Category Archives: Moving

Charlotte 2.0

I just realized that our anniversary of living in Charlotte came and went on Saturday. One year! Part of me really cannot believe that it has only been a single year; there have been quite a few days it has felt like an eternity.

I’m so often asked, “How’s Charlotte treating you?” in e-mails from friends and family in Oregon. I always hesitate to answer honestly. Partially because I am tired of writing semi-negative responses and partially because I know The Husband worries about my happiness.

How to summarize this year?

The bottom line is I do not like Charlotte. This does not mean I loathe the city with every fiber of my being or living here causes irreversible mental anguish. It just means I do not like it, and that’s ok (apparently I’m invoking my inner Stuart Smalley).

I admit I have biases; I have lived in Portland, Oregon and Boston, Massachusetts. Two cities that are unique in their own right, but have similarities with Charlotte that I thought would prepare me for life here.

Charlotte was not planned well and lags far behind other cities of similar (and smaller) size in regards to public works (mass transit, sidewalks, mixed-use buildings and neighborhoods). Culturally, Charlotte enjoys boasting about its age and the historical role it played that helped shape America, but really has nothing to show for it due to what I can only assume is lack of interest.

Portland has a population of ~576,000 (two million if including the metro area) and Charlotte has a population of ~717,000 (1.7 million if including the metro area)*. Granted, Portland has one of the best planned and functioning public transit systems in the country, but I found the system in place in Charlotte horribly inadequate for the needs of this city. What’s worse is there seems to be a negative connotation with riding the bus or light rail here; city officials encounter much difficulty in securing funds to improve the system when the citizens scoff at getting on a bus.

During the winter, Charlotte encountered some nasty weather. CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System) actually increased its coverage of the city and added extra bus routes to help people get into town. Sadly, this was only advertised on CATS’ website; the information was not relayed to the community on television or in the newspaper. Another missed opportunity to introduce the public to an alternative mode of transportation.

This is a gas/oil friendly (greedy?) part of the country and the fact that sidewalks do not exist in almost every neighborhood does not help; why walk when you can drive? I wrote to my City Councilman, Andy Dulin, questioning this oddity and expressed safety concerns: activities that would normally take place on a sidewalk (jogging, dog walking, pushing a baby stroller, small children riding their bicycles, etc) have been moved into the street and pedestrians must maneuver around parked cars. Mr. Dulin directed me towards a pedestrian-friendly city improvement project with laying sidewalks as a top priority. This made me happy, even after learning it takes three years to get a sidewalk in a residential neighborhood. On a single street. On one side.

Baby steps.

Again, projects like this are met with vast, hostile opposition from the public, which baffles my mind. This blog post from Charlotte Observer op-ed contributor, Mary Newsom highlights just one small incident. I encourage you to read the comments that follow.

In most neighborhoods, strict zoning regulations also eliminate the ubiquitous shops; please direct yourself (and your car) to the nearest strip mall for a latte and a scone as outside of the small downtown area, Charlotte is one giant suburb.

Bean Town received Europeans in 1630. What would become the Queen City was settled in 1755. If you walked around Boston, you would know this. If you walked around Charlotte, you would think a million people just magically showed up in the last ten years due to the habit of demolishing anything over a decade old and rebuilding. Gives Charlotte a rather sterile appearance and subsequently, I believe, loses a lot of charm. The walking tour of downtown Charlotte can be completed in an hour and I do recommend taking this tour if you come to visit. However, anything else of historical value that you would like to see will require driving to another city or part of the State.

Am I really the grumpy miser who wrote all of this? I have felt so disconnected from this city and have honestly tried to immerse myself by volunteering, meeting people with big ideas about things that are important to me and learning whatever I can about what makes people so excited to be here. It just keeps falling short.

I am not unhappy nor would I ever tell anyone not to move or live here. It’s just not the place for me, but I am determined to make the best of it. Maybe writing this is just one large catharsis.

What haveI done since arriving in Charlotte? I challenged myself to come up with a list of 50 things I have observed, done or discovered, good or bad:

  1. Acquired a cat with questionable brain function.
  2. Swam in the Atlantic Ocean. Not exactly in Charlotte…but I was still in North Carolina.
  3. Met two fabulous couples; all transplants. Two individuals also keep blogs here and here.
  4. Bought a house.
  5. Consumed an awesome burrito.
  6. Participated in the killing of cockroaches.
  7. Planted a garden.
  8. Adopted an awesome dog from the Humane Society.
  9. Discovered what the hell was making that awful noise!
  10. Learned not to confuse “grill” with “barbecue”. Major faux pas!
  11. Drank sweet tea. Too sweet for my liking!
  12. Called an “Obama Fascist”.
  13. Went to a Polling Place to vote (Oregon handles all voting by mail).
  14. Learned to bake a damn good batch of biscuits.
  15. Pumped my own gas (an illegal activity in Oregon).
  16. Constantly over-tip at restaurants by looking at the total and not the pre-tax subtotal (no sales tax in Oregon).
  17. Had to confirm Oregon was part of the United States and not in Canada. Twice.
  18. Learned Tyvola Road becomes Fairview Road which becomes Sardis Road and then Rama Road and finally Idlewild Road without signs notifying people of these changes.
  19. Amazed by how many varieties of cornmeal and grits are offered at grocery stores.
  20. No longer take being called “ma’am” as an insult.
  21. Even the cleanest kitchens will attract cockroaches.
  22. “Bless your heart!” is code for “Go to Hell, Yankee!”
  23. Sourdough pancakes and French toast at the Original Pancake House make me smile. Founded in Portland!
  24. “Y’all” still drives me a little nuts.
  25. I do not like thunderstorms of the Southern variety.
  26. Line-drying laundry outdoors is possible almost year-round.
  27. Clay makes extremely poor gardening soil.
  28. Fried green tomatoes are delicious.
  29. Fried okra is not delicious.
  30. Always ask if the “vegetarian” items are made with lard, bacon grease or chicken broth.
  31. Tillamook Cheese and Widmer Brothers are sold a few grocery stores.
  32. Have been asked if I “helped elect that nigger President?”
  33. Pleased a Greenway is practically in my backyard.
  34. Would have lost my mind if it weren’t for air-conditioning.
  35. Collegiate athletics can be a way of life.
  36. Many dog owners seem to think cleaning-up after their pet is optional.
  37. A very nice man is responsible for this. And I met him.
  38. Regardless of where you live, the local news is a joke. An annoying, useless joke.
  39. Found a great salon, but I could not afford to keep going back.
  40. Went to a not so great Farmers’ Market.
  41. Went to a great Farmers’ Market.
  42. A non-smoking tavern! A rare find in these parts.
  43. Truck nuts en masse.
  44. This is a nice place to visit. So is this. As the only ones in Charlotte, they can become quite tiresome when visited too often.
  45. If one obtains enough mosquito bites, can one become immune to the itching?
  46. Very affordable college tuition.
  47. The sign on Randolph Road notifying everyone of the percentage of seat belt wearers has never changed. Last month: 81% This month: 88%
  48. Everyone in my neighborhood waves at each other.
  49. My City Councilman responds promptly to e-mails and gave me his mobile phone number. Mistake? You decide.
  50. High humidity makes for lazy felines.
There it is. My not great, not terrible year in Charlotte; a tale of mediocrity, doubt and unquenchable boredom.

*Numbers taken from the United States Census Bureau Metropolitan Statical Areas of 2008


Tags: , , , , ,

>A Wall of Cardboard


We’re moving into our new house next week.

Today was the first time I said that out loud. Today I also smiled for the first time in quite awhile since living in Charlotte. Really smiled.

Ahead of the game, we’ve been packing and purging for a few weeks. Boxes have taken over the living room and I’m organizing the furniture; hoping to make the job easier for the movers.

The house will only require a few cosmetic touch ups and minor projects.

Ah, a change of pace…

Leave a comment

Posted by on 15 July 2009 in Charlotte, Happy Thoughts, Moving


>Closet o’ Doom Update


I know, I’ve owed you an update on my Closet o’ Doom for awhile now, but I haven’t been in a position to spill the beans until recently, so: we bought a house. The CoD is packed up and will be moved to bigger and better accommodations in just a few weeks.

After promising myself a smooth packing and moving transition, I hauled everything out of the CoD to be sorted:

Holy shit!

I already have wild ambitions of a corner in the new den; of a new desk and fabulous shelves. My label-maker will be worked to exhaustion.

We close on July 20th and will start moving in later that week. Stay tuned.

Many thanks to those who offered advise in my original post. Please come back in a few weeks as I will probably need some more!

1 Comment

Posted by on 10 July 2009 in Craftacular, Moving


>Tuesdays With Dorie: Granola Grabbers

>Mr. Murphy is alive and well. I know this because he has been helping me unpack. It has been awhile since I heard from Mr. Murphy; his visits are few and far between, but we have a complicated relationship and sometimes it is better for us not be in the same room.

For those who have yet to meet Mr. Murphy, or maybe you just didn’t know his name, Murphy’s Law states “anything that can go wrong, will.”

I have been looking forward to this Tuesdays With Dorie because I would finally be able to participate! Three weeks in various hotels will cause a bit of cabin fever and one can only take so much Subway and service station snacks.

The moving company delivered all of our boxes and we got to work. I decided to start with the kitchen and nearly died from slipping on the giant puddle of water the was coming from under a wall! Our central air was on the fritz and leaking all over the place. The monstrous wet spot spread in two directions, soaking the carpet in the dining room as well as a hall. We had to turn the air off and finish unpacking surrounded by the Carolina humidity.

As we reached the last few boxes panic set in: our passports were missing. And to rub salt in the wound, I had placed my birth certificate and social security card into my passport. I am an idiot, I know.

I cried, I hyperventilated and then opened a bottle of red and made some freakin’ cookies.

This recipe was selected by Michelle of Bad Girl Baking and can be found on page 82 of the book. These cookies seemed relatively healthy, which is great because Matt and I are watching our caloric intake. The fear of pudge in our wedding and honeymoon photographs is a very effective motivator.

I only made a few minor changes to the recipe by adding cinnamon and my granola had cranberries. Overall, I thought this cookie was just ok; nothing amazing. They could probably use more fruit to perk it up a bit and maybe some additional cinnamon or cardamom.

The cookies were a nice distraction from my earlier meltdown.

The carpet dried and I know all of my lost documents can be replaced; I’m just faced with horrible timing. Matt and I are headed up to Philadelphia next week to apply for our marriage license and City Hall requires photo ID and an official document with my entire social security number. So far I can only find a W-2 from 2005. We also need to start the visa application process for our honeymoon…by sending in our passports to the appropriate consulates.

I’ll be sitting over here having another glass of wine and plan on polishing off the rest of these cookies with tomorrow morning’s coffee.

To see how the other bakers fared, please click here.



>Last October, when Matt was informed of his job transferring to the Charlotte area, he had the opportunity to visit the region before having to make such a large career choice. I was able to do the same some months later and only now am I ready to admit what made the decision easier for me.

It wasn’t the promise of sunshine and the extended gardening season. Not the biking and hiking available in the Smokey Mountains. Not the eighty minute flight to New York City or closer proximity to Matt’s family and my beloved Boston. Not the beautiful Outer Banks or the Southern hospitality. No, it was none of those. It was the fact that you, Charlotte, have two Trader Joe’s with a third opening soon!

At one time, we used to live just a few blocks from a Trader Joe’s allowing for easy purchasing of the tasty goodness for last minute picnics or a lunch on your way to work. Two of the Trader Joe’s that I frequented in Portland had awkward parking lots, making it difficult for even the tiniest eco-friendly-runs-on-my-own-urine-and-yard-clippings-not-vegetable-oil-because-I-am-a-raw-food-wackjob-dirty-Portland-hippie hybrid had a difficult time maneuvering in it, let alone the monstrous I-am-not-from-around-here-and-very-scared-because-the-dirty-hippies-keep-giving-me-the-crazy-eye SUVs. I think it encouraged smart shopping – I could only purchase what I could carry home. Despite being a “specialty” grocery store, the prices were fair and we would do our regular shopping there over the local conglomerate.

I know, I know…the picture shows instant coffee. Drinking the stuff will probably make the entire Pacific Northwest shun me and gather for a public burning of my birth certificate, but I use it in extreme circumstances – like dealing with the twentieth day of horrible hotel coffee.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 14 August 2008 in Happy Thoughts, Hippies, Moving


>Tuesdays With Dorie: Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

>The recipe of the week was selected by Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity.

I am realizing what a lame blog title I have.

It used to be called Lingua Franca, but that was back when I was living in the Czech Republic trying to pimp myself out as an English teacher. I seemed to be one of the few Latin speaking nerds that understood “lingua franca”, but there was another that pointed out the literal translation is now irrelevant and the fact I was calling American English “lingua franca” was “selfish and arrogant” and “written proof of the inflated American ego”. The anonymous linguistic magistrate went on to suggest I change the title to “In Search of Lingua Franca”. My only response was:

“Have we met?”

I am currently living in a hotel room in downtown uptown Charlotte. Referring to the center of the city as “uptown” versus “downtown” is just a small vernacular change, but I keep screwing it up. The movers will meet us at our new apartment this Friday, where I will be able to unpack my Tuesdays With Dorie book. Even if I did have it, there is no way I could complete it while at the hotel, so this was really just an excuse to buy a Good Humor bar in the lobby.

There is a wide range of results, which I think is great. To read about the wonderful combination of blueberries and sour cream, click here and look in the left column. For information on joining Tuesdays With Dorie, click here.

PS – Birthday wishes to my little brother, Mark. Hope your own move is going well.


>La Grande, Oregon


Portland said good-bye with a drizzle of rain and plenty of gray clouds. How appropriate. It made leaving a little easier as July – September are the best months the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful drives in the United States. Today it did not disappoint. Of course, it was tempting to stop at Multnomah Falls, but this would prove to be an even longer trip than expected if our first pit stop was 40 minutes outside of Portland.

I have realized what little time I have spent in Oregon East of the Cascade Mountain Range. The drive to La Grande confirmed what I have known all along, but never witnessed: most of Oregon is actually arrid and desert-like. So brown in color and no real appeal to me personally, but I suppose it sports some scenic beauty in its own right.

The cats did surprisingly well! We couldn’t be happier. Matt and I were both prepared for hours of screeching felines. Henry hid under the covers once he was in the hotel room and refused to show his face. He doesn’t do so well with change.

Speaking of the hotel…disgusting. I am hesitant to name the establishment here and will formally voice my concerns to the appropriate people.

I had reserved a non-smoking pet-friendly room and when I checked in I was handed a key for a room on the second floor. I brought the cats up to the room and while Matt was getting other items from the car, I flipped through the “Guest” directory to seek out some food. The first page states the rules and in a giant font said “ABSOLUTELY NO ANIMALS ON THE SECOND FLOOR”. I went to the front desk and to say the woman behind the counter was not exactly customer-oriented is a gross understatement. After she scolded me for entering the hotel room, I was given a new set of keys to a room that smelled so foul that I considered sleeping in the car. I felt guilty subjecting my pets to this room with stale air and all the linens and carpet were ripe with cigarette smoke. I could not bring myself to go barefoot anywhere, including the mildew-growing linoleum in the bathroom where the counter top was speckled with what looked like cigarette burns.

Did not see much of La Grande as we wanted to get the hell out of that hotel as soon as possible. I do hope, however, the people in charge of tourism revamp the brochures to showcase local sights and businesses; all the advertised attractions were for Portland (4+ hours away). I concluded there are two very different forces at work in La Grande: man and nature. They do not seem to be coexisting well. Looking over the desert plateau was ruined by the mixing scents of fried food and diesel on the breeze.

We’ll see if we’re singing in a week.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers