December 2013 O.Henry

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SOLD. It needs to be something you feel before it’s something we deliver. In the world of real estate, sold means a lot. It’s proof we’re doing our job. But before we can ever sell your home, you have to be sold on who we are. That’s why earning your trust is the first part of earning your business. It’s the reason our relationships are forged with a handshake rather than a signature. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Yost & Little Realty, we strive to be great neighbors in everything we do. So if the job at hand is to be a loyal partner to home buyers and sellers in Greensboro, we’re eager to answer the call.

We make great neighbors. ©2013 Real Estate Brokerage Services are offered through the network member franchisees of BHH Affiliates, LLC. Most franchisees are independently owned and operated. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of HomeServices of America, Inc.® Equal Housing Opportunity.

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4 O.Henry

December 2013

Marty Hefner 336.707.6893, ©Copyright 2013. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. O.Henry Magazine is published by The Pilot LLC

The Art & Soul of Greensboro


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December 2013

59 Horse in Winter Poetry by Bob Wickless

60 Holiday Reading New works by Local Authors By Steve Cushman

64 Room for Joy

“Love provides the energy my family runs on,” says Alex James. By David Claude Bailey

72 Thoroughly Modern Mortensons

The house that Lee and Loring lovingly restored. By Maria Johnson

82 December Almanac

Why you want a Helleborus Atrorubens. By Noah Salt

70 Seeing is Believing

Four-legged gifts come to those who truly believe in Christmas. Fiction by James Colasanti Jr.


9 Hometown

12 Short Stories 15 Life’s Funny

17 Omnivorous Reader

21 Book Excerpt

27 The Evolving Species

31 Artist at Work

37 Lunch with a Friend

By Jim Dodson

By Maria Johnson By Stephen E. Smith By Alex Albright

By Cynthia Adams By Cynthia Adams By Jim Schlosser

43 Street Level

6 O.Henry

49 Birdwatch

51 Sporting Life

55 Life Of Jane

By Susan Campbell By Tom Bryant

86 103 111

By Jane Borden

Arts & Entertainment Calendar Greenscene Accidental Astrologer By Astrid Stellanova

112 O.Henry Ending By Maggie Dodson

Cover Illustration by Harry Blair

By Jim Schlosser December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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The Hogmanay Ace

By Jim Dodson

Gratitude, goes an ancient French proverb,

is the heart’s memory.

When I heard the Queen Mum was ailing, I decided to take a few days and go see her. Simply put, there are only a handful of people in this world who mean more to me, a treasured friend and advisor who shaped my view of life and encouraged my writing as few others have done. Driving from Carolina to Maine — eighteen hours each way, a drive I’ve made probably a hundred times over the last thirty years — would give me time to think about what I needed to say to her. Life, like summer in Maine, is all too brief. The Queen Mum, as I call her, is my former mother-in-law, the grandmother of my children, a tough and tender daughter of Glasgow’s working class Netherlee neighborhood who lost her own parents after the Second World War and migrated to America with her brilliant husband, Sam, in the early 1960s, settling on a rambling 200-year-old farmhouse on a beautiful 500-acre farm above Moosehead Pond. The rural village of Harmony, Maine, aptly named, reminded Kate and Sam of their native Scottish hills. While Sam traveled the world working as a defense contractor, Kate, who was educated at Glasgow University and read every significant work of Western literature at least twice, literally kept the home fires burning and became the local superintendent of schools, raising three great kids and becoming something of the village matriarch. My first weekend at the farm in the late autumn of 1984 felt like stepping into a novel by Thomas Hardy. Kate was polite and friendly but clearly reserved in true Scottish fashion — no doubt wondering why her youngest, Alison, fresh from Harvard, was dating a chatty redneck Southerner. My initial connection was with Sam, who reminded me of the actor Peter O’Toole, home from his posting in Sri Lanka. A fine single malt Scotch helped bring us closer. My second visit to the farm at the holidays proved even more challenging, though my former wife thinks this actually happened the following spring. Perhaps it did. But I have reason to believe this took place at Hogmanay, the Scottish new year, for reasons that have to do with my own family traditions. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

By Christmas, Alison and I had big news to share, though I wasn’t sure how the home folks in Harmony would greet the idea of a pending marriage. Generally speaking, Christmas isn’t such a big deal to native Scots, but Hogmanay is an annual rite accompanied by much dancing and drinking, fueled by traditional cookery and excellent Scotch whiskey. In honor of the occasion, fires were banked high in the woodstoves and the BBC was dialed up on the shortwave radio at 7 p.m. sharp in order to hear London’s Big Ben officially toll the arrival of the new year five hours away on the Scottish borders. At the final stroke of the bell, glasses were touched and toasts made. The fiddle music resumed and the house filled up with all sorts of buzzing folks, family and neighbors who dropped in out of the winter night to be part of the year’s best gathering. Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in Times Square had nothing on this country crowd. A polite Southerner far from home, I wondered if I’d perhaps wandered into a real Brigadoon, the mythical Scottish village that appeared just one night a year. Sam Bennie rolled his smokes and thoughtfully topped up my Scotch, and his lovely daughter even coaxed me into the dance. The next day — a bright, sunny New Year’s Day, frigid as an Arctic ice floe — things settled down considerably after a big lunch of root veggies and roast mutton. My fiancée’s siblings packed up and headed back to the city while Alison and Mum cleaned up the kitchen and put the house back in order. After this, Kate filled up the woodstove, made herself a cup of good Scottish tea, and sat down in her favorite wing chair by the front window to read. Truthfully, I was a little bored, homesick for my own Carolina clan and not a little hung-over from my first Hogmanay celebration, missing my mom’s collards and black-eyed peas and a peculiar little ritual I performed every New Year’s Day through the end of my college years. Some people read tea leaves or consult horoscopes to see what momentous events lie ahead. I had this goofy home-grown tradition of trying to hit a solitary golf ball over my parents’ house with one cold swing. A ball that safely cleared the roof meant prosperity and happiness lay ahead. I’d never failed yet. Silly, I know. But with marriage to a daughter of a real Brigadoon just off in the mist, perhaps I needed the comfort and psychic reassurance of something familiar from home. Besides, the sand wedge revealed all. December 2013

O.Henry 9

HomeTown Also, after an eight-year hiatus in Atlanta where I never took a day of vacation and had only picked up a golf club once or twice, I’d recently resumed playing on a golf course in Vermont where Rudyard Kipling had supposedly played the game. So while my fiancée leafed through old family photos and Mum enjoyed her tea and book in a house that was finally quiet, I fetched my trusty sand wedge and a golf ball and headed out to a snowy spot beyond the farm pond in front of the house. I cleared off the snow and placed the ball on a mat of frozen grass. With little or no fanfare and no small trepidation, I peeled off my heavy coat and took dead aim at the chimney, where wood smoke swirled in the frigid air. One ball. No warm-up, just one decent very cold swing, I told myself, waggling my wedge. Looking back, I made a golf swing Old Tom Morris himself would be proud to claim on Hogmanay. Happily, I watched the ball arc beautifully upward, clearly going to safely clear the roofline by several feet. Unhappily, I grossly misjudged the distance. The ball came down well shy of the target and passed through a small pane of glass in the window where my future mother-in-law was quietly reading her book and enjoying a pot of tea. My heart stopped. My feet froze. I didn’t know whether to turn and flee in the frozen wilderness of northern Maine or trudge in and face the music of an unhappy Scottish matriarch who didn’t seem overly thrilled that her pretty daughter planned to marry a Southern rube who didn’t know how to hit a decent wedge or dance a Scottish reel. I hurried back to the house and opened the door and there sat Mum, still holding her book, giving me a look that said I would be banished from the clan before I was invited in. Pieces of window glass were everywhere, but the

offending golf ball was strangely nowhere to be seen. “Do you remember where the ball ended up?” I asked Kate on a beautiful Sunday morning after I arrived at her cottage several weeks ago. Many years ago, after Sam passed on, Kate moved to the pretty college town where Alison and I reared our children. “Of course.” Kate smiled at the memory. “It was in my tea cup.” “Do you remember your first words to me?” “I think I must have forgotten.” So I smiled and told her — one of the nicest surprises of my life, effectively a welcome to the family. “James,” she remarked calmly, “I doubt if you could hit that shot again if your very life depended on it.” We quickly became good friends after what I regarded as my Hogmanay Ace, sharing a passion for books and gardens and all things Scottish, having gentle but enlightening (for me at least) debates about politics and religion, eventually even traveling together to the Holy Land of golf where I once looked up a trio of Glaswegian gents who’d known her father — the club champion of Netherlee Golf Club — back in the late 1930s. As far as I know, Kate Bennie never swung a golf club in her life, yet her father’s old mates welcomed me warmly one late summer afternoon, telling me stories with such dense Glaswegian brogues I could only make out every fourth or fifth word. More importantly, Kate Bennie became a fixture in our home, the Queen Mum (as I took to calling her) and spiritual anchor of our growing family, the first reader of all my early books and cherished advisor on parenting and work. She never missed a school play or a weekend supper or a holiday of any sort. Even when hard times came — a surprising separation and divorce after eleven years of marriage — the grace and constancy of Kate Bennie was a major

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10 O.Henry

December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro




4:08:07 PM

HomeTown reason we were able to restore our equilibrium and find a new working definition of the modern extended family. She remained a supportive fixture in both our homes, and the greatest grandmum ever. She was the first to congratulate us both on our happy second marriages and even taught me to cook her famous Scottish mince — now a holiday tradition in my Southern home right along with the collards and black-eyed peas. A simple but marvelous cook, she also gave me her best recipe for haggis, the largely inedible Scottish dish I’ve grown unaccountably fond of. “It’s very simple, James. Make the haggis from whatever you happen to find lying about in the kitchen. Then make a special Drambuie sauce to go with it. Cook the haggis well and feed it to the dog. Then drink the Drambuie sauce.” On the lovely Sunday morning we sat in her cheerful downstairs bedroom and talked last week, I filled her in on my latest book projects and about taking my wife, Wendy, on her first trip to Scotland. Kate wanted to hear all about the magazines I helped start and now edit back home in North Carolina. As usual, we even talked briefly about some of the same things we’ve spent nigh on three decades talking about — books we were reading, politics, golf and gardens, and especially the two kids who were now grown up and sharing an apartment in New York City, the greatest beneficiaries of the Queen Mum’s wisdom and grace. I was pleased to learn from Kate that they each phone her every day — Maggie in the morning on her way to work, Jack in the evening on his way home. Around the room were handsome hardwood shelves full of her favorite books and framed photos of her nine grandchildren. Squirrels and chickadees fed at the window feeders. Beyond, the woods were golden and red with the last of autumn’s Northern glory. When I saw she was tiring, as Alison said she would, I simply kissed the Queen Mum on the cheek and told her what I’d driven a thousand miles to say. “Thank you for having me in your family,” I whispered to her. “And for being the best friend a Southern boy far from home and family could ever have found.” “Do you know,” I paused and added from the door, remembering maybe the most ironic twist of all. “I’ve never made a hole-in-one on a golf course — only a Hogmanay Ace.” This seemed to please her. “Maybe, James,” she said wryly, “you just need to keep trying.” OH C








Contact editor Jim Dodson at

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

O.Henry 11

ShortStories Joyful Noises

Some of the best holiday music this year is free, so enjoy! At 7 p.m. on December 5, the Greensboro Oratorio Singers will perform Handel’s Messiah at War Memorial Auditorium ( Other concerts — like the Greensboro Youth Chorus singing at St. Pius X Catholic Church at 3 p.m. December 15 (336-272-4681) or the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert at the Greensboro Coliseum at 5 p.m. on December 15 ( — suggest a donation of toys or canned goods. Bel Canto’s Fireside Holiday concert on December 14 at 8 p.m. or December 16 at 7:30 p.m. does require an admission fee, but only Scrooge could resist the venerable holiday chestnuts paired with sacred celestial strains they’ll offer (www. DCB

Psssst, Santa

Saint Nick: Please get me some tickets to The Big Sip, Friday, December 14. I promise this is not just for me. You see, if you’ll deputize me as one of your elves, I plan to selflessly sample the beers, wines, spirits and coffees that more than sixty beverage manufacturers will have on tap. That way I’ll know just what to give to my friends. Tickets are only $25 if purchased in advance ($35 for the 2 p.m. preview before the crowd arrives at 4 p.m.). And you know I’ll pick up something to leave by the fireplace on Christmas Eve — and it won’t be hot chocolate. Greensboro Coliseum Complex, 1921 West Lee Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 202-6574 or www. DCB

Toying with Our Affections

Think of it as a holiday treasure hunt for toys. After Greensboro’s holiday parade on December 7 — and for the rest of the month — the Greensboro Historical Museum’s extensive collection of toys, spread throughout the museum, will be highlighted by special plaques at children’s eye level. “We’re going to make it easy and fun for youngsters to find them,” says Linda Evans, the museum’s community historian. Pictured is a recently acquired Howdy Doody doll. Or is this his twin brother, Double Duty? Greensboro Historical Museum, 130 Summit Avenue, Greensboro. (336) 373-2043 or DCB

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December 2013


With 500 works of art from 130 artist, it’s no surprise that Greenhill’s Winter Show is the largest and most comprehensive show of North Carolina artists in the state. Partnering with Dana Moore, the former program director at Penland School of Crafts, Greenhill curator Edie Carpenter has assembled painting, sculpture, photography, ceramic, jewelry, woodwork, fabric and fiber works from artists who live, studied in, or have significant creative ties to North Carolina, such as Asheville artist Ursula Gullow’s Skating at the Plaza, 2013. The exhibit opens December 8 and runs through January 1. Info: (336) 333-7460 or

Thanks, Hank

Here at O.Henry magazine, we’re often asked about our relationship with the O.Henry Hotel. The answer is, there’s no relation, except they’re an advertiser, and we’re part of a mutual admiration society. Here’s another Hank we’d like to thank for enriching our community: the O.Henry Award, which is bestowed annually by ArtsGreensboro and the Greensboro Partnership. The winners of this award, who live, work or volunteer here, make extraordinary lifetime contributions to arts and culture in the Greensboro area. If you know someone who deserves the laurels, contact Kaitlin Smith at, or call her at (336) 373-7523 and ask for a nomination form. Nominations are due by 5 p.m. on January 6. The winner will be celebrated at a dinner on January 30. MJ The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Buying Local

Local performer Clay Howard has written a second children’s book, this one with a Christmas theme. Escaping the Naughty List ( is about a lad who knows he’s been more naughty than nice, but finds out that maybe he is not so bad after all. At the top of Howard’s holiday wish list is a request that we shop locally when it comes to buying books for children. In addition to his earlier book, The Energy Thief, Howard recommends these children’s books by local authors: You Can Learn a Lot from a Tree by Joshua West (; Genevieve and the Kite by Jennifer Edwards (; The Adventures of Wally the Wheelchair . . . A New Beginning by Marty Hartman (; One Lucky Dog by Libby Bagby (; and Adam Petty’s Heartbeat by Sandra Lee Hartsel (www. DCB

Homes, Sweet Homes

Maybe you can’t catch the gingerbread man, but catching a gingerbread house is easy. From December 3 to December 10, Guilford Technical Community College will exhibit about fifty of the edible abodes, created by students in the Baking I classes. By making the festive homes from scratch, culinary students learn baking and icing techniques — not to mention the coping skills required when the cookie crumbles. The sugary shacks will be on display 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily in the lobby of the Koury Hospitality Center on the Jamestown campus, 601 High Point Road. No charge for admission. And no touching or tasting the homework. MJ

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Sauce of the Month

I rarely buy a barbecue sauce based on the name or label, but when I saw the joyous hog on the Giddy Pig BBQ Sauce bottle, I couldn’t resist. It didn’t hurt that I could see red pepper flakes floating around, and black pepper and spices layering the bottom of the bottle. “It’s so good it makes you giddy,” says their Facebook page. I wouldn’t go that far, but if you’re looking for a moresweet-than-sour, vinegary sauce with a peppery tang for ribs or something to put on your good luck creasy greens, giddy up and get some. For info on where to find it, check out “Giddy Pig BBQ Sauce” on Facebook or email DCB

Magic Mountain

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale and with original music by Laurelyn Dossett, the premiere of Preston Lane’s Snow Queen at Triad Stage takes the audience on a journey through the snowy Appalachians to the icy peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Music, magic and make-believe guide a brave young girl trying to find her best friend, who’s lost in a frozen kingdom that is both beautiful and terrifying. Performances begin December 1 and continue through December 22, with show times varying. Info. (336) 272-0160 or DCB

The Refrigerated Truth

Life’s Funny

Shades of an incident with an orange

By Maria Johnson

Dear Editor,

I know I said I’d have my column ready this morning. And I know you don’t want to hear excuses. I mean, nobody likes excuses. Not even if it’s the truth. I learned that in second grade. It was May, and we’d just gotten a new puppy. Her name was Queenie. Not that you care about that.

But Queenie was a collie. With classic markings. Anyway, I was getting ready for school one morning, eating some orange sections — you know, the kind you put inside your mouth, with the peel facing out, then you smile an orange smile — but Queenie, being a puppy, kept jumping up on me, and I, being a kid, kept playing with her. So by the time my mom dropped me and my brother at school, we were late, and I had to go into office and explain why I was tardy. I don’t remember my brother following me into the principal’s office. He probably wandered around school for a while because, let’s face it, it was 1968, and no one cared if a kindergartener roamed the halls for a day. It was the age of Some Children Left Behind. I, however, was on the hot seat. The school secretary — her name was Miss Barnett — said to me, “Why are you tardy?” and being the truthful sort, I said, “My puppy kept jumping on me while I was eating my orange.” She stared at me with that “it’s-time-to-retire” look. And I stared back. And she said, “That’s not a valid excuse.” Well, it was clear to me that Miss Barnett had never tried to eat an orange while a puppy was jumping on her, but it was too late. I was sentenced to carry an unexcused tardy slip into Mrs. Picklesimer’s class and endure the rest of my pissy 8-year-old day. What I’m trying to say here, dear editor, is I have dealt with authority types before. And I know what you don’t want to hear. You don’t want to hear that this column is late because I spent the morning wrestling my refrigerator. Yes, my refrigerator. The whole thing started when I grabbed a cup of yogurt, and I saw a dried pond of pickle juice on the back of the shelf. I thought, “Oh, this’ll only take a minute to clean up.” Well. I took out all of the yogurt, the margarine and pickles, lying on their sides, gasping for pickle juice, and removed the entire shelf, which included some kind of hyperbaric meat chamber underneath, which I removed so I could fit the shelf into the sink for easier cleaning. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Spray, spray, wipe, wipe. Next step: Reassemble meat chamber. I don’t mean to get all nostalgic on you, but do you remember when a shelf was just a shelf? Honestly, I don’t know why parents buy their children expensive, brainbuilding puzzles for Christmas when they could just clean their refrigerators on Christmas Eve and put all of the shelf and drawer pieces in a box with a bow on it. Ta-da. Santa loves you. But I digress. I finally reassembled the NASA-designed meat chamber and went to put it back in the refrigerator because I wanted to start a column about how I always cry at the sappy country song “The Christmas Shoes,” which I hate, but I can’t stop listening to, which makes me sadder. It’s your basic vicious Christmas Shoes cycle. Anyway, all I had to do was slide one hook of the meat chamber into Slot A, and put the other hook into Slot . . . Ah. OK. The meat chamber slipped, and the second hook landed in Slot D. The meat chamber now looked like this ~ inside the refrigerator. No problem. I’ll just (tug) pull this (umph) out and (grrr) put it (wheeze) back in. Relax. I’ve been here before. Finesse. A soft touch. That’s the approach. Gently lift . . . one side . . . then . . . the other . . . and . . . “WHEN PEOPLE GET OLD AND SAY, ‘WHERE DID THE TIME GO?’ THIS IS WHERE IT @#$%*-ING WENT!” The dogs turned to look at me. I could read their minds: “If she starts eating an orange, I’m not going near her.” I disassembled as much of the meat chamber as I could and tried again. If there was a security camera in my kitchen, here is what it would show in herky-jerky black and white: Middle-age woman pounds refrigerator shelf. Middle-age woman tries to push refrigerator shelf up from bottom. Middleage woman puts her foot against the back of the refrigerator and attempts to pull the shelf out. Middle-age woman slams refrigerator door and mouths more words. This went on for a while until, during a fit of prying, I stood up quickly and hit my head on the refrigerator light, causing the whole refrigerator to go dark. I fiddled with the bulbs, but no luck. Seriously. I took a picture to prove it. I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but it’s the truth. Some of us never learn. Regards and Stay Away from that Shoe Song. Maria Editor’s note: It’s time for me to retire. OH When she’s not busy cleaning out her fridge, you can reach Maria Johnson, O.Henry’s contributing editor, at December 2013

O.Henry 15

Come on in, we’d love to show you our homes. Great neighbors are always willing to open their doors to you. And at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Yost & Little Realty, we have a lot of doors we can open. Of course, we’re also experts on what’s outside of those doors. Our sales associates know the best parks, the best restaurants for date night and where the farmers’ markets are located. Because when you’re moving in Greensboro, you’re not just buying a home, you’re buying a neighborhood. We can help you with both.

We make great neighbors. ©2013 Real Estate Brokerage Services are offered through the network member franchisees of BHH Affiliates, LLC. Most franchisees are independently owned and operated. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of HomeServices of America, Inc.® Equal Housing Opportunity.

The Omnivorous Reader

Band of Brothers

How a band of talented military musicians drawn from North Carolina’s segregated high schools and colleges paved the way for racial understanding in Jim Crow America

By Stephen E. Smith

We associate the

successes of the civil rights movement with well-publicized personal moments — Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on the bus, or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — but progress in securing civil liberties often goes unheralded and is interrupted by social and legislative reactionism. Alex Albright’s thoroughly researched and beautifully written The Forgotten First: B1 and the Integration of the Modern Navy is the history of a World War II military band composed of black North Carolinians whose role in the struggle for equal rights has heretofore gone unacknowledged.

In June 1941, the Navy recruited a 45-member band of “men of the Negro race only” to be attached to the regional pre-flight training school in Chapel Hill. Before the establishment of B-1 (the band’s military designation), the Navy employed blacks as messmen only, and white Southern officers were always placed in command of black units because “It was generally considered that white Southerners were the only ones who knew ‘how to handle’ blacks.” The men of B-1 were recruited from Greensboro’s Agricultural and Mechanical College (now North Carolina A&T State University), where they’d been trained by three of the best classical musicians of the 20th century — Bernard Mason, Warner Lawson and Nathaniel Dett — and from Dudley High School, which had a reputation for graduating outstanding musicians. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

“The men that were recruited for the B-1 band were the best,” recalls trumpeter Huey Lawrence. “They were the men who knew music. We read it; we could arrange it. Most people back then thought black music was just jamming. But we played the classics, for the officers, the admirals, for dances, for movie stars. We played stocks, concert music and marching songs.” The B-1 recruits understood that they were breaking down racial barriers and that their all-black band was an experiment with integration, albeit on a unit level. They were promised by the Navy that they’d be stationed in Chapel Hill for the duration, and they were delighted with the notion that they’d be a presence at the all-white flagship university in their home state. After completing basic training in Norfolk, B-1 made their grand entrance into Chapel Hill by marching down Franklin Street on August 2, 1942, where they were greeted, according to various witnesses and participants, with varying degrees of acceptance. James Parsons led the band on that Saturday march and recalled, “People started coming out on Franklin Street to see what was happening. They started jeering at us, calling us all kinds of ugly names, most of them racial slurs. They were throwing mud and rocks at us. I got cut on my cheek. At least one instrument was dented. My men had mud all over them. But in the midst of all that, they held their heads high.” Other band members recalled their reception as warm and welcoming, and the August 2 march remains a topic of some disagreement among surviving band members. But B-1 soon became a fixture in Chapel Hill. They played daily for the 8 a.m. flag raising and marched pre-flight cadets to and from class. Their daily schedule included regimental reviews, bond rallies, football and basketball games, concerts, patriotic assemblies and Sunday afternoon concerts in the Forest Theater. A dance band, the Cloudbusters, was organized from B-1 officers and quickly became a favorite at officer’s clubs and smokers. As one observer recalled, “They made Chapel Hill very proud. They definitely changed the town’s perceptions of blacks at the time — they had a significant effect.” December 2013

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18 O.Henry

December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Reader B-1 members could not attend classes at the university, and they weren’t encouraged to frequent the white businesses on Franklin Street, but their influence on the community, and by extension, the state, is undeniable. Their talent earned them a level of respect that wasn’t afforded blacks working menial jobs at the university, and their appearance on campus and in town did much to define UNC as the bastion of progressive idealism that it would later become. The band’s most visible moment occurred in July 1943 when they were the featured attraction at the launching of the USS Merrick at the Wilmington, North Carolina, shipyards, where 5,300 blacks were employed and an audience of over 20,000 was in attendance. Governor Broughton was the keynote speaker and touted advancements in “racial harmony and progress,” citing nine-month school for blacks, supplemental teachers’ pay, and improvements made at state-supported black colleges. In April 1944, B-1 was transferred to Hawaii, where they were housed on a base reserved for blacks only. They were allowed in the local restaurants and bars but were often refused service, and while their instruments were in transit, the men performed unskilled jobs such as cutting bamboo and painting. Instruments in hand, B-1 played for ship embarkations and for wounded men returning from the Pacific theater. And, of course, they marched in the VJ parade in Honolulu. “We must have marched for three hours that day,” recalls piccolo player Abe Thurman. “I think we marched through every street in Honolulu.” But B-1’s return to postwar America was dispiriting. Jim Crow remained in force in North Carolina, and the returning vets had to abide by the whites only doctrine. “That really got to us,” recalls cornet player Bennie Laikin. “I felt real bad. . . . Things seemed to have changed in the Navy. But it was the same back home.” Albright, a Graham native who is a founding editor of North Carolina Literary Review, has provided us with a valuable insight into the history of the state’s social evolution. His comprehensive study of the forgotten B-1 band places in perspective North Carolina’s current social and legislative struggle to overcome the vestiges of racism. The Forgotten First: B1 and the Integration of the Modern Navy is available on Nook and Lulu and in hardcopy online at navy or by writing R.A. Fountain, P.O. Box 44, Fountain, N.C. 27829. OH Stephen E. Smith’s most recent book of poems is A Short Report on the Fire at Woolworths. He can be reached at The Art & Soul of Greensboro




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O.Henry 19

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Book Excerpt

The Forgotten War

How forty-four young African-American men recruited from A&T State and area high schools broke the color barrier in the U.S. Navy — only to be overlooked by history

U.S. Congress in 2003 for having broken the Navy’s decades-old color barrier. What’s clear is that each of the Navy’s four regional schools for had been thinktraining fighter pilots got ing “Navy” well a regimental band, and before B-1 was that the one assigned to L to R: John Carlson, Warmouth Gibbs, Jr., Thomas Gavin in work uniforms at Chapel Hill. All were A&T the school established on students when they enlisted. Carlson was from Laurinburg, Gibbs (son of future A&T president Warmouth formed in May the UNC-Chapel Hill Gibbs, Sr.) was from Greensboro; Gavin was from Lumberton and later would start the band program at 1942. Director campus comprised the Fayetteville State University. first African-Americans of instrumental to serve the modern Navy at rank higher than messman. music for Greensboro’s Negro schools since 1939, he As B-1 was being planned by a coalition of Navy and North Carolina leaders, the U.S. and the South especially were experiencing increased remembered World War II’s beginning well: “Between tensions and incidents of racial violence. The national black press intensiPearl Harbor and Christmas, I and several friends tried fied its push toward integration while linking the international crisis with an increasingly volatile one at home. The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Double V” to enlist in the Navy. They accepted us but didn’t know program, first articulated in a January 1942 editorial, called for victory over what to do with us. Our enlistments were approved in fascism and imperialism abroad as well as over racism at home. “If we fight December and I finished out that semester hopeful that two wars, we can win both,” the Baltimore Afro-American echoed. “If we fight only one, we will lose both.” I’d be in the Navy soon after.” B-1’s formation was part of that fight, and wherever the band would go Parsons and his friends had likely read in Greensboro’s Daily News that during the war, it would be at the frontline of racial tension, with unknown the Navy was expanding its ranks by encouraging holders of a variety of adversaries lurking at nearly every turn hoping to provoke trouble. But B-1 college degrees to enlist as ensigns. “Volunteers must be native-born, single, would prove such excellent emissaries of harmony that in 1944 they would in good physical condition and of good repute,” The Daily News reported; be sent into the midst of a near race war raging in Hawaii as a vehicle for training would be at Northwestern University in Chicago. easing escalating racial tensions according to a Naval intelligence report that In 1960, Parsons would become the first black appointed to a U.S. remained classified for nearly fifty years. Superior Court judgeship, by President John Kennedy. Of the last few In the spring of 1942, the future bandsmen were still far removed from months lived in Greensboro, he recalled, “They took our applications for these conflicts. Like most students at A&T, they felt a mix of rising wartime enlistment and sent us home. Nothing happened.” Then, in February 1942, tension with a growing national race consciousness, tempered with a con“I was contacted by the Navy with the idea of the band.” current attempt at living a typical college life. Despite the abundant cultural How the idea of B-1 — forty-four young men recruited from A&T, Dudley life that surrounded them, the war was coming close to home: sub sightings High School, and other black schools around the state — became a reality is off the Carolina coast; air raid alarms sounding regularly in Greensboro still not clear. Nor is it easy to understand how B-1 could slip so thoroughly by early February; and blackouts ordered of nonessential lights. And in through the net of history that another group of sailors would be credited by the March, nearly 60,000 gas masks — 15,000 short of what was needed — were By Alex Albright

Wray Herring Collection, Special Collections, Joyner Library, East Carolina University

James Parsons

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

O.Henry 21

22 O.Henry

December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Book Excerpt allotted to Greensboro by state civil defense officials. Local news reports that named draftees also helped make the war all the more real: On February 11, The Daily News reported that fity-eight whites and thirty-eight blacks had been drafted; the next week, another nineteen blacks. So the idea of playing music at Chapel Hill was especially attractive to the A&T bandsmen. Several A&T alums recall vividly the February 1942 appearance at their band practice, in the basement of Harrison Auditorium, of Chief Bandmaster C.E. Dudrow, brought out of retirement for war service, in his Navy uniform with gold stripes, to select the bandsmen and supervise their early training. Clarinetist William Skinner remembered Dudrow telling them about the plans for the band: “He said the governor had asked to get all North Carolina men, and that we’d be in Chapel Hill for the duration of the war. Now a lot of us were in ROTC and we could have gone into the Army as 2nd lieutenants and in six months made 1st lieutenant, maybe captain after that. But we didn’t know where we’d be sent. It probably would have been overseas, and even though we probably wouldn’t be in a fighting unit, we’d be near one, loading trucks. So the Navy band seemed like good duty. We wanted to stay together, and Chapel Hill was only fifty miles away.” A&T’s legendary band director Bernard Mason did the primary recruiting, preparing a roster of potential recruits to audition when Dudrow came to campus. Mason was a “fantastic musician,” recalled B-1 trombonist Richard Jones. “He could stand in front of a whole band and pick out the one guy with a bad note.” Mason and the A&T band were why Skinner, a Norfolk native, had come to A&T. He had seen them perform several times and heard all about “Prof” Mason: “That was the best band around, and he was the best violinist I’d ever seen. We used to sit and cry watching him play. He’d be playing ‘Ave Maria’ and we’d all be sitting there crying.” Dudrow evaluated the A&T students according to the same criteria used for auditioning for the Navy School of Music: sight-reading, technique, tone, attack, rhythm, phrasing and memory. Saxophonist Thomas Gavin recalled their audition: “We played some marches, scales and exercises, individually and in groups. Within a few days, I found out I’d been accepted musically. Then I had the physical exam to contend with.” “They wanted to recruit the whole band,” said drummer Arthur Guy, “but not all of the fellows could pass the physical.” They also had decided, William Skinner added, that the bandsmen had to know the “mores and customs of the state, that they should be from North Carolina or be in school here so The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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O.Henry 23

Book Excerpt they would know how to act.” Arthur Guy said: “We were all grown young men who didn’t fear anything. We were educated, and most of us had been around white people all our lives, so we didn’t push it, we didn’t shove. I mean, I grew up in Greensboro and I’d always seen those ‘colored’ and ‘white’ signs. Didn’t bother me.” In addition to knowing “how to act,” the recruits also had to be excellent musicians, and A&T and Dudley High were able to supply a core of such recruits. Trumpeter Huey Lawrence said those who got into B-1 were “the best. We knew music; we read it; we could arrange it. Most people back then thought black music was just jamming. But we played the classics, for the officers, the admirals, for dances, for the movie stars. We played stocks, concert music, and marching songs.” Still, enlistment was not an easy decision for Lawrence, who was reluctant to leave the safety of college life: “I sat under this great tree on campus. It’s still there. My parents didn’t want me to go. I sat there just thinking about it. Finally, I knew I had to.” A Pittsburgh native recruited to A&T to play football, Lawrence was — like most of his friends — acutely aware of the world stage on which his life was being played. “It was my country,” he said. “I had no thoughts of a divided system. In Pittsburgh, we swam together, we played ball together. But my background was different. I went all through high school in an integrated system.” B-1 was, Parsons added, “an experiment in the Navy’s preliminary attempt to bring about a little integration. There’d been none there.” Parsons, who became bandmaster after Mason failed his physical, would forsake music education for law school after the war, his interest in legal matters heightened when he was chosen as an observer at trials after the 1944 Guam riots, because he was the highest ranking black Naval enlisted man

in the Pacific theater. Bassist Charles Woods said, “I knew there weren’t any blacks in the Navy but messmen, so as we went in, I felt history was being made and that I was a part of it.” But although B-1 broke the Navy’s color barrier, trombonist Nathaniel Morehead thought it a much bigger deal to be headed to the whites-only UNC campus for duty. Prior to B-1’s arrival at UNC, blacks had been relegated to roles similar to blacks in the Navy: cooks and cleaners. So simply having educated black men on campus was a significant step. “We were hoping integration would happen,” recalled Rebecca Clark, who worked in UNC’s laundry room. “But you didn’t know if it would. So it was nice to see those fine young men on campus here every day. It gave you hope.” In Chapel Hill, bandsmen also integrated a previously all-white Presbyterian church whose congregation included Frank Porter Graham and whose pianist, fellow A&T alum Calvin Lampley, would later produce records by Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson and Judy Garland. B-1 performed with and for white stars such as Kate Smith, Helen O’Connell, Orrin Tucker, Bob Crosby and Boris Karloff, among many others. They played countless bond rallies, community concerts and dances, and became favorites of three of the Navy’s most prominent officers. At war’s end, they were the stars of the largest VJ parade staged in the U.S. Many of the bandsmen would have long and distinguished careers in public education, counseling along the way new generations of African-Americans through the last days of a segregated public education system. Their students would see social changes the men of B-1 could only imagine when they voluntarily answered the call to duty to serve in the U.S. Navy. OH Founder of the North Carolina Literary Review and a Graham native, Alex Albright will read from B-1 Friday, December 13, at Greensboro’s Scuppernong Books.

Happy Holidays From tHe tr&m team

Marti, Katie, Alec, Charlotte, Elizabeth, Frank, Jill, Jim, Kathy, Kristen, Patty, Preston, Stacey, Tom


24 O.Henry

December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

To a f for b riends ll o ur s ama eing - th peci s hari zing par ank al m hap agic m ng pr year, t of ou s py f ome eciou and r Wit aces! nts, s me for h bi He big sm morie g lov re' s t iles s, e an o 201 and d hu 4! ge g Ma rat it rti, ude (Ge Deb a to al orge n d l and B ! e G ig c i too ky ! )

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The Evolving Species

Christmas in Hell’s Half Acre Thank heavens for my secret life with Little Debbie.

By Cindy Adams

I grew up a misfit in a redneck county. This

was not because I came from sophisticates; our own brand of weirdness just didn’t wash with others in southeastern North Carolina. Our address was a highway in Cabarrus county — just a highway, near a crossroads. People could find you in our town (nicknamed Hell’s Half Acre) with just that. The county’s strange name is pronounced like EMBARRASS, which was probably an indication of how those who got there first really felt. Hell’s Half Acre might imply rakish good times to you. It actually meant this was the tragic and final stop for most.

We left-wing Helmses were an anomaly — especially given Jesse Helms’ choke hold over Hell’s Half Acreage. My family’s outsider status got my ass kicked on a regular basis on the bus and the Bethel Elementary playground. We were viewed as outsiders on par with space aliens, or say, Episcopalians, for reasons too many to name, but in part because: • My parents were passionate Democrats, actively campaigning for the Catholic John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Hell’s Half Acre was deeply alarmed about Catholicism, warning that if JKF was elected he would immediately seize Protestant Bibles and replace them with Catholic ones. JFK would also force us to worship Catholic statues, which held an Easter Island-pagan appeal for me. • My father had had an unfortunate incarceration at a federal facility in Birmingham, Alabama. • My parents stolidly refused to go to church, despite said incarceration and anticipated conversion experience, essentially guaranteeing the Helms children were social pariahs. • We were not low-key. Mom drove the first Elvis Presley-pink Cadillac in all of Hell’s Half Acre, in which she stylishly presented herself nearly everywhere but church. She showed up at Bethel Elementary when forced, smoking Kent cigarettes and wearing a full-length lynx coat, dinner rings and stilettos. • Dad passed out bubble gum faux cigars, either pink or blue, to all takers at The Art & Soul of Greensboro

the Service Distributor’s Gas Station whenever another Helms baby was born — which was alarmingly often. Our expansive family made us the desired target of a vigorous packa-pew parishioners’ effort at the Baptist church; the winner of pack-a-pew night would receive a set of steak knives. My cultural — and culinary — horizons began to expand when I grew friendly with the driver of the summer bookmobile. The librarian, who lived a town away, had no idea we were subversives. She invited me home for sleepovers with Judy, her adopted daughter, and revealed a new world to me. At adolescence, Judy’s mom explained my reproductive innards via the Visible Woman, an educational doll. More important than the sex education, she introduced me to the concept of frozen banana cream pies and other store-bought delights. And so it happened that at Judy’s house I simultaneously grasped womanhood while becoming a shameless Little Debbie’s whore. It is commonly believed that all Southerners love biscuits. This is an outright lie. My mother labored under this delusion, and made biscuits for her five children every morning. Have you ever seen biscuits made? It’s a revolting process, involving lard, milk and white flour. The three are rolled together, plied by hand. (My mother sometimes took her diamonds off, but sometimes not.) The glutinous mass is about the same consistency as pizza mix. You could ply these three things until they came to orgasm and they would still taste the same — a lackluster mess of lard, flour and milk. Once baked, they’re inedible unless you add more lard in the form of butter. I spent years living a sham, pretending to be a biscuit eater — out of dimwitted respect for the ritual. One morning my toddler brother wrapped two up and sneaked them into my purse to nibble on later at school. Without ceremony, I threw the miserable cold lumps into the garbage where they landed with a satisfying thud like baseballs. What I really craved was toast. So, here we were. A family bonded together by a number of false assumptions, especially come holidays. The culinary nightmare that was Christmas was the year-capper. My father, born in the Depression and as large as Orson Welles at his top weight, decreed Christmas was wonderful “for the food.” You would have thought this man had been freed from Dachau — he devoted his adult life to consumption. He set my mother to baking and preparing mid-November. Thus began a feverish dance of preparations. And given just how dysfunctional they were as a couple, it was not particularly merry. Our parents argued over the Christmas menu, the ingredients and where best to buy them. They argued about whether December 2013

O.Henry 27

The Honor Card

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The Evolving Species our oven achieved the correct temperature. They fought so much about the latter, Dad bought Mom a new stove for Christmas. I think she slammed his hand in the oven door and didn’t speak to him until Valentine’s. Dad insisted there be pecan pie, fruit, coconut (with the coconut flaked by hand from the fruit) and Lady Baltimore cakes. Also, there was fresh ambrosia, turkey, giblet gravy, Virginia ham, stuffing, green bean casserole, congealed Jell-O salads, pickles and relish trays, sweet potato casserole, potato salad, mashed potatoes, creamed pearl onions, hand-made yeast rolls and sausage balls. These were just the staples. There were bowls of fruit and nuts, cheeses and crackers. Mom liked for us to wash it down with something called Russian tea, which I presume was because Russians had infiltrated American culture with vile recipes. It was made with dry ingredients: Lipton tea mix, lemonade mix, Tang and rat poison. The tea simmered in the huge coffee maker, swirling around with oily coffee residue, until, around the 28th of December, we could finally pour the godawful concoction down the drain. I resented all things Russian thereupon, except for Fabergé eggs, which, according to Judy were a chocolate Easter concoction. Dad’s vision of a Christmas feast swelled into an orgy. He spent hundreds of dollars. He coaxed Mom onward, keen to have our entire kitchen bar filled with dishes. Mom, who avidly watched the Betty Feezor show on WBTV, gamely tried to replicate Betty’s every culinary trick. Yet Mom succeeded mainly on the aesthetics: things looked good. But, as I now knew, Little Debbie made it perfect! We Helms kids had been warned that frozen foods were for rednecks and the deprived. At Judy’s house, I sampled frozen cream pie for the first time. I wangled every invitation I could thereafter, gobbling the last scrap of pizza, chips, crackers, white bread, and in a sugar delirium, guzzled Coca-Cola by the glassful. Stouffer’s and Mrs. Smith seemed like the true saints to me. How had we missed out? Plus, Judy’s mom was happy. Mine worked herself into a lather in the lead-up to Christmas, trying to give the right cast to the turkey, the right bounce to the Jell-O salad. As she cooked and shot orders, her anger ramped up to nuclear level. Someone had to scrub down the sidewalks. Someone had to wax the sunken living room. Someone had to hold the Christmas tree steady as my mother nailed it to that shining, golden oak floor so it wouldn’t tilt over. One Christmas Eve, Hell’s Half Acre simmered in a massive heat wave that swallowed everything in its path from South Carolina to the Piedmont. Then, the fridge gave out. Dad began hefting bowl after bowl to the back porch table, and hollered, “Start eating!” The excess, the sheer mass of all that food on the glass-topped table, fell even flatter than normal. We perched in butterfly chairs, which were like sitting in a sling shot, and left your ass, even your skinny kid’s ass, dipping to the floor. We ate Mom’s food, and said it was good. And just to keep her off our backs, we each managed a cup of Russian tea. We tried to fake festive, but it was a glum Christmas, slurping down those melted salads and toxic tea. Outside, a sound thwack ricocheted at the end of our driveway, and I struggled to extract myself from the butterfly. The sound could have been a backfiring car or it could have been another angry Baptist hurling a beer bottle at our mail box. With the hot December sun setting on the other side of the screened porch, my Dad sighed contentedly. “I think that was the best ambrosia ever.” My mother shot him a furious look. She wore an orange and brown polyester pant suit with heels. Her French twist was sky high and sprayed hard. “Warren. You better. Not. Give me a mail box this year.” Her mouth was a grim line. “I mean it.” “But I put a love letter in it,” he said defensively. “I don’t give a hot damn,” Mom said, and swiveled her butterfly chair away from him and the rest of us, where she could watch the sunset. OH Cindy Adams is a journalist and recovering Little Debbie addict living in Greensboro. Email her at

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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O.Henry 29


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30 O.Henry

December 2013

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Artist at Work

The Alchemist

The ancient art of restoring a painting is one part science and two parts sorcery

By Cynthia Adams

Wiley the

Photograph by Sam Froelich

dachshund, silently padding around on the brick floor, in many ways mirrors Mark Kingsley, her polite master. She is both quiet and genial; good company, in fact, though even more disinclined to speak than Kingsley. He, meanwhile, stands before a painting in sneakers and shorts, cogitating and pondering. Tidily gathered around him are cups and mugs stuffed with brushes. Mysterious tools line the shelves and surfaces of his rustic studio. Enormous, ornate antique frames are stacked just outside the studio entry.

As Kingsley thinks about the painting in front of him, dust motes dance in the light from large windows that overlook a wooded rural scene. For a long moment, the art conservator silently, intently examines the English oil painting that’s one of his client’s family heirlooms. Imagine silence to the third power — the kind of silence a safe-cracker requires working with the tumblers of the lock. Out of respect, Wiley the dog doesn’t breathe. An alchemist is at work. Later, Kingsley says he finds himself waiting for an “Oh my goodness!” moment. A surprise. Occasionally he is able to call lucky clients and tell them about something remarkable he has discovered: a painting behind the painting, or valuable provenance or an art rarity. One such piece he restored was “really fine” he says. “It turned out to be worth $20,000.” When Kingsley discusses the specifics of conservation, precisely how he approaches forlorn, torn or darkened works, there is a touch of reticence.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Combination craftsman, artist and alchemist, he must be tempted to guard some of the greater mysteries of his trade, though he does mentor others in doing what he does. Wielding magnifying glasses and loups in his gloved hands, plying solvents, tubes of paints, watercolors, clay and gold leaf — Kingsley does things that only Wiley gets to observe in progress. He removes grime and layers of varnish to reveal vivid colors. He plies off gnarly, waxy lumps, the residue of clumsier restoration attempts, so that long-lost detail comes to light. Rot, age, rips and every imaginable indignity disappear beneath his practiced hands. Meanwhile, he doesn’t whistle, nor sing, nor talk. He just works, silently. Although Kingsley draws from his knowledge of art history, arcane facts and a rich store of experience, he relies on magic. The craft of art conservation is one part forensics and two parts sorcery. And just now he is so quiet he scarcely breathes as his eyes rake the painting in front of him. His chest rises and falls rhythmically. Finally, he breaks the silence: “In the morning, when refreshed, I will do several hours of quiet production. Restoration work,” he says, measuring his words carefully. “And I always look forward to picking it up, coming back.” He is required to be as much an art detective as painter in the course of his work. One of Kingsley’s mid-restoration discoveries revealed a missing baby that had been painted out of a 19th century work by Sir Alan Ramsey. Once restored, the painting, called Portrait of a Lady, wound up being resold for the tidy sum of $20,000 to New York-based Christie’s, where his client had originally bought it. Kingsley turns to the near-completely restored painting in front of him, unfolding its backstory bit by bit. It is a story revealed by clues such as the buildings in the background, even their number, the clothing of the young subject and the general style of the composition. “Being Carolinians, we have a lot of Continental art. You read Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, about the grand tour and art. Then we have the Cones, who took their tour and brought home art.” (The two Cone sisters amassed the Etta and Claribel Cone Collection, which includes prints and December 2013

O.Henry 31


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32 O.Henry

December 2013







The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Artist at Work bronzes by Henri Matisse. They donated some of their most precious art finds to the Weatherspoon Art Museum, where Kingsley once worked.) Each detail he notices, the clothing, the color or lack thereof, is a clue. It’s all about “analytical thinking,” he says. Kingsley learned while an art student to pair high-tech tools such as ultraviolet light with traditional skills to parse out obscured layers. But most important was learning how to see. “You learn to sharpen your eye and get a ‘round table’ going. What period is it? How can we best preserve it?” As word spread, Kingsley’s client list expanded beyond private individuals. He works with a respectable number of municipalities, churches, galleries and museums to conserve and restore public and private works. More recently, Kingsley restored a painting of the Greensboro Farmers Market by Greensboro-born artist Warren Brandt for the Greensboro Historical Museum. “The painting is a watercolor on board, and I believe it is housed in its original frame,” says Jon B. Zachman, curator of collections. “It is signed and dated 1942, when Warren Brandt was about 24 years old.” Zachman says the painting was donated to the Greensboro Historical Museum in 1974. “Its restoration in the summer of 2013 was made possible by a generous donation by the family of Jessie Brandt Allen, the sister of the artist,” he says. More notably, the painting appeared in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from December 5, 1952, through January 25, 1953. Kingsley has restored judicial portraits now hanging in a Guilford County courtroom. He restored works by Mamie Harmon owned by the Center for Creative Leadership. He labored on a scaffold for a week as he restored the 1927 railroad map mural at the Southern Railway Passenger Station in downtown Greensboro.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

I got to know Kingsley when he recently restored a painting my husband and I bought for a very modest sum in the 1980s. It is an American oil portrait of a young man; we found it irresistible despite its condition. The painting had hung in the same sad state for years, bulging at the bottom from an ill-fitting frame. The question posed to Kingsley was one he has heard before: Could this old painting be saved? And was it worth it? Kingsley briefly appraised the painting. There weren’t many clues here, it seemed. Stark and with few details, the oil was darkened with age, the canvas marred by a nail jutting through the lower half. Immediately he started murmuring about previous, clumsy repairs. Kingsley turned it around and back. The back side of the canvas, he pointed out, showed water damage typical of pieces stored in basements. To revive its sagging meant attaching a new canvas with a lining to make the painting properly fit the frame. It would require days of work to patch and clean. He could remove the many globs of waxy patches from the front. He showed me the amazing results of doing so in notebooks. Even after such a quick review of this portrait of a severe-looking man wearing a starched, dark jacket and cravat, Kingsley sees evidence that helps him date it — the dark background, for instance. “It’s maybe from 1850,” Kingsley says slowly. “I’d place it between the 1800 and 1900 without doing research.” How does he know this? “Well,” he replies, “there’s the Dickensian hair, parted on the side. Usually, backgrounds of that time were painted in black or dark green.” He says that even the waxy patches and the canvas itself reveal the age. So does the oxidation of the wood in the ornate, gilded frame, which also bears damage and must be repaired.

December 2013

O.Henry 33

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Artist at Work No signature is evident. “There might be a signature you cannot see,” he suggests. Kingsley adds quietly, thrillingly, “You never know what you will find. I’ve just started.” Kingsley has found money tucked behind aging canvases and more, like the painted over baby in the Alan Ramsey piece. He sometimes finds a signature after removing an artwork from the frame for cleaning. It’s impossible not to hope. Kingsley came to Burlington when his dad took a job at Elon College. He had studied art and art history in Wisconsin, where an art professor and working artist gave him some advice that he has never forgotten. “Dr. Crook taught us to think practically,” he says. “Get a day job,” he told his students. Crook advised him to learn some skills that could sustain him financially. In North Carolina, enrolled in the M.F.A. program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Kingsley identified that skill. From 1975­–77 he worked as a student assistant in the Weatherspoon Art Gallery. This was a period when the gallery was aggressively collecting contemporary American art under the aegis of painter Bert Carpenter, head of UNCG’s art department and director of Weatherspoon. By a stroke of good fortune, Kingsley was assigned to the gallery’s conservation department. There he learned from Carpenter and Jim Tucker, an artist and instructor in the program. He and other art students learned from both men. “Jim Tucker was the day-to-day advisor outlining the job,” Kingsley says. “We’d get to see Bert, or overhear him shaping the collection. Handling donors and artists.” Kingsley was transfixed, counting himself lucky. He may have been a student assistant, but he was apprenticing in one of the best museums in the Southeast. “I learned to handle art, cataloging and assisting with large collections

and acquisitions,” he says. Meanwhile, Kingsley was working, studying and painting his own still lifes and studies. Kingsley was a fast study. After leaving the Weatherspoon he worked at the Art Shop and began teaching at what is now known as Guilford Technical Institute. His future work had benefitted from those two pivotal years at the Weatherspoon. “Weatherspoon gave me the background that I needed,” he says. “They handled important paintings. It gave me confidence. They really opened that door.” Greensboro artist and gallery owner Bill Mangum, of William Mangum Fine Art, was a fellow student at UNCG in the ’70s. He respects Kingsley’s restoration work. “I have seen a number of pieces that he has remarkably restored,” says Mangum with candid admiration. “And it takes a multitude of talents to handle such delicate pieces.” Kingsley also produces and shows his own paintings, and his art has found a respected place; he’s had numerous shows, including exhibitions at the NC. Museum of Art, GreenHill, and “good runs in Atlanta, D.C. and Portland,” he adds modestly. “I can look at paintings and learn about painting,” he adds. But it’s high level rescue work, the tedious, exacting work of Mark Kingsley Art Conservation for which he is best known. Turns out that even Wiley, pleasingly plump and loath to bark, has been rescued by Kingsley. “She was found,” he says with a smile, “off Wiley Davis Road. That’s where her name came from.” Fortunately for him, Wiley required no restoration work and revealed her own, inestimable worth. OH Cindy Adams can be reached at

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O.Henry 35

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36 O.Henry

December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Lunch With a Friend

A Man on Course Turkey on rye, and a very rewarding life, for Mike Weaver

By Jim Schlosser

It seemed an

Photographs by Sam Froelich

odd choice.

When I recently invited Mike Weaver to have lunch with me so we could catch up on what he’s been doing lately, he chose Stoney Creek Grill. It’s in the clubhouse of Stoney Creek Golf Club in far eastern Guilford County. Odd because Weaver owns (with Dennis Quaintance) four restaurants — Print Works Bistro, Green Valley Grill, and two Lucky 32s, one in Greensboro and one in Cary. He’s also a member of the Greensboro Country Club with its several restaurants. But as soon as we arrived at Stoney Creek, employees and club members started going out of their way to greet him with a “Hello, Mr. Weaver” or “Welcome, Mr. Weaver.” And no wonder. His Weaver Investment Co. owns Stoney Creek. Weaver Investment purchased the 18-hole semi-private golf course six years ago, along with the grill, which is open to the public. Much earlier, in about 1987, the company bought the land surrounding the golf course, which was then under construction and owned by another company. Weaver Investment’s acquisition and backing of the development resulted in a substantial residential community of condos and homes averaging today about $450,000, with some worth up to $800,000. Mike says only proven custom builders were allowed to build, and all plans had to be examined and approved by an architectural review committee. No cookie-cutter houses at Stoney Creek. And, for that matter, no cheap golf balls on the practice range: Titleist only. About 550 families now live in the Stoney Creek community. The course and clubhouse, its airy grill room with large windows overlooking the fairway, were renovated in 2010 after Weaver Investment took over. The greens were rebuilt, bunkers were added here and there, and the practice range was enlarged. Mike is still tinkering. Coming soon will be a rerouting of the cart paths, more landscaping and more strategically placed tee boxes. “We wanted to make sure the golf course had an owner that would really take care of it,” he says, clad in a gray sweater and matching slacks, ready to play golf after lunch. “Secondly, we studied Burlington and western Alamance and eastern Guilford. It is a tremendous growth area. There are not many golf courses. This is a very popular destination. . . . It has been very successful.” All of this buying and improving was made possible by the millions made by the various Weaver Companies, starting with W.H. Weaver Construction Co., founded in 1939 by Mike’s father, the late Herman Weaver, with help from his wife, Edith. Mike took over Weaver Construction and its related companies in 1968 and expanded operations. During more than an hour’s conversation in the grill, the 76-year-old The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Weaver, who has perhaps the most friendly, most humble and warmest smile of Greensboro’s wealthy elite, discussed his upbringing; his two marriages; his children, ages 15 to 49; his health, including a struggle for thirty years with depression, which he calls “the black dog”; his business ventures; and his view of Greensboro’s future. He is only half joking when he says, “I’ve been blessed with good wives and good business partners,” as he orders a turkey sandwich on rye from our ebullient waitress, Marla Vermillion. Marla’s totally familiar with Mike’s routine order. Halve the turkey, and add sauerkraut. Mustard on the side. Fresh fruit and cole slaw, if you please, and a plain glass of water. Todd Smith, Stoney Creek’s director of golf, stops by the table to pay his respects. Earlier, Chip Holton — an artist who’s done a lot of work for Quaintance-Weaver, including paintings that hang in every room of the O.Henry and Proximity hotels — had dropped by. He’d come to show renderings of a new tee box Mike wants built. Resisting the margherita pizza and fried green tomatoes with caramelized apples and brie, I order a Stoney Creek club at Marla’s recommendation — wheatberry, lightly toasted, with turkey, Swiss, bacon and slices of tomato and lettuce, of course. Not bad at all for a golf-course grill. I also let myself be talked into the house-fried chips, dusted with ranch-dressing seasoning. The grill is open seven days a week for lunch from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and serves dinner on Friday and Saturday, offering the lunch menu at lunch prices, along with hearty specials such as filet mignon with a Madeira demi glace or baconwrapped pork tenderloin with barbecue sauce. It may sound contradictory to hear Mike say that he has had two wonderful wives, when his first marriage to the former Sonja Register ended in divorce after nineteen years. (They have two children, Michele Weaver Shutter and Ashley Weaver Hodges, both of Greensboro.) But he says that he and his ex remain close. Sonja later remarried one of Mike’s best friends, Allen Andrew. Mike says he and Allen are always kidding each other about being “husbands-in-law.” In fact, when Mike’s mother, Edith, died in 2008 at 96, Sonja and Allen were listed among the survivors. Twenty years ago he married his present wife, the former Katherine Stern, herself a member of a prominent Greensboro family with a philanthropic history. The United Way Building is named for her father, the late Sidney Stern Jr. The marriage produced 15-year-old twins, Will and Mike. About the same time, by coincidence, his business partners and best friends, Dennis and Nancy Quaintance, also had twins, Kathleen and Dennis. Every morning, Mike Sr. gets up and fixes them breakfast and drives them, in his modest Honda with a stick shift transmission, from his big house on December 2013 O.Henry 37

Lunch With a Friend

Princess Ann Drive to Page High School. The school was built in the late 1950s by W. H. Weaver Construction Co. The boys both compete on the Page cross country team, which their dad says is loaded with young talent. The Weaver family has been synonymous with prosperity for so long, you might assume that Mike was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. The truth is his father was a struggling grocery clerk and worked as a bookkeeper on the side before he decided to enter the construction business about the time Mike came along in 1939. “When I was born he made $19 a week in the grocery store,” Mike says. Edith, his mom, earned money before her marriage and afterward by working as a barber. The family — Mike is an only child — rented rooms at Georgia and State streets in McAdoo Heights. They lived in a house owned by a woman for whom Edith Weaver had been a nanny. McAdoo Heights was sort of a town within the city where many Cone Mills workers lived. State Street, which has since been renovated into a thoroughfare of fashionable shops and restaurants, was McAdoo Heights’ unfashionable main street, lined with stores and a pool hall “I lived in McAdoo Heights probably until I was in the fifth or sixth grade at Aycock School,” he says. “My dad grew up in the mill villages. He lived in Proximity, where my grandfather on my father’s side managed Cone Mills’ print-works division.” (Which is where the name of Quaintance-Weaver’s Print Works Bistro came from, along with the Proximity Hotel.) “My mom’s family worked at (Cone’s) Revolution Mill and they lived over in the Revolution Mill village.”

By the end of World World II, Herman Weaver’s construction business was going great guns. He had started out building two houses in 1939. Two years later he built fifty. During the war, his company built housing villages on military bases. After the war, he constructed ninety-nine homes in the Kirkwood neighborhood. He then quit single-family home building in favor of commercial and industrial development. In 1950, he built Summit Shopping Center, the city’s first suburban shopping center, for developer Oscar Burnett. The year before, behind the shopping center, he constructed the 270-unit Forest Grove Apartments, white shingle structures that still look as they did sixty years ago. Forest Grove won a second place award for design and construction from the National Home Builders Association. Herman Weaver also built the Latham Park, Lindley Park and Sunset Hills apartments (the latter are now condos). After Greensboro Senior High (now Grimsley), Mike went to UNC-Chapel Hill, where he earned a business and law degree in six years. He passed the bar exam, but has never argued a case. Instead, in 1961, after active duty in the Air Force Reserve, he joined his father at Weaver Construction. It was only natural. As a boy he had bumped around with his father in his pickup truck going to job sites. As soon as he entered the business, he recalls, Weaver employees, “from the fellow hammering nails and fellows laying brick,” wanted legal advice from him. Mike remembers his dad giving him some advice: “I think we ought to have one rule . . . I think going forward if either one of us doesn’t want to

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38 O.Henry

December 2013


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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Lunch With a Friend do something — that doesn’t mean we can’t debate or argue or have different points or be passionate — but at the end of the day, if either one of us doesn’t want to do it, we don’t.” Herman also once said, “There is a river of opportunities, it’s just flowing. If you pass up an opportunity, if you will be a hard worker and be conscientious, there will be another opportunity and another one.” “That’s the maxim I have used with my partners,” Mike says. He took over the company and its subsidies forty-six years ago when his father, at a youthful 50, retired. He died in 1987 at 74. Under Mike’s leadership, among the largest company projects were building the city-county government center in downtown Greensboro and the federal government center in Raleigh, two square blocks with a 300,000-square-foot postal center and lofty federal office building. The company did business in six Southeastern states. “We built lots of apartments and shopping centers and developed land for others to build on, including what’s now Brassfield Shopping Center on Battleground Avenue,” Mike says. “While I was there we might have built 15,000 or 20,000 units of apartments.” In addition, he says, Weaver Management Co. managed about 10,000 apartment units. In an effort to give back to Greensboro, Mike and his father founded the Weaver Foundation the year before Herman retired, with current assets of $23.5 million. It has given away more than $25 million over the last four decades. Among other projects, it has rebuilt the abandoned railroad trestles over Lake Brandt after vandals set them on fire.The trestles are now part of a hik-

ing trail enjoyed by thousands of Greensboro residents. The foundation also gave $1 million to create an endowment to enable more UNCG students, particularly those of lower incomes, to study abroad. Recipients are appreciative: “I get cards every week from students,” he says. Gifts have also gone for math education, Action Greensboro and the Elon University law school. The school’s building bears Mike’s name. The biggest gift to date is the YMCA camp, called Camp Weaver. Although children from all demographics go there, Mike especially wanted to help disadvantaged children enjoy the fun of playing games, swimming, riding horses and having a good time outdoors. The contributions in two stages amounted to $5.5 million. Another motivating factor behind the bequests was his father. As a mill village child, he went to a mill-owned YMCA camp and had fond memories. I’m surprised to hear Mike tell me that he’s no longer active with the foundation. He ran it until 2000, when he hired former UNCG vice chancellor Skip Moore as president. Mike stepped down from the board a few years later. But, as founder, Weaver remains the foundation’s public face. A progressive company, W.H. Weaver Construction employees enjoyed a 20 percent match on their profit-sharing plan. Mike sold Weaver Construction in 1996. The new owner didn’t want to part with the Weaver name, thus Weaver-Cook Construction Co., which does most of its work outside the Triad. Mike also sold Weaver Management company to its employees. He has reduced his role in Quaintance-Weaver Hotels and Restaurants,


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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

O.Henry 39

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December 2013

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Lunch With a Friend founded in the late 1980s, leaving Dennis and Nancy Quaintance, along with others, in charge. His wife, who has an M.B.A. from Wake Forest, now chairs Weaver Investment. Mike remains on the board. Katherine also manages her family’s real estate holdings. “I’m old!” he says, laughing. “I don’t want to be chairman of anything. There is a time to step back.” He has seen Greensboro’s ups and downs through the years, but believes arrows point in the right direction. “I’m really excited,” he tells me as he finishes his lunch. “I think we have a really good future . . . I think we’ve been fortunate that we haven’t grown as fast as a Raleigh and Charlotte. I think we are getting a very diverse economy . . . Things like our park system and the downtown greenway, those are things that keep a city from being ugly. Those kind of things keep you in the game. So, yes, I’m really excited . . .” As for his health, he underwent major heart surgery last December. He was put on a medication, which had a side effect of making him anemic. Doses of B12 vitamins have greatly helped. His depression, which set in about thirty years ago, always lurks, he says. “You never know, but every now and then the black dog will come in the house. Sometime he will come in the room and sometime he will jump on my lap. But mostly with medication, with exercise, good life style and avoiding stressful situations, it’s mostly under control.” Nearly five years ago, he went public about his depression to help raise funds for the local mental health association. In an interview with me at the time, he told how he avoided meetings and took long walks instead. He said he could no longer endure banquets, something he used to enjoy, especially working the room shaking hands. He recalled how he would get excited

about a project and then feel depressed later. At times, he felt worthless as a human. He sold the construction and management businesses, he says, in part because the work was stressful. He declined to chair boards and community causes, worried he wouldn’t live up to expectations. For years, he has counseled others on ways to cope with depression. “I’ve found that almost every family has had it somewhere,” he says. “It’s tied to heredity. I would say in my family, including my aunts and uncles, about one in five had depression.” He once said a good day for him is when he opens his appointment book and finds the page for that day blank. A typical day for him now, though, is to delay appointments until 11 a.m. or noon. After getting the boys to school, he drinks several cups of coffee and reads newspapers. The golf business doesn’t appear to be generating much stress. He says he has really enjoyed enhancing Stoney Creek Golf Club. After lunch, he and his inquisitor play nine holes. Along the way, he points out where new tee boxes will be built and where cart paths will be rerouted to bring them closer to the greens. Twice, he brings our cart to a full stop in a fairway and leans out to pick up some trash. When a young man drives up with one of the course’s new electric golf carts that arrived that very day, Mike shows me the batteries and launches into a technical explanation about how they are superior to the old ones. His golf game is rusty at first, having not played much this year because of heart surgery and anemia. In fact, he hacks several shots in the early holes. But then he finds success, just as he has in life. On the last three holes, he goes par, birdie, par. OH Jim Schlosser is contributing editor of O.Henry magazine. He can be reached at

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

O.Henry 41




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42 O.Henry

December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Still Life

Street Level

Former Greensboro football star Warren Brandt thumbed his way out of town to fame and fortune as a celebrated painter specializing in landscapes and women.

By Jim Schlosser

In the early 1930s, a beefy lineman who led

Painting from the Greensboro Historical Museum

what’s now Grimsley High School to tie the state football championship stuck out his thumb at the corner of Bessemer and Summit avenues.

With seven bucks in his pocket, Warren Brandt headed north, but not with football on his mind. He was bound for New York City, determined to become an artist. He succeeded. Brandt, who died in 2002 on Long Island, ranks as quite possibly Greensboro’s finest painter, even though few people outside the art world have ever heard of him. In fact, his father might be better remembered, at least in Greensboro. Leon Brandt served as mayor early in the 20th century, brought minor-league baseball to the city in 1902 and even umpired games. Today, the large city reservoir, Lake Brandt, bears his name. Warren Brandt, though, made his mark nationally. His works have hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and at least two dozen other museums, including UNCG’s Weatherspoon Art Museum. At one time, he averaged one to three solo shows a year, including one at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. He did countless group shows, including one at Greensboro’s own Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art (since rebranded as Greenhill). In 1992 and again in 2004, Weatherspoon held a retrospective on Brandt’s paintings. Brandt began painting at 13 in the home of his widowed mother at 411 West Edgeworth Street, since torn down. Early in his career, Brandt experimented in the Abstract Expressionist style that was all the rage in New York City at the

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

time. By the early 1960s, though, he switched to Realism. Brandt, who later in his career drew inspiration from the French painter Henri Matisse and considered himself a European-style painter, impressed picky art critics with his works, even though he bucked what others were doing at the time. “No one in the United States today, I think, has Brandt’s command of color,” wrote critic Kenneth Sawyer in 1966 in Art International magazine, which was published from 1957 to 1984. “Brandt is probably the best painter of women alive. Almost all of his paintings with figures are celebrations of the female form and mystique,” critic Jerry Bowles effused in Nicholas Fox Weber’s 1988 coffee table book, Warren Brandt. Weber’s book, which contains seventy-two works by Brandt plus photographs of the artist, celebrates “the 40-year career . . . of one of our finest, most sophisticated artists.” Weber says by the 1950s Brandt “had truly arrived among fellow painters, art critics and devoted collectors.” But as Weber notes, Brandt clearly wanted leaves to look like leaves. This switch probably didn’t endear him to some peers, who dismissed Realism as painted photos. The less understood a picture, the better, in their view. Still, Brandt remained friends with two of the nation’s best known Abstract painters, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. In fact, Brandt once rented de Kooning’s studio. “I keep moving from Realism to more Realism,” Brandt once told Weber. “It’s in part a reaction to all the nonsense out there.” Brandt complained many Abstract Expressionist painters “were endeared to fads and to advancing their own careers . . . All they care about is being fashionable,” he said, later adding, “It’s not that I don’t want to be successful, I just want to be an artist.” Brandt’s path to becoming one of America’s foremost artists was anything but the traditional, Ivy-League path other intellectuals and artists followed. In 1943, the intersection from which Brandt set out to become an artist became the main entrance to the giant Army Air Corps Base set up in Greensboro. Brandt was stationed there briefly during his 5 1/2-year military service during World War II. He started in 1940 as an ambulance driver in France and then joined the December 2013

O.Henry 43

Street Level

Greensboro unit of the N.C. National Guard. Still later, he served in the Army Air Corps (now the U.S. Air Force), where he saw duty in the South Pacific. During his stint, he became one of the Army’s official portraitists. Before the war and during his early years in New York, he’d take time off to hitchhike to California, where he worked briefly as an animator for Walt Disney. He married the poet Carolyn Coker of Greensboro during World War II, earned a degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and taught briefly at Salem College in Winston-Salem and Guilford College while working toward a Master’s in Fine Arts in 1953 from what’s now UNCG. During his time back in Greensboro, he and Carolyn lived in an old house they restored on Ritters Lake Road, south of of the city. Brandt built a studio on the property. He chaired for a short time the art department at Ole Miss, then spent two years starting an art department at Southern Illinois University, where in 1960 he and Carolyn divorced. That same year, he married New York gallery owner Grace Borgenicht. He later taught at the Pratt Institute. He also traveled widely in France, Spain, Greece and Mexico. “He didn’t like teaching,” says New York resident Isabella Brandt Johansen, Brandt’s daughter by his first wife. “He would rather have been painting.” And after leaving academia, paint he did: “Although painting is an on-going struggle for him,” writes Weber, “it is a struggle he loves, a deeply felt pursuit more than a torture.” Brandt told Weber, “Painting is a series of revisions and adjustments . . . It isn’t easy to paint; you have to plug away at an idea.” He also said, “What an artist is: he’s someone who goes into a room and works hard. If you’re good, you stay in that room.” He stayed in that room. As a result collectors bought his works. Such luminaries as novelists Irwin Shaw and James Michener, and newspaper heir William Randolph Hearst Jr. bought Brandt’s paintings. Michener’s now resides in the collection at Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas in Austin. Art

magazines profiled him. Brandt did several self portraits. One was shown in an exhibit at the National Academy of Design in New York, of which he was a member, alongside works by Hopper, de Kooning, Norman Rockwell, Jackson Pollock and Andrew Wyatt. Brandt was proud when the Metropolitan Museum of Art staged an exhibit of 20th century artists in 1985–86 with his self-portrait, The Artist in his Studio, as the very first painting people saw entering the gallery. Ultimately Brandt made enough money to paint for a living. Income from his second wife’s gallery no doubt helped. They had an apartment in New York and a studio a short distance away, plus a house on Long Island with a studio nearby. After 1961, they made New York and Long Island their permanent homes. This was a vast improvement over the studio in the Bowery that Brandt endured as a struggling artist. In the beginning, he delivered mail in the Garment District, studied at night at the Pratt Institute and lived at the YMCA. Having come of age during the Depression, even when he became a successful artist married to a successful gallery owner, he always worried about money and was frugal, continuing to ride the bus. Although he achieved renown for his art, Brandt’s paintings today don’t bring the astronomical sums of certain former contemporaries, such as de Kooning and Edward Hopper. “Prices vary depending on the quality of the painting,” says Jack Marks of Royalton Arts in New York, “but around $2,000 to $3,000 for a welldone, colorful still life.” In late October, the Italian Arcadja Art Auctions was offering Brandt’s Moroccan Robe, a semi-nude, which the firm estimated has a value of $3,000– 5,000. A nude painting, Kilna, was estimated to be worth $2,500–4,000 and The Rock Island Line from $1,000–1,500. You can find some Brandt paintings online in the $750 range. Greensboro artist and art restorer Mark Kingsley (See “The Alchemist,”


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44 O.Henry

December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Street Level

page 31) recently restored a Brandt watercolor for the Greensboro Historical Museum, The Farmers Market, painted in 1942 when the artist was only 24. The work is in the Realist style, based on sketches Brandt made of the market, then on Commerce Place downtown. It was donated to the museum in 1974 by a friend of Brandt’s Greensboro family and is now on display. Jon Zachman, curator of collections for the museum, said restoration was made possible by Brandt’s niece, Jessie Allen Sellers Ogburn, and her brothers, Dave and Sidney Allen, all of Greensboro. Jessie Ogburn has six Brandts. Dave Allen proudly displays After the Bull Fight in his home. He lost a half dozen other Brandt paintings when his house caught fire in 2000. Another nephew, Sidney Allen, owns two paintings. The Farmers Market holds significance in Brandt’s career. Zachman said it was the first painting he submitted for public exhibit, in 1952, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, no less. Brandt’s daughter, Isabella, has a large inventory of paintings and sketches her father left at his death, at 84, twelve years ago. She plans to organize them, create a website and sell them. Isabella, in fact, appears in some of his paintings. She didn’t have to pose. She and her stepsisters as little girls played checkers and other games while their father sat in a chair and sketched them. He then went to his studio and turned drawings into paintings. He specialized in painting still lifes, landscapes and women, clothed and unclothed. In fact, an entire book devoted to his nude paintings, titled Nudes, was published in 1985. His family remembers him as a kind, funny man, a regular fellow, big and strong, as one might expect of a former football lineman. He could be ornery at times. “He didn’t like people wandering into his studio while he was working,” his daughter says. Perhaps one of the most flattering observations about him appeared in a different context in the Greensboro Daily News after the Senior High team defeated Reidsville under new coach Bob Jamieson. “A veritable stone wall in the local forward wall,” the writer described Brandt’s play. He put football behind him once he became an artist. But he remained active. He played on a softball team. He took up golf and played at the Noyac Country Club in Sag Harbor, New York. His daughter has trophies from tournaments he won. Football and softball player, golfer, soldier, official portraitist, teacher, Abstract and Realist painter — Warren Brandt was truly a versatile man, an artist whose memory Greensboro residents should not let slip away. OH Jim Schlosser is a contributing editor of O.Henry magazine He can be reached at The Art & Soul of Greensboro


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O.Henry 45

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46 O.Henry

December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro


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48 O.Henry

December 2013



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The Art & Soul of Greensboro


Northern Cardinal Brightening the winter landscape with their distinctive song and sociability

By Susan Campbell

Without a doubt, the most recog-

nizable bird in the eastern United States is the northern cardinal. Its bright scarlet color, wide distribution and affinity for bird feeders make it a much-loved addition to yards from Florida to Maine. It can also be found across the lower Midwest and even into parts of Arizona and New Mexico. The cardinal is so popular that it is not only North Carolina’s state bird, but also the state bird of six other states — more than any other species.

Northern cardinals are medium-sized songbirds with distinctive red crests. In fact, it’s likely they got their name from the male cardinal’s red crest, which resembles the mitre or red hat worn by Catholic cardinals. They sing a loud “chorry, chorry, chorry” song and produce a very distinctive and audible metallic “chip” note. Listen in the spring and summer when mated pairs sometimes break into duets. Males are gloriously colored, bright red all over with a thick, orange-red bill and roguish black mask. The females, however, are a duller brownish-red, but do have a contrasting reddish tinting to the wings and tail, and their bills are a rich orange like the males. Since cardinals do not migrate, here in North Carolina, cardinals, or “red birds,” as old-timers call them, can be found year-round throughout the state, both in suburban areas as well as in the thicker vegetation associated with forest edges. Given their strong bills, they can feed on a variety of foods. Cardinals not only forage for berries and seeds and caterpillars, but can also kill lizards and small snakes. Anyone who has ever handled

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

a cardinal (as we do through our research at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve in Southern Pines) can attest to the effectiveness of their bills as weapons! During the breeding season, from April through August, they may produce as many as four sets of young. They typically lay four eggs per clutch in a nest usually located in thick shrubbery. Young cardinals, who are noisy and leave the nest before they are capable of sustained flight, are often the target of predators. But given the persistence of the adults, some of their offspring do survive to reproduce themselves. Young cardinals are a nondescript, uniform gray-brown, but they acquire their colorful adult plumage within a few months of fledging. The lack of bright feathering no doubt helps keep the young birds hidden as they learn survival skills from their parents. Since most predators are capable of seeing in color, individuals of this species often find themselves at a real disadvantage. It is then no surprise that cardinals feed most heavily at dawn and dusk and do not venture far from thick cover. These handsome birds are most welcome in winter, when they can be lured to seed feeders. Their festive color is certainly a wonderful sight during the holidays. Northern cardinals love black-oil sunflower, but they’ll gladly settle for safflower and millet. They may also hover to pick at suet during cold or wet weather. It is not unusual to have as many as eight or ten cardinals at a time at a well-stocked feeding station. Adding native dogwood, beautyberry, chokeberry and wax myrtle to your feeding mix should entice even more cardinals to your yard. Cardinals also love brush piles, especially on windy days. What’s more, brush provides shelter that could be vital should a local hawk spot this very noticeable prey. Responsible backyard birdfeeding involves assuring all individuals that are attracted are safe as well as well fed — at any time of the year. OH Susan would love to hear from you. Send wildlife sightings and photos to susan@ or call (910)949-3207. December 2013

O.Henry 49

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December 2013

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Sporting Life

The Winter Storm

A surprise snowfall and a young retriever’s first duck made for the perfect holiday memory By Tom Bryant

It was going to snow! Early

that morning when I stepped out the back door onto our patio, I could smell it in the air. The sky was slate gray. High cirrus clouds were moving slowly from the northwest. It was eerily quiet and the birds, unusually subdued, looked as if they were wearing down-filled coats with all their feathers puffed up to keep warm. Our birdbath was skimmed over with ice, and I broke it up with a stick and made a mental note to get warm water to refill it. Yes sir, I said to myself, it’s gonna snow before lunch. I went back inside to confirm my prediction with TV’s Channel 2 and Lee Kinard and his morning show.

In those days before cable TV, there were, at the most, maybe three channels available to TV watchers. We had an antenna fastened to our chimney with a rotor that would turn it in the direction of the station. Most of the time, we watched the Greensboro channel and tuned in to get the weather and news in the morning before heading out to work. I, along with my business partner, had a fledgling newspaper up and running. Linda, my bride, was teaching second grade. Tommy, our son, was in the first grade; so when something like a potential snowstorm was on the horizon, things around our household became a little jumpy. “School has been canceled!” Linda exclaimed as I walked back into the kitchen. Tommy was eating his breakfast, saying, “I want to build a snowman!” Immediately Linda’s survival instinct kicked in. “We need to go to the grocery store for more supplies.” “OK,” I replied. “You get ready, I’ll take Tommy with me. We’ll let Paddle out to run and then we’ll go to the store.” Paddle, my new yellow Lab, was just growing out of puppyhood and was raring to go. She romped around the backyard, then ran to the back of the Bronco wanting to load up and go play. “No girl, maybe later,” I said as I put her back in her kennel. She whimpered,

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

showing her disappointment. Linda came out the back door. “Are you ready? The TV said snow should start falling before lunch.” “Let’s ride before they sell all the milk,” I replied. Linda laughed as we climbed in the Bronco and headed to Winn-Dixie. The place was packed with happy shoppers anticipating the winter storm. We loaded up with all kinds of goodies and drove home. “Perfect timing. We can put up the tree this afternoon.” Christmas was two weeks away and we had been planning to decorate the tree over the weekend, but now with school canceled, we had an unanticipated extra day to play. In short order, I brought the tree in from outside. We had bought it on Monday, a freshly cut Fraser fir, and it smelled great. I placed it in the stand in a corner away from the fireplace and went back outside to the stack of firewood for an armload for a fire later that afternoon. The sky seemed to be getting darker with lower, angry-looking clouds moving across the horizon. Paddle started barking in her kennel. “No barking,” I called, and she went back in her doghouse. It’s a good thing I had bought more cedar bedding for her. She should be plenty comfy if it did snow. Maybe we’d go down to the duck hole after lunch. The duck hole was what I had named a little creek where I hunted wood ducks and mallards during the season. The little stream proved to be very productive in the duck-hunting department and was a great place to train her as a little puppy. She had been with me several times before the season opened and retrieved dummies thrown across the creek, but she had yet to retrieve a duck. Maybe before the season is over, I thought. Back inside, Linda was making sandwiches for lunch. “I’m going to the office to check on things and then out to the duck hole with Paddle to let her run a little bit,” I said. “I’ll even take my shotgun in case I’m attacked by a crazy mallard.” Linda laughed. “This is supposed to be a heavy snow. Don’t you get out there and get stranded.” “Nah, I’ll take a couple of sandwiches with me, eat lunch at the creek and be back before the first flake falls.” Everything was OK at the office. We were lucky that the snow was coming on a Friday, which gave us the weekend to get back to normal, hopefully. Paddle was wired tight as I pulled up to the gate to the pasture that we had to cross to get to our little duck preserve. “Hang on, girl. I’ll let you out in a minute and you can go play.” I parked the Bronco back in the stand of trees bordering the creek, feeding into December 2013

O.Henry 51


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52 O.Henry

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Sporting Life the big lake that was a water impoundment for the city. Paddle and I usually stayed away from the lake, concentrating on the creek for our efforts. It was getting colder, and I saw that the water bordering the bank was covered in skim ice. I took my shotgun out of the case and told Paddle, “OK, girl, go run.” She jumped out the back of the Bronco, raced to the creek, broke the skim ice, got wet and ran back to me as if to ask, “Why is the water hard?” Sleet began to bounce off the truck. “We don’t have a lot of time, girl. Go play.” I walked through the tree line and followed Paddle as she edged toward the big water. I whistled to her, and as she was loping back to me, a duck came flying down the creek toward the lake. I snapped off a shot, and the duck crumpled and hit the ice about fifty yards from the bank. Paddle was off like a bullet, and all my whistling did no good in turning her. She was on a mission. Breaking the ice out to where the duck had landed, Paddle began quartering in a circle. Unfortunately, when the duck came down, the force of the fall knocked it under the ice and it couldn’t be seen. Paddle kept at it until the bird popped up right in front of her. She grabbed it, swam back, walked up on the bank and presented me with the biggest black duck I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe it. Paddle’s first duck retrieve, and it was one that I would remember forever. No big deal for her, though. She shook freezing ice from her coat and looked up at me as if to say, “OK, boss, what’s next?” Snow began to fall in earnest, and I decided we’d better get on home. Paddle settled down in her spot in the back, and I put the Bronco in four-wheel drive. The snow was getting deep fast. We were dripping wet from the sleet, snow and creek water, but the heater from the Bronco soon had us warm. It was a great ride. Christmas carols were playing on the radio, and I sang along when Bing Crosby came on with his famous “White Christmas.” Paddle dozed and didn’t budge when I had to stop a time or two to clean the frozen windscreen. She was content in her favorite place. Later that evening, after Linda and Tommy had gone to bed and I was closing up the house, I sat down in front of the dying fire and thought back to how much fun everyone had had that day with our first winter storm of the season. Tommy got to build his snowman, Linda made one of her favorite pound cakes, Paddle retrieved her first duck and was sleeping on her special rug beside the fireplace as content as only a hunting dog can be after a day afield. And me? I thought, “What the heck?” and went over to my little den bar, poured three fingers of a single malt Scotch I was saving for a special occasion, and put another log on the fire. I can’t think of many occasions that will get more special than this. OH Tom Bryant is a lifelong outdoorsman and O.Henry’s Sporting Life columnist. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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O.Henry 53

Life of Jane

The Adventures of Flat Franklin

By Jane Borden

I’ve been mailed my nephew. We

Illustration by Meridith Martens

wanted him to visit us in L.A., but didn’t imagine it would involve the U.S. Postal Service. His classroom is reading the book Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, wherein a boy is squashed by his bulletin board and then travels to visit friends via envelope, which is also how I imagine works.

Due to the book’s popularity, schools around the globe now participate in a program called the Flat Stanley Project. Students create two-dimensional versions of themselves and mail them to friends in other parts of the country or world, who take pictures of their flat guests’ adventures, which the students then write about in journals for their classrooms. So my actual nephew did not come through the mail — surely it’s possible to mail a live child, though I expect it’s expensive — but rather his avatar did. We are especially excited to have Flat Franklin in our home because he’s the first family member to visit since we moved to Los Angeles in August. Nathan and I have been wooing our family members with tidbits of California’s beauty and history. But flying to the West Coast is a big commitment, and no one has yet made the trip. So when Flat Franklin arrived last week — wearing two shades of orange, yellow shoes, and a crooked grin of fire-engine red — we considered using his time here as a form of bribery. Perhaps the way to convince my sister to come out is to make her son jealous of the vacation taken by his doppelgänger. “We should take Flat Franklin to Disneyland,” said Nathan, diabolical genius. My mind painted an image of Flat Franklin and us posing with Mickey Mouse and riding roller coasters. “And fudge,” I added. “We’ll surround Flat Franklin with fudge!” This would be an especially effective tactic if it were a nut variety that his peanutallergic brother couldn’t share.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

We could take Flat Franklin to a Dodgers game, and to the Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park. We could snap pictures of him on the toy aisle at Target with a hundred-dollar bill taped to his tiny laminated hand. But then we saw that our proverbial nephew came with a note of instruction proverbially pinned to his shirt, explaining that Flat Franklin wants “to discover what life is like all around the country” . . . “to learn about communities and geographic areas.” Hmm. I could put a red bandanna around his head and take him to Compton? OK, OK, we’ll play by the rules. We’ve taken Flat Franklin to the beach in Santa Monica, and to a cactus garden at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. We have pictures of him posing by his empty plate after an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet in Burbank, resting on the rim of Arturo’s taco truck in Pasadena, and gawking at Michael Bolton’s star on the Hollywood walk of fame. I asked if he wouldn’t rather have his picture made next to Shrek’s star (yes, Shrek has a star), but he said no — Flat Franklin really loves Michael Bolton. Even though this is only a game, it has felt a bit like our nephew actually did come to stay. I snapped shots of him nestled under the covers in our guest bed, and by the bathtub with a washcloth wrapped around his little plastic waist. At Nathan’s birthday dinner, Flat Franklin helped him blow out the candles. I’ve also enjoyed sharing my new life with him. He executed a flawless side plank in yoga class, and told very funny jokes at a stand-up comedy show (we raised him to the microphone with a music stand). There might also be a photo of him boozing at a classic-cocktail lounge and then passing out in a gutter on Silver Lake Boulvevard, but I’ll never tell and, let’s be honest, he doesn’t remember. Altogether, I think Flat Franklin has had a lovely visit to Southern California. I only hope Actual Franklin is intrigued enough by the photos to journey here himself. And if not, I’ll just mail him a Flat Mickey Mouse. OH Greensboro native Jane Borden, author of the highly-acclaimed I Totally Meant To Do That, lives in L.A. December 2013

O.Henry 55

Paintings B y

Arts & Culture

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December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro


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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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December 2013

O.Henry 57

u 26 Paths to Leisu o re – F Y 21 ind One For

43 Parks & Recreation Administration 43 Athletics Office


Ballfields & Concession Stands

9 Latham Park 11 Levette 10 Lewis 12 Old Peck 13 Pomona 14 Rankin 15 Revolution 16 Smith High School 7 Stoner-White Stadium 17 West Market

1 Allen Jr. High 3 Carolyn S. Allen Park & Athletic Complex

2 Barber Park 8 Joe Davis Park 18 Constance Griffin Field 4 I.C. Apple 5 Hampton 6 Hester Park 7 Jaycee Park Soccer/ Football Complex

24 48



Public Gardens

27 51 7 10

19 Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden 46 The Bog Garden 20 Greensboro Arboretum 56 Gateway Gardens

City Cemeteries

43 Cemeteries Office 51 Forest Lawn Cemetery 52 Green Hill Cemetery

53 Maplewood Cemetery 54 Union Cemetery

44 15



Culture & Recreation

41 City Arts 38 Caldcleugh Multicultural

Arts Center 43 City Beautiful 23 Gillespie Golf Course 33 Coach Al Lowe Boxing Center 40 Greensboro Farmers Curb Market 44 Greensboro Seniors (Smith Senior Center) 42 Greensboro Sportsplex

Regional Parks

2 Barber Park 21 Bryan Park 27 Country Park 6 Hester Park

40 Greensboro Youth Council 24 Lake Brandt 25 Lake Higgins 26 Lake Townsend 43 MainStream Resources



46 49

(Therapeutic Recreation) 39 Camp Joy at Hagan-Stone Park 23 Specialized Park Services 40 Youth Programs




18 4

33 Lindley Center 34 Trotter Center 36 Peeler Center 18 Warnersville Center 37 Windsor Center

12 38


57 34



7 Jaycee Park 55 Keeley Park 29 Price Park



43 40





Recreation Centers

30 Brown Center 31 Craft Center 57 East White Oak Center 4 Glenwood Center 32 Leonard Center 10 Lewis Center




11 2



16 5

6 36

Swimming Pools

39 Camp Joy at Hagan-Stone Park 33 Lindley Outdoor Pool 34 Peeler Outdoor Pool 16 Smith High School Indoor Pool 44 Smith Senior Center Indoor Pool 18 Warnersville Center Outdoor Pool 37 Windsor Center Outdoor Pool



Tennis Facilities

21 Bryan Park 6 Hester Park 7 Spencer Love Tennis Center 9 Latham Park 2 Simkins Indoor Sports Pavilion

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Visit us online for directions and facility information.

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December 2013 Horse In Winter On Receiving a Christmas Card with a Painting of a Horse Standing in Snow from a Friend The blurb on the back Lets me know this horse, Painted by one Shane Dimmick, Has at least prepared for the oncoming snow. Her coat, I’m told, has grown dense With an undercoat developed In early Autumn Followed by long guard hairs That give her a wooly appearance. Even her muzzle, legs, ears — Areas particularly vulnerable to frostbite — Have grown extra fur To fill with a newly expected white. But these facts Have little or nothing to do With what she’s actually thinking, As she turns her head In a pose reminiscent Of RCA Victor, The dog still waiting For the one thing he cherishes.

Than wait for me To wrap up this poem While her card fills with snow, Her figure growing fainter, Softening with accumulation, As she stands there, quiet, Almost reverent, almost frozen, Not even stamping her feet Or shaking the crystals From her glistening hairs, Because it is after all Christmas, And maybe even she knows All any of us can do now Is wait.

— Bob Wickless

No, what strikes me most Is not how prepared she is As the first flakes brush down Across her thickened mane, But her incredible patience, Her willingness to just stand there As if she would rather do nothing else Forever

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

O.Henry 59

Well Read for the Holidays New works by local authors


By Steve Cushman

t’s that time of year again when we begin looking for the perfect gift for family and friends. If you’re like me, the best gifts to give or receive are books. Locally produced books are always more meaningful, and I’ve compiled a list of new titles from Greensboro authors: poetry and nonfiction, humor and novels. There’s even one of my own, reviewed below by O.Henry’s senior editor. Reading all of these was sort of an early Christmas present for myself. There’s something on this list for everyone, so get ready to dig in.

Lee Zacharias: At Random

In Lee Zacharias’ latest novel, At Random, Eva and Guy are driving home one rainy night when a young boy runs in front of their car. Guy cannot stop in time and the boy, an 8-year-old Montagnard, is hit and killed. What follows is the story of their marriage torn to the point of breaking. Both Eva and Guy agree that the accident was unavoidable, but as friends and the community begin to shun the couple, each one begins blaming the other. Eva seeks solace in a surprising way as their marriage deteriorates. At Random is a sharpeyed portrait of the human heart and the ways, both old and new, it suffers and heals.

Tim Swink: Curing Time

In his first novel, Greensboro writer Tim Swink spins a tale about Hume Rankin, a North Carolina tobacco farmer who becomes increasingly desperate as his crop wilts in the field during the summer of 1959. When his life-long nemesis, who’s always had his eye on Hume’s land and his wife, is found dead, Hume winds up soliciting help from the world of magic, though he is warned of the perils of calling on the “middle world. D.C.B.

Dena Harris: Does This Collar Make My Butt Look Fat, A Diet Book for Cats?

If you love cats, have ever been on a diet or perhaps just enjoy a good laugh, then this parody is the perfect Christmas gift. You’ll get the cat’s eye view of many popular diets, including Atkins, Weight Watchers, the South Beach Diet and Paleo. A ridiculously funny book about cats on diets — how can you go wrong?

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Alice Sink: Growing Up In The Piedmont Triad, Boomer Memories from Krispy Kreme to Coca-Cola Parties

Alice Sink has written an engaging time capsule of growing up in the Piedmont Triad in the 1940s and 1950s. Drawing on her personal experience and local history, she details everything from family life to popular culture — listening to radio shows and watching The Lone Ranger on her family’s black-and-white TV. The personal photos peppered throughout complement the stories she tells.

Steve Cushman: Hospital Work

T.S. Eliot once wrote that Jacobean dramatist John Webster was “much possessed by death/And saw the skull beneath the skin.” The same can be said quite literally of Greensboro writer Steve Cushman — in his day job as an X-ray technologist and in his slim book of poetry, Hospital Work. We should be grateful on both counts. In addition to giving patients and doctors invaluable information about bones and organs beneath the skin, Cushman gives us lyrical, matter-of-fact accounts of the scenes he encounters on a daily basis — the man whose arm got caught in a Merita Bread machine, the four cancerous spots on the X-ray of a man whose right shoulder bears a tattoo of his wife’s name, the policeman questioning the parents of the baby with a broken leg, or the heart surgeon singing a Beatles melody in tune with the blood perfusion machine. — D.C.B.

Sandra Redding: Naomi Wise: A Cautionary Tale

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Sandra Redding’s novel Naomi Wise is based on the life of a Randolph County orphan in the early 1800s. Just as the reader begins to think that 12-year-old Naomi’s life couldn’t get any worse, she is thankfully taken in by Mary Ruth and Garland Eversole, a Quaker couple. Mixing heartbreak with hope, the book bristles with details of everyday life on the farm at the time. Mary Ruth displays amazing strength and character as she cares for Naomi and eventually Naomi’s own two children in this story you won’t soon forget.

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Terry L. Kennedy: New River Breakdown

Each poem in New River Breakdown, Terry Kennedy’s debut collection, is a world unto itself, a world of longing and love. These are prose poems, a hybrid form that looks like fiction but reads like poetry, and it’s clear with each narrative that Kennedy is a highly skilled poet. A favorite line comes from the poem “Love In Another Season” — “No matter when I awake, I am a day behind — each small moment already pregnant with our separate lives.” Every page of this fine collection is filled with lines that beg to be read and savored, then read again. The book itself is handprinted and bound by Greensboro’s Unicorn Press.

J. Edward Gray: New Garden

Set during the Mexican War and leading into America’s Civil War, Gray’s debut historical novel follows two brothers from the Guilford County Quaker community of New Garden. Their lives take decidedly different paths — Jack leaves home to become a soldier, and Richard stays close to home. Ambition leads Jack to become a businessman, while Richard becomes a lawyer and eventually a politician. By the end of this engaging, well-researched novel, the brothers’ inevitable reunion comes at a high cost to both of them.

Jo Maeder: Opposites Attack

Princes inevitably fall for poor, young hapless maidens in fairy tales. A variant on that theme drives the plot of Jo Maeder’s first novel, Opposites Attack. Will the cultured, cosmopolitan French novelist who’s down on his luck marry the charming but giddy young American beauty attending total immersion language school? Or will she land the rich boyfriend that she all along hoped would follow her to France? Find out by gobbling up this rollicking romantic comedy, filled with scrumptious French food. — D.C.B.

John Stevens: Scribe: Artist Of The Written Word

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In Scribe: Artist of the Written Word, John Stevens takes the reader on a journey through the world of calligraphy as he details his own development as a world-class calligrapher, letter artist and type designer. Stevens explains his daily work habits and his approach to completing specific projects, such as book and album covers. In his words, “To write a page of calligraphy is still an awesome task. Done well, it is a performance, and all the best work has a fine balance of precision and freedom.” This is a beautiful book, full of wonderful images of Stevens’ work, making it the perfect gift for anyone interested in the art, beauty and craft of letters and words.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

John F. Saunders: Spartan Negotiator

Murder, motorcycle gangs, Latino gangs, con men and Russian mobsters are all featured in Greensboro dentist John F. Saunders’ new thriller Spartan Negotiator. At the center of the story is Frank Kane, a retired enforcer for the Spartan motorcycle gang who is pulled from retirement to help an old friend in trouble. As he travels from Greensboro to Texas, Frank clashes with an assortment of violent criminals, all the while heading toward the novel’s bloody, climatic conclusion. For readers who like their fiction hard-boiled, this is a recipe for hours of entertainment.

Tom Hardin: The Kingdom

In this searing portrayal of the “perfect” American family, we meet the father Mather, a widely respected priest. We meet Miriam, the preacher’s dutiful and obedient wife. And finally we meet their son, Nathaniel, an exemplary and gifted high school senior. The only “problem” is that Nathaniel is gay. One night he makes a decision that sends his family’s lives in surprising directions. By the end of this emotional novel, you may find yourself rethinking your perception of right and wrong, of good and evil.

Michael Gaspeny: Vocation

Michael Gaspeny’s poetry collection Vocation is a love song for the suburbs, the terminally ill and the musicmakers of the world. He wonderfully evokes Miles Davis and John Coltrane and a suburban neighborhood terrorized by a man on a moped. In one of my favorite poems, “Sherman’s Groove,” a terminally ill man forces his caretaker to listen to music — and the world that surrounds him, a lesson Gaspeny certainly understands and shares with us.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

O.Henry 63

Making Room for Joy

In a family life full of daily challenges, Alex James finds a way to make every day a blessing that’s never taken for granted. “It’s a gift,” he says. “Love provides the energy my family runs on.”


By David Claude Bailey • Photographs by Laura Gingerich

James remembers the first time he saw Liz Wright. He was working at IBM in Greensboro where she was filling in as a temp. Liz had heard all about the tall, boyish James, who’d lettered in basketball at Harvard. She’d already anticipated that he might be a little full of himself, so when he first approached her desk, “she pretended to be on the phone,” Alex recalls in their cozy living room, arching one eyebrow at his wife of 28 years. She flashes her radiant smile back at him. “It wasn’t love at first sight,” he says. “I just got a real good feeling right away.” But what Alex remembers as the defining moment in their relationship came two years later during a beach trip. “I was fishing at the inlet and Liz came running down the beach to fetch me for supper. As soon as she realized that I had seen her, she started skipping, jumping and twirling — like a woman running toward her lover in a shampoo commercial — only she did it in such a genuine, joyful way that it filled my heart with joy and it’s one of my favorite memories of her,” he says, adding — “and a very poignant one now that she can no longer perform such antics.”

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Let’s just cut to the chase. After swimming competitively, winning athletic awards in high school and leading a very active life, skiing in Colorado, golfing with Alex and hiking in the Appalachians, Liz James contracted multiple sclerosis. MS attacks the sheaths that cover nerve fibers, short-circuiting nerve signals, particulary on pathways that affect vision, sensation, speech, bladder control and limb movement. It is progressive and can ultimately cause paralysis, though not directly, death. Over the last twenty years, although the disease has slowly taken her voice, her ability to eat, to walk and to control most of her muscles, it has not diminished her dignity, her infectious smile or her unbridled outbursts of joy. That might seem uncanny to anyone who doesn’t understand the James gang, as friends have nicknamed Alex, Liz and their 23-year-old twins, Matt and Will. I’m on my first visit, and Liz is stretched out on a La-Z-Boy, the late afternoon sunlight spilling though skylights into their airy, bright kitchen. Alex has positioned her in her favorite spot, right in the middle of things, between the island where Alex and I are having a beer and the kitchen counter where Will is mixing up some of “Matt and Will’s Tender-Loving The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Pimiento Cheese.” In the background, muffled body slams, moans and groans come from the bedroom where Matt is watching SmackDown! from World Wrestling Entertainment. “Why don’t you invite Mary Lou over, Will?” Alex says. Will takes the phone from his dad. “Call Mary You,” he tells it. The phone obeys. Mary Lou answers. “How are you doing?” Will asks. “I was calling to let you know you could hang out with us and eliminate your loneliness.” Mary Lou accepts, and Will, visibly elated, tells her: “As the Inyish say, that sounds grand.” Will’s speech is slurred by muscular dystrophy. He and Matt were diagnosed with MD, which is totally unrelated to MS, when they were 3, about two years after Liz’s diagnosis. MD first attacks skeletal muscles. The muscles are replaced by fibrous scar tissue and fat, and as the disease progresses, individuals lose control of their limbs and, ultimately, anything else controlled by muscles, including their lungs and heart. It’s an end-stage disease, sometimes limiting life expectancy significantly. As Will hangs up, Liz’s arm starts flailing as if she’s trying to hail a cab, which is her way of letting Alex know she wants to say something. He bends down so close he can hear, even feel, the passage of air coming from her mouth. “Do you want something?” he asks. No. “You want to say something.” Yes. He’s on his knees and holding one of her hands. They’re both smiling, happily working together on a puzzle, Alex joking, Liz forming words with her mouth in a whisper only he can hear. They’re eye-to-eye, their noses almost touch, reminding me of a pair of doves cooing and billing. Alex switches to a system where Liz spells out words. “G?” Yep. “I?” Yep. “V? “Give!” “Give David?” “Oh! Give David some tender-loving pimiento cheese!” I ask Ann Shepherd, who comes over to the house several times a week to take dictation from Liz for thank-you notes, whether Alex and Liz are still as in love and as intimate as they seem to be. “Oh, yes, there’s real magic there,” she says. “Liz can do nothing, so there are no secrets between them. Liz trusts him completely.” By Alex James’ calculus, their love has actually grown because of her MS. “Her loss of speech has made us closer,” he explains. “It’s forced us to communicate in a different way that’s very intimate. Taking care of people’s The Art & Soul of Greensboro

every need creates an intimacy that’s real hard to describe, but the level of trust all three of them have in me is a real blessing.” In fact, to hear Alex James tell it, he and his family live a blessed life. A crew of eighty-five volunteers, called Joy Friends, come by the house to do everything from taking out the garbage to giving the family a wheelchair-accessible Dodge van a few years ago. He and Liz go out on dates to movies, sometimes double-dating with Will and a friend. Alex and the boys go bowling and to baseball and basketball games and, a favorite of the boys, to Hooters with their “blonde-tourage,” a group of women who help Alex with the logistics of getting two wheelchair-bound 23-year-olds from here to there. At home, the family enjoys TV, music or silly clips on YouTube. After hanging out with them over several weeks, I decided they were as happy as any family I know — and measurably happier than many. “Are you in denial?” people, myself included, sometimes ask Alex. “I believe it’s about choices,” he says, a dimple on his chin and the smile lines on each side of his mouth coming into play, his blue eyes sparkling, “deciding to focus on what’s good about this rather than what’s bad about it.” There are plenty of things he’d like to change, but can’t, “but you can control your reaction to them,” he says. “We experience pain, sorrow and all those things, but I see that as a natural part of life and you just sort of look at it, acknowledge it and just move on.” “They seize the moment,” Ann Shepherd says. “They live like many people say they’re going to live — but don’t.” Their life is very different from others, she says, “but it’s not bad. They don’t have that feeling about it at all. People come over to, quote, help them, and leave having been lifted up. They give back so much more than you give them.” The phrase that Alex James likes to use to explain the seeming contradiction between his family’s progressively deteriorating health and their constantly upbeat life style is, “There’s room for joy.” What he doesn’t tell you is that he has become the master of making room for joy. Alex James grew up solidly middle-class; his father was a textile executive, working first for Burlington Industries, then Fieldcrest-Cannon before December 2013

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This series of pictures gives a glimpse of the daunting logistics Alex James goes through every time he gets Will (first pictured in the top row) and Matt (lower left picture) up out of their beds and onto the road.

coming to Thomasville to become general manager of Amazon Cotton Mills, hoping one day to buy it. After four days in the public school in Thomasville, Alex was one of the first students to enroll in Westchester Academy, now Westchester Country Day School. He was a fifth-grader, and with only seven classmates, he received a lot of individual attention. While Westchester alumni will remember him as a basketball star — a four-year varsity starter, MVP three years in a row, a member of the All-Northwest N.C. team twice — Alex insists he was the consummate nerd. His parents emphasized academics over sports, and when he made four A’s and a C in French in the ninth grade, his parents convened a summit conference with the teacher, the headmaster and Alex. “My parents expected a great deal of me, and I was a conforming rule-follower who didn’t make any waves,” he recalls. Later, the headmaster singled Alex out for a summer at the prestigious Phillips Academy Andover. “My friends called it math camp,” Alex recalls. With his record in basketball and excellent grades, his getting into Harvard in 1975 surprised no one. Alex thrived at Harvard, attending lectures by Nobel Prize laureates and studying economics from professors who made Fed policy. A Southerner surrounded by rich, privileged students from New England, Alex says he tended to gravitate toward the friends he made on the basketball team. “I say I was the eighth man in a seven-man rotation,” he recalls. “I wasn’t a star.” Why? “I wasn’t mean enough.” After graduating, he threw everyone for a total loop when he decided, on a lark, to move to Brighton, England, and become a European professional basketball star. When stardom eluded him, he came back to Boston, lovesick, he says, over a girlfriend. He did odd jobs like delivering the Yellow Pages and working as a janitor at Harvard Law School. Meanwhile, his parents were “making some comments about the sacrifices they’d made sending me to school,” he recalls. When the relationship with the girlfriend “fizzled, I came back home and got serious about getting a job,” he says. He lived with his parents, who found him a factory job at Lambeth Furniture, which, as they expected, motivated him to find a job befitting his expensive degree. He went to work for IBM at age 23 as a technical salesman, selling mainframes to manufacturers. “I was maybe a little too philosophical for sales,” he says. “It was a job, and the people were great, but it wasn’t something I could be passionate about.” His first date with Liz was Halloween of 1981. “It took me three years to ask her to marry me,” Alex says. It was obvious to everyone that the two were seriously in love, but Alex says, “I just kept waiting for the perfect time to pop the quesion.” A running joke at family events was how Alex would tap the side of his glass to make an announcement: “Another Thanksgiving has gone by and we’re not engaged.” In 1984 on a vacation to Acadia National Park in Maine, Alex decided that he’d finally propose The Art & Soul of Greensboro

on the summit of a mountaintop overlooking the Atlantic. Very dramatic. Very romantic. But he neglected to take into account that the day before he intended to ask for Liz’s hand was her birthday. After a campground birthday dinner of lobster and wine, Alex rolled over in his sleeping bag and turned out the flashlight. “A few seconds later, the flashlight was back on and in my face,” he says. “I said, ‘Please be patient. I promise this is all going to work out,’ and things just sort of went downhill from there.” The next day, “after hiking up to Saint Sauveur, 579 feet above the sea, I wined and dined her on Vienna sausages and Chianti,” he says. Though she stammered at first and accused him of getting the ring in the park’s gift shop, he finally convinced her he had planned it all, “and she did say, ‘Yes.’”


never been to a Hooters. Nor had Matt and Will’s grandmother, Betty Little. “Hi, I’m Jordan and it’s mother-in-law day,” our buoyant waitress tells Betty. “You get to eat free!” It’s a classic Alex event, engineered for maximum comic relief. All around us flat screens flicker with sports action. Orange shorts swish. Music pulses. Cleavage cleaves. “The boys love it,” says Betty. “They’re not left at home in front of a TV while life goes on.” The trip to Hooters is typical of the treks Alex plans week after week for the boys. Earlier he’d taken Will to Greensboro Day School for lunch with Gail Bernstein, assistant to the head of the school. Will feeds off the excitement in the lunchroom as students joke around, dipping French fries into their chili and generally being teenagers. “Kids are cool,” Will says, looking around him with a big smile. Coquettishly, Gail tells him they’d better not kiss in front of the students. “We’ll just put our kisses in the bank for later,” she tells him. Calling him “her smoking-hot boyfriend,” Gail reminds Will of a trip Alex organized for the twins to visit Liz’s Chi Omega sorority house in Chapel Hill. And another to a fundraising gala where the boys got decked out in tuxedos. “Will is the consummate gentleman,” Gail says. “He makes everyone around him feel good.” Will counters, “Thank you, Gail. I’ll try not to let my head get too big.” As they’re leaving the school, Will says to Gail, “I will bask in the glow of our date for the rest of the week.” At Hooters, Matt, stocky and totally keyed up, is rocking back and forth to the beat of “Baby Got Back.” Matt, who’s been diagnosed as autistic and also has some behaviorial issues for which he’s medicated, is impulsive and sometimes unrestrained. If you do something that bothers him, your middle name will suddenly start with an f. Outbursts are common and he’s easily bored, as in right now, even at Hooters. Alex comes over to massage his shoulders, engage him in conversation and wheel him around the room, showing him the sports memorabilia on the walls and the caps and December 2013

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T-shirts by the cash register as our table finishes its blazingly hot wings. “Few people would have the guts to take them out like this,” Betty says. As the half-dozen waitresses come over and pose around Matt and Will, the boys are grinning ear-to-ear.


Alex walks beside Matt, who’s taking his pet gorilla, Kiki, along on the ride. Will gets a lift on the way to Hooters, where Will (on the left) and Matt often enjoy photo opps.

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at home, Will has motored into the kitchen to report a stomach complication and is apologizing to Alex about being an inconvenience. Liz, Matt and Will all eat through feeding tubes inserted into their stomachs. Before you think, “How easy,” watch Alex James grind up medicine and vitamins, mix them into their formula, flush out the feeding tube with water, cleanse the tube and the area where the tube enters the body. The formula must be mixed correctly and administered slowly, with Will, Matt or Liz at just the right angle to prevent abdominal cramping, nausea, gas, diarrhea or aspiration — three to four times a day. “Will, you can’t do anything wrong,” Alex assures him. “You don’t control your stomach.” The level of treatment Liz and the boys receive is mind-boggling. Matt is on a ventilator after almost dying in August 2010. He requires half-hour-long treatments, in essence strapping him into a harness and shaking him to clear the fluid from his lungs three times a day. Recently, Will required the same treatment. “Will was worried about it, even though he’s seen Matt doing it for years,” Alex says. Alex made a game out of it, pointing out that it makes your voice all quakey. “Soon he was saying, ‘Hey-yay-yay dd-d-d-dad. This is,s,s, awesome,’ and we’ve been doing it every four hours. He’s just been having a ball,” Alex says. Alex is professionally trained to do just this sort of thing. It’s a job that found him instead of him finding it. The boys were diagnosed in 1993: “That was devastating, and we didn’t know what to do,” Alex says. “Both of us just kind of wanted to freeze everything right where it was.” The best advice he got was from one of his co-workers: “Always remember they’re still Matt and Will.” As both the boys’ and Liz’s conditions worsened, the couple realized someone would have to stay home full-time. “We were really worried about the money, but Liz had a higher paying job than I did,” he says. “It took us maybe a year to realize that I should take off and Liz should work as long as she could.” Alex discovered that he loved taking care of the boys: “The gift of being able to spend that much time with them was wonderful.” Pursuing various services for them, he discovered that there was actually a job that pretty much mirrored what he was doing — occupational therapist. After taking care of the boys for several years, Alex went to

Chapel Hill and first got a degree in OT and then a job at Gateway Education Center, which offers individualized education to the Triad’s most severely disabled children. “You get paid for playing with children,” Alex says. “It’s just amazing how there’s such a positive attitude there. No denial at all. And everybody just celebrates every little thing that happens. It might take months for a child to learn how to do something like sip from a cup, but you just kind of keep plugging away.” He also learned that when everybody is having fun, progress improves. “I tried to entertain the children with kind of an oddball approach. I learned that no matter how many things someone is struggling with, there’s a person in there. They can’t get out, but you can see it in their eyes when they’re enjoying what they’re doing.” For instance, he’d show up with pumpkins and power tools, which he’d operate but with a special switch that allowed the child to turn it on and off, similar to the switch Will and Matt use to make pimiento cheese. “Pumpkin guts would go flying everywhere and you’d have a big old mess, but everyone had a great time with it.” Working day in and day out with severely disabled children put into perspective his own family’s limitations. “The fact that Matt and Will can express their feelings to me is something I never take for granted,” he says. Although the Jameses have day nurses, night nurses and Joy Friends to help them seven days a week, Alex gets paid to be Will’s full-time caretaker under a Medicaid program designed to minimize the expensive and potentially impersonal institutionalization of severely disabled individuals. Matt qualifies for Medicaid reimbursement because he is at home on a respirator. It also helps that Liz is on full-time disability from her job, drawing about two-thirds of her salary. “The thing that makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable is being paid to take care of my own kid,” Alex says. “That’s kind of hard to get your mind around because I would do it anyway.” In fact, he did it for ten years before he got paid to do it. Alex says they’re so fortunate to be financially secure and not have to rely on donations. But without donations of services, food and, most of all, heaping helpings of love from Joy Friends, Alex says, the James gang would dissolve. “Love provides the energy that my family runs on,” he says. “Give greed, fear and the lust for power their due, but I believe love is the energy that fuels the entire universe. And our home is a lightning rod for love.” Now he’s cranked: “Love provided us with a wheelchairaccessible van — twice; love puts ladies in bathing suits into our whirlpool tub, sends a bartender in a silly costume to serve them and provides a guitar player to serenade them; I The Art & Soul of Greensboro

believe all that good stuff about love from Corinthians that’s read at most weddings because love creates little miracles around our house that I witness every day.” Matt is, at first, unapproachable. He’s large and with his wooly beard and gruff demeanor, he resembles the pet that’s always by his side, Kiki, a stuffed gorilla from the N.C. Zoo. It’s actually a chimpanzee — but don’t let Matt hear you call him that. If Matt likes you, Kiki will talk to you in a high-pitched, squeaky voice. And if you get into an argument with Matt, as Will once did, Kiki will come to Matt’s defense: “It was a stalemate, so Matt and Kiki decided to team up on Will and he started talking with Kiki until Will got frustrated and said, ‘Shut up. Both of you.’” As one of his nurses once said, “Matt will worm his way into your heart.” But what comes out of his mouth sometimes makes his grandmother blush. Both of the boys learned to curse at church camp, and it can be problematic in some social settings. Alex has confronted the problem by circumscribing a set number of allowable words, which the boys inventively use in combinations that are quite creative. “Psycho bitch” is a favorite. There was also a problem with the boys expressing their interest in women by referencing praiseworthy anatomical features the women might have — and very loudly. “Sarahyba,” Will exclaims one day as we pass a particularly shapely jogger. I look at Alex. “That’s code,” he explains. It’s short for Daniella Sarahyba, a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. It’s the boys way of saying, “What a babe!” The Art & Soul of Greensboro

And I realize when people refer to “the boys,” Alex ought to be included. Over the years, Alex James has worked as a janitor at Harvard Law School, shot hoops as a European basketball player, resigned from the shipping department at Lambeth Furniture, toiled as a mainframe salesman for IBM. And now Alex James has found — or has been given by a higher power — the most challenging (and sometimes the most rewarding job) he could imagine, making the people he loves more than any others in this world happy. Ask him why he’s dedicated his life to what many would find grueling and distateful, and he’ll tell you, “I believe our challenges aren’t nearly as important as how we respond to them, and I think our responses really do matter.” His mother-in-law, Betty Little, believes that all things happen for a reason: “I feel like he’s here — and they’re here — to set a model for people to emulate,” she says. “It helps people to be thankful instead of taking things for granted.” “We participate in love’s miracles daily,” Alex James says. “My faith is deep, but I really can’t articulate it very well. I can’t say that I really believe that everything that has happened to us is part of a plan with a capital ‘P.’ I simply see daily evidence that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves as individuals.” But it goes beyond that. It’s about learning acceptance and finding joy in the moment, and not constantly worrying about what is, was or will be: “I believe that everything will be all right,” he says, pausing. “And that, somehow, everything is all right.” OH December 2013

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The Dog who came for Christmas Seeing is never the same as believing.

Fiction by James Colasanti Jr.


he reflection of the Star of Bethlehem shining atop the big balsam fir tree sparkled from every corner of Jefferson Jackson James’ eyes. The artfully arranged multicolored lights, blinking on and off, lent a festive air to the Sacred Heart Parish rectory, where the boy lived with his Aunt Minnie. Outside — a recent snowfall and a bracing chill in the air ensured a white wintry holiday. To the 12-year-old, JJ to his friends, the warmth from the lights felt good against his cheeks. He sat underneath the branches as he arranged the presents in alphabetical order for efficient opening on Christmas morning, just five days away. The fuzzy velvet flocking and the raised surfaces on each tag tickled his fingers and made him giggle as he relished his role as resident gift-giver. He checked each package twice to be sure that everyone had a present. But he also felt in his heart that Santa would deliver even more surprises. JJ knew the gift that he wanted the most was not under the tree: not yet anyway. Still, he had high hopes. He had been hinting at every possible opportunity for the past month. He wanted a dog: one that he could care for and one to guard him and be his friend — a “Walter” dog. In the corner of his bed next to his pillow was his plush dog, Walter, a furry golden retriever. It was the last physical reminder of his parents and his most cherished possession. The dog had been with him since he was a baby, and every night he placed Walter by his side to accompany him in dreamland. JJ’s parents, who for some unknown reason had named him after two presidents, had died before his first birthday. His aunt had raised him to the best of her ability and was his legal guardian. Her job at the rectory had been her career for many years. Her second job at the Peacehaven Adult Center supplemented her income. This parttime position involved interacting with many wonderful older adults. Over the P.A. system, the familiar strains of an orchestral rendition of “O Holy Night” permeated the church. The manger scene was set in the center under the tree with each ceramic figurine in its proper place. JJ loved Christmas. It was a time to feel closer to those he loved. And, of course, everybody loved him. Christmas, more than any other time of the year, brought him true happiness. Now if Santa would only bring him a dog, everything would

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

be perfect. Father Joseph Anthony Michaels, the young parish priest, entered carrying two large shopping bags full of gifts. “Here, JJ, you can add these to the collection under the tree. They’re already tagged.” “Father JAM?” (the “pet” name bestowed upon him by his parishioners). “Yes, JJ?” “Do you think Santa will bring me a dog this year?” “You know, JJ, dogs are very expensive, not only to get, but to care for. You have to pay for shots, food and grooming. All of that takes money, and even with two jobs, your Aunt Minnie doesn’t make that much. Plus, you would probably need to get one that has already been trained, and those really don’t come cheap.” “But Father, since this is Christmas, I thought that maybe Santa could work a dog into his list for me.” “JJ,” Father JAM continued, “let me tell you about a secret: Santa’s secret. Sometimes at Christmas, there is an emptiness in the human heart. People are longing for something more, something deeper. People always have to be reminded about the true meaning of Christmas to help them find the something more they desire. Santa’s whole purpose is to remind people to have hope. That is Santa’s secret. And you, JJ, my young friend, need to have hope too. “Go find your Aunt Minnie. You need to get ready for school. The bus will be here in no time at all. So skedaddle!” JJ reached up for his stick. The white walking cane with its red tip was his link to the outside world, his safety net, his way around and his way to sense everything he could not see. He had been blind from birth. Today was a half day, his last day before Christmas break. Aunt Minnie handed JJ his snack sack and reminded him, “Remember, JJ, Mrs. McGuinness wants to see you after school. She told me she wants to talk to you about a Christmas gift, a very special gift, she said.” JJ hugged his aunt goodbye and began his trek to the bus stop, kicking up tufts of snow with his shoes as he walked with his stick out in front of him. Martha McGuinness, an 87-year-old widow, looked out the window at the icy cityscape below remembering how much she had enjoyed frolicking in the snow as a child. ”Well,” she thought, “that was a long time ago. Now, perhaps this year, it would happen, really happen. And she could help another child.” Her long silvery hair was pulled tightly into a bun, and she was wearing her favorite cashmere sweater. She had a reputation for being crochety, and she did nothing to dispel this. However, she was also called the “Miracle Lady” by a number of the residents of Peacehaven. She made things happen for people. Big things. She would light a candle at church and someone’s wish would come true. She was hoping to do the same thing again this very Christmas. The deafening silence in the room The Art & Soul of Greensboro

annoyed Martha. She didn’t like being alone: She liked being with people. And she especially liked being with dogs. She looked forward to the therapy dog sessions sponsored by the Bay Area Animal Rescue Program. It was her favorite time of the week. Her strong connection to the group made her think that she just might be able to make this Christmas turn out to be something special. She backed her wheelchair away from the window and closed the curtains behind her. Martha sat patiently waiting for her afternoon visitor. JJ arrived at Peacehaven promptly at 1:30 p.m. He made his way down the hall to Mrs. McGuinness’ room and knocked sharply three times. “Come in,” she replied. JJ entered the room, and Martha spoke to him from her perch near the window. “JJ, Father JAM told me that you have asked Santa for a dog. Do you think you are ready for one?” “Yes, Ma’am. I really am.” “You know, JJ, when I was your age, 12 — my goodness, that seems like such a very, very long time ago — I had a dog named Spinner. We called him Spinner because he would turn and turn and turn before lying down. He did this every single time. He was my companion and most of all, JJ, he was my friend, my best friend. My mother taught me that we never stop learning from the dog we grew up with because they are also our teachers. Spinner taught me humility and patience. He taught me to be kind to others. A dog loves you without judgment, with the selflessness of an open heart. “Remember too, JJ, a dog is God’s way of giving us a part of himself. It is his gift of true unconditional love in every sense of the word. That is exactly what a dog is. “I will put in a good word for you with Santa. Even better, I will light a candle for you at Mass this evening.” (And to herself Martha thought, “I will also help the process along by making a few calls.” She knew that especially at this time of year both God and Santa needed all the help they could get. And that is what she was here for: to lend a helping hand.) “You have a very Merry Christmas, JJ, and give my best wishes to your Aunt Minnie.” As he walked back to the rectory, JJ had a very good feeling that maybe this Christmas Santa would come through. He had hope; he really did. On Christmas Eve, JJ got ready for bed. He said his prayers, adding at the end, “Please Santa, please.” The Spirit of Christmas wove its magic as he slept. Sometime in the early morning hours, JJ heard noises. He crept down the back stairs and entered the parlor. He heard a rustling sound followed by a loud bark coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the Christmas tree. It came from Walter, a lost soul on four paws being transformed into a wagging bundle of joy. As JJ approached the tree he called to the dog, “Come closer and let me whisper in your ear.” The dog bounded toward him and licked his face. It was the lick of love straight from the dog’s heart. “Merry Christmas Walter, Merry Christmas!”JJ held the dog’s muzzle tightly in his trembling little hands and said, “Wow, Walter, I just wish I could see the happiness in your eyes — because I know you can see the happiness in mine!” And Walter barked again. OH A past president of the Animal Rescue & Foster Program and a lead clerk with Barnes & Noble Booksellers of Greensboro, James Colasanti Jr. has won the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Medallion three times. He can be reached at December 2013

O.Henry 71

The long and low split-foyer Modernist home is a combination of Japanese longhouse and California deck home. Greensboro landscape designer Greg Young helped the Mortensens to refresh the landscape by adding plants such as cotoneaster, Schip laurels, yucca, Japanese maple and spreading false yews to the once-dense curtain of bamboo that surrounded the house.

Lee, Loring and Skye Mortensen, along with their boxer Abby, enjoy a sunny afternoon on the deck that Loring re-engineered and expanded. The Bertoia patio furniture below came from Lee’s grandparents’ home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The Abstract sculpture is by Greensboro’s Jim Gallucci.

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Story of a House

Thoroughly Modern Mortensons

Restored and dressed in the style of the decade it was born, inspired by an iconic Greensboro designer and builder, the home of Lee and Loring Mortenson is a modern gem with graceful livability By Maria Johnson • Photographs by John Gessner


ee Mortenson was zooming down Friendly Avenue ten years ago when she noticed a dumpster in front of a modern home she’d long admired. A cloak of bamboo shrouded the home, but you still couldn’t miss the red front doors, which were bulls-eyed with an Asian medallion. Mortensen didn’t think of it again until she was chatting with Kit Rodenbough, who stocks her downtown vintage store, Design Archives Emporium, with finds from homes she is hired to sort through when owners depart, either for retirement homes or the great beyond. Rodenbough mentioned that she was working in a home on Friendly Avenue. “By any chance, it’s not the one with red doors, is it?” Mortensen asked. “Yes, it is,” said Rodenbough. The owner had just moved to assisted living, and the house would soon be up for sale. Mortensen’s antennae went up. She and husband Loring were living in a cottage in Westerwood, an early 20th century neighborhood between downtown and Lake Daniel, but they loved Modernist design. When the Friendly Avenue house went on the market, they were some of the first people through the red doors. Lee Mortensen’s heart started racing as she explored the 3,600-square-foot home, which fused the flavors of a Japanese

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

longhouse and a California deck home. “You don’t see this kind of architecture much in Greensboro, which is very traditional,” says the Bethesda, Maryland, native who came south to study business at Elon University. Loring grew up in New York and landed at Guilford College, where he studied English and photography. The couple bought the home shortly after Lee’s heart started racing, and they began learning the interesting history behind its construction. Greensboro builder John Hiatt had built the home for himself, his wife and two sons in 1962, after constructing another Greensboro home that bore the fingerprints of Greensboro’s premier mid-century Modernist architect, Edward Loewenstein. That Wright Avenue home belonged to UNCG professor and civil rights advocate Warren Ashby and his wife, Helen. Lowenstein and Helen had collaborated on plans for the home. After finishing the Wright Avenue home, Hiatt had the chops — and the right construction team — to build his own Modernist haven using many of Loewenstein’s hallmarks: long, horizontal lines; a passive solar layout with large south-facing windows that embraced the late afternoon sun and blurred the line between outdoors and indoors; recessed lighting; built-in storage; and ample use of natural materials such as brick, stone and wood. The result was so successful that the Hiatt-Mortensen home was included December 2013

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The Mortensens warmed up the home’s cool palette with touches of orange, eggplant and plum. Cork flooring and honey-colored furniture the keep the mood toasty.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

in the Lowenstein Legacy, an October symposium and tour of Modernist homes in Greensboro. The Mortensens treasure their home’s connection to Loewenstein and to Hiatt, who built many homes around Starmount Forest, but when they moved in, they wanted to imprint their own style while preserving the essential design. “It was a balancing act,” says Lee. Some of the changes were practical. The Mortensens replaced all of the home’s windows — which were cloudy with condensation because the argon seals between panes had failed. They stripped out electric baseboard heaters — the home had both gas and electric heating systems — and had new shoe molding milled to fill the gaps. They built a wooden fence around the backyard to contain their daughter, Skye, who was 2 when they moved in. In the galley kitchen, they created more room by moving cabinets and flipping the room’s orientation to east-west. They changed the countertops from turquoise laminate to muted green Silestone and brought in new appliances. They did, however, save some period pieces like the push-button control panel for the old General Electric range. Set into the cabinet below a smooth new cooktop, the push buttons are as much a conversation piece as the home’s NuTone intercom system. Baby boomers flash back at the sight of the built-in wall speakers, which are covered in nubby brown fabric with strands of metallic gold. The system doesn’t work, but Loring plans to fill the spaces behind the fabric with new wireless speakers. The couple love to entertain, especially people who live in other Modernist homes. “We have a Modernist posse,” says Loring, the public relations and communications officer at UNCG’s Weatherspoon Art Museum. December 2013

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The Mortensens bought their 60-inch round dining room table from a UNCG warehouse sale of surplus furnishings. Loring sanded, stained and painted it into shape. Lee found the vintage dining room chairs at a thrift store. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Major surgery in the kitchen changed the orientation of the former galley kitchen to east-west. The appliances, island and countertops are new. The globe lights are original.

The couple kept many of the home’s period details. Among them is a push-button control panel from the home’s old General Electric range. The panel is embedded in an original base cabinet. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

“We can all appreciate that we have something different,” says Lee, vice president of Downtown Greensboro Inc. To create better traffic flow around the kitchen, they removed a wooden tower that divided the kitchen and dining room, and they tore out a wall that separated the dining and living areas. The changes seem as natural to the home as the shoji screens that remain between the living area and the foyer. The Mortensens also kept the kitchen cabinets — dark-stained pine with flat, squared-edge doors — but Loring rearranged them. He took two cabinet boxes, turned them sideways, and rotated the doors to form the base of a kitchen island. In a similar move, he relocated another cabinet box to the wall above the dining room buffet and removed the cabinet doors to make display shelves for the family’s pottery collection, featuring the work of Greensboro potter L.T. Hoisington. The home is decorated with original local art throughout, and the Mortensens themselves have created many focal points. For example, the dining room buffet used to have doors with rattan fronts. The Mortensens replaced them with orange panels for more pop. Ditto with the orange sofa against a plum-colored living room wall. And with the burnt orange wall in the master bedroom. The Mortensens have warmed up the home’s palette in general, covering white interior walls with toasty colors and pulling up wall-to-wall carpet and linoleum to make way for cork floors throughout most of the home. Where carpet feels right, they’ve used self-adhesive carpet tiles by FLOR, which can be easily pulled up and replaced if they’re damaged or if the homeowners’ tastes change. For the Mortensens, their home is a hobby. They prowl flea markets, yard sales and salvage halls for the right pieces — which are almost always from the 1960s. They bought several items

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O.Henry 77

Shoji screens with translucent fiberglass panels can slide closed to separate the foyer from the living area. from the 1950s and 1970s before they understood that their home looked best dressed in furniture from the decade in which it was born. Take, for example, a pair of Milo Baughman tub chairs in the master bedroom. Covered with orange and pink paisley upholstery, the chairs were designed for Thayer Coggin Inc., a High Point furniture manufacturer. The Mortensens found the chairs at an estate sale in College Hill and paid considerably less than they would have for similar pieces on eBay. If they can’t find the right item at the right price, they’ll hold off. “We’re willing to wait it out to have something we love and cherish,” says Lee. They’re also willing to do it themselves. Witness the dining room table. The Mortensens wanted a 60-inch round table, but didn’t want to pay $6,000 retail, so they sniffed out candidates at a UNCG warehouse sale of surplus furniture. Loring painted over the laminate top, sanded and stained the wood band around the circumference, and spray-painted the base silver. Viola: Mid-20th century table a la early 21st century handyman. When they wanted more privacy on the Friendly Avenue side of the house, Loring built window inserts with translucent marinegrade canvas to pop into existing window frames. When they wanted a bigger deck to span the back of the house, Loring re-engineered the supports, replanked the deck with cedar boards, and installed new metal railing with posts connected by horizontal steel cable. When the couple renovated the basement, they bought four solid birch countertops from Ikea. Loring added bases to two slabs

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Many Greensboro teenagers learned to dance on the white oak parquet of the dance school that Mabel Hiatt once operated in the home’s basement. The double-sided fireplace separated the dance floor from a lounge where students cooled their heels. Furniture courtesy of Area Modern Home in Greensboro.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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A built-in stereo system once provided tunes for dance students who learned to shake a well-mannered leg in the Hiatts’ basement.

to make work tables. The other two countertops went into the downstairs kitchen, a holdover from the basement’s days as a dance studio. Through the 1970s and ’80s, Mabel Hiatt taught dozens of teenagers how to step through social events by practicing first on the white oak parquet in her basement. Students entered via a basement door, cooled their heels in a waiting area on one side of a two-faced fireplace, then took their turns under can lights covered with star-shaped cutouts. A built-in turntable flipped down from the wall. “We meet quite a few people who say, ‘I learned to dance in your home,’” says Lee. The Mortensens preserved the original dance floor, the star-flecked lights and the stereo flip-down. They did away with the terrarium beside the fireplace. The house settled and the glass cracked. The Mortensens keep firewood on one side of the space now. The other side features a flat-screen TV, and the waiting area has been transformed to a cozy den that looks out to the patio and vintage white Bertoia wire chairs from Lee’s grandparents’ summer home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The whole south side of the house is one big vista, with picture windows and sliding glass doors forming most of the wall. “It was all about the view,” Loring says of Loewenstein’s style of architecture. “It was about sitting and looking out the windows.” “The indoor-outdoor connection is so strong,” says Lee. Just ask the family’s boxer, Abby, who, when put outside, follows the family from room to room, leaving nose prints on windows all around the home. “She stalks us,” says Lee. Because of the abundant views, the Mortensens have put a lot of time into their yard. The first order of business was to tame the invasive bamboo that threatened to choke the home on all sides. They filled fourteen dump truck loads with canes and shredded more for mulch. Friends took canes

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December 2013

for fishing poles, tree houses and tomato stakes. What remains is a lush serpentine border. The Mortensens — with the help of garden designer Greg Young — have added variegated privet, redbuds, cotoneasters, crabapples, cryptomeria, abelia, Mary Nell hollies and false spreading yew. Loring disassembled a pergola in the backyard and recycled some of the wood into a grape arbor and side gate. A mason used the home’s pale brick — Hiatt stacked leftovers in the yard — to build a wall for the gate. The new gate wears the medallion that used to hang on the red front doors, and the top of the brick wall is adorned with custom, plasma-cut metal bands that Loring designed based on the unique concrete blocks that screen the carport from the street. The Mortensens know only a few places where the block was used: at Morehead Elementary School; at the D.H. Griffin Companies’ site off Interstate 40; and in a wall that no longer exists on Commerce Place downtown. Loring has scoured the Internet for references to the block with Tiki-style rhomboid holes, but no luck. “It must have been only a Greensboro, mid-century thing,” he says. Local sculptor Jim Gallucci designed and built the metal, circle-topped gate leading from the carport to the kitchen garden. The home’s once-famous red front doors now sport a shade that’s closer to the berries on the pyracantha shrub next to the carport, and the wood siding — which used to be dark — wears a coat of putty green. They also added a pea-gravel circular drive and concrete parking pad. They’re planning a planted berm for the area between the home and Friendly Avenue, which came twelve feet closer with the street’s widening a few years ago. Still, the home is noticeably hushed inside, a testament to the sparse use of windows on the street side. “It’s kind of Zen-like,” says Lee. “When we go away on vacation, we miss our home.” OH The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Loring Mortensen built canvas window inserts to provide privacy on the home’s street side. Some inserts are hinged so the Mortensens can peep out to see when visitors have arrived.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

The dance school’s former lounge has been transformed into a cozy TV room. The family dog, Abby, often cuddles with the pillow that honors her. December 2013 O.Henry 81

By Noah Salt

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” ― — Bob Hope

The Almanac Guy sure digs Christmas, everything about it — the food, the wacky decorations, the over-the-top-shopping. But it’s recently come to our notice that certain Grinchy members of this very magazine staff — who shall remain unnamed pending epiphanies of scale — do not share our passion for life’s most popular holiday, reserving particular absence of amity for good old St. Nick, aka Santa Claus. To paraphrase poet and sage Dr. Seuss, they hate Christmas, the whole Christmas season — don’t ask us why, no one quite knows the reason. In the spirit of the season, we hereby concede that Christmas is different for everyone. To many it’s a festive secular time of family gathering, feasting and gift-giving in the spirit of an old chap who travels the world in an aging sleigh and cheap red suit, delighting children of all ages, while to many others it’s a sacred religious moment memorializing the birth of a savior child. Whatever else is true, the traditions and symbols of Christmas are perhaps the oldest and best known in human society. Herewith, a brief summary. Much of Christmas tradition hails from pre-Christian pagan solstice rituals of bonfires and feasting, and decorating homes for the long, drab winter with forest greenery — hence the birth of wreaths and, eventually, the Christmas tree. The first proper Christmas carols date from Rome in 129 AD when a Roman bishop decreed that a carol called “Angel Hymn” should be sung at Christmas services. The first carols were merely 12th and 13th century ecclesiastical processionals. It wasn’t until the early 19th century — Victorian England, in fact — that English folk and church music blended with the old Norse tradition of wassailing — the act of traveling from house to house to sing songs that wished neighbors good health and cheer in exchange for small presents or food — caught on with a vengeance. Long before Madison Avenue gave us the jolly red image of Santa Claus for a Coca-Cola ad, St. Nicholas, the fourth century Turkish bishop famed for his miracles and generosity to believers who left coins in their empty shoes for him to give to the poor in exchange for blessings, is believed to have blended with Holland’s popular kindly Sinterklaas figure. Old Anglo-Norman Father Christmas, Pére Nöel, was originally mentioned as a living symbol of Christian kindness in a 15th century carol. Only after a lengthy and successful battle with puritan opponents of public holiday celebrations in the 17th century did Father Christmas become the wildly popular figure of gift-giving, providing the blueprint for modern Santa Claus. All we can say to any poor soul who would mock the kind old man in the bright red suit, wherever he comes from: When you stop believing in Santa Claus, you’ll just get bad neckties for Christmas. If nothing else, do remember the real poor and leave them a few coins in your empty shoes — or better yet, a $50 in the Salvation Army kettle.

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Our Favorite Winter Plant

Helleborus atrorubens, aka the “Christmas or Lenten Rose,” will add a touch of glamour and drama to any late-winter border. Happiest in partial or light shade and moist but well-drained soil, hellebores do not like to be moved once established. — from Latin for Gardeners by Lorraine Harrison

The Lazy Gardener’s Christmas List

More days off in 2014, better yet the four-day work week! No premature spring, bad for tender blooms A beautiful English plant spade French pruning shears A dog that finally quits digging where he shouldn’t A lemon tree of our own Fewer mosquitos Abundant rain/No drought A decent hammock to snooze in after work

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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O.Henry 83

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December 2013

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December 2013

Arts Calendar

Music & Art at CP Logan gallery

Greenhill Gallery’s Winter Show 12/




December 1–22

A WINTER’S TALE. A young boy disappears from • home and his best friend’s search to find him leads to

a frozen kingdom. Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen gets a new setting — Appalachia — with original music by Lauralynn Dossett. Times vary. Triad Stage, 232 South Elm Street, Greensboro. Info: (336) 272-0160 or

THE SHINING. Merry and bright are under• statements for Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights, one

December 1–January 15, 2014

CARD-CARRYING. Send Christmas greetings • to loved ones with Fall Into Me, this year’s illustration

for artist William Mangum’s Honor Card. Since 1988, Art


86 O.Henry

Performing arts

December 2013

sale of the cards ($5 each) goes toward the Greensboro Urban Ministry’s fight against homelessness. Available at various locations throughout the city, including William Mangum Fine Art Gallery, 2166 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro; Greensboro Urban Ministry, 305 East Lee Street, Greensboro. Info: (336) 553-2656 or

December 1–January 25, 2014

cases, quilts, dance regalia and various apparel made by 20th-century Lakota Artists. Museum of Anthropology, Wake Forest University, 1834 Wake Forest Road and Delta Arts Center, 2611 New Walkertown Road, Winston-Salem. Info: (336) 758-5282; (336) 722-2625 or;

of the Southeast’s Top 20 events. Tanglewood Park, 4061 Clemmons Road, Clemmons. Tickets: Cash or check only; (336) 703-6400 or Tanglewood/fol.

• •


QUILT TRIP. The Great Plains come to the Triad, • with Creating: Quilts and Crafts of the Lakota, which show-

December 1–January 1, 2014


National Lampoon at the Carolina Theatre 12/

December 1

CRAFTY. 11 a.m. It’s your last chance to stock up • on handmade gifts — whether jewelry, pottery, glass ornaments or dolls — at the Craftsmen’s Christmas

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Classic Art & Craft Festival. Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Special Events Center, 1921 West Lee Street, Greensboro. Tickets:

IN THE HOUSE. 1 p.m. Usher in the holiday • season by attending High Point Museum’s Open

House. With re-enactments, music, demonstrations and light refreshments, little wonder it’s become a tradition among local families for thirty years. High Point Museum, 1859 East Lexington Avenue, High Point. Info: (336) 885-1859 or

December 5–8

MOUSE-SKATE-TEERS. What could be more • magical than a wintry Magic Kingdom? Join Mickey

and Minnie, Lilo and Stitch, among fifty other beloved characters as they glide, spin and twirl in Disney on Ice: Let’s Celebrate! Performance times vary. Greensboro Coliseum Complex, 1921 West Lee Street, Greensboro. Info: (800) 745-3000 or or

Sports The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December Arts Calendar

Wreaths Across America

Mythbusters at the Coliseum 12/




December 5–22

ELF PRESERVATION. The trials of Crumpet, • the Macy’s department store elf, still induce laughs

in the stage adaptation of David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries. Times Vary. Triad Stage, Upstage Cabaret, 232 South Elm Street, Greensboro. Info: (336) 2720160 or

December 5

DIBS! 5:30 p.m. You don’t have to use sharp el• bows to acquire your desired objet d’art; simply show up

December 6

LIGHT SOME LIGHTS 6 p.m. Stroll through six • blocks of holiday lights in downtown as Greensboro celebrates the season with the lighting of the Community Tree in Center City Park to the tune of holiday singers — and you — singing right along with them. Info: (336) 274-4595 or

PRINE TIME. 8 p.m. The wit, wisdom and • poetry of singer/songwriter John Prine has inspired

the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Radiohead, as it will local audiences. War Memorial Auditorium, Greensboro Coliseum Complex, 1921 West Lee Street, Greensboro. Tickets: 800-745-3000 or or

roping and holiday greenery, plus an arts and crafts festival. Funds raised benefit tree plantings and Greensboro’s four public gardens. Greensboro Farmers’ Market, 501 Yanceyville Street, Greensboro. Info: (336) 373-2199 or

December 6–15

SHREK THE HALLS. Green sleeves — and skin • — abound as Community Theatre of Greensboro

••MIXED MEDIA. 7 p.m. Art and music blend as three musical acts — Kristy Jackson, Homeward Bound and Lowland Hum — bring some colorful tones to the CP Logan gallery. CP Logan Originals, Key:

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

1206 West Cornwallis Drive, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 282-5904.

at Greenhill for First Choice and buy a credit of $500, $1,000 or $2,500, which will be applied to a future purchase. Greenhill Gallery, 200 North Davie Street, Greensboro. Info: (336) 333-7460 or


GOING, GOING, GONE! 7 p.m. Get ready to do your bidding as local bachelors and bachelorettes will be on the auction block for a good cause: Adopt a Family, a holiday initiative of Peace Haven Home Care Services and Greensboro Urban Ministries. Dinner, jazz and comedy fill out the evening’s program. Churchill’s on Elm, 213 South Elm Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 965-1417.

GREEN SCENE 8 a.m. Greensboro Beautiful • Inc.’s Holiday Greenery Festival features wreaths,

HANDEL WITH CARE. 7 p.m. Hallelujah! The Greensboro Oratorio Singers gift to Greensboro is a free performance of Handel’s Messiah, with Jay Lambeth conducting. War Memorial Auditorium, Greensboro Coliseum Complex, 1921 West Lee Street, Greensboro. Info:

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker 12/

• • Art


Performing arts

presents everyone’s favorite ogre, his no-nonsense bride and wise-cracking donkey sidekick in Shrek the

• • Film


• • Fun


December 2013


O.Henry 87

December Arts Calendar Musical. Dates and times vary. Starr Theatre, 520 South Elm Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 333-7470 or

December 7

“Barefoot Blacksmith” and other crafty types and enjoy a 10 percent discount in the Museum Shop after the holiday parade. Greensboro Historical Museum, 130 Summit Avenue, Greensboro. (336) 373-2043 or

CITY SIDEWALKS. 10 a.m. High Point dresses up ALL ABOARD! 3 p.m. After the downtown • • in holiday style all day for the Uptowne Holiday Stoll, a parade head to the “station” at the Children’s Museum and board a train for the North Pole. Visits from Santa, hot cocoa and coffee and ice-skating fill the rest of the bill for Polar Express Day until 6 p.m. Children’s Museum, 220 North Church Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 574-2829 or

COLLECTION CONNECTION. 7 p.m. Meet • and greet the artists exhibiting in Greenhill’s Winter Show at Collector’s Choice while munching on tasty hors d’oeuvres and swilling cocktails. Oh, and don’t forget to buy some great art. Greenhill Gallery, 200 North Davie Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 3337460 or

FUN AND FLAMES. 6 p.m. Let 4,000 luminar• ies lead you down the garden path(s) for Candlefest.

With music and carolers, cider and hot chocolate, horse-drawn carriage rides and a visit from St. Nick, you’re sure to leave enlightened. Admission is free, but bring some canned goods for the Girl Scouts to distribute to Urban Ministries. Greensboro Arboretum, off West Market Street and Friendly Avenue, within Lindley Park, Greensboro. Info: (336) 373-2447.

Dickens Christmas. Inspect the decked halls in historic houses, shops and churches, or check out the crafts, kids’ activities, and performances by community groups and carolers. 9 North Main Street, from Ray to State Avenues, High Point. Info:

LOOK-SEE. Noon until 5 p.m. Check out artist • CP Logan’s latest canvases and potter Charlotte Munning’s Raku creations at an open studio. CP Logan Originals, 1206 West Cornwallis Drive, Greensboro. Info: (336) 282-5904.

December 7–8; 13–15

LEAPS AND SOUNDS. The Greensboro • Ballet brings the Land of Sweets to life in

Tchaikovsy’s The Nutcracker, with most performances featuring the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra. Times vary. Carolina Theatre, 310 South Green Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 333-2605 or

December 8–January 12, 2014

•LET IT SHOW! Take a gander at Greenhill’s Dover Square

POST-PARADE noon until 3 p.m. Watch the

annual Winter Show, exhibiting more than 500 handcrafted works in all media by 130 emerging and established artists from or connected to North Carolina. Greenhill Gallery, 200 North Davie Street, Greensboro. Info: (336) 333-7460 or

December 8

RIVER CITY. 5 p.m. Radio DJ meets club singer, • and both belt out Tony Award–winning tunes in

Memphis, part of the Triad Best of Broadway Series. War Memorial Auditorium, Greensboro Coliseum Complex, 1921 West Lee Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (800) 745-3000 or

December 9

INN-VITING. 7 p.m. Bing Crosby and Fred • Astaire sing and dance their way through Irving

Berlin’s captivating Holiday Inn, the 1942 musical that made the song “White Christmas” a classic. Carolina Theatre, 310 South Green Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 333-2605 or

December 9

TOOTHY. 7 p.m. She’s a little bit country; he’s a • little bit rock ’n’ roll, and they’re undoubtedly pop mu-

sic’s most enduring brother-sister act. Yup, it’s a Donnie & Marie Christmas. Greensboro Coliseum, 1921 West Lee Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (800) 745-3000 or;

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December Arts Calendar December 10

CRUSHIN’ PERCUSSION. 7 p.m. Caribbean-style vibes — and vibraphones — • fill the bill for Marimba Christmas. Bring a new, unwrapped toy for FOX8 Gifts for Kids program. Greensboro Cultural Center, 200 North Davie Street, Room 100, Greensboro. Info: (336) 373-2549.

ST. NICK FLICK. 7 p.m. What happens when an ordinary Joe (Tim Allen) • accidentally bumps off Santa and has to take his place? Find out by watching 1994’s The Santa Clause. Carolina Theatre, 310 South Green Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 333-2605 or

December 10–22

BAH HUMBUG! They’re all here: Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, • and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Charles Dickens’ A

Christmas Carol comes to life at the home of Triad Stage’s new partner, Hanesbrands Theatre, 209 North Spruce Street, Winston-Salem (times vary). Tickets: (336) 2720160 or

December 11, 17–18

CAPRA CORN. Bring some extra Kleenex as you watch George Bailey save • Bedford Falls — and Bedford Falls save George Bailey in Frank Capra’s 1946 weepie, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. 7 p.m. and 1 p.m. Carolina Theatre, 310 South Green Street, Greensboro. Info: (336) 333-2605 or

December 12

CUT TO THE CHASE. 7 p.m. What would the holidays be without light • displays, an oversized Christmas tree, annoying in-laws and snooty neighbors?

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Treasures Antiques Consignments

Chevy Chase as patriarch of the Griswold clan brings over-the-top antics to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Carolina Theatre, 310 South Green Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 333-2605 or

December 14

WAXING POETIC. 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Before you light a single candle, learn how • to make it for $1 at a Candle Dipping. Historical Park adjacent to High Point Museum,

1859 East Lexington Avenue, High Point. Info: (336) 885-1859 or

EVERGREEN SALUTE. 11 a.m. Honor those who made the ultimate sac• rifice for our country with Wreaths Across America, which will commemorate

Greensboro’s 1,100 fallen veterans. Forest Lawn Cemetary, 3901 Forest Lawn Drive (adjacent to Guilford Courthouse National Military Park), Greensboro. Info: www. wreathsacrossamerica.

LIQUID ASSETS. 4 p.m. What’ll it be? Wine? Beer? Coffee? Soda? Juice? For anyone • 21 or older, there will be no shortage of beverages, some local, some national, on tap at the Big Sip Expo, with preview session at 2 p.m. Greensboro Coliseum Pavilion. 1921 West Lee Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (800) 745-3000 or

STRING THEORY. 7 p.m. Thanks to the Burlington School, international • violin virtuoso Charlie Siem will take a — ahem — bow with accompanist Itamar

Golan. Whitley Auditorium, Elon University campus, Burlington. Tickets: (336) 395-8550, ext. 202, or

SUGAR SHACK. 1 p.m. You can become a — drumroll please — Ginger Baker • with the folks from Whole Foods by taking a cooking class on making gingerbread

houses. Children’s Museum, 220 North Church Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 574-2829 or

December 15

VOX POP. 3 p.m. The Greensboro Youth Chorus tunes up to the batons • of Anne Doyle and Nina Wolfe Hill. New, unwrapped toys for FOX8 Gifts for

Kids initiative are welcome. St. Pius X Catholic Church, 2200 North Elm Street, Greensboro. Info: (336) 373-2549.

IF MUSIC BE THE FOOD OF LOVE . 5 p.m. . . . then bring some canned • goods as admission to the Sealy/Fox8 Holiday Concert. Nate Beversluis conducts • • • ••• • • Key: Art Music/Concerts Fun History Sports The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Performing arts



December 2013

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Cookies and Cocoa OPEN HOUSE

Area Schools

Bring your children to meet our teachers and visit our PreK-4 classrooms. Please Join Us Sunday, January 12th 3:00-5:00pm Fry Hall We'll keep the cocoa warm! Canterbury School is Greensboro's only PreK-8 Episcopal day school. Financial assistance and an extended day program are available.

Prepare to be your best. 5400 Old Lake Jeannette Rd. 336.288.2007

Give the Gift of a Greensboro Day School Summer Camp! This holiday season, offer the children in your life a gi� that will provide them a chance to play, an opportunity for experien�al learning and growth, and memories they will cherish their en�re lives. To order a $150 Greensboro Day School week-long camp gi� cer�cate, contact Mary Dator at 336-288-8590, ext. 261, or e-mail

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Summer camp certificates must be ordered before 1/31/14 and redeemed during GDS Summer Camps 2014.

90 O.Henry

December 2013

O.Henry Magazine P.O. Box 58, Southern Pines, NC 28388

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, and the Summit Figure Skating Club and Santa Claus add to the festivities. Greensboro Coliseum,1921 West Lee Street, Greensboro. Info. 800-745-3000 or

December 16

BELIEVE! 7 p.m. What child doesn’t believe in • Santa Claus? A cynical New York tot, of course. Watch Kris Kringle convince her otherwise in the 1947 hit, Miracle on 34th Street, starring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood. Carolina Theatre, 310 South Green Street, Greensboro. Info: (336) 333-2605 or

p.m. and 7 p.m. Carolina Theatre, 310 South Green Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 333-2605 or

the Myths,” starring Discovery Channel’s Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. A blend of lab experiments, audience participation and stagecraft, the duo uses science to dispel popular myth-conceptions and urban legends. War Memorial Auditorium, Greensboro Coliseum Complex, 1921 West Lee Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (800) 745-3000 or;

Ellen entertain the troops in White Christmas, the 1954 spinoff of the ever-popular Irving Berlin song. 1

December 19

YOU’LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT. It tops most • everyone’s list of favorite holiday movies. A Christmas

Story (1983) recounts young Ralphie’s quest to acquire a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Only in 1940s America. 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Carolina Theatre, 310 South Green Street, Greensboro. Info: (336) 333-2605 or

by helping Mrs. Claus decorate cookies in the Edible Schoolyard Kitchen. Children’s Museum, 220 North Church Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 574-2829 or

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. It’s the story • line we never tire of: Clara meets prince and has

adventures in a fantasy world. But when the dancers defy gravity with leaps and pirouettes worthy of Olympians, it’s a whole new ballgame, or rather, Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker, 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Greensboro Coliseum, 1921 West Lee Street, Greenboro. Tickets: (800) 745-3000 or or

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IRONMAN. 1 p.m. Spreading chestnut tree or • no, you can still watch the village smithy make horse-

SWEET TREATS. 3:30 p.m. Become a Keebler • Elf-in-training and have an uncommonly good time

REALITY SHOW. 7:30 p.m. How do you •• tell fact from fiction? Catch “Mythbusters: Behind

O'Henry Mag Dec 2013 final.indd 2

December 28

December 20

December 18

SNOW BIZ. Vaudeville meets Vermont as Bing • Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera

December Arts Calendar

Organizing and Personal Assistant Services Alli McVann

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shoes and other iron artifacts in his forge. Historical Park adjacent to High Point Museum, 1859 East Lexington Avenue, High Point. Info: (336) 885-1859 or

December 31

ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK. Tunes from DJ • Captain Jim, glow-in-the-dark crafts, dancing, games and a countdown until the clock strikes midnight (in another time zone) comprise Noon Year’s Eve, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Children’s Museum, 220 North Church Street, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 574-2829 or

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH NOTES. 8 • p.m.–10 p.m. Bring a can o’ nonperishable kindness

for the Urban Ministry to John Denver’s Birthday Salute with the Greensboro Symphony. As a part of the Tanger Outlets Pops series, the concert, sponsored by Hutchinson Wealth, showcases the talents of Jim Curry who reprises Denver’s classics, such as “Sunshine” and “Annie’s Song” to the orchestral arrangements of Lee Holderidge. Westover Church, 505 Muirs Chapel Road, Greensboro. Tickets: (336) 335-5456 ext. 224 or OH

To add an event, email us at by the first of the month prior to the event.

• • Film


• • Fun



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92 O.Henry

December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro


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December 2013

O.Henry 93

Give the Gift of Relaxation . . .

J.H. Adams Inn and Hampton’s Restaurant the

Along with these fantastic gift items Handbags Scarves Jewelry Fragrances Gift Certificates

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Celebrate the Magic Inn Style! The Halls are Decked for Historic Tours, Uptowne Holiday Stroll, Live Seasonal Music Every Thursday, Half Price Wine Nights and so much more...


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December 2013

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Worth the Drive to High Point

Puttin’ on the Cheer

Make a gingerbread house. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Join carolers in singing a few holiday classics. Then go visit Santa, and tell him what you want for Christmas. High Point has a lot more than furniture to show off, especially during their fourth annual Uptowne High Point Holiday Stroll on December 7. And it’s blocks away from the showrooms downtown, in what’s known as uptown — a stretch of Main Street roughly between the public library and Chamber of Commerce. Fuel up first at any number of dining options, including Krispy Kreme, Kepley’s Bar-B-Q, Blue Rock Pizza & Tap or Alex’s House, a popular local diner. Also look for food trucks in the area that day, including King Creole and Truckin’ with Tipsy’z, which is known for its burgers. Or drop by the fundraising breakfast at St. Mary’s (108 West Farriss Avenue) from 8 until 11 a.m. The annual “Puttin’ on the Grits” breakfast benefits the Community Clinic of High Point, which serves those unable to afford insurance. About a dozen area chefs donate specialty breakfast dishes for the event, which usually draws about 500 people. Elizabeth Yocum, chairwoman of Uptowne High Point and Holiday Stroll coordinator, says all merchants, including a wine shop, an antique store and two jewelers, will be hosting open houses. “People can come and not spend a dime, or they can shop and stroll,” she says. She invites children of all ages to come to her Paper and Party Place for a gingerbread house decorating session. The library will also offer special children’s activities. The historic Briles House, built in 1907 by Lee and Bertie Briles, will be open for tours. Now home to the Junior League of High Point, it’s been

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totally renovated in recent years. Another historic structure, the J.H. Adams Inn, houses an art gallery and fine dining restaurant. That’s where to look for Santa. Performers from the N.C. Shakespeare Festival will spread even more holiday cheer by mingling among the strollers as characters from A Christmas Carol. They will also present small scenarios from the holiday tale. A horse-drawn carriage will carry passengers throughout Brantley Circle, near St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and Emerywood — High Point’s equivalent of Irving Park. Uptowne High Point Holiday Stroll, North Main Street (from Ray to State Avenues), High Point; 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., December 7. Info: (336) 884-3995 or — Tina Firesheets

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Saturday December 7, 10:00 until 4:00 at the J.H Adams Inn

1108 North Main Street, High Point The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

O.Henry 95


at old salem Experience authentic history, fresh-baked treats, unique holiday gifts, seasonal concerts and the holiday spirit.

november 1–december 31

November 30 – December 21 saturdays with st. nicholas – family activities and a visit with St. Nicholas December 14 salem christmas – A full day of hands-on activities and holiday fun! December 26–29, 31 and Jan 1 christmas week at old salem – enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season visit old salem or shop online for unique holiday gifts For a full list of events, classes & concerts, visit or call 336-721-735o

96 O.Henry Decembermuseums 2013 old salem & gardens, winston-salem, north carolina

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Visions of Sugarplums

Worth the Drive to Winston-Salem

It seems inconceivable today that criticisms such as “insipid,” “ponderous” and “confusing” characterized the 1892 premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker in St. Petersburg, Russia. Surely, the naysayers of the Belle Époque would be astounded to learn that the beloved two-act fantasy comprises about 40 percent of annual ticket revenues for ballet companies in the United States. For UNC-School of the Arts, the annual production of The Nutcracker has become an enduring holiday tradition among Triad audiences, with some families attending the ballet year after year. During the last two seasons, it broke attendance records, generating more than $200,000 for UNCSA scholarships each year. So what’s all the fuss? For one, UNCSA’s Nutcracker is the only one in the area accompanied by a live orchestra. That means you’ll hear the full force of Tchaikovsky’s rich score, from the martial-sounding horns heralding “March of the Wooden Soldiers” to the dainty “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy” to the lyrical “Waltz of the Flowers,” thanks to the student musicians filling the orchestra pit. Having students play instead of the Winston-Salem Symphony was part of a 2009 revamping of the old chestnut. Ethan Stiefel, dean of UNCSA’s school of dance back then and now director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, refreshed The Nutcracker’s choreography, abandoning the 40-year standard derived from the original steps

of the Russian Imperial Ballet from that unsuccessful 1892 premiere. The costume, design and lighting folk also updated their ends of the production, so that the result is a more wondrous, and at times, livelier and more humorous interpretation (keep an eye on the baby mice during the battle between the Mouse King’s armies and the gingerbread men). Delighting audiences and critics, Stiefel’s production returns this year with American Ballet Theatre and UNCSA alumna Gillian Murphy playing the Sugarplum Fairy. Look for Gonzalo Garcia, principal, New York City Ballet, in the role of the Cavalier Prince. Charles Barker, conductor of American Ballet Theatre, takes the baton, while Douglas Gawriljuk, former UNCSA faculty member, oversees the entire show. No doubt, attendance records will soar again. So go ahead and join the crowds at the Stevens Center downtown, and get lost in the inspiring story of Clara and her beloved nutcracker/ prince. Insipid? Never. Ponderous? Not on your life. Confusing? Hardly. The Nutcracker is a spectacle of the mysterious and the beautiful, and like Christmas, only comes once a year. Don’t miss it. Info: December 13–15 and December 19–22. Performance times vary. Stevens Center, 405 West Fourth Street, (336) 721-1945 or performances/nutcracker2013.htm. — Nancy Oakley

Marco Bicego Holiday Trunk Show Dec 12th & 13th 49 Miller Street next to Whole Foods Winston-Salem 723.4022 Monday-Friday 10-6 Saturday 10-5

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

O.Henry 97

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December 2013

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Alternative Christmas Sale December 1 - 22

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December 2013

O.Henry 99




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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

O.Henry 101

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

GreenScene TOMORROW: Fundraising Extravaganza Elsewhere Museum Saturday, September 28, 2013 Photographs by Lynn Donovan

Joe Rotondi, Cecelia Thompson, Lauren Jeffries, Margaret Winslow

Mary Bilotta, Bob & Sally Cone

Joe & Milchelle Soler

Invisible (Performance)

Jacob Fudge, Mallory Carl, Eric Ahlport

Nancy Doll, Kathy Manning John Davis, Julia Niles

Laurelyn Dossett, Ed Cone, Justin Catanoso Annalise Stalls, Aaron Gross, Chris Gelb

Erica Curry, Raven Hilferty, Mel Clendenin Brad Mason, Alex Chassanoff, Lora Smith, Andrea Tracey, Emily Grizzard, Teo Valdes

Becca Higgins, Naomi Onadein

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

O.Henry 103

JMR Sculptures

Open Mon - Fri 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

It’s Holiday Time!

CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS with a touch of Greece

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Come Visit the Gallery! Old Greensborough Gateway Center 620 South Elm Street, Suite 240 Greensboro, NC 27406 “Fragrance of Love”



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227 South Elm Street • 574.4496 Tues. - Thurs. 11am-6pm & Fri. - Sat. 11am-9pm Sun. 12am-4pm

“Greensboro’s Premier Greek Restaurant” 416 N Eugene St, Greensboro, NC 27401

MERIDITH MARTENS, artist Large Scale Paintings Custom Residential & Corporate Design 104 O.Henry

December 2013


Visit   @ The Art & Soul of Greensboro


Jerry & Jo Kennedy

Andrea Alemanni, Sam Angel, Bonnie Nolan

Barnyard Elegance Gala to Benefit Greensboro Symphony Guild’s 2013 Homes Tour The Barn at Summerfield Saturday, October 26, 2013 Photographs by Lynn Donovan

Stephen Hundgen, David Zimmerman, Dennis Hedgepath

Joyce Black-Staley, Sarah McClintock

Susie Snell, Pam Couch, Leigh Ann Safrit

James McClain, Connor Lucovski, Kelly Benemati, Alex Winnicki Bill Shore, Halen Moddasser, Jed & Gwyn Dunn, Bill & Meg Sternberg, Marsha & Jon Glazeman

Jerry Swartz, Cameron Messick, Elizabeth Phillips, Susan Swartz, Kevin Phillips, Betsy & Philip Craft Salem & Jay Metzger, Nadia Moffett, Mtume & Tara Ayers

Jeb & Molly Burns, Leanne & Todd Rosenbower

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Kenneth & Linda Baker

December 2013

O.Henry 105


Michael & Brie Reeder

Elements of Art – Fashion Show Revolution Mills Studios Friday, September 27, 2013 Photographs by Lynn Donovan

Michelle Mai, Tiana Corbett, Sydney Aiken, Anna Phahhpathoun, Kristen Crutchfield

Lauren Shaw, Donnae Fontaine, Gennifer Newsome Tim Strickland, Beverly Medley

Akilah Shaw, Chrissie Newsome, Sequoia Miller

Tanya Morris, Tina Morgan

v Xxxx

Emily Herrin, Bailey Parker, Stephan Murr

Marla Darden, Tasha Perry Charlie, Charlie E., Charnessa & Vanessa Hamlett

Alexandria Thompson, Marcus Ledbetter, T’Keyah Howard, Kenyetta Johnson

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December 2013

Tamisha Keith, Cheryl Pressley

Bochri Ramadani, Giovanni Ramadani, Dilave Ferko

The Art & Soul of Greensboro


Carl & Ellah Wilson

Men Can Cook Benefit for the Women’s Resource Center Saturday, October 19, 2013 Photographs by Lynn Donovan

Laura Lemons, Denise Hunsucker, Jamie Hatchell, Kelli Sugg

Sue & Gregg Schlaudecker

Jachelle Robertson, Jalyscia Williams, Brianna Wesley

Adam & Shannon Moore, Carlton Hunt, Samuel Moore, Sherry Hunt Jim, Aidan & Judiann Tobin

Lauren, Cam & Zach Matheny

Ross Harris, Robbie Perkins

Mitch Johnson, Kevin Scales, Chris Robin

Lee Whitley, Ashley Brooks, Dawn Chaney, Tim Brooks

Allen Broach, Bob Clarey, Brian Clarey, Jody Morphis

Boyd & Christen Wilson

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Roger Absher, Danny Frost, David Miner

December 2013

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Gloria Steinem

Women to Women Celebration Luncheon An Initiative of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro Monday, October 21, 2013 Photographs by Lynn Donovan

Deborah Schoenhoff, Ronda Szymanski Mary Dator, Anna Brannon

Kathy Frazier, Pat Cross, Jennifer Gulledge

Jennifer Riedlinge, May Toms, Melissa Malone Christine Chen, Susan Boyd, Yulonda J. Smith, Janet Ward Black, Summer Harpold, Nadia Shirm Moffett, Rhonda Holloway, Afi Johnson-Parris, Hannah Miller

Ernestine Taylor, Yolanda Leacraft, Sally S. Cone, Linda Carlisle, Susan Feit

Deb Harris Richardson, Rosalyn Womack, Jackie Nelson, Elaine H. Ernest, Lindy Garnette, Tracey Sparrow Hines, Kim Diop, Niki Black-Cheek, Robin Hartzman

Howard Arbuckle, Jarvis Harris

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December 2013

Morgan Horner, Robin Hager, Gloria Steinem, Walker Sanders, Linda Sloan, Sandra Hughes, Robbie Perkins, Terry Coombs

Sherry Dickstein, Caroline Maness, Yvonne Johnson, Megan Fair

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

State Street Art of Cloth Parsley & Sage Fenini • Comfy USA Winter Sun Chalet • Amma

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515 State Street Greensboro, NC 27405

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Irving Park

517 State Street Greensboro, NC 27405

206 Meadowbrook Terrace

Old Irving Park - overlooking 2 parks! This charming classic home has been updated and well maintained with hardwood floors on both levels and completely painted throughout. Updated baths, Plantation shutters, wooden blinds and wooden shutters. 2-car garage with office and half bath. A must see!

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Lake Jeanette

5207 Bodie Lane

Visit Rubenesque for Less Plus Size Consignment next door!

Great house, great condition and great location! Master bedroom on main level. High ceilings, lots of hardwoods, additional space can be finished off. Wired for security. Screened porch, fenced back yard.

Willoughby Park 3722 Durness Way

Wonderful home in family neighborhood. 5 Bedrooms, 2.5 Baths, high ceilings, fenced back yard. 2-car attached garage, Large open kitchen - den, Patio.

Friendly West

7 Ramsgate Court

Wonderful, spacious end unit at Friendly West in private location. 3 Bedrooms, 3 Baths. Hardwood floors, 9 foot ceilings, 2 fireplaces with gas logs, extended den with wet bar. Must see!

Xan Tisdale Kay Chesnutt 336-601-2337 336-202-9687

©2013 An independently operated subsidiary of HomeServices of America, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, and a franchisee of BHH Affiliates, LLC. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of HomeServices of America, Inc.® Equal Housing Opportunity.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2013

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December 2013

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The Art & Soul of Greensboro

The Accidental Astrologer

Christmas on the Wild Side Take a ho-ho-ho to lunch

By Astrid Stellanova Am I the only one who thinks it’s a crying shame people don’t get dressed up for Christmas like they used to? Love, love, love me some flashing Rudolph earrings — used to sell ’em by the gross at the Curl Up and Dye. I say, wear them red pantyhose, reindeer boxer shorts and atomic green Dockers. Give it up for Santa, Honey Chile, because he knows how to work a stretch band pant. Eat another cookie. Take a ho-ho-ho to lunch. Have some cheer, why don’t you?


Sagittarius (November 22–December 21) Honey, you’re on the sensitive side. You go to pieces when people throw surprise parties on your birthday. It ain’t that you’re unfriendly — you’re just Nervous Nellies and Nelsons. So, let me warn you. This month is a test, because nothing is quite going to plan. By the 17th, a full moon will shine a little light on your deepest self. Kind of like a reflection in the well — you may think you’re getting a look at Scab Head and Bloody Bones but it’s just you — don’t let it scare you. All them candles on the cake? Woo hoo — now that is scary. And if you plan on living forever, you are going to need a bigger cake.


Capricorn (December 22–January 19) Look, Grandpa Hornblower says if everything is coming your way, you might want to change lanes. I’m thinking you got two opportunities to make a big impression — coming and going. A quintile on December 9th is going to make you irresistible to nearly everybody. Even Nearly Everybody will be smitten with you by the 10th. That’s something, at least. Hold onto that thought. This may not be your best Christmas of all time, but it will be mellow.


Aquarius (January 20–February 18) You may not have been soaring with the eagles lately, but you are beloved among the weasels. You may be asking what hurts so much. It’s called your conscience. Usually, you don’t notice when them other parts are feeling so durned good. By the 14th, you get a chance to redeem yourself, and by the 25th you are definitely in the center of a transformational situation. You can break with the past, and if you find the courage to do that, the stars align by New Year’s Eve for a radically new you to bust on out. Can you? Will you?


Pisces (February 19–March 20) Hellooo — speed bump ahead. You didn’t sign on for the pay-off from hard work, when goofing off seems to pay such good dividends. Until now. This is the perfect time to put on your big girl or big boy pants. Some harmonious shifts, an especially productive time in the stars beginning with the 21st both mean you enter into an ambitious time of life. (Ambition is a broad term, Sugar.) But don’t get too big for your britches, ’cause like Mama always told us, that good conscience usually means an awful bad memory.


Aries (March 21–April 19) You are just one big old walking and talking idea, aren’t you? When you think you might just be a team of one, you could be right. A full moon on December 17 will leave everybody around you convinced that you may have a whole mess of good ideas, but don’t have the good sense to be lazy. And maybe just take yourself a little walk down the straight and narrow and channel some of that fire sign energy. Beau says that he may not always know how to fix the brakes, but he sure does know how to honk a horn.


Taurus (April 20–May 20) Watching a Taurus around the holidays is a lot of fun. You get excited about all the good food, parties and good times, then get all pissed off at the price tag. This month is going to be new and different. Open the mailbox. Some surprises there, for sure. Open your wallet, too. The 12th is when a new Jupiter-Saturn trine is going to change things up by New Year’s. Duckies and daisies by January 2.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro


Gemini (May 21–June 20) Woo hoo! Whoever said detox can’t be fun has never heard me give a talk at an AA meeting. I’m normally kind of shy and quiet — typical Gemini — until I get an audience (or a drink). Soul searching might be a new activity for you, though. This month, I am here to tell you that you have got new tack and new saddle and on the 15th, you’ll be sitting high on the hoss. But lemme warn you: Somebody is going to be a burr under that saddle come the 26th. You may be feeling generous, but hold back something, Cool Hand. You might just need it.


Cancer (June 21–July 22) If you had to pick between being a bossy boots and being a wimp, what would you choose? Okaaaay: nobody but a Cancer would have to ponder that this long. If changing course means being bossy, do it. Sort of like them duck hunting nuts on TV, somebody’s got to run the duck blind if you are going to hunt. Come the 12th, you have got a lot of ambitions synching up with a trine that means it’s time to revive a dream you hatched back last summer. There’s power, and there’s play, but this is a power play you ought not to miss.


Leo (July 23–August 22) You are making a joyful noise all right, clear through till January as your star sign traipses straight through the too-much-fun-and-games conjunction. OK, that’s right out of Grandpa Hornblower’s mouth, but he’s right at least once a millennia. You can be spiteful or you can be sweet. You can be naughty or you can be nice. But you can’t be all those things at once, or you are going to find yourself with a lump of coal and cold comfort. On the other hand, if you were ever going to have to deliver a difficult message to someone who matters, this month would be the time. Your powers are peaking.


Virgo (August 23–September 22) Road out ahead. Take a U-turn now before you hit the shoulder or do a Clint Eastwood. You’re like an enigma wrapped in a moon pie. Sticky in the center, and a little bit too much to swallow. Here’s what I see in the stars: You have been playing in the sandbox with somebody who could lead you right down the path to destruction. But it feels so right you want to be wrong. And if I’m wrong about this, I owe you a free hair care product.


Libra (September 23-October 22) Oh. No. You. Didn’t. It’s like somebody injected you with truth serum. That might be useful by the end of the month. But until then, if somebody, say, your boss, wants you to give it to them straight, do not take that seriously. Save all that honesty for the bedroom, but not the break room. Your emotions are going to be wide open this Christmas. Find a hobby. Get a dog. If all else fails, get a new hairdo. Get rid of that emotion without the verbal diarrhea. Zip it, baby.


Scorpio (October 23–November 21) You’re stuck in a parallel universe. Don’t matter what evidence to the contrary, you swear you’re different from everybody else and so are your problems. Kind of like my friend Leonora who thought aliens took all her stuff and replaced it with things that looked almost exactly the same. Sometimes, you just need a good shoulder to drink on, my little Scorpio. You got to choose. Either your face is your best asset, or, well, your backside is. If you want a cheap makeover this holiday, try smiling. Or get that tattoo removed from your left cheek. OH For years, Astrid Stellanova owned and operated Curl Up and Dye Beauty Salon in the boondocks of North Carolina until arthritic fingers and her popular astrological readings provoked a new career path.

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O.Henry Ending

Light in the Darkness By Maggie Dodson

The evening always

begins with headlights suddenly cutting through the winter night and a flurry of people coming up the driveway, traipsing through fallen leaves and pine needles as they once did in snowy blizzards, bearing bottles of wine and homemade cookies and instruments or props, making their way out of the longest night of the year to our front door, where I am ready to greet them at the very first knock.

More often than not, the first arrivals are dear old friends of our family, people who have attended our annual solstice party since before my birth 24 years ago. Some come early to help with last minute preparations, the delicious stews and the homemade pies, or to uncork the champagne or just to catch up before the performances begin. I’ve greeted them as far back as I can remember, taking their unwound scarves and coats, restraining the eager dogs, exchanging kisses and hugs. There are always new faces, especially now that the party has shifted 800 miles south to North Carolina from the snowy Maine hilltop where it began. Boots are cast off, gloves tucked in coat pockets, warm hands welcome cold ones, and soon laughter and robust conversation fill every corner of the house. There are no strangers tonight. No doorway is empty. In ancient times, the winter solstice was seen as a distinctive moment during the yearly cycle of the seasons — a relief, a final feast, a celebration of life before winter set in. With a fresh supply of meat, vegetables and fermented wine and beer, people built bonfires and celebrated all night long, rejoicing in one more fete before the dark winter months brought want and uncertainty. Thousands of years later, solstice celebrations are still taking place. Ours began as a small gathering of friends from the church reading poems and grew into a full-fledged evening of performances, a night to remember, the highlight of my father’s Christmas season. In the dining room, as guests circle the table noshing on cheese and eating stews, performance numbers are drawn and my father rings a fork against his wine glass, welcoming our guests and explaining the tradition of a Dickens Fezziwig: “You are here, metaphorically speaking, to sing for your supper — offer a song, a dance, a poem or a joke to help lift the darkness. It’s entirely up to you, what you choose to do. We welcome you to our home . . . ” Growing up with this lovely tradition, I have been fortunate to witness, among

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December 2013

other things, impressive Irish fiddlers, daring fire jugglers, original blue limerick reciters, Met opera singers, drum solos, skits of all sorts, traditional Russian dancing, pantomimes, word games, and much more, seemingly more elaborate as the years unfold. Fun as these are, my favorite performances belong to the storytellers. With their numbers called and drinks refreshed, they make their way to the front of the room, where they clear wintry throats and begin their tales, hushing the room. “This is a true story: I once got a kiss from Grace Kelly.” “My first car was a 1981 Ford Mustang; I liked to call her Susie.” Pouring out, evoking tears and laughter, these stories have the momentary power to enthrall and bewitch, to hold the rapt attention of everyone and make us briefly one human family. The subject and content vary — stories of life, death, sex, stardom, of sadness and of glory, of heartaches and lost loves, even golf games gone laughably wrong. Watching someone tell a story from the heart is downright therapeutic — an act of opening the soul that rinses ours clean, inspiring us to let our own guards down, to show our cards, play for laughs, get personal with friends and strangers who won’t be by evening’s end. As a child my favorite spot during the night was the hearth by the fire, feeling the heat as someone played “Jingle Bells” on the accordion, read Robert Frost, recited naughty limericks or told an amazing little tale. The heat from the fire would seep through the back of my dress, warming my skin, invariably making me drowsy. But watching the evening unfold this way, I felt calm and moved by what was happening around me, true peace and good will on Earth. My father always likes to say this is his Christmas, and I understand what he means. Years have passed, and though I am no longer a child, I still feel a sense of wonder watching this community of friends come together in the name of pressing back the darkness and singing for one’s supper. Last year, my brother and I took over the hosting duties from our father, who seemed happy to just blend into the crowd. A torch was passed, though little else has changed. For one thing, it always seems to end too soon, as abruptly as it begins, with a final nip of something and bite of caramel cake and kisses goodnight as the scarves are rewrapped and hugs exchanged along with “Merry Christmas!” on the cold night air. Some guests we will not see for another year, others first thing tomorrow. And somehow, that seems perfect. Much like those who’ve celebrated the winter solstice before us, we know in our hearts there will surely be another spring, a summer, a fall and yes, another winter where we will again have the chance to feel the warmth of these rare moments of light and fellowship on the longest night of the year. OH Maggie Dodson lives in New York City and is the daughter of editor Jim Dodson. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Illustration by Harry Blair

At our winter Solstice Party, joy comes out of the night

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