A Winter Visitor

The handsome yellow-bellied sapsucker

By Susan Campbell

Woodpeckers abound in central North Carolina, even more so in the Sandhills. On a given day, you might see up to eight different species. Only one, however, is a winter visitor: the handsome yellow-bellied sapsucker. This medium-sized, black-and-white bird is well camouflaged against the tree trunks where it is typically found. It also sports red plumage on the head, as so many North American species do. The female has only a red crown, whereas the male also sports a red throat. And, as their name implies, both sexes have a yellow tinge to their bellies. However, young of the year arriving in late October to early November are drab, with grayish plumage and lacking the colorful markings of their parents. By the time they head back north in March, they too, will be well-patterned.

There are four sapsucker species found in North America. The yellow-bellied has the largest range and is the only one seen east of the Rockies. Sapsuckers do, in fact, feed on sap year round. They seek out softer hardwood trees and drill holes through the bark into the living tissue. This wound will ooze sap in short order. Not only do the carbohydrates in the liquid provide nourishment to the birds, but insects also get trapped in the sticky substance. Holes made by yellow-bellied sapsuckers form neat rows in the bark of red maples, tulip poplars and even Bradford pears in our area. Pines, however, not only tend to have bark that is too thick for sapsuckers to penetrate but rapidly scab over, rendering only a very brief flow of sap.

The injury caused by sapsuckers is generally not fatal to the tree, as long as it is healthy to begin with. Infection of the wound by fungi or other diseases may occur in older or stressed trees. Although the relationship is not mutually beneficial, sapsuckers need the trees for their survival. It is also interesting to note that others use the wells created by sapsuckers. Birds known to have a “sweet tooth,” such as orioles and hummingbirds, will take advantage of the yellow-bellied sapsucker’s handiwork.

The species breeds in pine forests throughout boreal Canada, the upper Midwest as well as New England. We do have summering populations at elevation in western North Carolina. It is not unusual to find them around Blowing Rock in the warmer months. As is typical for woodpeckers, sapsuckers create cavities in dead trees for nesting purposes. They use calls as well as drumming to advertise their territory. The typical call note is a short, high-pitched, cat-like mewing sound. They use more emphatic squealing and rapid tapping of their bills against dead wood or other suitable resonating surfaces to warn would-be competitors of their presence.

In winter, yellow-bellieds quietly coexist with the other woodpeckers in the area. They will seek out holly and other berries in addition to feeding on sap. These birds will feed on suet, too, and may be attracted to backyard feeding stations. Generally, the yellow-bellied does not drink sugar water, since feeders designed for hummingbirds or orioles are not configured for use by clinging species. Of course, as with all birds, it may be lured in by fresh water: another reason to maintain a birdbath or two — even if you live on a lake.

Seeing a sapsucker at close range is always a treat, so keep an eye out for this unusual woodpecker.  OH

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

Home Grown

Home Grown

Taking a Breather

A nose that worked on the company dime

By Cynthia Adams

I leaned close to the restroom mirror, examining my nose. With the company newspaper I edited (the last in the state) going to press, I took a breather.  A breather — ironic given my breathing had been permanently altered following a painful childhood swing incident. Nosebleeds and sinusitis became commonplace.

But after 20 years, that would finally change when I decided I’d see a doctor about my nose. A few weeks later, I remained mostly silent while a surgeon studied my X-rays, pointing out the years-old damage that led to a deviated septum.

Merely 2.5 inches of cartilage and bone gone wrong. Easily corrected, he explained. 

Seeking out a surgical remedy had been set in motion after a human resources exec visited my office, requesting we publicize a company-wide insurance campaign, specifically to encourage outpatient surgery — not yet commonplace. It would save the company, which was self-insured, significant money. As an incentive, company insurance would cover the entire cost of outpatient surgery — every dime. 

“Find someone who needs outpatient surgery and write an article about it,” the HR guy said matter-of-factly. 

My mind raced as he stood there waiting to be congratulated for his brilliant idea. Who the heck was going to volunteer for surgery? 

“How the . . . ?” I began, but stopped before insulting the same person who okayed my raises.

So I mumbled, “Well, I . . . ”

Then I surprised us both by blurting out there was a possibility of someone: Me!

He brightened.

“Great! Just be sure it’s medically necessary.” 

I was already wearing adult braces to correct a misaligned jaw and bite; maybe it was time to address another problem. My constantly blocked nose.

I agreed to a consultation with an ENT who was experienced with trauma surgeries. It was during the second consult he presented my X-rays. Pointing to damaged cartilage and bone, adding sunnily, “There’s complete blockage!” He sounded exactly like a plumber.

With a notepad in hand, I asked nuts-and-bolts questions and made notes. The surgery was called septoplasty. The benefits included fewer infections and nosebleeds, and, with mouth breathing remedied, no snoring. 

But I looked down as he spoke and wrote the question, Will he break my nose?, heavily underscoring the last three words. 

Mentally, I sketched an enormous mallet, a target inked onto my schnoz, and me, a hapless fool, reluctantly holding still. 

But I took a small step back when the surgeon explained the how of the surgery: It would necessitate internal incisions and a tiny flap opened up over my nose in order to clear the passages.

I revised my mental cartoon: not so much a mallet; more like miniature miners excavating a cave with tiny picks and shovels. Except, excavating cartilage. And, perhaps a little bone, he added. I must have blanched.

“You won’t feel the procedure,” he reassured.

How would I not feel that? With fearful misgivings, I shakily booked a date for surgery.

An older friend had a deviated septum corrected years before. She, too, couldn’t breathe properly; she also snored (to the great irritation of her former partner, a cranky artist). 

Over drinks she told me about the worst of the aftermath, nearly swallowing the gauze packing her nose when she dozed off once home. Of course, she didn’t choke to death, but she did have a frantic ER trip.

At the pre-dawn check in for surgery, my blood pressure was elevated (terror will do that), but this didn’t halt the procedure. I remember my nostrils being swabbed with something to staunch bleeding. Then an IV was inserted.

Blissful indifference streamed into the veins of my wrist. 

Picks? Shovels? Bring them on, I mumbled to the nurse, who smilingly reassured me they would use neither.

I remembered nothing until the nurse called my name, telling me the procedure was over. Still blissed out, she helped me sit and, soon, stand. When my mother met wobbly-legged me in reception, she looked stricken. 

“Hey, Mama! I’m fine and dandy!” I chirped with drugged-up enthusiasm. “Actually, I’m gonna bake these nice people a cake!” 

The nurses tittered knowingly behind me, according to my mother. I never baked anything more ambitious than box brownies.

Indeed, there was packing extending deeply into my nasal passages, the thing I feared the most. My under eyes were lightly bruised. But, in my happy daze, I was mightily relieved it was all over. 

Days later, during a post-surgical visit, I waited with other patients. But this was the A-team, apparently, who had opted for the more thrilling cosmetic procedure: rhinoplasty. 

A nose job.

I curiously scrutinized them with a side eye. Some wore tiny casts over their softly feminine, narrow noses. Each had a refined tip.

They had all been given a celebrity nose; specifically, they had supermodel Christy Turlington’s nose. (That was then. Now, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has the most requested nose.) Though it intrigued me that ordinary folk could alter their face to look like a star, I was there to report on my less thrilling, non-cosmetic surgery. But — a nose was a key feature! I obsessed with how they would look once all swelling resolved, imagining them on a catwalk, a procession of proud noses, raised high.

After my brief check, I stood stock-still on the sidewalk, inhaling; was that great smell the restaurant a block away?

The corners of my mouth tilted upwards following my gauze-free nostrils. A world of fresh air and sensations awaited; I followed them straight to a lunch spot. The former Ham’s on Friendly was a greasy spoon I’d frequented before — but this was next level. Seems I had never really tasted the deep-fried fries. Bliss again!  Pausing to sniff the catsup (a condiment that didn’t smell so much after all, I discovered), I savored my lunch as if it were a Michelin Star experience. What could Christy Turlington possibly eat that could top this, I wondered, happily popping fry after fry into my mouth.

Like my nose, possibilities seemed wide open.  OH

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

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory

Starting Over

The magic of wiping the slate clean — at any time

By Cassie Bustamante

A new year is the perfect time to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start. Over 20 years ago, I learned just how to do it in Austin, Texas.

In 2002, Chris, now my husband, and I moved to a new apartment on the north side of the city, relocating for his job with Abercrombie & Fitch. His role as district manager came with perks, including a brand-new company car. And not just any vehicle. It was my dream car: a Jeep Wrangler.

He traveled a lot for work and when he left one weekend for an out-of-state business trip, unbeknownst to the powers-that-be at A&F, he handed me the keys to his ride.

With Jimmy Eat World blaring from the speakers and the soft top rolled down, I blissfully cruised south like a Texas cowgirl without a care in the world to the now defunct Highland Mall, where I’d taken a job as a manager for J.Crew. Being new, I was determined to make a good impression despite it being a boring job.

My hours on the clock ticked slowly by. Finally, 5 p.m. struck and my shift was over. Freedom, the kind you feel when you’re blissfully young and the wind rushes through your hair, awaited. However, when I stepped out of the mall doors, dark gray, threatening clouds were rolling in.

Chris hadn’t shown me how to put the Jeep’s soft top back up before he’d jetted off, but how hard could it be? I did my best and was pretty sure I had it right. Five miles along at a clip of 75 mph, the rain about to burst from the clouds, the front of the vehicle roof caught the wind, reared up into the air like a hand waving at incomers and nearly ripped right off the Jeep. Whoops.

I pulled over and wrestled with it. And it wrestled back. (I’m a writer and not an engineer for many reasons.) In the end, I limped home with sweat instead of wind in my hair, grasping the steering wheel with one hand and barely managing to hold the roof in place with the other hand as rain began to pelt the top.

Back at our apartment and feeling like a royal idiot, my arm tingled and ached, and I dreaded calling Chris to tell him that rain had soaked the seats — surely the Texas heat would have them dry in no time, right? So I didn’t. Instead, I poured myself a glass of wine and decided tomorrow was another day, and I’d be driving my own car, a reliable, practical Volkswagen Jetta. But sometimes the universe has a good laugh at our expense, doesn’t it?

The next day, as I began my 20-minute trek to the mall, I felt a sudden thud, thud, thud. A flat tire. Are you kidding me? Once again, I resisted calling Chris, but I did manage to convince a good friend of his, a fellow Demon Deacon who lived nearby, to come to my rescue, giving me a lift to work while my car was being towed into a garage.

Sweaty and flustered, I arrived to the store late, immediately hopping on the sales floor. As it turned out, I was scheduled with my favorite associate. Pam was a woman in her mid-30s, who seemed older and wiser to my naive 22-year-old self.

Reading my expression, Pam offered a calming smile and asked if everything was alright. On the verge of tears, the words spilled out in a jumble: the roof nearly ripped off Chris’ brand new Jeep in the rain and then the flat tire. The floodgates opened and I told her about the immense isolation I felt in a city where I knew no one with Chris being frequently away and my not wanting to bother him. And what was going to happen next? “It’s just been a really bad 24 hours,” I said.

Pam looked at me, her face serene and soothing. “Take a deep breath and just start over,” she said. “Right now.”

Just start over? That’s your solution?

Seeing bewilderment on my face, Pam nodded encouragingly. “Yep, just start over,” she said. “You know, I’m a recovering alcoholic. And on my journey to sobriety, there were days that I’d slip, but it didn’t mean that things couldn’t get better, that it was over for me. Because the beauty of starting over is that you can do it any time.” She paused. “Like right now.”

I took a deep breath. I hadn’t been hurt. Nor were either of the cars permanently damaged. Chris would be back tomorrow, and I sure had one good friend who knew just what to say.

Three children later and a long list of things gone awry that have proved to be so much worse than a flat tire or a cantankerous Jeep top, Pam’s comforting words and her serene smile have come back to me many times.

Just start over. Right now. Wise words from a woman who understood and had lived their meaning.  OH

Cassie Bustamante is editor of O.Henry magazine.

O.Henry Ending

O.Henry Ending

Queen of Bath

It’s a bit of a stretch, sure. But this dream tub sorta works

By Ashley Walshe

If you’re a bath person like me — that is to say, someone who soaks ritualistically — then perhaps you’ve spent time imagining what life could be like if your tub was just a little wider; a little deeper; a little more picturesque.

An elegant garden tub aglow with flickering candles. A cast iron clawfoot laced with salt and rose petals. An hourglass drop-in complete with whirlpool jets.

Such visions used to rule my mind.    

Now, having spent the last two years living in a 32-foot travel trailer with my husband and my canine shadow, my dream tub has but one requirement: I can bathe in it.

Which brings me to my current situation.

A standard bathtub holds about 70 gallons of water. Suffice it to say that our RV tub does not. Think farmhouse sink with bobsleigh undertones. Bigger than a breadbox, smaller than a storage tote.

I’ll be honest. It took a while to see potential here. The tub’s fun-size dimensions combined with our 6-gallon hot water heater don’t exactly add up to a space for quiet contemplation and long, soulful soaks. Quick showers are fine. But when baths are your primary indulgence, you consider all your options.

My first bath attempt was, frankly, valiant. I’m no bobsled pilot, but given my daily yoga practice, I was deftly able to navigate the tub’s shallow waters. A knees-to-chest pose, for instance, followed by seated pigeon, a gentle variation of boat pose and — after a bit of ocean breathing — a legs-up-the-wall inversion. 

Despite this series of postures, most of my body was not, in fact, wet. Still, half baths are better than no bath in my book. I lit a candle and resumed my lazy pigeon.

All of this was fine. Really. But when the ankle-deep water began cooling with unholy swiftness, my efforts seemed altogether fruitless.

“I wish we had more hot water,” I mumbled as the basin drained.

“We can try using the electric kettle next time,” my husband offered from the living space. “I’ll even be your bath butler.”

I felt my lips explore the foreign words.   

“Bath butler.” I liked the sound of it.

My bath butler has changed my life. Weekly, per my request or his proposal, I luxuriate in what I’ve taken to calling my Queen’s Bath — a modified version of a full bath, sure, but a yogi can dream.

Pre-kettle, I add a swirl of Epsom salt into the finger-pour of steaming water, get the candle going, flip off the lights and climb in.

If I fits, they say, I sits. 

By now, my bath butler has mastered water control. He knows that, after adding a kettle to my bath, it’s time to heat up the next one. Sensitive and compassionate, he keeps things strictly professional, a trait any honorable bath butler should possess.

“How’s the temperature?” he might ask. Or, “May I bring you a beverage?” Most often, he simply pours and gives a courtly head bow. Role playing at its finest.

Four kettles in, the water nearly hugs my waist. By kettle five, I’m beginning to feel like a Greek goddess. Kettle six? I could not ask for more.

You don’t opt for camper life without sacrificing some modern comforts. Still, we have everything we need: clean, running water; electricity; full bellies and warm hearts.

My butler is the bath bomb on top. 

If it’s true that gratitude is the quickest path to happiness, I think I’m already there. As for my husband?

“I’m happy to bring you water,” he assures me. Although he insists on maintaining his professional butler pose, I pry.

“What’s in it for you?” I ask.

He pours the kettle, shrugs, then clears his throat. “I guess I like the view.”  OH

Ashley Walshe is a former editor and regular contributor of
O.Henry magazine.

The Collected & Collaged Home

The Collected & Collaged Home

An artist pastes together his story

By Cassie Bustamante

 Photographs by Amy Freeman

Just beyond the front door of Perry Boswell’s downtown Summit Avenue condo hangs a large collaged canvas created by the artist himself. The Dandy is a collection of black-and-white images from the late 1800s and early 1900s, including three photos of suited Black men — one with a handlebar mustache — and a photo of a behatted Black woman adorned in fur.

Why these images? “I would find pictures that had no story and, for whatever reason, they would tell me they need a story,” Boswell says. So he got to work, cutting and pasting, weaving in advertisements and minstrel music from the same era, plus notebook writings of his own.

“And here is the thing about putting your comments in a different time,” Boswell says of working with old ephemera, “you can say something really pertinent — what needs to be said about things.”

At a show of his collage work, Boswell once overheard a friend comment on The Dandy to a gallery visitor, “You know what, if you knew him, you would realize it is also a story about him, too.”

While the canvases decorated with his own two hands are created as a means to share a bit of his story, he’s drawn to art that does the same. Beyond the entry, his home unfurls like a gallery, art, thoughtfully curated, and one-of-a-kind treasures inviting the visitor to pause and take it all in. One of his quirkiest pieces is a carnival-colored painting of a two-headed man he purchased at the Fearrington Folk Art Show. Painted on an old door, one face features dark shaped brows, pale blue eyes, a serious expression and is as dapper as The Dandy, down to the handlebar mustache. The other, its opposite, wears a toothy grin, bushier brows and dark eyes. The humor, color and use of recycled salvage drew him to it immediately. But what made him purchase it? “I was figuring me out and it spoke to me in a way that we’re all two-headed because we’re many people in one,” he says.

And has he figured himself out? Dressed in a gray shawl-collar, chunky wool sweater, dark denim and stylish black glasses, Boswell, a retired Davidson County High school art teacher, is, like his house, carefully put together. The effect? Refined ruggedness — a phrase that could easily describe his home, too. What his ensemble can’t illustrate on its own is the comfort he feels in his skin. But just as creating art or a home is often a slow and sometimes challenging process, so has it been with his inner journey.

That passage, he says, has involved “a lot of change. It’s age. It’s a divorce. It’s a lot of things,” says Boswell. Still, he says he feels as if he’s approaching his destination “because I can be at ease with all the things I am.”

Since growing up in his parents’ house, built on his grandparents’ 100-acre Thomasville tobacco farm, Boswell has called a few other places home in his 61 years. As a newlywed fresh out of college, he purchased his first house, a charming 1930s bungalow in Welcome. Later, when a son was born, the family packed up and headed to suburbia. And when that son flew the coop, he and his former wife moved to Greensboro into a 1920s Latham Park home, complete with a backyard art studio.

“I like a place that has a story, a soul,” says Boswell. So it’s no surprise that when his marriage ended, a topic he opts not to touch upon, he knew exactly where he wanted to land — the 1922 Flatiron Building on Summit Avenue. Designed by Jefferson Standard Building architect Charles Hartmann, the structure, originally intended to house four family-sized apartments, now features eight units and, of course, Flat Iron cocktail bar and music venue.


At a potluck dinner hosted by fellow Sternberger Artists Center tenant Molly Amsler, who lives in one of the eight units, Boswell immediately felt a strong pull toward the building. “When I stepped into it, I knew I was going to live here,” he says. “I just knew it.”

The stars aligned and a street level unit with a porch view of the Greensboro History Museum popped up on the market just when Boswell needed it. But, he adds, it was by choice that he made the purchase.

A stone’s throw from his studio space at Sternberger, his new Summit Avenue home is within walking or, as he points out, trolley distance, to some of his favorite haunts: the public library, the museums and the booming coffee shop scene. “It seems like downtown is becoming little Seattle,” Boswell quips gleefully. Or, he can simply sit on his porch and enjoy the cast of characters that walk by.

That thriving downtown cultural scene is fuel for this artist’s soul. “I can, on a Saturday night, go down here and hear Latin music and see families dancing with each other. How wonderful that is!” he says. “Hearing different stories but seeing the commonality of it is important to me.”

As a retired teacher, where does he find the funds to support his collecting and coffee shop habits? Of course, he has a pension, but he chose to get a part-time job as well. During his 30 years in the classroom, he often worked side hustles — painting houses with his father or designing High Point showrooms — and relishes in the opportunity to interact with people. Shoppers, he says, love to talk to him while he works, allowing him to meet interesting people that might inspire his artistic work. Plus, “I know how to work an apron,” he jokes of his role as stock boy at Bestway Marketplace at UNCG, where he earned both his B.A. and M.F.A.

Is there a common thread that ties together the quirky art and vintage pieces that make his condo as much a museum as a home? He laughs: “There is a fine line between collector and hoarder,” but the furnishings placed throughout his condo and adorning his walls are clearly curated to tell Boswell’s own story. When making a purchase for the home, he doesn’t consider whether something will “match.” Instead he asks himself, “Will it give me something positive?”

As someone who has been to High Point Furniture Market as both a guest and showroom designer, Boswell says, “There are beautiful, wonderful, expensive things . . . but you don’t feel anything about it.” And as an artist who admits to a studio space where creativity is born of chaos, he’s made his home more of a gallery than a workplace, filled with art, antiques and oddities that give him what he calls “good energy.”

Back in the single bedroom of his unit, Boswell, who has traveled quite a bit in his lifetime, purposefully created a retreat that feels like an old European hotel. On its gray walls, his appreciation for fashion, especially vintage, is on display. Genuine 1920s drawings from Paris fashion houses, gifted to him by a friend, add a sprinkle of vibrant color to the serene space. And next to his antique oak highboy, a framed salesman’s sheet of sample bowties from, he guesses, the 1940s is paired with its perfect complement, discovered later at a flea market — a vintage sketch of a dapper gentleman in a bowtie, smoking a pipe.

Anchoring the space, an antique brass bed with simple white bedding is flanked by a pair of sleek mahogany-colored vintage nightstands. Above the headboard, on either side of a French-inspired sconce scored at Adelaide’s, two muted but colorful German prints featuring Arts-and-Crafts-era pottery and candlesticks hang, a souvenir from his many summers spent teaching at Reynolda House’s summer enrichment program. “I got as much out of it as the kids did,” he muses.

The bedroom’s counterpart, his white kitchen, is where he shows off his fondness for folk and outsider art. A set of clay tiles featuring farm animals created by local artist Leanne Pizio fills a skinny strip of wall by his back door. He takes one down and flips it over, revealing a simple saying on the back. “I love these for the tiles and the writings,” says Boswell. As luck would have it, he also scored a couple of bright Leanne Pizio chicken paintings at a second-hand shop.

Boswell opens his pantry door to reveal a hidden gem. “This is a Mary piece,” he says. Featured on PBS, Mary Paulsen is a coastal North Carolina creator who makes folk art out of found objects. Boswell’s “Mary” is a verre églomisé — backward painting on glass — merman. Art lovers from as far as Europe now come to buy her work, so he’s happy to have one hanging in his home and hopes to acquire more.

Across the hall from the kitchen, the dining room’s furnishings piece together, much like a collage, his own family’s history. A green-based farm table was rescued from his grandparent’s farm and served him as an art table for many years, moving with him from house to house. The table, Boswell knew, had been built by his great-grandfather and formerly used in a smokehouse to hold hams. He loves to imagine all of the conversations his ancestors have had around this very table. “Wow,” he muses, “if this thing could talk.”

Now, it serves as a place for Boswell to take his turn hosting monthly artist potlucks. At 700 square feet, according to Zillow, “My home is not big,” he says without a hint of humor at the understatement, “but I can have dinner parties.”

And what’s a dinner party without the perfect cocktail corner? Serving as his bar, a tool chest that belonged to his father holds various glassware. “When I found this, my father’s badge from work was in here,” he says, tears pricking the corners of his blue eyes. He opens the drawer and, with admiration, shows off his father’s Western Electric photo ID card. “Now, my father didn’t drink. He would probably have a stroke about this,” he says with a chuckle.

On the wall just above the cabinet? More quirky art, naturally. A colorful piece passed down from a friend features a bar scene that reminds Boswell of a Van Gogh work. When he placed it over the tool-chest-turned-bar, a chorus of yesssss rang through his head.

An unassuming, elongated octagonal ironstone platter on display in an open dining room cabinet boasts an unexpected story. “Maya Angelou lived in Winston-Salem and I went to the estate sale!” says Boswell, who paired his undergrad art degree with a minor in literature. Showing up on the last day, not a whole lot was left to choose from, but in the garage, hiding on a shelf, he spotted the plain white platter, which had a large chip. “I paid 25 bucks for it,” he says, and then took it to Replacements, Ltd., which, in turn, recommended a local couple who could repair it. He had it mended, but requested it maintain a little knick. “The imperfections of things make them much more livable and homey to me.”

Ever the collector, Boswell recently purchased an old glass cabinet from a Pittsboro shop, though it originated in an Albemarle farmhouse as a kitchen upper. Inside is a collection of vintage books found locally at Bargain Box. An avid reader, he bought the whole set and has been making his way through reading them — Thoreau, Oscar Wilde, Emerson and more classics.

In the hallway, which runs the length of his living and dining rooms, Boswell has turned the narrow passage into an art exhibition featuring more of his collected pieces plus a couple of his own. He points out a recent acquisition, a French lithograph featuring a rural autumnal scene. Across from it, hangs a lone photograph of Boswell himself, a gift from a filmmaking friend. In the image, he was caught unawares, head-down at a table in Winston-Salem’s Joyner’s Bar, sketching with an old fashioned, his cocktail of choice.

His rarest find, his pièce de résistance, sits at the very end of the hallway underneath a vintage mirror. A memory jug is a form of African-American folk art that pays homage to the dead and is crafted from bits and pieces of their life, almost like a mosaic. “I’ve never seen one outside of a museum,” he says.

Although this piece is likely valuable, that’s not the reason he bought it. So why does he call this particular piece his pride and joy? It’s simple — the story it tells.

“The storytelling part of all this old stuff is what is important,” he says. And Boswell continues to tell his story to the world through his paintings and collages. But perhaps his biggest piece of collage art to date is this very home: a series of bits and pieces meticulously crafted together into what has become his favorite — and likely his last — residence. “Our story is all we have to give each other. We come into this world alone, we leave alone and we’re lucky to have people to love in between. But if this is all there is, our story is all we’ve got to give each other.”  OH

Perry Boswell’s work can be found at Sternberger Artists Center and on his own website:

Cornered By Flavor

Cornered By Flavor

Cornered By Flavor

Appetizing aromas draw foodies to two new restaurants reclaiming a busy Greensboro crossroads

By Maria Johnson
Photographs by Bert VanderVeen


The pandemic stuck a fork in the restaurant life of Latham Park.

The Iron Hen — a lunch-brunch favorite that leaned on fresh, local ingredients — and its chain-driven neighbor, Dunkin’ Donuts, always good for a pop of caffeine and sugar, both shuttered during the shutdowns.

Local bellies rumbled for salads dotted with creamy goat cheese medallions and for confections crusted with rainbow sprinkles — though not necessarily at the same time.

Now, a new crop of flavor has sprung up at the corner of West Wendover Avenue and Cridland Road, thanks to two locally-owned restaurants: Saint Louis Saveurs, which fills the former Dunkin’ space, and Ava’s Cuisine & Catering, which occupies the Iron Hen’s old roost.

Both places serve down-home chow with a delicious twist: The owners come from different places, so their flavors are distinctly diverse, and their menus expand the rich, multi-ethnic flavor of Greensboro.

Still, their stories are remarkably similar.

For Mouhamadou “Mo” Cissé and his wife, Bator, both in their early 40s, home is the west African country of Senegal, specifically the coastal city of Saint Louis, which is about the size of Greensboro and which they pronounce the same way the region’s French colonizers did: san lou-EE.

Saveurs means “flavors” in French, so, literally, the Cissés serve up the flavors of their hometown, most notably the warm, homey notes of garlic — an ingredient brought by the French — mingling with the sweet earthy tang of onions and peppers.

The piquant aroma hovers outside the restaurant, signaling that this is no slapdash joint; someone inside knows their way around the kitchen.

“The experience, the love of cooking and making something really, really good, that’s what makes the difference,” Bator says. “It’s all about the depth of the flavor.”

You can taste her practiced hand in dishes such as djolof, a fried-rice entree made with your choice of fish, chicken or lamb. Each protein is cooked slowly and separately.

“That’s the traditional way of cooking back home, for safety, so the food is well-cooked,” says Mo, adding that the method concentrates flavor.

The protein dictates which kind of homemade onion sauce is used in the dish, and each meat gets its own array of vegetables. For example, the lamb is paired with carrots, peas and corn, while the fish swims with cabbage, carrots, yams and eggplant in season.

Yassa, made with white rice, uses some of the same ingredients as djolof, but the outcome is singular. “The order of cooking is different,” says Mo. “And the quantities of ingredients are different.”

Saint Louis tweaks some American favorites, too.

“Our burger is not going to be the burger you buy anywhere else, I can guarantee that,” Mo says proudly.

The Saint Louis Special Burger boasts a thick beef patty that’s mixed with jalapeños, eggs and cheese before hitting the griddle to coax out the juices.

The restaurant’s cheesesteak is a savory marriage of marinated beef or chicken, melted cheese, and a generous drizzle of homemade vinaigrette-based sauce on a sub roll. Customers yearning for crunch can ask for a garden finish of crispy lettuce or cucumber.

“That’s something you don’t see everyday on a cheesesteak,” says Bator.

Their down-home offerings extend to a zesty homemade ginger-pineapple drink and a scarlet-hued hibiscus tea known as bissap.

Bator, who directs the kitchen — “I want the food to be 100 percent” — learned to cook as a child. “At the age of 12, I started cooking lunch for the whole family,” she says.

Even more important in her business, she absorbed the Senegalese ethos of teranga, which means warmth and hospitality. She embodies teranga with her megawatt smile.

She also reflects the discipline she learned by playing center on her high school and university basketball teams. Wearing a sporty pullover and a Nike ball cap over her tied-back hair, she radiates the confidence of an athlete who knows how to give and take in the paint.

“I was always a hustler, and I always believe in myself,” she says. “Anywhere I am, I’m gonna make it.”

Mo, who earned a Master’s degree in accounting in his hometown, worked for a bank before coming to the United States for more education and work opportunities.

Bator left her extended family and a three-bedroom home, where she had a housekeeper, to join him in New York City. Life was tougher than they expected. Mo worked as a gas station clerk, and Bator rung up orders at Burger Heaven on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, traveling an hour by train from a small apartment in the Bronx, then logging 13-hour shifts before commuting home.

“It was really, really hard,” she says. “I believe God sent us a test.”

A Senegalese business contact suggested that Mo move to Greensboro, where he lived, and take classes at N.C. A&T. The couple relocated and again found themselves working menial jobs and unable to save money. Their first daughter, Aminata, was born.

Something had to change.

Bator had an idea.

Newfound friends in Greensboro paid her to do what she loved to do anyway: create extra plates of Senegalese food, which is known throughout Africa for its quality.

What if she and Mo opened a restaurant, something small, mostly take-out?

Mo was on it. He scouted spaces for rent.

The Dunkin’ niche, an appendage of a Circle K gas station at the bustling intersection, was empty of anything that suggested food prep. The couple traveled to restaurant auctions to pick up kitchen equipment.

They opened Saint Louis Saveurs for lunch and dinner in 2022.

Ten to 15 percent of their orders come through food delivery services such as DoorDash and UberEats. Evenings find drivers standing outside the restaurant, waiting for their fragrant dispatches.

Walk-ins come from all over. 

Some work at nearby Moses Cone Hospital; in the medical offices along Wendover Avenue; or in downtown Greensboro, a few minutes away.

Some customers are visiting Greensboro and discover Saint Louis by googling African restaurants.

Others live nearby, in the well-heeled neighborhoods of Irving Park, Latham Park and Fisher Park.

“Being in this restaurant, I realize that a lot of people in Greensboro travel,” says Bator. “I have people coming in here, telling me about my country. I’m so happy to hear that. Greensboro is a very diverse place. That’s why I love it,” she says.

Another mainstay of the restaurant has been the African community in Greensboro, estimated to be at least 9,000 people, according to the Center for New North Carolinians at UNCG.

Papa Seck, a Greensboro resident who’s also from Senegal, eats at the restaurant every few weeks. To enter, he steps under an awning depicting the distinctively scalloped Faidherbe Bridge in Saint Louis and pulls on a fat “D-shaped” door handle, a vestige of doughnut days gone by.

On the bright yellow walls — the color appears in the Senegalese flag and is also a favorite of the Cissés’ younger daughter, Fatima — Bator and Mo have hung reminders of home: a wooden map of the world, where they sometimes point out Senegal to customers, and colorful, flat baskets woven by Bator and arranged in an artful display.

Feeling more comfortable already, Papa Seck slides into his native language. Behind the counter, Bator catches the lilt of home and returns his greeting with enthusiasm.


Papa orders his usual, mafé, a white-rice dish laden with bites of beef, cabbage, carrots and yams, all under a creamy peanut sauce made sassy by onions, garlic and peppers.

Waiting at one of a few bar-height tables, Seck says there is no other place like Saint Louis in this area.

“Reminds me of home,” he says.

Two doors away — the restaurants are separated by a convenience store — customers feel a similar warmth at Ava’s Cuisine & Catering, where there’s also a ready supply of smiles, plus an ample helping of nods and “heys.”

Former Iron Hen diners will notice several changes immediately. Gone are the tables. Take-out is the theme here, though voracious diners are welcome to sit on benches inside and outside and dig into their clamshell boxes with plastic ware.

Most of the concrete floor — remodeled with an epoxy finish that resembles black marble — is given over to a line of people waiting for their turn at a cafeteria style hot bar. The choices are vast — usually 12 meats, 20 side dishes and a selection of homemade pound cakes — and they recall the homestyle food that owner Alexis Hefney, 30, ate while growing up in Charlotte. She modeled the hot bar after a Piccadilly cafeteria, where she inched along, in a steamy, chatty queue with her family after church. Behind glass, a line-up of salads, vegetables, meats, desserts, breads waited for diners to nod and point their choices to aproned servers.

“I can vividly remember the macaroni-and-cheese and the red velvet cake,” Hefney says.

Her mother and grandmother taught her how to cook. Her mother, an insurance adjuster, also taught her daughter how to calculate risk and reward.

Her stepfather, a marketing specialist for companies including Food Lion and Red Lobster, imparted the importance of image and trend.

Hefney honed her sense of value and fashion by working at the Community Thrift Store near her high school. The store was a typical second-hand shop, but occasionally people donated furs, designer handbags and other pricey pieces. Hefney routinely checked the back of the store, where the better quality pieces were displayed.

Lesson: “You can mix nice pieces with cheap pieces and pull it all together,” she says.

She added restaurant skills by working as a server at Smokey Bones, TGI Fridays and a fish house while studying at UNCG. She majored in biology with an eye toward becoming a dentist. An internship revealed an important obstacle.

“I realized that I absolutely hated teeth,” she says, laughing.

She pivoted by snaring a Master’s degree in secondary education and getting certified to teach science at Dudley High School, where she worked for several years.

It was emotionally satisfying work. Financially, not so much.

“Let’s face it, teachers don’t make much money,” she says.

Hefney — by then, mother to Ava, the restaurant’s namesake —  took stock of her skills and passions, which included cooking for friends and family.

Her apartment was often the site of Friendsgivings and other holiday gatherings. People jumped at a chance to sample her candied yams, fried chicken or macaroni-and-cheese.

“Most of all, I love people. Number two, I love food,” she says, spelling out her logic. “Food brings people together.”

She drew up a detailed plan for a catering business, focusing on cost efficiency.

She spent some of her savings on a truck and trailer that had been used to sell Mexican food in Texas.

She advertised her services on Thumbtack.

On weekends, she hauled a prescribed amount of food to her clients’ weddings, graduation parties, birthdays, anniversaries.

Positive reviews brought more bookings, and Hefney moved operations to The City Kitch, a cook-sharing space inside a former cafeteria in Greensboro’s Quaker Village. She rented a 10-by-20-foot office off South Holden Road to host tastings for clients.

She continued teaching at Dudley until fall 2022, when the catering business was prosperous enough for her to give up the county paycheck.

Another turning point came last spring, when she hosted a food tent at the Dreamville Festival, a rap and R&B event in Raleigh.

“People were raving about Ava’s Cuisine,” she says. “That’s what pushed me to say, ‘Hey, I think we should open up a restaurant.’”

Ava’s Cuisine & Catering, the walk-in space, debuted in September 2023.

The biggest crowds show up for the Thursday special, ox tails.

Braised, seasoned and served over rice, the tails — which are similar to beef short ribs — could be described as Caribbean soul food.

“We put our own twist to it,” Hefney says. “They do have a little bite to them.”

Another hot seller is smothered turkey legs, which are seasoned and baked until they’re falling off the bone then served with chicken gravy over mashed potatoes or rice.

The deep-fried chicken relies on a family recipe with a couple of unusual ingredients, which Hefney keeps to herself.

“The way we season our food is what makes it a little bit different,” she says with a smile.

And Ava’s best-selling side dish? The macaroni-and-cheese made from a blend of cheddar cheeses, elbow noodles and a white sauce with butter and eggs that form a golden, cheesy crust when baked.

“From the time you walk into the restaurant, you can feel the love we put into the food,” Hefney says.

She runs her catering business out of the restaurant’s kitchen. The front of the house is open Thursdays through Mondays for lunch and dinner, with the other days given to hosting private tastings in the updated space.

Improvements include a new stone-clad counter, LED menu boards, upholstered bench seating and the pièce de résistance: a double-wide Rococo-style throne, covered with pink upholstery and tufted with chunky rhinestones.

Wise to the power of selfies and TikTok videos with a recognizable backdrop, Hefney nabbed the throne online.

“I ran across this and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ I wanted something that was like, ‘Wow,’” she says. “Social media is everything now. It’s like instant advertising.”

A fashionista who’s mindful of comfort, Hefney is wrapped in a long, fuzzy, pink sweater over a white T-shirt and dark jeans grounded by a pair of popular multicolored Nike Dunks.

Her restaurant reflects the changing times, too.

Ten years ago, opening a restaurant in Greensboro would have meant offering sit-down service, perhaps with a sideline of take-out. Post-pandemic, more customers are comfortable with grab-and-go, a boost for budding restaurateurs who are looking to keep costs low and traffic high.

On Thursdays, ox tail days, 250 people will stream through Ava’s, Hefney says.

Long deprived of the aromas of home, folks in the area are grateful. Some stopped by during the renovation to see when Ava’s would open.

“People were excited to see us,” says Hefney. “I had one lady comment on our Facebook page, ‘Thank you so much for bringing the smells to our neighborhood.’  OH

Creatives on Creativity

Creatives on Creativity

How four locals work artfully

By Cynthia Adams

Photographs by Bert VanderVeen

Linda Lane, textiles and interior design

Linda Lane, who began her career as both a textile and interior designer, seeks inspiration in the greater world.

She is especially focused upon surface patterns, discovering “inspiration everywhere as I am out and about . . . manhole covers, plantings while walking my dog, a fallen branch or seed pods. Nature always inspires, never disappoints and teaches me about color palettes.”

Lane keeps a dedicated workspace, where she goes irregularly. But, she says, “Lately I am taking a different approach and dedicating daily time to ‘work’ on whatever I wish. That can include a lesson on YouTube, a seminar on Zoom or cataloging my hundreds of photos for inspiration and to use them further in developing an idea.” 

Her workspace may appear chaotic to others — “but not to me! I like visible stacks or piles spread out around me to move from one idea or medium to another: sewing, printing, drawing, mood boards and music help me sustain a productive period.”

Once committed to an idea, Lane uses various methods “to see how it holds together,” such as reviewing former concepts with fresh eyes. 

“Sometimes I revisit my sketchbook after years have passed.” Lane mentions how her mother nurtured her art, saving childhood artwork. They remind her that the young artist “is still inside of me and needs help to rise to the surface and to not be constricted by perfectionism.”

When a work in textile or home design is completed, she periodically asks if it has met the test of time. 

“Time is the best teacher. If it holds up after months or years then it doesn’t have a ‘sell by’ date on it.”

Harry Blair, illustrator

As a child, Harry Blair drew and doodled in school. A science teacher noticed and, rather than punishing him, hung his sketches up in the classroom.

He believes the truest answer to where creativity comes from, and how, is unknowable. Children, he suggests, seem to innately possess it — unless, of course, it is squelched. 

“It’s always seemed to me children, 5–6 years old, are the perfect example of creativity, having not been taught what is the wrong way or right way of doing something,” says Blair. “That is what I strive for — that freshness, the magical quality of drawing something never seen before. Kids are ruined by first grade because they look at the kid next door to see what they drew.”

He thinks he escaped that ruinous fate, thanks to his own innate sense of knowing what is true and that creativity is doing something new.

How do his drawings emerge? “I visualize things that I think are flying around in the air . . . That’s where the magic comes in . . . I watch a drawing being drawn without consciously drawing it.”

Once an idea enters Blair’s head, he’ll do a quick sketch that brings into focus what he sees with his mind’s eye.

Sometimes he evaluates a sketch and throws it away. “Other times it takes a 24-hour look-see. At that point I generally know if it’s good or not.”

He works at an antique table that is the center of his creative universe, a table that he believes is a century old. 

“It came from Grimsley High back when they had drafting classes. Heavy. Beautiful. You don’t see them anymore.”

Fifty years ago, when they were cleared out, he asked to buy one. “And they said, ‘Take one!’ I was teaching art at the time at Page.”

He keeps reminders of past work while at work positioned on the same desk near a window. There’s a (figurative) camel displayed from when he did agency work promoting Camel cigarettes. “I have to be comfortable and well lighted.”

What does he credit as the source of his creativity? Blair’s unsure. “I saw Keith Richards recently — maybe on Jimmy Kimmel, and he asked how Keith did a riff . . . Keith said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Blair chuckles. “That’s a true answer.” 

“There are days when I struggle, when it doesn’t flow like a river. I have to put it down and do something else.” He adds that such days are few. 

Yet he’s grown kinder and gentler with himself. He’s less self-critical. And he doesn’t hold himself to a routine.

Although he taught art early in his career, Blair firmly thinks creativity is ineffable.

“I don’t think you can teach creativity . . . I don’t think you can teach someone who’s a pretty good artist to be a better artist.” Creativity, he explains, arises; “it happens or not.”

Brianna Campbell, singer

Brianna Campbell recalls how her grandmother, “a really charitable person,” encouraged her to sing. Beyond that, she taught her granddaughter how to sign for the deaf so that she could sing in sign language. “I look up to my whole family,” says Campbell gratefully. “They give me the purpose to create.”

Now she writes her own lyrics, often singing while on the job at Friedrich Metal Products building industrial smokehouses and chillers. It’s a job that sees her frequently traveling to installations across the country. (Campbell is currently studying laser welding.)  

While a student at Greensboro’s Weaver Academy, she attempted sculpture welding for the first time. Competing against 2,600 students at the 2017 SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills State Conference, she won first place. Campbell subsequently earned a full scholarship to Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville, Florida, where she was among few female students.

Before SkillsUSA, she’d never tried welding sculpture, but possibilities were opened. “I went to nationals after that. And all roads lead to Rome. Your creativity, your will and devotion can get you further than anything in life.”

As she sees it, “creativity is everywhere.”

Campbell explains creativity is “problem-solving,” much as Jobs believed.

“It’s seeing what everyone else has seen,” she says. “But thinking what no one else has thought.”

Artistic ideas occur to Campbell most often while traveling, walking in the woods or enjoying music. “It’s very chaotic to most people, but I just feel like when you are an artist, the inspiration is visible to you at random times and you never know when it will be.”

While she seeks inspiration from her surroundings, she usually writes her songs in silence. But that’s not to say it’s a silent process: “I am alone a lot, but you can almost always see me singing to myself,” says Campbell. “It’s always a new song I’m working on. Occasionally, when writing music, I will change the lighting to write the song because light affects your mood and so does your environment.”

Campbell figures out the instrumentation for the song and whether she wants harmonies. When lyrics later come to mind, Campbell uses any surface available — even her wrist.

“Everywhere, people and their stories inspire me . . . music is a shared experience because it’s usually relatable to the listener in some way and it’s powerful enough to be part of our identity.” 

Campbell will soon complete a yet to be titled album in early 2024, electing to find a local artist to produce the album cover. 

Dana Holliday, mural artist

Thomasville artist Dana Holliday is just off a patchy international call with her mother, Sue Canoy, who is in Nepal “on a yoga and walking trek.” (Canoy, like her daughter, also draws and paints. Both seek global inspiration for their work.)

Within Holliday’s extensive portfolio are specialized trompe l’oeil installations and murals for a variety of showrooms at the International Home Furnishing markets. 

She finishes what she starts. Holliday once completed a massive commission for Currey & Company at High Point Furniture Market with one arm in a cast after falling from a scaffold. “I was painting a lady getting shot out of a cannon.” She jokes dryly, “How ironic.”

Holliday often works on three different projects at once. She believes creativity “is being able to paint a mural or painting from scratch without a clue of what it will become.”

She is inspired by both internal and external ideas, “usually drawn to nature, trees and other organic objects. And then, dreams. Even bad dreams.” 

Typically painting in her studio (“It’s organized chaos!”) on a fixed schedule from 11 a.m.–5 p.m., she finds a routine solidifying. The artist frequently shows her personal work, including encaustic paintings using wax. Holliday often seeks out experts in techniques, absorbing the ways others have perfected their practices, “wanting to make it my own.”

Her artistic family offers commentary.

“Last year, my brother, Cary, reeled me in and said, ‘You’re getting fancy. You’re not speaking to light and shape.’ And he was right.” 

Challenging herself to create a new, minimalistic group of paintings, she stripped away inessentials. “That was really difficult for me, but I decided to do it and I did it.”

Influenced by Impressionism and the works of Georgia O’Keeffe, her travels have caused her to seek out artists in Europe, South America and New Zealand. Holliday, who also works in abstracts and portraiture, recently studied artist Ezshwan Winding’s encaustic and abstract painting techniques at her studio in Miguel San Allende, Mexico.

In 2023, she studied in western Ireland with Lora Murphy and Alicia Tormey.  Tormey, an encaustic artist, pioneered the form. Murphy creates both oil and cold wax portraits.

She repeatedly checks finished work, asking, “Is this what I started out to do?”

Holliday asks, “Why did I choose to be an artist?”

Was the artistic life a choice at all, she wondered, or a compulsion?

Scientific American’s “Messy Minds of Creative People,” defined certain traits— plasticity, emergence, divergence — concluding that creativity “was messy.”

Rick Rubin decided the creative life wasn’t messy at all. Mysterious yet intentional. “Art is choosing to do something skillfully, caring about the details, bringing all of yourself to make the finest work you can. It is beyond ego, vanity, self-glorification and need for approval.”

A Teetotaling Toast to the New Year

A Teetotaling Toast to the New Year

Local bars serve the latest buzz — nonalchoholic cocktails

By Cassie Bustamante     Photographs by Amy Freeman

After a month of (over)indulgence, we’re ready to wipe the palette clean — while still tickling the palate. Whether you’re a committed nondrinker, a little sober-curious or just taking a hiatus from the hard stuff, we’ve got six alcohol-free beverage recipes from local mixologists who deliver all the tastiness without the tipsiness.

Only Resolutions

With a last name like Emerson, is it any wonder that Daniel Emerson, bartender at newcomer Bitters Social House, took his inspiration for this drink from a book? Only Resolutions is the nonalcoholic counterpart to a Bitters cocktail with a name that echoes Only Revolutions, a road novel by Mark Z. Danielewski, one of (Daniel) Emerson’s favorite authors. His concoction is a “blend between opposing botanical flavors that . . . carries those champagne notes at the end so you have that celebratory taste in your mouth.” In a nutshell, he says, this mocktail, which features ingredients found at Bitters, tells the world, “I know how to party; I just don’t have to drink.” For an added festive touch, Emerson rims the glass with edible glitter. “Everybody loves sprinkles at a celebration, right?”


1/4 ounce lemon juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup

3/4 ounce blueberry basil shrub

1 dash alcohol-free cardamom bitters

4 dashes alcohol-free plum bitters

3 ounces nonalcoholic champagne

Lemon twist

Edible glitter

Shake first five ingredients together with ice. Strain into martini glass and top with champagne. Serve with a lemon twist and an edible glitter rim (if desired).

Old Fashioned Wisdom

“Will you be my guinea pig?” wondered Mark Weddle, beverage manager at 1618 West, to a friend who had been 15-years sober when he first began experimenting with nonalcoholic spirits. The result? “I suddenly have a lot of memories of sitting in a bar in New Orleans flooding back!” his friend told him. Weddle calls that association to the real thing high praise. The restaurant’s Old Fashioned Wisdom is a nonalcoholic take on the classic old fashioned, a bedrock cocktail. How close to the real thing does it taste? “The parts on their own are not exactly true to flavor, but when you combine them, it gets pretty close to an actual old fashioned.” He laughs and adds, “I don’t want to trigger anybody, but trigger warning!”


2 ounces Lyre’s American Malt, nonalcoholic

1 ounce Dr Zero Zero AmarNo (nonalcoholic amaro)

1/2 ounce Demerara syrup

2–3 dashes All the Bitter Alcohol-Free Aromatic Bitters

Ice cube

Orange twist

Combine first four ingredients with ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a double old fashioned glass over a large ice cube and garnish with an orange twist.

Blueberry Lemonade

Freeman’s Grub & Pub proprietress Emily Purcell has crafted a creative nonalcoholic menu featuring plays and the inevitable fun puns on some classics, such as the Nojito and the Nontucket. But Purcell, who has co-owned the restaurant with husband Kevin since March 2022, cites the establishment’s pun-free Blueberry Lemonade as the fan favorite, as well as her own, hands down. “We fresh squeeze our lemons and make our simple syrup in house. We add some frozen blueberries in there, so as you’re drinking the cocktail, you get more of that blue color.” Bonus, the frozen fruit makes this drink a year-round flavor-quencher.


2 ounces lemon juice

2 ounces simple syrup

2 ounces water

2 ounces frozen blueberries (about 10)

1 lemon slice

Mix lemon juice, water, frozen blueberries and simple syrup together well. (Simple syrup is made by combining equal parts of water and sugar. Sweet!) Pour over ice and garnish with lemon slice.

Mulled Wine

Don’t mention “mocktails” around Machete general manager Kevin Ash. He prickles at the word. Why? It implies “a fake in a certain sense,” he sniffs. “No and low proof” is the order of the day at Machete’s sleek and well-stocked bar. After all, he points out, these drinks are not lesser — but alternative versions. For instance, his mulled wine combines oranges, spices, water and Giesen zero percent merlot, made in the traditional manner then dealcoholized using something called a rotovap (rotary evaporator). “A lot of people like to enjoy a warm drink during the winter doldrums,” he says. “it’s fun to be able to offer something that is nonalcoholic wine-based with spices being the backbone of the drink itself.” Simply serve in a mug and curl up by the fire.


1 blood orange, peeled and juiced

1 navel orange, peeled and juiced

4 bottles of Giesen 0% alcohol merlot

1 cup of sugar

4 cinnamon sticks

35 cloves

4 star anise

2 cups of water

In a crockpot, combine half of each orange’s peel, the juices of both oranges and the remainder of ingredients. Set the crockpot on low and let sit for four hours before serving, stirring occasionally to ensure that the sugar has dissolved. 

Midnight Spritz

Dram & Draught touts itself as “a place for the whiskey fanatic, the craft beer fan, the cocktail enthusiast, the wine tippler and more.” The “and more?” Perhaps its spirit-free cocktails. Why? “Because it is still a labor of love,” says director of marketing and events Edie Alexander. “We put a lot of effort and time behind making them. So we want them to be a little more elevated than the typical quote-unquote mocktail.” The Midnight Spritz is a riff on the classic Aperol spritz and has become a Dram & Draught fan favorite. “It still has some of the same light, refreshing citrus notes,” says Alexander. Plus, “it’s sparkling and a little bit festive.” Cheers!

1 1/2 ounces Lyres Italian Spritz, Non-Alcoholic

1 1/2 ounces verjus blanc

1/2 ounce lemon juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup

Soda water

Orange slice

Add first four ingredients to a shaker tin with ice and shake well. Dump into a wine glass and top with soda water. Garnish with an orange slice.

The Hot & Sober Marg

Borough Market & Bar owner Kam Culler knows what she likes. Something a little spicy, a little sweet, a vibe that’s reflected in the “market” part of her establishment. Her drink of choice? The margarita. So when she created a sober drink menu at the end of last summer, the Hot & Sober Marg, made with house-crafted candied jalapeño syrup, was a must-sip. And customers seem to agree, as this drink — and its alcoholic version — are the top sellers on their respective menus. What sets this alcohol-free margarita apart from others? According to Culler, it’s the quality of the nonalcoholic spirit.  She tried other brands and just wasn’t sold. “And then I tried Ritual,” she says. Bar manager Olympia Hensley concurs. “Every time someone orders a Hot & Sober Marg, they’re always impressed by how much it tastes like a margarita,” she says. “That’s really the Ritual tequila popping in there.”


1 1/2 ounces lime juice

1 ounce orange juice

1 ounce jalapeño-infused simple syrup

1 1/2 ounces Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative

Salt, sugar or Tajín seasoning (recommended)

Candied jalapeños

Edible flower

Edible glitter

Add first four ingredients to a shaker tin with ice and shake well. Pour over ice in glass rimmed with salt, sugar or Tajin if desired. Garnish with candied jalapeños, edible flower and edible glitter.

Poem January 2024

Poem January 2024


Because she was fast in her way

And he followed her suit,

They launched horizon’s fruitful gaze

To fortify their fruit.

In short parlance, ahead of him,

She was a gushing bride

Until gray moods turned dark to bend

Their rivers for her tide.

They never had one dissension.

He lived his love the same

Beyond single thought’s contention. 

Her body chemistry!

A drinking fountain salutes thirst,

Instant bubble, wet lips.

Then comes what earthly love holds first,

Her muscles fell to slips.

So he slept and woke up alone,

For she was processioned

In Smithfield Manor Nursing Home,

Tenacity, a test.

His eye-lids open every morn.

The bones to him creak rise.

The sun’s obeying crown adorns

Remembrances, her sighs.

— Shelby Stephenson

Shelby Stephenson was North Carolina’s poet laureate from 2014-16. His most recent volume of poetry is Praises.