O.Henry Ending

A Manner of Speaking

For this Southerner, it’s drawl or nothin’

By David Claude Bailey

If you’ve met me, you will agree that one of my most unforgettable traits is my down-home Piedmont accent. Think Andy Griffith or a North Carolina Highway Patrolman asking you if you had a particularly pressing reason for exceeding the speed limit.

In my youth, I never gave it much thought — until, I went to New York City at 16 and ordered a burger. The waitress stopped me in mid-sentence and said, “Say that again.” When I did, she broke into uncontrollable laughter and parroted my words with a lame Gomer Pyle impersonation.

Granted, I tend to draw out my vowels. I pronounce the sauce (dip) that’s used to mop pork barbecue “Di-yup.” When I say “hog” or “dog,” they sound as if I fattened them up with a few extra syllables.

I don’t need to be telling “you all” this if you’ve lived in Greensboro or its surrounds for any length of time. And yet, decades ago when I enrolled at UNCG, 20 miles from my hometown of Reidsville, people thought I talked funny, just my cousins from Madison and Mayodan talked funny. And my wife-to-be, bless her, got an earful when she moved to Reidsville from the Lowcountry of South Carolina. My schoolmates had a field day with the way she said “Sears” (rhymes with “mayors”). Sadly, she lost any trace of a rich and glorious accent that I only get to hear when we visit her relatives.

Let’s face it, everybody talks funny compared to someone else, but if you have a Southern accent, somebody’s going to point it out.

A press trip to Malaysia with a group of American cookbook writers comes to mind. Two or three of us who had become fast friends would get up early and seek out farmers’ markets, gawking at the unusual viands, such as frogs, bats and sea creatures I’d only seen before in storybooks. Afterwards, we’d drink cup after cup of coffee that had been made in what looked like a sock, thickened with an inordinate amount of sweetened condensed milk. In spite of these shared bonds, one in the troupe still thought it hilariously amusing to affect a Hee-Haw drawl, once chortling out, “Why right’ cheer comes Day-fid Bay-leee.”

I simply asked her: “If I were Polish, would you start telling ‘dumb Polack’ jokes? Or if I were Hispanic or Black, would you suddenly start talking like the Frito Bandito or Buckwheat?” She actually apologized.

On other occasions, I’ve discovered my speech has its advantages. When I was a young college kid hitchhiking through Europe, a group of Italians in a bar thought I sounded just like Bob Dylan and bought me rounds of beer as long as I crooned on about Ruthie wanting me to come see her in her honky-tonk lagoon. And a female publicist in London once kept me on the phone, asking me about what kind of car I drove and was I married. Finally, she said, “Has anyone ever told you that you have a really sexy accent?”

Sexy? Er, no. Though a waitress in Philadelphia once sat down at my table to spoon feed me the crème brûlée I’d ordered because, she said, she liked the way I talked. I’m pretty sure that’s not all she liked.

Over the years, I’ve come to actually treasure my Southern accent. What continues to bother me, though, is that with the influx of so many people from all over the United States into the Piedmont, I still hear, “say that again.”

“Hey,” I think as they laugh hysterically, “I was here first.” Which brings me, of course, to another story.

In the early 1980s I was aerospace editor of Cocoa TODAY, which became Florida TODAY, which was a trial run for Al Neuharth’s USA TODAY. I covered NASA for the paper in the months before the Space Shuttle became America’s first manned flight in six years. I had just been Okayed for a trip to Washington, D.C., to write a series about the Shuttle’s cost overruns, a series that eventually won the Aviation and Space Writers’ top award. As I jabbered on and on about the trip with my colleagues, a Brooklyn-born photographer mimicked my pronunciation of our nation’s capital — “Warshington,” I was saying.

“Bev,” I said, “where are we?” She looked puzzled, but replied, “In the newsroom.”

“Where’s the newsroom?” I continued. “In Cocoa.” “Where’s Cocoa,” I countered. “In Florida,” she said, and then suspiciously, “What is this?” “Just answer my question, please,” and by this time the entire newsroom was tuned in.

“What region of the country is Florida in?”

“It’s in the South, I guess,” she replied.

“No guessing about it,” I shot back. “Florida is in the Deep South, so quit telling me how to talk on my own turf.”

Never has the sound of applause been so sweet.  OH

David Claude Bailey did not pick up any of his mother’s Pennsylvania Dutch accent.

Life of Jane

Just Desserts

It takes one to know one

By Jane Borden

In my parents’ home, desserts are both rewards and consolations, applied as prescription and preventative medicine alike. As such, the procurement of them is as important as the distribution. My mother likes to be prepared.

Shortly after Nathan and I were married, we made an impromptu visit to Greensboro from Chapel Hill. Mom not only welcomed us generously but also threw together an elaborate dinner for four in the dining room. Afterward, she announced, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t know you were coming, so we have nothing for dessert.” Naturally, we insisted: Dessert was unnecessary, and we were thankful for the delicious dinner, not to mention full. This was a response to the gesture behind the statement. And once it was made, I considered the statement itself. Suspiciously, I asked, “Wait, you have nothing for dessert?”

When my sisters and I were children, our kitchen pantry was legend. Across different grades and schools, word spread of the snack-food riches therein, making our house the first choice for any playdate location. I’m still not sure who were real friends, and who were mercenaries out for a payday in Little Debbie snack cakes.

They weren’t shy. They knew Mom’s organizational system and poked around freely. It was a bit like looking for coins in a video game. One employs a combination of tactics, returning to previously discovered gold mines while also seeking new sources. That was part of the fun. Our friends knew they could open the freezer door and score a few chocolate M&Ms, but also what’s behind that cereal box in the pantry? Is it one of a dozen cans of chicken consommé (a collection always stocked in case, I presume, the municipal water source became tainted and we had to drink it)? No. Is it a jar of relish that expired five years ago (that’s my dad’s organizational system)? No. Is it . . . yes, Girl Scout cookies! Wait, how old are they? Just kidding, I don’t care.

The shelves were deep. There was a lot to explore. And it required agility, considering the floor was littered with bottles of Diet Rite. I understand this culture of plenty. I inherited the trait. I go overboard, whether in my shopping cart or on my plate. “That looks good. Do I need it? Probably not. But you never know? Anyway, it might taste good. I like things that taste good. OK I’ll take it.”

For example, having a great plenty is what allows one to throw together a dinner for four in a formal dining room on short notice. Appreciation aside, however, I am biologically incapable of missing an opportunity to joke. That is how I came to do the unthinkable: endeavoring to entertain our group by making fun of Mom.

“You have nothing for dessert?” I asked, inviting her into the trap.

“Nothing!” Mom said innocently. “I feel terrible!”

“You’re sure there’s nothing?” I pressed.

“Yes!” she said.

“OK, I’ll just confirm,” I announced, rising from the table and heading first to the second refrigerator in the laundry room. “Bag of M&Ms in the drawer!” I shouted and, moving a bottle of chardonnay, added, “also a bag of jellybeans. And a box of Godivas.”

“Those don’t count,” Mom yelled back. “That’s candy!”

I next turned to the freezer: “Fudge popsicles!”

“They’re Weight Watchers,” she protested, “fake dessert.”

“And what about this homemade chocolate-covered toffee the Hassenfelts gave us for Christmas?”

“Jane,” she said, her voice now grave: “You better be careful.”

Making fun of mother is a risky venture. The situation must be perfect, or plans require, as revenge does, the digging of two graves. But any great endeavor is susceptible to circumstance, and if, when conditions do allow, our heroes fail to act, we’d never have harnessed electricity, or captured a giant squid on film. I realize I’ve just compared my mother to a giant squid, but the sound I sought — of her laughing at me laughing at her — is as rare.

I don’t mean to suggest her hard or stoic. Mom laughs constantly, and labors to elicit the same from others. She’s an entertainer. She says I get my sense of humor from my dad. Maybe. I hope so. He’s one of the funniest people I know. (Last year, when my parents visited Los Angeles, we took an Uber to Hollywood. After embarking, Dad had trouble with his seat belt, so the driver pulled over to wait. When the lock finally clicked, Dad leaned forward to the driver and cheerily announced, “OK, you can get in a wreck now!”) Regardless, I inherited my desire to entertain from her.

She’s a pro. Whether hosting a party in your honor or running into you at the Harris Teeter, Mom makes you feel special. And you can relax meanwhile, because she does all of the work, including the emotional labor. I’m not at her level. But I hope to be eventually. I’m still practicing. Anyway, it’s not my job to entertain when I’m with her. It’s hers. That duty is part of her general position as matriarch. Mom controls everything — including the comedy. If children are serfs, then my aim in mocking her was nothing short of an uprising.

But I had her cornered. I knew I was right and, more important, I knew this was funny. I pressed on to the kitchen pantry, where I found candied pecans, chocolate-covered almonds, gummy bears, and four kinds of Weight Watchers treats (caramels, minifudge bars, shortbread cookies, yogurt pretzels). I shouted out each as I found them.

“Jaaaane. . . .” she replied, threatening the outcome of my continued pursuit. This was getting worse before it got better. But if I stopped now, I’d have already lost. I had to double down.

“OK, I’m opening the kitchen freezer,” I yelled. And then she sighed loudly: resignation, a positive sign.

“Jackpot! Two kinds of ice cream, a frozen loaf of banana bread, a Skor bar, and more popsicles — not Weight Watchers.” I returned to the dining room: “17, Mom. That’s a total of 17 desserts in the house.”

She stared at me for two or three very long seconds, and then raised her eyebrows, shrugged and chuckled. It was a little thing, and also the best thing.

“OK,” she said, somewhat sarcastically. “Very funny.”  OH

Jane Borden grew up in Greensboro and now lives in Los Angeles, where she currently has nine desserts in the house and gets paid to be funny.

The Omnivorous Reader

Crime and Punishment

Doing justice to a pair of new legal thrillers

By D.G. Martin

Two popular authors of legal thrillers have close connections to North Carolina. We would like to claim them for our state, but both live in Virginia.

John Grisham’s latest book, The Guardians, has spent recent weeks on or near the top of The New York Times best-seller list. Although he lives near Charlottesville, he regularly visits his daughter’s family in Raleigh and enjoys his second home in Chapel Hill, where his wife, Renee, is active in support of the UNC Press and the performing arts efforts.

Martin Clark, author of his fifth novel, The Substitution Order, though not as well known as Grisham, has legions of fans. He has been called “the thinking man’s John Grisham.”

Clark lives on a farm near Stuart, Virginia, just a few miles above the North Carolina line and not far from the Winston-Salem hospital where he was born.

Both new books feature hardworking, smart lawyers confronting sophisticated corruption schemes in the justice system.

Grisham’s story features innocent people who have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy years of confinement. Coincidently, newspapers and movie theaters have been full of real life stories of long-serving prisoners who have been found to be innocent.

“After 36 Years in Prison, 3 Men Cleared in Killing,” a headline in The New York Times proclaimed recently. Stories like it have become more and more common as efforts to establish the innocence of people convicted of murder expand throughout the country, including North Carolina.

Last year Charles Ray Finch, 81, was freed after being wrongfully convicted 43 years ago of a murder in Wilson County. His release came after a 17-year effort by students in the Duke Law Innocence Project.

Why does it take such a long time to undo a wrongful conviction?

Grisham gives an answer in The Guardians. His hero is Cullen Post, a lawyer and Episcopal priest who works for Guardian Ministries in Savannah, Georgia. Post lives in a small apartment above the ministries’ office, but spends most of his time on the road, visiting prisoners all over the Southeast.

Post interviews prospective clients in their prison cells. Most of the time he concludes they are guilty. But for those who have persuaded him of their innocence, he gives his all. He even sits with them as they await execution, sharing their last meal. With others, he tries to unearth facts and connections that might bolster their innocence claims. Back at the office, he helps draft legal documents to persuade courts to open the door for a review of their clients’ convictions. Even after all this hard work the Guardian Ministries has only gained the release of eight innocent prisoners.

Grisham paints the portraits of several imprisoned clients who are almost certainly innocent but focuses on an African-American former truck driver, Quincy Miller. Twenty-two years earlier Miller had been convicted of murdering Keith Russo, a small town white lawyer who had done a lousy job representing Miller in an acrimonious divorce. The evidence against Miller was thin and contrived, but the local sheriff was determined to pin the murder on him.

Why was the sheriff so motivated? Post’s probing is, at first, inconclusive. Then, as he learns that drug dealing might be involved and that the murdered Keith Russo was involved in the illicit trade, things get scary.

Post meets Miller’s original defense lawyer and learns that a drug cartel had subjected him to torture and terror so frightening that he would not speak of Miller’s case in public. When Miller is attacked and almost killed by prisoners on the drug cartel’s payroll and strange men begin to follow Post, Grisham injects his patented skillful storytelling to weave a disturbing tale.

While Post makes it clear that his job is to prove that his clients, in this case Miller, are innocent, and not necessarily to find the actual murderers, after all Grisham reveals about the horror of the drug cartels and the local officials involved in Keith Russo’s murder, it disappointed this reader not to have the real trigger man and his handlers brought to justice.

Maybe Grisham is just leaving the door open for a sequel. If so, I will be in line to buy the first copy.

Meanwhile, there is time to enjoy Clark’s The Substitution Order, which has gained widespread praise. New York Times reviewer Alafair Burke wrote, “In a good legal thriller, the law itself propels the narrative as intensely as any single character. By that definition, Martin Clark’s ‘The Substitution Order’ is not merely a good legal thriller; it’s a great one.”

It opens with its main character and narrator speaking, “For years, I was an excellent lawyer, as honest and effective as you could ever want, and I’m a decent enough person, and despite my mistakes, which — I concede — were hellacious, I deserve better than this misery.” These words introduce us to the plight of Kevin Moore.

When a lawyer’s life collapses, it can fall hard, and the devastation can be horrendous. But hard times can make for a good story, and Moore’s sad situation becomes the basis for Clark’s enticing book.

Moore was an admired and successful lawyer in Roanoke, Virginia. He was deeply devoted to his wife, but then briefly fell into a short fling of infidelity, drug use and association with drug dealers.

The results: disbarment and probation. His wife gives up and leaves him. Hoping to regain respectability and return to a good life, Moore takes a job working in a cheap deli. His circumstances make him the target of sophisticated crooks. A stranger who calls himself Caleb visits the deli and proposes that Moore cooperate in a multi-million-dollar scam to con his malpractice insurer out of millions of dollars. As a part of the scam, Moore would admit that he failed to follow up on a client’s option to purchase a parcel of mountain land for a little less than a million dollars. She lost the property, which later sold for $6 million.

If Moore plays along, his lawyers’ malpractice insurer will pay $5 million to his former client, who is part of the scam.

When Moore turns Caleb and his colleagues down, they use a corrupt law enforcement official to get a fake positive drug test and plant drugs and a pistol in his car. The resulting probation violation and new charges could put him in jail for a long time.

His Job-like experience continues when he suffers a stroke just as his soon-to-be ex-wife takes him off her health insurance coverage. His slow turnaround begins when he calls Dan Duggan, his Davidson College classmate and law school roommate at the University of Virginia, for help. Duggan guides him through the health insurance morass and then, at the end of the book, plays a key role in Moore’s counter-scam to punish Caleb’s colleagues and deny them the fruits of their evil deeds.

Martin Clark, the author of this compelling story, recently retired as a Virginia circuit court judge, giving him, we can hope, time to write more “thinking man’s” thrillers.  OH

D.G. Martin hosts North Carolina Bookwatch Sunday at 11 a.m. and Tuesday at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesday at 8 p.m. To view prior programs go to http://video.unctv.org/show/nc-bookwatch/episodes/.30

February Almanac

February blossoms make the cold hard to shake.

Crocus burst open like paper fortune tellers, hellebores whisper prophesies of spring, and in the backyard, where a speckled bird is kicking up fresh mulch, winter Daphne blushes like bright-eyed maidens in faded terra-cotta planters.

All of this, yet winter feels deep-rooted, endless. As if her flowers were cruel illusion. As if your bones could be forever yoked to this chill. 

Then one day, out of nowhere, a new warmth arrives with the daffodils, a new softness beckoning you outdoors.

Beneath the bare-branched sycamore, where the picnic table has all but forgotten its name, February sunshine feels like a warm bath. You’ve brought lunch — a thermos of soup — and as the sunbeams dance across your face and skin, you feel, for the first time in months, as open as the crocus. As if winter might release you. As if hellebores were true harbingers of spring. 

Beside your thermos, a feathery caterpillar edges toward you. Did it fall from the sky? You look up toward bare branches, wonder where he came from, where he’s going, whether he’ll be the speckled bird’s lunch. He’s closer now, gliding across your idle spoon, and as you observe his wispy yellow coat, you see yourself in this tiny being and in what he might become:

Enamored by each fragrant blossom; wide open; ever-seeking the simple grace of light.

February sunshine has transformed us, encoding within us the promise of spring. We can feel it now.

The Lenten Rose

When a plant blooms in the dead of winter, it is neither ordinary nor meek. That plant is a pioneer.

Also called the “Lenten rose”, the hellebore is a beloved and shade-tolerant herbaceous or evergreen perennial — not a rose — that so happens to thrive here. Some species more than others.

Take, for example, the bear claw hellebore, which is named for its deeply cut “weeping” leaves. February through April, this herbaceous perennial displays chartreuse green flowers that the deer won’t touch, and you shouldn’t either (read: toxic when ingested). As the flowers mature, the petal edges blush a soft, pale ruby. Talk about subtle beauty, but more for the eyes than for the nose (its crushed leaves are what give it the nickname “stinking hellebore”).

On behalf of every flower-loving soul aching in their bones for the coming spring, thank you, hellebore. You’re a true queen.

Full Snow Moon

The Full Snow Moon will rise at night on Feb. 8, peaking in the earliest hour of the morning on Feb. 9. Also called the Bone Moon, this supermoon (the closest the moon can come to Earth in its orbit) marks a time of heavy snowfall and, in earlier times, little food. If you’re warm and full-bellied, this moon is a good one to share the wealth.

I know him, February’s thrush,

And loud at eve he valentines

On sprays that paw the naked bush

Where soon will sprout the thorns and bines.

— George Meredith, “The Thrush in February,” 1885

Warm Your Bones

This month in the garden, sow beet, mustard and turnip seeds. Plant your spring salad (loose leaf lettuce, arugula, spinach, carrots, radish, cilantro). But while it’s cold out, soup!

The following recipe from DamnDelicious.net is a quickie — all the better for soaking up more February sunshine while the spring garden grows.

Spinach and White Bean Soup


1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

4 cups vegetable stock

2 bay leaves

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta

2 cups baby spinach

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in thyme and basil until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in vegetable stock, bay leaves and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Stir in orzo; reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender, about 10–12 minutes.

Stir in spinach and cannellini beans until the spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve immediately.  OH

Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle . . . a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream. — Barbara Winkler

Life’s Funny


Weeding out a CBD treatment

By Maria Johnson

I was at wit’s end.

To shush my mewling left ankle, which I’d aggravated while playing tennis, I’d tried all sorts of remedies: anti-inflammatory pills, gels, and a cortisone injection, which worked — until it didn’t.

A doctor sent me to a physical therapist, who showed me how to build up my foot and ankle muscles. My peroneus brevis never looked so good. She ended our sessions by dressing my ankle with a battery-powered patch that pushed some anti-ouchy medicine into the gristle end of my boney-ass-chicken-drumstick leg — my words, not hers.

The relief lasted for a couple of hours at a time, probably because I was so caught up in the cool factor of wearing a battery-powered bandage. It reminded me of the light-up tennis shoes that both of my sons wanted so much, at age 3, that they endured the rigors of giving mom and dad what they wanted — potty-trained sons — in exchange for the fly kicks.

Who knows? Maybe if the patch had packed a stronger battery and a flashing dump truck, I’d have been cured. Alas, the wee batteries died, and I went back to being my gimpy, unelectrified self.

I tried simpler fixes, too, soaking up enough fragrant Epsom salt to pass as a lavender-scented country ham. And, of course, I’d worn out the RICE regimen, which orthopedic folks use as shorthand for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, but which the rest of us know as Relax In a Chair and Eat the ice cream you got out of the freezer when you fetched the gel pack.

I was desperate for relief. So when post-yoga chitchat turned to a new hemp store nearby, and someone volunteered that she’d rubbed hemp oil into her hip to soothe an aching flexor, I was on it.

Skeptical, but on it.

I hobbled on over to the ol’ hempatorium. Graphics on the windows suggested that CBD — or cannabidiol, a non-la-la-inducing compound in hemp — could be used to treat a wide array of health problems:

Anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia, autism, scurvy, rickets, dropsy, hysteria, ringworm, imbalance of the humours. I exaggerate, but not much.

The kid who was minding the store was extremely friendly, in a floaty, underwater sort of way.

“How . . . can . . . I . . . help  . . . you?” he asked languidly.

“I was wondering if you have any kind of ointment that might help a strained tendon in my ankle,” I replied.

“Everyone  . . . your  . . . age . . . wants . . . topicals . . . instead . . . of . . . smokables  . . . and  . . . chewables,” he observed in approximately the time it would take me to watch a whole season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

I was tempted to say, “Been there, done that. Why, I recollect a concert by them Who fellers back in nineteen and eighty-two,” but I preferred to focus on my ankle while I was still ambulatory.

He led me over to a wall of shelves and picked up a small white jar with a smudged label that looked to have come from a home printer. “Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Pain Salve, 500mg/1oz,” it read. Everything was spelled correctly, which I took as a positive sign, medically speaking.

“My . . . aunt . . . has . . . bad . . . arthritis . . . in . . . her . . . back . . . and…”

“Good for her,” I said. “I’ll take it.”

I panned the rest of the seascape: tinctures of oil; packs of multicolored gummies; bottles of lotions; tubes of salve promising to relieve, relax or restore one thing or another; a few textile products woven from hemp fiber; and some prerolled joints.

A tray of loose-leaf hemp lay next to the register.

“Is it, uh, legal to sell it that way?” I asked.

“Yeah . . . as  . . . long . . . as . . . it . . . contains . . . less . . . than . . . point . . . three . . . percent . . .THC,” he said, using the initials of Tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in weed that makes you high.

I looked it up later. Hemp, a low-grade strain of marijuana, contains less than 0.3 percent THC, which is currently the legal limit in North Carolina. In states that allow the sale of recreational or medicinal pot, the THC content can be more than 20 percent.

Back in the day of  “them Who fellers,” it was 3 to 4 percent.

I’ll leave it to politicians, pundits and public health folks to hash out whether society’s widespread embrace of cannabis makes sense.

But I can tell you that after a few days of rubbing the hemp oil balm on my ankle, the pain faded away.

In fairness to cause-and-effect, maybe it was because I’d laid off the high-impact exercise. Or because I’d flexed my foot and ankle muscles into a state of Marvel Comics buffness. Maybe in the year since the original injury, the frazzled tendon had finally mended on its own.

Or maybe it was because of the healing properties of CBD.

There’s a seed of truth in there somewhere.  OH

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


From Custom to Consignment

Tailor’s Rack is a perfect fit

Armed with a degree in computer science and music technology from Elizabeth City State University, Dana Williams, 28, was on the fast track with a job at Procter & Gamble. Ascending into management, he was overseeing the production of three brands of deodorant. The money was good but the stress was unbearable, and one day he had a potentially fatal seizure.

“I woke up in Moses Cone Hospital,” he recalls, “and the doctor said if I had gotten there two minutes later I wouldn’t have made it.” Stress, the doctor told him, would kill him.

So, Williams went to work for Goodwill Industries and then off-price retailer Ross Dress for Less, rising into management at both stores. “At Goodwill I learned the thrift-store process,” he says. “Ross was buying closeout items, and that taught me about buying and pricing in retail. That gave me my foundation.”

All this time, Williams was developing a passion for sewing he’d had since childhood, engendered by watching his grandmother make and mend clothes on her pedal-powered Singer. By college he was designing and altering clothes for classmates.

“I had my sewing machine right there beside my desk in my dorm room,” he says, adding, “Before long, people were asking me to customize clothes for them and dress them up.”

After renting booths at flea markets, and selling his wares both there and online through Etsy, he was ready to take the entrepreneurial plunge and opened a consignment shop in Rockingham, N.C., near his wife, Felicia’s hometown of Hamlet, expanding into a successful consignment-thrift-vintage outlet.

Moving to the corner of Davie and Friendly, Williams opened Tailor’s Rack on September 28, 2018 (Felicia’s birthday).

With the Tanger Center and the new hotel opening, Williams feels confident about his location and his blend of men’s, women’s clothing and household goods, all very reasonably priced.

Still, the 48-year-old father of two boys (Landon, 10 in March, and Laydon, 8) foresees his own clothing line in his future. He already has a label, Danaanad, has flown to China to develop relationships with manufacturers, and has the hands-on experience to make it work.

“I really want to get back to custom designing,” he mused. “That’s where my heart is.”

Plus, one would imagine, it’s a lot less stress on the heart.  OH

— Ogi Overman

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Let’s Do It!

If birds, bees and educated fleas do it, you can, too — with a little help from book releases in time for Valentine’s Day

Compiled by Brian Lampkin

Yes, love and romance.
Of course, chocolates and flowers. But what is it we really want from Valentine’s Day? January and February bring us a proverbial backroom full of new books on sex and sexuality that will help you separate the players from the performers. With these guides and how-tos, you’ll soon sort out what you actually desire from what you’re supposed to desire. What is it we really want from Valentine’s Day? Books on sex!

January 7: Topics of Conversation, by Miranda Popkey (Knopf, $24). Miranda Popkey’s first novel is about desire, disgust, motherhood, loneliness, art, pain, feminism, anger, envy, guilt — written in language that sizzles with intelligence and eroticism. The novel is composed almost exclusively of conversations between women — the stories they tell each other, and the stories they tell themselves, about shame and love, infidelity and self-sabotage.

February 4: The Queen V: Everything You Need to Know about Sex, Intimacy, and Down There Health Care, by Dr. Jackie Walters (Andy Cohen Books, $27). After twenty years of private obstetrics and gynecological practice, there’s nothing Dr. Jackie Walters hasn’t encountered. And now, in her new book, the widely adored OBGYN invites you to put your feet in the stirrups and investigate. Whether she’s covering libido, contraceptives, labiaplastyor fertility, Dr. Jackie educates readers with her characteristic grace and pragmatism. Both funny and informative, she brings you on a quest through the female reproductive system — answering all the burning (and itching and odiferous . . .) questions you’ve always been afraid to ask.

February 4: Seduction: A History from the Enlightenment to the Present, by Clement Knox (Pegasus, $28.95). Moving from the Garden of Eden to the carnivals of 18th-century Venice, and from the bawdy world of Georgian London to the saloons and speakeasies of the Jazz Age, this is an exploration of timeless themes of power, desire, and free will. Along the way we meet Mary Wollstonecraft, her daughter Mary Shelley, and her friend Caroline Norton, and reckon with their fight for women’s rights and freedoms. We encounter Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world, who became entangled in America’s labyrinthine and racialized seduction laws. We consider how after seduction seemingly vanished from view during the Sexual Revolution, it has exploded back into our lives.

February 4: The Pleasure Gap: American Women and the Unfinished Sexual Revolution, by Katherine Rowland (Seal Press, $28). American culture is more sexually liberal than ever. But compared to men, women’s sexual pleasure has not grown: Millions of American women experience the sexual malaise clinically known as low sexual desire. Between this low desire, muted pleasure and experiencing sex in terms of labor rather than of lust, women by the millions are dissatisfied with their erotic lives. For too long, this deficit has been explained in terms of women’s biology, stress and age, but in The Pleasure Gap, Katherine Rowland rejects the idea that women should settle for diminished pleasure. Instead, she argues women should take inequality in the bedroom as seriously as we take it in the workplace and understand its causes and effects.

February 11: Sex Positive: Redefining Our Attitudes to Love & Sex, by Kelly Neff (Watkins Publishing, $18.95). In this ground-breaking study of modern sexuality, Dr. Kelly Neff explores this new cultural movement and examines LGBTQI issues, #MeToo, female orgasm, the rise of nonmonogamous relationships and robotic sex partners, among many other contentious topics emerging as part of the ongoing social and political shifts surrounding sex, love and identity.

February 11: Summer of ’69, by Elin Hilderbrand (Back Bay, $16.99). Sorry. Apparently this book isn’t about what I first thought. But that does remind me that Scuppernong Books will host its 2nd Annual Non-Erotic Reading on February 13 at 7p.m. We’re guided by The Guardian’s annual Bad Sex Awards in Fiction. Here’s a sample from a “winner,” Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls:

“Then I screamed as though I were being run over by a train, and that long arm of his was reaching up again to palm my mouth, and I bit into his hand the way a wounded soldier bites on a bullet.
And then it was the most, and I more or less died.”

Please join us to celebrate the bad so we can recognize the good!  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.