O.Henry Ending

Mama Patty’s Scar

And the perfection of a soul

By Cynthia Adams

It’s there.

Right where Mama Patty’s soft pink nightgown flares slightly open at the armhole. I stare furtively at the depression, the angry network of scars, as she reads, cat-eye reading glasses in place, blue-black curls propped against a lace-edged pillow. She’s gripped by one of her Zane Grey novels.

Beneath the gown she wears a white cotton bra. A form pinned into the left empty cup is held by two gold safety pins. At age 6, I am dying to ask her about this, but something stops me. She says I ask too many questions, which vexes her.

Questions about my grandfather, Lewis Clive Tucker, and their baby Roy vex her, too. Both dead.

My friend Tony died when he ran in front of an Oldsmobile. Baby Roy died, too, writhing on the kitchen table. Spinal meningitis, misdiagnosed.

Mama Patty walked outside, frantic for the doctor’s arrival, and had a vision of a small white coffin.

Little Roy was buried in such a coffin, the color of pearls.

Yet she lies beside me, reading her western like nothing in the world is wrong apart from the worry that I might interrupt with another question.

Until she reaches up and turns the knob on the bed light, I watch that angry pink place on her left side until it becomes my scar, too.

The sheets smell of the sun. The Martha Washington bedspread is carefully folded. The mourning dove sings its mournful song. This all fills my head, imprinting something in me in the darkest of darkness.

Mama Patty breathes deeply. I try to sleep, thinking of the morning to come, dreading that she may want to fish. Snapping turtles and water moccasins sometimes appear at the wild old pond. The fish, once hooked, wrenches and arcs until it is placed, flapping, into the tin bucket. When she cuts off its head and strips out its guts, the gore splashes onto her apron.

The next day, although I do not know this as I drift to sleep, she will fill a large washtub and let me splash to my heart’s content.

Mama Patty will give me a baloney-and-mustard sandwich to eat, and take me to check the rabbit boxes. We will walk to the mailbox, wearing red flip-flops and sucking the juice from a honeysuckle.

The questions that come in daylight are easier than questions that come in darkness. I do not think of the scar all day, forgetting completely that a part of her has already been cut away.

Her beloved Pearl Grey Zane (Pearl was his first name) was a sensation in his time. He was untamed. He feared man would destroy all that was untamed in the natural world.

I need this wild life, this freedom, he wrote.

The next night, as Mama Patty turns a page and the gown gapes again, it is impossible to look away from the depression where a breast should be.

I do not want them to cut one more thing away. Mama Patty is just right as she is. Perhaps perfect.  OH

Cindy Adams is a contributing editor of O.Henry.

Greensboro’s Next Wave

Greensboro’s Next Wave

One simply needs to look around town to realize that Greensboro is on the move — the Next Wave of young and creative people are already shaping the Gate City’s future. We thought you’d like to meet a few of them

Photographs by Mark Wagoner

Cooking Up Change

Table Seven needs a birthday dessert, a pavlova.

On the hot side of the counter that divides the cooks from the customers at Chez Genèse (pronounced zhu-NEZ), owner-chef Kathryn Hubert centers a beige cake made from meringue on a small white plate — its magnificent foamy peaks and furrows baked into place by a brief encounter with a furious oven.

She slaps the creation with a heavy spoonful of homemade whipped cream. Her gloved hands rain blueberries and blackberries over the gleaming pond. The inky berries land with soft plops.

She rocks a chef’s knife on cutting board to yield juicy geodes of strawberries, then she upends a tin canister of powdered sugar and makes it snow over crags of red and blue.


Server Ben Lugo, who describes himself as autistic, carefully lifts the plate from the counter and takes a few steps to present it to the honoree.

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, I forget the rest of the song, buhhhhhhht . . . HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!”

What Lugo lacks in words, he makes up for with enthusiasm. Laughter bathes the moment.

Lugo, 22, laughs, too.

Behind the counter, the oval-faced owner Hubert, who traps her long brown hair under a trucker cap, frees a giggle. She is prematurely calm at 30.

“That’s great,” she says of Lugo’s improvisation. “I’ve never seen him do that before.”

Ten years ago, when she was chipping away at a degree in hospitality management at UNCG, Hubert imagined her future.

She could see herself leaving Greensboro for Oregon.

Maybe Portland. Someplace awash in young people who wanted to make the world a better place.

Sustainable. Fair. Inclusive.

Those were her values.

But another thought tapped at her mind as she pondered what might be elsewhere: There was plenty of work to be done here.

“There were people walking by me every day that needed help,” she says.

Living on the cusp of campus and downtown, she saw homeless people frequently. She worked in a community garden in the Glenwood neighborhood, where families prized the vegetables that sprang from the dirt. She tutored children in an after-school program run by the nonprofit Hope Academy and, later, in a similar one operated by the Autism Society of North Carolina. That’s where she met Joey, a profoundly autistic boy whom she describes as “very sweet, very in tune.”

Hubert was on familiar ground. She’d grown up with three male cousins with autism, a wide-ranging condition marked by difficulty in making social connections.

Portland would have to wait. After graduating from UNCG, she stuck around for Joey. She became his full-time assistant at his elementary school, a paid position in the school system. 

The job with Joey was rewarding — for him, and for her — but when Hubert looked ahead, as she is prone to do, she saw a sad truth: The Earth is, indeed, flat for people like Joey, who often fall off the edge once they leave high school and find that job opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are practically nil.

Once again, she pitched herself into the future and saw a solution: a French cafe that would employ people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — folks like Joey and her cousins.

Hubert was a foodie from way back. Coming of age in the mountain college town of Boone, she cooked at The Inn at Crestwood and Hound Ears Club. She bagged a degree in culinary arts from Caldwell Community College and spent a year volunteering in a resort kitchen in the Burgundy region of France.

The experience left a lasting impression.

“I fell in love with French food and culture, and how generous French people are with their time. They’re very relational,” she says. “When they invite you into their homes, there’s no time limit on it.”

Her experience propelled her to study hospitality at UNCG, which led her, in turn, to meet Joey, which led her to understand that she could whisk together everything she had learned — about food, about people with disabilities, about being the change she wished for — to create an inclusive workplace.

“This has been a dream a long time in the making,” she says.

She toned her restaurant chops by working in catering at the Iron Hen and, later, by helping to get the now-shuttered Morehead Foundry complex off the ground.

She cultivated a coterie of advisers: an attorney, an interior decorator, small business owners and fellow chefs.

The stove jockeys devised a menu rooted in Gallic ethos.

“The French don’t cram a lot of ingredients into their food,” she says. “They pick a few and let them shine.”

The breakfast-and-lunch offerings would glow with fresh baguettes, croissants and brioche from Camino Bakery in Winston-Salem.

House-made egg dishes would wear simple accessories: asparagus and chèvre; smoked salmon and dill crème fraîche; spinach, roasted red potatoes and Camembert.

Strawberry crepes would travel with crème fraîche or Nutella.

Ham and butter on a chewy baguette would equal a sandwich.

A fancy sandwich might combine olive tapenade, fresh tomatoes, goat cheese, sliced chicken, pepperoncini and arugula on a baguette.

A tart might require just potatoes, thyme and red onions.

Chocolate mousse would leave tiny air pockets in a small mason jar and wear a fluffy hat of whipped cream.

Hubert stitched together financial backing from various sources: family and friends; online crowdfunding campaigns; grants from downtown development advocates; and a personal loan of $30,000.

She secured a location on the southern hem of downtown — an airy space which last held PB&Java, a sandwich and coffee shop near the corner of South Elm and Bain streets, a block removed from Gate City Boulevard.

She didn’t have to advertise for applicants. After local media announced her plans, emails rolled in from people who wanted a job. If parents contacted her on their children’s behalf, Hubert asked them to have their children contact her directly. Applicants had to want it for themselves. She wasn’t in the business of handing out jobs. She was in the business of hiring people who could do the job, never mind their disabilities.

She conducted interviews, culled the best candidates, and arranged for job training with lots of role-playing and explicit instructions on how to read and react to social cues, a common deficit among people with developmental issues.

Among the lessons: Do not interrupt when customers are deep in conversation; and when diners set their plates aside or their silverware on their plates, assume they’re probably be finished. There were moments of levity.

Once, when Hubert played the role of a diner, a would-be server asked if she wanted dessert. Sure, she said. What are your favorites? Impulsively, he proceeded to tick off a litany of sweets that weren’t on the menu.

She then diplomatically reminded him that the context called for a list of confections that were available to diners.

One of her cousins helped with the training.

“He said, ‘Hey, I’m Zachary. I’m autistic, and I’m not ashamed of it,’” she says. “There was an immediate connection between him and the staff because they thought, ‘He understands.’”

Hubert mobilized an army of volunteers to blanche the restaurant’s interior to simple chic. They painted the walls white, wrapped support columns in rope, hung sail cloth drapes in the many windows, and striped the walls with shiplap siding and floating shelves that breathed with terra cotta pots, feathery ferns and trailing tendrils.

A friend hung a banner of brown butcher paper near the front door. In wispy script, she translated the cafe’s French name:

“Chez Genèse, A Place of New Beginnings.”

Hubert’s mom and dad, Lori and Barry, came from Boone and camped in the construction zone, lending muscle and experience. Convinced that she could never pay back, only pay forward, their love, Hubert planted one white chair in a sea of black bistro seats. The first person to occupy that seat every day gets a meal on the house, along with a brief history of the reason behind the largesse.

“It seemed like a good way to share the story, in a practical way,” says Hubert.

She opened her breakfast-lunch cafe in late-October, the same week that A Special Blend, a coffee shop that also employs adults with cognitive disabilities, opened on West Market Street near Starmount Forest (see this month’s Life’s Funny, page 17).

It was a coincidence. But Hubert believes the events are rooted in the same time and place. It’s a time, she says, when people who are inclined to quash employment barriers for those with disabilities have successful role models like Wilmington coffee shop-turned-franchise Bitty and Beau’s.

Greensboro, she says, is fertile ground for people like that.

“There is, I think, a sense of community in Greensboro that isn’t in other places,” she says. “I think there are a lot of businesses and individuals here who care about making an impact, and I’m honored to be a part of that.”

More than half.

That’s how many of Hubert’s 22 employees deal with evident disabilities: autism, Down syndrome, lower-than-average IQs, and other conditions that make processing information a challenge.

Brianna Oliver, 21, says she deals with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression. She graduated from high school, tried college for a while, and lost a job as a preschool assistant before coming to Chez Genèse.

“I’m either all too much at once, or not engaging enough. It’s hard to be myself with people because I feel like they won’t want to be friends with me,” she says.

At Chez Genèse, she says, she can be herself, knowing that her bosses — Hubert and her neuro-typical lieutenants — understand and can help if needed. As a result, Oliver has relaxed into her job as server, a job she wanted so she could improve her social skills.

Katya Hedrick, 25, a prep cook, left her parents and a job helping with horseback tours in Boone to see if she would like living on her own.

“I already knew I wasn’t good at talking to people, so I’m learning to communicate better. When I came to Greensboro, I had to talk more,” she says deliberately. 

The change was scary, she admits, but chocolate croissants and supportive co-workers have made it easier. Also, they have helped her refine one of her best skills: hugging.

“This is like a big family that tries to help one another,” she says.

Lugo, the birthday crooner, also tried college. It didn’t work out, he says, so he now works four jobs, three in food service.

Ask him what’s good about working at Chez Genèse, and he shifts to the hypothetical second-person to answer.

“If you were a jerk, or pardon my French, an asshole, you would say the pay and no tips,” he says, referring to the slightly-better-than-minimum-wage pay and no tipping in the French tradition.

But because Lugo is not a sarcastic asshole, he will say no such thing. Instead, he will say that Chez Genèse has allowed him to see a future job that might involve his passion: games. Online games, board games, trading card games. He’s good at memorization. Show him the rules, and watch him go.

“It got me thinking, maybe I’ll open a store and help people,” he says.
— Maria Johnson

Katei Cranford – Community Advocate

A tireless purveyor of everything local, Greensboro gadfly Katei Cranford wears a lot of hats, none of them boring: Event organizer. Historic preservationist. City council candidate. Yes! Weekly columnist. Radio DJ. Social media flamethrower.

Where does the 34-year-old get all her energy? “There’s a certain inspiration that comes with the frustration of not necessarily being a city that has a lot going on.”

Many will know her best from her long-running Tuesday afternoon radio program on WUAG that spotlights musical groups playing around North Carolina.

Instant Regrets and Basement Life are local faves but Katei confesses, “A lot of the bands I’m most excited about are coming out of Raleigh right now.” That’s because a viable music scene is predicated on a platform of appropriate entertainment venues, so she’s often engaged in nudging developers into expanding creative outlets and performance spaces. “It can be really fun here and I want to share that. And everybody else I talk to does too,” she says. 

Things are looking up on the music scene, Cranford says: “When you get solid touring bands coming here there’s an extra element of passion and enthusiasm. We don’t take them for granted.”

Like they say: Right what you know. — Billy Ingram

Witneigh Davis & Giovanni Ramadani – Founders Greensboro Fashion Week 

Lights! Cameras! Music! Yes, Greensboro Fashion Week has all the glamour and excitement one would expect from a runway show, but for founders Witneigh Davis and Giovanni Ramadani, it has always been as much about substance as style, starting with their initial vision in the fall of 2014. 

New York Fashion Week, says Giovanni, a former model, had become “watered down” and rife with pay-to-play participants.” Gotham “got outside the major designers they’re showcasing.” Talent was secondary. Greensboro, on the other hand, boasted “textiles driving industry back in the ’60s,” says Witneigh, a former stylist with marketing chops. “Knowing that the history and roots were here in the fashion world, we just kind of resurfaced in a modern way.”

The two entrepreneurs saw an opening to fill the fashion gap in the Southeast, between New York and Miami, by showcasing local designers with the help of sponsors, such as Greensboro’s Foreign Cars Italia and no less than Bentley, among others. After all, as Witneigh points out, clothes and cars are “a natural fit.” She and Giovanni also noticed that Greensbororians sported their own polished and casual, if a bit subdued style, and could be encouraged to take more daring sartorial steps.

Fast-forward five years, and the two entrepreneurs, both of whom who will be 32 this year, will tell you GFW has morphed beyond expectations, becoming a true platform for fashion. Designers — from all over the world —  are vying for the opportunity they’ve provided. “We had over 100 applicants last year and we only had room for eight,” says Giovanni. “We wanted to pick the best ones.” And they are hands-on. Witneigh says the two constantly communicate with the designers by Skype, every step of the way before the razzmatazz in fall that includes multiple shows at various hip locations around town. (Last year they snagged a hangar at Honda Jet for one of their shows.)

But Witneigh and Giovanni haven’t stopped there: They started a modeling camp for kids in the summer, the first, Giovanni believes, in North Carolina, to teach aspiring models the ins and outs of the industry and how to comport themselves professionally so as to be agency-ready. (Some were signed on at last year’s Fashion Week.) The dynamic duo are also putting their energies behind Twin City Fashion Week in Winston-Salem this spring and a daylong Summer Show before the GFW revs up again in October.

They’re excited that the event is becoming a destination. “That’s the thing,” says Giovanni. “We want to make Greensboro cool. We want to make Greensboro fashionable. We want to make Greensboro fun.” — Nancy Oakley

Maurice Hicks – Filmmaker

It takes a visionary to see life’s big picture, then project it on the big screen. Just months ago, UNCG film grad Maurice Hicks, 32, completed a feature film he wrote and directed, Rap and Rhyme, an underbelly exam of the music biz, which he says is “an accurate reflection of who I am as a person, an artist, and what I’m capable of.” As a financial and artistic roll of the dice, “it was absolutely terrifying but we did it.”

Timing seems right. His highly acclaimed short from a few years ago was recently picked up by an entertainment channel, a circumstance so rare as to be almost unheard of. An unflinching commentary on American racial injustice, A Letter To My Son stars Cranston Johnson (Hap and Leonard), who’ll be seen in two new series on ABC and Netflix this year.

It takes a creative fervor to be constantly producing in spite of overwhelming uncertainty, but it’s paying off. “I like Hip Hop, I like urban characters,” Maurice says. “I grew up in an urban environment so I like to think I write them pretty authentically.” Hollywood agrees. Maurice currently has a major motion picture being shopped around with Outkast’s Big Boi attached.

Meanwhile, his latest movie treatment, about romance in the digital age, is a finalist for Best Screenplay at the South Carolina Underground Film Festival. “I’ve never been to Charleston,” the filmmaker confesses. “It should be fun.” — Billy Ingram

Jessica Mashburn – Singer, Songwriter

The next time you see her, you might be forgiven if you fail to recognize Jessica Mashburn, the gifted chanteuse whose physical appearance seems to change like the weather. Long a favorite among patrons of Proximity Hotel’s Print Works Bistro, which hosts the popular Wednesday night jazz gigs, the 36-year-old Mashburn performs with partner Evan Olson, not to mention countless events ranging from private parties to splashy weddings. The colorful and chameleon-like songwriter-songstress might be the closest thing in the Triad to a musical theater Renaissance woman. One minute she’s a sultry Berlin cabaret singer from the 1930s, the next a blonde bombshell à la Some like it Hot.

“I love to adapt to whatever is needed the more dramatic the better,” she says. “If someone needs a flapper from the ’20s to greet people and sing them through the door, hey, I’m just the person.” That’s because she sees herself primarily as an entertainer: “My job is to leave folks happy and maybe even inspired.”

Born the daughter of bluegrass musicians from Southern Pines who relocated to Greensboro in 1984 to give their precious daughter “a better exposure to the arts,” Jessica thrived in theater and music at Southeast Guilford before enrolling at UNCG to study music. The large classes prompted her to switch to her hometown, Sandhills Community College, where she sang with the jazz band, taught herself piano and guitar, and earned a degree in music before moving for a brief time to Raleigh to work for Quaintance-Weaver’s Lucky 32 Restaurant, having been a server at the Green Valley Grill during her time at UNCG. 

The divine Miss Mashburn’s versatile talents led to a post at the O.Henry Hotel as events manager in 2005, a job she performed until 2007 (singing on weekends with pianist Dave Fox), when Dennis Quaintance recruited her for the design team of the sister Proximity Hotel. In 2011, this musical polymath who makes her own outrageous hats, “demoted” herself back to server in order to free up weekends for performing — and never looked back. Though she still works as the hotel’s music coordinator, her career has soared like a bird.

“Funny you should say that,” she quipped on a recent afternoon wearing a hairdo done to look like a maple tree in autumn splendor. “My favorite song with Dave is ‘Feed the Birds’ from Mary Poppins. That was Walt Disney’s favorite song. I love to sing it because Greensboro is such a special place and feeds me in a spiritual way.” She went on to say that the Gate City is “a place where artists are welcomed and encouraged. I feel so lucky to be here.”

So do we, dear Jessica. — Jim Dodson

Savio Nazareth – Head Professional, Starmont Forest Country Club

Savio Nazareth was 7 when he first played golf in his native Tanzania. “I hated golf. I was much more into soccer as a kid,” he says with a laugh. “Funny how golf took me to places I could never have imagined.”

It was indeed a long and winding road to venerable Starmount Forest Country Club, where Savio, 39, is completing his first year as club’s eighth head professional in 2018.

His story is one of an East Indian family and great faith — plus times that are a’ changing. In his teens, Savio began winning golf tournaments in Africa and started to think seriously that golf might be his ticket out of Tanzania. His parents arranged for him to attend school and live with his older brother Andrew in Orlando, Florida, where he found a spot on the school golf team. After a stint at junior college, he was recruited by Guilford College’s late beloved coach Jack Jensen, who found scholarship money, guided him through some tough academic transitions and helped him land a sports internship at Southeast Guilford High. “Jack got me through some difficult times. He was more than a mentor to me,” Savio says with emotion. “He was like a father figure.” In 2002, Savio helped guide Guilford College to the National Collegiate championship.

After college he played two years on the Hooters Tour and enjoyed some success, but was soon married and looking for something more stable than the vagabond life of a touring pro. In the spring of 2005, he found a gig as assistant to Starmount Forest’s head man Eric Gaskell, a post he held for the next decade. Popular with the club’s golfing members, Savio qualified for his first Wyndham Championship in 2008 and started seriously thinking about earning his class-A PGA credentials.

The critical moment came in 2016 when he lost his mother, Sabina, and brother Andrew, just five months apart  — and almost his desire to play golf. “I spoke to my mother almost every day, and I owed my brother so much for his support. Losing them was devastating. I felt lost.”

The one thing that kept him going, he says, was wife, Lisa, and their two children, Hillary and Trent, along with guidance from his minister at Shady Grove Wesleyan Church in Colfax. “They helped me see that everything has a purpose and you simply have to keep going and keep the faith that you’re on the right path.”

That faith was redeemed at the PGA Sectional Championship in Wilmington when Savio — thinking of his late brother — rolled in a 4-foot putt to claim the title and went on to win Sectional Player of the Year Honors, earning his exemptions in several major professional tournaments. “I cried like a baby,” he allows.

Maybe the biggest prize came last year, however, when Starmount Forest’s head man Bill Hall retired and Savio Nazareth was rewarded with the top job.

“It’s 13 years and been an amazing journey here, and I’m still learning more every day. This place is really a big family to me. The club has enjoyed a great revival of young families and I’m just honored to be part of that new phase of life.” — Jim Dodson

Jessika & Veronika Olsen – Owners, Sonder Mind & Body

Flotation Therapy, something Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen practice, offers the extraordinary opportunity to experience weightlessness without entering outer space, thanks to 1,000 pounds of epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) added to a pod containing warm H2O. (The pod contains the same amount of magnesium sulfate as the Dead Sea.) My friend Stephanie Bolton, who calls herself a floater, finds that it takes you to inner space.

But to get there you’ll have to venture to Sonder Mind and Body on South Elm Street. The wellness center offers flotation along with infrared sauna, massage, hypnosis, yoga and an organic café.

Identical twins Jessika and Veronika Olsen, 33, believe their health spa and café is one of only two nationwide (the other opening in hipster capital, Austin, Texas). Both sisters battle autoimmune disease. Veronika previously operated a wellness clinic in Hawaii. Jessika owned a bakery business. Since age 19, they have been entrepreneurial with a focus upon wellness. Their mother, a nurse, promoted flotation, having experienced it.

“Flotation is not like anything most have tried,” explains Jessika. “It takes you away from all external things.”

I had to give this a try.

Following infrared sauna, I showered in a private room and with a twinge of trepidation entered the pod after a tutorial from Veronika. Initially I kept the lid open, but as soon as the lights dimmed, I closed it so that I was in a completely dark environment.

If the womb was this exhilarating, how did Mother Nature coax me out? Sixty minutes passed in luxurious slow-mo. My skin felt silken, limbs wondrously weightless, and I was suspended in honeyed, liquid quiet. 

Floating reduces anxiety in veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress, and gives others relief from pain. It offered me meditative calm; utterly, peacefully transporting.

“We don’t want anyone to stress about relaxing,” smiles Jessika.

The original Olsen twins are Greensboro’s newfound treasure. And I’m now a floater, too. — Cynthia Adams

Sonder Mind and Body, 515 S. Elm St., (336) 663-7562 www.SonderMindandBody.com

Joe Rotondi – Executive Director, Forge Greensboro

Once upon a time, Joe Rotondi’s great ambition in life was to work as a bartender all across America, meeting the locals. “Bartending is a great way to take the pulse of a community and really learn what’s going on,” says the friendly 33-year-old. It was his love of people that led him to volunteerism and community development for nonprofits — and eventually studies in social entrepreneurship at UNCG, where he’ll pick up a degree this spring.

Several years back, Joe’s interest in making a bench for City Market led him to Forge Greensboro, an innovative makerspace. At the time it was just off West Lewis Street in a former turn-of-the-century blacksmith shop — hence the name — in a once forgotten part of downtown. What he found there spoke powerfully to his inner community developer — a shared place. There, budding inventors, artisans, trade professionals, tinkerers, entrepreneurs or simple hobbyists could create, learn, collaborate and produce just about anything they could imagine for a simple monthly fee that provides access to proper workspace, advanced tools, and the collective wisdom of a hands-on creative community. 

Joe Rotondi came aboard as facility manager in late 2014 not long before robust membership growth prompted a move to a building on Lewis Street that once served as an auxiliary livery stable and more than doubled the Forge’s usable space, becoming an anchor of the area’s spectacular transformation. Now as executive director, he oversees a grass-roots powerhouse that boasts 195 members and has launched at least 30 different businesses in just five years of existence. On any given day, at any hour, you’re likely to find an inventor of an electric car hard at work on a high-tech 3-D laser machine or a class underway in the brilliantly equipped woodshop. Since opening, the Forge has taught more than 700 diverse classes and skills to nearly 2,000 students of all ages and backgrounds.

“The real beauty of this place is its diversity and the people,” says Joe, who points out that a recently completed capital campaign raised $200,000, funds that will go in part for teaching grants and more advanced equipment for budding engineers, welders, furniture makers, or, who knows, maybe the next Elon Musk. “The Forge’s diversity is its strength, a place designed to teach, share and grow a community by hand,” Joe allows as he leads a visitor through the various workspaces where members are making their dreams take shape, followed by his “shop dog” Mira, a friendly cattle dog he saved from an Alabama kill shelter last August.

“She’s found a home here,” Joe reports. “And so have a lot of very talented people.” — Jim Dodson  OH

“In our January issue, we misidentified Starmount Forest Head Professional Savio Nazareth’s lovely wife, Hillary, as his daughter. In addition, he only has one child, a promising young golfer named Trent. We regret this error and seriously deserve a two-stroke penalty.” — The Editors

Wandering Billy

Partying Pilgrims and “Progress”

Two ships in the night, a lost garden and pork paradise

By Billy Eye

It’s not my place to run the train, the whistle I can’t blow,

It’s not my place to say how far the train’s allowed to go.

It’s not my place to shoot off steam nor even clang the bell,

But let the damn thing jump the track and see who catches hell!

— Author Unknown

Our parents and grandparents partied in different ways than we do today. In an era before anyone could buy a mixed drink in a bar or restaurant, like-minded tipplers generally congregated in smoky alcoves, like the M&M (Merchants & Manufacturers) Club, a private bar and grill tucked inside the confines of the O.Henry Hotel.

The party got kicked up a notch after WBIG Radio’s morning sensation Bob Poole relocated from New York City to Sunset Hills in 1952 (later to Irving Park), by way of New Orleans. In an act of conspicuous consumption, Bob, his wife Gloria, and my parents took to motoring from one neighborhood to another in a custom outfitted school bus converted into a rolling speakeasy. (A sordid story told in last February’s O.Henry.)

Around that same period, in November of 1955, WBIG sponsored a weeklong cruise aboard the luxury liner NS Stockholm. Destination — the isle of Bermuda. Young folks from some of Greensboro’s most prominent families were on deck that fall: Nancy Bryan, Betty Jane Bledsoe, Elizabeth Day, Margaret Anne Cowan, Robert Taylor and “Brother” Bill Taylor to name a few.

Once outside of American waters, the booze flowed freely. After that first night of over-imbibing, many folks who were supposed to be enjoying their breakfast were still struggling with last night’s excesses. Bob was noticeably hungover on that first morning’s ship-to-shore call back to WBIG studios.

Turns out, Bob and company tossing their cookies over the side of the ship wasn’t the worst calamity that befell the Stockholm over its illustrious career. That came a mere eight months later.

On July 26, 1956, following the same course as the WBIG tour, the Stockholm set sail for Bermuda under fog so thick revelers couldn’t see a few feet past their noses. By the time crewmembers detected the shadowy silhouette of a larger ship dead ahead, it was far too late for evasive maneuvers.

The Stockholm’s icebreaking bow hot-knifed into the side of a floating masterpiece of Art Deco-dence, tearing an 80-foot diameter gash into one of the last of the ultra-opulent European cruise ships of yore, a wound that spread open, in the words of one observer, “like a ripe watermelon.” Within minutes, dozens of panicking vacationers were plunged into an oceanic grave 200 feet deep under the frigid, murky waters of the North Atlantic.

It was one of the most catastrophic maritime disasters of the 20th century. The name of that world-famous cruiseliner the NS Stockholm sank under foggy conditions in 1956. None other than the Andrea Doria.

And now you know (borrowing from Paul Harvey) . . . the rest of the story.


You may remember, back in April of 2017, I profiled the last elegant house and grounds remaining on West Market Street west of Starmount Forest. Situated on 4 acres, it may as well have been the land of Wakanda. No one ever seemed to notice or could recall it being there, sandwiched as it was between garishly lit fast food franchises, grocery stores, a postal distribution center and a troublesome 1970s era apartment complex.

It was a decorative Craftsman-style farmhouse not unlike that place Dorothy Gale longed to return to, built more than a century ago when that parcel of land was far outside city limits on what was then called Winston-Salem Road.

By the time I stumbled across this hidden-in-plain-sight homestead, its life-long resident, Rosemary Barker, had just passed way at the age of 85. Miss Barker, as she was known to generations of school kids, taught fifth grade at Allen Jay in the ’50s before transferring to Bessemer and Erwin Elementary in the ’60s, then Lindley Junior High in the ’70s.

Her parents were pioneers in organic gardening techniques. It’s been said the Barkers’ garden was one of the most exquisite and luxuriant this city had ever known, populated with just about every species of flora known to thrive in this region.

From the 1930s on, spinsters could be spotted toddling across the property trimming boxwoods, tending to flowerbeds and hedgerows under shade trees grown to mammoth proportions, shielding the spinsters’ corner lot on West Market from view. An island of antiquitous gentility inexplicably flourishing long after being enveloped on all sides by what we laughably refer to as “progress.”

In last year’s column on this house I closed with, “It’s perhaps inevitable that this verdant locale where breezes whistled softly through the pines, air honeyed in wisteria and flowering pears, will one day reverberate with the words: “Welcome to Sonic.” I was wrong, but only slightly.

Instead, what you’ll hear at that location this morning, through a tinny speaker, will be, “Welcome to Biscuitville, may I take your order?” Bet you’ll take notice of that corner now!  OH

Billy Eye is unapologetically O.G. — Original Greensboro.

Food for Thought

Winter Salads

Eat well — and wild

By Jane Lear

Salad in the cold months can be tricky. The mild, tender lettuces available at any supermarket are all well and good, but most other salad staples — tomatoes are an obvious example — are disappointing out of season.

More important, though, a typical garden-variety salad doesn’t suit the heartier, richer food we crave at this time of year. Serving a plate of nicely dressed hothouse lettuces after braised short ribs or cassoulet, for instance, can seem tacked on and curiously unsatisfying. Dinner guests tend to pick at it and wonder what’s for dessert rather than appreciate the punctuation in the meal, so to speak, and feel revitalized.

For the sort of bracing counterpoint I’m talking about, look to bolder greens such as endive, watercress, arugula, the pale inner leaves of escarole, or springy, spiky frisée. Slivers of sweet, earthy celery root, tangy green apple or aromatic fennel will help matters along.

One of my favorite winter salads always puts me in mind of the Mediterranean — in particular, Provence and Sicily. The recipe stars fresh fennel and any members of the mandarin citrus family, which includes satsumas, tangerines and clementines. The large, relatively new hybrid marketed as “Sumo” (easily recognized by its prominent topknot) has a superb balance of sweetness and acidity, and the fruit segments, which can be neatly slipped out of their ultra-thin membranes, keep their shape on the plate.

Dandelion greens — which have become more readily available — have a clean, sharp flavor that also reminds me of the Mediterranean. That’s where their use in the kitchen was developed, and you can trace the word “dandelion” from the Latin down through the French dent-de-lion, or “lion’s tooth.” This is no big surprise, given the jagged shape of the leaves, but personally I have a fondness for the common French name, pissenlit, which reflects their purported diuretic properties.

Wild dandelion greens have intense flavor, but these days, I prefer them cultivated unless I know that the grass they’ve been plucked from is pesticide-free. Wild or cultivated, they have a great affinity for a hot skillet dressing. It won’t necessarily wilt the greens, but it mellows them and softens their rawness. Toasted nuts give the vinaigrette a suave sweetness.

The evolution of salad from a side dish or separate course into the main focus of a meal has come into its own, and this makes scratching together a nourishing, delicious weeknight supper — one of life’s greatest challenges — just a bit simpler. Two staples that I swear by are lentils and sausage, especially the smoked Polish variety called kielbasa.

Lentils are a great gateway legume. Unlike most dried beans, there’s no need to soak them beforehand, they cook quickly, and slide from homey to haute with aplomb. I suppose you could say they’ve been around the block and know a thing or two: After all, they were there in the beginning — er, Beginning — as the pottage for which Esau gave up his birthright in Genesis 25:34.

Although I’ve never met a lentil I didn’t like, I’m a sucker for the pretty green French ones called lentilles du Puy. Yep, I know they’re more expensive than other lentils varieties, but they’re worth it. Their characteristic flavor — peppery and minerally yet delicate — comes from the good volcanic soil and dry, sunny climate in which they’re grown. And because they contain less starch than other varieties, they exhibit a lovely firm-tender texture when cooked. In fact, if your opinion of lentils was formed by one too many mushy stews at indifferent vegetarian restaurants, then these will be a revelation.

French green lentils are delicious in soup, of course, or scooped into the hollow of a baked winter squash, or tossed with small pasta shells and crumbles of fresh goat cheese. What I do most often, though, is serve them in a bistro-style warm salad with kielbasa. Add some crusty bread, good butter, and a glass or two of red, and life will feel very civilized.

All three of the salads described above are incredibly versatile. As you’ll see in the recipes — think of them more as guidelines — one ingredient can often be switched for another, and as you go along, don’t be afraid to improvise, based on the contents of your refrigerator. Odds are, it will taste wonderful.

Mandarin-Fennel Salad

Serves 4

Add some cress or arugula sprigs if you like; substitute green olives for the black. Ruby-red pomegranate seeds would add sparkle and texture, and parsley leaves, an herbal punch.

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed of its feathery stalk and some fronds reserved

3 mandarins, peeled

1/4 cup brine-cured black olives

Your favorite best-quality extra-virgin
olive oil

Fresh lemon juice

Coarse flaky salt (Maldon adds a wonderful crunch) and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and discard the tough outer layer or two to expose the cream-colored heart. Then cut the bulb into very thin slices with a handheld slicer or a very sharp knife. Put them in a salad bowl.

Remove the weblike pith from the peeled mandarins (children love doing this and are very good at it). Separate the segments and, depending on the thickness and tightness of the membranes that enclose each one, remove those or not; it’s entirely up to you. Cut the fruit in half crosswise and add it, along with the olives, to the fennel.

Drizzle the salad with olive oil and lemon juice to taste and gently combine. Scatter with salt and a few chopped fennel fronds. Season with a few grinds of pepper.

Dandelion Salad with Toasted Pine
Nut Vinaigrette

Serves 6

I’ve called for sherry vinegar below, but balsamic or red wine vinegar would be fine. If you don’t have pine nuts, use pecans, hazelnuts or homemade croutons. Dried cranberries or cherries would be a nice embellishment, too.

6 handfuls tender dandelion greens, washed, spun dry, and tough stems removed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons pine nuts

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, or to taste

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Shaved or very coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Tear the greens into generous bite-size pieces and mound them in a large heatproof bowl.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over moderate heat until hot. Add the garlic and pine nuts, cook, stirring them often, until the garlic is golden. Stir in the vinegar, then pour over the greens. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add the Parm and toss once more. Serve right away.

Warm Lentil Salad with Kielbasa 

Serves 4

This salad, a staff favorite at Gourmet, varies according to my time and inclination. It’s perfectly delicious with nothing more than onion and garlic, or carrot and garlic. As for the kielbasa, feel free to substitute another smoked sausage, country ham, pancetta or lardons — thick-cut strips of bacon sliced into matchsticks and cooked until crisp. Serve it on a bed of watercress or tender leaves of a Boston or Bibb lettuce. If desired, gild the lily by topping each serving with a fried egg.

2 cups French green lentils (lentilles du Puy), picked over and rinsed

6 cups water

1 bay leaf

A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme or, if you can find it, winter savory

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup diced carrot

1 cup diced celery, plus chopped celery leaves for garnish

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1/4 cup redwine or sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 smoked kielbasa sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices

Bring the lentils, water, bay leaf and thyme sprigs to a boil in a 3-quart pot. Reduce the heat and simmer the lentils, covered, until they are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and keep simmering until tender but still firm, about another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook, stirring every so often, until the vegetables are just softened and smell delicious, 8 to 10 minutes.

While the lentils and aromatics are both working, make the vinaigrette: Whisk together the vinegar and mustard in a small bowl and then whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the lentils in a colander, discarding the herbs. Return the lentils to the pot and stir in the vegetables and vinaigrette. Cook over low heat a few minutes until hot, remove from the heat and cover to keep warm. Wipe out the skillet and brown the kielbasa on both sides. Stir into the lentils and garnish with celery leaves.   OH

Jane Lear was the senior articles editor at Gourmet and features director at Martha Stewart Living.

True South

Make a Note of It

A catalog of the oddities of life

By Susan S. Kelly

For a certain kind of writer — OK, this kind of writer — what’s in your Costco cart, and what you do at night to get ready for bed, is invaluable and fascinating. Unfortunately, this sort of ephemera, discussed offhand in a grocery store parking lot, or city park, or next door on the treadmill, or at the office water cooler, tends to get lost, forgotten or ignored while you’re bringing in the trash cans, refilling the copier paper tray, or debating shredded or chunk parm.

So I make a practice of writing everything down, copying it to the computer, printing it out, punching holes in it, and filing it in notebooks under tabs, just like you did in fourth grade. A new year seems like a good time to revisit these collected works, and reconfirms my opinion that people will tell you anything.

What you may classify, in today’s parlance, as oversharing or TMI is pure gold for a writer. You never know when you’ll need an offhand comment like, “My grandchildren all sound like outlaws or whaling ships: Sophie Morgan. Casey Jackson. Wyatt James,” to punch up a scene. Or my friend’s house cleaners, a gay couple that comes while she’s at work, and routinely leaves complaint notes in the fridge saying, “Why don’t you get something decent to eat?” And while we’re on the subject of fridges, there’s my friend who told me she looked so terrible one day that she couldn’t go out in public. Instead, she went to the drive-through window at Krispy Kreme and bought four bottles of milk. Because she remembered that, as a child, Krispy Kreme had the best milk.

It pains me that I will likely never find a place to use this email: “Remind me to tell you the story some time about the husband of our class valedictorian (who herself picked her nose and ate it in class) who came to a hometown funeral and his tooth moved when he talked. I didn’t see it, but it was well reported by another friend.” Still, I’m comforted that, sooner or later, I’ll probably be able to fit in my Charleston friend’s road trip with her history-buff father to visit all the Civil War battlefields. But only the ones that the Confederacy won. So much for revisionist history. And Gettysburg.

Next time you make a move, stay focused on what’s really important and do what one friend did: While everything’s being wrapped, packed and stacked, draw a big smiley face on the box that has all the liquor in it.

Embarrassment tales are a dime a dozen, but here’s one I bet you won’t find in that long-gone “Was My Face Red” page in Reader’s Digest. The day after giving birth, a friend was immensely relieved when the doc came into her hospital room. She opened her gown, showed him her breasts and said, “I am sooo glad you’re here. My milk has come in and they hurt so badly and can you look at them and tell me if they’re normal and give me something for them?” The doctor looked at the floor for a long minute, then said, “I’m the pediatrician.”

But seriously, what is it about underwear? Stories tend from the mild — the friend who stained (OK, steeped) — all her heirloom linens in tea for the perfect antique shade, which was inspired by the memory of her mother boiling her bras when she came home from boarding school, to the lawyer who took off his blazer at work, not realizing a pair of underwear was stuck to the back of his shirt. Let that be a lesson to check your lint traps. Tricot has a natural affinity for non-iron Brooks Brothers shirts.

Underwear-related and completely unedited from the notebook original, this gem of a tail, I mean tale:

I know airport toilets are all about efficiency, but they are over-zealous. The best news is that every toilet I visited had seat covers plentiful, and I visited plenty between RDU, Dallas and Denver. So, I head for the toilet with 90 coats, backpack, luggage. As you disrobe, the toilet flushes because you’re moving. Then, I get the toilet cover assembled, and another auto-flush because you’re moving. Which creates the problem, because you’ve set the cover on the seat and it flushes the cover down, so you have to get another cover assembled. Of course it flushes again as you turn around to take off pants to sit down, but this time you’re holding the cover, but it keeps flushing forever and your cover is fairly mangled, so by that time you are holding it, trying to undo your pants and sit on it while it’s flushing, but still maintain sanitary integrity holding the seat cover and you sit down in a hurry still holding the seat cover that is trying to go down the toilet. It was exhausting and a complete waste of water.

And it’s only January.  OH

Susan Kelly is a blithe spirit, author of several novels, and proud grandmother.

Book Excerpt

In Deep Water

Huck Finn meets Moby Dick in Lee Zacharias’ delightful new novel

For a good wintertime read, lose yourself in the nautical-themed novel, Across the Great Lake by Lee Zacharias prize-winning author, longtime editor of The Greensboro Review and emerita professor at UNCG.

It’s the kind of book that immediately seizes the imagination. Part adventure in the vein of Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn, part ghost story, part tragedy filled with a motley assortment of characters, Across the Great Lake (University of Wisconsin Press) tells the remarkable odyssey of 5-year-old Fern Halvorsen. Told in first-person by an aging Fern, the book recounts the single most defining experience of her life: a trip in 1936 aboard The Manitou, a freighter ferrying railroad cars across the icy waters of Lake Michigan. Fern’s father is the boat’s captain, who has brought his daughter with him, as her mother lies dying back in their home in Frankfort, on Michigan’s northwest Lower Peninsula (distinct from the state’s Upper Peninsula, or UP, as Fern learns). With no one but her teddy bear, also named Manitou, for company, the plucky child protagonist explores the ship’s nooks and crannies, befriending a gentle deckhand named Alv and fraternizing with the crew along the way. In the following excerpt, young Fern sits in on a poker game among the raucous “black gang” who stoke the coal fires of the boat’s engine room, among other characters — and learns first-hand that The Manitou is haunted.

Like Dick Butler, Nils was an oiler, one step above fireman, but I was confused because I didn’t know what a Yooper did on a ship, and Amund had to explain that he was a water tender, that was his job, but he was also a Yooper because he was from the UP. Supposedly the term is new, but sailors used it even before the Mackinac Bridge was built and the Yoopers started calling everyone who lived below the bridge, on the Lower Peninsula, trolls. Sitting at a table in the flicker playing cards the men called each other a lot of names, though no one seemed to mind. Nils picked me up and set me on his lap even though I was all sooty, but no one in the black gang cared about that, not as long as you washed your hands at one of the sinks along the bulwark between the flicker and the hold before you picked up your cards, because even after they washed up there was coal dust ground into the creases around their eyes and in the back of their necks and their wrists and knuckles. Nils showed me his cards and even let me hold them, making sure I pointed them straight up so no one else could see, and that’s how I learned to play poker. One of his fingernails  was black and sort of bubbled up, but it wasn’t from the coal dust, it was from catching his hand in a hatch. Malley, the other water tender, was at the end of the table playing a sad song on his harmonica instead of cards. That was because his girlfriend wouldn’t marry him, Amund said, she didn’t want to marry a man who was at sea all the time. Nils, Malley, and Amund, all of the men in fact except Bosun and Twitches, would explain a lot of things and tell all kinds of stories as we crossed the lake. They seemed so eager to explain how things worked it was like a contest, who got to tell me most, probably because there wasn’t anyone else to tell what they knew because the other men knew the same things and when they came home the people who hadn’t been to sea didn’t care. Or maybe it was just because I listened so hard. I wanted to learn everything so that I could grow up to work on a ship too.

Amund and Dick Butler each threw another penny in the middle of the table, but Nils took his cards back and laid them facedown. “I’m out.”

“I want to keep playing,” I protested, so Dick explained that when you folded it meant you knew you couldn’t win and if you couldn’t win and you were smart you got out of the game. He said it so nice I wondered if he knew I’d seem him smoking on the car deck. Not that I’d tell. Because that was the second rule on a ship. Though they might quarrel among themselves, sailors didn’t rat each other out.

But one thing no one explained was the shower. It was like I thought it would be, but in the shower you had to turn the faucets just right or else the water was ice cold, and then it was so hot I jumped back and fell, with scalding water pouring down all over my backside. I wanted someone to come, but my father didn’t know I needed help because at home the person who always helped me was my mother. So I had to get up by myself and reach around to the faucets, but finally I found the place that was like a warm summer rain, and after that I cheered up and sang a song because I had heard about singing in the shower. Later I would wonder if the ghost knew about the faucets, because if it did it could have helped me, though I guessed ghosts didn’t care to go around assisting people. What they wanted was some kind of help themselves, but ghosts can’t say what they want, and that’s why people are so afraid of them, though all that was something I thought about later, after I was used to it. That first night I wasn’t used to it at all.

When it came, it was after the rudder pin broke and the engineer began his walk across the ice, after the bowling alley closed and I could no longer hear the crack of the ball and explosions of the pins, and I began to hear the ship speak in a way you don’t hear it in the daytime, maybe because the way you listen in the dark is different. There was still the grinding of ice against the hull, though not as loud because we weren’t trying to push through it anymore. Instead the ship itself was groaning and creaking, moaning and carrying on like it was a ghost, or like you think a ghost might do, but it wasn’t the ghost, it was just the night air making the steel hull contract. A ship is built to flex or else the hull will break apart, so I knew what I heard was the ship and not a ghost, but even so I clutched Manitou tight against my neck and kept my eyes open. The snow had stopped hours before, and the air outside was colder now not just because it was night but because the sky had cleared, and before I went to bed I knelt in one of the hemp chairs in the observation room and saw all the stars like a sky full up with diamonds, the way you only ever see them from the beach on a winter night because up on Leelanau Avenue there were too many trees, and so I tipped my head up and looked until I was dizzy, and then I went back to my cabin and closed the door and got in bed and the ship started making all that night noise.

But even though my eyes were open I never saw the ghost, because no matter what some people say about glimpsing apparitions, figures you can see through or shadows without anyone to cast them, the main thing about ghosts is not what you see. Holgar, who was one of the deckhands, the one who didn’t like Finns and was always taking pictures with his Brownie camera, was forever asking to see the special compartment because he’d heard you could see the ghost’s face in the wood paneling, and he said that sometimes ghosts will show in pictures even when you can’t see them in real life, but the crew wasn’t allowed to hang around the passenger quarters, except Alv, who came and got my clothes and washed them and hung them to dry on the line strung across the flicker, so I don’t know whether this ghost would have showed in a picture or not. Also when the ghost came it was dark. Outside, all around the deckhouse and the aft pilothouse there are lights. On a platform on the forward spar below the crow’s nest, red and green port and starboard lights keep ships from running into each other in the fog or at night, and from the passenger lounge you can see the light that’s kept on all night in the galley, but inside my cabin with the door and shutters closed up tight it was what they call pitch black.

And what happened when it came, it wasn’t the way you would think, because it didn’t make any noise at all, and the way I knew it was there was how quiet the ship got. All of a sudden you couldn’t hear the ice or the flexing steel plates on the hull, all the moaning and groaning and shrieking just stopped. Some ghosts are supposed to weep, and the ghosts of the cholera victims buried alive on South Manitou Island cry out for help, their voices echoing over the water, trying to hail the passing ships. People hear footsteps on the stairs, the thump of an empty chair set to rocking, or the slamming of a door, though the only reason a ghost could have to slam a door would be to get your attention, because they don’t need doors or windows to go from room to room, not that they travel much—they don’t wander the earth like some people say, only a very little part of it where something terrible happened. I didn’t know what happened to the ghost on the Manitou or even who it was, nobody seemed to, only that in the daytime it lived in the special room the managers used when they crossed the lake. I’m not sure the men even knew that it came out at night and moved around the passenger quarters because it never went anywhere else on the ship, not down to the flicker, where the black gang bunked, or up to the pilothouse, not even to the galley or messes nearby, because if it had, the men would have talked about it, but they never did, not even the bosun, and he was not one to keep a ghost to himself.

So that was how I knew it was there, because everything got so quiet, and at the same time I felt it, because you don’t have to see or hear a ghost to know one’s there. You feel it the same way you feel a storm is coming, there’s a change in pressure, a heaviness in the air, you can’t breathe, and what you hear isn’t the ghost but your own blood pounding inside your ears and what you feel is that same blood beating in your throat, but a ghost doesn’t warn you like a storm will, it just comes all of a sudden and then it’s there. And what this ghost did, it reached down and took hold of my big toe. I can’t say whether it lifted the scratchy wool blanket, reached through it, or what, because I couldn’t feel anything but the pressure of its hand on my foot, not the nib of a fingernail or warmth of a palm, because the ghost didn’t have surface, only weight, a heaviness that was not like anything else, and all night long it gripped my toe and never said what it wanted or why it was there, and I wanted to be the girl I bragged I was, but I wasn’t, because that first night when the ghost came into my compartment and clasped my foot in its hand I was so scared I couldn’t even scream, and in the morning when I woke and the ghost was gone, my eyes were all crusty in the corners, and both Manitou and my pillowcase were wet, and I realized that I had cried all night long without ever making so much sound as a sniffle.   OH

Excerpted from Across the Great Lake by Lee Zacharias. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. ©2018 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.

Papadaddy’s Mindfield

Give Me That Old-Time Music

The comfort of familiar hymns

By Clyde Edgerton

After New Year’s Eve is a good time to think over the past year — or maybe the past 75, especially if something pops up that gives birth to memories that emerge from behind stacks of present-day urgencies and conflicts.

I’ve recently been looking through the hymn book I grew up with in a Southern Baptist church — the Broadman Hymnal: a staple for many denominations back in the day. My looking through this book gave fresh birth to old memories.

Most people, as children, sang songs. For me, it was religious songs. And many children, because they sing songs written by adults, mess up the meanings of words.

In Sunday School at my church long ago, we children sang “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.” I always heard and thus sang “Jesus wants me for a sunbean.” In my mind’s eye, a sunbean was shaped like a butter bean (translation: lima bean) and had a silvery, bright sheen. I wasn’t sure why Jesus wanted me to be one. Who was Jesus anyway? I’d not quite figured that out by age 4.

In my church, after Sunday School on a Sunday morning, we kids went into the big people’s church and sat still or squirmed for an hour or so — usually with parents, a parent, or someone else’s parents — while things happened around us, and in the choir, and up in the pulpit. We didn’t get the big picture until about the age 12, when we finally clearly understood the nature of the universe and our place in it.

Early on, well before the age of 12, all the hymns seemed benevolent and kind and good, in spite of my recognizing in those songs images of war — as well as of peace — of fear and hope, of the wild and the tame, the obedient and disobedient. But because of my place in my community and church, because of my beliefs, I felt very safe, unthreatened.

Approaching the teenage years, sitting or standing in the big church, we still didn’t always comprehend clearly. There’s that famous example: the hymn “Gladly the Cross I’d Bear.” As: “Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear.”

A song like “Standing on the Promises” was hard for me to grasp. I was unable to sustain a meaning for a participial phrase, “standing on,” along with the abstract noun “promises,” in the same sentence. I visualized “promises” as bridge trusses made of human arms. People in a far-off country stood on them. Therefore, the meaning of the song, though I’d sing the printed words, was mangled.

“When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” brought visions of a bread roll with ears and legs — ambling doglike across a green meadow, having been called: “Come, Fluffy. Come, girl.” I was there watching because the hymn said, “When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.”

Then, yo, and verily, verily, we became teenagers.

Teenage friends were allowed to sit together, sometimes all the way back on the back row. We’d play “Between the Sheets.” Teenager A would open the hymnbook to a random page and whisper the hymn title to Teenager B. B would say: “Between the Sheets.”

I’m sitting here with the Broadman Hymnal now, as I write. I’m about to open to some random pages.

“Dare to Be Brave, Dare to Be True” . . . “Onward, Christian Soldiers” . . . “Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow” . . . “I Surrender All” . . . You get the idea (and probably did before the examples).

Now, as an adult, I enjoy singing the old hymns in church. I haven’t yet been able to enjoy contemporary religious music. I like what I heard as a child. Probably not so much because I did or didn’t understand meanings, but because back then I felt at peace. I felt very safe; meanings about life and the universe were absolutely true. Though my outlook has changed, it’s comforting to sing the old hymns, to reconnect with those feelings of security and peace.  b

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.

The Accidental Astrologer

The Happiness Project

With a little effort, the world’s a better place in 2019

By Astrid Stellanova

Buh-bye, 2018! It’s all in the rearview mirror now, right? Not quite, Star Children. We tripped right on out of trippy December, barreling straight for the yellow brick road of the New Year, but first a check-in question for the New Age: Were you really good for goodness sake or was it to look good in your selfies?

Think about it. In the cosmic sense, all those clicks, likes and dislikes, will be relegated to the basement of history faster than a smiley face. No matter, there are 365 days to get things right or just a little righter. Aim to do something to make this ole world twirl with happiness. — Ad Astra, Astrid

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

It may have burned your biscuits that you didn’t get something promised to you, and you can blame it on that ole buzzkill buzzard Saturn, who’s been making you toe the line since last year. But take heart, little Goat, because the stars sure do point to a better twist in the tale. Hang onto your shorts, Love Bug. Things are resolving faster than you can say stink on a stick.

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

New year, new you — which is saying something for Aquarians. You have a new sense of resolve, and Birthday Guys and Gals, I’m picking up what you’re laying down. Don’t let anybody trap you in just old ways of thinking or acting. You know what you want, you have resolved to pursue change, and don’t let your critics get in your head and change your mind. If there’s a bigger birthday wish you’re dreaming of than that one, just pucker up and blow!

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

Well, Honey Bun, you’ve been up since the crack of noon saying you have a whole new brand to build. Who are you kidding? You are not a Kardashian. Honey, you are you — the you that everybody knows and loves doesn’t have to follow trends or trolls to roll with fabulousness.

Aries (March 21–April 19)

Oh, yeah. You want everybody but you to tend to their own knitting, but just look at what a tangled-up skein of yarn you have made. Now get it straightened out and don’t Tom Sawyer one of your many friends into fixing your mess. Word is you have a nice surprise soon after if you take care of business.

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

Stranger danger, Sugar, but only from burnout. It’s too people-y out there to venture forth. Stay in a little more, read a book, snuggle on the sofa and keep your own counsel. You have been struttin’ your stuff day and night; it wouldn’t hurt one iota to spend a night or two being a couch potato with a bag of Cheetos.

Gemini (May 21–June 20)

Make sure your brain is as sharp as your tongue this month, when you get to feeling a little challenged by those near and dear. It is possible you are over-reacting, Honey, or just plain acting for the love of drama. It is a good month for holding back a tee-ninesy bit.

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

You had a hissy fit with a tail on it, and what did it get you? You got to eat a slice of hypocrite pie, because the very thing you got so riled up about is something you have done to yourself. While all this played out, you didn’t notice something worth noting. Open your eyeballs.

Leo (July 23–August 22)

You know horse hockey when you step in it. And you stepped in it. But here we are with a new year, new view and an open path around all the traps you fell into last year. Step high, keep your eyes wide open and watch the horizon. Tall, dark and handsome (or be-yoo-tiful) is heading your way.

Virgo (August 23–September 22)

You felt out of whack. You were stressed. And it was a lot of piddlin’ things keeping you off your game. The things that kept you upside down were not of your own making. Clouds are clearing. Pretend you are already feeling better, Sweet Thing.

Libra (September 23–October 22)

Skedaddle and make sure you leave before you get invited out the door. You were innocent but ignored the signs that a sometimes friend wasn’t so friendly. They take some warming up to, and the heater went cold, so find new friends and move along as if it never even happened.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

You have big plans but your own stomping grounds aren’t so bad. Dollywood is fun, but right under your nose there are all kinds of possibilities, Sugar Foot. Many are fond of your wit and wisdom. Don’t let the familiar turn you away or off.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

This year could be a wing dinger, Sugar. It happens to be one of your better ones. You’ve been busy taking up with all kinds of unusual occupations and friends, and that is a good thing. You will broaden your view, and have a whatchamadoodle of a time doing it.  b

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.

To D.I.Y. For

To D.I.Y. For

Betsy Brodeur applies ingenuity to her Sunset Hills home

By Cynthia Adams     Photographs by Amy Freeman

Oh-so-desirable Sunset Hills was developed in the mid-1920s, featuring woodsy green swaths and homes with distinct personalities. According to historians, deed restrictions ensured a “quiet, park-like setting,” requiring that houses be built farther than 45 feet from the street.

Homes here are snapped up quickly by eager buyers, often before a “for sale” sign goes up. When Betsy Brodeur and her husband, Lee, heard the house they’d eyed in Sunset Hills was on the market one February day five years ago, Betsy had to do a look-see. When she did, it was a case of instant, physical attraction.

“The hair on my arms stood up when I first saw it,” she says, recalling stopping for an open house. “When I saw the house, I felt love, and healing.”

As a family, the Brodeurs needed more room for their three daughters, something more spacious and soulful. “We had been looking for so long,” Betsy says. “That same night, somebody broke into our garage and stole all of our lawn equipment.” The urge to move grew more urgent after the burglary. 

When the Brodeurs did a subsequent drive-by, the six-bedroom home with style to spare was already sold. 

They were crestfallen, but they discussed paying off their house in Lindley Park and buying a beach house.

Fortunately, they discovered the sale had fallen through from Melissa Greer, the Realtor who is now their neighbor. They moved swiftly and decisively

There was even a downstairs bedroom and bath, rare in a home of its vintage. Here, the Brodeurs could age in place. 

Almost all of the original footprint of the house was left intact with only one major addition on the rear. They just knew — the ways in which the home wasn’t exactly to their liking were just matters of cosmetics. “It was a spiritual, emotional decision,” says Betsy Brodeur as she stands in the Arts and Craft–style game room, the newest portion of the house overlooking an outdoor kitchen and fountain. 

“We should be downsizing at this point in our life,” Betsy says cheerfully, and chortles. But the couple did the opposite of what their friends were doing in anticipation of retirement. The Brodeurs went bigger. They upsized from that “cute little Lindley Park bungalow” to a 4,500-plus square foot home.

“Lee said, ‘I’m buying the house. But any updates are on you.’” Fine, Betsy thought without hesitation. She immediately thought of her clever mother, who had done far more with far less when it came to fixing up houses, and knew she could handle it. The Brodeurs moved in by April 2013.

The 1929 house was gorgeous, yet the interiors were serious, featuring darker jewel tones. 

The Brodeurs preferred the colors of the sand and sea. “I grew up on the coast; my influences are teals and blues.” Betsy says of their tastes, which were lighter, airier and coastal.

What she wanted was to recreate the light-filled vibe she had always loved as a Floridian from Siesta Key near Sarasota. 

Betsy left Florida in 1996 and moved to Charlotte. “My mother died, and that rocked my world. Eventually, she met Lee while at the beach. 

“A girl from Florida meets a guy from North Dakota in Myrtle Beach!” she laughs.

Their golden retriever is named Myrtle to honor where the couple met.

In some ways, their home is another homage to her mother. Betsy began doing what her mother had done repeatedly as a minister’s wife, polishing up drab parsonages. She showed Betsy that ingenuity could transform a space. Time and again, her mother did the impossible with spaces that were anything but beautiful.

“She was artistic. She made things look fantastic, and also made it great for the next couple coming in,” Betsy recalls. “New minister, new minister’s wife, and they go to this crappy house. It became her gift to the next family.”

The lesson stuck. Betsy followed in her mom’s footsteps, becoming the consummate do-it-yourselfer.

She set out with neutralizing things, deleting Mediterranean and French influences. She gave it the feel that she loves — “beachy,” she repeats. But appropriately so. 

“I had a wonderful teacher in my mother,” Betsy reiterates, using one of her mom’s oft-repeated expressions, “tending the hearth.” “I’ve always liked making my homes comfortable,” she adds, “but this one meant even more. I was almost channeling my Mom and didn’t realize it.”

A year into the move, Betsy had officially made best friends with Benjamin Moore. She began painting and switching a more formal interior to a decidedly beachy one, with wood and wicker furniture and accents. She created a tight color palette, using natural finishes, creamy white and even robin’s egg blue. Paint was going to be the biggest ally in making an already gorgeous home the Brodeurs’ own.

She went at the project after-hours even when exhausted from her workday. Lee eventually suggested Betsy might want to retire and “tend the hearth” full time. Four years ago, she did.

“I’ve always worked with nonprofits, most recently with the Women’s Resource Center,” says Betsy. Retirement would mean she could devote herself completely to updating the home. 

Betsy, now retired, grabbed even more gallons of creamy greige, white and blue Benjamin Moore paints, and rolled up her sleeves to finish the job.

Although Betsy insists “we did things on the cheap,” their refreshed home reads casually refined. “Paint mostly,” she insists modestly. “I learned so much about color. I guess you could say I did it myself,” she says with a throaty laugh. 

She particularly wanted the house to be a haven for her three stepdaughters, even though the eldest is now 25 and will soon marry.

She felt the need for the house’s colors to reflect her stepdaughters’ tastes and preferences, too. “Subtly, I can make their spaces comfortable and mirror them,” she says.

The space gained by the move from a smaller home was more comfortable for the entire family.

“With a limited fix-up budget, I had to be even more resourceful,” says Betsy. Out went beautiful red velvet drapes and formality. The house seems to relax into the new owners’ style. 

The kitchen spiff-up was her second major task after painting. Flooring was replaced with new hardwoods and countertops and backsplash were replaced.

She kept with period-specific updates. Betsy stuck with marble for the kitchen counters, a material that could look as if it had been there for 90 years. The Brodeurs retained the Wolfe professional range, and also kept a pantry with ample shelving and wine fridge, but opted to remove the pantry doors to open the space more.

Betsy, who loved all things color-related, would work alongside the painter hired to work on the kitchen’s cosmetic changes. And she loved having done that, giving herself over to whatever work needed to be done, even the tedium of cabinet painting. 

“To redo the kitchen would have cost us a fortune. But I enjoy seeing the brush strokes.”  She learned new skills by supervising the kitchen work.   

“I did the whole house,” Betsy says with no small pride, doing a walk-through of the sunny downstairs living room, sunroom, dining room, kitchen and added playroom with a secret powder room. 

Spacious for its vintage, it has, in addition to the six bedrooms, a seventh upstairs was converted into a laundry room. “It could be seven bedrooms,” says Betsy. There is room for a workout room and a cozy den upstairs, as well. 

The floors were refinished; surfaces were made more neutral.  Furnishings were kept airy and bright.

As with most homes, the heart is the kitchen, where the marble countertops complement the crisp, white subway tile (versus the previous French hand-painted tiles and darker colors). Betsy stops in what they now call the keeping room. Betsy admits she never heard of it, the one space that had perplexed her. 

Here alone did she rely upon the advice of a pro, Greensboro designer Maria Adams, regarding one thorny problem at the kitchen entry.

“I never had gotten used to the area, with its beams,” says Betsy.  It was walled off and awkward. “We never used it. My husband started saying, should we discuss creating an open floor plan?  Should we move?”

They didn’t want to take down any walls. How to make it work, she wondered?

“Lee bought me an hour’s consultation with Maria, and the designer suggested it be switched out from kitchen eating area to keeping room,” says Betsy. In the meantime, Adams admired how Betsy had taken an already lovely house and made it even more so. 

“She walked in and said, ‘You don’t need me, this is beautiful.’”

Betsy had noticed the designer’s style and was a fan. “I’d seen Maria’s work, I liked her style.  I told her we weren’t using the space correctly. It felt very uncomfortable.” 

But when the designer explained it should be a keeping room, a throwback to colonial days when families would sleep in a room adjacent to the hearth for warmth.

“She said it very well could have been built for that purpose.” The designer sent pictures of suggestions and furnishings. Adams recommended a small sofa and chairs to create a sitting area.

At first, Betsy balked at the designer’s notion, but once the concept of a keeping room took shape, she discovered it was a successful and creative idea. It also honored the house’s history.

Betsy dislikes when history is stripped away. She didn’t want the original beauty of the house to be lost or compromised, which can happen with big-budget remodels.

“When I was in such a hurry, I had to redo things. I couldn’t really rest if the paint color wasn’t quite right,” she recalls. “When you live with it long enough, it will tell you what is needed. It reaffirms I didn’t hire out all the things I wanted to do, “she says.

Today the imprint of Betsy’s coastal theme is complete. 

The sea is imprinted here, too; starfish motifs abound. Betsy admires the starfish because it can regenerate its legs and keep on going.

“I felt the house going ‘thank you,’” she says, relaxed in a wicker chair by the living room fireplace. “I called my husband and said thank you, because I felt the house saying it to me.”

Nonetheless, there is always a project calling to the do-it-yourselfer. She says a 2008 remodel to the upstairs master suite is perfectly serviceable, yet . . . she hopes to eventually make it completely her own. It is spacious and pleasant, “but I’ve had five different paint colors trying to make it work,” she says. “But I have to wait until we win the lottery.”  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry.