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Thanksgiving Leftovers: Banjos, Armpit Fires, and Possum Pardons
Getting back to work after a long holiday weekend is hard. Let's ease into it with 9 things I've been thinking about lately.
For the first edition of this newsletter, I wrote about a TV commercial featuring a banjo-playing man who forcefully sang about the virtues of a kindly-looking Republican who was running for a seat on North Carolina’s supreme court. The ad first ran in 2012, and the exact same ad ran again this year when that same justice, Paul Newby, ran for re-election. Well folks, get a load of this: There was a second ad featuring Banjo Man that ran two years after the Newby original, featuring yet another Republican running for the state supreme court. There are a few differences. Banjo Man, while dressed EXACTLY THE SAME, is playing a guitar. The tune is different. But the trappings of the commercial are way too similar. It’s the same barn. The same hand painted signs. Instead of warning would-be criminals of Paul Newby, this one features regular-lookin people dancin’ in a field while shouting “I like Mike.”
Mike was Mike Robinson, who did not win his race. His defeat ended what would have been an entire genre of bluegrassy political ads touting GOP judges who deliver COUNTRY JUSTICE.
I’m not the first one to discover this doppelgänger: Facing South first put the pieces together back in 2014, noting that Louisiana-based Innovative Advertising was behind both commercials (come to think of it, both of these ads have a slightly Cajun feel). But here’s the distinctly 2020 Nothing-Is-Concidence twist: The person Banjo Man-endorsed Mike Robinson lost to in 2014 was Cheri Beasley, who in 2020, appears to have lost to Banjo Man-endorsed Paul Newby by a few hundred votes. That’s right, Banjo Man may have lost the battle, but he appears to have won the war.
My lingering questions: Who is that musician, and will he cut an ad for me?
My 4-year-old daughter asked me to dictate this story, word-for-word:
I fear that my love for absurdity has worn off on her.
After writing about Hugo Chávez’s visit to Hickory in 2001, reader Alice Wilder reminded me of the Corvette-swallowing Hickory sinkhole. Short version: In 2002, a guy was having lunch at a restaurant when a giant sinkhole opened up in the parking lot and swallowed his sportscar.
It may not surprise you to know that I was once on the Hickory sinkhole beat at my old job. After another sinkhole opened up in the same city in 2009, I discovered that the only sinister thing lurking beneath the surface in Hickory may be crumbling water mains.
This story, from the News and Observer’s Andrew Carter, about the last high school in North Carolina that still has “Redskins” as its mascot, is a reminder that what feels like a big sweeping national change can take a long, long time to trickle down to the local level.
Tanglewood Park in Clemmons has a really large drive-through light display every Christmas. Every year, as my family and I gawk at it, I think, what could possibly top this?NEW: CEO announces new holiday light display coming Nov 2020. Project called “Winter Wonderlights,” set to last 40 days as a way to boost tourism economy during slow months. “Think on steroids,” CEO Glenn Dobrogosz says of the $1.6M investment.
Tanglewood on steroids! GO GET ‘EM, GLENN.
I really thought that there was going to be some sort of West Side Story-style battle between these two places but alas, they’re both pretty fantastic.
After seeing Winter Wonderlights in person (and caving to my kids’ demands to buy them light-up blinky things despite the fact that everything around us was lighting up and blinking), I can report that it is very cool. Pro: You can walk through it. Con (extreme dad voice): It’s more expensive.
I am serious when I say that there is nothing better than people geeking out over things that are very niche. Thus, I present to you the Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship, which aired last week on ESPN2. I was alerted to this by friends who were all chatting about it on Twitter DM. The conversation started out of boredom, morphed into gentle mockery, and finished with honest respect. Disc golf appears to be really hard:
The actual championship was held back in October at the Hornets Nest Disc Golf course in Charlotte. It was extremely gratifying to watch some people sneak frisbees in between a thicket of trees, but it was even more gratifying to watch those people hit those trees squarely and watch the disc go careening off into the woods. Another great part: The Disc Golf Pro Tour’s Twitter feed, which was just tryna get you HYPE:
I genuinely enjoyed watching this, and congrats to the world’s two most talented disc golfers, who each won the kingly sum of $20,000.
Drove up to Frosty’s Choose and Cut in West Jefferson on Friday to get a tree. It’s our traditional Day-After-Thanksgiving trip, and every time we get there, the place is slammed with people (mostly Charlotteans?), but ends up being astonishingly efficient. You find a tree. Wave a pole. Someone comes and cuts it down and hauls it away. Then you walk back down the mountain, get some hot chocolate, and pull around in your car, where some nice folks tie it to the top of your car. Of note (dad voice again): Frosty’s seems to have raised prices a little ($12 a foot!). But! A new highway into town has opened. While that’s removed the charm of winding your way around a mountain on a precarious two-lane road, my family now requires less Dramamine.
I wrote about turkey pardonin’ on Thanksgiving Day, and a reader slid into my DMs to alert me of Gov. Roy Cooper’s attempt at this:
That’s fine and all, but I really wish our governors would go back to a much more time-honored North Carolina tradition: The pardoning of a possum.
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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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