Quick Thoughts on Creative Loafing’s Best Of 2016

I had a few quick thoughts in regards to Creative Loafing’s “Best Of” issue released last week. Here they are, in no particular order or purpose:

Reader’s Pick: Best Disc Golf Course – Kilborne Park This pick may or may not be the reason why I wrote this blog. In terms of pure quality, Kilborne is far from the best disc golf course in Charlotte. Creative Loafing even wrote about how Charlotte is the mecca of disc golf back in May. I always tell people the reason that is true is because we have a higher density of championship-level 18-hole disc golf courses within an hour’s drive of Uptown than any other city in the US (and arguably the world). There may be cities with better courses, but there’s not as many. There may be cities with more courses, but they’re not as good. Courses like Renaissance Gold, R.L. Smith, Nevin and Hornet’s Nest (closed now, but will reopen in 2017) are known across the country as being destination courses.

Despite all that, I can see why the readers would choose Kilborne. It’s centrally-located, beginner friendly and has been around since 1991 making it the second-oldest CDGC-sponsored course in town. If you’re going to learn the game, Kilborne is a great place to start, but more experienced players know there are far greater treasures in the Queen City.

Reader’s Pick: Best Place to Get Back to Nature – Crowder’s Mountain I’m pretty sure everyone in Charlotte has been to the top of Crowder’s Mountain like, a zillion times. Every time I’ve gone in the past five years (even on a weekday), the place is incredibly crowded (see what I did there?). For a place to get away from it all, Crowder’s is the last place you want to go if you’ve already been there.

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If you’re still set on Crowder’s Mountain, try to find the scenic and secluded back side

Fortunately, you do have a couple other options within a 45-minute drive of Uptown. My pick is Morrow Mountain just outside of Albemarle. There are more trails (with similarly breathtaking views), a lake, campgrounds and it’s rarely as densely trafficked. Also worth a shot: King’s Mountain in Gaston County.

Reader’s Pick: Best Blog – Freckled Italian Yo, CL readers, since Megan now lives in California, how bout you do ya boy a favor next year?

Reader’s Pick: Best Podcast – Margarita Confessionals My plan is to get more people to play disc golf so that next year y’all can vote for Final Round Radio. Make no mistake, however. Lauren and Ali do an excellent job with this podcast.

Critic’s Pick: Best Movie Theater – AMC Concord Mills This shouldn’t even be allowed since it’s located in the retail hell that is Concord Mills Mall. Try the Manor Twin off Providence for a cozy atmosphere and lots of independent films (which the readers confirmed with their pick).

Reader’s Pick: Best New Night Spot – Kandy Bar Gotta wonder if voting took place before this happened. Plus, Epicenter.

Critic’s Pick: Best Place for B-Boys and B-Girls to Congregate – Breakin’ Convention Breakin’ Convention is nice, but it’s just once a year. If you checked out this event held at Knight Theater and the surrounding area, try hitting up Knocturnal every Monday night at Snug Harbor. You’ll see many of the same break dancing teams without all the polish and ads for Sprite.

Critic’s Pick: Best Place for Karaoke – Jeff’s Bucket Shop This place has the long-standing reputation as Charlotte’s only true karaoke bar, so it gets grandfathered into this award each year, but the truth is there’s far better options. Jeff’s seems like it would be cool because it’s on Montford and you have to go down a flight of stairs which gives it that speakeasy vibe. But once you get down there is where the fun ends. The bar selection is tepid at best and the room itself is incredibly small which means the god-awful singers are just that much more unbearable (I know, it’s karaoke, but this place seems to attract the very worst wannabe singers). The worst part? You gotta pay to play. If you’re not brown-nosing the DJ a little, expect to wait at least an hour to sing. Try NoDa 101, which has karaoke seven days a week or Hattie’s Thursday nights.

Reader’s Pick: Best Restaurant in NoDa – Cabo Fish Taco OK, forget disc golf. *This* is why I wrote this blog. Cabo’s… eh, not too bad, certainly not the worst, but JEEBUS, PEOPLE. Ever since Guy Fieri and his stupid blonde tips (there I go again with the blonde tips) ventured there a few years ago, the line to Cabo is out the door, spilling into Davidson and around the corner. There certainly isn’t anything wrong with having lots of business, I can’t hate on that. I just want to tell all those folk (none of whom actually live in NoDa) that you could dip out of that line and go to literally any other restaurant on the block, sit right down and have a meal that is at least as good, and most likely better than Cabo.

Dying for fish? Try Boudreaux’s, best cajun this side of Cajun Queen. Want that southwestern feel? Sabor is less expensive and way quicker. Thought they might have oysters at Cabo? Nope. Try walking across the street to Growler’s. Just wanna say ‘fuck it’ and get drunk off cheap bar food? Jack Beagle’s and Solstice won’t let you down.

In short: skip the line. It’s not worth it.

Critic’s Pick: Best Pastry Shop – Renaissance Pâtisserie So I’ve never actually been to the place CL picked as the winner here, and I’m sure it’s a fantastic spot. Really, I’m just glad that this pick didn’t go to Amélie’s. Amélie’s has been criminally overrated for some time now. I’ll really never understand why it consistently is mentioned not only as one of the best pastry shops in town, but an actual tourist destination! What in the actual fuck?!? I can only assume it’s the kitchy decorations and the 24-hour service, because it sure as hell isn’t the food (very little of which is hand-made), the prices ($2.50 per macaroon?) and the hipster-approved aloof service.

Oh you want to swing by for a coffee real quick before you go to work? Fuck you, you have to wait in line behind 20 mouth-breathers who ask what each individual flavor of every single fucking thing is in the case before flippantly deciding “Nah, I’m good”. “Would you like something from the case?” “Fucking no, I just want a damn cup of coffee!” Is it really that hard to make a second line where people like me who just want a coffee can quickly order it without having to suffer through other people’s indecision issues? It’s 2016, maybe that could be solved via… an app?

The original Amélie’s in NoDa is 24 hours. Awesome, you might think, until you try to go there after midnight on a weekend night and the line is literally stretched into the pavilion full of kids who are too young to drink, each of them repeating the commitment-phobic task of picking something from the case of crap.

Think the shiny new Amélie’s Uptown is any better? Fuck and no, it’s just bigger and closes at 6 p.m. Despite having a huge bar with two baristas and multiple point of sale stations, you still have to go by their precious pastry case, get accosted about a recently-frozen croissant you don’t want only to order from someone who could seriously care less that you’re there, and the faster you leave is the faster they can go back to writing their organic mayonnaise recipe.

Oh, let’s not also forget that ownership there has a shady past in regards to the mistreatment of their workers. How laissez faire of them.

Critic’s Pick: Best Brunch – Letty’s Trick question. Brunch in Charlotte is pretty awful in general. There’s a few highlights (Dish, Füd at Salud, etc.), but even those are pretty pedestrian compared to other cities. Plus, where is the brunch service during the weekdays? Have we no love for those who make their own hours?

Reader’s Pick: Best Steak House – Beef & Bottle 100% agree with CL readers on this one. In fact, this is where I was for my most recent birthday. Give me that hole in the wall feel over Ruth’s Chris or Morton’s any damn day.

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Me and the homies

Reader’s Pick: Best Sushi – Rusan’s Seriously. Any place that serves an “all you can eat” sushi special is suspect. All you can eat works at Golden Corral. Not at a sushi place. Unfortunately, since my go-to spot, Eight Sushi closed down, there’s really not a place I can confidently say is #1. Akahana is aight. Nikko is overpriced. K.O. is pretty solid for quick service. I’ll give this a grade of incomplete.

Reader’s Pick: Best Mexican – Three Amigo’s This is part of what’s wrong with Charlotte. Just a mile or so down the road from Three Amigo’s original location on Central is Morazan, which is about as authentic and delicious (not to mention affordable) as you can get. But since it’s in the “rough” part of town and you may actually need to know some Spanish to order, it will never make a list like this where a segment of this city’s population will avoid going out of their comfort zone at all costs.

Come to think of it, all the authentic versions of all your favorite ethnic restaurants are all on the east side. King of Spicy, La Shish Kabob, Landmark, Pho Hong, Dim Sum and Queen Sheeba are just a few of them.

Reader’s Pick: Best Brewery – Olde Mecklenburg Brewery Seriously? With all the breweries in town that are pushing the limits of craft beer to their absolute edge and y’all picked the place whose entire lineup consists of three beers that taste like an expensive version of Miller Lite?

Critic’s Pick: Best Disc Golf Shop – Another Round Disc Golf Full disclosure: this is where I record Final Round Radio along with Kevin Keith and one of the co-owners of ARDG, Kevin Burgess. All bias aside, this is definitely the place you want to go if you’re just starting out in disc golf, or you’re a seasoned pro. With five local craft beers on tap, it’s the perfect 19th hole after a round. Also, this is a bit of a trick category since ARDG is the only disc golf exclusive shop in town.

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Discs and beer on tap at Another Round Disc Golf

Reader’s Pick: Best Bicycle Shop – Uptown Cycles Since I know that people don’t show up to a damn thing in this town if there’s not beer involved, it should be pointed out that Spoke Easy in Elizabeth has a bar with craft beer on tap, much like the bicycle version of Another Round Disc Golf.

Reader’s Pick: Best Barber Shop – No Grease Y’all coudn’t have been more right on this one.

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Me and Omar, my barber of seven-plus years

Locally owned by twin brothers Damian and Jermaine Johnson, No Grease carries on the tradition of the black-owned barber shop, except with a stylish flair. The barbers (or tonsorial artists if you wanna be precise) never show up to work without dressing the part, frequently wearing the bow-ties that the Johnson brothers also sell.

I started getting my haircut at No Grease in 2009 when it was located at what is now Workman’s Friend on Central. Since then they’ve expanded to have three different locations, the flagship one being on the ground floor retail space of the Spectrum Center. I was tired of the bowl cut drones that were cutting hair at Supercuts and Sports Clips, so I gave these guys a shot. Needless to say, I haven’t turned back. The cuts are always on point (for me, a smooth fade is a necessity), and you always get great conversation and a welcoming atmosphere.

Durham Lawyer Reveals What Systematic Racism Looks Like

I love Twitter.

Twitter is the social platform that speaks to me and my ADHD-addled brain the most. Information flying in and out at real-time speed, 140 characters forces you to say something important/funny/profound in a concise manner, the occasional opportunity for notoriety, and stream-of-consciousness thoughts that can only be captured by Twitter’s ease of use.

That last factor is what brings me to today’s post. Yesterday, amid the perpetual swirling of a chaotic and confusing discussion about race relations (ignited by Black History Month, the CIAA, the LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance and general southern racial tensions), a friend of mine and former counsel T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) had apparently had enough.

A criminal defense lawyer by trade, Greg routinely handles cases from the trenches. Robberies, assaults, drug possession etc. So it’s no surprise that he sees first hand on a daily basis what the effects are on a community when the legal system (whether actively or implicitly) works against that community.

Yesterday, a case involving a client produced an all-too familiar scene, one that he could no longer keep quiet about. Here, I present his series of 40-some tweets (with Greg’s permission, of course) that tell a story that is hidden from the eyes of the public, but one that rings true for so many.

(I’ve edited his words for continuity, grammar and punctuation, but his words are verbatim otherwise. See the entire thread in it’s original form here)

I get asked – often – if I hate police. I don’t.

I look at “police” generally like I look at teachers. When a teacher decides to rape a student, we don’t demonize all teachers. Same with teachers who are woefully inept at teaching. But, at the same time, no sane person denies there are teacher-rapists and teachers who suck at their job. I view police the same; I’m willing to take a leap of faith and assume you’re competent, until you prove otherwise.

Soooooo that brings me to court today.

Client is a 17 year-old black male, “YBM” in defense lawyer parlance. My YBM is charged with reckless driving to endanger, a very serious offense. He’s terrified. Cried in my office explaining the situation. He insisted he was just trying to avoid an animal that darted into the road, and swerved to the right. I pull the shuck, and read the officer’s narrative of what happened:

“Neighbor saw driver doing donuts in street, nearly hit wife. Skid marks show clear 360° circles. Driver claimed he was trying to avoid hitting cat.”

Re-read that: “clear 360° circles”.

Thankfully (how fucking sad is it that “thankfully” is the appropriate word here?) his mom didn’t trust the officer, and took pictures which she kept and sent to me (most of which were useless. People take pictures of a lot of useless shit when they’re terrified, by the way).

Now go back and re-re-read: “Clear. 360°. Circles.”

What. The actual. Fuck.

Do I hate police? No. I hate raging incompetent cowboys with badges financed by my tax money who clearly haven’t had an eye exam recently.

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

The DA was kind enough to dismiss the case without putting up a fight. My YBM client’s family is out what they paid me. Client himself is traumatized. And basis for police mistrust gets a fresh exhibit. While the officer who (wrongfully) charged him – and pretty clearly lied on official court documents – will face *0* repercussions.

This is what police brutality looks like. It’s not just people having their rights violated and the shit kicked out of them. It’s an innocent 17 year-old black kid trying to be a good human being and not running over a cat getting thrown headlong into our court system. It’s having to come up with money you don’t have, to defend yourself against charges that shouldn’t have been filed. And recognizing that – but for photographs that someone had the foresight to take immediately – you’d have been convicted based solely on the word of a law enforcement officer who swore an oath to serve and protect who then lied to the court with impunity.

The state doesn’t care of course. For every one case dismissed, hundreds more plead guilty. Court costs are $188 and up apiece. A day’s worth of traffic cases can finance an ADA’s salary for a year. Likewise for a clerk or judge.

Guess what that means for legislators? They can cut preexisting court funding and put it somewhere where it’ll buy them more votes. So you’ve got a court system that ends up somehow being underfunded despite charging a shitload of money for minor offenses; police rerouting more and more people (predominantly young and black) into the court system, patting themselves on the back (all for protecting us from eeeeeevil 17 year-old YBMs trying not to hit cats while driving). While the politicians fiddle as their constituents burn, because people naively assume things like this would never happen.

Welcome to the clusterfuck that is our criminal justice system. I filed to run for the State Senate because of this bullshit.

It doesn’t matter if you put an R or a D or a U beside your name – this is wrong.

Sorry for taking up your timeline. For reasons I still don’t understand, I’m *still* in disbelief that this shit *still* happens, when I know better. I’m now going to clog my arteries with BoJangles in the hope/prayer that I won’t still be flamingly pissed after lunch.

“clear 360° circles”

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

I decided to reproduce this because it’s a candid look into the micro-inequalities (hooray for new words) that quietly exist within our society. When people talk about racism being a system that benefits a certain person over another, this is exactly what that system is. Not using the N-word or moving people to the back of the bus. It’s a systematic and clandestine effort between multiple moving parts that allows prejudice to manifest itself, whether consciously or subconsciously.

Yes, we’ve moved on from fire hoses and separate water fountains. No, the underlying hatred and ignorance hasn’t changed a bit.