Carolina Blue

Certain things are characteristic of the South. And I’m just in the piedmont region of North Carolina, not the Deep South, by any stretch. On top of that, the connected communities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel form the “research triangle:” an academic corridor created by proximity of Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. So, this isn’t the barefoot-in-the-fields South or the living-in-a-house-on-stilts-in-the-swamp South. And yet.

And yet, to cross the street from the building where we’re working, we had to walk on grassy berms and dash across six lanes of traffic because there are no sidewalks, no crosswalks and no pedestrian signal. My colleague wondered why several cars honked or hooted at us, if they hadn’t seen women before. I replied that no, they just didn’t recognize people outside of their cars.

Once we reached the Dunkin’ Donuts across this busy road, I encountered language problems with the cashier. She believed that a “sugar-free” latte was one without sugar. I explained I wanted a sugar-free sweetner. She said it won’t be sweet without sugar. I finally hit upon “sugar substitute that enabled me to acquire at least Splenda, though sugar-free syrups were clearly not within the realm. Krispy Kreme donuts are, however, available at the hotel breakfast buffet.

I remember this, from coming to visit my grandmother in the summers. Once I suggested a walk after dinner, as I was accustomed to do at home with my foks. Always anxious to please me, my grandad and grandmother put me in the car and we drove in search of a park they’d heard of, a place people went on purpose to walk. They walked with me, too, though I feel certain they must have been hot, tired, and uncomfortable.

“Ross, give me some air,” Grandmother would say, an eternal plea for more air-conditioning. Outside was something she passed through from one inside to another. She taught me to decorate cakes, making the frosting from Crisco and powdered sugar.

Our hotel is in a new area of town, so there are interconnected trails, winding around picturesque scenery in a business park. I took a walk before dinner and passed several other women, walking and jogging. Tomorrow we’ll stop at a Starbucks we spotted, where they understand non-fat/sugar-free.

We won’t try to cross the street again.