Columbia, South Carolina is Not a Dump

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I’m embarrassed to say that in the six years my brother has lived in Columbia, South Carolina, I have never visited him. I blame part of this on the fact that my brother has described the city as a dump.

But I am here to tell you it is not.

The city is the capital of the state and the home of its flagship university, the University of South Carolina. The campus is BEAUTIFUL and the state capital building and its grounds are charming. My brother’s girlfriend drove us around and showed us the small theaters and indie movie houses near campus, brick houses surrounded by trees in lively neighborhoods and a sprawling former mental hospital that now stands empty. I did not see the city that my claims is boring and behind (although I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Confederate flag in front of the capital building.)

This morning, over breakfast at IHOP, I asked my brother why he is so negative about the city. He went on at length about the state’s underperforming schools, corrupt government and failure to maintain infrastructure, especially the roads. I nodded in understanding. After all, I live in Louisiana. However, my brother is a TV reporter, so he lives and breathes the news and can’t ignore it. He has got to interview the very politicians and bureaucrats that frustrate him.

My brother is also a sports fanatic and he explained how the city chased out its longtime minor-league team (that Babe Ruth once played for) and turned down the opportunity for the Carolina Panthers to play in the city during their inaugural NFL year, before their current stadium in Charlotte was built. For a sports fan, these failures seem to represent the city’s inability to advance it’s position and capitalize on its resources.

So, like many cities, Columbia has a lot to offer, but its downsides wear down its citizens. New Orleans too has terrible roads and terrible public officials, and has certainly discouraged many of its residents with its backwards ways. But for all its frustrations, the city offers so many “only in New Orleans” moments that make it worth it.

I was in Columbia for less than a day (did I mention I’m embarrassed about this?). I know I’ll be back to investigate further.

Road Trip #3

It’s my third road trip of the summer (using the calendar-year end of summer, Sept 23, not Labor Day.) I wish it could be as leisurely as the one that kicked off this blog, but I can’t really be away from New Orleans that long these days… job searching takes time, y’all. In August we drove from D.C. to New Orleans with a 15-foot truck that contained all of my belongings, including my crazy cat, so we couldn’t really stop. We’re using this opportunity to repeat most of that route and spend time with our friends and family.

Day 1: Drive from New Orleans to Atlanta and stay with one of my closest friends from college.
Day 2: Drive to Charlotte to for the wedding of two of my boyfriend’s grad-school friends
Day 3: Drive to Winston-Salem. Meet up with one of my (other) closest friends from college. Stay with the couple that introduced my boyfriend and I to each other (they are New Orleans ex-pats, but they will be coming back here 100%) and go see Cowboy Mouth!
Day 4: Hang out in Winston-Salem. Drive to Columbia, SC in the evening to stay with my brother.
Day 5: Drive to New Orleans, stopping in Atlanta to eat with a dear friend from D.C. who now attends the Portfolio Center.

I wish that we could take the scenic routes to some of these destinations, but when I looked up the off-roads to Atlanta, Google Maps said it would take 11 hours. Eight hours sounds much better after that…