Flip Flop Flying

The Anti-Berlin

with 10 comments

People in Chapel Hill are friendly. Really friendly. It’s like The Truman Show. But, for a Berlin dweller like me, it’s heaven to find people being courteous and genuinely happy to help. Right now, I’m sat in a cafe in a slightly weird part of town called Meadowmont. Their website calls it ‘an interconnected community that mirrors history with its narrow, tree-lined streets and old stone walls’. In reality, that seems to mean looking like a suburb in a computer game. My hosts, Derick and Jennifer, call it Pleasantville. There’s absolutely no dirt or litter. Grinding my cigarette butt under my shoe on the street feels like a subverse act of teenage rebellion here.

But then this cafe, with its middle-aged customers, is playing the weirdest music for its crowd, and the mumsy woman behind the counter is humming along to Hewlett’s Daughter by Grandaddy. It’s like how you’d imagine a cafe in The OC, but with the kids replaced by their parents. As I type there’s a guy in sunglasses which are way too trendy for him glancing clandestinely at the arse of another middle-aged woman with too much make-up on; who has, admittedly, a great arse.

The friendliness is infectious. I’m making the most of it, asking directions to toilets that I know the directions to just to experience more friendliness. Last night, I went to yet another baseball game, and on my way to the smoking area, a friendly guy offered me the most detailed directions possible for my journey to the correct zone, which was about 30 seconds away. The woman selling beer called me ‘hon’ multiple times, advised me that the beef jerky she was selling is the best in the country (and it was really tasty; like spare ribs-flavoured toffee). And the accent down here is really lovely too. Not in a ooh-listen-to-the-southerner way, it’s genuinely pleasant to listen to.

Baseball has turned from a happy extra incorporated into my holiday to its central theme. After the two Yankees games I saw last week and the tour of Yankee Stadium, I went to a batting cage yesterday afternoon. Americans know what one of those is, and I’m sure most of you have seen one on an American movie at some point, but this is what it is like: you get a stack of tokens for your five dollars, pop them in the machine, and stand there in an area surrounded by netting while a machine shoots baseballs in your direction for you to hit. It’s not easy. Bearing in mind that Major League pitchers can chuck a ball at 90-odd miles per hour, I found it incredibly difficult to hit balls at 70 mph. I was a bit better at the 55 mph pitchs, and I could imagine with a bit more practice it’d get easier, but I certainly have a lot more appreciation for the players after trying it out. And I’ve now got three blisters on my hand to go with the blisters on my feet from pounding the streets of New York.

In the evening, Derick and I went to see his local Triple-A Minor League team, Durham Bulls. They are the farm team for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and they were playing the Boston Red Sox’s farm team, the Pawtucket Red Sox. Obviously, as a Yankees fan, I wanted the Bulls to beat Boston’s farm team, which they duly did, not without a few jitters in the 9th innings, though. But it was a whole different experience than seeing the Yankees. It was far more a ‘local’ event, with every half innings being punctuated by little competitions for kids. It was one of those ‘fun for all the family’ events. I even got to try my hand at pitching. Not on the field, but they had a fairground-style game in the stadium where you could see how fast you can chuck a baseball. With as much effort as I could muster, I only managed to throw a ball at 41 mph. Yesterday I learnt that I’m not built for baseball.

Finally, for a smoker, this part of the country is perfect: it’s tobacco country. Cigarettes are half the price of those in New York, and even cheaper than in Berlin. Next to the Durham Bulls stadium are these very cool adverts on a water tower and chimney for, graphically, the most beautiful brand of cigarettes.

Written by Craig

April 19th, 2006 at 11:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Responses to 'The Anti-Berlin'

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  1. You sound happy! Been a while…

    There must be a downside – otherwise there wouldn’t seem to be much point in returning to Berlin (apart from Billy that is)

    Have more fun – it suits you!



    19 Apr 06 at 18:26

  2. Oh my god!

    Quick Craig, run away while you still know what the real world looks like.

    Sorry. Have fun Craig, just remember it’s all fake.

    Enjoy the baseball adventure! Can we get some more pictures on the All American Lifestyle???


    19 Apr 06 at 18:38

  3. Durham Bulls – Isn’t that where the film ‘Bull Durham’ was based. Looks like you won’t be the new ‘Nuke’ Laloosh. I suppose at your age you could be ‘Crash’ Davis. You never know Annie Savoy might take you under her wing for the year as you try to get to the majors.


    19 Apr 06 at 19:02

  4. This sounds like hell. Where are the skaters, the artists spraying walls, where’s Rock’n’roll? It looks like the Sims! And what’s this “all-over commercial way of life… Adopting a highway, one must be really coooool, to do that. Cigarettes ads… What a weird idea.
    Of course it’s nice to meet kind people. I would run away before it turns into a nightmare.
    Sorry for being so… french?


    19 Apr 06 at 20:03

  5. “an interconnected community that mirrors history”

    Why would a community mirror history? That makes no sense. Next thing you know, they’ll be marketing these places as “living solutions” or something.

    So nice you went to a minor league ball game. Those are the best.


    19 Apr 06 at 23:15

  6. You ought to go to a driving range…same thing as the batting cage, but with golf instead. God knows I’m awful at both due my utter lack of hand-eye coordination, but there’s something very refreshing about getting a tin bucket of golf balls and hitting them as hard and faraway as you can. Don’t worry, they have golf clubs for south paws available.

    Oh, but the midwest still holds the title for friendliest region in the US. Not only do we greet with smiles, but we’ll look ya in the eye, buy ya a brat and beer and top is off with some cheese.

    Pleasantville is the perfect way to describe that neighborhood.



    20 Apr 06 at 00:47

  7. Why are the traffic lights hung out to dry? How sad do the roads get that aren’t adopted? The great night shot of the tower and chimney is crying out for a Craigy-pop in a space suit making his way to the capsule, whilst mission control count down…..

    Magic Door

    20 Apr 06 at 11:11

  8. Oh….and disappointed we didn’t get a pic of the view in the cafe..nudge, nudge!

    Magic Door

    20 Apr 06 at 11:12

  9. Glad to see that you’re getting to sample a little Southern hospitality!

    Magic door: Yes, it is sometimes sad to see stray highways that have gone unadopted, but other times it’s really for the best. There’s was a rather famously adopted highway in Missouri, actually:



    20 Apr 06 at 17:17

  10. Kelly – excellent!

    Magic Door

    21 Apr 06 at 10:50

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