Summer Boy

The summer we were seventeen

I watched you in the sun.

Blond and blue

Beside the pool

Teasing girls you hardly knew.

Jackknife off the high dive —

Daring other golden guys.

I watched. You didn’t see.

Dark and dusky me.

— Phillis Thompson

Life’s Funny

It’s a Dog Meet Dog World

By Maria Johnson

There are times, when you’re tromping around with Don Brown at his Siendo Farmstead in McLeansville, that you know he is talking about dogs, but he could be talking about other creatures, too.

“A dog carries with him a social experience wherever he goes,” Don says. “If that social experience is torn or marred, then you’re going to have problems.”

For the record, we don’t consider Rio, our 8-year-old foxhound, a problem dog. From the time we found him, bony, beaten up and beaten down by whatever had passed in the two years before my younger son heaved him from roadside to backseat, our family has considered this gentle and skittish hound a blessing and an enigma, which is a blessing in its own way.

We pay more attention to a mystery, don’t we?

By “we,” I mean humans. And maybe dogs, too. That’s why I’m here, to learn more about dogs in general and about my dog in particular. The instrument: a WalkAbout with Don, who started his canine jaunts about 10 years ago, after a long hitch in dog training and doggie daycare left him with more questions than answers.

Sure, if people taught their dogs to sit on command, they would feel better about themselves, Don observed. But what were their dogs thinking? How did they see the people? And other dogs? What was going on between them?

Even if obedience was the only thing that mattered to you, the social part was relevant.

“A socially healthy dog will tend to be easier to train,” says Don.

That’s when Don and his wife Hutsie, opened their 16-acre property to friends and others who heard about their LifeStyle Dog Training business by word of mouth. For a small fee, folks and their dogs could roam the fenced farm with Don and his dogs, and sometimes with other owners and their dogs. Don called the events WalkAbouts after the Aboriginal practice of booting young men into the wild where, in the company of other young men, they learn who they are and how they fit into society.

Don did the same with dogs: He turned them loose in nature and watched them become themselves, which they can only do, he says, with other dogs.

“It’s a dose of dogs that dogs need to orient how they think and perform socially,” he says. “A dog needs to be with other dogs at times.”

Don’t mistake Don for an advocate of dog parks. He’s not a fan. Too many owners misread their pooches and other dogs, some of which should not be unleashed in a public spaces. That’s why Don screens visitors — both human and canine — with an application and in-person evaluation.

Having cleared the application hurdle, Rio and I rumble into Don’s driveway shortly before noon. I pop the hatch. Rio jumps out, sniffs a fence with Don’s dogs on the other side, pees on the fence (nice to meet you), sniffs, pees again and trots off to trace every boundary on the farm — fence lines, tree lines, shore lines — with his keen snout.

“His world is full of scent, not so much pictures,” Don says, drawing a contrast between scent hounds and sight hounds such as his own dogs, silken wind hounds, which like greyhounds, employ their eyes more than their noses.

Don characterizes scent hounds as “ignorantly bold.” He heeds the power of breed and age — and temperament, which is inborn and expressed in behavior, which in turn is molded by experience, but only to a point.

In other words, dogs are who they are.

Don releases one of his laid-back dogs, 9-year-old Logan. He and Rio barely nod to each other. Rio skips into the woods. Don shakes the cocktail by adding 3-year-old Cora, 9-year-old Cimarron and 12-year-old Belita. We travel as a crew in search of Rio.

We spot him on the far side of the pond. I call. He gallops toward us then halts. He is wary of the pack, even with me standing in their midst.

I call again. He barrels toward us. He draws closer and . . . whoosh, buzzes by us at full speed.

Don’s dogs stand still. You can almost hear them saying, “What the . . . ?”

They’re stumped. And so is Rio. Dogs, like people, search for familiar ground, a sameness that comforts them, Don says. Rio is reaching out in a way that usually works for him, provoking a playful chase.

He tries one more fly-by with no luck. He disappears into the woods, re-emerging only after I separate from Don and his dogs. He sticks close as we walk back to the house, where Don puts the dogs into a smaller yard. Rio noses around the edges, but he and other dogs don’t engage.

Don’s diagnosis: Rio’s sensitive and stoic with a hefty helping of stage fright.

Sometimes, he distances himself from group experiences that could help him. Like some male dogs, he has a narrow vision of social life. He could benefit from more mixers with dogs and from more “check-ins” that reward eye contact with humans.

“You’re in a position of opening his mind,” Don says.

All of which rings true. And would be fair because Rio has opened my mind, this once- indifferent dog that now “talks” to me when he wants something; who finds me sitting on the patio steps and rests his head on my shoulder; who literally jumps for joy whenever he sees his houndy friends Henry, Annabelle, Archie, Pumpkin and Sally.

He is wonderfully complex, never wholly predictable, ever evolving, full of quirks and love, abilities and fears, a unique bundle of past and present.

He is, after all, who he is.

We’re talking about dogs, right?   OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry. Contact her at ohenrymaria@gmail.com. Reach Don Brown at LifeStyleDog@aol.com.

Wandering Billy

Goodbye to a Grand Dame

Martial arts, musical memories, and a shout out to a local birthday girl

By Billy Eye

“If a man dwells on the past, then he robs the present. But if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past.”
—Master Po, Kung Fu

I spent a lazy hour or so wandering around the nearly empty Elm Street Center one Saturday, where everything was up for sale, including the fixtures, in anticipation of its impending demolition to make way for another new hotel downtown. I dimly recall my mom dragging me along when this was Ellis-Stone department store.

Designed in 1949 by the fabled New York architectural firm Voorhees, Walker, Foley & Smith, this was a more modern structure than was typical on South Elm, with glass balconies, crystal chandeliers, ornate floor-to-ceiling mirrors and a grand marble staircase, a true Grand Dame of southern architecture. At some point, this Ellis-Stone store became Thalhimers before closing in 1975; in the 1990s an antiques mall took over the spacious interior. For the last decade or so, the Empire and Regency Rooms have hosted an untold number of lavish wedding receptions and corporate events while one of the city’s nicer bars, Churchill’s, was neatly tucked away in a ground floor corner until they too were forced to vacate. I hate to see this remarkable landmark swept aside.


Watching the TV series Kung Fu (1972–1975) the other night reminded me of a tiny sliver of my well-spent youth hanging out with Radames Pera in downtown L.A.[as per L.A. Times]’s underground music scene circa 1981. The night we met he talked about returning to L.A. after a few years studying acting under Stella Adler in New York. I was fascinated by that, even more so when he told me about how he’d portrayed Young Caine on Kung Fu, the “Snatch the pebble from my hand” kid with the shaved head. I don’t remember him having much more hair than that when we’d run into each other at the notorious punk club Brave Dog and numerous Sunday afternoon The.o.ret.i.cal parties. He was around 21-years-old then, smart guy, still is I imagine, seemingly as centered as his “Grasshopper” role but with an amazing backstory. After Kung Fu ended, he was cast as Mary Ingalls’s beau, John Jr., on Little House on the Prairie and would later play a key role in one of my fave action pics, Red Dawn in 1984. Radames left the business shortly after that, and I understand he lives comfortably with his wife and baby daughter in France now.


To celebrate the 40th anniversary this month of Peaches Records & Tapes opening on High Point Road, I interviewed a number of former employees for another venue. There was one person who kept coming up in conversations. Universally loved at Peaches was Raymond Tucker, nephew to Jim Tucker who played Pecos Pete on The Old Rebel Show in the 1950s and ’60s. Jim informed me: “Bill Trotter — he passed away recently — was the classical buyer. One of the things he really prided himself on was that he had every single classical album from all of the major labels in stock,” Tucker recalls. “People would come from all up and down the East Coast just to shop there because they knew they could find what they were looking for.”

Tucker remembers one eccentric customer in particular. “Every time he came in the store he always asked for one thing, if we had any albums by Gogi Grant. We’d go through the same routine.” Tucker recalls how he’d come in every three months and ask if they’d gotten anything by Gogi Grant. “And we had to take him to the Vocal section, to the Gs, show him there’s nothing there,” Tucker continues. “Then he’d ask if he could special order anything and we’d have to take him to this vast directory of everything in print and show him that, under Gogi Grant, the only thing still in print was one oldies 45 of ‘The Wayward Wind’.”

Peaches’ Atlanta megastore was renowned for its Grauman’s Chinese Theatre–style entryway where Emerson Lake & Palmer, J. Geils Band, King Crimson, Gregg Allman, The Kinks, ZZ Top, KISS, and Paul McCartney scribbled their names with a stick before mashing hands into wet cement for posterity. Like the Atlanta branch, Greensboro had its own star-studded entryway where celebrities like Hank Williams Jr., L.T.D., Barbara Mandrell and The Brothers Johnson cemented their relationship with our local Peaches.

Forced into bankruptcy in 1981, investors swooped in to purchase only the most profitable outlets scattered around the South and Southeast. An unfortunate result of that divestiture — the sidewalk of fame in front of the Atlanta franchise was “smashed to bits in a single afternoon” following a dispute over who owned it. The same likely happened to our own concrete autograph garden. Greensboro’s Peaches closed in early 2001.


Sending warm wishes and sweet sugar kisses to my new bestest friend, urban explorer, and most enchanting lunch companion Emery Isabella, celebrating her first birthday in July. ¿No es ella la más linda?.   OH

Billy Eye recently uncovered definitive proof that the Earth is indeed flat but, after accidentally catapulting over the edge, he hasn’t been heard from since and is presumed lost in space. 

In The Spirit

The Perfect Martini

How to create — or botch — a great one

By Tony Cross

After closing, I rent out the kitchen at Nature’s Own to work on prepping and batching kegged cocktails. I get ideas just walking around the store grabbing ingredients. One night as I passed the shelf of vermouths, I thought to myself, “Self, I probably need to re-up on some Dolin. Why have people been telling me about their terrible martinis lately?” Let’s talk about what you (or your bartender) are doing wrong.

The martini is the international symbol for cocktails. I just made that up. Or maybe not. What other shape — whether it’s a neon sign, printed on oven towels, or painted on a canvas at Bed, Bath & Beyond — represents an alcoholic drink that’s recognized everywhere? Everyone over 21 knows about the martini. This doesn’t mean that everyone has tried one, much less enjoyed this quintessential classic. I can certainly tell you that I did not fall in love my first go-round. Quite the opposite, actually. If memory serves, I believe all I was drinking was cold, lousy gin, in a martini glass. What a moment.

From talking to my bar guests in the past, to chatting with friends and clients, here are some tips:

Just because it’s in a martini glass doesn’t make it a martini.

I’m getting this one out of the way, because you’d think it should be self-explanatory, but . . .

What recipe?

OK, this one should be pretty obvious, but just like with other cocktails out there, a lot of bartenders (home or away) just throw it all in there and don’t look back. Unless you’re quite skilled, stick to measuring. You might think you look cool behind the bar free-pouring that loooonnnngg stream of gin (probably vodka), but you don’t. If it doesn’t taste good, your guests are ordering something else. Plus, you just poured 4 ounces of gin in an oversized martini glass, and made your server spill it all over his/her hand. Good job. Do this instead: Order some jiggers from a reputable online store (I love the Japanese style) and measure. Consistency is key, and you want your guests coming back every evening because they know that your martini is the best every single time.

What vermouth?

A majority of bars across this county (and country) have rancid vermouth on the shelf. I was recently at a local spot that I wouldn’t have guessed would do such a thing. I didn’t have the heart to say anything, but luckily my buddy did. Vermouth is fortified wine, so you have to treat it like a wine, and refrigerate it. It’ll last for months (if you’re doing it right, you’ll be running out before that’s even an issue). You can also opt for smaller bottles if you’re not making many on average. When it comes to which kind, Dolin Dry has my heart. This French vermouth has been in production since 1821 and been in my belly since I was 21. Just kidding, I was drinking Jägerbombs at 21.


To the gin martini drinkers: Just any old gin won’t do. It’s true that we have lots of local distilleries popping up, and they’re making some fantastic stuff, but for a martini, for me, it’s got to be Plymouth Gin. It’s so soft, with slight earthy-like undertones. I’ve never been great at describing spirits on my own, so there you go. Soft and earthy. But really, some other gins have a ton of different botanicals going on, and it’s just too much for me. Plymouth really mingles well with the vermouth. It allows both products to let each other shine. If Plymouth is not available, a London Dry will do. May I suggest Tanqueray 10?


In the 1971 copy of Playboy’s Host & Bar Book (I am a loud and proud owner — Mom, I only read the recipes) it says, “A martini must be piercingly cold; at its best, both gin and vermouth are pre-chilled in the refrigerator, well stirred with ice and poured into a pre-chilled glass. Energetic stirring with the ice is all-important; the dilution makes the drink both smooth and palatable.” (Mario, 1971) Yes! Especially that “energetic stirring” part. I’m stealing that. The martini needs to be silky smooth and ice-freaking-cold! Just cold is not going to cut it. If you are (as the same book calls its reader) a martini man, you should always keep your gin in the fridge. Having both your gin and vermouth cold from the start is going to help propel your martini to the next level.

We already know not to use bad ice, but let’s refresh our memory really quick. Rubbish in, rubbish out. If your house water is great on its own, you shouldn’t really worry. Chances are, that’s not the case. So, get your own molds, and fill them with distilled water. Make sure that all of your ingredients go into an ice-cold mixing vessel. I prefer a mixing glass. If you’ve never used one, give it a shot. You can also try (after adding your gin and vermouth; see proportions in “Recipe”, below) to completely fill up the vessel with crushed ice. You can’t get much colder than that. You will be stirring, not shaking. If you’re having a hard time stirring correctly, there are a couple of great videos on YouTube that can guide you. I’m not ashamed to tell you that’s how I taught myself.


These vary slightly, but this is what I make for myself:

2 1/2 ounces Plymouth Gin

3/4 ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth

Strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass. Garnish with olive(s) or lemon peel.

Scroll up and repeat. I should note that some folks like to use a dash of orange bitters. If I do, it’s with a blend that I’ve mixed from a few different companies. Not really a game changer.  OH

Tony Cross is a bartender who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.


Strings of Desire

EMF’s fifth annual Guitar Summit

Young classical guitarists often discover their chosen profession comes with one major drawback. Because becoming proficient on your instrument requires a lot of time alone, you’re practically sentenced to a life of solitary confinement. Woodshedding with fellow musicians hasn’t been an option — till now. EMF has come up with a solution, redemption for those formerly incarcerated in lonely rooms.

Now in its fifth year, the Guitar Summit allows EMF attendees the chance to work with their peers as well as to strengthen their skills with one-on-one, master class tutelage from a trio of faculty guitar instructors. The program was developed under the guidance of Kami Rowan, PhD, and currently department chair for Guilford College’s music department where she has helped to build up a robust classical guitar program. She was also involved in putting together the Weaver Academy for the Performing Arts. A classical guitarist, she has long wished for a guitar summit for students, but until recently nothing like it, save the odd weekend-long festival, existed.

When given the go-ahead, there was only one caveat. Music director and conductor, Gerard Schwarz, insisted that Jason Vieaux be on the program. “That was my only thing. ‘You can plan this any way you want, but I want Jason to be one of the teachers,’” Schwarz told Rowan. Vieaux’s 2015 solo album, Play, won the 2015 Grammy for Best Classical Instrumental Solo and he was the first classical musician to be featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk series.

She also recruited Julian Gray, professor of music and director of the Guitar Studies for Shenandoah Conservatory of the Shenandoah University, known for his innovative and progressive arrangements. “I felt like the three of us really complemented each other; we brought very different skills to the table.” Rowan says of the immersive two-week program that will host 18 students (up from 12 the first year), ranging in ages 14 to 28. “They must really want to come,” Rowan allows, emphasizing a rigorous audition process that requires performance videos, a repertoire and instructor list.

“By immersive, I mean they wake up in the morning and they’re on it. We have class first thing and they don’t stop until they go to bed.”

The Summit is also groundbreaking in that the students get to collaborate, first working on-on-one with her, then a large guitar ensemble with all 18 guitarists. This year’s piece, “We’re All In This Together,” was written by local composer and Guilford alum Mark Charles Smith. As a bonus, students are chosen to work with other instrumentalists. “That’s really different, and definitely a plus for their résumés to have that type of chamber music experience,” Rowan says.

EMF Executive Director Chris Williams concurs, citing the solitary life of a guitarist. “It’s a real challenge for some of these people to work in small ensembles,” he observes. “Maybe it’s the first time they’ve done something like that.”  Grant Brittt

Simple Life

Lulu and The Mull

By Jim Dodson

This is a story about two beautiful dogs, one that I’ve known for a decade, the other for less than an hour.

One is my canine soul mate — my God Dog, as I think of her.

The other briefly touched my soul.

So here’s the tale: It was rush hour and I was running late for an afternoon speaking event. On the horizon, the sky was black,  the first fierce thunderstorm of the season was breaking.

The traffic was heavy. Everyone was hurrying home before the tumult broke.

That’s when I saw the dog.

Approaching one of the busiest intersections in the city, traffic zooming in all four directions, a dog bolted across the road two cars ahead of me. Both cars swerved and the driver directly in front slammed on brakes, allowing the dog to barely make the landscaped traffic island.  As I watched, the animal started to cross the oncoming lane, causing a blast of horns and automotive mayhem. One car just missed her, another swerved. The dog jumped back onto the island.

Some things are pretty simple. I stopped my car in traffic and got out, opening a back door, hoping the terrified dog would jump in. She didn’t. She merely stared at me, frightened, panting and exhausted.

Over the decades, traveling hundreds of roads large and small, including in at least two foreign countries, I’ve pulled off busy highways to try and help dogs in distress, not to mention at least one chicken and probably half a dozen snapping turtles.

In almost every case, a good outcome resulted. 

That was certainly the case 10 years ago when I pulled into a park to give a talk at a festival  and saw a skinny black dog  bolt across busy US Highway 1 in Aberdeen, narrowly avoiding the wheels of a FedEx truck. 

Moments later,  as I parked the car, the same skinny dog — a black pup with a white star on her chest — streaked past me, headed for some kids playing near the woods. An hour later, as I was leaving the park, the same black streak passed again, heading straight back to the busy highway.

I squatted and called out, “Hey, black dog! Stop! Come here.”

To this day, I don’t know why the dog stopped. But she did, whipped around and looked directly at me. We were maybe half a football field apart. 

Then she did something amazing. It may have even changed my life. It certainly improved it.

The dog ran straight to me and jumped into my arms, like she’d known me forever. She was filthy, a wiggly pup with liquid brown eyes, a runaway or a stray, the happiest dog I’d ever seen.

I asked some park maintenance men if they knew where she came from or who she might belong to. There was no collar.   

“That dog don’t belong to nobody. She’s been around here a week or more,” one of the workmen said. “I think she lives in the woods and eats from the garbage cans. We can’t catch her. How did you?”

“She just came to me when I called.”

He laughed. “Guess that means she’s your dog now.”

I asked the kids by the woods, too. “She lives in the woods,” one told me. “You should see her run. She catches squirrels and birds and stuff. Fast as lightning.”

So I took her to three different shelters in the county. Two were full occupancy. By the time we reached the no-kill shelter in a neighboring county, the dusty pup was sitting on the center console between the front leather seats of my new car, making herself at home. She was actually leaning against me.

The women who ran the shelter gave her a shot of worming medication, a small biscuit and said to me with a smile,  “That dog really seems to like you.”

So I took her home to my cottage and phoned my wife in Maine to let her know I’d found a pup running wild and might need to keep her until I could find her owner.

My wife laughed.  We already had two dogs, a pair of aging golden retrievers.

“Of course you will.”

“Just until I find her owner.”

“Sure. If you say so.”

I bathed the pup.  She hated it but came out shiny as a baby sea lion.

Next I fed her a can of Alpo. She ate the food in three gulps and threw it up with several small animal bones. The girl was obviously a hunter.  I thought of calling her Diana, Greek goddess of the hunt.

That night I heard snoring and rolled over to find the pup lying on her back next to me in bed, head on the pillow, snoring to beat the band. When I spoke to her, she looked at me with the most soulful brown eyes I’d ever seen and thumped her tail.

I ran an ad in the newspaper but never found an owner.

Looking back, I’m certain the universe never intended me to find an owner. The pup had found me.

I named her Mulligan, a second chance dog, or “The Mull” or “Mully” for short. Some people have a God Parent or God Child. I have a God Dog, an animal divinely sent to keep an eye on me.  Dog, after all, is simply God spelled backwards.

She and I have been together over a decade now, traveling pals through life, best friends who have gone down many roads in each other’s company. Wherever I go, she goes – to the garden, to the store, ever watchful, always waiting, ready to ride. The Mull sleeps beside my side of the bed. And when I leave bed well before dawn, my God Dog follows me and my cup of coffee outside to sit beneath the morning stars and reconnect with the universe.

When Ajax, our big retriever that I call “Junior,” finally lumbers out for our morning walk around the neighborhood, The Mull is ready to lead the pack.  Junior is young, spoiled, far too good looking for his own good. He knows four or five good words like “walk” and “Cookie.” But the The Mull hasn’t given up on him, thinks there’s hope for him yet. Mully has the vocabulary of a gifted middle-schooler – or at least telepathic powers. 

In any case, she roams ahead off the lead, scouting the world where she once ran wild, seeing everything that moves around us, smiling the entire time. Junior lumbers behind, basically oblivious save for the grazing rabbits in yards, carrying his own lead, impressed with himself, following the family alpha dog.

Ironically, I didn’t have the God Dog with me the afternoon I stopped rush-hour traffic in two directions for half a dozen blocks while trying to coax the terrified dog on the island into my car. Fortunately a woman driving the other way stopped traffic on her side of the island and got out to lend a hand. And a second driver appeared with a cup of water, hoping the dog would pause to drink so we could grab her.

For several minutes — a small eternity it seemed rather hopeless. She ran circles around my car, was visibly tempted to jump in, but eluded our efforts. Finally,  as she rounded the corner for the umpteenth time, I dove and grabbed her by the back leg.

People applauded and tooted their horns supportively.

I thanked the two guardian angels who stopped to help but only caught their first names – Laura and Sean

I took the dog straight home.  Mulligan and Ajax warmly welcomed her. But the newcomer was so skittish, she raced behind my den chair and refused to move until The Mull, my wise old foundling, went and sat with her for a spell. It was like watching a family counselor at work, the God Dog doing her thing.

The dog eventually calmed down enough to come out from behind the chair to drink some water and take a biscuit from my hand. I saw a faded tag with a phone number on her narrow collar. Her name was Lulu. The phone number was a Los Angeles number. I called it anyway.

After several rings a woman answered. “Do you have a dog named Lulu?” I asked.

“I sure do,” she said. “You found her? I’ve been so worried. She ran away a when the thunderstorm broke. Lightning struck and she was gone.”

Lulu lived more than 4 miles away. She’d had never stopped running until she’d reached the traffic island.

“Well, she’s safe now at our house.” I gave her our address.

She pulled up 20 minutes later, expressed deep gratitude and informed me that she and Lulu were about to relocate to France.

“I can’t believe she let you get near her. She’s terrified of lightning and people. It’s a miracle you could catch her.”

“I had some help.” I mentioned the two angels on the road and the help of Junior and The Mull.

She scratched Mulligan’s head.  The God Dog smiled, As always, her brown eyes shined, her tail wagged.

“What a sweet dog. How long have you had her?” she asked.

“Not long enough. Just 10 years.” I told her about saving Mully from a busy highway, joking how it was she who really saved me.  OH

Contact Editor Jim Dodson at jim@thepilot.com.

The Accidental Astrologer

Heavens Above!

Action-packed planets rule the July Sky

By Astrid Stellanova

Mother Nature provides far more reasons than fireworks on the Fourth to look skyward, Star Children! Come July 15, a crescent moon meets Venus in a swoon-worthy event. That will be followed by a total lunar eclipse on July 27. And then, on the same date, Mars will be ready for its close-up when Earth passes between the Sun and Mars. This will be our biggest, closest and best encounter with Mars — an event that won’t happen again for 17 years.

Should you miss this, optimists and health nuts can mark their Daytimers for July 2035. Ad Astra — Astrid

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

Birthday Child, you’ll be sopping up praise like King’s Syrup on a biscuit this month. There will be plenty of cake, candles, razzle, dazzle and enough sizzle to make this one of your best celebrations ever. In the fullness of time, another side of your life came to life, and it was a beautiful secret modestly kept from many. Your selfless acts have been revealed, and people are wowed by your big ole generous heart.

Leo (July 23–August 22)

Maybe the best thing you can do is to launch a charm offensive, because being defensive just ain’t working for you, Honey. One thing you keep forgetting is how your long trust in an old acquaintance just isn’t working for you as well as it is for them. Speak your truth and let the cards fall slap on the table.

Virgo (August 23–September 22)

Sugar, as irresistible as you are, nobody’s liable to want to steal your blood and sell it. It’s true your sweat tastes like nectar but the skeeters are the only ones that know it. Mix and mingle. Stop being afraid of stranger danger, because you are safe and loved, and attractive to the single and solvent.

Libra (September 23–October 22)

You might as well live in the moment ’cause you might not get into the next one given how badly you’ve been navigating. Your emotional GPS has gone kerflooey and needs resetting. And despite your photographic memory, you seem a tee-ninesy off in your ability to remember where you put your keys or glasses.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

A friend will help you move; but a real friend will help move and hide the body. Was there ever a friend who was there no matter what? You know who’s been there for you, and they need you now in their worst hour. Call them, thank them, and show up. If you’re lucky, there won’t be any corpses involved.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

You might be surprised just how far you can stretch one good yarn. The ability to turn everything into a great story is one of your super powers. Work it, Baby! It turns out that everything is useful in this big ole schoolhouse of life, even in the darkest hours. Reuse, recycle, reframe the past and share it.

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

In the past, you didn’t exactly reach for the stars, Sugar. Some of your extra special powers included Jolly Rancher Jell-O shots, quick quips and sarcasm. It’s your fallback under pressure, and you have sure felt the pressure. Use new muscles. Sarcasm can be inverted into a form of sharp insight — not a bite.

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

You really tried to fit in, but left others wondering if you are a Southern belle or a dumbbell. The truth is you’re neither. Your good mind and instincts are going to be needed in the latter part of the month when someone near and dear is challenged. Don’t be demure, and don’t play dumb. Step up!

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

If you only knew how long I looked for Mr. Wrong, you might not expect I ever found Beau. For ages I wanted a bad boy, becoming an expert bad girl to match, specializing in seeking rebels without a cause. Being bad never felt as good as the day I woke up and recognized my true love was hiding in plain sight.

Aries (March 21–April 19)

You may have to declare your wild self a disaster area. You are close to qualifying for federal assistance given the way you cut a path of destruction last month. Sugar, your idea of escape since that fiasco has involved a gravy bowl and comfort food. Don’t fall prey to one more ramen noodle or wild whim.

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

Sugar, you got good ammo but bad aim. Your intended target didn’t take a hit, but an innocent did. They are the forgiving type, so if you own and iron things out you won’t feel like such a dip wad. Meanwhile, a dream you pushed aside could happen for you and deserves to be re-examined.

Gemini (May 21–June 20)

That hurt, Sugar. You swallowed your pride and tried to reconnect with an old pal. You felt about as welcome as a yellow jacket in an outhouse or a skeeter in a pup tent. They know they behaved badly; just step back and resolution will come. Meanwhile, a very welcome surprise is on its way.

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.

Food for Thought

Pamlico Perfection

There is no need for fancy cooking at the beach, especially when local shrimp are running

By Jane Lear

There is something freewheeling about beach house cookery. All the familiar props, from tools to staple foods, are gone, and most folks happily make do with whatever they can find in a stranger’s kitchen cabinets and at the grocery store, seafood market and farm stand. Everything will taste delicious, after all, because most people who love the beach spend the entire day outdoors. Even if you do nothing more strenuous than laze under an umbrella with the latest page-turner, you somehow manage to work up an appetite.

That’s why I am only fussy about a couple of things. The first is tomatoes. More often than not, I’ve been disappointed by the selection at coastal Carolina farm stands; typically, the tomatoes are commercial hybrids and not very interesting or flavorful. I always hedge my bets, then, by bringing plenty of good ’uns with me — both backyard beefsteaks and heirlooms in varying shapes, sizes and degrees of ripeness. I bring lots of them, enough for a week’s worth of salads and the best sandwiches in the world. I pack them in low cardboard boxes and nestled in beach towels, stem-side up so their rounded shoulders won’t get bruised.

I’m also uncompromising about finding local wild-caught shrimp, one of my favorite beach eats. The brown shrimp (Farfantepenaeus aztecus) that are running now are sweet and fat. And whether you buy them from a seafood purveyor or roadside cooler, don’t be afraid to ask questions about their source. “Anyone selling shrimp should know who they purchased it from (if they didn’t catch it themselves) and should be able to provide some details (e.g., the name of the boat, the fish house, area of the coast, etc.) if it’s from North Carolina,” writes Scott Baker, fisheries specialist for the NC Sea Grant Extension Program. “The NC Catch organization has a directory for seafood retailers that provide local products.” NC Catch can be found online at nccatch.org.

The last North Carolina shrimp I had were real beauts — just hours out of the hold of a boat working Pamlico Sound. This shallow lagoon separating much of the Outer Banks from the mainland is a remarkable body of water; it’s so broad and long that when explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano reached the coast in 1523, he thought he had reached the Pacific Ocean.

My extended family that gathers at the beach expands or contracts depending on circumstances. What never changes, though, is a love of the surf and a great reluctance to leave the beach in order to go make dinner. That means we all share kitchen duty — and no one ever complains about the fact that peel-your-own boiled shrimp is the default meal. Add corn on the cob and a platter of those tomatoes, and you have easily attainable perfection in no time flat.

When it comes to cooking shrimp, I’m a big believer in protecting the physical integrity — thus the flavor and tender texture — of seafood. Unless I’m stuck with very large shrimp, I never fool with deveining. Why open up that thin, resilient armor and risk coarsening such delicate meat? To my mind, there’s no beating the succulence of heads-on shrimp, but lots of people prefer the convenience that comes with buying them heads-off.

I also cook shrimp in the smallest amount of water I can get away with, covering them by just 2 inches or so. As far as the seasoning is concerned, I add a quartered lemon and enough sea salt to make cold tap water taste like the ocean. If you are a fan of a seafood boil blend such as Old Bay or Zatarain’s, toss some in as well, but use a light hand — you don’t want to overwhelm the clean, briny-sweet flavor of the shellfish.

James Beard famously declared that “the unpardonable fault in preparing shrimp is overcooking,” therefore attention must be paid. After bringing the seasoned water to a boil, add the unpeeled shrimp and start timing from that moment. Depending on the size of the shrimp and how many pounds of them are in the pot, begin checking for doneness at about two minutes. Once the shrimp are a beautiful rosy-pink on the outside, opaque inside, and firm yet tender in texture (cut one open to check), immediately drain them in a colander.

Spread newspapers over the table and eat the shrimp hot out of the shell, with melted butter (add garlic or a spritz of lemon if the spirit moves), or cooled, with a horseradishy cocktail sauce. A New Orleans-style rémoulade would be wonderful too, but I don’t know — all that mincing and measuring sounds like too much work at the beach.

The adults in my crowd can easily put away at least three-quarters of a pound of shrimp per person. Any leftovers are tucked into the fridge for lunchtime shrimp rolls the next day. Peel the shrimp and cut them into chunks. Add some Duke’s mayo, a little Dijon mustard, shredded carrot, chopped scallion, and perhaps some chopped red bell pepper or celery for crunch. Serve in lightly toasted hot dog buns. Then slather on more sunscreen and go outside. The surf is waiting.  OH

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

Rescue Me 

Rescue Me

Lessons of fostering dogs in need of a home

By Ross Howell Jr.     Photographs by Mark Wagoner

The sisters — Laurel and Claire Holland — are teenagers now, but back when my wife, Mary Leigh, and I agreed to foster a dog for two weeks named “Fisher Park Sam” for two weeks, they were girls.

On the evening I rounded the corner of Isabel Street with the new foster — a big brown inscrutable pit-bull mix — the two girls were playing in their front yard. Laurel — the older and taller one — is chatty, and trotted from the yard to the sidewalk at our approach.

“How old’s your dog?” she asked.

“We don’t know,” I answered, pulling Fisher Park Sam to a stop. “The vet thinks maybe he’s 5.”

By then Claire, the younger sister, had joined us on the sidewalk. Claire’s the quieter of the two, more pensive. The dog stood about as high as her chin. She studied him carefully.

Laurel — not especially satisfied with my first response — asked another question.

“What kinda dog is he?”

“We don’t know that, either,” I answered. “He’s a rescue dog.”

Claire was pondering this answer with great gravity.

Then her face brightened. She looked up, placing a hand on her hip.

“Well,” she said. “Has he rescued anybody yet?”

Fisher Park Sam was our second try at fostering a rescue.

The first had come and gone not long before — a young male dog named Patches.

There are breed-specific rescue organizations networking throughout the country, and Patches came to us through an English cocker spaniel rescue group. His owner in Durham had become nearly immobile from the onset of a progressive illness, and could no longer provide the dog’s care.

Patches was handsome, remarkably like a dog I’d owned years before. He was bright, eager, well-behaved and neutered. He had everything going for him — the kind of foster that quickly finds a permanent home.

And he did. In a matter of days.

A work colleague of mine and his partner wanted him. Mary Leigh and I knew they’d provide a wonderful home.

But I’d let myself grow so attached to Patches I couldn’t even be at our house the evening he was picked up. I left Mary Leigh in charge of the transfer, and drove around Greensboro for an hour, sobbing like a boy.

It was a hard lesson. If you don’t give up a foster dog, then you can’t help another.

Enter Fisher Park Sam.

I’d seen him collarless a couple of evenings in the dead cold of February as I walked our full-time English cocker, Pinot, in Fisher Park. He’d wag his tail and sniff Pinot, but whenever I tried to put a hand on him, he’d vanish into the night.

We learned a neighbor had brought him in off the streets that spring. He was gaunt, just half the body weight he carries today. He had heartworms. He was intact, so he’d have to be neutered.

Another neighbor, Sally Atwood, along with others, had started a fund in the name of “Fisher Park Sam” at North Elm Animal Hospital. Dr. Anne Mitchell was providing his care.

“Any veterinarian is going to help with stray or homeless pets,” says Mitchell. “While Sam had a fund, vets also provide pro bono services when they can.”

What brought Mary Leigh and me into Fisher Park Sam’s life was a more immediate problem. The neighbor who’d rescued him in the spring lived in a small apartment and had a large dog of his own. It was just too much to manage.

So we agreed to foster him for two weeks, so other arrangements could be made. Frankly, we were concerned about bringing a big, strange dog into the house with our 25-pound cocker.

Fisher Park Sam was scary. Silent. His eyes were blank from pain and sickness. There were broad scars on his muzzle, neck and shoulders. His coat was thin and dull. Sometimes when I walked him I’d see people cross the street ahead so they wouldn’t have to pass him on the sidewalk.

He was inscrutable as Buddha. But — we discovered — just as wise.

Nothing bothered him. Not Pinot lording it over him in her small dog diva way, jealously guarding her toys, scrambling into his bed from her own just as he was about to lie down. He’d raise his head and look at me in silence, waiting for me to correct the situation. I’d put Pinot in her bed and he’d curl up in his own.

No one would adopt him, as is the case for many dark-colored dogs.

So we adopted Sam, and he began his new life as nanny dog.

We received another call from the English cocker rescue. This was for an older dog named Buddy that had been abandoned by his family. They’d just packed up their house and moved, leaving him on the spot. We were told he had digestive issues.

When we picked him up in Hickory, his stomach was badly bloated. He was so depressed and sick he wouldn’t make eye contact. He had given up.

On the trip from Hickory he farted so often and with so much fragrance we had to keep the car windows rolled down in spite of the heat. None of this bothered Sam, his backseat companion for the trip.

In time we got Buddy relatively healthy. He turned out to be a clown, doing what we called his “happy dance” whenever it was mealtime. In spite of his fear of cameras, we were able to get some pictures.

Buddy hit the adoption lottery. He was nearly the twin of a dog a man and wife living in southern Ohio had recently lost to old age.

Mary Leigh and I were misty-eyed as Buddy climbed into the couple’s van, already outfitted with a plush new dog bed and plenty of treats and water. They sent us photos periodically of his final years napping at home in his personal leather recliner or in his bed at his owner’s office.

Next was Cher, a red miniature dachshund rescued with her brother Sonny from a puppy mill in South Carolina. Her brother was so ill he died. But Cher was about as full of life and attitude as a dog gets.

She immediately fixed on Sam. Wherever he might venture, Cher was sure to follow. This was especially helpful in training her to walk on lead. As far as we could tell, she had never been out of a cage. The first time I put her on the sidewalk, she face planted when she stepped off the curb.

She could chew through a harness more quickly than Houdini could pick a lock, escaping from Sam and me three times. And she ate a portion of the back seat of my old Volvo while I was in the bank depositing a check. While Sam watched, of course.

But Cher found a home with a dachshund-lover outside Philadelphia, an elderly lady who already had dachshunds at home and wanted another.

Through Cher we learned about a kind of Underground Railroad for dogs — a system of vehicles driven by volunteers who ferry animals place-to-place. Some volunteers spend their whole weekends in this service.

We drove Cher to a Holiday Inn just north of the Virginia line on I-85. From there she was driven to Arlington, Virginia. There she changed cars for Baltimore. Finally, with a different driver, she was delivered to Philly.

Next we fostered Sansa, a magnificent, honey-colored female pit-bull mix with white markings and pale green eyes. She was remarkably intelligent, but so headstrong and full of energy she was tossed out of obedience classes twice. I was never able to get her to walk without tugging. Sam and I were never fitter, walking mile upon mile to try to wear her down.

Sansa found a home in New Hampshire with a woman who had a police officer friend who trained canines. Sansa’s new owner made the 11-hour drive each way to Greensboro over a weekend with a friend. When last we heard, Sansa was an inseparable companion to the woman’s cats, a vigilant guard against neighborhood black bears, and the absolute star of her obedience school.

Next came Sophie, a brindle 8-week-old pit bull we kept for a weekend. She completely terrorized Sam during her brief stay. He ran from her on every occasion, inside the house or out. It was clear Sam didn’t do puppies.

Then there was Elly Mae, a blue pit bull with white markings. She believed sandy beaches had been created just for her. She dug holes. She dug canals. She dug so deep she’d lie sideways in the hole and dig laterally. She dug until she’d nearly covered Sam with sand as he sat stoically by, watching pelicans ride the wind.

Next was Greta, a white propane tank of a dog, with big, ink-black spots here and there. As with Sam, we’d agreed to foster her for two weeks. But her circumstances were quite different.

Greta had already found her forever home, if we could help her recover from a snakebite just under her right eye. That side of her face was a grotesque mask, swollen half again as large as the left side, with a thick scab about the size of a silver dollar on her cheek.

Sweet and stalwart, young Greta was good about her medications and recovered quickly. Though she’ll always have a scar from the abscess on her cheek, the swelling in her face had nearly disappeared when she left us for her new life.

And last there’s Lucy, a nearly deaf 10-year-old American cocker. She looks like Lady in the Disney movie, Lady and the Tramp. Only she has more spots.

Lucy came to us by way of fellow writer Maria Johnson, who — along with other neighbors — had been providing food and care for her after her owner essentially abandoned her.

Lucy follows me everywhere. Sometimes when I’m working outside she puts her little paws up in a window and gazes longingly. You’d think I’m the scientist who’ll one day discover the cure for cancer or the diplomat who’ll formalize the agreement for a de-nuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Most of us have had our share of disappointment and loss. Maybe that’s why I like working with dogs, dogs whose options have nearly run out, whose prospects are anything but bright, dogs who’ve forgotten what kindness is if they’ve ever known kindness at all.

It’s not easy to help dogs. Sometimes you fail. And sometimes there’s Sam. His two-week stay has stretched to seven years.

I’ve written essays about him. I’ve used him as the inspiration for a character in a novel.

When years ago my little neighbor Claire asked me if Sam had rescued anybody, I didn’t have an answer. Now I do.

Sam was rescuing me.  OH

Ross Howell Jr. and Sam are enjoying their walks with Lucy. Given their ages, they don’t walk very far. And not very fast.


In case you’re interested in helping dogs or other animals, here are some local groups you may not have heard about:

All Pets Considered manager Alison Schwartz is the Greensboro contact for the Almost Home Dachshund Rescue Society, a nationwide organization of volunteers that seeks to rescue abandoned, abused, neglected and unwanted dachsunds and dachshund mixes, provide necessary veterinary and behavioral care for them, and place them in homes where they will be a perfect fit. Info: allpetsconsidered.com.

The Animal Adoption and Rescue Foundation (AARF) was organized in 1995 as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization to provide safe, loving, and appropriate homes for homeless cats and dogs. With its house at 311 Harvey St. in Winston-Salem, AARF is supported by a volunteer board of directors and dozens of volunteers who work tirelessly to implement the mission of the organization. Info: aarfanimals.org.

The heart of the Merit Pit Bull Foundation is the rescue, fostering, and permanent placement of pit bull type dogs abandoned, neglected, abused, or surrendered by their owners in North Carolina. The foundation promotes education about the breed to the general public, media, and lawmakers; teaches responsible dog ownership; and supports community action for the benefit and welfare of pit bull type dogs. Info: meritpitbullfoundation.com

With two employees and dedicated foster families and volunteers in Guilford, Forsyth, and Rockingham counties, the Red Dog Farm Animal Rescue Network is a 501(c)(3) public charity providing rehabilitation, fostering, and adoption for animals of all sizes. Offices are located at 5803 Bur Mil Club Road. Over the years Red Dog Farm has helped more than 1,700 animals find forever homes. Info: reddogfarm.com.

Triad Golden Retriever Rescue, Inc. (TGRR) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, humane treatment, and placement of homeless golden retrievers, and to the education of the public about the breed. Foster homes are always needed. TGRR works with other regional rescue groups to arrange long-distance adoptions when necessary. Info: www.tgrr.

The Humane Society of the Piedmont, located in Greensboro, was founded in 1953. A non-profit organization dedicated to reducing pet-overpopulation, its largest program is the Planned Pethood Spay, Neuter and Wellness Clinic. The society also offers a SPOT Mobile Clinic, as well as FURRY FRIENDS financial assistance to owners who need help providing food or veterinary care for their pets. Info: hspiedmont.org

The SPCA of the Triad has been caring for neglected, abandoned, and injured animals for 22 years. Currently located at 3163 Hines Chapel Road, the SPCA is currently raising money to build a new, larger facility. By providing shelter, food, medical services, spay and neuter, safety, caring, and adoption services, SPCA staff and volunteers help transform frightened animals into trusting, loving companions. Info: spca.org.