[Valid Atom 1.0] BarbaraEllen: Essay. Hillsborough, North Carolina & Southern Charm.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Essay. Hillsborough, North Carolina & Southern Charm.


View from porch at Christine's home.
(There's a baby bun in the foreground! See if you can find 'er.)
Nestled within the Occoneechi Mountains, cradled by the Eno River, guarded by stentorian evergreen pines.

The town of Hillsborough, North Carolina is many things.

Historic: the Visitor's Center marks where General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to General William T. Sherman and therefore the end of the Civil War. Academic: where the UNC Tar Heels toil just down the road in Chapel Hill and their rivals, the Duke University Blue Devils, down just the other in Durham. Artistic: several famed writers--Annie Dillard--take residence here, and several more artists of varying specialties and genres feed their crafts.
Cupcakes. From shop near Farmers' Market.

Most of all, Hillsborough is magical. Where Southerner, steeped in generations of history and tradition that grows sturdy & strong, roots of the neighboring pine, meets Northerner, weary and traveled, destined to mingle the nostalgia of yester-yore with the ripening intellectualism that only tomorrow can promise. This town, small and quaint and cute, has roots. Deepening, all-reaching. Always budding anew.

* * *

I won't detail my entire stay. Because I could never do it justice. Just a few slices then.

Nostalgia of Yester-Yore. Accents. Southern Hospitality. Sweet Tea. Saying, Hi. Whenever I'm South (Florida doesn't count right now), it's palpable. Last year at the South Carolina airport while on my way to Barb Wally's wedding in Hilton Head (so. much. fun!), it was like steel on a chalkboard. "Is this your bag?" I asked, voice hushed, though no less like trumpets blaring. A debonair & tanned older man, green khaki shorts and arms like leather, turned to look. Who's causing all this commotion, so unprompted? Was it that I didn't say, Excuse me, or rather, Excuse me, Sir? Was it that my tone, all brass, lacked sing-song & sunshine? This missing beat has always eluded me, and so, while visiting these traditional keys, I'm still not completely sure how to conduct myself.

Wine Tasting. ... Inside of Trader Joe's. I know.
Perhaps ... it's just that people are friendly here! They say hello. Greet you in the eye when you walk by. Trader Joe's? Most hospitable experience of my life, and it wasn't just the allure of the in-house wine tasting. (Hey New York ... get on that.) The beach, the quarry, corner gas station, BBQ joint, the school where Christine teaches: no matter the formality of the location, I always sensed my unintended rudeness. 

The Original Q-Shack.
East Caroline BBQ, Hush Puppies, & Mac 'n' Cheese. Oh Yeah.
In NYS, someone holds a door for you, you walk by. That's the most polite thing you could do. Walk in so that his arm no longer extends itself and so he's free to continue with his business. 
In North Carolina, you stop to greet the eye, you smile, and you say thank you, dammit!, whether female or a male. Plain old Southern hospitality. 

I'd say 99.5% of the time, I stuck to my NY manners. Despite my hyper-awareness, I just know no other way. Aftermath of my embarrassment? Clamming-up. The fear, alone, that my harsh vowel-accent exposed my impostor Yankee exterior was enough for me to swallow those words. Especially since my manners did the damage, regardless. Thing is, Southerners are so nice (at least to your face), that you'd never know that they know the difference. But. There is a difference.

* * *

That Only Tomorrow Can Promise. Hillsborough has culture. Organic, local, micro-brewed, East Carolina BBQ, hip & trendy, intellectual. Culture. Much like the town of Woodstock, NY which is not too far from the burgeoning cultures of NYC as well as the academic institution SUNY New Paltz (where I wish I'd gone to school but was too set on getting out of NYS for no-apparent-reason-whatsoever-as-I-refuse-to-leave-here-unless-Da'-Moe's-up-&-go), where the arts are gods & intellectualism, offerings. 

Need of more Local Comps? For an idea of city size, Christine provides the following ratio:

Hillsborough : Raleigh (Raleigh being its city) as to Geneseo : Rochester (Rochester being the city with which Geneseoans identify)

Keep in mind: Raleigh > Rochester ∴ Hillsborough > Geneseo. (In capacity, culture, etc.) 
(Who knew this was a math lesson, too?)

Trader Joe's Cupcakes. Incredible.
...Coming Soon to Rochester, NY!!!
Even more-local-Rochester comparisons? Brightleaf Square. This historic square of tucked-away shops & restaurants, surrounded by a quaint street of even more with names like James Joyce Something or Diner This, much resembles the Village Gate Square, University Ave area of North Goodman & Rochester. From the industrial-artsy feel of Brightleaf's interior to the Mexican restaurants and bookstores which color both indoor & outdoor spaces, I could not stop marveling over the similarities between Brightleaf Square & Village Gate Square. Duke, a good comp to the UR? ... I think yes. (Again, considering size of Raleigh to Rochester and all.) ...Sister-cities perhaps???

* * *

Magical. I was slightly accosted, though I presume in a non-hostile way however lascivious his approach might have been. After venturing into town the day I should've taken flight out of Hillsboro (...whole 'nother story...), I sat at a quaint, almost run-down-esque, Kelsey's Cafe with a slice of Sticky Caramel Cake & Unsweetened Tea. Sun beaming down on me. Visions of an air conditioned library flitting through my mind. Sips of ice water cooling my lips. Warmth & Delight.

I noticed a gentleman--man, really, humble in appearance--approaching through the sun's glare.
Some good stuff.
When I see beautiful young women, like yourself, well I like to take them into that Cup O Joe over there. Into the unisex bathroom. And I like to show them the artwork I've created.

But the manner in which he proclaimed this, his delivery & approach, were so unassuming, that not quite all of me could invest in these lecherous undertones. Whether Hillsborough's first Poet Laureate meant the double entende or not--on the one hand, he is a poet & on the other, poet's can be lacking in social graces and awareness--he smoothly clarified his meaning. Apparently there's a poem on the mural inside of the bathroom of which Mike (I hesitate to call him Mr. Troy as, in baller-style, he corrected me upon using the title Sir) wrote in dedication to the town of Hillsborough. After complimenting me more upon my looks--I'll take it--Mike & I discussed Hillsborough's rich dedication to and enrichment by the arts. I let him know that I'd probably blog about this encounter and that my younger brother, 20, is already a published poet and serious writer. (The poop! ...I figure he can get me published someday, no?) Mostly, we discussed the majesty and magical quality of this town.
Hillsborough's First Poet Laureate.

I have to say, of all town's I've visited outside of Rochester, NY--either in tandem with or above even Cork City, Cork, Ireland--I've felt most at home inside of Hillsborough. It's not just that highways and byways mirror exactly those of Upstate NY. (Crazy!) It's that there, amidst the culture and the quaintness, the artistry and the history, I felt myself, ethereal. As though, despite my defunct decorum, I fit. Flowed. Floated. With grace & ease & civility. Magical how it transported me--not out of--but into myself. A homecoming of sorts. And yet we'd only just met.

Visit Hillsborough, NC.
& When you do, give my friend Christine
a huge hug.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Not your typical BarbaraEllen ... but still be constructive. Creative also welcome! xo.