Fifteen years ago, I left sunny North Carolina to live in a snow globe in Upstate New York. When I'd meet people in my then new Rust Belt home and tell them where I'd moved from, they'd look at me as if I were joking, and say, "Why? Everyone is moving down there." For jobs, obviously, and affordable real estate, and to piss off Jason Darden. But there are other perks.
It all worked out for me in the end, moving to a depressed area, then penetrating the psychic fortress of NYC, but after fifteen years away, I've realized there are a few things I took for granted growing up in North Carolina that are rare everywhere else, and should be appreciated. People often pay tribute to the abundance of lush geographies there--mountains, foothills, plains and coast--and there's no secret about the music, food, etc., but since my friends Alec and Sarah are moving back there, here's just a couple of things I'd like to remark on that make North Carolina a cool place.
1. Public beaches. All beaches are public. And there's a lot of beach. Sure some beaches only have private access points--some may even be on private islands, but once you're on the beach you can put your towel down anywhere you damn well please. I hope this never changes. Also, all beaches are free, as the ocean gods intended. You don't have to wear a wrist band or pay a damn permit. Plus they're gorgeous.
I've enjoyed beaches in other states, e.g., Cape Cod, but can't tell you how disconcerting it is to be asked to move to the other side of a little roped off public section, or explain to your three-year-old why we can't sit on the other side, which is private. I tend to avoid such places. So weird.
2. No toll roads, or toll bridges or tunnels. Why should you have to pay twice to drive on the highway? And the roads are well maintained. This may change, but I hope it doesn't.
Does this strike you as conservative? To me, it seems entirely liberal and democratic, and Massachusetts, for example, the bastion of liberalism, is wildly private and corporate. Bizarro world. But the same could be said for New Jersey, etc.
I don't think people in North Carolina realize how liberal they actually are--they just don't believe in nickel and dime-ing people to death, and believe people should have free and easy access to travel and natural wonders, and a higher education should be within reach.
Sure, there are some negatives. For one, cheap cigarettes and too much tasty barbecue for anyone's arteries to stay healthy. So look out for those things Alec and Sarah, and enjoy the rest!