O.Henry Ending

On a Roll

I bruised more than my ego, but I’m glad I finally learned how to skate

By Jennifer Bringle

I hung up my Fisher-Price skates before I ever learned to use them, so at age 30, I decided to take roller skating lessons. Thinking I might have a child who would want to skate someday, I wanted to join them instead of staying parked at the snack bar.

Most rinks offer lessons for all levels of skaters. But for late bloomers like me? I was skeptical. Some summers ago, I called up a rink, and an enthusiastic woman assured me that, yes, adults take lessons all the time. Relieved, I plunked down $25 for my first class.

As I laced my skates, I saw plenty of children orbiting about, but the adults were still in their wheel-free shoes. I’d been played big time by the lady on the phone.

Skates on, I was a child again, gripped by a familiar panic. I knew I had to trust the wheels, but I was convinced that I would fall as soon as I tried to stand up. I wanted to rip off the skates and hang them up, but I didn’t. This was something I finally had to overcome.

Inch by inch, I gingerly slid my way across the carpet to the rink’s edge, then gripped the railings as I took my first tentative step onto the polished wooden floor. Slowly and stiffly, I rolled one foot slightly in front of the other, shuffling a hairsbreadth at a time until I finally made it to the circle where my pint-sized classmates stood staring at me.

First lesson: learning to fall. This was something I’d definitely mastered, I thought. But it wasn’t as simple as before. In skating, there is a proper way to fall — on your bottom, hands in the air — to prevent broken wrists. Using your hands to break a fall is the human body’s natural, instinctive reaction.

Hitting the floor repeatedly, I quickly realized why there weren’t other adults in this class. Kids nearly bounce back up. Let’s just say that I did not.

Next lesson: technique. The key, our instructor explained, is to bend your knees slightly while leaning forward to maintain balance. She told us to pick up our feet and move forward, as if we were walking in the skates.

As my seemingly fearless classmates left me in their dust, I found the courage I hadn’t had as a child and released my grip from the security of the metal bar. I teetered. I wobbled. I fell — over and over. It hurt. And worse, I felt like a fool as the parents of my classmates stifled laughter.

My teacher, visibly concerned I’d break something, skated over after each of my spectacularly graceless falls, helping me to my feet. Again, I considered hanging up my skates and hobbling out the door, but the specter of my classmates whirling around the ring gleefully propelled me to get back up.

In fact, I came back to class, week after week. And by the last class, it actually happened: I stopped wobbling, and my feet and body began working in sync. I was skating! For those few glorious moments, I felt free, joyous and empowered. The child in me was over the moon.

In the years since that summer in the rink, I often think back to those challenging afternoons. My bruises and pride have healed, but there’s a permanent mark from skating that endures — a knowing: If I have the courage to get up each time I fall, I just might learn to fly.  OH

Jennifer Bringle is a Greensboro-based writer. And yes, she still knows how to skate.

Almanac October 21

October is the language of crows: playful, dark and mysterious.

On a crisp, gray morning, swirls of golden leaves dance round like Sufi mystics and a plump squirrel quietly munches seeds beneath the swinging feeder. The air feels charged — electric — and from the silver abyss, a crow caws five times, the staccato rhythm stabbing the ether like a haunting, dissonant chord. 

Caw. Caw. Caw. Caw. Caw.

In the crooked branches of a distant tree, a council of crows rattles back and forth as if casting their clicks and grumbles into an invisible cauldron. Their crude chatter grows louder and increasingly harsh, escalating until it reaches a roiling cackle.

The coven has spoken.

One by one, the black birds take wing, flashing across the sky in glorious and raucous splendor.

Below, asters spell out messages on the leaf-littered lawn. Only the crows can read them. And when they chant the words aloud — their many raspy voices one — you are equal parts delighted and disturbed.

Ca-caw! Ca-caw!

A single crow descends upon the wrought iron fence, pivots round in three slow circles, then cocks its head in silence.

The squirrel has scurried off.

A flurry of leaves jumps as if spooked by wind.

The crow tilts back its head and lets out three chilling squawks.


There is a bird who by his coat,

And by the hoarseness of his note,

Might be supposed a crow.

— William Cowper

Let’s Grow Together

Everyone who’s tried to grow them knows: Tulips are deer candy. But if you haven’t tried planting them alongside grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) — deer and rabbits don’t like them — there is hope for your spring garden yet.

The ideal companion for tulips (and daffodils, which said critters also avoid), grape hyacinths protect and complement this bright and showy bloomer. Think about it: waves of vibrant purple flush against rows of red, orange and yellow blossoms. The treasure is the rainbow itself. Come spring, the deer can admire it from afar. And you, the deer. But it’s time to plant the bulbs now.


Autumnal Brew

The full Hunter’s Moon rises on Wednesday, October 20. Autumn has settled in. As you begin to do the same, here’s an herbal tea redolent with spices that could rid you forevermore of your pumpkin-spiced neurosis.

Star Anise Tea


1 cup water

1 bag green or black tea

2 pods star anise

1 stick cinnamon

Honey or agave to sweeten (optional)

To brew a cup, bring water to a boil. In a favorite mug, pour hot water over tea bag, star anise and cinnamon stick. Let steep for five minutes. Add sweetener or not. Enjoy the glory of autumn sip by sip.  OH

His Father’s Son

Learning large lessons from a small cabin

By Cynthia Adams     Photographs by Amy Freeman


“In my dad’s mind, this cabin is a rustic refuge in the woods,” says Triad architect Michael Clapp. But he recalls how his father, Larry Clapp, skeptical about Modern architecture, “was scared I’d drop a glass-clad box in the woods and say, ‘there’s your cabin.’” Larry was adamant: “I don’t want huge walls of glass.”

But in the end, Daddy got exactly what he’d hoped for. An organic place, blending into nature. Understated. Rugged. Handsome. With a simple, wooden and stone-accented exterior in an untouched, heavily-wooded plot on the family farm near Whitsett, the cabin is small — 745 square feet. But it looms large to both father and son as a legacy project that ended up connecting three generations, all the way back to Michael’s grandfather and beyond. The Clapps, after all, settled in this area in the 1700s from Pennsylvania.

Well before he began practicing architecture in 2007, Michael and his father, Larry Clapp, owner of the ad agency Austen, Li & Clapp Inc., had been talking about building a cabin.

“Dad had been thinking about this for years, maybe decades.  I would say we really got serious in 2012, 2013.”

Michael, whose converted barn residence was featured in O.Henry in March of 2019, heard his father’s request about walls of windows. But no architect wants a cabin to seem dark and depressing.  The challenge, of course, was accommodating natural lighting. “Light changes in the winter, when the leaves drop,” says Michael, who has a Bachelor’s in Architecture, summa cum laude, from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a Master’s of Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design.  The building, he felt, must respond to the seasons, cool and dark in the heat of summer, and light and bright in the winter.

After the cabin was strategically situated (more about that in a minute), the windows and glass were carefully placed — without creating the stark glass cube Larry Clapp feared. Initially, Michael said his father thought the windows were huge. But over time he realized they were correctly scaled to accommodate the roof’s deep overhang and tree cover.

And so it was that father and son engaged in a process involving discussions, drawings, construction plans and, most of all, give-and-take. “It really was collaborative,” Michael says.

A gravel drive winds through the woods to the cabin that slowly emerges into view.  A front porch of stone and timber creates a soaring entranceway. Though small, the cabin is neither a kit house nor a log cabin. The open concept with only one bedroom and bath is done so deftly that the size is misleading. “The intention was to be efficient with space,” he says, “not so much to be small.” It has a cathedral-like expansiveness that pulls the eye straight through from the front door to the view beyond.

Which brings us to another session of back-and-forth. A pond behind the cabin had been built 20 years earlier, where the family has long enjoyed kayaking, swimming and fishing. 

“There’s a beautiful stream that runs nearby and feeds the pond,” Michael says. The stream, the pond, the terrain — all needed to be taken into account when siting the cabin.

When it was time to survey the space before breaking ground, Michael studied the space intensely, thinking of the access and path beyond to the pond. He was pleased with what he saw — except for one lone beech tree that, to him, threw things off.

His father said, no way.  That tree has to stay.

“Over the years, my understanding has shifted,” says Michael just a touch ruefully.  “I thought it [the cabin design] didn’t work if it was off its axis.  But it was more successful if it accommodated nature.”

“It is a beautiful beech tree,” he concedes. And the orientation of the cabin is fine: “There’s no denying, when you are in this place, you are in nature.”

Standing outside on the shade-dappled porch at the back of the cabin, Michael excitedly points out the way the cabin is spatially sited on the forest floor, with an axis running through the structure. 

The siting of the house, Michael explains, was always vital.  The sight line of what lay beyond the entry of the house was as significant as the cabin itself. His father agrees that the cabin is secondary to its surroundings: “It was always more of a vision of the surroundings than of an actual structure,” Larry Clapp says. “It was a labor of love that slowly started shaping a vision of being one with the environment.” For years, he says, “I would spend every free moment in the middle of 25 heavily wooded acres, clearing underbrush with nothing more than hand tools and a chain saw. It was an escape from the pace and stress of the advertising world.”

His son honored that in his design. All important, he says, is the axis running all the way through the structure, and how the details, including the interior, flowed from that original intention. Trim details, for instance, like a beam and a steel lintel in the fireplace, were designed to reinforce that linear swath, serving like an arrow. This directs the eye through the cabin toward an exterior path that Larry had created that extends down to the pond beyond the cabin. 

But does the average person notice these details? Michael gets this question a lot.

He explains that he envisions architecture as providing layers of meaning. Whether a visitor realizes it or not, they perceive design techniques that help define a space and absorb the space’s proportions. And unconsciously, he says softly, they intuit “This just feels right.”

Michae’s credentials are impressive — “Smee Busby Architects [Knoxville] in ’07/’08, HGA Arhitektuur in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2008 while in school, then PNP Design Group in Greensboro, Duda/Paine Architects in Durham between undergrad and grad.” But what he learned working hand-and-glove with his father were lessons that weren’t taught at Tennessee or at Harvard. Again, that word: “it was collaborative.” Then, “humbling.”

“Conversations were important so my father didn’t feel I was taking the project and running with it,” he recalls. “I had to learn how to listen, and not just to words — but the emotions for the space, and his ambitions for it.” Their conversations were freighted with meaning.  The process provided Michael a valuable tool, a chance to learn the vital give-and-take of client relations.

Father and son communicated long distance after Michael left for Massachusetts. “I started producing the conceptual designs, then construction drawings in 2013 — moving into 2014.  Construction started right when I left for grad school in October 2015. I was 31, older than many in my class. I was the old guy at Harvard College,” Michael grins.

Calls flew back and forth between Whitsett and Cambridge. Larry sent Michael images as the build progressed.

Michael first visited the emerging cabin in 2015 at Thanksgiving — his first trip home from Cambridge in months. “It was so exciting to see it coming out of the ground.”

“With very few adjustments we agreed on the plans for my cabin in the woods,” Larry recalls. All important, says Michael, was that “He had a clear vision of what he wanted it to be.”

Now, Larry says, he’s quite pleased with his rustic cabin, though he adds, “The cabin is much more sophisticated than I ever imagined.”  Still, “it fits into the surrounding environment seamlessly and provides the solitude I desire. It is very comfortable and virtually maintenance free.”

Burlington builder Brian Alcorn was adamant about quality, Larry says. “The cabin was constructed by a superior craftsman very rare these days.”

The place is still evolving six years on. Larry continues to work on the interior and exterior. Standing in the late summer light filtering through the windows that are just the right size, Michael points out the finishes his father recently added to the cabinets and walls. “The walls have a textured, faux-painting technique he felt was appropriate.  The railings for the loft recently went in six months ago.”

There is also a new rolling library ladder that accesses the loft.  Work on the outside fire pit has begun, the footing already poured. A new coffee/beverage station has been created. More cabinetry is underway. A barn door has been added on the front of the house, concealing a utility area.

Michael has come up with a name for the cabin: “My Father’s Son.” Though it’s a tad bit eccentric, he is obviously pleased with it and is quick to point out that the “Son” does NOT refer to him — or the “Father” necessarily to Larry. When he named the cabin, Michael was thinking of his grandfather, Pa Paw, and how Michael’s dad has developed the same sort of gentle personality his own dad possessed, with similar mannerisms — which Michael values and emulates. The cabin and its name have come to personify for him the father/son relationship and how social skills and strengths are passed from one generation to the next, just as he learned through this small cabin enormous lessons in the gentle art of communication and compromise.

“It’s hard not to be married to a point of view,” Michael says, standing outside where the new fire pit is emerging, reflecting on the spared beech tree that he has come to cherish.  In the end, however, the little cabin his father now enjoys has become a metaphor for him about listening — and learning — and fatherly love.   OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O. Henry.

The Witching Hour

Tanger Center’s first Broadway show, Wicked, is here

By Maria Johnson



Parents, be careful about the music you play in your car.

Eighteen years ago, when Allison Bailey was 11, she was riding around with her mom in Pensacola, Florida, listening to the cast recording of a brand-new Broadway musical called Wicked, the backstory of the witches in The Wizard of Oz.

“This is what I want to do,” young Allison announced over the songs.

“Maybe the show will still be around when I’m old enough to do it.”

(Wave wand, sprinkle glitter, cue swooshing music.)

This month, Bailey will play Glinda, the good witch, when a touring production of Wicked becomes the first Broadway show to take the stage at the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts in Greensboro.

The much-loved story, which is the second highest-grossing Broadway show behind only The Lion King, is scheduled to open October 6.

“I’m so excited to be a part of this special day for the city,” Bailey says from Dallas, where the road-tested show resumed in August after a 16-month hiatus brought on by COVID.

After a stop in Charlotte, the production will land in the Gate City and stay until October 24.

“I know it’ll be magical,” says Bailey, true to the spirit of her character. “It’s wonderful to see an audience again. It feels like home.”

Coming back from an extended break, Bailey admits that her costumes felt a little heavier and her heels lifted her a little higher than she remembered (her princess-like gown weighs about 25 pounds), but a pandemic fitness routine helped her stay stage-ready while she weathered the shutdown with her family in Pensacola.

She bought a Peloton bicycle and walked the family’s poodle twice a day.

She continued voice lessons, via FaceTime, with her teacher in New York City. She also hopped on Zoom with her own private students to help them polish audition material. She started online coaching during COVID; before, she taught in-person, in cities where the production took her. Often, mornings found her in dance studios, community theaters and high schools.

“It was great to be able to meet the local people,” she says.

Not that long ago, Bailey was one of those local youngsters, dreaming of big stages.

There was no history of theater in her family. Her mom was a nurse for a major insurance company; her dad was a wine-and-spirits distributor; her brother grew up to be a pharmacist.

Bailey wanted a higher profile. She was not long out of first grade when she landed her first role: an orphan in Oliver.

“I had absolutely no lines,” she recalls. “I was just happy to be on stage and have an audience and lights.” She did musical theater throughout high school, supplementing it with other activities that required an audience: “I did debate. I was a huge mock trial nerd. We won state.”

During her years at the Boston Conservatory, she appeared mostly as an ensemble player, singing and dancing in the background of various shows.

“I think that prepared me,” she says. “It’s about being a team player.”


She joined the Wicked touring ensemble in 2015 and became an understudy to the good witch. Her big break came unexpectedly in 2019. Her family was vacationing in Zion National Park when her agent called. Could she send an audition tape for the co-starring role in Wicked if he sent pre-recorded music? “I said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Bailey recalls.

She sang in a hotel room while her mother recorded the numbers with a cell phone.

They’d just gotten back to Pensacola when her agent called again, this time with wicked good news: Bailey would hit the road as Glinda, a role she owned for six months until COVID arrived.

Now, she’s back in the bubble — the mechanical bubble that lowers Glinda to the stage in her grand entrance, beginning a long flashback that sheds light on how the witches came to be who they are.


Young Glinda is blithely clueless as a student at Shiz University where she first meets Elphaba, the bookish and idealistic green girl whom the world will later know as The Wicked Witch of the West. They come to loathe each other in comical and heart-rending ways.

“I think everyone can sort of see themselves between both of the female characters,” says Bailey. “I think that everyone has felt like Elphaba at some point, lonely and isolated. Some have experienced bullying. For Glinda, she’s so shallow and self-centered, and everything is on a surface level. She learns so many hard lessons along the way, and I think we’ve all done that.”

Bailey — who will turn 30 on October 21, while she’s in Greensboro — was quick to confirm that she’s good friends with Talia Suskauer, who plays Elphaba in the traveling show.

“We hit it off in the beginning,” Bailey says. “I probably text her 20 times a day. No joke.”  OH

For more information and to snag tickets, visit tangercenter.com.

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry magazine.



Photographs by Joan Marcus

Georgia O’Keeffe and Friends

A new exhibit welcomes a modernist master

By Jim Moriarty


The Reynolda House Museum of American Art is throwing a welcoming party for a particularly interesting work by Georgia O’Keeffe, the renowned 20th century American modernist. The celebration, housed in two rooms, began on September 10 and continues until March 6. As if to make the iconic painter of flowers and skulls feel at home in her new home, she is accompanied by old friends, the artists she appeared alongside in famed photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s series of Manhattan galleries — 291, An Intimate Gallery and An American Place — and the ones she chose to surround herself with during the rest of her life in an exhibition titled “The O’Keeffe Circle: Artist as Gallerist and Collector.”

“We wanted to welcome the painting to Reynolda with a splash,” says Phil Archer, the museum’s deputy director.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Cedar Tree with Lavender Hills (1937), promised gift of Barbara B. Millhouse. © 2021 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


The work, a promised gift from Barbara Babcock Millhouse, the founding president of the museum and its primary donor, is Cedar Tree with Lavender Hills, one of O’Keeffe’s works depicting her beloved New Mexico landscape, first exhibited at An American Place in 1937 and purchased by Millhouse 40 years later. “I have O’Keeffe’s letter to her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, about doing that painting,” says Archer. “She says, ‘I can set it by the window and when I look at the painting and I look out the window, I have actually captured the way my world looks.’”

The painting will appear alongside another O’Keeffe work already in the museum’s collection, Pond in the Woods, Lake George. “It’s great for Reynolda because we’ll now have a painting from each of O’Keeffe’s main loci of inspiration,” says Archer.

Abraham Walkowitz, Isadora Duncan (1916), colored crayon, watercolor, ink and graphite on paper, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hirshhorn in honor of Nancy Susan Reynolds


O’Keeffe is surrounded by a brace of her contemporaries, including John Marin, Arthur Dove, Alfred Maurer, Marsden Hartley, Max Weber, Abraham Walkowitz and Charles Demuth, a flock of artists more often described as the Stieglitz Circle but who are recognized here for their effect on, friendships with and passion for O’Keeffe. “Stieglitz was always declaiming who was the next artist and why people should appreciate them,” says Archer. “The exhibit is kind of a pocket-sized pantheon of the great, early moderns. They’ve all drunk from the well of French modernism. They’ve all read Kandinsky about the spiritual potential of art and abstraction. There’s this kind of reckoning. What will Americans make of the new artistic world in the teens and twenties? That’s what Stieglitz was calling for — what will modernism mean for us?” And, in Stieglitz’s mind, the abstract movement went hand-in-glove with the elevation of photography as an art form all its own.

Demuth was not originally in the Stieglitz stable, but in 1921, when he became “one of us,” as O’Keeffe described him, she enjoyed his company immensely. A friend of the poet William Carlos Williams, he was elegant and urbane, a gay artist with a lively sense of humor but frail health. Though he turned to oils later in his life, he was best known as a lively watercolorist. As a mark of his friendship with O’Keeffe, when he passed away in 1935, he left all his oil paintings to her.

John Marin, Downtown, New York, c. 1925, watercolor and graphite on paper mounted to board, Gift of Betsy Main Babcock, 1966.2.1 © 2021 Estate of John Marin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Marin was introduced to Stieglitz by his friend and fellow photographer Edward Steichen and became enough of a commercial success to buy his own small island in Maine, where he lived during the summer. O’Keeffe admired his work, including a blue crayon abstract drawing. In Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life, Roxana Robinson writes, “Its intimate scale and its clear aesthetic independence made it suddenly accessible to O’Keeffe: conceptually, this was very close to her own work. It occurred to her that if Marin could make a living selling this eccentric expression of a private aesthetic vision, then she might be able to do the same.” He was close enough to both Stieglitz and O’Keeffe to be a witness at their 1924 wedding.

O’Keeffe’s first exposure to Dove at 291 was his painting Leaf Forms. After returning from Europe in 1909, Dove spent weeks camping alone in the woods. His abstract paintings “found a strong echo in Georgia’s developing aesthetic philosophy,” writes Robinson. “Dove’s work validated her own inclinations . . . she sensed the deep affinity between them.”

Max Weber, The Dancers (1948), oil on canvas, Gift of Dorothy F. and Maynard J. Weber, Reynolda House Museum of American Art


Dove was equally enamored. “That girl is doing without effort what all we moderns have been trying to do,” he said to the poet Jean Toomer.

Walkowitz worked so closely with Stieglitz at 291 that in 1912 and again in 1914 Stieglitz exhibited the work of the children Walkowitz was teaching in a Lower East Side settlement house. In this exhibit, Walkowitz is represented by one of his 5000-plus drawings of Isadora Duncan. “She had no laws. She did not dance according to the rules. She created,” Walkowitz said — words that he could have applied to O’Keeffe just as readily.

Paintings by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne, and Auguste Rodin’s drawings were first shown in America at 291. Marin and Maurer appeared on their heels. Maurer, like O’Keeffe, had studied with William Merritt Chase. Maurer’s father created Currier and Ives lithographs and never approved of his son’s modernist leanings. Shortly after his father passed away at the age of 100, Maurer committed suicide. The mercurial Weber was responsible for Henri Rousseau’s first U.S. exhibit, and he helped introduce cubism to America, a thankless task in 1911. According to the art historian Milton Brown, he was rewarded with “one of the most merciless critical whippings that any artist has received in America.” And it was an exhibition of Hartley’s work that first brought O’Keeffe to the 291 gallery where she met Stieglitz. Soon they would be lovers.

Alfred Henry Maurer, Landscape: Provence (circa 1916), oil on paper, mounted on board, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Gift of Emily and Milton Rose


Though the works linked to O’Keeffe as a collector, or perhaps appreciator, in the exhibit are not the precise pieces she held in her collection, they are representative of those that were and of the relationships she enjoyed. Among the latter is her abiding friendship with Ansel Adams, who is represented by one of his prints of Yosemite Valley, a place O’Keeffe and Adams visited together. In a letter to Stieglitz, Adams wrote, “O’Keeffe is supremely happy and painting, as usual, supremely swell things. When she goes out riding with a blue shirt, black vest and black hat, she scampers around against the thunder clouds — I tell you, it’s something.”

The exhibit includes a photograph of Adams and O’Keeffe taken by Adams’ assistant, Alan Ross. “Ansel Adams was the first professional photographer to capture her on camera and then in 1981, close to both of their deaths, she went back to Carmel, California, and, as she’s setting up, she’s sort of smiling, his assistant took a quick snapshot,” says Archer.

Also included in this section of the exhibit is an Akari paper lantern by Isamu Noguchi similar to the one O’Keeffe alternately hung over her dining room table or her bed in her house in Abiquiu, New Mexico. There is a mobile by Alexander Calder — who designed the OK pin O’Keeffe wears in countless photos — that is analogous to the one O’Keeffe hung in her New Mexico home. A triptych of snow scenes done in the 1850s by Utagawa Hiroshige is also included as an homage to a similar threesome of Hiroshige woodblock prints from the same period that lived on the wall in O’Keeffe’s New Mexico home and are now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And, naturally, there is a Stieglitz print, one of his most famous, also a snow scene. “I suddenly saw the Flatiron Building as I had never seen it before,” Stieglitz said. “It looked, from where I stood, as if it were moving toward me like the bow of a monster ocean steamer, a picture of the new America which was in the making.”

Alfred Stieglitz, The Flatiron (1903), photogravure on tissue, courtesy of a private collection



This intimate exhibition does not pretend to be, nor was it intended to be, an O’Keeffe retrospective. It does not deal with her complicated relationship with Stieglitz — who never ceased to promote O’Keeffe’s work — their lengthy affair before his divorce, their subsequent marriage and, later, his affair with his gallery director, Dorothy Norman. It doesn’t delve into her mental and physical breakdowns in the ’30s nor does it touch on the sexuality, male and female, that is often ascribed to O’Keeffe’s work and which she steadfastly refused to acknowledge.

Like Stieglitz’s photo of the Flatiron Building, O’Keeffe saw grandeur in her subjects. “She wanted the small things in nature that she loved to be just as impressive as the new trains and new planes,” says Archer, “to stop you in your tracks like you were looking at a skyscraper.”

The tightly knit exhibit, like the Ross photo, is a snapshot of the artist. “I hope people will leave with a fuller image of O’Keeffe’s engagement with the art of her time,” says Archer. “She developed a persona — helped by Stieglitz — of the remote, contemplative, detached doyenne of the desert. But she was keenly interested in her contemporaries’ work and unstinting with both praise and criticism.”  OH

Jim Moriarty is the editor of PineStraw magazine in Southern Pines.

A Nude Attitude

After lockdown, the instinct to bare all is on the rise


By Billy Warden
Photographs by Bryan Regan


Dwayne drives an 18-wheeler, often clad in nothing but his tattoos.

“I slip off my shirt and shorts and go — but only at night,” he says. As we speak, he’s soaking up the sun sans shirt, shorts or anything else in a meadow near a busy patio pool. Nearby, folks hula hoop, au naturel.

Dwayne describes himself as a devout churchgoer and former sheriff’s deputy turned long-haul trucker. He’s also a naturist, which is readily apparent.

For the uninitiated, “naturist” is the preferred term for folks who enjoy the feel of a breeze without the intrusion of fabric, who like to bare all with, as the International Naturist Federation puts it, “the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment.”

Dwayne and his wife live in the mountains, but like nudists from all over the state — including a relatively recent surge from the Triangle and Triad — he’s a frequent visitor to the Bar S Ranch, a sprawling naturist resort tucked in the hills outside Reidsville.

And while Dwayne’s non-textiled appearance this Saturday afternoon might shock some, the reason behind it will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with a common 21st century prescription: self-care.

“In law enforcement, a lot of what I saw broke my heart. I’d come home and take off my clothes and just shed the world away,” he recounts. “Shed all my stress.”

A similar impulse seemingly tied to the stresses of COVID-19 produced surging interest in nudism here and abroad. The Wall Street Journal, Vox and The Telegram all reported on the spike. In August 2020, Forbes declared that “nudism has become a thing.”

Lynn, the no-nonsense manager at the Bar S Ranch, reports that since 2014, membership has leapt by 150%. The rustic resort’s 26 cabins are rented year-round.

Fueling much of the growth are people from Raleigh, Durham, Winston-Salem and Greensboro. “They’re some of our biggest population centers for members now,” says Lynn. “We get doctors, lawyers, teachers.”

But after word goes out that a reporting team from the capital city would visit over the weekend, no Raleigh members show up. Coincidence? Or avoidance?

Which raises a question: in an era that embraces exposure via social media and dating apps, that celebrates all sorts of things that used to be unacceptable, what is so taboo about being nude?

Naturist resorts aren’t the only option for getting together in the all-together. Triangle Area Naturists (T.A.N.) has been hosting clothing-optional house parties since the mid-1980s. Longtime member Jay Shapiro, one of the few naturists who shared a last name, reports that during the pandemic, T.A.N. picked up 34 new members.

“My theory,” he proposes in a radio-smooth baritone, “is that people have been staying home, not having to get dressed. Maybe they’re not wearing anything. And they think, this is nice. Plus, they like not doing laundry as much.”

At T.A.N.’s first post-pandemic potluck in May, the great undraped mingle in the sunken living room and on the back deck (complete with a shielding wall of tall plants) of Jay’s modernist North Raleigh home. Asked to describe the allure of reveling in the raw, the 30 or so guests pop off the words “freedom” and “honesty” like fireworks at a Fourth of July bash.

DiDi, unclad from the waist up, chalks up her interest in nudism to an American classic, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. “When I was eight, I read the chapter where Tom and Huck go skinny dipping and I thought, I want to do that!” she says.

Growing up in a straightlaced home, DiDi didn’t get around to it until she graduated from Duke University and discovered a clothes-free swimming hole in Bahama, just north of Durham. “There were people without clothes in the water, on the rocks, under the trees,” she says. “I was struck by how natural it was; so free.”

Visiting T.A.N. from Greenville, Kumar pipes up: “I like the positive auras and the friendly vibes. Also, the equality.”

“When everyone is nude,” agrees Jason from Greensboro, “you don’t know if you’re talking to a banker or a janitor.”

While class distinctions might vanish with the clothes, the parade of human shapes is eye popping. But once you see a whole brigade of bare bodies, you get comfortable with the full range of our physiques — much wider than what you see on cable.

The pressure-free mood is “so good for your self-esteem,” says Jill, brushing aside auburn tresses, as if Lady Godiva had dismounted her steed in a suburban kitchen. 

Jill “grew up a prude” in a conservative house in a small town where the rules were “what dad said” and “the neighbors were always talking about each other.”

“Life is hard; being nude helps,” she sighs. “This is freeing.”

Yet, Jill doesn’t feel free enough to share news of her remedy for life’s jagged edges with her family. “I have grandkids,” she explains. And while she has no plans to go birthday suit-ing around them, she’s terrified the kids’ parents might get the wrong idea and end their visits.

The wrong idea has nothing to do with freedom or equality. Those things are as American as a bald (or otherwise undressed) eagle. Rather, nudists say, they’re bedeviled by the misguided buzz that their real preoccupation is, ahem, the birds and the bees.

Whatever brings each naturist to shed clothes and convention, it is NOT, they say, the promise of sex. This is very nearly a mantra, from T.A.N. to the Bar S Ranch.

Relaxing poolside at the resort, John, aka blogger “The Bearded Beerman,” declares, “There are no sexual undertones. There are no pretenses in the way here. You can’t be anything other than what you really are when you’re naked.”

Sitting 4 feet away, and also starkers, I take John’s point. 

For this story, T.A.N. and the ranch have required that the reporting team be, as Jay Shapiro put it, “fully immersed in the experience of enjoying the company of other unwrapped humans.”

Oh, we’re “fully immersed” all right — but is the experience “enjoyable”?

I’ll attest that, initially, strolling completely exposed into an unfamiliar living room or hula hooping party is startling, even alarming. Within a quarter hour, though, the internal alarm bells ceased their shrieking and my raised eyebrows eased back down to their usual position. 

Having grown up on swim teams and being a die-hard gym rat myself, this is not all that different from being in a locker room — except with no tan lines and lots of members of the opposite sex, one of whom resembles my Aunt Loraine.

The atmosphere is laid back; ULTRA-casual, you might say. Nothing like the charged air of a nightclub floating in flattering fabrics and flashing jewelry. The exposure reveals how vulnerable we all are. My bare foot lands in prickers. During an interview, I battle an exceedingly inappropriate mosquito brazenly buzzing near my inner thigh while a bubbly teacher from Winston-Salem gingerly shoos another one from my forehead.

The teacher’s husband, eyes shaded by a Crocodile Dundee hat, is explaining why he wants to keep even their first names on the down low. Despite the world’s seismic shifts in what’s acceptable, “this is still the South,” he says, “still the Bible Belt.”

Dwayne, the naked trucker and avid churchgoer, has a retort for that. Spreading his arms on a deck overlooking the pond (unfortunately inhabited by snapping turtles), he posits: “Did God not create Adam and Eve this way — and say it was good?”

Then, hearing the splashing of a volleyball game in the nearby pool, he streaks off with a merry, “Oh, shoot! I gotta get in there.”  OH

Billy Warden is a Raleigh-based writer and producer as well as the lead singer of the alt-glam band The Floating Children. He is also the co-founder of the strategic communications firm GBW Strategies.

Poem October 2021

Advice on Nighttime Caregiving


Know the bulk of night

will be sleepless and embrace it

with the weariest part of yourself.


Nothing but bitter tea will do,

steeped too long as you pour

another glass of water


another mouth will drink,

as you console another crying

child who values sleep


on different terms,

as you — deep in the black

hour when familiar constellations


wend into a strange topography —

walk the dog who will thank you

without language: she who eats


white clover by night,

sniffling through dark

grass sweetened with dew.


Now sleep or wake — let go

of what you hold. The untouched

tea is as cool as morning.

— Benjamin Cutler

Benjamin Cutler is the recipient of the Susan Laughter Meyers Poets
Fellowship and the author of
The Geese Who Might be Gods.

Wandering Billy

Give Me All Your Candy . . .

Or else

By Billy Eye

A mask tells us more than a face.
— Oscar Wilde

Imagine an all-but-extinct Halloween tradition that involves hundreds of unsupervised, masked juveniles. Unleashed like wild beasts into otherwise peaceful neighborhoods in a door-to-door insurgency, roving gangs would coerce acquaintances and strangers alike into forking over loot . . . or else. 

Trick-or-treating is a lost art.

Let’s face it, this was, essentially, a kid-pro-quo/blackmail scheme. For those poor souls who refused to participate in Junior’s socialist asset forfeiture, the “or else” came in the shank of the evening when packs of older boys would exact revenge on the noncompliant. Wearing shirts (one imagines) as brown as the leaves that crunched beneath their Keds, the herd would pelt dark, uninviting houses with eggs or, worse yet, “kudzu” trees with rolls of toilet paper (the pulpy white remnants lingering in limbs for months).

Baby Boomers’ first successful extortion racket. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?   

A century ago, Halloween was strictly a family affair with getups made from feed sacks, rags and assorted scraps, faces hidden beneath papier-mâché punkin

heads with ghastly disfigurements and horrific skin conditions. This was mostly for photos and fun around the house; when your closest neighbors are miles away, forget about going door-to-door in search of sweets. 

With urbanization in the 1950s came an explosion of mass-produced, cheap Halloween costumes based on TV shows, horror movies and pop culture figures, retailing for around a dollar at Woolworths or over at the Big Bear, aka, “The Friendliest Stores in Town!” From the enterprising folks at Ben Cooper and Collegeville came rows upon rows of molded plastic masks — in vivid colors — with lopsided holes for eyes and lips. Meant to be worn together, included were flimsy vinyl smocks adorned with character names and images of who or what the kids were supposed to resemble (although they rarely did).

Those cheap outfits allowed little ones in the 1960s to imagine themselves as Minnie Mouse, Snow White, Bambi, Wolfman, Green Hornet, the creature from the Black Lagoon, Huckleberry Hound, a character from The Munsters, a Raggedy someone, a Ditko-era Spider-Man or whichever Beatle they’d like.

As much fun as ringing in those sweet sheaves could be, it was the anonymity the night afforded that thrilled me most, stepping into a new identity if only for a few hours.

Consistent with my lazy nature, once I’d outgrown the kiddie costumes I just threw on some of my father’s ill-fitting clothes, dirtied up my face with coal dust and meandered around Latham Park dressed like a bum, my brown paper sack open for an outpouring of Atomic Fireballs, Pixy Stix, BB Bats, Nik-L-Nips, DumDums, Mary Janes, Chick-O-Sticks, Smarties, Lemonheads and, my fave, tiny boxes of Red Hot Imperials (lightly fused together by the humidity). Destined to languish at the bottom of my bag: candy corn, butter-flavored Werther’s and Necco Wafers. Oh how I despised those chalky Neccos!

Dear ol’ Dad kinda resented the implication when, the very next year, I again dressed like a bum from his wardrobe, only this time with a Ben Cooper Nixon mask. That was 1969, my favorite October 31 of all time. 

Conditions were right that year for a perfect Halloween night. It was a Friday, for one thing, and the streets were illuminated by a waning moon with temperatures in the mid-50s. In an effort supported by the school district, our “woke” elementary students chirped, “Trick-or-treat for UNICEF,” and coins clanged into metal containers for the benefit of impoverished children around the world. 

What I was really looking forward to, after amassing my sugary lucre, was the WSJS (now WXII) Halloween Spooktacular. Host Bob Gordon and the Channel 12 news anchors were made up to represent filmland’s famous monsters, who then formed a roundtable “fright-together” for live segments airing between four of Universal’s greatest noir classics: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and Son of Frankenstein.

Bob Gordon (real name Robert Gordon Van Horn) was the type of all-purpose broadcaster that modern television has no use for any longer, with an uncanny ability to effortlessly fill screen time with no script and no ego. On those boring Saturday and Sunday afternoons from the mid-1960s until the mid-1970s — before live televised sporting events became practical — there was Bob Gordon Theatre on Channel 12, a 4 to 5-hour mish-mash of former primetime sitcoms and dramas, often with a sci-fi bent. Between the reruns with just a table and two chairs for a set, amiable Bob interviewed local oddballs like Clay Kimble, a grown adult comic book collector (such a person existed?!?) who visibly winced when Bob bent the spine on his pristine copy of Captain America No. 1.

As for the Spooktacular, the whole idea of a gory orgy with three of the four greatest monster movies of the early talkies era — substitute The Invisible Man for The Mummy and it would be a home run — excited this 13-year-old to no end. Had it ever been done on television or in theaters before? Not around here. I watched until the Spooktacular, along with the station, was ushered off the air by the Star-Spangled Banner around 1 a.m.

While my eyes were glued to the tube, teenagers were flocking to the South Drive-In on Highway 29 for a dusk-to-dawn schlock fest featuring I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Werewolf. Meanwhile, at the Golden Gate (in the likewise named shopping center), $1.50 was the price of admittance for their midnight double feature of The Witch’s Horror and The Living Head. At no additional charge, you could even interact with The Living Head — “Alive for centuries without a body!” — in person. As patrons entered the darkened lobby, ushers handed out free “fright pills” so the weak at heart could handle the terrible suspense. 

They should have had some of those chill pills on hand at the Carolina Theatre’s late-night screening when skirmishes broke out among the 750 guys and ghouls in attendance. One 19-year-old (you know who you are) was even arrested for “disorderly conduct.” Quelle horreur!

(Those of a hipper persuasion were no doubt attending the Jerry Butler concert at the Coliseum, where The Delfonics and The Intruders were the opening acts.)

Trick-or-treating had grown so popular by 1969 that somehow, sans digital connectivity, kids from miles away knew exactly which houses were handing out full-sized candy bars or rare treats like candied apples. They would arrive by the carload, then vanish like Claude Rains. As parents ran out of treats and raced to the market for more, there were none to be had. That would never happen again.

Around 1970, reports of a dubious nature surfaced: razor blades secreted in candy, Ex-lax substituted for chocolate, needles embedded in Wax Lips, Jujubes laced with arsenic. Medical centers began offering to X-ray candy bags for foreign objects. As it turned out, those fears were largely urban myths but became so deeply rooted in Halloween lore that, by the 1980s, parents were accompanying their young ones up to familiar doors, family and friends only, with no chance of Stranger Danger. 

One could argue that trick-or-treat is just another carefree aspect of American youth that Boomers squandered before screwing it up for everybody else. But I can still enjoy those Universal monster movies on a crisp October night. OH

Billy Eye, who wrote a bi-monthly column covering the East L.A. music scene from 1980–83 (the source for his book, PUNK), is OG — Original Greensboro.


Photograph courtesy of Ellen Eason


Going Batty

Flying friends of the night


By Susan Campbell

Fall is not only migration time for a large percentage of the bird species found across our state, it’s also when another group of fancy fliers are winging their way southward: bats!

Although we are rarely aware of it, each evening individuals or small groups of these little creatures leave their daytime roosts and, after a short period foraging, move out, headed to warmer — and hence buggier — surroundings for the cooler months. For individuals of certain hardier species, such as red, big brown, hoary and evening bats, central North Carolina may be their winter home.

Bats represent one-quarter of all mammal species worldwide. Like us, they give birth to live young. Bats are relatively long-lived mammals and can survive 20 to 30 years in the wild. Of the 17 bat species that occur in North Carolina, three are listed as federally endangered, and one is listed as federally threatened. Bats are primarily nocturnal, though they also forage in the early evening and early morning hours. Although most bats have relatively good eyesight, they primarily use echolocation to navigate and locate prey. Their maneuverability is phenomenal — bats can avoid objects as small as a string in total darkness.

Bats mate in the spring or fall and usually produce one pup per year. Many species form maternity colonies in the summer to raise their young, while others are solitary roosters. Some bat species migrate south for the winter, and others find local hibernation areas, called hibernacula. Bats prefer caves or mines for hibernacula, though they have also been known to use buildings and bridges, and they usually return to the same site every year. By educating the public, monitoring populations and protecting bat habitat, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) is working to sustain bat populations in our state.

Bats are integral to ecosystems worldwide. Tropical bats disperse large amounts of seed and pollen, enabling plant reproduction and forest regrowth, and are especially important in the pollination of cocoa, mango and the agave plant, which is used to produce tequila. North American bats have a major impact on controlling insect populations that are considered agricultural pests. They save the corn industry over $1 billion annually in pest control. A nursing female bat may consume almost her entire body weight in insects in one night. Recently a protein found in vampire bat saliva has been used to develop clot-busting medication to aid stroke victims.

Many bat populations in the United States have declined in recent years. Pesticides, persecution, and human disturbance of hibernacula and maternity colonies may have contributed to this decline. Furthermore, an emergent fungal disease called white-nose syndrome (WNS) has killed more than 5.7 million bats since its discovery in New York in 2006. This disease spread to North Carolina in 2011 and continues to spread to new states each winter. It is now found in 30 states.

To determine bat distribution and hibernation sites in North Carolina, track the spread of WNS and estimate population trends for certain species, our state biologists conduct intensive monitoring across the state. Through a variety of methods (including mist netting, trapping, banding, acoustic recording, roost monitoring and radio telemetry), NCWRC biologists, in cooperation with several partners, have surveyed and banded thousands of bats in North Carolina. All of this work helps to inform management and, in turn, conservation priorities.

There are several things you can do for bats on your property. An ever more popular endeavor is installing a bat box or two. Also plant native plants that attract insects that bats (as well as the birds) eat. It is very important to limit the use of insecticides and herbicides whenever possible.

Also avoid disturbing bat hibernation areas and maternity colonies. And you might want to consider joining a conservation organization to remain updated on bat conservation efforts such as Bat Conservation International (www.batcon.org).

Last, but not least, educate others regarding the importance of bats and why they are so beneficial.  OH

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

Food for Thought

Hostess Hacks

Shortcuts for re-emerging entertainers


By Maria Johnson

It’s no surprise that Barbara Partlow — who organizes events for the Greensboro Newcomers Club — ranks as a party pro, given the hundreds of soirees, bashes, showers and get-togethers that she’s hosted over the years.

And when we say she “hosts,” we don’t mean she dials up a caterer and waits for the doorbell to ring while she lolls on a chaise and files her nails — which, by the by, were a kicking shade of green on the day we visited her.

We mean she makes most of the food, decorations and favors. Perhaps most important, she emits a playful vibe that sets the table for good times

In short, Barbara, who moved to Greensboro three years ago, is the party.

She can talk about dang near anything, having been a telephone operator, a pediatric nurse, a cattle rancher, a stained-glass sculptor, a basket weaver and a leather-bound motorcycle mama; she bossed a Honda Shadow 500 if you must know.

Oh, and she used to host a Christmas cookie-and-ornament exchange party that was once featured in Southern Living magazine.

Trust us. We cannot make up this kind of life.

Once divorced and twice widowed, Barbara is also the mother of two grown sons, both ex-Marines, and one quick-to-lick dachshund, Wee, short for Kenweeken. The pup’s name alludes to how Barbara’s second husband eventually allowed her to get a dog.

“Ken weakened,” she says, dissolving into contagious giggles.

If you can’t have a good time with this woman, you’d best stay home.

With a recent uptick in social dos, especially among the vaccinati, we thought it would be a good time to pick Barbara’s brain for some tried-and-true entertainment pointers. Here are some of her basics:

*Figure out the food a couple of weeks ahead of time. If there’s a theme, let the chow reflect it, but don’t go gourmet on everything. “Sometimes, the simplest is the best,” says Barbara, who deals cheese, crackers, fruit and baked hummus with the best of them. “A little shrimp goes a long way,” she adds. Ditto cucumber fans (see recipe below). For meatier chow, she makes big batches ahead of time, freezes manageable portions, then thaws and heats as needed.

*Easy on the equipment. Barbara uses white, king-size flat sheets as tablecloths. You can fold them to any size, she says, and jazz them up with runners of inexpensive fabric-store yardage. To add elegance and maximize serving space, use cake stand or tiered servers. No cake stands? Wrap a box in funky paper and stick a plate on top.

* Competitive games? No dice, Barb says. Someone’s gonna lose, which sucks the air out of the most buoyant guest. “And some people won’t want to play, so what’re you gonna do with them?”

* Music? If you must do audio, keep it low. You’re at a party, not a concert. The goal is to get people talking to each other. “The best parties, to me, are when you hear a lot of chatter and a lot of laughter,” she says.

Finally, take it easy on yourself if you’re hosting. Set up your serving area beforehand. Clean the house, but don’t go nuts. If you forget something “critical,” shush. Most people won’t know about it, and the ones who do know probably won’t care.

“They’re there to have a good time,” Barbara says.


A week before your party, take several slices of firm bread, such as wheat or rye, and remove crusts. Cut into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter. Absent a cutter, slice crustless bread into 2-inch squares. Store in a bag. Two days before your gathering, slice a cucumber as thinly as possible. Lay the rounds on paper towels, on a flat dish or pan. Salt lightly. Cover with more paper towels, refrigerate overnight. The next day, spread the bread generously with herbed cheese spread. Barbara likes the Alouette brand. Fetch the cuke rounds. Fold them gently in half, then again into quarters. Stick three or four of the cuke fans, pointed ends first, into the center of the cheese-covered bread. “As they’re sitting there, they’ll unfold,” says Barbara. “They’re visually impressive.” Place the finished fans in a food container, cover with a damp paper towel, seal, refrigerate. The next day, serve at your party. OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry. Contact her at



Photograph By Lynn donovan