More Clareys

by Brian Clarey

She filled out an application for the house off Wendover Avenue just as soon as she saw it, a cozy little cottage with an open kitchen, a sweet back deck and a fenced-in yard for the dogs.

And then my sister went back to her home in Riverside, Calif., tied up all the loose ends in her life’ ‘  and pointed the car due east on Interstate 40 to begin her new life in Greensboro.

In the end, it wasn’t really a tough sell at all.

She’s been living out west for almost 15 years, first in Las Vegas and then the Inland Empire, outside of Los Angeles. And while the beauty of the area cannot be denied, my sister lived far, far away from the rest of us, far enough that we only laid eyes on her every couple of years and felt completely removed from her day-to-day life.

It was fine like that for a time. But now she’s a little older and a lot more experienced; one success after another marks her career track and she knows exactly who she is. But at this point in her life, she wants to be near the people who matter to her — that’s me, my wife and our kids.

So when she decided to change jobs, she figured she might as well change her whole life. And she’s doing it here in Greensboro.

I talk a good bit of smack about my adopted hometown. I rail against the provinciality of our city, its affliction with what I’ve termed “good enough disease” which is a sure-fire recipe for mediocrity, the current of fear which corrupts so many of our decisions and actions.

But hey — I’ve been here for 13 years, and I’m not going anywhere. This city has been good to me, and to my family. I own property. My kids are in the school system. I like it here. And I’m not going anywhere.

I explained it to my sister this way: I’ve lived in other places, big places, exciting places, places that are “on the grid,” so to speak, in terms of the national consciousness. And I loved the action, the depth of the cultures, the sense of being somewhere that mattered in the grand scheme.

I didn’t get that vibe when I first moved to town in 2000, but what struck me immediately about this place is how accessible it is.

In a city like this, just about anyone can do just about everything: make art, book a show, run for office, start a business, make a home, get a degree. Unimpeded opportunity lies everywhere.

Plus there is the factor of coziness. In a city this size, we have a strong degree of connectivity. Everybody knows each other, it seems sometimes. It’s the kind of place where I can run into my lawyer at Target, randomly encounter a friend at a restaurant, say hello to the mayor on the street.

My sister was surprised when it turned out I have known the owners of the little house off Wendover for more than 10 years, but I wasn’t. That’s how Greensboro works, I told her: We all kind of know each other.

I told her about some of our great restaurants, the sporting events that come through town, the greenway, how you can walk up to the ticket booth at Triad Stage and almost always be able to wrangle a ticket for that night’s show, that the thing we call “traffic” here barely resembles what she’s seen in New York, southern California and Las Vegas. She knows about First Fridays and Thirsty Thursdays and Elsewhere and the Blind Tiger. She knows about the High Point Furniture Market and that Winston-Salem is just down the road a piece. She knows there’s enough to do to keep her busy for a while.

Of course, the biggest selling point is that her family is here. It’s good for me, because I miss my sister — we haven’t lived in the same ZIP code for decades. But it’s good for the city, too: Another ambitious, college-educated, urbane professional is moving to town. She’s going to thrive here.

She gets here this week, after a crosscountry drive with her three dogs and also our father, who’s helping her with the move.

He’s going to look at some apartments when he gets to town. He and my mother have decided they want to be here, too. They’ll come down this summer, after my mother retires. It makes sense for them, too: The grandkids are here, and it’s an affordable place to spend retirement.

When I came to North Carolina, there were just the three of us. We added two more over the next couple of years. Soon there will be eight of us living in Greensboro, stressing the limits of what the market will bear.