I've been trying to think of what to tell our global visitors they should expect in the Queen City. You know many will arrive imagining the usual stereotypes of The South – unpainted shacks, no indoor plumbing, cousins marrying cousins, overseers and sharecroppers visible in every cotton field, mules hauling cotton to the cotton gin, hellfire and brimstone preachers thumping Bibles on every corner. You get the picture.
Do they realize:
• That Charlotte is a hotbed of Presbyterianism? (Don't you love seeing "hotbed" and "Presbyterian" in the same sentence?) Sure, there are places where people rock 'n' roll and even dance, but you'll rarely see a local elected or business official cutting the rug or belting a show tune after too many beers.
• That when our civic leadership encounters a problem, the first instinct is to form a large and interminably meeting committee to talk it over?
• That not only do our civic leaders not care about the Confederacy, or even mention it in public, they don't even mention the past of 20 years ago. Visitors hear much about our banks, and probably get a banking genealogy worthy of the Old Testament. Commercial National and Southern States Trust (aka American Trust ) begat American Commercial, which begat North Carolina National Bank which began NCNB (No Cash for No Body, is the local joke) and NCNB begat NationsBank, and NationsBank begat Bank of America, with many side deals along the way.
But I bet they won't hear that this Banktown stuff is rather new. For a now barely mentioned century or so, Charlotte was a textile town, with company-owned mill villages and impoverished and uneducated mill workers.
• That despite Michelle Obama's gracious praise, and despite North Carolina's sitting at the acme of all barbecue cultures in the nation (take THAT, Texas!), Charlotte does not boast truly excellent barbecue joints – the kind of old cinder-block building with stacks of hickory wood and smoke coming out the back where you can get the most flavorful, juiciest, crispy-edged barbecue. For that you have to drive to Lexington (if you like Lexington style) or Shelby (if you like Western style) or east of Raleigh (if you like Eastern style). Best 'cue I've had in Charlotte recently was at the Sharon United Methodist Church Boy Scout troop's annual January barbecue.
Here's as good a description as I've seen of Charlotte, courtesy of a commenter on the Huffington Post article about Charlotte being chosen for the convention [I've added some punctuation corrections]:
"Good luck here in Charlotte (my hometown), Mr. President. It's a pleasure to have you coming to the Queen City. Strange things happen in the Carolinas, though. Nothing or no one here is ever what they seem to be. See that farmer over there in the overalls? He's a billionaire. See the banker-looking guy with the tassles on his shoes? He's bankrupt – again. See all of those folks out front there in the audience smiling? Half of them are from S.C."
And this tidbit: My Google search to see what the BBC was saying about Charlotte found the website of the Bible Believers Chapel on Lancaster Highway in south Charlotte. No, I am not making that up.
Finally, here's a skyline photo roundup of dated skyline shots:
• The Washington Post online article shows the Time Warner Cable Arena (site of the actual convention), which opened in 2005, STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION!
• Politico.com's piece shows an artsy, night-time shot with a construction crane that I'm pretty sure isn't there any more.
• And while looking for Huffington Post coverage, I stumbled on this not-so-cheery story of the "13 surprising cities where foreclosures are soaring," with Charlotte listed at No. 4. It, too, has the arena-under-construction photo. Geez.