…wait a minute. I was going to say it’s a crack home but I’m wrong. It is a crack house.
Ever since Milkface began attending Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, I have been saddled with the burden of the commute from our house to central Durham. Without traffic, it’s a fairly easy breeze through RTP and up 147. Maybe 20 minutes at most given the way I drive (probably would have been 10 or 15 if I still had Astrid). Unfortunately, the drive is not made during off-peak hours so the slog can stretch upwards to 45 minutes (one way) if there has been an accident, bad weather or some witless fucktard in the left lane driving the speed limit. As you can imagine, doing this twice a day has its drawbacks. While I love the opportunity to jabber with Milky or rock out to songs from My Little Pony, Equestria Girls or Taylor Swift, I have come to loathe missing the two to two and a half hours in my day. Particularly now that my shoulder has healed from the Great Shoulder Fracture and Tendon Tear Incident of 2013 and I am cleared to return to the gym to work off the manatee and get back to the small sized seal I once was.
About a month into the slog, I turned to Dock and said “Sorry, pal. I know you hate urban life but we’re moving. You’re going to have to take one for the team.” Lacking a mirror, I have no idea what my expression was but it was apparently horrifying enough that Dock immediately consented and we decided to start looking for a house closer to PCSGU in central Durham.
Our decision to buy our current house in Agrestic was made after spending months trolling neighborhoods in Raleigh. Given that a house is potentially the largest investment we would make, we wanted to make sure we were going to get what we needed: enough space to avoid each other 80% of the time and what we really needed: resale value. We logged many a mile creeping through neighborhoods, taking notes, counting rental homes, reviewing tax cards, property values and comparable sales data. Since it was suburban Raleigh, we really didn’t have to worry too much about crime statistics. As for schools, well – Wake County is such a dismal clusterfuck, it really doesn’t matter because the school district will reassign your kid in a heartbeat so why bother with that? The outcome was good. We actually like living in Agrestic. The neighbors, for the most part, are decent. There’s little drama with the HOA and, holla, we have equity.
Given the outcome above, we decided to employ the same and start our search for a new home. Last week, after feasting on mediocre fare at a brewpub in Durham, we piled in the car and started cruising the PCSGU’s neighborhood and a few others. Surrounding the school are some fairly adorable homes that reminded us of what Five Points in Raleigh used to be like before the yuppy scum moved in, knocked over the small bungalows and built repro Craftsman homes but with six or seven floors (logic that one for me, please). My first thought was “Gee, wouldn’t it be great if Milkface could walk to school like I did when I was in elementary school?” So, I was pretty darn excited. We drove up and down a few streets and then turned (direction is not relevant). In the background one could hear the dulcet tones of Elvis Presley except he wasn’t singing a happy tune. He was singing the mournful one. He was singing “In the Ghettoooooooo.”
Now, I’m not talking ghetto as in “I’m a snob and I look down upon thee.” Nor am I talking ghetto as in “ratchet.” I’m talking ghetto as in crime and not that petty, bored, suburban vandalism shit, either.
Growing up mere miles from the city limits of Philly, I consider myself to be somewhat urbanized and somewhat of a badass. Stuff like this doesn’t usually turn me away. But – my husband travels for work and he travels a lot. And while he does own many firearms, he is an antiquarian and I just cannot envision a break-in going down like this:
Felon: Well, hello Lady of the House. Would you be so kind as to give me your valuables, your legal tender, your credit cards, your ATM card and your pin code, please?
Me: :ammo thing clamped between teeth: Hold on for a second, Mr. Burglar/Serial Killer/Rapist/All of the Above. I’m loading this long arm circa WWI and it’s a bit of a sticky bitch but have you seen this the Finnish stamp which has been marked over and replaced by this Russian/Bolshevik mark? A very interesting time in history, would you not agree?
Felon: My goodness. That’s quite a find. How much did your husband pay for it? Should I take that instead and sell it at a gun show? Perhaps, if you wrote down the history of this fascinating firearm, I might make enough bank to give up this life of crime, return to medical school and realize my dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon.
Each and every street, it seemed like we were either on “Adorable Bungalow Boulevard” or “Omar Comin’ Drive.” The oddest part of all, there wasn’t any sort of delineation. There wasn’t a transition. It was either urban splendor or urban blight. For a woman with lofty dreams of not losing hours in a day to traffic and commuting, this was extremely disappointing in a :sniffs: first world problems sort of way. Especially since the more time I spend in Durham, the more I really like it.
Raleigh is so damn milque-toast, it viscerally upsets me whenever I return after a period of time elsewhere; mainly up North or abroad. Fucking Lexus SUVs, Japanese mini-vans and dvd players in every car. There is this feeling that no one really works during the week – it’s just a series of carpool upon carpool. The strip malls are the exact same. My father lives across town from me. We have the same exact strip mall with the same exact stores. No variation at all. There is very little local flavor and color. From what I understand, one of the few assets is the annual hoovering of the fallen leaves. I’m not sure if that’s compelling enough to make me stay.
Durham seems to be experiencing a demi-renaissance of sorts. It’s always been a place that drew artists because *surprise* rents are low. One can drive through downtown Durham and see various tall-ish (there are no tall buildings here) being erected. Some of the neighborhoods are positively darling or genuinely quaint. It seems like the largest problem is finding the one that isn’t backed up to hAmsterdam.
*I realize that I have used this title previously but it is considerably appropriate in this scenario so accept my apologies for my laziness and lack of creativity.
6 thoughts on “It’s not a crack house…”
Reminds me I haven’t driven for 12 years here in Scandafairyland.
In my fantasy world, I live in a large, bustling city with mass transit and no car. I skitter about on two feet with one of those adorable trolleys to carry my groceries.
This must be my pre-coffee/just got out of bed way of saying “I envy you.” Alternatively “jerk.”
Raleigh is the very definition of soulless suburban sprawl. Its only redeeming feature is that it’s not Charlotte, which is even worse. Durham, on the other hand, has all kinds of character. It’s just that this character is like the old Batman villain Two Face- one side is grinding urban poverty, the other side is bearded, tattooed early-20s hipster. Driving through Durham is a lot like cruising suburban DC- you get to play “good block/bad block”.
My friend Grattan has the ultimate Durham story- he was working a political fundraiser at a large home in suburban Durham, and then-Governor Hunt was in attendance. While everyone was hobnobbing in the garden, gunshots were heard nearby. The Governor’s security detail swarmed him and immediately whisked him away, and police from three different agencies fanned out in all directions, guns drawn. Every siren in the county converged on the formerly quiet street. A block away, the perpetrators were quickly apprehended- two gangbangers going about their gangbanger shit, totally unaware that the Governor and about 100 cops were on the next street over. That’s Durham.
I’d like one crack, please.
Durham’s city motto should be “It’s all in the game, yo”.
I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase.