Friday, March 15, 2019

A requiem for BBQ

If the news holds up and is to be believed, Wilber's Barbecue in Goldsboro is no more as of today. A sign on the door hints at a Department of Revenue issue; however, some folks could see this demise coming from a bypass away. After all, the new highway around Goldsboro -- that does significantly cut time off for people heading to the Crystal Coast -- seems to have diverted people who may have normally stopped for Wilber's 'cue and hushpuppies. Lord knows that's what we did from time to time.

But, if we are honest, that's just part of the issue. Wilber's is not the only long-standing BBQ joint to shutter its doors recently. Just this January, Bill Ellis Barbecue in Wilson came to a halt after more than a half-century of business.

"Against all obstacles, we fought the good fight, but realized it’s time,” was what the family said in a statement.

And it does appear to be a fight. Cooking pigs is hard, long work. Do people have the patience for it anymore?

So what's left? Skylight Inn in Ayden?  King's in Kinston? Lexington? Ole Time in Raleigh? Parker's and B's in Greenville? I'm sure there are many more, and some -- such as Sam Jones of Skylight fame -- have been able to reinvent themselves and the cuisine itself, actually. And places like The Pit in Raleigh have brought eastern N.C. style BBQ to an audience that may have never tried it -- or couldn't get it once they left Wilson, Goldsboro, Kinston or elsewhere.

But as great as those places are -- and I am grateful for them -- they just don't have the same feel as a place with checkered, sticky tablecloths. Or places that bring you hushpuppies whether you want them or not. Or where you have to walk up to the counter to pay. Yes, I am admittedly nostalgic when it comes to N.C. BBQ. But it's one of those key bellweathers of this state -- it's a differentiator, if you will, between us and others -- even if we don't always agree on which kind is better.

But we can all agree that some is better than none.

Wilber's image from the Goldsboro News-Argus; shirt from House of Swank.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Looking back on 45 years of following Tar Heel politics -- and celebrating the master

For well more than four decades, News & Observer columnist and reporter Rob Christensen has chronicled the political landscape in the Old North State with an unbelievably objective, critical and careful eye. In short, there has been no one better in doing so. In fact, only he could pen such a wonderful and underrated history of N.C. politics as The Paradox of Politics.

Seriously, every person who has an interest in politics in this somewhat schizo state should read it -- you'll have a better idea of how North Carolina works. I think.  If you don't, it's not Christensen's fault; in fact, he paints such a vivid picture of how this could be a state of progressives that has the nation's best public university system, yet is also a state that has had one of the worst public lower ed systems in the country. A state that produced Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt, as well as Jesse Helms. A state that is at the cross hairs of the urban and rural divide.

That is why it is bittersweet that Christensen is winding down his career. There will no doubt be a chasm with his departure.

As he finishes up his career, he has also put together his list of "10 things he has learned" in 45 years of covering politics. There is no doubt that his list could reach well into the thousands. But Christensen is the quintessential newspaperman; he can write perfectly and clearly for the space needed.

Congrats on your retirement, Rob!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Quiz: How well do you know N.C. voices and dialects?

NC State recently produced a quiz to see just how well people recognize and can locate various dialects from across this great state. (And we have our fair share of disparate dialects, to be sure!)

How well would you do with the quiz? Click here to take it.

Listen to representative voices from specific regions and guess where the speaker lives. Each audio clip tells a story of our state’s unique language tradition and conveys a sense of how dialects dynamically transmit the rich history and culture of our state.

For the record, I got 5 out of 6 right. ("Going to the races" tripped me up.) You can't see it, but I'm doing this right about now:


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

N.C. ghost season!

A wonderful Twitter exchange last week with Josh and John reminded me of what a wonderful variety of "ghost" stories North Carolina has. (We are almost to Halloween, after all!)

As mentioned before, I LOVE N.C. ghost stories. I thought I knew them all, but I was stunned to hear about the Old Bluff Church in Wade. As John put it, "counting the steps on the way down and again on the way up; not even close to the same number."


Here's more.

What are some of your favorite N.C. ghost stories?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Support for the CAREolinas

Support for organizations helping out those affected by Hurricane Florence has, not surprisingly, been inspiring and immediate. The Carolina Panthers have gotten involved as well.

The NFL team announced the other day that they have partnered with Visit North Carolina and Discover South Carolina to show support for recovery efforts. One hundred percent of the proceeds of the #CAREolinas T-shirt, which Coach Ron Rivera wore in his press conference, goes toward relief funds.

The shirts are made by Recover Brands, a Charlotte apparel company that produces the shirts in Spartanburg, S.C.

"I think it's important that everybody understands that we most certainly do care about our folks in the Carolinas, our fanbase, the people here in this community," Rivera said. "We want to do whatever we can to help support them in this recovery effort.
"We want to do our part."

To find out more about the efforts and purchase your own T-shirt, visit

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hang in there, North Carolina

The beating that North Carolina has taken over the past week due to Hurricane Florence has been downright incredible. But so has the resiliency of this state and her people. This place is flat-out remarkable. If you think we won't come back from this, well, you have another thing coming.

But that's not to say that there won't be challenges. Many of us will need to remember the good to get through the bad. A couple of years ago, we put together a list of reasons to love North Carolina. It is a nice list; however, it honestly barely scratches the surface. Here is that list again. Feel free to add  to it. After all, it never hurts to be reminded of what a wonderful place this is -- and will continue to be.


  • Barbecue
  • Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Blue Ridge parkway
  • Outer Banks
  • Crystal Coast
  • Char-Grill
  • Asheville
  • Avett Brothers
  • The Connells
  • Red clay
  • Red Clay Ramblers
  • Cheerwine
  • Pepsi
  • Grandfather Mountain
  • Tweetsie Railroad
  • Wine
  • Craft beer
  • Furniture
  • Sherry's Bakery in Dunn
  • Our colleges and universities (public and private)
  • Our teachers
  • Cape Hatteras
  • Our State magazine
  • Big city downtowns and small town Main Streets
  • The suburbs, too!
  • Sugar Mountain
  • Music festivals
  • Waterfalls
  • Grey squirrels
  • White squirrels
  • Cardinals
  • Venus fly trap
  • The Lost Colony
  • The Greensboro Four
  • College basketball
  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Golf courses
  • Blowing Rock
  • Tim McLaurin
  • Lee Smith
  • James Taylor
  • Biltmore Estate
  • Grove Park Inn
  • Wilmington
  • Bald Head Island
  • N.C. Zoo
  • Pine trees
  • Dogwoods
  • Lake Lure
  • New Bern
  • Bath
  • Blackbeard
  • Angus Barn
  • Carowinds
  • Chimney Rock
  • Fairy crosses
  • Emeralds
  • Brown Mountain Lights
  • Chatham County Line
  • Ocracoke
  • Andy Griffith
  • Mount Airy
  • Link Wray
  • Carl Sandburg
  • Michael Jordan
  • Ava Gardner
  • Cape Lookout
  • Krispy Kreme
  • David Thompson
  • Halifax Resolves
  • Bojangles
  • Red wolves
  • Durham Bulls
  • Mount Mitchell
  • Lake Matamuskeet
  • Pinehurst No. 2
  • Brevard
  • Charlie Daniels
  • Randy Travis
  • Earl Scruggs
  • Doc Watson
  • Thelonius Monk
  • John Coltrane
  • Jim Hunt
  • Hanging Rock
  • Yadkin Valley
  • National Whitewater Rafting Center
  • Pilot Mountain
  • Lake Gaston
  • Lake Norman
  • Kerr Lake 

New Bern flooding photo courtesy of Vox; boat photo courtesy of MPR News.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Scott McCreery: The savior of beach music?

About a year and a half ago, we discussed right here the question of, "Are we losing beach music?"  The conversation came from some discussions via social media.
As one person commented on Facebook, "My big thing is how much all this great stuff has faded into history. The new generation needs to be educated. How about we form a 'Beach Music Revival Society?' "
Well, maybe Garner's Scotty McCreery could be the Head Moose of this Club. After all, his song, "Barefootin'," is now No. 1 on the beach music charts. (Sadly, I was not aware there was even still a beach music chart!)

According to the News & Observer/Charlotte Observer, the song is top o' the charts even though it's not even a single.

But the song has picked up enough spins from reporting Association of Carolina Shag Clubs venues and deejays across the Mid-Atlantic to hit the top.

It’s a song McCreery actually co-wrote three years ago, after telling co-writer David Lee Murphy that he wanted to do a song in the supper-club-soul style of beach, complete with optimal shag tempo and horns.
Kudos to McCreery for "getting it" and showing some love for his North Carolina roots, something he talked to the paper about.

“Outside of North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, people do not know about beach music,” McCreery said in a News & Observer interview earlier this year. “I’m excited to maybe put beach music on more of a national scale because it’s such a regional thing.”

“Barefootin’” will probably be in the setlist the next time McCreery performs a hometown show, Jan. 19 at the Ritz in Raleigh. But that actually won’t be his first time doing beach music on a stage.
“I used to see Band of Oz playing down at the beach,” McCreery said. “I even sang with them at Topsail Beach one night. I was in the crowd and one of their daughters brought me up. I think we did their version of ‘Wagon Wheel.’”

Read more here:
 Listen to "Barefootin'" here:

Read more here:

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