If we’re friends in the flesh, then you may have heard me go off on one of these rants before. Call it therapy in anticipation of our move, but I have a few things about North Carolina I want to get off my chest. And because Southerners like to believe everything’s better if you coat it in sugar or butter it up, I’ve followed each with a counterpoint extolling what I love about this state.
1. The sky is not Carolina Blue.
I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, Tarheel fans, but the sky is the same color everywhere you go, and that color is not Carolina Blue. It’s called sky blue, and that’s because it existed well before the University of North Carolina was a speck in dear old William R. Davies’ eye. You do not have a patent on the color of the sky, and it’s darn obnoxious that you think you do.
1a. Your House Divided bumper stickers are pretty cute.
I love it when couples antagonize each other, and there’s no better way to observe that than during a basketball game with split Duke and UNC allegiances among the hosts. What’s even cuter is that NC State fans actually think they are UNC’s rivals. It makes me want to rub the whole Wolfpack’s heads with condescending pats.
2. Get some damn streetlights.
And while you’re at it, throw in some sidewalks and lane reflectors, too. Driving at night here is a guessing game—is that a lane divider over there or is it more construction on Davis Dr.? Who knows?! It’s too damn dark to see. Don’t even try and read the street signs. In fact, maybe you should just avoid traveling at night, especially if it’s raining. Turn on your brights, and all you’ll get are reflections in the puddles of water washing over the asphalt. There is a resistance to night pollution in this state. For all you city folk, night pollution is the collective effect that electronic lighting has on our ability to see stars. I’ll take being alive over seeing stars any day. Pun intended.
2a. The traffic is super light. I have no pictures to go with this item, so enjoy this image of a pretty classic car instead.
Triangulars will complain about the commute on Interstates 40 and 540, but it rarely takes longer than forty minutes to make it from Raleigh to Durham or Chapel Hill. It’ll only take that long during rush hour and likely only if there’s an accident somewhere along the way. If you’ve driven in any metropolitan area, you know that such a commute is a blessing. It often took me twice that long to go 10 miles in Boston and Santa Cruz. It’s 20 miles between the major cities here.
3. The Yellow Doom sucks.
This isn’t particular to North Carolina but to the entire South, and I don’t know why it happens. Yes, I know why it happens—the pine trees drop their pollen into the air to travel for miles and fertilize each other—but pine trees in the rest of the country are much better behaved. They do their bidness without shooting their loads over everything unlucky enough to be in the vicinity. I don’t have allergies, and I still curse the day the Yellow Doom falls, which almost always occurs within a week of finally reopening the windows after winter.
3a. Flowering trees, flowering bushes, flowering everything.
All that Southern fertilization does get put to good use, and the results usually last longer than the few weeks of Yellow Doom. It’s so green and so floral here that my Californian family doesn’t know what to think of it when they visit. Dry is not a season North Carolina has, and that’s a good thing as long as we pretend mosquitos aren’t the result. The flowers in spring and summer can take your breath away. Yes, that includes the wisteria, which is more proof I’m not a Southerner.
4. Many club pools—the ones you pay for–are only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Maybe, maybe that makes sense for the Northeast, but not for North Carolina, where it’s usually warm enough to swim outdoors from April through October. How do I know? Our first pool here was open year round, and I used it for most of that year.
What does the state have against heating outdoor pools anyway? I don’t think I’d ever want to pay close to a grand in annual dues for a pool that wasn’t heated and was only useable for three months. Driving to the beach every other weekend would be cheaper—and it’s two hours away!
4a. The beach water is warm as a bathtub by early summer.
I’ve sampled the Atlantic’s beaches up and down the NC coast, in Myrtle Beach, and in Florida, and they’ve been amazing temperature-wise. I love the drama of the Pacific Ocean, but there is plenty to be said for water you can swim in without a body suit or having to convince yourself that outlasting the numbness is worth it.
5. Barbecue has more than one definition.
As much as North Carolinians try to limit its use to only this–
–barbecue is a word with as many functions as there are types of it to enjoy. Not only has that pictured chopped pork never appealed to me—I cannot get over its resemblance to dog food—but I’ve been too spoiled with Santa Maria-style tri tip to ever believe that’s the only real deal. Mmm, barbecued ribs. Mmm, barbecued linguiça. Yep, barbecue can indeed be used as a verb and an adjective. It can also be used to describe a grill. And it’s the name for a party at which you and your friends use that grill.
I know it’s hard to accept these truths, but the rest of the country is okay letting “cook-out” be a term of the past. We’re too busy eating all sorts of smoked, grilled, and seared goodness to worry over your vocabulary complaints.
5a. Pulled pork is awesome.
It’s also the only barbecue from North Carolina that I’ve really enjoyed, with or without a vinegar sauce. I absolutely adore it with brown sugar or honey in the spice blend, and its predominant menu placement at the Triangle’s restaurants has made me rediscover pork in general. With the exception of a crispy slice of bacon, I had been convinced I hated pork for years. But you have thoroughly convinced me of its virtues. Except for that chopped crap. It’s still gross.
I hope that felt as good for you as it did for me, though I have no doubt there are some “Bless your hearts” coming in retaliation. It’s okay, I’m sure I’ll be complaining about Californian cuisine’s overreliance on the avocado soon enough. Actually, I don’t think a world exists in which I’d complain about that. Maybe tamales?