Recently, I had the good fortune to be able to visit, move to, and live in the Raleigh-Durham area for, oh, about ten years. One of our nation’s premier combined metropolitan statistical area cityships, Raleigh and Durham are the core urban agglomerations of what is popularly and colloquially referred to as the “Research Triangle” by those who like to speak in soul-deadening marketing jargon. Raleigh and Durham form two vertices of this painful moniker, with Chapel Hill forming the third, itty-bitty point in a triumvirate of downtowny mid-rises.
Each of these semi-urban confluences contains premier centers of scholarship: One of the nation’s top athletics departments in Chapel Hill (The University of Chapel Hill Athletics Department), one of the world’s top research universities in Durham (the Duke University Basketball Program), and one of the state’s premier agricultural and mechanical schools in Raleigh (the North Carolina State Fair). As a whole, the region can truly stake a claim to having people doing some research.
The area is also known, less angularly, as “Raleigh-Durham,” a joint probability distribution of urban density in which most residents are not in one city or the other unless measured by sensitive scientific equipment. As I’ve experienced it, Raleigh-Durham is a simply delightful place to exist simultaneously. Every day that I have been privileged to spend here is one in which I count myself blessed to wonder whether I am, in fact, at any moment, in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Apex, Morrisville, Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Hillsborough, Fuquay-Varina, Fearrington Village, or the wondrously mystical RDU airport, which sits at the confluence of the entire set of suburban energy fields that comprise the region. Traveling the area’s famous roads, which connect to each other, I find myself constantly amazed and perplexed at the fact that its winding roads connect to each other. While the cities’ founders briefly experimented with street grids, they soon abandoned the idea to pursue a more modern vision of roads that meander randomly and then suddenly end at acute angles.
Little is known about the early history of of the area. Raleigh—North Carolina’s state capital—was established by charter bus, which was unusual for the time (1819?), since roads did not connect to one another then. Likewise, Durham’s past remains shrouded in a haze of pre-Mike Krzywerskasieji memory loss. Was there ever a time before 1980, when Coach Mike Kaspjfae;wlki was hired? There must have been, but don’t ask the locals, because they are still trying to find the entrance to Duke, or are dead from smoking the area’s delicious tobacco products.
At the center of this welter of confusion, there sits one of the world’s greatest office parks, creatively named “Research Triangle Park.” Research Triangle Park has excelled in creating innovative cubicle spaces, making astonishing advances in pharmaceutical profiteering, and lengthening intriguing commutes. RTP, or “the Park,” as it’s casually known to the urbane sophisticates that work there, combines many of the most astounding qualities of the entire region into a singular expression of angular investigation. These include, and are limited to:
- It’s entirely suburban.
- It’s mostly trees.
- The roads simply spiral into each other.
If you’re visiting the area, RTP can be easily accessed via an underground cave that allows you to avoid traveling on any of the region’s roads, which sometimes adopt the names of existing roads just to spite you. Local residents are not allowed in unless they have been given the secret of finding UNC’s academic buildings (answer: under the basketball arena) or the randomly placed clocktowers on NC State’s campus fairgrounds (answer: behind each traffic circle).
In addition to three-sided research zones, the Triangle offers a bounty of cultural offerings, including (but not more than): suburban movie theaters, Southern non-chain restaurants, infrequently visited Barnes & Nobles, the Durham Bulls Baseball Office Park, and Mexican semi-chain restaurants. Although I can’t possibly give you a full accounting of everything these five kinds of establishments have to offer (several of the Mexican restaurants have multiple-page menus), I would like to share with you some of my favorite experiences, in case you’re ever in town.
- First, I recommend that everyone, if given a chance, purchase a ticket for an undergraduate education at Duke University, which costs about $64,000 per year. That way, if you camp out during the winter frequently enough, you maybe allowed into one of Coach Kshewelewzzzzzvski’s educational basketball mobs, which teach you how to lose your sense of independent identity and obtain a job at Goldman Sachs (not a coincidence).
- Second, I heartily recommend seeing a show at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Ranked one of the nation’s best performing arts venues, it recently presented “Star Wars: The Music.” In addition, Hamilton is coming in 2025, probably.
- Third, you can spend a pleasant afternoon at the North Carolina Museum of Art, a large park near some buildings with weird crap in it, including a fantastic collection of Rodin’s bungled sculptures.
- Third, because we only recognize things that come in three, you may want to enjoy Duke Gardens, which is hard to find and easy to get lost and scared in.
- Second third, go see the big globe. It’s a nice size.
- Third, and above all, I suggest that everyone move here right now. As one of the nation’s fastest growing areas, we have decided to build some new roads. Since only we know where these roads go, I promise you’ll feel just as confused as the rest of us.