Outdoor: Living and Recreation 2023

Outdoor: Living and Recreation 2023


Poem May 2023

Poem May 2023

Mallard Ducks

It is late afternoon and a pair

of mallard ducks is paddling

the length and breadth of Lake

Katharine, their webbed feet

working beneath the waterline.

The male’s hunter green head

is iridescent in the sun, his bill

the bright yellow of summer

squash. But a female is harder

to see. Her mottled, brunette

feathers blend with the aquatic

vegetation, which will help her

protect the nest she has yet to

build, the eggs she has not yet

lain. Today, however, this hen

seems content to bob for plants

and small fish while swimming

around the lake with her mate,

the two of them silent as rubber

ducks floating in a child’s bath —

or an old married couple eating

their supper on separate trays.

— Terri Kirby Erickson

Terri Kirby Erickson’s seventh book of poetry, Night Talks: New & Selected Poems, will be released in October 2023.

Wandering Billy

Wandering Billy

A Musical Visionary

Tuning into Tyler Millard

By Billy Ingram

“Those who wish to sing always find a song.”  — Author Unknown

There are few truly revelatory moments in life. Covering the nascent punk/post-punk music scene in East Los Angeles from 1980–83, witnessing teenage bands and young musicians like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Social Distortion, Minutemen, Fishbone and Perry Farrell thrashing through their earliest gigs was one of those moments for me. This week brought another revelation: discovering the music of Tyler Millard.

Singer/songwriter Tyler Millard didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 21. Admittedly, mostly by necessity when life threw him a curveball. And yet, in little over a decade, he’s produced some of the finest original compositions this region has seen since Rhiannon Giddens ascended into the multiple Grammy-winning heavens.

Hard to believe? Check out Tyler’s latest single dropping this month on Spotify, “Gold and Green,” a dreamy ballad lyrically reminiscent of Conor Oberst or David Bazan, sans their concussive bleakness. Those crooners’ caterwauling stands in stark contrast to Tyler, whose haunting harmony reverberates into the mind’s sacred soil reserved for your all-time favorites, as if his soothing assuredness has always existed inside your ears. It’s the fourth single from an album that will be released later this year.

On a recent Saturday night at One Thirteen Brewhouse + Rooftop Bar, I caught a performance by The Ghosts of Liberty, a tight three-piece band Tyler formed with his wife, Emma, joining him on vocals and father Richard Millard on keyboard. For these types of gigs, the combo mixes original tunes with twists on classics such as “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Tennessee Whiskey.” Elevated by Emma’s classically trained, velveteen voice and stunningly pristine vocal styling, their romantic, anthemic composition, “Sundown to Sunrise,” has racked up close to half-a-million listens on Spotify.

Tyler might actually have an advantage over other singer/songwriters, sonically at least, because he’s sightless — a slightly more accurate description than blind. He can still detect bright sources of light, but little else.

“I’d always had bad vision. It just got a little bit worse every year,” Tyler explains. Majoring in mathematics at UNCW, he was 21 when “driving was starting to get scary for me already.” Forfeiting his driver’s license, he was ultimately diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa or RP for short. “Honestly, at the time, it was a little bit of a relief because I knew I shouldn’t be driving anymore.”

Finishing his degree and faced with an inability to compete in the sporting events he excelled in, Tyler picked up a guitar, meticulously teaching himself to play. “I wasn’t talented naturally, out of the box. It just never even occurred to me that music would be a part of my life.”

Pretty much every successful creative person I’ve ever encountered has found themselves at a crossroad leading a wholly unanticipated but gratifying future. “As I’ve moved through life, I’ve seen other people cope with mourning their expectations,” Tyler says. “I now recognize that’s kind of what I was going through at the time. You think your life’s going to be one way, then realize everything’s going to be very different.” Feeling fortunate in a way, he adds, “It wasn’t like I had some sort of an accident and lost my vision. I had time to kind of ease into the water.”

As luck would have it, college campuses are a hotbed of wannabe guitar heroes. “So there were tons of people to learn chords from,” Tyler recalls. He admits to being obsessed with mastering the instrument, saying “I think you kind of have to. There’s such a barrier of entry with a guitar. It literally hurts your fingers getting the guitar to become so familiar that it feels like part of your body.”

After an unsettling attempt at teaching high school, Tyler returned to UNCW for grad school in order to teach at the community college level. It was there that he got serious about writing music. “By the time those two years were up, my fate was sealed,” he recalls. “I’d played too much guitar and couldn’t go back. So I moved home to Oak Ridge where my dad lives.”

After earning his teaching certification, he switched gears and instead pulled together his first band. “I was still living at home, so I wasn’t concerned with money as much,” he tells me. The Tyler Millard Band found receptive audiences first in Wilmington, “where I got to see my old friends from college. And we played in Greensboro a bunch when Buckhead [at Plaza Shopping Center] was open.” In 2014, the group released an album, Carolina Blues, which harkens back to Carolina-inspired, shit-kickin’ Southern rock of the ’70s.

In 2018, Tyler’s proposal to his wife, Emma, came in the form of an exquisitely tender refrain he composed then serenaded her with. Together they recorded the song, entitled “Prologue,” with Doug Davis of The Plaids producing, credited to Em & Ty. A poignant, poetic melody sure to dampen dry eyes, “Prologue” is genuinely worthy of becoming a standard performed during every matrimonial party, as commonplace as “Wedding Song (There Is Love).”

By then, Tyler had abandoned the bar band concept for a more practical approach to making a living with music. You might say he did the math. “My dad and I play the wineries around here,” he says. “The economics of it are that the patrons are older and the owners are older, so everybody’s got more money.”

Occasionally joined by Emma, their first set is made up half of covers, half originals. “It takes a little bit of warming up just to get our voices sounding good and we also want to stay sharp on our own material,” Tyler says. “The second two sets are all bangers. We like to end really strong.”

Tyler sings while fingering an electric acoustic Fender Telecaster. Switching off on vocals, Emma strums her own acoustic six-string, forming the nucleus of The Ghosts of Liberty. “We put out three songs and did the whole Nashville thing — production, writing and everything,” recalls Tyler. For several days they hunkered down in Music City, collaborating with professional song stylists “who literally write 10 songs a week sometimes. We would sit in a room and they’d be like, ‘What do you wanna write about?’ Or, ‘Do you have any pieces you’ve been working on, a chunk of a song or anything?’ And we’d take it from there.”

No doubt, Tyler Millard and The Ghosts of Liberty will fast become yet another facet into what is evolving into a recognizable 21st century “Greensboro Sound” exemplified by Laura Jane Vincent, Josh Watson, Emily Stewart, Caleb Caudle, Tom Troyer and so many others. Although those musicians primarily root around in their respective and respectable country folk backyards, Tyler’s solo work is more rock-oriented.

“Another blind friend of mine from London taught me how to mix,” Tyler says. “Right now I’m laying down backing tracks, some drums and bass for us to play along with for bigger shows.” He tells me Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” is one of the tunes the band plans to cover “just because it’s kind of cool to turn it into a rock-and-roll and not a pop song.”

Down the road from his dad, Tyler and Emma currently reside in Oak Ridge with their 18-month old daughter, Clara, and Emmett, the dog. “She’s the best,” the proud father says of their baby girl. “All of a sudden she’ll be hugging my leg and I’ll have no warning that was gonna happen, you know? And that makes your day.”  OH

For concert dates, go to tylermillard.com.

Billy Ingram’s first book (mostly) about Greensboro, Hamburger², is available as a free PDF at: tvparty.com/1-hamburger.html.

Home Grown

Home Grown

Highly (Anxietied) Entertaining

My mother, the hostess with a host of worries

By Cynthia Adams

My mother, while a charming and gracious Southern woman, was driven to the fine edge of sanity by entertaining.

Hosting the Home Demonstration Club (born in the Depression) to discuss homemaking topics such as canning and cake decoration was on par with Princess Margaret making a stop in Hell’s Half Acre. HHA was 30 miles from Monroe, Charlotte, Concord and — well, places where HRH Margaret would never deign to visit. 

“Company” sent seismic waves through our ranch home.

A hair appointment was booked. A trip to Smart Shop for a new dress. High-anxiety calls went to Mama Patty, her mother, who lived for company.

Mama Patty, always baking, was primed and ready for “drop-ins,” her polite term for interlopers. Not so with her youngest, Jonnie Louise (who dropped the “e” on Jonnie in her fifties — Mama Patty had hoped for a boy).

Out came the Electrolux, Johnson’s floor wax and the buffer. Yes, JL owned a buffer. Also, a punch bowl with cut-glass cups; plus, china, crystal, silver, linens, etc.

My older sister and I would vacuum, then hand wax the floors (yeah, Karate Kid stop your sniveling). Then buff. While managing to gripe and argue the entire time. 

Once when I complained that I was too tired to help, Mom gave me one of her diet pills. 

“These are from Dr. Pfeiffer, so they’re safe, but give lots of energy.” 

Those pills became known as Black Beauties on the street — amphetamines. Of course, JL didn’t know this. I grew more jittery than the shuddering buffer, following the oak grain and inhaling the waxy smells as my young heart hammered. 

While show time drew near, we were all banned from the kitchen as soon as cooking commenced.

Mom believed her usual repertoire lacking when it came to the Home Demonstration Club. She would send herself into a complete frenzy — once making a baked Alaska.

By the time the Home Demonstration agent and guests arrived, Mom, the floors and her buffet were perfect — but she was near collapse.

Then there was Mama Patty.

Mama Patty, who had faced devastating losses, lived out her life as if she had only walked among duckies and daisies. Yet she lost a toddler to meningitis. A young husband to an aneurysm. A breast to cancer.

(When questioned about never complaining, she replied, “Self-pity is a cancer! And it will kill you faster,” then proceeded to smock gowns for neighboring newborns and send cakes when someone died.) 

Mama Patty’s house was tidy, cheerful — and full of bad furniture.

At least, the kitchen was cheerful. The table, chairs and counter were red melamine rimmed with chrome. Pound cakes (lemon and chocolate) awaited in Tupperware. A fruit pie chilled in the “Frigidaire” with fried chicken, potato salad and pickles.

A meal was always at the ready and she happily fed whomever graced her doorstep. 

She “went modern,” decorating the den with a brown Naugahyde sofa and recliner, and a braided green rug. She accented with unidentifiable amber glass objects. With the recliner extended, she stretched out to enjoy her soaps, The Edge of Night and Secret Storm.

Mama Patty’s bedrooms were filled with 1940s-era “suites” of brown furniture, which even my kid self recognized as ugly. 

When Mama Patty died, mourners spilled outside the country church, later overwhelming her little house. A weepy-eyed man no one recognized blubbered, “I loved Miss Pat so much!” 

When asked how he knew our grandmother he answered, “Oh, I repaired her appliances.”

Seemed he and his family enjoyed not only regular visits but also her cooking. He once was fixing the washing machine when a bad storm arose; she perfectly innocently insisted he lie down on the bed till it passed. 

Mama Patty feared storms, snapping turtles tangling up her fishing line, snakes and drowning.

All real things to fear. And all of which made my mother’s social anxieties, then and now, an even greater mystery.  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry magazine.

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory

Falling for Forests

Attempts at passing a love of hiking from generation to generation

By Cassie Bustamante

“And you ask, ‘What if I fall?’ Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”    — Erin Hanson

From as early an age as I can remember, I’ve felt most at home with myself while wandering through woods, a trait I inherited from my father. When I was a child, Dad would often venture out to hike nearby trails on the weekends, toting along a backpack that held his Canon plus its various lenses. After developing his photos — because that’s how it worked back then, kids — we’d pore over pictures of fungi, wildflowers, birds, animals and sometimes even dung, all of which we’d try to identify in the National Audubon Society’s field books.

In my tweens, I began venturing out with Dad. Surely, I ruined his peaceful treks with my endless, mile-a-minute chatter, but he was happy that his daughter was showing interest in his hobbies. My out-loud inner monologue gave away the fact that my mind and eyes wandered, so Dad was careful to point out tripping hazards. Dexterity has never been my strong point.

Now, with three kids of my own, I hope to pass on that appreciation of the great outdoors. I want them to experience what I do while developing a sense of wonder over nature’s miracles and realizing how small we — and our worries — are in this big world. So far, only my 5-year-old full-of-curiosity son and my 17-year-old athletic son are into hiking. My 16-year-old daughter rolls her eyes at the mere suggestion.

However, on Mother’s Day, no one is allowed to demur. You do what Mom wants, no questions asked. And so six years ago on the second Sunday in May, our family found ourselves navigating a winding trail in Maryland’s Gambrill State Park, just a stone’s throw from our former home.

The rocky path too narrow for side-by-side hiking, we trudge onward in a line. Chris, my husband, leads the pack while I play caboose and our two kids (the littlest not yet born) walk in-between. Reverting to my childlike state as I tend to do in the woods, I point out every heart-shaped leaf, every colorful mushroom sprouting up and every dragonfly that skitters by. Captivated by the scenery around me, of course I’m not looking at the path directly in front of me. And Dad isn’t there this time to stop me from snagging my foot on a knotty tree root. Before I know it, I’m airborne, my feet above and behind me. Ribs first, I land on hard ground.

I lie among the pebbles and dirt for a moment, absorbing what has just happened. When I finally look up, I see my kids’ faces agape at Mom splayed out in the dirt. Popping up as quickly as I can, I shake the dirt off and wipe my bloody knees and elbows.

“I’m good,” I say. “Let’s keep going!”

If this had been a movie, this would be the part where the narrator’s voice intrudes, saying, “She was not, in fact, good.”

My ribs are bruised and sore for a solid month afterwards, but I’m not about to let a little — OK, big — stumble stop me from showing my kids how wondrous the woods can be, dammit.

Since then, I’ve tripped many more times, on craggy slopes at Hanging Rock, down leaf-slick trails in the Grandfather Mountain area and, yes, over tree roots everywhere.

So, what if you fall? Take it from someone who knows. Maybe you won’t fly through the air like I did, but you’ll get back up. You’ll dust yourself off and trudge onward, reveling in the magic of the Earth around you. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to share it with those you love, even if you have to drag them out there in the first place.  OH

Cassie Bustamante is editor of O.Henry magazine.

Sazerac May 2023

Sazerac May 2023

Free Seeds! Can You Dig It? 

Long before the freestanding Little Seed Libraries began appearing in neighborhoods, public libraries were on the bandwagon, distributing seeds alongside books. 

Since 2018, Greensboro’s Glenwood Library has sponsored a free seed exchange and informational program. (Library patrons are encouraged to plant their seeds and resupply the library’s after harvesting their own — everything from marigolds to zinnias — and assorted vegetables.)

Now a neat hybrid called Little Seed Libraries has taken root. The free seeds and exchange program emulates the popular concept of neighborhood-based Little Free Libraries (now with 150,000 registered locations). 

On Parish Street in northwest Greensboro, a dark green box on a post, fetchingly embellished with Free Seeds, has resident Mallory Cutsor excitedly praising the idea on NextDoor, a social media site. Cutsor who lives nearby, checked out a generous variety of herb, flower and vegetable seeds free for the taking. (Seed exchanges are encouraged.) 

In early March, her 4-year-old son started the seeds they had selected, she says.

Among the offerings were snap peas, kale, lettuce, spinach, rocket and various herbs, plus hardy flowers such as zinnia, sunflowers and cosmos. The seed library was helpfully stocked with free planting calendars, offering planting tips and number of days to harvest. The Parish Street Little Seed Library is possibly Greensboro’s first. Only five years ago, there were an estimated 660 seed libraries in 48 states, the majority housed in universities, ecology programs and public libraries. Today’s estimates are far higher, rising in tandem with community gardens — as gardening surged among the pandemic home-bound.  The free seeds concept promotes urban gardening and aids pollinators — providing green scenes for neighborhoods everywhere.       Cynthia Adams

Window to the Past

Photograph © Greensboro History Museum

Mayor, Mayor, how does your garden grow? Former Mayor Paul Lindley (1877–1933) grew his garden in manicured rows featuring boxwoods, flowers and statuary.

Sage Gardener

The first time I was served edible flower buds was in an oh-so upscale, chichi Charlotte eatery that I was reviewing for our sister pub, Business North Carolina. “Nasturtiums,” my wife, Anne, said, spearing a bloom with a bit of lettuce from her salad and gobbling it down. I wrinkled my nose and said something like “Who eats flowers?” “You,” she shot back, “as in cauliflower and broccoli, not to mention the squash blossoms I stuff with cheese and deep-fat fry for you.” Shut my mouth — as usual. A former Latin teacher and something of a Medievalist, Anne entertained our table guests with how, for centuries, flowers have been used not just as garnishes, but candied and crystalized; infused, as in rosewater and vinegars; “and how about capers?” she added. “What would eggplant caponata be without flowers?” Then there are tisanes and various teas made with flowers, from chamomile to lemon balm. But back to the 21st century and your garden, which I trust is under way. Got pansies, violets, calendulas, lavender, hyssop, sage, borage, chives, cornflowers and thyme planted? (Ever used thyme flowers in your green-olive tapenade?) You might want to check out whatscookingamerica.net/edibleflowers for an exhaustive list of what plants and parts of plants you can eat — and some important cautionary notes on what to not eat if you have a will to live. Don’t have a garden? Other than artichokes in Italian spots, I don’t know of any chic boîtes featuring flowers with their haute cuisine. You might just have to settle for Outback’s blooming onions.    — David Claude Bailey

Just One Thing

“Our sculptures are inspired by the archaeology of great civilizations,” say the brothers Caviness — Bryan with a B.F.A. from NCSU and Brad with a B.F.A. from UNCG. From their studio in Browns Summit, they create — and then carefully break — replicas of pottery that are contemporary with the scenes they depict. “The shattered clay symbolizes the destruction of great sites,” they explain, like the ruins of the Erechtheion atop Athen’s Acropolis. Within a classic black-figured amphora seemingly ravaged by the ages, the pillared statues of the caryatids (or virgins) stare serenely out over Athens’ ancient cityscape. Their work, they hope, creates “a compelling contrast between beauty and brokenness” in hopes of sparking preservation and restoration. (Note to the British Museum: The lone caryatid that Lord Elgin looted and is in your collection would like to join her sisters in Greece.) The caryatid vase and a number of others — including depictions of Cordoba, Spain, the Karnak Temple, Egypt and the old city of Jerusalem — rotate in and out of Ambleside Gallery in downtown Greensboro. Info: amblesidearts.com.

Unsolicited Advice

Wondering what a mom wants, what a mom needs? Well, Christina, a genie in a bottle would be amazing, but we’ll settle for not getting rubbed the wrong way just for one day. And there is one way you can make that happen for your mom on this Mother’s Day. How would we know? Let’s just say we’re hoping the father of our children is reading this right now because it’s the only item on our list: a day at home alone.

And what would we do with a glorious day in our own house, all by our not-so-lonesome?

Sip morning coffee in silence. Do you hear that? Aaaah, neither do we.

Go to the bathroom whenever we want without any little fingers poking underneath the door, accompanied by whines of “Mommmmmy, are you almost done?”

Blast Whitney Houston while singing into a hairbrush and dancing around the halls like Hugh Grant in Love Actually.

Eat a nutritious midday meal at an enjoyable pace as opposed to wolfing down the discarded crusts of PB&J and calling it lunch.

Miss our kids. Dammit.