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City Grade: Charlotte, North Carolina


Reason to Visit: NASCAR and Billy Graham—it doesn’t get any more stereotypical than this.

Reason to Avoid: The bathrooms … generally speaking, whether you are transgender or not.

Charlotte is a city on the grow which, classically, means it is an attractive and captivating community. However, with this metropolitan hellhole, that is not nearly the case. Really, Charlotte is emerging as a go-to destination because it has a) jobs and b) warm weather without all of that hurricane nonsense. That’s it. It’s not even near the ocean (still an over three-hour drive). So, when it comes to cooling off in the summer, you have to rely on city pools or the ever-questionable Catawba river, which the US National Whitewater Center decided to dump brain-eating amoeba water into.

The radio in Charlotte is terrible and must be a trial market for Clear Channel to test the resiliency of the common person’s musical taste. Outside of a traffic guy named Boomer Von Cannon and this salty guy named Hancock, the DJs are unlikable personalities—not that they are bad or offensive but because I am just apathetic towards them. That’s about as bad as it can get and really summarizes my feelings towards the entire city: apathetic. Everything this city does is a sad attempt to do things that other cities do much better and it appears to be because there is no camaraderie. There is no common theme to the city. Nothing that holds everyone together, outside of Ric Flair. Because half the town consists of northern transplants, nobody cares about the history of the area (if there even is one), nor do they care about each other.

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Take the Carolina Panthers for instance. Nobody in this town cares about them. Why? Because there is no history with the team outside of losing two Super Bowls. There is no identity to the team, just like there is no identity to the city. Plus, because everybody is from out of state, they all still cheer for their hometown teams and don’t give a crap what happens to the Panthers. You know, I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers and their scumbag fan base but at least there is something resounding with that team and city. The entire town is covered in black and piss yellow and I love that, if only because I hate it. Charlotte? A few Panthers bumper stickers adorn thirty-year-old, rust bucket Buicks.

A Charlotte local standing in line at the ATM.

A Charlotte local standing in line at the ATM.

Speaking of transplants and non-locals (myself included,) the most damning thing about Charlotte might be the fact that they have gladly accepted every ‘Yankee’ refugee that comes their way but haven’t planned beyond that. The highways are overcrowded and the only response seems to be setting up extra stop lights. Getting anywhere in this city involves cunning strategy, annual brake pad replacement, and the Alcoholics Anonymous creed of accepting what you cannot change. Two lane roads should be four. Four lane roads should be eight. Nothing seems to flow and instead of fixing the problem, they just keep tearing down wooded areas and building new housing developments (my favorite which, ironically, was called ‘the Preserve’).

As for the locals? Well, they’re just dandy. I learned that ‘bless your heart’ is an under-handed way of saying f-you which seems oddly kind. Most of the ‘southern charm’ that we read about is actually just pretentious, insincere insults disguised as politeness. They often like to toss turn-of-the-nineteenth century adages at problems in their southern drawl and kindly find a way to call you an idiot through their body language alone.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame piques the interest of some but if you don’t care about redneck left turn (not a phrase I coined, an old co-worker of mine gets credit for that jab), then there goes half of the sights and sounds of the city. Carowinds is the major amusement park here and attempts to cover for the immense disappointment that is the other 95% of the town but even it can only do so much. With consistent 90 degree days and no breeze from a body of water, spending a day at Carowinds becomes the equivalent of going to Wal-Mart in Hades. Oh, plus I got food poisoning there. So did my wife. On two separate occasions. In spite of this, it was STILL more enjoyable than anything else the city has to offer.

Charlotte has a lot of things you would expect any major urban area to have: an orchestra, fireworks, a concert arena, riots. Typical stuff. One thing it does have, unlike any other city I have visited, is a distinct pungent odor. I don’t know what it is or where it comes from but every other week, portions of the town smell like a mixture of shredded chicken sandwiches and sewage. Perhaps that is the one thing that can bring Charlotte together. The rotten smell.

Grade: D+

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