By CRAIG MILLAR SEP. 7, 2014
RALEIGH, NC — James Pulawski is a happy man. He’s responsible for almost a quarter acre of sod, he’s proud of his nearly paid-for 2009 Honda Odyssey, he adores his six-year old twins, Braydyn and Allexyss, and his marriage is back on track after a few minor indiscretions at Thee Dollhouse for which his wife Brittney has forgiven him.
But one thing makes him puff his chest out a little more than all that: his IT(o)B status.
“I guess some folks are meant to handle the IT(o)B lifestyle,” said Pulawski one recent afternoon while smoking a cigar on his redwood deck. “It comes with certain expectations, though. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” he said before blowing a ring of smoke and telling Braydyn to stop throwing ornamental red lava rocks over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. “I spent three f**king Saturdays laying out those rocks, Braydyn! Go next door and apologize if any of them hit the Tripurenenis’ hot tub!”
Calm normally prevails in the subdivision known as Forest Glen Trace. Nestled between two eight-lane highways, namely the inner and outer beltlines, and in the midst of several sand-colored one-story “malls,” Forest Glen Trace is home to nearly 300 houses arranged in circles and semicircles so that from above the area looks like concentric rings in a pond. It sits just north of the inner, or original, beltline, aka I-440, which was built starting in the 1960s, and now south of the newer outer beltline, or I-540.
“It’s a brilliant design,” says Pulawski, who objects to the term “subdivision.” “The beauty of this neighborhood – really, more of a village – is how it’s set up in those rings. I can pick up the other guys in the carpool at around 6:30, driving in wider and wider circles, and by 8:00 we’re all at the [Research Triangle] Park. You see the kids at the bus stop, the early-morning jogging wives – it’s wonderful out here.”
By 6:30 Pulawski is back home in time to help the kids with their homework, work on his craft beer in the backyard shed, and edit his blog, which usually involves railing against new development around Forest Glen Trace.
“This place is perfect,” he states matter-of-factly. “It’s been here for fifteen years – nearly half a generation. When the outer beltline was built, it defined an area that for too long had no identity. It gave us something to be in, not outside of. Kids who were born in this neighborhood – village – are tenth- and eleventh-graders now. We know what we like, what we need, and another grocery store isn’t one of them.”
Pulawski’s wife Brittney sees things differently. “We need another supermarket,” she says somewhat wearily. “Jamie has no idea how much time it takes to get to the nearest Harris Teeter. It’s almost half a mile away, which takes thirty minutes to drive to if I leave the house after 4:35 pm. Plus, if I have to pick up Allexyss from gymnastics and Braydyn from karate, it’s a nightmare. And Sinsei Dennis always has some damn form for me to sign, so getting out of the dojo fast isn’t as easy as you’d think.”
Others in the subdivision, however, side with Pulawski’s anti-development position.
“Jamie’s totally right,” says Maynard Holt, an IBM employee. “Tammi and I moved down here to get away from overbuilding, not to add to it.” Holt and his longtime live-in girlfriend, who have plans to marry “at some point,” have called Forest Glen Trace home ever since relocating from Passaic, New Jersey, three years ago.
“Jamie’s a real ball-buster when it comes to keeping things the way they’ve always been,” continues Holt. “He was at the [subdivision’s community] pool last weekend getting everybody to sign another petition against this supermarket that’s trying to build around here. I mean, he could have been enjoying himself getting tan like everybody else, but there he was, socks and sandals and all, passing around this damn piece of paper.” He paused, then added, “The man’s a machine. He’s a true f**kin’ hero in this village.”
Still, Pulawski hasn’t convinced everyone. “He’s a blowhard,” says Al McInnis. McInnis’s house is the only one that predates the name Forest Glen Trace. It’s been there since 1959, and when McInnis wouldn’t sell, the development grew around it, dwarfing the one-story brick ranch and – ironically – making it look like the one out of place.
“He acts like his feet don’t stink,” says McInnis. “He has no idea how much of a pain in the ass it is to get anywhere since him and all his Yankee buddies moved here. Hell, I can’t even drive to Creedmoor or Butner without tripping over fifteen thousand minivans telling me how many kids they have in decal-ese on the back.” He swept his hand around his front yard. “I used to hunt here,” he says. “These days, if I forget to mow the lawn one week I get a citation from that a**hole Pulawski.”
Pulawski is the sergeant-at arms for the Forest Glen Trace Homeowners’ Association. He takes the job seriously. “It’s a reputation thing,” he says while cruising the area looking for unkempt lawns or cars parked in the yard. “Raleigh expects better things from those of us who live IT(o)B, and I expect my fellow villagers not to drop the ball. This is the place to I-T-O-be, if you’ll pardon the pun.”
“I’m going to run for City Council,” says McInnis. “The first thing I’m going to do is ban all homeowners’ associations in Raleigh. I can’t tell you how obnoxious that idiot is.” He pauses. “And he always coughs when he says the “o” in IT(o)B. Like he’s trying to slip one by you.”