Landing at the Raleigh, NC, bus station, we slipped envelopes to our new friends from the Richmond bus and disappeared into the station. At this point, the random bus is getting more difficult, because Greyhound isn’t really setup for taking “the next bus.” The question speaks an older language when buses went everywhere and people truly took “the next bus.” Our friends in the yellow vests who work at Greyhound stations are always taken aback by the question, but once comprehended, they gladly point the way. Our next lesson in Greyhound literacy is that of timing. The buses seem to be scheduled in blocks of say, the 9am, the 11am, and the 3pm departures. There aren’t enough routes for otherwise, and, of course, every bus has to come from somewhere else. We did learn that we can get off early. As Jay pointed out, you can’t get off at Denver on a flight to L.A. We had tickets to Fayetteville, but when the driver announced a stop at Raleigh we looked at each other and agreed, yes, the stop that’s two hours earlier, please.
Having scoped out the next day’s departures, we figure we had a choice between Rocky Mt., NC and whatever lay on the Knoxville, TN line. A good problem for tomorrow. Now we had to find a hotel. Jay ran his corporate account and out popped a Double Tree (cookies, anyone?). He zoned in on it on the Iphone and we started our walk. Pretty neat downtown, clearly in a renaissance from gone industrial days, with new construction, warehouses converted into stores and restaurants. Only. the closer we got to the hotel the nicer the neighborhood. And nicer still. We found ourselves applauded even the slightest run-down yard or old paint. Maybe things will get better, errh, worse, as we get closer, we figured. But we kept on and got to the hotel, which lies in a lovely neighborhood not far from NC State. The nice kid at the desk told us that the cheaper areas were on the other side of campus where the kids live. (He also told us to beware of hoards of 14 year of girls as there was a boy-band concert that evening.) Hungry, we decided to check out a nearby restaurant. We found a bar that spilled into the street and hoped maybe to find someone there. Alas, it was all polos and brown shoes, and everybody was pretty well set. We took a good meal at an Asian themed restaurant and called it a night.
I decided, though, to see if there were any lost souls at the bar next door, so Jay headed to the hotel. I the one available seat at the bar, and sat
there pathetically between two couples to either side who were deeply engaged in each other. I got to speak to the bartender, and that was it. He was cool, willing to chat on and off, and glad to pour another, you know, a bartender. The place cleared pretty soon, so I was able to chat with him a little more. He liked our idea but said we were in the wrong part of town. “Everyone here is pretty much taken care of,” he said. I replied that it wasn’t a bad thing that, but if he could think of anyone who could use a little help, please let me know. After I paid up he said, “We’re all good here.” I gave him a healthy but not spectacular tip, and we all carried on in America’s thankfully easy way of life. Most of us have it, but not all of us, even in a nice part of town. But we didn’t run into any of them on this day.
For the morning we had arranged a brunch with my cousin and family who live nearby. Jay chose a church for service beforehand, so we walked on over. “This is the only thing I’m going to make you on time for,” he told me, as we got to church on time. On the way through the “wrong right” side of town we had passed a few people making their way into churches, and Jay remarked about how dull they looked going in. “They should be celebrating!” he said. Well, not a problem at the Vintage Church: we were welcomed at the street by a boisterous and happy greeter. Exactly what Jay wanted. And it only got better from there. The music was great (let the girl sing more! — and it was the first non-annoying banjo I’d heard in a long time), the atmosphere pleasant, and the setup impressive. Old warehouse with the latest tech, computers, slideshows, good sound. The pastor was something phenomenal. He wouldn’t be much use on the “right wrong” side of town, as his language and tone and pace was for the educated. But he blew out a beautiful sermon, weaving stories and scripture and philosophy and lessons with craft, and giving us a fluid, flowing lesson. Jay was impressed and thrilled (“He put scripture into every sentence!”), and I learned a bunch. I did not, however, jump into the rather large tub of water they had set out, although I certainly felt the ghost. It was a beautiful moment and afterwards we just sat there and marveled and took it in.
We now decided to find another part of Raleigh, having moved hotels and, hopefully, to the right wrong side of town.