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1 December 2010

From Will Blythe’s book To Hate Like This is to Be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), pp. 3-5

Like his father before him and like me after him, [my father] graduated from the University of North Carolina. He could not understand why you might want to live in some other place. He loved his home state (trees, birds, soil, fish, crops, counties, ladies, barbecue) in a way that few people seem to love their home states anymore, home being a quaint, antique concept in a nomadic and upwardly mobile America.


There are two kinds of Americans, it seems to me, with my father representing the first. Those for whom the word “home” summons up an actual place that is wood-smoke fragrant with memory and desire, a place that one has no choice but to proudly claim, even if it’s a falling-down dogtrot shack, the place to which the compass always points, the place one visits in nightly dreams, the place to which one aims always to return, no matter how far off course the ship might drift.

And then there are those citizens for whom home is a more provisional notion–the house or apartment in which one sleeps at night, as if American life were an exhausting tour of duty, and home, no matter how splendid, equaled a mere rest stop on the Interstate of Personal Advancement. I am biased against this kind of nomadism, no matter how well upholstered the vehicles. The loss of adhesion to a particular place seems ruinous, and those without the first kind of home wander through our nation like the flesh easters from Night of the Living Dead.

Expectedly, Blythe goes on to call Duke students flesh eaters and Carolina students as community-minded locals. Ignoring the jab, I do find myself squarely in this generalization of Carolina students. The sad thing about North Carolina, my home, is that it’s a place you dream of, but not necessarily a place you ever end back up. All songs written about North Carolina (“Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor, “Oh, My Sweet Carolina” by Ryan Adams, “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, etc.) are songs written out of a deeply-seated homesickness. It seems we can only go back in our minds…

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