Surely, dear reader, you know by now what it is that I am about to tell you. If not from the title of this post, then from the clues that I dropped for you when turning 27 and again, more recently, when turning 28. Or possibly from following along on socials and seeing a sparkling new skyline emerge in my life.
So long, Charlotte.
Chicago, here we settle.
This move had been a long time in the making. As Dmitry once said, it’s funny how a city tells you when it’s time to go. At some point in the course of a very hectic and stressful 2019, we reached that time. The going happened amicably, and Charlotte comforted me home to it for a good long while as I decided where I would run off to next. Then again, as the world went on hold in pursuit of hope and health.
2020. In January, I wandered Chicago neighborhoods on the hunt for my new home. In March, we entered lockdown.
2021. In January, my lease extension went unsigned. In March, I drove northwest.
I arrived in Chicago two months before my five year anniversary of living in Charlotte. Officially the second longest time I’ve spent living in one place, edging out its predecessor – Boston – by a few months, but many long leaps and big bounds away from the number one spot – Newport.
For the vast majority of those five years, Charlotte was nothing more than a landing pad. A home base to do laundry and catch some sleep before getting back on a plane to who-knows-where for work. Much of that was my fault, in not turning to it for more. But when I finally did turn, what I found was empty hands. I craved a fullness that those city limits couldn’t give.
As I said, it isn’t sad to leave somewhere when you know in your soul that it’s time for you go. Five years is a lot of life, and in wishing my fair Queen City its final goodbye (even though I’m sure I’ll be back some day for short visits), I’d like to remember some of the ways that we spent that time together.
That GOD AWFUL first apartment. To this day, I’m shocked that my parents flew away and left me there. Things coming out of the literal and figurative woodwork. Burst water pipes flooding closets at 3am and my neighbors too drunk to notice. Faking engagements in the name of self-preservation. Lesson learned to not online shop for semi-permanent accommodations from half a world away.
Taking care of my car. Getting covered in grease while learning how to put air in my tires. Changing my license plates. Watching Frasier re-runs with hot coffee in the cold inspection office. Arthur the mechanic I wish I could have packed up and brought with me. Strangers in a Walmart parking lot teaching me about the nuances of coolant. More physical and emotional breakdowns than I can count, thinking each one would be our last.
Hickory and Blowing Rock. That 1934 movie theatre in the city center. Roadside country stores with rock candy and cola. Romantic legends at high altitudes.
Sunday morning drives down to Rush. Listening to Car Talk and getting sentimental over old men. Hot black coffee and driving with my knees. Titleist hat and cheap shades, learning every backroad way to get there. Sunshine through open windows and perfect songs at perfect times.
Breweries. Day drinking from one to the next. Pretending to be renowned restaurant consultants who designed the very menu that everyone around was drinking from. Puppy snuggling on the roof. Sitting outside in the rain because the weather was warm enough and the beers were under an umbrella. The celebratory taste of pumpkin and coffee. Time flying by in laughter and dumb conversation.
Race Day at the Coca-Cola 600. My sister and her boyfriend road-tripping down for the patriotic chaos. Cans of Bud Heavy in coolers. Fascination and excitement for pit crews. Being unironically ironic in our American flag apparel. Those two guys who flipped off Kyle Busch for 400 straight laps.
Big Ben. Sunday night dinners in my favorite safe space. Picking an apartment solely based on its proximity. Sitting and reading the New Yorker at the counter’s bend. Becoming a Washington State football fan (Go Cougs!). Taking the time to start up text conversations after long weeks of radio silence. Countless Cass and Tans. Nights for trivia and bingo and toasting Rabbie Burns. Feeling home.
Getting away to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Unofficially sponsored by Jeep Wrangler. Driving to drive and drive and drive. Major ceiling inspiration for a future house of horrors. Putting tops on just to take the top off. Yet another fake fiancé. Quieting the soul with a cool down and rooftop reading. Sleeping with knives and daydreaming of tiny house living.
Creative coffee shop adventures. Lugging my tree encyclopedia down to Central Coffee Co at 6ams on Saturdays. The best pour-over of my life at Basal Coffee while researching gender inequality and how to not always be working. Writing oh-so-many Tales posts from Amelie’s, and then Undercurrent, and then finally from The Hobbyist.
Way too many nights at RiRa. Always started off with agreed assurances of “let’s go somewhere else this time” then flashing forward to the upstairs bar. Pint glasses on the weekdays and Bud bottles on the weekends. Wanting to be downstairs with the live band but settling for constellation jokes on the roof deck instead. Hitting someone in the chest for guessing Blind Melon before me. Learning the Guinness glass game and taking the jackpot for coaster flipping.
Monday morning drives out to Winston-Salem. Singing along with every part on the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. Camino coffee punch cards our most treasured possessions. Dry-cleaning drives in the ‘stang with One Directon. Only ever wanting to go to Small Batch and play trivia.
Mert’s. The only reason anyone ever came to visit me. That honey butter and hot cornbread. Sweet and syrupy fountain sodas to wash down all the salt.
Hooligans met about the Courtyard. 7am kick-off times with a Guinness or two or three. Turning 25. The Teetah! Inventing Rashford shots back when our lad was just a lad. Taking comfort in sticky counters. Laughter and heckling and the brightest of reds.
Late nights working Uptown. Corner conference rooms to watch the sun set. Grabbing drinks at Connolly’s. Grabbing more at Whiskey River. Commiseration over dinner.
The Charlotte-Douglas Airport. Sunday nights stuck in the Admirals Club. Being able to walk the place blindfolded, even under constant construction. Learning the peace of patience. Tired taxi rides home. Wine drinking leaving, arriving, and everywhere else in between. Tears for all of the right and wrong reasons.
This one feels a little too obvious to say but… the people. Not necessarily of the broader Charlotte or North Carolina communities, but all of the people that I personally met and knew and liked and loved over the years. Some were passing ships and some are still around. Whether from the city itself, or from outside and just stopping by to spend some time with me in my home. Texts and phone calls and FaceTimes from afar. There are more memories than can possibly be told here, but I would feel remiss to not leave us off with you.