ten best! Reasons my parents should live in NC

by Brian Clarey

The grandkids

My parents have been in town all week, down from Long Island to have a visit like they do several times a year. And every time they’re here I engage in a campaign of subtle suggestion, trying to convince them that they should do like their only son and make the move from New York to North Carolina. And the biggest reason for this is also the most convincing: the grandkids, all three of them. I have never seen anything make my parents so happy — surely my sisters and I never elicited smiles like the ones they’ve been wearing this week. And my kids feel the same way about them.

Blue skies

Let me tell you what I remember about New York, where I left more than 20 years ago for the temperate and lush South: I remember skies like watery ink from November through March, when the snow stayed on the ground so long it got dirty and the wind cut right through my clothes. I spent about half of my childhood freezing my ass off, and because of that this is the furthest north I will probably ever live again. And there was something in my parents’ eyes I recognized when they climbed out of their car and shed their winter clothes last week and enjoyed 70-degree weather in February.

The great wide open

My parents live in an apartment on a busy village thoroughfare; the traffic rushes by all night long, and getting out of their driveway can be a harrowing experience. Their next-door neighbors are close enough to rap on their windows with a broomstick, and there are more apartments both above and below them. And while I appreciate all that action, it can get to be tiresome. Whereas here in the North Carolina Piedmont Triad, we still have great tracts of open space.

The green convincer

It’s a simple fact of like in these United States that a dollar in the Triad is worth less than a dollar in New York. Need proof: My parents’ apartment on Long Island runs more than $1,500 a month. It almost scares me to think about the type of apartment you can rent around here for that kind of money, particularly when I envision my parents living in a high-rise penthouse that’s swankier than any digs I ever occupied. But hey — if it gets them to move down here, then what the hell….

It’s what Yankees do

I have a plan to reinvigorate the economy in this part of the country, and it involves hordes of Yankees selling their houses, buying new ones in North Carolina and creating jobs with the money left over. Face it, crackers: We’ve already infiltrated every single corner of the state, and we’re telling our friends about it. So pervasive have we become that I seem to run into displaced Yankees every single week; we’re changing the demographic, affecting elections, poisoning the culture and demanding good pizza, with thin crust and lots of cheese.

Southern cookin’

My father is an Irishman who grew up eating boiled food in Albany, NY. My mother is a fullblooded Italian who can make a marinara in her sleep. To them, grits, barbecue, corn dogs, hush puppies, greens, butter beans, chili dogs with slaw, biscuits, country gravy and brick sausage are kind of exotic, like eggplant parmigiana seems to a kid from Liberty. In the house I grew up in, linguine and clam sauce was much more common than, say, meatloaf.

All terrain

In my time as a North Carolina travel writer, the sheer beauty of the Old North State routinely stunned me. Rugged mountains. Crystalline lakes. Pristine beaches. Wide swaths of raw forest and untouched grasslands. Dense cities with enough street cred to be cool but not so much you keep a separate wad of one-dollar bills in a side pocket to appease the muggers. And from here in the Triad much of it is right outside our front doors. The rest is no more than a three-hour drive away (unless you want to go to Ocracoke, which could take all day to get to but is extremely worth the trip).

A brand new life

I know of at least one bedraggled Yankee who found new life in North Carolina — I see him in the mirror every morning, sometimes three or four times. One of the things I like about this place is that it’s so far removed from the circumstances that brought me here. I’m pretty sure I’ll never run into an old girlfriend; my lifelong enemies live hundreds of miles away from here; nobody knows what a dork I looked like when I was 13. And though my parents are much more decent folk than I, surely there would be something liberating about moving more than 500 miles from home to a place where most of the people you know are blood relations.

Knock knock

Sure, we’re losing jobs like a compulsive gambler on a bad run, we’re having trouble maintaining our tax base and things, in a quantitative sense, are not exactly rosy around here. But I’ve always found the Triad to be a land of opportunity sine I moved here with my young family nearly 10 years ago. My career has taken turns I never thought I’d have the opportunity to navigate; my wife’s business is faring well also. I bought my first brand new car here, and my first home, too. And we’ve made dozens and dozens of friends. There’s no reason to think that my mother and father — an educator and a lawyer, respectively — can’t similarly breathe new energy into their lives and careers here.