Tag Archives: The South


A cold-ish drizzle has been dripping in Charlotte for a few days.  I enjoy this for a few reasons:

  1. It obviously reminds me of home
  2. Charlotteans freak out and remain indoors and find leftover wood to…
  3. Start fires; I love the look and smell of smoke coming from chimneys

I’ve recently started a new volunteering gig at a nearby botanical garden.  I’m a greenhouse grunt and though I may be familiar with growing edibles, the extensive variety of plants and flowers at the garden are daunting; I’m way out of my comfort zone.

In the past two weeks I’ve also been chased by an amorous wild turkey, wielded a machete, dug up 800 tulip bulbs, was surrounded by a deranged flock of Canada Geese, accidentally frightened some tourists, help plant flowers in three enormous landscaped areas and learned to identify three weeds previously unknown to me.

The people have been gracious and kind and not meaning to draw parallels, none of them are from the region.  They have formed a little tribe, devoted to beautifying and maintaining a stunning piece of land in place that does not belong to them for people who do not want them here.



Posted by on 25 April 2012 in North Carolina, The South


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I’d like to go back.  Now, please.  Maybe we could all rent a house, drink beer and take long walks in the public squares, yes?


Posted by on 14 February 2012 in Photographs, The South, Travel


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Religion, Politics & the Weather

It’s common knowledge the two things to keep away from in conversation are religion and politics.  Especially in the Southern States, affectionately referred to as the “Bible Belt”.

Is that a sweeping generalization?  Yes.  Is it warranted?  Absolutely.  Are there going to be more stereotypes issued by me?  You have no idea what I must stifle on a daily basis.  (Well, Kelly and Magnolia may have an idea.)
I am from the Pacific Northwest.  Also know as the Gray Region of Godless Heathens, Marx-Loving-Environmentalists, United-Marijuana-Growers, Save-the-Spotted-Owl-or-Whales-or-Microscopic-Amphibian-That-No-One-Has-Ever-Heard-Of, Do-We-Take-Your-Subaru-Outback-or-My-Prius-Oh-Who-Are-We-Kidding-Because-We-Will-Ride-Our-Bicycles, I-am-Dressed-Up-This-is-My-Good-Flannel, Caffeine-Addicted-Maniacs.
(How the hell Idaho qualified as “No Religion” is beyond me.  Especially when shit like this is almost a regular occurrence.)
(Also, Alaska and Hawaii do not matter, because in true American fashion, “out of sight, out of mind” reigns supreme.)
I am now living in the Southeast, indicated on the above map by the magenta hellfire that apparently awaits everyone, even my “love thy neighbor” faithful.
What started this rant?  The weather.
The. Weather.
The weather was the single “safe” item to bring up in any conversation.  But over and over again, I see it play out like this:
Southern Native: “Sure is getting cold.”
Northern Transplant: “There is a slight chill in the air, but it’s nothing like the winters in New York/New Jersey/Massachusetts.”
Southern Native: “Well, dear, it’s a little cold for my liking.  I hear it may even snow this weekend.”
Northern Transplant: “I hope not, only because you Southerners don’t know how to drive in the snow.”
Southern Native: “Well, bless your heart!  I just hope the snow won’t keep you from attending Church this Sunday.”
Northern Transplant: “?”
Southern Native: “God created snow.”
Northern Transplant: “There is no God.”
Southern Native: “You probably voted for that Muslim, too?”
Northern Transplant: “You know Reconstruction ended in the 1870s, right?”
Southern Native: “YANKEE!”
Northern Transplant: “REDNECK!”
Southern Native: “Have a blessed day.”
This fabricated conversation is not far from the truth as this is a benign weather report that ran in my local newspaper.  Please take the time to read the 80+ comments that follow.
I’m just going to say it: Southerners are afraid of change.  Northerners are pretentious a-holes.  I’m guilty of taking cheap shots at the South and I’ve been told to “go home” more than once.
What most Southerners fail to recognize is we followed a job, as did most transplants that fill Charlotte, not the calculated invasion the locals would have you believe.  If The Husband wanted to remain employed, we had to relocate.  I was excited for future experiences; Southern Hospitality,  good conversation, new food and Gothic literature.
Instead, I’ve watched Charlotte struggle with an identity; public transportation expansions have stalled while the NASCAR Hall of Fame has opened and is on the road to bankruptcy.
I’ve met intelligent, creative and all-around great people.  They are all transplants, too.  Locals lose interest in me once an acceptable accent in not detected.  My Christmas plans do not include a Church service.  The horror.
Anything unfamiliar is labeled “Yankee” and the term is always used as a pejorative, but Charlotte has no problem naming neighborhoods as “NoDa”, “Midtown” and “Uptown”.  They love the concept of New York, just not New Yorkers.  Please come visit, Northerners, just don’t stay.
Libraries are basically non-existent and sprawling suburbia shows no sign of stopping because of how City Council operates.  How are we not to discuss politics?
Every Sunday the mega-Church around the corner must have police direct traffic so the buses shuttling parishioners from off-site parking lots can make it on time.  A local Mosque is constantly being vandalized with bacon.  How are we not to discuss religion?
But it’s not polite to discuss such matters.  Instead we will watch the snow fall from our living room windows, seething at the Atheists with a visible Christmas tree or the Baptist stocking their kitchen with bread and milk.

Posted by on 4 December 2010 in Broken Stuff, Charlotte, The South


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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


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Charlotte, North Carolina

The Charlotte skyline was a welcomed sight. Hauling the cats up to their last hotel room was a huge relief.

The cats, as many have asked, did great. Thankfully, most hotel rooms place boards under the beds to prevent pets from getting under there. Of course, Henry and Lily found ways to get stuck under or behind various pieces of furniture, but I am pleased with how well they did with all of the driving and transferring to and from the car.

Matt and I set up a pet barrier behind the driver and passenger seats and the back seat were folded down. This left a large, flat area that extended into the trunk. We placed a tarp over the area, followed by an old blanket. The litter box went in a back corner of the trunk and our one small suitcase went in the other. Between the suitcase and the litter box we put down a 9×13 aluminum pan which held small bowls of food and water (the pan caught spillage). The cats were transported in soft-sided carriers; opened at the last minute. Getting them back into their carriers when we were at our destinations was carefully choreographed as to not let them leap out of the car. Matt and I got quite good.

Henry was morose and easy to deal with. Lily on the other hand could be a royal terror. She hissed, whined, bit me multiple times and required some insane wrangling. In Nashville she gave me a look that seemed to say, “Tonight, you die.” as I was yanking her out of an impossible position in the back of the car.

Once in the hotel room, Henry, without fail, would make a beeline for the bed and burrow himself under the covers. Something he used to do as a kitten. I think Lily enjoyed the reprieve from her little brother’s harassment and would take her spot on the highest point in the room.

I have enjoyed this trek across the country. If we didn’t have to transport the cats, we would have made this journey much more of a “road trip”, but I am happy with the stops we made and the items I got to see. I did not spend a great deal of time talking with people, but the few I did interact with were pleasant (with the exception of the restaurant workers in Missouri) and interested in our move. Hearing the accents change was fun and a good reminder of how large this country really is.

Note: Oregon was the only state that had a “Thank You” sign when crossing the border. Go Beaver State!

Many, including myself, tend to write-off the South. The stereotypes are not kind and are unfair. I worry about what life will like in Charlotte; if my recycling, vegetable growing, public-transit taking, NASCAR hating, left-wing liberal lifestyle will mesh well.

But, there I go assuming again.

We settled into the hotel room in time to watch the opening ceremonies for the Olympics. At that moment I knew regardless of religion, political affiliation, race, sex or ZIP code, millions of my fellow Americans were doing the same.

How truly grand.

Complete photo album of the move can be found here.


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