November 2020 Almanac

By Ashley Wahl

November is the sculptor and the stone — ever chiseling away, ever clarifying what has always been, gently unveiling the mystery.

Near-bare branches reveal ash-gray skies, crisp silhouettes in all directions and a panorama so clear you wonder how you never noticed what you’ve never noticed.

The veil is thin. Like trees with lungs, deer stand silent, eyes wide, ears spread like radio antennae. There is nothing and nowhere to hide. Even the last of the leaves have let go — not yet of their branches but of their need for sunlight. No more churning out chlorophyll. No more illusion of green. Only dappled yellow and mottled orange, the brilliant scarlet truth.

November is the last of the apples, zucchini bread warm from the oven and the cold sting of autumn in your eyes and bones.

In a flash, an earful of waxwing ornament the tender branches of the dogwood, pass its red berries from bill to bill like children sharing candies. You heard them before you saw them. And like a dream, the birds have vanished as suddenly as they arrived, the berries gone with them.

November guides you inward.

You are standing in the kitchen now, cradling a hot beverage until your face and fingers thaw. It doesn’t happen all at once, this softening. But sure as the final leaves descend, the grace of the season will become clear: Things fall away to reveal what matters most. And with all this space — this bare-branched view of the brilliant scarlet truth — there is gratitude.

You give thanks for what is here now, the cold sting of aliveness and the warmth within the mystery.

The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night,
Ya-honk! he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation,
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listening close,
Find its purpose and place up there toward the wintry sky.
— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Turnip Eater

It’s turnip season, and if that doesn’t thrill you from tongue to root, consider the words of Pliny the Elder, who maintained that the turnip “should be spoken of immediately after corn, or the bean, at all events; for next to these two productions, there is no plant that is of more extensive use.”

In Roman times, the globular roots were hurled at unpopular public figures much in the way disappointed groundlings chucked rotting fruit at Shakespeare’s duds.

There are more practical uses, of course.

During World War I, bread and potato shortages gave birth to the “Turnip Winter” of 1916–1917. German civilians subsisted on them. And in World War II, when biscuits and mutton were scarce, guess what? The turnip was there, best in savory Lord Woolton pie, named for the Minister of Food who popularized the dish in 1940.

Turnips are low in carbs and packed with nutrients.

Roast them in butter. Mash them with sage. Pan-fry their greens with sweet onions and garlic, balancing the bitter with brown sugar, salt and apple cider vinegar.

In 2018, Tasmanian farmer Roger Bignell accidentally grew a world record-breaking turnip that weighed a whopping 18.36 kilograms (that’s over 40 pounds). Imagine unearthing that sucker, a root the size of a border collie! Not so easy to hurl.

If Charles Dickens used the word “turnip” in a novel, he was likely referring to a country bumpkin. But it’s a gift to be simple, and when life gives you turnips, you might just get creative with them.

Quiet Time

The full Beaver Moon rises on Monday, November 30. It’s time now.

The beaver retreats to its lodge, the squirrel to its drey. The bumblebee burrows underground, alone, dreaming of honey and clover.

The creatures lead the way, but we, too, turn inward.

Warm wishes and good health to you and yours this holiday season. May your hearts and cupboards be full.  OH

O.Henry Ending

Don’t Forget to Write

For our family, the mailman was more than just a welcome sight — he was a lifeline

By Ruth Moose

As a child during World War II, I lived with my grandparents on a farm near Cottonville in Stanly County, North Carolina. With gas rationing, there was no traffic and so quiet we could hear the mailman long before we could see the cloud of dust his car made on the unpaved road. In a world turned upside down and torn apart, mail was the only thing we could count on.

We lived for the mail. It meant the world to us. We had the radio and a weekly newspaper, also delivered by the mailman. But letters told us the people we loved were safe.  At least for the time being.  My grandparents’ four children were in four corners of the world: my father stationed in France; my Uncle Tom a navigator with the Army Air Corps in London; my Aunt Pearl, an Army nurse, was with MacArthur’s troops in the Philippines; and my Uncle Edgar, who had just graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a masters in physics was in Washington, D.C., and alternately, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Each of them wrote a letter home every week. You could depend on it.  And my grandparents wrote back.

When two weeks went by without a letter from her daughter, my grandmother was more than worried, fearing the worst. She sent inquiries. Discovered my aunt was in this country, hospitalized with a mental and physical breakdown. But she was alive and recovered.

The mail not only brought letters each week but also a brand new, fresh copy of my grandmother’s favorite reading, The Saturday Evening Post. That was her recreation, her relaxation, her reward at the end of each long, worried day. On special occasions the mailman might bring a box of Whitman’s Sampler, picked up from a PX somewhere I’m sure. We rationed a single chocolate a day as long as it lasted.

The mailman also brought books! My aunt in D.C. was a librarian and regularly mailed me books, books that were read aloud to me until I taught myself to read. Poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and others. Books were magic doors to a larger world and gave me a lifelong love of the printed word, of learning, of no greater pleasure than reading.

When the war was over, they all came home, wounded in body, mind and spirit, but thankfully alive. They continued the weekly letters home and to each other the rest of their lives.

After my grandfather died, the farm was sold and my grandmother lived three months at a time with her four children: my aunt a school nurse in New Jersey; my uncle on the faculty at N.C. State in Raleigh; Uncle Edgar teaching at Georgia State; and my family in Albemarle. Always letters back and forth, specialty cards for all the occasions. Cards to be kept and displayed on mantels and dressers. Cards to be re-enjoyed for days and weeks following. Not the same as today’s emails, a blink here and gone forever. I remember getting an e-condolence card after my husband’s death and crying in frustration. If the sender really wanted to send some sympathy, they could have bought a card, or written a note, signed, addressed, stamped and mailed it. An e-condolence was a quick click and no more thought than that. Obligation over.

Sadly none of the old letters survived. Tossed in the purging of estates after a death; nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren who saw them as only pieces of paper, not family history.

During the pandemic, I’ve being purging files, boxes from storage and attics. Deep in one box I was amazed to find my letters to my husband, who was then my boyfriend during our four college years. He had somehow, somewhere, kept them and they had survived many moves, packing and unpacking. Don’t tell me emails could do that. Not in a million years. Yellowed and with three-cent stamps, the letters tell the story of a summer romance that lasted over 50 years. I’ve been reading, alternately laughing and crying. We were so young.  So 1950s crazy and scared. The question is: Will my sons want these letters? My grandchildren? I can only hope.  OH

Ruth Moose taught Introduction to Writing Short Fiction at UNC-Chapel Hill for 15 years. Her students have since published New York Times Bestsellers and are getting Netflixed. She recently returned to her roots in the Uwharrie Mountains. 

Home by Design

Simply Irresistible

Bitten by the design bug

By Cynthia Adams

Skimming the auto classifieds recently, an ad set in a retro font called Courier New tripped the circuitry of my brain to a repressed memory. I froze, slopping my morning coffee as I recalled another ad entry from the past, under “Antique Cars” (with a nod to the Robert Palmer song).   

SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE. 1971 Volkswagen Convertible; electric blue. New paint, top and tires. Restored. Garaged. Winston-Salem. 

The price, a gulper, reflected its merit.

My eyes raked over the thumbnail-sized picture. The unfurled soft top combined with its rounded wheelhouses made me nostalgic for the, well, freewheeling days of the counterculture era. Not to mention the near indestructible, classic four-cylinder air-cooled boxer engine — a tribute to German engineering for sure — strategically placed in the rear of the car. It was love at first bug bite!

As I dialed, hand trembling with excitement, I feared it was already gone. 

The owner, who sounded elderly (ah, perfect!) said I could see it that afternoon. 

He had fielded several inquiries. If serious, “bring cash. Not many cars like this.”

“She’s anything but typical,” I heard Palmer singing in my head.

At that, I scurried off to withdraw the exact price (“nonnegotiable” the owner made clear), shivering with excitement. 

I had long wanted a vintage VW convertible — what our architect friend, Greg Koester, jokingly tagged “a bitch bucket.” This was the one!

I hummed, “She’s a craze you’d endorse,” from Palmer’s song.

Leaving the bank, I called my husband. “I need for you to take me to Winston- Salem in a couple of hours.”

He agreed.

On the drive over, he negotiated. “Don’t do it,” he pleaded. 

“Nonnegotiable,” I replied sassily, quoting the seller. Then I sang, “She’s a craze you’ll endorse, she’s a powerful force/You’re obliged to conform when there’s no other course.”

He gripped the wheel. “Look, it’s an old car. I think it’s a bad idea.”

Unfazed, I felt bubbling anticipation.

The owner’s hip bothered him, so he took a while ambling out when we arrived. He retreated to the garage, reappearing in the adorable blue car. Exiting stiffly, he patted the pristine white top.

“Cute, huh?” 

He didn’t need to sell me, as I was silently singing, “She used to look good to me, but now I find her/Simply irresistible . . .”

As my knees weakened at the sight of her, the seller mentioned he was a Shriner. 

“We take an oath; we cannot lie. Truth is, this car is worth a lot more than I’m asking.” 

While I didn’t buy that line wholesale, I was still thinking of Palmer’s lyrics:

“It’s simply unavoidable/The trend is irreversible.”

“Can you drive a straight?” he asked, interrupting my silent singing. “Wanna drive it?”

I grinned.

He handed me the key. 

I slowly circled the drive, singing, “She’s all mine, there’s no other way to go.”

“Hasn’t been out much,” he observed when I rolled back, having never gone faster than a few miles per hour. “Needs the carbon blown out.”

Of course, I thought, the old guy probably hadn’t driven it since 1975.

With that, I shook his hand and we were off to handle the transaction. My husband, looking beyond perplexed, tried again.

“You need to check it out,” he pleaded.

“He’s a SHRINER,” I repeated. “He can’t lie.”

My husband glowered.

The bundle of cash, all hundreds, was exchanged, for the title. 

Back at the Shriner’s, I climbed into the car and cranked open the window.  (A crank! How deliciously retro!)   

“See you in Greensboro!” I shouted gaily, fumbling to find first gear. It had been a while since I’d owned a straight shift.

As I advanced uphill toward the road, the driver’s seat shot backward. It was all I could do to keep control of the car.

My heart pumped. When the car crested and I headed downhill, the seat suddenly shot forward, giving the adrenaline rush of Disney’s ill-fated Rocket Rods. When I pulled over to examine how to lock the bucket seat into place, I discovered it was not anchored — nor could it be. 

It slid freely to and fro. 

(No big deal, I thought. Missing a screw.)

On the open road, I tried to familiarize myself with the clutch while also trying to keep the seat from rolling back so far on hills that I couldn’t reach the accelerator. 

I held onto the door in order to steady my seat, like a captain on the high seas.

But only a few miles down the Interstate, the car spluttered. 

My husband had long since left me behind, eager to leave me to my stupid fate.

I slowed and pulled over.

The car gasped and died. 

I noted the fuel gauge registered full. Not out of gas, then. Flooded?

I managed to restart it after a while.

(“She’s so fine, there’s no tellin’ where the money went,” I thought.)

Somehow, I leapfrogged back to Greensboro, driving straight to our mechanic. 

He was outside the garage chatting to a customer.

He grinned at the shiny blue Beetle, which choked as soon as I downshifted, hurtling me forward. I gasped and caught myself.

“Sure is cute!” he greeted, as I rubbed my wrist, which had banged against the dashboard.

Explaining my conundrum, I handed over the keys — as the mechanic kept repeating how great the car looked.

Reluctantly, I called home to ask for a ride. Palmer’s voice grew louder in my head. “She’s unavoidable, I’m backed against the wall.”

One of my husband’s finest qualities is his ability to repress the words, “I told you so.”

The mechanic phoned later that week with a report. “It’s real unusual, this car,” he prefaced.

The car had died because the fuel tank was all but empty. All the dashboard gauges worked BACKWARD.

It was as if a mischievous chimp had restored the car. A Bonzo Beetle? “It’s not safe to drive,” he cautioned.

The Shriner may not have outright lied, but he was quite capable of omissions.

The bitch bucket held more surprises.

The mechanic called again. “I have a buyer if you’re selling.” A customer had seen it on the lift and had to have it. 

“But the car isn’t safe!” 

The mechanic replied slowly, “But she wants it.”

I spluttered. “It was overpriced to begin with and now there’s an additional garage bill.”

The next night, someone as smitten with the car as I had been phoned.

“Think it over,” I advised. “The car is simply irresistible.”

She thought briefly and called back. “We’ll pay your price and the garage bill.  Consider it sold.” 

The mechanic called too. “I could have sold that car several times.” The blue Beetle was the automotive equivalent of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.

As soon as I had the title back from the DMV, the potential owner was eagerly waiting at the garage. I allowed myself a last look; “‘She’s a craze you’ll endorse, she’s a powerful force,’” I hummed sadly.

A month later, the Beetle was in the Fresh Market parking lot, top down, sporting an adorable vanity plate: WEEKENDS.

“Gosh, it’s cute,” I gushed in spite of everything. I had owned the car a few weeks and only driven it 35 miles. Now it became a sport to spot WEEKENDS around town. It presented as an electric flash of color, the top down, the driver’s blonde hair flying. 

A few months later, we spied WEEKENDS being loaded onto a tow truck. 

“Oh, no!” we both exclaimed passing it, then fell silent.

I struggled to not look back; then, in a low voice, I sang.

“‘She’s a natural law, and she leaves me in awe/She deserves the applause, I surrender because/She used to look good to me but now I find her/Simply irresistible.’”  OH

Cynthia Adams is a Contributing Editor to O.Henry

The Naturalist

The Road Home

Well-traveled trails still hold surprises

Story and Photographs by Todd Pusser

Unlike much of the rest of Moore County, State Road 1137 has changed very little since the days of my youth. Running north to south for just over 4 miles and through two different ZIP codes, the weathered two-lane blacktop is still bordered by open fields and pine forest. Interspersed here and there along its route is the occasional ranch-style house and double-wide trailer, all pretty much looking exactly the way they did in the early 1970s.

About the road’s midway point, in a sharp bend that cuts through a patch of turkey oak and longleaf, is my childhood home. It is a modest, single story, red brick house, with tall white columns extending up from the front porch, and a grey tin roof surrounded by a large well-manicured yard of centipede grass and acres of forest. The property sits atop a gently sloping hill in the far western edge of the Carolina Sandhills, near where the sandy, xeric soils of the Coastal Plain meet the densely packed clay-based soils of the Piedmont.

The skies here are wide open and free of light pollution. At night, the stars shine thick and bright and the Milky Way feels so close you can almost reach out and touch it. By day, the sky is the most brilliant shade of blue. On summer afternoons, deep purple clouds mushroom up from the east, and the sound of thunder echoes through the pines. During mid-winter, on those rare days when snow falls from somber grey clouds, one can actually hear the flakes hitting the ground.

The road itself is not much to look at and is easily taken for granted. It is not an especially scenic drive and looks pretty much like any other rural strip of asphalt throughout the Sandhills. The fields and forests that line its border do not reveal their secrets easily. But rest assured, there are wonders here.

Drive its route often enough and pay attention, as I have for nearly 47 years, and you will learn its rhythms. On most winter evenings, as the sun dips over the horizon, herds of white-tailed deer feed in the open fields that border the north end of the road near its junction with Hwy. 211. By day, brightly colored kestrels, North America’s smallest falcons, perch on the power line that cuts through those same fields. Early mornings in spring will find shiny black fox squirrels, the size of housecats, standing upright on the road’s shoulder near grandmother’s house with pine cones clasped tightly between their front paws. Blue flowers from Sandhills lupine brighten the roadside. Drive slowly on moonlit nights in May, with the windows rolled down, and you will be serenaded by the frenetic calls of whip-poor-wills. Come summer, abundant blackberries provide tasty treats for those who know how to spot their thorny shrubs growing beneath the power line cut. Heat lightning dances across the sky on most humid evenings, and fireflies blink on and off beneath the pines. The turkey oak leaves turn a deep burnt umber color in late October signaling the onset of fall. Eyeshine from grey foxes slinking across the road in front of the car late in the night is a common sight this time of year.

Yet, for all its familiarity, the road can still surprise. Just this past January, on an evening when torrential rains had supersaturated the ground for much of the day, the car headlights revealed a miniature marvel not far from the driveway to the house. Hopping out into the steady drizzle with flashlight in hand, I approached to find a 6-inch-long spotted salamander, so named for the brilliant dayglow yellow spots decorating its body, slowly walking across the road. Over all the years and thousands of times driving the road, I have never before observed this beautiful amphibian here.

Spotted salamanders need ephemeral ponds (temporary bodies of water that dry up for part of the year) to breed and lay their eggs. After a few weeks, the eggs hatch into a larval form complete with long tails and a bouquet of gills. When the ponds dry up in the spring, the larvae transform, like frog tadpoles, into terrestrial adults. The adults leave their pond and migrate far away, sometimes up to 1 mile, and then bury themselves underground, where they will remain for a year until the next breeding season’s rains begin and they start the cycle all over again. Considering the fact that spotted salamanders can live 30 years, I may well encounter the adult found near the edge of the yard once again.

My whole childhood was oriented toward animals and the outdoors. The natural curiosity was innate. And, like many kids in rural towns, I longed to get away. Eagle Springs just seemed too small. Magazines, such as Ranger Rick and National Geographic, as well as television shows like The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, fueled my daydreams of exploring far-off lands in search of exotic beasts. I wanted to swim with the sharks and catch snakes in tropical jungles.

Fortunately, I have been able to live out most of those daydreams. My work has taken me around the world. I have dived with great white sharks off Mexico and caught snakes in the rainforests of Panama. After two decades of travel, I have developed a deeper appreciation for the natural world and all its wonders, from the exotic to the familiar.

Though I live far from the Sandhills today, I try to get back as often as I can. The last time I turned down the road home, it was just after sunset in late May and the sky was filled to the brim with stars. As I so often do here, I turned off the radio and rolled down the windows. About a half-mile or so from its junction with Hwy. 211, the bright beams of my headlights illuminated a herd of two dozen deer standing in the middle of the field, their eyes glowing a greenish yellow. Many lifted their heads with mouths full of grass calmly staring at the approaching vehicle. Another half-mile down the road and a grey fox dashed across the highway. Eagle Springs seemed anything but small.

Rounding the bend to the old brick house, a whip-poor-will called.  OH

Naturalist and photographer Todd Pusser will be a regular contributor to PineStraw. He works to document the extraordinary diversity of life both near and far. His images can be found at

A Passage to India and Beyond

Todd Nabors’ global décor

By Cynthia Adams     Photographs by Amy Freeman


Whether in a slushie, sherbet or sunset, it’s the hue of summer. And Triad designer Todd Nabors loves all things orange. In the mix of favorite colors, orange plays a subtle, supportive role inside his new home.

In moving to a Greensboro townhouse this year, Nabors made important gains: 600 square feet of interior space, a brand new canvas to decorate and proximity to a lushly green park.

After leaving behind a quaint 1920s house in High Point’s Emerywood, he has had a fresh opportunity to reimagine his interiors, colors and appointments. 

Wearing an orange Lacoste polo shirt, Nabors walks into the living room and launches into explaining how his new home took shape. Taking “pride of place” is a framed Asian wallpaper panel he’s owned for 25 years. “It was the first thing that I knew exactly where it would go,” he says. He also knew the old favorite would set the tone for all things to follow.

The French hand-blocked panel contains all his favorites: orange, its more subtle cousin, salmon, and ice blue, a favored accent. These are now encapsulated throughout.

“It’s the color scheme for the house,” says Nabors.

It’s hard not to quip like a school child, “orange you glad I noticed?”

No, he didn’t paint his new pad Hermès orange, but happily used it to punch up the interior.

The décor’s accents are often art and textiles from Asia, India and the Mediterranean. He has redeployed European pieces, but more than ever favors global influences from the Far and Middle East.

A trip to Japan last summer intensified Nabors’ admiration of Eastern interiors and gardens, and their spare design sense. He found the Japanese aesthetic “was disciplined and beautiful.”

“When I was in Japan, I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Naoshima art island and numerous small towns over a three-week period. I loved it all!”

Again, something he admired wound up consciously incorporated into his new home. Nabors collects Japanese Imari, the popular, brightly colored export porcelain. Imari’s trademark colors — rust, coral, various shades of blue and turquoise — became another unifying design thread. The color scheme lightened or intensified depending upon the room.

“It’s the one connect between my prior house and now,” he says. “Especially in the keeping room, but not in the living room. The living room is much more Palm Beach in flavor.”

Nabors has, however, furnished his home with many more Chinese pieces of art and accessories than Japanese.

As for the prized panel in the living room, it is one of six installed by designer Otto Zenke in the Greensboro Country Club’s ballroom during a refurbishment in the 1960s.

The panel is likely an iconic Zuber paper, a favorite design element used by Zenke who had previously installed panels of the French wallpaper in Chapel Hill’s iconic Carolina Inn in the late 1940s.

It would inform the overall design for Nabors, who buys and sells antique furnishings, but would never part with this particular favorite. The panel has traveled with him to each of his homes.

Here in a larger space, Nabors was free to use much more art. His love affair with art goes back to his youth when he studied art; visuals still exert a powerful influence. “I’m a visual learner,” he explains.

Throughout the house, he has used art to dramatic effect. Among his unusual collections are antique watercolors called “pith” paintings. Small, often botanical or bird illustrations, they are named for the plant-based paper they were painted upon.

“They are on paper that looks like rice paper, but is a unique style,” Nabors explains. Pith paintings grew popular in the early 19th century, as easily transportable, colorful souvenirs.

The pieces are “a way to get that exotic look without a commitment to hand-painted wallpaper,” he adds.

To unify the whole is Benjamin Moore’s “Cumulus Cloud,” a paint chosen during a remodel a few years ago. Nabors liked the smoky neutrality of the color and kept it. It was the perfect contrast for other decorative elements, blanc de chine (white porcelain) objects d’art and alabaster lamps. A single wall and trim color now extend throughout most of the downstairs, a visual trick that adds height. 

Although he recreated certain elements from his former home, it’s quite different. As friend Sharon James says, “It’s lighter and more open.”

A mirror brightening a corner of the living room is one which he insists he has used for years — but it’s transformed in its new home.

“Same flavor, different house,” Nabors smiles.

The original townhouse floor plan was deliberately made more open when remodeled on the first level apart from the master bath. The prior owner expanded doorways between the living room, dining room and kitchen. The kitchen was also opened and upgraded in a more modern and dark-hued style of cabinetry, flooring and surfaces than his previous all-white kitchen.

While the kitchen was more modern than Nabors might have chosen, he has warmed up to it.

In fact, it won praise from friends. The room was beautifully done, he concedes, and Nabors came to concede that it’s not only livable but pleasant.

After a period of painting and refurbishment, he spent weeks trying to curate his new home. Although he was not able to choose the floor tile that had been installed throughout, nor the kitchen refurbishment, he pronounces it tasteful and fresh.

The kitchen opens onto what Nabors calls his “keeping room,” or den, which has a generously sized fireplace and raised hearth. Here is where Nabors spends downtime — he explains much of the time in quarantine earlier this year was spent in that room. Quarantine time also allowed him to feather his nest.

That sanctuary was made deliberately cozy. Nabors tossed an Indian quilt on the back of the neutral sofa and “the big turquoise pillow in the center is Turkish.”

The layered, collected look is one especially favored by British designers. It also spoke to comfort.

Over the tiled flooring he laid a colorful rug for warmth, another possession which he says he’s “had since my 20s.”

There are “new” acquisitions scattered about. An English pine chest from a Greensboro antiques importer was originally chosen for his parents, who passed it to him. A William and Mary—style sofa, one generously sized and neutrally upholstered, is also a piece from his parents. Made by Southwood and upholstered in a custom fabric, it is one of a matched pair. He inherited the larger of the two thanks to his parents downsizing move.

In the keeping room is yet another long-loved piece in front of the bar, a reproduction French cherry game table where Nabors frequently has meals.

He has become adroit at “using favorite pieces in new ways.”

“Reinventing and renovating are good for the times,” Nabors observes. “Everybody’s got a budget, rationalizing the money they’re spending. A good designer can show how to refresh what you have.”

Nabors’s favorite designers are masters of reinvention.

“Mark Sikes, a designer whose work I appreciate, has photographed his wonderful Mediterranean house, redecorated with the same elements in at least three different looks,” he says. “I find that inspiring for those of us who want (or need) to work with the design elements we have.” 

Nabors’ reuse and repurposing of favorite finds is something he hones. He was well ahead of the trend.

Only a few new things — although still vintage — have appeared here. A handsome pair of demi lune tables from Carriage House Antiques flank a Dutch table now positioned in the bay window, a place where he likes to serve hors d’oeuvres or drinks in the living room.

Nabors’ talents are surprisingly complementary: He is as pragmatic as he is creative. He currently works for the furniture industry. Prior to that, he was a banker working as a freelance stylist and designer in his free time. Banking made him particularly strong at conserving design clients’ money — he says he understands budgets and appreciates practicalities.

After his banking days, he was hired by Thayer Coggin, a renowned legacy company in High Point that manufactures midcentury modern furniture. During the company’s annual midyear shutdown, Nabors normally satisfies his travel itch. Travel is something that refreshes his creative eye and spirit.

This year, of course, all plans were off. Rather than traveling, Nabors was ensconced in his new home.

“Unfortunately, a summer trip to India had to be cancelled due to Covid-19,” he explains. So, India has been much on his mind, Nabors says. He instead “brought India home.”

He placed an Indian screen, painted white, between the kitchen and dining room. “I decided to move it down for the summer,” he says. Again, it’s a keepsake: “I’ve owned that piece since my 20s. It was black when I found it.”

Indian influences are now more prevalent than anything else in the new décor, Nabors says, most especially when he sets a table.

He points out that on the dining room a teal-colored Indian sari serves as the tablecloth. A whimsical Chinese export parrot adds a touch of humor.

For added color impact, Nabors layered orange napkins and colorful vintage Asian porcelain bowls.

They look pricy. But no.

“The bowls were inexpensive,” he assures, “so I can put them in the dishwasher.” While many of the things he has collected appear costly, he mixes high and low cost textiles and objects.

As pandemic restrictions eased, Nabors satisfied his love of vintage finds, continuing to collect and resell antiques and collectibles in the Triad at Carriage House Antiques and the Antique Marketplace, although they operate on a restricted schedule.

He also became his own customer, Nabors laughs. “I shopped from my own space.” Sometimes he brought finds home rather than part with them — as was the case with the porcelain bowls.

Now 50, he has been buying and reselling since he was a college kid interested in art and history.

While earning a graduate degree in English at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Nabors roamed historically rich northern Florida. He visited resort and retirement areas where antiques were plentiful and cheap. “There is no better place to shop for antiques than where the wealthy choose to retire.”

Nabors acquired “great old pieces at low prices.”

After graduate school, Nabors returned to the Triad with a haul from antiquing junkets.

He first began reselling in the former Carolina Collection in the old Pomona cotton mill, rehabbed in the 1970s as an outlet mall called Cotton Mill Square. It was “among the nicest venues for antiques in the area at that time.”

He made important friendships and connections that endure today. When the Carolina Collection closed 20 years ago, Nabors moved to the Red Collection that followed, and, later, to the Antique Market Place. His style caught the attention of blogger Jason Oliver Nixon, then a New York–based designer, who featured Nabors’ space in his writing. (Nixon has a studio in Thomasville.)

Meanwhile, customers frequently requested Nabors’ help with design edits, a skill that Nabors has polished.

Sharon James became one such client after meeting him at the original Red Collection on Merritt Drive. 

She admired Nabors’ spatial abilities and curatorial eye.

“I think I met Todd in 2002 since I moved here in 2000. He has helped me two or three times with rearranging various rooms.” 

Nabors expended energies doing the very same thing for himself. Within his new home, he had more wall space and could use more art than ever before.

He displays a range of types of artwork, including a series of four sketches by Triad artist David Bass that were given to him by a dear friend.

Long fascinated with the French artwork known as vue d’optique, which means perspective view, Nabors collects etchings of elaborate European gardens and architecture. Among the dozen or so that he owns is a view of the Palais du Luxembourg.

These images, although now framed, were originally viewed through a “zograscope,” also called an “optical diagonal machine” — a sophisticated version of the popular View-Master toy. The images offered a sense of depth.

“You could go into a pavilion and be shown these pieces; and the wealthy had them in their drawing rooms.” Nabors has also resold them on occasion when he amasses too many.

“I’m fascinated that you can buy something from the 18th century that’s not expensive,” he marvels. The images are from various countries, but the style and colors are consistent. “I also love the color of blue — Prussian or cerulean blue — in the skies, which relates all the subjects.”

Cerulean, a difficult shade to describe, was pulled from the vue d’optique prints for another interior accent color.

Chinese reverse paintings on glass are displayed throughout the downstairs.

While Nabors tries to edit with Japanese discipline, he admits it’s difficult. “I like stuff,” the designer jokes — but lightly. 

He has begun to try things out, first living with collectibles, which were formerly packed away or occasionally resold.

At first, he envisioned changes for the upstairs, which was not yet remodeled. Paint and new carpet had to be chosen, and bathrooms on both floors were in his sights. “I wanted to be cognizant of the budget,” he adds.

Paint is one of the most dramatic and inexpensive ways to create change. In his former home (featured in O.Henry and Seasons magazines) Nabors worked within the constraint of much smaller rooms. There, he kept the color palette narrow and consistent in order to enhance the space, choosing Benjamin Moore’s lighter gray “Soft Chamois.” The master bedroom, now the “summer bedroom,” is on the first floor. It features a Gothic black screen he made while a college student. A handsome vintage brass thermometer acquired “years ago” hangs on the screen.

For the master bath, Nabors chose a variation of orange.

“A friend calls my master bath color Duchess of Windsor coral,” Nabors says. He likes the color. “It’s called ‘Apricot’ at Sherwin-Williams.”

He moved a bedroom wall and closet, gutting the bathroom to allow for a better layout. Nabors installed a handsomely patterned tile floor, topping a gray faux bamboo vanity with Carrara marble, choosing a glass shower door and chrome fixtures. The bath appeared to double in size.

Upstairs is Nabors’ “winter bedroom” as it is seasonally warmer.

The upstairs bath was painted “almost a periwinkle color. I love it in that bathroom,” Nabors says. “It would be a bit much for a larger room. But my art looks great in there.”

Back downstairs again, the kitchen opens onto a walled brick courtyard enclosed with a custom wrought iron gate. The rectangular courtyard is more structured and English, furnished with two conversation and eating areas allowing for social distancing when entertaining.

As an end townhouse unit, Nabors’ dwelling not only gained more windows than the interior units, but also has the added bonus of a side yard. There was room for a rustic bench at the front. Here he opens mail or reads in morning shade, when the rear terrace is still bathed in sun.

“The morning sun, around 9 o’clock, makes the terrace glow,” he observes.

As the sun makes its exit, the terrace becomes a tranquil, shaded place for an afternoon drink. Accented with greenery, a metal garden bench scored at the Red Collection, and potted plants, Nabors slowly furnished the outdoor room.

When neighbors came for “socially distant” drinks, he dressed the table with blue-and-white cotton textiles imported from India, and mixed vintage glassware with blue-and-white china. For a centerpiece Nabors placed a large Mottahedeh bowl mounded with carved stone fruit, something which he has collected for ages. Small cachepots with boxwood topiaries serve as accents.

As the sun moved, cleomes, tall pink flowers rimming the terrace, grew radiant.

Nabors had been envisioning this outdoor dining scene during the long months of quarantine. Like everyone, he wanted to have guests over — even if only outside at a safe remove.

He admittedly dreamed of travel, too. He quotes Mark Twain, saying “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” And then he muses, “I’ve traveled enough to want to travel a lot more. I didn’t get to take that Indian trip, but hope I will one day.” In the meantime, he says, “I’m very much under the spell.” Surrounded by art and lovely Indian textiles that he has purchased, Nabors will armchair travel from his serene home. OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor at O.Henry.

Almanac August 2020

By Ash Alder

Always, always everything at once, and in August you can see it.

Blackberry and bramble.

Rose and thorn. 

Honey and hive.

The sweetness and the sting.

You cannot have one without the other.

August is carefree. Bare feet. Soft grass and ant bites. Sandspurs and sweet peas. Long days and hot nights. Sweet corn and crickets. Sunburn and bee balm. Picnics and rope swings and cool, flowing water.

Cool, flowing water . . . the one true remedy for the sweltering heat of summer. 

Ankle, shin, then knee-deep in the swollen creek, where the dog fetches driftwood and the snake rests coiled on the sunny bank, time slows down. If it’s true that water retains memory, then you are standing in a pool of ancient musings — an endless, ever-flowing cycle of beginnings and endings, life and death, sweetness and sorrow.

The dog interrupts your own introspection with a playful shake — water spraying in all directions — and you admire the fullness and purity of his presence. Amid the sweetness and the sting, he’s just here, joyfully and without a care. And in this moment, so are you.

You watch as a dragonfly kisses the water’s surface, wings glittering as it circles about this summer dreamscape. Even the dragonfly bites. We forget. And yet the sting is part of it, inseparable from the beauty of the bigger picture.

Lose yourself in the bramble and remember: The sting makes the berries all the sweeter.

Thank you, beloved August. Thank you for your thorns and fruits and wild honey. Thank you for all of it.

In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in flower, had attracted many wild bees, gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again bent down and broke their tender limbs. — Henry David Thoreau

Pickle Me This

Want to savor the summer bounty while keeping things simple? Quick-pickle it. Refrigerator pickles will keep in the fridge for several weeks. And all you’ll need is your harvest, white distilled or apple cider vinegar, canning or pickling salt (read: not table salt!), water, and any glass or plastic container with a lid.

A “Simple Pickling Recipe” from The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends 1 1/2 pounds of homegrown cucumbers, 1 cup of vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt, 1 cup of water, and — if you’re feeling spicy — dill or mustard seeds, peppercorns, garlic cloves (peeled and smashed), or fresh dill, mint, or basil.

Got everything? OK, here we go:

If you’re flavoring your fridge pickles with herbs or spices, add that to your glass or plastic containers first.

Next, wash produce, slice into spears or coins, then add them to the containers, leaving at least 1/2 inch of headspace up top.

Time for the brine. Combine vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil, then pour hot brine over the veggies (cover vegetables completely with liquid but leave about 1/2 inch of headspace) and cover. Allow the jars to cool on the countertop for about an hour, then add your lids and pop those future pickles into the fridge. In three days to one week (the longer you wait the better they’ll taste), give them a try.

Natural Remedies

One of the highlights of porch-sitting in the summer is hearing the sweet, unmistakable buzz of hummingbird wings moments before it swoops in for a long drink from the feeder. One of the low points: mosquitoes. They also arrive with a buzz — arguably unsweet — and the only long drink they’re coming for is you.

If you’re into natural mosquito repellents, you’ve likely tried citronella candles or added its oil to homemade sprays. But did you know that planting certain herbs and flowers in your garden might also help keep them at bay? Try lemon balm, marigolds, peppermint, catnip, lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, neem, basil and thyme. Either way, you really can’t go wrong.  PS

What dreadful hot weather we have!
It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.
— Jane Austen

Life’s Funny

Blanking Out

How to live a storied life amid a pandemic

By Maria Johnson

For the entertainment of our Covid-weary readers, we’ve concocted a fill-in-the-blank game in the spirit of Mad Libs. To play with another person, don’t read the story aloud. Just ask him or her to supply a word for every blank space, using the prompt. Remember, the wackier and saucier the answer, the better. Then read the story aloud. If you want to play solo, go to

How I Spent My COVID Summer

By ( ______ —  _______ your playmate’s first and last name if you’re playing with a partner, or your name if you’re playing alone)

One pandemic day, it was really hot and humid, and my air conditioner was broken, so I decided to go to a Zoom meeting wearing only a ( ______article of clothing). The camera was focused tightly on my face, so nobody noticed. Then my ( _____uncommon animal) walked across my laptop keyboard. Forgetting my attire, I got up to put him out, and then someone said, “Hey, nice ( ______ vegetable, plural) and I was like, “Excuse me?” And they said, “In your garden. I can see your new raised bed garden through the window.” And I said, “Oh, thanks. Maybe I’ll bring some of the harvest into the office when we have another meeting there in ( _____ year in the future).” And everyone laughed ( _____ adverb ending in -ly). Except my boss. She just sat there looking like the proverbial cat who ate the  (_______ cooking utensil). People were getting slaphappy because already the call had lasted for ( _____number) hours.

When the call ended, I needed a break. So I put on a mask made of solid  ( _____ type of metal), which they say is the best kind because it lets nothing through. I saw a picture of ( ______ name of a celebrity) wearing one, and I thought maybe I could pull it off, too, because people say we look alike. Also, I put on a pair of ( _____ Disney character) sunglasses for eye protection, and I hung a garland of ( ______type of fruit) around my neck. I felt pretty safe.

We were in Phase (_____ number) of the reopening, which meant you could leave home but only if you were an essential ( ______ type of worker), which I happen to be. Perhaps you didn’t know that about me. A lot of people don’t. Anyway, I put on more clothes, including a ( _____ type of hat), which I stuck with a (______type of bird) feather as a fashion statement. I got in my car and drove to ( ______ a North Carolina town) because there’s a store there that always has
( ______ noun, plural), which have been hard to find locally. I know it’s a long way to drive for that, but I enjoy the scenery: the rolling hills with trees, cows, horses and an occasional ( ______ zoo animal) ( ______verb ending in -ing) through the countryside.

Anyway, I turned on the radio and listened to an interview with a chef who became famous for making pan-seared (______type of toiletry) with tofu. I had it once, and it was surprisingly good, considering the main ingredient. Anyway, this chef got Covid while her restaurant was closed in Phase I. Her first symptom was a fever of ( ______number above 100) degrees Fahrenheit that lasted for ( ______number) days, during which she was plagued by nightmares of ( ______verb ending with-ing) squid. Naturally, her doctors were ( ______adjective) about the whole thing.

Finally, her fever subsided but she had lost her sense of smell and taste, which is terrible for a chef. So she decided to close the restaurant permanently and go into the ( _______type of flying insect)-farming business, which seems like a strange career switch, I grant you, but you have to be flexible in these trying times. By the time the interview was over, I had arrived at my destination, a new grocery store called Trader ( _______ first name)’s, which is a very socially conscious store. All stockholders are required to reduce their personal ( _______type of cookie) emissions by more than 50 percent. Anyway, I pulled up my mask, adjusted my sunglasses and garland and started ( _______verb ending with-ing) through the parking lot. Suddenly I heard a loud voice “Hey! You with the ( ______ color) hair!” That’s right, I dyed my hair this summer just so I could look in the mirror and see someone new. Anyway, I looked up to see a store employee on a megaphone. This was because the number of infections had soared, and social distancing had been increased from 6 feet up to ( ______number over 100) feet. The guy continued on his megaphone: “I need to ask you a few questions. First, have you had a fever or coughed up any ( _____noun, plural) in the last two weeks? “Certainly not.” I replied. Have you had any hallucinations or thoughts of ( _____noun, plural). “Negative,” I said. “Have you ever ( ______verb, past tense)?” I said, “Once. In college. Does that count?” “No,” he said, but I could tell he was smiling under his mask. “You can go in.”

No one else was in the store, owing to the new social distance. I picked up a few items and put them on the conveyor belt at checkout. Then I left the store. This was the new protocol for shopping. You had to put your items on the belt and leave the store, then a cashier would ( ______action verb) in from a back room and leave a note for you saying “Did you find everything you need?” — and leave. Then you would come back in and leave a note saying, “Yes. Also, I find your selection and prices to be (______adjective)”— then leave. Then they would come in and ring up your purchase — then leave. Then you would come back in and swipe your credit card and bag your own groceries and leave. It was exhausting. As a result, people were eating less and walking more and we were actually becoming a much more just, verdant, ( ______ adjective), ( ______adjective) society, if that makes any sense. Which it probably doesn’t.

Who would have ever imagined such a ( _____adjective) surprise ending, except maybe O.Henry himself? OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry. She can be reached at

Summer’s Lease

Though short, it’s just a brushstroke away

“Where has the summer gone?” It’s a question that often arises as the white heat of August casts its lingering rays on the waning season whose fullness we eagerly greeted mere months ago. As the last of the bounty that fills our tables fades and once-lush lawns wither and brown, the specter of crisp autumn days looms on the horizon, though admittedly blurred in relentless, steamy waves rising from the earth.

This year, perhaps more than any other, summer has been lost; its traditions, from the roar of baseball diamonds to the crackle and fizz of fireworks, abruptly halted. Where has the summer gone, indeed? And will we ever recapture what was lost to us?

In the eyes of poet Richard Wilbur, the answer is a definitive “Yes!” Setting his poem “My Father Paints the Summer” in a seaside hotel on a rainy day, Wilbur evokes the disappointment among guests relegated to monotonous games of ping-pong, while elsewhere the season’s splendor thrives:

But up in his room by artificial light
My father paints the summer, and his brush
Tricks into sight
The prosperous sleep, the girdling stir and clear steep hush
Of a summer never seen,
A granted green.

Taking a cue from Wilbur, we too have turned to artists, who, like the poem’s paternal protagonist, have captured the brilliance, folly and sheer joy of the season. If you feel as though summer has eluded you, celebrate it here, among colorful garden blooms, quiet fields, windswept seascapes, twilight gatherings and noisy streets. For as Wilbur reminds us:

Caught Summer is always an imagined time.
Time gave it, yes, but time out of any mind.
There must be prime
In the heart to beget that season, to reach past rain and find
Riding the palest days
Its perfect blaze.

And take heart: There’s always next year.  OH
— Nancy Oakley

Jan Lukens, Early Morning Run, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches
Rachel Rees, Brothers, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches
Alexis Lavine, Catch the Breeze, transparent watercolor on cold-pressed paper, 15 x 11 inches
John Beerman, Man in Orange Trunks, oil on linen, 36 x 36 inches
Laura Pollak, Cherry Picking, Soft pastel on UArt Sanded archival paper, 12 x 16 inches
David Wasserboehr, Ready for a Coast Ride, mixed media (digital and chalk), 12 x 18 inches
Agnes Preston-Brame, New Suit, acrylic on paper, 11 x 8 inches

O.Henry Ending


Pounding the pavement leaves one writer in a Tiff

By Cynthia Adams

The Southside Running Club was ready for my resistance. Especially, the de facto leader of the pack, Beth Deloria.

Beth does marathons just for the swag and the snacks.

“Just try a half,” she encouraged me.

She convinced me to join runs . . . runs that concluded at Manny’s Universal Cafe with hot coffee and convo.

Most of the club members loved running. Not me. I got deeply in touch with my inner bitch. That ran nonstop: My ACL was probably tearing. My stomach roiled.

Grumpy. Sleepy. Hungry. Thirsty. I was multiple personalities running from running: The Seven Dwarfs of Excuses.

“Too cold to train for a half,” I protested as Deloria’s face curved into a grin. “Easier than heat,” she replied. “Too hilly,” I countered.

As fellow runners collected medals from marathons, I shuffled along. I developed runner’s Tourette, earning the moniker “Cussin’ Cindy.”

Then, Nike announced a virtual Women’s Only half-marathon coinciding with the original one in San Francisco (where tuxedoed firemen drape a Tiffany’s necklace over the neck of each finisher!).

If ever I was going to run a half, this was it! I could design my own (flat) course at my own pace! And, there was the promise of Tiffany swag, which would be mailed after uploading my qualifying miles from a Nike device.

Carefully I mapped the flattest possible 13.1 miles to be found.

Beth asked a lot of nosy questions: Where was I starting? And ending? I resented this. My miles were on my terms.

At 5 a.m. on the appointed date, she showed up at my door with Jim Austin in tow. The two were lugging a starting gate they had built. Another Southsider, Joy Savage, showed up to run part of the course with me.

No escape.

Along my route, signs appeared: “Sweat is just pain leaving the body” . . . and more.

At mile No. 6, more Southsiders appeared, including Emily, a Triad weather gal. She kindly forecasted I would make it. Cindy, Heath, Buck, Carolyn, Billy and a pal nicknamed Skittles joined in.

At mile 13, Beth and Jim stood near the Latham Park tennis courts, the starting gate reversed to “FINISH.” A grinning Jim began running backwards with it as I approached.

Tourette syndrome erupted.

As we filed into Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee, they produced an improvised medal, a “13.1” decal and flowers.

Weeks later the Nike package arrived. It contained a “finisher” shirt and a Tiffany box. Our dog was nearly as excited as I was.

I ripped the box open and out fell a flimsy metal key ring. If I squinted, I could see “Tiffany & Co.” inscribed on it. My dog raised his ears as I used an s-word that rhymes with “duck” to express my disappointment. The box, I decided, was a lot nicer than the key ring. The dog agreed, grabbing it, running faster than I ever had for the dog door.

“Tasteful,” he seemed to growl, his mouth filled with Tiffany blue cardboard.

In a few months, a new blue box would appear at Manny’s just after a run that had ended there. Beth and Jim watched as I opened it.

“Not sucky,” was engraved on the gleaming silver, bona fide Tiffany key ring. And just like that, a lot of pain did, in fact, leave the body! OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry. She still cusses while running.


The World of Del Maguey

Mezcal so good, I forgot how to count

By Tony Cross

Back in June, I was invited to dinner and a mezcal tasting by my good friends Bo and Suze. I first met the couple six years ago when I was tending bar. Bo and I bonded over our love of spirits and cocktails. He was one of the few people I knew at the time that shared the same knowledge and appreciation of everything from cocktail books, to bars across the United States and the great drinks they are known for. Needless to say, we’ve been pals ever since.

In the time we’ve known each other, we’ve shared lots of great drinks, many of which were imbibed in his bar, The Bo Zone. That’s right. He’s got quite the selection, and almost everything on hand for most cocktails across the board. Along with his invitation, he informed me he’d just received a huge delivery of spirits online. Yes, you can order spirits online and have them delivered to your home in North Carolina. I’m not going to name names, but do your research and thank me later.

The majority of bottles from Bo’s latest shipment was mezcal from Del Maguey. Pronounced ma-gay, the single village Mezcal was founded in 1995 by Ron Cooper. Each bottle is made by individual family producers and, as the website states: “We are the first producer to credit each product after the village where our liquid is made. When you see our beautiful green bottles, you know it’s Del Maguey.”

After the three of us enjoyed a fabulous dinner, we retired downstairs to The Bo Zone, where many beautiful green bottles awaited us. Here are a few of my favorites from that evening. I’m including the tasting notes that Bo provided, along with my recollections. I took pictures so I would remember just in case I time-traveled — I didn’t, but I’m glad I have the pictures to remind me. They were all excellent. The mezcals, I mean.

Del Maguey Tepextate ($115)

This was the first bottle we got into. What a great start.

Bo’s notes: This glorious mezcal made from wild agave is the work of the same master mezcalero that produces the legendary Tobala (see below) bottled by Del Maguey. Tepextate expressions are rare, to say the least, and the extreme conditions that the plant grows in result in mezcals with concentrated, sweet tones of pure nectar.”

My recollections: Honeysuckle. It was a touch sweet. The problem with all of these great mezcals is you want to have another taste — there’s so much going on that you need one more little sip to figure out what your palate is picking up.

Del Maguey San Pablo Ameyaltepec ($130)

Number three on the list was this beauty from Puebla. For “mezcal” to be printed on a label, the agave has to originate from one of eight Mexican states. Puebla is now on that list.

Bo’s notes: With this extraordinary bottling from master mezcalero Aurelio Gonzalez Tobnon, Del Maguey takes a big step forward with their first official bottling from the state of Puebla. The wild Papalote agaves for this spirit were harvested after 12 to 18 years maturing to full ripeness in the remote hillsides outside the city limits. Showing off an incredible range of complexity, the spirit resolves to an umami-like level of intensity and harmony with notes that hit on the tropical, floral, spicy, savory, salty, mineral and more.

My recollections: We all agreed that the Ameyaltepec left a savory, umami flavor on the finish. What’s fun about tasting mezcal (or spirits or wine) is how there is no right or wrong. You taste what you taste. Over the years I’ve looked at tech sheets on spirits/wine provided for staff by a distillery/winery and thinking, “Nope. That’s not what I taste at all.” This was one of the times where we all thought the notes hit the nail on the head. What a finish.

Del Maguey Madrecuixe ($110)

Bo’s notes: Not far off the banks of the Red Ant River in the dense, green village of San Luis del Rio in Oaxaca, Paciano Cruz Nolasco produces some of the most traditional mezcals on Earth. This rare bottling was made from the wild grown agave species of Madrecruixe. The opening notes are herbaceous and green in nature, then slowly, layers of tropical fruit are revealed spiked with earthy, edgy flavors that all seem to fit together thanks to the gorgeous texture and elegant medium body.”

My recollections: I remember loving this. I also remember humming some Jimi Hendrix tune that was on in the background. Let’s go with: What tastes like bananas, silk, and something green for $300, Alex?

Del Maguey Tobala ($120)

When we finished tasting the recent acquisitions, Bo pulled two more off the shelf. I’ve had this one before, but it had been so long I was forced to say, “Hey, man, lemme taste that one again” out loud.

Notes from Del Maguey’s website: The Tobala maguey is found growing naturally only in the highest altitude canyons in the shade of oak trees, like truffles. It takes about eight piñas (agave hearts) to equal one piña from either of the more commonly propagated and cultivated magueys. Our Tobala has a sweet, fruity nose, with a mango and cinnamon taste and long, extra smooth finish.

My recollections: “Ahh, man, that’s awesome!” At this point I was texting certain friends (who could care less) with pictures of the different, beautiful green bottles I was sipping from. My laugh was getting audibly louder and somewhat obnoxious, even in text form.

Del Maguey Pechuga ($200)

This is the showstopper. Bo had a little more than half a bottle of the Pechuga that had been on the shelf for five years — or did he say three? — and I was honored he would share this beautiful spirit with me. The first thing I learned about Pechuga involved the use of a chicken. Don’t be afraid. A whole skinless chicken breast (pechuga) is washed thoroughly to remove any grease, then hung by a string within the still for 24 hours while a second or third distillation happens. It’s not voodoo, it balances the native apples, plums, plantains, pineapples, almonds, and white rice that were already added to the 100 liters of mezcal.

My recollections: I remember taking a few sips, smiling, saying something brainy, and then tuning out. I was transported immediately to Santa Catarina Minas. I’m a donkey. Kind of like Eeyore, but not melancholy; my mood was the equivalent of being in a commercial for unwanted facial hair where everyone is really, really, happy. Oh, and I was a cartoon. I’m in the middle of grinding piñas during mezcal production. And then I came to. Maybe I did time-travel a little. This mezcal is classy.  OH

Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.