Carolina in my mind


Hey, guys. Remember that time I said I would write about the move and post pictures in a couple of days?


I kind of wish I’d just gotten over my laziness and done it, because in all honesty, the funny stories I was going to tell were much fresher in my head when they were actually happening. There hasn’t been that much to report since then, in all honesty—so what I’ll do instead is talk a little bit about Wilson.

Almost everyone we’ve met here, once they learn where we’re from, asks what we think of it. It’s different than anywhere I’ve lived. Part of that is an East Coast thing. It’s like Europe: everything is kind of squashed together in small geographic areas, and it’s weird.

Equally of note is that Make Local Habit is a THING, here. It’s not just a Bend/Portland/Oregon/Northwest thing. In fact, it’s such a thing that it’s in the culture itself, not just on bumper stickers or storefront windows.

MLH sticker graffiti in Kinston.

I’ve developed a taste for craft beer. This is Mother Earth Brewery in Kinston.

It’s fascinating, actually. I’ve been geeking out over it publicly since we got here. For a partial list of the things no one except fellow nerds will care about: one of the main grocery stores here stocks almost entirely local produce, except for the tropical kinds of things that don’t grow very well in swamp water. (Wilson is kind of built half on swampland.) Also, local elections are a huge deal. There are signs for them absolutely ever.y.where. And the city itself has a much larger presence in the community than I’ve seen anywhere outside of Europe. The city of Wilson even runs a fibre-optic cable Internet service that provides residential Internet at speeds up to 1Gbps.

As for things normal people care about, though, there are three main things I’ve had to get used to.

The first is the tobacco. I probably should have figured that a town that was literally built on tobacco money would have the stuff growing all over the place; I didn’t really expect “all over the place” to be my backyard. There’s a big field of it right outside my office window at our apartment. At least it doesn’t smell.

It still catches me off guard from time to time, though. I took pictures of it on our way to Greenville a couple of weeks ago, because there’s a huge field of it out that way.


The tobacco I consider a neutral finding. The next week, we went to the beach. It was the single most backward, backwoods, twisted route I’ve ever taken anywhere. But what got me was when we crossed over the street that apparently divides West and East Wilson and it was like we stepped back in time.

Seeing people living in abject poverty makes my stomach clench. It’s the same impulse that inspires things like Baylor’s Steppin’ Out program, which is basically a day of community service for the greater Waco community, and the entire professional field of social work. There’s something about that which tugs at a decent human being’s sense of justice and makes them want to do something about it, or at the very least to feel sympathy. And every race, gender, and class-based debate you can think of stems from some version of that same impulse, usually either from a sense of sympathy or empathy or from a stance of defensiveness.

What got me in this case was I knew exactly how that part of town had gotten there.

Wilson is a tobacco town. And I’m going to leave it at that.

It’s tense in here, so. Here’s a London Black Cab I found in a parking lot.

It’s something I haven’t gotten used to. It was at Baylor that I first started noticing race—even through high school, the concept didn’t really have any meaning to me, not just because Bend is mostly white but because race was never really a subject of discussion. Here, though, I notice that every church we’ve been to but one is totally monochromatic, and the part of town I live in isn’t that segregated. That, and I remember a (long) time in my life when I either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

But that brings me to the third thing. Like I said earlier, this community is different from anywhere I’ve lived. I can’t put my finger on it, but people are invested in this place…there might not be Internet memes about it the way there are for Texas, but again, Make Local Habit is a thing. And they’re nice. Holy crap. The people here are SO nice. One lady left a pile of cookies 6 inches in diameter on my doorstep after we visited her church. They’re in the freezer because I don’t eat sweets, but still. And someone from the one we went to this week apparently beat us home, because there was a welcome gift hanging from our door before we even arrived back.

Even the mishaps have had that colour to them. Last time I mentioned a blunder with the realtor: what happened was that when we went to tour the house Luke and I were originally thinking of renting, we both had reservations about it, but didn’t talk about it and ended up signing the lease. We had forgotten to order checks to put down the deposit, though, so they smiled and told us we could get a money order and come back the next day. But when we did talk about it (figuring out at that point that we both had reservations and didn’t want to go through with it), they let us out of a lease we’d technically already signed.

As far as updates go, though, there isn’t a lot to tell. I’m still looking for a job, still doing editing work part-time from home, still working on a novel-length mystery I’m now 80-85% finished with. I’m still fighting the stagnation I wrote about last time. But there’s light in the tunnel, now: we might have found our church.

Thanks for sticking with me. Be back soon, I think.



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