Featured Artist

“In the Beginning”, 2018, oil on canvas, 30 x 33 inches

Katy Mixon: Digging Deep

At first glance, Katy Mixon’s oil-on-panel, In the Beginning, part of GreenHill’s current NC Women Abstract Painters, resembles a mottled center of a sunflower, where its seeds are contained. But splotches of yellow in a lighter shade and the painting’s title are obvious allusions to the sun and the act of creating.

Mixon, who trained at Davidson College, UNC-Chapel hill and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, draws on the agricultural surroundings of her childhood. “My family is in farming,” says the South Carolina native. “It’s hard not to pay attention to the future of the planet.” And the similarities of planting and harvesting with creating works of art. Keenly aware of what Mixon calls a “studio eco system,” she explains how “one painting feeds into another.”

The themes of In the Beginning, echo in others such as Cloud Seed, and reveal quite literally, more depth than meets the eye. That mottled look of the “sunflower” is not just paint applied to a flat surface, but rather layers applied and then carved out, and re-applied with paint chips. Mixon is replicating the act of tilling the soil — and asking the viewer to consider the vagaries of the natural world. Sunlight helps plants  — such as sunflowers — grow. “But how do you relate to a heat wave?” the artist posits. Decide for yourself by taking a gander at Mixon’s works and those of four other artist on view through April 11. — Nancy Oakley  OH

Info: greenhillnc.org

Scuppernong Bookshelf

To the Hoop!

Celebrate the ACC tourneys with a full court literary press


Compiled by Brian Lampkin

March is always an exciting time in North Carolina, and while this year will probably find an absence of madness in Chapel Hill, there’s plenty here in Greensboro as the men’s and women’s ACC tournaments return. While you’re here, I highly recommend To the Hoop: Basketball and Contemporary Art at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, an exhibit which runs through June 7. There are even a few literary intersections during the exhibit’s run, as you’ll see below.

February 20: GEEZERBALL: North Carolina Basketball at its Eldest (Sort of a Memoir), by Richie Zweigenhaft (Half Court Press, $10). Guilford College psychology professor Zweigenhaft has been the “commissioner” for perhaps the longest continually operating pickup game in North Carolina: 45 years. The book examines why basketball has become so central to the lives of this aging group of men and the social dynamics at play that create an environment that allows for longevity while maintaining a vigorous competitive spirit. And don’t leave Richie alone behind the 3-point line! (Zweigenhaft will be a featured event as a part of To The Hoop on Thursday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m.).

March 3: The Back Roads to March: The Unsung, Unheralded, and Unknown Heroes of a College Basketball Season, by John Feinstein (Doubleday, $27.95).  Feinstein pulls back the curtain on college basketball’s lesser-known Cinderella stories — the smaller programs who no one expects to win, who have no chance of attracting the most coveted high school recruits, who rarely send their players on to the NBA. Feinstein follows a handful of players, coaches, and schools who dream, not of winning the NCAA tournament, but of making it past their first or second round games.

March 17: Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second, $24.99) Gene Luen Yang writes, and sometimes draws, comic books and graphic novels. American Born Chinese, his first graphic novel from First Second Books, was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints won the L.A. Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award Finalist. In 2016, he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Dragon Hoops chronicles the postseason hopes of the basketball team at the Oakland high school where Yang taught for 17 years.

March 17: Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports, by Yaron Weitzman (Grand Central, $28). When a group of private equity bigwigs purchased the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011, the team was both bad and boring. Attendance was down. So were ratings. The Sixers had an aging coach, an antiquated front office and a group of players that could best be described as mediocre. Enter Sam Hinkie — a man with a plan. The plan, dubbed “The Process,” seems to have worked. More than six years after handing Hinkie the keys, the Sixers have transformed into one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. They’ve emerged as a championship contender with a roster full of stars, none bigger than Cameroonian Joel Embiid, a captivating 7-footer known for both brutalizing opponents on the court and taunting them off of it.

March 31: Russell Westbrook: Style Drivers, by Russell Westbrook (Rizzoli, $55). For NBA-superstar-turned-style-icon Russell Westbrook, fashion is not just a spectator sport — it pushes boundaries, blurs lines and drives culture. This book is a celebration of Westbrook’s style on and off the court, and the creative people he admires and works with.

Other recent basketball books of interest: The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism, by Howard Bryant (Beacon Press, $17); The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End, by Gary M. Pomerantz (Penguin, $18); All the Dreams We’ve Dreamed: A Story of Hoops and Handguns on Chicago’s West Side, by Rus Bradburd (Lawrence Hill Books, $17.99).

And don’t miss The Falconer, by Dana Czapnik (Washington Square Press, $16). Street-smart 17-year-old Lucy Adler is often the only girl on the public basketball courts. As Lucy begins to question accepted notions of success, bristling against her own hunger for male approval, she is drawn into the world of a pair of provocative feminist artists living in what remains of New York’s Bohemia. Told with wit and pathos, The Falconer is at once a novel of ideas, a portrait of a time and place, and an ode to the obsessions of youth. In her critically acclaimed debut, Dana Czapnik captures the voice of an unforgettable modern literary heroine, a young woman in the first flush of freedom. Czapnik will appear at the Weatherspoon Art Museum on Thursday, April 2 at 6:30 p.m.  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.

Simple Life

The Stuffed Potatoes

Sustaining power of wise friends — and a good lunch


By Jim Dodson

Two or three times a month, we meet for lunch at a quiet bar of a local restaurant.

We catch up on news and work, talk about books we are reading and swap tales about the adventurous lives of our wives, grown children and grandbabies. Sometimes it’s history and politics that dominate the conversation. More often than not we share thoughts on life, love and matters philosophical. In a nutshell, we attempt to solve most of the world’s problems in the span of time it approximately takes to consume a couple of stuffed baked potatoes.

That seems about right since the three of us always order the same items off the bar menu.  Joe and I routinely order fully loaded stuffed baked potatoes while our worldly friend Pat — who prefers to be called Patrick — gets a fancy club sandwich. There’s always one in every crowd.

Some time ago, I began calling our gathering The Stuffed Potatoes Lunch and Philosophy Club.

Spud Buds for short.

You see, we’ve known each other for more than half a century. Pat (as I call him) is my oldest pal; we grew up a block from each other and have spent years chasing golf balls and trout in each other’s company. Pat and Joe grew up attending the same Catholic church. But I got to know and like Joe in high school.

To look at us, you might think we’re just three old geezers telling war stories in a booth.

Technically speaking, I suppose we are “old” guys, though none of us thinks of ourselves that way in the slightest. 

We were born weeks apart in 1953 — Joe in January, me in February, Pat in March.

What a banner year it was: Dwight Eisenhower became president and the Korean War ended. Hillary — the mountaineer — reached the summit of Everest. Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England. Gas cost 20 cents per gallon. The first Corvette went on sale. Albert Schweitzer won the Nobel Prize. From Here to Eternity was the top Hollywood movie. Ian Fleming published his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. Mickey Spillane was the king of crime fiction.

Our mothers, bless their hearts  — suburban housewives of the 1950s — knew what they were doing giving us simple 1950s names like Joe, Pat and Jimmy, names that fit us like a pair of Buster Brown shoes, names from a Mickey Spillane novel or a Burt Lancaster movie.

I’m guessing nobody these days names their kid Joe, Pat or Jimmy. Not when you’ve got so many exotic choices like Brendan, Rupert or Hamish floating around in the Millennial baby pool. Just to be sure what I’m talking about, I looked up the most popular male names for millennial babies in 2020.

Michael, Christopher, Matthew and Joshua are actually the top Millennial male names for 2020. Daniel comes in fifth.

That’s four Biblical names shy of a Christian baseball team. With a starting lineup like that, you could almost write your own New Testament  — if Millennials bothered to go to church anymore.

Joe’s the only one of us who has achieved exalted granddad stature. He and wife Liz have two, in fact. One’s in Durham, the other, Asheville. They go see them all the time and who can blame them for that? If I had grandbabies somewhere within shouting distance I’d burn up the highway just to make a proud and happy fool of myself every dang weekend.

As of this month, we’ve all turned 67 years old. No applause necessary.

Truthfully, it’s rather amazing how quickly this happened. Once upon a time, 67 sounded positively ancient to our youthful ears — one bus stop shy of the boneyard, as Mickey Spillane might say.

The funny thing is, none of us feels at all ancient or even looks terribly old, according to our thoughtful wives and daughters. Then again, they might need new glasses.

With age, however, comes a number of often unadvertised benefits.

We’ve each buried family and friends, suffered setbacks and experienced comebacks, seen enough of life and sudden death — not to mention the drama of our own aging bodies — to know that bittersweet impermanence is what makes living fully so important and precious.  To laugh is to gain a taste of immortality.

Failed projects and busted business deals have taught us that there’s really no failure in this life — only reasons to get up, dust off our britches and try a different path. A new summit always awaits.

Our faith has been tested and found to be alive and kicking, after all these years.

We’ve learned that joy and optimism are spiritual rocket fuel, that divine mystery is real and the unseen world holds much more intriguing possibilities than anything we read about in the news, or watch on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. 

Ditto the natural world of woods and fields and streams.

It’s no coincidence that we share a profound love of nature, drawing comfort and wisdom from its many lessons.

Joe, a forester by training, spends his days helping clients find and set aside wild lands for future generations to enjoy. He and Liz are dedicated wilderness hikers, walking encyclopedias of botany and flora, forever in search of new trails and unspoiled vistas when they’re not slipping off to see those beautiful grandbabies of theirs.

Pat is a top businessman whose real love is the spiritual solitude of remote trout streams and the joy of chasing a golf ball around the highlands of Scotland with his oldest pal. He’s also a skilled bird-hunter but these days shoots only clays with Joe some Wednesday afternoons.

Several years ago, Pat and Joe built a cabin on Pat’s land up in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. They set up cameras just to film any wildlife that happened by, cleared roads and got to know the locals. Since both are still working and have no plans to retire, that cabin became a way, as Joe puts it, “to reset our clocks — inside and out.” We take from nature, said Theodore Roethke, what we cannot see.

As for me — a veteran journalist and writer who is busier than ever and shares their view of the dreaded R-word  — I’m an “old” Eagle Scout, fly-fishing nut, bird-watcher and gardener who once spent six glorious weeks in the remote bush of South Africa with a trio of crazed plant hunters dodging black mambas and spitting cobras just to see the world’s smallest hyacinth and other exotic plants in the ancestral birthplace of the world’s flowers. The baboons, birds, springboks and elephants weren’t bad, either. I felt like a kid in a Rudyard Kipling tale.

At that time, I also lived in a house I built with my own hands, on a forested hill near the coast of Maine. I also rebuilt the stone walls of a long abandoned 18th-century farmstead and created a vast English garden in the woods that nobody but family, friends, the FedEx guy and local wildlife ever saw. My late Scots mother-in-law, cheeky women, suggested I name my woodland retreat “Slightly Off in the Woods.”

I called it my Holy Hill, my little piece of Heaven.

My two children grew up there watching the seasons come and go, learning to look and listen to the quiet voices of nature. Today, one is a documentary journalist living and working in the Middle East, the other a top copywriter and screenwriter in New York City. Both claim they carry the peace of that Holy Hill with them in their hearts, and I believe them. I do, too.

Maybe that’s what I love most about lunches with the Stuffed Potatoes.

At a time of life when a lot of men our age lose their curiosity and zest for living, spending their days grumbling about sports, politics or the weather, we take genuine pleasure in each other’s company, swapping tales of life’s natural ups and downs while sharing wisdom for the road ahead.

Joe has stories galore and the most infectious laugh you’ve ever heard. He was the fifth of nine kids, has 53 cousins and an uncle who became the voice of the American environmental movement. He’s always coming out with pearls of wisdom that I promptly write down. We call them “Joeisms.”

Everybody has to be somewhere, he once observed about an a certain disagreeable fellow. I just don’t have to be there with him. 

Patrick is gifted with what the Irish call the craic  an ancient Irish word that means he can talk to anyone and entertain them royally while he’s doing it. He’s a master at solving complex problems and has quietly done more things that help teenagers and homeless folks than anyone I know. He’s also the only guy I know who’s probably read more books than me, which is really saying something. At least he hasn’t started writing them — yet.

So we are three for lunch — the forester, the fisherman and the gardener.

A fictional Forrest Gump got famous for saying that his mother once said that life is like a box of chocolates because you never know what you’ll get. I beg to disagree, believing a happy life is actually more like a gloriously stuffed baked potato because, the more you put in, the better it tastes.

My Spud Buds, I suspect, would agree — even if one of them prefers the club sandwich.

There’s always one in every crowd.  OH

Contact Editor Jim Dodson at jim@thepilot.com.

The Creators

Man of Iron

How Raleigh’s bold investment in sculptor Jim Gallucci’s art led to a revitalization of the city’s urban center

By Wiley Cash
Photographs by Mallory Cash

In 2007, just as the world was spiraling toward financial ruin, Greensboro sculptor Jim Gallucci received the largest commission of his career. The city of Raleigh selected him to construct four light towers to sit on either corner of downtown’s City Plaza in an attempt to redefine the empty space in front of the old Civic Center.

“It started out as a $65,000 project,” Gallucci says. “We kept saying, ‘You know, guys, we can do more with this,’ and they said, ‘Really? You got any ideas?’ These towers were going to be 65 feet tall. The next thing you knew it turned into a $2.5 million project.”

However, as the reality of the global financial crisis set in, Gallucci was certain the project would be pulled; but leaders in Raleigh decided to move ahead. In the fall of 2009, City Plaza, complete with Gallucci’s four 65-foot light towers bedecked in steel oak leaves, opened to the public. City officials hoped the plaza would serve as a “public living room” that would host concerts and events while attracting organizations from around the country that were searching for event and reception space. The plaza project was part of the now completely revitalized area of Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street, and towering above all the new businesses, concertgoers and tourists are Jim Gallucci’s glowing behemoths.

Raleigh proved that an investment in the arts could lead an economic revitalization. Gallucci was not surprised that the city’s bet paid off. “The arts are always the catalyst,” he says. “We’re the stick in the stream. Next thing you know there’s a leaf that’s caught by the stick, and before long the stick has gathered an entire island around it.”

Jim Gallucci’s enormous studio — which he admits to thinking of less as a studio and more as a tool that assists in his art — sits just south of downtown Greensboro. Going off Gallucci’s own metaphor, his studio could be described as an island that has gathered things over the years: sculptures of dizzying heights and varying colors; scraps of metal from local salvage yards; beams from the World Trade Center; and people from around the state interested in anything from sculpture to metalworking to glassblowing to having a cup of coffee and chatting. This is exactly what Gallucci hoped this space would become after opening the studio in 2006, not only for him but for the collective community of local and statewide artists of which he is part.


Gallucci’s collective approach is quickly made apparent when you spend time discussing art with him; you will discover that he consistently speaks in the collective first person we.

“We’d been in the old Civil War rifle factory on East Washington in downtown Greensboro for 21 years,” he says. “There were holes in the ceiling. The floors weren’t strong enough to hold the sculptures we were making.” He smiles, takes a sip of his coffee. “We knew we needed four things from a studio: We needed plenty of space. We needed heat. We needed an office. And we needed a bridge crane.”

That checklist — especially plenty of space and the bridge crane — came in handy as the full lengths of the six-story Raleigh towers were being fabricated inside the studio. Gallucci had plenty of hands on deck as the towers were lifted by the bridge crane and prepared for transport.

You would not know it now, but there were times when Jim Gallucci felt more like that single stick in the stream than the island that would gather around it. As a working artist, he had spent years teaching at the college level, but that came to a halt in 1986, when the University of North Carolina Greensboro did not renew his teaching contract after nine years in the classroom. He had a decision to make: Should he and his family leave Greensboro in search of another teaching job, or should they stay in the community, where they had forged relationships for nearly a decade?

He and his wife made the conscious decision to stay. “We’d made a lot of friends,” he says. “We had a community. We knew a lot of people in the fabrication business, and we’d trade sculptures for steel. You don’t buy those relationships; you assemble them during your life.”

After leaving the classroom, Gallucci decided to put his faith in his local community, and he decided to keep his faith in his art. “I took unemployment for six months, and I called it my arts grant. I went in my studio every day like a worker at 8 a.m., and I’d work until 4 p.m. I worked every day in that studio, and we were able to trade for steel, and we made three good sculptures during that six months and tried to get into shows.

“Those three pieces we made? All of them were sold, and two of them ended up in Brisbane, Australia. I suddenly went from an unemployed art teacher to an international sculptor.”


Gallucci’s sculptures began to pop up around Greensboro, then around the state, then around the country. He is perhaps best known for his gates and arches, especially the Millennium Gate in Greensboro’s Government Plaza, a project that found 17 artisans creating 106 icons that represent major figures, moments and movements from American history. The icons are affixed to the enormous arch and comprise the gate at its center. Viewers are able to both witness history and pass through it, and that interaction is vital to Gallucci’s vision.

“With gates, it’s easy to get into the art,” he says, “literally and figuratively. I try to get people to enter the work, to engage with it.”

Gallucci also gives people the opportunity to engage with their own artwork several times a year when he opens his studio to host a public iron pour. Hundreds of people show up in the early afternoon, many of them with small sand casts on which they will use any number of tools to etch a symbol or a name or an image that will then be cast in iron later in the day.

People come not only to pour iron, but to work with blacksmithing tools or to try their hand at glassblowing. Others come for the live music or the hot food that is served. The noise of the conversations and music and hammers rises into a pleasing din that fills the enormous studio space and pours outside, where men and women in masks and leather gloves and aprons are stoking the foundry and melting metal into what looks like bright orange lava. Jim Gallucci is there, talking to old friends, making new ones, offering words of encouragement to someone who is trying their hand at metal casting for the first time.

As the sky tips toward dusk, the scene is otherworldly. Sparks fly. Flames reach into the air. Metal is turned into liquid. The vague notions of creativity that people arrived with are slowly hardening into shape.

“Creativity happens when you experience something you’ve never experienced before,” Gallucci says. “The elements: the sand, the dirt, the heat; it’s almost primordial. People may not become iron casters after this, but that’s not the point. It’s igniting other things, inviting other ways to look at the world. That’s what art inspires.”


What does Jim Gallucci hope his art inspires? He thinks for a moment, the light from sparks and flames glinting in his safety glasses, which he wears casually, the way other people wear sunglasses or bifocals. “I hope I’m perpetuating ideas, goodwill, community, sense of purpose, reflection. If you’re doing that with a piece of art, you’re doing OK.”

No man is an island, right? Well, perhaps Jim Gallucci is.  OH

Wiley Cash lives in Wilmington with his wife and their two daughters. His latest novel, The Last Ballad, is available wherever books are sold.

March Almanac

Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.

— Geoffrey B. Charlesworth


March is the blushing maiden, bright-eyed and smiling, her wild locks softly brushing your skin as she frolics past.

You knew she was coming. The birds have been singing her name for weeks. And yet her arrival has taken you by surprise. You, too, are blushing.

March is the blossoming redbud, soft light, a tapestry of pine needles, bark and grasses.

The nuthatch has crafted her nest, and like the pregnant doe, belly swollen with late winter pansies, a new energy is alive inside of you — a new innocence.

Pale pink blossoms adorn the saucer magnolia, but a tiny yellow flower has caught your eye.


Simple, immaculate, glorious dandelion.

You see it as if through the eyes of a child, pluck it from the tender earth, tuck it snug behind your ear.

The birds are singing louder now. Ballads of clover, crocus, daffodil. And in the garden, each tiny blossom smiles back.

March has arrived and, with it, spring — as much in your heart as the outside world.


Dandelions don’t tell no lies. — Mick Jagger

Destination Dandelion

Sometimes, especially on dreamy March mornings, the gentle pull of adventure arrives.

On such mornings, you will wander for the sake of wandering, nectar-drunk as a hummingbird as the fragrance of spring blossoms swirls around you.

You might follow the warmth of the sun, or a sweet aroma, or the distant rapping of a woodpecker, any of which will guide you someplace new.

Then maybe, on some quiet woodland trail, you will discover a fluffy young dog.

He won’t look hungry. Or lost. And from the way he is looking at you, he seems to be inviting you farther down the path.

You’ll walk together, for a mile or so, before the path reveals a rolling field. This is when you’ll realize that, across the field, inside the cottage with the smoking chimney, someone might be wondering where their dog went.

And so you’ll walk him home.

Inside the cottage, which smells of rich and exotic spices, an elderly woman is cooking dal on the stovetop. Her husband thanks you for returning Houdini (he slipped the gate again), and invites you to stay for lunch.

“I’ve just gathered greens for the dandelion salad,” he tells you.

You can’t say no to that.


Dandelion Salad

All you need: dandelion greens, wild and tender. Wash thoroughly, then toss with whatever you’d like. Lemon juice, fresh dill, olive oil and pepper.

Glory of Spring

Goddess of Fertility Day is observed on Wednesday, March 18 — the day before official spring. Among the goddesses celebrated on this day, Aphrodite is by far the most widely known.

Born from the foam of the sea, it’s fitting that this goddess of love and blinding beauty be remembered at a time when tender green shoots and brilliant flowers seemingly appear out of nowhere. 

Historically, those seeking to conceive would make offerings to Aphrodite on this day — flowers, greenery, dessert wine, and triangle-shaped honey cakes.

Or, grow a garden in her honor.

Laugh in Flowers

The earth has softened. In the garden, sow seeds for spinach, radish, turnip and kale. Plant a Flower Day is celebrated on Thursday, March 12 — but why stop at just one? March is a good month for planting lilies, tulips and roses. And don’t forget landscaping beauties, like rock cress, sweet pea or — in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17 — clover.

O.Henry Ending

Body(shop) and Soul

Rolling into a new decade


By Nancy Oakley

A totaled car wasn’t how I expected to start the new year. To the anonymous hit-and-run driver who mangled my beloved 14-year-old Scion xB — those funny, retro-looking Toyotas resembling breadboxes on wheels — I wished a bad hangover, since he or she had left me with one of my own: untangling the red tape of dealing with the body shop, the insurance company, and — cue the score to Halloween — the DMV, not to mention the expense of buying another car. In spite of the New Year’s mantra, “out with the old, in with the new,” I wasn’t ready to replace Quicksilver.

Yes, I’m one of those people who names cars. But if the Navy and cruise lines christen ships, why not? And what was more apropos for my dearly departed Scion than the moniker acknowledging its paint job and agile maneuvering into tight parking spaces and heavy traffic — and only on the rarest of occasions (Cough! Cough!) breaking the speed limit? Hi-ho, Quicksilver!

His predecessors were The Woody, my mom’s old five-speed Toyota Corona station wagon with peeling faux wood paneling, and the Merlot Mobile, a Nissan Altima, so dubbed not because I drove under the influence, but because the car was a deep burgundy color — a magnet for state troopers on the lookout for vehicles exceeding the speed limit.   

These were part of a long line of named autos, starting with my parents’ unreliable Renault, the Fire Car, then a behemoth station wagon, Betsy and Herbie, a standard Volkswagen Beetle]. OK, so I lose points on originality for that one, but, hey, I was only 7 years old. The first car I ever owned was a gas-guzzling Chevy Impala that my eldest sister had cast off when she moved to New York City. We called her “Swix,” after the license plate letters, SWX. A friend of mine referred to her as “The Sled.” He, by the way, owned a Honda Civic he named “Tojo.” 

Another friend of mine also drove a Civic named Barbie because it was such a ubiquitous model in the IBM parking lot in the Research Triangle. She even attached a Barbie doll head to the car’s antenna to identify it among the other look-alikes. That was before she bought her Scion, Tuk-Tuk, an onomatopoeic moniker replicating the sound of the car’s four-cylinder engine: tuktuktuktuktuk. Her sister also had an xB, Toasty. As in, a toaster on wheels, get it?

Tuk-Tuk carries on, but Toasty, like my Quicksiver, has crossed the rainbow bridge. My friend’s sister has since relied on a Fiat, Ravioli. Me? I tooled on borrowed wheels for a time while mourning my boxy vehicle. Nothing could replace him but something had to. I didn’t want a Camry like my middle sister’s white one, Blanche. I looked at a Honda Fit, like my nephew’s Bean (because it’s black and resembles a coffee bean), before taking the advice of two gearheads (thanks, Glenn, thanks, Sparky), and settling on a charcoal gray Kia Soul.

But how should I address, thee, little car? As “Kingsford,” or “Briquet” or simply “Brick,” owing to your sedate color, which won’t attract the attention of state troopers? And then he named himself while I tried to master his multiple bells and whistles: back-up camera, Bluetooth, music that plays when you open and close his doors, and a “sport” feature on the gear stick for pulling out and ahead of slowpokes. It seems there isn’t any job this car can’t do.

And that’s how he became Oddjob, after the badass Korean henchman in the Bond movie Goldfinger (though Hollywood being Hollywood, Japanese-American actor Harold Sakata was cast in the role). Dispatched by the film’s titular villain, Oddjob is bodyguard, chauffeur, caddy — and destroyer of statues, which he beheads with the flick of his razor-edged bowler. 

It didn’t take long for my Oddjob to live up to his name. While cruising down the highway recently (and watching my speed), I happened to gain on, of all things, a silver Scion xB. I felt a sudden pang for my old cute Kleenex box-on-wheels, noticing, as I pulled closer, that the corner of its hatch door was bashed in. I recalled how the handle of my old hatch had fallen off, the front grill, too. 

The xB plodded along, tuktuktuk, and I edged closer, feeling less sentimental and well, irritated. I suddenly remembered how the sales guy with a man bun had remarked how I probably wouldn’t be using the “sport” feature much. Instinctively I tapped the gear stick into sport mode, and in the blink of an eye, I had shifted lanes, passed the xB and shifted back. 

I looked in the rearview mirror for any sign of a state trooper, only to see the xB leagues behind. “Out and around,” I murmured, patting Oddjob on he dash. “Over and out.”  OH

Technologically challenged Nancy Oakley is still trying to figure out the electronic gizmos on her car. 

Wandering Billy

Grunge and Grind

A backward glance at College Hill’s Crunchy Music Stuff

By Billy Eye

“There’s a stigma to skating. People think of it as a kid’s sport. People kept telling me I couldn’t possibly make a living out of it. Then they said I couldn’t keep it up in my 30s. And here I am in my 40s, and I’m still improving my skills.” — Tony Hawk

Just days ago, I commandeered a corner table at the Lindley Park Filling Station to reminisce with Michael Driver and Jae Skaggs, proprietors of one of our city’s most fondly remembered record retailers, Crunchy Music Stuff. Established in 1993, first at Spring Garden and Mendenhall then on the corner of Tate and Walker, for seven years Crunchy was the epicenter of Greensboro’s underground music and skateboard scene. Crunchy closed 20 years ago this year. As for how it started . . .

Michael: I blame Jae. The whole thing was your idea.

Jae: Was it? No, no, I think halfsies.

Michael: We were just nerds who didn’t want a job.

Jae: Right. We just sat around and talked about music anyway.

Michael: Somebody in Creamy Velour was playing at Infiniti. He worked at that record store out by the waterpark. He came up to me and said, “You know, they’re selling the store.” “Man that would be awesome to have a record store. How much?” It was like $250,000. I didn’t have any money. I was bitching about it that night and Jae said, “Why don’t you open your own record store?” Genius! We opened that store with a hundred CDs.

Jae: [The time period] was phase two of Grunge. Pavement broke out, Weezer broke while we were there.

Michael: You know who we sold a lot of? NOFX. And Green Day, we sold the hell out of that thing! They put out the first Beck record on an independent label, that “Loser” single was on a 12” EP. That we sold the hell out of. We were the only one in town that had that single.

Jae: Even before Napster, we started suffering when Best Buy opened. They bought every CD and sold everything for like nine bucks.

Michael: People would come in and say, “I just got this at Best Buy for $9.99,” and I’m like, “They’re losing money!” Nothing we could do but stock the stuff they didn’t have. So we mined our niche. That’s all any indie business can do. We had vinyl and nobody else did except for Record Exchange on Battleground; Ed LeBrun’s Spins had the electronic market locked up there. The punk rock stuff, that’s what we listened to and that made us money.

Jae: The flip side of that, the kick flip was, once people started coming in, we would get their used records. We paid as well as anybody else did, but in used records we had all of that indie punk catalog which other stores didn’t have.

Michael: We made money on Green Day because we sold thousands of them. We did well with Ill Communication [by The Beastie Boys]. It was a midnight release. We had like a hundred people there. Jae’s band Rebar was playing. There were so many people in the store it was like a sweaty New York nightclub. We sold every single copy we had, we went all in on that. It was one of the best nights we had, there were people lined up outside because they couldn’t get in, jumping up and down on the street.

Jae: Before the Internet you could do things like that. [Laughing] We were a legitimate business, generating revenue for the city.

Michael: Within the first week we had our first batch of skateboard items. That was Jae’s idea. I thought that was a great idea because nobody else was covering that market.

Jae: At the time there was no skate shop in town, I think the closest place was Winston, at EV, and they might have been gone by then. To keep both halves of the store alive it really worked out. Just barely, because there’s more overhead on skate stuff and it’s also seasonal. It’s also more of a gamble; you could really hit some duds and you will never sell them. Instead of, “oops, I bought too many $8 things,”[it was]  “oops, I just bought too many $50 things.”

Michael: Every major skateboarder had their own shoe. We stocked Tony Hawks from Airwalk and we were the only ones that had them. We had The Beastie Boys’ weird, expandable clothing line, X-girl and XLARGE, those really big pants, even though I thought they were stupid but that’s what the skaters were wearing in the mid-1990s. Hook ups, Birdhouse, Girl, Stereo . . . we could buy clothes directly from the record labels.

Jae: We had Tony Hawk in the store, Shawn Briley, we had all these skateboarders appear. We also had vintage arcade games, which weren’t too vintage at the time, like the 720° skateboard game from the ’80s. I was very excited to see Tony Hawk playing that one in the store.

Michael: We got Tony Hawk for $500. It was a bargain at four times the price. For the record, I met Tony Hawk and I couldn’t speak. You meet your hero and it’s like, “Holy crap! It’s Tony Hawk!” So literally, that’s what I said, “Holy crap! It’s Tony Hawk!” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. The night before I stayed up all night to set up a half piperamp in the parking lot at Sam’s Club. The guys from Birdhouse Skateboards, Tony Hawk, Geoff Rowley, were there for a demo. We had like 200 people there, it was crazy.

Jae: Tony was recovering from a broken foot so he wasn’t fully skating. He rode just enough for the kids to love it. He wasn’t doing any 900s or anything like that. When you run a skateboard shop, to this day, you have to do that kind of thing.

Michael: We released four records on our own label, Crunchy Record Stuff. Two by Rebar, a 7-inch by Rights Reserved, “The Kids Are Not Alright,” and the fourth by The Get Gos. We recorded the Rebar album at the record store because it had that high ceiling, great acoustics.

Jae: We booked showcases at Somewhere Else Tavern and at Zoo Bar or Kilroy’s or Fuzzy Duck’s, I don’t remember because they would change the name every two or three years. And The Turtle Club at Lee and Aycock. They changed the name of both of those streets, that’s how notorious The Turtle Club was.

Michael: As far as how it ended, first I ran [employee] Scott Hicks off, then I ran Jae off.

Jae: I was kind of like eased out of [Crunchy], suddenly eased out of it, and then it kept on going. Michael kept it going so I didn’t take anything out of it. I didn’t take anything to remember it by, because I thought, “Well, It’s all going to be with Michael.” But I wonder why now, it was a big part of my life. Probably everything that has happened to me since then was because of that place. Both positive and negative.

Michael: I still have all that junk! I’ve got a bunch of posters, memorabilia from the record labels, all in two or three boxes in my attic.

The biggest year we had was ’96. By 1999, the skate shop started to decline and the record sales decliiiiiiined. Thank you Napster. By then Jae was gone, it was just me and an employee. In the mornings I would vomit. Then I would open the store. That’s what retail does to people, it makes you physically sick. After a few months of that I was like, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” About that time Andrew Dudek approached me about selling it all out to him and he basically bought the inventory and turned it into Gate City Noise, which was a much better concept because Andrew had all the connections with touring bands and it became an even bigger center of the music scene with the independent bands playing there.

You know, they have Record Store Day every year now, “Appreciate your local record store,” like Free Comic Book Day. About 20 years too late. . . I have yet to go to a Record Store Day event. I’m old and bitter! But I’m going to see Patrick at Hippo Records every week. Hippo carries the new stuff on vinyl. I’ve still got a thing for the vinyl. It’s an addiction.  OH

Today Michael Driver is a successful realtor with RE/MAX of Greensboro while Jae Skaggs  is an  IT / System Administrator consultant. Both reside not too far from each other in Lindley Park. Next month, Billy Eye will tell you about Judy Garland’s life-changing Greensboro appearance.

March 2020


The moon awoke me

howling for attention

the stars were distant, aloof

a few gregarious, Gregorian twinkles

made celesta accompaniment

lunar fugue

a chorus of seas

echo of my cathedrals

trumpets and choirs

the organist’s foot pedals

faster than tap

Did the moon not wake you?

No tom toms, no Tchaikovsky cannons?

Oh your serene dreams of a

more melodious siren

That is why I love you

listening to the moon in your eyes

Ry Southard


A Close Shave

What’s old may be new


By Clyde Edgerton

If I use a plastic drinking straw, I get grief from my family.

As I should. So I decided to stop using plastic straws and plastic razors — those disposable ones, usually orange or blue — and buy an electric razor.

My father, back in his day, used an implement that looked very much like a plastic razor, but his was metal, and when you twisted the handle about a quarter-turn, two little doors on the head of the razor opened toward the ceiling. He’d then drop in a thin, almost weightless Gillette razor blade. He’d twist the handle so that the little doors closed and the blade would be enclosed snugly, with its two sharp outside edges exposed.

He’d drip some warm water from the spigot into a mug that had a bit of soap in the bottom, then work up some lather with a soft round brush. He’d brush the white lather onto his face, and then carefully shave.

My grandfather did it the same way, except he used a straight razor, sharpened by sliding the blade along a leather strap, or “strop.” The strop looked like an extraordinarily wide leather belt.

Anyway, I realized I’d have to shop for a new electric razor.

For me, shopping often produces anxiety and indecision. I do it as rarely as possible. For example, I bought my newest sport coat before my very old cat was born. Cats don’t live that long. And I just found out that some blue jeans are black.

First stop: Target. I find the electric razor section. It’s as long as a gymnasium wall. My heart rate ticks up. I look closely and read packaging information: dryfoil, proskin, lithium ion, microcomb, flexible foil cutters, pivot head. I grab one in the mid-priced range: $69 — the going price of a sink, commode and bathtub when my father started shaving in about 1917. The brand is a Braun, and something extra is in the box. I’m not sure what, but I just want to get out of the store.

I take my Braun home and try to open the box with several kitchen implements. I finally open it with my chain saw, avoiding injury, get the razor out, and unpack the rest of the box. I find a thick booklet of instructions in English and many other languages, as well as a fairly large “recharging stand.” And inside the recharging stand is a small, clear plastic container. And . . . stay with me . . . inside that container is a container of some special liquid that every night will clean the shaver while the razor is being recharged and  . . . no joke . . . oil it. I read that every few months I’ll need to buy more of that special liquid. A reasonable person might wonder if this thing will shave me like those vacuum cleaners that vacuum the house while you watch TV.

What happened next is I nervously decided to do a bit of research. What was I getting into? When I Googled “electric shavers” I got this many hits: 41,300,000. (Check it out.) And then because I Googled “electric shaver,” I now have a new electric shaver image pop-up on my speedometer screen when I start my car — the latest deal between Honda and Google.

Next stop: Target. I returned the electric razor. I bought a bag of disposable razors, the blue ones, and a can of shaving foam.

Soon, I’m going to visit my father’s grave as I sometimes do, and we will have a talk. I think I know what he’s going to suggest: mug, soap, soft round brush, and an old-timey metal razor.  OH

Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, a memoir and most recently,
Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers. He is the Thomas S. Kenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNCW.

The Pleasures of Life Dept.

The Airing Of An Artist

A Greensboro gallery reveals a long-hidden cache of work by
beloved streetscape artist Maggie Fickett

By Maria Johnson

The Center for Visual Artists, a nonprofit gallery in downtown Greensboro, usually promotes the work of emerging artists.

But next month, the gallery will spotlight an artist who emerged a long time ago: 89-year-old Maggie Fickett, who painted Greensboro streetscapes and landmarks for three decades — in the 1980s, ’90s and early 2000s — before returning to her native Maine.

Why mount an overview of her work now?

Because it’s a shining example for up-and-coming creators to follow, says gallery director Corrie Lisk-Hurst.

“We were blown away,” says Lisk-Hurst, recalling the first time she and gallery manager Devon McKnight laid eyes on a trove of Fickett’s work that her family had stored in Greensboro, hoping to show and sell it one day.

Viewing more than a thousand pieces, McKnight and Lisk-Hurst were struck by Fickett’s technical prowess and by her embrace of different media, styles and subjects.

Most of all, they were impressed by Fickett’s faithfulness to her muse. She painted every day.

“It’s important for us to say, ‘Look, this person had a lifetime of making art. Maybe she wasn’t thrilled with every single piece, but she was committed.’ It’s really about practice, like having yoga practice,” says Lisk-Hurst. “If you’re doing it every day, you’re more likely to get in the flow at the right time and get those spurts of genius.”

The public can see those transcendent moments in Maggie Fickett: Living in Plein Air, an exhibit built on more than 75 framed works — mostly watercolors — and hundreds of unframed pieces sorted in bins.

The show opens April 21 and stays up through June 14.

All works will be for sale, and 60 percent of the proceeds will go toward caring for Fickett, who lives in a memory-care center.

































“Alzheimer’s is a terrible thing,” says Debbie Fickett, who is married to Maggie’s nephew Bob. The couple moved the artist to Maine in 2014 after becoming concerned about her safety.

This magazine’s story about Fickett’s departure and the raft of work remaining in Greensboro (See www.ohenrymag.com/ficketts-charge) caught the eye of Laura Gibson, who curates revolving art exhibits at Greensboro’s Center for Creative Leadership.

Gibson had met Fickett and owned one of her paintings. Her employer, CCL, also held several of Fickett’s works in its permanent collection.

Gibson knew the Center couldn’t accommodate a large-scale exhibit with a lot of walk-in customers, but she still wanted to help.

She contacted Fickett’s family about organizing a show of Fickett’s work at another venue. (Full disclosure: This writer also assisted in getting the show off the ground.)

Last year, Lisk-Hurst and McKnight offered the CVA gallery in the Greensboro Cultural Center — the very same space where Fickett had shown her work 20 years earlier.

Back then, the gallery was operated by the Greensboro Artists’ League, a forerunner of the CVA, and Lisk-Hurst was a part-time curator.

She remembers Fickett.

“Personally, it was cool that she was someone I’d crossed paths with,” Lisk-Hurst says.

Her CVA colleague McKnight agreed that exhibiting Fickett’s work — including her studies, sketchbooks and photographs — would fit the nonprofit’s mission.

“Most gallery shows don’t show the artistic process, just the final product,” McKnight says. “This is valuable because it lets us see how she’s approaching things, like mixing colors and using the back of paper.”

The show also will demonstrate Fickett’s range. She could pen a cartoon-like character; chalk moody landscape; stamp a woodcut print; glue together a satirical collage; or dip a brush in watercolor to record a quaint storefront. Occasionally, she dabbled in acrylic paint.

“That’s what great artists do: They play with things,” Lisk-Hurst observes. “They look at something and they’re like, ‘Huh, what can I do with this?’ ”

Fickett’s creative evolution began in her teenage years. Born and raised in South Portland, Maine, she was working in the laboratory of a Catholic hospital when nuns noticed and encouraged her artistic ability.

With limited support from her family, Maggie moved to Boston and trained in commercial art. She worked for a Boston advertising agency before moving to Greensboro, on the advice of a friend, in 1979.

Here, she gave up the regular paycheck of agency work for the more tenuous income of a self-employed artist.

She was primarily a watercolorist, but years of illustrating gave her the confidence with pen and ink. Balancing sharp details with softer suggestive

lines, she snared the physical and emotional elements of her subjects.

Her bread and butter came from doing commissioned portraits of people’s homes.

She also did pen-and-ink drawings of local landmarks, made prints and sold them for $10 each. For $40 more, she hand-colored the prints.

Her subjects included the historic F.W. Woolworth store; the first Ham’s restaurant; The Boar and Castle restaurant; Yum Yum Better Ice Cream; the Carolina Theatre; Castle McCulloch; War Memorial Stadium; and numerous fire stations, churches and local colleges.

Fickett specialized in streetscapes, working on location, en plein air, popping her easel and umbrella-shaded stool on sidewalks and hillsides.

A favorite locale was downtown Greensboro, where she documented everything from crane-studded construction along North Elm Street to the railroad bridge and antique shops of South Elm Street.

She found inspiration in natural settings, too. The Greensboro Arboretum, the Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden, the Bog Garden and Country Park were frequent subjects.

She loved her own backyard. She painted dozens of scenes around her home on Mayflower Drive near UNCG.

Often, she picked flowers and vegetables, brought them inside, arranged them and preserved them in still lifes.

She painted her cats with nuance and affection.

“Everything was fodder for her,” says Lisk-Hurst. “It didn’t matter if it was a construction site, or a cat lounging on a chair, or a person running on a trail. Everything was worthy of observation.”

Who needs smart phone tracking apps? Exhibit goers can trace Fickett’s movements by looking at her work.

When she lived in Boston, she painted the Charles River, Boston Common and Beacon Hill.

When she moved to Wilmington for a couple of years in the late ’80s, she painted Front Street, Chandler’s Wharf, the Cape Fear River and Wrightsville Beach.

When she traveled with friends to Bermuda, she set down the white roofs and sapphire water.

When she made trips to see pottery in Seagrove, or rolling farms in southern Virginia, or the carousel in Burlington, or the state fair in Raleigh, she painted.

When she returned home to the rugged coast of Maine, she painted.

When she visited friends in Jamestown, cheek-by-jowl with Greensboro, she painted Jamestown.

Works depicting all of these places will be for sale at the exhibit. Prices will range from $10 for small, unframed works to hundreds of dollars for large framed pieces.

Organizers hope the show will draw people who feel connected to Fickett’s subjects.

“Sure, you can buy pieces online or in a retail store, but they don’t have a story. And you’d pay more in those places than you would for some of this original, really high quality work,” Lisk-Hurst says.

In addition to the show and sale, organizers plan an opening party, a panel discussion of Maggie’s life and work, a roundtable on making a living as an artist, and a painting class that guides participants through a Fickett-inspired scene.

Maggie’s health won’t allow her to attend the show. But her spirit will be here, says Debbie Fickett.

“Her heart will always be in Greensboro.”  OH

For more on the exhibit, go to www.greensboroart.org

Maria Johnson is contributing editor of O.Henry magazine. She can be reached ohenrymaria@gmail.com.