer of 1929, the Washington County board, intending to use the Rosenwald funds as well as other money from other sources, voted to buy land from a man named Van Buren Martin for a price well over its appraised value.  Why the board was insistent that the school be located here is not clear, though one National Parks survey document from 1990 speculates the reason was political pressure and cronyism. It was indeed close to the historically black neighborhoods, but there were other near-by parcels of land also available on which to build the school.

Not only was the property overpriced, it was next to railroad tracks, and it was close to the well-to-do white residential neighborhood on Main Street.  Because the land around the school that was linked to the black neighborhoods was private property, the students would have to take a longer way to school every day by walking through a neighborhood where they were not welcomed.   The land was purchased and the school was built anyway, despite heavy coverage of public criticism from the local newspaper, the Roanoke Beacon.    In 1931, due to an outcry by the white community, however, the property between the black neighborhoods and the school was quickly obtained and 4th Street and 3rd Street, which existed but did not extend to the school grounds, were extended so that black students no longer walked past white houses and offended the sensibilities of the well-to-do.  The children originally came to the school by way of Andrew Jackson Road which intersected with the white neighborhood of Main Street.  That way in to school was quickly diverted by the 4th and 3rd street extensions and the universe returned to its proper balance.

After desegregation, that Rosenwald School became 4th Street School, which I attended in the 70s.    Growing up in Plymouth, I never once heard that the school had been a Rosenwald School.  Little did I know back then, as our bus pulled up next to the building to drop us off at the door (which was on Crowell Street), that these tiny streets had caused so much controversy in Plymouth, all in the name of making sure black people stayed where they belonged.

I vividly remember singing John Denver songs in the auditorium with black and white kids and having the time of my life.  And, oh yeah, I remember a freckle-faced girl named Rita Spruill throwing up her pizza all over me in the lunchroom, which was located in a separate building from the school that was built much later.  I remember that lunchroom pizza we got every Friday – it was rectangle shaped and tasted like Totino’s.  God, it was good.

Correction:  I had originally written in one photo caption that Mr. Estep was principal when I attended 4th Street.  But it was, in fact, Mrs. Rascoe.  Mr. Estep was my principal at Washington Street School.

4th Street Elementary.  This was the where the busses dropped us off.

4th Street Elementary. This was the where the school bus dropped us off.

4th Street Elementary.  Mrs. Rascoe was principal here when I attended.  And my two favorite teachers were Mrs. Cordon and Mrs. Benners.

4th Street Elementary. Mrs. Rascoe was principal here when I attended. And my two favorite teachers were Mrs. Cordon and Mrs. Benners.  Those stairs used to seem so monumental to my eyes.

4th Street Elementary.  We used to sing John Denver songs in the auditorium, which was just through that entryway.

4th Street Elementary. We used to sing John Denver songs in the auditorium, which was just through that entryway.

4th Street Elementary School, where I went to K-2 grades.  Nothing left.  I still have dreams about this place the way it looked in the 70s.  And I remember Rita Spruill throwing up her little rectangle of lunchroom pizza all over the table.

4th Street Elementary School, where I went to K-2 grades. Nothing left. I still have dreams about this place the way it looked in the 70s. And I remember Rita Spruill throwing up her little rectangle of lunchroom pizza all over the table.

Viva La Episcopalian Church! – Hispanics find home in Oxford, NC

In the small town of Oxford, NC, just north of Durham, there is a small Episcopalian church where every Sunday the sermon is preached in both English and Spanish.  There’s an ever-growing Latino population here at St. Cyprian’s, who for some reason choose not to attend the nearby Catholic churches in Butner and Henderson.   These working-class families, mostly Mexican, found a welcoming home here in a church that was once mostly African-American.  There is a trend, which has been noted and reported on by a few major news outlets, on how the Episcopalian church is courting Hispanics and those who don’t agree with some of the stricter rules of the Catholic church.   The two times I have attended St. Cyprian’s, I noticed a mixed congregation made up of about half African-American and half Hispanic.  This Episcopalian church is a far cry from the dry, mostly upper-middle class white place I attended when I lived on Capitol Hill in D.C.  [NOTE – I am quasi-agnostic or maybe atheist or maybe not.  I will say I was raised in the church.  I mean, of course I was.  I was raised in a small town in the South.  We went Sunday morning, Sunday night, Monday night, Wednesday night and any other night the doors were open.]

No, this church, at least on baptism and confirmation nights, throws down.  The service felt more like a Baptist church but with the kneeling, ceremony, pomp, and standing up and down.  It’s an unusual mix of soulful singing, pure Episcopal ceremony, Spanish hymns alternated with English, lots of shouts of “Amen” and “Yes, Lord” and some good potato salad and coffee served at the end of service.

This church is special in that it doesn’t reach out to Hispanics as though they need charity or assistance.  This church has embraced the Mexican community around Oxford as part of their own.  When I attended the baptism on a Wednesday night back in September, the head of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, the Right Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, the 11th Bishop of our great state, was leading the service.  He is a fire-brand, speaking part inspiration and part intellectual appeal – calling on the congregation to love one another and using  Hendrix and Nina Simone quotes to back up his message.  I have to say, I liked his style.  For me personally, I’ve found it impossible to find both the emotional, charismatic appeal combined with a true intellectual approach to church.  And though I don’t know how I feel about the existence of God, I do need spiritual succor from time to time.

That combo of passion and intellect is rare in a church these days.  Either you get one or the other – a lot of singing and clapping but some run-of-the-mill heaven and hell stuff OR a very dry, stuffy, intellectual lesson with some stick-up-your-rear singing of “It is Well With My Soul.”  Never the twain do meet – except here in this church.

I enjoyed every second of the baptism service – though I don’t enjoy all that Episcopalian standing and sitting.  It’s too much exercise for this gal who was raised in the Church of God, where we mostly sit and fan ourselves and leave it to those who “got the Holy spirit” in ’em to run up and down the aisles speaking in tongues.  Then we mosey on over to the church dining hall and eat collard greens, biscuits, and pineapple coconut cake.

At St. Cyprian’s, I noticed that many of the older Mexicans in attendance did treat the service with the same ceremony and crossing that they do in Catholic church.  I think this Episcopal church offers the Hispanic community something familiar to them and it’s obvious they are welcomed here with open arms.

I realized during the baptism ceremony how important this baptism/confirmation event is for this little church.  The baptism tradition is the ceremony or rite by which a person is admitted and becomes a member of a particular church and community. The Mexican children this night were officially brought into St. Cyprian’s, probably having previously been baptized in a Catholic church somewhere else.   Though I am half-Mexican, I know very little about the ceremony so don’t quote me on my theories.  But here are some of the photos I took just to give you an idea of the brilliant things going on in Oxford.    NOTE:  The lighting in here was tricky and made it hard to get good photos – as an amateur, I was put to the test.

Part One: The happy and sad story of ancient Washington County, North Carolina

by Angela Perez

I am no historian.
But I have a heavy burden on my heart and the raw ache of nostalgia over the state of things in one tiny place in North Carolina.

Poverty and decay seems to be the order of the day back home in Washington County, N.C. where I was born and raised. These days, the rural northeastern county manges to pick up some business from oblivious tourists anxious to get down Highway 64 to the Outer Banks, but other than that, there just isn’t much happening here.  More than 27 percent of the county’s population is listed as living below the poverty line, according to NC Policy Watch, and the massive layoffs over the past decade by what was once the county’s largest employer, the pulp and paper company Weyerhaeuser, have decimated much of the lower-middle to middle-class.

A drive around the county seat, Plymouth, reveals rotting old mansions and dilapidated colonial-era homes.  The historic downtown located along the serene Roanoke River has a few shops scattered along Main Street but many of the buildings are empty and falling down.  Some of these beautiful old relics don’t even have back walls and you can look through the grimy busted-out windows to see the Roanoke River rolling endlessly along behind them.   Many of the schools and churches I attended or country stores and restaurants my family frequented are just mostly rubble.
And yet, despite the lack of jobs and persistent poverty, people remain here and raise their families and survive.   Outside of the only three towns that are incorporated – Creswell, Plymouth, and Roper – there are endless miles of farms, growing tobacco, corn, cotton, and soybeans.  The eastern part of the county, heading into Tyrrell County towards the Outer Banks, boasts massive poultry farms.   Fishing in the Roanoke River, Albemarle Sound, and Lake Phelps (the 2nd largest lake in NC) provides food and recreation.   Lake Phelps is a major attraction for fishermen and birdwatchers.  The 38,000 year-old lake draws thousands of wild geese and tundra swan in the winter months.   Indian artifacts dating back 11,000 years have been found in the area and there are still prehistoric canoes buried around the lake.   Scientists have not been able to determine its origin – theories are that it was a meteor, glacial activity, high winds or underground springs.  I have spent many, many hours wandering around the water, wondering about the slaves who died here and the Indians who fished there.
The beautiful and well-preserved Somerset Place sits along Lake Phelps, offering a comprehensive view of life on a North Carolina plantation in the 1800s.  The site documents and reveals both the white owners’ and the slaves’ daily lives.  Several Civil War attacks and skirmishes occurred in Washington County and there are markers all around Plymouth denoting the locations.  The Carolina Algonquians cherished Scuppernong grapes, a variety of muscadine grape that originated in this part of N.C.  One of the county’s townships is still named Scuppernong and you can discover vines growing on most every farm and in most of the yards and around churches.  Kids growing up here grow up knowing well the tart tang of those fat, thick-skinned grapes.
Needless to say, there’s endless history in this county and while some has been preserved, so much of it is falling to the ground in a county too poor to pay for the overwhelming amount of preservation called for.   It’s been many years since I moved away from this region where most of my family still resides.  My grandfather fished every body of water in and around this county all the way from Martin County to the Outer Banks.  It is part of my psyche and when I visit, I feel sad that time just sort of left this place behind and its residents to fend for themselves.  But fend they have.  My heart aches when I see these places so full of history turned back to the dust from the whence they came.  Places like Washington County – indeed, many of the counties along Highway 64 from Raleigh to the Outer Banks are dying a slow death.  Still, there’s a lot of beauty if you just peer in close enough.  Here’s what that looks like to me in that sweet sad old county.
Author’s note: after you view the photos, click here for Part Two.