“Not only is another world possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” –Arundhati Roy
It was a beautiful evening with a long-awaited break in the humidity. In the shade we could, at least for an hour or so, pretend the oppressing and unrelenting North Carolina summer heat was behind us. Sitting with friends on the manicured lawn of the American Tobacco Campus for their Back Porch Music Series I took in the scene. A man-made river with mini water falls meandered along beside the gathered crowd. Strings of white lights connected the restored brick buildings to the large white water tower beneath which the featured band played. Painted clearly on the tower was the Lucky Strike logo, from the famous brand of American cigarettes, often referred to as “Luckies”. Directly behind the water tower sits a tall and idle brick smoke stack repeating the words “Lucky Strike” painted vertically with the logo sandwiched between them. Significant and historical cultural changes are centered in this place. The brick buildings surrounding us were not always so clean and quiet and they most certainly weren’t purposed for entertainment. There was a time when it would have been impossible to hear any kind of music in this place. The loud, polluting environment caused by the production of tobacco products would not have drawn in families on a Friday night. I was told a train ran right through where we were sitting carrying in the tobacco leaves from the fields. There are still “bays” although now they are filled with restaurants, the public radio station, a YMCA and other uses. This night, the air was as clean as the drinks were cold. I looked around and noticed nobody was smoking. People from babies to boomers were tapping their feet and enjoying time to relax with friends and family. Clearly, the smoking culture is greatly diminishing. Even more amazing, North Carolina has become the first tobacco-producing state in the nation to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. And the large majority of residents now supports the ban and would also support furthering the ban to include all indoor workplaces and public places. There was a time people said this type of change was impossible. But it’s another world. Aren’t we lucky?