Whether for jack-o’-lanterns or pie,
’tis the season for curcubits

By Ross Howell

As crisp October evenings arrive, no doubt your mind turns to thoughts of the plant family Cucurbitaceae. Don’t think so?

Pumpkins are “cucurbits”relatives of squash, zucchini, edible and inedible gourds, watermelons, honeydews, cucumbers and more.

Exfoliate this morning with a loofah? Yep. Made from a relative of that jack-o’-lantern decorating your front steps.

The cucurbits are a fantastically big family, counting about 965 species. And you thought your spouse had a lot of cousins! These cucurbits produce a large portion of the food eaten by human beings. Yet in spite of their prolific diversity, almost all cucurbits produce the signature yellow blossoms we associate with squash and cucumbers.

And those blossoms? They may disturb your assumptions deeply. Pumpkins aren’t vegetables, as you might think. They’re fruits.

Individual pumpkin vines produce both male and female flowers and are highly dependent on honeybees for successful pollination. Pumpkins are a very generous foodstuff for people. Their blossoms, seeds, and flesh are tasty and nutritious.

Pumpkins, like other squash, are thought to have originated in North America, and they’ve been around for a long time. The oldest evidence of their presence on this continent was discovered in Mexico — seeds estimated to date from 5500 to 7000 B.C.

The French explorer Jacques Cartier reported finding “gros melons” during his exploration of the St. Lawrence region of North America in the 16th century. Subsequently translated into English as “pompions,” the name has since evolved into the modern “pumpkin,” or commonly here in the South, “punkin.”

The most common decorative pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety, an heirloom plant said to be very similar to the squash grown by Native Americans before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Each fall we see its familiar orange color and smooth, slightly ribbed skin at most every commercial pumpkin patch or church fundraiser. A typical Connecticut Field pumpkin weighs between 15 and 25 pounds.

But there are more than thirty pumpkin varieties these days, some deep green, some variegated and others pearlescent white, with skins smooth skin to rough. And as for size, well, they can be a small fruit less than a pound in weight to the size of the behemoth presented by Chris Stevens at the Stillwater, Minnesota, Harvest Fest in October 2010. It weighed 1,810 pounds, 8 ounces!

The Harvest Fest pumpkin may be what little Linus van Pelt of Charles Shulz’s  Peanuts cartoon envisioned when he proclaimed — unsuccessfully — to Charlie Brown and all the neighborhood kids, “On Halloween night the Great Pumpkin rises out of his pumpkin patch and flies through the air with bags of toys for all the children.”

For a plant so generous and benign, the pumpkin is treated pretty badly by us humans.

At Halloween we’ll discard its innards and carve the pumpkin into all sorts of fanciful visages and shapes, some beautiful, some frightening. Historians ascribe this tradition to Irish immigrants, who before coming to America, performed these rites for centuries on turnips and potatoes.

Or musicians from Chicago in the 1980s will name their alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins and release some pretty cool songs along with a selection of completely baffling MTV videos.

Or worse, some of us with a mechanical bent will form teams to build elaborate catapults or air cannons that at “Punkin Chunkin’” competitions launch the hapless fruits thousands of feet, smashing them to smithereens. In fact, North Carolina is home to a world champion Punkin Chunkin’ team.

Anybody for Thanksgiving pumpkin pie?  OH

Attempts by Ross Howell Jr. to grow squash or pumpkins in his backyard garden have been foiled by rude and invidious squash bugs. He refuses to accept defeat.

Rat Pack Reunion

Wandering Billy

Memories of Sinatra, Martin and The Golddiggers

By Billy Eye

“My father said get a regular job already, what are you doing? What is this with the singing? Get a job!” — Frank Sinatra

Ring-a-ding-ding, Hep Cats. Back in 2012, I had the pleasure of creating an extensive oral history of the Alberici Sisters, who, as teens in 1973, joined Dean Martin’s girl group The Golddiggers. For the book, Beyond Our Wildest Dreams, I interviewed dozens of folks who worked with Dean and Frank Sinatra. So, in conjunction with the Sinatra-themed bash this magazine will be throwing on October 20th at Blandwood Mansion, let’s wander back in time for some up-close memories of the one and only concert tour Ol’ Blue Eyes and Ol’ Red Eyes ever undertook together in 1977.

Maria Alberici, Golddigger 1973–1990: We were scheduled to do two shows a night. Pat Henry would go on first, then The Golddiggers, then Dean and finally Frank. After Frank’s set, Dean would join him on stage for some comedy and a long medley of their hits. When the first day of rehearsal arrived, there was an air of respectful anticipation backstage as if history was in the making. They both showed up for rehearsal in tuxes. Frank was a little more casual, he was wearing a black top coat instead of his tux jacket. They faced off onstage like two matadors in search of a bull.

Dean had a natural way of making people feel comfortable. He didn’t go out of his way to make an impression or try to be charming, he just was. With Frank you had to know he was in command but, even though he had a take-charge air about him, he displayed a wider range of emotional colors when he performed. Frank was all about getting inside the music. It was the art of seduction for him.

Frank was the master chess player, the manipulator of the chessboard. One night he invited us all to dinner in a lovely private room backstage. When it was time for dinner, his bodyguards escorted us to our tables.

Helen Costa, wife of Sinatra’s musical arranger Don Costa: The reason they called him Ol’ Blue Eyes — a lot of people have blue eyes but Frank had a tremendous energy coming from his eyes. When he walked into a room, it was electrifying. His eyes were it, I think that’s what really endeared him to the audience because they connected through that energy, and he made every person feel he was singing to them. It was more his talent for phrasing than having the greatest voice ever; it was enough that he had the phrasing and the energy to simulate that intimacy on stage. He had that power. He was very intense all the time. He was particular, had perfect pitch and great ears for any kind of mistakes.

Robyn Whatley, Golddigger 1976–1987: Dean was naturally very funny so he had Frank laughing all the time. They had such a routine and fell right back into it even though they had not been together in concert for a decade or so. Dean never rehearsed, but Frank Sinatra was very professional, into details, let’s put it that way. Our dressing room was right next to his and the walls were paper thin. He would literally do vocal rehearsals for at least thirty minutes before every show. And Dean would come in and kinda go, “Ah, is the stage still where we left it?”

Linda Alberici, Golddigger 1973–1990: At the start of our run, newspapers all over the country ran photos of Dean and Frank performing together on stage again. The Rat Pack was back and we were right in the thick of it. Frank was the Chairman of the Board and traveled with his kingdom wherever he performed. And the court jesters were these shady wise guys that followed him around everywhere. Every once in a while they would quickly assemble and look like they had something important to attend to, but mostly they would just hang out.

It wasn’t all laughs and inside jokes on the tour. Frank fired his longtime friend and opening act Pat Henry over a bad bet or something. I heard Pat never got over that. After that the atmosphere of the tour got a little more tense. I must say, I was tiptoeing around. One evening I asked Dean about our being told before the tour began to “stay away from Mr. Sinatra.” His reply was, “I’m keepin’ away from him too!” Dean explained that Frank was bugging him to stay out late and party with him. I wanted to know more but wouldn’t dare probe into their relationship. Dean, being a man of few words, didn’t go into much detail except to say that Frank’s nocturnal lifestyle was not for him anymore.

Just outside the stage door Frank had a big limo waiting with the motor running. As soon as he got offstage he was escorted directly to the limo by a bunch of guys in suits. They were trying to escape before the audience was let out of the theater. It was very much like a scene out of a mafia movie with the bank robbers making their getaway.  OH

Beyond Our Wildest Dreams is available at bookstores and from Amazon.com. Billy Eye will be attending the soirée on October 20th if the lawyers and insurance people can hash it out in time.

Old Sam Peabody

The song of the white-throated sparrow heralds winter

By Susan Campbell

Here in central North Carolina, the winged harbinger of winter is the white-throated sparrow. After summering in the forests of the far north, this bold little bird breeds across Canada and in northern New England at higher elevations. Then it heads south for the winter, probably stopping off in your backyard. A medium-sized sparrow, it is anything but drab, with brown notes on its upper body and white below. Look for bold markings on the head. Pale stripes on the crown and a white throat patch are set off by gray feathers on the face. And to top it all off, white-throateds sport a yellow spot at the base of their stout bill.

Interestingly there are two color forms of this species: those with heads that are white-striped and those that are tan-striped. Both forms persist. While white-striped individuals are more aggressive during the breeding season, either type will breed with the other. Following courtship, females handle the nest-making, usually in a depression on the ground under a low-growing tree or shrub. However, should it, not surprisingly, fall victim to predators, the second nest may be placed on low branches.

If you have not spotted one of these birds, you almost certainly have heard their distinctive loud “seet” call emanating from thick vegetation. Their song, which can be heard even during cold weather, is a recognizable, liquid “oh sweet Canada.” (Others hear “old Sam Peabody.”) Since they tend to flock together, you are likely to encounter small groups along forest edges, farm fields, parks and suburban areas

These squatty sparrows actually have a broad diet. Although they primarily feed on a range of seeds during the winter months, their preference shifts during the year. In spring, they are more likely to seek out buds and flowers of fresh vegetation.  Luckily, white-throateds love feeding stations, often in association with dark-eyed juncos, another bird of the high country.

White-throated sparrows do not walk or run but hop when on the ground. As they forage, they will forcefully scratch backward in leaf litter using both feet and pouncing on tasty bits that they uncover. And if you happen to look out of your window and see leaves taking flight, it is probably white-throated sparrows forcefully flicking aside dead leaves using their bills. In the winter months, pecking orders form within flocks with the more aggressive males dominating. 

If you want to attract white-throated sparrows this winter, it is easy and inexpensive. Since they tend to stay low, scattering a seed mix in a cleared spot near shrubs or other thick vegetation is all it may take. White-throats will hop up onto a stump or low platform feeder as well. Easier yet, simply leave a portion of your yard unmowed until Spring and these predictable visitors may well turn up to take advantage of the resulting seeds that remain as the growing season winds down.  OH

Susan would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photographs at


The Evolving Species

And bound to the South, for good reason

By Elizabeth Edmonds

Once in a while I start to think about what it would be like to live somewhere other than the South. After all, we have crazy weather, ice today, spring tomorrow, and we have mosquitoes whose purpose and virtue I have yet to understand. But then something will happen and remind me of one of the reasons I continue to make my home here. One of those things happened last week and although a small thing on the worldwide grid it still gives me pause, and I remember why I put up with the unpredictable weather and mosquitoes.

A person passed away in my hometown which now has two stoplights instead of one and three if you count the one on the edge of the city limits. She was 96 and had lived alone for more than forty years. She was a beauty in her day, petite and stylish, and had lots of “beaus” as my 102-year-old aunt said. Tragically, her sister, younger by one year, had passed away at age 21, in childbirth and was buried with her baby in the church cemetery next door to where the two sisters and their parents had lived. She never got over the death of her sister and turned her back on any hope of marrying and having children, choosing instead to stay home and care for her parents until they passed. She would occasionally leave the house for groceries or a doctor’s appointment but gradually retreated into her house, never hosting visitors, never letting anyone in, and spent her days feeding the many stray cats in the neighborhood and the birds.  

Slowly the house began to crumble around her.  Family and friends urged her to leave, even offering to take her in or set her up in a safer place. She refused to leave saying she wanted to stay in her house next to the church cemetery where her sister and baby were “sleeping.” Her contact with the outside world was by telephone or at the back porch steps. Only one person gained her trust enough to allow him to come in and try to make the necessary repairs around her just to keep her warm and safe. We all wondered why she would put her trust in a stranger and not turn to family for help, but I some things never elude an explanation.

When she did not answer her morning call from her 102-year-old “double first cousin,” the plan was put into place for someone to find the hidden key to her crumbling house and go inside. There she was, on the floor of the room where she spent most of her time. Within three days she passed after suffering a massive stroke.

The little town where I grew up has changed dramatically over the years, not so much in how it looks, but in the demographics. More and more people have passed on and new people have moved to town choosing to live the small town lifestyle while working in the big cities of Greensboro or High Point, so not many people recognized her name. Even the church her whole family once attended now has a praise band and a jumbo screen to scroll the words to songs she would never have recognized.  

The little funeral home that has served the town for several generations since it was founded in 1857 handled the preparations for her final journey, the only time she had been out of the house in many, many years. The small group gathered in the funeral home chapel for the service because as she had said in her final hand-written note, “I don’t want a fuss when I die.” The minister spoke as if she had known her for years even though all of their visits had been at the back porch steps. The minister, however, knew things even some of the family did not know. For instance, she had lived on a monthly income equivalent to how much some of us spend just on groceries or on a car payment. And yet, she had never failed to send her tithes to the church in eighty-three years.  We didn’t know that she sometimes would opt to feed the cats and birds instead of herself.  Oh, it wasn’t for lack of trying to help her that we didn’t know, it was just that she was that private and gave not a hint of her financial situation as she continued to enclose her little $5 bills, sometimes $10 in our Christmas and birthday cards.

She was still so tiny, barely 5 feet tall, that it took only four pallbearers to carry the casket to the hearse. As the hearse pulled out of the parking lot with the small procession following it to the same cemetery where her parents and her beloved sister were buried, I suddenly thought, “Yes, this is one of the reasons I still love the South in spite of its warts and all.”  

As the hearse slowly made its way past the elementary school, past the old curb market, past the laundromat and the local pizza place, and past the church where she had tithed for 83 years, I looked to the left. Every car, every school bus, every pickup truck . . . yes, every single one . . . stopped where they were.  Not a single vehicle moved until that hearse and the small procession, identified by our headlights on, had passed.  I doubt that anyone in those cars, buses and trucks knew who was inside that hearse.  All they knew was that someone had passed from this life into the next one and the only way they had to show respect was to stop and allow her to pass with reverence. As we approached one of the two stoplights, although it had changed to green, no one came through the intersection, allowing the small procession to proceed without interruption.

That is life in a small Southern town. We may not know who is passing by on the way to their final resting place, but we know that one day we will all take that same ride and this may be the only way we have of showing respect for them, even though we may have only known them over the back porch steps. It’s a small thing, a gesture, but it speaks volumes and it reminds me once again of why I continue to live here with the unpredictable weather and mosquitoes.  OH

A first-time contributor to O.Henry, Elizabeth Edmonds is also an ordained minister. When she isn’t performing wedding ceremonies, she works as a secretary for Guilford Middle School.

Cashmere Connection


How Kriegsman Luxury Outerwear makes
bespoke coats from the world’s finest fabrics

By Waynette Goodson

Established in 1924, Loro Piana is the largest and finest manufacturer of cashmere in the Western world. The precious fibers come from hircus goats in the mountains of Northern China and Mongolia, where the luxury Italian fashion brand has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Ulaanbaater.

Once a year in the spring, goat herders harvest the animals’ underfleece through a harmless combing process. Each goat yields about 250 grams (9 ounces) of the underfleece, but after the coarser outer fibers are removed, only about half remains — which is why it’s so precious. Most all materials then go to workshops in Italy, where craftsmen still make most of the garments by hand.

And a select few merchants outside this rarified circle are allowed to receive bolts of this exceptional fabric — including Kriegsman Luxury Outerwear of Greensboro.

“When we went to buy Loro Piana, they vetted us,” owner David Kriegsman recalls. “Then when we got it in, we asked for the labels, and they vetted us again. Just having the rights to purchase the fabric is a feather in our cap. They don’t just sell it to anyone.”

And Kriegsman isn’t just anyone. 

“We are furriers,” he explains. “And that’s what we’ve done for eighty-eight years. My father was a furrier, and my grandfather, and my grandmother, and my uncle. This is what they did in the Old Country —Austria. We’ve sold cashmere and fine woolens for at least thirty-five years.”

In 2008, the recession hit, and Kriegsman decided he didn’t want to lay off anyone from his venerable store, which has stood at 502 East Cornwallis Drive for thirty years.

“My thought was to make better cloth coats,” he recalls. “I’m not in competition with the department stores. I can’t make a coat for $250 like they make in China. So we started making cashmere garments, and the next thing I know, we started buying cashmere from Loro Piana, who makes the finest fabrics in the world, period.”

The store’s chief designer, Stanka Ivanova, hails from Bulgaria. An accomplished artist, she creates garments in a wide range of materials, from fur to leather and from fine wool to cashmere — and all combinations — for women and men. You’ll find the atelier behind their showrooms is full of the machinery to design and make these special garments. Cold storage vaults on the premises contain thousands of furs during the hot summer months.

“About 80 percent of the garments we make for customers are custom created,” Ivanova says. “We make about one-third of all our inventory ourselves. We create hand-stitched garments the way they should be done. It’s not just bing, bam, boom.”

Longtime Greensboro resident Edith Griffin remembers the day she decided she had to have a navy blue leather suit made. “David showed me all the leather samples and gave me the timing,” she says. “I was so excited about it! They commented on how wonderful it looked on me and made me feel so special.”

Griffin has shopped at the store for three decades and collected many favorites along the way, such as a custom silk dupioni dress and a black cashmere coat. “They’re so patient and understanding,” she says of the crew at Kriegsman. “I go there when I have some downtime, and I try on the furs, jackets and sweaters, and now they even sell handbags. I have to get one of those, too!”

Mention the word “Kriegsman” to Armando Dunn, and he starts rattling off dearly beloved purchases: “Three cashmere coats, two trimmed with chinchilla and one with mink; a full-length otter; a mink and cashmere blend fabric lined with nutria. A German shearling. For this season, I’m going with fox.”

Dunn splits his time between High Point and New York, where he enjoys wearing his favorite item, a sheared black, full-length mink coat, perfect for formal black tie attire at the opera.

“It’s very difficult, about impossible, to find someone who makes furs for men,” Dunn explains. “The only other person is Tom Ford, at about $40,000 for anything.”

And that’s the magic behind Kriegsman. “No one else does this like we do,” he says. “There are just two furriers in the state. If you research you’ll find there are few people in the whole country that make bespoke, custom-made Loro Piana cashmere coats. It’s a very small number, and virtually no one in the South does this. There’s no one like us in the state, and that’s our story.”  OH

When she’s not dreaming of cashmere and furs, Waynette Goodson pushes a pen for Casual Living as the editor in chief. 

Old Is New Again

Tired of that dusty old stole buried in your closet? Let Kriegsman Luxury Outerwear Store turn it into something new and now.

“’We had a girl in high school bring in her grandmother’s fur, a graduation gift, and we used it to design a contemporary leather-and-fur vest,” says owner David Kriegsman.

On another occasion, a hunter brought in a deer skin, which also became a vest; the front with deer and the back with cashmere. “We work with everyone from a young graduate to a man who will wear his vest on his Harley,” Kriegsman says.

Furs restyled to create bed throws or even stool covers? That, too!

Kriegsman Luxury Outerwear is a hidden gem at 502 East Cornwallis Drive, in the same shopping center as La Bamba Mexican restaurant. Be sure to allocate plenty of time to peruse the shelves, chock-full of much more than just coats. Think real cashmere pashminas, leather gloves, hats, belts, cashmere/silk/woolen scarves, mink key charms and flower pins, and a wide selection of handbags, such as the very sculptural and modern German label, Olbrish. kriegsmanfurs.com

New Garden, Old Spirits

Gate City Journal

A walk through the mists of time with historian Max Carter

By Billy Ingram

Sometime around the year 1806, a young boy waited patiently alongside a dirt roadway near what is now New Garden Road as winding coffles of slaves being transported to marketplace passed by. He asked his father why those dark-skinned men and women were bound in chains; his father’s explanation horrified young Levi Coffin. Since the 1770s, the Religious Society of Friends, Quakers like himself, had almost entirely divorced themselves from the institution of slavery. This pernicious notion festered in Levi Coffin’s consciousness. Ultimately it led to one of history’s most remarkable achievements, one that would bend the arc of social justice and forever reshape our nation.

Trolling through the wooded area now known as New Garden searching for farrowing sows, young Levi would, on occasion, encounter frightened slaves escaping. Fetching cornbread and bacon for the fugitives, he would sit in rapt attention as they told harrowing tales of the brutal conditions and inhuman treatment they suffered on plantations to the east. 

It was not long after his 15th birthday, while attending a late-October community corn husking, that Levi Coffin took notice of a band of slaves that labored under the whip of a prominent trafficker. As white folks answered the dinner bell, congregating around tables inside the farmhouse, likely no one noticed Levi as he slipped away to join the enslaved individuals in order to, in his words, “See if I could render them any service.” It was there he met Stephen, a freeborn African American who had, years earlier, been kidnapped from the home of Philadelphia Quaker Edward Lloyd before being sold to the highest bidder as common chattel. Outraged, Levi wrote to Lloyd to assess him of the situation. After concerted effort, Stephen made the journey back to his rightful home.

Tortured souls seeking a better life began following a lightly worn pathway into the New Garden woods to a particular tulip poplar tree that offered concealment from bloodhounds and bounty hunters, with food hidden nearby by sympathetic Quakers. There Levi and his cousin Vestal could direct these men and women toward sympathetic outposts along the various routes away from the state, farmers that could provide temporary shelter and nourishment.

In 1821, under the guise of furthering Christianity and spreading the wonders of the Bible to the heathens, the Coffin cousins organized a Sunday School class to teach slaves to read and write. After all, one could hardly make the case that slaves shouldn’t be taught the scripture. This was a short-lived effort, the school was forcibly shuttered when prominent slave owners wised up to the two men’s real intent. It was a deeply held moral opposition to the ingrained culture of slavery that fueled a mass migration of 20,000 Quakers from the South to Indiana, including the Coffin family.

Which brings us to the present. . .

This Hallows Eve may have you considering an experience among the pines where zombies and ghouls (or those made-up to appear as such anyway) startle terrified ticket holders. Or perhaps a Halloween haunted house at a local church featuring icky abortion mishaps or the grotesque aftereffects of a gruesome drunken automobile accident.

More satisfying, by far, would be to spend the evening by lantern light in a graveyard whose  inhabitants have lain peacefully since before the city of Greensborough was founded, their eternal slumber having begun decades prior to Nathanael Greene confronting overwhelmingly superior British forces on these grounds in 1781, sending the enemy into retreat.

About fifteen years ago Max Carter, retired director of the Friends Center at Guilford College, began an annual Halloween New Garden Friends Cemetery tour. Posing as a white-bearded Gandalf holding aloft the old lantern his father once used to light dairy barns in Indiana, Max leads a merry band of historical thrill seekers from stone to stone, ricocheting across the corridors of time with the help of costumed players portraying many of the luminaries buried there. As to the ancient burial ground’s origin, Carter explains, “Henry Ballinger and Thomas Hunt bought 53 acres in 1757 from Richard Williams for the use of New Garden Friends Meeting for a cemetery and meetinghouse. Richard Williams had a farm where Western Guilford High is now. Guilford College is built on the Williams farm as well. Richard Williams then later contracted smallpox tending to soldiers during the Revolutionary War and died. He’s buried in the cemetery.”

As you meander through yesterdays you’ll develop a greater understanding of the threads that weave in and out of our shared history, the backstories behind familiar names that grace our street signs and longtime local businesses: Addison Boren, whose sons turned mud into millions with their terra cotta pipes and bricks; John Van Lindley’s Pomona Hills Nursery, who introduced peaches to the area before he founded an insurance company that ultimately became Jefferson Standard Life; Mary Mendenhall Hobbs, who advocated for female education in the late 1880s, leading to the first public college for women, now known as UNCG.

You’ll meet other fascinating and deceased individuals who shaped and molded our community such as John and Mary Woody, who parceled off a significant portion of their land for African Americans to purchase after the Civil War. From his inheritance, their son Waldo donated more land for a nearby school to be built, thereby establishing the Woodyside neighborhood where Hedgecock Lumber was a neighborhood institution near the intersection of West Market and College Road, birthplace of blues musician Lorenzo “Logie” Meachum.

The ball-playing Ferrell brothers are also buried here. One of those seven boys, Rick Ferrell, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with the American League record for most games caught, a milestone that went unmatched for over forty years. Back in the 1920s, as Max Carter tells it, “The brothers lived on a dairy farm on West Market where Hidden Lakes is now. Sundays you didn’t work, you milked the cows; that’s it. So they played baseball. Two of them went professional, Wes Ferrell was one of the greatest pitchers of the ’20s and ’30s.”

There are points along the way when Max will tell a story that leaves the audience gasping; then he drops the mic to quickly move on to another amazing tale. For instance: Clyde Milner, Guilford’s longest serving president Milner assisted the American Friends Service Committee when they freed Japanese-American college students from internment camps during Word War II by transporting them east to receive an education. That international Quaker peace and justice organization also successfully negotiated terms that allowed German Jews to avoid concentration camps just before WWII broke out to resettle in Greensboro. It was also under Milner’s administration that the college was integrated in 1962. Among others those who emigrated in 1939 were Curt and Gertrude Victorius. Curt Victorius was chief economist of the German National Banking Association.

Wear your walking shoes; you won’t just cover a lot of ground, you’ll cover a lot of territory. Not far from a mass grave containing 150 British and American soldiers, you’ll gather beside a marker commemorating the Revolutionary Oak that was the victim of a terrorist attack in 1955. Max Carter elaborates, “Quakers were working to help Greensboro integrate the public schools after Brown vs. Board of Education. Surprise, surprise! The local school board was not anxious to do that here. The American Friends Service Committee sent trainers down here to work with the local black and white populations, to ramp up integration but to do it creatively and nonviolently. They invited
Eleanor Roosevelt to come down and address an integrated audience, of blacks and whites sitting together in the meeting house at what is now New Garden Hall at the college. While she was addressing them, talking all about civil rights and integration, three locals who weren’t overly enthusiastic about her coming stuck dynamite at the base of the oak tree in the cemetery and blew it up as a protest.

“It had been there during Revolutionary battles and shaded fallen soldiers. It had become kind of an icon in the community,” Carter says. “It was so massive it didn’t come down immediately. It came down in a storm four years later. When they counted the rings they said it was born in 1492.” There are remnants of that tree all over the community. People made tables, chairs and offering plates out of it. “Just a couple of months ago an old gentleman in Alamance County passed away, but before he died he invited a bunch of us out to see what he wanted to give the college,” Carter continues. “Behind his hen house were planks of sawed lumber from that tree. So there are woodworkers at the college right now turning the last remnants of the Revolutionary Oak into furniture.”

Remember Levi Coffin, earlier in this story? Halloween-nighters will encounter his family’s final resting place, as well. That story, remarkable as it is, didn’t end with an aborted but significant attempt to educate local blacks. Over time, with so many African descendants being driven into the New Garden woods from far away counties and states, Levi and his cousin Vestal developed an intricate network of safe houses to shelter runaways as they made their way north or west. The woods at the perimeter of New Garden Cemetery became the initial spur for what became the Underground Railroad in 1819. The tulip poplar that served as a waiting room for fugitives from injustice fleeing North Carolina over 150 years ago still flourishes today. It’s the second largest in the state.

“One of the last graves we stop at is Vestal Coffin, he was the First Conductor on the Underground Railroad. He died on his 34th birthday before he could make it out to Indiana,” Carter says. “He left a young widow, his wife Alethea, who had, I think, four kids. She was in her 20s and had a 170-acre farm, where Jefferson Standard Country Club was and she didn’t want to leave the side of her husband. So she continued to farm until her kids were grown up.” The offspring all made the trek as part of a mass exodus out of the state to Indiana but kept begging their mother to join them. She finally acquiesced in the late-1830s, packed up a wagon and headed northwest, “But the wagon was so bumpy she got out and walked the whole way,” Carter goes on. “She stayed there a few months, couldn’t stand being away from what where she and her husband had made their home, so she came back and was matron of the women’s side of the old boarding school for several years until in her old age. She finally went back up to Indiana to live with her family but with the condition that when she died she’d be returned to be buried next to her husband.” Carter pauses before concluding. “She died in 1891, 65 years a widow, and on her epitaph it says, “Died in Indiana, buried in her wedding dress.” The women in the group always say, “Well, if you’re walking back and forth to Indiana you’ll fit in that dress.”

After the first few Halloween tours Max Carter wondered if it might have a broader appeal, “I decided to advertise it a little bit, see if anyone outside the Guilford, New Garden Quaker community would be interested and seventy-five people showed up,” he recalls. “They didn’t have a clue; that was the thing that amazed me. People aren’t aware of that history. And they started talking to their friends about it and it started expanding so we do an alternative Memorial Day tour highlighting those who died in service of their country — traditionally, but also those who risked their lives in service of their country nonviolently. Then we do a Fourth of July tour that focuses not only on the struggle for independence, the Battle of New Garden, Guilford Courthouse were all fought out here, but also the Underground Railroad, civil rights, and other Quaker peace work.”

In a resting place this old, especially on Halloween night, you could just bet there’ll be restless spirits, pranking poltergeists, ghostly apparitions that have perplexed and frightened cemetery-goers for generations. In this instance . . . not so much. Max Carter tells folks, “While we’re traipsing through the cemetery, you don’t have to be worried if you step on graves because Quakers are as benign in death as they are in life. The only ghost stories that we know of are the three restless spirits on the Guilford College campus.” One of them is one of the Revolutionary war soldiers “Lucas is his name. He haunts Dana Auditorium. The other haunts Mary Hobbs Hall. Nobody knows anything about her. She’s a young girl, she moves furniture and opens drawers, locks people out of their room if they’ve been ‘naughty girls’ and snuck out after curfew. The third one is up in Founder’s Hall, the ghost of a college nurse who committed suicide in her apartment.”

The October 31st lantern-lit walking tour of New Garden Cemetery begins promptly at 8 p.m. I won’t just be there in spirit, I’ll be playing the role of preacher Vance Abner who was known for witticisms such as: “Most American Christian worship starts at 11sharp on Sundays and ends at 12 dull.” Sounds like a swell guy.

Join Max Carter’s celebration of those stoic individuals that laid the foundations and defined the character that made our unsure-footed city great, Quaker activists who saw war and sought peace, recognized injustice and brought about change and who, lo these many generations later, continue to inspire and excite.  OH

Billy Ingram always finds it interesting when the subject of an interview declares, “I tell stories, half of ’em are true. You just have to figure out which half.”

The Making of O.Henry

The O.H. File

William Sydney Porter’s time in Austin, Texas

By Brian Clarey

I find the William Sydney Porter House, prominently located on Fifth Street on the east side of downtown Austin, Texas, to be mildly offensive.

It’s not the home itself — five simple rooms stacked inside a creamy yellow clapboard — or its contents, which include the man’s shaving brush and mustache comb and a brown hat from his New York City years that he probably stole from a cocktail party in some uptown high-rise.

It’s just that . . . O.Henry is our guy. Sure, he spent a few years there, right before his time in the penitentiary. But he only lived in this particular house for a couple of years, certainly not long enough to justify the vulgar National Register of Historic Places plaque posted out front when compared to the crucible of his creative soul that is Greensboro.

And let’s face it, O.Henry’s time in Austin did not go well.

I understand why Porter went to Texas.

He was just a 19-year-old pharmacist selling opiated tinctures and stimulants to the denizens of Elm Street in 1882, his head filled with books and his body wracked with a deep, tubercular cough reminiscent of the one that had eventually taken his mother when he was just 3.

And anyway, Cotulla, Texas, was booming when he got there in 1882: a new rail line and depot, a new ranch, and the type of searing, Texas-style heat that soothed his lungs.

After a couple of years of that, he made it to Austin and did about what every other 22-year-old would have loved to do: He joined a band. He started a ’zine. He met a woman. And he fell in with a bad crowd.

It all began so promisingly.

Drawn in by the streetlamps and saloons of downtown Austin — at least twice as many as in his hometown in North Carolina — and flush with cattle and cotton money, he enjoyed a social life beyond anything Greensboro could offer.

He met Athol Roach, with whom he would elope in 1887, and used his ranching experience to snag a surveying route with the Texas General Land Office. He and Athol, who was also showing symptoms of tuberculosis, had a child, Margaret. And he started the Rolling Stone, a five-cent one-sheet with short stories, comedic verse and one-liners that made the rounds as far as San Antonio.

But it all started to go south when he took a job as a teller at the First National Bank of Austin and set up house with his family in these very rooms.

He told the feds that he didn’t do it, that the bank had always played it fast and loose with their accounts, that he was just a patsy. Still, he was indicted in 1896, and he took the scoundrel’s way out: He ran, first for New Orleans, and then for Honduras, leaving Margaret and Athol, whose own final bout with tuberculosis had just begun.

He wouldn’t return to Austin until his wife’s final days. She died in this very bed, now angled from the wall in a front room of the William Sidney Porter House. And O.Henry went off to jail in Ohio, which turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to his career.

He adopted his pseudonym in the Ohio Penitentiary to mask the authorship of tales scripted behind bars. Porter didn’t really become O.Henry until after he served his time, when he prolifically produced the bulk of his canon from New York City.

Both of these places have a more legitimate connection to O.Henry, I think, than Austin, which seems to have had a worse influence on his life than even a federal prison.

“His time here was pretty dubious,” says Curator Melissa Parr. “It borders on the bizarre.”

That he was not complicit in the bank fraud is taken almost as gospel here. Less defensible is his hasty exit.

“He abandoned his family,” a staffer reminds her.

“But he came back,” Parr counters.

“When she was dying!”

Here among his things, in the house where he lived, it’s not hard to humanize the man, even a hundred years after his death — easy to imagine him rinsing his face at the porcelain bowl of his wooden washstand, to picture Athol sewing the needle book displayed on the wall and presenting it to her young husband, to see the two of them side by side on the porch in these twin cane rocking chairs taking in the sights and sounds of the thoroughfare.

Parr defends O.Henry’s relative scoundrelness against the accepted behaviors of his time.

“I don’t think he’s a great guy,” she says, “but I don’t think he deserves the kind of vitriol you heap on him.”

Once upon a time Austin was home to the youthful O.Henry: a flawed, impulsive young man, prone to living large and making big mistakes. Although he’s certainly treated as a legend, someone who was larger than life, he was just another guy from the East who moved to town and everything went to hell.

In Greensboro, where O.Henry was born and raised; where he found his second wife, Sallie Coleman; where his legacy is as much a part of the city’s tapestry as the denim trade and the railroad, we hold dear to the myth that sprouted from our soil and the literary giant that he became along with the body of work that perpetuated it.  OH

Brian Clarey is the publisher and executive editor of Triad City Beat.

Spring Garden of Earthly Delights

On the Street Where you Live

A Saturday stroll on one
of Greensboro’s most
eclectic retail thoroughfares

Story & Illustration by Robin Sutton Anders

Donít be fooled by its dreamy-sounding moniker: Spring Garden Street doesn’t entirely live up to its name.

Starting downtown, the street runs about 5 miles, lazing through UNCG’s shady, green campus, hustling past a dense stretch of shops and businesses, and then zipping over to Market Street, where it morphs into MuirsChapel Road. Sure, the stretch from downtown through campus is plenty lush, but any sort of perennial-lined utopia “Spring Garden” might suggest is far outweighed by the next section of road crisscrossed with powerlines and flanked by college housing.

Let’s take a walk along the 1-mile hustle and bustle made up of some of Greensboro’s most vibrant shops, pubs and restaurants between Aycock Street and Scott Avenue — more of a raggedy gathering of wildflowers than Biltmore-worthy grounds We’ll peek inside a few of these small businesses thriving (some more than twenty years) because of their owners’ ingenuity and commitment to family and community. We won’t have time to wander through each of the treasures sheltered by this stretch of Spring Garden, but you’ll see enough to schedule your return trip.

Jack’s Corner Mediterranean Deli,
1601 Spring Garden Street

If you’re hungry, let’s start at the corner of Aycock and Spring Garden, where Jack himself is likely to greet you from behind the counter. Back in 1991, 17-year-old Jack Bishara was a Smith High School senior who dreaded the thought of leaving for college. The feeling was mutual for his stay-at-home mom, Najwah, who’d already kissed Jack’s three older siblings goodbye.

So the two hatched a plan. They road-tripped it up to Detroit and down to Houston for a crash course on the restaurant biz from family entrepreneurs. Then they put Najwah’s cooking skills to new use on a slice of family land a stone’s throw from UNCG. “We had no idea what we were doing, and the Mediterranean food we wanted to serve wasn’t popular in this area,” Jack says. “Hence the name Jack’s Corner.”

Starting with just a few Greek and Arabic staples — gyros, hummus, falafel, tabouli —alongside American favorites like turkey clubs and burgers, Jack’s Corner met with instant success. In fact, Najwah’s family recipes turned out to be such a hit, she and Jack added “Mediterranean Deli” to the name two years later. Jack’s 27-year-old niece, Zeena, now joins her uncle and grandmother behind the counter. “All our food is homemade, and we use local ingredients when we can,” Zeena says. “It’s what we’ve been making forever. We like to share in the hospitality.”

The Artery Gallery, 1711 Spring Garden Street

You’d expect a wall of frame samples in a store specializing in custom framing. But nobody expects the quantity — and quality — David Thomas and Esia Ackley offer at The Artery, a frame shop David opened in a small pink house more than twenty years ago. Any wall not decked with local artists’ originals is plastered with corner frame samples in every material imaginable.

The 3,000-plus collection comes in handy if a customer needs a quick turnaround or has an unusual request. “You can come in with a kid’s drawing or an antique that needs to be hand-sewn on archival board. It doesn’t matter if your project is monetarily valuable or sentimental, we give everything the same attention and care,” Esia says.

At the Ritz Costumes, 1831 Spring Garden Street

Halloween is obviously a bustling time for patrons of At the Ritz Costumes, aka the “world’s largest closet.” But it doesn’t compare to the steady demand for costumes inspired by the 1970s, says Bob Smithey, the shop’s official Costume Guru, who runs the shop alongside founding owner and Costume Goddess Fay McPherson-Nelson. “You wouldn’t believe how many people come in here looking for bell bottoms,” he says, remembering a day a few years back when Christmas fell on a Saturday. “Somebody came in on Christmas Day looking for a ’70s-themed costume to wear to a party that night.”

Whether their customers want a Great Gatsby–style flapper dress or a tuxedo for a cocktail party, Smithey and McPherson-Nelson always deliver. Stop in and “have a fun dress-up experience,” as the store’s tagline promises. You’ll walk out feeling like a giddy 5-year-old.

John Neal Bookseller, 1833 Spring Garden Street

Open the front door, and you’ll suspect you’ve walked into a small office building — not the world’s preeminent supplier of bookbinding and calligraphy supplies. In fact, the only evidence of John Neal Bookseller’s wares comes from dozens of envelopes Scotch-taped to the walls above the desks of three employees — usually heads-down, filling catalog and online orders.

Each envelope is delicately addressed to John Neal Bookseller, 1833 Spring Garden Street. And every one of them is penned by worldwide Copperplate and Spencerian masters who’ve scripted the letters with iridescent inks, illuminated decorative birds from gold leaf, and lined their envelopes in handmade paper — then mailed their thanks to the Spring Garden supplier committed to supporting their art form. 

Ask one of the associates if you can look around in the back rooms. An unfathomable number of pens, markers, sketch paper, brushes, guidebooks, nibs, inks, gouaches and fountain pens await an artist’s studio.   

Pages Past, 837 Spring Garden Street

Even before proprietor Roger March opened his Spring Garden storefront twenty years ago, he bought large collections of books and sold them out of his house. Those early years of gathering and sorting at home explain his knack for diving through a box of dusty, leatherbound titles and emerging with a four-leaf clover. Today, his literary treasures with a regional focus on the Civil War, travel and early American history fill floor-to-ceiling shelves, boxes lining the aisles, and four additional storage units.

March has garnered an impressive online following from antiquarian collectors across the country watching his selections and waiting to bid on rare manuscripts. There’s the 1783 book on hydraulics machines autographed by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, whose signature also appears on the Declaration of Independence; the very first book published in the South during the Civil War, signed by the editor and containing a calligraphed letter from then-N.C. governor and UNC-Chapel Hill president David L. Swain (this one lists for $12,500); and the first American edition of War and Peace.

The Tasting Room,
901 South Chapman Street

If you like wine even a little bit, we’ll duck inside the Tasting Room, a cozy wine bar on the corner of Chapman and Spring Garden where manager Alison Breen is usually behind the bar waiting to help you find your new favorite variety. Since it opened five years ago, the Tasting Room has surprised and delighted customers with a superior selection of reds and whites from all over the world. Breen doesn’t serve food, but customers are welcome to bring it in — Freeman’s across the street has great sandwiches, and the Tasting Room’s sister restaurant next door, 913 Whiskey Bar and Southern Kitchen, will deliver their famous mac and cheese to your table.

“Wine is very personal,” Breen says. “I like to take the time to find out what our customers like and help them through their wine journey.” Through the Tasting Room’s wine club, members receive a bottle of red and white each month, and they’re invited to free tastings every week. “We’ve had people join the club only drinking sweet white wines, and now they’ve branched out and are amazed that they like the biggest, boldest heavy reds out there,” Breen says. “We really do celebrate the exploration.”

Spring Garden Bakery and Coffeehouse, 1932 Spring Garden Street

This coffeehouse gives you its best, every day: Cheerful bakers who love their jobs and proudly offer vegan pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins along with flaky cherry and cheese Danishes. Neighborhood patrons are grateful for a warm place — even on icy weather days, the bakery is open — filled with aromas of freshly baked bread to share with a cup of coffee. 

Have a cappuccino and treat yourself to one of baker Larry Clayton’s nutribuns. For the past thirty years, Clayton has been arriving before sunrise to knead the dough for the bakery’s famous, giant whole-wheat buns filled with melted cheddar cheese, sesame and sunflower seeds. Then grab a sugar cookie for the road. 

Revolution Cycles, 1907 Spring Garden Street

As Greensboro’s cycling community grows, so does its need for a gathering place where enthusiasts can service their bikes, shop for new and used models, and gather for a drink before and after they finish a race or casual ride. “It’s not just commerce, it’s community,” say the store’s experts/bartenders, who offer their expertise along with ten beers on tap. 

Art and Soul, 938 Spring Garden Street

Owner Jenny Stickrath’s new gift shop truly reflects the soul of Spring Garden and its broader community. “I love things that are funky, objects that have flair, and craftspeople who are just doing their thing,” she says, adding that she tries to fill the store with objects made in America with a give-back program, where proceeds go to support causes such as clean water initiatives, fair trade programs for women in Africa or feeding hungry children wherever they are.

Stickrath and her staff work hard to curate a selection of one-of-a-kind gifts and see themselves as their patrons’ personal shoppers. “We’ve created an intimate setting where we can have one-on-one customer relationships. I want people to come here and find the perfect, meaningful gift among our wonderful collection.”

Adelaide’s Vintage Home & Garden, 2000 Spring Garden Street

For now, our tour ends at a charming 1905 Victorian on the corner of Spring Garden and Milton. Whether you need a new dresser or decorating tips, Adelaide Dillon’s little white cottage has what you’re looking for. Each room feels like a page out of a coastal lifestyle magazine, with shabby-chic furniture and breezy, fresh accessories displayed in their element: colorful, painted glasses and pitchers in the kitchen; a white painted farmhouse table accented with a pair of blue benches and vintage linens in the dining room; oversize framed mirrors and vintage paint-by-number art to accessorize the bedroom’s furniture.

No worries if you find the perfect piece that doesn’t match your home’s décor. Dillon will paint it for you — any color you choose. “I love getting to know my customers and their tastes and preferences,” she says. Currently in her third Spring Garden location since she opened Adelaide’s eight years ago, Dillon has witnessed the same patrons as they’ve decorated loft apartments, gotten married and filled their homes with affordable pieces, and shopped for the perfect nursery accessory.  OH

Robin Sutton Anders has an affinity for Spring Garden Bakery’s savory treats.

Come Out and Play

Proper Details

Burlington’s Hearth & Home Consignments is DIY Central


By Annie Ferguson

Sandy Brimís store has a way of wowing its customers. Literally. Brim gets a kick out of seeing customers walk in, mouths agape. Handmade stone and silver jewelry, an antique parlor table, vintage dresses, local pottery and photography, playbills from the 1800s and even an iron grill that once adorned a window in 19th-century New York City. The treasures are almost endless in Hearth & Home Consignments in Burlington. The store’s centerpiece is a huge fireplace with a distinctive wood mantel, fashioned from a hand-hewn beam salvaged from Burlington’s former Baker and Cammack Hosiery Mill.

One customer offered $1,500 for the mantel, but Brim had to tell him it wasn’t for sale. After all, where would a store called Hearth & Home be without a hearth with some history?

Yet consigning with various vendors isn’t Brim’s only game — far from it, actually. Thanks in part to two gifted parents — her father a carpenter, her mother a talented seamstress — she picked up most of the skills she needed to transform a building that housed a rundown bar into a store that not only sells crafts and antiques but also educates customers through DIY classes in areas such as mosaic tiling, reupholstery, lamp rewiring and chair recaning. “My love of wood came from my father, but my passion for reclaiming furnishings comes from my mother,” Brim explains.


A Nebraska native, she worked as a registered respiratory therapist for thirty years after studying at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and St. John’s Regional Medical Center/Southwest Missouri State. In 1984, a job at Duke University Medical Center brought Brim to North Carolina. She later moved to Greensboro and worked at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital and later at Greensboro’s Women’s Hospital. In 2010 she began working at a consignment store with a friend, and in September 2015, events in her personal life led her to seriously consider opening her own store.

She drove past the building that is now Hearth & Home: Consignments, Refinements and DIY Classes seven times before she made a call to inquire about leasing the space. When she first toured the space with the building manager, the “Halloween decorations” were still up. Brim wiped away cobweb after cobweb but knew this was the space for her new business. Though her success had a lot to do with the skills she learned from her parents, the support from her husband, Billy, and heaps of hard work took her the rest of the way and beyond. Brim leased the space in September of 2015 and opened at seemingly lightning speed after she, Billy, and a couple friends worked 10- to 16-hour days until its grand opening on November 1, 2015. The space is now clean, beautiful, and, the once-pothole-ridden lot is freshly paved.

Brim and her team that includes associates Dana (pronounced Donna) Thramann and Joy Lugo, work with customers on refurbishing items whether they’re bought in-store or not. One customer just wanted a place to work on a new project — something she’s never tried before. “If she comes, there’s likely someone here who can help her,” Brim says. “We have many customers who like to just come in and spend some time.”

The store certainly has a way of giving new meaning to the term retail therapy. “One of our customers has early-onset Alzheimer’s. She comes in and touches many of our treasures, and her husband sips tea or coffee while she does,” Brim says, her welcoming spirit becoming evident the more she talks about her customers. In fact, after Thramann visited the store several times asking about the vintage sheet music she brought in Brim ended up hiring her, saying, “Want to come play with us?”  OH

If You Plan to Go: Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m. Every weekend Hearth & Home Consignments hosts a yard sale, and classes are held Sunday afternoons from 3 to 5 p.m. This fall, look for holiday decorating classes with artificial florals for making wreaths and arrangements, as well as a session on a unique technique that that allows you to repurpose and embellish vintage linens. Info: 7300 Burlington Road, Burlington. (336) 447-4800 or www.hearthhomenc.com. 

Annie Ferguson is a frequent contributor to O.Henry

The Real Thing


Skip the mix and please your guests

By Tony Cross

About a year or so ago, Carter, my very good friend, and I were at a restaurant bar scoping out their cocktail list. Now, my friend doesn’t geek out as much as I’ve been known to when we frequent restaurant bars; however, he does appreciate a good drink, and has picked up a knack for calling out poorly made ones. We decided to order a few apps and cocktails to start. I ordered a Manhattan, and Carter chose their house margarita. Our bartender posed a question to Carter that perplexed the two of us: Would he like fresh juice in his drink? We both sat there puzzled, our minds blown. “Yes?…” Carter replied after a moment of sitting, and staring at the bartender in a (sober) stupor. We soon realized after studying the menu that having fresh-pressed juice was a $2 upcharge. You know, because limes are expensive. The only thing that made me laugh more was the fact that Carter had just spent $14 (that’s right) on one of the worst margaritas of his life. I tried it, and it was pretty bad. Point being — it’s the 21st century; why isn’t everyone using fresh citrus?

Sour mix is everywhere: in all of the chain restaurants and dive bars. It’s also in many independent restaurants, private clubs and country clubs. It’s available from wine distributors and food distribution companies. Part of me doesn’t understand how an establishment that prides itself on using fresh ingredients won’t carry the same thought process behind the bar. It’s safe to say that no chef would ever use a lemon juice substitute when creating a sauce. So why are bartenders ordering container after container of this gooey, high-fructose corn syrupy mess, and putting them in their cocktails? The answer’s pretty simple. You’re paying for them. One after another.

Using fresh citrus is crucial when concocting a drink for your guests. Here’s the thing with lemons and limes, though: Their juice loses its “pop” within four to six hours. It’s even shorter for orange juice. I’ve been to places that will juice enough citrus for the week, and call it a day. You’ve got to juice for the moment, be that the afternoon, or for your shift. Yes, juice the next day is better than corn syrupy imitation juice, but that’s not the point. Try making the same cocktail with fresh juice, and juice from the day before, and you’ll notice immediately what is wrong with the latter. Some professional bartenders want juice that has just been pressed, while others like using juice that’s had a few hours to breathe. I like having my juice sitting for about two hours; I feel like it opens up a bit, and doesn’t bite as much. I know that makes no sense to you, so you’re going to have to trust me.

Here are a few cocktails that you can put to the test. Invite a friend over, give them the drink with the sour mix, give yourself the one with fresh citrus. Then, give ’em a taste.


Now, this is the most asexual drink there is on the planet. Every grocery store has some type of margarita mix, and we’ve all probably purchased them at one time or another. Remember, give your friend the ’Rita with the bad mix. After they taste yours with the fresh juice, they’ll want to switch, and that’s OK. Just be sure to charge ’em two bucks.

2 ounces blanco tequila (I like Milagro Silver)

1/2 ounce Cointreau

3/4 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup (2:1)

Salt (optional)

Lime wedge

Combine all ingredients in a Boston shaker with ice, and shake like hell for 10 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. If you’d like salt, just rim half of your rocks glass with a lime wedge, and then carefully roll it over salt. I like using half of the glass; that way if you want to switch, you can rotate the glass to the non-salty side. Add a wedge of lime.

Whiskey Sour

Like most first encounters I’ve had over the years with cocktails, the whiskey sour definitely was not love at first gulp. And that’s because it was made with some crap whiskey, and (you guessed it) sour mix. When made correctly, a true whiskey sour is made with rye whiskey, fresh lemon and sugar. It’s that simple. I love it with an egg white, too. Don’t make that face; it gives the cocktail a velvety mouth-feel, and brings a whole new dimension to the drink.

2 ounces rye whiskey (I like Rittenhouse)

3/4 ounce lemon juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup (2:1)

(With an egg white, add it to the shaker first, and then the above ingredients. If you add it last, you run the risk of getting the yolk into the mix, thus ruining it. I’d still drink it.)

Combine all ingredients in a Boston shaker with ice, and shake for 10 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Take a lemon or orange peel, expressing the oils over the cocktail, and then dropping it into the drink. If you want to try something different, take 1/2 ounce of a dry red wine (I like using malbec or syrah), floating it on top of the cocktail. Now you have a New York Sour.


I was having a hard time deciding if I wanted a beer or cocktail one afternoon. This spawned a combo that I am quite happy with. I named it after the only song it seems that anyone knows from the 1970s band “Joy Division.” Not that you care, but when I’m making drinks, I usually have a song stuck in my head, which ultimately becomes the name of that drink. In this case, it was the infamous “Joy Division” tune.

1 1/2 ounces Don Julio Blanco

1/4 ounce Aperol

1/2 ounce grapefruit juice

1/4 ounce lime juice

1/4 ounce light agave syrup

2 dashes Scrappy’s Lime Bitters (optional)

1 ounce of your favorite local IPA

Repeat the adding and shaking from above, pouring this over ice. Top off with Man of Law. Garnish with a grapefruit peel, expressing the oils over the drink before violently throwing it in your cocktail. Good stuff.  OH

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