March is a born artist, wide-eyed and unbridled, creating for the sake of life itself.

The genius begins with a single daffodil, warm and bright, nodding in a stream of honeyed light. Each petal is a world of yellow. Each leaf, a meditation on green.

The artist becomes obsessed.

One daffodil becomes a series, progressively abstract, until each flower is more essence than form.

Paintings expand into wild landscapes. Quick as the hand can move, a rolling sea of yellow starbursts stretches from one canvas to the next. The foreground softens. Thick and messy brushstrokes evoke a tender, playful light.

Crested irises and yellow violets now spill from the frenzied brush, followed by flowering clover, purple deadnettle, wild onions, chickweed and a downy flush of dandelions.

Robins begin to appear. Bluebirds, too. Tree swallows and towhees and red-winged blackbirds. The painting nearly sings out.

Leafless branches, stark among the luscious earth, are suddenly laden with clusters of crimson whirligigs. Redbuds are studded with bright fuchsia blossoms. Soft pink swirls adorn silver-limbed saucer magnolias.

The brush strokes quicken. A sweep of tulips colors the earth magnificent. As spring bursts forth, flower by brilliant, quivering flower, the artist surrenders to the muse.

On the Wild Side

Among the wild blossoms beginning to carpet the soft earth — fig buttercups and field mustard, blood root and Johnny jump-ups, dimpled trout lilies and Carolina jessamine — the common blue violet is one you’ll likely spot in damp woods and shady meadows. Also called the woolly blue violet, wood violet or common meadow violet, this short-stemmed perennial is known for its heart-shaped leaves (edible) and white-throated purple flowers (also edible).

But have you ever seen a bird’s foot violet? Named for the shape of its narrowly lobed leaves (they do, in fact, resemble bird feet), this viola species prefers dry, sandy soil and pine lands. The five-petaled flower, lilac or bicolored with bright orange anthers, is largely considered to be the most beautiful violet in the world. But what spring bloomer isn’t a bewitching vision to our winter-weary eyes?


Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour.             — Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Time to Sow

The cold earth is thawing. The Full Sap Moon rises on Tuesday, March 7. The maple sap is flowing once again.

The vernal equinox occurs on Monday, March 20 — along with a dark, balsamic moon. As a new season and cycle begin, we return to the garden.

In early March, sow carrot, spinach, radish, pea and turnip seeds directly into the softening earth. Mid-month, sow chives, parsley, onion and parsnips. At month’s end: beet and arugula seeds.   

Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seedlings can be transplanted outdoors mid- to late-month. Ditto kale, Swiss chard, lettuce and kohlrabi.

Growing season has commenced. As the days grow warmer still, behold the simple miracle of spring’s return. The miracle of life itself.  PS



Nesting Season

There’s no place like home

By Susan Campbell

It is almost that time again for our feathered friends: nesting season. Pairs of birds will team up to bring forth the next generation. In some cases, they will even repeat the process once or twice before the days shorten and temperatures begin to drop.

As with so many behaviors, reproduction is triggered by hormonal changes, which are the result of changes in day length. Females will become responsive to the advances of males as daylight increases. And before long, the hunt for a spot to nest will begin. Interestingly, the strategies vary among the bird species we find in central North Carolina.

The investment in nest building for some species is minimal. Killdeer, for instance, only create a slight scrape in a sandy or pebbly surface. They are ground nesting birds whose splotched eggs blend in perfectly with the substrate. Furthermore, killdeer young are precocial, meaning that they are mobile as soon as they hatch and will instantly begin following their parents. There is no nestling phase, so protection of the young birds is unnecessary.

In the Sandhills it is not unusual for mourning doves to nest at ground level in a layer of grasses or small twigs. Even when doves nest in small trees or shrubs, their nest platform is minimal. It is amazing that the eggs or young do not fall through the nest. Then again, this species is known to raise young in virtually any month of the year, so losing an egg or youngster through the cracks is not problematic in the long run.

Cup nests are a very common strategy for nesting — especially among songbirds. Northern cardinals, blue jays and American robins all form a typical nest from small branches, twigs and grasses. Such nests can be visible through the leaves and are not infrequently depredated. As a result, some species, such as blue-gray gnatcatchers and ruby-throated hummingbirds, have evolved to use camouflage in the form of mosses or lichens on the outside of the cup so that the nest is not obvious to predators on a bare limb.

Hawks and eagles have taken nestbuilding to the next level and may create an enormous, cupped platform for their young. These huge stick nests, placed high in a live tree or snag, typically are enlarged with more material every year. They can be very noticeable given their bulk. However, given the size and ferocity of these birds, the strategy is not problematic. Furthermore, one of the adults typically guards the nest until the young are close to fledging.

And then there are the species that use holes: the cavity nesters. Woodpeckers and nuthatches can carve out a cavity in dead wood using their powerful bills with little trouble. Species such as chickadees, titmice, bluebirds or wood ducks will move right into these spaces when the architects move on. It is these birds that many of us have been giving a helping hand by erecting bird boxes. Box design varies by species, of course, given the different reproductive requirements of different birds. The height, the depth of the box and, most importantly, the size of the entrance hole will determine who will move in.

So, if you have not yet done so, this is the time to be cleaning out and repairing nest boxes for the breeding season. Old nests should be removed, and the boxes should be aired out for a day or two.  It would not hurt to give them a rinse with the hose as well — but do NOT use cleaning products. And then stand back: It will not be long before your first feathered tenants will be moving in!  OH

Susan Campbell would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photographs at

We Are the Dreamers

We Are the Dreamers

The Gate City has positioned itself for a bright future

By Ogi Overman

Buckle up, buckaroos, it’s about to become boomtown around here. Or, we could call this burg Boomtown — as in Boom Supersonic. HondaJet headquarters is old news. In fact, it’s hard to look up without seeing one. But several other aero-related businesses are set to take off around PTI. You already likely know about the Toyota battery plant on the Guilford-Randolph county line and the UPS distribution plant in Mebane. Remember the FedEx hub way back when and the Publix Distribution Center in 2018. Two new hotels are going up downtown. And speaking of downtown, where do we start or stop: Tanger Center, Carroll properties, brew pubs and restaurants spring up like morel mushrooms. BOOM!

But let’s get nitty-gritty for one small paragraph. Did you know about Syngenta announcing its North American headquarters would stay in Greensboro in 2021 with a $68 million investment or Procter & Gamble’s $110 million investment in 2022, or LT Apparel Group’s $57 million investment? Ka-BOOM!

Yet, there’s still something missing. Let’s face it, most any city can boast of well-paying jobs, luxury hotels, entertainment and athletic venues, a downtown revival, parks and greenways. What Greensboro needs is something almost no other city has; something so unique and quirky, and downright unnecessary that it would make visitors go back home and tell their friends, “You have got to go to Greensboro!”

So, we threw logic — and practicality — to the wind and used our imagination to picture just a few of the possibilities (And we welcome your suggestions, the more far-fetched, the better):

Frozen Pond: The Piedmont Winterfest skating rink downtown is a nice idea, but it has its drawbacks: It’s temporary, has fake ice, and it costs money to skate.

This visionary sees a pond in summer and a skating rink in winter. Let’s say you dig a shallow hole, pipe in some water and lay some hockey pipes and a chilling system underneath. You freeze it the day of our downtown Christmas celebration, “Festival of Lights,” the first Friday of December.

Then, in early April, you thaw it out and it becomes a reflecting pond — but not just any pond. You put a fountain in the middle that changes colors and arrays. It also has an LED color-changing system underneath and officially turns on the night of the home season opener for the Grasshoppers.

Around the perimeter you have benches, kiosks and roving singers. In summer, the vendors sell sodas, sparkling water and ice cream; and in winter, coffee and hot chocolate. The roving singers might be everything from carolers to Bel Canto singers to barbershop quartets to folk groups to Grimsley’s madrigal singers — you name it.

When the U.S. Figure Skating Championships return to the Coliseum a few Januarys hence, we’ll be ready for it.

Downtown Trolley: Granted, trolleys are not exactly a unique idea, but they generally cruise around tourist towns such as Gatlinburg, Tenn. Ours will be both functional for townsfolk and fun for out-of-towners.

During lunchtime, two trolleys, eco-friendly, of course, run up and down Elm Street, taking workers to and from lunch, boosting business at downtown eateries, and solving potential parking and traffic problems.

In the evening, passengers catch a ride from Hamburger Square, the downtown hotels, UNCG, Greensboro College, NC A&T, and other gathering spots, to and from the ballpark on game nights, and Tanger Center on event nights.

Electric Car Grand Prix: OK, Charlotte is the hub of NASCAR (it could’ve been Greensboro, but that’s a whole ’nother story), but there is a huge opportunity for Greensboro to be on the vanguard of a burgeoning form of motorsports — Formula E.

Like it or not, gasoline-powered vehicles are on the way out, and that includes race cars. Formed in 2014, the wave of the future is called the ABB FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) Formula E World Championship and now holds races all across Europe as well as Mexico City. As of now, the only Formula E race in the U.S. is held in Portland, Ore.

Here’s how it would work in Greensboro: The hub is at War Memorial Stadium. With very little infrastructure change, the field becomes the garage (not to conflict with NC A&T’s baseball season). The start/finish line is the corner of Yanceyville and Lindsay, and the pits are alongside Lindsay, toward town. The cars depart in front of the stadium, to the right, then loop onto Wendover. Loop again onto Westover, pass Grimsley High School, then left at Benjamin Parkway which turns into Smith Street, and onto Murrow Boulevard, reaching the home stretch on Lindsay.

First, though, we need a sponsor. Hello, Toyota?

The World’s Largest Beer Bottle: Since we’re already informally known as “Greensbeero,” why not make it official? Imagine the touristas who will flock here to pose in front of the World’s Largest Beer Bottle, not to mention the locals who just love to sample the dozens of locally brewed craft beers inside. Yes, I said inside.

The bottle will be made of glass block and needs to be three- or four-stories high. A spiral staircase — with a handrail, of course — will reach to the top, with a landing at each story, stocked with several taps serving up Greensboro’s and the state’s distinctive brews.

For the earthbound patrons, a checkerboard dance floor will beckon them to shake a leg. A state-of-the-art sound system, disguised as a jukebox, will play hits from every decade, from the ’50s to the present, one decade each night of the week. Monday you might hear Danny and the Juniors, to Sunday’s fare by Machine Gun Kelly

For the daring, a telescope on top looks down on the ’Hoppers game or up to the moon. Bottoms up!

Century Boulevard: This one will take a big buy-in from the business owners to the city, state and federal governments. And a little help from a Tanger or LeBauer type wouldn’t hurt. But wowsers, would the end product be worth it.

Elm Street becomes Century Boulevard, celebrating the 20th Century, one block per decade. Starting at Old Greensborough and running to Fishers Grille, each store on each block will (as much as possible) be a re-creation of the décor, storefront design, fashion, music, food, lingo, attire, autos and trappings of that era. In one afternoon, tourists — and there will be plenty — may take a virtual tour of the century. The music, for instance, will range from Tin Pan Alley to Boogie Woogie to Big Band to Crooners to Elvis to Brit Invasion to Disco to Metal to Grunge to Pop Punk to whatever Gen X-ers listened to.

This will be by far the biggest, most expensive and most farfetched undertaking Greensboroians have ever envisioned. But, as a wise man once said, “Good things happen when nobody cares who gets the credit.”  OH

Ogi Overman has been a mainstay on the Central NC journalism scene since 1984. He is currently compiling a book of his columns.

The Beat Goes On

The Beat Goes On

From the Mountains to the Sea

By David Menconi 

Type design by Keith Borshak


Map Illustration By Miranda Glyder


Springtime in North Carolina means college basketball madness, azaleas blooming — and the earliest days of outdoor music. Our state has a staggering array of A-list music festivals spanning numerous genres from now until fall. Here are some of what you should be making plans for.


Dreamville Festival 

Between apocalyptic weather and the coronavirus pandemic, rapper J. Cole’s Dreamville Festival has had a rocky existence in its short history. But in spite of multiple postponements, Dreamville has been a huge success, starting with 2019’s sold-out debut at downtown Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Park that immediately established it as one of the nation’s top hip-hop festivals. Dreamville’s second edition in 2022 expanded from one day to two with an onstage lineup featuring the entire roster of Cole’s Dreamville Records label, and it also sold out. Round three returns to Dix Park the first weekend of April as another multi-day affair. It should be another big success, with Cole himself in the headline slot.

April 1 – 2, Raleigh;




Centered on the multi-style “traditional plus” music played and loved by its late, great founder, Doc Watson, MerleFest has been a tradition at Wilkes Community College since 1988. The venerable roots-music festival is a signpost event on the Americana circuit. And after the same pandemic problems that every other live-music event faced in recent years, it’s back with an impressive lineup featuring the Avett Brothers, Maren Morris, Little Feat, Tanya Tucker and more.

April 27 – 30, Wilkesboro;


Bear Shadow

The mountains of the far western corner of North Carolina are the setting for this springtime festival, which happens the same weekend as MerleFest. First conceived in 2021, this year’s model has a first-rate alternative-leaning lineup featuring Spoon, The Head and the Heart, Jason Isbell and Amythyst Kiah.

April 28 – 30, The Highlands Plateau;



Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of  Music & Dance 

Started in 2003 as a nonprofit music and dance festival, Shakori Hills takes place on a bucolic 9,000-acre spread in rural Chatham County. It’s probably the top camping festival in the greater Triangle region, with solid Americana lineups. Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Malian singer/guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, beach legends Chairmen of the Board and festival regulars Donna the Buffalo. There’s also a fall version of Shakori Hills, which happens every October.

May 4 – 7, Pittsboro;


Annual Carolina Beach Music Festival

Dance to beach music with your toes in the sand at the 37th Annual Carolina Beach Music Festival on Saturday, June 3 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Billed as “the biggest and only beach music festival actually held on the beach on the North Carolina coast,” three bands will be performing. Shows are accessible from the Carolina Beach Boardwalk at Cape Fear Blvd. and Carolina Beach Ave. S. For information on tickets call (910) 458-8434.

June 3, Carolina Beach


Festival for the Eno

The granddaddy of music festivals in the Triangle, Festival for the Eno dates back to 1980 and happens on the grounds of Durham’s West Point Park. Started as a fundraiser for the Eno River Association, the festival — which also offers a craft and food market — has hosted a who’s who of Americana-adjacent and roots artists including Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson and Loudon Wainwright III. Recent years have featured rising regional acts including Mipso, Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Indigo De Souza.

July 1 and 4, Durham;


Mountain Dance and Folk Festival 

Reputedly the first event in America to be called a “folk festival,” Asheville’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival was founded in 1928 by the folk music legend, Bascom Lamar Lunsford. It remains the longest continuously running folk festival in the country, and it’s as much about the folk dance traditions of Western North Carolina as the music.

Aug. 3 – 5, Asheville;


Earl Scruggs Music Festival 

A newcomer to the North Carolina festival circuit, the Earl Scruggs Music Festival debuted last year at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring. As you’d expect for a festival named after the man who invented the three-finger style of bluegrass banjo, the lineup trends toward classic bluegrass and Americana.

Sept. 1-3, Mill Spring;


John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival 

Although he made his mark as an artist elsewhere, John Coltrane was born and raised in Hamlet, North Carolina. He was one of the towering figures of 20th century jazz, a key collaborator with Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and his fellow North Carolina native Thelonious Monk. The John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival has been paying tribute to his legacy every Labor Day weekend since 2011 with solid lineups — 2022 featured trumpeter Chris Botti, singer Patti LaBelle and saxophonist Kirk Whalum, among others.

Sept. 2 – 3, High Point;


Hopscotch Music Festival

Downtown Raleigh has a well-earned reputation for doing music festivals right, and one of the events that helped pave the way is the alternative-slanted Hopscotch. Originally started in 2010 under the auspices of the Indy Week newspaper, it showed off Raleigh’s walkable grid of downtown nightclubs and outdoor stages to fantastic effect. Past headliners have included Flaming Lips, The Roots, Solange Knowles and St. Vincent. Hopscotch director Nathan Price reports that this year’s model should feature “an expanded lineup closer to pre-COVID size.” Here’s hoping.

Sept. 7 – 9, Raleigh;


North Carolina Folk Festival 

In 2015, the National Council for the Traditional Arts brought the long-running National Folk Festival (which has been around since 1934) to Greensboro for a three-year run. It was such a success that, after the national festival’s Greensboro run ended, the city opted to keep it going as the rebranded North Carolina Folk Festival. Last year’s lineup was typically eclectic, featuring everything from George Clinton’s P-Funk All-Stars to the Winston-Salem Symphony String Quartet. Expect more of the same in 2023.

Sept. 8 – 10, Greensboro;


World of Bluegrass 

The International Bluegrass Music Association moved its annual business convention and festival to Raleigh in 2013, where it has been a huge success. Between the convention, trade show, “Bluegrass Ramble” nightclub showcases, awards show and street festival, total attendance can top 200,000 when the weather’s good. Past headliners have included Steve Martin, Alison Krauss, Béla Fleck and just about every notable picker and singer in the genre. Year in and year out, it’s downtown Raleigh’s biggest music festival.

Sept. 26-30, Raleigh;


That Music Festival 

Sponsored by Raleigh’s Americana/roots radio station, That Station, 95.7-FM, That Music Festival made its debut in June 2022 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park with an all-North Carolina lineup featuring American Aquarium, Steep Canyon Rangers, Mountain Goats, Rissi Palmer and more. The sophomore edition is tentatively scheduled for October, most likely in Durham again.

October, Durham;


Annual Bluegrass Island Music Festival 

Music lovers will be flocking to the Outer Banks, beach chairs in hand, for the 12th Annual Bluegrass Island Music Festival October 19-21 held at the Roanoke Island Festival Park overlooking miles of the pristine waters of Roanoke Sound. Buy your tickets and book your lodging well ahead of time. Acts this year include The Goodwin Brothers, Seth Mulder & Midnight Run, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Leftover Salmon, The Kody Norris Show, Thunder & Rain, AJ Lee & Blue Summit, The Kitchen Dwellers, The Steeldrivers, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Breaking Grass, Tim O’Brien and the incomparable Sam Bush. 

October 19-21, Manteo;  PS

The Need for Shutter Speed

The Need for Shutter Speed

Bill Chandler’s wanderlust for classic automobiles turns into a creative hobby

By Billy Ingram

Feature Image: Toyota Supra 2019  


Left: 1950 Aston Martin DB2

Middle: 1967 Corvette 427

Right: 1952 Jaguar XK 120

In a story as familiar to me as Aunt Goo-Goo’s spaghetti sauce recipe, Bill Chandler is a transplant whose glancing flirtation turned to love for the residents of Greensboro. Having spent most of his career as a neurosurgeon at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, he established a second home here to be close to one of his sons, an orthopedic surgeon, and his daughter-in-law, a local pediatrician.

Chandler enjoyed his visits here so much that he’s made the Gate City his permanent retirement home. “You’ve got to realize, people come to North Carolina and they never leave,” Chandler says. “Three of the finest neurosurgeons in Greensboro trained with me up in Ann Arbor. I spent seven years with each one of these folks. So that’s a nice connection, as are my two lovely granddaughters who are now 15 and 12.”

Performing surgery and teaching in a world-class medical school devoured his free time, but now Chandler can passionately pursue photographing classic cars. “I’ve always enjoyed photography,” Chandler tells me. “Even way back when I was young, in training, I had a dark room and all the stuff you used to have to have. Then along came digital photography, which I thought was wonderful.”

Chandler believes older automobiles should be enjoyed to the fullest, not perched up on blocks waiting to be transported from one collector’s event to another. “These cars are made to be driven,” he points out. “In fact, they don’t like being stored. All the rubber gaskets go bad, so the more you drive them, the better they are.”

This gearhead is particularly intrigued by the front end of these older, collectible automobiles and does an extraordinary job of capturing the quirky personality each embodies. “I started taking pictures with the red 1953 MG TD that’s sitting in my garage right now.” That ’53 MG is a head-turner and serves as a great way to meet people. “Invariably, you pull into a Lowe’s parking lot and somebody comes out and says, ‘My dad had one of those,’ or young people will ask, ‘What is that . . . and what’s an MG?’ Curiously, I was walking around one time in a hat with an MG logo on it and some guy came up and said, ‘So, how many MGs do you have?’ Not what kind, but how many.”

At one point, he owned two MGs, including a red  1957 MGA. “That model sort of brought MG into the modern era,” he says. “In the early ’60s, they started making the MGB, which they manufactured for a long time. That was sort of a squared-off design, to me, not as attractive.”

Born in 1945, Chandler remembers being impressed as a youngster with ’50s era car-nnoisseurs piloting those sporty MGs. “I thought, boy, someday I’d like to have one of those,” he says. “They made the TD model from 1950 to ’53. He says that a 1936 model, though, looks a lot like his ’53 model. “In The Crown, Prince Phillip shows up driving an MG TD,” he says. The same year that Chandler’s MG was manufactured, the first Corvette debuted. Around the same time, Detroit offered up the first Thunderbird. “Before that, there were no American-made two-seat sports cars,” Chandler says. “When I was growing up, around 1955, we’d go over and look at the brand-new Corvette, a little two-seat thing, and the original Thunderbird, which was a cute little car.”


Left: 1965 Austin Healy 3000 Mark III

Middle: 1934 Auburn 1250 Boat Tail

Right: 1954 Mercedes Benz 300SL Coupe (Gullwing)

Detroit’s more typical mid-’50s models, like a Buick Roadmaster that Chandler gave the Andy Warhol treatment in his photos, were bloated behemoths, easily seating six adults, equipped with 300 horsepower, overhead-valve V8 engines, aquatic-like fins, protruding headlamps, cinemascopic tempered glass windshields, massive chrome ornamentations and accents, and moderne amenities like electrically adjustable body-contoured seats. Weighing in at almost 2 tons, sailing one of those land yachts to and from your job at the Rand Corporation told the world you had made it.

In contrast, driving a British-made sports car in the ’50s was a somewhat rebellious move. Not quite a James-Dean-smeared-across-a- country-road-in-a-Porsche-550-Spyder level of rebelliousness, but a statement nonetheless. “The ’53 MG has no rollup windows, no heater, so they’re pretty basic little cars,” says Chandler. “And that’s why you can work on just about any part of it. On the ’53 model the hood lifts up from the sides and meets in the middle like an old-time car.”

Love for MGs must be coursing through his veins because the first new vehicle Chandler ever bought, back when he was an intern, was a feisty flame-red 1971 MG Midget two-seater costing around $2,400 back in the day (About $17,000 in today’s dollars). “Through much of my career I wasn’t working on cars, but now I enjoy the mechanics of it. I guess being a surgeon, you like to be hands-on.”

While he was still primarily residing in Michigan, Chandler brought down to Greensboro that ’53 MG which he purchased in 2009 to tool around town in. “I’d drive it to racketball three days a week, usually with my golden retriever in the front seat, and people would take pictures at stoplights.”

He still owns that magnificent machine. “I’ve had it 14 years and it starts up like an old lawnmower,” says Chandler. “Occasionally I have to replace the spark plugs or something leaks a little bit. But, the adage about cars is, you don’t worry that it’s leaking. You only worry when it stops leaking.” (To put pedal to metal on a racetrack, he also owns a 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S. “It’s lightweight and has a mid-engine design,” he says. “So it’s perfectly balanced for the track. It’s fun, but not really as photogenic as the classic cars.”)

Of course, unforeseen breakdowns will happen, but it’s purely a mechanical thing when it comes to repairing classic autos. “There’s the diagnostic part and then the fun of fixing it,” Chandler says. “A modern BMW or Porsche, you can’t touch those engines. Half of the time you can’t find the engine.”

Neurosurgeon to grease monkey in one easy step? Complex brain surgery and car engine repair are hardly comparable. “There are just many, many more unpredictable unknowns that you’re going to find in surgery,” reports Chandler. “I’ve had a lifetime of enjoyment doing a lot of the most complex neurosurgery, brain surgery tumors, aneurysms, and, because it was a big medical center, we would always see the most complicated cases.”


Left: 1953 MG TD

Middle: 1954 MG TF Jack

Right: Morgan 1934 Super Sport 3 wheeler

By contrast, no matter how complex a car is, it’s just a collection of parts. “Whether the carburetor needs tuning or the head gasket needs changing or anything else, I’ll take care of it myself,” he says. From tuning carburetors to changing head gaskets and replacing water pumps, Chandler has developed the skills to take take apart almost everything.

Some of the older and more expensive models seen here were photographed in the field or at car shows such as Concours d’Elegance in Michigan. If the 1950 Aston Martin DB2 Drophead that Chandler shot looks familiar, it’s a precursor to the James Bond DB5 model seen in Goldfinger, which reappears in six subsequent films, although this author was unable to determine whether retractable headlights transforming into a pair of machine guns came stock on consumer models.

A rare oddity is a 1934, three-wheeled Morgan Super Sport labeled VJ62342 with the then-new “barrel-back” body style, its 1200-cubic-centimeter JAP V twin engine jutting out front; what one former owner referred to as “a special kind  of madness” to drive. The 1934 Auburn 1250 Boat Tail salon car was built in Indiana, designed by Gordon Buehrig who was renowned for the luxurious but sporty Cord Model 810, also manufactured in the Hoosier State.

One of the most expensive collector cars on the market right now, and no wonder, is that 6-cylinder Mercedes Benz 300SL Coupé with dual Gullwing doors, an option only offered between 1954 and 1957. Its lightweight, 110-pound-frame couldn’t accommodate normal doors but helped this “dreamcar” hit a top speed of 162 mph.

The Iris Blue, 150-horsepower, twin-carb 1965 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III convertible came with sumptuous leather upholstery, striking that sweet spot between performance and comfort, and is considered highly collectible. The first sports car to feature a top-hinge hatchback, this was the last of the big Healeys before that lineage was discontinued in 1968. “I created that look through the [Austin-Healey] windshield because there were people standing back there, there’s so much clutter in every photograph,” Chandler explains about the challenges involved in getting the crisp, clean images that are his trademark.

“You have to take a photograph and look at whether the essence of the car is good and there’s not some crazy reflection . . . that also happens.” To declutter and make those photos pop, he captures his shiny metallic subjects in brightest sunlight, replacing the background with solid black. “There are a lot of interesting photographic challenges with blacking out the background, at least the way I do it. It’s not some button you push. I will enlarge the photo millimeter by millimeter, go along the edge of every mirror and everything else and then turn it black. So it’s a process.”

With a base price slightly more than $4,200 in 1967 (around $36,000 in today’s dollars), that gorgeous Marlboro Maroon Corvette Sting Ray, the most refined of the second generation ’Vettes, was a world-class racer with an optional 427CI three-carburetor, 430 horsepower, big-block V8. There’s a reason Corvettes won Car and Driver’s “Best All-Around Car” or “Best Value” award 10 out of 12 times from 1964 through 1975 — and it wasn’t just for the sleek body styling. A Concourse condition Sting Ray like the one pictured will set you back around $140,000 today.

One of the photographer’s favorite images is a full frontal look at a 1952 Jaguar XK120 Fixed Head Coupe. “A friend of mine owns that one,” Chandler says. “It’s funny, you would think a black car with a black background wouldn’t show up but it turns out there’s so much color in that car — there are blues, pinks and all sorts of colors.” That was Jaguar’s first sports car offering since SS 100 production ended when WWII broke out.

“As I met more and more people who collected old cars, once they saw these photos they said, ‘Wow, can you do one of my car?’” As a result, people from around the globe send Bill Chandler their hi-resolution pics for digital super-charging, which he does for free. “A lot of these cars here are owned by friends of mine. I never charged them anything, I just have so much fun doing it. It’s sort of like taking pictures of their kids because they love their cars so much. I always say, whatever you own, it should be fun to drive.”  OH

Wandering Billy

Wandering Billy

Grab Your Popcorn

A locally produced WWII film hits the big screen

By Billy Ingram

“Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you’ll find the real tinsel underneath.”       — Oscar Levant

Our fair city has been a hotbed of independent filmmaking over the last quarter century or so. Recently, perhaps inevitably, a number of locally produced motion pictures have been attracting worldwide audiences. With the wide release of Condor’s Nest in January, one cadre of Greensboro-based filmmakers, Lost Galleon Films, has burst onto the Hollywood landscape in a big way with a rollicking, star-studded revenge flick set in 1950s South America focused around a search for Nazi war criminals.

While writer/director Phil Blattenberger grew up hither and yon, he’s considered Greensboro home for more than two decades now. “So yeah, I’m a local filmmaker if you wanna call it that, kind of by default,” he tells me. “I grew up on all the ’80s pastiche.” His favorite films as a youngster were those blockbuster, so-called popcorn flicks that didn’t take themselves too seriously. “Obviously all the classic Indiana Jones and Back to the Future movies.”

In Blattenberger’s latest motion picture, Condor’s Nest, a German Colonel played by Arnold Vosloo (Imhotep in The Mummy) sadistically executes an American bomber crew during WWII. Ten years later, the commander of that doomed mission travels to South America to exact revenge and, in the process, uncovers a sinister plot to ignite a Fourth Reich to finish what Hitler had only just begun.

It’s a fact that thousands of high ranking Nazis fled Germany after the fall of the Third Reich, establishing new lives and new identities in South America. It’s been convincingly posited that Hitler and Eva Braun lived out their lives in Argentina.

“It’s a really rich narrative that’s not been touched on, surprisingly,” Blattenberger says of what he proudly calls his own popcorn flick. “The type of film that your older brother brought you to when you were 13 and not supposed to see R-rated movies, and you sat in the theater with a bag of popcorn and just watched a bunch of Nazis get their asses kicked. Nazi ass-kicking movies do extremely well globally and have a grand appeal.”

Condor’s Nest is a motion picture shot on a grand scale, including constructing an 85-foot-long, 80-year-old historic aircraft. It serves as a major set piece for the opening scenes, which take place alongside a little farmhouse in Eastern France. “We built a full scale crashed B-17 bomber down to the centimeter in terms of engineering,” Blattenberger notes. “Museums donated original pieces from B-17s to really build this thing out.”

Making a motion picture of this caliber means there are thousands of moving parts and, if any one of them doesn’t look right, the whole thing falls apart. “We were amazed the first time actually looking at scenes through the monitor on the day we were shooting,” Blattenberger says. “All right, smoke’s pouring out the engines — these things look like real engines. We have car chases and explosions, some really high production value elements that are so easy to fall flat if you don’t have the crew that can put it together right. In fact, those elements became some of the strongest points in the film.”

Name actors invariably help to sell films, giving it more commercial cache globally. “Obviously Nazis are bad,” Blattenberger says, chuckling. “It’s been done so many times. What you don’t want to do is just get the stereotypical Nazi with an evil laugh. We wanted to find somebody with gravitas who was going to bring a bit of nuance to the role, in the sense that his character was internally justifying his own horrible actions, actually making him the good guy in his own head. And we knocked it out with Arnold Vosloo who went toe-to-toe as the villain in Blood Diamond up against Leonardo DiCaprio.”

Michael Ironside appears as a Russian agent. He’s been in dozens of movies like Starship Troopers and Total Recall, and was featured in Top Gun. “We pulled in Twilight star Jackson Rathbone to play a really seedy character,” Blattenberger says. “He shows up about halfway through the movie and turns into one of the big third-act villains.” Cast as Heinrich Himmler is James Urbaniak (Robert Crumb in American Splendor). “He had never spoken a word of German in his life,” Blattenberger says of Urbaniak’s performance. “He had to learn his entire role in German, doesn’t speak a word of English in the entire movie. We cast Academy Award nominee Bruce Davison (Longtime Companion). He did his whole scene in German.”

Key setups with these actors were filmed in and around the Julian Price House, a Tudor-revival estate that looks as if it could exist anywhere in the world, most improbably in Greensboro. “That’s actually the Condor’s Nest,” Blattenberger notes. “The titular location for this film that’s supposed to be set in the mountains of Bolivia.”

Lost star Jorge Garcia portrays a turncoat bartender in Buenos Aires spying for both the Russians and Germans. The basement of Havana Phil’s Cigar Company, for some four decades known as Cellar Anton’s, one of the city’s most revered dining rooms, served as his bar. “We shot our big wide establishing shots in South America,” Blattenberger explains, “selling the idea that you’re in another continent, so we could jump in the movie to the interior of a bar that’s on a different continent. Greensboro was a great location for that.”

“The real guy to talk about is Jacob Keohane,” Blattenberger says of his lead actor. “He’s been active on the East Coast theater circuit for years. He had a major role in Halloween Kills that came out last year. The guy’s absolutely brilliant.”

This locally produced picture proves there’s no need to lower expectations just because a film isn’t made in Hollywood. No less than Paramount Pictures picked up the distribution rights for a dozen or so major cities including New York and Los Angeles, and the movie is available on streaming platforms as you read this.

I can tell you first hand, there is no other experience in life comparable to working on a movie set. The writer/director agrees: “Running around with a crew of 30 or 40, there’s a mania and an energy to it, a coordinated chaos. It’s addictive. It’s something that you latch onto and, man, you just wanna keep making movies, you know?”

As for Phil Blattenberger and Lost Galleon Films’ next project, “We’re officially in pre-production on Without Consequence, a crime thriller set in the American West in the early 1960s, shooting in New Mexico this October or November. We’ll pull a few familiar faces from Condor’s Nest on it and there will probably be a scene or two shot in Greensboro.”  OH

In another of life’s moments reminding us just how old we are, Billy Ingram actually worked on the posters and trailers for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Back to the Future 2 and 3.

O.Henry Ending

O.Henry Ending

The Chili Queen

The prize is in the pot!

By Barbara Rosson Davis

It has been widely reported that capsicum spices make one wickedly hot. Even dreams catch fire! Billy the Kid, a lover of chili, once supposedly said “Anybody who eats chili can’t be all bad . . . even when the bed-linens tend to levitate after eating three bowls.”

This chili tale is not one of enraged cannibals butchering conquistadors, seasoning them with chiles, cinnamon, cilantro, cocoa and corn, simmering the lot, then feasting. Rather, it’s a spicy story of a “Chili-Cook-off” that takes place at the original — and no longer in existence — Roosters Gourmet kitchen shop on State Street.

Chili, the concoction, with or without beans, has many versions. Recipes abound — some guarded, some misguided and some worthy of a prize. Thousands of known chili-pepper varieties exist, ranging in hotness and assorted colors. “Carolina Reaper” (grown in Rock Hill, S.C.) is a hybrid cultivar, rated the world’s hottest pepper, as referenced in Guinness World Records, circa 2012.

At Roosters, proprietor Mary James Lawrence bags the spices I’ve selected and points to the newly-arrived Calphalon pots, the largest of which catches my eye. But the price of $145 is beyond my budget.

Then I see a sign that tempts the competitor in me: “Enter Roosters’ Chili Cook-off and Win the Pot!”

Fortune favors the brave. I fill out an entry form, fire up the brain, chili on my mind, and go home to simmer some beef. Roosters’ contest requires a recipe plus a sample of the contestant’s homemade chili to be judged by local chefs and restaurateurs. If my chili is going to stand a chance of winning, it has to be truly “after-burner” distinctive, mouthwatering, and so irresistible the Judges cannot stop eating it. Damn the mouth, defy the stomach! I add some kicker-ingredients: authentic Spanish chorizo, smoked (hot) pimenton (Spanish paprika), Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, tons of garlic and an assortment of fresh chiles: Anaheim, jalapeño, habañero, serrano, poblano and pasilla. The beef is grass-fed, Guilford-county-raised, simmered for hours in chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, onions, oregano and garlic, plus chiles, with a whole bottle of Corona beer and more sherry. In the morning, I add sautéed chorizo chunks, more onions, fresh peppers, smoked paprika, dark kidney beans, a can of enchilada sauce and tomatoes.

I then let my chili meld its aromatic flavors for two days and serve it with chopped fresh cilantro and three shredded cheeses melted on top.

Judgment day arrives: Twenty contestants and onlookers surround the tasting table at Roosters. The five judges sample — and re-sample — each recipe from numbered bowls. I have no idea which bowl holds my chili as the judges taste, nod and whisper. Their eyes begin watering . . . Mary James announces, “Only one female entry, folks.”

Me? Up against a passel of good old Southern boys? More buzz. Thirty minutes go by. Now I’m sweating. 

Finally, after conferring with the judges (for what seems eons), Mary James announces, “It’s unanimous! — Number four is the winning chili!” She smiles at me.

“Congratulations to Greensboro’s Chili Queen!“ she beams, handing me the huge Calphalon pot. My eyes start to water, but not from chiles.  OH

A native Californian, Barbara Rosson Davis is a writer living in Greensboro since 1979. A lover of chili, she concocts new versions of her original winning chili, whatever the season.

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory 101

An introduction

By Cassie Bustamante

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been enthralled by magazines. My parents gifted me my very first subscriptions — to Highlights and National Geographic, which I would anxiously await each month, religiously checking our mailbox daily anticipating their arrival. And when I was old enough to walk to the drugstore in our small New England town center, I’d use my own babysitting money to purchase high quality publications — Bop and Seventeen (plus wet n’ wild Pink Frost lipstick— it was the early ’90s). Holding those glossy pages filled with bright images and stories felt magical in my hands.

Years later, as a senior at Wake Forest University, I knew I wanted to move to New York City after graduation and work my way up to editor at a magazine, to be a part of something that always brought me so much joy. However, that same year, I met my husband, Chris, and, much to my college advisor’s chagrin — sorry, Dr. Zulick! — I put my own dream on the back burner.

I’ve spent the last 20 years all over the career map as a retail manager, personal trainer, group exercise instructor, vintage store owner and DIY blogger/influencer. I’ve raised two kids who are almost ready to fly the coop and added a preschooler to the mix. We’ve moved from North Carolina to Tennessee to Texas to Louisiana to Maryland, and back to North Carolina in 2019. Through it all, one thing has remained constant: my love for magazines. OK, two things: my love for magazines and my love for my husband.

I’d long since buried that dream of working in the magazine world, but a chance meeting with a neighbor reminded me that it still lived within me, simmering quietly all along. On an early, pre-dawn morning walk in the midsummer of 2020, I met Jim Dodson, the founding editor of O.Henry. It was one of those moments when your soul responds to another with, “Oh, it’s you. I know you.”

A couple months later, knowing that I had social media experience, he called me about “a job you’d be a perfect fit for,” and asked me to attend a driveway meeting, as one did in 2020. At the time, I wasn’t looking for a job, but, after thinking it over, I decided to give it a shot and applied.

For the past two-and-a-half years I’ve worked as O.Henry’s digital content manager, adding the role of managing editor in 2022. Now, 23 years after putting that dream of being an editor on the back burner, it’s bubbling over with excitement. The fact that I get to play an integral part in delivering into your hands a magazine filled with beautiful, hopeful and humorous writing paired with stunning photography and artwork is the fourth greatest joy of my life, ranking just under my kids.

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “When you look back on your life, it looks as though it were a plot, but when you are into it, it’s a mess: just one surprise after another. Then, later, you see it was perfect.”

Full disclosure: We’re still a hot mess at our house. There are currently dirty dishes piled in the sink, dog slobber streaks on the windows and dried Play-Doh crumbs under my feet as I write. Life with three kids, two rescue dogs and two full-time careers can be, at times, utter chaos, but it’s given me pages upon pages of content — sometimes funny, sometimes bittersweet, always honest. And finally, I can see the storyline developing in the midst of the mess.  OH

Cassie Bustamante is editor of O.Henry magazine.

Omnivorous Reader

Omnivorous Reader

Courage and Candor

Daniel Wallace’s thought-provoking memoir

By Stephen E. Smith

If you read the promo material for Daniel Wallace’s new memoir, This Isn’t Going to End Well: The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew, you’ll assume the message is straightforward: Hero worship is an exercise in disillusion. But the “hero” in Wallace’s memoir isn’t a hero in the accepted sense (the sociological definition for “significant other” is a more accurate term); and the message, although essential and timely, is predictably ambiguous.

Wallace is the author of the bestselling novel, Big Fish, and six other much-praised works of fiction, and the qualities evident in his earlier works are perfectly transferable to his first foray into nonfiction. He crafts a compelling narrative that pulls the reader headlong into a story whose energy never wanes. He’s thoughtful and thought-provoking. He makes sense of the past in order to free the reader to face the future, and he writes with courage and candor.

Wallace introduces his hero, his future brother-in-law, William Nealy, in a scene where he happens upon Nealy attempting a perilous leap from the rooftop of the family home into a swimming pool 25 feet below. Nealy takes flight, plunges into the water, climbs out and repeats the jump over and over. “It was pretty magnificent,” Wallace writes. “It wasn’t some unformed idea I had about masculinity or manliness in him that I was drawn to; I wasn’t into that, then or now. It was just the wildness, the derring-do, his willingness to take flight — literally — into the unknown, an openness to experience and chance that so far in my short life had not been previously modeled to me by anyone.” Wallace admits that he didn’t need to emulate Nealy’s behavior but that he learned “. . . how to become the me I wanted,” and that he would think of that day — he was 12 at the time — as the moment he was born again.

The first third of Wallace’s memoir is a biography of Nealy’s short life: his need for constant adrenalin highs, his success as a cartoonist and writer, his marriage to Wallace’s sister, their loving but troubled relationship, and how Nealy’s example encouraged Wallace to become something other than a cliché — not a writer, but someone “demonstrably unique, amusing,” someone living on the fringes.

Following Nealy’s example Wallace threw himself into several unsatisfying pursuits, eventually settling on the writing of fiction — the telling of quirky tales in which nothing is as it seems — that led to the success of Big Fish.

The Nealys settled near Chapel Hill, where they purchased a large tract of wooded land and William built a house, wrote books and produced cartoons and maps about the challenges of outdoor life. In the context of contemporary existence — the use of drugs and alcohol notwithstanding —  it all seemed idyllic, skewed perfection in a humdrum world that was constantly encroaching. But that encroachment became all-consuming when a close mutual friend, Edgar Hitchcock, a drug dealer whom Wallace characterizes as “the kindest man I have ever met,  so smart, funny and loving,” a dealer who confesses that “selling drugs is the final frontier,” is murdered.

The second part of the memoir centers on the mystery surrounding Hitchcock’s death. Nealy became obsessed with finding the man who murdered his friend, and the road led almost immediately to a likely suspect. Relying on simple intuition, Nealy was able to identify the culprit when he first shook his hand. “It was a notion that would be lodged into the marrow of his very being and would not be dislodged, not ever, not for as long as he lived.”

For purposes of the memoir, the suspect’s name is Stanley, a personable enough acquaintance whom Nealy “befriended” in an attempt to discover the truth surrounding Hitchcock’s murder. When Hitchcock’s body was discovered five months after his disappearance, Stanley began to subtly reveal his culpability.

It’s a long and tangled tale that leads to Stanley’s indictment and his eventual release because of convoluted legal circumstances that hindered prosecution. Nealy was powerless to avenge his friend’s murder, and his continuing obsession with the unpunished culprit damaged his marriage to Wallace’s sister. For one of the few times in his adult life, Nealy found himself powerless to influence events. His need to control the uncontrollable becomes apparent in a brief journal entry: “My whole life has been a struggle against the world to preserve my ‘being’ and it’s put me in dire conflict with the people I love . . . I MUST NOT LET THEM SEE WHO I REALLY AM!”

Nealy committed suicide in his early 40s, Wallace’s sister died in 2011, and Wallace inherited their ashes and Nealy’s journals, leaving him to piece together the events that led to his friend’s tragic end. The journal entries aren’t particularly revealing, but one laconic passage exposes the source of Nealy’s recklessness. Nealy’s hero, a Scoutmaster, sexually assaulted him while at summer camp. Nothing more is revealed about the encounter — and what more needs to be said? A physical dissociation from oneself is the inevitable outcome of such a traumatic event and might explain Nealy’s reckless behavior.

Wallace is left to manage his grief and grapple with the psychological pain suffered when the person upon whom he modeled his life proved himself fallible. He eventually comes to what he believes is a satisfactory understanding of William Nealy’s life and death, but that solution isn’t simple or straightforward. There are no easy answers — and the conundrum remains: What becomes of us when our significant other stumbles? “Can we ever know why we are who we are,” he writes, “the recipe that makes us the unique, bewildering, beautiful and sometimes insane creatures we end up becoming?”

Wallace doesn’t shy from the final truth: There are many ways to die — murder, suicide, illness — and he’s philosophical about the state in which we find ourselves: “. . .  there appear to be no safe places left in the world, on our streets or in our hearts.” How true are those simple words?

This Isn’t Going to End Well is not an easy or uplifting read, but it is a memoir borne of intense experience and introspection, which is the only available panacea for what troubles us. Suicide is a perilous subject for the writer and the reader, but Wallace acknowledges that contemplating the taking of one’s life is the most damaging secret a person can have. The “Author’s Note” lists The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.  OH

Stephen E. Smith is a retired professor and the author of seven books of poetry and prose. He’s the recipient of the Poetry Northwest Young Poet’s Prize, the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Prize for poetry and four North Carolina Press Awards.