Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Newcomers vs. Natives: Why so much tension?

Many times, readers write things to me I couldn’t have said better myself.
Today’s entry comes from Katie:

"So many times, your blog covers what I feel are pretty benign topics, yet near-Civil Wars will break out in your blog commenting area. Many a time it's turned a helpful discussion into a negative free-for-all. So, basically, what gives? Why do you think people feel compelled to hate on newcomers/natives alike?"

Here’s part of the reply I sent her:

"I think in general, people take advantage of the anonymity of blog comments to say things they would never say in polite company. Mine is certainly not the only blog where this happens. I also think that with the issue of newcomers in particular, there are a lot of tensions ‘under the surface’ in Charlotte as a result of tremendous change/growth we're undergoing. People don’t express those tensions in public because of our culture of ‘Southern politeness,’ so my blog becomes one of the few places where they can do that."

I try to be strict about deleting excessively rude, off-topic, obscene or potentially libelous comments, while still allowing for robust - even heated - debate at times.

So far, my most-commented blog entries have been: Where to get the best New York-style pizza in this region (Click here); whether the term "Yankee" is an insult (Click here); and my most recent topic, the tendency of Southerners to ask "Where do you go to church?" when meeting newcomers. (Click here).

If you still have comments on those three subjects, please, by all means follow my links to those entries and post there. For this entry, I’m interested in hearing your answer to Katie’s question: Why is so much tension between newcomers and natives expressed on this blog?

And what can we do to make things better?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Faith: Public or Private?

The question of how public one's faith should be touches off deep feelings around these parts. I know this from my work on an article that appears in today's paper. (Click here to see it.) It's about newcomers' feelings about being asked where they go to church.

In the South, public expressions of faith are still more common than they are in most other parts of the country. It makes some transplants uncomfortable.

Here's a link to my first blog entry that generated debate on this topic: Click here

And here's a link to my follow-up entry: Click here

If you have some more thoughts to express in response to today's story, please post here!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bakery recommendations

Finding a good bakery is important to many newcomers, as I learned from writing about the topic recently. Here’s a complete list of bakeries recommended by readers, plus the initial list from last week:

--Marguerite’s French Pastries in NoDa, 2424 N. Davidson St.

--Nova’s in Plaza-Midwood, 1511 Central Ave.

-- Nona’s Sweets in University City, 9601 N. Tryon St.

--Great Harvest Bakery at 901 S. Kings Drive; www.greatharvestcharlotte.com

--Decadent Designs Bakery, 11914 Elm Lane, Suite. 140; www.decadentdesignsbakery.com

--Jimmie’s Sweets, 131 Matthews Station St., Matthews.

--Suarez Bakery in the Park Road Shopping Center, 4245 Park Road.

--Panera Bread Bakery-Cafes, various locations, www.panerabread.com

--Also, be aware that the two Jersey Girl Bakery locations mentioned last week have recently closed.

Got any more recommendations? Post ‘em here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Do you like Southern food?

If you’re a transplant, do you spend more time getting to know the new foods where you live, or missing the foods from back home?

My guess is that more transplants do the latter. A reader named Russell emailed recently:

"I was at a 4th of July cookout with a lot of newcomers to Charlotte and listening to some talk about the lack of ‘good delis,’ no good places to get ‘fresh-cut meat,’ no ‘good bagels.’ I wondered how we have made it so long. Finally, a newcomer lady said, ‘We just need to learn about and try the foods of the South.’ A gentleman from Chicago looked at his wife and said, ‘That's what I have been trying to tell you.’ Everything must not be wrong .... People keep coming and staying."

If you’re new to the South, what foods have you tried here that you liked? Maybe a biscuit or some great pimento cheese or barbecue? Click here for a link to some Southern food ideas from Living Here magazine.

Post here or e-mail me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On cartoons and the South

The Levine Museum of the New South, a great resource for newcomers and oldtimers alike, is handing out flyers for its big new exhibit opening next month. On them is a cartoon of a large Southern man, with denim overalls, red-and-white checked shirt, a ballcap with the brim pulled low, a stalk of wheat clenched in his mouth. A stereotypical Southern "Bubba," holding up a mirror to himself.

The name of the exhibit: "Comic Stripped: A Revealing Look at Southern Stereotypes in Cartoons." (Click here to see more).

The illustration is special not just because it shows the upcoming exhibit’s themes perfectly. It was drawn especially for the museum by Doug Marlette, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who was killed in a car crash yesterday.

Marlette, who once worked for the Observer, has been integrally involved in the development of the exhibit and contributed artwork to it. Tom Hanchett, the museum historian, was too shocked to talk much about it when I saw him yesterday.

I didn’t overlap with Marlette at the Observer, though I was growing up in Charlotte when he worked here and I vividly remember his attention-getting cartoons about the scandal involving the former PTL empire headed by Jim and Tammy Bakker. I have seen him speak several times. And I have been well aware over the years of the strong respect my colleagues who worked with him still hold for him.

If you aren’t familiar with the man and his work, you might enjoy reading about him and seeing his cartoons (click here and here for links).

And I hope you’ll mark your calendars for the museum exhibit, which runs Aug. 31 through April 6, 2008. I’m sure I’ll find a lot to write about it because it will evoke the themes of what makes us Southern and how our identity is changing as newcomers transform this area. Sept. 8 is a community day, with free admission, food, music, crafts and more from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Newcomer questions about Charlotte

Most days, I receive up to a half-dozen questions from newcomers who want to know more about Charlotte. Some I can answer off the top of my head. Others, I’ll research and answer in my columns in the paper.

Today’s questions include:

--Kenny D. wanted to know where he should take his two kids, ages 11 and 13, when he takes a couple of days off later this week. They don’t like Carowinds, he said, but they like music.

I suggested he take them rafting at the U.S. National Whitewater Center; investigate a free outdoor music performance from my earlier list; and try Birkdale Village in Huntersville, a favorite hangout for both teens and families.

If they don't get uptown much, they might also enjoy a walk down Tryon Street with stops at Discovery Place (especially if they're mature enough for the Body Worlds exhibit) and the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.

--B.W. wrote to ask how to get involved in ballroom dancing in Charlotte. I referred him to the Highlighter’s Singles Dance Club, which is for singles over 40 and meets every first and third Friday for dancing with live music. Turns out B.W. isn’t single, but the club was able to refer him to local ballroom dancing resources. If you want to know more about the club, e-mail HighlightersClub@aol.com.

--And for a follow-up from an earlier reader’s question about where to find gifts that say “Charlotte” for out-of-town friends and relatives, a member of the Mecklenburg Historical Association e-mailed to let me know the association has a limited supply of Queen Charlotte Christmas ornaments, patterned after the statue of our city’s namesake in uptown Charlotte. They’re 7 inches tall, made of blown glass and come boxed with a brief history of Charlotte. They cost $35 and proceeds go to the historical group. E-mail me if you want the contact info.

What other questions do you have about this place?

Friday, July 06, 2007

More free concerts, bargain movies

Here’s a new free outdoor concert series:

There’s soft jazz and acoustic music every Saturday night from 6-9 p.m. around the fountains at The Fountains Shopping Center, at the corner of Ardrey Kell and Tom Short Roads in south Charlotte. (I’ll add some contact info as soon as I get it from them).

This adds to my earlier list. (And here’s the last update). If you’re using these lists, check the dates – they were compiled back in May.

One of the great things about the Charlotte region is the fact that our balmy climate allows us to have free outdoor events for most of the year. Live music is available outdoors virtually every week between April and October.

If music isn’t your thing, we’ve got plenty of free movie spots too. Check out this link for them, and scroll down here for one more update.

Another bargain movie tidbit for Harry Potter fans: the folks at AMC Concord Mills 24 theater got in touch to let me know they’re running the two most recent Potter films, "Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Goblet of Fire," through Tuesday July 10. Admission is $6 all day (compared to $9 for regular adult admission). If you’re planning to line up Tuesday for the premiere of the latest, "Order of the Phoenix," you can buy tickets for a mini-marathon of "Azkaban" at 5:55, "Goblet" at 8:50 and the "Phoenix" premiere at 12:01 a.m.

And if those aren’t highbrow enough, here’s a link to our earlier list of other free museums and cultural events.

As I’ve said before, you’ve got no excuse to say you’re bored around here – if you are, you just aren’t trying!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Have you been asked "The Question?"

What do you think of “The Question?”

As in: You’re new to town and meeting someone for the first time, and they ask, “Where do you go to church?”

An earlier post on this blog sparked a lengthy discussion of whether that question is rude. Or, is it something newcomers must learn to expect when they move to the South?

In my year of covering newcomers, I’ve heard from lots who come from areas where this isn’t a customary question, and find themselves repressing a reaction along the lines of “That’s none of your business.”

But from my years growing up here in Charlotte, I understand that for many people, it’s a conversation-starter much like “What neighborhood do you live in?” or “Where do you go to school?” It can be a way of learning whether you might know people in common.

And yes, for some, it’s an evangelical way of reaching out and attempting to proselytize. I understand that might be offensive to some people, but I’m certain this isn’t the only area of the country where that takes place (I know people who’ve met some very enthusiastic Mormons in Salt Lake City, for example). Most people could probably benefit from coming up with a graceful way to respond to that.

In the meantime, I’ve found myself offering advice to newcomers who tell me they’re having trouble meeting people and making friends. I often suggest finding a house of worship, whatever your beliefs. The fact remains that a lot of people’s social lives revolve around them, and they often will have newcomer groups with many people in the same boat. The places of worship here represent a wide variety of beliefs, so most people should be able to find one they agree with.

I want to write an article about this debate, and I want to talk to both newcomers who’ve been asked The Question and Southerners who’ve asked it. If you’re willing to be interviewed, please e-mail me at Ldyer@charlotteobserver.com.