I came here–to Raleigh, that is–the summer before my senior year in high school, a 17-year-old kid who moved to the big city from Fuquay-Varina for a month to go to Governor’s School at Meredith College. I was miserable. For a month, I was a veritable prisoner on that campus, signing out a few times a week and wandering off to dine at Applebee’s or Playmaker’s Sports Bar. Perhaps the camp’s chief enticement was the daily trip to Whole Foods Market (then Wellspring), sprinting across Wade Avenue to a type of grocery store that just didn’t exist in Fuquay. Exciting stuff, really.

I came here again a little more than a year later, an incoming freshman at N.C. State, convinced that life would probably be as boring and as monotonous during this Raleigh trip as it had been the last. Now, a year away from graduation, I can assure you I was wrong.

In my three years here, I’ve learned that Raleigh–along with the rest of the Triangle–is more than chain restaurants, strip malls and gas stations. It’s more than a place where you spend four years, studying in one manicured corner of a city, just readying for a diploma while missing out on at least half of the education you’re paying for. That’s a fact that doesn’t register with most college students. It’s easy, of course, to resort to a life of studying four nights a week, going to the same club that your friends tell you is hot on a Thursday, and then spending every other weekend at home, far removed from the life you can create right here.

Don’t do it. The Triangle–from Durham’s internationally delightful Ninth Street to Raleigh’s booming Glenwood South to Chapel Hill’s mid-size rock favorite, Local 506–is teeming. Five-star, first-class restaurants abound, bars with an individual grain thrive, and bands here not only make it, they sometimes make history. Though The New York Times may see pieces of the Triangle as “a series of interlocking suburbs masquerading as a city [with] no focal point, no civic epicenter, no cultural fulcrum,” those of us that live, work and play here see it as what it is–a set of big towns and small cities with more interlocking connections and incestuous, fecund social relationships than a Manhattan accountant could count.

That said, we’re here together. Spend your time and your money in the businesses that your friends and neighbors own. There are places in these towns that can sell you a cheeseburger without sponsoring a NASCAR, and there are record stores here that will sell you a record but not a refrigerator. Don’t visit the old familiars. If you pass a restaurant that’s new to you, eat there. If you see a new shoe store, visit. It may be a waste of five minutes, or it may be a chance to find that shade of Chuck Taylors you’ve been hunting. Hell, you may even have fun.

And, in the long run, that’s why you’re here.
–Grayson Currin

Annual Manual 2004:

  • Livin’ (almost) free in Raleigh by Grayson Currin
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro: Free buses, cheap lunches by Kirk Ross
  • Durham on 100 bucks a week (or less) by York Wilson
  • Twelve bands not to miss
  • Good theater? Yeah, we got that by Byron Woods
  • Dance: In medias res by Byron Woods
  • Volunteering: Groups that could use your help
  • Interning for fun and nonprofit