Talking trash on T-shirts

Jul. 06, 2013 @ 04:35 PM

By now, you’ve likely heard about that T-shirt. The ill-timed “I’d rather be shot in Durham than die of boredom in Cary” T-shirt. Can you imagine anyone wearing such a shirt other than a Durham hipster walking down Foster Street?

Certainly not someone walking down Holloway Street.

And why is that?

Oh, maybe because they have already been shot before, or their son or cousin was killed via gun violence. So maybe it’s not so funny. It’s definitely in poor taste.

Or is it making fun of both places’ reputations? Certainly Cary can’t be all boring. And Durham, as we know, is not a place of constant shootings. Well, except for the last few weeks. Still, Durham is not Chicago, which had eight homicides and 30 shootings halfway through the holiday weekend alone.

Any violent death is a tragedy, no matter who died or where. Durham does not need to mention shootings to make it sound interesting. And shootings should not be the risk of being interesting.

Chapel Hill’s T-shirt would be tied to UNC, of course. What would Raleigh’s T-shirt be? “Raleigh: Relatively safe and somewhat interesting but we don’t really have a symbol other than being the state capital. Oh, and acorns.”

Come to think of it, I would buy a Raleigh T-shirt with an acorn on it. I like acorns, and I like Raleigh. I like Durham, too. To be frank, I’m pretty so-so about Cary, bless its heart. But I did buy a Lazy Daze T-shirt. I have several Durham T-shirts, from the Bulls to Full Frame to the Duke Homestead Harvest and Hornworm Festival. My Chapel Hill T-shirts include an Apple Chill shirt. If you were wondering, yes, I’m the person who buys souvenir T-shirts at events. One day I’ll learn to quilt and make a big warm blanket of those T-shirts, so I can reminisce about Triangle days gone by.

When I moved to the Triangle almost eight years ago now, I liked how it was spread out. You could live in one community and work in another, and your commute would still be shorter than if you lived in a metropolitan area with just one city taking the title. Americans are a tribal people, and we like finding our place in groups, sometimes divided by municipal maps. But when you start talking us vs. them over geographical regions that are all in a morning’s commute, you’re in danger of becoming provincial. I mean that in the definition of narrow-minded, not rural vs. urban.

I don’t think there’s too much of a skirmish between cities and towns unless we create one. There are shootings in Cary sometimes, and Durham can be boring sometimes. Same with Raleigh and Chapel Hill. A T-shirt isn’t going to change anything, but it has gotten us talking.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at or 919-419-6563.