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After the Big Apple - A Love Story

by Sharon Lachow-Blumberg

September 9,2010

Richard Thurmond’s recent editorial column in the September issue of Charlotte Magazine talked about Charlotte and how it continually strives to be a better city. I think this quality is a good thing. I grew up in New York City, a city with a "superiority complex" (as Mr. Thurmond mentioned) and his column brought to light my continued comparison between New York and Charlotte. I will always miss New York, but Charlotte is now home.

When my husband and I first moved here, I did tend to put New York in a superior light. I couldn’t help myself – I missed the daily energy and convenience of the city. Now, I have come to appreciate Charlotte in a way I didn’t expect. It has many of the qualities of New York that I love: a varied cultural scene, professional sports teams, and many restaurants from which I can choose. We may not have Central Park, but we have a vast network of accessible greenways. (The one thing that Charlotte does lack is the delicious quintessential New York bagel – a problem we have now solved. My husband, Mark, decided to take on the task of learning how to make them himself; and I must say he has succeeded. They are fabulous. Ask our friends, family and neighbors!)

There is a fantastic array of cultural venues available throughout the seasons. In the Sunday, August 29th edition of The Charlotte Observer there was an "Arts Season Preview" that showed the diversity of cultural offerings here – from the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center to alternative theatre, North Carolina Dance Theatre to collegiate offerings, the symphony to Paul McCartney, museums to art galleries, and from film festivals to street fairs. It is also wonderful that a city the size of Charlotte has a museum dedicated to the art of photography, my art of choice, with The Light Factory. And let’s not forget that Charlotte will be hosting its first TEDx conference this month, and hopefully the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Living in Manhattan for so long, I was accustomed to getting around the city by foot, taxi, or mass transit. Now, even though we live outside of uptown, everything is so close that it takes almost no time to get anywhere. Charlotte claims to have a traffic problem; but to us, it is not a traffic problem at all – ever try driving out of Manhattan on a Friday evening for a trip to the Hamptons? We can get almost anywhere in the city within 30 minutes by car, and the easy drives to the mountains and the beaches make living here a wonderful and convenient choice.

When we first visited Charlotte and began working with a local real estate agent, we wondered why strangers were waving at our car as we drove by. At first, we ignored it, but it kept occurring over and over again. Our agent always waved back, so we asked him if he knew these people. He laughed and said no this is just how we do it here. So now, we too wave to strangers; not strangers, after all – rather, neighbors.

I have been able to grow vegetables in our backyard, watch a family of baby bunnies in our front yard, and now even listen to some country music without embarrassment. These are things that you usually don’t experience in Manhattan. I have involved myself with charitable organizations and local politics on a level that I had not experienced in New York. I have worked on a few campaigns here; and have found that I love the political process and th energy and enthusiasm of helping a candidate I believe in. As a wonderful added bonus, I have developed wonderful friendships.

So go ahead: plant tomatoes and get involved. Support local arts organizations, charities, political campaigns, or a neighbor in need. It is so easy in Charlotte to show up and be part of the vibrancy of our community. Making a difference, even a small one, does a body good.

Charlotte is not Manhattan, and I am glad that Charlotte is now my city where we call home.

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