Greensboro’s Ten Best Places to People Watch…
If downtown is really the heart of the city, let’s call Elm Street the left ventricle. Pull up a chair down by Natty Greene’s or up by Fincastle’s and, if you sit there long enough, you’ll see enough interesting people to populate what would be the coolest condo development in town. You’ll also likely be drunk or lethargic from red meat and grease, but you’ve got to do something while you people-watch. Otherwise you’re just a weirdo.
The Four Seasons Mall
If I had a free afternoon I’d go up to the food court in the mall, get myself a big Orange Julius and plop down on one of those wire-back chairs. To entertain myself I’d try to fill in the backstory for all of the teenaged human drama being pantomimed in front of my eyes. I bet those two used to date before he was with that other one; she’s paying for his meatball sub because he’s nice to her and she’s got a rich, absentee father who’s crippled with guilt; that one’s either fat or pregnant. Then I’d get ten bucks in tokens and see if I could rustle up some action on the air hockey table.
If you dig scoping on cyclists in extremely snug shorts or people jogging with strollers and dogs, then take a mild early evening and come on out to the park on Old Battleground Avenue. Climb the hills, walk the trails and read the historical markers. And don’t forget to wear sunglasses.
Okay, so it’s not exactly JFK or LAX, but the airport in Greensboro teems with people going to and coming from some of the most exotic destinations in the world. Airports were made for killing time, so at any given point during the day there’ll be hundreds of folks just sitting around. Also, if you’ve got a boarding pass and a spare $80, you can catch a buzz in the airport bar.
College students, lazy alumni and bohemes of every stripe have been perfecting the art of chillin’ on Tate Street since the days when ‘cool’ meant snapping your fingers instead of clapping. Over the years the strip adjacent to UNCG’s campus has seen beats, folkies, hippies, punkers and others who have problems with authority. Today it’s a great spot for coffee, pizza, subs and ethnic food.
This oft-forgotten stretch of downtown thoroughfare gets body traffic through CafÃ© Europa and the CAC, drinkers making pilgrimages on foot up to Solaris or the Flatiron and, eventually, the much-discussed park which these days is fenced in and crammed with enough bulldozers, front-loaders and crap to make juice squirt out of my truck-loving three-year-old’s nose.
The Greensboro Coliseum
The concession ring that loops the Greensboro Coliseum is a moveable feast of people watching ‘— the crowd you see for the circus is very different than the one at, say, a hip-hop show. But it’s all good out in the concession ring, where they’ve got all manner of stadium cuisine, a shrine-like display to the arena’s heroes and even a bar or two tucked into the corners. Bring money.
Nosepickers beware. The culture of Greensboro is a car culture, and since most of us spend so many hours behind the wheel, we spend a good portion of our days alone in our vehicles waiting for the traffic lights to turn green. And a lot of us are checking each other out. I think that we’re subconsciously reaching out, yearning to make contact with our fellow humans while traveling in relative isolation these distances that would have taken our ancestors days to traverse. And sometimes we just want to get a look at the face of the person driving 23 mph down High Point Road.
Spring Garden Street
The stretch of Spring Garden Street that runs through UNCG is not only a main artery for the campus but is also the place where my brother in law prefers to spend his lunch hour. In between classes the human drama consists of college kids searching out their paths in life and university professors hustling to get to their classes on time. An ice cream cone at Yum Yum’s, whatever the weather, provides the perfect accompaniment to the proceedings.
The Greensboro Public Library (downtown branch)
Here you can take your pick between harried mothers driving clusters of children through the kids’ section, well-behaved homeless guys perusing the periodicals or taking showers in the bathroom sinks, retired intellectuals, people without home computers, college and high-school kids pretending to study and various random people who for some reason just love the library. I fall into this last category ‘— the library is one of my favorite spots in town.