Durham is changing so fast right now, it is hard to tell where perception meets reality and where it diverges from it.
Thus I am writing this piece as query. What do you think?
I thought Durham was surprisingly quiet this Christmas season. Now perception is everything, because compared to the early 2000’s downtown Durham still had traffic, people, hotels, development, DPAC, and host of other things that didn’t exist then.
But that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m saying Durham was surprisingly quiet this holiday season compared to what I expected. Maybe it is because Durham has blown up so hard. Were my expectations just outsized? Or was there something more to it, something about Durham’s new demographics.
I’m going to hypothesize about choice two above, Durham’s changing demographics have changed something about our Christmas expectations. (1)
Three, four, five years ago, Durham was at its annual peak during the Christmas school break. Former Durhamanians flocked back in droves. MotorCo did its biggest shows of the year. (MotorCo was still a relatively new phenomenon.) It felt like everybody was in town and everything was happening. All the conversations were about how good it was, how much was going on in Durham, how remarkable it all was.
Now, many of those former Durham returnees have gone ahead and moved to back to Durham. So when it comes time for them to do the holidays, they leave town instead of returning. This change is exacerbated by all the other Durham newbs.
The newly moved here are, by-in-large, not from here. They are mostly comfortable: think tech job, medical professionals, and DINKs. These are the folks who are driving the restaurant boom in Durham. They tend to travel for the holidays, too.
Hypothesis then, two actual population trends that may have contributed to Durham’s Christmas week feeling quiet this year: Returnees already back heading away and newbs from elsewhere jetting home.
Further, two other trends may also contribute to this perception. One there are so many more places to go out and do things. MotorCo has beget Parts and Labor, Surf Club, Accordion, Alley 26, Bar 106 West Main, Atomic Fern, Quarterhorse, and Bar Virgil within a mile. That’s not to even mention the new restaurants or hotels. So even if the same number of people were out as previous years, it would feel far more widely dispersed (and perhaps less busy).
Trend two, there are so many more people out on an average night. Between early September when the schools, Duke and NCCU, started up again in earnest and their Winter breaks (currently on-going) any given night, any given club was likely to be packed. From Arcana to Bull McCabe’s to Skewers, I have seen lines out the door on days that are no more than regular weekdays. This, on the reg, makes the holidays feel quieter.
I dunno. What do you think, Durham?
(1) Much like we have lost the week after LDOC in Durham feeling like a beach town after Labor Day.