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Better Cancel That Piercing Appointment
Local Wellspring markets will soon be re-named Whole Foods after their 128-store parent company. The sign at the corner of Elliott Road and Franklin Street has already re-named the Chapel Hill store Whole Foods, though the official name change is not supposed to take effect until May.For Wellspring/Whole Foods employees the changes have been in the works for some time. Since last fall, the store's "team members," as they're called, have been required to wear matching black aprons. They've also been asked to tone down any outward flourish in their appearance. To those with hair dyed an unnatural color, the company asked that they wear a Whole Foods hat. To those with multiple piercings, the higher-ups strongly suggested they cancel any additional appointments at the piercing parlor. As for those with tattoos, they're now told to cover up with long sleeves.

A Whole Foods spokesperson insists the new rules are "not draconian."

"You're going for a common denominator with something that everyone can live with," she explains. "It's a brand issue. We're going for more consistency throughout the country."

But what about shoppers who fondly associate the Wellspring/Whole Foods brand with blue hair and eyebrow rings? If we're going to pay $6 for spring rolls and $9 for a jar of spaghetti sauce, then we want to see the whole tattoo on our cashier's arm, not just the little bit that manages to peek out behind company rules.
--David Madison, Jenny Stepp

NASCAR's Ghost Track
The engines that roared round and round the Occoneechee Speedway, a one-mile dirt track in Hillsborough, fell silent after its last stock car race in 1968. But the history that lives there revved up again last week, when the state's National Register Advisory Committee voted to recommend the site for historic preservation.Chatham County has its Devil's Playground--a mysterious circle of dirt where no vegetation grows--but this Orange County oval was the real epicenter of sin in the 1950s. The Occoneechee Speedway (renamed the Orange County Speedway in 1956) was part of a network of rural NASCAR venues where Southerners "found the space to reclaim their wildness," noted historian Pete Daniel in his recent book, Lost Revolutions: The South in the 1950s.

Bill Crowther, a former Orange County Commissioner, is caretaker of the 42-acre former race site, which is owned by the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. In his application to certify the speedway with the National Register of Historic Places, Crowther noted its raucous legacy: "While drivers and crew members engaged in all-night parties that sometimes continued into the race day and generally included alcohol, women, fights and wild, untamed behavior, the behavior of fans was no different. Infield parties featured drinking, guns, knives, fights and country music."

Now another form of wildness is reclaiming the space. Pine trees, bushes and erosion have altered the landscape of the last surviving NASCAR dirt track--but its outlines and some original structures like the concrete bleachers are evident in aerial photos and in on-the-ground visits.

Days before the state's advisory committee made its recommendation, which will now pass to officials in Washington for final approval, Hillsborough town government weighed in with contradictory voices. On the one hand, the town's Historic District Commission voted unanimously in favor of granting the speedway historic recognition. But then the town Board of Commissioners, backed by Mayor Joe Phelps, voted 3-2 against recognition.

Commissioner Ken Chavious was a vocal opponent of historic registration, because it would effectively put the property off limits for town planners hoping to install a traffic bypass through the land. Such a bypass, he argued, could provide much-needed relief for downtown road congestion.

"I think that downtown Hillsborough is more important to the historical character of our town than a racetrack you can only see from the air," he commented before casting his vote.

Ironically, that's how the speedway saga started: with a view from the air. In 1947, Bill France Sr., an amateur pilot, gas station owner and racing enthusiast who would become NASCAR's founding father, flew around North Carolina looking for racing space. Two miles to the east of downtown Hillsborough, he spotted a horse track tucked into a nook in the Eno River. He bought the property and modified the track for car racing.

The rest is history. In the summer of 1948, the first race at the track drew a hefty crowd of 17,500 people.

Now that history stands a strong chance of being preserved, on site, for good. Crowther says that if the National Register of Historic Places accepts the state's recommendation, as it is expected to, he hopes to maintain walking paths, restore some of the original structures and install historical markers and displays. "There's enough there to bring back the history of the racetrack," he says.
--Jon Elliston

Goodbye to Bluegill Bob?
The N.C. House of Representatives just won't be the same if Bob Hensley doesn't run again. Not too many others in the House (and are there any in the Senate?) who'll say, sure, I'll support a tax increase, "as long as we go where the money is, which is rich people and big corporations." Or who, smeared last fall as one of the "Gang of Eight" that insisted a tax hike be just a little progressive, passed out "Gang" badges that read: "The bearer of this card is entitled to be called a dissident, obstructionist or bluegill, and is further entitled to protect the poor and working people from the N.C. Senate and its minions."Hensley's put his name in with Gov. Easley for chair of the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission. If he gets it, he won't be running again. If he doesn't, well, "I haven't crossed that bridge yet," he says. Easley's expected to name someone any day now, and Hensley's waiting to hear. His chances? Well, he doesn't know, but Senate President Marc Basnight is backing someone else, so it's no lock.

Meanwhile, at least four Democrats who've been lining up support to run for Hensley's seat if he doesn't are starting to move out of the shadows with the start of the official filing period for candidates this week. (And if Hensley's tapped for the ABC job, Wake Democrats will choose someone to finish the 10 months left in his current term.) Among them: Jim Crew, who lost a Senate race two years ago to Republican John Carrington, and in something of a surprise, the N.C. Civil Liberties Union's executive director, Deborah Ross.

Ross's candidacy offers the fascinating prospect that in the next House Wake County could be represented by not one but two leading constitutional experts. The other: Former N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Joe John, who is thinking about running against Rep. Russell Capps, a Republican.

Capps is famous, among other things, for his booming voice and the soundtruck he uses to employ it at every election. He, too, is considered something of a legal theorist, at least by those who want evolution out of the schools and prayers in. So a John-Capps showdown would be a heckuva learning experience for the voters. John wants to run but may not be able to for family reasons (teenage children; his wife's mother's illness). Four years ago, he should have been the Democratic nominee for a state Supreme Court seat, but he lost in one of those primaries where the voters don't know one judicial candidate from the other. The winner was a guy named Jim Martin (not the former governor), who subsequently lost to Republican Justice Mark Martin.

Another potential candidate is Durham Democrat Sharon Thompson, who served in the General Assembly in the '80s. Capps' seat is thought to be in jeopardy as the result of the new district map put together by the Democrats who run the General Assembly. Previously, his district was mostly North Raleigh Republicans with a little bit of Durham. Now, it's got a lot of Durham Democrats and much less Raleigh. Capps, the serious conservative, and Hensley, the light-hearted progressive, could not be more different politically or personally, but both would be in any Top 10 list of the House's most colorful members. Without either of them, who will be left to tell jokes or tell them about?
--Bob Geary

"If you don't catch the band at a show, you'll find them down by the river fishin' and drinkin'. Proud to be American, but most of all, proud to be Texan. GEORGE BUSH IS PRESIDENT! This is Trotline."
--Quote from a Web site dedicated to the Texas band Trotline

Please send your ideas for future Trotline items to madison@indyweek.com or call David Madison at 286-1972 ext. 154.

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