O.Henry Ending

O.Henry Ending

La Mona Lisa Gioconda

Value is in the eye of the beholder

By:  Cynthia Adams

I have a not-so-secret fascination with Mona. Mona and I go way back.

The Italians call the Florentine beauty La Mona Lisa Gioconda — Madam Lisa Giocondo. She is La Joconde to the French.

As Nat King Cole crooned, she is Mona Lisa to the rest of us. 

My first reproduction of Mona was set in a chippy frame beneath wavy glass. This prized possession cost $1 at the former Sedgefield Flea Market. 

More recently, I’ve acquired others: two oversized giclées by Randy Slack titled Mona Ghost and Mona Citrus. I own books on the infamous Louvre thefts and tussles over the world’s most famous portrait, replete with accounts of when she went missing or was subjected to unwarranted attack. Five times and counting, Mona has been either outright stolen (the first time in 1911) or vandalized. Rocks, tea cups and paint have been hurled at the impassive face

Why all this drama? Salvador Dali said Mona with the mystic smile had “a power, unique in all art history, to provoke the most violent and different kinds of aggressions.”

Recently, a film critic reviewing Glass Onion suggested that Mona symbolizes legacy. The villain in the film “wants to be remembered in the same breath as the Mona Lisa . . . standing the test of time.”

Her legacy was burnished with every assault, Mona’s fame escalating after the 1911 heist.

She epitomized Da Vinci’s greatness. No visible brush strokes. The lifelike countenance. Mona’s ambiguous physicality. And . . . that smile. We experience Mona as faintly masculine, lacking eyebrows or lashes (overzealous restoration removed them).

Da Vinci began the commission of Mona, the wife of a wealthy Italian merchant Francesco del Giocondo, in 1503. He worked on it until 1507.

When he left Italy on horseback for France in 1516 at the invitation of an admiring King Francis I, he took Mona’s portrait with him.

Installed by Francis at the Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise, he hung Mona on his bedroom wall. 

He himself regarded her as his opus. (Or not; an art dealer earlier this year argued this: what if the artist wanted to hide her?) Mona held his attention because he never considered her quite finished.

Working in splendid style befitting a genius, he died at age 67 in 1519 in the arms of the weeping King, who called Da Vinci “Father.”

It is entirely possible that Mona’s was the last face he saw at his death.

Afterward, Da Vinci’s painting was claimed by the French King much to the consternation of the Italians. The Chateau was preserved by the French as a Da Vinci Museum.

The embittered Italians want her returned. When first stolen from the Louvre by an ordinary workman in 1911, she was whisked off to Italy.

Mona became an international celebrity. You get the picture: Cabbages and kings alike obsessed over Mona.

I placed Dollar Mona, the chippy, cheap one, over the kitchen stove. There was and is something inspiring about Mona’s presence.

House-poor as we were, Mona somehow sustained our determination to revive and make worthy the tatty kitchen. 

We scraped, painted, plastered and sweated over the monstrous job we faced. We fashioned new cabinet doors and tiled the counters. Too poor to replace the ancient stove, we polished till it gleamed. 

My brother showed up one weekend to reinforce the sagging dining room floor. Slowly, the careworn, early-1900s house responded.

Feeling celebratory, we opened it up for a party. A niece’s ex, famously befuddled, disappeared into the kitchen for an inordinate amount of time. 

What the heck was he doing?

Walking through the butler’s pantry to the kitchen, I overheard as he ground out the words, “That’s the Mona Lisa,” stopping me in my tracks.

“Yeah, I know,” replied my niece.

“Well, they’ve got to have money if they own that,” he said sourly.

Wearing an enigmatic smile of my own, I reversed course and rejoined the party. True enough, even Dollar Mona had grown beyond price.  OH

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory

Little Orphan Cassie

The curtain opens on a world of possibility

By Cassie Bustamante

Live theater has had a piece of my heart for almost as long as I can remember. My love affair, especially with musicals, began the summer I turned 6. My mom had taken me to see Annie at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine. There, I discovered theater has the power to bring dreams to life.

Before that moment, I’d seen the movie and played the album on my Fisher Price record player, singing along while putting myself in Annie’s tattered orphan shoes. Our family dog, a golden retriever named Butterscotch — far from a mangy street mutt — often found himself locked in my bedroom so that I could pretend he was following me, just like Sandy followed Annie.

Once, I tried to sit in my bedroom window to look woefully out at the sky while musically musing, “Maybe far away, or maybe real nearby . . . ” As the window screen gave to the pressure of my leaning body, my feet caught on the very sill I’d been perched on, holding me in place as the rest of me dangled dangerously a story above our driveway. My older brother, Dana, heard my cries and pulled me back in. (And yes, my parents had told me over and over to stay away from the windows, but when it came to being Annie, I followed no one’s rules.)

“As far as I was concerned, you could have had a much less healthy obsession,” my mom recalls. “You were happy being Annie and acting and singing, so, why not?” Plus, she adds, “It was entertaining.” A talented seamstress, she had sewn me my very own red-and-white dress, just like Annie’s. And, along with those live show tickets, my parents had given me a golden, heart-shaped, broken locket for my birthday.

I knew the songs. I had the locket, the dress and the black, patent-leather shoes. There was just one major problem: my hair. It was long, straight and dirty-blonde, a far cry from a headful of fiery red ringlets.

But in that Ogunquit theater during the final moments of the curtain call, something I’d never imagined was possible happened. After clapping enthusiastically for the actors who played Daddy Warbucks, Miss Hannigan, Grace, Punjab and the other orphans, the last actor emerged to receive her applause. Alyson Kirk, who played the role of Annie, walked to centerstage and whipped off her curly-haired wig to reveal a mane of straight hair that wasn’t red at all.

“Look!” I gasped, telling my mom what this meant for me. “I can be Annie!” In that moment, I realized that in the world of theater, anything is possible.

Now, as a mother, there’s nothing I want more than for my kids to see that their own worlds can stretch as far as their imaginations can reach.

Last year, my husband, Chris, and I introduced our youngest, Wilder, to live theater at the Tanger Center — first, to Paw Patrol Live for his 4th birthday. Then, in September, it was off to Blue’s Clues & You Live.

A week before the Blue’s Clues tour stop in Greensboro, I had a chance to chat with Josh Blackburn, producer of Round Room Live, the company responsible for bringing many Nickelodeon and licensed kids’ shows to life onstage all over the world. Like many of us, his own love for musical theater began during his childhood, evolving into a passion “to show kids opportunity” through his work.

Blackburn says his “favorite part” is watching kids enjoy his live shows, and I understand why. Chris and I were more enthralled by Wilder’s reaction to Blue and company than by what was actually happening on stage, despite the “huggable” and “larger than life puppets.” And it wasn’t just us. Looking around that theater, the faces of many-a-parent were aglow with wonder as they watched their own little ones sing along, dance and dream.

We walked out of the theater together that day, holding hands as we stepped into a world that was, indeed, our oyster.

At 45, I’ve long since outgrown the red-and-white dress and black patent-leather shoes. I’ve said good-bye to my beloved Butterscotch. The broken heart-shaped locket has been lost, perhaps now another child’s treasure. But, until my final curtain call, I am going to continue to let my imagination run wild in this world — with or without a red, curly-haired wig.  OH

Cassie Bustamante is editor of O.Henry magazine.

The Engineer of Sound

The Engineer of Sound

From MerleFest to Tanger, over the last 50 years Cliff Miller has done it all

By Ogi Overman 

Photograph by Mark Wagoner

The early ’70s were a fertile time for bluegrass festivals and fiddlers’ conventions. Spurred by the success of Union Grove and Camp Springs, a new festival sprang up in 1973 in the small community of Angier, 20 miles south of Raleigh. For a startup, it featured an impressive lineup, including a blind guitarist from Deep Gap named Doc Watson. By then, Watson was already a revered figure among music aficionados, if not quite yet a household name.

Running sound for the multistage event was 21-year-old whiz kid Cliff Miller from Asheboro. Even at that young age, Miller had amassed credentials not only as a top-notch sound tech, but as a guitarist/vocalist, repairman, speaker-cabinet builder and innovator of all things having to do with sound reinforcement. During Doc and son Merle’s set, Miller says Doc called out, “Sounds like you’re having a little trouble around 160, son.” That’s musician speak, Miller explains, for his inability to modulate the sound patterns at 160 hertz between the D and G string of Doc’s guitar.

Miller’s response? “So afterward, I went backstage and asked him some questions about resonance and frequencies, and I guess he was impressed that I wanted to learn and wanted to get it right. He seemed to like me, I think.”

Thus was born a relationship that lasted until Doc’s death on May 29, 2012. Miller played alongside the father and son (plus bassist T. Michael Coleman) until Merle’s untimely death in a tractor accident in 1985. He also ran sound for Doc (and anyone who was accompanying him) too many times to count, and, when a festival was conceived at Wilkes Community College in 1988 to honor Merle’s memory, it was Miller who was the driving force behind it. Today, 35 festivals, hundreds of artists and millions of fans later, Miller and his company, SE Systems, are still responsible for every aspect of sound reinforcement at all 13 stages of what is now MerleFest.

But, whether meeting Watson years earlier was kismet or coincidence, Miller would, no doubt, have gone on to an illustrious career due to his own ingenuity, work ethic, talent, good nature and engaging personality.

Former bandmate and lifelong friend T. Michael Coleman says, “He was always the calming voice in the storm, never myopic, always humble and dependable.”

Or as Miller, now 71, self-effacingly says, “I just had a knack for it. Plus, I just liked being around musicians and tinkering with equipment.” Maybe, but Coleman adds, “It’s not what you do but who you are that matters, and Cliff exemplifies that.”

That “knack” began around age 10 when an uncle gave him a Maybelle acoustic guitar. Then, at 14, his parents gifted him an electric guitar for Christmas. “It was Fender Mustang, white with a red pick guard and a Princeton Reverb amp.”

So, he did what every other kid in America at the time did — he started a “combo,” first the Crusaders and then the Chamois. At 16, he managed to take out a loan to buy one of the hot, new Kustom PA systems, whose exteriors were “upholstered” in rolled-and-pleated naugahyde, just like the seats in a hot rod. “That PA became the fifth member of the band,” he says.

Meanwhile, multitasker that Miller is, he and his father converted an old hosiery mill that his dad owned into a workshop, where he learned welding, woodworking and electronics, and began doing repair work. He also went to work at a local radio station, WGRW, earning his third-, second- and first-class radio and telephone license from Elkin Institute in Atlanta. Moreover, right out of high school, he became the service manager at Jerry C. Rowe Music, where he learned how to repair Leslie cabinets, Hammond organs, Fender amps and whatever else was broken. Not long afterward, the store closed, and Miller decided it was time to start his own business, founding Sound Engineering. His first concert under that name was August 21, 1973 — a date he considers his business’s official anniversary — 50 years ago!

“We were doing shows as well as a lot of speaker re-coning and started getting some business from big bands like Chairmen of the Board and Nantucket, as well as well-known local bands like Brice Street,” he recalls.  He’d also added a sales component, becoming an Ampeg amp, Hohner harmonica and Moog synthesizer dealer. Soon he hired guitar collector and salesman J.R. Luther to head up the department. Luther, by the way, is still with the Miller organization some 40 years later. His office walls are covered with at least 50 guitars, each with its own story, not counting the hundreds he has stored in his basement.

As he outgrew one building, and then another, Miller opted to move his operation from Asheboro to Greensboro in 1992. Again he ran out of space twice. As fate would have it, a commercial real estate agent named Tom Townes — who is the brother of “B” Townes, MerleFest’s first general manager — showed him a 57,300 square-foot building on Phoenix Drive, which, after a year of renovation, became SE Systems’ permanent home.

“We’re a three-pronged operation — sales, production and installation — and we have another sales office in Charlotte,” he says.

While his half-century body of work is too vast to elucidate here, a sampling would include:

  • His first ever arena show at the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival in Carter-Finley Stadium
  • 10 MLB All-Star games
  • Audio director for the Carolina Panthers stadium
  • The Lexington BBQ Festival, where he ran sound and got to know an up-and-coming artist named Taylor Swift
  • Stevens Center shows with Tony Bennett, Dinah Shore, Josh Groban and many renowned stars
  • A concert at the White House with Bill Monroe and Doc Watson, where he met President Jimmy Carter (a letter signed “Jimmy” hangs in the lobby of his facility)
  • Playing with Doc, Merle and T. Michael Coleman on Austin City Limits
The celebrity contact and accolades are endless: In 2006, SE Systems won the MIX Foundation’s Excellence in Audio and Creativity Awards in the “Tour Sound Production” category.

“We went out to San Francisco for the awards with pretty much no chance of winning,” notes Miller, “since our competition was the Rolling Stones, James Taylor and Dave Matthews. Needless to say, it was quite a shock and honor.”

His most recent — and perhaps most challenging — achievement was working alongside the guru of all sound reinforcement, John Meyer, installing the sound system for the Greensboro’s Tanger Center.

“There are 254 speakers every six to eight feet in the walls, ceiling, over the stage and balcony, each with its own enclosure,” explains Miller. That lets sound engineers change the acoustics of the room depending on conditions.

Greensboro Coliseum managing director Matt Brown, who made the decision to hire Miller for the critical Tanger project, is 100 percent certain he got the right man for the job.

“I have the highest regard for Cliff,” says Brown, who has leaned on Miller’s expertise at the Coliseum’s many venues. The performance of the Meyer Constellation system Miller recommended, says Brown, “shows how truly fortunate we are to have such a talented sound engineer in our community.”

Lest one think that Miller’s life has been one of accolades, awards and befriending hundreds of stars in and beyond the bluegrass community, think again. In November 2016, he underwent a successful kidney transplant, receiving an organ donated by well-known local Realtor Kathy Haynes. Shortly after he was back on his feet, the pandemic hit and the entire entertainment world went dark.

“It was a hard spot for us,” he laments. “Life as we knew it, producing shows, stopped dead. We didn’t do a thing for an entire year. I think it made people realize that we are not a business, but an industry.”

Whether it’s a business or an industry, Miller is the same, self-effacing, hard-working individual who’s managed to be a perfectionist without being a jerk. As longtime friend and employee Bob Thornley says, “He’s the best guy I’ve ever worked for — and I’ve worked for a lot.”  OH

Ogi Overman has been a familiar face on the central Carolina alternative and community journalism scene for almost 40 years. He has edited six publications and served as a columnist, reporter and feature writer. He is currently compiling his columns for a book to be titled A Doughnut and a Dream.

Life’s Funny

Life’s Funny


How faux predators scare pests — and others

By Maria Johnson

My friend was looking out for me.

“I have to tell you before I forget,” she texted. “About 5:45 p.m. yesterday, I was returning from a cousin’s graduation up the road from you, and as we passed the field behind your house I saw a white-gray wolf in the center of that field! Is that a stuffed wolf, or did I see what I thought I saw? If so, lock the doors and keep your sweet pooch inside.”

I’ll set aside, for a moment, the fact that my friend waited a day to tell me about a possible wolf near my home. She’s busy. And so am I, when I’m not being mauled by an oh-dang-it-WAS-a-real wolf.

In any case, about the same time I read her message, Nextdoor was blowing up with warnings about a creature on the same baseball field.

“Beware!” posted one user. “I saw a very LARGE coyote . . . Came home and Googled it, and it is definitely a coyote.”

I’d already seen the beast, out of the corner of my eye, while driving home.

My heart jumped at the sight of the low-slung, four-legged critter standing in center field.

I slowed down and craned my neck.

Bushy, reddish tail. Pointy face and ears. Fox, I thought.

My mind skipped to my dog, who is a foxhound — tally-ho — but she’s a sweet runt. Was she outside? Had she smelled the intruder? Was she kicking up a fuss? I needed to go see about her.

But first I took another pass at the field. The animal was still there.

“Sonuva . . . ,” I thought. “Bold. Brazen. Possibly rabid. And so . . . very . . . still.”

That’s when it dawned on me: I’d been punked.

The critter was a decoy, designed to fool the Canada geese who sometimes camped in the field and scorched the carpet-like grass with their droppings.

Sure enough, there were no geese around. The plastic carnivore — placed there by the school that maintains the field — had fooled the geese. Among others.


I thought of how people used other faux predators to scare off unwanted wildlife.

I’ve done it myself, once raiding our sons’ menagerie of plastic animals — a collection amassed over many visits to museums and zoos, as well as that cultural education center, Party City at Halloween — to solve a real-live bird problem.

Robins liked to build their sloppy nests on the pergola over our patio, so to discourage construction, I borrowed a rubber snake, climbed a ladder and placed the pseudo-viper in the robins’ favorite spot.

It worked. We enjoyed a robin-free spring that year — at least on the patio — and forgot about the anti-nesting system until the following year, when, while we were eating on the patio, the rubber snake fell onto the concrete.

It mattered little that the toy landed “Made in China” side up and didn’t move, except for a slight bounce. I was out of my chair and off the patio in milliseconds.

So that was, um, an effective deterrent.

I put the rubber snake back in the toy box and pondered other options for harbinger-of-spring control.

The life-sized rubber vulture that we wired to a fence at Halloween?

That startled trick-or-treaters. And me, every time I pulled into the driveway and saw its hulking black outline.

The 6-foot muslin-wrapped mummy that moaned and darted its eyes side-to-side whenever someone tripped a motion sensor near the front door?

That sent the little ones screaming. Me, too, when I fetched an Amazon package off the front porch a couple of days before Halloween.

The truth was, every time I’d tried to spook a real creature with a faux creature, I’d frightened myself.

The only fake predator I could abide was a swan, which some people plop into their swimming pools to keep away other water birds. Swans, as it turns out, are very territorial, which clashes with my idea of swans as the Switzerland of waterfowl. But, until I wake up as a heron, I’m not gonna sweat it.

Unfortunately, faux swans will not help the chipmunk infestation around the exterior of our home. (See Marianne Gingher’s delightful column about an interior chipmunk in O.Henry’s July issue.)

Apparently, there is no fake animal — startling or friendly — that will deter the hardy citizens of Chip City, a thriving metropolis that lies just under our home, judging from the many subway entrances around our foundation.

Truthfully, I don’t have a problem with the chips, but I do have a problem with their effect on our sweet Millie.

She hounds them with an incessant ark-ark-ark-ark, her best shot at flushing them out from behind the trash bins, even when they have darted out the other side, leaving their scent — adrenaline-spike pee? — which sends her into overdrive.

What to do? On a recent sweltering day, I mixed up a pint of homemade pepper spray, doused the bins, reached up to wipe the sweat from my brow and promptly set my eyelids on fire with eau de cayenne.

I can tolerate a lot of things. But the sound of chipmunks giggling at me is not one of them.

Which is how I found myself using my best vegetable peeler to whittle a bar of Irish Spring around the trash cans while wearing safety glasses to protect myself from a spray of lime-green soap shavings.

It was one of those moments when you ask yourself, “How did I get here?”

Here’s how: According to my rodent-based research, chipmunks and other animals hate the scent of the pungent deodorant soap, which I would describe as refreshingly gagging.

As I whittled, the jingle from the late ’70s Irish Spring TV commercial played in my head. You know the ad: a rugged Irish chap compliments an equally handsome fellow on his manly, soapy smell, and a Farrah Fawcett lookalike chimes in: “Manly, yes, but I like it, too.”

I made a small gagging sound as I whittled, and it wasn’t from the scent.

So far, the Irish Spring method seems to be working.

Either the chips hate the smell, or Millie hates the smell. In either case, she’s staying away from the bins.

Which is good, because I have only one bushy-tailed trick left, and the prospect truly scares me. And much of Nextdoor.  OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry. Email her at ohenrymaria@gmail.com.

Poem September 2023

Poem September 2023


Take me to a place where thoughts taste like sounds

Where faith feels and passion runs

Where touch can swim and energy flow

Where reasons don’t demand, season’s blossom and suns rise

Where water walks and life don’t pass you by, but instead waits patiently

Where people’s attention spans decades

Allow me to be more, so much more

Where my words are more than food for thought, but rather thoughts that provide food

Where I can be more than a poet

And what I say more than words

Where what I do is more than actions

Where revolution is daily and change is voluntary

Where red lights don’t stop traffic, but instead influence all to go respectfully

Creating infinite synergy

Take me to a place where we all prosper normally

Growing hereditarily, moving toward unity

Soon to be so much more than just inspiring

I want to breathe change and walk freedom

To sing strength and run like the wind

Where I can bleed passion and birth ideas that grow to be the future

Where suits are more than clothes or court cases

But represent a race of people all created equal

Where color is no boundary, where money no discriminating factor

Where like actors we are all just waiting to receive our academy award

Their time in the lime light, but this spectrum touches all of us leaving out no one

That light too bright to be held captive

I want to be there where the stairs lead upward and onward and life never ends

Where goodness and peace transcend and everyone is your friend

It’s too bad the only way to get there is at this life’s end


  Josephus III

Tea Leaf Astrologer

Tea Leaf Astrologer


(August 3 – September )

While there’s a part of you that longs to feel understood, let’s be honest: Your deadpan nature thrills you to your overly guarded core. Following a messy few weeks of Mercury stationed retrograde in your sign, you’ll have a rare opportunity to turn your hawklike perception inward. Don’t be afraid to examine your own motives. Are you overcompensating for something? Keep looking. You may be surprised by what you see.

Tea leaf “fortunes” for the rest of you:

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Consult an expert.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Don’t spill all the tea at once.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

You’re in the cabbage again.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Take a bold first step.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Be the stranger you wish to see in the world.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Mind the pit when you bite down.

Aries (March 21 – April 19) 

Don’t settle for the sideline.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Ever heard of feng shui? Prove it.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Resist the pumpkin spice.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

Trust your inner rumblings.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Three words: ice cream sundae.    OH

Zora Stellanova has been divining with tea leaves since Game of Thrones’ Starbucks cup mishap of 2019. While she’s not exactly a medium, she’s far from average. She lives in the N.C. foothills with her Sphynx cat, Lyla. 

Home Grown

Home Grown

Age is Just a Number

And fate sure has mine

By Cynthia Adams

After my birthday came and went, my nephew rang me up. One never to mince words, he asks, “How does it feel to be as old as you?” 

He reads Hunter S. Thompson and Cormac McCarthy, drinks truth serum for breakfast and avoids platitudes like, “Gee, you don’t seem old.” Only my nieces are that merciful.

After that sobering call, I’ve gone all in on scientific reading. I scrutinize claims that cold showers burn brown fat (that spongy glob rolling around our midsections). I stumble across MIT’s David Sinclair, who swallows a teaspoon of olive oil and youth-enhancing supplements for meals and looks about 30. I note how tech giants chill out in walk-in freezers, emerging fighting-weight-fit. All of them are arm wrestling with Father Time.

Meanwhile, I’ve been lolling in hot showers, ladling extra dressing on everything, kicking back with a Pinot and Camembert — when cold, sober and spartan were the HOV lane to youth.

What I want to know is how to look younger without actually having to do anything. Certainly not planking for core strength or training for 10Ks and half marathons, a thing I used to do. Or drinking mocktails.

What passive anti-aging opportunities had been overlooked?

One springs to mind following the shock of seeing myself in recent family photos: Avoid standing next to the very young in photographs.

Also, time to banish grandmacore from my wardrobe. Toss pantyhose — as not only a sign of the elderly but aggravating. Hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. And that droopy crotch!?

Henceforward, in future, avoid certain references. Like pay phones. And don’t mention when there used to be pay phones citywide, or how single girls never went on dates without a dime in case a handsy date made unwanted advances (outmoded term).

Note: Appear baffled by terms like “landline” or “collect call” or “long distance” or “person-to-person.” (When was a call ever anything but person-to-person?)

No “remember whens,” either, as in, “Remember when I got my first cell phone?” The Motorola 2900 was a costly monster, large enough to be mistaken for a military field phone. A few minutes’ usage was outrageously costly. 

Its replacement had the size and heft of a brick with a fixed antenna.

Also, no future mention of carbon paper (for my trusty IBM Selectric typewriter) —  or bottles of correction fluids like Wite-Out — shall cross my lips.

Even the stodgy Atlantic, whose readership is at least 50 years old, said this about Wite-Out: “The sticky, white fluid and its chief rival, Liquid Paper, are peculiar anachronisms, throwbacks to the era of big hair, big cars and big office stationery budgets.”

Crumbs dropped on the anti-aging trail: Tamp down that hair, drive an EV and text like it’s 2023!

So never shall I share raunchy stories like how during office parties someone inevitably went to the mail room to drop their pants and copy their naked bottom on a Xerox machine, back when they were common (and so was actually going to the office).

Because The Atlantic points out even printers themselves are in danger of being anachronistic in this digital age. Seems printer sales are steadily slipping down because little that we write is ever even printed. Welcome to the regular life of a writer, printers.

So, in the interest of anti-aging, I will not muse mindlessly, reminiscing about Tupperware parties (remember “burping” Tupperware?) Also, Avon, Mary Kay or other multilevel marketing companies. Mary who??

But where do I stop?

My nephew actually chides me for mailing him a Hallmark birthday card. “It wasn’t even personalized!” he adds. “And do you realize the carbon imprint of sending that single letter across the country?”

Just as I am about to whimper about how hard it’s gotten to find those delicious potato sticks anymore. The ones in a can. Drenched in palm oil. Which makes my arteries slam shut. And the pucker lines around my lips dig in deeper. And let’s not even mention the plight of orangutans.

Honestly, I’m growing cautious to the point of paranoia about what I can share with him anyway, given he’s this ripped fit, white-water rafting, carbon-counting hipster living in Denver. 

While I’m me. Living here.

Getting older — and more obsolete —  by the d#@! second. OH

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