Land of Sky vs. Camel City

I would say that I am equal parts a glass-half-empty/glass-half-full kind of person. I think it’s the Libra in me. The whole balance thing. Choosing one over the other seems dishonest, because life is just not that black-and-white. It depends on the day. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on my mood.

Lately I’ve been trying to make an effort at positive thinking, and while that is not something that really comes difficult for me, lately it’s been an effort. Since I’ve moved to Winston-Salem, I think I’ve noticed a lot more negative things about it than positive, and I’m not sure if that’s due to my current mindset or if it really just doesn’t measure up to Asheville, from whence I came. So I’m going to do a little contest. If you are familiar with both places, you can weigh in if you like, and I encourage that. But I’m still going on the assumption that no one reads this blog, so it’s mainly a private contest.

Here are some things I miss and some ways that W-S tries to make up for it.

AVL: My Iraqi friend, Fred (actually Faraq), at the Citgo,clov who imported my favorite clove cigarettes for me and always tried to talk me into buying lottery tickets so he could get in on that action if I won.

W-S: Jay (we call him “The Auctioneer”) at the Shell station who always makes me laugh and tries to talk me into buying lottery tickets so he can get in on that action if I win.

AVL: The Orange Peel, Stella Blue, Emerald Lounge, Jack of the Wood, Barley’s, and Westside Pub for seeing awesome bands.

W-S: The Garage, for seeing bands only really known locally.

AVL: Hitting up Usual Suspects every Thursday night with my work peeps to have some drinks, swoon at the cutest bartender in town, and bitch about work.

W-S: I have one single friend here, and we work opposite schedules. I don’t socialize with the people I work with because they have other things to do (and children to look after) than hang out at the bar in the middle of the week.

AVL: Beautiful Blue Ridge mountain landscape surrounding you at all times. Particularly nice rush hour drives due to stunning sunrises and sunsets.

W-S: Sometimes I catch a glimpse of Pilot Mountain (the doorknob) on my way home from work, if traffic is just right and it’s a really clear day.

AVL: A town full of people who are not showering every day either, or else they’re okay with the fact that you aren’t. In fact, you’re cooler because of it.

W-S: You mean you don’t use a curling iron? What about pastel business suits? What would your husband say?

Okay, okay. I feel like I must point out some cool things about the Camel City now, because I do have a handful of good friends here, who are proud of it. And it’s not all bad. Especially when I don’t consider the alternative.

1. There are actually decent jobs here. In fact, that’s why I moved here. The job market in Asheville blows. Everyone wants to live there, but unfortunately unless you’re willing to wait tables or work at a resort, there is not much in the career department. After all, it’s a heavily tourism based economy. Some people are fine with that. Most people do it for a while, get sick of it, and move someplace where there are “real” jobs. “Real” jobs don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things societally, but when you’re just trying to make enough money to afford a place that’s in a semi-safe neighborhood and within 20 miles of your place of employment, that is a lot easier here than there.

We used to marvel at friends in Asheville who would move away to big cities and come back saying “Man, my apartment is like one-sixth of this size now! And it costs twice as much!” It’s interesting to me that just moving a couple hours away means I can make more money and pay less in rent. One of the big issues since I moved to Asheville has been the whole “living wage” thing. Because no one really gets that there. And twelve years later, they’re still fighting that battle. Nothing much has changed. I don’t know what will make it change, if anything.

2. We may not have natural beauty at our doorstep, but at least it’s within driving distance. I can still go hike on the Parkway with my dog — I just have to get up a lot earlier and drive a bit farther. When I lived in Asheville, it took at least an hour of driving up the Parkway to get far enough away from crowds to feel relaxed and comfortable anyway. Now I drive an hour straight to places that are isolated and beautiful and rugged.

3. It’s a different, more challenging, but positive experience to be a weirdo while living amongst the rest of society. I loved being around like-minded souls in Asheville. I loved not feeling weird because there was always someone way more weird than me. But there are days here when I think, it’s a good thing I am me, living here, because how else would these people ever get exposed to anything different?

I think it’s a similar mindset that led my parents and their hippied-out friends to settle back in Rutherford County, just to add to the diversity and open up some minds that might not have had a reason to open up before. It’s very entertaining to me now when I go shopping and someone looks at my patchwork pants or tie-dye skirt and smiles or strikes up a conversation just based on that. It’s so much more rare to find that like-minded soul here, when you do see them, you recognize it immediately.

4. It’s a dead tie between the two towns for quality Japanese food and sushi. This is a good thing. The places in Asheville have better atmosphere, but W-S is more of a take-out town anyway, so the quality of the food is really what matters. People here are less concerned with the authenticity of the dining experience because they’re trying to get home to watch American Idol with their California Rolls.

5. People are people everywhere. The people I’ve met here are great people. They just have different interests. Different focus. Perhaps a little less open-minded in general. Perhaps a little more materialistic. A little more conservative. In Asheville it seems like there really aren’t any “odd groups” of people. Here, it’s minorities. There is much more of a divide racially. If I was a minority living in Asheville, I might disagree with that statement. This is just my perspective.

I may have to postpone this diatribe until later. My brain is a little fried after nearly a week of intensity in the corporate world. I’m not done with good things about Winston, though, so stay tuned!

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1 Comment

  1. March 12, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Hey, I read!!

    W-S’s location has always been one of my favorite things…2 hours or less from lots of other areas of the state–mountains, or lakes, or big cities. And only 4 hours or so from the coast.

    In terms of the people…although it’s not quite as liberal as AVL (but is anywhere? lol), I’ve actually never thought it was quite as bad as you describe (which is saying a lot, as I went to WFU, land of Preppy). I think it’s just a bigger town that hasn’t quite achieved the downtown scene that AVL has, so it just takes a little more work to find the like-minded people. Sounds like maybe your work people are the preppiest of the preppy, if that’s the impression you’re getting about W-S denizens. I’ve generally had the experience here that people are very open to everyone. But it is nice to be out and have someone recognize the band on my shirt or something…little connections in the bigger place that is this town.


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