Charlotte

By


Author’s Note: The following anecdote first appeared in a comment on
my blog. My store of anecdotes is finite, as my long-suffering wife can (and often does) attest. I can’t afford to bury them in, say, the fifth comment on a post about some other subject. That’s just a rookie mistake. In blogging, as in buffet-style dining, one must pace oneself (especially if one has already re-posted most of one’s pieces here at The Rabbit Room). In that spirit, and in honor of the fact that I am writing this on a plane trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, I hereby promote the following anecdote from comment to post. I hope you find it edifying.

I went to college at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville was close enough to Charlotte for me to form opinions about that city. They were largely unfavorable opinions. I don’t remember the details of my case against Charlotte, but they were summed up by the bon mot, “I’ve got no use for a city whose goal in life is to be the next Atlanta!” (I had opinions about Atlanta too.)

Not long after we married, my wife and I were driving through the Carolinas, and as we approached Charlotte I once again laid out my strong anti-Charlotte position for her benefit.

“It doesn’t seem so bad to me,” she said as we passed beneath the shadows of the great glass buildings where bankers were going about their bankerly business.

“Pshaw!” I said.

“I’m hungry,” she said. “Do you know any good places to eat in Charlotte?”

“How would I know?” I said. “I’ve never been to Charlotte in my life!”

I don’t suppose I’ll ever forget the expressions on my wife’s face at that moment. A look of astonishment gave way to an angry scowl that shaded into a squint that said, if I read it right, “What have I done? I have just attached myself intimately and irrevocably to a man who speaks very articulately of things he knows nothing about.” I could see the wheels turning as she wondered how many of my other well-considered opinions had no basis in reality.

I am happy to report that I have mellowed on the subject of Charlotte, North Carolina. My prejudices were no match for the reality of the place, which is actually quite pleasant and populated by fine people who have plenty of other hopes and dreams besides trying to be the next Atlanta. Incidentally, I’ve decided Atlanta isn’t so bad either.

Bonus Fact: Charlotte is the largest city between Atlanta and Washington, DC.

Bonus Story Recommendation: In his short story collection Here We Are in Paradise, Nashville writer and Charlotte native Tony Earley has a brilliant story called “Charlotte” that I commend to you. I also commend to you everything else that Tony Earley has ever published.

Profile photo of Jonathan Rogers

Jonathan Rogers is the author of The Terrible Speed of Mercy, one of the finest biographies of Flannery O’Connor we've ever read. His other books include the Wilderking Trilogy–The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking–as well as The World According to Narnia and a biography of Saint Patrick. He has spent most of his adult life in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and his wife Lou Alice are raising a houseful of robustious children.


23 Comments

  1. Julie

    Hmmm… Coming from a fellow Paladin (’91) who happens to live in and love Charlotte, I think that you may just be bitter due to a lack of Feechie folk presence in the Queen City.

  2. Profile photo of Jonathan Rogers

    Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    Julie, it hadn’t occurred to me to put it in those terms, but you’re exactly right. Charlotte has always struck me as a place where feechiefolks would have a hard time fitting in. I realize that many people view that as a good thing.

  3. Katelyn

    I was born and raised in Charlotte, so I’m glad you think that it’s populated by fine people. I wish Rabbit-Roomers would go there more often…especially the singing, instrument-playing ones. 🙂

  4. whipple

    Hmm. The only two things I recall about Charlotte are Carowinds and meeting Sandi Patti as a small child.

    I’m not certain I could form a viable opinion.

  5. carrie luke

    I love my city, and have lived here all my life. I cannot really imagine myself anywhere else. But even as a faithful native, I cannot deny that I often feel like a resident of Babylon.

    There is much beauty and excess here. You must be very intentional to either a)not be lulled into a fat, complacent worldly stupor.

    Or b) not live in a continual state of disgruntled doubt in God’s goodness because you cannot keep up with the affluent. (The Jones’s) Of which, we are a city full.

    Our “least of these” are either hidden away or very well masked. You must go looking for both.

    I don’t know what the characteristics are of “feechiefolk,” but I can say with confidence, that there are quite a bit of “rabbits” in the Queen City. 🙂

  6. John Graham

    I live in Charleston, SC, and I found this humorous because I always tell my wife that Charlotte is a fake big city. Although, I have not changed my opinions on the city’s metropolis masquerade. I find the people pleasant, but have never understood why they would choose to live there. The mountains and ocean are both too far away.

  7. Canaan Bound

    @Whipple – Carowinds! Right on! Many memories of summer days spent riding the Cyclone, Vortex, and Hurler. (Especially the Hurler. I have a love-hate relationship with wooden roller coasters.) Loved Kings Dominion, too. Oh, that Anaconda…

  8. PaulH

    Charlotte is a wanna-be city – but it is growing and taking on a young/hip character all of it’s own. We enjoy visiting a dozen or so times a year.
    If you are ever there again you MUST have dinner at the Cajun Queen – The Shrimp Etouffee is the bomb!
    http://www.cajunqueen.net/index.html

  9. Profile photo of Jonathan Rogers

    Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    To clarify… I’m good with Charlotte. This story isn’t really about Charlotte. It’s really about the unearned certainty of youth. I could have told any number of stories from my early twenties that would have served the same purpose…I just chose the one that risked offending the residents of the largest city between Atlanta and DC.

  10. BuckBuck the Nordic Wonderduck

    You were clear, Jonathan. It was a good story!

    I did something similar with Oreos and orange juice. A friend of mine told me for YEARS that they were good together. I kept razzing him, totally adamant that the combo was gross.

    ‘Finally tried it a month or two ago for the first time. MMMMMMMM.

  11. Canaan Bound

    No, no. You don’t understand. My loyalties lie with milk. Milk and Oreos. Oreos and milk. It’s an unbeatable combination. They were made for each other. A match made in heaven. I think I shall serve them at my wedding someday. It can be a symbol of true…go-together-ness.

  12. Danielle

    You made me laugh. And Canaan Bound, I don’t think I’ll ever think of Oreos and milk the same way again. 😀

  13. BuckBuck the Nordic Wonderduck

    Here’s the thing, Canaan Bound…

    Remember those boxes of cheap mixed chocolates that your grandparents brought at Christmas when you were a kid? Remember how sometimes you’d be going for the best one — that sticky caramel milk chocolate one, but instead you would accidentally land the piece with foamy, neon orange stuff in the middle? And remember how after you bit off the corner, you’d stuff it back into the little brown crackly hole that it came out of, because that meant it wouldn’t count for the ONE more piece of candy Mom said you could have before bed? You’d eat the coconut one instead, or the dark chocolate while you yelled at your little brother for taking all the good ones. Again.

    But then four days later, you would open the box back up and realize that the orange was the only one left. And since you would have no other choice at this point besides cracking an English Walnut or unwrapping a cinnamon red hot, you would pick it back up. And as you pinched it between your fingers and turned it in the light, you would decide upon a strategy — to bite the chocolate off of the nasty. With the precision of a new dental pick, you trained your front teeth to the task. Cracking off and turning. Cracking off and turning. But despite your brilliant efforts, a little bit of the orange stuck.

    As you chewed, you realized suddenly that it was sort of good. And you hated yourself for realizing that, and you were filled with great dread, because you wondered if getting older meant that you were actually going to eat the orange ones someday on purpose, or if you would keep the toenail clippers in the blue glass bowl near the recliner along with your opened packs of Wrigley’s gum and two shotgun shells and the church bulletin, or if you would wear blue synthetic knit pants with elastic waists, and mismatched socks with holes in the toes? Or if you would watch Wheel of Fortune. Or bring your grandkids boxes of chocolates tucked into brown crackly papers.

    It’s sort of like that. Somehow. But I’m not sure why.

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