Justin Laidlaw is about as 'Durham' as it gets.
That means a lot of things as locals use Durham to mean just about anything, but for those who get that and are with that it makes total sense.
Born in and of the Bull City, Justin has a unique perspective; one that's dripping with gratitude and miraculously unadulterated awe; an effortless defiance of the fallacious Durham rep.
When interviewed for "The Bulls of Durham" living history book project Justin brought to the table a story of growing up with opportunities and defining moments that were made possible by Durham. From a diverse background to a clandestine childhood basketball game, he's grateful for it all and cognizant of how that molded and shaped him.
It's that reflective nature that has given Justin a very distinct vantage point of Durham and that is why when he speaks (writes) Durham listens. From hugs on Main Street to musings from afar, Justin's a thread in the finely, tightly woven fabric of Durham.
Justin stopped by TheBullsOfDurham.com to show us Durham, North Carolina through the bull's eye. This guest blog is fully loaded with Bull City feels - tissues recommended.
What stands out to you the most about Durham?
What stands out to me about Durham is its constant desire to improve. No one person or thing in this city is perfect, but collectively, we hold one another accountable which can make for a great learning environment.
That said, sometimes we can be a little pretentious as a city as if nowhere else on the planet has the things Durham has and that can stifle our improvement at times. I want us to keep improving but also remember that we're still a small city and have a lot to learn.
What's your favorite Durham memory?
My favorite Durham memory is spending time with my best friends in the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood. We used to have the best time just hanging out in the backyard or the church parking lot on Club Blvd and talking for hours on end. No phones, no Snapchat or Instagram, just the people in front of us and the little world we had created for ourselves.
I honestly feel bad for kids now because they are forced to grow up too quickly by all the things they are exposed to at such an early age. They may never have the joys I had in my adolescence.
What's your favorite Bull City gem - i.e. person, place, area, business, etc. in the Bull City that is a total hidden gem that makes our city a treasure?
My grandparents' house is in a quiet, mostly Black neighborhood in East Durham. All the neighbors know each other, and they especially know Opa, my grandfather. It's the kind of old school neighborhood where everyone who drives through says hello even if the two people have never met. The houses aren't extravagant but you can tell the owners put work into keeping them up. There's something about that neighborhood that reminds me to be humble and work hard. My grandfather has worked most of his life doing manual labor; mechanic, plumber, construction, you name it. Anytime we drive downtown, he reminds me of all the historic buildings he had a hand in putting together and it makes me proud. I don't think you can be more Durham than Leon Stephens.
Which bull in the Bull City is your favorite?
The spirit of the Bull City that lives inside all of us. I know it's cheesy but it'll make a great greeting card.
Bull Love Mug
11 ounce coffee mug featuring "Someone in Durham Loves Me" design complete with a love bull. Makes for an incrediBULL gift to someone you love, including yourself.
*For bulk orders of 12+ email Sheila at TheBullsOfDurham@gmail.com for bulk rate discount pricing.
Sheila Amir is a health & nutrition writer who fell in love with Durham, North Carolina and starting writing a book about it.