Man, I miss working downtown. Raleigh isn’t exactly a thriving metropolis, but it’s a fairly large city, I think. Of course, if cities are like cars, then I was raised in the Ford Festiva of North Carolina. Any city bigger than a breadbox is like a big honkin’ Lincoln Navigator to me. But downtown Raleigh has the distinction of being really cruddy yet really cool. It definitely doesn’t have the sparkle of downtown Charlotte, and, in fact, there’s nothing even remotely light-reflecting about it. But there is something about it, you know?
Maybe it’s all the old restaurants, like Cooper’s and that place that only sells hotdogs and takes a firm (Naziesque?) stance on ketchup. These are places where the attorneys, cops, bank tellers and those just bailed out of jail all eat together. You could be standing in line with a button-up businessman in front of you and Larry, the guy who screams at pigeons, behind you. Or, if you don’t want to walk all the way up to Hargett Street for a hotdog, you can buy one from a vendor outside the courthouse who won’t smile at you but might slip in a bag of chips if you smile at them.
Maybe it’s the hustle and the bustle. Working downtown is sort of like being in a club that doesn’t acknowledge its members. After being there for a while, you learn the grid and know where you’re going. You have an aloof yet officious look about you. You cross the street before the sign goes to “WALK” and know to take the stairs. You’re designated driver on the weekends if your friends want to eat at Blue Moon or drink at Tir Na Nog because you know where the free parking is.
But if you’re a member of this club, you don’t acknowledge other members. Because, dude, it’s SO uncool to reveal your expert parallel parking skills. But, now and again, you’ll meet someone else’s gaze in the elevator or at the corner and roll your eyes together at the slow walker or the idiot who pushed the button for the freakin’ next floor up.
Yeah, I miss working downtown. You feel in on the action, an urbanite, a citydweller. And I HATE all the lights on Six Forks. But I’ll tell you what I don’t miss. The crazies. Yes, Larry, I’m looking at you. Leave those pigeons alone, for chrissake.