Now, as you hopefully remember, I spent a long weekend in North Carolina last week. This was actually not the first time I'd been to North Carolina. That state and I go way back, all the way to 2006, when I spent a few months there working at a summer camp there. North Carolina was my first introduction to the States. It's where I started to learn how incredibly varied the world and its people are, and what high fructose corn syrup is*, and what an incredibly high value I place on daily showers and time to myself. It was good for me.
Good for me, but hard. Camp was hard. And when I think of North Carolina I think of camp, so knowing that I was returning to the state where it** all happened I got...feelings. So many feelings. Feelings all around me***. I was, to say the least, both nervous and excited about going back.
My friends live in a different part of the state than where camp was. I remembered that the closest city to my camp was quite a cool, artsy place, and questioned my friend as to whether we could visit it at some stage, so clearly I was more excited - or curious, maybe - than nervous. I once again forgot, however, that the US is a size I would describe as ridiculously big. My friend, who is used to it, thought for a couple of seconds and then replied that we could, it was only a few hours away. I shut that down immediately. A few hours is too long for something I only slightly cared about.
We did, however, go to Winston-Salem, a small city (town? City?) not far from where they live. I had actually been there before, too, on the 4th of July break from camp, but all I remembered of it was a teacup pig, a hot tub, fireworks, and that it was named after the cigarettes. Or maybe the cigarettes were named after it. They grow, or used to grow, tobacco there, anyway.
We didn't go to any tobacco plantations, my friend being well aware of how unimpressed I am by smoking, and how uninteresting I find things growing. We did go into the cool part of town known as the arts district, where it's a little grungy, but in a good way, and the buildings are painted colourfully, the coffee and food is good, and the shops sell things divided pretty equally between 'quite cool' and 'total hippie crap'****.
This was such a different place from camp I could have almost forgotten I was in the same place. In truth, I wasn't really. North Carolina is a huge state, and varied. You'd think I, with my notation of exactly the same thing pertaining to Brooklyn, a considerably smaller area, would have realised this, but no. Guilty.
That said, there were similarities.
We rounded off our day in Winston-Salem with a walk by a new lake that is in the process of filling up. This lake might not have actually been in Winston-Salem, but it was undoubtedly in North Carolina. Despite it being the last, final days of autumn, when everything looks a bit sad and clingy, it was familiar to me, even though I had never been there before. I had seen those trees and run by that water and stared up at that sky.
North Carolina is a good place. I didn't need to have so many feelings.
*Nasty, is the answer.
**'It' being many, many things - some good, some neutral, some bad.
***Yes, actually, but this is mostly a joke. At camp we had one male (out of a pitifully small number) who somehow - and I'm still not sure how - got a reputation for being 'emo'. Emo was not something I'd ever heard of before (despite having recently dated a man who liked the music of both Death Cab for Cutie and Dashboard Confessional) and basically it blew up into a three month long, camp-wide joke that he had feelings. So many feelings. Somehow even the kids got in on it. It was definitely one of the highlights of that summer.
****Happens in every arty place.