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3 Hole Punch: A paper mill, RichTok, and glorious preacher hair
Here are three short North Carolina stories, hand-curated for you, the discerning Rabbit Hole reader.
Hi! This my initial try at something that I (hope) will help me channel my incessant Twitter habit into something more productive. From time to time, I’ll give you three little North Carolina things that I’ve noticed, package them up into punchy little sections, and put them out as a Rabbit Hole. I’m calling it the 3 Hole Punch (Get it). The plan: I’ll do a few of these for all y’all, then start putting them out for paid subscribers only. How often will I do this? Whenever I can? That’s right. YOU’LL NEVER KNOW WHEN TO EXPECT THIS.
So, here we go!
3. RIP, Giant Paper Mill
Canton’s Pactiv Evergreen paper mill blew its final whistle on Wednesday at noon, making an end to 115 years of production there. It’s a huge hit to a mountain town that owes its identity to the mill. Why’s it shutting down? Corporate restructuring is the official reason, although right before the news of its imminent demise came out, Pactiv Evergreen exectutives sold off a ton of shares and basically asked for what amounts to a tax break from the county. The net effect: more than 1,100 people are being thrown out of work, and Canton is losing a big chunk of its identity.
A pause: Paper mills are large and dirty, and anyone who’s been anywhere near one will remember the smell for a very long time. This particular mill was responsible for the felling of a lot of trees around Western North Carolina in its early years, when it was owned by Champion. Over time, as forestry and the paper industry has moved more toward sustainability, the mill has been more selective about pulling trees out of forests as opposed to the straight clear-cutting of the past. Still though, the giant smokestacks that give Canton its skyline have also churned out a lot of dirty air over the past century and change.
I got a tour of the mill in 2017 while on assignment for, you guessed it, Our State. The machines inside were gigantic and ancient, and watching huge rolls of paper fly through them was like stepping back in time. Back then, town leaders had been thinking about the day when those machines would stop running, and a town that called itself Papertown (after a 2012 Balsam Range album of the same name) was already trying to expand its identity past the mill. Even so, the closure hurts, and the sound of the last whistle echoing through the hills yesterday is a haunting end to an era.
2. “Do I Say It?”
I can’t say this is always the case, but when you look at a friend, grit your teeth, and ask “do I say it?” things are about to take a turn. The person who’s filming or interviewing you is going to have their day improve. Yours will not.
So behold, this :28 second TikTok from Axios Charlotte, in which a reporter asks how much income people need to be considered rich in Charlotte:
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I mean, you don’t even have to push play to get the general idea: We start with two immaculately-dressed women being interviewed about richness in front of the clubhouse at the Wells Fargo Championship. Their answer: 7 figures. Others seem to hover around $200,000-$300,000 a year. That is the data. But this TikTok is more about curating a vibe, and the vibes are off the charts. Golf! Corporate tents! Titleist couture!
Look, every media outlet needs at least a little bit of punchable content: Stories or videos which are designed to make you go “Get a load of this person right here.” Axios Charlotte/Charlotte Agenda used to have this with, maybe, the best piece of sponsored content I’ve seen. It was called Cash Confessional, and every story was a fascinating window into people’s finances and what they thought of themselves. The headlines alone were incredible:
Each story was an enticing cocktail that usually contained some sort of debt, financial strain, and a desire to achieve the new American Dream: passive income. Every person profiled contains some mix of earnest striving and complete delusion. This is not an overt knock on those people! We all contain a mix of earnest striving and complete delusion! For a very long time, my dream car was a DeLorean! People’s desires are irrational!
And yet, as a piece of service journalism, there is nothing more illuminating than getting people to honestly talk about their personal financial situations. Sadly, the Cash Confessional series went away during the pandemic and although there have been some replacements (This dude from Charlotte has a TikTok channel that’s all about asking people what their salaries are), there is nothing quite like a longform accounting of people’s priorities, told without the performance artifice of video. It’s quite telling to read one person saying that they’re saving up for new tires and brakes for their car, while another person would very much like to have a Lamborghini Hurcan, thank you very much.
So, maybe, TikToks like this are the best replacement we’re going to get, and I hope we get more of them. Because—do I say it?—you can’t understand why Charlotte does the things it does without understanding what motivates Charlotteans to improve their lot in life, no matter how great their lot in life already is.
3. Preacher Hair Don’t Care
People are talking about how Ron DeSantis announced his run for president yesterday on a platform that’s as glitchy and unreliable as a 12-year-old Android smartphone. But before that, the governor of Florida was going around, getting photo ops with prominent conservative totem poles to build up his bona fides. One of them was with North Carolina’s own Franklin Graham, and something about this picture really, really struck me:
This is going to sound extremely ridiculous and petty but: What’s Franklin Graham doing with long-ish hair? Is this new? Is this an attempt to confuse people into thinking he’s his dad?
The whole thing about Franklin is that he’s postured himself as a bit of a rebel when compared to his father, Billy Graham, who had a rule against even riding alone in an elevator with a woman who wasn’t his wife. Franklin Graham is the president of Samaritan’s Purse, a charity based in Boone that doles out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid every year. He is also a man who said, just last week, that "every demon from hell" has been "turned loose" in our culture today. People, um, contain multitudes.
But, the hair thing. He’s always had short hair. Now, he’s getting bonafide preacher hair like his papa. I mean, take a look at them side-by-side, then and now:
At that length, Franklin could go to a stylist and ask for the Baby Billy.
For what it’s worth, this isn’t even close to the greatest evangelist hairdo. The Christian Post did a Top 7 list of them a long time ago, and the picture of Jan Crouch at the bottom made me audibly gasp. You may not like the message, but you have to respect the engineering.