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A Different Kind of Family Portrait
The Ortlieb Family at Bethany Beach
acrylic on canvas
3ft x 5ft
The Perfect Anniversary Gift Chris
Chris had an important anniversary approaching and was tired of giving typical gifts to Amy, his wife of 20 years. He had seen David Cochran's ads for family portraits and admired how the artist depicted the clients in a causal yet realistic manner....Chris knew this would work well with his family; he knew his wife would appreciate such a personal gift. Chris called David for information and learned that he creates an acrylic painting of the family using the clients photographs and incorporates a personalized background.The painting could be any size and include as many or few portraits as desired, even reflecting former generations. Chris surprised Amy with this 3ft x 5ft portrait of their family relaxing at Bethany Beach. Many images were included that were meaningful to her: their family, both sets of parents, her special jewelry and yellow roses. She was thrilled and speechless. With such a perfect gift, Chris now wonders what he will do for next year's anniversary. GiclĂŠe prints were made of this painting and given to various family members.
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OUTERBANKS From I-64 East, take I-664 South (Exit 264) to I-64 West (Exit 15B) to the Chesapeake Expressway (Route 168) Exit 291B
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Behind every warrior
stands a loyal network of supporters
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Mahler’s th 8 Symphony
May 26, William & Mary Hall, Williamsburg May 27, Chrysler Hall, Norfolk JoAnn Falletta, conductor Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Richmond Symphony Chorus Christopher Newport University Chamber Choir Old Dominion University Concert Choir Virginia Children’s Chorus
Orchestra of 100, massed chorus of 400, and 8 soloists. Dubbed the “Symphony of a Thousand,” this work is rarely performed because of the vast musical resources required; Mahler himself considered it
Co-presented with Virginia Symphony Orchestra This production is made possible by a gift from David & Susan Goode 05/27 co-presented with the City of Williamsburg and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Festival Williamsburg is funded in part by the Williamsburg Area Arts Commission, the City of Williamsburg and James City County.
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PLUS DOZENS MORE PERFORMANCES BY WORLD-RENOWNED ARTISTS Gallim Dance
Itzhak Perlman, violin
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ALSO COMING TO WILLIAMSBURG
Harlem Renaissance Orchestra May 25, Virginia Room, Williamsburg Lodge
Al Pacino: One Night Only June 28, Norfolk
An Evening with
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Have You Seen Us Lately? This season, the deals are hot at the NEW Potomac Mills Fashion District in Neighborhood 1, where you’ll find more high-end and less high price! Save 25-65% every day at new retailers such as Bloomingdale’s-The Outlet Store, Last Call by Neiman Marcus, Bailey Banks & Biddle Outlet, Johnston & Murphy Factory Store, Maxstudio.com Outlet, Michael Kors Outlet, Talbots Outlet, Tommy Bahama Outlet, True Religion Outlet and more. Take a break from power shopping in one of our comfy seating areas, or let your little ones unwind in the brand-new, Virginia-themed children’s play area. So visit Potomac Mills, now with even MORE in store!
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VOLUME 10, NUMBER 4 June 2012 Published by
Cape Fear Publishing Company 109 East Cary Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219 Telephone (804) 343-7539, Facsimile (804) 649-0306 VirginiaLiving.com Publisher
John-Lawrence Smith EDITORIAL STAFF editor Erin Parkhurst Art Director Sonda Andersson Pappan associate editor Daryl Grove assistant editor Lisa Antonelli Bacon CONTRIBUTING Editors
Bland Crowder, Neely Barnwell Dykshorn, Bill Glose, Caroline Kettlewell, Sarah Sargent, Julie Vanden-Bosch CONTRIBUTING writers
Mark Edward Atkinson, Mary Burruss, Aynsley Miller Fisher, David Griffith, Christopher Pala, Tricia Pearsall, Mark Remes, Gary Robertson, Greg Weatherford CONTRIBUTING photographers
Adam Ewing, Jereme Thaxton, Scot Gordon, Tricia Pearsall, Mark Atkinson, Jen Fariello, Mike Topham, Terry Brown, Don Mears CONTRIBUTING illustrators
David Hollenbach, Robert Meganck, Rob Ullman editorial interns
Charlotte Brackett, Glennis Lofland art interns
Christina Carter, Jillian Gonzalez, Sophia Li Advertising executives central virginia
sales MANAGER Torrey Munford (804) 343-0782, TMunford@CapeFear.com
(804) 622-2602, CRoberts@CapeFear.com eastern virginia
(757) 450-1335, KerryHarrington@CapeFear.com
(804) 622-2614, WitRobertson@CapeFear.com Northern Virginia
(804) 622-2603, BlaiseYanick@CapeFear.com western virginia
(804) 622-2611, HeatherMcKinney@CapeFear.com
Culinary Controversy How could I know that Richmond-based freelance writer Greg Weatherford would unleash a firestorm of controversy among our editorial staff with his story in this issue about the recent popularity of artisan doughnuts? When Greg, a journalist and former editor of Style Weekly who is now Virginia Commonwealth University’s director of student media, told me about the doughnut’s return to the spotlight in culinary—well, at least treatseeking—circles, it seemed innocent enough; a pleasant story for our early summer issue. But for months now, edit staff meetings have devolved into fierce discussions about this topic. It comes to this… we have split into two camps: those who love the denser, cakey variety, and those who prefer the light-as-air and lightly glazed version. (‘Cake!’ ‘Air!’ ‘Cake!’ ‘Air!’ So the shouting went.) I have Greg to thank for this acrimony! I hope you’ll read his story and then go to VirginiaLiving.com to let me know which team you are on—cake or air—by joining our ‘Great Doughnut Debate.’ I’m looking forward to knowing your opinion. I also have Greg—who spent many years reporting for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Associated Press—to thank for another possibly divisive story. This one is about that familiar hairy fellow so popular in the 1970s, Bigfoot. Yes, Bigfoot is back in our cultural consciousness. “One day on a whim I decided to find out how close to my home in Richmond the thing was supposed to live,” says Greg, adding that what he discovered was disconcerting. Since much of Virginia is covered in forest and is fairly temperate, “If the creature exists, the Commonwealth is as good a habitat as any,” he explains. Sightings of the creature have taken place across the state for years. (Apocryphal? You decide!) Take a look at Greg’s story in the UpFront section and our map of some of the most notable recent sightings. You might find, as Greg did, that Bigfoot is closer than you knew. Lest you think us frivolous (but summer should include some fun and folly, don’t you think?) we also bring you in this issue a story about coordinated efforts between Virginia and Maryland to restore the Chesapeake Bay crab population. I wonder how many of us who take for granted lazy, sun-splashed afternoons picking crabs on the ‘rivah’ or the bay know that the population of one of our favorite crustaceans was, until recently, perilously near collapse? Washington D.C.-based journalist Christopher Pala, who has written for Science Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, went to Tangier Island to learn more about the measures that several state agencies have taken to ensure that we Virginians will have plenty of crabs to continue our summertime tradition. This issue also includes an interview with Furlong Baldwin, scion of the Eyre family of Northampton County who, with his son Eyre Baldwin, is working to bolster economic prosperity on the Eastern Shore. Mark Edward Atkinson, a writer and photographer in Virginia Beach, met Baldwin, who is soon to leave his post as chairman of Nasdaq OMX, to discuss his plans to invest in the economic infrastructure of this, one of the poorest counties in the state. We are glad to bring you his story. Also inside is an exciting visit to Birch Creek Motorsports Complex in Sutherlin by our own Daryl Grove, who looks at the high-energy world of motocross racing; a new book of images from the late O. Winston Link, whose iconic photographs captured the final days of the era of the steam engine; a journey by travel writer Tricia Pearsall through Rajasthan, the land of princes in India; a tribute to the lusciousness and versatility of the fig, and more. This is our not-so-subtle bid to get you into the summertime mood. Is it working? And I hope you won’t think you are seeing double when you discover that we have also published our very first special issue this month, Best of Virginia 2012. Inside it you will find hundreds of winners from the Readers’ Survey we conducted online earlier this year, as well as exclusive editorial content and art. These are your ‘bests’ and we thank you for sharing them with us! Best of Virginia can be your guide this summer, and all year, to the wonderful dining, doing and shopping we have in Virginia.
OFFICE STAFF OFFICE MANAGER Carolyn Birney assistant oFFICe managER Chenoa Ford Creative Services director Jason Sullivan circulation manager Jamilya Brown Web editor Daryl Grove COrpORATE SPONSORSHIPS Torrey Munford Groundskeeper Melwood Whitlock Activities & Morale Director Cutty Assistant Activities & Morale Director Rex
—erin parkhurst, Editor
We welcome calendar items; to ensure consideration, printed copies of information must be sent four months before publication via U.S. Mail to our Editor at the above address. POSTMASTER
Send address changes to VIRGINIA LIVING 109 East Cary St., Richmond, VA 23219 Subscriptions
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Back issues are available for most editions and are $9.95 plus $5 shipping and handling. Please call for availability. REPRINTS & REPRODUCTION PERMISSION
Contact John-Lawrence Smith, Publisher, at (804) 343-7539 or JLSmith@CapeFear.com LEGALISMS
Virginia Living is a registered trademark of Cape Fear Publishing Company, Inc. Copyright 2008, all rights reserved. Reproduction without written permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited. IDENTIFICATION STATEMENT VIRGINIA LIVING
(USPS) ISSN 1534-9984 VirginiaLiving is published bimonthly by Cape Fear Publishing Company, 109 East Cary St., Richmond, VA 23219. Periodical postage permit 021-875 at Richmond, VA.
Dear Editor: As a new subscriber I have finally had my first cover-to-cover read of Virginia Living after years of skimming through it piece-meal in my dentist’s waiting room. My take? VL is as elegantly presented as Vanity Fair and is a lot more fun. Where else could I have learned of a world record set by a bunch of naked midlifers wedged cheek-to-cheek into a swimming pool near the town of Ivor immediately after I had read a story of stolid Mennonite entrepreneurs in the Shenandoah, and perused another detailing the mid-winter delights available amid the luxury and grandeur of The Greenbrier, The Homestead and Wintergreen?
Dear Editor: I eagerly await my copy of Virginia Living in hopes it’ll have a piece by Clarke Jones. This month’s “Reading the Water” (April 2012) was one of his best. Please keep ‘em coming. Jack Burke richmond
Dear Editor: I’m fairly new to Virginia, having moved here two years ago. I’ve come to enjoy Virginia Living as much as Our State (North Carolina). Thanks to your magazine article on Dude’s Drive-In in Christiansburg (June 2011), I can get a hot dog and extra crispy fries like I used to get at Snoopy’s in Raleigh. Many thanks! Kathryn Dowling Christiansburg
B. C. Walsh Poquoson
Letters to the Editor
We love receiving letters and emails from Virginia Living readers and hearing your reactions to our stories! Don’t keep your thoughts to yourself. Write them down, or type them up instead! Please e-mail us at Editor@CapeFear.com or write to us at Letters to the Editor, Cape Fear Publishing, 109 E. Cary St., Richmond, Va. 23219. Please include your name, address, phone number and city of residence. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. For subscriptions, see our website, VirginiaLiving. com. Kindly address all other editorial queries to Editor@CapeFear.com.
Department of Corrections On page 87 of our April 2012 issue, the watercolor identified as Eyre Hall, a home open on the Eastern Shore tour during Historic Garden Week, is in fact Beverly, which is owned by Mr. and Mrs. William M. Shettle. We apologize for this error. V i r g i n i a
Write to us!
L i v i n g
4/25/12 12:13 PM
Equal Housing Opportunity © 2012 RWC
Living at Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury is about exactly that, “living.” Set on 165 of the most scenic acres of Virginia’s Northern Neck, RWC is an inviting, full-service retirement community. We offer an appealing worry-free lifestyle that affords you more time to enjoy those things you want to do, and the peace of mind of continuing care, if ever needed. For more information, call to request your complimentary copy of our Embrace Life Today DVD today.
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contents june 2012 Virginia Living
FEAt u r e s
d e pa r t m e n t s
Upfront 19 International sailing star,
interview 48 Banking mogul Furlong
drive-in dairy bar, besotted with brunch, Bigfoot redux, VCUarts on the move, chic canine treats, finding fungi, regatta wear, Bellwether and more.
Baldwin, the 11th generation of the Eyre family to live in Northampton County, is making a new investment in the Eastern Shore.
click 43 Social functions around
By mark edward atkinson
iron horses The O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke will publish a new book of never before seen images from the iconic photographer who documented the end of the era of steam locomotives. By gary robertson
moto mojo! When the gate falls and bikes scream forward in the highenergy sport of motocross, the competition is on. It’s exciting, gritty, loud and, surprisingly, oftentimes a family affair. By daryl grove
summer’s siren The Chesapeake Bay crab population came perilously close to collapse. But a mission to restore one of our favorite crustaceans has succeeded, and so preserved a summer tradition.
doughnut nation Are artisan doughnuts supplanting cupcakes as the new trendy musteat treat?
By greg weatherford
fabulous figs Flavorful and fresh, figs are versatile and simple, and yummy in a variety of iterations. By lisa antonelli bacon
the state, supporting art, institutions and charities.
weddings 47 Weddings done in grand
Virginia style from across the Commonwealth.
A trek into the princely state of Rajasthan in India reveals a land of architectural riches and splendor. By tricia pearsall
departure 96 In writing his memoir,
one writer comes to see patterns in the sweep and arc of his story, and the sweet peace of its dénouement. By david griffith
By christopher pala
O n t h e cov e r Makenzie Kay Barker, age 10, crabbing in Virginia Beach. Cover photograph by Mark Atkinson. Styling by Tracey Lee.
p h o t o g r a p h By a da m e w i n g
V i r g i n i a
L i v i n g
4/25/12 12:17 PM
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Wedding Reception • Performing Arts Venue • Radio Personality • TV Personality • Performing Arts Venue • Bed and Breakfast • Boutique Hotel • Resort • Hotel • Golf Course • Tennis Club • Place to Swim • Retirement Community • Bike Path • Place to Dance • Dog Park • Hiking Trail • Historic Site • Organized Race • Place to Camp • Place to Cool Off • Place for Disc Golf • Place to Fly a Kite • Place to Picnic • Place to Run • Shag Dancing Club • Place for a Family Outing • Private School • Summer Camp • College or University • Personal Trainer • Local Architect • Salon and Day Spa • Hair Salon • Salon for Men’s Haircut • Florist • Auto Mechanic • Event Planner • Financial Planner • Interior Designer • Lawyer to Have on Speed Dial • Animal Hospital • Air Charter Service • Outlet Shopping • Home Builder • Real Estate Company • Shopping Area • Baby Store • Place to Board Your Pet • Antiques Mall • Daycare and Preschool • Place to Buy Athletic Clothing • Yoga Studio • Bike Shop • Bridal Salon • Consignment Shop • Cigar Shop (Tobacconist) • Man-Cave Store • Pet Boutique • Greenhouse and Nursery • Farmers’ Market • Gift Shop • Indie Bookstore • Children’s Clothing Store • Fine Jewelry Store • Haute Couture Boutique • Home Décor Store • Men’s Clothing Store • Shoe Store • Toy Store • Hospital • Cosmetic Surgeon • Pediatrician • Dermatologist • Chiropractor • Alternative Health Services • Orthodontist • Dentist • Pediatrician • Arts and Crafts Store • Bakery • Florist • Ofﬁce Supply store • Fine Stationery and Invitations • Vintage Clothing Store • Bartender • Party Venue • Movie Theatre • Local Band • Local DJ • Local Sports Team • Performing Arts Company • Yoga Studio • Local Celebrity • Local Festival • Local Tradition • Place to Spot a Local Politician • Place to take Out-of-Town Guests • Place to Wreck Your Car in a Pothole • Spot to Run into Someone You Know • Hidden Gem • Local Landmark • Local TV News Anchor • Radio Personality • TV Personality • Bistro • Barbeque Restaurant • Caterer • Dessert Menu • Steakhouse • Cupcakes • Asian Cuisine • Fusion Cuisine • Continental Cuisine • Mexican Restaurant • Ethnic Supermarket • Place for Brunch • Slice of Pizza • Food Cart • Chocolatierco• pPlace y at for a Power Lunch • Breakfast Restaurant • Burger Joint • Cheap Place to Grab Lunch • Coffee Shop • Comfort Food • Diner • r Buy yo• uIce Farmers’ Market Cream re s • Locavore Restaurant • Organic Food • Outdoor Dining • Place to Take the Family for Dinner • Seafood Restaurant • Sushi sto Shop le b o N & s Cuisine B•arn Vegetarian Restaurant • Overall Bar • Happy Hour • Piano Bar • Martini Bar • Nightclub • Place for Cocktails • Wine List • Place for a Quiet Drink • e ds Beer • Sports Bar • Winery • Art Event • Art Museum • Bar for Live Music • Food Festival • Large Music Venue • Local Theatre n ta ss w e Place to Buy q Wine • Place to Buy n nd uality Group a• Performing stArts , or g•o Bed and Breakfast • Boutique Hotel • Resort • Hotel • Golf Course • Tennis Club • Place to Swim • Retirement Community • teVenue d the • aBeach rounHorses Place to aRide Hotel om • Hunting Preserve • Bike Path • Hidden Gem • Hiking Trail • Park for a Picnic • Place to Catch Some Rays • Place to Fish • g.cHot in iv L ia in g Place to Run • Place to Spot Surfers • Place to Shag • Private School • Summer Camp • College or University • Personal Trainer • Local Architect • Salon and ir to V Day Spa • Hair Salon • Salon for Men’s Haircut • Florist • Auto Mechanic • Event Planner • Financial Planner • Interior Designer • Lawyer to Have on Speed Dial • Animal Hospital • Air Charter Service • Outlet Shopping • Home Builder • Real Estate Company • Shopping Area • Baby Store • Place to Board Your Pet • Antiques
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Bad Breath Bonanza
The Girl Next Door
Ready for Regatta?
Rives Potts bringing Carina into the winner’s berth at the Newport Bermuda Race in 2010.
Fair Winds & Following Seas
by Aynsley Miller Fisher
International sailing star Rives Potts has won the sport’s top honors, criss-crossing the world’s oceans and competing in the toughest conditions. But today, sailing for Potts is a family affair, and his sloop Carina, with his son and nephew at the helm, is ready to defend the title at the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race. Richmond native Rives Potts, 63, first got hooked on sailing at Fishing Bay where the waters of the Piankatank River meet the Chesapeake Bay in Deltaville. The passion he developed for open water sailing has led Potts, a lean athletic man with a ready smile, to success in the world’s biggest long-distance ocean races, including multiple campaigns for the America’s Cup, the 635-mile Newport Bermuda Race and the venerable Rolex Fastnet Race. In 2010, he was named Yachtsman of the Year by the New York Yacht Club and last year was elected rear commodore of the 168-year-old club. Today, Potts, a boat builder and principal at Brewer Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook, Connecticut, is awaiting the return home of his 48-foot sloop Carina—an aluminum workhorse designed by McCurdy & Rhodes and built in 1969—from a nearly year-long 40,000-mile trip around the globe, including three Atlantic crossings, one Pacific crossing and one Indian Ocean crossing, and over 5,000 miles of racing. Carina is skippered by Potts’ son Walker, 26, and nephew, Rives Sutherland, 26, and when she arrives home the family, which includes wife Nancy, daughter Landon, 29, and son Allen, 28, will prepare her for June’s Newport Bermuda Race.
photo g raphy B y C hris M u s e l e r
Ten years ago, Potts started a tradition of sailing with a father-son crew. “It’s wet, cold, things go wrong,” he says. “It’s a great bonding experience. It is the reason I own Carina.” 2010 was a great year for Carina and the Potts crew of family and friends, which often includes the “Crump contingent,” the adult children of his original sailing mentors, Bev and Susan Crump from Fishing Bay. That spring, Carina won every race entered and claimed the Northern Ocean Racing Trophy–the Stamford Yacht Club’s blue water sailing award. In June, they won the Newport Bermuda Race. “It was a great thrill,” recalls Potts, who says it is “a terrific feeling to win one of the world’s greatest races.” In July, Carina finished second in her class in the Transatlantic Race. In August, Carina won her class in the Fastnet Race and closed out the year with the challenging Sydney Hobart Race. Allen Potts says, “Winning a race requires solid teamwork and a fair amount of luck. It’s a pretty cool feeling when the crew is firing on all cylinders and the gambles you make when selecting your route pan out the way you hoped.” Potts became serious about ocean racing in the mid-1970s when he was
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invited to sail in New England by top sailors Walter Hanson, aboard his 48-foot sloop Recluta; Bob Hutton, aboard his 48-foot sloop Tatoosh; and Ted Turner aboard his 61-foot sloop Tenacious, where the racing was more intense and covered longer distances than he had done before. “This introduced me to the major ocean races,” he explains. “I really got hooked.” Potts had met Ted Turner in 1977 while a student at the University of Virginia’s Darden School and, in the summer of 1979, he and his wife Nancy sailed on Turner’s Tenacious in the infamous Fastnet Race in England. Fifteen people were killed due to a severe storm, and the tragedy forever changed racing. Tenacious was in the same storm as the rest of the fleet, but after rounding Fastnet Rock was headed back to England when the storm hit. In spite of the challenging conditions, Tenacious won the race. “There were 50foot waves and 60 to 90 mileper-hour winds,” recalls Potts, “hurricane conditions in the middle of the Irish Sea.” Composure has served Potts well in the face of danger. “He is capable, fearless and cool,” says Nancy. “He doesn’t ever panic but calmly assesses the situation and addresses it with such composure that it inspires confidence in others.” After the Fastnet Race, Potts went into training with Dennis Connor’s Freedom-Enterprise team in preparation for the 1980 America’s Cup campaign. Potts, who has an engineering degree from the Virginia Military Institute, was enlisted as a grinder, whose job it is to turn the handles that power the winches controlling the sails. “If you sail,” says Potts, “America’s Cup is a lifelong dream. It’s the biggest sailing event in the world.” In 1980, Connor’s Freedom won. “It was very exciting,” says Potts. “It was also the last true America’s Cup. We were all amateurs.” Competing at such a high level is a thrill for Potts, and doing it as a family makes success all the sweeter. “Hopefully, I will be able to pass along to [my sons] what I have learned over the years from a lot of great people,” says Potts. “They are learning a lot and becoming darn good sailors. And they will always have the memories to pass along to their sons some day. “Blue water sailing is such a wonderful experience,” says Potts. “It takes a few days to turn off your worries, and then it’s just you and the ocean, the weather, the sun, the stars. It’s a time to reconsider what’s important.” Track Carina’s course and read the crew’s blog at Carina2011.com i l l u s t r at i o n b y r o b e r t m e g a n c k
n at i v e s
Run, shad, run! The American shad journeys long and far. You know how, if you spend your formative years in a certain place, then no matter where else you live in your life, that place will always feel like home? Well, perhaps you don’t, but the American shad does. The shad, which is known as a “river herring,” shares the same biological family with sardines, herring and menhaden, and if you were to draw a generic picture labeled “fish,” it would probably look a lot like an American shad. They are silvery and solid-bodied, and in the ocean they swim in large schools, looking exactly like your idea of a big silvery school of fish swimming in the ocean. They are also a fish not short on names. Take your pick: In addition to American shad, they are, according to MarineBio.org, known as shad, common shad, Atlantic shad, Connecticut River shad, herring jacks, north river shad, Potomac shad, Susquehanna shad and white shad. The shad is an anadromous (an-ADro-muss) species, and if you haven’t yet found occasion to use that term in casual conversation, it defines a fish that is born in fresh water, migrates to the sea, then returns again to fresh water to spawn. Virginia’s shad begin their lives in rivers like the James and the Potomac, where they spend their first summer. “Then, typically in the fall, they begin to migrate down-
stream,” explains Michael Odom, who is manager of the National Fish and Wildlife Service’s Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery in Charles City. As the fish move down the river, their bodies actually undergo physiological changes that allow them to live in salt water. And once to the sea, says Odom, they will pass the next several years swimming along the Atlantic seaboard from roughly the Outer Banks north to the Canadian Maritimes, following the plankton blooms as the water warms from spring into summer, and returning south again in the fall. Then, around age three for males and four for females, says Odom, the fish abandon the sea to return again to the freshwater to spawn. Not just to any freshwater river, however, but to the very river in which they were born. And, it would seem, not just to the river but to the very beds where they disported as youth in their first summer. “As they migrate along the East Coast in the spring, they peel off into their natal rivers,” explains Odom. “It is believed that they have the ability to smell their own river’s microchemistry.” Neat trick, that. In Virginia, the shad generally reach their spawning grounds around mid-March. And although the journey is grueling and the physiological cost of spawning high, about half of the
adults survive to return again to the ocean and repeat the cycle. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shad restoration web page, there was a time when the fish that surged up Virginia’s rivers in the spring did so in numbers so great that an 18th-century observer marveled, “It is almost impossible to ride through, without treading on them.” They were estimated to fill the rivers literally by the millions. In the spring, the shad were harvested as adults, and in the fall they were harvested as juveniles. Shad, a bony fish, was eaten fresh, salted, pickled and, in a tradition said to have originated with Native Americans, smoked on wood planks over a fire. But the fish was, and is, perhaps best loved by your traditional Virginian for its eggs, the shad roe. Apparently, shad roe is considered a lip-smacking delicacy but, to the non-enthusiast, candidly, it looks like an organ harvest gone awry. Consider that one recipe for preparing the stuff calls for this particularly arresting step: “Cut out any blood clots.” The shad’s one-time abundance must have made it seem inexhaustible, and indeed, says Odom, “The American Shad was the most important commercial fish in the Chesapeake Bay up until the 1930s, both in terms of pounds landed and value.” But alas, we know where the story goes next. The dams erected along the rivers first smote the shad. In the James, for example, shad historically had traveled as far west as Covington to spawn, but when Bosher’s Dam was built only a few miles west of Richmond in 1823, the fish were entirely cut off from the river’s upper reaches. Overfishing, declining water quality and the loss and degradation of spawning grounds and nursery habitats all compounded the problem. Today the American shad population is a ghost of what it once was. Restoration efforts, including protecting water quality, restoring habitat, and breaching dams or providing fish ladders around them, have been more successful in some rivers than others, but are making some, if fitful, progress. Still, the shad run, every spring. —Caroline Kettlewell V i r g i n i a
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Frozen Goodies to Go A drive-through ice cream shop serves up farm-fresh taste. By Mary Burruss
Moo Thru/Focus Photography
from a local dairy, made by somebody that you know in your community, from a place where you can go and see that the cows are treated humanely,” says Smith. The barn-like shop with its black and white cow motif sign is definitely eye-catching when you reach the intersection of James Madison Highway and Route 28, but the crowd of patrons milling about is truly what induced me to stop the first time I visited. “We served over 100,000 customers in the first year,” claims Smith. Boy was I glad I stopped! The dish of fresh peach ice cream I had invoked fond Customers outside Moo Thru in Remington. memories of my first foray in hand-cranked homemade ice cream making as a child. The milk, which is produced from Smith’s grass-fed cows Imagine, the lovely cooling effect that a taste and is full of “nons” (non-homogenized, non-pasteurof ice cream has on a blazing summer day. Now imagized, non-commingled, non-calcium fortified, with ine that the ice cream you are tasting has the silken no solids added), is the key to the ice cream’s amaztexture of pudding combined with the freshness of ing freshness. And it all comes from Smith’s Cool a gentle breeze tickling a field of cool green grass Lawn Farm, less than two miles away. “Milk will as flavors of locally grown fruit or imported spices come from the cow on Monday and be in the store on waltz across your tastebuds—euphoric, right? You can Wednesday,” says Smith. experience this tiny bit of “yummylicious” heaven “It’s richer than regular ice cream,” Carly Phillips, at a charming little place called the Moo Thru, near Remington, where fourth generation dairy farmer Ken age 11, told me. The most popular flavors are the oldfashioned butter pecan, and regular chocolate—which Smith has set up Virginia’s first drive-through, farmsells twice as fast as any other flavor in the store. My to-retail ice cream shop. favorites were among the more exotic choices: cinAfter several years of successful dairy farming, namon, mango sorbet and peanut butter chocolate the Smith family wanted to add a product line to chip. Whatever your favorite flavor, this ice cream is their business that would showcase their fantastic worth the road trip to rural Remington to taste what local milk. Ice cream seemed a good solution, and is possibly one of the coolest locally-grown products Moo Thru was born. “I really wanted my name on a Virginia has to offer. MooThru.com product [like ice-cream] to say that this product came
The Tall Ships are Coming! Norfolk harbor to host this fleet of sailing beauties.
It’s Virginia. We love our bourbon and our foxhunts, our golf plaids and our historic wars. So it is with great delight that we welcome the sea-going vessels of Op-
Sail 2012 Virginia. From June 1 to June 12, a fleet of tall ships and war ships from around the world will dock in The Port of Virginia to celebrate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Hampton Roads is one of five historic ports (including Baltimore, New Orleans, Boston and New York) hosting the commemoration, which will stretch into 2015 with concerts, festivals and educational programs taking place
in ports and cities around North America, including the Eastern Shore. One tall ship will even go to Onancock for four days beginning June 1. All ships will be open for free tours, and Norfolk Naval Base will welcome guests. We expect the Chesapeake Bay will be standing-room only, so plan ahead. Some of the locations will have trolley or bus services available, or you can catch a lift from the Norfolk Tide. OpSail2012Virginia.com
Bravo for Brunch fabulous brunches await across the state. here are five that are worth lining up for this summer.
Millie’s Diner, Richmond From the outside, Millie’s looks like, well, a diner. But inside you’ll find dishes like the Devil’s Mess, an open-faced omelet with spicy sausage and mild curry—just the right amount of jump to start your weekend. MilliesDiner.com The Columbia Firehouse, Alexandria This place oozes atmosphere. Originally a 19th-century firehouse, TCF is now a brasserie and bar with a broad list of offerings like roasted pumpkin soup with dried cranberries, spiced pecans and coriander crème fraîche, or one of the eggs Benedict-inspired originals, featuring crispy rock shrimp or fried green tomatoes. ColumbiaFirehouse.com Gillie’s Restaurant, Blacksburg Vegetarian brunch is tasty with treats like Banana Walnut French Toast. You can even make your choice vegan by substituting tofu for eggs. Anything you don’t eat gets boxed in a Styrofoam-free bio-pack. GilliesRestaurant.net Fellini’s #9, Charlottesville Say what you will, but Fellini’s does it their way. And we’re glad. Everything has a little twist. Eggs Benedicto, for instance, is a riff on the conventional, with poached eggs on toasted focaccia with pancetta and orange-thyme Hollandaise. Something sweet, you say? Then the French toast made with Challah bread and strawberrymaple syrup might suit. When all else fails, visit the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Fellinis9.com Millstone Tea Room, Bedford Tucked in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, Millstone Tea Room offers an eclectic mix, from buttermilk fried chicken with mac & cheese to a tony trout meunière with wilted spinach and red grapes. There are also classics like eggs Benedict and eggs Chesapeake. MillstoneTeaRoom.com What is your favorite brunch spot? Let us know by sending an email to Editor@CapeFear.com V i r g i n i a
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4/25/12 12:24 PM
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Posh Nosh gourmet dog bakeries are turning out homemade snacks that even the most discerning doggie diner won’t be able to refuse! BY Glennis Lofland kery
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Dog-Tinis Marley’s Barkery, Richmond Who said you can’t enjoy happy hour with your furry, four-legged companion? Marley’s Barkery makes these apple-flavored dog treats in the shape of martinis, because, well, it’s 5:00 somewhere. $1.50 per cookie. MarleysBarkery.com
Bacon Biscuits Working Dog Bakery, Suffolk If people can get bacon-flavored vodka and baconflavored mayonnaise, then why should Fido miss out on “bacon mania?” These treats from Working Dog Bakery are made with real bacon; sure to make your dog drool, and maybe you as well! $8 for a half-pound bag. WorkingDogBakery.com
Pupcakes and Puptarts Three Dog Bakery, Richmond Amid their enormous selection of cookies, cakes, brownies, bars and even biscotti, Three Dog Bakery offers an assortment of puptarts and pupcakes. These are one of Three Dog’s top sellers, so it’s unlikely your pooch will turn his nose up at a luscious looking cup-, er, pupcake. Two for $1.50. ThreeDogBakery.com
Going Postal Barkley Square Bakery, Alexandria Dog is man’s best friend, unless you’re the mailman. Now your dog can finally taste the forbidden flavor of letter-carrier with these delightful doggie treats, which come in DHL, USPS and FedEx-uniformed varieties. $4 single, $20 for a dozen. BarkleySquare.com
Snicker Poodles and Squirrels Dogma Bakery, Arlington Made with all-natural ingredients and without any fancy frostings, Dogma Bakery’s treats can simply satisfy your dog’s sweet tooth, especially with cookies shaped like your dog’s favorite things: squirrels and cats. $5 per dozen. DogmaBakery.com
High-Tech History Hunt
‘Texting’ for colonial clues. BY lisa Antonelli Bacon So you’ve been to Colonial Williamsburg a dozen times, you say? If you haven’t been recently, you owe yourself a trip. Don’t forget your cell phone. And you’d best know how to text. (How better to hold your teen’s attention?) The new RevQuest tour has a mystery to solve, and visitors collect clues as they traverse the historic area in search of answers. In RevQuest “Sign of the Rhinoceros,” which began last summer, clues revealed a plot to kill George Washington by poisoning his peas. This year’s RevQuest, titled “The Lion and the Unicorn,” has a new set of clues and objectives based on historical events. Visitors begin by registering online before arriving. Once at the Visitor Center, gamers receive a packet that includes a decoder pamphlet (the “Continental Army Cipherbook”) and fake 18th-century money
c o nt r ibuted ph o t o s
to help them find their way. In an accompanying booklet, questions are posed in rhymes, and players must text their answers. Correct answers get a text back with instructions on where to look for the next clue. What’s the mission? You have to sign up to find out! The RevQuest tour is designed to last 90 minutes, but it doesn’t have to be done all at once. You might break it up with lunch or dinner at any of CW’s historic taverns. Get started at History.org
Above: The new RevQuest begins June 18.
Mad About Mushrooms Foodies forage for fungi. BY Mark Remes Fans call him the “mushroom whisperer,” but Steve Haas doesn’t talk to mushrooms. Instead, he hunts for the tastiest, which he then either eats himself or sells to restaurants like Can Can Brasserie in Richmond. “Mushrooms are mysterious,” says the youthful 50-yearold Haas, a resident of Goochland. “They’re misunderstood. Folks even have phobias about them. But they’re delicious!” Some of the most popular culinary mushrooms—like Chicken of the Woods and Lion’s Mane (which Haas says tastes like crabmeat)—can be found right here in the Commonwealth. The best hunting grounds are found in Central Virginia—in Floyd, Amherst and parts of Goochland counties. It’s mostly there, on the earthy dampness near the James River at Tuckahoe Plantation, where Haas leads people on mushroom “hunts.” A mixture of foodies and chefs gather for Haas’ personalized two-hour educational trek where, for a cost of $200, he leads fellow foragers into the forest and teaches them where to look and what to look for. Haas advises them to scout the tops of ash trees or old unpicked apple orchards, which he says are fertile fungi hotbeds. He also teaches wouldbe mushroom hunters how to identify the edible species. There are apparently over 10,000 species, but only 10 or so we enjoy eating. “Yes, a few can kill you,” Haas warns amateurs. “But others, if you eat them, you’ll just wish you were dead!” SteveHaasMushrooms.com
Above: Paddy straw mushrooms; “mushroom whisperer” Steve Haas. V i r g i n i a
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4/25/12 12:29 PM
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4/26/12 1:52 PM
In Search of Sasquatch A Northern Virginia Bigfoot buff is no braggadocio, he’s actually laid eyes on the hirsute hominid. By Greg Weatherford
There’s a creature out there in the Virginia woods, a gigantic hominid covered with hair. William Dranginis is sure of it. As founder of, and main investigator for, the Manassas-based Virginia Bigfoot Research Organization, Dranginis, 53, hears often from people who’ve been spooked by something big in the forest; about two a month from all over the Commonwealth call to say they’ve seen a Bigfoot. Dranginis became a believer in 1995, in a wooded area near Culpeper, when he and some friends watched in amazement as one trotted across their path in all its hairy, wideshouldered hugeness. Dranginis since has applied his experience as a designer of security technology to obtain proof. “I thought that within a couple of years I would solve the mystery,” he says. But the beasts have proven wily and elusive. Still, he has investigated a number of credible reports. Some recent notables: Prince William County: Five or six sightings since 1941, most recently in January 2012. The area is heavily wooded, which Dranginis believes is the creature’s preferred habitat.
Highland County: A woman walking a dog re-
Matoaca: A family in the area near Lake
ported seeing a Bigfoot in February 2012, about 150 feet away; it strode across her path. The dog stopped in its tracks and stared in silence.
Chesdin last year described “monkeys or apes” in the woods; another recalled “a tan-colored orangutan.”
Quantico Military Base: In 1978, a Marine described a large creature standing in the moonlight near the ammunition storage area. Despite subsequent sightings at the base, this is the only example with an official military report.
Highland County: Over the last 20 years, a
Does Dranginis have any proof? His custom-built camera once caught an image of a 10-foot-tall creature. Not enough to convince nonbelievers, Dranginis acknowledges. But he’s not giving up. What should you do if you see a Bigfoot? He laughs. “Take a picture!” VirginiaBigfootResearch.org
dentist who once operated a 2,500-acre hunt club has reported regular sightings of a family of the creatures. He said they seemed benign but cautious of humans.
Stranger than Fiction Professional storytellers spin some good yarns. By Erin Parkhurst The latest trend in live performance may also be one of the oldest forms of entertainment ... storytelling. “In my first story, I told how I got certified in scuba diving for love, and how I neglected the fact that I can’t swim and get seasick,” says Jessica Piscitelli Robinson (pictured at right), 37, founder of Better Said Than Done—a professional storytelling group that performs themed shows all over Northern Virginia. “The relationship,” laughs the NYU Film School grad, “didn’t work out, but I got three or four good stories out of it.” Taking their cue from the success of storytelling troupes in the D.C. area, including SpeakeasyDC, Better Said Than Done comprises around 25 tellers, including a molecular biologist and a former prison chaplain. These are not actors. “Stories have to be true, personal and memorized,” explains Robinson, who says each story also has to have a beginning, middle and an end. Six to seven tellers per bi g foot m ap B y S . A ndersson pappan
show spin sevento 10-minute tales that may be funny, poignant, even gut-wrenching. Robinson says she has told stories about her first kiss, about dating and relationships gone wrong, about being taken advantage of by a swindler (that story ended with sweet revenge, by the way) and about her father’s death. Other tellers have told stories about everything from experimenting on mice to the pitfalls of having curly hair. “I think that what keeps bringing people back is that they want to hear more unbelievable and true stories,” says Robinson. “You’ll always walk away from one of our shows thinking ‘I can’t believe that happened to someone,’ or ‘That guy’s story is exactly what happened to me!’” BetterSaidThanDone.com
Broad Appeal VCU’s institute for contemporary art. For nine years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked VCUarts in Richmond the top public university visual arts and design graduate program in America. Now VCUarts is taking a major step that will undoubtedly Artist’s rendering of VCUarts ICA. cement its place at the top: It’s creating its own Institute for Contemporary Art. Expected to open in 2015, the 38,000 square-foot structure will house multiple gallery spaces, an outdoor sculpture garden, a theater, classrooms and a café. The building will be designed by architect Steven Holl and located on the southwest corner of Broad and Belvidere. “It will bring in contemporary art from around the world,” says Dean Joe Seipel, including work from VCU’s own faculty and alumni. Arts.VCU.edu
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4/25/12 12:30 PM
Camp Kum-Ba-Yah Fishing Tournament: h
6:30-9:30am Fish for Camp Fishing Tournament, sponsored by the B.A.S.S. Federation of Virginia. Entrance fee: $15 per participant Fishing Tournament Awards: 9:45am At Percival’s Island.
3rd Annual River Race:
12:00pm Support the Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Paddle from Percival’s Island to Galt’s Mill. Entrance fee: $20 Registration fee for both Kum-Ba-Yah events: $30 events begin in downtown lynchburg. Info/registration: campkumbayah.com
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President John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy watch the first America’s Cup aboard USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. in Newport, Rhode Island.
Courtesy of IDan & Corinna lecca
by N e e ly Ba r n w e l l Dy ks h o r n a nd J u l i e Va nd e n - B o s c h
Robert Knudsen, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston
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Crisp nautical motifs rule the waves this summer. Who can forget those images of President John F. Kennedy and his family at play? Effortlessly stylish with a laid-back, wind-blown glamour. Virginians can lay claim to this look in heritage (Manitou, JFK’s 62-foot yacht, was restored by Deltaville’s Chesapeake Boat Works) and in person with crisp cottons, regatta stripes, stars and bars and the sailing vernacular of steel and rope. Ahoy!
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Jonathan Adler Anchor Pillow. $110. JonathanAdler.com Rotenier Sterling Silver Ship Wheel Cufflinks. $345. Rotenier.com
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4/25/12 12:30 PM
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June 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 30 @7pm June 24 & July 1 @2pm Babcock Fine Arts Center, Sweet Briar College Directed by Chad Larabee Music and Lyrics by ROGER MILLER Book by WILLIAM HAUPTMAN Adapted from the novel by Mark Twain
July 6, 7, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22 @7pm
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Outdoors on The Grounds of Sweet Briar College Written by William Shakespeare Directed by Geoffrey Kershner
4/26/12 2:25 PM
Bellwether a compendium of news and notes from around the state. By Lisa Antonelli Bacon
Vintage Vines Oh, how we Virginians love to ruminate on the past. All the better to do it over a nice bottle of wine. How about one from the Philip Carter Winery in Hume? Carter wines, after all, were recommended by the agricultural committee of our mother country’s Royal Society of the Arts in 1762. The committee rewarded Charles Carter with a gold medal for his wines. Once again, Carter wines are available, thanks to Carter descendent Philip Carter Strother (pictured here with his wife and sons), who bought an existing winery in 2008 in Hume. Attempting to repeat history, in 2009 Carter sent two cases of his first vintage to the Royal Society in London. According to Strother, they were received “with much acclaim and appreciation.” There was no medal, but Strother recently was named a fellow of Great Britain’s RSA. PCWinery.com
Elusive and Exclusive In chefs’ terms, “prolific” doesn’t necessarily mean one has made a million meatballs or even served a million people. In Peter Chang’s case, it means he has driven the reputations of an unusual number of restaurants to stellar reviews (a loose accounting tallies nine between 2005 and 2011) and then moved on. He’s like Woody Allen’s “Zelig,” popping up without warning in unexpected places. Cheered on by the likes of The New Yorker and Washingtonian, he doesn’t wow with tasteful surroundings but lets the food speak for itself. In fact, many of his endeavors have been in strip malls. In January, he opened Peter Chang’s China Café in Glen Allen’s Short Pump area in a Wal-Mart-anchored shopping center. Word is out, so the hordes have found him. Let’s hope he stays put. PeterChangRVA.com
Taking a Toll Locals and commuters in Norfolk and Portsmouth who routinely use the Downtown and Midtown tunnels got riled up when it was announced that a one-way trip soon would cost around $1.80. That tallies up to nearly $1,000 per year for daily users, as estimated by the VirginianPilot. Part of the tolls income would be used to drive a second Midtown Tunnel to completion. But after more than 200 people lined up to file suit, the plan was delayed until 2014. Which begs the question: If they build it, will you come? MidtownTunnel.org
Happy Trails Outdoorsy types, listen up: Virginia State Parks now offers a free app that you can download directly to your smartphone that shows the nearest state parks. Complete with descriptions, trail and activities information, and a GPS device that allows you to mark, record and share trail experiences, hikers can personalize their favorite routes, and hunters and fishermen can mark their favorite spots. While using your phone in the wilderness—where cell reception can be spotty at best—seems counterintuitive, the app has a cache map feature that allows you to navigate the parks without mobile reception. Users can even send their GPS coordinates along with a message to a list of contacts in the event of an emergency. With this app, “127 Hours” could have been 127 minutes. VirginiaStateParks.gov
Finding the Finder Recently the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation posted online their new Virginia Native Plant Finder, a handy guide that gives you all the information you need to choose plants that will do well naturally in your own backyard. The Plant Finder is a terrific resource, but first you have to find the Finder. Here’s a hint: Once you get to the site, click on “Natural Heritage” in the left-hand column. (Who-da guessed?) From that drop-down menu, choose “Native Plants.” Then ignore what you see in front of you, and go directly to the right-hand column. And there you’ll find it. Now you just have to find the plants. DCR.Virginia.gov
Circling the Wagons Hungry Richmonders no longer have to worry about tracking down their favorite food truck’s latest location. For the first time, these four-wheeled moveable feasts will all be in one place, with Boka Truck, Sustenance Truck and more parking weeknights from 6-9 at the Virginia Historical Society in hopes of becoming a mainstay in the Museum District. The new Food Truck Court woos with such innovative offerings as Asian-Mexican-American fusion, truffled tater tots and gourmet drinks. “We’re trying it out,” says the Society’s Jennifer Guild. “If it does well, we’ll continue it through the summer. And if that does well, we’ll do it again next year.” For truck dates, check Facebook.com/RichmondFoodTruckCourt
From Player to Playa Virginia has had its share of professional athletes, and former Alexandrian Ed Cunningham ranks among them with five years in the NFL playing for the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks. Retired from the NFL, he’s now a college football analyst for ESPN. And, oh yeah, did I mention an Oscar winner, too? No one was more surprised than Cunningham when “Undefeated,” the documentary he produced about a losing high school football team in Memphis, won as the year’s Best Documentary. “I didn’t think it was real until we were actually on the stage,” says Cunningham from his home in L.A. “Undefeated” was Cunningham’s third documentary, and now he’s planning two reality television shows. Asked what it was like rubbing shoulders with big stars, he told one reporter, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, “It almost got old, standing by famous people.”
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4/26/12 2:45 PM
O L DEN T I M ES |
by b l a n d c r o w d e r
Ramp Up! Stinky, yes, but thousands head to the Virginia hills each May to honor a native mountain leek.
Breathe easy: There is one day each spring in Grayson County when nobody is going to slip you a packet of Sen-Sen. A “bad breath success” is what the Smith County years ago News proclaimed that day in 1987, when a crowd of 7,000 people was so afflicted. What gave them bragging rights to this mass halitosis? The annual Whitetop Mountain Ramp Festival, which draws people from the Appalachian Mountains and farther afield on the third Sunday in May (the 20th this year) to celebrate a native wild leek that botanists call Allium tricoccum. The dancing, the bluegrass, the arts and crafts and the view of Virginia’s second-highest peak are sides to the main course: paying herbage to this pungent present of spring. Move over Vidalia sweets, scallions and garlic. You are small potatoes compared with your country cousin, commonly called ramps. Robert McKinney pulled no punches in the adjacent county’s paper, comparing the collective sigh of olfactory effrontery to one of the EPA’s Superfund sites. The revelers donned their feedbags and scarfed down a truckload of food, including 2,000 barbecued chickens, “enough green beans to fill a 55-gallon barrel,” and almost 2,000 pounds of ramps. That’s a ton of ramps.
Dr. Philo Dygard of Delaware, a “stout, gentlemanly man” years ago of about 40, reports the Rockbridge County News of Lexington, detrains carrying glowing reference letters, but he’s not job hunting. His purpose is to marry a Miss Nettie Carrolton, who lives with her mother at Jennings Gap. They have never met—and don’t plan to until the wedding. A postal courtship, enabled by mutual friends, was effective. But, oh! When the two meet by accident on the street, it goes swimmingly. The wedding takes place, the groom making an “exceedingly pleasant impression.”
No wonder the festival (and those like it in West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina) grabbed foodie attention nationwide. In the intervening 25 years, ramps have gone haute cuisine, appearing on fine menus, the Food Network and in blogs. And Martha Stewart never met an allium she didn’t like, so it’s no surprise she has dished up ramp crostino, ramp polenta and pickled ramps. Did she get the idea for her ramps and red potatoes from the fried potatoes with ramps offered at the Whitetop festival? Twenty-five years of American trending may have put ramps at risk in some areas, such as Tennessee, where they are commercially exploited, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plant profile of the species. But Virginia ramps are just fine, and although a tea made from the bulb has been used to induce vomiting and the juice was once used to treat insect stings, most negative commentary on these plants is made in jest. Visit KingOfStink.com, a website that, despite its name, revels in the virtues of this native plant. The pièce de résistance of the Whitetop festival has always been the ramp-eating contest. “You have three minutes to eat as many as you can,” Joey Roop, captain of the Mount Rogers Fire and Rescue Squad, festival sponsor, told the Mountain Times of Boone, North Carolina in 2005. The record is 82 ramps, he said, and the contestants’ only defense is a “tall glass of water,” but the $100 grand prize appears to be incentive enough to keep eating. In 1987, McKinney wrote that a New Englander hiking the Appalachian Trail stumbled upon the festival and “staggered away” with second place. And maybe a hankering for a Certs.
At 6:45 p.m., a “little son” playing in years ago Staunton’s Main Street is suddenly leapt upon by a “setter dog,” which “inflicted several bad-looking wounds” to his head, including a gash over his left eye, reports the Augusta County Argus. The tot’s father, J.E. Ritchie, grabs a shotgun and pursues the dog. A policeman collars the animal and allows the father “the satisfaction of killing the brute.” The dog isn’t thought to have been rabid, but “its head will be sent to the Pasteur Institute” in Richmond for verification.
Invoking Flash Gordon and his metal-melting ray years ago gun, the Buena Vista News says that such a device is indeed in development. Called a “laser,” it can burn a pinhole through a thin sheet of steel in two-thousandths of a second and still set fire to a piece of paper 14 feet away. The laser greatly strengthens ordinary light and then “shoots it out in a tiny compact beam.” The Pentagon already has on the drawing board a laser, borne by satellite, that will be able to destroy an enemy missile or satellite from a great distance. Monsters of Mongo!
Send unique postcards, along with an explanatory note and 8 1/2 -inch SASE, to Virginia Living, Postcards, 109 E. Cary St., Richmond, Va., 23219, and get a free one-year subscription if your entry is selected. (Send at your own risk.)
I llustrati o n B y r o b ullman
p e n n y P o s tc a r d s BY G l e n n i s Lo f l a n d
The High Life For city dwellers, getting a breath of fresh air is something to do on weekends, or the occasional vacation. These three postcards, however, depict a simpler life, where men and women carve their livelihoods out of the Virginia landscape, living with, and off, the land.
A Typical Southern Cabin Home Sent by Mary Priest, Amissville As the quote above the picture—“everybody works at our house”—suggests, all members of the family, from the smallest child to the grandparents, pitched in to maintain their house and home.
Blacksmith Shop at Mabry Mill Blue Ridge Parkway Sent by Glenda Booth, Alexandria There is more to Mabry Mill than its picturesque water mill, as this postcard shows. The 100-year-old blacksmith shop is among five other buildings on the mill grounds.
A Mountain Home, Big Stone Gap Sent by Luretta Graham, Chesterfield While Big Stone Gap now refers to the mining town established there in the late 1800s, this hand-colored postcard depicts another, perhaps earlier, style of mountain life. Nestled in a valley with the mountains in the distance, the pastoral setting of this mountain cabin is certainly breathtaking.
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4/25/12 12:33 PM
4/27/12 9:03 AM
R e v i e w e d by B i l l G lo s e
A Hit and Run in Jersey A reporter investigates a murder, and finds the death may be tied to his newspaper.
When he was a reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger, Brad Parks felt queasy visiting his first crime scene, a grisly execution-style murder of four people in a vacant lot. Parks had grown up in a quiet Connecticut suburb and graduated from Dartmouth. Street crime was alien to him. Adding to his disorientation was the follow-up questioning of local residents he had to do in order to write his story. “For a guy with my background,” he says, “walking into a housing project in Newark was definitely an eye-opening experience. I was like, ‘Wow! Is this the same country?’” A lily-white, preppy WASP wandering through the ’hood quizzing junkies and prostitutes was such a surreal situation, he thought it would make for a good book, if he ever decided to write one. How right he was. Parks based his first novel, Faces of the Gone, on this quadruple homicide, and it won the prestigious Shamus Award for best first P.I. novel and the Nero Award for best mystery novel, the first book to ever win both. But Faces of the Gone was just the first in a series of cozy mysteries (no gore or profanity) starring a wise-cracking, investigative reporter named Carter Ross. Carter, in many ways, is the author’s doppelganger. At least, during the time Parks was writing for the Star-Ledger. But don’t expect Carter to follow Parks down to Virginia, where he has resided in Middlesex County ever since leaving the newspaper business. “I live in a county that has three stoplights,” he says. “The whole county has three stoplights! I think there were probably three stoplights in the three blocks where I lived in New Jersey. I used to live within a 20-minute drive of three major shopping malls, and now I live within a 20-minute drive of two Wal-Marts. I never have to worry about getting in a traffic jam any more, that’s for sure…” While his home is a good place to write undisturbed, it’s not a great place to base his stories. “Newark is a dream locale for a crime fiction writer. I can’t imagine ever running out of stories for Carter to cover.” In the third installment, The Girl Next Door, Carter is working on a simple assignment: an expanded obituary on Nancy Marino, a woman who was run over while delivering newspapers. What starts out as a simple profile grows into an exposé when Carter discovers the hit-andrun accident that took Nancy’s life might not have been accidental after
all. Nancy’s sister, Jeanne, tells him Nancy had reason to fear for her life, but she won’t tell him why. She doesn’t trust him because she thinks Nancy’s death was related to problems she was having at work. As Carter investigates, he encounters trust issues of his own. He suspects the newspaper’s publisher knows something about the murder or may have even had a hand in it. Unfortunately, the person Carter trusts most at the paper, Tina Thompson, is now his editor, and after he confides his suspicions to her, she kills his story and assigns
him something else instead. But that doesn’t stop Carter, nor does an attempt on his life that sends him to the hospital. But Nancy’s death and Carter’s investigation aren’t the only plotlines in The Girl Next Door. Parks also weaves into the story a bear roaming the streets of Newark, a poetry-quoting intern with the build of an NFL lineman, and a sexy boss (Tina) who wants Carter to get her pregnant. While Parks freely admits that most of his characters are either carbon copies or amalgamations of people he knows, the sensual and
Send Me Work by katherine karlin, northwestern University Press, $17.95
Each of the short stories in this collection feature working women in traditionally male roles. Katherine Karlin’s heroines work in paper factories and shipyards, learn to weld, fishmonger and pick coffee beans. Karlin devotes attentive prose to the jobs they inhabit, painting such vivid pictures of factory floors and dust-caked offices that the reader is transported to them. With keen insight, she also pens interior dialogues of the characters questioning their place in the world. A beautifully written collection.
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $24.95
A powerful reimagining of The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is a fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of the not-too-distant future. When Hannah Payne is convicted of murdering her unborn child, her skin color is genetically altered to red. Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a forbidden love. In seeking a path to safety in a hostile world, Hannah is forced to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith and love.
The Collapse of Richmond’s Church Hill Tunnel by Walter S. Griggs Jr., History Press, $19.99
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Richmond’s railways were the lifeline of Reconstruction efforts. One of the most important links in the system was the Church Hill Tunnel, finished in December 1873. It was closed later, but reopened in 1925. Soon after construction began, 190 feet of the tunnel caved in, trapping construction workers and an entire locomotive inside. The city walled up the tunnel, entombing the locomotive and remaining bodies within. This book vividly retells the story of the tunnel’s conception, construction and demise.
The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels by Richard Paul Roe, Harper Perennial, $19.99
In this book, Richard Paul Roe challenges the widely held belief that Shakespeare never set foot outside of England. Roe spent more than 20 years traveling the length and breadth of Italy on this literary quest. Using text from Shakespeare’s 10 “Italian Plays” as his only compass, Roe determined the exact locations of nearly every scene. Equal parts detective story and travelogue, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy is a provocative journey that will irrevocably alter your vision of who William Shakespeare really was.
feisty Tina is one exception. “Tina Thompson is the one character who is not in any way drawn from my life, my experience, someone I knew. The last thing I wanted was for my wife to be reading this thing and going, ‘Wait a second, this The Girl character, she sounds Next Door like Peggy from the By Brad Parks office! You’ve got a St. Martins Press, $24.99 crush on Peggy! I can’t believe it!’ So I consciously made Tina Thompson completely and totally unlike anybody I ever met, anybody I’ve ever dated, anyone I’ve ever wanted to date. She is the one truly fictional creation in this whole thing.” Parks has received quite a bit of fan mail, the bulk of which seems to focus on Carter’s cat, Deadline. The cat is as big as an overstuffed throw pillow with the ambulation of one as well. But it is the only character he spent about 15 seconds developing. The others all have their own motivations and personal histories. He spends a good deal of time getting into their heads; in some cases, the characters get into his head as well. When he was having difficultly understanding Tina’s sex-crazed motivations, he turned to her for an explanation. “I talk to my characters,” he explains with a chuckle. “I literally talk to them. So, I’m like, ‘Tina, what’s your problem? Carter’s this good-looking guy. He wants to be with you. Why don’t you just settle down and have a relationship with him? I just ask [my characters] these questions. And that’s how she came out with that rant where she tells Carter, ‘The first guy I was with was a jerk. And the second guy I was with was a jerk. I don’t want to turn you into another jerk.’ And that’s why she keeps pushing Carter away.” Adds Parks, “That was literally something I didn’t know about Tina until I pressed her. … So I guess that’s my process. I’m crazy, and I have eccentric characters talking in my head, and I just sort of write down what they say.” So there you have it, Parks’ formula for writing award-winning mysteries: Move to a quiet home in Virginia, embrace craziness and let the voices in your head take over. V i r g i n i a
L i v i n g
4/25/12 12:34 PM
Unplug the Kids this Summer and Re-connect the Family atâ€Ś
Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive,Virginia
359.00 â€“ 2 Adults / 2 Children*
Includes: 2 N Lodging, 2 breakfasts & dinners for 2 children Luray Caverns Admissions for 2 A / 2 C Scavenger Hike Adventure Book
Discover hidden treasures on a Scavenger Hike Adventures trail. Take a guided horseback ride. Enjoy Ranger led programs, rock climbing and evening story telling. Valid 5/28 - 8/30/12. Some restrictions apply.
Visit our website or call for full details.
www.visitshenandoah.com/unplug 800.999.4714, Opt 1 Promo Code: UNPLUG Big Meadows Lodge and Skyland Resort are managed by ARAMARK, an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service.
Virginia Beach June 14-17 BoardwalkArtShow.com presented by
with support from
4/26/12 2:48 PM
a rt s |
BY S a r a h S a r g e n t
Fabulist Thinking Megan Marlatt works in multiple media and genres, but always spins stories that both delight and challenge. Megan Marlatt’s studio occupies the ground floor of an old commercial building near the train tracks in Orange. She and her husband, acclaimed filmmaker and photographer Richard Robinson, live in a chic loft space on the second floor. A Louisville, Kentucky native, Marlatt, 55, is a professor of painting at the University of Virginia, where she has taught for 23 years. Marlatt is funny, joyful and pure— she is a lot like a little kid in a grownup body. Her studio is chock-a-block full of her work, which ranges from enormous canvases in racks to delicate works on paper in flat files. The studio is also full of the things she paints and the things that inspire her, so there are piles of plastic toys, the subject of her Molded from Complicated Mixtures series, Mrs. Buttersworth bottles, many kinds of dolls and stuffed animals. There are also the tools of her trade: brushes, jars of pigment, easels, a giant palette and shelves of art books. Part circus, part atelier and all Marlatt, you can feel the creative energy bouncing off the walls. An inspiring teacher, Marlatt is also a disciplined, hardworking artist with a seemingly endless imagination who has earned the respect of both peers and public alike. She has won numerous awards, including a highly competitive Individual Artist Award from the NEA in 1995, the last year it was awarded, as well as public art commissions and residencies. In the past 20 years, Marlatt has shifted her focus from food to natural history to toys. “I get bored every seven years or so and have to make a change,” she explains. Marlatt’s recent fascination with toys manifests itself in two different directions. First, there are her large assemblages that are both visually interesting and symbolically potent. Initially, it might seem they’re just about fun, but the jumble she paints references the chaos in our over-stimulated lives as well as the larger conflict-ridden world, and points to our consumer culture where giant container ships arrive
at our shores on an endless loop. The toys are both ephemeral and permanent: interest in them is short lived— the child grows up and moves on, yet the toys are made from materials that will never degrade. These works also offer many opportunities to flex artistic muscles, painting soft and hard, shiny and dull, masculine/feminine, animal/machine, etc. Marlatt starts by laying down large areas of acrylic color, which she then builds up with oil because, she says, “I can’t get the same kind of Chardin-like volume, luminosity, space and detail with acrylic; that has to come later with the oil.” Both spare and rich, funny and serious, Marlatt’s series of tondos (circular paintings) feature beautifully painted Old Master-style portraits of cartoon character puppets (Olive Oyl, Pinocchio, Captain Hook). Using toys as opposed to serious subjects allows her to paint in a traditional manner while still maintaining a contemporary perspective. Currently, Marlatt is working in three directions. She’s discovered that by incorporating toys with natural history, she can create interesting visual juxtapositions, revitalizing her delight in both subjects. Her richly colored and elegantly executed gouaches (opaque watercolors) are composed of a number of individual vignettes that relate to one another both visually and symbolically. Gouache enables her to create vivid, matte expanses of color. But Marlatt is not content to remain focused on just one medium, as her ongoing Drawing Roll; Start Here, May 2010 attests. Inspired by the Irish artist, Robert Barker, who patented
p h o t o o f m e g a n m a r l att B y R i c h a r d K n o x R o b i n s o n
Below, left: The artist. Above: “Portrait of Mr. Paddy Irish,” 2010.
the panorama, Marlatt began drawing on a roll of cash register tape, recording her surroundings when she was an exchange fellow from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland two years ago. Unrolling the paper a little at a time and turning to her right, she will eventually circle and delineate a full 360 degrees of landscape with precisely executed images of exterior and interior scenes and cities that flows seamlessly from one setting to the next to make a continuing narrative of her life. Aside from the skill of the draftsmanship, the brilliance is in how Marlatt chooses to frame her subject, what she includes and what she leaves out. For instance, New York, captured from her roost in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, is described by just the top of the skyline with telltale Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge identifying the
location. She has completed 40 of the entire 165 feet. As if all this isn’t enough, Marlatt is at work now making a monumental self-portrait clay bust that is actually a form onto which she will put papier-mâché to make a capgrosso (giant head). A vital part of the Spanish folk art tradition, these giant heads are made for carnivals and parades. Marlatt’s ultimate plan is to don the finished head and paint her self-portrait wearing it. She has arranged to spend a week with Ventura and Hosta, master artisans of capgrossos at their studio in Navata, Spain, following a residency at Can Serrat, El Bruc, outside Barcelona. Switching back and forth between different media and genres holds Marlatt’s interest, enabling her to produce work that’s satisfying on many levels. A storyteller, art is her mode of expression and her passion. She is concerned about the human condition and the current state of the world, confronting these issues gracefully with beautifully painted images that are rich in humor, emotion and metaphor. MeganMarlatt.com V i r g i n i a
L i v i n g
4/25/12 12:35 PM
The American Theatre NothiNg But the Best!
the siNgiNg RevolutioN with Director James Tusty
SundAy MAy 6, 2:30pM
The Singing Revolution covers the amazing story of how one small nation (Estonia) won a nonviolent revolution, freeing itself from violent occupation — all through song. General Admission. Q&A session with the director after the film.
Upcoming Classes at the American Theatre FoXtRot THuRSdAy MAy 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, 7:00-8:00pM WAltZ TuESdAy MAy 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, 7:00-8:00pM THuRSdAy JunE 7, 14, 21, 28, 7:00-8:00pM
TuESdAy JunE 5, 12, 19, 26, 7:00-8:00pM
125 E. Mellen St., Hampton, VA
3/22/12 2:06 PM
June 15-17, 2012
Friday, June 15, 7:30pm
Catherine Russell Saturday, June 16, 12:30-6:30pm
The Robert Cray Band Grupo Fantasma Honey Island Swamp Band Bert Carlson Quartet Sunday, June 17, 11am-2pm
New Orleans Brunch
Garth Newel Music Center Hot Springs, Virginia 877.558.1689 • VaBluesFest.org
4/11/12 2:33 PM
4/26/12 2:49 PM
BY T r i c i a D e s p r e s
Ready to Shine A new single and album, plus a marquee tour this summer have singer Canaan Smith poised for country music stardom. charted, I was able to get in the room the shaggy haircuts and with more established songwriters,” shop at thrift stores for our he says. clothes,” laughs the brownOf the tour with Sugarland this haired Smith, whose eclectic summer, Smith says, “It’s definitely music tastes have included a dream and an opportunity of a everyone from country music lifetime. I had the chance to open legend George Strait to alterfor them last summer for a couple native rockers Green Day. of shows, and it was the first time “Looking back, I realize that I had ever performed in front of a the band was good preparation for what I am doing now. crowd that big. It was just me and my guitar, and I played a 45-minute Without knowing it at the set of completely original material. time, I was learning the disThe audience was just overwhelming cipline of writing songs and travelling from town to town and embracing.” And while his busy schedule to play shows. I guess that’s doesn’t leave a lot of time to get home why my life now is not such to Virginia, Smith says he loves it a shock for me.” when he does have the chance to get Ultimately, the biggest back on the river to go wakeboardshock of Smith’s life occurred ing and tubing with friends or stop when he was just 11 years by The Cheese Shop in downtown old, when he received the Colonial Williamsburg. “I realize news that his older brother every day just how gracious God has had been killed tragically been to me and how he has allowed in a car accident. “I’ve been me to realize my dreams,” he says. through the dark side of life,” Above and right: Williamsburg’s own, singer Canaan Smith will tour with country “There is a very tiny sliver of people he says quietly. “My oldest music powerhouse Sugarland later this summer. who actually move to Nashville and brother was my hero and actually make it, so I know how meant everything to us. I was at a Got Us,” is currently climbing the It was a moment every aspiring very young age to cope with that kind blessed I am to be here.” charts, he will tour with mega-duo country music artist dreams about: CanaanSmith.com of trauma, and I made decisions right Sugarland later this summer and his Standing in the wings of counthen and there about my views on first full length album is expected to try music’s biggest stage, Mercury the world. I’m on the other side now. be released later this year. “If you lisRecords singer/songwriter and I made it through, and my family Virginia native Canaan Smith was pre- ten to my music, you will see that it’s made it through. My motto is that it’s truly a marriage of the two worlds I paring to make his Grand Ole Opry all going to be OK. No matter what, was fortunate enough to grow up in,” debut, and suddenly, all of the chalI try to be as honest as I can in my says Smith, a man blessed with the lenges and the hours and the sweat songwriting.” perfect combination of looks and perthat it had taken to get him to that Smith says the loss of his brother sonality. “The country music from the very moment simply washed away. played an important role in his decimountains of Virginia and the laid “I used to pray to God that he sion to move to Nashville at the age back easygoing lifestyle of the ocean would somehow give me the chance of 20 to pursue his musical dreams. is just my style, both personally and to stand out there one day,” recalls “I guess that’s when I really got seriprofessionally.” Smith. “You step into that circle and ous and decided that I wanted to be One of six kids, Smith moved everything becomes pretty surreal. where the music was being made, with his family to Williamsburg You definitely feel the weight of the and that was Nashville,” says Smith, from Indiana at the age of three. room and all of the history in there. I “Williamsburg has had a major impact who also competed on the 15th seajust felt like I was back in time with son of CBS’ Amazing Race in 2009. “I on me as an artist and why I creall of the classic singers I have looked told my mom and dad that I was ate the music that I do,” says Smith. up to all my life. All the greats had ready to chase this dream. I have once stood in the same spot as I was, “Williamsburg is a great city in the always been fortunate to have a great way that the mountains are a couple just singing their songs. It was quite team of believers around me.” of hours north and the ocean is an a moment for me.” Though his rise to stardom may hour away. We would spend every And then the moment got even appear fast, Smith is keen to mention day of our summer at Virginia Beach. better. that he is no overnight success story. It’s there where I probably developed “The Grand Ole Opry called the In fact, it took a handful of years after this easygoing, relaxed attitude that next day and wanted me to come moving to Nashville before Smith eventually developed into my music.” back,” he laughs. “It really was too received his first big breakthrough as From an early age, music was a good to be true.” a songwriter when his song “Runaway” constant in the Smith household. As Named as one of Country Weekly’s reached number 10 on the charts in a sixth grader, Smith started a rock “Ones to Watch” in 2012, the talented 2009 with the country group Love band with some of his best bud29-year-old now finds himself sitand Theft. “‘Runaway’ definitely got dies from school. “We loved The ting smack on the verge of country my foot in the door, and once it Beatles, to the point we would get music stardom. His new single, “We t o p p h o t o B y D a na T y na n ; p h o t o r i g h t b y C a m y K i n n e y
V i r g i n i a
L i v i n g
4/25/12 12:37 PM
Have YOU discovered
Virginia’s best kept secret?
fashiongalleryva.com | 540-248-4292 111 Lee Highway Verona, VA 24482 Open Daily 9:30am–5:30pm, Sunday 1–5pm
Royal New Zealand Navy — Official photograph
Join us on Facebook!
Surviving a shipwreck is only the beginning. The new exhibition Abandon Ship: Stories of Survival immerses you in the experience of being cast adrift, and the drama of rescue at sea.
Opening May 26, 2012
For more information www.MarinersMuseum.org/abandonship 12-205_MM_AbandonShip_VALiving_Ad.indd 1
Mariners’ Museum America’s National Maritime Museum Newport News, VA 4/27/12 2:24 PM
4/27/12 3:55 PM
Events M AY | J u n e 2 0 1 2
Around the State
music May 12 May-toberfest! Manassas
May 12 Jamestown Day, Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne, 888-593-4682, HistoryIsFun.org
highlights May 13 Mount Sharon Gardens
Tour, Orange, 540-661-0474, PreservationVirginia.org
May 14 An Evening with J.J.
Ramberg, anchor and host, MSNBC’s "Your Business," Roanoke College’s Fitzpatrick Hall, Roanoke, 540-983-0700, RoanokeRegionalForum.com
May 19-20 Monacan Indian Pow Wow, Route 130, six miles west of Elon, 434-946-0389, MonacanNation.com May 24 250th Anniversary
Celebration of American Wines, Philip Carter Winery of Virginia, Historic Christ Church, Lancaster County, 804-523-4000, PCWinery.com
May 18 White Top Mountain Band, Rex Theater, Galax, 276238-8130, VisitGalax.com May 18-21 Water Music: Chamber Music for the River City, various sites around Richmond, 804-519-2098, CMSCVA.org
Andy Warhol, Self Portrait, 1978. Copyright 2012 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York.
Symphony Orchestra, Hylton Performing Arts Center, GMU’s Prince William Campus, 888945-2468, HyltonCenter.org
May 19 The Planets and
Rachmaninoff ‘s Piano Concerto No.2, Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center, Alexandria, 703-548-0885, AlexSym.org
May 31 Graves’ Mountain Fes-
tival of Music, Graves' Mountain Lodge, Syria, 540-923-4231, GravesMountain.com
June 2 Virginia Symphony Under
the Stars, Main Street and Walter Reed Way, Gloucester, 804-6950700, CookFoundation.com
June 22-July 22 Castleton
Festival, Castleton Farms, Castleton, 866-974-0767, CastletonFestival.org
June 23 Rock & Roll Oldies,
Ingleside Vineyards, Oak Grove, 804-224-8687, InglesideVineyards.com
Pirates Aplenty June 29-30 “The Pirates of Penzance,” The Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park, Vienna, 703-255-1900, WolfTrap.org
Portraits of the Artist as a Young Man May 26-August 19 Andy Warhol: Portraits, includes more than 130 portraits produced by Warhol from the 1940s to the 1980s. Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, 757-425-0000, VirginiaMOCA.org
May 19 Wineappalooza DuCard
Through May 28 VCUarts
May 10-13, 18-19 “Six Degrees of Separation,” Hylton Performing Arts Center, GMU’s Prince William campus, 888-945-2468, HyltonCenter.org
Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, Big Stone Gap, GatheringInTheGapMusicFestival.com
Fountainhead Fellows Ariel Brice and Stephanie Voegele, Page Bond Gallery, Richmond, 804-3593633, PageBondGallery.com
May 12 Art on the Green, Hopkins
May 12-13 “Mamma Mia!”
June 1-3 Blackbeard Pirate Festival and Ball, Downtown Waterfront, Hampton, 757-7270900, BlackbeardPirateFestival.com
June 1-30 LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, 434-977-7284, SecondStreetGallery.org
June 10 The Governor’s Country
June 14-17 Virginia Beach
Vineyards, Etlan, 540-923-4206, DuCardVineyards.com
May 26 Gathering in the Gap,
Fair at Morven Park, Morven Park, Leesburg, 703-777-2414, MorvenPark.org
June 13 Virginia Pork Festival,
Greensville Ruritan Club grounds, Emporia, 800-482-7675, VaPorkFestival.com June 21-24 Bayou Boogaloo and
Cajun Food Festival, Town Point Park, Norfolk, 757-441-2345, FestEvents.org
Green, Lexington, 804-261-9528
Boardwalk Art Show, 17th-32nd streets, Boardwalk, Virginia Beach, 757-425-0000, VirginiaMOCA.org
Through July 15 30 Americans,
Masterpieces of Contemporary African-American Art, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, 757-7544553, Chrysler.org
Ferguson Center for the Arts, Newport News, 757-594-7448, FergusonCenter.org May 25-26 “A Prairie Home
Companion” with Garrison Keillor, The Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park, Vienna, 703-2551900, WolfTrap.org
June 16 and 23 Colonial
Theater at Kenmore, Historic Kenmore Plantation & Gardens, Fredericksburg, 540-373-3381, Kenmore.org
June 30 “A Kindly Visitation,” Theater at Lime Kiln, Lexington, 540-463-7088, VisitStonewall.com
V i r g i n i a
L i v i n g
4/21/12 12:51 PM
The Largest Antique Mall on the East Coast... and Still Growing! Offering a Large Collection of
Unique Antiques from Around the World I-81, Exit 227 Verona, Virginia 1/4 Mile East of US 11 on Rt. 612
(540) 248-1110 |
Maps • Furniture • Prints • Paintings • Advertising Elegant Glassware • Coins • Pottery • Primitives Jewelry • Civil War Relics Toys • Fossils • Tools Books and More!
Pool design and construction also by JoPa Company.
Buy it once. Love it for a lifetime.
Going on Now
Take advantage of our Annual GREAT OUTDOOR FURNITURE SALE savings on the area’s largest selection of outdoor furniture. Choose from the finest names and SAVE on Brown Jordan, Gloster, Cape May, Winston, Windham and many others. Delivery available throughout Central Virginia. 8711 W. Broad (Just west of Parham) Richmond, VA
(804) 747-9700 M-F 9:30-6; Sat. 9:30-5
Custom Pools Casual Furniture
4/26/12 2:52 PM
Virginia Living Museum | Newport News On February 3, Virginia Living Museum’s Bacchus Wine and Food Festival entertained more than 600 guests at the sell-out event. Held at the museum, the event raised $69,000.
Symphony Orchestra League | Alexandria Approximately 230 guests attended the Symphony Orchestra League of Alexandria’s Silver Anniversary Ball on February 25 at the Westin Hotel in Alexandria. The event raised $42,000 to benefit the orchestra. Joan D. Aaron and Carolyn Abbitt
Elizabeth and Matt Abbitt, Gene and Shirley Jordon, Page Hayhurst
Adam Newland and Martha Woodruff
Charles Hamilton, state Sen. John and Sharron Miller, Julia Horton
Jean Glock, Anne Shuyler and Bertha Braddock
Tom and Shirley Price Savage
Center for Alexandria’s Children | Alexandria More than 300 guests attended the Center for Alexandria’s Children Gala on March 1 at Virtue Feed & Grain in Old Town. The event raised more than $90,000 for the organization.
Former state Sen. Patsy Ticer and Jane Ring
Susan Knighton Cavanaugh and Dave Cavanaugh Leslie Jerkins, Cathryn Flanagan Evans, Colette Salgat (front), Jennifer Cann, Bart Bailey and Debra Warren Kim Allen Kluge and Adron Krekeler
Kim Turpin Davis and Chris McMurray
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and U.S. Rep. Jim Moran
V i r g i n i a
L i v i n g
4/25/12 12:39 PM
VA Living-Goodstone Ad May/June 2012_Layout 1 4/3/12 12:09 PM Page 1
Unique Venues BEGINNING
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OUR SPRAWLING 265 ACRE ESTATE GIVES YOUR WEDDING ROOM TO BLOOM.
ur unique venues . . . from intimate weddings at The Manor House to elaborate events under the stars . . . will make your wedding day truly memorable. 3605 SNAKE HILL ROAD, MIDDLEBURG, VA 20117 • 540-687-3333 WWW.GOODSTONE.COM
540-432-4582 emu.edu/bach Eastern Mennonite University Harrisonburg, Virginia
DYNAMIC. DIVERSE. And DELICIOUS.
Experience Norfolk’s culinary scene through a variety of walking food tours combining history, architecture and local cuisine on a journey that is informative, delicious and fun. Sample traditional items and cutting-edge cuisine from some of the area’s most innovative chefs. Walk away with a big smile, a satisfied stomach and a new understanding of the flavors of Norfolk! Start now at visitnorfolktoday.com/culinarytours.
4/26/12 2:54 PM
First Freedom Center | Richmond More than 200 guests gathered at the Downtown Richmond Marriott on January 12 to honor those who have distinguished themselves in support of Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom. The event raised approximately $40,000 to support First Freedom Center.
Roanoke Symphony Orchestra | Roanoke The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra’s “Carnevale: A Masked Musical Ball” took place at the Hotel Roanoke on February 11. The event, which drew 310 revelers, raised $40,000 to support the symphony.
Ben and Peg Howerton
Bishop Shannon Johnston, Canon Andrew White, Ambassador Randolph Bell and Bishop Peter Lee
Glade and Kathleen Knight, Madison and Debra Sowell, Nelson Knight
Jane Sandel, Sabrina Mandel and Robert Sandel
Cork Coyner, Rosann Bocciarelli and Jim Weinberg Drs. Nancy and Susie Dye
U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, Marc Stern and Robert O’Neil
Malik Khan, Al and Islam Mustafa Khalafalla, Annette Khan
Kent Greenwalt, Boska Kukzychi, Kaye and Wayne Strickland
Virginia Treatment Center for Children | richmond On February 12, more than 80 supporters gathered at Portico in Richmond for a chef’s dinner to benefit the Virginia Treatment Center for Children. The event raised $80,000.
Tracey Ragsdale, Martha Grover and Laurie Stettinius
Jil Harris, Jeffrey and Tamra Wilt, Teddy and Ann Parker Gottwald, Hiter Harris
Meade Spotts, Edwin Estes and Chubby Grover
V i r g i n i a
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4/25/12 12:40 PM
Beauty is timeless Meredith’s Salon is Your Glamour Source in the New River Valley
360 Arbor Drive NE | Christiansburg, VA (540) 381-3050 | meredithssalon.com
VA Living 1-6 page_Castleton Festival 4/19/12 5:35 AM Page
LORIN MAAZEL ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
2012 SEASON JUNE 22ND
22ND The Castleton Festival Theatre 7 Castleton Meadows Lane Castleton, VA 22716
Opening Gala Concert~ An “Italian Extravaganza” with DENYCE GRAVES Carmen (Bizet) The Barber of Seville (Rossini) A Little Night Music (Sondheim) Bluegrass and Fireworks …and more symphonic concerts, recitals, chamber music and cabaret Full details at www.castletonfestival.org or call toll free (866) 974-0767 Seating is limited ORDER NOW! New for 2012: Tickets from $20! plus Castleton “A la carte” and “Fine Dining”
Mason Gross School of the Arts
Journey into a mysterious place inhabited by exotic animals from Southeast Asia and around the world! With more than 400 animals across 50 acres, discover Malayan tigers, orangutans and gibbons, otters, forest-dwelling tapirs, and much more!
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hruti Basavaraj and Pramjeet Ahluwalia were married September 5, 2011, at Gurdwara Sahib in Richmond. The bride is the daughter of Durgada and Uma Basavaraj of Richmond. The groom is the son of Kulbir and Ravinder Ahluwalia of Richmond Hill, New York. The couple lives in El Paso. Photography by Mike Topham & Terry Brown
he wedding of Meredith Caitlin Hudson and Cord Douglas Dannen took place April 30, 2011, at the brideâ€™s family farm in Rapidan. The bride is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Smith of McLean. The groom is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Dannen of Orlando. Photography by Jen Fariello
imberly Diane Powell, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Jefferson Powell Jr. of Salem, and William Patrick Lloyd, son of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Dean Lloyd of Roanoke, were married September 4, 2010, at the Virginia Center for Architecture in Richmond. The couple lives in Richmond. Don Mears Photography
>> For more go to VirginiaLiving.com V i r g i n i a
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Furlong Baldwin near Eyre Hall.
Back to the Shore Captain of industry Furlong Baldwin is investing in a new project—the economic development of one of Virginia’s poorest areas, Northampton County, where his family has lived for 11 generations. By Mark EDWARD Atkinson
The long dirt driveway peels off Highway 13, the main artery of the Eastern Shore, and disappears from sight before revealing one of the country’s oldest estates. Over 100 red cedars line the entrance, a gracious one-mile canopy that heralds Eyre Hall. This is the road home for 80-year-old Furlong Baldwin—the 11th generation of the Eyre family to live in Northampton County, and a businessman who has spent the better part of his adult life running one of the country’s most successful banks. At 6 feet 4 inches and barrelchested, Baldwin still looks every bit the All-American lacrosse player whose Princeton team won the national championship in 1953. After graduation and two years in the Marines, he turned his competitive drive to the business of banking. By age 44, he was the chairman and CEO of Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Company in Baltimore, a position he held for 25 years, taking the company from $400 million in assets to $10 billion.
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When he retired at age 69, he was a sought-after business mentor and so joined the boards of several high-profile companies, including Nasdaq OMX where he became chairman in 2003. When he steps down later this year, he’ll be scaling back responsibilities to spend more time on the Shore working with his 50-year-old son, Eyre, on projects and issues closer to home. Ironically, the storied Eyre Hall, which was built in 1758 by Littleton Eyre, great-grandson to Thomas
Eyre who first arrived on the Eastern Shore in 1623, sits in one of the poorest counties in Virginia. With few economic opportunities available, the best and brightest leave the Shore every year to find work. The Baldwins would like to see new job development that might help stem the population decline and boost the economy, and have recently broken ground on an industrial harbor development initiative in Cape Charles. I met the man in his office, which
is filled with photographs of Baldwin with world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II, President George Bush Sr., Yitzhak Rabin and British Prime Minister David Cameron, among others. Humbly, he will tell friends that “the accident of birth” landed him here, but Baldwin, the preservationist and businessman, has added new chapters to a family story that seems far from over. What was it like growing up at Eyre Hall? Well, I lived here until I was six. Schools weren’t that good, so mom got an apartment in Baltimore, and we came back in the summers and Christmas and other vacations. All my summers were here, and it was all farming. It was a lot of work, but we were on the creek, and we could sail and crab and such. You grow up on a farm with the water to play on; how lucky could you be? It was wonderful. But this was not a social area. We wouldn’t leave the farm for days. In the ’30s and ’40s, my father ran a shucking operation. We did clams and oysters and raised diamondback terrapin. And when World War II broke out, he came up to Baltimore
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and got into a little manufacturing operation that did work for the defense industry. Fortunately, my mother inherited this house and had a modest amount to live on. But for many years the family had been exhausting the wealth of previous generations, which is why I say it was a great privilege to make a good living and be able to do things that needed to be done around here. Why did you go into banking? After college, I did two years in the Marines. Since I’d gone to school in Baltimore, it was where I returned to find a job. You don’t have to be a genius to go into banking. Look, 75 percent of the jobs in the world are for generalists. You’re a generalist, I’m a generalist, and 25 percent of the rest are doctors and physicists and such. Banking was a great place for a generalist. It’s logical but requires discipline and common sense. Some people made it complicated, but one of the reasons we were so successful is we didn’t try to be everything to all people. The little banks thought they had to do everything the big banks do. We focused in on exactly what we did well, and we made a great living. In 1965, I had a mentor who was a great teacher. He gave me a little bit of authority and didn’t let me screw up. He kept giving me more and more authority. He never told me what to do, but gave me the authority to do it. I loved banking and loved management. I looked forward to going to work every day because it was the people business. In business school, they talk about macroeconomics and microeconomics. I hardly know what they mean. I never used those words in 45 years. It was the people business, and we provided a service. We didn’t have a proprietary product. Any bank could give you the same thing that I could give you. We gave people service, and that’s what we preached, and that’s what worked for us. We weren’t the cheapest guy in town, but once we got an account, we didn’t lose it. When did you come home to Eyre Hall? Starting in the early 1970s, I drove down almost every weekend. I came probably 45 weekends a year. This is where I wanted to be, and this was where I wanted to be all my life. What was I gonna sit up there in Baltimore for? The kids were all grown. The only times I wouldn’t come were when I had something to do for business, and I was very careful about not letting something happen on the weekend that I had to do for business.
Eyre Hall is over 250 years old. When did you begin to understand its importance? Initially, I never thought of its significance. I’m the eighth generation to live on this piece of property, 11th on the Shore. I always felt that I was privileged to be the interim caretaker and that is how I feel now. I am fortunate to have a son and daughter and granddaughter to be the next two generations of caretakers. Growing up here, you don’t think of it as being important, but as I got older I recognized its significance. And I felt that I had a responsibility to maintain it. Recently it was designated a National Historic Landmark. I should do my best, then to pass it on to the next generation. I’m but a fleeting steward. It takes a big effort physically and financially to care for a property that’s been in the family since the 1600s, right? Well, it’s a good thing I love it, ’cause it’s work. And if you didn’t love it, you would end up hating it. I used to come home every weekend and something was broken. The plumbing or the furnace. The roof needed repair or the tractor was down. This is my ski lodge, my beach house, my sailboat. This is what I love to do. It is the antithesis of banking. I can drive the tractor or prune the bushes. For 25 years I’d be at the office at 7 a.m. and home at 10 p.m. I’d leave Friday after
When I was 70, that was fine. But now that I’ve passed my “sell by” date, I mostly want to be here. When you retire, your mind doesn’t stop. You never really want to leave the game. Not what we were doing. We were lucky. Our earnings went up every year for 25 years. We paid a higher dividend every year for 25 years. We had a formula that worked, and I loved being a part of that. People say, “Aren’t you glad you were gone when all this hit the fan in 2008?” I say, “No, ’cause we wouldn’t have been hurt and we’d own the world.” That’s my competitive gene. The formula was simply, “Do a few things very well.” I would have been delighted to work through the wreckage of others. I loved management. And my network after 25 years was much broader than Baltimore. I had been on the boards of three railroads, textile companies, a chemical company, defense industries and power companies; way beyond the reach of a regional bank. That’s what was so interesting. I got to know people all over the place. I was very very lucky. What are your hopes for the Eastern Shore and Northampton County? The tragedy is that there is no middle class here other than the service industry, and there are no jobs. This is the second poorest county in Virginia. The children who
lot of folks with only a protectionist point of view. I want to protect this great part of the country, but I also want my granddaughter Gracie to be able to get a job here. And such provincialism inevitably diminishes the very assets people want to protect. I think we can do both, but we have to be in it together. There has to be some adaptive reuse of land and resources. Collectively, we can conserve this land while developing an economy that will support future generations. With the technology we have today, you don’t have to be in the middle of Norfolk to do something on a computer. You could certainly have a data center right here in Cape Charles. We own the largest piece of zoned industrial property in Cape Charles and will be breaking ground on a provisioning and repair ship facility that will bring new jobs to the county. Some 3,500 mega-yachts travel from New England to the islands and back every year. This is a great deepwater port, easily accessible in the mid-Atlantic. Being back on the Shore has allowed you to work closely with your son, Eyre. How is that? I’m having fun with what Eyre’s doing. I think we will bring about some good things. We’ve just sold a building in Cape Charles, and the buyers are going to put 40 jobs in there. So that’s a start. They would be the first 40 jobs in Cape Charles in a while, other than the service industry.
“There has to be some adaptive reuse of land and resources. Collectively, we can conserve this land while developing an economy that will support future generations.” work and come down here and it was the ultimate relaxation. People knew not to call me on Saturday morning if it could really wait to Monday. It was sacred, and in some ways probably saved my life. I could work 75-hour weeks ‘cause I had this place to come back to. It was a huge haven, and I truly think it enabled me to get done what I got done. You were 69 when you retired from the bank in 2001, but it doesn’t seem that you slowed down much. I retired, but I wasn’t ready to quit things, so I ended up on four different boards and accepted the chairmanship of Nasdaq OMX. It was great fun, but I found myself every 10 days going somewhere out of town.
can afford it go away to college, and they don’t come back. This is a society that eats its best by forcing them to go away to find work. Nowhere is there a place on the South Atlantic seacoast that’s going backwards. When I was born in 1932, there were 17,000 people in the county. There are 11,000 today. Look at how beautiful this place is. We have the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Chesapeake Bay to the west, but there are no jobs. We’ve got all this beautiful land and water, but we’ve got to have some salaried jobs. How is working to improve the economy different from running a bank? It can be tough politically to get things done around here. There are a
Wouldn’t it be neat if five years from now we had created several hundred new jobs? Wouldn’t it be fabulous? That interests me a lot. I’m also still very involved in the house and gardens, and we’ve just finished preserving the 1818 orangery. The gardens are open year round, and the house has been on the Virginia Garden Tour for 64 years. But my favorite hobby now is reading. I don’t watch television unless it’s football. I still like wing shooting, and I like being on the water. I’ve had the world’s best life and feel like the luckiest person I know. Lucky that through an accident of birth I got to live here. Fortunate to have had an exciting and challenging career, in a field perfect for generalists. • V i r g i n i a
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by G r e g W e at h e r f o r d
Don’t Mind if I
Step aside cupcake, the artisan doughnut is the new trendy treat.
Walk into a doughnut store, anywhere. Breathe in. The aromas of cinnamon and sugar, the rich bready scent of rising dough, the unctuous undertone of oil from the fryer. Just try to avoid succumbing to temptation. That’s the lure of doughnuts. It’s a call to the senses our bodies can barely resist. To a growing number of entrepreneurial cooks across the state, it’s a beacon to create something special. The fact is, if all you think doughnuts mean is a trip to the grocery or to one of the national chains, you’re not getting the hole story. All over Virginia, entrepreneurs are pursuing visions of the well-made doughnut as the next food trend. Like craft beer breweries and artisanal coffee roasters, they’re eschewing mass production in favor of creations made by hand, one at a time. And that matters to people. About four years ago, when an insurer demanded that Westhampton Pastry Shop in Richmond spend
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$25,000 to upgrade its doughnut machinery or stop making them, customers rallied to keep them in business, using professional connections to scrape together the needed equipment for less than half that—an expensive vent hood was salvaged from a closed Arby’s, for example. Now owner Guy “Boots” Rogers sells as many as his little shop can manage—about 220 dozen a week, he estimates, which is double the number he used to sell. “Everything in here is made the old-fashioned way,” says Rogers, 65, who has worked at the bakery since his family founded it in 1952. His egg-and-shortening-rich doughnuts (he sells four variations including one glazed with a chocolate fondant) would be too much for a commercial
machine to manage, he explains. That may be one reason he gets customers from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. Or it could be that a good doughnut is worth fighting for. Indeed, the doughnut is one of America’s great creations. The fried circlets of raised dough may have Dutch origins, writes food anthropologist Paul Mullins in his book, Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut. Others claim the heritage can be traced to Native American cooking. Nobody is exactly sure. No surprise. Fried dough has existed for millennia in various forms around the world, with or without fillings: the samosas of India, the beignets of France, the churros of Spain and Mexico. Food scientists theorize that our ancient ancestors evolved with a craving for high-calorie foods that include sugars, fats and carbohydrates. Combining all three into one food creates the culinary equivalent of an addictive substance. But none of those other fried doughs, sweet or not, were doughnuts. Perhaps surprisingly, the doughnut as we think of it today is less than 200 years old. While the earliest reference by name to doughnuts (Washington Irving, 1809) describes them as balls or “nuts” of sweet dough fried in hog’s fat, around 1850 someone figured out that by cutting a hole in the middle the dough cooked more evenly—and the modern, archetypal doughnut was born.
Above, and facing page: Artisan doughnuts are made in many flavors.
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dining Over the next century, doughnut shops sprang up here and there around the country. Regional variations arose, such as moist, tender cider doughnuts in Virginia’s apple-growing areas throughout the Piedmont. People experimented, creating such novelties as the potato-flour-based spudnuts at Charlottesville’s Spudnut Shop, which sell out within hours daily. Doughnuts proved a terrific vehicle for fillings and toppings and glazes, chocolate and fruit and sprinkles and creams—the varieties seemed endless. That period of wild invention largely ended after World War II, when the new American highway system brought nationwide coffee chains. To accompany their coffee, they started making and marketing doughnuts. The process turned what had been a handmade delicacy, made one at a time, into a commodity. People walking into a highway coffee shop didn’t want local variations; they wanted a plain glazed or a chocolate-cake like the one they got a few hundred miles ago. Now entrepreneurs hope to bring the doughnut back to its local, custom-made roots, drawn by the same passion that inspired chocolatiers to sell single-source chocolate bars and brewers to start making stouts and Hefeweizens. Are doughnuts the new cupcake—the next faddish treat sold in storefronts everywhere? Maybe. Last year The New York Times, pointing to the success of Manhattan’s Doughnut Plant and similar doughnutieres in trendsetting cities such as Portland and Seattle, declared that doughnuts are, in fact, the “next cupcake.” The argument has some merit. Like cupcakes, doughnuts are built on simple ingredients (flour, milk, yeast or baking powder, sugar and so on). The basic technique is straightforward enough that home cooks can experiment with them. For those who want to go into business, doughnutmaking machines are available for a few thousand dollars and can be hauled on carts,
further cutting down on start-up costs. This is the thinking that led Matthew Rohdie of Charlottesville into the world of doughnuts. Five years ago, Rohdie, 43, was downsized out of his job as a social worker. Relying on his background as a high-end caterer, he worked to identify a food niche. Based on the research, he decided on organic doughnuts made from scratch and sold hot from a cart. Rohdie freely admits he had never made one before he bought a $7,000 doughnut machine on eBay. What drew him was that doughnuts are simple, portable and relatively inexpensive. After experimenting for a while, Rohdie settled on a single recipe: a cinnamon-sugar variety made with apple cider. Rohdie’s Carpe Donut now sells thousands of its signature doughnuts at organic groceries in Richmond and Northern Virginia, as well as in the Charlottesville storefront he opened in 2010. Rather than use ready-made mixes like many shops, Carpe Donut and other craft-doughnut makers start from scratch. That means dealing with some level of variability. For example, Rohdie says he adjusts the batter depending on details such as the gluten content of the flour and the fat level of the eggs. The emphasis is on making doughnuts fresh, one at a time—grocery versions are cooked and then flash-frozen for home heating—not on mass production. “We can’t be Dunkin’, and we don’t really want to be,” Rohdie says. Ah, yes. Dunkin’ Donuts, one of the two exemplars of corporatized doughnuts. Founded in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1950, Dunkin’ built its reputation on stolid, cake-like doughnuts, which use baking powder as the raising agent. In recent years it switched its public image to focus on coffee; it has 10,000 outlets in 31 countries and plans to have at least 15,000 by 2020. The other, Dunkin’s main rival, Krispy Kreme, began in North Carolina 75 years ago and now has about 600 stores around the world. The quintessential Krispy Kreme uses yeast to puff into a sort of transcendentally airy product that evanesces into sweetness like cotton candy. Both companies have millions of fans and sell a lot of doughnuts. Forbes magazine estimates the average Dunkin’ store sells $800,000 worth annually. The two corporations bestride the doughnut world like behemoths. But a world ruled by giants leaves plenty of room for the small operators who promise careful craftsmanship and quality ingredients. Take Richmond’s Country Style Doughnuts for example, which opened its modest
Desperately seeking doughnuts? Here’s where to find ‘em: Carpe Donut, Charlottesville 434-806-6202, CarpeDonut.org
Country Style Doughnuts, Richmond 804-222-2466
Mama’s Donut Bites, Vienna 703-203-4816
Spudnut Shop, Charlottesville 434-296-0590, SpudnutShop.com
Westhampton Pastry Shop, Richmond 804-282-4413
store in 1968 and draws customers to the east side of the city from as far as Norfolk. Recently, the store won praise for its old-school treats from GQ magazine, among others. The secret? Co-owner Wafaa Nassereddine, who has run the place for decades, shrugs. “You have to have the right ingredients. . . I’ve never had a Krispy Kreme, but people tell me they are full of air. Our doughnut has some body to it.” Nassereddine says the trick to making great doughnuts time after time is in understanding the ingredients, being able to work with them. And that takes experience. Practice may be part of the fun when it comes to making doughnuts, but they also appeal to entrepreneurs like Reston-based Elaine Hosein, 23, because they can make them and sell them— like, you know, cupcakes. Weekdays, Hosein is a project manager with the FDIC. On weekends, the 23-yearold augments her family’s income by taking a doughnut cart to farmers’ markets around her Northern Virginia home. Her made-in-front-ofyou business, Mama’s Donut Bites, has been a big hit, she says. Children are fascinated by seeing doughnuts fry and puff up. She says she enjoys varying the recipes. Are doughnuts the next cupcake? Better, she insists. “The pastry vendors have definitely not enjoyed seeing me around,” she says with a laugh. “People keep picking me over the cupcakes.” A final note: National Doughnut Day is June 1. You know what to do. • What is your favorite doughnut? To join ‘The Great Doughnut Debate’ go to VirginiaLiving.com and cast your vote today!
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This page: Pretty in pink, fresh fig tart. Facing page: Fig mĂŠlange.
4/23/12 9:52 AM
By Lisa Antonelli Bacon
G lo r i o u s
Where would we be without the fig? Well, to start with, embarrassed, if you’re Adam or Eve. Or Michelangelo’s David. Indeed, what fruit—except the apple—has the distinguished provenance of the fig? It features prominently in the history of man, from the Garden of Eden to the Sumerian civilization 3,000 years B.C., through the Renaissance and to your kitchen table.
Plump and sweet, its juicy pink flesh has survived centuries and outlived entire civilizations, all the while maintaining its reputation as a culinary delight worthy of the gods. There are hundreds of varieties, all with their own distinctive qualities. But Americans are most familiar with about a half-dozen. Chances are you know them best by their colors. There are green ones (Calimyrna) and brown ones (Brown Turkey), yellow ones (Adriatic and Kadota), even purple ones (Celeste and Mission). Brown Turkey, Kadota and Celeste are sweeter; Adriatic and Calimyrna, less so. Black Mission and Celeste are good when dried; Calimyrna and Kadota are spectacularly full-flavored fresh off the tree. The joy of the fig is that there are myriad ways to enjoy them. Stuff them. Roast them. Dip them in chocolate. When preparing a dish with figs, be sure not to overwhelm them with stronger fla-
vors. A nice crème fraîche is a perfect complement; tangy goat cheese, the perfect foil. Or, more simply, just pluck and eat—the fig is at once elegant and rudimentary, all by itself. Figs appear in salads, in main dishes and desserts. You can sauté them, dress them or turn them into jam. What can the fig not do? If there is a downside to the fig, it is that it is only with us Easterners for a couple of months a year, and grocery store prices rival those of, say, a decent steak. On the bright side, contrary to what most gardening experts say, fig trees are trouble-free, save for a little staking at first and some sheltering from the wind. Enough about all that fertilizing or the need for a vast area of space. Mine has thrived on neglect; the only real threat being the possum that makes nightly raids on my tree. Proof that people aren’t the only ones who love them. •
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Clockwise, from top left: Grilled chilled figs, Smithfield ham and citrus cream; grilled figs and goat cheese on arugula and mint; fig kisses; chilled almond and fig soup; an afternoon respite of tea and kisses.
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FRESH FIG TART Almond Crust: 2 cups almond flour 1 cup pastry flour ½ cup cold butter, cut in pieces 2 tablespoons sugar pinch of salt Mix all ingredients in food processor until it forms a ball. Chill for an hour. Using a rolling pin, roll dough on a floured surface to 1/3-inch thickness. Place dough in pie pan and cover with parchment. Weight parchment using rice or pie weights. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden. Cool. Filling: 1 cup crème fraîche 3 tablespoons brown sugar 2 egg yolks 2 teaspoons vanilla (not extract) 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice enough Black Mission figs to cover crust standing up Mix all ingredients, and cream well using a hand-mixer or mixing bowl. Pour filling into cooled crust. Quarter figs and arrange standing up in filling. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
FIG KISSES 6-8 figs any variety, at room temperature 1 ½ cup white chocolate, melted 1 cup toasted, coarsely chopped salted or unsalted pistachios
CHILLED ALMOND AND FIG SOUP 8 ounces almonds 5 ½ ounces white bread approximately 13 ounces cold water 7 ounces olive oil 1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar 2 cloves garlic 2 teaspoons lemon oil salt and pepper to taste Pulse almonds, bread and garlic in food processor. Add water with motor running. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and sherry vinegar. Chill. Pour soup into bowl and add quartered figs. Drizzle with lemon oil. Serves 2-4.
GRILLED FIGS AND GOAT CHEESE ON ARUGULA AND MINT 6 figs, halved and lightly grilled 3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled 3 cups of arugula ½ cup fresh mint leaves olive oil Toss all ingredients. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Serves 2-3.
Dip figs into white chocolate, roll in pistachios and let set until ready to serve.
GRILLED CHILLED FIGS, SMITHFIELD HAM AND CITRUS CREAM 2 Calimyrna figs 2 Black Mission figs 2 very thin slices of Smithfield ham Citrus Cream: 4 ounces mascarpone 4 ounces heavy cream ¼ cup granulated sugar 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice zest of one lemon juice of half lemon zest of one lime juice of one lime pinch of salt Mix citrus cream ingredients until smooth. Quarter figs. Arrange ham on plate and top with figs. Spoon cream around plate. Serves one.
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The Land of Princes
The state of Rajasthan, India, is filled with history, legends and architectural opulence. By tricia Pearsall
Trekking junkies, my kindred nomad Sigrid and I had hiked three weeks over high mountain passes along the border with China in Indiaâ€™s region of Ladakh atop the Tibetan plateau. While there, we arranged a little southern icing on our India layer-cake, an excursion to Rajasthan, where the culture is saturated with the arts, architecture, religious temples and village and palace traditions of Indiaâ€™s former grandeur. When the British left India in 1947, the 22 Rajput-ruled princely states merged to form the largest state in independent India: Rajasthan. Yet many maharajahs (ruling princes) and their descendents continued living in the splendor of their palaces as aristocratic landowners, farmers and soldiers and still enjoy elevated, almost godly, social status. Some converted their properties into luxurious palace hotels, while the most prestigious became successful tourist magnets. 66 |
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Sigrid and I wanted to explore a few of these opulent extravagances, where extreme wealth was channeled into elegant, pivotal structures whose design, craftsmanship and use of materials now define the region. Driving south of Delhi on National Highway 8, we could have been on the New Jersey Turnpike apart from the occasional wayward holy cow and truck cabs peaking out from their smothering loads that looked like giant mushroom caps. Once off the toll-road, however, the atmospheric crush of camel carts, motorbikes and auto rickshaws inched us toward the terracotta-colored fortified walls surrounding the city of Jaipur. Motoring through the New Gate arch into the din of the old city conjured the giddy refrain from Borodinâ€™s p h o t o g r a p h y b y tri c i a p e a r s a l l
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“Kismet”: “Play on the cymbal, the timbal, the lyre; Play with appropriate passion. Fashion.” We saw women draped in layers of color, lilting dancers in mirrored and beaded fabrics, marble palace walls embedded with precious gems, harems and the mystery and magic of the enormously wealthy and exceedingly brave Rajput princes, the maharajahs. We pressed on through the late afternoon market chaos to our lodging, a “palace” hotel near the train station. Steering through an opening in the high wall across from the railroad tracks, we drove onto the manicured lawn carpet of the Bharat Mahal Palace Hotel, a modest structure by palace standards, but quite an elegant edifice for a hunting lodge! Romantic triple-arched jharokas—flamboyant hanging balconies—jut out under the dainty chajjas or slope-roofed bays of this two-story white and pink relic. Almost stumbling over the resident lop-eared rabbit, we made our way under the scalloped arches of the portico, flanked by large carved petal-bordered marble bowls filled with orange, yellow and pink blossoms. As it was off-off season and we were the few guests, the manager
joined us in the garden for tea, “This family is wealthy, just look around you.” We glanced up at their new multi-storied condominiums. “Yet, they all served in the Army and were sharpshooters. They are brave men.” The man was close to tearing up, but quickly rose from the wicker chair, as young descendents of Thikana (Lord) Bhagat Singh—the palace patriarch—strolled onto the lawn, their Rottweiler puppy following. Gone with the Wind meets Kipling’s Kim. The next morning, we were off to Amber Fort, which is anchored along a distant hillside overlooking the city of Jaipur. This massive palacefort was commissioned by Maharajah Man Singh in 1592. Hailing from the Kachhawa family, devout Hindus of the warrior caste who trace their mythic genealogy to the Sun Dynasty, Man Singh rose to the rank of a trusted general for the Islamic Mughal emperor, Akbar. Most of this region’s
Hindu princes co-opted Muslim invaders in order to keep and expand their riches. Singh heroically defended the Mughal Empire on numerous occasions and was rewarded handsomely with the spoils of war. These riches built Amber Fort, an architectural benchmark for what would emerge as the Rajput style: a fusion of Hindu elements, such as heavily-carved piers, shallow arches and chatris (domed pavilions), and Mughal or Muslim design characterized by spacious palace-in-fort blueprints, cusped arches and inlaid sandstone and marble walls. Making our way into the courtyard, we watched as tourists dismounted from their pricey elephant rides while locals queued up for blessing inside the Kali Temple. It’s hard to fathom how such an austere fortress could conceal such a graceful, spectacular palace, but a short flight up the stairs into the maharajah’s apartments reveals walls
Facing page: The Toshakhana (Treasure House) at Amber Fort in Jaipur. This page, clockwise from top left: Woman shopping in market, Jodhpur; Galta Temple in Jaipur; closet of damaged gods, Galta Temple; elephant entrance to Amber Fort, Jaipur; flower petals in marble vessel, Bharat Mahal Palace Hotel, Jaipur; drummer near Meherangarh Fort, Jodhpur. Center: Food at the Jodhpur market. V i r g i n i a
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shimmering with repeated panels of inlaid semiprecious stones such as lapis lazuli. The Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) is the most stunning enclosure. In daylight, this cave-like room twinkles like fluttering eyelashes, its walls and ceiling covered with undulating niches of minutely carved stone and marble symmetrical floral patterns, all inset with reflective foil and mirrored glass. The harem apartments were cleverly designed along a private corridor, so the maharajah could make his nightly tryst with one without the knowledge of the others. In the early 18th century, Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh II enlarged the Amber Fort just prior to constructing a new palace in what became the city of Jaipur, and that was our next stop. Jai Singh’s palace in the city center is an organic complex that expanded over two centuries, the last addition made at the turn of the 20th century. We followed the crowd through the marble elephant gate into a vermillion-red courtyard featuring the Diwan-I-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), a majestic open-air pavilion housing
two giant sterling silver vessels storing holy water from the Ganges. Another passageway, this one crowned with stylistically-rendered peacock feathers, led into the final square in front of the seven-story Chandra Mahal Palace. Massive in size, it seemed more like a towering, flavorless wedding cake in contrast to the refined richness of its outer courtyards and doorways. Across from the Palace lies the Jantar Mantar, the largest and most complex of five astronomical observatories built by Jai Singh II between 1724 and 1727, consisting of 20 monumental measuring constructions. The ochre-colored stone gnomon of the Samrat Yantra, the world’s largest sundial, is a platform rising 73 feet from the base, flanked by two curvilinear structures looking a bit like skateboard ramps. These capture the sun’s shadow, casting up to a 45-foot arc, and are accurate to within two seconds. I was in awe of their scientific preciseness and blown away by their simple grace and sculptural lines. Before heading to our next stop, Udaipur, we
Above, clockwise from top left: Blue houses, Jodhpur; Maharajah’s room at Meherangarh Fort, Jodhpur; religious school, Galta; the Jai Prakash Yantra at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur; sundial at Jantar Mantar; Jain Temple, Ranakpur. Center: Holy man at temple outside City Palace, Udaipur.
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visited two of Rajasthan’s most sacred holy sites, Galta and Pushkar. Dedicated to the Sun God, Galta is a cascading series of temples, pavilions, shrines and pools tucked into a steep gorge outside Jaipur. Originally built by a courtier of Jai Sing II, the temples boast elaborately carved colonnades, domed roofs and painted friezes. We ventured first into a hall devoted to the elephant-god, Ganesh, before encountering a class of saffron-swathed, droopy-eyed kids chanting Hindu verse. Monkeys dove in and out of the water like bullets, offering up a frenzied performance. Higher up the complex, teenage boys jettisoned off the top staircase rail into pools way below where white draped holy men washed their robes and devotees bathed. In Pushkar, we promenaded with crowds of colorful pilgrims to the Brahma Temple, only one of few devoted to Lord Brahma, the premiere God of the Hindu trinity, then motored on, arriving in Udaipur as the sun set over Lake Pichola. Known as the Venice of the East, Udaipur’s pulse revolves around the lake. The City Palace, begun by Maharajah Udai Singh in 1559 and the largest in Rajasthan, rises from behind a canopy of bougainvillea along the lakeshore up to the crest of the hill. Built of white marble, its flamboyant cupolas, balconies, colonnades and towers form an
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Clockwise from top left: City Palace complex, Udaipur; corn vendor, Udaipur; view of the fort from Lake Pichola, Udaipur; Brahma Temple, Pushkar; peacock courtyard at Mor Chowk, Udaipur; washing clothes on Ghat steps by Lake Pichola. Center: Woman shopping in market, Jodhpur.
amazingly homogeneous complex, even though it was enlarged by successive maharajahs for almost 300 years. Put on your shades for Udaipur’s City Palace! Intense whiteness and glitter may cause blindness. Touring its extravagantly appointed rooms, such as one festooned with silver, red and gold chevron-patterned mirrors, courtyards like the Mor Chowk built around giant peacocks dressed in 5,000 pieces of green and blue glass, and dramatic moldings, such as the carved marble railing portraying elephant fights using bulldogs, a vestige from the time elephant cavalries were fierce legions of battle, took the better part of a day. A 1951 photograph documents the palace’s last elephant fight—two elephants on opposite sides of a low white wall, mounted by fist-pumping turbaned drivers or mahouts, trunks locked, long tusks piercing each others jaws, mouths wide open in agitated screams, cheering hordes hanging from palace balconies. On Lake Pichola, water taxies ferry guests to the Lake Palace Hotel, the former pleasure palace Jag Niwas, now the ultimate in lavish accommodations. A second island palace, Jag Mandir, is a mid1600s extravagance where the young Shah Jahan, before becoming emperor, took refuge during a
conflict with his father. Legend says this palace was his inspiration for the Taj Mahal. The last stop on our Rajasthan caravan was Jodhpur. Founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, king of the Rathores clan, it is located at the edge of the Thar Desert. Kipling eloquently describes Jodhpur’s Meherangarh Fort: “The work of angels, fairies and giants ... built by Titans and coloured by the morning sun ... he who walks through it loses sense of being among buildings. It is as though he walked through mountain gorges.” The approach to this citadel roused this sensation. Exterior walls hint at the fortress’s complex history—pockmarked dents of cannon balls and 15 handprints—“sati” marks—of the widows of Maharajah Man Singh who threw themselves on his funeral pyre in 1843. Administered by the current Maharajah of Jodhpur, galleries exhibit the extensive palace collections—silver elephant howdahs, palanquins and wall paintings, as well as military hardware. The old walled city of Jodhpur lies in the shadow of the Fort. Narrow streets are lined with many cobalt blue painted houses—to denote Brahmins, the highest caste—with the clock tower the focal point of the Sadar Market, a daily elaborate staging of food and dry goods. Our last evening, we drove out to visit the
Bishnoi, a 500 year-old casteless tribe famous for their 29 religious tenets promoting the sacred equality of plant, animal and human life. Welcomed by men in white turbans and women wearing heavy gold ear and nose rings, we were first treated to the opium tea ceremony, a greeting ritual performed by a seated elder in front of a carved wooden distillation apparatus (think Tinker Toys). The Bishnoi are historical eco-warriors, from the 1730 massacre of over 350 tribespeople hugging trees—a tree is worth more than a chopped head—to the more recent indictment of a Bollywood star who shot a blackbuck. Prospering in the harsh desert environment, these vegetarians foster animal populations—women nurse orphaned fawns— plant and well-water sterile lands. Lazing in the sun-setting desert beside a cluster of thatched dwellings, munching yummy millet chapatis, was a soulful counterpoint to the excessive wealth of the last few days. These Rajasthanis reap a moral fortune from the desert. Adding this contrasting cultural layer to our Indian cake seemed the perfect Rajasthan farewell. •
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Wealth Management & Retirement 2012
With a host of communities around Virginia to choose from, retirees can now sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. BY
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After years of hard work, it is finally your turn to relax,
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Kendal at Lexington is a not-for-profit, Quaker-related lifecare community located in historic Lexington, Virginia. The community is surrounded by natural beauty and is a short walk to downtown Lexington, Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute. Residents have access to creative opportunities, a fitness center, flexible dining, enriching cultural events, plus interesting neighbors and residential services second to none. All this with the security of access to quality continuing care for life. • 540-463-1910 or Kalex.Kendal.org
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Top left: Robert W. “Chip” Brockmeier, Financial Advisor; John B. Lewis, Family Wealth Director Bottom left: Tammy A. Maitland, Registered Associate; Joseph W. Bartholomew, III, Financial Advisor; Kelly B. Ross, Registered Associate
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WoodsEdge is experiencing a kind of metamorphosis. As always, residents can enjoy the natural beauty of our wooded 220-acre campus, as well as highly customizable, lowmaintenance homes. Now, we’re bringing to life a new way to unite our community and connect residents with new opportunities. A beautiful new timber-frame structure called the Village Center, due for completion in January 2013, will offer resources to enhance both physical and social wellness. New amenities will include a performing arts stage; a café and fitness suite consisting of a cardio and strengthtraining room; an exercise studio; a warm, indoor saltwater pool; and much more. Learn more about WoodsEdge as we continue to spread our wings. Call today and be sure to visit us online. 2014 Blue Jay Lane, Blacksburg, Virginia 24060 • www.woodsedgeblacksburg.com • (540) 443-3416 Subject to availability. Prices and plans subject to change without notice. All images of the Village Center are artistic renderings of our vision for the future. This building is not yet constructed. Not a valid offering in any state where registration is required but not yet completed. All residents must be at least 55 years of age. The only exception is for spouses of residents age 55 or older. Condo association agreements apply.
It’s our family group, our social group, our shared heritage, our common ideas, our shared values, our pattern for daily life. Whether you are sixty-five or more, planning for yourself or a family member, the Community you choose makes a difference in how you enjoy your retirement. At Bridgewater Retirement Community it’s all about that sense of community, that “welcome home” feeling you get, even if you have never been here before.
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The End of the Line by gary robertson
A new book about O. Winston Link coming out later this year will include some never before seen images of the final days of Virginiaâ€™s steam locomotives from the lens of this iconic photographer. 78 |
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Facing page: “The Popes and the Last Steam Passenger Train,” Max Meadows, Dec. 31, 1957. This page: “Train No. 2 Arrives in Natural Bridge,” March 28, 1956.
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many Americans are focused on the possibility of high-speed rail, with high-voltage electrical connections displacing conventional diesel engines. But it was not so long ago that America’s railroads were powered not by electricity or even diesel, but by fire and water and steam. That was the era of the “iron horses,” steam locomotives that exhaled great plumes of smoke as they thundered past, their boilers hissing. It was to this era and to documenting the last steam railroad in America, the Norfolk and Western Railway, that photographer O. Winston Link devoted his time, his resources and some of the most productive years of his life. His brilliantly-lit nighttime photographs of steam locomotives, the tough and devoted men who maintained and operated them, and the towns and people they passed have become treasured American classics. I met Link in Richmond in 1996, when I was working as a newspaper reporter. Among photographers and train buffs, he already was a legendary figure. The General Assembly of Virginia was about to honor him again for immortalizing what many regarded as the golden age of railroading, when steam ruled. Link was 81 then, and he wore his fame loosely, like an old pocket watch. He was self-effacing and funny. “I’ve been called a genius and a nut,” Link told me, intimating that he was probably a little of both. By 2001, he would be dead, never seeing the museum in Roanoke named in his honor to preserve his iconic images. Link was a civil engineer by training, and a commercial photographer by choice. But since boyhood, he also had an affinAbove, left: “J.W. ity for trains. It was both good fortune and a busiDalhouse Cleans a ness assignment that brought Link to a place and to Locomotive Headlight,” a moment that would change his life and launch him Shaffer’s Crossing, Roanoke, March 1955; on an obsessive effort that lasted just over five years, right: “Link Crossing from January 1955 to March 1960, just weeks before Stream,” not dated. the last steam railroad in America pulled its final steam locomotive off the tracks. Link was on assignment in Staunton for an industrial client, but he couldn’t wait to visit nearby Waynesboro, where he could see steam locomotives trackside. Link, who had his home and commercial photography business in Brooklyn, New York, had been following the rapid fading of steam power on the nation’s railroads and knew that the Norfolk and Western was the only railroad that still maintained steam locomotives on all its lines, both freight and passenger. On the night of January 20, 1955, Link was waiting as the Norfolk and Western’s train No. 2, a passenger train on its evening run from Roanoke to New York, came through and stopped at the Waynesboro station. He would later say the billowing smoke and escaping steam, the stature and presence of the locomotive itself, and a sense of time passing all made an indelible impression on him. The next night, Link returned to Waynesboro and made his first night photo on the Norfolk and Western, using two units containing banks of high-powered flash bulbs. He positioned the flash units low, to emphasize both the shape of the locomotive and the shroud of darkness enveloping the station. Later, he developed the negative and sent it, along with some of his commercial photos, to the public relations offices of the Norfolk and Western. Link then proposed to take a series of night photographs along the railroad that would feature Norfolk and Western employees. The clincher: He would bear all the expense, if he could only gain access. Both the railway’s public relations department and the president of
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the Norfolk and Western became advocates of the project, which eventually also involved daylight photos, color photography and collections of recordings of trains rumbling along the track. With a focused purpose, Link made 17 trips along the Norfolk and Western Railway, creating about 2,400 negatives and transparencies. For years, Link’s photographic tour de force was largely unknown except among railway fans and a few museum curators who had seen his work. The first book of Link’s photographs, Steam, Steel & Stars, was published in 1987. Link finally got his due—and a long-sought repository for his photographic works—17 years later after the publication of a second book of photographs, The Last Steam Railroad in America, and with the opening of the O. Winston Link Museum on January 10, 2004. Owned and operated by the Historical Society of Western Virginia, the museum is located in the former Norfolk and Western Railway passenger station in downtown Roanoke. Link had died three years earlier at age 87, but it was always his intent to have his photographs live beyond his own lifetime, specifically in Roanoke where he began and ended each of his trips along the Norfolk and Western line. In an unfortunate twist toward the end of Link’s life, his second wife, Conchita, was twice convicted and served jail time for stealing some of his photographs and trying to sell them. All of the photographs were recovered. David Helmer, a former financial officer with the Norfolk Southern railroad, the successor to the Norfolk and Western, helped raise an initial $3.5 million to build the Link Museum after Norfolk Southern donated its former passenger terminal to the City of Roanoke. Says Helmer: “One of the things that the Link Museum does is to mark the passing of two eras—the passing of steam to diesel on the railroads, and also the passing of a way of life in the Appalachians.” Thomas H. Garver of Madison, Wisconsin, Link’s former business manager and a frequent interpreter of his works as an art curator, says Link was a perfectionist, an accomplished raconteur, a genuine character and a photographer who bridged the gulf from commercial to high art. “He has influenced work well beyond his area of expertise” in commercial photography, says Garver. Kimberly Parker, director of the O. Winston Link Museum, notes that Link’s photographs and traveling exhibitions of his work have reached many parts of the world. The Smithsonian Institution once offered a retrospective of Link’s photography, and the first Harry Potter book published in London carried one of Link’s most memorable train photographs, “Cavalier, Leaves Williamson, West Virginia on a Rainy Day, 1958.” Still, Parker explains, “People think they know all of Link’s work, but there are some amazing images they haven’t seen.” The museum will publish a new coffee table book of some of these photographs, O. Winston Link, Life Along the Line, this fall. In my interview with Link in 1996, he said he often compared his life to that of a boyhood friend who, like him, had studied civil engineering, but had remained in the profession. “He’s a distinguished professor of civil engineering. He’s got a good retirement,” Link said. “I’ve taken pictures . . . I think I’ve had all the fun.” • photography courte sy of O. winston link museum
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Clockwise, from left: “Y6, Pusher, East, Iaeger Drive-In,” Iaeger, West Virginia, Aug. 2, 1956; “Hester Fringer’s Living Room,” Lithia, Dec. 16, 1955; “Darlene Milton at the Pump,” Lithia, Aug. 1, 1956; “The Keith Children Fishing with Train No. 2 in the Background,” Lithia, July 30, 1956.
Left: “Bridge at Rileyville,” Rileyville, March 18, 1956. Here: “Camp Joy,” Welch, West Virginia, Aug. 1, 1956.
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Riders kick up a trail of red dirt as they pull away from the start at Birch Creek Motorsports Complex in Sutherlin.
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L THROTTLE The motocross riders at Birch Creek Motorsports Complex all have one thing in common: They want to cross that finish line first
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Justin Eakes takes a jump at Birch Creek.
he growl of engines comes in short, sharp bursts as the motocross riders wait impatiently for the metal starting gate to drop. Once it does, they’ll be released out into the red clay of the track, where sharp corners and gravity-defying jumps await. Starter Jim Ley flips his board on its side, indicating that the gate will drop in somewhere between one and five seconds. The engine noise rises to a roar, the smell of burning fuel fills the air and the ground trembles ever so slightly. Finally, the red, white and blue-painted metal gate falls to the floor and the bikes scream forward, chunks of hard, red dirt raining down on spectators behind the chain-link fence. Welcome to motocross at Birch Creek Motorsports Complex in Sutherlin, 15 miles northeast of Danville. The track at Birch Creek is an approximately 1.5-mile circuit of corners, jumps and bumps, in a timbered area of a Sutherlin forest. At this American Motorcycle Association-certified complex, riders compete in different classes—based on age, ability and the size of their bike’s engine— to complete a pre-determined number of laps and cross the line first. Motocross, or MX to those in the know, is loud and dirty, and the jumps look insanely dangerous. But in my weekend at Birch Creek at the close of the 2011 motocross season, I learned there is a lot more to this sport than meets the eye. “Some people might think it’s a lot of yahoos out in the country, you know, kind of rednecks,” says Paul Fleming, a 41-year-old profes-
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sional software consultant and amateur rider who was at Birch Creek to watch the action with Zion, his 8-year-old son. “But it’s not really that type of sport. It’s a lot of business people who are involved, and a lot of these guys travel all over the country.” And beyond. Because motocross actually arrived on these shores via France—“moto” being an abbreviation of the French motocyclette—after originating in the United Kingdom in the early 20th century. It’s also a family sport. Rusty Reynolds, 46, is the co-owner of Birch Creek Motorsports Complex with Ken Ferrell, 55, and the owner of two motorbike shops: Triangle Cycles in Durham, North Carolina, and Triangle Cycles North in Danville. “If you’re really involved in motocross, it takes a lot of effort and a lot of resources, and it’s a team effort with the dad and the son and the mom,” says Reynolds. “The dad might work on the bike and get it clean and ready, the kid races it, and then the mother and daughter help with scoring and with making sure that they’re signed up in the right class and they’re at the gate on time. It’s a family effort. It’s also one of the few sports where you’ll see a 17, 18 or 19-year-old kid actually want to be with his dad every weekend!” Indeed, it’s difficult to be embarrassed by your old man when he’s racing dirt bikes alongside you. John Perkins, a 48-year-old vice president of strategic account partnerships at MeadWestVaco in Richmond, spends most weekends at motocross events with his son Tyler, 15. “I had the privilege of racing sailboats with my dad when I was growing up,” Perkins tells me. “We raced competitively for a number of years and the family bond-
ing, father-son time was just tremendous. So when Tyler wanted to start on dirt bikes I thought ‘OK, I’m going to get one!’” Together they form Team Perkins, with the name emblazoned across the truck containing their bikes. Safety is high on the priority list for parents, who watch nervously from the hill, darting between vantage points to peer between tree branches and over hills, following their youngster’s progress around the track. Still, there’s no doubt that accidents will happen. I spoke to Dennis Wilson, 42, whose 8-year-old son Hunter four weeks ago had broken both his wrists at the track. “I worry about him all the time,” says Wilson. “But it’s a tough sport, and he can’t wait to get back on.” Everyone I meet tells me that motocross injuries are unavoidable. “It’s not if you’re going to crash,” says Chris Wales, 37, a Danville native who’s working as flagman at the event. “It’s when, and how badly.” During the weekend I was there, I saw 18-yearold Conner Lester and his bike slide off the face of a jump. The track safety protocols were unleashed in a heartbeat: A cross flag was waved to tell trackside assistance, EMTs and other riders that a rider was down. Three ATVs arrived almost immediately, and Lester and his bike were moved off the track, out of further danger. The reaction time was impressive and the incident was dealt with efficiently. Lester was soon up and about. I caught up with Lester afterward. He’s an open and friendly young man who was happy to talk about the accident, in which he broke his wrist. “I’ve broken my right wrist twice, my foot once, my collar bone once. I’ve torn my ACL and had a
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left: From left, Thomas Gillespie, Andrew Williams, Travis Poole, Cody Robbins and Channin Adams pull away as the moto starts. below: Conner Lester.
clockwise from left: Tyler Sirles rounds a corner; riders talk before the race begins; Neil Shelor; Aleck Forte kicks up some red clay as he accelerates; Birch Creek co-owner and Triangle Cycles owner Rusty Reynolds works on a customer's bike; John and Tyler Perkins.
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clockwise from top: Morgan Moore mid-jump; track co-owner Ken Ferrell; James McElvian; Alexa West; Dorian Franzen in the air; Robby Winiarczyk (#57) and Elijah Hurst (#748) compete.
couple of concussions. But that’s about it!” What keeps him—and other riders—coming back for more? “It’s all about just going and going and trying to get better and better and better, so it’s hard to stop. When you keep progressing and improving it just makes it harder to give up.” Despite—or maybe because of—the risk of injury, motocross isn’t so much about speed and aggression as it is about the technique and discipline that’s required to navigate the track safely. And to do so faster than your opponents and cross that finish line first requires a level of strategizing, decisionmaking and physical endurance that can only be achieved after years of practice and dedication. I learned that maybe the biggest misconception about motocross is that it’s all about the jumps. The sight of a dirt bike hanging in mid-air is maybe the sports’ most iconic image. And understandably so, because you can’t help but stare in awe as riders leave the face of the ramp, glide serenely through the sky—throttle temporarily silenced— and land safely on the other side. That’s especially true when riders go up and over Mount Deacon, a 90-foot jump named after original Birch Creek owner “Deacon” Jones, which lands going downhill, meaning extra time in the air. But motocross isn’t about hang time and looking good; it’s about
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getting back down to earth as quickly as possible, because jumps are merely obstacles to maintaining speed. Which is why the better riders will reduce the height of their jump by “scrubbing,” a difficult technique which involves leaving the ramp at a slight angle and then straightening up in mid-air. Winning a “moto” (as riders refer to each race) is mostly about taking corners: “The corners are where you make a lot of time,” explains Fleming. “A lot of guys get the jumps but corners are the key in motocross.” Birch Creek track promoter Carl Reynolds, 70, helped lay the track back in 1993, and he helped me understand the decisions riders make when handling corners: “Some of them like to cut inside tight, some of them like to run wide on the outside, some of them like to come in and cut it short.” Essentially the inside line is the shortest route, but requires the rider to slow down to accommodate the tighter turn, while the outside line means losing less speed but traveling a greater distance. The morning of every race day, riders walk the track, making decisions about going inside or outside. During practice laps, they begin the groundwork, riding their bike through the lines they plan to take, digging ruts with their tires as they go. Reynolds shows me a particular corner: “There will probably be at least three lines,
maybe five, so everyone’s got a little different way they like to go through. They’ll go through practice and keep working it until they’ve got it the way they want it.” Though there’s no denying the friendly atmosphere and family environment at Birch Creek, there is also some serious ambition on display. Once the gate drops, it’s all about winning. There was a $3,000 purse up for grabs the weekend I was there, including a pro-am event pitting talented amateurs against professional riders, providing the amateur riders with the opportunity to earn a pro license should they win enough points over the course of a season. One young man about to make that breakthrough is Jacob Hayes, a 17-yearold from Greensboro, North Carolina, who won the pro-am Open A event with apparent ease, gliding around the track to many an appreciative nod from seasoned motocross watchers. Hayes got the all-important “hole shot”—meaning he took the lead after the gate dropped and was first to disappear around the bend—then took every corner with noticeable verve. He wasn’t showing off, but there was a charisma to his racing style, perhaps born of confidence. After the race, Hayes tells me the ride wasn’t as error free as it looked: “I made a couple of mistakes. You can’t always go through a
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clockwise from left: CJ Pruitt takes a corner; Zion and Paul Fleming; Dennis and Hunter Wilson; from left, Kristie Ley, Abbey Alford and Rebecca Richardson; Cameron Alverson (#29), Tyler Perkins (#313) and Todd Goetz (#587) race around a corner; Open A winner Jacob Hayes.
moto without making mistakes.” But if Jacob Hayes is not a pro rider by the time you read this, then he soon will be. Hayes seemed to enjoy the weekend, but the pressure on talented young riders can be immense. There are only so many professional teams and sponsorships out there, and one injury can end a once-promising career in an instant. Neil Shelor knows all about those pressures; they are the reason he stopped riding. “In those upper classes, some of those guys are still hoping to go pro one day, sign up with teams and things like that. I know when I was racing as a kid, that’s how it was, and that’s the reason I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. I was so competitive, and winning meant everything. If I didn’t win I’d go home pretty pissed off at the end of the day, you know. So I quit when I was about 14 or 15 and didn’t touch it for about 18 years.” Shelor, 33, is now a massage therapist by day and a bodyguard for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice by night. “I’m kind of on both paths,” he says, smiling at his contrasting twin careers. Yet the two jobs say a lot about what motocross demands of its riders; the technique and attention to detail that comes with massage therapy, combined with the physical strength and mental discipline required to work as a bodyguard.
After 18 years away, Shelor returned to motocross just two months before the Birch Creek event, consciously deciding to ride for enjoyment instead of points. “I know I’m not going pro now, so it’s just all about having a good time. If I come off the face of the jump and I’m not sure I’m going to make it, I’ll just roll off. If the guy passes me, I’m fine with it.” Shelor’s relaxed attitude is evident in his equipment. While most riders wear colorful race jerseys with eye-catching graphics and sponsors’ logos, Shelor raced at Birch Creek wearing a white sweater. “It’s just whatever was in my closet this morning,” he shrugs. Shelor also goes against the grain by riding a bike with a two-stroke engine, increasingly rare as the sport is taken over by fourstrokes. I won’t pretend to understand the mechanics, but essentially the output from a four-stroke engine is more reliable, making acceleration more predictable, meaning fewer surprises for the rider. The downside, Shelor tells me, is that four-stroke engines cost three or four times as much to maintain. “I can’t buy a $10,000 bike and have a $3,000 engine rebuild every year. My bike, I can get it for next to nothing and I can rebuild it for $200.” And still win races, apparently. Because Shelor, riding his 2004 Yamaha YZ 250 two-stroke, finished first in the Open D class. He didn’t do any-
thing flashy or risky, and even lost valuable time when accidentally slipping into neutral at the start, but caught up to the leader, Derek Ellis, just in time to overtake him as the finish line approached. “I put a block pass on him with three turns to go and then edged him out in the end,” says Shelor. The block pass, I learned, means he took an inside line on a corner, while Ellis went outside. Shelor accelerated out of the corner quickly to get in front of Ellis, which killed the former race leader’s momentum, allowing Shelor to pull ahead. The unexpected win was another reminder of why Shelor loves motocross, and confirmation that the decision to return to the fold was a good one. Did much change while he was away? “So much has changed!” he says. “Chest protection, neck protection, they didn’t have any of that 18 years ago! Also the kids are starting out at four years old, camps and such, and there seems to be a lot more money in the sport now than there used to be. I see all these Winnebagos out here! ... But the basic soul of the sport hasn’t changed. It’s still a family sport; families coming out together to have a blast. There’s a lot of really good people out here.” • >> For more go to VirginiaLiving.com V i r g i n i a
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photography by jereme thaxton
Quite a Catch
By Christopher Pala
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A concerted effort to rebuild the Chesapeake Bay’s crab population has preserved a way of life here that is as ‘summah’ as it gets.
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The morning sun shines on stacks of crab pots in front of a few of the crab processing houses on Tangier Island.
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Dan Dize on a dock in Tangier Island.
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tipped in bright orange-red. Their first reflex is to clamp onto anything they can, and it’s usually each other, to the point where a dozen crabs will form a tangled, unyielding mass. Their claws are stronger than their shells, so the tiny sound of crunching exoskeleton will be in the background the whole day. The old bait, a pair of oily fish called menhadens in various states of decay, fall out onto the gunwale’s ledge, where a flip of the hand sends them into our wake. Dize flips the cage, reaches into it to pry out a last holdout with a hand covered by a thick black glove, slides in a couple of fresh menhadens, closes the cage and tosses it overboard. The whole operation takes less time than it took you to read this paragraph. Dize is 33, blond with close-cropped hair and a neatly trimmed moustache. He is one of perhaps 250 remaining Chesapeake watermen, a dwindling breed of people who live entirely off what they catch. It includes atoll dwellers and not many others, all spiritual descendants of the original hunter-gatherers. In his slow drawl, you can recognize the Elizabethan origins of the isolated islands’ communities, first settled because of their abundant waterfowl and seafood. In his friendliness and welcome, you can sense the islanders’ moral rectitude, which is reflected in Tangier’s lack of crime. Dize should be happy. The population of Chesapeake crabs, from which he derives nearly all his income, has more than doubled over the past three years, after spending the previous decade perilously close to collapsing.
That’s because the governments of Virginia and Maryland finally began curbing overfishing in 2009 and are restoring the crab population to an abundance that will shield it from cold snaps, pollution spills or even shifts in sea currents that could cause it to crash to a point where there would be so few left that they would cost more to catch than people would be prepared to pay—a state fisheries experts call commercial extinction. But Dize is not happy at all: He chafes under the yoke of the very regulations that, by forcing him and other watermen to catch fewer crabs, have allowed the population to rebound—and prices to drop. “I don’t care how many crabs are out there,” he says with disarming frankness as we motor from one line of pots to another. “All I care is whether I can make a living catching them. And today, I’m going to get $14 a bushel,” which translates to $350 for the day’s 25-bushel take. “That doesn’t even cover my expenses.”
K Rick Robins, 45, a seafood businessman who lives in Suffolk, sits with Dize on Virginia’s Crab Management Advisory Committee, a policyrecommending unit of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, but you’d think they inhabit different planets. More than anyone, Robins, who has chaired the committee since 2005, is responsible for identifying a way to reform the fishery and save the crab population from crashing. Robins describes the situation this way: Since
Bucket of crabs by Christopher Pala
e leave the dock at Tangier Island before dawn, under a full moon with a huge halo. It’s mid-October, and the Chesapeake Bay is as still as a pond. For 20 minutes, we sit in the 37-foot boat’s tiny, warm cabin until we reach Pocomoke Sound. We step out to take up our positions near the stern on the starboard side, which has its own throttle and steering. Dan Dize, in orange overalls over a long-sleeved T-shirt, jeans and rubber boots, uses a powerful spotlight and a GPS to locate the first crab pot float. The light attracts a flight of white terns that dance and dive like ghosts, feeding on something in the water. Dize doesn’t know what and doesn’t care; he’s fully focused on catching the maximum amount of crabs he can for a buyer that will leave the Tangier dock at 2 p.m. He leans over and extends a gaff to bring in the first floater. He wraps the rope around a silently spinning winch, which hauls the crab pot to the surface. It’s a box-shaped trap made of green chicken wire, about three feet wide and two feet deep. There are two holes to let the undersized crabs get out. He pulls the pot out of the water, opens a side and shakes out the dozen or so crabs inside into a shallow tub called a table. It’s the end of the season, when the crabs’ colors are brightest: the claws of the males, known as jimmies, are a striking navy blue and those of the females, called sooks, are L i v i n g
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Here: A crab pot is pulled from the water. Right: Dizeâ€™s catch.
Clockwise from above: Crab buoys; Rick Robins; a bushel of just-caught crabs; Dize checking a crab pot; a crab boat.
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Clockwise from above: Shirley’s Bay View Inn on Tangier Island; the moon sets over downtown Tangier; Benjamin and Will Eskridge (ages 7 and 5), both born and raised on Tangier, fish from the dock after school; Tangier water tower.
1950, the Chesapeake crab population oscillated around 400 million. Because the females, which reach sexual maturity at 18 months, are extraordinarily fecund—each releases between 750,000 and 5 million larvae a year—it was possible to harvest 250 million a year and still have 400 million the next year. The mated females are the easiest to catch because they migrate each fall to the mouth of the bay in huge numbers along invisible underwater highways where watermen have been laying their pots for centuries. After spending the winter buried in mud against the
tion declined to 130 million. And yet, about 100 million crabs—less than half the previous level but far too many for the newly shrunken population—were caught each year for a decade. The stock never rebounded, but the watermen were content: prices were high and they almost always knew where to find the remaining crabs. The dwindling local supply coincided with the arrival of large amounts of pasteurized crab meat from Asia and a growing shortage of labor. Along the Virginia and Maryland tidewater shores, dozens of picking houses, where the meat
The crab situation was so bad that the federal government allocated $30 million in emergency funding in 2009, half for each state. cold, the females emerge in the spring, and in June release multiple batches of tiny larvae. The larvae head out to sea and return as juvenile crabs when they’re about three months old. Job done, the females head up the bay for the summer to feed before returning the following year, if they survive the gauntlet of crab pots and predators awaiting them on their journeys. Most males stay up the bay, and Dize caught only one bushel of males for every 24 bushels of females. But in 1997, following a spate of storms that prevented the larvae from returning, the popula-
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was extracted by hand from cooked crabs and sold fresh by the pound, went out of business. In Crisfield, Maryland, the self-described crab capital of the world, the picking houses by the ferry landing have been replaced by condos. Only one operates now, and that one is a little way inland—and that’s just part-time. Science-driven efforts to limit the catch before the population crashed ran into the problem King Charles I created when, for reasons that remain unclear, he split the bay in two horizontally when he carved out Maryland from Virginia and
Pennsylvania in 1632. Maryland’s part has more males and Virginia’s more females. But to reduce the fishery and save the stock, whatever pain was inflicted on the two states’ watermen would have to be shared equally, and the early measures, such as reducing the workday, limiting the number of pots per license-holder, and reducing the number of licenses largely failed. The yearly take slowly decreased from 80 percent to 63 percent of the adult population, but that was still too much for it to grow back. When Robins landed on the crab commission in 2004, he noted the dangerously low population and the ineffective efforts to get it to rebound, so he called for the creation of a blue-ribbon commission to find a solution. Tom Miller, a Briton who heads the University of Maryland’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons Island, was the senior scientist on the panel. He concluded that conservation efforts needed to focus on the females, whose numbers had dwindled far more than the males. “I called it the kindergarten solution,” Miller quipped during an interview at his office overlooking the bay. “Any 5-year-old can figure out that if there aren’t enough babies, you have to stop killing the mommies.” He persuaded the panel that 30 million females needed to be spared each year, about twice the amount that were surviving the fishery at the time. “Overall, we wanted the harvest to be below 46 percent of the population,” down from 63 percent, he explains. Since three-quarters of the females
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Clockwise from above left: Tourist Cynthia Thaxton bikes on Tangier Island; crab boats; Fisherman’s Corner Seafood Restaurant; crab cake sandwich at Lorraine’s Seafood Restaurant; a fishing rod rests on one of the docks of Tangier.
are caught in Virginia, the crab commission had to find a way to make the sacrifice equitable. With the support of the governors of both states, a spawning-season sanctuary zone was extended in time. Then, the fall season was ended earlier. That’s when about 200 million females walk up to 150 miles to the mouth of the bay and are the easiest to catch. For watermen, it’s the season-end bonus, the few weeks that bring in the cash that will keep them going for the winter. Finally, the so-called winter dredge fishery in Virginia waters was ended entirely. It involved towing huge rakes that destroyed the bottom and killed two females for every one brought up, says Miller. In addition, many of the ones brought up are fatally injured, and their meat is only good if it’s cooked within hours and extracted in a picking house. According to Tangier Mayor James Eckridge, by the time they closed that fishery, there were only 65 active dredge boats operating from both states, down from 300 in the 1970s, largely because of the reduction in the number of picking houses. The crab situation was so bad that the federal government allocated $30 million in emergency funding in 2009, half for each state. About $5 million of Virginia’s share went to employ the crews of those 65 dredgers to tow a different kind of equipment that snares lost crab pots whose floats have been cut off by propellers, which uselessly kill crabs for months. “There are lots of things you can do to reduce mortality in a fishery,” says
Robins. “This was the first time we used all of them at once.” The 2009 yearly winter survey of crab populations taken in 1,500 spots up and down the Chesapeake found that the restrictions worked: the female adult population had grown by 70 percent, while the male population had barely changed. In 2010, their offspring were added to the adult population, which showed that the adult female population rose from 130 million to 250 million. Overall, the number of adult crabs soared from 131 million in 2008 to 315 million in 2010. Then in the winter of 2010-2011, nature pulled one of her nasty tricks: a cold snap killed 30 percent of the females that had burrowed in the Virginia mud, so the 2011 survey showed that the number of adults dropped from 315 million to 194 million, says Miller, the scientist. “This is the kind of thing that’s not a problem with a healthy population, but it can wipe out a very reduced one,” he adds. “We expect the 2012 population to be much bigger.” And it is. According to the 2012 winter dredge survey results announced in April, the total population is at a 20-year high of 764 million. The goal is to have an adult population over 400 million for three years in a row, after which some of the restrictions on fishing can be eased as long as they don’t reduce the stock below that level. Besides, says Robins, the average price Virginia fishermen got for their crabs remained stable at 93 cents a pound between 2008 and 2010, while the number of crabs caught rose by more than a
third. He expects prices to go up again. “We saw that when the scallop fishery recovered,” he says. “Demand increased and now prices are at an all time high, and there’s three times more scallops being harvested now than in the 1980s.” So why is Dan Dize complaining? “Costs,” Dize says as we take a break in the late-morning sun to eat sandwiches. “With diesel at $4 a gallon, I need $20 a bushel just to pay my expenses. I made a better living between 1998 and 2008 because my expenses were much lower.” As we head for Tangier with 3,500 crabs tightly packed in their 25 round bushel baskets made of thinly cut wood, Dize, whose knowledge of his ancestors reaches back four generations, turns philosophical. His father is a waterman, and earlier in the day, our two boats had sided up on the Pocomoke Sound and they had exchanged pleasantries and tips for pot placement. “I’ve lived on the mainland, and I didn’t care for it,” Dize says. “But there’s no future in crabbing. You know, the average age of crabbers is 56. The kids just don’t want to do it any more; they want a steady income. A lot of crabbers on Tangier have gone to work on the tugs. This said, I may complain a lot, but truth is I wouldn’t want to do anything else. You have to love it to do it.” If Robins is right, prices will rise to offset Dize’s expenses, and a unique culture will survive. After all, it wouldn’t be summer on the Chesapeake Bay without crabs to pick dockside as the sun glints on the water that has fed this region for so long. • V i r g i n i a
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departure Dénouement A writer finds peace in the process of constructing his own narrative. BY DAVID GRIFFITH | Illustration BY DAVID HOLLENBACH
am a writer; that’s what I do, as they say, “for a living.” It’s also the way I relate to the world. Just as civil engineers look at bridges with an eye toward spans, trusses and beams, I’m always looking at the structure of stories in terms of their building blocks: exposition, rising action, climax and dénouement—all those things you learned in high school English. These are relatively easy things to spot when you’re the listener, when the story is not your own, when it’s not about you, but it’s really tough when it’s the story of your life. Standing inside it, the sweep and arc of your own story looks too impossibly complicated to see the patterns that others do. And so the book I began four years ago, a scholarly book about the changing role of the artist in American culture, is still not quite finished, because it has become about me, my life as an artist. It’s gotten to be so much about me that the only word for it is the dreaded “m-word”—a memoir. I used to think that my life was not interesting enough to write a memoir— and it’s not, really. But one thing that I’ve discovered through the tough, sometimes painful, work of looking at my story is that it’s not just my story. It’s also my grandfather’s and my father’s and my mother’s. That my story is also theirs is not so hard to comprehend, I know. Without my grandparents I would have no parents, and thus no me. But what I mean is that they all had an unwitting hand in making me a writer. My late grandfather, my dad’s dad, worked for the railroad his entire life, but in his spare time he read literature and history and even took a correspondence course on how to become a novelist. My grandmother gave me a short story he wrote that she found among some of his old papers. It’s quite good. My dad, who just retired after 40 years on the railroad, has always loved books, so much so that in the late ’70s he engineered an enormous and complicated bookcase out of walnut to house his large collection, a bookcase that has only become more crammed over the years. When I think of our house and what distinguishes it from others, the bookcase and its eclectic mix of books is what first springs to mind. To me, that bookcase is the soul of the house, as it contains not just beautifully bound editions of Melville and Dickens, but family photo albums spanning three generations, high school and college yearbooks, and little knick-knacks my mother compulsively bought over the years. In fact, it is my mother’s presence in my story that has given me the most trouble. She died more than a year ago after a decade-long battle with cancer,
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so she was sick when I began work on the book. At first, I was able to keep her illness in the background. It had nothing to do with the story I was telling—a story about the pitfalls of becoming an artist. And then something strange happened. Sitting in the waiting room of the surgery wing of the Cleveland Clinic while my mother underwent a procedure to remove a brain tumor, a string duet began to play. Two musicians from the Cleveland Symphony had come in to play and take visitors’ minds off the stress pressing down on them. Like in all the best-wrought stories, the elements of this moment triggered an epiphany. My mother, who was a homeec major in college and later a ceramicist who taught art classes at the community college, had encouraged me to take summer art classes, paid for private trombone lessons and driven hours to see me read from my first published short story. She would have loved to have heard this duet. This was, and still is, an emotionally taxing moment for me, but I am astonished to realize that the process of trying to write about it— reconstructing the scene out of fluttering bits of sensory detail—taught me to see more like my father, my grandfather, my uncle and even my brother, now also a railroad man. Of course I’m not seeing beams and trusses, but the motifs and themes that give meaning to the sequence of events that have linked-up to describe the narrative arc of my 35 years. What I am finding standing outside my life like this, like the George Baileys and the Scrooges and Dantes before me, those protagonists magically transported above (or below) the mess and muddle of their lives, is that the sweet music of the duet was casting its own spell over me; that it was lifting me out of that terrible moment. So I am seeing myself as a protagonist who has had to overcome obstacles of increasing size and intensity in anticipation of a climax, a point after which nothing can be the same again. But the climax is more than just the event that changes everything, as the death of a parent always is. In the best stories, the climax is followed by the dénouement which, roughly translated, means “untying the knot,” the period during which the tension slackens and peace gently descends. It would be some time before I could fully see where the upsweep of these perceptions and feelings were leading me, but I know now—writing this—that sitting there in that waiting room listening to the string duet, the briefest strains of peace were gathering in my ear. •
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Virginia Living's June 2012 issue