Pink House. 130 North Street. Back In The Day.

Fellow residents from the 1991-94 years were Clint Curtis, Shyam Patel, Raj Krishnasami, Lydia Craft, Jess Deltac, Kyle York Spencer, Caroline Rivers Hall, Mel Lanham, Michelle Sinnott, Jay Murray, N'Gai Wright, Scott Bullock (who crashed on the couch for a year before finally moving in), Bryan Ellerson, Karen Hurka, Sally Stryker, Ryan Mathias, Charlie Speight, Chris Palmatier, Trent McDevitt, and Steve William.



Besides holdovers and returnees Jay, Scott, Mel (& Laverne!), Chris, and N'Gai, residents during 1995-97 included Allen Sellars (who, like Jay, lived at both the Pink House and 401 Pritchard), Ian Williams, Zak Bisacky, James Dasher, Linden Elstran, Jiffer Bourguignon, Grant Tennille (who first made the scene as a fixture in N'Gai's room circa summer '93), Zia Zareem, Ben Folds, Tom Holden, and Chris "Chip" Chapman.

- Erik Ose

Tuesday, September 16, 1997

Sad to see the Pink House go, but everything has its cycle

What's the deal with the (718) area code? Are you living in Brooklyn now? And which other Pink House alums are up in New York?

I really only saw Jess for about 10 minutes, but the paintings she showed me some photos of looked really good, like she's definitely matured as an artist. She said she had stuff up in several galleries.

...

Business at the store is definitely picking up, but I won't be satisfied until it's booming. We just hit 500 video memberships this week. More of our tapes are renting on a regular basis. We finally got our adult section out on the shelf. We're trying to get a Lost City catalog produced so we can drum up some mail order business.

And the underground lounge we're running (the 333 Lounge) is going strong. This past Saturday we had 75 heads roll through from 11 pm - 4 am (actually this particular event was still kicking at 5 am) who paid to get in ($3 each). That was the highest amount we've done at the door yet. It would be really cool if you end up coming down this fall on a weekend when we're running one, so you can check out the rebirth of Club Zen before we get shut down by the Chapel Hill fuzz on some wack pretense.

Ok, enough about the nuts and bolts of my shady plans to become a wealthy high-roller and destroy the entire foundations of capitalism from within.

What I need to do is send you a copy of this article that Ian Williams wrote as his "farewell column" for the Independent, where he was writing a bi-monthly column that was pretty good. It was all about his finally leaving Chapel Hill, and about the Pink House simultaneously reverting to a renovated rental property suitable for lease to sorority chicks. Seems the Pink House was the very first place Ian went to an off-campus party when he arrived in town as a freshman back in 1985, so it held a special place in his heart that made it all the more fitting for it to end up as the last place he'd live before finally leaving town. You'll like this article, I'm sure.

...

I told you that N'Gai moved in with me, right? Oh my god, I just remembered him telling me that he now works with Shyam Patel, who just got a job doing graphic design alongside him at the Chapel Hill Newspaper. Crazy. I haven't talked with Shyam in like eight months, but I guess he's still in town. Incidentally, Jay had the Pink House's final number switched over to his new house, on the corner of Pritchard and Carr streets (his friend Gerald's place).

...

Yeah, it was sad to see the Pink House go, but everything has its cycle. Denizens like the ones we knew will move in again sometime in the future. Anyway, it was time I stopped feeling like I could flow through the Pink House every time I was downtown or bored and wanting to get into some trouble. Not that I've really been doing that sort of thing lately, mind you.

The only really fucked up things about the house's demise is that (a) they ripped out every shred of vegetation in the entire back yard, all the way back to the chain link fence, and put down gravel so the new dumbasses wouldn't have to park their freaking cars on the street, god forbid, and (b) some miscreant painters that Jim Lilley (Sylvia's current property manager) hired to do touch-up work and paint the ceilings goddamn painted over the Mona Lisa.

We initially figured it was the crew of spaced out UNC students and their girlfriends who Jim Lilley brought in to paint the majority of the house, inside and out, and who were in there painting for two weeks, taking breaks every day to smoke bowls on the roof outside your old room. Then one of them came through the Lost City the other week and when I asked him why they'd done it and under whose orders it was done, he acted totally freaked out, and swore up and down that they hadn't done it, that Jim specifically told them not to paint over it, since it was one of only two murals by the artist left inside houses in Chapel Hill, and it must have been the other painters who came in after them.

This tragic occurrence serves as the focal point for Ian's article, where he concludes it was such a typical thing to have happened - in Chapel Hill, anything (or anyone) that stays around too long gets painted over.

When are you coming down in the fall? If you want to crash, you're welcome to sleep on our futon. Let us know...

- e-mail to Lydia

Friday, September 12, 1997

Speaking of people you did see...

I remember we only got to see each other for like 5 seconds when you were down here in May, so that's probably the last time we spoke. The store looks much more together now that it did when you saw it, but at least you got the general impression.

...

Speaking of people you did see while you were down here, I saw Jasme outside this bar called Brothers Pizza (well, they actually just changed its name to Silent Sam's) about two months ago, telling me she was going to go play her guitar on the street and try to make enough money to come back and buy a slice. She's performed a couple of times at the new Franklin Street Starbucks, and from what I've heard, she's gotten really good.

...

So Mark Chilton passed the bar. Or I think he passed the bar. I know for a fact that the last time I saw him we were both in a bar. It was this spot called Hell, in the former Troll's location, now operated by the owners of the Lizard and Snake, and sort of like Henry's, only with pool tables and more downscale. I believe he said he found a job in Raleigh doing labor-related law.

Business at our store is going good, but wait until we get the inflatable furniture in there. Or the scratch-and-sniff clothing. I'm not kidding.

N'Gai says hello. Did I tell you he was my new roommate? Jenny moved out at the beginning of August, and started her new job in Greensboro last week.

- e-mail to Rashmi

Monday, September 1, 1997

The Tree House

After the Pink House's demise in the summer of '97, N'Gai moved into the Tree House with me in Chapel Hill, and our adventures continued for another year.


Our couch was always open for traveling Pink House refugees, as well as other itinerant characters including Rooster, before we pawned him off on Alex Shumaker, some girl who kept us up all night with her enthusiastic screaming, and a dope who crashed in N'Gai's room one morning by mistake. Discovering the scene, N'Gai was not pleased.

Then N'Gai moved to Winston-Salem, but still came back to visit for special events or touring jazz performances, like Sonny Rollins at Duke, or when Archie Shepp came to SECCA. Shepp delivered a flawless set, highlighted by a haunting version of "Mama Rose," and we were there sipping wine in the front row.

Wednesday, August 20, 1997

Leaving Mona Lisa

Independent Weekly, 8/20/97

by IAN WILLIAMS ('95-'97)

So I'm moving away from Chapel Hill. This surprises me as much as it does my friends; I've been saying the same thing about moving out of North Carolina since about 1989, and never actually bothered to do anything about it. Now everything I own is in a truck bound for Los Angeles, and I have one more day to contemplate my existence in a town that has been my biggest scourge as well as my salvation, a place I've loathed as much as loved.

Whenever you move away from a place, you develop these bookending thoughts that take you back to the first day you came. I've been thinking a lot lately about the moment I first pulled into Chapel Hill with my dad - I was a 17-year old spaz, so addled from five loveless years at a military-style prep school that I looked upon the flower gardens in front of the Morehead Planetarium with the kind of glee that newborn sea turtles must feel when they make it to the ocean unscathed.

"It's just as I imagined it would be," I beamed to my dad, who was still married to my mom at the time. That changed pretty quickly, as did the restaurants we tried that first night (Magdalena's and that gelato place). In fact, nothing in my life was ever the same after Aug. 20, 1985; when he let me out in front of Hinton James dormitory, still wearing my prep-school black corduroys in the 95-degree heat, the worst parts of my childhood died off and flaked away.

The first party I ever went to was at this place called the Pink House, then inhabited by a rowdy bunch of senior history majors who threw get-togethers where like-minded female English majors would sit around, sip wine and dance to the Smiths. I went into the front room of the house and was instantly struck by a gorgeous, humongous mural of the Mona Lisa painted on the wall, an ancient remnant of some long-gone art student's passion.

The Pink House Mona Lisa, icon of Chapel Hill PHOTOS BY IAN WILLIAMS

When I asked the occupant about the painting, he stopped filling his bong long enough to look at it mystically, saying it had been there as long as he'd been in school. I gazed at Mona's curious smile uneasily, feeling as though I were lost in the intoxicating haze of an ancient Freemason ritual. There was an unspoken brotherhood in this town that I had yet to figure out.

The actual act of going to college seems like a distant idea to me now - probably because I didn't do much of it. I recall spending most of my afternoons outlining columns for the Daily Tar Heel, languishing in the Pit while chatting up cute in-staters from religion class, going out at night and talking with strangers thirsty for experience. I can't even remember graduating. It was just another Sunday, and I wasn't leaving anyway. There seemed to be more unfinished business, as if Chapel Hill had a joke for me it still wasn't telling.

The town began to take on the feel of a commune. I would find myself consoling people I barely knew in the bread aisle at Harris Teeter, giving drunk half-friends rides to Time Out at 4 in the morning. My CD collection was decimated by each party. One time, a woman I was dating in 1995 gave me a tape of early '80s music as a present, and it turned out to be the eighth generation of a tape I'd made for someone else in 1991.

People would ask me why I'd stayed so long after college, and I'd tell them I didn't need to leave; everyone else leaves instead. Living in Chapel Hill means inheriting a vastly different town every September, and it isn't just the storefronts that change. Generations of friends come and go, and worse - entire kinds of people change their ethos. I've seen the college kids go from being spontaneous pleasure-seekers to sallow automatons. When I was a freshman, there were kegs in the dorms; if anyone had heard you say that there would be a day when no alcohol of any kind would be allowed at UNC's parties, they would have laughed you out of the quad. Nowadays, freshman think it's exciting when their Teague dorm room has internet jacks.

College administrators, addled by litigation issues and their own sense of johnny-come-lately morality, have inflicted this New Era of Boredom behind the smokescreen of a "war on the anti-intellectual atmosphere," and it's a shame. I realize it's hard to whine about this stuff without sounding like a frothing, alcoholic, bitter hippie - but if these sophomores aren't given the chance to down a few tequila shots and howl at the moon, I'm going to really hate their poetry.

I was lucky; I got in just under the wire. I lived in two of Chapel Hill's pastel-colored party communes - one of them being the Purple House on McCauley Street. Before it was renovated a few years ago, the Purple House was a notorious shithole where anything was possible. Once, during the "bang, bang on the door baby" part of the B-52s' "Love Shack," my roommate Salem put his head through all the windows of the upstairs, in time with the beat. I think he spoke for us all that night.

Being in your mid-to-late 20s is a hard proposition for a Chapel Hill male. You had better cure cancer or develop an AIDS vaccine, because even sainthood won't stop the base conclusion that everyone will draw: You are here to have sex with the freshmen. I spent so long dodging claims that I was a lecherous Lothario that I gradually retreated into a dark depression. My passions were fine - I managed to put out a couple of books during this time - but I was still a total mess, and wanted desperately to move away.

That's when the other pastel-colored party house, the Pink House, had an opening. I moved right in. The Pink House was a place where everyone had a story; indeed, I think most people believe it existed only in an alcoholic dream. We had bacchanalia there that kept the Chapel Hill Police Department from running under-budget. In February, when there was an open-mic and break-dancing contest right on the counter where I made tuna sandwiches, I finally felt like I was an integral part of this town. The brotherhood, for what it's worth.

A few months into my Pink House journey, I got to move into the front room. And there she was, in all her radiant, gigantic glory - the Mona Lisa.

She was a bit worse for wear, with the occasional paint streaks here and there from those who had accidentally nicked her head when they painted the rest of the room. But she was still breathtaking. When you drove away from North Street, you could see her eyes follow you all the way to Airport Road. Such a fragile being, this layer of paint in a heavily populated house fraught with late-night fistfights and impromptu indoor hockey. So much could have happened to her, but didn't. She was the icon of Chapel Hill for me. I lived with her for two years, writing these Indy articles and other works while she stared.

Finally I turned 30, and knew I couldn't stay in Chapel Hill anymore. Besides, the Pink House was to be renovated for the new occupants (we were kicked out for being slobs) and my brother had found this great house in Hollywood. Packing all my things into a Ryder truck, I moved out and camped in Carrboro until I got my last paycheck. But before I left, I made the landlord and painters promise - as the last resident had done to me, and and so on back through the years - that the Mona Lisa should be left untouched. They looked at her in awe, and agreed.

Yesterday I realized that there was one thing left in the Pink House that I needed to rescue, so I went back into the skeletal remains of the building. I snatched the object and was walking away, when I decided to take one last look into the room I'd first walked into 12 years before. And she was gone, leaving just a wall with freshly coated paint, white globules still dripping to the floor. Even worse, someone had dropped a ladder into her, creating a gaping hole where her mesmerizing smile once was. My heart stopped beating for a second or two.

I'm not sure what poetic conclusion I can draw from all this; all I know is that I felt so incredibly sad. I did my best to foster the brotherhood of Chapel Hill, but this is a town that paints over anyone who tries too hard to stick around. Now I can go too.

Tuesday, August 19, 1997

So sad that we lost the house

Thanks for the nice long letter. I called you at the "Lost City" but they said you were away, goofing off somewhere.

It's so sad that we lost the house. When Jay was up here a few weeks ago we went to a concert in central park and there were about 10 ex-pink house denizens gathered together, all now living in New York. Anyway, it's definitely better for the place this way. It really does need to be renovated, or bulldozed. What does Sylvia expect the house to look like after five years? Did she think it would renovate itself while she was away?

Your store sounds really cool, Erik. Tell Lem I said hello. How's his little girl doing? Give my congrats to Jenny for surviving law school. I can't believe that you ran into Jess. What did her paintings look like? I'm dying to know.

- e-mail from Lydia

Wednesday, July 30, 1997

Our underground lounge has totally taken off!

Y'know, I called Lynell's house and left you two messages the day that you were in town last weekend. Or was that two weekends ago. Anyway, I was hoping you'd get to come by and see our store! Lost City Music & Video. The myth. The spot. The speakeasy. No, I'm just kidding. It has not become a speakeasy! When was the last time I updated you on the ascent of the Lost City into the ranks of Chapel Hill's most revered institutions? Well, the Visitors Center isn't giving guided tours of our place yet, but we're getting there.

Here's a short discourse. Don't you love technology? I love technology. No, in reality, I don't, I really am a Luddite who would blow up all the computers if I could, smash all the machines. Except maybe for the ones that keep the air conditioning running. And the refrigerators. And the record players. Hmm. I guess I should really spend some time getting my exact brand of post-Ludditism a little more on point.

Do I sound a little out there in this message so far? It may be that I'm in a contemplative mood about life in general, seeing as how Jenny just finished taking the bar tonight and movers will be arriving in two days to pack her off to her new life as a budding corporate lawyer. Wow. At this stage, although you and I both know it would be great if Jenny and I get back together at some point, right now I'm not even going to think about that future, just try to take things as they come.

Business at the store is slamming right along. I can't wait for the school year to start, when we'll be the only video store within walking distance of campus. And our underground lounge has totally taken off! Lately, we're more than meeting our goal of netting $150 every time we run it (which is every week, on alternating Thursdays and Saturdays), with a consistent crowd of 75+ turning out. The place is small, so it would be jammed tight if any more than 100 heads showed up at once. We're only charging $3 now, so $5 once the students get back in three weeks will be completely justified.

We've had lots of local hip-hop MC's with mad skills perform already. We've also been having a steady stream of very regionally prominent house and techno DJ's agree to spin for free, just because they like the space, the community feel of the vibe, and the positive attitudes of the crowds that are coming out. Like two of the DJ's who have spun for us already are going to be playing with Goldie (the world famous DJ from the UK) on the Atlanta stop of the Metalheadz (a British jungle label) tour in October, which will be the most prestigious drum & bass event in the US this year.

So. Hope all is well with you. I'm waiting for an update. Where are you this summer, anyway, and what are you doing? Are you in DC? The Bay Area? Charlotte? I'm betting DC, and I'm pretty sure you're still alive, but how would I know for sure beyond one cryptic message on my answering machine at nine am on a recent Saturday morning? Send me e-mail. Enquiring minds want to know the real deal.

(e-mail to C-line)

Tuesday, July 29, 1997

Consequences of the Pink House implosion

So hope everything in your life is on a positive track. I was thinking about you this week for several reasons. One, as of August 1st, "our" chapter in the history of the Pink House will have closed. Those knuckleheads couldn't keep the place in good enough shape to get the lease renewed for next year, so it's c-ya. Sylvia Chi is going to have the house renovated (good luck) and then try to rent it out to a single family. You know Larry Short is about to cum all over his pants with joy.

Anyway, this development has several consequences. First off, N'Gai, who moved back into the Pink House last summer, and was living in your old room (you knew that, I think), is moving in with me at my swanky suburban pad.

Jenny, of course, is moving to Greensboro where she'll be working at a job with a corporate law firm. I think Jenny and I are both kind of like, well, let's see what happens with the relationship after we put some space between us.

Until then, I'm ready to be a bachelor again. N'Gai, already being a bachelor, is more than psyched to start things swinging. Nightlife is picking up in town lately, too, especially because I'm throwing lounge nights once a week at the record & video store that Lem and I opened in April. It's like the second coming of Club Zen, and we're in charge! Word.

Did I tell you about having opened a store, Lost City Music & Video? Lem and I are partners, and Uzi is sort of our third partner because he's selling records there. You knew Uzi, right? The phone number there is (919) 933-LOST. We rent weird videos, sell underground hip-hop, house & techno vinyl & CD's, carry funky clothes, accessories and underground comic books, and display art.

It's great, because it's not only the funkiest, coolest looking place in town during the daytime (I'm serious, we're totally rocking it!), but the space is flexible enough to completely convert into a laid back, chill little dimly lit lounge where we have live hip-hop MC's and underground electronic and house DJ's come to perform until 3 or 4 in the morning, on alternating Thursdays and Saturdays. We charge a $3 cover, and lately turnout has been a solid 60-75 heads, which is about all the place can frigging hold!

O.k., more consequences of the Pink House implosion. Jay Murray is being forced to move out. He's hating it. He is moving in with a friend of his named Gerald, who lives in some undisclosed location "off Airport Road."

Ian Williams is finally leaving Chapel Hill! Talk about the end of an era. I guess he finally got tired of trying to live the undergraduate social life while working at being a serious writer. He is a good writer, and I genuinely like him as a person. He's just very cynical and needs to find a more positive vibe. He's moving to San Fran, where I'm sure he'll find a thirty-something bohemian social scene that he'll feel right at home in and be much happier. As long as he can also find some guys to play basketball with him.

I went over there the other day looking for N'Gai, and lo and behold, not only was nobody home who lived there, but who was standing in the hallway gabbing on the phone? Jess Deltac. She was just passing through town and stopped in to see who was around. She showed me her portfolio, and it was clear that she's been hard at work on some amazing art. I was like, whoa! Talk about a six year time warp. That's how long it's been, can you believe it? It was exactly six years ago this week that you guys must have gotten back to Chapel Hill and moved into the place. Wow.

- e-mail to Lydia

Sunday, July 6, 1997

Dai returns to the Pink House

Over an extended 4th of July weekend, Dai came through town and stayed with me at the Tree House, and N'Gai at the Pink House. After the week and a half he spent crashing with us in 1993, Dai was an honorary Pink House denizen for life. Within a month or so, all Pink House residents would be evicted for good, and Dai made it back in time for one more visit.

We mourned the house's impending doom while relaxing and reminiscing in the far back yard all afternoon, which was as lush, magical and serene as I'd ever seen it.

Far back yard circa Spring, 1994. Photo by Mel Keister (Lanham).

Monday, June 16, 1997

It's been a time warp

You know about my latest project, right? I think it was under development the last time we spoke. Lem, Uzi and myself opened up a music and video store. It's called Lost City Music & Video - I'm usually on duty from 12-5 most Mondays through Fridays. We've been open for business since April 14, and things are going good! Which hopefully means we'll blow up when school gets back into session, 'cuz right now this town is el-dead-o.

Other news: Our mutual friend Mr. N'Gai Wright is moving into the Tree House with me come August 1. Until now, N'Gai's been living in your old room, which is currently painted in weird shades of yellow and red.

The Pink House kids have lost their lease for next year! Everyone's getting evicted! Talk about the end of an era. Oh well, you wouldn't believe what a shithole the place has deteriorated into. But it's been so strange - Kyle Spencer moved to Raleigh when she got a job with the News and Observer, and she's been at every party they've had there this past spring. With her, Jay, N'Gai, and myself in the same room at a party, surrounded by characters like Ian Williams, Scott Bullock, Lindsay Bowen, and Greg Humphreys, it's been a fucking time warp.

- e-mail to Lydia

Thursday, June 12, 1997

It's our good man N'Gai

Just as I come into the office today specifically to sit down and write you a little letter to go along with this most belated birthday present I'm sending you, along comes the phone a-ringing. And guess who's on the other end of the line? It's our good man N'Gai, saying, "Heeey, I was hoping I could stop by and use the computer to type up a letter!" Go figure. So I guess I'll type away until he shows up.

How are you doing today? Thanks for the call the other week. I've been ultra-busy and have completely dropped the ball concerning communication with quite a few of my closest friends, yourself a primary example. But my cash flow is edging steadily towards sustainability, and in the hierarchy of life needs, eating and paying rent are right up there.

Oh, check this out. July 5th and 6th, I think, a mutual pal of ours is swinging through the States and stopping off in Chapel Hill. Daisuke Ikeda, I think the kid's name is. This is according to N'Gai, so I'm sketchy on exact details. But hey, if you can take some time off, that would be a great time to come down.

Wait, a knock on the door. I have to go, 'cuz N'Gai is already tripping. "Tell Dana I love him, and would love to write him a few lines in this note, but I'm really stressed for time. I have to write this letter on my one hour lunch break. C'mon man. Hurry up."

Call me about the possibility or impossibility of coming down for Dai's visit. My new work # most Mondays through Fridays 12-5 pm is (919) 933-LOST.

- letter to Dana

Thursday, February 20, 1997

Too Many Schemes

I guess you really did have only two minutes to talk earlier this morning. Sounds like me about this time last year conducting all my long distance phone business using several dozen 5-minute phone cards I swiped from inside cereal boxes.

...

It's been a transitional past six weeks or so for a number of reasons. I found out mid-January that we needed to re-locate the PAC's office space by March 1st, so I've had to scramble around looking for other potential spaces. I finally found one that will be cheaper than the one we're in now, since we'll be sharing it with a friend of mine who needs a temporary home for his business.

Simultaneously, I and some of the other DJ's that I've been working on this for-profit mail order business venture with (including Lem) have decided to also rent another space, where we're planning to open a combination record/culture store by day that will function as an underground, members-only nightclub by night. This particular space is actually right underneath the old MOVE office, and it was the site of the original Cat's Cradle back in the early 70s.

So I've kind of been running around trying to get these details together.

I've also been promoting various parties with Lem and the fellas at other rented spaces around town, and still selling a ton of used furniture to kids on campus. It was so bizarre, there was this unexplained rush of kids calling up the "furniture cooperative" looking for loveseats and shit, right in the middle of the year when people generally don't want to buy jack. But seriously, I'm getting out of the furniture business! Before it's...too late! Ha ha. Anyway, so I've also been busy with that.

- e-mail to C-line

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