Fresh Eyes: What is more than what ain’t

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christian_bryantby Christian Bryant

I’ve said farewell to Greensboro twice in my lifetime. The first time was in 2006 when I took off for Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. — home of bowties, a mixture of black cultures and a whole bunch of young dudes who were the coolest guys from their respective hometowns.

The second time was in 2011 when I left for Columbia, Mo. (where I now live and work) to study at Mizzou’s School of Journalism — the first and arguably the best journalism school in the world.

Each time I left, I took a bit of the city with me; I exude Southern sensibilities and always brag about the foliage in the spring and Cook Out (no lie). Each time I return home, I feel like I’m being rewarded by finding new nooks and crannies where I can eat, drink and be rowdy. Greensboro is like a huge English muffin with endless pockets just waiting to be devoured.

During this last excursion home for the holidays, I caught up with a friend over Lone Star burgers and Lagunitas at Emma Key’s. I also downed an Old Fashioned at Gia while listening to a young-looking jazz trio.

I made similar discoveries during my tenure at an alt-weekly in town in 2011: there was a drunken romp at the Blind Tiger during an Urban Sophisticates performance, a few pit stops at College Hill Sundries and, maybe the most rewarding, “The Turk,” a wrap from Jerusalem Market off High Point Road.

Sounds good, right? I thought so too.

But those experiences weren’t just about food and booze; they were about rediscovering the city in which I grew up.

My friends that have stuck around don’t quite share my sense of flowery nostalgia when it comes to our hometown. To them, Greensboro is more like a stale-smelling piece of furniture — still comfortable but collecting dust around the edges.

I get it. Maybe it’s just hard to view Greensboro in a new light if everything there is old news. When my high school friends and I catch up over the holidays, we usually limit our movements to that downtown intersection of McGee and Elm streets: the Boiler Room, the Burro/Longshanks and Natty Greene’s. That gets old real quick.

I’ve adopted a similar sentiment about Columbia: This place is a one-trick pony. To me, all that’s here is a bunch of college bars and late-night offshoots for people forced to actually grow — myself included.

This city’s vibrancy is centrally located and feeds off the University of Missouri. If it ain’t related to Mizzou, it’s pretty much an afterthought. The dead of winter has a way of stripping a city bare. Columbia has treated me well, but I see there isn’t much more this place can give me.

Okay, so that’s a pretty flat description of Columbia (and I probably sound pretty cynical, considering I’ve been living here the past four years) but this ain’t about what Columbia isn’t. It’s more about what Greensboro is.

Greensboro is the third largest city in North Carolina. Greensboro is a city with history tied to both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Greensboro is a sports town. Greensboro is a place for arts and entertainment. And when you need a break from Greensboro, you can go a few hours east or west and find yourself at North Carolina’s beaches or mountains, respectively. And then return, of course.

Hannah Sherk wrote in the Dec. 30 issue of Triad City Beat the life she found in Greensboro was one with “surprising depth.”

I feel you, girl.

That depth is one of many reasons I plan to move back to the South. Maybe not Greensboro, or maybe not Greensboro right away, but the prospect of finding a place much like my hometown is exciting and worth packing up all my stuff and heading east. If you let my friends tell it, I don’t have many possessions, but that’s beside the point. The South is a great place to be and I have Greensboro to thank for that perspective.

The long-distance relationship I continue to foster with Greensboro keeps getting deeper and deeper. I miss it not only because that’s where my parents live and that’s where I know the people at Bojangles by name (Hey, Ms. Dee!), but because the city continues to give me life, even from afar.

Greensboro is a nesting doll and everybody — natives and transplants — is waiting to be a fan of it. You just have to open it up.