Carolina Bird Club

Come join the flock

By Susan Campbell

So, are there any bird nerds (like me!) out there wondering where you just might find others of a like mind? Then check out the Carolina Bird Club (CBC). This 82-year-old organization is a very active club with members of all ages from all walks of life who have one thing in common: They love birds. Although some in the club may be termed “birdwatchers,” those who passively enjoy the birds they see at their feeders or around their neighborhoods, are, in fact, full-fledged “birders.” The term has only been in use since about the early 1980s, just about the time I myself became a bird-crazy teenager. “Birders” have a real passion for their fine-feathered friends — some might say an addiction.

Our club (yes, I have been an active member since I moved to the Sandhills 30 years ago) has more than 1,200 members, many of whom spend hours in the field not just satisfying their own curiosity about things bird-related but gathering details that further our knowledge collectively of the region’s avifauna. Started in 1937 as the North Carolina Bird Club, it has been the one and only ornithological organizations of both North and South Carolina for well over 50 years. The results of countless hours of birding by literally thousands of Carolinabirders (not surprisingly, that’s what we call ourselves) can be found in The Chat, the club’s journal, published quarterly. There is also a quarterly newsletter that keeps members up to speed on the group’s activities, and documents interesting bird sightings and other assorted news items. Although academics and other professionals doing scientific work in the Carolinas do share their findings through the club’s publications, much of what we know has been documented by the large cadre of very serious but amateur birders. They always seem to be out there, looking for any and all birds they can find from dawn to dusk (and some even at night, for we do have a number of nocturnal species regardless of the time of year).

Three weekends a year, one in September (fall), January (winter) and late April or early May (spring), a meeting is planned somewhere particularly birdy. More than a hundred members descend to eat, drink, socialize and — wait for it! — go birding. And, as I type this, ambitious plans are well underway for the spring meeting which will be headquartered in Southern Pines. It has been 10 years since the last CBC gathering in the Sandhills — so the excitement is building among the local volunteers involved.

By meeting time in early May, dozens of species will have just arrived. Spring migration will have just peaked. All of the singing and displaying will be hard to miss. And many of our year-round avian residents will be scurrying around as they care for newly hatched nestlings. There will be more than enough activity for us birders to take in one short weekend. So, should you spot a group of us on the trails at Weymouth Woods, along Nick’s Creek Greenway or poking around at Reservoir Park with binoculars in hand and eyes to the sky, feel free to join us. You, too, can become a CBC birder. OH

For more information on the Carolina Bird Club, visit our website:

Susan would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos. She can be contacted by email at

Wandering Billy

Goys and Dills

Remembrance of jobs past, a new New York–style deli and fresh flicks

By Billy Eye

“Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” — Confucius

One warm evening recently I found myself standing outside Rioja! A Wine Bar with some much younger friends, reminiscing about my first two jobs that were located just steps away. You know how the young’uns love it when we old-timers start pontificating!

Anyone reading this knows the difference between a job and a profession. I’ve been fortunate to have blundered into several amazing professional careers but can’t recall any satisfying J-O-Bs I’ve suffered through.

As a busy 16-year old, I resented the idea of having to venture out into the workforce to begin with. After school, I could be found up in my room writing and drawing, or acting in stage productions at Page High and First Presbyterian. During the summer, there were hours poolside at Greensboro Country Club, swimming being the best exercise after all, not to mention that a guy has an obligation to maintain his tan. Additionally, there was the labor-intensive hunting down of that week’s comic books — with such a whirlwind existence, where was there any time for a job, I ask you?

My father, on the other hand, felt it unseemly that a teenage son of his wasn’t working — having lived through the Depression, walking 12 miles back and forth, uphill both ways, to school, the two weeks he drove a diaper truck, blah, blah, blah — so Dad resorted to blackmail. No job, no car. That my father didn’t appreciate my artistic gifts was one thing, but to resort to such cruelty?!?

My one major vice at the time was eating ice cream sodas (very few people know what those are today) from the Baskin-Robbins where Northwood and Battleground intersect, so I ended up getting hired on there. Boy, would that place get swarmed on weekends when movies let out at the Janus Theatre. It was a short-lived affair, fired just a few months later after I slipped Brian Lachlen a free ice cream cone and one of my co-workers ratted me out.

Despite being coldly spat out of the capitalist machinery on my first outing, dear ol’ Dad put his foot down again, I still needed to be earning.

Driving around one afternoon in that sweet ’68 Cutlass V8 convertible Mom and I shared, I made up my mind to seek employment at the next place I heard mentioned over WCOG radio. Tragically, up popped the jingle “Hurry on down to Hardee’s, where the burgers are charcoal broiled. . .”

Hardee’s, in 1972, was right across the street from my former employer, next door to Krispy Kreme, which stood where Rioja! is today. It was an awful experience, the atmosphere set by a married manager who attracted the kind of women you’d see leaning over second floor balconies at cheap motels. I was so embarrassed about working there I devised a way, if anyone I recognized walked through the door, to cook and deliver a burger without my face being seen.

The only other job I had as a teenager in Greensboro was a short stint at Ellman’s jewelry store at Carolina Circle Mall where I beat the lie detector test required for employment. Not that I had anything to hide, I didn’t, I just wanted to see if I could. It wasn’t long before I began making a pretty decent living as an actor, determined not to be so capricious about how I made a living in the future.


Longtime readers of this column won’t under any circumstances recall, but I am on a never-ending quest for the perfect roast beef sandwich. Sadly, the eateries I’ve recommended in past columns are both closed now. 

That’s why I was so excited to try Greenfield’s N.Y. Deli and Bagels at Battlefield Shopping Center on New Garden Road, just west of North Elm. An honest-to-goodness kosher deli with homemade chopped liver, bagels, crispy fried knishes, reuben and pastrami sandwiches folks are raving about. Everyone in the place seemed genuinely excited about their meals when I dipped in.

I spoke briefly with Tom Cassano who, with his father Anthony, opened Greenfield’s last September, partly because they felt the New York deli experience was missing in Greensboro. “I grew up on this type of food, especially the desserts and baked goods,” Tom tells me. “Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got great places, but nothing like up North.” While father Anthony is a Philly native, Tom was born here in the Gate City.

“Bagels are like our babies,” Tom points out. “Our everything bagel, cheese bagel, we have a Black Russian which is like a pumpernickel with an onion seed on it. Sandwiches, that’s a key thing too.” Curb Your Enthusiasm fans may want to dive into their Larry David special, constructed with Nova and Whitefish on a bagel with lettuce, tomato capers, and cream cheese. Wash it down with a Dr. Brown’s soda, natch.

Eye’ll be returning shortly for that truly superior roast beef sandwich I enjoyed, garnished simply with thin layers of lettuce, tomato and onion on a Kaiser roll (the way I prefer, customize away). I recommend the quarter-pound version, I don’t know how anyone could wrap their lips around a half-pounder but apparently it’s possible. And I thought I had a big mouth!

Take my word for it? Immediately after lunch, entirely by happenstance, I bumped into my old pal, Brooklyn-bred Pete “The Greek” Arata, who was equally effusive about Greenfield’s authentically New York fare.


If you have a Greensboro Public Library card there’s a free Netflix-like subscription movie service, Kanopy, I’ll bet you didn’t know is at your fingertips.

Kanopy is heavily into documentaries, you get 10 flicks a month (resetting back to 10 on the first of every month) but one of the best parts is a documentary series like Eyes On the Prize, which runs 14 episodes, only counts as one play.

Other great docs and motion pictures you can access: Billy Wilder Speaks, Los Angeles Plays Itself, She’s the Best Thing In It: Portrait of a Character Actress, Can We Take a Joke?, The Last Movie Star (Burt Reynolds’ last movie and it’s quite tragic-funny), Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Trumbo, Save the Tiger, Dick Cavett’s Watergate, I Am Chris Farley, Girls in the Band, Mickey Mouse Monopoly, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The story of the National Lampoon; you can even learn a foreign language.

It’s easy. Go to, enter your library card number, create a password, begin binge-watching.  OH

Mr. O.G. — Original Greensboro — aka Billy Eye would love to hear from you. Email

April Poem

The Heaven of Lost Umbrellas

They have to be somewhere;

those ribbed and fabric

servants who have held

off storms so grandly, quietly,

and with such solemn

unassuming elegance.

They come to us

in colors but mostly

that ubiquitous black.

Plaid, polka dots, birds,

butterflies, Monet’s

water lilies . . . he must

be laughing at the irony.

Van Gogh’s sunflowers,

one grand, glorious sun

of yellow.  We have

monograms, advertisements,

golf ones big enough

to cover a room

of golfers . . . except

it never rains on a golf

course. Nor in this

way out of the way

heaven of lost things.

Here umbrellas lie

folded in resting pose.

They hold their own

handles, their work

for the moment

completed. Yet

they wait to be


and walked


they need to go.

— Ruth Moose

To the Max

For designer and avid collector Terry Lowdermilk, nothing succeeds like excess

By Cynthia Adams     Photographs by Amy Freeman

It is so 21st-century to be a collector. When Country Living profiled collectors last year, their prized possessions sometimes numbered in the hundreds. And, the chosen objects ran the gamut: from highbrow to low, from cutting boards to stamps.

But amassing and curating specific items didn’t begin in this day and age. As far back as the Renaissance, Europeans created cabinets of curiosities, or “wonder rooms,” a pastime elevated to an art form by acquisitive Victorians.

According to neuroscientists, groupings of objects give us a pleasurable sensation, a little jolt of joy, even. This point was underscored by no less than famed designer of the Greenbrier Resort, Dorothy Draper, an affirmed “anti-minimalist.” In her 1960s Good Housekeeping column, she advised her followers to group objects in a pleasing arrangement. Groupings elevate lesser collections, she explained: “Notice how groups of small objects, when they are well-arranged, become important and effective.”

For serious collectors, (many of whom admit to having a plan of action to scoop up their collections first in the event of a house fire), the oft-repeated mantra, “less is more,” appalls. Consider Tony Duquette, the artist, film and stage designer who penned the hefty tome, More is More.

Interior designer and avid collector Terry Lowdermilk displays Duquette’s book in his living room . . . along with a whole lot more, by the way. As a neighbor and fellow collector says, Lowdermilk is a maximalist, placing him firmly in Duquette’s and Draper’s camp. His collectibles cover tabletops and chests, fill decorative cabinets, and are displayed on walls, brackets and surfaces throughout his two-story townhouse. The namesake of Terry Lowdermilk Interiors, he spends six days a week working with varied, farflung residential clients. He also keeps a home office, which he confesses, requires him to religiously dust his many collections. (He does so with pleasure, weekly.) And if his clients don’t have a collection, Lowdermilk says he’ll offer “to start something for them,” the designer laughs — and not ironically. Collections, he maintains, make a house exceptional. Collected objects whisper of history, of meaning, of a backstory worth sharing.

For Lowdermilk, chinoiserie accomplishes this feat. The French word (pronounced sheen-WAHZ-uh-ree) encompasses everything Chinese and East Asian, from furniture to wallpaper, china, porcelains, objets d’art, textiles and papier mâché. It became wildly popular, thanks to the Dutch East India Company, which included the collectibles in their haul back to eager Europeans. The popularity of chinoiserie never abates — and if it does, it resurfaces in a heartbeat or two. It expresses Europeans’ version of Chinese and East Asian décor, extending into gardens, architecture and even the performing arts. (Think: Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta, The Mikado.) King Louis XIV admired the style, as did others to follow. The beau monde loved it as well; pagodas and pavilions interpreted the style in gardens of the well-heeled.

A chinoiserie cabinet takes pride of place in Lowdermilk’s dining room. The knockout statement piece was formerly in a relative’s Lynchburg house. “My cousin found one in another color he liked.” Lowdermilk couldn’t buy the cabinet fast enough, and uses it as storage for table linens, charger plates and cloth napkins. A remnant from a chinoiserie opium bed graces the foyer wall. A Japanned (lacquered) screen is in the living room. One of his most beloved collections is the assortment of French and English chinoiserie papier mâché items, many of them utilitarian objects like holders for matches and calling cards. The papier mâché imitations were inspired by more exclusive and costlier Chinese and Japanese lacquer ware. Decorated in gilt they depict various fanciful scenes in Asian landscapes.

“There are also several pieces that were gifts from close friends and clients. Along the way, in more recent years, I have become enthralled with antique cinnabar [fiery red pieces carved from mercury sulfite], as well as Japanned papier mâché and tole pieces,” Lowdermilk says. “I only have a couple of the tole, or commonly known as tin ware, which have gold Asian-styled paintings on a black background.” He admits that his papier mâché collection with gold-on-black paintings has perhaps run away with him: “I truly love the Asian feeling as well as the gold-on-black decoration. Also, the many beautiful shapes and sizes.”

As he shows his collections — with nary a dust mote in sight — Lowdermilk explains the origin of his love of luxe interiors with hand-selected collections: Chinqua-Penn, the Betsy and Jeff Penn manse in Reidsville.

“The muted colors. My love for painted murals,” the designer explains, can be traced back to this touchstone.

From his earliest memory, Lowdermilk’s family had an inside connection to the estate. Their entrée was a close family friend and personal secretary to Jeff Penn, whose family started Penn Tobacco Co. in Reidsville, which was ultimately purchased by American Tobacco Co. The secretary received frequent calls to be available when the famously globetrotting Penns shipped back antiquities and art from their travels, filling the 30-room mansion they built in 1925.

“So, when we were kids — Mrs. Penn had died by then in the early ’60’s — we would go over to Chinqua-Penn, because it had been given to the foundation at UNCG,” Lowdermilk recalls. “There were pictures of us outside, by the fountains. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. All the things! It was incredible!” he says, pausing thoughtfully. “I think that was my beginning [as a collector].”

With a particular fondness for the Penns’ extensive collection of Asian artifacts and artwork, he visited the estate on numerous occasions, eventually serving on the board of the foundation. “I learned so much about their collections, their origins and also value,” he says. “I even had the pleasure of helping to oversee the decorating of the home for Christmas for the last three or so years that it was open to the public.” 

Notice a theme?

Many of the items Lowdermilk collects echo a time when the Bohemian elite obsessed over exotic Asian wares.

Even if you couldn’t actually visit Asia with the resources of a tobacco baron or the Vanderbilt railroad heirs in Asheville, you could still possess the sort of treasures they were fond of amassing.

But Lowdermilk explains it wasn’t solely Chinqua-Penn’s riches that revealed collected opulence to his eager eyes. They were opened at an early age, while glimpsing interiors and antiques tagging along with his father, a Realtor.

“I’d go with him to sign a listing agreement, and I’d ask why didn’t we have beautiful old furnishings,” Lowdermilk remembers.

His father’s retort? “I grew up with all that dusty old stuff. I don’t want it.” Neither did he keep many family pieces. Lowdermilk’s dad wanted what so many postwar families wanted: everything brand-spanking new, with modern conveniences.

Even this twist had a silver lining. His parents’ modernity led him to the world of interior design. When Lowdermilk’s parents became engaged, they first built and furnished a house on Cornwallis Drive and hired a decorator, to impart the latest 1940’s design.

“Growing up in a home, where my parents had design help, was one aspect that enticed me into the design field,” says Lowdermilk. “I liked seeing my Mom work with the decorator, looking at fabrics, wallpapers, accessories, etc.

“They wanted to go on their honeymoon and come back to a house all ready.”

The young couple consulted Morrison-Neese Furniture Company and chose Vi Cothran, a member of their large staff. (A firm so notable they helped establish the home furnishings industry in the Triad.) Later, Cothran worked with Cashion’s Furniture and Decorating. “She helped my parents with their three homes. I always grew up in a house done by her.”

No question, he knew from early days that the profession lent proximity to beautiful objects and homes. And collections.

“Antiques were something we did not have at home, since my parents chose to leave behind older pieces from their childhood and enjoy the new home décor of the late ’40’s through the ’60’s and ’70’s.” Sure, they retained a couple of family antique pieces, “but most of the furnishings were new of the day. I realized then, that my future had antiques in it, possibly furniture pieces, and more than likely small, interesting pieces,” Lowdermilk recalls.

It was fortuitous that Lowdermilk’s father was a friend to the late Otto Zenke, Greensboro’s premier designer of that era. Ironically, Morrison-Neese was the store who brought Otto Zenke to Greensboro in 1937, according to a 2005 article by Jim Schlosser in the News & Record.

“On Saturday mornings, I would sometimes accompany my Dad to his office, which was down the street from Otto Zenke’s studio and residence,” Lowdermilk remembers. “I would ask Dad if I could go down and walk through his shop.” With Zenke’s permission, the impressionable Lowdermilk would enjoy, he recalls, “seeing many beautiful things which were inspiring. Mind you, I was around 11 to 13 at this time.”

On an outing with his mother, a teenaged Lowdermilk noticed a reproduction, French-styled plaster-on-metal, large wall bracket. “I told her I was going to buy it, and she asked why, and where would I use it? I quickly said, ‘In my bedroom!’” he smiles at the memory. “I purchased it with my own money, and today, it is still something I love, in my living room. Now, I suppose I could say it is well on its way to being an antique! At least vintage!”

From one purchase a collection was launched. “Now I have collected quite a few older wall brackets, which hold many antique items I have collected.”

One collection spawns another, for collectors, are, if nothing else, a passionate lot, hunter and gatherer types who know where the best stuff is. Bringing it home is an irresistible impulse. In Lowdermilk’s case, that would also include Old Paris sugar boxes, European lithographs, books, clocks, and the visually stunning majolica and cinnabar.

He recalls the spark that ignited his admiration of majolica, a term for painted earthenware originating from Moorish Spain by way of Renaissance Italy. “My first antique purchase was a green majolica plate, found at Byerly’s Antiques, one of my all-time favorite places to find great things,” Lowdermilk says of the massive Triad store overlooking I-85 that closed 15 years ago. “From that time, I found many more majolica pieces there, as well as in shops all over.” He prizes a green majolica clock that was used on the film set for The Color Purple.

The cinnabar he collects is alluring both for its beauty and for its potential danger.

“Of course, the fact that red cinnabar comes from mercury sulfide — and is toxic — is one reason we do not see the genuine material used today. And, I am hoping my love for it won’t be a threat to my life! But there must be some vices in life that we enjoy that are not always healthy for us!”

The rarity and the detail of cinnabar also affects Lowdermilk. “The carving, which is so detailed, is fascinating to me in the cinnabar pieces I have, and have lusted over,” he muses.

Is there any limit to his visual curiosity and passion for collecting? Or to the idea of more always being more? Probably not. He admits to eyeing oil landscape paintings and checking out silver lusterware as avenues for his next collecting passion.

“I enjoy having these collections around me. They are my friends. Each time I have packed pieces up to move to a new home, I enjoy unpacking each and every one of them,” Lowedermilk reflects. “As with all of my antiques, I like knowing there is a story behind each and every piece. I just wish they could talk, and let me know where they have been, what they have seen, and the places where they have been allowed to reside.”  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry. She once lugged a Scottish marble clock home in her hand luggage, and checked a suitcase filled with brass door knobs. She perfectly understands antique addictions.

April Almanac

April is a procession of wonder.

Flowering redbud. Rising asparagus. Row after row of tulips and daffodils.

When the earliest strawberries arrive, childhood memories of roadside stands and pick-your-own patches follow. The first time your grandma took you strawberry picking, you’d never seen berries so plump or vivid. Two, three, four buckets later, you’re back in the car, eyes twinkling, belly full of fruit made sweeter because you picked it.

Easter conjures memories of Sunday hats and wicker baskets, and a grade-school field trip to a house down the street from the church. There, a classmate’s yard is dotted with dozens of colorful eggs — some painted, some plastic, all filled with candy — but all hearts are set on the coveted silver one, a super-sized treasure found in the low branches of a climbing tree when the sun hits the foil just right.

Maybe next year.

Or perhaps the true magic is discovering what you aren’t trying to find, like the robin’s nest in one of the hanging baskets.

In my early 20s (read, coin laundry days), on a visit home for Easter, my folks planted a basketful of plastic eggs in the backyard, each one filled with quarters.

Sometimes the great surprise is the wonder that grows with age.

The Last Frost

The Old Farmer’s Almanac speculates that a full moon in April brings frost. Cue the Full Pink Moon on Good Friday, April 19. While it’s not actually pink, Algonquin tribes likely named this month’s full moon for the wild ground phlox that blooms with the arrival of spring.

Consider it a signal that it’s time to plan your summer garden.

Plant now, and enjoy fresh tomatoes and cukes right off the vine.

Scope It Out

According to National Geographic, one of the top sky-watching events of the year will occur on Tuesday, April 23. On this dreamy spring morning, at dawn, watch as the waning gibbous moon approaches brilliant Jupiter as if they were forbidden lovers. Use binoculars if you’ve got them.

Devilish Alternative

My younger brother has single-handedly cleared a tray of deviled eggs at more than one Easter supper. That’s why I was particularly stunned when he told me that he was adapting a vegan diet. No more deviled eggs? Well, not exactly. But when he told me about Thug Kitchen, a vegan cookbook peppered with language that would make our granny’s draw drop, I understood. Inside: a recipe for deviled chick-pea bites. Although we can’t print that here without heavy-handed edits, check out this equally scrumptious vegan recipe from Whole Foods Market: tender roasted baby potatoes topped with spicy yolk-free filling. Brother approved.

Deviled Potatoes


12 baby potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise

1/3 cup drained silken tofu

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut each potato in half crosswise. In a large bowl, toss potatoes with oil and place cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Roast until tender when pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes. Let cool.

Using a melon baller, scoop out center of each potato half. Combine potato flesh, mayonnaise, tofu, mustard, paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse just until smooth. Scoop filling into potato halves. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to 2 days) before serving.

(Want to take this deviled egg alternative to the next level? Sprinkle with finely chopped fresh parsley before serving.)

If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change!  — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

One Tract Mind

With ingenuity and a homegrown talent for doing it yourself, a Greensboro designer and her husband make their subdivision home a one-of-a-kind gem

By Maria Johnson     Photographs by Amy Freeman

Linda and John Oskam, who slept in a ground-floor master suite, knew it was time to move from their estate home near Winston-Salem when they smelled a foul odor coming from upstairs.

No one used the second floor any more, and the water in one of the toilets had evaporated, allowing sewer gas to escape into the home.

Another sign that it was time for a change: John, an electrical engineer retired from an oil company, was yoked to outdoor projects from sunup to sundown.

It was time to pare down and settle into one level, but unlike the last time they “downsized” — from a 5,200 square-foot behemoth in Greensboro to their Lewisville manse, which weighed in at a mere 4,700 square feet — this time they meant it.

Returning to Greensboro, where Linda had lived after her first marriage, seemed the right thing to do.

Her son and daughter still lived in the Gate City, and her daughter soon would deliver Linda’s first grandchild.

Plus, Linda, a native of Winston-Salem who’d lived for several years in Reidsville, liked the vibe of Greensboro better than any Piedmont city she’d lived in.

“Greensboro was very, very good to me when I was single,” says Linda, who worked at both Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and  First Union National Bank in Greensboro.

She met John, a native of Holland, on a blind date. He was living in Durham, where he and his first wife had moved so she could get treatment at Duke University Hospital. After John’s wife died, his landlord fixed him up with Linda, who worked with the landlord’s wife.

“I was about as interested in a blind date as I was in a piece of dust on the floor,” Linda says.

She changed her mind after meeting John, especially after he volunteered to accompany her on decorating jobs. His learning curve was steep.

At one client’s home, he gasped when she lifted a brush, heavy with black paint, to a piece of pretty white furniture she intended to base-coat then marbleize.

We don’t gasp on the job, she told him later.

Point taken, he said.

They lived in Greensboro’s Brassfield area for awhile, then shipped out to Lewisville. When they were ready to return to Greensboro, their real estate agent, the late Tom Chitty, showed them a patio home in The Grande, a development built in the early aughts in the Lake Jeanette area.

At 2,000 square feet, the home was much smaller than any place the Oskams had lived, but it ticked several of their “must haves,” including three bedrooms (one master, one guest and one for an office), a two-car garage, and a sliver of outdoor work, the rest being covered by homeowners fees.

The home was freestanding, too, which meant no noise coming from neighbors above, below or beside.

Moving into a development — the kind built by a single builder with slightly different plans and elevations — would be a sharp departure from the high-end custom homes they’d lived in.

“We’d had two really fine homes, and here we were, living in a tract home,” Linda says.

Did they have a problem with that?

“No,” they say in unison.

“This is where we should have been all along,” says John.

But Linda was determined that, while their home’s exterior might not be unique, the interior would be.

The result: an English-flavored nest that glows with gilt and antiques but feels more “sit a spell” than stuffy.

“We have neighbors come in here and say, ‘We have this plan. How come ours doesn’t look like this?’” says Linda.

To achieve the wow factor, she applied skills gleaned from more than 30 years of interior designing and faux finishing, first for herself and then, after her divorce, as a sideline to her full-time jobs.

She never has advertised her design work, but she stays busy.

“It’s all word of mouth,” she says.

Part showplace, part petri dish, the Oskams’ home shows what clever designers — and do-it-yourselfers with imagination and patience — can do on a budget.

“There are a lot of things you can do inexpensively and have it look great,” Linda says.

The best example is their living area, which anchors the back of the home and answers to a central fireplace.

Above the fireplace hangs what looks to be a nice reproduction of a Mary Cassatt painting. Truth be told, it’s a poster that Linda mounted on a canvas and brushed with clear acrylic gel using the same size brushes that she imagined Cassatt used. Linda bought a sculpted gold frame — “The frame cost more than the poster and other materials” — and small lamp for the frame.

Another bit of ingenuity: She goosed an antique secretary by cutting up a remnant of coral-and-beige damask and using double-sided tape to stick the rectangles to the back of compartments in the hutch.

She points to a tiered end table she snared at a local consignment shop for about $40. The traylike top, made of yew wood, was badly marked by water. “You couldn’t have sanded it out,” Linda recalls.

Her solution: Trace a template of the top, buy a square of dark vinyl tile at a home improvement store, use the template and a utility knife to cut the tile, and presto, a fresh top that stands up to cups of hot coffee and glasses of chilled wine, no coasters needed.

Nearby is another victory: a lozenge-shaped wicker lamp. Linda paid $19.99 for the busted base at a consignment store. She took it to her favorite lamp shop, where they repaired the base. Linda bought a new shade and hot-glued trim around the top and bottom edges. The lamp sings on pitch with its backdrop, an expensive gold-leaf mirror flanked by a pair of skinny, rustic shutters.

“There’s still dirt on those shutters,” Linda notes, pleased at the harmony of disparate styles and finishes. “I like things that are different.”

And things that are used in ways not originally intended. Mind you, this is a woman who once dragged a highboy from a client’s bedroom, down the stairs and into the living room, where she pronounced it the room’s new focal point.

“I tell people, ‘You gotta get out of your box and use things in different ways,’” she says. “Ideas are everywhere.”

You can start by imagining new places and uses for pieces you already own, she says.

“I tell my clients, ‘Before we go shopping, let’s go shopping in your house and see what you got.’ I’ll say, ‘What are you married to? What do you really love?’ and I’ll spin off that. If you love something, you can find a place for it.”

Another Linda tenet: Invest in a few well-made pieces, then fill in around the edges with less costly finds. People will notice the expensive pieces, and the halo effect will spread to surrounding items.

She gives the example of her Ethan Allen sofa, which she bought new when she was single, paying $25 a month. She has recovered it three times.

A high-end, glass-topped LaBarge coffee table sits before the sofa, near a massive Century Furniture bookcase that has been reincarnated as an entertainment center. The Oskams hired a carpenter to reconfigure the shelves for a flat-screen TV, then Linda got to work. She lightened the dark wood finish — and therefore the visual weight — with eggshell blue chalk paint, coats of brown and clear wax, and gold leaf accents.

According to Linda, people who are downsizing often goof by tossing all of their big furniture.

“If you put small furniture in a small room, it’s gonna look small,” she says.

Hang on to a few linebackers, she advises, and use them sparingly. They create the illusion of space.

She employs other visual tricks in their home: In John’s office, the smallest bedroom, she hung the curtains high and painted the crown molding the same deep teal as the walls, lifting the eye and making the room look taller.

For truly tight spaces, she suggests built-in furniture, such as the china cabinet that she and John commissioned for the niche once filled by washer and dryer.

When a carpenter was done with the boxes, Linda distressed the raw wood and painted it.

“I beat the you-know-what out of it,” she says.

They slid the washer and dryer to another side of the utility room, where John built a wall-to-wall desk for Linda in front of a south-facing window.

“If I have to draw a floor plan bigger than this desk, I have to go the kitchen,” Linda confesses.

She turned loose in the kitchen, too, making sure no one would mistake it for a tract-house galley.

She faux-painted the white fiberboard cabinets, slathered the walls with sand paint and troweled it for texture, and created faux brick walls by taping off rectangles, brushing them with joint compound, then removing the tape and painting the “bricks.”

More faux shows up in John’s office, where Linda cribbed the wainscoting from the social lobby of Greensboro’s O.Henry Hotel. John bought some unfinished wood molding, used a router to shape the edges, and tacked it to the drywall. Linda distressed the molding by stabbing it with a screwdriver, then she painted the whole thing to resemble knotty wood. The knotholes are her thumbprints in brown glaze.

Her passion for paint spilled into the foyer, where she covered every wall with a mural inspired by trips to the North Carolina mountains? Rows of Christmas trees, hay bales, and undulating blue horizons mix with hounds, horses, cows and streams. Linda stands ready to amend the murals, as she did when her grandson pointed out that the cows did not have tails.

Dab-dab, stroke-stroke. Tails.

Need to see more creativity? Follow Linda to the master bathroom, where old door knockers serve as towel holders. An iron hand pins a towel next to the shower.

Another knocker, by the vanity, wears the face of a soul who looks none too happy about his stint in the linen department.

“My son says it looks like Jacob Marley’s face in the door knocker in that scene in A Christmas Carol,” Linda allows.

She sweeps by a favorite antique on her way out of the bedroom: a curvy chair with a solid, polished maple back and a wooden arm on one side. It’s a hoop chair, made for women wearing hoop skirts.

“People say, ‘Linda, I want that chair.’ I say, ‘I don’t think so,’ “she says merrily.

Time to go outside.

One tough thing about downsizing was losing space for entertaining, Linda says, so she and John created a huge outdoor living space dotted with iron patio sets.

Using lumber he ordered from a home improvement store, and working from the garage, John built a 60-foot-by-20-foot arbor over a concrete patio stamped and painted to look like Pennsylvania bluestone. John also built freestanding wooden closets — onto which Linda painted a couple of topiaries — to store garden supplies. To block the sun, he raised a wall of shutters and lattice — and wired the wall for 110-volt current. We see you, electrical engineer.

Next, they trained English ivy onto the lattice. The ivy fanned into a plush green wall. For sparkle, Linda set a mirror and lanterns into the foliage. A contractor stacked fieldstone for a pool and fountain next to the patio.

Standing in this botanical room, enveloped by gurgle and green, you’d never guess that you were visiting a “tract house.”

Mission accomplished, Linda says, but only with the help of her secret weapon, who stands nearby, hands clasped behind him, a proper gentleman.

“I want her to succeed,” says John, who stands ramrod straight at age 89, thanks to daily walks and calisthenics.

“He’s very supportive,” says Linda, a relative puppy, who turns 74 this month. John basks in the appreciation.

“That’s how she gets me,” he says.

“And it works every time.”

“And I don’t mind.”  OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry. She can be reached at

The Omnivorous Reader

Exploring the Carolinas

Early settlers and the Tuscarora War

By D.G. Martin

“In the middle of a dark September night in 1711 in Carolina, John Lawson found himself captive, tied up and flung in the center of the council ring of the Tuscarora Indian town of Catechna,” writes Scott Huler on the opening page of his book, A Delicious Country: Rediscovering the Carolinas along the Route of John Lawson’s 1700 Expedition, recently published by the University of North Carolina Press. 

Lawson did not survive. Tradition says he was tortured to death, with wooden splinters pushed into his skin and set afire. On earlier visits to American Indian villages, Lawson had witnessed and described this type of torture.

Who was this Lawson, and why did the Tuscarora put him to death?

In 1700, English-born John Lawson was a newcomer to North America. Almost immediately upon arriving, he set out on foot from Charleston to explore the endless forests of the backcountry Carolinas. The notes he took became the basis of a book, A New Voyage to Carolina, first published in 1709 and still a classic for its rich descriptions of flora and fauna and the conditions of the native peoples.

Huler wanted to follow in Lawson’s footsteps. He looked for a modern book that explained where Lawson went and described what is there today. When he found that no such book had been written and that no one had even retraced Lawson’s journey, he thought, “That’s for me!”

Huler could have made the trip of several hundred miles in a day or two in a car. But he wanted to go slow, seeing today’s landscapes and peoples at the pace Lawson traveled.

He shares his travels in his new book. Like most other readers of Lawson, Huler is impressed with his descriptions and attitudes about the native populations. Lawson visited Sewee, Santee, Sugeree, Wateree, Catawba, Waxhaw, Occaneechi and Tuscarora Indians. Huler writes, “He stayed in their wigwams, ate their food, trusted their guides. And he emerged with their stories, for some of which he is the only source in the world.”

Lawson, Huler continues, “documented native communities, buildings, agriculture, hunting, dance, trade, and culture through eyes clear, thorough, and respectful. Lawson depicts the natives as fully human — not some subspecies perceived only in comparison to European settlers.”

Lawson’s words were, “They are really better to us than we are to them.”

But Lawson found the native populations to be in a precarious situation. “The Small-Pox and Rum have made such a Destruction amongst them, that, on good grounds, I do believe, there is not the sixth Savage living within two hundred Miles of all our Settlements, as there were fifty Years ago.”

Traveling Lawson’s route through the rural Carolinas, Huler found a discouraging similarity. Contemporary rural and small town landscapes are littered with empty manufacturing plants, corporate farms and forests, empty main streets and deserted houses. Three centuries after Lawson, Huler found that “our world would teeter: a way of life dying in the countryside, implacable new forces once again balancing an entire civilization on a knife edge.”

Setting aside this discouraging report, Huler’s adventures and misadventures on the road entertain and inform. He is the best type of tour guide, one who is well-informed but not at all pompous. His wry, self-deprecating sense of humor helps his serious medicine go down smoothly.

For Lawson, his explorations and the reports about them opened the door to prominence and high positions in the young colony. That success came to a sudden end in 1711 when he was captured and executed by the Tuscarora Indians he had so greatly admired and praised.

Why did they kill him?

To find out, I turned to University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor David La Vere’s The Tuscarora War: Indians, Settlers, and the Fight for the Carolina Colonies. Lawson is one of the main characters of La Vere’s book. La Vere sets out in detail the background for the Tuscarora War that began in 1711 with Lawson’s execution and a series of attacks by the Tuscarora on the thinly populated and, for the most part, recently arrived settlers in the New Bern area.

Earlier, in the late 1600s and early 1700s, North Carolina was only sparsely settled, mainly by Virginians moving south into the lands around the Albemarle Sound. They encountered small groups of Indians and were generally able to subdue them.

However, to the south and west, the mighty Tuscarora Indian strongholds stood as a barrier.

Meanwhile, Lawson’s glowing descriptions about his travels in the colony sparked the interest of the Lords Proprietors, who were looking for ways to encourage settlement. Lawson met a minor Swiss noble, Christoph de Graffenried, who worked out a plan with the Lords Proprietors to transport groups of German refugees and Swiss paupers to lands along the Neuse River near today’s New Bern.

These lands overlapped with the territories of the Tuscarora, who became increasingly threatened by the growing European presence.

La Vere writes that after overcoming odds, “de Graffenried’s colony of Swiss and German Palatines at the mouth of the Neuse River was thriving.” Therefore, he continues, “expansion up the Neuse seemed a real possibility.”

Lawson and de Graffenried made a trip up the Neuse, through Tuscarora lands, to scout sites for future settlements.

“All the while, the Indians grew more worried and angry as the abuses against them escalated and their complaints fell on deaf ears. That spark came in mid-September 1711,” according to La Vere, with this trip up the Neuse.

The local Tuscarora king, or chief, offended and threatened that his territory had been invaded, captured Lawson and de Graffenried and put them on trial for their lives. When one of the more radical Indian leaders berated him, Lawson lost his temper. “He argued back, his anger and sarcasm apparent to all.”

Lawson, of course, was doomed and shortly executed. His companion, de Graffenried, remained in custody while the Indians planned and carried out their first attacks on September 22, 1711, appearing at first as friendly visitors to the settlers’ farms and then striking suddenly from ambush when the defenses were down.

North Carolina’s efforts to beat back the Tuscarora were unsuccessful. The colony didn’t have enough manpower, firepower, or money. Help finally came from the wealthy sister colony to the south. South Carolina sent two expeditions to relieve its northern neighbor.

The first expedition, led by John Barnwell, set out with a force of about 700 men. Only 35 were regular militia. The rest were Indian allies. The results were mixed, and the Tuscarora remained a threat. The second expedition, led by James Moore and made up of 113 militia and 760 Indians, wiped out the Tuscarora at their stronghold at Neoheroka, near present day Snow Hill in Greene County, and opened the door to settlement in the interior of North Carolina.

What explains why South Carolina so enthusiastically aided its neighbor and how the South Carolina Indians were persuaded to provide the critical manpower? “Above all,” La Vere writes,“it was a chance to enrich oneself by looting the Tuscarora towns and taking slaves, which they could sell to waiting South Carolina traders for guns and merchandise.”

This sad footnote to North Carolina’s early history shows that the colonists secured their victory in the Tuscarora War only by facilitating and participating in the enslavement and sale of captured Tuscarora.

Scott Huler’s route through today’s Carolinas following Lawson’s path

In South Carolina: Charleston, Intracoastal Waterway, Buck Hall Recreation Area, Mouth of the Santee River, Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, Jamestown, Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, Congaree National Park, Pack’s Landing Rimini, Mill Creek County Park, Poinsett State Park, Horatio, Boykin, Camden, Hanging Rock Battleground, and Lancaster.

In North Carolina: Pineville, Charlotte, Concord, Kannapolis, Salisbury-East Spencer, High Rock Lake, Denton, Asheboro, Burlington, Saxapahaw, Hillsborough, Durham, Morrisville, Raleigh, Garner, Clayton, Flowers Crossroads, Wilson, Greenville, Washington, and Bath. OH

D.G. Martin hosts North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.

The Accidental Astrologer

C’mon Baby, Light My Fire!

For Aries, the astrological arsonists, this month brings magic and stardust

By Astrid Stellanova

April brings us showers, sunshine and duckies, Star Children.

Some famous Aries creatives and legends like Maya Angelou, Booker T. Washington and Charlie Chaplin have transitioned to the great beyond. Others are still with us: Emma Watson, Alec Baldwin, Pharrell Williams, Francis Ford Coppola, Robin Wright.

Arians are like astrological arsonists, knowing how to make fire and stir it in others. Antagonists and protagonists. Blazing a trail, always leaving a fiery glow — even if you didn’t make it to the 1979 clogging championships with the Smoking Hot Feet of Lizard Lick — you sure know how to make a memorable exit.

Aries (March 21–April 19)

The sages all say this is a big year for you, starting now. You feel like you’ve been in a drought and are parched for a drink of water. Sugarbritches, get ready to guzzle. As much as the beginning of the year was not exactly epic in your opinion, this month is made of stardust and magic. Plain old well water will taste like sweet tea and a Saltine, like a mouthful of happiness.

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

You came out swinging, like somebody stole your buggy at the Piggly Wiggly. The wheels were wonky anyway, and sometimes karma takes over. Forget the little stuff and try and concentrate on the fact that the daisies are popping up and good things are coming.

Gemini (May 21–June 20)

Kindness is demanding that you learn to share, bless your heart, if it’s nothing more than the remote control with dead batteries, or a dried-up, day-old biscuit. You love your toys, but by your age, Darlin’, it’s time to share.

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

Measure twice and cut once. Shine your shoes. Don’t leave the house wearing ripped pantyhose or old sweat pants. You are going to have to figure and refigure to get ahead of a wily competitor. But it can happen.

Leo (July 23–August 22)

It is touching how much small things count with you. Nobody knows that. They think you are difficult to impress, but you love a dive as much as a gourmet bistro. Reveal who you really are, and take a pal to Waffle House.

Virgo (August 23–September 22)

How come you can’t make anyone who enters your door feel at home? Maybe because you really wish they were at their home instead. Expand your heart and open your arms to some very big happiness, Sugar.

Libra (September 23–October 22)

If you faked any more enthusiasm, you’d get sugar diabetes. It’s a good thing to be enthused, but your charm is turned one degree too high. A smile is your best accessory, Darling, but so is keeping it real.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

No selfies. No cries for attention, Honey. I don’t care how bored you get, the best thing for you right now is to focus on finishing something you started a long time ago and refuse to tie up. Finish. It.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

You got caught talking with your mouth full of bull, Sugar. Sometimes, the best cure for lying is quiet contemplation. Stick to your knitting, bowling or fishing. Thank your friends for calling you out.

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

It was mainly a symbolic dogfight, but there you were, right in the middle of it. They headed home looking like they got chewed up by the lawnmower. You walked away with a smile. Throw your shoulders back and show some humility in victory.

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

You put all your business out there on the showroom floor. We see it. Everybody gets it. You are open for business, Sugar. There will surely be plenty who want what you are selling, but don’t give it away for free.

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

Honey, there is raw ambition, and then, sometimes, it is just a teensy bit undercooked. The cornbread ain’t quite done in the center. You are on the right track but your ideas need a little time and effort to succeed.  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.

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Greensboro Bound: Year Two!

The local literary festival extends its reach far beyond the Gate City

Compiled by Brian Lampkin

In May of 2018, the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival turned the Gate City into the destination for writers and readers across North Carolina. This year, from May 16 to 19, Greensboro Bound will reach across the ocean and around the country to bring more than 70 writers to locations throughout downtown. Our profound thanks to all of them that are accommodating the Festival’s events.

Our keynote speaker for Saturday evening, May 18, from London is literary sensation Zadie Smith, author of Michelle Obama’s favorite novel, White Teeth. Her other works include Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW and Swing Time. Her recent collection of essays, Feel Free, is a nominee for a 2019 PEN Literary Award, and she has been shortlisted for the Man Booker, had a novel named one of the 100 best in the English language (among those published between 1923 and 2005), and won the Orange Prize for Fiction. We thank the UNCG Libraries — and its dean Martin Halbert’s generous partnership with the Festival —for Smith’s appearance in the Cone Ballroom on the UNCG campus at 7 p.m. To ensure a seat to this event, you must RSVP here:

A lineup of children’s and young adult authors will charm and delight families from our city’s diverse neighborhoods. Our partnership with the City of Greensboro and the Greensboro Public Libraries means the downtown library will host: Bill Konigsberg (The Music of What Happens), Lamar Giles, (Fresh Ink, Black Enough), plus 18 more amazing children’s writers.

On the adult side, 2018 National Book Award finalist Rebecca Makkai will be here to talk about her novel, The Great Believers, and 2016 National Book Award Finalist Ross Gay will talk about his new collection of essays, The Book of Delights. We’ll have an all-day tract of writing on Appalachia with a diverse group of scribes: Wiley Cash, Mesha Maren, Robert Gipe, Carter Sickels, Michael Croley, Val Nieman, and Meredith McCarroll (editor of Appalachian Reckoning, in which many of these writers appear).

For some, the highlight of the Festival will be the conversation between Heath Lee, author of The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home, and Claire Gibson, author of the novel Beyond the Point, which centers on the lives of women at West Point. Others will come primarily to see the fabulous Lee Brothers! Yes, Matt and Ted Lee will be at the Van Dyke Performance Space to talk about Southern cooking and their new book Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business.

Permeating the Festival will be engaging, ongoing conversation on social justice, climate change and civil rights. Adam Parker, author of Outside Agitator: The Civil Rights Struggle of Cleveland Sellers Jr., will be here as will Cleveland Sellers himself as they discuss the Orangeburg Massacre and the ongoing movement in its wake. Sudden Spring: Stories of Adaptation in a Climate-Changed South, by Rick Van Noy, reflects on the loss of some of our most cherished landscapes. Van Noy will be on panel with Susan Hand Shetterly. She’s the author of Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge and the mother-in-law of Margot Shetterly, who wrote Hidden Figures.

The weekend kicks off with an Opening Night celebration on Thursday, May 16 at 5:30 p.m at the Weatherspoon Art Museum with the multitalented Astra Taylor. Formerly with the influential indie band Neutral Milk Hotel, but she has moved on to become one of the leading voices on what’s failing in our democracy. Greensboro Bound will screen her film What Is Democracy? Taylor will talk about the film and her knew book Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone.

Face plant! I didn’t mention the Greensboro Opera, the Greensboro Symphony’s OrKIDStra, puppets with Fred Chappell and puppets of Fred Chappell in my race to the finish: the Festival’s closing Extravaganza on May 19 at A&T State’s Harrison Auditorium. This year, the Righteous Babe herself, Ani DiFranco, will preside over the event in tandem with the May release of her memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream. We’re one of 10 cities across the country on her initial book tour. DiFranco’s music has empowered several generations and her commitment to making music on her own terms is a significant contribution to the “art of business.” A true American tour-de-force. As if that weren’t enough, she will be in conversation with Greensboro’s own tour-de-force, Rhiannon Giddens. Expect more surprises when we publish the full schedule in the May issue of O.Henry.  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.



Papadaddy’s Mindfield


Or, how to start your own Vacation Club

By Clyde Edgerton

When my wife, Kristina, was told we could get four days and three nights in a Marriott hotel luxury suite with two bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, three or four TVs in Myrtle Beach for $9 (OK: $134) if we’d sit together for a one-and-a-half-hour lecture about time-shares, I said: Goodness. Why not?

Excuse me — not time-share, but some other name, like: Marriott Vacation Worldwide Club Getaway. “Time-share” is out of fashion in some quarters . . . the name, not the concept. There’s a guy who comes on cable radio and says, “I’m a lawyer, not very smart, but mean, and I’ll get you out of your time-share contract by suing the hell out of the time-share company, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll burn down your time-share and we will split the insurance.”

But with the Marriott Vacation Worldwide Club Getaway, rather than buying a two-weeks-a-year stay at one hotel suite, apartment, small closet or room (after which other people use it for the rest of the year, and get it dirty), you — in this new kind of setup — buy the possibility of staying in a luxury hotel about anywhere in the world when you go on vacation, and you use up a certain number of points each time that happens, depending on how big your abode is. You buy so many points a year for the rest of your life. If you don’t like the deal, that’s OK because you will die and leave it to your heirs, and they can do the same, like a home. Resale value? I don’t know.

Let’s jump ahead about one hour and 15 minutes into our lecture. I asked: “What’s your return rate?”

“Excuse me?”

“How many couples out of 10 buy in?”


“Wow, I’m surprised it’s that high. That’s pretty good.”

Now mind you, Kristina and I had decided that there was no way we could buy in. I mean there was the very slightest chance, but we vowed we would not be swayed. 

The luxury hotel was, well, luxurious. The January weather was nice, there were several football-field-size heated pools, a Jacuzzi. Our suite was two big bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, living room, all that. We just kind of relaxed. Our kids did what they do at home: They sat on a bed and looked into a cellphone. Well, that’s not fair — they do other things. Perceptions are sometimes a product of fear.

We got there on a Friday, and on Saturday morning, while the kids sit on their beds looking into their cellphones, Kristina and I head for the lecture. On the way, we walk around, out onto the beach and back. I mean, who needs the beach when you are at a luxury hotel? There is this bevy of nice grills near the beach area (inside the gate to the beach), these big cabinets of dark wooden cubbyholes for your beach paraphernalia (inside the gate to the beach). There are beach chairs, ping-pong tables, a gym (inside the gate to the beach). Suddenly, I realized the thing you go to the beach for, the beach, was not central to a Marriott Worldwide Vacation Club Getaway. Why? A guess: Nobody makes money when you go for a walk on the beach. And the gate keeps out the undesirables who might be walking by on the beach.

Just before the lecture, we enter a large room with bar, snacks, drinks, many couches, big green plants and lamps. I’d thought other folks would be coming in. Nope. It ended up, at first, being just three of us.

A nice young man, very relaxed, open collar, sports jacket, sits down with us and says, “This is definitely going to be low key. No high-pressure stuff.” We talk about where he’s from, his brothers and sisters, where he went to school. I like him. Surely he thinks we’re not interested, I think.

It is very low pressure . . . for about 40 minutes. After about 45 minutes we have taken a little stroll past beautiful, large 3-D photos of resort areas around the world, and we are now in a very small room. A guy who looks like Pancho Villa comes in. He wears two belts of ammo, crossed on his chest. He starts putting numbers on a white board with a blue felt-tipped pen — what our payments will be for a certain number of points a year. He’s good. I will later admit to Kristina that I was almost swayed. Then I think to ask, “Is there a maintenance fee?” Well, there is. Two grand a year for the moderate package we’re examining, and I think to myself: If we get away for only four nights in a certain year, that’s $500 a night out the gate.

We say to Pancho: “We are not doing this, sir. The end.” He changes tactics, halves all the numbers on the board, unclicks the safety-guard strap on his pistol.

We persist. Pancho gives up, and they run a woman in on us. No ammo belts. She says if we call her by 1 p.m. that day, we can get three nights and four days at any Marriott luxury hotel for $199 if we promise to come together for a 1-hour, 30-minute lecture. This is true. I realize that it’s the three out of 10 that’s driving the bus. I say, no thanks. She says $149. I say no. She gives us a business card and says, “Call me if you change your mind.”

We return to our suite, relax, enjoy our stay for another day, talk about how lucky we are to be one of the seven in 10. We gather our kids and their cellphones off their beds, return to Wilmington a day early, and have a family meeting. We’re going to start spending time at the beach, and in the yard, and walking, and going to state parks. We’re going to start our own Vacation Nature Getaway Club.

Features? Yard, beach, state parks.

Cost: Nada  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. Keenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNCW.