Places I’ve Lived #10 – Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North CarolinaRaleigh, North Carolina was the first place in my life that I ever chose to live. Everywhere before had been chosen by my parents or chosen by the Marine Corps. When I ended my active duty in 1994, I looked around the USA for where I wanted to live. It was scary. I thought about moving back to California, but frankly, my experience with Redding, Big Bear Lake, and the bases in San Diego had soured me on my home state. I look back and realize that’s a bit of a shame as 1994 was a great time be in California.

Instead, I looked to the only real city I had ever spent considerable time in. My brother and his wife had moved to Raleigh while I was still on active duty. I loved taking leave and visiting with them. At this point in my life, Raleigh seems like a small city or a big town – but at that point – it was amazing! There were bagel shops and Middle Eastern markets! There were bars and coffee shops and business districts. There were hotels that were more than two stories high and there were universities…and there were girls. Oh, goodness yes, there were so many girls. One of the worst things about being stationed in Jacksonville, North Carolina was that there were 50,000 male Marines all prowling around for the same 3,000 girls. I’m not even close to six foot but most of those guys were – and during my entire time stationed at New River Air Station, I only went on a dozen dates – and only three or four followups. So, Raleigh? It looked like heaven to me. There were educated people, entrepreneurs, a variety of religions and religious experiences – it was nothing short of awesome.

Raleigh, North CarolinaI moved in with my brother and his wife while I waited for one of my good buddies from the USMC to complete his enlistment. I got a job at the tallest hotel in Raleigh working on the top floor at the bar where all the State Senators and Representatives hung out when the legislature was in session. My brother and his wife had opened a furniture store and were renting a big Victorian house – the landlady was a real piece of work and one day when I got home from work my brother told me “Pack up, we’re moving.”  We moved into the warehouse they had rented for their furniture. For the next month or so there was only a thin sheet of plywood between where I slept and the tire warehouse next door.

Finally, my buddy got out and we rented a townhouse. He got a job in the same restaurant and we lived it up! I enrolled at North Carolina State, I joined the Rugby club, bought an old motorcycle, and life was really good. My brother and his wife bought a house and my friend Mike and I went to raves, clubbed, met girl after girl after girl, worked in the ‘Top of the Tower’ and brought home good money as bartenders. It was a golden year…and then a girl came along. I met her, she sat at my bar and I fell into her eyes – she said she would wait for me to finish work and we would go out. Mike came in, he was already off work – he suggested they go somewhere else and meet me later – and that was it. They were a thing and I was resentful as hell.

Raleigh, North CarolinaWhen they broke up, I didn’t waste any time, I swooped in and scooped her up. She was still sleeping in the same house but in a different room and honestly, no friendship can survive that shit. Mike moved out and the whole thing became sort of ugly – she and I started planning a move to the West Coast – somewhere. We poured over maps and books and guides – we narrowed it down to three places: Boulder, Colorado or Las Cruces, New Mexico or Bellingham, Washington.  I was sort of like “Fuck it, I lost my best friend but I have this awesome girl I’m in love with” except – part of the reason she wanted to move to Boulder, it turned out, was because she was involved with another guy who had moved there and as things got more complicated with us, she pined for him. Suddenly, I was completely fucking lost.

I started spending more than I was earning, maxxed out my credit cards, bought the huge 4×4 truck of my dreams, and packed everything I owned (including my dog, Scooby Doo) and moved out of my apartment, dropped out of school, sold my motorcycle and set off for Bellingham, Washington.

Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North CarolinaRaleigh is the capital of the state of North Carolina. It has about half a million people in it and is the home of North Carolina State University and the Research Triangle Park (which also includes nearby Durham and Chapel Hill – the combined area has about 2 million people). Raleigh is an amazing place. There are a lot of very smart people living there and as such there are great book stores, art galleries, shows, exhibitions, museums and other interesting things to see and do. Raleigh is a beautiful city with a rich history and a vibrant cultural heritage.

Places I’ve Lived #9 – Jacksonville, North Carolina

jacksonville North CarolinaI joined the Marines to see the world and escape Redding, California – unfortunately, they only showed me bootcamp in San Diego, California – Marine Combat Training in San Onofre, Californi – Air Traffic Control School in Millington Tennessee – and then they shuffled me to Jacksonville, North Carolina. The good news is I never had to go to war but the bad news was that the places they showed me were worse than the places I was trying to get away from. I was in Jacksonville for a nearly three and a half years. I was posted at the New River Air Station as an Air Traffic Controller. I achieved the rank of Sergeant, the positions of Supervisor, Trainer, and Crew Chief, and while I was stuck in the anus of North Carolina – I had the opportunity to explore what is otherwise, a pretty beautiful state. North Carolina has the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Outer Banks, Asheville, Boone, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, and much more – but Jacksonville had nothing but shitty strip bars, too many Marines, and the people who relied on them for an economy. I can recommend nothing about Jacksonville, North Carolina except not going there. Since I was nineteen but allowed to drink on the base, I didn’t have a life off the base, and there was virtually nothing to do on the base – I developed a fairly severe drinking problem. The reason nineteen year olds aren’t allowed to drink in society is because they aren’t old enough to do it responsibly – so thank you, Uncle Sam,  for giving me a way to waste all my money, destroy my health, and not deal with life while I was stuck in a shithole.

Jacksonville, North Carolina

Jacksonville has a population of approximately 70,000 – the average age is 22.8 years which is because of the tens of thousands of Marines based at Camp Geiger, Camp Lejeune, New River Air Station, and nearby Cherry Point.

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