Posts tagged ‘north carolina’

November 16, 2010

They are Trying to Build a Prison

by nkwilczy

Seven and a half hours before I turned twenty one I was pulled over for smoking a blunt in my car. I had eight more blunts, if they had been measured it would have come to a small, but safe, amount under the half of an ounce that is decriminalized in North Carolina. They were never measured, I had my registration in hand when the officer came up to my car. Since the glove compartment was locked (thank YOU Jay-Z) and the roach of my previous blunt was somewhere far behind us in the middle of I-40 the officer started grasping at any stem he could find, an empty plastic baggie (to prove, incidentally, that “all the weed is gone”), my traditionally terrible balance, his inaccurate assessment of my driving, he decided to use these things to make a case for a DWI. At that point those seven and a half hours were a big deal, and handcuffs jingled on my wrists as we rode into custody.

Before dumping me in a holding cell he asked me the time. He had taken my phone so I initially responded with “You tell me.” But he insisted.

“5:13,” I told him. I had been smoking a 4:20 blunt when he pulled me over and I had a good estimate of how long his shenanigans had taken.

When he checked his watch I was a minute and a half off. I like to think that he had a look of sudden understanding, as though he suddenly knew that I wasn’t actually inebriated at all. But then I was in the holding cell.

The holding cell in Alamance county had a couple of disgruntled guys who made a lot of noise on the telephone to their girlfriends or bondsmen but were otherwise quiet and as antisocial as the situation seemed to warrant.

A portly older man, the sort of individual that we refer to in the south as a “good ‘ole boy,” told me a story about his own processing. Specifically how he had found a handful of assorted and nondescript pills in his pocket at some point before he was searched and had taken the first opportunity to swallow them all in one gulp. I do not know what he was charged with. His eyes bugged out. The top of his head was bald, haloed by long white hair.

I spent a couple of hours talking to a very frightened Mexican boy, a fifteen year old who had been apprehended at a traffic stop on his way to Wal Mart for driving without a license. He told me that he was the primary English speaker in his household and that his mother would not be off work before seven o’clock.

The older gentleman rocked and moaned in the corner. The other inmates yelled at people who could get them out and glared at everyone else.

At seven o’clock, as the boy predicted, he was taken further into processing and I did not see him again. He had voiced a LOT of concern about being deported.

For my part I was not hauled off to county prison or to Mexico. I sat stubbornly in the cell for a full six hours until I was willing to call my parents and admit what had happened. The older guy rolled his eyes and his face went all pale. I assumed he had a prison break scheme involving an overdose until his daughter arrived to bail him out.

The standoffish types, a rainbow of bitterness and self-righteous rage, came and went, yelled at bondsmen, yelled at their families, and spent the rest of their time glaring sullenly at everyone else as though they had a shank, or were contemplating rape.

I couldn’t tell you if that little boy got out. I don’t know if his mother risked the trip to get him out or could afford the bail. I don’t know if the American Immigration system won another of it’s gruesome victories. I admit that I have spent no small amount of time wondering about it since, but it never mattered because I could never have helped him.

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October 9, 2010

The G is for Gentrification

by nkwilczy

I have the strange opportunity to live in the South. The Southeast corner of North America is, geographically speaking, a beautiful area. North Carolina is the specific state and when you think of the oft sullied history of the South North Carolina comes out of it alright. It doesn’t have typical southern geography, with easy access to ports and broad expanses of rich farmland. NC is a state that is one third swamp, one third sandy soil that grows little but Tobacco, and one third mountains and hills, so it is fair to say that Cotton wasn’t king here. NC did their share of slaveholding, sent soldiers to maliciously murder their countrymen in the Civil War, and even perpetuated the deaths of many millions of Americans with their cigarettes, but the Civil War was hardly their idea and I mean, come on, it’s not Georgia or Alabama.

But because it is in the south there are certain issues of race here. Consider the difference between North Raleigh, South Raleigh, Cary and Durham, and you will soon come to the conclusion that in the 21st Century North Carolina remains a solidly segregated state.

But in Greensboro, the home of a new Civil Rights museum that celebrates our city as the place where the sit in movement began, we are able to buck the trend somewhat. I don’t mean to say that Greensboro is not a segregated city, it totally is divided into Northwestern and Southestern sections and the racial and economic divisions between those two sections of town are stark. But on the other hand, throughout much of the city you will find that you are always near a ghetto. I don’t mean it as a bad thing that the city is divided almost block by block into homogenous communities of students, immigrants, and a variety of populations I lack the patience to come up with politically correct and simultaneously accurate names for. I celebrate this diversity, it is one of my favorite things about Greensboro.

Greensboro was founded by Quakers you see. Quakers. They were an extremely unpopular minority in North Carolina and were basically exiled out to the hills in the early 19th Century. The city that stands there, in my mind, because of the wide diversity of the population, filled with Vietnamese, Koreans, Dominicans, Africans, Mexicans, Peruvians and every Euro-American polyglot, it is a place of refuge for everyone. There are Hookah bars, Carniceras, Night Clubs and bars where you can hear every type of music on the earth.

There is an economic inequality between these various neighborhoods as one might imagine. And this has led to an understanding of the obvious need to rework Greensboro’s business model as a city. You see, our main claim to fame is that we are located halfway between D.C. And Atlanta and so we have passing truckers depositing new money into the community, we have a railroad and an airport and invest frequently in these things to actualize our vision of the boro as a transportation hub. We also have a massive Colosseum, we can get Jay-Z to play it every couple of years, most of the time we use it for amateur hockey games and stuff. This is supposed to be the other big engine of economic growth in Greensboro as far as I can tell.

OK, I guess that’s not totally fair because Greensboro has one other big industry that serves to explain its existence after that paragraph. Education. There are at least five respectable universities, and on top of that a community college and a variety of vocational schools.

So, to enhance access to the Colosseum, which sits about directly in the middle of the city with regards to the aforementioned Northwest/Southeast division the city has designated High Point Rd. as a reinvestment corridor and purchased up a lot of slums and poorer neighborhoods with the stated intention of turning them into things like parking spaces and townhouses, for student living. These things are wholly unnecesarry, there is plenty of parking near the Colosseum and there is plenty of student housing in Greensboro, it has been a major part of the way that the education industry pays off for Greensboro for a long time.

I do not have a better plan for the space. I have not actually spent too much of my time designing engines for a city’s economic growth so I won’t claim to know shit about what sort of solar cell processing centers or other you know, job creating industries we could be working on bringing to Greensboro. (Have I mentioned that the unemployment rate in Guilford county is over 10%) It just seems to me that concrete, profitable jobs, are more useful than housing and parking. The location of the buy up, the southward march of urban Kiplingism, I have felt no small outrage about this for some time, but I do not have a plan to you know, do anything about it, so I kept my mouth shut. Also in NC and particularly in Greensboro the city Zoning comissioner is the final authority and his decisions are not subject to popular input.

But I have a very empty blog, so there are the facts of life in G-Boro.

P.S. If you are not trying to sell Enzyte and your comments have been deleted then I sincerely apologize. If I do not check my blog on a daily basis for comments then Akisment will delete everything that requires moderation and assume it is spam. I will try to be more diligent.