It's been three years since Robbie and I moved from Chicago to Charlotte. Here are the questions we get asked most often:
Do you like it there?
Mostly. The weather generally is better. The cost of living, especially real estate, is very good. The people are nice, but most folks we ran across in Chicago also were nice. It's been mostly good being homeowners again, and we never could have afforded a place like this in Chicago. I enjoy playing 12-inch softball again and really like the guys on the team. We have made some good friends. The traffic is a gazillion times better here -- and folks here think it's bad. I'll show 'em bad!
It sounds like there's a "but" there ...
Yeah, and even I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe "but we're so far away from our kids and our long-time friends." Or "but we miss the vitality and urgency of Chicago." Or "but the food here, in general, pales in comparison to that of Chicago." I mean, it's pretty common to miss things about a place where one lived for 16 years, right?
Any "buts" that have nothing to do with Chicago?
Politics. When we decided to live here, North Carolina was considered the centerpiece of the "New South." It was a so-called "purple state," with almost an even split between parties. The big cities leaned left, the outlying areas leaned right and there was a lot of moderation in between. Sadly for this registered Independent, it has become far-right politically. Republicans won huge here in the 2010 midterm election. And even though more people voted for Democrats than Republicans in 2012, Republicans won more statehouse seats because of gerrymandered districts from the 2010 elections. The new governor ran on a ticket of moderation, but he mostly has followed the tea-partiers and other hard-liners.
N.C. has been "featured" -- how's that for a nice word for "ripped" and "ridiculed"? -- by national publications and pundits for the incredible, 180-degree turn.
Bills were bullied through in the last hour of legislative sessions. Anti-abortion legislation was inserted into a motorcycle-safety bill and then signed by a "moderate" governor who had campaigned on the promise of never signing such legislation. A voter ID bill was a smokescreen for over-reaching, obviously anti-Democrat legislation that severely restricts voting (fewer days for polling, no same-day registration, etc.); it's supposed to fight voter fraud but doesn't address absentee balloting, where voter fraud actually takes place. Our elected officials enacted a mean-spirited law that deprives long-term unemployed people federal benefits; it's the worst such piece of legislation in the entire country. Teachers AGAIN received no raises, and assistant teachers were canned even as bureaucrats and friends of the governor are getting 35% pay hikes. "Tax reform" was enacted that gives well-to-do folks large tax cuts while making a family of four earning median wages pay more. While GOP governors in many states reluctantly accepted federal funds for Obamacare, ours has chosen to let hundreds of thousands go without healthcare. Why not? After all, he and his family have it. All that campaigning on jobs to get elected? Precious little has been done in that regard and, in fact, the latest numbers saw unemployment actually climbing.
But at least it's now legal to bring loaded guns into bars, so we have that going for us!
Yes, it's been good stuff for Colbert and Stewart ... but it's real-life stuff that hurts real people. Even moderate Republican friends of ours are embarrassed by what's taken place here in just the last few months.
How are the jobs going?
Robbie is working far too hard and far too many hours. When she was hired for the outpatient clinic at the children's hospital, she was, of course, the newby. Within a year, she was the last one standing. She has seen so many colleagues come and go, and each time she has to take up the slack and then train the newcomers. I feel really badly for her. The doctors truly appreciate her, as do the administrators there; in her most recent review, she received the highest grades possible. But it's still no fun to work from dawn to dusk and be dead-tired at the end of every day. We're hoping it improves.
My part-time job at the country club is going fine. I get to play free golf at a great course during the week and my co-workers are fun to be around. Sometimes it's tough to have to work every weekend, because that's the only time Rob is off. We actually like each other and want to spend time together -- imagine that after 30 years of marriage! I also have enjoyed the coaching, officiating, volunteering and other stuff I have done. I do miss having the opportunity to write about major league baseball on a freelance basis, as I did in Chicago. In addition to missing out on the money, I'd at least like the choice of continuing that part of my career.
What's been the best part of living there?
Well, after we got a house we then got our dog, Simmie. She's an absolute joy and we love her so much.
Do you think you'll live there as long as you lived in Chicago -- or at least as long as you lived in Minneapolis (9+ years)?
Difficult question. Right now, I'd have to say that's doubtful. Between Rob's job situation and the politics here and being so far away from Katie and Ben, those are three pretty big factors.
Having said that ...
Rob's job situation certainly could improve. She has had some very good stretches when it's been fully staffed.
And politics change. It had been a century since there was a Republican governor and a GOP statehouse. If these clowns don't stop pushing the public around, they'll get voted out of office just like the Dems did.
And who knows where the kids will be 2, 5, 10 years from now? One or both of 'em might even move down here.
OK, fat chance of that last thing happening. The point is, things change.
Where would you go?
I have no idea, though we might not be opposed to someday trading "y'all," for "aloha"!