On My Mind

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE.

Let’s pretend for a second that you’re Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. It’s a nice fantasy. You are a 6-5 NFL prototype who looks like a surfer and throws like Zeus. You led the Tigers to a national title last year as a freshman, and your team is undefeated again this season. Clemson has never lost with you at quarterback.

On a February morning in 1947, in the darkness before dawn, 31 white men gathered in Pickens County, South Carolina.

A white cab driver had been robbed and stabbed two nights before. A black man named Willie Earle had been arrested for the crime. But the 31 white men did not wait for a trial. They showed up at the jail with shotguns. The jailer gave them Willie Earle. An hour later, somebody placed a call to a funeral home, notifying them where to find a dead black man on a dirt road west of Greenville.

One good way to think about any political deal that seems sketchy or weird is to ask a simple question: Would you do it?

So let’s apply that to the case of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Kerr Putney.

When I was a kid, I qualified for free lunch at school. Every Monday morning the teacher would call us up to the front of the class and hand out the little blue punch cards that got us through the line without paying. They were like scarlet letters spelling out the word P-O-O-R.

But really, the problem wasn’t that we got our lunch for free. The problem was that all the other kids had to pay for it.

When I was a kid, July was the best month. You were out of school and the whole summer was in front of you. Somewhere in my 30s, I switched to April – the flowers springing from the ground, the coats going back in the closet.

Now, in my 50s, I’ve come to love October.

The next weeks and months are going to be the biggest test yet of whether we, as Americans, can filter out the noise.

Vengeance, in our imaginations, is a cleansing thing. It might not make things right, but it makes them even. So I completely understand why the living victims of the UNC Charlotte shooter feel the way they do.

The thinking of the Republican leadership in the North Carolina legislature is clear. They have come to the conclusion that if the game is fair, they can’t win.

Football season used to be a five-month national holiday for me. I’d watch college games from noon to midnight on Saturday, and NFL games until the last snap on Sunday. I had elite-level skills with the remote control. I mainlined the Red Zone Channel, which shows every scoring play from every NFL game. I spent weekends in a football trance.

The race for North Carolina’s 9th House district has been like a NASCAR race from the old days – multiple wrecks, lots of caution flags, some country boys trying to pull a fast one.

I’m not a fabric store kind of guy. I’m more like a “please, Lord, don’t make me go in the fabric store” kind of guy. But even I had to respect Mary Jo’s Cloth Store in Gastonia.

Sometimes justice makes nobody happy. And that is where I think we have landed in the death of Danquirs Franklin.

There are certain rules you need to know when you’re doing comedy. One, timing is everything. Two, don’t repeat the punchline. And three, don’t stand in front of a group of several hundred public servants and tell a joke about sex and cows.

Apparently, Bob Cordle never made it to Rule No. 3.

One Cool Day, And The Promise Of Better Days Ahead

Jul 29, 2019

I got off of work the other day and the world had changed.

It had rained while I was inside, and that string of brutally hot days had finally snapped. The thermometer on my dashboard said 68 degrees. For the first time in months, I drove home with the windows rolled down.

We lost one of Charlotte’s true characters the other day. His name was Greg Good but you probably knew him as the Catman. The cameras would find him at every Panthers game, cheering his lungs out in his jersey and his bright blue wig, looking like a cross between a linebacker and a Smurf.

I’ve been thinking about buying tickets to the Charlotte Hornets’ home games with the Boston Celtics next season. But I’ve been wondering if that would be too much like looking up an old girlfriend on Facebook.

The debate was supposed to be about noise.

We live in a time when some people react to news they don’t like by calling it fake news. That’s a deep insult to those of us who have spent our lives trying to bring you the real thing.

I had to go up to Cornelius the other day, so I intended to try out the new toll lanes on I-77.

It turned out the traffic was light and I didn’t need to. But a few people were using the toll lanes anyway, flying past at 80 miles an hour, as if paying the toll means you don’t have to bother with the speed limit.

I went to the Excelsior Club a few times back in the ‘90s, and it wasn’t much to look at even then. Now it’s even more rundown. If you just drive by the club, off of Beatties Ford Road, you might wonder what’s worth saving. But that’s only if you haven’t heard the stories.

Today we’re going to discuss one of life’s eternal questions: Does size matter?

The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte is crawling into the 21st century. They should get some credit for finally moving forward. But they should also understand that there’s a long way to go.

I’ve seen a lot of the Carolinas over the years, but the other day I heard about a place I have to go visit sometime – the Black River down in southeastern North Carolina.

Its tea-colored water is home to a couple of rare fish species, and it’s known as one of the cleanest streams in the state. But the real attraction is the trees. There are bald cypress trees in the Black River swamp that have been around more than 2,000 years – literally since Jesus was a boy.

Last Tuesday I was taking our garbage cans back around the side of the house when I saw two baby birds on the ground.

One was already dead, and I thought the other one was, too. But I looked closer and it was breathing – too weak to stand, but breathing. It was a fledgling, not quite a newborn, not quite ready to fly.

Run. Hide. Fight.

That’s the alert UNC Charlotte sent to its students and faculty in the moments after a student with a gun started firing in Kennedy Hall.

We’ve got some younger folks in our office, and some people who aren’t natives of the South. So I found myself, the other day, having to explain the phrase “a pig in a poke.”

You’ve probably seen it by now, unless you deliberately didn’t want to. The parking lot outside the Burger King. The young man, Danquirs Franklin, crouching next to a car. The police officer, Wende Kerl, shouting at him to drop his weapon. She’s aiming hers at him.

You know what happens next. Another young black man killed by a white police officer. Another controversy over what constitutes a legal shooting. Calls for the police to release more video. More blows to the old bruise that never heals.

In some ways, a four-year medical school is just another box that Charlotte gets to check. Fortune 500 companies, check. NBA and NFL teams, check. Shake Shack, check.

For years we’ve been the biggest metro area in America without a four-year medical school. Atrium Health and Wake Forest University announced last week that they’re going to remedy that by building a medical school in Charlotte sometime in the next few years.

When I fantasize about being rich, my imagination is pretty modest. I think about getting a nice stereo, or maybe a pontoon boat.

I have to admit, I’ve never once thought about buying myself an insurance commissioner.

Around our house, this is headache season.

My wife’s allergies kick in with the first breath of pollen in the air. It never used to bother me but I caught some sympathetic vibrations along the way. Now I can almost feel the yellow dust crawling up into my sinuses. I go to work in the morning and the whole car is coated with the stuff.

I get so grumpy about it that I almost forget to notice the riot of beauty all around us.

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