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Letter from Raleigh

September 7, 2008

It’s hot in Raleigh, N.C. Hurricane Hanna’s passed, which last night had the weather cloudy and spitting rain, while overnight she hit, blowing over tents downtown and dropping a few inches of rain. This morning was gray, rainy, and windy, too. We ate breakfast at Big Ed’s, in the City Market portion of downtown, little shops and old brick buildings. Ed’s is famous for its owner, the barrel-chested, red-checkered snap shirt and overalls-clad owner, who sits down to tell stories at table after table—Plus of course for its grilled biscuits and pound cake-batter pancakes.

I’m sitting outside of Big Ed’s right now, on a bench flanked by rusty brown farm implements, right across from the 1914, redbrick City Market building, with stucco tile-roofed overhangs around its sides, like the French Market in New Orleans. But the place is empty, disused, with a green and white “available” sign in its window, bearing the logo of Hunter & Associates. There are more than a few H&A signs in windows around here. Journey is playing from the speakers of a bar/restaurant called Woody’s @ City Market across the way. A gray H2 Hummer just rumbled by. I’m sitting on the redbrick sidewalk on Blake Street, between Parham and Wolfe. There are a couple of choppers out in front of Woody’s. A country-fried voice just called out, “Ain’t that a purty motorsickle?” There are more black people in this part of town. Last night at the brand-new Marriott City Center, a debutante ball was going on, all white faces in tuxes and dresses, the girls with their skirts hiked up as they waited for shuttle mini-buses, because of the rain pooling on the ground.

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