Here are all of your North Carolina gripes.
Hey, there was an inauguration! Hence, it was the perfect time to go on record with your grievances about this state.
Want to read stories like this sooner? Subscribe to the North Carolina Rabbit Hole for free.
Folks, all politics is local:
I watched or listened to nearly all of the inauguration coverage from yesterday, and it was … nice. So nice, in fact, that I found myself without much to say about it. That’s not a knock on the beauty or the solemnity or the majesty of the situation — Inauguration Days have a way of playing out like Democracy! The Musical. But, after the last four years, where every day has been some sort of pop-up fire which opens up a new, potentially catastrophic constitutional crisis, it was nice to see something, essentially, go off as planned. After four years of Back to the Future Part II, it felt refreshing to watch Back to the Future again.
We’ll eventually get back to it when the inevitable glow subsides (I’ve got some Andrew Johnson stuff on deck for, you know, the impeachment thing), but for now, it’s time for an inauguration news dump. For instance, did you know that NC State legend Philip Rivers retired yesterday? No? That’s because it happened during the midst of a singular news event so big that nearly the entire country was watching it, making memes about it, and reading articles about it. For his part, Rivers said it wasn’t a news dump:
Rivers said in his statement that he wanted to announce his retirement on Jan. 20, which is the Roman Catholic Church's feast day for St. Sebastian -- often referred to as the patron saint for athletes.
Anyhow, during the midst of the Bidening, I asked you all to dump your unpopular opinions about North Carolina, and you delivered.
Comin’ in hot! In August 1587, about 115 English settlers arrived on Roanoke Island, which is the home of present day Manteo. Three years later, when another group of Englishfolk arrived, the original settlers had vanished. The only thing left behind was the word “Croatoan” carved into a wood post.
This was a mystery so legendary that it was taught to me, at some point, during my schooling way out in the hinterlands of Ohio. It’s always been exciting because nobody knew what happened to the Lost Colony! Except now, maybe, we do: There’s a theory, supported by fairly new archeological evidence, that the colonists moved inland and/or to Croatoan Island, which is modern day Hatteras Island. And yet, it took more than 400 years to figure that out! That’s why (J. Walter Weatherman voice here) you always leave a note.
I’ll relate my first-hand experience with this: When I first moved to Charlotte in 2005, I joined the Browns Backers club. It was a miserable experience. As soon as the team playing Cleveland got their first positive yardage, people were swearing at the TV, angry about the inevitable loss that was coming. There was no joy. Just commiseration.
A few weeks later, someone took me to a bar that served as the home of the local Buffalo Bills fan club. The outcome of the game I watched was mostly the same, since the Bills were equally as bad back then. But after every first down, people were up on their feet, high-fiving and hollering like they’d just won the damn Lombardi Trophy. I had a great time. We should all be so lucky to find a joy like that, regardless of where you stand on table-breaking.
I’m sorry, but you’re wrong:
Here’s the thing about the Outer Banks: They are really far away from the rest of North Carolina. Unless you live in, say, Roanoke Rapids, literally every beach in North Carolina (or the other Carolina for that matter) is closer. Plus, the northern part of the banks, the stretch from Nags Head to Corolla, is a lot like almost every other stretch of beach town here. Why go to Duck when, say, you could be at Isle of Palms or Topsail Island in half the time?
Anyway, here’s why you should go:
The Outer Banks! Just a short ferry ride from Chapel Hill.
I know that night mode is a fairly new innovation for your smart phone, but automobiles have had a switch to toggle between high- and low-beams since 1924. You should try it out sometime!
I can’t make a definitive judgment on this, so I referred this tweet to state government Grand Poobah Gerry Cohen, who replied: “If you like North Korean architecture, you’ll love the N.C. State Government Mall.”
Fun fact, most of North Carolina’s state symbols of late were the result of class projects, mostly from fourth graders. (PROMO: I did a whole podcast episode about this!) In this particular case, a teenager from Raleigh pushed for the marbled salamander, which was named a state symbol in 2013. I’d normally say to leave this one alone, lest the teens clown you on TikTok.
But! On name alone, the Hellbender should win. It’s also an animal that likes to beef. In 2018, Leigh Ann Henion went on a salamander safari for Our State, and wrote with this passage:
“This is a new friend,” Maria says, gently running her finger down the hellbender’s back. The salamander’s belly is orange, and his tail is like animated river stone. He squirms in the measuring trough as if he’s still underwater, with hind quarters covered in scar tissue. Faint lines form intricate, webbed patterns indicating that he’s a survivor. “You’re a bad boy, aren’t you?” Maria says in admiration, as she swabs his foot with a Q-tip to check for fungal infection. “He’s like, ‘I’ve been in fights before, and you haven’t seen the last of me!’ ”
I’m lumping the next few responses together:
Folks, I get it. When you arrive in North Carolina from another place, someone one at the DMV hands you a card telling you that you like sweet tea now and your new national anthem is the theme song to the Andy Griffith Show. But! You don’t have to like any of the things that people here like! It’s okay! I, for one, do not like grits, and sometimes, in polite company with longtime North Carolinians, I get hit with phrases like “What, I say, what is wrong with grits?!” spoken in Foghorn Leghorn’s vernacular. My response is usually that grew up in northeast Ohio so I’m more of a pirogi guy, which isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison (nobody asks their waiter to swap out grits with pirogi), but still. I’m gonna break bread with Mrs. Paul’s, and you’re gonna eat your slimy, sandy, weird grits for some reason. Weird flex, but okay.
The state flower is the dogwood flower, which is fine and all, but we could have had the flame azalea, which is coincidentally the name of my Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band.
Also, there are five dogwood festivals in North Carolina! Five! AND THEY’RE ALL IN APRIL. That is too much dogwood, man, although this gripe pairs nicely with fried chicken:
This is an astonishingly accurate observation. Yes, someday, when you get a good, expensive meal at Chef & The Farmer, you will glance at the table next to you and see some dude getting molten chocolate all over his Brew Thru tee.
Here is a list of every president born in North Carolina, and what happened to them:
Andrew Jackson: Moved to Tennessee.
James K. Polk: Moved to Tennessee.
Andrew Johnson: Moved to Tennessee.
This comes from North Carolina’s state climatologist, and stay with me here: In a tweet, this sounds like a curious musing. But, said in a Dr. Evil voice, it sounds like a foreboding prediction from someone who is way in the weeds on sea level rise. How very odd that Wilmingtonians aren’t treading water more, she said, menacingly.
But to her point, yes, it is a little strange, because old cities tend to be built near water. Raleigh became North Carolina’s state capital in 1792 because, at the time, it was basically at the center of the state. It wasn’t the most populous city because, at the time, travel over land was really hard, and the biggest cities were all along the coast. As for Charlotte, it was founded at the crossing of two trading paths and, well, if you think there’s no waterfront in central Charlotte, think again:
[House Hunters: Charlotte episode opens]
Wife: I take pictures of the skyline and post them on Instagram.
Husband: I blog about breweries.
Wife: Our budget is $960,000.
Thomas Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Home Again” was about an author who wrote about his hometown, then tries to go back to that town and is shocked that he’s become a pariah. (Wolfe himself didn’t have to worry about that, since he was already dead when that book was published.) But for the sake of all of us, I hope Darin is right. Otherwise, we’re all gonna have a lot of explainin’ to do.
A PROGRAMMING NOTE: You may have noticed that I did not have a newsletter out on Monday. I … just ran out of time. But is that okay? You tell me. If you like getting this twice a week, please tell me. If you’re cool with just one, also tell me.
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.
If you enjoyed this edition of the North Carolina Rabbit Hole, share it with your friends and mash that subscribe button below.