The Charlotte I Almost Had

It's hard to believe the Democratic National Convention came to my home city almost one year ago. I was reporting for the local alt-weekly Creative Loafing at the time. My beat was asking celebrities what they thought about Charlotte hosting this event. My favorite get was pestering beloved director Rob Reiner on the night of President Obama's nomination acceptance speech. Although I reminded Reiner that men and women couldn't be friends à la his film When Harry Met Sally, he said, "Maybe you and I can be friends." I could have died happy in that Time Warner Cable Arena press box.

He also told me how much he enjoyed visiting Charlotte.

"It's fabulous," he said. "I've only been here one other time. Years ago I played in a tennis tournament and I had a great time then. It's a beautiful city."

While the DNC seemed to be the beginning of a more cosmopolitan Charlotte, it was merely a last gasp before my legislature plunged the entire state into the Dark Ages. The broken record of me saying to my family, "I'm out of here because this state isn't progressive enough" would intensify and gain new, horrifying life.

Charlotte, and the entire state of North Carolina, has been getting national attention for all the wrong reasons. The latest story in The New York Times compares Charlotte to Alabama in its economic, social and political agenda. As if that wasn't bad enough, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is quoted in the piece as saying the state needed to be "shaken up."

Since the General Assembly ended its session in late July, women's access to health care has been destroyed, voters' rights have been restricted and McCrory is shilling cookies as an insulting consolation prize. I cringe at how the one abortion clinic near Asheville that supposedly met the new standards of the ridiculous SB 353 bill was mysteriously shut down a few days after McCrory signed in the legislation.

The possibility of having a Charlotte with the permanent vibrancy of the DNC feels obsolete without the backing of a progressive state government. I'm sure those visitors from Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles no longer see my hometown as the world class city of that week. All I have is memories: Men playing trumpets outside of where the CNN Grill co-opted the Mexican restaurant Vida. Me drinking a pomegranate juice with a cute Obama staffer while eavesdropping on Howard Fineman at 2 a.m. in the Ritz Carlton lounge. Piers Morgan shooing me away from his chat with Erin Burnett by saying, "My dear, you don't want to hear any of this."

I continue to struggle with whether to stay in or leave Charlotte. I have so many wonderful forward-thinking friends in this city who feel like I do. They want to make where we live a better place. But it's hard when you encounter such resistance from a government that is supposed to enact the will of the people. For now I'll just remember Reiner would probably still want to be friends with me. If he ever comes back.