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Peace on earth and goodwill to all. Š2016 BHH Affiliates, LLC. 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.Ž Equal Housing Opportunity.

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December 2016

DEPARTMENTS 17 Simple Life By Jim Dodson


20 Short Stories 23 O.Harry By Harry Blair

63 The Gray and The Brown Poetry by Terri Kirby Erickson

64 The Eternal Child Within By Nancy Oakley

25 Life’s Funny By Maria Johnson 29 Omnivorous Reader By D.G. Martin 33 Scuppernong Bookshelf 37 Papadaddy By Clyde Edgerton 39 Pleasures of Life By Grant Britt By Jim Clark

49 Food For Thought

By Annie Ferguson

The spirit of Christmas is alive and well at an aptly named shelter for homeless expectant mothers

How the spirit(s) of the hippest holiday in memory were dampened by a state court system determined to play Ebenezer Scrooge

By Serena Kenyon Brown

51 Vine Wisdom By Robyn James

78 Out of the Shadow of Shadowlawn By Cynthia Adams

52 Threads

By Waynette Goodson

55 True South

For the Culler family, home is truly where the heart is

By Susan Kelly

57 Birdwatch

90 Botanicus

By Susan Campbell

59 Wandering Billy By Billy Eye

96 Arts Calendar 121 GreenScene 127 Accidental Astrologer 128 O.Henry Ending

72 Room at the Inn

74 White Christmas, Dry Christmas By Billy Ingram

43 Gate City Journal

By Astrid Stellanova

The ubiquitous, serendipitous life and art of Chip Holton

By Ross Howell, Jr. How North Carolina became the fertile crescent of the Fraser fir

95 December Almanac

By Ash Alder The meaning if mistletoe and paper whites, how to befriend the year’s darkest night

By Amy Lyon

Cover illustration by Chip Holton

8 O.Henry December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

2O17 Here’s looking at you!

Thanks for all your support and encouragement during 2016. Here’s wishing you and yours a spectacular 2017!

- Becky, Marti, Valerie, George and Gigi

Art for Eyes | Eye for Arts Fine Eyewear, Artwork and Jewelry 327 South Elm | Greensboro 336.274.1278 | Becky Causey, Licensed Optician Find us on Facebook


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

november 8–january 1 Beginning November 18 christmas by candlelight guided tours – with music, games, food, and drink November 26 – December 17 saturdays with st. nicholas – family activities and a visit with St. Nicholas December 10 salem christmas – A full day of hands-on activities and holiday fun! December 21 a christmas evening in old salem – a family friendly self-guided evening of Christmas traditions by candlelight December 27 – January 1 christmas week at old salem – Enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday visit old salem or shop online for unique holiday gifts For a full list of events, classes, concerts, and hotel packages, visit or call 336-721-735o

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Volume 6, No. 12 “I have a fancy that every city has a voice.” 336.617.0090 1848 Banking Street, Greensboro, NC 27408 Jim Dodson, Editor • Andie Stuart Rose, Art Director • Nancy Oakley, Senior Editor • Lauren Coffey, Graphic Designer Alyssa Rocherolle, Graphic Designer CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Cynthia Adams, Harry Blair, Maria Johnson CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Lynn Donovan, Amy Freeman, Sam Froelich CONTRIBUTORS Ash Alder, Grant Britt, Serena Kenyon Brown Susan Campbell, Jim Clark, Clyde Edgerton, Terri Kirby Erickson, Annie Ferguson, Waynette Goodson Ross Howell Jr., Billy Ingram, Susan Kelly, Sara King, Amy Lyon, Meridith Martens, D.G. Martin, Ogi Overman, Astrid Stellanova EDITOR AT LARGE David Claude Bailey


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12 O.Henry December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

14 O.Henry December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

The Best Thing about Friends Homes is My Neighbor! Clay Fogleman

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“We had mutual friends but didn’t know it until we met at Friends Homes. Now, we get together and laugh all the time!” - Margaret McClellan

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7/12/16 7:57 PM

Simple Life

The Great New Year’s Dirt Clod War

By Jim Dodson

This was the year


my dad’s rural relatives, several distant aunts and uncles, a Bible-quoting grandmother and five girl cousins from the country came to our house between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I barely knew them. I was almost 13, my brother Dickie was 15. We were informed by our mom in no uncertain terms that we had to be good hosts and proper young gentlemen for the duration of their visit. She had that look in her eye that said she meant business.

Five girl cousins in one house, if only for a couple days during an otherwise unblemished holiday week, is a serious challenge to the mental stability and character formation of any boy approaching teenagehood. Dickie at least had a Life Scout project to work on, which took him out of the house most of the week. I wasn’t so lucky. It was 1965. America was still buzzing about the Beatles. I was smitten with George Harrison and taking Wednesday afternoon guitar lessons at Harvey West Music downtown. I tried sticking to my bedroom to play along with “Rubber Soul” but the oldest girl cousin kept coming in without knocking and sitting cross-legged on the floor just to stare at me. It was unnerving. My mother said she “just really likes you, it won’t kill you to be nice to her.” Her name was Cindy. She was about my age — the oldest girl cousin — but she scarcely spoke, just sat and stared at me with her huge round eyes as I fumbled my way through “In My Life.” The other country girl cousins, meanwhile, occupied my tree house and turned it into a teahouse for their dolls. They played board games and poured imaginary tea. I came home from my Wednesday afternoon guitar lesson The Art & Soul of Greensboro

and found them there acting like my tree house was Buckingham Palace and they were visiting the Queen. I wondered how I could survive the week. By Saturday morning I had to get out of the house, so I grabbed my baseball glove and bat and prepared to head for the park to play roll-thebat with my buddies Bobby, Chris and Brad. I hoped Della Marie Hockaday might be there, too. I’d just given her a genuine imitation sapphire dimestore ring that meant we were kind of an unofficial thing. My friends and I played roll-the-bat most Saturday mornings, but the country cousins weren’t leaving until later that afternoon. “Listen,” said my mom, “maybe you should take the girls to the park with you. They’re a little bored. They might like to play baseball with you guys.” I wondered if my mother had lost her mind from having all those rural uncles and aunts and a Bible-quoting grandmother under the same roof. She clearly wanted them out from underfoot while she prepared the big lunch that would send them all home. “Come on, sweetie,” she said. “Do this and I’ll make you a chocolate pie and you can stay up and watch ‘Bonanza’ tomorrow night.” Sunday night was a school night and her chocolate pie was the ultimate bribe. We made the deal. As agreed, I led the girl cousins and their dolls to the park, hoping with every ounce of my being that Della Marie Hockaday wouldn’t be there to witness my complete humiliation. The park was across the creek from a new housing development where the earth had been churned up into mounds of fresh, angry red clay. Some other kids from another part of the neighborhood were over there messing around one of the new houses. I recognized Randy Fulp. He was the spawn of the devil, the meanest kid at my junior high school, always trying to intimidate younger kids. The school we attended was a tough school full of scrappy white mill kids and a large number of black kids. This was years before public schools in North Carolina officially desegregated. You learned to survive by keeping your mouth shut and avoiding trouble. Fortunately, I played JV football that year December 2016 O.Henry 17

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18 O.Henry December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Simple Life

for the Jackson Junior High Trojans and earned enough street cred so that Randy Fulp wouldn’t mess with me. I had a couple of oversized teammates who would happily have pounded him into the red clay of South Greensboro. Not long after the girl cousins found spots on the hill to watch and my buddies and I began playing roll-the-bat, a large red dirt clod landed at my feet as I was preparing to hit a ball. I kicked it aside and looked across the creek, where Randy Fulp was grinning like a jackass with his friends. He threw another dirt clod that I had to step out of the way to avoid being hit. There is almost nothing as deadly as a dirt clod made from authentic sticky red clay earth from the upper Piedmont region of North Carolina. It can blind, maim or simply wound for life. Naturally, I picked up the dirt clod and threw it back at Randy Fulp. I missed. He laughed. All hell broke loose. Suddenly dirt clods were raining down on us and we were throwing them back. I turned to see the girl cousins and their dolls fleeing the scene of mayhem. All but one, that is. Cindy was standing beside me in the creek bed, grinning as she formed hard clay clods with her bare hands. She turned and winged one with stunning accuracy at our attackers. It splattered on the windshield of a bulldozer where they were crouching. They scattered like frightened birds. Cindy had an unbelievable arm, far more accurate than any of the boys in the fight. Her finest moment came when she caught Randy Fulp with a fireball to his throwing arm and he let out a yelp, turned and led the retreat around the corner of the unfinished house. By the time we climbed out of the creek, both of us were soaking wet and streaked with red clay mud. Even more amazing, everyone else had vanished, including my friends. Cindy and I walked home together. I wasn’t surprised to learn that she played softball on her junior high school softball team back home. She was also her class president. My mom was so put out at me, however, she made me strip down to my orange-red underwear before she would let me back into the house. Cindy’s dress was equally filthy, but she got to go inside and change. The Great New Year’s Dirt Clod War was the topic of lunch that day and many years thereafter. Cindy and I sat together and watched the Rose Bowl on TV. I almost hated to see the country girl cousins — one at least — go home. More than a decade passed before I saw Cindy again. We met at the last family reunion I attended before heading off to college. She was going to N.C. State hoping to become a small animal vet, but not planning to play softball. She had a boyfriend and was much prettier than I recalled. At one point she asked me if I remembered the New Year’s Day when we got into a dirt clod fight with some boys across the creek, getting so filthy my mother made me strip off before I could come into the house. “Yes, I do,” I replied. “That scarred me for life. Worse than any dirt clod.” She laughed. “It was kind of unfair. I was dirtier than you were. But wasn’t that fun?” I heard from Cindy a few years ago. She was a new grandmother living in Indiana. She’d read a book I’d written about taking my young daughter and aging golden retriever on a 6,000-mile cross-country fly-fishing and camping trip across America one summer. The book had just been made into a feature film. She asked me to autograph her copy of the book. She said Faithful Travelers was her favorite read. I happily signed her book and sent it back, thanking her for saving my skin during the Great New Year’s Dirt Clod War. OH


Art of the Bloom Join us January 5-8, 2017, as Blockade Runner Beach Resort hosts this first annual event, welcoming artists, decorators, garden clubs and educators from around the region. Photo courtesy of Joshua McClure

Contact editor Jim Dodson at The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2016 O.Henry 19

Short Stories

Counting Crows . . .

Talent Show

You can thank Nancy Guttman for having a good eye and the good sense to recognize that the breadth and depth of artistic talent in Greensboro’s Jewish community deserved more public attention. Hence, Artists in Our Midst on December 10th at Temple Emanuel (1129 Jefferson Road). From 7 to 10 p.m. you can enjoy dessert and beverages to the tinkling strains of a jazz piano (and moms and dads: a babysitter will watch your little ones, gratis), while you feast your eyes on works rendered in clay, oils, glass, fiber and more. They are the creationas of such prominent figures as Jay Rothberg, Gary Fisher, Noe Katz, Laura Pollak and Alexis Lavine and Beatrice Shaw. You can take any of it with you, if you wish; the works are available for purchase. Don’t think of your spree as an indulgence as much as vital support for local artists. Info: (336) 292-5716 or templeemanuelartistsinourmidst.

The Greensboro Review Turns 50

In 1965 the UNCG English Department started its M.F.A. Writing Program, which was greeted with scorn, recalls Fred Chappell, one of the founders: “How many Pulitzers have your little crew picked up so far? . . . Hemingway would never have taken an M.F.A. degree.” A year later the students wanted a journal in which to publish their work, and The Greensboro Review was born. In addition to discovering generations of new writers, the journal has produced some of the most talented student editors around: Claudia Emerson won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and this year Greensboro’s own Kelly Link was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. A half-century after its humble beginnings, when Review editor Jim Clark is asked how many Pulitzers his crew has won, he answers, “Only one . . . but we’re just getting started.” Copies of the 50th Anniversary Issue are available at Scuppernong Books (304 South Elm Street).

20 O.Henry December 2016

. . . and cardinals, jays, nuthatches and all manner of winged creatures. Be a part of the longest-running citizen science survey in the world: The Audubon Christmas Bird Count, which er, took flight across North America on Christmas Day of 1900. Established to assess declining bird populations, the annual count, which takes place between mid-December and early January, serves as a kind of census for birds. The Piedmont Bird Club will coordinate the bird count for Guilford County on December 17th. So don warm gear and bring a pair of binoculars to assure that our fine-feathered friends won’t fly away. Info:


On December 17th at the Terrace of the Greensboro Coliseum, be a part of the Greatest Gingeration by competing in or admiring the confectionary constructions at the Panera Bread Gingerbread House Competition. If you’re not busy raising the roof with your teammates (each team consisting of up to six people, ages 12 and up) schmooze with Santa, nibble on cookies with cocoa or punch, mug for the photo booth camera, enjoy crafts music until the judging begins. Proceeds from spectator admission ($10 at the door) and registration fees benefit and critical breast cancer research. To register by 6 p.m. December 16th: (336) 286-6620 or

Moments of Clara-tea

Make a dream come true for your child while helping out a good cause by having Tea With Clara, the annual fundraiser for Greensboro Ballet at Carolina Theatre (310 South Greene Street) on December 17th and 18th In addition to sipping on a nice cuppa and munching on sweets, you’ll get to meet the heroine of The Nutcracker, learn the Lullaby Dance, meet other members of the cast and take home a box of treats. And don’t forget your camera! This is one occasion worthy of a photo opp. Reserve early. Tickets: (336) 333-2506 or The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Fa-la-la-la Folly

Meaning, Körners’ Folly, one of three destinations at A Kernersville Yuletide, a self-guided tour of downKernersville Moravin Church town K’ville on December 10th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wander through the quaint Victorian manse at 413 South Main Street (admission is $10 for adults, $6 for children ages 8 to 18), and marvel at its unusual rooms and halls bedecked with garlands and Christmas trees. At the Kernersville Moravian Church down the street (No. 504), you’ll learn all about tradecrafts such as candle Körner’s making, tinsmithing, basket weaving Folly and quilting — to the accompaniment Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden of live organ music — and don’t forget to grab some sugarcake while you’re there. Then wind down with a cup of hot cider at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden Gift Shop (215 South Main) and find a sprig of this or a pot of that for the gardeners on your Christmas list. Info:

Auld Lang Syne

Bid Old Man 2016 farewell and greet Baby 2017 with some sweet sounds at a New Year’s celebration, courtesy of the O.Henry Hotel — with no cover charge. In the Social Lobby of the O.Henry Hotel (624 Green Valley Road) you’ll have your choice of two performances: Early birds who want to celebrate in time to go home and slip into their jammies can hear Dave Fox and Jessica Mashburn from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Night Owls can come out for Randy Craven and Sheila Duell from 9:30 p.m. to midnight. Reserve dinner at the Green Valley Grill — or stay for brunch on January 1. Info: (336) 8542000 or

Lunch and Listen

What a waste of a lunch hour! Holiday shopping amid the frenzied throngs, standing in line to mail packages. . . But for High Point residents, there’s a way to unwind at midday — by listening to some live, seasonal music. From 12:10 to 1 p.m. the High Point Baptist Church (405 North Main Street) hosts brief concerts on most Wednesdays in December — Linda Brown and Caroline Kolbert on the 7th, the Honors Vocal Ensemble from Southwest High School on the 14th, and UNCG School of Music’s Holiday Brass ensemble on the 21st. After each performance, sate yourself on a lunch of hot soup and a sandwich for a mere $6 and then return to work refreshed — and full of the Yuletide spirit. Info:

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Ogi Sez Ogi Overman Just because it’s December doesn’t mean your holiday agenda doesn’t have to include everything Christmas. A couple of items on my own sked are, in fact, Christmas-related, but they all promise to get you in the spirit, one way or another.

• December 2, Carolina Theatre: The

C of CSN and sometimes Y has parted ways with his old mates and is in the midst of a solo tour. This show will offer a rare chance to get up close and personal with David Crosby in a way that would’ve been heretofore impossible. This may be one where you’ll want to save your ticket stub.

• December 3, Muddy Creek Music

Hall: If you haven’t made it over to WinstonSalem to this outstanding venue yet, now’s your chance. Lonesome River Band regrouped around everybody’s favorite banjo player, Sammy Shelor, several years ago, and is, once again, among the elite groups in all of bluegrass. I’ve traveled farther than this to see them.

• December 4, Blind Tiger: What started off as a group of talented ladies getting together last year at the behest of Sheila Klinefelter to record a CD and play a couple of gigs has now turned into an ongoing project. The Gate City Divas are eight of the area’s top-shelf vocalists and songwriters whose bold sound belongs on a big stage, literally and figuratively. • December 11, Greensboro Coliseum: For many, the date that the TransSiberian Orchestra comes to town marks the official kickoff of the holiday season. They’re a little late this year, but well worth the wait. Trust me, a Christmas show like no other. • December 18, The Crown: Wait, I

take that back. While TSO is astounding, Piedmont Songbag’s Umpteenth Annual Christmas Show is really, really like no other. The venue has changed this year, but the zany, irreverent, bawdy take on Christmas from the brilliant-yet-twisted mind of Don Morgan remains intact. December 2016 O.Henry 21

22 O.Henry December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro


By Harry Blair

2016 Gift Giving Guide Friendly Shopping Center Greensboro 336-851-1331 Thruway Shopping Center Winston Salem 336-727-0906

Feel at home. Anywhere. The Art & Soul of Greensboro December 2016 O.Henry 23

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24 O.Henry December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Life’s Funny

Text Envy

A script for empty nesters in the new millennium By Maria Johnson

Act I:

[A pair of empty nesters sits in the den one evening after dinner, watching TV. An electronic three-note ping issues from a cell phone somewhere in the room.] HIM: Was that your phone? HER: [reaching for her phone on coffee table] Let me see. Huh! Yes! [She smiles as she reads a text from her son.] HIM: What? HER: He responded to my text. HIM: He responded to your text? HER: [casually] Yeah. HIM: I sent him three texts about the game the other day. He never responded to me. HER: Hmm. HIM: What did you send him? HER: A picture of the dog. HIM: Really? HER: Yeah. HIM: What was the picture? HER: The one of him curled up in the raised bed. HIM: Let me see. HER: [holds up phone up so he can see] HIM: That picture? HER: Yeah, it’s a good picture. HIM: [staring at the dog asleep on the floor] Yeah. HER: I love the way the dahlias frame his face. HIM: Yeah. So what did he say? HER: He said, “hahaha.” HIM: He said “hahaha”? HER: [obviously satisfied] Yeah.

Act II:

[It’s the following week. They’re riding in the car. His phone pings while he’s driving. She picks up his phone from the console and reads the text.] HER: Oh! It’s him! He says, “Sounds good.” The Art & Soul of Greensboro

HIM: Great. HER: Wait, what sounds good? HIM: Sunday night. HER: What about Sunday night? HIM: I’m taking him to dinner while I’m in town for the conference. HER: What??!!! HIM: [smiling] Yeah. I’m taking him to dinner. HER: Why didn’t you tell me? HIM: Because you’re not going to the conference. HER: Why not? HIM: Because you didn’t want to. I asked you if you wanted to go with me, and you said no. HER: We’ll see about that. [She texts back on his phone, “Should we ask Mom to dinner on Sunday night?” Another ping quickly follows. “Sure.”] HER: I’m going to the conference. [then, scrolling through his texts] How long have you two been talking about this? Oh, my God. You’ve been talking to him for days. HIM: Look, it’s no big deal. It’s only one dinner. HER: [looking forlornly out the window] How could I have not known?

Act III:

[A few nights later. They’re lying in bed. He’s reading a magazine. She’s reading her phone.] HER: [laughing out loud] That’s really well done. HIM: What? HER: This parody in The New Yorker. He sent me a link. HIM: He sent you a link? HER: Yeah. Hold on. I’m replying. [She taps, laughs some more and hands her phone to him.] Here, read this. [He reads silently, hands back her phone, picks up his own phone and starts tapping.] HER: Who are you texting? HIM: I’m sending him a link to this column in Scientific American. He’ll like this. HER: Hmm. [A minute later, his phone pings.] HER: What? HIM: He says, “That’s great.” December 2016 O.Henry 25


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Join us for the

Mouse Hunt

December Tue-Sat 10-5. Sun 2-5 #museumholidaymice 130 Summit Ave. Greensboro 336 373-2982

26 O.Henry December 2016

Holiday Parade Day Fun Saturday December Sat 1-4 After the parade, visit with Santa!

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Life’s Funny HER: That was fast. His reply, I mean. [She stares at her phone, waiting for an answer to her text. None comes.] HIM: It’s a good column. Want to read it? HER: [sighing and rolling over] No.

Act IV:

[A few weeks later, they’re eating dinner at home, just the two of them at a small table. They’re catching up on the events of the day.] HIM: The guys want to know if I can play golf the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Do we have anything planned? HER: He’s coming home that weekend. HIM: What? When? HER: That Friday. He’s flying into Raleigh for a wedding. Then he’s spending a few nights in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Then he’ll come here and work from home the rest of the week. HIM: Really? Who’s getting married? HER: Garrett. HIM: Garrett? HER: You know, Garrett from high school. Baseball-playing, rock-climbing Garrett? Who went to South Carolina, then followed his girlfriend to Chapel Hill, and now they’re both accountants, and she works in New York, and he works in Connecticut, and they’re going to live in New York after they get married? HIM: How do you know all of this? HER: I talked to him. HIM: You talked to him?! With spoken words?? On the phone?? When did this happen?? HER: Today. He called me. HIM: He called you?! HER: [smugly] Yep. We talked for, like, three minutes. HIM: [drops fork] Three minutes??!! HER: He sounds good. HIM: That’s nice. HER: He sounds happy. HIM: Fine. Why did he call you? HER: I asked him to. HIM: He never calls when I ask him to. HER: Well, I guess the twelfth time is the charm. Also, I mentioned that my mom was in a car wreck. HIM: Your mom was in a fender bender two weeks ago, and no one was hurt. HER: Correct. As he now knows. [She gets up and walks to the stove, humming.] Do you want more risotto? HIM: [glumly.] No. Where’s the dog? HER: Outside. Why? HIM: [standing up and reaching into pocket for phone] We’re gonna take some pictures. OH Maria Johnson communicates with nonmillennials by email. You can reach her at

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Success Story: Nicholas Found employment through Triad Goodwill

“Even though I had no experience, Triad Goodwill helped me create a resume. With the help of Triad Goodwill, I am now employed and I love it!” Read Nicholas’ story:


December 2016 O.Henry 27

498 Hiatts Drive Cedar Hollow Acres

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28 O.Henry

December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

The Omnivorous Reader

Legend of the Working Class

When M, a cross-species monster, moves from N.C. to Pennsylvania, the plot thickens

By D.G. Martin

In his insightful review of

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis in this magazine last month, Stephen Smith questioned whether that book explains the unexpected success of Donald Trump’s campaign for president.

Meanwhile, I have been thinking that another new book might give us insight into the white male blue-collar world where Trump’s appeal rang loud and clear. North Carolina native Steven Sherrill’s The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time tells how a fictional and Greek legendary half-bull, half-man called the Minotaur adapts to life in a modern white workingclass community. In case you do not remember the Minotaur, he was the offspring of a queen of Crete, who, subject to a curse from a vengeful god, fell madly in love with her husband’s prize bull. The resulting offspring grew up to be a feared monster that devoured children. In the Greek legend the Minotaur was killed to end his evil ways. But, in Sherrill’s story, the Minotaur has survived and lived for thousands of years, roaming from place to place. He is immortal and destined to struggle forever to live as an outsider alongside fully human colleagues. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Back in 2000, in his novel, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, Sherrill brought the fictional Minotaur to our state as a line cook in a seedy restaurant called Grub’s Rib just off the interstate near Charlotte. The Minotaur lived in a mobile home in a rundown trailer park. His co-workers called him M and got used to his bullhorns, funny-looking face, and tortured way of speaking. They had their own set of challenges, not unlike those described in Hillbilly Elegy. Just as his co-workers adapted to M and accepted him as a fellow-worker, readers set aside disbelief, identify with the creature, and observe the world of a struggling working class through his eyes. Still, M is destined always to be something of an outsider, a condition that painfully troubles and enriches his story and his relationships with the blue-collar characters that surround him. This September, 16 years after The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, its sequel, The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time, hit bookstore shelves. Sherrill, who now lives in Pennsylvania, teaches at Penn State-Altoona. M has moved up there, too. He is now a professional Civil War re-enactor in a tourist-centered “historic village.” Every day M puts on his Confederate uniform and goes out on the field to do his job. He dies. Over and over again. In the rustbelt around the village and battlefield near Altoona in central Pennsylvania, M observes and interacts with the struggles of the working and out-of-work people he encounters. Almost all are at the edge. One broken car away from a financial crisis. One lost job away from disaster. M’s struggles are special. Only half-human, he still has fully human December 2016

O.Henry 29

Omnivorous Reader desires and aspirations. He is lonely and longs for companionship. He is helpful and considerate. He adapts to disappointment. But, as Sherrill leads us to understand in this, his second Minotaur masterpiece, M is always going to be “other.” Always an outsider. M lives at the Judy-Lou Motor Lodge, a shabby motel just off a busy highway and within walking distance of the historic village and battlefield. The motel owner, Rambabu Gupta, gives M a place to stay in return for M’s handyman repair work. M can fix almost anything, including automobiles. When a dirty, filthy, broken down Honda Odyssey van careens into a parking lot near the

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Almost all are at the edge. One broken car away from a financial crisis. One lost job away from disaster. motel, an attractive redheaded woman and her wild, brain-damaged brother get out, and a weird love story begins. M sets about to fix the car. He wanders through his favorite places, auto junkyards, to find the right parts. As he fixes her car, the appreciative redhead and M begin to develop feelings for each other. Could a cross-species friendship work into something more? Sherrill uses his great storyteller gifts to make his readers wonder, and maybe hope. But the poignant climax is dark and sad. Back to the recent election, M seems to have no interest in politics, but his desperate, disillusioned, and angry co-workers and neighbors in Pennsylvania’s rustbelt could understandably have found hope in Donald Trump’s message. If they had made it to the polls on November 8, their votes would almost certainly have helped Trump steal Pennsylvania from the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. OH D.G. Martin hosts North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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December 2016

O.Henry 31

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32 O.Henry

December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Heaven, Earth (and Water), Sun Ra and the Cat’s Meow A hipster’s gift guide to children’s books

What many of us want to know

at this time of year is: What new or forgotten children’s book can I buy for my grandchildren or nieces or nephews that their parents have not already discovered? How can I be the special grandparent, the better aunt, the most-loved uncle who has taken the time and energy to find the one book that will change the young person’s life forever? We can help. Perhaps we can make you the family friend who will never be forgotten because you turned a young mind in the exact direction it needed to go at just the right time with the perfect book. It happens, and it might happen with these gems: Oh No, Astro!, by Matt Roeser (Author),  and Brad Woodard (Illustrator). Simon & Schuster, 2016. $18. Unlike all the other asteroids with their constant banging around, Astro is happy drifting in space minding his own business, thank you very much. So you can imagine his dismay when a passing satellite rudely knocks him on a collision course for earth. Hilarious wit that will have adults laughing as much as their kids, plus cool science facts, equals your giving this book to your favorite kids this holiday. Their parents will thank you too when they’re reading it out loud for the millionth time. 

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Under Water, Under Earth, by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski. Big Picture Press, 2016. $35. We all know that child whose curiosity is downright insatiable. The one drawn toward the weird. The one who wants to know everything about everything, and now, with this book, you will be their holiday hero. Open the Under Water side of the book, and learn (in a level of detail that will have adults stealing this book when the kids aren’t looking) about oceans, lakes, fish, coral reefs, hydro physics, submarines, and much more. Then, flip the book over to Under Earth and read about everything subterranean from tectonics to archaeology, from plant root networks to caves and beyond. On second thought, forget the kids. You might want this one for yourself!   I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, by Debbie Levy. Simon & Schuster, 2016. $18. I Dissent is the best gift for the determined, young doers in your life. As they read Ginsburg’s life story they’ll learn about fighting against tough odds for what they believe in. They’ll see the struggles of a minority who went after her dreams and came out on top to do some good. Most importantly, they’ll learn the power in action and constructive debate. Great content topped off with beautiful illustrations mean that no one will dissent your status as the cool, conscientious relative this holiday. Of course there are plenty of forgotten classics to consider. But these choices must be made delicately. Too obvious — The Cat in the Hat, for example — and you’ll be lumped in with the rest of the boring grownups. Too wordy and adult — The Giving Tree — and it’ll sit there unread. Fictional children meeting bad ends are endlessly entertaining to chilDecember 2016

O.Henry 33


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 ꤀㈀ ㄀㘀 倀漀爀猀挀栀攀 䌀愀爀猀 一漀爀琀栀 䄀洀攀爀椀挀愀Ⰰ 䤀渀挀⸀ 倀漀爀猀挀栀攀 爀攀挀漀洀洀攀渀搀猀 猀攀愀琀 戀攀氀琀 甀猀愀最攀 愀渀搀 漀戀猀攀爀瘀愀渀挀攀 漀昀 琀爀愀昀昀椀挀 氀愀眀猀 愀琀 愀氀氀 琀椀洀攀猀⸀ 䴀愀渀甀昀愀挀琀甀爀攀爀ᤠ猀 匀甀最最攀猀琀攀搀 刀攀琀愀椀氀 倀爀椀挀攀⸀ 䔀砀挀氀甀搀攀猀 琀愀砀㬀 琀椀琀氀攀㬀 爀攀最椀猀琀爀愀琀椀漀渀 ␀㘀㤀㤀 搀攀愀氀攀爀 愀搀洀椀渀椀猀琀爀愀琀椀漀渀 昀攀攀㬀 搀攀氀椀瘀攀爀礀Ⰰ  瀀爀漀挀攀猀猀椀渀最 愀渀搀 栀愀渀搀氀椀渀最 昀攀攀㬀 搀攀愀氀攀爀 挀栀愀爀最攀猀⸀ 䐀攀愀氀攀爀 猀攀琀猀 愀挀琀甀愀氀 猀攀氀氀椀渀最 瀀爀椀挀攀⸀ 

䘀漀挀甀猀攀猀 漀渀 昀甀渀挀琀椀漀渀愀氀ᤠ猀 昀椀爀猀琀 琀栀爀攀攀 氀攀琀琀攀爀猀⸀ 䤀昀 渀漀琀 昀甀渀Ⰰ 琀栀攀渀 眀栀愀琀㼀 䤀琀ᤠ猀 愀 挀漀洀瀀漀渀攀渀琀 攀瘀攀爀礀 搀爀椀瘀攀 猀栀漀甀氀搀 栀愀瘀攀Ⰰ 愀渀搀 攀瘀攀爀礀 挀愀爀 猀栀漀甀氀搀 猀琀爀椀瘀攀 琀漀 瀀爀漀瘀椀搀攀⸀  吀栀攀猀攀 琀眀漀 戀攀氀椀攀昀猀 氀攀搀 甀猀 琀漀 挀爀攀愀琀攀 琀栀攀 䴀愀挀愀渀⸀  䄀  倀漀爀猀挀栀攀 眀椀琀栀 渀漀 漀昀昀 搀愀礀猀Ⰰ 椀渀猀瀀椀爀攀搀 戀礀 漀渀攀 挀漀爀攀 琀攀渀攀琀⸀ 䔀瘀攀爀礀 挀愀爀 猀栀漀甀氀搀 戀攀 愀 猀瀀漀爀琀猀 挀愀爀⸀ 倀漀爀猀挀栀攀⸀  吀栀攀爀攀 椀猀 渀漀 猀甀戀猀琀椀琀甀琀攀⸀

吀栀攀 渀攀眀 䴀愀挀愀渀⸀ 匀琀愀爀琀椀渀最 愀琀 ␀㐀㜀Ⰰ㔀   倀漀爀猀挀栀攀 漀昀 䜀爀攀攀渀猀戀漀爀漀

㔀㘀 ㌀ 刀漀愀渀渀攀 圀愀礀 䜀爀攀攀渀猀戀漀爀漀Ⰰ 一䌀 ㈀㜀㐀 㤀 ㌀㌀㘀⸀㈀㤀㐀⸀ ㈀  


34 O.Henry

December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Bookshelf dren. Or, maybe our children. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to fall in love with Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies, (Houghton Mifflin. $10), an abecedarium in which each child (A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil assaulted by bears . . .) departs our earthly plane in their own idiosyncratic way. Gorey’s signature drawings are gothic and droll, and the rhymes make the book great for reading aloud. Maybe not right before bed, though. Children who grow up with this book are virtually guaranteed to attend poetry readings later in life, clad in black, to read poems about their dead cat. “Sun Ra always said that he came from Saturn. Now, you know and I know that this is silly. No one comes from Saturn.  And yet. If he did come from Saturn, it would explain so much. Let’s say he did come from Saturn.” Thus begins Chris Raschka’s wonderful biography for children, The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra (Candlewick Press, 2014. $16). Sun Ra was a progressive jazz musician and Raschka follows his development by concentrating on collaboration, creativity and joy. The joy of creating music leaps from the jittery, colorful illustrations, which seem to want to leap from the page and dance across the room. Raschka has also written and illustrated books on Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane so you can introduce the books along with the music. And finally, you’ll be the coolest cat in the clowder if you lay upon the young kittens Wanda Gag’s Millions of Cats (Puffin Books, $8). Illustrated in dark red, vibrant yellow and black, the book is striking and memorable visually, but its real appeal lies in a love of absurdity and an undeniable love of life. A life changer, this one, and you’ll be forever identified with it in the adoring eyes of the family litter. NEW RELEASES FOR DECEMBER: December 6: Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina/ Young Readers Edition, by Misty Copeland. (Aladdin, $18). For the dancer in the family — or for anyone who’s driven to physical extremes. December 6: The Secret Life of Squirrels: A Love Story, by Nancy Rose (Little, Brown, $17). Two squirrels fall in love in a bookstore. December 6: The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, by Michael Lewis (Norton, $29). OK, not a children’s book, but perhaps the best book with a December release. December 13: Chicken Story Time, by Sandy Asher (Dial Books, $17.99). Story time at the library was never so much fun. OH Scuppernong Bookshelf was written by Shannon Jones, Brian Lampkin and Steve Mitchell. The Art & Soul of Greensboro


This holiday season, there is no time more fitting to say “Thank You” and wish you a peaceful and prosperous new year. May you wake up Christmas morning to the best present anyone can receive ~ the joy of having the ones you love by your side. Merry Christmas, Triad!

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O.Henry 35

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36 O.Henry

December 2016

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Who Grabs First? It all depends

By Clyde Edgerton

The following conversation took


place at Rosehaven Assisted Living in rural North Carolina between three Papadaddys:

“What do you do when the TV news is on and your granddaughter is around?” “Or grandson?” “What I do is change the channel.” “What I do is give a lecture. I tell my grandson if he’s not charming, he will lead a sad life, maybe even become greedy, and start thinking he’s got to grab, grab, grab. Greedy men grab. Charming men charm. In the South, real men charm.” “In the North, too.” “I wouldn’t know.” “Well, real women charm, too.” “Who grabs first if everybody’s standing around charming each other?” “Who’s on first?’” “What’s on second.’ I remember that one. Abbott and Costello.” “No, who grabs first?” “Grabs what?” “I don’t know — depends.” “I’ll slap anybody that grabs my Depends.” “I heard they leak.” “Powerful men know how to grab. That’s what made America great. We came over here as illegal aliens and stole all the land and went on to get even greater. Onward Christian Soldiers! Women wouldn’t have done that.” “Aw come on.” “Wouldn’t you like to see your granddaughter grow up to be president?” “Of what? “Walmart?” “What’s on second?” “Bobby Riggs won that tennis match.” “That’s right. He beat Billy Bob Thornton.”

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

“Billie Jean King.” “Billie won.” “That’s what I said.” “I’ll be glad when this match is over.” “Me, too.” “Me, too.” “People would rather watch a car wreck than a pretty sunset.” “They’ll slow down for a car wreck.” “TV executives get real rich by knowing that.” “People used to buy what they knew they needed, like flour and potatoes and green beans. Now they shop for stuff that some slick commercial convinces them they want.” “Now you can stay home and buy, buy, buy.” “Walter Cronkite was different — he was calm.” “Wolf Blitzer talks like his name sounds.” “I listen to PBS.” “Why?” “I like calmness.” “Now PBS has commercials, too.” “Selling is an art and a science that is the bedrock of communism.” “Nobody teaches our kids how to detect lies.” “We teach kids how to take tests. They learn to shut up, sit still for three hours, and then line up.” “That’s what we do around here.” “Don’t badmouth teachers.” “Right. A lot them are afraid of losing their jobs because they won’t shut up, sit still, and stay in line.” “Let’s go eat.” “I vote for that.” “What are we having?” “Depends.” “Count me out.” OH Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, a memoir and most recently, Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers. He is the Thomas S. Kenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNCW. December 2016

O.Henry 37

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38 O.Henry

December 2016

10/26/2016 9:34:42 AM

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

The Pleasures of Life Dept.

Bending Towards The Light Getting the holiday groove on with Jazz Nativity

By Grant Britt

The story is a familiar one, passed down

from generation to generation, retold this time of year in a celebration of faith, hope and redemption. It’s an ancient account of old school royalty meeting their new school king, a ruler unlike anything this world has ever seen. And even though there are variations on the theme, most everyone tells it the same way — with one notable exception. Bending Towards the Light is unlike any other celebration of the Christmas story you’ve ever seen. In this one, the three wise guys have gifts that the original trio lacked. They come bearing trinkets, but their real gifts lie elsewhere. In this jazzily bent telling of the Nativity story, one highness is a tap-dancin’ fool, one can blow holes in the firmament with his trumpet, and one is a virtuoso Latin percussionist. And over the last twenty years, it’s become a Gate City tradition.

This treatment of the Christmas story was launched in 1985 when singer/composer Anne Phillips got a call from John Garcia Gensel, the priest of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York City. The church had done a jazzy treatment of the Christmas story as a fundraiser for the midtown art council, but wanted to have a more structured, professional presentation. “They needed to have somebody really write it this time because The Art & Soul of Greensboro

they had the kings coming down the escalator or something,” Philips said recently from her home in NYC. Gensel, who died in 1998, was known as “the jazz priest.” “He loved jazz,” Phillips says. “So whenever there was good jazz, which was all the time around town, he would be there. And he got to know the musicians, and musicians felt like they could go to him with their problems and talk to him, so he became known as the jazz musician’s minister.” Gensel came to Phillips with the idea, but it was Phillips’ connections that got the big boys of jazz involved from the get-go. Phillips knew many jazz giants from recording sessions as a backup singer, on her own CDs and also from doing commercials. Over the years, she assembled a cast of greats that included Dave Brubek (who composed “God’s Love Made Visible” for the play), Tito Puente, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Benny Powell, Paquito D’Rivera, and Toots Thielemans, as well as tap dancers Honey Coles and Jimmy Slyde. Although the show debuted in ’85, its first out-of-town performance wasn’t till 1996, here in Greensboro. “It was because of a lovely man named Lacy Baynes,” Phillips says. “I sent him the music before it was ever published.” Baynes, a member of Greensboro’s West Market Street United Methodist church, first heard of the Jazz Nativity through Charles Kuralt, best known for his mellow travelogue On The Road series, debuting in ’67 for CBS. “I read years ago, Charles Kuralt’s America, the first book he wrote after he retired in ’95, about attending this Jazz Nativity in NYC, and I was somewhat fascinated by the title,” Baynes says. After discussing it with his wife, he copied the pages from the book and showed it to WMSUMC’s musical director/UNCG music professor Bill Carroll, who liked it as well, and contacted Phillips, who sent the score along. “It’s been performed at West Market ever since that time,” Baynes says. Bassist/composer Matt Kendrick, an instructor at Wake Forest University in electric bass and jazz improvisation when not performing nationally and locally, has been a member of the Greensboro Jazz Nativity presentation from the beginning. “It’s the Nativity, you know, there’s a manger and everything,” December 2016

O.Henry 39

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40 O.Henry

December 2016

The Pleasures of Life Dept.

Kendrick says. “I’m pretty busy over there playing, we have a pretty extensive instrumental part to deal with,” Kendrick says of the score the nine-piece orchestra tackles annually. There’s some visuals to go along with the music as well. “There’s a big tap dance thing, a jazz tap dance,” Kendrick says. “We play this really big arrangement of ‘We Three Kings,’ and at the end they offer their gifts to the baby Jesus. The tap dancer gives him little bitty shoes, trumpet player has a little trumpet, and the percussionist has some sticks.” There’s a big Latin number, a percussion solo originally written for Tito Puente now covered in WMUMC’s presentation by local percussionist Cesar Oviedo. Kendrick gives an aural mini-tour of the show. “There’s a Dave Brubeck–like tune that’s got the ‘Take 5’ groove to it, ‘Joy to The World’ is pretty swinging, ‘Bending Towards The Light’ is a little ballad, sort of a Steve Swallow or Pat Metheny type of ballad.” “Silent Night” comes off as a laidback, slinky, soulful take on the classic originally arranged by Phillips’ husband, saxophonist Bob Kindred. Then there’s a vocal quartet on “Deck the Halls” that Kendrick describes as a Lambert, Hendricks & Ross thing, comparing it to the jazz vocal trio featuring Annie Ross, whose upper range enables her to skitter around in the stratosphere singing high trumpet parts. “Lots of chorus parts, big old choir, lead singers — people love it, it’s a nice little show and it’s not even an hour, you know?” The concept of putting jazz in a church may have startled some conservative churchgoers early on. “I think a few people blinked at West Market back in the 1990s when it was first performed,” Baynes says, “but it’s been very popular, a standingroom only audience.” “It’s jazz, and everybody who comes is expecting that,” says Alice Ann Johnson, WMUMC’s current director of music and arts. “I don’t think anybody ever had any problem with it.” One of the contributing jazzers even got religion for the occasion. “There’s a great hymn written by Dave Brubeck, called ‘God’s Love Made Visible.’ It’s actually in some hymnbooks,” she says. “It’s all good, people appreciate it, and really get a different little take on the Christmas story when they come.” The Art & Soul of Greensboro

The Pleasures of Life Dept. That take is magnified by Kuralt’s participation in the story. “Our third year, we met Charles and asked him to be our host,” Phillips says. “And he said, ‘What do you want me to say?’ Like, I was gonna write for Charles Kuralt? So I wrote basically what I wanted it to say, then he took it and Kuraltized it.” His moving narrative opens and closes the show, and even though other narrators now use his words, his spirit still looms large in the production. “It’s a very spiritual story, and jazz is a very spiritual music, the most spontaneous and most personal form of musical expression,” Kuralt intones in a majestic baritone on the original cast CD, culled from NYC show recordings from ’87–’93, released in ’96. “What you will hear tonight comes straight from the heart. In Bethlehem, in the grotto where Christ was born, a light shines into the darkness. The light is meant to serve as the light serves for so many religions and philosophies, as a symbol of truth and love. And hope — hope that even in a dark season we may begin to see the world, bending towards the light.” After an hour of jazzy worship (“Until you see it, you don’t know there’s nothing odd about jazz and Jesus,” Johnson says) Kuralt’s spirit is felt once again as the participants celebrate the victory of light over darkness, going out into the world, becoming “the doors and windows through which the presence of this love is revealed like a radiant light . . . it shines from our eyes, our words, our acts.” Amen, and Merry Christmas. OH Grant Britt trolls for unsuspecting elves passing by his house during the holiday season, ransacking their goodie bags for tidbits to share with O. Henry’s readers.

Want to Go?

Friday, December 2nd’s show is at 6 p.m. “It gets us through the Friday night traffic if we have it a bit later,” Johnson says. Saturday, December 3rd’s is at 5 p.m. Johnson says a handbell concert precedes the Jazz Nativity an hour earlier. “People who have been coming for years are well aware that they need to come for the handbell concert so they’ll have a seat for the Jazz Nativity show.” She says they expect capacity crowds for the large hall. “Both nights when we had the Vienna boys choir, we sold over 700 tickets, and it was full.” Last year had two dates for the show for the first time, with a big crowd on Friday night, and more on Saturday. There’s no ticket, no charge, but an offering does take place. — G.B.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro


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Gate City Journal

The Clacker King in Toyland

Remembering Marc Freiburg, businessman and mensch, who made Ham’s a Greensboro landmark and brought so much joy to so many in the Gate City

By Jim Clark

For the last several years, I’ve made it part

of my holiday ritual to visit Bender’s Tavern on Christmas Day to check out the holiday dinner provided to the needy by owner Anna Freiberg. On the drive there, I pass by the old Kroger shopping center on Market Street just two blocks away from the tavern. It was there nearly forty years ago that I spent an unforgettable afternoon with her father, Marc Freiberg.

On that blustery December day in 1978, Marc had summoned me to his new toy store, Li’l Kidz, Big Kidz, ostensibly to interview him for the newspaper I edited, The Greensboro Sun, about this latest of his business ventures. Marc was one of the first advertisers in the paper and over the years he had become a “silent partner.” Only this day he was far from silent. He had pulled two stools up to the checkout counter where he had placed the largest Italian sub I had ever seen. “First we eat,” he said, handing me half the sandwich and tearing open a bag of potato chips. “You know,” he said, looking around the store, “I’ve always wanted my own toy store. That was my first job, working in one — and I loved it.” Perhaps it was the last of the autumn leaves scurrying outside the big display window or perhaps the memories of that first job, but whatever it was, it sent him into a nostalgic reverie. “At age 32,” he mused, “I should probably be in The Guinness Book of World The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Records for the number of failed businesses I’ve had since I turned 21.” The first, he explained, was the Bamboo Lounge on Spring Garden Street. Then he tried a nightclub on the corner of Spring Garden and Tate — the Universal Joint. “If there was any business experience that changed my life more than anything else, it was that place. I had a lot of friends and everybody had a good time — and I lost about $19,000. The place closed up on my twenty-second birthday, I was head over heels in debt — really didn’t know where I was going next.” Marc went to work in a drugstore and after eight months had saved enough to open the Odyssey down on Tate and Lee streets, black lights and all, a “roaring success,” before the music died. By then his interests had turned to manufacturing and he started a company called The Leather Sole, which made leather belts, but this venture did not last very long either. Then he came into an inheritance and set out to be a curb market tycoon, beginning with the Party Mart, which was located in the Texaco station across from Ham’s on Friendly Avenue and Smyres Place. “I had illusions of grandeur or something because I then bought the curb market on the corner of Aycock and Spring Garden — the Kwik Serv. It took me only ten months to blow all the money I had inherited — and both businesses.” “And remember the Clacker Factory?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “How could I ever forget the Clacker Factory?” The Clacker was a toy consisting of two plastic balls attached by a string to a stick, and when the stick was moved rapidly up and down, the balls would bounce back and forth in semicircles, making an incredible racket. In 1971, it seemed like half the street population of Tate worked at the factory behind his Party Mart. And in true Marc Freibergian fashion, he saw the factory not only as his ticket to the good life, but also a way to improve the lot of the street folk by sharing the profits. December 2016

O.Henry 43

Gate City Journal

I would make the rounds in the mornings in my VW van to pick up folks at such College Hill landmarks as the Ghettos on South Mendenhall, the Deadhead house on Tate and the crash houses on Carr. Folks were giddy with the excitement of being part of this new enterprise, and the early light was filled with shouts of “Rise and shine!” to their somnambulistic comrades still snuggled in their sleeping bags, followed by a chorus of voices as I drove them to work: “All aboard! First stop, Clackalacky . . . Hey man, keep it down, ooh my head . . . Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, My, oh my, what a wonderful day . . . . . . Dammit, I told you to keep it down . . . Heigh-Ho, Heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go . . . Hey man, put that thing out, we almost to the factory.” Marc shook his head and laughed. “People all over the country were into Clackers. People were going nuts for them.” And then his dream of being the Clacker King of the South went bust. The Clackers, which were made out of a type of acrylic, would, after one clack too many, explode in people’s faces. News of the how dangerous the toys were reached Freiberg about the same time his curb markets were going under. He took thousands of Clackers out back and threw them in the dumpster. He managed to scrape together a little money and once again entered the world of business — this time on Tate Street where he opened Two Worlds, a wine and cheese shop, which did remarkably well and which he sold to Dave Jackson who renamed the shop Friar’s Cellar and moved it across the street to the location of present-day Tate Street Coffee House. Marc went to work for a local wine distributor while managing the Janus Theatres by night. When he had saved enough money, he rented the Princess Café at 317 South Elm Street and opened a delicatessen. Things went so well he sold the deli and looked for his next big entrepreneurial

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December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Gate City Journal venture. He didn’t have to look far . . . The Ham’s building had seen almost as many businesses as Marc had. Back in the ’30s, there was a guy named Newmer Ham who operated a sundry store out of a two-story roadhouse. He sold patent medicine, beer and hot sandwiches. In the early ’40s, Freiberg’s father bought the place but soon sold it and went on to transform the Twin Oaks Curb Market on Battleground Avenue into a restaurant called IPD (an acronym for Irving Park Delicatessen), later Cellar Anton’s, and finally just Anton’s, before it was reborn as Havana Phil’s Cigar Company. In the late ’40s, Marc’s uncle bought Ham’s and turned it into, Marc noted, “your classic ’50s drive-in.” Later that decade, the old roadhouse came down when a new front section was added. His uncle operated it until 1967, later renting it out to others. By then Marc wanted to give the place a try. Once again, Marc explained, “I almost lost my shirt when I expanded the restaurant and put in a huge selection of cheese.” But suddenly the place became a huge success, not just with Grimsley High and UNCG students, but also with the lunch crowd, which became a who’s who of the city’s legal, political and business community. Part of what made this incarnation a success, Marc reflected, was making “old-time values and treatment” a part of the place. “Anybody who’s willing to cash a check for somebody without treating them like a criminal has an advantage. But a regular customer comes into Ham’s and wants to cash a check for five or ten dollars, we cash it. It’s just the personal touch.” But he feared the days of such small-town values were numbered. “Yeah, times are a-changin’. You know, recently we were forced to put electronic cash registers in Ham’s,” Marc told me back in 1978, “not because I wanted to, but because they don’t make mechanical ones anymore. You’ve got to buy one that goes beepbeep-buzz-buzz. I don’t like it. The old whirrtwang-ring-ring is what I grew up with. Soon the world will be dominated by chips.” I gave him a puzzled luck and looked at the bag on his desk. “No, not those kinda chips. Computer chips.” But he wasn’t really sure what they were. “All I know is that last February at the American International Toy Fair that’s all people were talking about. They are the mainstay of the booming business in remote control toys. They allow computerized toys to think, play chess, sing ‘Jingle Bells’. . . hell, you can even play blackjack with them, and they will probably beat you.” “Watch this,” he said, and he sent an 18-wheeler truck cannonballing down the aisle toward three women checking out the doll displays. The women moved away from the truck and scooted down anThe Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2016

O.Henry 45

Gate City Journal

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December 2016

other aisle, where the truck stealthily awaited them. They moved behind a display of Gene Simmons KISS dolls, and the truck backed away around a corner, then as soon as they stepped back into the aisle, the truck re-emerged with a blast of its horn. Marc chuckled, “You ever see that great Spielberg movie, Duel, with Dennis Weaver and that vindictive demon truck?” He pointed to a huge Star Wars display. “Anything to do with space or science fiction, you just can’t keep it in stock. People seem more interested in the future than the present, like they think someday things will be better — when science does all its wild things.” Then Marc noted a dark side. “Of course, war games are another incredible seller right now, and many serious war gamers design their own battles. I wonder what that tells us about the future.” Like all his businesses, Marc knew this one was a big gamble. “Each February I go to the Toy Fair in New York and it’s fourteen days of bedlam — the wildest thing I’ve ever been to in my life. You go, look, and try to make intelligent decisions on what you think will sell next Christmas. If you aren’t careful, you can end up with a roomful of last season’s slot racing cars when slotless are suddenly the thing or with toys that buzz when TV is selling beeps.” But he remained optimistic about his new venture, dubbing it the Greatest Toy & Hobby Store South of FAO Schwartz. Marc got a faraway look in his eyes and fell into a solioquy. “What I’ve learned with all my failures is this: Anybody with a new idea or product can make money if there’s a real legitimate need for it — or a real, really illegitimate need — like Pet Rocks. And you can make money if you’re willing to treat people reasonably and really enjoy what you are doing. Sometimes all you need is a hot meal and a chance to turn your life around. God knows, I’ve been there a lot, wondering where my next meal would come from.” The Clacker King surveyed his emporium and smiled. “Toys are just kind of a neat thing. At Christmas, people buy toys for their kids — but they really buy the toys they wanted when they were kids or the toys and games they want today. No matter how bad or rushed the world is outside, they come in here and they’re suddenly different. They come in — and suddenly their ‘kid’ comes out to play. I’m still a kid, I guess, and I always will be. I Iike to play. Now, enough of this armchair psychiatrist stuff.” Mark got up, turned the lock of the front door, and flipped over the sign to CLOSED. “I guess I chased away my only customers with that truck.” He rubbed his hands together. “Let’s have some fun . . .” And we did. He introduced me to the new kids on the toy block: Simon, and Merlin the The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Electronic Wizard, and Little Professor. We raced radiocontrolled Lamborghinis through the aisles, tried our hand at Aurora Air Hockey, had a shootout with Nerf Rockets. We tested our agility with the Jaws Game, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and the Blip the Digital Game. He liked leaving the toys on and soon the store was abuzz with the sound effects of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, along with the highpitched whistle of a Casey Jones Musical Train and the occasional Bronx cheer from an offended toy. Suddenly, the store grew quiet, and I could not find Marc. Then I saw him in the back of the store leaning over a model railroad layout. I knew Marc was an amateur model railroader — in fact, one of his signature touches at Ham’s was an elevated train up near the ceiling circling the restaurant. He turned on the transformer and we watched the tiny train meander through the small town below. He loved blowing the train’s horn and watching the warning gates come down with a ring. “You know, I’m making the most money off all the newfangled futuristic stuff, but this is actually my favorite thing in the whole store. Doesn’t this little town remind you of Greensboro? Quiet, every place very reachable in just a few minutes . . . Well, we aren’t going to remain this sleepy little town much longer.” He shook his head. “Greensboro is about to make a giant step toward big-city life if it passes liquor-by-the-drink. Now, I’ll put liquor-by-the-drink in Ham’s if it passes because it’ll mean money in my pockets. It’ll be great for restau-

Gate City Journal

rant businesses. But I don’t know if I’m going to vote for it or not. I have nothing against it, except it seems the final progression to whatever it is that Greensboro is going to become. It could be good, it could be bad.” When Marc finally achieved his great success with Ham’s he did not rename the place, never thought about putting his name in big letters on the building. No, instead, he put a billboard atop the building with a giant picture of himself. “I think I’m smiling, looking down at the passing traffic,” he chuckled. Marc died way too young (at age 50) in 1997. But every Christmas afternoon when I leave Bender’s Tavern and drive down Friendly toward my College Hill home, I pass Smyres Place and I can still almost hear the sweet click-clack of success coming from the Clacker Factory filled with his troupe of long-haired elves at their worktables. And always as I pass this spot, although the old Ham’s is gone, the place transformed into the Mad Hatter, I can still feel Marc Frieberg’s presence up there smiling down on the lively, restaurant-filled city he knew we would become and, as they say, we didn’t turn out so bad after all. OH Jim Clark, Director of the UNCG MFA Creative Writing Program, says he has had a lot of great teachers over the years. His favorite “classrooms” for learning simply how to live one’s life were Marc Freiberg’s Ham’s and the original Jay’s Deli in Friendly Shopping Center, headmastered by Sol Jacobs, a candidate for mayor of Greensboro in 1979.

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December 2016

O.Henry 47

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Food for Thought

The Proof of the Pudding And don’t spare on the Christmas Brandy Butter

By Serena Kenyon Brown

“I am always

surprised to hear British cooking maligned by Americans: So many of our best dishes, especially in the South, are absolutely English.” — John Martin Taylor, Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking.

If you happen to be leafing through the pages of an early American book of receipts for your fall and winter menu plans, you might be struck by how many of the dishes we still eat today. Fricassee, velvet cakes, pilau, fried oysters, kohlrabi. There are also a large number of dishes that graced the American table in days of yore, but would now be considered strictly British fare. Mrs. Rorer’s Cookbook of 1886 gives a recipe for shepherd’s pie and another for bread sauce. In The Virginia House-wife, first published circa 1824, Mrs. Randolph offers the reader a glorious receipt for using up leftover roast beef. And the Yorkshire pudding? Sure enough, it’s there. Look for Batter Pudding in Mrs. Rorer’s Cookbook. Or try Mrs. Rundell’s American Domestic Cookery (1823). That venerable lady also offers a Batter Pudding with Meat that sounds a lot like the British classic Toad-in-the-Hole. While plenty of British dishes have remained part of American cuisine, many more have fallen away. In those early books there are whole chapters devoted to puddings, yet open up a modern American cookbook and you’ll be unlikely to find much beyond the familiar bread pudding. A pudding might be crumbly and cakey or oozily moist. It is generally boiled or steamed, but can also be baked. The sweet variety tends to be cooked in cotton cloth as opposed to the intestine or stomach that traditionally encases the savory kind. As the nights stretch into the cooling days, few things make a more warming, rib-sticking ending to a feast than a dark, glossy pudding. It’s time for a restoration. The holidays aren’t far away. Let’s return the plum pudding to the American table. You’ll find many delectable recipes, both old and new, online — look for “Christmas pudding” as “plum” is an archaic term for a raisin or currant. If you’d like to try your hand at an authentic 19th-century plum pudding, something Dickens himself, the godfather of the holiday banquet, would have recognized, Mrs. Hale gives the most comprehensive method in The Good Housekeeper of 1839: “As Christmas comes but once a year, a rich plum pudding may be permitted The Art & Soul of Greensboro

for the feast; though it is not healthy food; and children should be helped very sparingly. The following is a good receipt. “Chop half a pound of suet very fine; stone half a pound of raisins; half a pound of currants nicely washed and picked; four ounces of bread crumbs; four ounces of flour; four eggs well beaten; a little grated nutmeg — mace and cinnamon pounded very fine; half a teaspoonful of salt; four ounces of sugar; one ounce candied lemon; same of citron. “Beat the eggs and spices well together; mix the milk with them by degrees, then the rest of the ingredients; dip a fine, close linen cloth into boiling water, and place it in a hair-sieve; flour it a little, then pour in the batter and tie it up close; put it into a pot containing six quarts of boiling water; keep a tea-kettle of boiling water and fill up your pot as it wastes; be sure to keep it boiling, at least six hours— seven would not injure it. “This pudding should be mixed an hour or too (sic) before it is put on to boil; it makes it taste richer.” What would also make it taste richer is the addition of a fine brandy. In a brief survey of historic receipts it seems Southern cooks were much more freehanded with the liquor than their Yankee contemporaries. In this grand tradition the British still so saturate their puddings that they can be made a year or more in advance. Silver charms are stirred in for luck. Especially lucky for the person who finds them — and their dentist. Before serving, the pudding is doused with yet more brandy and set alight. Carry in the pudding triumphant, blue flames dancing around it (though do be careful if you’ve decorated with a lot of greenery). Allow the flames to subside, then dig in. Whether your pud be Prohibition or 100 proof, you will need some brandy butter to accompany it. A word of warning — you may find your holiday guests making late-night raids on your fridge for this. It’s irresistible, especially in wee hour spoonfuls straight from the saucer.

Brandy Butter

4 ounces softened unsalted butter 4 ounces powdered, caster or soft brown sugar 2 tablespoons brandy Mix the butter and sugar and beat until soft. Add the brandy very slowly and mix it in. Cover and refrigerate. It will keep for about a week, though it won’t be around that long. OH Serena Kenyon Brown is an Anglo-Southern writer. Before her recent return to Blighty, she was senior editor at PineStraw magazine in Southern Pines. December 2016

O.Henry 49

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December 2016

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Vine Wisdom

A Glorious Glühwein Christmas Add a little “glowing wine” to your holiday traditions

By Robyn James

This holiday season, consider

adding some European customs to your festivities for an Old World feel. Here’s a concoction that dates back to the 1400s in Germany and the 1300s in cookbooks in Great Britain.

Glühwein, known throughout Europe and South America by many other names, is a staple at Christmas and throughout the winter months. Glühwein literally means “glowing wine” in German and is reported to be originated by folks who had red wine that was on the cusp of spoiling, so they added cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, oranges and sugar, then heated the wine up to make it palatable so it would last longer. Occasionally they would drink it “mit Schuss” (with a shot) of rum or another liquor. The glowing wine term stems from the contraption (irons with long handles) they used to heat up over a fire and then dip into the Glühwein mix to mull it (warm it up). Throughout all the little villages in Germany, there are pockets of charming outdoor markets that sell goods and feature their own Glühwein by the glass and the bottle during the holidays. Each individual market has its personal recipe of Glühwein and the signature little pottery mug you can purchase to drink its particular Glühweins. They are coveted German souvenirs. What food does Germany pair up with Glühwein? Yum, “Lebkuchen,” a chewy German spice cake, along with roasted almonds, potato pancakes and “stollen,” a very dense fruitcake. In Sweden the typical accompaniment is gingerbread and “Lussebullar,” a type of sweet bun with saffron and raisins. Norway pairs its Glühwein with a traditional cold rice pudding. Glühwein is not exclusive to Germany and England; it is common in the Alsace region of France and many other European countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Romania and Hungary. They all have their native names and twists on the recipes. In France it is referred to as “vin chaud,” meaning “hot wine.”

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

The French back off on the honey and sugar in their Glühwein, preferring a drier version. It’s not the norm but you can find some German markets that sell white Glühwein, and a little bit is imported to the United States. A small amount of spices and fruits are just infused into a full-bodied white wine. While Glühwein is a very traditional drink for the entire Christmas holidays, there is a traditional German version for New Year’s Eve called “Feuerzangenbowle” that uses the same recipe but incorporates a rum-soaked, cone-shaped sugar loaf that is set on fire and drips into the wine. In Great Britain they traditionally use a combination of orange, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, cloves, cardamom and ginger. They may boil the spices in sugar syrup before they add the red wine. They have been known to blend the spices with port, brandy or ginger wines. They often use a tea bag of spices added to the heated wine and served in porcelain or glass mugs with a garnish of an orange slice studded with cloves. St. Lorenz winery out of the Mosel region of Germany exports its Christkindl Glühwein into the United States in a colorful one-liter bottle priced under $10. This wine is already infused with cinnamon, cloves, oranges, lemon and sugar so all you have to do is gently warm it up and break out the gingerbread cookies! Give Glühwein a try this holiday season! OH Robyn James is a certified sommelier and proprietor of The Wine Cellar and Tasting Room in Southern Pines. Contact her at December 2016

O.Henry 51


Ritz, Not Glitz Go for seasonal elegance in festive attire

By Waynette Goodson

I once attended a swank market-

ing awards event at the Marriott in Times Square. It was a black-tie affair during the holiday season. While I waited in my conservative black tuxedo dress for the publisher to meet me, I watched in horror as guests descended the stairs.

Women in bright yellow chiffon ruffles. Dresses with fabric cutouts in all the wrong places. Feathers. Plunging necklines. Nonexistent skirt lines. Stripper heels. I thought, “My God, don’t these people have to see each other around the watercooler on Monday morning? Don’t they work together?” Which brings me to what not to wear to the office holiday party, ladies: Anything that would make J.Lo blush and requires body tape.

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December 2016

What about the guys? Please steer clear of Christmas ties in neon colors or anything that lights up. In fact, no one should wear anything that requires batteries to a holiday party. (Not the hat, the antlers, and no, not the vest either.) The worst offender and my No. 1 Christmas fashion pet peeve: cardigans with 1,217 candy canes strewn all over them. You know the ones I’m talking about, those themed dandies that look like massive cat toys dangling with lights, Christmas balls, Santas, Christmas trees, jingle bells and other assorted gewgaws. Unless you’re going to a Bad Christmas Sweater party, or want to be, uh, Santa Clawed, then please, leave the sweater to crazy cat ladies of the world. Gals, another bad combo: black tights with either silver or gold shoes. Can you say “Susan Boyle,” pre-makeover? The only thing worse would be pairing them with corduroy Bermuda shorts (fine for dancing to Madonna’s “Holiday” at a 1980s-themed Christmas party). Just say, “No!” Or wait! So I stop you before you totally wreck the halls: Resist solid The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Threads sequined anything, especially dresses of any color and any length. (If you’re being crowned Miss Universe — then OK. . . . and no Alicia Machado jokes, please.) For both ladies and gents, if you pull something from the depths of your closet that you wore to your high school prom, or to a college mixer, please donate it immediately! Go to Goodwill, Go straight to Goodwill. Do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200 and most certainly, do NOT wear it to a holiday party. Remember these sage words: No, it does not still fit, and no, it is no longer in style. Repeat those words over and over to yourself in the mirror. If you really want to blend in at the party, just wear red, because all fifty-seven guests will also be wearing it. The color red is a tired Christmas cop out. It’s an “I don’t know what to wear, so I’ll just wear red” excuse. Believe me, so will everyone else! Yawn. Why not make a statement this year and dress to impress? So I don’t leave you with the impression that I’m the Fashion Scrooge, here are some tasteful and festive ideas of What TO Wear: • Gentlemen: What about trying a bow tie? Maybe one with a crisp peppermint stripe? Or how about some fun, colorful Christmas socks with your suit? I love anything by Paul Smith.

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• Ladies: Go for jewel tones: blues, fuschias, purples. Or what about metallics? Silver- or gold-tinged dresses, sweaters or even jeans. Then pair them with sparkling baubles for that extra Yuletide kick. • Guys, if you don’t own a velvet blazer, now is the time. Choose black, deep midnight blue, gray, maybe something with a paisley print. These can even dress up a pair of jeans. Don’t believe me? Check out Polo Ralph Lauren’s velvet jacket in a dark green, plaid. • One word: accessories. For the ladies, that could mean glittery nail polish, scarves or maybe vintage pendants. For the gents, colorful felt boutonnieres add a contrasting pop on a dark suit or blazer. And pocket squares are hot! (They don’t have to match your tie exactly, but the colors should complement.) Classic French cuff shirts give men a way to add holiday sparkle with eye-catching cuff links. • Just have fun! The worst choice is to not go to the party, or to not even try to look festive. As Oscar Wilde said, “You can never be too overdressed or overeducated.” OH Waynette Goodson is the editor in chief of Casual Living magazine. When she’s not keepin’ it casual, she loves to dress up and has probably violated every fashion “don’t” in this column at least once. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

December 2016

O.Henry 53


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December 2016



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True South

Nothing Too Personal , Please; W e’re Southern

By Susan Kelly

As a college junior, I’d been

dating this fellow for about three months, and Christmas loomed. I wanted to give him a baby blue crewneck sweater for Christmas. This was the height of the preppy look, and he was an actual preppy and he wore the same shutter-green crewneck sweater all the time.

“No,” my mother said. “It’s too personal. You shouldn’t give anything so personal.” I found this dictate amazing, and ridiculous. I was in love. “Give him a skeet shooter and a box of clay pigeons,” my father suggested. Hmm. Masculine, outdoorsy, and to boot, preppy. Perfect. Christmas looms again, and before you ponder, peruse, pay, wrap and tag, I’m here to advise what, decades later, is still too personal. Doesn’t matter how long you’ve been dating, married, a parent, a relation, or a friend. In these genres of gifts, angels fear to tread. Dopp kits and toiletries bags. He/she likes the hanging kind. She/he likes the zippered sort. She/he wants pouches on the inside so Q-tips and the shower cap he/she stole from the hotel won’t mingle with the tweezers and nail clippers. She/he wants an insert for the Ambien; he/she likes her own 3-oz. containers, not the ones that come with it. He/she doesn’t want a white interior because it gets filthy with spillage; she/he wants a white interior so she/he can 409 it. Square and squatty; leather or pleather or backpack fabric; prints; plain. The choices are legion and so are the possibilities for failure and disappointment.

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Bathrobes. He likes terry. No, terry is hot, makes him look fat. She wants short sleeves. Knee-length. Mid-calf. To the floor ’cause she feels like Katharine Hepburn in some movie. Seersucker belts knot and twist in the wash. Cotton has to be ironed. Pockets. No pockets. Cuffed sleeves. No, cuffs drag in the scrambled eggs. Zip front. Fleece. Flannel. White. Striped. Pastel. Print. Practical. Avoid at all costs. Wallets and billfolds. Where even to begin? Has no use for photo places. Insufficient slots. Too many slots. Wants all credit cards visible. Must have ring for keys. Likes change in a separate compartment. Needs a fold-over. Square, long, rectangular. Too heavy. Prefers a snap. Prefers magnetized. Really just wanted a money clip. For Christmas senior year, I by-God gave that boyfriend that sweater. Two Christmases later, I gave him another one. By then we were on really personal terms anyway: married. J. Crew’s first catalog was out, featuring gangly, tousledhaired girls and grinning, rough-bearded guys playing like puppies around station wagons and silos and sea grass. I gave a J. Crew sweater to a guy who still has his leather Tretorn tennis shoes, and the shawl-collared tuxedo he bought at Alexander Julian’s in 1972. Christmas morning, he stood there in a bulkyknit, boat-neck garment with no ribbing at the waist or wrists. He looked like a cross between a painter and a fisherman. A French one. “You got marketed, didn’t you?” he said. “Nothing personal,” he added, “but don’t ever give me clothes again.” Merry Christmas! Here’s your book/gin/gift certificate. OH In a former life, Susan Kelly published five novels, won some awards, did some teaching, and made a lot of speeches. These days, she’s freelancing and making up for all that time she spent indoors writing those five novels. December 2016

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“Illuminating Lives”

Greensboro, NC 27401 336-272-5157

MERIDITH MARTENS, artist Fine Art Animal Portraits 910.315.1214 56 O.Henry

December 2016

The Art & Soul of Greensboro


Merry, WhiteBreasted and Bright For the white-breasted nuthatch, there’s no nut too tough to crack

By Susan Campbell

What is that little bird scrambling, up-

side down along that branch — or hanging wrong-side-up from the suet feeder? A nuthatch of course! Take a closer look. If it is a mixture of gray, black and white, it is likely a white-breasted nuthatch. This handsome bird’s bright white breast contrasts with a gray back and wings — capped off with a black nape, neck and crown. Males and females, young and older birds — they all look identical.

White-breasteds, with their distintive “yank, yank, yank” calls, can be commonly found throughout most of the United States. The name “nuthatch” is derived from “nut hack,” which describes the way they often feed. Watch how these birds wedge potential food items into crevices in the tree bark and use their powerful bills to work their way into the fleshy, oily tidbits. These energetic little birds may also cache seeds (feeder seeds in particular) during colder weather by jamming dozens into the furrows of the bark of nearby trees. Nuthatches just like their cousins the titmice and chickadees, are cavity dwellers. They love nest boxes and use them not only during the nesting season but for roosting. Family groups of up to six individuals remain together both day and night until early spring. And as a result, they can be quite noisy as they call repeatedly to keep track of one another as they move across the landscape. Furthermore, during the nonbreeding season, they will flock up with titmice and chickadees. There is certainly safety in numbers for all of these small birds. And the more eyes there are, the more likely they’ll find food. These little birds not only eat a variety of seeds but caterpillars during the warmer months. They can readily be attracted to the all-around favorite black-oil The Art & Soul of Greensboro

sunflower seed at feeding stations. But they also love suet: high protein food that was once made with the fat that surrounds the kidneys of cows after it’s rendered. The irresistible “no melt” suet I offer is a homemade mix of lard and peanut butter studded with grains. Nuthatches cannot get enough of it – any day of the year! During the winter months, there are actually three species of nuthatches you might expect in our region of the state. The smaller brown-headed nuthatches are also year-round residents of pine forests here, but the more northerly redbreasteds may appear as well. Red-breasted nuthatches only move in our direction in years of poor northerly cone production. This is looking to be one of those years! I have already heard one in Southern Pines and several folks have reported them at their feeders in central North Carolina in recent weeks. These little birds, which are intermediate in size between white-breasteds and brownheadeds, have a white eye line and rosey chests. Red-breasted nuthatches love black-oil sunflower seeds as well as suet. They can be quite feisty and frequently dominate any feeders they take a liking to. Until one or two red-breasteds make an appearance, enjoy the antics of our local nuthatches scrambling around, often upside down, on the oaks and pines!

No Melt Suet Recipe: 1 cup lard or bacon grease 1 cup peanut butter

Melt together and add: 1 cup flour 2 cups uncooked oatmeal or other grain 2–4 cups yellow cornmeal depending on desired consistency — less for pouring into a mold to slice for suet cages in cold weather or more crumbling onto a platform feeder. OH Susan would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photographs at December 2016

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4200 Cranleigh Drive Exquisite 5 Bedroom, 5.2 Bath, custom built home in Sedgefield XI. Stunning Foyer & Dining Room, Great Room & Study both with gas log fireplace. Gourmet Kitchen with high-end cabinets, luxury appliances, & beautiful granite tops. Cozy Keeping Room off Kitchen with gas log fireplace. Master on main with updated Master Bath in 2016. Roomy 2nd level Bonus & Craft/Sewing Room. 3rd level Bonus perfect for Media/Game Room, or Teen/In-law suite. Refinished hardwoods, designer colors, & new lighting. Gorgeous covered back porch.

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Wandering Billy


(Baby Please Come Home) A Love-ly yuletide tradition and post-holiday watering holes

By Billy Eye “I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was 6. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.” — Shirley Temple

Increasingly one of my fave places to

lunch is Freeman’s Grub & Pub at Spring Garden and Chapman, named for the grocery store that operated out of this cozy spot from 1916 until around 1940 (and under several other names after that). This two-story 1911 storefront designed in the shotgun style, with living quarters upstairs, has been lavishly restored to provide a dreamy atmosphere for fine food served in sensible portions, important for someone like myself who eats light and forgets to take the packaged-up leftovers with him. The bahn mi is one of the most deli-

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

cious you’ll find anywhere; the spinach-stuffed salmon, braised collards and Brussels sprouts — heavenly. They even create infused liquors in-house, such as strawberry and jalapeño tequila, rosemary garlic vodka and cranberry lemongrass Beefeater Gin. There are bound to be some holiday-inspired flavors, as well. Ever heard of singer Darlene Love? Unless you were a rabid fan of early 1960s girl groups, that name is familiar because of something I got tricked into doing. Darlene became best-known for her yearly appearances beginning in 1986 on David Letterman’s show, where she performed his (and my) favorite holiday song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” a single recorded back in 1963 when her dynamic voice was enveloped in a volcanic Wall of Sound by that crazy murderous musical genius Phil Spector. Back in late-1980, my former co-worker Jay Lamey tracked down Ms. Love to see if she would perform a nightclub gig, one night only, to be professionally videotaped. He had a backup band lined up that could pull it together quickly and a cozy club in Santa Monica booked . . . if she would agree. Jay had been December 2016

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Ascot Point

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December 2016

event proceeds benefit the

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And its community progrAms

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Wandering Billy negotiating for some time with Ms. Love, who was then working as a maid in Beverly Hills, but she was hesitant to commit. I was a smooth talker then, fluent in the language of show business, and without my knowing, he told Darlene Love I was some big-time music producer and implored her to call me so I could assuage her fears. Except I wasn’t any kind of music producer at all, I was writing a punk rock column for an L.A. entertainment magazine. Close enough to showbiz, right? We had a cheerful conversation but Ms. Love remained leery throughout, disillusioned with all the many so-called comebacks she’d suffered through. At the same time she’d had it with touring as a backup singer for Dionne Warwick, despised it so much, she said she’d rather clean toilets for a living. Utterly charming, Darlene expressed a strong desire for some mechanism that would lead to a renewed career, one she could finally control. I must have spoken the right words; a few days later Jay told me with great excitement that she had agreed to do the showcase. This may have been her first performance since the 1960s. It was an electrifying night that led to a gig at the Roxy on Sunset a few weeks later. As a result, musician/actor/producer Steven Van Zandt lured her to New York, which led to Darlene starring on Broadway in Hairspray, the Lethal Weapon movies, Letterman, being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. You’re welcome, Darlene Love, for the late-career save. . . I imagine many of you are picking up O.Henry magazine for the first time, bored while visiting relatives for the holidays. I was once one of you and my nagging question was always: Where could I go Christmas night after everyone is passed out under the tree, especially since it falls on a Sunday night this year? Wonder no more, my exasperated expats! On the corner of Walker and Elam you’ll (re)discover Wahoo’s where, augmenting their funky atmosphere, every Sunday night they feature a cool jazz combo that is a real audience pleaser. Great place to relax with some friendly folks. I’ll be there, just look for age-inappropriately dressed aging hipster. (Oh that’s right, the bar’s full of ’em.) Other funked up places open until 2 a.m. on the 25th where you’ll be sure to find a solace of sorts: Jake’s Billiards, Boo Radley’s, Westerwood (always a pot-luck on Sundays), and College Hill. That is, assuming there isn’t a foot of snow on the ground (fond fair wishes!), in which case trundle over to my place for cheap bourbon and government cheese. OH Billy Eye hopes to party with the Ghost of Christmas Future this year, it’s just that the Ghost of Christmas Past usually shows up first and he’s so darn much fun! The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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wishes you the happiest of


H o l i day G i f t c e r t i f i c at e s a r e ava i l a b l e f o r pac k a G e s tays , G o l f a n d s pa ! fall and Winter specials for north carolina residents, learn more at | 336.294.1800 | 1000 Club Road • Greensboro, NC 27407 | Just off I-85 & I-73

Get comfortable, you’ll be seeing a lot more of us in the future.

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December 2016 The Gray and the Brown All morning long the gray and the brown lower their tapered heads, nibble   grass covered in mud from a recent rain. It is warm for winter, but horses know   nothing of seasons save the sun is a weightless rider and needs no saddle.   Come noon, they canter around the field in tandem, carrying   nothing but light. Then they halt like a horse and its shadow, motionless   as Paleolithic paintings in a cave — a moment so fleeting and perfect, clouds   form in the shape of horses, gallop across the sky in homage. —Terri Kirby Erickson

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The Eternal Child Within The ubiquitous, serendipitous life and art of Chip Holton By Nancy Oakley


hip Holton breezes down a central hallway of the O.Henry Hotel, clad in a simple black T-shirt and jeans, greeting the hotel staff with affable “heys” and “hellos” as he makes his way to the Green Valley Grill before it opens for lunch. Pointing to the arched space, or lunette, above the kitchen, the artist explains that the mural occupying it — a massive table laden with a feast of chicken, ham, fish, a loaf of bread, fruits, melon and wine — was meant to effect the Old World ambiance that hotelier Dennis Quaintance hoped for. “I’ve been working for Dennis for twenty-plus years,” says Chip, who insists that everyone call him by his first name, certainly not “Mr. Holton,” let alone “Frank P. III.” He and Quaintance met when the hotel’s designer, the late Don Rives, (“one of my best buddies,” Chip describes him . . . as nearly everyone he encounters seems to be) recommended to Quaintance that Chip paint a mural for Lucky 32 Restaurant. “Serendipity is part of what I do,” Chip observes. “A lot of work comes to me that way.” Whether helping out a friend, which landed him a gig as set designer for Twin City Stage in Winston-Salem, or striking up a conversation with Dave Fox at Thursday night Cocktails and Jazz and agreeing to give a visual interpretation to a “musical tapestry” the musician is composing. Chip describes his relationship with Quaintance as “brotherly,” unusual for a boss and employee, or patron and artist, if you will. “He’s sort of my Pope

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Julius,” the artist says of his employer, referring to Julius II, who commissioned Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel. “I kid him about it. But he’s a jolly pope. Nobody that would put you in chains in the Vatican if you misbehaved.” In time, with his exceptionally broad range of skills and artistic styles, Chip became vital to the aesthetic of both the O.Henry and Proximity Hotel, where he was given the title, artist-in-residence. He painted the semirecumbent portrait of William Sydney Porter in the lobby of the O.Henry. Taken from a photograph he and Rives discovered at the Greensboro Historical Museum, “part of the picture didn’t exist,” Chip recalls. “So I had to have somebody pose in a jacket in the chair and invented the environment. The curtain and all that stuff. And I was trying to make it look like the time period, the turn-of-the-century, with the tones and the painting, so it didn’t look modern,” the artist says. It was a challenge, because Chip, who had been working at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama, had accidentally dropped a metal exhibition piece on the fingers of his left hand — the one he paints with. He reveals the scar from the injury. “So I had this hand all bandaged up and I started this painting with my right hand,” he continues. Don’t get the idea that he’s bragging, though: “It was something I had to do, but in the process of doing that, I realized I could do either, so I can write with both, write upside down.” He can also do faux-finishing on walls, paintings and furniture, repair The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Photograph by Amy Freeman The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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carpet, and with equal agility paint architectural renderings and English-style watercolors that evoke the Belle Époque of a John Singer Sargent painting. There’s one of these, each different, in every room and in the downstairs of the O.Henry, painted live, on-site. Some depict the pergola outside, some are interiors of, say, a lamp on a table, or of Chip painting himself doing a painting of a sofa. “It can get monotonous doing the same place all the time,” he says. “So I move around a little bit, but it’s still the same subject.”


e flexed different artistic (and physical) muscles working on the interiors at Proximity Hotel, stating in a fleeting moment of solemnity that he feels “honored to visually represent a place in more than one way.” Leaving the Print Works Bistro, where he has just shown how he painted a Matisselike floral motif on the backs of the restaurant’s chairs, Chip feigns a limp, clowning around, and says, “Walk this way.” It is his salute to the late Gene Wilder who limped the same limp at British comic Marty Feldman’s command in the film Young Frankenstein. “He said it, ‘wyay.’” Chip mimics Feldman’s English accent with no trace of his Lexington roots. He climbs the stairs from the social lobby to the mezzanine lined with his border bearing a faint pattern of tree branches rendered in metallic paint on wood, and retrieving a couple of room key cards, jokes with the young woman at the check-in desk about burning his paintings and making a bonfire out of them. Opening an unoccupied room, he reveals yet another style of painting that “vacillates between Cubism and Abstract Expressionism,” to fit the hotel’s Mid-Century Modern vibe. Monocrhomatic black-on-white (Chip is currently adding color accents to all 150-some paintings throughout the lodging), the works are more restrained. “You would think it would be real restrictive, but it hasn’t been, for me. It’s been liberating, in that you have to engage your mind and your brain in a different way that’s really tightly controlled.” He pauses. “I’m not sure many other folks in my position would be comfortable switching back and forth between modes. But I am. I’m sort of like that, because I do The Art & Soul of Greensboro

a lot of different things. But my normal style is realism, with a nod to surreal.” Such as the mural in the Green Valley Grill that Chip considers his best work in the style. It derives from a 17th-century Baroque painting by Dutch master Jan Davidszoon de Heem. “They brought the fish to me from Lucky 32 on a platter. I got a ham from Conrad & Hinkle [Food Market] in Lexington to use as a resource for the color on the ham,” Chip says. Prior to tackling the larger work, he painted six or seven studies of it, one of which hangs in a private meeting room in the O.Henry Hotel’s lower level. When it came time to paint the mural he approached it the way it would have been painted during the Renaissance or in van Heem’s day, starting with an underlayer, or grisaille, in shades brown, before applying the color with oils. All told, the project took him about four months to complete. One wonders whether restaurant patrons, as they’re diving into a helping of grits, appreciate his skill and labor that went into the piece. “Probably not,” says Chip, matter-of-factly. “But I’ve run into some people who stare at the painting and figure out how it was put up.” Answer: He painted it on canvas off-site, rolled it up, stretched it, and with the help of some workers stapled it into its arched alcove. It’s how he configures most of his murals, “an effective use of my time,” Chip says. Additionally, they are more transportable, such as the comical one in the Black Chicken Coffee shop in Lexington that was moved from the establishment’s original location to its current one on West Second Street. Painted in folk art style, it depicts several chickens and roosters reading books — Don Quixote, The Golden Bough, Animal Farm, The Little Prince, Grimm’s Fairy Tales and volumes of poetry by John Keats and W. B. Yeats (“books I like to read,” says Chip); trotting across the bottom of the mural is a Scottish terrier — the original black “chicken.” Another mural, based on the writings of Thomas Berry, fills the octagonal rotunda of the Kathleen Clay Edwards Library in Greensboro’s Price Park. The mural is a favorite of Chip’s, he says, because it’s “more intellectualized” than some of his other woks. Yet more adorn walls of several Mexican restaurants December 2016

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in the Triad and beyond. And then there’s the one in the children’s room at the Lexington Public Library that pays homage to the department’s librarian, Valerie Holt Craven, who met an untimely death at the hands of an abusive boyfriend. “I was so distraught, because my kids loved coming up here and talking to Val. She was a fantastic person,” Chip reflects. The mural, spanning two adjacent walls in a corner of the library, is a colorful fantasyland with the Tree of Knowledge as its focal point. Children, engrossed in books, lounge on its branches or in its shade. Oversized mushrooms (“hallucinogenic mushrooms,” Chip clarifies with a sly laugh) punctuate the scene. A dog and cat, and a frog enjoy a Punch and Judy show; a man on stilts throws balloons. Tom Sawyer makes an appearance, as does a windmill (another allusion to Don Quixote); a Chinese laborer unloads a boat “a reference to the furniture industry leaving,” Chip explains. “There’s all kinds of stuff in there.”


e frequently adds symbols and jokes to his works. And his own image. “That’s me reflected in that green thing,” Chip says, pointing to a shiny object in the upper right-hand portion of the Green Valley Grill mural. “There’s a fly in there, too, somewhere, but I couldn’t tell you where.” In a drawing in his Lexington studio, a finished barn at March Motors, he has depicted himself with a portion of his head as a drip sandcastle (“I used to make ’em all the time at the beach,” he laughs). In another, the artist looks outward — his eyes and forehead painted

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

over with a patch of blue sky and clouds. He’s sculpted himself as a crude clay Cro-Magnon man from a museum exhibit he worked on; and painted a serious self-portrait during his grad student days, his faunlike face framed by beard and long hair. “I had much longer hair than that,” Chip says. But as it began to thin, he decided he looked too much like Ben Franklin and keeps it short most of the time.


he self-portraits are scattered alongside other works in the barn: Fauvist-style paintings of musicians performing live; a backdrop for the set of a play about Siamese twins Chang and Eng for the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mount Airy copied from a vaudeville poster; commissions from photographs (“so terribly boring”); a portrait of his daughter as a child; a representational sculpture in resin of his son as a boy: a bust of an anguished woman filled and painted with bronze powder; an acrylic painting of his dog; a wooden headboard with an animal motif carved for his children’s crib. These are situated among his brushes and paints, and MGs, Austin Healeys and assorted English racing cars. He discovered the barn — how else? — serendipitously when he bought a car (a Ford Taurus not a racecar) from owner Jeff March and wound up doing a painting for a charity auction the car dealer was sponsoring. Several paintings of cars (Chip’s “overhead,” as it were) also hang on the studio’s walls and in an adjacent room. In one, set against the backdrop of an imaginary farm, the artist has playfully added a country bumpkin burning trash. Chip likes the building’s December 2016

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long walls, conducive to working on murals, but it often gets too cold to work with paint. “I guess, in some ways, I’m an itinerant painter, because I don’t have a permanent studio,” he says, having given up the one in his house after his marriage ended. He has an apartment in Greensboro, and the hotels, of course, but has to be careful not to spill paint on carpets and curtains. “You want this little place that’s yours, that you think is yours,” Chip says. “But everything’s temporary. You’re only there long enough to eat a little bit and turn back to dust. But in reality, it’s a comfort to have that place to locate our work in and do it. It’s practical to have a studio.”


n the back wall of the barn behind a worktable is a sentimental favorite, a portrait of Chip’s mother that he painted just before she died. Also a painter, she was the primary artistic influence in his life. “She’d burn toast and fried chicken while I was in the next room coloring,” he remembers, and provided him with “constant exposure to art.” The family home contained volumes of

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Michelangelo’s paintings alongside copies of The Saturday Evening Post, famous for its covers by Norman Rockwell. “I grew up instinctively drawing things I could see and wanting to draw them like that,” Chip says. They were his early steps in the direction of realism. He says the painting of her is more than a portrait, but “a statement about change that connects everybody” through various images and symbols. In it, his mother faces the viewer, her back to the ocean while Chip’s nephew makes a drip castle in a tidal pool in the background. “I’m reflected in the fisherman’s buoy,” Chip says, referring to the white sphere his mother is holding in front of her womb. The top right-hand portion of the canvas is damaged from where an air-conditioner leaked water behind it, a haunting reminder to Chip that he “often neglects things” and an ironic one, too: The title of the painting is Mother and the Sea. “You know, “Ave Maria.” Mare [Italian for ‘sea’]”, Chip says, with an Italian accent. It recalls his stint in the late 1960s when he studied in Asolo, Italy, under Jim Moon. The founder of the Art Department at School of the Arts in WinstonThe Art & Soul of Greensboro

Salem, Moon became a mentor to Chip, one of many artists he supports with collective shows through the Asolare Fine Art Foundation. A simple line drawing of the Northern Italian burg and a painting of the house where Chip stayed while under Moon’s tutelage have prominent places in the racecar barn.


hip’s formal study of art didn’t begin until graduate school. He had hoped to train as an architect at N.C. State’s School of Design, “but my math allergy set in,” he quips. The barn/studio in Lexington contains a pen-and-ink drawing of figures striking poses similar to Rodin’s The Thinker; they are set in a warped black-and-white checkered background. “It’s based on the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, called Nausea,” Chip says, adding that it was around this time he started studying philosophy. “Learning how to reason was helpful. You start with an idea and must reach a conclusion. It’s helpful in artwork: Start to finish with logic in between.” He went on to UNCG, where he got his Master’s in Fine Art with a concentration in portrait painting. In the barn/studio, he stops by a portrait of his father, shown in profile sitting in an armchair and wearing a simple undershirt. There is a noticeable resemblance between father and son. “It wasn’t his favorite,” Chip admits. “I said, ‘Dad, I know I’m not going to depict you in a smiley-face kind of way,” he remembers, adding that the point of the painting was to support his Master’s thesis: “studying the structure of the head in a simplistic pattern, in a simplistic way, with a reduced number of colors involved.” He explains that the painting only uses about four or five colors. “And it’s been urinated on by cats,” Chip laughs. “Anyway, I’ve got to clean it.” Frank P. Holton Jr. was an attorney in Lexington, and Chip remembers, as a child, visiting his dad when he worked at the splendid antebellum courthouse

The Art & Soul of Greensboro

downtown. It is now the home of the Davidson County Historical Museum, and it is here that Chip has contributed some of his more unusual work: twenty life-size cutouts, or dummy boards, of participants of the famous and sensational 1921 trial of Dr. John Peacock, who shot a police officer in cold blood in the light of day — and was acquitted on what was an early use of the temporary insanity defense. Some of the cutouts are so realistic in detail and liveliness, you find yourself turning around to see if one of them might wink at you. “It was a lot of fun,” Chip says, recalling the careful planning and historical research of the cutouts’ details, from the dress and haircuts among the millworkers who comprised most of the jury, to the cigarettes that an attorney is puffing on (horrifying to visiting schoolchildren). The tableau is an extension of Chip’s museum work that he’s done off and on over the years — at the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, the McWane in Birmingham where he crushed the fingers of his painting hand. He’s done a lot of work around his hometown: a bronze sculpture for the police station in Lexington, Italianate murals in the tasting room at Childress Vineyards and numerous paintings that hang in private homes. “It’s all a part of the output of an artist,” he says. And yet, his restless creativity, “the eternal child thing,” as Chip calls it, longs for expression without a commercial element; expression of his choosing. “I feel like if I don’t do it, I’m going to die . . . unrequited,” he says. “One thing’s certain: I’m gonna die. The other thing that’s uncertain: I might die happy if I do more of my own stuff.” Whatever that might be, it, too, will be as eternal as that eternal child who long ago dreamed of being a modern-day Michelangelo . . . while he colored to the smell of burnt toast and fried chicken. OH Nancy Oakley is the senior editor of O.Henry December 2016

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Room at the Inn

The spirit of Christmas is alive and well at an aptly named shelter for homeless expectant mothers


By Annie Ferguson • Photographs by Amy Freeman

here’s something extraordinary happening in Greensboro’s Historic Aycock Neighborhood, where Queen Annes, Tudor Revivals, Dutch Colonials, and Arts-and-Crafts–style bungalows stately sit along treelined drives. On Park Avenue in particular, you’ll find a lot of activity, both visible and invisible, at the former Sternberger Mansion, a large home inspired by Victorian and American Foursquare architecture that was built in 1898 on Summit Avenue and later moved to its current location. The building is now the Mary C. Nussbaum Maternity Home, where the lives of pregnant, homeless women are transformed into ones of hope through the support of Room at the Inn, the only licensed maternity home in Guilford County that accepts women of all ages — and one of only eight licensed maternity homes in North Carolina. The nonprofit organization provides shelter, counseling, child care for clients’ older children, transportation and more during the pregnancies of women from across the state — from Murphy to Manteo. After the babies arrive, women who have graduated from the program can stay at what’s affectionately called Amy’s House next door while attending college. Women waiting for an opening in the maternity home may also stay there. Donations from Francis and Patty Disney of Our Lady of Grace Church, the Greater Greensboro Builders Association and collaboration with local churches have made Amy’s House and the college program possible. “We began our support of Room at the Inn after losing a child,” says Patty Disney. “My husband and I saw Room at the Inn as a means of strengthening our belief in the gift of life and that God has a plan for each soul.” Disney says her family’s involvement with the organization began with the initial hands-on renovations of the Mary Nussbaum House. Later, they were able to help Room at the Inn expand with the college program. “God’s providence offered funds to support the establishment of Amy Elizabeth Disney Home. We be-

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lieve in offering a place for the women and children while they get the support they need to get a step up on providing for their families.” The Disneys and many others in the community have truly rallied behind the organization with the aim of providing as much room as possible. Cherry Street United Methodist Church began offering space to Room at the Inn in 2005 through The Back Yard Ministry. Now let’s take a look back at how all of these developments came to be. Room at the Inn’s genesis was in the early 1990s in the living room of the rectory at St. Benedict Catholic Church on West Smith Street. Gate City native Albert Hodges along with the pastor and several other parishioners were sitting around a table discussing a serious need. “A good number of us were inspired to get involved in efforts to help pregnant women and their unborn children, especially in the Greensboro area,” explains Hodges, whose grandfather moved to the city in 1920 to work at Cone Mills. “We were largely supported in our efforts by the pastor of Saint Benedict at the time, Father Conrad Kimbrough.” (Kimbrough passed away in 2011.) After the decision was made, Hodges, now Room at the Inn’s president and CEO, went to Good Counsel Homes in New York and New Jersey to learn how such ministries operate. Maternity homes opened in Charlotte and Raleigh too, but the three efforts later went their separate ways. In Greensboro, with the help of forty-five church organizations, various community leaders and along with Disney Construction Co., the home was completely renovated from a run-down triplex into a home that can house six women and their children. It opened in 2001. Since then, the organization, which is affiliated with the Catholic Church, has served more than 400 women of all faiths and became accredited by the Council on Accreditation in 2010. Room at the Inn is the only Catholic maternity home in the Southeast with this national recognition. Although clients are invited to attend a place of worship of their choice, they are not required to. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Hodges shies away from the spotlight. “It’s really about the mothers and the Hodges is proud of the accreditation since most charities that earn this recogniamazing staff,” he says, mentioning Donadio; Jason Melton, support services tion have millions of dollars, and Room at the Inn operates on a “shoestring manager; and Edith Clifford, vice president of administrative operations; budget.” But what speaks to Hodges’ heart of hearts, more than any outcome, and Sally Foroudi, the volunteer coordinator of baby showers and after-care statistic or official recognition, are the life-altering changes he and his staff have resource center. Then Hodges mentions a more-recent staff addition. helped foster over the years. “Danielle Dean is our residential supervisor. I’ve never had a house manager “The mothers must make the decision on their own to change their lives, who could enforce the rules the way she does while still being respected and and we are here to support them as much as possible,” he says. Nicki, one of loved by the women who live there,” he says. the first women to stay at the home, apparently caused some problems when After just one year on staff, Dean feels at home, too. “I oversee the mothers, she was living in the house. Hodges decided to have what people like to call interview them when they come a “come-to-Jesus” talk with her. “I in, and basically provide them with said, ‘You know this isn’t a prison; everything they need resource wise: you don’t have to stay here, but transportation to doctor appointwe don’t have to keep you either,’” ments, attendance with clients at Hodges explains with visible court, help getting them enrolled emotions. Afterward, the young into child care centers in the area,” woman proceeded to change her says Dean, who has fifteen years attitude and land a job, which led of professional child care experito finding her own home. When ence and is studying to earn her it came time for Nicki to leave bachelor’s degree in Birth through the maternity home, she pulled Kindergarten Education at North Hodges aside and said, “You know, Carolina Central University. “We Albie, this place changed my life. I do parenting classes here as well. feel wholesome now.” I try to teach them the proper way The organization has enjoyed to raise healthy, thriving children impressive outcomes and success and have a healthy pregnancy. I stories, including moms who have also do the food program to help graduated from college with honors ensure they’re getting the proper and a mom who earned a standing meals each day, so they’re balanced ovation in court for turning her life according to state regulations.” In around. Yet Hodges says he can’t March, Dean became a certified imagine a better outcome than labor coach so she can be a support knowing someone who once felt system for the moms who don’t broken now feels complete. have anyone in that role. Dean’s “Albert Hodges’ whole life is role has a special significance to this agency and these women,” her. “I felt this was a calling because says Marianne Donadio, who met I was down in the dumps. On Hodges at St. Benedict. “He’s a November 1, 2015, I applied for father figure to the women, women what was going to be a part-time who have grown up without that job doing childcare and parenting male figure in their life. It’s nice to classes. I was full time before the see that dynamic.” end of the year,” she says. Dean Donadio volunteered as Room hesitated to go in before her first at the Inn was getting its start and visit, until Melton came outside to for many years later. Five years welcome her. “I walked through ago Hodges hired her as the vice the doors, and I felt this is where I president of marketing and developneed to be. Hodges hired Dean the ment. “Everyone has a story. You same day. see someone on the street, and you Support group: Danielle Dean, Albert Hodges and Marianne Donadio and a new mother A year on, Dean says she feels just don’t know what they’ve been and child. like she’s the house mom. Everyone through, and it’s easy to make rash loves it when she cooks chicken and waffles. “The children don’t even talk judgments,” Donadio says. “I enjoy the one-on-ones with the clients that allow during those meals, so it must be good,” she says with a smile. “You’re not me to get to know them and their stories. It’s not just generic information about just here for a paycheck,” she reflects. “I’m a missionary right here in our local the program that I share. I talk about our mothers, and the people relate to town of Greensboro.” OH them. It’s much more convincing when I know closely what’s going on.” One of Donadio’s major responsibilities is planning the annual fundraising banquet Annie Ferguson was fortunate to have Danielle Dean teach both of her children in October, an enormous undertaking. This year’s event set a record by raising when they were toddlers. To support Room at the Inn, visit, like them $150,000. More inspiring was the speaker: Immaculée Ilibagiza, a Rwandan on Facebook or sign up for the fifteenth Annual Amy Elizabeth Disney Memorial genocide survivor and best-selling author who spoke on mercy and forgiveness. Golf Tournament on May 4. With all of the activity in the home and of running the organization overall, The Art & Soul of Greensboro

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White Christmas, Dry Christmas How the spirit(s) of the hippest holiday in memory were dampened by a state court system determined to play Ebenezer Scrooge By Billy Ingram • Illustration by Harry Blair


he year 1966 brought the grooviest Christmas season Greensboro will likely ever see, a time of unprecedented prosperity in a nation embracing a Space-Age future, in an era when the provincial collided with the outlandish — at a moment that just might have been the tipping point when Pop became forever enshrined as America’s dominant culture. The Gate City was basking in the dawn of the Go-Go Years. At a time when you could purchase a Moravian star for $3 at The Corner on Tate Street, Thalhimers Department Store would customdecorate your Christmas tree . . . if you opted for a natural one. Original model aluminum trees with a rotating lighted color wheel, sought-after collector’s items today, were at the time considered the height of tackiness — or chic, I’m not sure which. To each his own at Christmastime, right? When I was a kid our neighbor Jane King absolutely hated blinking lights on a tree. Naturally dad made sure there was at least one bulb that flashed on and off just to get a reaction from her that was as much a holiday tradition as can-shaped cranberry sauce. Every evening hundreds motored way out High Point Road to cruise slowly past Pilot Life’s Nativity scene (currently on display at Greensboro College). The first reception at a decrepit Blandwood Mansion kicked off a fundraiser that would eventually save the property, leading to our modern-day Preservation Greensboro. City and county leaders got behind a referendum that would raze the 56-year-old courthouse to erect a new municipal center. The affairs of the Court — with its back-and-forth rulings on the use of alcohol — would be on everyone’s minds, however as the twelfth month of that pivotal year arrived. Especially on the minds of convivial gals in pillbox hats and little black dresses, or daring new mini-skirts, and guys in Sansabelt pants and velour mock turtlenecks, fashions of the day that would ultimately descend into that hippy-dippy madness we think of as the late ’60s. But in ’66 mock-Ts and LBD’s were de rigeur for restaurant patrons and tipplers, who’d walk into restaurants with brown bags or knitted cozies containing the hooch of their choice, which a bartender would take and measure into cocktails, then charge for set-ups. Cin Cin! Bottom’s Up! Here’s mud in your eye! Since 1935, a state-controlled Alcohol Beverage Control distribution and tax system had been in effect for those communities passing referendums allowing liquor sales. That didn’t happen in the Gate City until 1952. Even so, you couldn’t stroll the ABC store aisles to make your selection as you can today; that was done by no-nonsense clerks who kept the merchandise behind a counter. Moreover, bars and taverns couldn’t sell liquor throughout the state, so a winkwink, nudge-nudge practice known as “brown bagging” was instigated. So called “bottle clubs” like the Sir Loin Room inside McClure’s Restaurant in the Summit Shopping Center allowed repeat diners to store their booze on the premises. Country clubs offered liquor lockers to their members. While swinging singles were out swilling, kids were left chilling to primetime shows, all broadcast in “living color” for the first time ever, giving many families an excuse to rush out and purchase top of the line Curtis Mathes console television sets retailing for around $700 at Steele & Vaughn (where Pryor Brewery is today). A dented model from the Sears Outlet Store on Lawndale was a money saving option for cheapskates like my dad. Equally appealing to impressionable young minds as Bewitched and Batman were the commercials. Toymakers opened the spigot to feed the insatiable maw of Baby Boomers coming of age, expanding the fantasy universe of established best-sellers like G.I. Joe, Johnny West and Barbie, while launching new franchises such as the inexplicably popular

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Suzy Homemaker appliance line that included an oven, washing machine and dishwasher. Seemingly reinforcing the stereotype that a woman’s place was in the home, how could these little girls imagine they’d be working two jobs when they grew up? What kids hollered most for, introduced in 1966: G.I. Joe Astronaut with floating capsule, Debutante Ball Barbie and her mod cousin Francie, Twister, Batman Utility Belt with Batarang and Bat-Cuffs, 330-piece Fort Apache battle set, Baby Teenie Talk with moving lips, Major Matt Mason and Captain Action action figures, See ’N Say, Lego Car Repair Shop, Spirograph, Operation, Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker, those Show’N Tell ersatz-TV record players synced to a built-in slide projector, the Addams Family Thing Bank with a little green hand that snatches the coin away. Weaponry and subterfuge were all the rage for kids as a Cold War gripped the nation. The Mattel Zero M was by appearances a transistor radio that, at the touch of a button, expanded into a cap firing assault rifle. Along with a Luger that transforms into a submachine gun, the ISA 07-11 Super Spy Attache Case featured a built in telescope, working hidden camera and walkie-talkies that could transmit a signal up to a 1/4 mile away as long as there were no impediments like walls or buildings, which was kinda the whole point so they were basically worthless. For the purist there was Mattel’s M16 Marauder, just like big brother carried in Vietnam, with realistic Braap-Braaaaaap, Brap Brap sound. Nothing compared to the Johnny Seven O.M.A. (One Man Army) by Topper, the ultimate killing machine with a grenade launcher, anti-tank weapon, antibunker missile, armor-piercing shell and detachable pistol for when the fighting gets close. For $70 Santa scored a chrome-plated Schwinn Fastback Stingray bike with a 5-speed stick shift and elongated banana seat; the Slik Chik model for girls came with a flowered wicker basket up front. Low-riding youngsters rolled in style in AMF’s Mustang metal pedal car with spinner hubcaps. If Dad wanted his own ’66 Mustang, Friendly Ford was all too happy to hand over the keys for around $2,200. Ah! Nothing succeeds like excess! (I wish I’d thought of that line first.) Just ask His Royal Greenness. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! aired on TV for the first time in 1966, and as mean a one as Mr. Grinch was, it was the N.C. Supreme Court, with hearts two sizes too small, that handed down a draconian ruling that threatened to torpedo the holiday season, criminalizing perfectly normal behavior while setting up a situation where anyone could be hauled off by police for re-gifting that fruitcake from Aunt Betty. Wait, what? Stick with me . . . North Carolina has always had a tortured history with alcohol. The state enacted Prohibition a full decade before the nation followed suit in 1919. The General Assembly passed the Turlington Act a few years later declaring that the consumption of spirits was allowed only in the privacy of one’s own home (medicinal and religious uses exempted). How it was supposed to get into the home when it was illegal “to manufacture, sell, barter, transport, import, export, deliver, furnish, purchase or possess intoxicating liquor” was anyone’s guess but

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it led to a labyrinth of shady practices and elaborate delivery schemes, one of which evolved into what we now know as NASCAR. Small wonder, spiriting bathtub gin from one surreptitious rendezvous point to another was as much sport as commerce. For three decades Greensboro residents purchased liquor in dark alleyways, carefully hidden inside a bushel of apples bought on Commerce Street or slipped surreptitiously from under the counter at Fordham’s Drug Store on South Elm, until the aforementioned brown bagging became a common practice in ’52. For almost fifteen years it seemed a reasonable coexistence between wet and dry forces had been reached.


hat peace was shattered on December 1, 1966, however, when citizens awoke to the news that the N.C. Supreme Court had unanimously ruled brown bagging unconstitutional, that “the Turlington Act is still the primary law in every area which has not elected to come under the ABC Act.” Once again a person could possess liquor only in their own private dwelling or while traveling to and from the ABC store. No more than a gallon of liquor could be transported across state lines, any more than that in any one place carried with it the presumption of intent to resell. Potent potables could be served to guests in one’s home but nowhere else, not even a rented hall or private club hosting a wedding reception or holiday party. It was suddenly illegal to bring a $2.79 pint of Old Crow to someone’s house (as it should be), present a giftbox of Chivas Regal to your dinner host or give a bottle of Smirnoff to your uncle. Gifting baked goods containing rum or brandy? They may as well have been pot brownies — you’re going to jail, Grandma! Mass confusion ensued. Restaurateur J. W. McClure expressed a frustration felt by many, “I don’t know what the laws are and I’m afraid nobody does either,” he declared with exasperation. When a Mecklenburg judge suggested the ruling could be postponed for the season, the State Supreme Court, with “unprecedented swiftness,” dispatched a marshall from Raleigh to Charlotte with a copy of the proclamation to be recorded immediately at the Mecklenburg Superior Court, something no one had ever recalled happening before. Their adjudication was effective immediately and would not be forestalled, not even by the Supreme Court in Washington D.C., which refused to intervene. The state ABC Board announced that no warrant was required for their officers to infiltrate any venue where festivities were underway to enforce compliance and arrest offenders if necessary. Just so there was no doubt about the seriousness of this decree, the Greensboro and Sedgefield country clubs were formally notified that, from that point forward, beer and wine alone could be served on the premises. The Sand Hills Country Club dismantled their signature bar shelves stocked with members’ bottles. The manager of the Reidsville Elks Lodge declared, “This is going to bring back the hip flask and the lady with the big pocketbook.” The effect on the hospitality industry was swift and devastating. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

McClure’s Steak House saw receipts drop 59 percent, forcing the closure of its members-only bottle club. Reservations for New Year’s Eve parties at nightclubs and eateries plummeted by as much as two-thirds. Supper clubs suffered the most. The Tropicana ceased operations entirely while Fred Koury’s Plantation experienced a 70 percent revenue drop. Waitstaff at Cellar Anton’s, McClure’s and The Colony grew used to diners, those they had left, sneaking back to their cars in the middle of a meal for a quick nip. That December, Harold Driggers and the Six Key Brothers were opening for Jerry Butler at the Plantation when they recorded a regional hit single at Copeland Sound Studio in Greensboro called “Brown Baggin’”, a Paramount Records release riffed on an earlier soul tune, “Barefootin’”. It quickly became the second most requested song on WCOG with scintillating lyrics:


I just heard Mr. Fred say I know what to do. I’ll brown bag if you brown bag too, And if the brown baggin’ crowd is big enough, I don’t think they’ll try to lock us all up. Of course, to toddlers and teetotalers this was all much ado about nothing, for most folks the holidays soldiered on without a hitch despite a dampening of spirits. Shoppers jockeyed for parking spaces downtown in front of Prago-Guyes and Belk, or a few blocks down South Elm at Tiny Town Toyland. Big Bear at Lawndale Shopping Center prepared family sized Christmas dinners for $8.95. Moon Wyrick brought up the rear as Santa in the Holiday Jubilee parade following WFMY’s Old Rebel and Pecos Pete waving from a Model T Ford, while, just up ahead, Little Miss Sunbeam tossed miniature loaves of bread to an eager crowd from her fanciful float. As it happened, there were no arrests locally for unlawful partying but the ABC board reported lower sales than the previous December. Within a few months the 1967 legislature bent to the will of the people and reinstated brown bagging. It wasn’t until two decades later that Greensboro residents could walk into a bar or eatery and order a drink without a bottle in hand, a concept known fifty years ago as “whisky by the drink.” My most cherished memory of Christmas ’66, besides that cool Lost in Space Roto Jet Gun that rained spinning plastic projectiles on my younger siblings for weeks afterward, was the storm Christmas Eve that delivered nearly 3 inches of snow just as St. Nick began making his rounds. It was a White Christmas that found children of all ages hopping onto new Flexible Flyers, carving deep ruts into the Greensboro Country Club golf course while others rocketed down slippery slopes on Northwood in Latham Park or down Fairmont in Lake Daniel. In a scant few years the Big Wheel rendered pedal cars and tricycles obsolete, and Barbie had long ago stopped hanging out with her hard-partying cousin Francie. Still, an amazing number of 1966 sensations are still with us. Spirograph, Twister, Operation and sophisticated Lego systems haven’t lost their allure. I even saw one of those Addams Family banks not long ago, although I suspect there won’t be many Batarangs with handcuffs under trees this Christmas. And who needs walkie-talkies and hidden cameras? We carry them around everywhere we go. OH Billy Ingram was so far into Santa he wrote and starred in five hours of Christmas specials for the Bravo network in 2005—06 and portrayed Father Tobias in A Killer Christmas Carol film. He has an extensive tribute to Christmases of old on The Art & Soul of Greensboro

On the Terrace

Like so many entertainment emporiums of the early 20th century, the opulent National Theatre on South Elm went dark in December of 1966 after forty-five years. The National was a magnificent gilded showplace built during the heyday of vaudeville, for decades afterward welcoming the brightest luminaries of the stage including Lunt and Fontanne, Helen Hayes, Will Rogers, Tallulah Bankhead, Earl Carroll’s Vanities and, most famously, Elvis Presley in 1956. Just a few years earlier the National was the scene for successful protests to end segregated seating. By that point it had been reduced to a B-movie palace. It had to close, because under the law no single entity could own more than two movie houses inside the city limits. In1966 Gaston Street was renamed Friendly Avenue, after the gleaming shopping center at the end of the road where the Terrace Theater made its debut on Christmas Day (showing Disney’s Follow Me, Boys). Boasting rocking chair seats, Surround Sound, and a state of the art, wall-to-wall 180-degree Ultravision screen, the theater with its modern open-faced two-story lobby, fronted in brushed steel and glass, stood in stark contrast to the city’s mausoleum-like cinemas such as the Carolina built back in the 1920s. A time capsule filled with culturally significant artifacts was buried alongside the Terrace to be opened in a far off future most would never live to see, the year 2016, when surely it would be unearthed by atomic powered flying cars. That capsule was prematurely disinterred in 2001 when the property was demolished to make way for Romano’s Macaroni Grill. It was discovered the seal on the module had been breached, its precious cargo from an ancient civilization immersed in water and red clay. As for the National, it suffered insult upon injury: After its closure, it was further reduced in stature, becoming a parking lot next to the Guilford Building. —B.I. December 2016

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Story of a House

Out of the Shadow of Shadowlawn For the Culler family, home is truly where the heart is By Cynthia Adams Photographs by Amy Freeman


he story of our house — destroyed,” is the heading written neatly on a sheet of legal paper. Below the heading are notes, penned by Ashley Culler. She has a Christmas story unlike most, and one she has finally decided to tell. Hers is the story of what was lost, but more importantly, what was found. Ashley and her husband Braxton’s current Emerywood house in High Point is a beauty. Although the newer section of their home is only a few decades old, skillful renovations make it appear as if it were much older. The carriage house, however, is a period piece that once belonged to the “lost house” and is now a wing of the Cullers’ new home. Some of the artful trickery employed to give this new home vintage appeal results from craftsmanship better known to another century. Authentic plaster-cast moldings and 1920s era details appear throughout the main rooms and even show up in private areas, such as dressing rooms. The home features a few relics, lovingly restored, carefully salvaged from the

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family’s prior house that once stood only a few yards away. The most obvious artifact of the lost house is what they now call a gazebo. It stands as a proud and touching emblem. It was a covered stone and brick rear entry, formerly attached to their destroyed home but now freestanding. There is a chandelier in the elegant red dining room and wall sconces that were sent to New York for restoration. A few leaded glass windows (salvaged, miraculously enough) were installed near the library. A once-charred mantel was plucked from the ashes and placed in the living room — and a single finial in the front stairwell is nearby. A few beams, recovered from the former dwelling, made their way to an outdoors terrace. These emblems are not only architecturally important; they are symbolic of this family’s triumphant rise from a tragic fire during Christmas six years ago.


hat the Cullers’ new home doesn’t have are any pieces of furniture, any paintings, any crockery, memorabilia or pictures, not even a single family photo, from their former one. That is all gone, lost in the fire and belonging to the past. What the Cullers do have are a glorious present and a sense of gratitude. Come Christmas, the “new” Culler house glows within and without, with twinkling beauty. High Point designer John Paulin, of Grassy Knoll, drapes the exterior and the surrounding evergreens on the sizeable property with fairy lights. Iron reindeer that were spared immolation are on display on the lawn. Inside, traditional Christmas colors are employed and a family Nativity scene is on display that once belonged to Ashley Culler’s mother. After her mother’s

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death, the tableau was carefully restored by artist Dana Holliday. A deft touch can be seen in every room and the largest tree is in the library. “We decorate after Thanksgiving,” Culler says, “and it is magical.”


he Culler family purchased their original Emerywood home from their much-loved neighbors, Harold and Peg Amos. From the time of the purchase more than thirty years ago, the Amoses were literally in their backyard — domiciled in a beautifully built house facing Country Club Drive whose design incorporated a carriage house original to the property. The Cullers’ house and grounds backed up to the Amos house and faced Emerywood Drive. The Amos house was sympathetic in period and design, built on land carved from the estate circa 1980. In essence, the Amoses had downsized directly behind their sprawling former home, one which echoed some of what made their historic home, Shadowlawn, so splendid. The 1920s era mansion called Shadowlawn was a dream — a brick French Revival Tudor. Shadowlawn, designed by, the architecture firm Northup O’Brien in Winson-Salem, known for designing Graylyn and other distinctive homes, was known as a fine example of his residential work. Built by Quaker businessman J. Elwood Cox in 1926, Shadowlawn’s 10,000 square feet were packed with the lush details: soaring, beamed ceilings; rich wood paneling and carvings; leaded windows, elaborate stairways and exquisite architectural details, making Shadowlawn known to preservationists and architects. But six years ago, the dream was destroyed. “We turned the Christmas tree on and it exploded into flames,” says Ashley Culler. “I escaped from the house and ran down my driveway with my 3-year-old granddaughter in my arms. I turned around and looked back at my house. Oh, my God!” On a November day Culler perches on a sofa on the back terrace that faces the grounds where Shadowlawn once stood, soaking up the slanting rays of the afternoon sun. She wears casual clothes, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and pauses from the yellow notepaper in her hands. “May I read something to you?” she asks politely. It is a first-person account of events of December 26, 2010. There is no trace of the panic she once experienced only yards away from where we sit. She calmly reads from an account she has written by pencil in neat longhand. “In three minutes our entire house was engulfed in flames. I know this, because my neighbor had recorded it on his video camera — that was time-stamped.” It was that point during the holiday when the family had entered the winding-down time, and Ashley Culler was still wearing sweatpants and sneakers. As always, Shadowlawn was a splendid festive setting — with Santas, garlands, flowers and favorite seasonal mementos out on display. The Cullers’ live Christmas tree was illuminated with strands of lights that were controlled by a floor

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switch, which granddaughter Libby loved to operate. Tiny Libby stepped onto the switch — but this time, the tree ignited in furious flames. Culler had planned to run upstairs for a quick shower before her son arrived with his family — but they arrived early and so she was still puttering downstairs. “If I had been in the shower, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here,” Culler says. “No one was upstairs.” The fire was astonishing in its speed. The flames licked through the downstairs and shot up two large stairwells to the second floor. “It burned so ferocious and quickly because there was a 2-foot concrete divide above our 11-foot ceilings, so the fire could not burn upward. Instead, it spread through our two staircases, and through another staircase to the attic.” The attic featured the playroom, created for the Cullers’ five grandchildren. The children loved to play air hockey, foosball, pingpong and other games there. “Thank the good Lord they were not playing up there that day!” Culler reads on, her voice steady. “No one would have survived.”


hat Culler shares next is an account of fighting to remain calm, with toddler Libby in her arms and the stately Shadowlawn engulfed in flames behind her as they fled. “We ran to my sweet neighbor’s house,” she remembers. “And I just sat with Libby and we looked at Christmas cards.” This tranquil activity, she hoped, would help offset the panic that had overcome the tyke, and everyone around her. “I was determined to stay strong

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and peaceful for my family’s sake. If I fell apart, so would they, understandably.” She had bolted from the house without her purse or even a coat. A neighbor brought her a heavy coat and the neighborhood and her family rallied, soothing them as the flames licked higher and leaded glass windows blew out of their beloved home. “I remember my nephew saying, ‘Sassy,’ which is what they call me, ‘don’t worry about the house. Christmas will always be wherever you are.’” The fire completely savaged the house. The family could save nothing, though Culler’s husband, Braxton, and son, Brack managed to edge back in at the very inception of the fire, clutching one another given the dense smoke, and crawled across the floor to retrieve car keys. Ashley Culler says the men feared their four cars might explode. Culler remembers, too, how the Red Cross was soon on the scene. “I realized at that moment,” she recounts, “that I was truly blessed. That I did not need one thing! I was surrounded by friends and family who made sure I was taken care of. They say your real friends would give you the shirts off their backs. And many of them did.” She says she could tell hundreds of stories of acts of kindness that ensued. “Life is not about what you have,” Culler says firmly. “It is about who you have. It’s not what’s on your back, but who has your back!”


fter the fire, the family became nomadic for the next two years. They lived with family members, at the J. H. Adams Inn, and the Marriott Hotel. The family moved on, examining properties and trying to determine where they might go. Eventually, they purchased a condo nearby so that Braxton could manage his furniture business, as they simultaneously hoped to restore Shadowland. The entire neighborhood grieved the loss of a landmark that was now a fire-blackened ruin. Braxton had been Ashley Culler’s rock for almost fifty years of marriage. Throughout the ordeal, he proved stronger than ever. “My husband remained the pillar of strength. I realized more than evert why I had married this wonderful man. Not just because he is so handsome, charming and lovable, but because he is reliable, sensible, persevering, hard-working and determined.” It was a full two years after the fire before the Cullers learned a restoration of Shadowlawn was impossible. The historic house could not be rebuilt. The day they had to watch bulldozers raze the house was the couple’s worst moment, and it devastated them both to see their home of thirty years finally erased. “It was worse than the fire,” she says. “When the bulldozers arrived to take the house down, we dropped to our knees.” And then, a solution emerged. The Amoses, the Cullers’ long-time, backyard neighbors, were selling their home and moving to Pennybyrn, a retirement facility. Facing the fact that Shadowlawn could not be restored, the Cullers purchased the smaller house built those many years ago — officially now the second residence bought

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December 2016

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from the Amos family. There are traces of life at Shadowlawn within a house that literally lay in its shadow. It is beautiful yet small by comparison, although the library most demonstrates the fineness of rooms in the lost house. Ashley Culler points out how the rear terrace’s outdoor fireplace incorporates a stone detail from Shadowlawn. There are stones they lovingly brought over and incorporated as literal touchstones of the past in the terrace; they value what artifacts remain. But what would their home be without all the antiques Ashley Culler once loved that are long gone? Her answer is resolute: “You cannot live in the past.” “We don’t look back,” she adds. “We are grateful for what we have, not what we used to have.” Today, Ashley Culler still loves Christmas and does not dread the day after. She is neither jaded nor fearful, but she does use artificial trees and fireproof decorations only. She works with Paulin, to deck the halls immediately after Thanksgiving. “John Paulin turns it into a winter wonderland!” Her mother’s Nativity crèche is on display in the hallway, and her mother’s antique train set is beneath the tree in the library. Culler also displays Italian leather reindeer that somehow survived the fire — but there is nothing else. The dining room, a cheery, cheering red, features a table set for a feast — and the Cullers gather here together, just as before, their hearts full. OH Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O. Henry.

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- Botanicus -

Oh, Christmas Tree!

How North Carolina became the fertile crescent of the Fraser fir By Ross Howell Jr.


hances are the tree you decorated for your home this holiday season is a descendant of natives in the North Carolina mountains. The Fraser fir, Abies frasieri, owes its name to an enterprising, “indefatigable” botanist, a Scotsman named John Fraser (1750–1811). Fraser was born in Tomnacross, near Inverness, Scotland, and moved to London in 1770. There he pursued various trades before — through frequent visits to the Chelsea Physic Garden, founded in 1673 as the Apothecaries’ Garden — he hit upon his true interest, horticulture. Fraser took up a career in botanical exploration and collecting. After returning from his first voyage to Newfoundland in 1780, he founded a commercial nursery in London to sell the plants he brought back. On later expeditions he trekked the Appalachian mountains, following Native American hunting and trading trails, becoming the first European to discover the Rhododendron catawbiense, which he was able to propagate in England, selling the plants for “five guineas each.” During his career Fraser would travel the world, locating plants for clients as diverse as William Aiton, the director of The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, to Catherine the Great, empress of Russia. Fraser is credited with introducing his eponymous fir, along with about 220 other plant species from the Americas, to Europe. His sons continued in their father’s business, and his grandson John would be elected a member of the Royal Horticultural Society. The firs John Fraser discovered grow wild only at high elevations — 3,900 feet and higher — in the Appalachian chain from northern Georgia to southwestern Virginia. Mature trees may reach a height of 30 to 40 feet. Their needles are flattened, like the native hemlocks growing at lower altitudes. From September through November, they bear cones

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upright on their branches, like candles on a nineteenth century Christmas tree. North Carolina is the center of the Fraser fir’s habitat, and that’s important. According to carolinanature. com, trees can be found wild in nine counties of the Old North State, but in only one county in Georgia, and in only two counties in Virginia and Tennessee. That’s it. Sadly, like our native hemlocks, Fraser firs are under attack. The number of trees in the wild is being diminished by acid rain, by air pollution, and especially by nasty little creatures called balsam woolly adelgids (whose equally nasty cousins have put native hemlocks at risk). These insects have wiped out whole stands of the Fraser fir, leaving behind only “skeleton forests” on the high slopes of the mountains. Of course, we don’t clamber over bare rock faces on the steep pinnacles of western North Carolina to harvest Fraser firs today. Remember I said it was likely the tree in your house is a Fraser fir? Just how likely is it? The North Carolina Christmas Tree Association notes that more than 50 million Fraser firs are grown in our state, and they represent 90 percent of all the trees grown in North Carolina for use as Christmas trees. These commercially grown Fraser firs can get hefty — as tall as 80 feet, with a trunk diameter of a foot and a half. When you’re relaxing at home this holiday, say, just minutes before Santa’s to arrive, and you’re admiring your Fraser fir’s lights and its sweet balsam fragrance, take a moment to imagine its ancestor, high on a cold North Carolina peak, an upright cone or two pale in the moonlight, reaching toward stars so close they seem to be tangled in its wild boughs. OH Ross Howell Jr. grew up in the mountains of Virginia, where his family usually harvested a native white pine Christmas tree from the farm woodlands, along with running cedar and spicewood berries for decoration. December 2016

O.Henry 91


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Kissing Bough

By Ash Alder

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? – Dr. Seuss

Nature Whispers

According to Celtic tree astrology, those born between Nov. 25 and Dec. 23 draw wisdom from the sacred elder. Highly intelligent and energetic, elder archetypes are known as the “seekers” of the zodiac. Variety is this sign’s spice of life, but they’re most compatible with alder (March 18 – April 14) and holly types (July 8 – August 4). Narcissus — aka daffodil — is the birth flower of December. Those familiar with the Greek myth know that Narcissus was a beautiful hunter who fell so deeply in love with his own reflection that it killed him. Speaking of hunters, the sun remains in the astrological sign of Sagittarius (the Archer) until the winter solstice on Wednesday, Dec. 21. Consider gifting your favorite Sagittarian with a potted daffodil, a vibrant spring perennial that carries messages of rebirth, clarity and inner focus. December birthstones include zircon, turquoise and tanzanite — all blue, the color of communication and truth. In 2001, a 4.4 billionyear-old piece of zircon crystal was found in Jack Hills, an inland range north of Perth, in western Australia. Known as the “stone of virtue,” this ancient stone offers grounding and balancing energies to those who wear or carry it.

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The ancient Druids believed that the mystical properties of mistletoe could ward off evil spirits, while Norse mythology rendered it as a symbol of love and friendship. ’Tis the season, and nothing spells romance like cutting a sprig of it from the branches of a sacred oak, apple or willow. During the early Middle Ages in England, mistletoe was used to ornament elaborate decorations made of holly, ivy, rosemary, bay, fir or other evergreen plants. Kissing boughs, as they were called, symbolized heavenly blessings toward the household. If you find yourself standing beneath one with someone you adore, consider it a heavenly blessing indeed.

Winter Solstice

As we approach the winter solstice — the longest night of the year — we look up to the planets and the stars to gain insight into the final hours of 2016. The Geminid meteor shower is expected to peak on the night of Tuesday, Dec. 13, until the earliest hours of Wednesday, Dec. 14. Although a full moon will make viewing conditions less than ideal, the possibility of sighting upward of 120 meteors per hour is reason enough to add the Geminid shower to your list of things to do this month. You’ll also want to note that Mercury goes retrograde from Dec.19–31. This will be a good time to review plans and projects. Test your soil. Think about next year’s garden, reflecting on the crops that fared well — or didn’t — in 2016. Consider waiting until Mercury goes direct on Jan. 1 to order seeds.

I Heard a Bird Sing I heard a bird sing In the dark of December. A magical thing And sweet to remember. “We are nearer to Spring Than we were in September,” I heard a bird sing In the dark of December.

— Oliver Herford, From Welcome Christmas! A Garland of Poems (Viking Press, 1955) OH

December 2016

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Sandra Piques Eddy as Carmen

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Joann Martinson, Stephanie Foley Davis

Go Gypsy! Gala

Greensboro Opera Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Photographs by Lynn Donovan Karlene Jennings, Stacey Krim, Lollie White

Laura Deanne Gresham, Beatrice Deloatch Barbara Moran, Gloria Fuller

Elvira Green, Peggy Johnson Danielle Waden, Lavicia Murray, Ben Ramsey Barbara Provost, Mike Bianco

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Barbara Peters, Janet Hendley, Joan Anderson Karen Evans, Deb Bell

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GreenScene WAM JAM Gala

Weatherspoon Art Museum Saturday, October 01, 2016

Photographs by Lynn Donovan Jim & Nancy Bryan

Jacquie & Frank Gilliam

Jean & Doug Copeland

Laurie & Oliver Lloyd, Elizabeth & Phil Payonk

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Cathy & Garson Rice Chris & Kevin Supple

Eliza Rosebrook, Alex Romero, Ryan Macon, Brittany Gilbert, Regan Ellis

Tim & Sarah Warmoth, Ed Comber Sally & Bob Cone

Nancy Doll, Barbara Peck, Frances Bullock, Cecelia Thompson

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Dale Earnhardt, Jr


Holli Fogleman, Kim Hemrick, Leslie McIntosh

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Weyher Dawson, Marci Burns

Amber Colburn, Jaclyn Grit, Brandie Silver, Mimi SmithDecoster

Jenni Broyles, Jessica Cranfill, Leigh Westbrook

Nancy Vaughan, Bradley Hays, Craig Errington

Tommy Beaver, Michael Wheeler, Jim Steele, Anne Knowles

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Heather Kronbergs, Janet Sumner, Jennifer Gregory

December 2016

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Charles Dabney, Ali Kitterman

Gigi Renaud, Deborah Friedman

For Love of Frank

The 50th Anniversary of Preservation Greensboro and the 5th Anniversary of O.Henry Magazine Thursday, October 20, 2016 Photographs by Lynn Donovan

Benjamin Briggs, Leslie & David Milsap

Susan Sassman, Judi Kastner

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Maria Johnson, Jeff Cruickshank, Eric Woodard

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December 2016

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The Accidental Astrologer

December’s Stars The best is possible

By Astrid Stellanova

In the interest of the season, this is a good time

to say something nice. (Long overdue, you might be thinking?) Sagittarius qualities make those born under the sign naturally accomplished, because they have energy and curious minds. They travel through life believing the best is possible. They want to know the meaning of life and will travel far to find it no matter what kind of crazymaking place it might take them. Adventure is their drug and so is challenge. Sagittarians are destined for fame: Miley Cyrus. Andrew Carnegie. John Kennedy Jr., Charles Schulz. Tina Turner. Winston Churchill (And so, in the interest of the season, I left out Sagittarian Ted Bundy.) Merry, Merry, Star Children, till next year! Ad Astra — Astrid

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21) Despite your still having your right mind, it sometimes freezes up on you like Grandpa Hornblower’s hip. You’ve been having some abada-dabada moments that leave you wondering if you need help. Sugar, you are fine in the head department. Just focus on opening up your heart and this will be a holly, jolly month. Give yourself a trip somewhere you haven’t been — you just need a new horizon. Capricorn (December 22–January 19) Somebody surprised you with their idea of a gift that looked more like your idea of shortshrift. Do you retaliate? Nooooo, Sugar. You just thank them for the used grill and act like you are thrilled slap to death. Social grace ain’t something you just mumble before a meal. Aquarius (January 20–February 18) Would it kill you to act enthused over the new book club’s affection for trashy novels? Well, actually, it just might. You are a closet intellectual, or think you are, but actually, everybody knows you are a brainiac. You have been outed. We like you just the same, Sweetie Pants. Pisces (February 19–March 20) Old age sure is coming at a bad time, ain’t it? You worry about keeping enough money in your oatmeal and granola fund. You worry about keeping your teeth. You worry about keeping your sweetheart from paying too much attention to the neighbor. Well, the good news is, your gums are healthy. Aries (March 21–April 19) Nobody likes a hot mess. Actually, they like a cold mess even less. Embroider that on your pillow and remember to just learn this: Saying “please” and “thank you” doesn’t just work for first graders. The whole wide world could use more of that. It was your good fortune to get pulchritude in your DNA. (Look it up.) Taurus (April 20–May 20) Here’s a snapshot of your month: You joined a support group for procrastinating but haven’t gone to a meeting yet. What gives with all this putting things off? You know you are usually impulsive, but your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-went. No more shoulda woulda coulda. Snap out of it, Sugar.

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Gemini (May 21–June 20) People around you cannot quite believe how nice you’ve been lately. Whether it is medication or just an attitude adjustment, let’s say it was just in the nick of time. You have gotten a little bit of dispensation, Honey, but you can’t pretend you didn’t need to check your bad self. There are still bridges to mend. Cancer (June 21–July 22) Even skanks say thanks. At least, that’s what we say when we gather around for a special occasion like a hog-killing or a reunion. (We are nothing if not proud of certain traditions.) Say thanks to somebody for something and try and act like you mean it, will you? Leo (July 23–August 22) There’s truth, and then there’s something truthy that you have held onto about yourself. You ain’t exactly fooling anybody who knows you. Sugar, just own it. You have a new chance opening up that is going to require some very vigorous self-examination. Virgo (August 23–September 22) Somebody you like made you play two-truths-and-a-lie and you held your breath, didn’t you? You revealed a deep dark something nobody knew. Well, la-di-da. The moment came and went and nobody fell outta their seat. See? Now move on. Libra (September 23–October 22) Here’s a confession: you were switched at birth. With an alien. And it is really you who designed the pyramids in another life. And you were also Queen Nefertiti in another incarnation. Did you buy any of this? Well, I hope not, because it is all hooey. What you actually are is some kind of wonderful, all on your own. Scorpio (October 23–November 21) If only you received the same pleasure from giving that you do from getting. The fact is, you don’t. So, perhaps this month you can rehearse not putting moi first. It’s the right season, Child, to grow up and be selfless. Then, for heaven’s sake, allow yourself a whole lot of credit for finally owning up to it. 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. December 2016

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O.Henry Ending

A Time of Light and Latkes

By Amy Lyon

At my fifth-grade

winter assembly we lined up single file, each with a candle in an aluminum holder, and walked through the darkened auditorium singing, “When you walk through a storm hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark.” At 10 years old I was awed to be entrusted with a live, yellow flame, especially since it was a dark time for me. It was my first year at a new school, and a few classmates, who I thought were new friends, were bullying me.

We sang, “Though your dreams be tossed and blown, walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone.” This reflects the essence of Hanukkah — hope, light and renewal. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, lighting up the darkest time of the year. During each night at sundown, we light one candle of the eight-pronged candelabra called a menorah, until the eighth night, when all the candles blaze bright. We do this to remember the miracle that happened in Jerusalem 2,200 years ago when the ancient Hebrews, led by Judah the Maccabee, reclaimed the temple in Jerusalem from their enemy. When it was time to light the menorah, the eternal flame, there was only enough oil to last for one night, but instead it lasted for eight. When I was growing up, my family numbered into the dozens, and we’d all gather at my grandparents’ home to light the menorah, exchange gifts, play the holiday game called dreidel and eat special foods. Dreidel is a four-sided spinning top, and on each side is a Hebrew letter that is an acronym for “a great miracle happened here.” The side where the top lands dictates how much of the pot of candy or pennies the spinner gets to take out or put in: all, half, none or the dreaded put one back in. No one goes hungry on Hanukkah, because this is the holiday of the latke, the famed potato pancake. It’s the latke, that is, if you are descendant of the Ashkenazi and trace your roots to Eastern Europe, as does my family. Or, if you’re from the Sephardim branch, who long ago migrated south from the Middle East through the warmer Mediterranean countries, then your family fries up doughnuts, called sufganiyot. One way or another the holiday is a deep-fried affair. That winter I was surely in my grandmother’s kitchen helping make the

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December 2016

latkes, since her kitchen was the center of my universe and — in essence — still is. Nana was always putting on, wearing or taking off an apron, and there was always a kind, accepting smile on her face. On Hanukkah everyone wanted to be in the kitchen, if not as a self-anointed latke maker, then hanging out at the threshold to snatch one of the sizzling pancakes fresh from the pan. Latkes are a simple affair I learned to make by watching Nana’s hands as she laboriously grated potato and onion, delicately broke open the eggs and — with practiced elegance — flicked just enough leavening agent, sprinkled snowflakes of flour, added a pinch of salt and flaked in black pepper. She’d cup just enough batter in the palm of her hands, squeeze out excess liquid, and drop it into the pan of hot oil. Then she’d watch and wait. At just the right moment, when edges began to brown, she’d pat the pancake once or twice with her spatula. Then, when she knew it was right, she’d flip it over, pat it again and let the other side get crispy. And from there to the platter with the topping of choice. There are two camps when it comes to latke toppings, the savories who enjoy sour cream, or the sweeties who prefer applesauce. I fall into the applesauce group, preferably homemade. In my 20s I opened Amy Cooks for You, a specialty food store and catering company, and for Hanukkah we turned out scores of latkes, of course my Nana’s recipe. In the years when my son, Max, was growing up, we started the tradition of having our own Hanukkah party for friends and family. Along the way, the simple brass menorah that I received as a bat-mitzvah gift the year I turned 13 was joined by a paper doll of Judah the Maccabee, the warriorhero with honeycombed pants, shield and a long sword. One year the guests numbered close to 50, which made it a 250-latke occasion. It isn’t Hanukkah unless the aroma of fried onions and potatoes soak into the furniture and draperies, emanating for days. This year I’m in particular need of the warmth and inspiration of the gleaming brass menorah, of traditions and remembrance of miracles. In February my mother died and my internal light is dimmed by a rendering sadness. I look forward to placing the tattered-but-persistent paper Judah the Maccabee on my table, spinning the dreidel and grating, flicking, sprinkling just the right amount to make the latkes. And when we light the candles of the menorah, once again, the darkness will be dispelled. OH Amy Lyon is the author of The Couple’s Business Guide, How to Start and Grow a Small Business Together and In A Vermont Kitchen, Foods Fresh From Farms, Forests, and Orchards. She’s lived in Wilmington for ten years and can be reached at The Art & Soul of Greensboro


A Hanukkah story

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O.Henry December 2017  

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