When I first moved to Charlotte 22 years ago from New York City it was culture shock, for sure. I had grown tired of NYC and the noise, the pollution and the many, many people. I was eager for a change.
The contrast between country and city life took no time to reveal itself. There are still no sidewalks in Charlotte. This will always bother me a tiny bit. Walking is fun and should feel safe to do in the village, but I digress.
Charlotte felt like a much needed breath of fresh air. Of course, I moved in the summer, and every day felt and smelled like “let’s manure the field” day. I’ve actually come to love that smell. It reminds me that I’m tied to hard-working farmers who use the land for cows, hay and vegetables, and that smell tells me all is well. Things are growing, animals will be fed, and essentially all is right in my little corner of the world. I miss the intensity of that smell, since back then there were more dairy farms near me; at least three that I can I think of closed within 10 years of my arrival.
Charlotte, I discovered quickly, is an interesting mix of neighborly and standoffish. No one, at least in my little part of town, pops by unannounced, nor do they gossip about the “new people” in a way that ever got back to me. It’s generally a polite wave, maybe a chat when dogs are walked, but that’s about it. And that suits me.
But when the ice storm hit in 1998, it was all hands on deck to make sure everyone on the road was okay. I remember Elizabeth and I walked with our ice cleats to the neighbor’s house to make sure she and her kids were okay. They were all good but were running out of wood. Her husband was out of town. She had a gas stove, we had wood. We loaded a sled and daily brought her wood, and she fed us hot coffee and toad-in-the-hole sandwiches.
Almost on a whim, Elizabeth and I opened the Flying Pig Bookstore. We went from fairly quiet neighbors to one of five people who had retail stores in town, and we gained some notoriety. Many more people were waving at us from cars. I would just wave at everyone until I knew who folks were.
Now that my column has touched on my recent health issues, I have been deeply moved by the letters, hugs and good wishes I receive almost daily from my fellow Charlotters. We are a quirky bunch and I love that The Charlotte News so wonderfully reflects that.