Tobacco Road Repaved

21 Apr

In Durham we stop at a trailer converted into a church for truckers. Valeriu smokes just outside its door. I go in to be saved. The room is small, well-lit, smells like acrid sweat, tobacco, and incense. In eight minutes I am born again. Durham is a good city. It’s the unkempt sibling of the Research Triangle. It’s scruffy and aging. Back then there was no one on the street at night, the Preacher says. He’s sneaked out of his portable House of God to light a Basic Menthol. He huddles with us in that familiar camaraderie all smokers share. We’re outcasts; even more so in today’s daily grind. Twenty-five feet from here, from there…it’s the distance they want us to keep. We’re always twenty-five feet from everywhere. The Preacher says: used to just be the smell of tobacco drying in the warehouses. Back then. Now…you drive around and you can smell clams steaming in white wine, mustard and shallots…spice and sweet fennel, seared mushrooms, fresh asparagus in garlic. You ever been to Six Plates? Valeriu smiles and drags down on his required seven minutes’ life redaction. If ‘n you do, have the “Lamby Joe” sandwich, the Preacher says. Watts Grocery, too. Gotta give it a try. It’s crazy. You drive around, you see cows and sheep now. Used to be nothing but tobacco fields. It’s the earth, he says. It’s good Piedmont earth. Was good for tobacco back then, is good for sprout peas, artichokes, fennel, lettuce, strawberries now. It’s good soil, he says and kicks down into the earth with his boot. Makes good people. Where y’all headed? I tell him. He nods. Heading out that way myself next month, he says. Bringing a load of hogs through the mountains. You been saved? He looks at Valeriu. And how, he answers and spits into the good, Piedmont soil. The Preacher does the same. I make a donation to his portable church. We get in and drive out and through. Durham is a good town. The fuckers, they’re gentrifying it, Valeriu says. They’re turning all this warehouse shit into lofts and studios. They’ll ruin it all, just like they’ve ruined Harlem. And then he puts the car into gear and grinds out toward the freeway.

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3 Responses to “Tobacco Road Repaved”

  1. Johnsie Noel 21/04/2010 at 8:36 AM #

    Ha! Perfect. PERFECT! The cast of Piedmont characters is fading from our southern cities. I blame the damn Yanks!!! ;-) Thanks for keeping a few of the alive in verse.

  2. (S)wine 21/04/2010 at 8:47 AM #

    i’m one of those yanks. only i’m not. not originally. thanks for reading.

  3. (S)wine 21/04/2010 at 9:28 AM #

    p.s. the cast of Piedmont characters is around and alive. someone just needs to give these people play; to listen to them. they’re good people. it’s good soil.

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