There's no other town in the Triangle that would, could, should ever try to do a quirky, crazy event like tomorrow's "Marry Durham" fête, scheduled for 4pm tomorrow near the corner of Rigsbee and Geer downtown.
But then, isn't that why so many of us who live here love it so much?
From the town (and some of the same people) that brought you the Beaver Queen Pageant, this weekend's the time for the Bull City's first-ever mun-uptuals (municipal nuptuals, natch).
Look, for all of Durham's once-and-sometimes-still urban underdog reputation, our fair city's come a long way in recent years. I've only been here since around 2005, and the difference is still impressive to me. And when I talk to those who've been around since the 1990s, 1980s or earlier, I get an even stronger reaction.
In that vein, tomorrow's little wedding celebration might seem to be just a celebration of the fact that the Bull City's still, well, rising.
But it seems to me to be more than that, too. It's about more than a simple affinity for one's community of choice; it's about, fittingly, the passion and committment that Durhamites seem to feel for their home.
One of the things that's so different about living in Durham versus other places I've been, as I've said here over and over, is the depth of personal engagement that Durhamites have with their city.
I was struck upon moving here how involved so many Durhamites I met were with their city. From voluntary neighborhood associations that draw crowds and bucks, to the ability of grassroots organizations to turn out on City Hall when needed to make their voices heard (and to win, more often than not), to the tremendous number of volunteer organizations and groups making a difference in town.
There's a fork in the road when people move to the Triangle. Plenty of people have enough going on in their work life, home life, families and whatnot that they're more interested in a "bedroom community" where they don't have to worry about the neighbors and have their Target and Starbucks nearby.
Those folks don't tend to move to Durham, especially not central Durham. Our Bull City may be too gritty, too much work; you frequently hear frets that such relos don't know where to live because one street is all nice and purty, while the next one over looks "rough."
Many Durhamites I know settled here because they looked at the exact same thing, and saw instead diversity, community, opportunity, and -- most of all -- a place that's defined by the people who make it up, not the dreams of a developer putting an all-in-one subdivision and clubhouse on the map.
Downtown had a Starbucks, a few years back, down in American Tobacco. It closed. But that wasn't a sign that retail couldn't do well downtown, even though at the time, the Starbucks was one of the only places for food and drink in the core.
Blue Coffee had been here; it's still here. Beyu's here and does great. And the Saladelia that replaced it does gangbuster business all morning and through the workday.
Saladelia's a local company, got its start down on University Drive. And I can't tell you how excited the Durhamites I talked with were when they heard that that local business was coming downtown.
I've seen similar passion when it comes to public affairs. John Schelp and his co-conspirators love to say that on the billboard fight, the industry brought big lobbying bucks to the table, while the neighborhood groups opposing digital signs brought ten bucks worth of flashing sunglasses.
Oh, and a relentless citizen brigade of op-eds, public meeting attendance, and scrutiny.
In most places, the lobbying dollars win. Whatever you think of billboards, you have to admit that in Durham, the big bucks often don't carry the day, especially when met with citizen opposition.
If you don't believe me, ask Mayor Thomas Stith what I'm talking about.
By far my favorite recent example of what makes Durham just a little bit different, though, is Fullsteam Brewery.
When you walk into Fullsteam, you realize quickly what an unorthodox idea it is.
In the back, there's the brew tanks, but Sean Wilson and his team spent way more on a way bigger space, much of which is not obviously commercial -- though it serves to build attendance, loyalty and regular customers.
Besides the funky steampunk decorations, there's a wide-open space with picnic tables where everyone from seniors to college students to families with small kids seem to hang out after work on Fridays. Plenty of beer, but pinball and ping pong tables, too, and a stage for the occasional free concert.
Buy a beer? Great. Want to hang out with friends? No one's checking to see if you're buying anything. Though, of course, you probably will once you're there.
And when you enter the bar area itself, you see the Wall of Awesome, Wilson's way of paying for the whole thing. Who needs VC or angel investors when you've got Durhamites and others willing to put up a little bit of cash to help see a great idea come to fruition. Their reward? Their name on the wall of a for-profit establishment.
Albeit a for-profit establishment that's managed to make itself into a funny little community center, all the while selling beer seemingly faster than it can be made. (We're still waiting to hear expansion plans from Mr. Wilson.)
Those kind of ideas won't fly in a suburban strip mall. Or in plenty of other cities, either.
But what do these things all have in common? The volunteerism, new businesses, civic activism?
They all happen in such a special way in Durham because people find they just fall in love with our crazy little community. And many of them don't just want to be observers of what's happening.
They want to be at the table, helping to make it happen.
Our Caryite and Chapel Hillian friends may think it's a little weird that so many of us are coming together tomorrow to take our vows and pledge to love our Bull City forever, and to support its local businesses, keep its streets and environment clean and the like.
Is it a little weird?
Only if you don't love Durham.
If you did, you'd get it.
Hope to see y'all downtown tomorrow.
The ceremony will be held in the parking lot of Motorco Music Hall at Rigsbee and Geer; gates open 3pm, with the "wedding" at 4pm; Frank Stasio of WUNC and NPR will introduce the event with Carl Kenney providing the I-do's. It'll be followed by a parade, then music and entertainment at Motorco, Fullsteam, Steel Blue and Lloyd's Lounge.
Food trucks will abound; so too will t-shirts, merchandise -- and, importantly, a chance to help five charities: the Eno River Association, Genesis Home, the Latino Community Development Center, The Scrap Exchange and Walltown Children's Theatre.
Find out more at the Marry Durham website.