Wandering Billy

Wandering Billy

The Organ Pipes Are Calling

Nothing could be fina than to play the Carolina

By Billy Ingram

“Movies are a fad. Audiences really want to see live actors on a stage.” — Charlie Chaplin

The Carolina Theatre will once again be giving us the silent treatment at 7 p.m., April 30, when Mark Andersen — one eye focused on the screen — performs his original score for Charlie Chaplin’s highly acclaimed, bathtub-gin-era rom-com, The Circus. First projected on the Carolina’s big screen in March 1928, this was the last motion picture Chaplin made during the pre-talkie era, winning the Little Tramp his first Academy Award for “versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing and producing.”

Rapidly approaching its 100th anniversary, the Grecian-Revival-inspired Carolina Theatre boasts an unusual but valuable component installed before opening night: a Robert Morton Pipe Organ designed and constructed specifically to accompany silent pictures. It’s become a rarity; mere months before this opulent movie palace (locally designed by James M. Workman) first welcomed moviegoers in 1927, sound had arrived for motion pictures, leading to the company that made those instruments going belly-up in 1931. As a result, the Carolina Theatre possesses the only remaining Robert Morton Pipe Organ in North Carolina.

This magnificent wind-and-keyboard instrument is in pristine condition, thanks to Mac Abernethy, who, beginning back in 1968, assembled a team of volunteers determined to restore this long-neglected music maker to its full-throated glory — while, at the same time, city leaders were finalizing plans to raze the Carolina Theatre in favor of a municipal parking lot. “It’s taken a lot of work with a lot of help over the years,” Abernethy says of maintaining that Art Deco-inspired, three-manual console pipe organ. “In 1968, we had to come here after the last movie at 11 o’clock to do any work. We’d be up here until 2, 3, 4 in the morning.” The area around the theater in those days was a veritable urban hellscape. “When we went to leave, you didn’t know what you were going to run into.”

For last February’s screening of a rarely seen silent race film, Body and Soul, which was produced, written and directed by Oscar Micheaux, the Carolina Theatre invited world-renowned composer and musician Mark Andersen to provide accompaniment. “You name it, I’ve played it,” Andersen says of the illustrious pipe organs he’s performed with across the globe. “Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall in London. I was associate organist at Notre Dame in Paris and went to school at the Paris Conservatory there.” Having played over 400 concerts across America on just about every large organ that exists, Andersen served as organist for the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler and as head staff music arranger for NBC in New York.

Andersen’s love for pipe organs began in first grade, when he won the North Carolina State Piano Teacher’s competition. “I’m the youngest artist that has ever played with the North Carolina Symphony,” he notes. At that time, the church he was attending was installing a brand-new pipe organ. “The company that put that organ in was kind of amazed that this little guy was interested in learning to play it.” Having grown up in Lumberton, Andersen recalls that “the first time I played [the Carolina Theatre’s] organ I was 8 years old. I was with a group of musicians that were coming here because we could not imagine a pipe organ in a movie theater. I met Paul Abernethy, who was Mac’s dad, and he showed us the organ that sat down in the orchestra pit then.”

Sixty years later, bringing an added excitement and authenticity to its Silent Series, Mark Andersen returns to the Carolina.

I got to roll my grapes over that Robert Morton Pipe Organ when I was introduced to the maestro recently. Also in attendance was musical theater star Brody Bett. He, too, had an organic epiphany at a very young age. “I’m homeschooled,” the 14-year-old triple-threat performer tells me. He recalls going on a field trip with fellow homeschooled students to Greensboro’s Christ United Methodist Church. “I saw this ginormous pipe organ. I was like, wow, you have all these sounds and it’s so massive and it’s so powerful. My 5-year-old mind, seeing that organ, I’m like, ‘Dude, I think this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life!’”

If the name Brody Bett sounds familiar, I hipped you to his amazing career in my January 2023 column. He was 6 years old when he first got up on the boards in Greensboro theatrical productions. Then, at 8 years old, he landed the juvenile lead in the multimillion-dollar Broadway touring production of Finding Neverland and spent the next season crisscrossing the country as Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Off-ramped due to the pandemic, the lad’s career undertook an unexpected but welcome pivot when he began securing roles as a voice-over artist for animated shows on Nickelodeon, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Currently, he can be heard as Rocky in the PAW Patrol: Grand Prix video game and Kakeru in episode 4 of the hit anime series Kotaro Lives Alone.

Brody remembers like it was yesterday (I mean, it practically was) when he sang and danced across the stage with the Community Theatre of Greensboro at the Carolina. “The first silent movie I ever saw here was when I was 9 years old,” Brody says. “Michael Britt, who unfortunately passed away last year, accompanied The Phantom of the Opera.”   

All of the scores that accompany the silent films Andersen performs were written by him. But still, he says, “You have to closely watch the movie while you’re playing.” He remarks that, when composing a soundtrack for silents, it’s just like scoring a live movement. “Like the soundtrack of a talkie movie, it’s meant to be played at a certain time. Is the projectionist running it too fast, running too slow, where your scenes change, and so forth?”

Brody has sent fingers flying across the keys in an impressive number of venues. “I’ve played the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in Philadelphia,” the largest, fully-functioning pipe organ in the world, he says. “I’ve played the Bedient Organ at First Congregational Church in Sioux Falls and the Walt Disney Concert Hall Organ in LA, the one Manuel Rosales designed.” He can list so many others, including arguably the most famous such instrument in America, the Salt Lake City Tabernacle (formerly Mormon Tabernacle) Organ, festooned with over 11,000 harmonic pipes.

Closer to home, he says, “I’ve been playing for church Sundays at Irving Park United Methodist — it’s a great space.” Brody Bett’s first funky single, “Times Square,” can be found on Spotify and sampled on YouTube.

I wonder if one day I’ll be attending a silent at the Carolina and Brody will be in front of the keyboard.  OH

Born and raised in Greensboro, for a 10-year period in the 1980s and ’90s, Billy Ingram was part of the Hollywood design team the ad world enshrined as “The New York Yankees of motion picture advertising.”



Harbingers of Spring

Return of the red-winged blackbirds

By Susan Campbell

For some, the sound of spring is the song of the American robin, our melodious and most familiar songster. But for me it has always been the sounds of red-winged blackbirds. As a beginning birdwatcher in New York State, migration begins a lot later than here in North Carolina. And some of the first returnees riding the warmer winds back north are red-wingeds. The “chuck”-ing coming from the ribbons of birds as they passed overhead was the very first sign that winter was losing its grip. Not long after, I would be greeted by the first males giving their loud “konk-a-ree!” songs from the tallest of the cattails in the nearby marsh.

Red-wingeds get their name from the bright red epaulets on the wings of the adult males. These patches are actually set off on the black wing by a patch of yellow feathers just below. Otherwise the birds are completely dark. Females, not surprisingly, are quite drab. Their brownish, streaky appearance is superb camouflage against the tall grasses in the wet habitat that they tend to inhabit. Young birds are also entirely streaked, which makes them harder to spot as they learn their way in the world, well into their first winter.

These blackbirds can be found inland in our state year round. However, in the winter months, they gather in large flocks so they are not widespread. Aggregations of thousands of birds can be found closer to the coast from late fall into early spring. But by now, they are returning to local bottomlands, lakes and ponds to breed. Red-wingeds are unusual in that they are a species that is polygynous. Males may have a harem of mates within the territory that they defend. Experienced males will pair with two or more females as early as mid-March. Females will create substantial nests in low vegetation by weaving wet leaves and shoots together to form a dense cup. They will add mud to the inside and then finally line it with fine grasses before laying two to four pale eggs with dark streaks.

Although blackbirds are generally known to feed on seeds, of both native and agricultural origins, in the summer they hunt mainly insects. They are known to probe at the base of aquatic plants with their slender bills and are very capable of prying insects from the stems. Young red-wingeds, like so many species, require lots of protein. It is the mother birds that forage for the family. Males spend most of their time defending their territories from high perches, singing throughout the day and fiercely chasing interlopers that venture too close.

As abundant as these birds may seem to be, their numbers have been declining for several decades. It is likely due to the continuing loss of wetland habitat throughout their range. Additionally, terrestrial predators are on the rise in areas where they breed — including cats. If you have red-wingeds in your neighborhood this spring, consider yourself lucky, and be sure to get out and enjoy their antics as well as that unmistakable song.  OH

Susan Campbell would love to hear from you. Feel free to send questions or wildlife observations to susan@ncaves.com.

Home Grown

Home Grown

Just the Beans

Upping our daily grind

By Cynthia Adams

Our kitchen counter is dominated by a coffee machine large enough to be in a Starbucks. 

It grinds, perks, foams and noisily squirts. It is shiny and intimidating.

If this machine were a Hollywood star, as I am pretty sure it thinks it is, it would be Sofía Vergara.

The fully loaded, foreign-made espresso maker came from Williams-Sonoma. When Don came home with it, he stared at the enormous box before uncrating the behemoth, breathing shallowly. He sank down onto a stool. It was a moment. Finally, he gently eased it out of the packaging, barely exhaling, before carrying it to its place on the counter. 

He handled it with the care and caution of an acolyte bearing incense or an offering to the altar. I murmured something about the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, contentedly drinking McDonald’s coffee each morning. Don’s dumbfounded expression shut me up.

The machine claimed a huge section of counter space; a kitchen squatter, as large as the microwave and nearly as heavy.

The lengthy instruction manual and its detailed warranty were scrutinized, analyzed, memorized. It was actually some months before Don left town and I attempted to use the shiny beast myself, safe from his watchful eye. He was the barista in charge of all coffee making — and I remained too intimidated by the thing.

This Australian-engineered coffee machine had more doohickeys and programmed features than my car. Well, close. 

I dialed, adjusted, waited as it did its work. But the machine instantly loathed me, producing an espresso so intense and unpalatable I shouted “Mio Dio, quell caffe e forte!” And I don’t even speak Italian. 

The Australian machine only likes Don, presumably because he has relatives living near Sydney. Mine live near Hell’s Half Acre. I gave up and drove to McDonald’s for a latte as soon as I regained my ability to speak English.

Ostensibly, we had invested in this finicky contraption to end the high cost of daily “designer coffees.” It would take a mathematical whiz to calculate exactly how long it would take to make it worth it.   

Realistically, we have not saved one thin dime but are instead dipping into our retirement fund. The cost of the machine was only the beginning.

Because the machine deserved — no, demanded — specialty unroasted beans. “You do not put regular gas into a Ferrari,” Don spluttered.

How could I think of using ordinary roasted beans from the local market? Whose antioxidant value was already diminished? 

My ignorance launched Don into mansplaining.

He explained free radical damage. And polyphenols. The benefits from green beans might be preventatives against all the worst illnesses: cancer, heart disease, diabetes. He took a deep breath. 

So, if we didn’t buy roasted beans, I asked, did this mean we needed unroasted beans?

Of course, he replied. “They’re called green beans.” I believe he briefly closed his eyes, collecting. Then what? I asked, shooting a dirty look at the Australian which seemed to be smirking at my ignorance.

This led to the next phase of our coffee journey. Don first experimented by roasting green beans in a popcorn popper, something YouTube had suggested. That was soon deemed too difficult to control . . . beans went from lightly roasted to charred in seconds.

Did I mention the green beans were not inexpensive, especially factoring in the cost of shipping? Coffee is a commodity folks. Globally traded.

We swiftly replaced the hot air popcorn popper with a bona fide roaster, which also must be carefully attended despite all the fancy gee jaws and settings. It’s Australian, too, and nearly as cheeky as the coffee machine. 

The roaster was installed in the basement near bags of green coffee beans specially ordered from Sweet Maria’s in California. (Until the first invoice from the Californians, he roasted coffee for nearly anyone who mentioned a love of java.) 

The roaster required a contraption Barista Don built to divert the smoke, snaked across the basement ceiling to the chimney flue and overwhelming the basement.

But I do not murmur complaint, for therein lies the true payoff of coffee roasting. The dazzlingly aromatic smell, redolent of various coffee types, sometimes infused with the round notes of fine chocolate, rises through the floors of our very old house, suffusing the air.

I inhale deeply. This is the exact smell I hope carries me off to the afterlife when I die.

Back upstairs, the Australian is soon fed its favorite beans. It will grind, perk, foam and noisily squirt. And it will produce a perfect cup, often what caffeine lovers call a “God cup.” I wait obediently, grateful, actually. 

Barista Don and I have reached a kitchen accord. 

For just a sip of the freshly roasted goodness in my cup, you’d do the same. The machine — that Australian diva that took over our kitchen — has rightfully earned her seat at the table.  OH

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

O.Henry Ending

O.Henry Ending

Hog Wild

…and happy as a pig in mud

By Cynthia Adams

Early life on a farm taught me this: Never get caught swimming with the hogs.

Especially wearing a brand-new swimsuit. 

Hearing titters in a children’s shop, my folks pivoted from a rack of Easter dresses to discover me in the display window wearing a blue-and-white “swimming soup” taken straight off the mannequin. My father conceded. “Look, if she wants it that badly, I say we buy it.”

At age 4, that would be the last time I found a new bikini joyful. 

Mind you, we had no swimming pool. My grandmother had a pond replete with water moccasins. Where snapping turtles tangled fishing lines. The best I could hope for was a sprinkler.

It was wonderful being a child on a small farm with goats, milk cow, horses and hogs. Our father raised Landrace hogs, which prolifically produced white piglets. Whenever a new litter was born, which was often, Daddy would take me to the barn to admire them, wriggling and pink beneath red heat lamps. I adored them long before discovering Charlotte’s Web.

With the first fine spring day, inspiration struck. Donning the new swimsuit and a tiny, cherished diamond birthstone ring, I headed straight for the hog pond. And sank right in.

The muck pleasantly sucked at my bare feet like a welcoming, living thing. My ponytail floated behind me as I joyously heaved handfuls of mud from the pliable pond, exultant. 

As for the hogs? I knew them since birth as gentle, intelligent creatures, much like E. B. White’s Wilbur. They watched on as if to say, “See? See why we like it so much?”

At some point, my older sister, six years my senior, appeared at the pond’s edge wearing her cowgirl boots. “ARE YOU CRAZY?” she screamed. Seldom a tattletale, mine was a crime demanding to be reported. She shot away, black pigtails flying behind her, hollering, “MAMA!”

Before I could extract myself from the muck and broker a deal, Mama came running faster than I had ever witnessed. She was at the pond before I could fully balance, hair streaming, streaks of red mud dribbling down my chin.

Staining my brand-new swimsuit.

Confronting the spectacle before her, Mama shuddered, then glowered.

“Cynthia Anne! Get. Out. Of. The. Hog. Pond. NOW.”

As any child knows, Mama Justice requires no reading of rights; no legal representation, no cooling off period before judgement is rendered. 

There are only two possibilities: Guilty as charged, or asleep.

I was marched to the spigot for a vigorous hosing down after stripping off my beloved swimsuit. (“Well, I hope you’re happy,” Mama seethed. “That’s ruined.”)

I remember being plunked into the white porcelain bath. She declared war on my skin and nails, doggedly persisting even after the muddied bath water ran clear. 

Suddenly, with a sad shiver, I sneaked my right hand behind me: The suit wasn’t all that was lost.

Of course, Mama saw. “Cynthia Anne. Where’s your ring?


Her lips stretched into a disapproving line. “This is what happens when your Daddy spoils you.”

Afterward, an imposed bedroom confinement, meant for contemplating of crimes.

Later, the trooping before my father for a full confession. (A sympathetic smile flickered, but, once charged, even Daddy couldn’t overrule Mama Justice.)

There were my sister’s snickers to endure. 

During my exile, springtime rains began, forming beguiling puddles in the graveled driveway. As if custom-made just for me. 

I thought of my barnyard friends, free to abandon themselves to the embracing muck! How I longed to do the same.

Helpless against all that pleasure, a 4-year-old with the perfect outfit snuck out into the rain to claim the perfect puddle.  OH

Life’s Funny

Life’s Funny

What’s in a Name?

Ask Dewey. Or Michael.

By Maria Johnson

A new acquaintance suggested that we go to an event together.

“You should bring Dewey,” she said.

I looked at her, puzzled.

“You know, your husband,” she prompted.

“Oh,” I said, laughing. “Yeah, OK, but that’s not his name.”

Now it was her turn to look stumped.

“Don’t you call him Dewey?” she asked.

“Yeah, I do,” I confirmed. “But his real name is Jeff. I call him Dewey. But no one else does. Well, except our sons. It’s kind of a pet name.”

If she thought about rescinding her invitation, she was graceful and did not.

And, by the way, Dewey and I had a great time with her and her husband, who, for some reason, she called by his real first name.

Seriously, I get why people address each other by their given names. That’s what names are for. When parents give their kids a name, they presume that’s what other people will call them.

And most people do.

Which is fine.

Heck, I call most people by their given names — when I can remember them.

But people I’m fond of or I know really well? Mmm, not so much.

That’s why I had to laugh when I read about Nikki Haley’s husband.

His real first name is William.

Most people call him Bill.

But when Haley met him, she told him he didn’t look like a Bill.

She asked him what his full name was.

He told her William Michael.

She said he looked more like a Michael, and from then on, she called him Michael.

I totally get it.

And for what it’s worth, I think she’s right. Look at his picture. The dude is a complete Michael.

Apparently, everyone else thought so, too, because from then on, other people called him Michael, too.

Which is cool. Other people can use a person’s new name, especially if it’s a new public name.

Which is not the same as a new private name.

Example: Michael, public name.

Dewey, private name.

I mean, you can call Jeff “Dewey” if you want to. But I doubt he’d answer. And if he did, I’d be crushed.

It’s complicated.

One thing I’ve learned: Often, there’s a namer in the family. This is one of the first things that Dewey (that’s Jeff to you) and I realized we had in common. We were the namers in our families. Maybe because we’re both first children, and while being a firstborn comes with a lot of pressure, it also carries some privileges.

Therefore, Dewey/Jeff renamed some of his family members Maude, Lay-Otee, Carico, Sheep Pup and Deo Bahee.

My family included Lil’ Greek, Shrimp and Dossie, aka Dosito Mikhail Yakovich. 

Hey, it was the Cold War era. And yes, I said the whole name every time I used it. Much to his chagrin.

That’s the thing about renaming people in your immediate family. They don’t necessarily have to like their new monikers. They just have to tolerate them.

If I were completely honest, I’d admit that renaming is a wee flex, a mini Declaration of Independence that says, “I’m not calling you what the rest of the world calls you.”

But even more important, new names are expressions of fondness, closeness and a unique shared history.

Take the example of a dear friend and her brother, who are very close.

Privately, he addresses her as “Fool,” based on a family story that resembles a fever dream.

She calls him “      hole,” emphasis on the “       .”

In her contact list, he’s listed as “A-hole,” but her cell phone’s voice assistant pronounces his name “A-holey.” So my friend tells her phone to “call A-holey” when she wants to talk her to baby brother.

Is that love or what?

Inside my own family, I call Jeff “Dewey,” which was derived from the boys calling him Dad, which morphed into Doodad, which was shortened — ta-da — to Dewey. Who else would know that?

He calls me Sweetch, a form of Sweetie.


We have multiple pet names for our sons, most of which we use in private, partly out of respect, partly because we’ve received withering looks for using them in public.

Take the time I summoned one son, now a New Yorker, by his pet name when he was walking too fast for us down the crowded sidewalks.

“BADOODIE! HOLD UP!” I hollered.

Apparently being hailed as Badoodie by your mom on the streets of Brooklyn is not a hip thing.

Neither is calling a grown man Ta-Ta in front of his girlfriend.

In other words, context is everything. You have to modulate nicknames according to who’s present.

Renaming people outside your family is different beast all together.

In these cases, a degree of playfulness and acceptance is needed, or the name won’t stick, even if you apply it with affection.

I’ve been lucky in that department. I think of some of my earliest pals: Gurr, Beck, Mishur, Limpy, Kince and Polly. None of those were their given names, but if I called them on the phone today, I dare say they’d brighten at the sound of those tags.

Later came Betho, Goof, Conchita, Der Lovely, Lyd, DK, Fash, Little Boy and others.

Today, you might hear me refer to Special K, Peegs, Little Debbie, Weez, Cootie, Rev K or Queenie Bee.

As for me, I’ve answered to many names in my lifetime: Goof, Conchita and Fash (often nicknames are reflexive, applying to both parties), along with Moom, M.J., Mojo, Mo, M, Mahrear and Mish.

While some of them are more attractive than others — “Mahrear” reflects a former colleague’s delight at how our boss’s Virginia accent made my name sound like his backside, as in, “That writer is a pain in Mahrear” — all of them make me smile because they tickle memories of the people, the stories and the closeness we’ve shared.

And ain’t that the name of the game?  OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry magazine. Email her at

Tea Leaf Astrologer

Tea Leaf Astrologer


(March 21 – April 19)

Let’s get right to it: The new moon and total solar eclipse in Aries on April 8 may well clean your fiery little clock. If you’ve been dodging a difficult conversation or wavering on a big decision, ready or not, this cosmic punch will set things in motion for you. On the other hand, if you’ve been showing up for the hard work, trust that the universe is rearranging itself in your favor. But consider adding “patience” to your birthday wish list.

Tea leaf “fortunes” for the rest of you:

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Use your context clues.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

There is no short straw.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

Unsecured objects may be dislodged.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

You’re rage-cleaning again.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

Look under the couch.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Ever tried binaural beats? Pink noise? Whale sounds?

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Repeat: Tending to my needs helps everyone.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

It’s time to flush the system.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Work from top to bottom.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Three words: peppermint, sage, ginger.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

It is decidedly so.  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.

Almanac April 2024

Almanac April 2024

April is a tapestry of sound, rich and delicate.


Coral honeysuckle sings in color, sultry and seductive, calling out to ruby-throated suitors.

Can you hear the whir of tiny wings? The beating heart of hummingbird? The melodious supping of nectar?

Lean in.

Chrysalis whispers of metamorphosis. Wet and crumpled wings. Grueling and glorious expansion.

The rustling of budding trees tells of new life. Fuzzy squirrel kits with just-opened eyes. A clutch of blue eggs, days from hatching.

Chorus frogs swell with rhythmic longing. A swallowtail sails through warm air like a bow across a brightly toned string. Wild violets titter.

One hundred songbirds, yet none are so loud as a single dandelion. The soil? Boisterous.

Don’t you see? Each green leaf is the note of an ever-swelling symphony. When the rat snake sheds his winter skin, a rapturous movement begins.

Whippoorwill is drunk on the splendor of its own name. Bullfrog bellows jug-o-rum! Dogwoods tremor in a cool flash of rain.

As cardinal crafts her cup-shaped nest — a wonder of twigs lined with leaves, grasses, roots and pine needles — she stops to drink in the soundscape.

Each thread has a home in this living anthem, this resonant fabric of spring.

Wild Bloomers

April showers bring mayapple flowers.

Not to be confused with apple blossoms (although the flowers do look similar), Podophyllum peltatum is a native perennial wildflower that thrives in deciduous woodlands. Most commonly called the mayapple or the American mandrake, other nicknames for this April bloomer include Indian apple root, racoonberry, hog apple, ground lemon, duck’s foot, umbrella leaf and devil’s apple.

Rising over a foot above the forest floor, mayapples grow in dense colonies, their distinctive leaves making them relatively easy to spot. Two deeply lobed, umbrella-shaped leaves radiate from the top of the plant’s single stem; a white flower hides beneath the canopy.

While most of the plant is considered toxic (foliage, roots, unripe fruit and seeds), the ripe mayapple fruit is considered a forager’s delight and a favorite summer snack of the Eastern box turtle.

What does the golden fruit taste like? Wild foods bloggers have described it as exotic, sweet-and-tart, citrusy, or, as Adam Haritan of Learn Your Land wrote, “like a mix between pineapple and Starburst candy.” That said, since even the ripe fruit can have a laxative effect, best not to gorge. 

Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems. 

Rainer Maria Rilke

Sow the Love

Earth Day is celebrated on Monday, April 22. Make it a garden party. Or, better yet, a garden-planting party.

The last frost is nigh. Sow your green beans, sweet corn, squash and zucchini. Wait until month’s end to plant cukes, peas and tomatoes. Longer, still, for the frost-sensitives (melons, peppers and eggplant, to name a few).

Invite the pollinators to join you by weaving native plants and wildflowers into the mix. From asters to elderberry and bee balm to dogwood, consider what thrives in your region and start there. The wild ones will thank you.  OH

Sazerac April 2024

Sazerac April 2024


On February 20, an enthusiastic crowd gathered in downtown Greensboro, including most of the City Council members that approved the project, for the unveiling of a statue of Henry and Shirley Frye. Renowned South Carolina sculptor Maria J. Kirby-Smith, known for numerous photo-realistic works across our state, was commissioned to create the likeness of the Fryes, which sits just a few yards away from her metallic depiction of writer O. Henry.

Gov. Roy Cooper, Mayor Nancy Vaughan, N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin and former mayor of Greensboro, and president and CEO of the Bryan Foundation (which paid for the statue) Jim Melvin spoke about the monumental contributions this power couple has made to Greensboro and the state at large.

“They have done amazing things that seem impossible,” Gov. Cooper told the assembled. “It’s hard to be the first in anything but [Henry Frye] was the first in many — first Black person admitted to first year of law at UNC Law School; first Black person elected to the General Assembly in the 20th century; first Black Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. His career paved the way for so many to follow, people who will come and stand at this statue and hopefully think about it and whisper a prayer of gratitude.” 

Credited with integrating the YWCA locally, Shirley Frye has been the recipient of a dizzying array of accolades including the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of North Carolina’s highest civilian honors.

Following the ceremony, Jim Melvin told O.Henry magazine, “This is a way for the community to let Henry and Shirley live forever. So the young people can come to see that, no matter what the obstacles, if you have the desire, you can make something happen. And they both did.” 

Where to see this: Center City Park, 200 N. Elm St., Greensboro

      Billy Ingram

Sage Gardener

As I was just about to toss some leek tops into the compost can, I heard the clear voice of my dearly departed, waste-not-want-not mother scream, “Stop!”  A few days earlier, I’d read about how leek tops were delicious when braised in butter and then slow boiled in chicken broth until tender. So I tossed the tops into a pan, and they were, in fact, quite tasty, especially when added to some rainy-day chicken-and-rice soup.

Down the rabbit hole I went, discovering Tara Duggan’s Root-to-Stalk Cooking — and dozens of self-righteous, save-the-planet foodies on the internet determined to rescue the 52 percent of vegetables we discard on the way to eating the other 48 percent.

So, over the past few weeks, my wife, Anne, and I have been downing stalks, stems and fronds to separate the best from all the rest. For years, we’ve been enjoying broccoli and cauliflower stems thrown into Asian stir fries as if they were water chestnuts. And the core of cabbage, unless it’s bitter, is fine in slaw. And don’t toss those cilantro stems. Mince them for added flavor in salsas.

Loving anything fermented, I decided to try a recipe for collard-stem pickles. My dinner guests politely praised them, but I noticed little wads of chewed up stems pushed to the side of their plates when I went to wash the dishes. Not worth it. After a couple of bland batches, we concluded that although beet greens fresh from the garden were pretty good, the ones you cut off beets from the store were too tired to be worth the effort. Ditto radish tops, though a few in a salad are OK. We tried fennel stems and fronds in salads and they were fine, but the pesto I made from them, with a big dollop of cream added, was great over pasta. I admittedly added anchovies to mine, which make anything better, including ice cream.

Turning tomato skins into powder? Nope. Candying fennel stalks? Not me. Dehydrated corn silk? No thanks. “Better bad belly burst than good food waste,” my Pennsylvania Dutch mother croaked from the grave.

Mom, remember the potato-peel soup you once made, assuring us that you’d been taught as a nurse that the little bit of arsenic in potato peels was good for you? It was awful soup. But it sure made great compost.
            David Claude Bailey

Photograph © Greensboro History Museum Collection

Window to the Past

Play ball! Off and on since 1908, Greensboro’s been a part of the minor league baseball scene and has seen the likes of Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly and Johnny Mize on its roster. As the season opens on Friday, April 5, we’re wishing the Grasshoppers a pitch-perfect season.

Just One Thing

In Harem #18, seen here, Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi revisits the harem of the Dar al-Basha Palace, where her grandmother was essentially held captive with her young son, Essaydi’s father. The woman in this photograph is dressed to become one with the interior. And yet, she stands out and stares directly back at the viewer. Contrasting bold masculine calligraphy against the feminine grace of henna, Essaydi, who earned her M.F.A. from Tufts’ School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2003, seeks to highlight the contradictions experienced in Arab culture. But, also, she says, “I want the viewer to become aware of Orientalism as a projection of the sexual fantasies of Western male artists — in other words as a voyeuristic tradition.” Unlike her Harem series, most of her work is shot to appear in a nonspecific space, one that could be almost anywhere, left to the interpretation and imagination of the viewer. While Essaydi has worked in several mediums, her most current project is a photographic exploration of “the metaphorical space of my childhood,” a space she felt she needed to return to in order to continue her growth as an artist. Essaydi’s work is currently on display at the Weatherspoon Art Museum through May 25, 2024. Museum director Juliette Bianco calls Essaydi a dynamic speaker — “magnetic” — and, lucky for you, Essaydi is scheduled to give an Artist Talk at 4:30 p.m. on April 4. Info: weatherspoonart.org/event-apr-4-artist-talk-lalla-essaydi.

Unsolicited Advice

Is it breakfast? Is it lunch? Or is it a meal to be had between — and in addition to — breakfast and lunch? Here at O.Henry, we vote for that third option. In honor of National Brunch Month, we’re sharing our top five hosting tips so you can open your doors to friends and help them reach that goal of three square meals a morning.

Make it colorful. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing to your brunch-goers, but eating the rainbow is the healthiest way to eat, according to doctors all over the internet. Red peppers, carrots, leafy greens? Yes, please. And, when all else fails, Skittles.

At brunch, there’s no need to hide that wine in your Stanley cup. Your guests will raise a glass to you when you fill ’em up with mimosas and bloody Marys.

Invite guests to wear pajamas because you’re never too old for a PJ party. Plus, it takes the pressure off of the fit pick. However, restrict your guest list to those who don’t sleep in the buff.

Plan dishes you can make ahead of time and then reheat that day: quiche Florentine, chocolate chip zucchini bread, dainty ham biscuits and creme brûlée French toast, to name a few. But leftovers of last night’s dinner? Skip it, even if it is pizza.

Invite guests to serve themselves from a buffet, where each dish is labeled in careful hand-lettering so you’re not embarrassed by the mumbles of “what ever is that?” No one likes a mystery meal. Plus, if they can handle self-service at the grocery store, they can handle it at your brunch buffet.