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The Browns won, so all is not lost.
What does victory taste like? Opossum. Maybe. Here are seven things to think about at the beginning of a new week.
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1. A Note About Trying To Plow Through It
I said a few weeks back that I was going on a Twitter hiatus. And yet, here I am, still glued to my phone at all hours, tweeting and scrolling when, for my mental health, I should be doing ANYTHING else. I do feel like I have an excuse: In years past, there hasn’t been an imminent threat to democracy during my social media hibernation.
In all seriousness, the news of last week has been horrifying, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be clearing up anytime soon. There was a riot at the U.S. Capitol. COVID-19 seems to have us surrounded. It’s all happening during a cold, wet, bleak winter, where the only colors outside of my window seem to be gray and brown. I went for a family walk on the trails at my local park yesterday and every step felt fraught. The path was muddy, and at any moment I felt like I might slip or catch my shoe on a root.
I know. I’m lucky. I have my health and my family and I’m still working and getting by. But in so many ways, it feels like the ominous drumbeats are getting closer and closer. I look at what’s happening in the world outside my home and it makes my chest tighten. Then I look at the children inside my house, and I just want to protect them from it all, and it makes me want to cry.
I cope by talking, writing, analogizing, and then escaping. A lot of times, I write a lot of long, self-indulgent paragraphs, then go back read them and realize they’re not meant for anyone’s consumption but my own. I delete most of them, and just put out a palatable version. It’s a terribly inefficient process, but it’s what I’ve got. Getting it out helps me organize my thoughts, even if those thoughts never see the light of day. The heavy stuff goes into my psyche for processing. The light stuff, well, that’s the stuff that’s easier to put into a newsletter.
All of which is to say this: I’m not sure exactly what’s coming in this space going forward. If it sometimes feels heavy, that’s because these are the times we’re in. If it seems light, it’s not because I’m being flippant. It’s because my coping mechanism is to dip into a world that’s less consequential. So yeah, I might write about politics. I might write about cats (my son will be happy to hear that). But just know that I’m out here with you, just trying to get through it.
2. I Have Always Loved You, Cleveland Browns
I know this is a North Carolina newsletter, but last night the Cleveland Browns won a playoff game. Here are some reminders about how rare that is:
They hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2002.
They hadn’t won a playoff game since 1995.
They hadn’t won a ROAD playoff game since 1969.
I’ve written about the Browns quite a bit, including this long personal reckoning in 2015 where I searched for Art Modell’s long lost toilet, talked to a guy who ripped down Cleveland Municipal Stadium, and interviewed Drew Carey, who told me, quote, “F—- the Browns, man.” (UPDATE: He’s now softened his stance.)
When I got to North Carolina in 2005, I dabbled in the local Browns Backers club but gave up because, I mean, it wasn’t fun! The Browns always lost and everyone was angry. So I decided to root for the Panthers, partly because I started freelancing for them and partly because of the squad that gelled from 2011 onward. You know, Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Ron Rivera. Those guys. (Trivia: I had tickets in the lower bowl for the infamous Brian St. Pierre game in 2010). But this season, with the Panthers rebuilding and Christian McCaffrey out, my attention wandered back to the Browns, who made me literally squeal in delight last night as they hung four touchdowns on the Steelers IN THE FIRST QUARTER.
But! As a connoisseur of fine punting, the master stroke of this whole thing — the point at which I KNEW that the Steelers were not in the right mindset to win this game — was when they kicked the ball away from the Cleveland 38-yard line. That punt went out of bounds at the ten. It netted Pittsburgh 28 yards. It is not the closest NFL punt to an opponent’s endzone. But it still warms the heart.
Anyway, on to Ohio State tonight, which will definitely beat Bama. Right? High five. Hey, don’t leave me hanging.
3. Following Up On The Coup Attempt
Last week, I, and many others, tried to counteract the “A coup is not who we are” narrative that broke out after the attack on the U.S. Capitol by noting that North Carolina was the site of the only successful coup in American history. Back in 1898, the Raleigh News & Observer’s publisher played a large role in it, and the insurrection got a fresh and deep look from N&O reporter Tyler Dukes:
What followed in North Carolina was decades of Jim Crow segregation, starting with state legislation just a year later in 1899. And nationally, there were more massacres of Black people by white mobs: Atlanta, in 1906; during the Red Summer of 1919; Tulsa, in 1921; and Rosewood, Fla., in 1923.
To Tyson, it’s not hard to trace the lineage of mob violence in Washington, D.C., Wednesday right back to Wilmington.
“Political violence has been pivotal in shaping the history of the South. So goes the South, so goes the nation,” Tyson said. “What we’re seeing here is an extension of that history.”
Also today, the New York Times casually reported this: “At one point, Mr. Trump told the vice president that he had spoken with Mark Martin, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, who he said had told him that Mr. Pence had that power [to overturn the Electoral College’s vote count]. Mr. Pence had assured Mr. Trump that he did not.” Martin retired from the court in 2019, and now is now the dean of the Regent University law school in Virginia Beach. As of now, he hasn’t reacted to that news. As for the other, more famous Mark Martin, well, at least the news waited until after his birthday:
4. Containment Area for Relocated Young’uns
Epic Games bought an abandoned mall, y’all. The company that makes Fortnite is turning the Cary Towne Center into its new headquarters, and it should be open in 2024.
This is my second favorite type of re-use for a dead mall. Here’s the story of my favorite: The Dixie Square Mall in Illinois closed down after only 13 years, and was torn down in 2012. However, it became more famous in death than in life when, in 1980, John Landis filmed a Blues Brothers car chase scene inside.
5. Hikin’ Makes Me Feel Good
From somewhere in North Carolina:
Yeah man, you don’t want green slime gettin’ into the aquifer.
6. At Your Service: How To Cook The Perfect Possum
Don’t know why, but the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance tweeted this out last week:
John T. lives in Mississippi, but we folks in North Carolina know a little something about possum eating. Last year, I wrote about a historical incident where governor Bob Scott bowed to political pressure and, instead of EATING a possum named Slow Poke, was forced to pardon him instead. The story was short, although it gave me one of my favorite quotes: “I shall not be thwarted in my appetite for opossum.”
So, um, for many reasons, I did not publish the mechanics of how one prepares and eats possum. But during my research, I did consult with chef Clark Barlowe, who gave me some notes via email. In short:
Clean and remove the scent glands. If you don’t, Barlowe says you could “contaminate the entire animal during the cooking process,” and cause a “very unpleasant smell and flavor.” There are some legendary stories about possum eating gone wrong out there. “I was all ready for more possum barbeque,” wrote one blogger, who hunted and ate some as part of survival training, “but this one tasted like he had been cooked in a burning plastic garbage can.”
If you do it right, possum can taste like pork or a rabbit/duck hybrid: “Fatty with a very mild flavored meat.” Barlowe says it’s good in stews and braises or as ground meat, since the texture might be sort of off putting.
Early editions of “The Joy of Cooking” included recipes for possum, beaver, and raccoon. I really hope there is some sort of turducken engineering mechanism for preparing all three at once. A BEAVUMCOON.
Some people recommend capturing an opossum alive and then feeding it corn or something else palatable for a week before eating it, so your possum goes through a detox. Why? If you are what you eat, and you are a possum, and you eat a lot of trash, then guess wha? If you, a human, eats that possum, then you’re eatin’ trash. Which, if you’re following this extremely shaky logic, would make you trash. But Barlowe says he’s never detoxed the possums he’s cooked up, and everything has come out just fine. So … there.
One thing we don’t do anymore is lower a live possum in a box on New Year’s Eve.
7. The Dean Smith of Useless Geographical Tourism
Brand new newsletter subscriber Joshua McIntryre has thrown down this gauntlet:
I’ve been to what I consider to be two of these four. I went to the westernmost point (bottom left) twice. The first time: To record a podcast episode about the very friendly Georgians who own North Carolina’s westernmost piece of property. The second: To make those very friendly Georgians comfortable with running that story in the print edition of Our State. It’s REALLY far away (a half hour WEST of Murphy), and you have to drive into Georgia to get there, but you can go there. If you do, please, be very nice, since the owners get a LOT of people who show up on their property and run up to the westernmost point without asking.
The corner at bottom right is on Bird Island, which is the southernmost point in the state, and is close to the Kindred Spirits mailbox. Although! A worthy substitute is the place I’ve been: The southern tip of Bald Head Island. It’s just as far south as Bird Island, and I’d argue it’s harder to get to, since you have to take a ferry to Bald Head and there are no cars to use once you get there.
As for the northeastern corner (top right)? You’ll probably need an ATV or a four wheel drive vehicle to get up to the northern tip of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where you’ll be greeted by, yes, a border fence. It’s not so much for people, but for horses. The National Park Service doesn’t want the wild ponies crossing into their lands in Virginia. The closest I’ve come to that spot is Knotts Island, which is a place where you usually end up by mistake.
So, what do you get if you visit all four? You can ask Josh, but I’m guessing Lyme Disease is a real possibility.
I, Jeremy Markovich, am a journalist, writer, and producer based outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. If you liked this, you might like Away Message, my podcast about North Carolina’s hard-to-find people, places, and things. Season 4 was all about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Author avatar by Rich Barrett.
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