Off the Record

• When I visited Main Street Books in Littleton, I didn’t have long to spend inside before hopping over to another assignment (If I assigned it to myself, does that count as an assignment?) So I didn’t get to fill an entire bag - I only snagged two books. They were “A Life on the Road” by Charles Kuralt and “North Carolina in the American Revolution” by Hugh F. Rankin. You can probably learn a lot about someone by the books they select for themselves under pressure.

• I saw a sign for “fresh shrimp” around the lake, north of the state line, over the weekend and wondered exactly how fresh it was. If “fresh shrimp” is advertised near the coast, I imagine it to have gone from the ocean to my plate in a relatively short span of time. When you’re more than 150 miles inland, what constitutes “fresh?”

• When the power goes out, my mother guards the refrigerator like it’s the last refrigerator on Earth. Don’t even think about so much as cracking that refrigerator door around my mom. Thirsty? You have 0.5 seconds to grab a bottle of water. The remaining coolness must be preserved at all costs.

• I listed to the WRAL Sports podcast that investigates whether N.C. State athletics is cursed. I didn’t have to listen to it to know that’s a ridiculous premise, but it was entertaining nonetheless. How can a men’s basketball program with two national titles be cursed? You wanna see cursed? Let me guide you through the East Carolina men’s basketball history book. At least N.C. State’s baseball team has been to the College World Series. East Carolina, just for the sake of comparison, has the most NCAA regional baseball appearances of any school in the country that hasn’t actual punched a ticket to Omaha.

• The winning pitcher of the MLB All-Star Game last week was Shohei Ohtani (Japan). Liam Hendriks (Australia) got the save. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Canada and Dominican Republic) was the MVP. America’s pastime has gone global.

• Of course, baseball has been popular in parts of Asia and all over Central America for decades. But in the modern era of the sport, we’ve never seen a two-way player of any nationality like the Angels’ Ohtani, who started the game for the American League at pitcher AND led off in the batting order - a day after competing in the home run derby.

• We’re also being reminded in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics that basketball cannot be dominated by Team USA unless we send our “A” team. A less-than-full-strength Team USA recently lost exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia. Mecklenburg County, Va. native Keldon Johnson, who plays for the Spurs and suited up collegiately for Kentucky, is on the squad.

• N.C. town name of the week: Toast. It’s near Mt. Airy in Surry County, and was actually named after toast. Do you think they have any traffic jams in Toast?

• Raleigh-Durham was recently named the second-best place to live in America by U.S. News and World Report. Boulder, Colorado claimed the top spot. I’m not sure when Raleigh and Durham merged to become one municipality, but congratulations to them.

“I left my home in Norfolk, Virginia

California on my mind

I straddled that Greyhound and rode him into Raleigh

And on across Caroline”

- Elvis Presley, “Promised Land”