In the last days of 2009 Kirk and I moved from Oakland California, where we had lived for ten years, to Raleigh North Carolina. Though we had made a trip out to check out the area in July, we essentially knew nothing about our new home. I got a lot of warnings from well-intentioned friends and family about how conservative it would be, so much less diverse than the Bay Area, how much I would dislike the hot & sticky summers, that the infamous southern politeness would be a barrier to deep friendships.
Raleigh as it turns out is a great city, diverse partly because of the five universities, which draw students and faculty from around the country and the world. And though it is a city, with plenty of interesting cultural events and food, there’s also a sense of a blurry division between it and the surrounding farmlands and wild areas. For someone who was born and raised in the city it feels like a minor miracle to step outside my door in the morning with the dogs and hear the swell of birdsong and insistent staccato insect calls. With the heat, humidity, summer rain and teeming animal life (ugh, those cockroaches!) it feels seductively semi-tropical which catches my heart in a way dry, mediterranean California never did.
It’s also a great city for artists and small business, because Raleigh loves to support local. I’ve met an astonishing number of folks like myself, making their livings as creative entrepreneurs in a wider community which is also astonishingly supportive. Plus they are great folks to hang out with. At the risk of getting link happy, here are just a few:
The lovely Kelly Smith-Tilly of Tiny Peepers
Multitalented Michelle Scouten Smith
Liz Esser of Haden Designs, I’m lucky enough to have some of her jewelry
The best hairdresser ever and my yoga buddy Christie Killette Taylor
Picture of said Stella, just ’cause I can’t help myself:
Fellow seamstress Bliss Alexander-Smith
Painter, soap maker and textile designer Eileen Chavalier
Sisters and shop owners Cheryl, Katie and Leeann
Bakers Tanya and Matt of Yellow Dog Bread
See?? And I could go on!
My landlords, my neighbors, my customers are all welcoming, generous, warm, interesting and fun people. Sure, I get the occasional sideways glance from someone because of my tattoos, but just as often I get complimented on them. Here’s where the tradition of politeness comes in handy – looks are really all you are going to get. No sanctimonious commentary ala the Bay Area (now I love the Bay too, but you know it’s true). And sure, my yoga teacher at the YMCA often ends our classes with a reading from the bible rather than closing with the kirtan I had come to adore at Loka but I don’t really mind (it is the YMCA after all). Even if I did I would hope to take a page out of my adopted city’s book and be too polite to say so.
This week the aforementioned Michelle emailed me and asked me to share a booth with her at Raleigh Wide Open , an annual day-long celebration of the city that takes place downtown and draws tens of thousands of residents. We didn’t make much money, but we had a lot of fun and spent most of the day laughing. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday!
Our booth (insert sound of crickets here) and the booth next door, where the weather man from WRAL was signing autographs.
We had a front row seat for the parade, and the breakdancing competition:
The temperature was a balmy 77 degrees, though it did drizzle off and on (which, as Liz pointed out, the WRAL weather man got wrong!).
I took waaayy too many photos to post here, but they are up on my Flickr site.
Even though Kirk and I have only been here for six months, it really does feel like home.