"Sir Walter should be spinning in his grave..." -- The Overlord
The Overlord has relocated to the bucolic hell of North Carolina.
This is not my first rodeo in the Tar Heel State, for I once upon a time lived for a short while in Charlotte.
Actually, I'm quite shocked that it is still referred to as "Tar Heel State" considering the origin of the term is a Confederate General (Stonewall Jackson, if I recall correctly). That even this much of the old Southern Legacy should remain in this day of mindless woke is something to wonder at.
What shouldn't be wondered at..at all..are the ungodly sewers that are the local cities.
Namely, Raleigh and Durham.
The Overlord has seen his share of Gold-Star American Shitholes in his day. Baltimore leaps immediately to mind, and this thought is quickly followed by a slew of other ones. Upstate New York, my home state, can boast of champion charnel pits with names like "Rochester", "Schenectady", "Syracuse", for instance. Don't get me started on the cesspit that is Albany.
There have been other places on the map that have made me want to vomit: Erie, Camden, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boise (if there is a Hell, I reckon it looks a lot like Boise -- miles upon miles of dusty nothing and then a lone tumbleweed), Anaheim, Washington D.C.,
Of course, the other side of the world is not exactly devoid of it's share of Godforsaken places, either, but since a good many of the ones I have visited require me to try to spell things in Spanish, Dutch, French, Italian or Greek, I will refrain.
But, there is a quality to the cities of Raleigh and Durham that surpasses all the other Urban Toilets with which I am familiar. They both seem to have gone past "suck" and proceeded directly to "swallow".
Of course, this has nothing to do with the people I have encountered in either. Those are generally polite, helpful, and always willing to talk to a stranger (this can get a bit annoying for a New Yorker, but it is often refreshing). No, the folks here are decent people, who seem to come in two varieties, one being the stereotype of the Southerner and the other being the stereotype of the Southerner. That is to say, there is "Genteel" South and then there is "Redneck" South.
And if, as a "Yankee" you show a little patience and grant them their own sweet fucking time to complete a sentence (all Southerners seem to feel the need to beat around at least three bushes before getting to the point), you discover that for all the heated and often-dirty discourse concerning the Yankees and the Rebs, that you're not among pig ignorant savages...unless you've managed to accidentally get lost on a dirt road with a shanty and a still at the end of it.
As far as cities go, neither Raleigh nor Durham has much to recommend it. What passes for Urban Splendor is mostly modern, a good deal of it built within the last 30 years, or so, and because of this fact, it lacks style, charm and grace. What remains of what existed prior to this time frame lacks style, charm and grace, unless it was a former plantation or is owned by one of the universities that are mass-producing dickheads and letting them wander the streets.
Within the general area, there are Duke University, NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest, just for starters, and there's at least a dozen smaller and lesser-known colleges all within (tobacco-juice) spitting distance.
This has two deleterious effects:
1. The streets are full of ignoramuses studying how to become better-credentialed ignoramuses.
2. Housing is in extraordinarily short supply.
And regarding 2, this is where I have had the most trouble in the three weeks since I've been here.
It is exceedingly difficult to find affordable housing here (and by that, I do not mean government-run slums), so that any former outhouse with electricity is rented out as if it were the Taj Mahal. This means that even the worst apartment in either Raleigh or Durham is comparable in price to what one might pay in New York City.
And given the rapid expansion of the population in recent years, as companies leave the Northeast and West and relocate here, the problem only gets worse. I have been fortunate enough (seriously!) to find a decent ROOM to temporarily house myself, in a large house I will be sharing with four other roommates (the clincher? The other guys found out I could cook). And this is not, I'm told, very unusual for the area. It's overflowing with relocated Yankees who can't quite afford a house, but who also can't quite afford the ridiculous rents.
Had I known this beforehand, I would have found living quarters first, and started the job second. As it is, I have spent three weeks in hotels (which are also almost always fully booked) at rates approaching $600 a week (for an "economy" type room, too).
I went through Real Estate agents (whose fees are ridiculous); I have tried finding lodgings online (Roommates.com, classified ads, even Craigslist, for fuck's sake), and after week one it became clear that if anyone halfway normal in a place that was relatively clean offered me so much as a broom closet with WiFi at a reasonable price, I was going to jump on it.
Which is what happened (although the room is considerably larger than a broom closet).
The Search took me into undiscovered territory and exposed something of the, shall we say, more eccentric, members of the population.
For example the Doomsday Preppers who offered me a small condo, which they own and live next door to, but only AFTER they had given me the complete tour of their self-constructed fortress, including the jerky-making assembly line, the industrial water filtration system (mind control drugs in the fluoride, you know!), the vast array of firearms scattered about the house, the literal stockpiles of preserved food stashed in every available space.
And while it might have been good to know that the condo would be doggedly defended to the bitter end against the Next Plague, The Red Hordes or The Apocalypse, when the inhabitants began to ask questions about things like religion ("You ain't Jewish, is ya?"), my politics (apparently, I'm not right-wing enough. I don't support Trump for Il Duce), and whether or not I intended to bring non-White and non-Christian women home for Biblically-proscribed nocturnal activities, I figured discretion was the better part of valor and fucking bailed.
That was entertaining compared to the common scam wherein someone advertises an apartment or room for rent that they don't even own, expect you to be so desperate so as to send money and sign a lease without even seeing said accommodations, claiming to be an absentee landlord living in another state. The woman who tried to pull that one on me is probably having a none-too-friendly discussion with the police in Lubbock, Texas, right about now.
Never fuck with a New Yorker who has mad computer skills and who can smell bullshit while it's still inside the bovine.
As for the "character" of either city, I can't seem to find any. I have tried to find the cultural attractions, and discovered that there are few that appeal to my sensibilities.
I have already had my first encounter with a "Road Gator", which is the tread of a tractor trailer tire that is laying on the interstate (there's an awful lot of shredded tires on the roadways here) that can be (and was) kicked your way by the vehicle in front of you without warning, and considering everyone here drives at 80 mph, can be quite dangerous.
The Nissan Tie Fighter suffered a broken splashguard thanks to one of these, but it could have been a lot worse.
Another peculiarity about driving here is the godawful number of rear-end accidents you see, and as soon as that happens, people will get out of their cars -- on a busy highway, no less -- in the middle of the goddamned road to start taking photos or hold an impromptu prayer session thanking Jesus for saving their lives, as traffic whizzes by. No one moves off the road until the police arrive.
Fortunately, I'm moving to the suburbs. It might be 40 miles each way to work, but at least the dullness has the quality of being actually quiet and relaxing.
And that was after exhausting all the possibilities vis-a-vis trailer parks (all booked full), the 55+ retirement communities (they don't rent, only sell houses), and dealing with the ONE company that seems to have the market cornered in temporary rentals. I would rather spend the afternoon with my proctologist.
The one with the hook where his hand used to be.
Now, there are a few...few...things that can be said in favor of this fucking dump.
First off, there is money here. A lot of it. The tech business is booming here. Call it "Silicon Cow Pasture", for starters. It's like Green Acres, only the Green comes with dead presidents on it.
The food is fantastic. Barbeque is an art form here, and they'll grill up everything from a ribeye to a possum that got smacked by a tractor trailer and it will invariably be good. My colleagues have even gotten me to eat catfish, something I normally avoid like a horny Diane Feinstein sporting a constellation of canker sores, and I actually enjoyed it.
I still, however, refuse to eat grits. There's something about them that says "animal feed" to me. Despite the continuous protests that "you haven't tasted MY grits, yet". If I wanted to eat spackle, I would order lunch at Home Depot, thank you.
I have also remembered just why I never ate at Waffle House after that first time 20-some years ago; it has not gotten any better. Hash browns dipped in 40-weight and breakfast meat that might have started out as raccoon do not appeal. I will not make that mistake again.
More time is needed, I think, to get the true flavor of what things are like around here (it's only been three weeks), but I hate it, already. If it weren't for the fact that the work I'm doing is absolutely fascinating (and varied), and there's at least hockey here (so that I can see my Devils every so often) I probably would have already been on the phone to Strategic Air Command demanding a nuke drop.