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Tag Archives: North Carolina

Why do you live where you live?

When I lived in Honolulu I had split ends and sunburnt shoulders and wore flip flops everywhere.  When I lived in Boston I wore knee socks under my pants and walked stiffly from the cold.

Now I live in North Carolina, and this evening I was overcome with a sudden panic.  I wanted desperately to see the ocean.  Any ocean.  I live four hours from the coast.  It’s the furthest I’ve ever lived from the coast in my life.  The island of Manhattan doesn’t feel much like an island, but you know it is one.

The other day I was listening to the Talking Heads while driving–an album I used to know by heart, and the song ‘The Big Country’ came on.  David Byrne sings about being on a plane and looking down at the fields and houses in the middle of the country.  The chorus goes:

“I say, I wouldn’t live there if you paid me.
I couldn’t live like that, no siree!
I couldn’t do the things the way those people do.
I wouldn’t live there if you paid me to.”

I realized with a shock that for the first time in my life, he was talking about a place like where I’ve chosen to live.  It actually stung.  I’ve loved the Talking Heads for a long time, but I’ve also always felt like we were on the same side, having both lived in New York city (I even babysat for David Byrne’s daughter once when I was 13, which is my only claim to fame).  But now I winced when I heard him sing,

“It’s not even worth talking
About those people down there.”


I guess I haven’t quite figured out how I feel about my new adopted state, and my new little town.  I moved here to check it out, see what it was like living further South, in a smaller city, with a different culture.  But the people I’m surrounded by aren’t just living here because they thought they’d check it out.  This is where their lives are; this is where they want to be.

I am not sure if it’s where I want to be yet.

Possibly this is why I am having a hard time making friends.

But in North Carolina…

Garner Nightly News: “There’s going to be a HARD frost tonight, so remember:

-Check your Pipes 

-Check your Elderly

-Keep your Pets Warm” 

The night’s low was 27.

Also, I like that pipes were listed before the elderly.  I guess because the elderly don’t explode when they freeze?

I have been getting up very early lately, and not hating it.

This is kind of revolutionary for me.  Getting up early is arguably one of the things I hate most in the world.  Especially when the weather is cold.  MOST especially when it is still dark out when my alarm goes off.

Right now though, I just deal with it, and don’t think about it too much.  I just kind of do it. 

It’s pretty cold when I first get in the car, and the steering wheel hurts my hands for the first few miles, but the feeling of the car slowly warming up as the heat kicks in is delightful, and is something I can look forward to each morning.

I also have the radio to keep me company.  I don’t usually like to listen to music in the early morning darkness.  I prefer to hear voices, particularly if I think that those voices belong to people who also had to get up very early this morning.  They usually sound like they’re all right with it, so maybe I can be, too.

When I listen to music during my morning commute, it makes me think about how the people who wrote the songs I’m hearing are probably still sleeping soundly in their warm beds.  Or on giant piles of money.  Or they’re dead.  Or they’re awake, but they’ve been up for 36 hours and they’re drunk or high, depending on the station I’m listening to.  These are not the kinds of thoughts I really want to entertain at 6:30am on my way to work on a Wednesday morning.

I know this will change once daylight savings time hits, but right now, the way I’ve timed it, I drive alongside a broad, shimmering lake each morning just as the sun begins to rise.  I can see the orange sky reflected in the lake and think about how I’m almost at the end of my trip.

I feel grateful that I was able to find a job I enjoy during an extremely rough economic time, and that I tried moving somewhere new again, not knowing if I would like it or not, and that so far I like it.  I feel fortunate that I was able to leave my job and relocate with no real plan for the future, and I didn’t go broke or die.  I got to spend a few glorious weeks of sleeping in with my sweetie, and I’m grateful for that as well.

Could it be that counting my blessings is turning me into a morning person?  Sometimes I don’t even know me anymore.

Today while I was at work a bird pooped directly on the driver’s-side door handle of my car. 

I mean, what are the odds??  And now how am I supposed to get home?

I am so relieved that NPR’s Fall Fundraiser is over.  Listening to the disgintuished radio personalities that I have grown to love and respect as they beg and plead for donations is not my idea of a good time.  It kind of feels like listening to your parents beg for money, which fortunately I never had to experience, even though my parents were in also the nonprofit sector.  NPR Fundraisers are a demoralizing experience for everyone involved, especially as the days drag on, and the announcers’ voices grow more and more desperate and wheedling.  They really start to get punchy by the end of the drive.  They start saying things like, ‘PLEASE PLEASE donate so we can reach our goal, end this fundraiser and get back to the news’ in the final days.  Oh man, does it guilt me. 

See, they’re totally right to ask, and I totally need to pony up.  I probably spend at least an hour a day listening to NPR for free.  Weekends aren’t weekends without Weekend Edition.  I didn’t feel at home in North Carolina until I found WUNC, the local NPR chapter, and breathed a sigh of relief as I listened to The Diane Rehm Show.  How can I not pay for all of this informative entertainment?  And if I pay, oh, something like $20, because that’s what I can afford right now, how can I not kind of feel like a cheap bastard? 

Sigh.  NPR, if only I were a wealthy fatcat, I would donate all the money to you.  But I would also be less likely to be one of your listeners.  It’s a sad Catch-22.

Actually, the drivers here are more like driving zombies who are doing their decayed hair, drinking brainaccinos and moaning, “Braaaains…” into their cellphones while they swerve zombily all over the road.

On North Carolina drivers:  They’re not that good at driving.

Highway driving in North Carolina is like being surrounded by Intro Dance students who are all wearing floppy clown shoes and standing waist-deep in water.  There is something magical about their clumsy, dangerous ballet of tailgating, sudden stops and abrupt lane changes.

So far, though, I like driving here.  Because I’m not a particularly good driver, either, so I fit in.  I feel like have returned to the motherland of Bad Driving.
And yes,  I know that Massachusetts also has a lot of bad drivers.  They’re worse here.

“The only down side to this temp job I have for you,” the agent said over the phone, “is that you have to pay for parking.”  She added that there were certain residential streets I should be able to find parking on– one of them had the word “Blood” in the name.  Eep.

I decided to park in a garage for my first day at the job.  There was one right around the corner and it was $8 for the whole day.  Granted, when you’re making little more than that per hour, it’s a little sad to think about how during one of the hours that you are doing data entry, it’s for the priviledge of parking your car around the corner.  The next day, I figured, I’d check out those residential streets.

The next day I did manage to find street parking– it was a ten minute walk to the office, which apparently, is an almost unfathomable distance.

“You parked WHERE?” more than one person said.  (Parking is a hot topic of discussion an office full of temps who have to find it).  “That’s so far away!”  Several people also added, “I never park on the street.  I just…wouldn’t do it.”

This left me seized with panic.  I love my little car.  Ours is a new relationship, but so far it is strong.  On my lunch break I scurried back to the parking spot to make sure my car was not on fire or missing doors.

It looked fine to me.  The neighborhood also looked fine.  It was not the nicest part of town, but, I thought to myself, it was nicer than any neighborhood I have ever lived in since leaving home.  I don’t know what everyone is talking about, I thought. My car will be fine.

Several conversations about not parking on the street later, I was less sure again.  “I’ve heard that if you leave the building after 7pm, you’re supposed to ask for someone to escort you to your car if it’s in certain neighborhoods,” several people told me.  I became alarmed.  After all, I am new to this city.  There’s a lot I have to learn about Raleigh.  Perhaps my attitude so far has been a little on the cavalier side.

What if my car is being broken into…RIGHT NOW?  I began to panic.  What if my GPS unit is being stolen…AS I SIT HERE ENTERING DATA?  I would never find my way home– or anywhere else again, for that matter.

At 6:15 I shot out of work and sped toward where my car was parked, noting with apprehension that it WAS in kind of a shabby neighborhood, now that it was getting late and dark.

When I reached it, my car was surrounded by flashing police cruisers.  Although it was fine,  the vehicles that had collided on the now almost empty street where I had parked were not fine.  Not only that, but there was inexplicably a giant pile of horse droppings in the middle of that street.  I hadn’t seen a single horse in Raleigh since I’d been there.  I took it as a sign.

Back to the garage.

There’s a park near the place where i’m temping that has a giant bronze statue of an acorn in the middle of it.

Big Bronze Nut!

Big Bronze Nut!

I think my adopted state is growing on me.

Our apartment complex is very fancy pants, but unfortunately it doesn’t recycle.  I kind of figured that out on the day we moved in, when the residential director told us everything we needed to know about everything…except what to do with bottles and cans.

Still, hoping against hope, I visited him in his office a few days after we moved in to ask about recycling.  He’s a nice guy, but his response was basically a verbal shrug.  He suggested that I could bring recyclables to the local high school.  I found this concept frightening.  How do you approach a local high school in a town you’ve just moved to, when you hated high school and you’re scared of new people and situations?  Do you call the principal?  Do you just show up with a case of empty beer bottles?  I dithered about this situation for a few days (ok, weeks), unsure what to do.

Meanwhile, we washed and saved our bottles, cans and plastic containers until we had enough to fill a small closet.  In fact, a big bag of them was in the front closet.  More were in the spare bedroom, and the biggest pile was in the corner in the kitchen.  It was starting to make us look less like the fairly neat, sane housekeepers that we are.

When my roommate and I lived together in Hawai’i, we faced a similar problem.  Our apartment complex didn’t recycle.  Not many places on the island of Oahu appeared to recycle.  It seems kind of strange for an island to not bother doing what it could to reduce trash, when there were clearly limited places for it to put its waste.  I mean, I suppose there was plenty of room in the delicate ocean ecosystem surrounding the island.  I guess I should have thought of that.  Anyway, she and I would save empty bottles and cans, stacking them precariously on top of the refrigerator, and when the piles got too high, we would resignedly throw them away with the rest of the trash.  It was not a great system, but then again, we were short on apartment space, and we didn’t have a car to drive our empties anywhere if we’d known where to take them, so there was little else we could do with our bottles except collect them pointlessly, out of habit, and eventually sigh and throw them out.

In any event, I had to do some internet sleuthing and call the local town hall, but eventually I found a recycling center nearby.  The woman I spoke to advised me that the high school no longer accepted recycling materials.  She also said that a number of people from my apartment complex had called her asking for this information, which was encouraging.  She suggested that I go back to the residential director and request that they implement a recycling program for residents.  Brian did just that (thanks Brian!).

Yesterday, I piled all of the recyclables into the back of my car and drove fifteen minutes away to the center. It was abuzz with activity (and yellowjackets).  Cars similarly brimming with bottles and cans were lining up in rows, and the crash and tinkle of comingling materials was deafening.

It was a heartening sight on a Saturday morning.  Bottles in North Carolina are not eligible for deposit, and gas prices are at an all time high, but still people were saving up their empties, storing them, and driving them to the recycling center instead of throwing them away, which doubtless would have been much easier.  It was a nerdy weekend pick me up.

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