July 7, 2007

Who's a local

Ronnie over at Outer Banks Real Estate tipped me to a recent post on the Village Realty blog about how to talk like a local. Among the tips on how to get around the Outer Banks and pronounce Hatteras (think hat tress with the emphasis on the first syllable) I found this interesting comment:
It takes about 10 years for you to be considered a true "local". I have been here since 1972 so I qualify.

Now I probably should leave this topic to our resident expert in all things local Monticello at Outer Banks Republic (hereinafter known as TJ or Monticello for short). He has pontificated prodigiously on the problems, pleasures and profound meaning of all things local. There are rumors he has an OBX logo tattooed on his left cheek (I'm not saying which left cheek). This rumor was started by another local blogger (spelled lokal in surfer speak) Paula, Queen of the Surf Pirates. Paula has the ultimate local job of renting vacation homes. There is one other lokal who might want to opine on this topic if he weren't so busy shooting great wavesailing video (if for some reason you haven't seen this video stop right now and go look at it. It is the best local stuff I have ever seen) Bill of OBX Beach Life even shares his favorite local surf spots once in a while. Of course at Dog's Life is a lapsed local but he knows what its like to lie awake at night listening to fireworks all night (whether you want to or not). He understands what it takes to make it on the beach as well.

Ok here's the question: How long does it take to become a local? Let me back up a little for those of you who read this blog somewhere other than Dare County. On the Outer Banks there are three basic types of people
  • Natives - Simple you were born here. You can't be one unless you are one. Its in your genes.
  • Locals - You've made this place your home and adapted to its many unique challenges and garnered its wonderful rewards.
  • Tourist - Anybody else.
Now there are some permutations and variations on these themes but these are the 3 basic groupings and they are universal terms understood by everyone who lives here. People take great pride in claiming to have made the transition from Tourist to Local. Locals are hip, they know what's happening and presumably are better able to enjoy the myriad pleasures allowed by living in paradise full time. The truth is a little more nuanced but that's for later.
I first started wondering about the precise definition of a local many years ago. I was in the legendary locals watering hole Lance's. This was a bar that really didn't cater to tourists, at all. It was locals and natives almost exclusively. It had cultivated a rather rough and seedy reputation in an effort to keep the place "pure". You just didn't send tourists to Lance's, if a few wandered in they usually were driven out but the rough language and general antics of the regular patrons.
Now you have to understand that I helped stain the beams in the building when it was built. i was in Lance's at least twice a week most of the time it was open. I was as apt as any of the regular patrons to play the "Chicken Dance" on the juke box (Yeah that's right, Lance's had what Lance claimed was the oringinal Casino juke box. It had tons of beach music and oldies and it featured the Chicken Dance which got played several times on a Friday night prompting about half the patrons to gather in the middle of the floor and do the Chicken Dance. As I said it was a unique place). I even won a few drinks betting the odd visitor that I could roll a nickel the length of the S shaped bar (the bar was slightly warped in a manner that allowed this feat to be performed it you understood the trick).
But I digress. One evening I was sitting at the bar when I heard a young female patron exclaim to one of the rogues trying to pick her up "I'm a local, I've lived here all summer!" I chuckled when I heard the remark but it got me wondering how long does it take to become a bona fide local. One who is qualified to call the Outer Banks their home.
My answer is that you have to have lived through 2 summers and 2 winters without a break of more than a couple of weeks to get away. Your not a local if you summer in Nags Head and winter in Negril. You forfeit local status if you favor the coast of Maine for summer swims to the beach at Junco street (actually if you swim in the ocean in Maine anytime of the year your probably tough enough that I won't be arguing with you about what status on the local scale. Your either tough enough or dumb enough it won't matter).
If you have made it through 2 summers you've seen the beach at its best and worst. You fought the traffic and learned to understand enough Russian (substitute the language de jour) to check out at Food Lion. You probably even managed to park at the KDH Post Office without getting hit. If you make it through 2 winters then you survived the Outer Banks at its best and worst. You found a place where you could stay warm, you found way to keep food on the table without the generosity of our guests and you found out how great the beach is in the fall and early winter the waterfowl arrive and the snowbirds leave and how cold and lonely it is in February and March when even the geese fly away. If after 2 full cycles of boom and bust you still love the place and you still are able to live here in peace then you've made it in my book, you can call yourself a local.
Over the course of those 2 years there are a number things you will probably acquire.
You will have found most of the following - a local church, a local bar, employment of some permanence, a way to get around (probably a car but not necessarily), a mailing address, a few good friends and a lot of really good memories.
You may not have acquired a house, a tan or a southern accent (unless you came with one) but you will have acquired a new respect for the beauty of the area and the resiliency of the people who live here full time - the locals; they're a pretty special bunch. I know I'm proud to be called one.


At 6:15 PM, Blogger Monticello said...

Great post. Sadly, if locals are "hip" I'm doomed to be burdened with the ignominy of never attaining local status. I am decidedly un-hip.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Kevin Schwartz said...

Well, it takes longer than 10 years - you might feel like a local, but being accepted as one is another story. You also have to factor in how old you were when you moved there, how many other places you've lived, why you came out there, whether you've got kids in the schools, did you marry a native? etc ... There were times it felt like if you didn't go to high school on the Outer Banks, you would never be a local.

Good topic Bob.

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Paula the Surf Mom said...

excuse me, I was up beach sound soide so I'm getting into the discussion a little late are we talkin hoi toiders here?

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Ronnie said...

I thought your placenta had to hit the sand to be considered a true local.


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