Monday, September 03, 2007

I am having a hard time starting this. My mind isn't being kind, but then I am not being kind to it. My brain capacity is spread over my long list of things to do. I would like to sit down and write a wonderful entry about music but I can't right now. Not in a complacent mood. Rather, more fidgety and anxious.

This however, is a half-written piece I had to do for my creative non-fiction class. The subject was PLACE. I avoided writing this piece, and avoided developing the piece, as much as I avoid going to that place.

Where are you from?

It’s one of the three main questions that are asked within the first three minutes of meeting someone new while living the forever remembered, life directing, hallowed college years.

And because I’ve accumulated so many of the supposed famed college years, I have deciphered a keen translation of North Carolinian accents into their respective regions. The thick, deeply drawn southern accent places a person in the eastern part of the state. A good example would be a young man saying he is from “Whhhyt-vil.” Translation: he is from Whiteville- a small coastal area south of Wilmington. There is notable latitudial difference in coastal dialect. A person from the outer banks or northern coast of the state could be mistaken for a Yankee, and on the extreme a Bostonian. The mountains of North Carolina produce a different twist of southern twang, one that tends to be rapidly spat and slightly mumbled. And then there is the red flag- being from a county. The person has neglected the town, or community name, and rather referenced the county- in hopes that it will strike recollection of a highway sign or two.

Where am I from?

If someone were to ask me this in ten or fifteen years I would tell them Raleigh. But for right now, I am from Concord. It’s in between the two extremes of dialect, a comfortable medium. It is a large town with growing problems, and it continues to act like a small town. This creates issues, issues that are fueled by facades of a wonderful life. These facades are what hide generations of people who never left.

Technically, I am from Cabarrus County. It is very easy to get to ‘my house’. Simply take the exit for Dale Earnhardt Boulevard from Interstate 85, follow this till it intersects with Highway 3, head east bound till you pass the Food Lion and then take a left at the Sun-Drop bottling plant. Go north on Old Concord-Salisbury Road, passing over Rocky River Creek into Cabarrus County. ‘My house’ is in the measely- excuse-for-a-neighborhood on the right.

But I don’t need to say Cabarrus County; all I need to say is Concord. This gets the immediate response of: “Oh yeah, Concord Mills.” As deceiving as it may sound, Concord Mills is not a preserved historic site that represents the great wealth of textiles that flourished in the area. Rather, it is a 1.32 million square foot shopping mall. It is widely known for the giant Bass Pro fishing and hunting mega-store and is located a convenient five minutes from Lowe’s Motor Speedway. It reigns as the most visited attraction in North Carolina; beating the outer banks and Blue Ridge Parkway. Yes, more people rather go to a mall then experience the outdoors.

But the mall, the Nascar, the four-lane renamed highways with too much traffic are characteristics of what Concord is now. It’s not what I am familiar with. Its not what I choose to remember. My Concord is different. And those directions are not how I get ‘home’.

I take the back roads to get home- I don’t go inside the city limits. From Highway 73 I take Irish Potato to Gold Hill road. I wind down the turns of Neisler, passing the Bosts’ small farm, and hit Old Concord-Salisbury Road north of where my house is. This route gives me time to prepare. The air is clean, the traffic is light, and the grass is green. I can smell the earth.

And I still go to the diner where I worked during High School. The name is different now. It’s no longer Ted’s Family Restaurant. It was sold to the brother of the Greek family who owned it. The food is the same at the newly named Parkway Diner- country style steak with rice, baked chicken that is somehow as greasy as fried chicken, and pinto beans remain exclusive to only Sunday.

You see, I make Concord what I want it to be. It depends on how long I stay there as to what it will become. A few hours, one day, maybe two, but never more than three. Concord is why I remained in Raleigh the summer after my first year in college. It has sticky tricks to it, a capability of dulling a personlity, and a way of sucking all motivation or ambition from someone’s spirit. It is a trap.

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