About eight years ago I moved to North Carolina for a job. At the time, I knew a little bit about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (what would be my new employer) but I really didn’t know a whole lot about the area beyond what I saw during my quick ride in from the airport on the day of my interview. And, looking back, I can honestly say Chapel Hill turned out to be everything I could have wanted both personally and professionally.
I found and lost love, taught a graduate-level class, bought my first car, bought and sold my first house, started a blog, wrote a book, started another blog, and almost adopted a dog named Jericho who smiled when you rubbed his stomach (I had to see it to believe it).
I had a chance to frequent some really cool eating establishments…Allen and Son. Esquire magazine voted them best chopped-pork sandwich in the country.
Burrito Bunker. Gone but not forgotten. A Chapel Hill original.
Carrburritos. My Mexican food rebound when Burrito Bunker closed its doors. I know you never want to get caught on the rebound, but their Mejor Burrito and Chicken Nachos were more than a worthy replacement.
Merritt’s Grill. One of my biggest regrets is not finding this place sooner. An old gas station/country store on the side of the road with a little kitchen nestled in the back beyond some beverage coolers. Home of an awesome BLT–so much so, in fact, I actually scheduled an impromptu BLT taste test between them and Sandwhich while my mom was in town. I consider her an expert judge as she’s a connoisseur of BLTs. And, in case you’re wondering, she considered it a draw.
Pepper’s Pizza-I have to admit, I liked you more when you were at the old location, but I still love you anyway. My favorite is the spinach calzone. I’ll add jalapenos if I’m feeling feisty. Sandwhich. Quite possibly the best sandwiches in town (and possibly on the planet)—my favorite is the Outrageous BLT served up with a side order of homemade potato chips.
And then there was the music…Squirrel Nut Zippers, Southern Culture on the Skids, Spearhead, the Fiery Furnaces, the Hidden Cameras, El-P…the Cat’s Cradle is definitely one of a kind. Couple that with bluegrass music during Friday’s at the Front Porch at the Carolina Inn, and I was in hog heaven.
But the thing I’ll miss most is definitely the people. I’ve met some amazing folks over the years: A group of totally awesome coworkers and friends (I learned way more from them then they could have ever learned from me—I’m lucky to have had some incredible mentors and friends and have been able to take away something from almost everyone I worked with or for—how cool is that?)
Hans from Burrito Bunker and Steve from Jack Sprat—combined they accounted for the best burrito and coffee in town. Unfortunately the Burrito Bunker has since closed but, if you’re ever in the area, stop by Jack Sprat and say hello to Steve. My favorite Jack Sprat moment had to be listening to a heavy metal band on Halloween (another Chapel Hill institution).
Purcell and Barbara at the post office. Two of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. And that says a lot given the fact that post office aren’t normally known for their friendliness.
My neighbor John who helped me with more home repairs than I can count—even lending me a car when my transmission went out.
My other neighbor. He’s only 9 but he’s a total rock star with the mind of an entrepreneur. He’s definitely going places.
The Saturday morning basketball crew. So what if I was one of the only non-PhD in the group? They adopted me as their own and the rest is Rams Head (the gym we played at) history.
I’m sorry to wax nostalgic…no I’m not. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have spent some time in Chapel Hill, even if only for a little while. I could go on and on and on but I think you get the picture.
Next up, I’m returning home to Pittsburgh to start an exciting new job.
Chapel Hill–I know we can’t do the long distance relationship thing but I hope we can stay in touch.
Shawn Graham is author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com)