Category Archives: A-Musings

The Past Becomes a Present + Kitchen Shuffle

by Deborah Miller

I hit my early 30’s with a couple of significant, but soon to be important, strangers in my how-fast-can-I-run life. One was my second husband, who I hadn’t quite met yet, the second was my kitchen where I mostly kept beer or wine cold, the aluminum-drip-pot coffee hot, and take-out stashed as I hurried on the way to somewhere else. Please don’t judge my taste buds. They had no respectable influences back then … Mateus Rosé was my wine of choice because the man I shoulda married always came over with a bottle. You judged the night before by how many empty little Krystal Burger boxes were on the table when you woke up the next day. More than 5 … uh-oh.

Krystalboxes2

But I didn’t hate cooking. In fact, there was something calm and almost Zen-like there that was non-existent in my day-to-day, but I never stopped long enough to appreciate it. My candle stayed lit at both ends in those days. Plus at the time, my kitchen was a converted closet containing a baby 2- gas burner stovetop /oven and the sink was around the corner in my bedroom. Not terribly conducive to culinary expression … not that I’m making excuses because I was, after all, brought up by the “it’s a poor craftsman/woman who blames his/her tools” proverb.

When we (and by we, I mean me, my best friend and our running buddies, who were all either art students, musicians and/ or roadies) would end up in one place long enough, I’d often bake bread and cook a big pot of something. Soup. Stew. Spaghetti … because have you ever seen a boy (or a man) turn down a plate of spaghetti? Hasn’t happened in my life yet and I’m still waiting.

BreadPastaWine

Rarely did I write recipes down, because I was fearless and not afraid to add ingredients with abandon (whether they went together or not). Add enough wine to the pot and the guest(s), and who cares?

My recipes back then, if you can even call them that, were haphazard concoctions based on 1) how my mother made it, 2) how my grandmother made it, and 3) what I could afford. I’ve already proven in earlier blog posts that my siblings and I have varying colorful and wildly different memories of the exact same thing.

There was one family recipe I started doctoring just as soon as I was far enough away from home not to get caught. Bless her heart, my mother’s spaghetti sauce was just plain weird and not like anything I’d ever had before or since. She used to say that’s the way my Dad’s mother made it, that it was German-inspired. German spaghetti sauce? Really? They were from Yadkinville via the Alsace region, but that could hardly account for this particular and peculiar combination of ingredients. And there was nothing North Carolina about this sauce except for the woman opening the bottles. She’d saute onions and celery, maybe some dried garlic, brown some ground beef, then add a couple of bottles of Heinz Chili Sauce. I loved it until I tried “real red sauce” at a real Italian restaurant.

In an attempt to impress when I finally met the man I would marry, born story-embellisher that I am, my kitchen skills took on grand proportions as if I didn’t know, or care, that it would catch up with me sooner or later. We ate out a lot at first, and grilled almost every weekend, so coming up with sides for whatever hunk of meat was charring away outside was easy. There was foolhardiness as I threw elaborate dinner parties and tried out new dishes without even a rehearsal. One dinner, everything was held-up waiting for the rice to bake, a recipe my mother often made for fancy dinners. After 30 extra minutes and finally pulling the bubbling beef broth out of the oven, it was only to discover I’d never added the rice. Fortunately, there was wine a’plenty and if I know nothing else, it’s how to laugh long and hard at myself. For reasons that now escape me we ended up dancing around the dining room table singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of our lungs. It became an after dinner tradition.

cooking

Still, the kitchen didn’t scare me. Our circle of friends became fooled into thinking I knew what I was doing back there in that room with the pots and pans. I’ve lost count of the times I’d just go back in there and rattle things around a little just for their benefit.

Once married, and without even consciously trying, we began to start our own food traditions. One that included having all our favorites on one plate for a birthday, which in my case meant lobster, crab cakes and ribeye’s all in one meal. The holidays would roll around and I’d find myself homesick for a specific dish from my own childhood – breakfast strata, Christmas pie, baked fruit compote, or Mud Hens.

We honestly thought Mom created them until I pulled out my old dog-eared 2nd edition copy of Charleston Receipts to search for a dessert to take to a cookout and there big-as-life was her recipe. Exactly the same. They were such a hit, I promised myself I’d never forget about them again, though I’d smile coyly about our “secret family recipe” every time after.

WagonerFamilyCookbook1The Family Cookbook
Sometime during the summer of 1990, as I began to collect all those family recipes, including those that my brother and sisters had reworked and adapted to our adult tastes, it morphed into a family cookbook project. Everyone would send me their recipes, I’d re-type them all, make copies, and gather them in a ring binder. Sounded simple enough. I was either crazy or didn’t already have enough to do, so I also volunteered to design and cross stitch enough covers for each family to have their own book, plus an extra one each for the two 10-year old nieces who I named as my assistant editors. It became the big shared family Christmas gift that year and took its rightful place next to the old Joy of Cooking and Ladies Home Companion.

My copy is a treasure and is one of those things I’d grab if the house were on fire. It’s outgrown the binder in a good way, with other favorite recipes added through the years. Even after graduating from culinary school, I still go for the family cookbook nine times out of ten. Ever year, usually sometime in November and way too late to have it ready in time for Christmas, there are talks of doing a long overdue update. Bring it on, y’all. It’s about time.
…………………………………………………………………….

Kitchen Shuffle
Shuffle
RC Cola & a Moon Pie (NRBQ)
Maximum Consumption (the Kinks)
Alice’s Restaurant (Arlo)
Sweet Potato Pie (James Taylor)
Cheeseburger in Paradise (Jimmy Buffett)

R.E.M. BY MTV at Cat’s Cradle a special film screening and PopUp Chorus benefiting the Public Justice Foundation

There’s this.  It’s important. It’s fun. And it’s a damn good cause.

August 23, 2016 update:  Our beautiful and remarkable Vivian left us yesterday – peacefully, quietly in the comfort of family and friends.  We knew this day would come. Lauren Bromley Hodge said it way better than I ever could:

Yesterday, Vivian Connell joined the man in the moon, went to Heaven, became part of the universal flow of all things, Honestly, I do not know where she has gone, but I do know that she has left a hole in our world, and that I have lost a friend. A mother supreme, a ferocious fighter for justice, an advocate for public education, a towering intellect and force of nature like no other, Vivian loved music right up there with all else that she loved with such passion. Just over a year ago, Bernard Downing, Conductor Seamus Kenney, David Klein, Deborah Pardee Miller, Frank Heath and her husband, Paul Connell, worked together with many others, on an event to honor her, that benefited Public Justice, a cause that she held so close to her heart. We sang R.E.M. songs, screened their documentary, and watched her son,Hagan Connell join this kick ass band with Alex Maiolo on stage. Of course, he held his own, because he is a Connell, and they always hold their own. Re-watching this video and seeing her sing, laugh and love R.E.M., her family, friends and her community reminds me that life is precious, fleeting and beautiful. She made more of it that most. RIP beautiful woman, and may the community that you served with such passion bring peace and comfort to your grieving family. So proud to have known you. -LBH

R.E.M. BY MTV at Cat’s Cradle
a special film screening and PopUp Chorus benefiting the Public Justice Foundation

REMbyMTV

Carrboro, NC – A special musical benefit featuring the music of R.E.M. takes place at Cat’s Cradle, Friday, April 10, 2015 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in support of the Public Justice Foundation. The evening includes a screening of the documentary R.E.M. by MTV, a film about the life and times of R.E.M., and a PopUp Chorus of the audience singing R.E.M. favorites, “Man in the Moon” and “Losing My Religion.” The event honors Chapel Hill teacher and policy advocate, Vivian Connell. Advance tickets for the seated show are $15 and are available online now at http://www.catscradle.com. All proceeds benefit the Public Justice Foundation.*

The event springs from years of shared friendships and shared passion for social justice. Vivian Connell, an undergraduate in Athens, Georgia in the early 80’s, grew up in the burgeoning local music scene with the young R.E.M. As an emerging band,, R.E.M. performed their first benefit in 1984 for the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (L.E.A.F.). The young Connell, then Vi Riner, photographed this 1984 performance for The Red & Black, the University of Georgia, Athens student newspaper.

Thirty years later, after a two-decade teaching career, Connell graduated from UNC Law, passed the North Carolina Bar and was engaged in education policy advocacy, often working with long-time R.E.M. advisor Bertis Downs. But in March 2014, soon after embarking on her career in public interest law, Connell was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Following her diagnosis and despite physical limitations, Connell, a teacher, attorney, and policy advocate, continued to pursue public service, raising over $30,000 to lead a group of immigrant and marginalized students on a social justice trip to DC. On the importance of music, Connell observed, “Music has the power to unite people and to compel us toward a higher purpose,” adding, “R.E.M.’s music and politics have elevated our best ideals and inspired many, including me, to question the status quo and to pursue an authentic life of substance.”

Says Bertis Downs, R.E.M. advisor and co-producer of the documentary, “we are thrilled to have a screening of R.E.M. by MTV at Cat’s Cradle and to have it benefit The Public Justice Foundation, which does such vital work and is meaningful to our friend Vivian Connell. It is sort of a perfect circle; the Chapel Hill area has always been a special place for R.E.M. since their earliest days, and screening the film here gives us an opportunity to support and honor Vivian. The documentary has been well received by fans all over– and having PopUp Chorus join the event is a unique bonus.”

Click here to view Trailer for R.E.M. by MTV.

PopUp Chorus founder Lauren Bromley Hodge, a NC based arts entrepreneur, met Connell through Downs in 2011 after founding the Community Chorus Project, whose mission is to create community and positive social impact through music. In 2014, Hodge introduced PopUp Chorus, conducted by Seamus Kenney, as a program of Community Chorus Project, run in collaboration with the Department of Music at UNC, Chapel Hill. Hodge and Kenney are thrilled that PopUp Chorus can help celebrate Vivian Connell’s work and passion, while allowing them to turn the audience into a PopUp Chorus singing two iconic R.E.M. songs.

Like R.E.M.’s first benefit, this event will support public interest law. A perfect circle, indeed.

* Public Justice fights for consumer and victims’ rights, environmental protection and safety, civil rights and civil liberties, workers’ rights, America’s civil justice system, and the wronged, the poor and the powerless. The Public Justice Foundation is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable membership organization that supports cutting-edge litigation, advocacy, and education around these issues.

Those unable to attend may make a tax deduction donation by clicking here! 

Learn more about Vivian Connell –read her story on her blog, finALS: My Closing Arguments.

Advance tickets – BUY NOW!

# # #

Contacts:
Vivian Connell, Advisory Board, Public Schools First, North Carolina Certified Teacher, English 6-12, ESL K-12, 704-995-2222,vivcon@gmail.com
Lauren B. Hodge, Community Chorus Project LLC, 919-428-1597, lauren.b.hodge@gmail.com

For more information or to arrange an interview:
Deborah Miller, 919.219.6877, dpmiller@bellsouth.net

Express Yourself + Words and Notes Shuffle

1024px-Underwood_typewriter_2008What if the next Great American Novel hasn’t come out yet because you’re the one who’s supposed to write it? Is that spy novel you’ve been working on for years – you know, the one that’s now over 1,000 pages – ever going to see the light of day? Ever thought, “Oh, I could write that,” after sighing and tearfully putting down a romance novel?

Just what if …  now is finally the time? The Chapel Hill/Durham area is chockablock with writers, writers’ groups, readings, signings and classes, so all you really need to do is find the one that kick-starts your creativity. Maybe you’ll discover that quitting your day job to write full-time isn’t your path.  But just maybe all your inner Hemingway – or Seuss, or Grisham – needs is an invitation to come out and play.

Current Durham resident, raiser of chickens and food lover Jennifer Lohmann has found true-love success as author of four Harlequin’s Super Romance novels, including The First Move and A Promise for the Baby. Her latest, Weekends in Carolina, is due out this month. Join Jennifer for a meet-the-author tea and discussion of her own books and the popularity of the romance novel, sponsored by Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library.

GreatAmericanNovel1Horse stall-mucker-turned-bartender-turned-author Nancy Peacock hosts an adult writing class at Flyleaf Books. Held the second Saturday of each month, the atmosphere is playful and supportive, and the group works using prompts and a 15-minute timer. Nancy is the author of five books, including The New York Times Notable Book Life Without Water. Her most recent novel, The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson, is heart breakingly beautiful.

Over the next couple of columns, we’re going to go inside a handful of local meet-up groups, several just for aspiring writers, some that are just plain intriguing – Snob Free Wine, Ethnic Foods, “I’ve Always Wanted to Try That,” and Triangle Polyamory … so stay tuned!

Meet the Author Tea with romance novelist Jennifer Lohmann
Thu. June 12, 3:30-5pm – Free
Chapel Hill Public Library
http://www.friendschpl.org
919-968-2780

Prompt Writing Class with Nancy Peacock
Sat. June 14, 10am-noon – Free
Flyleaf Books
Chapel Hill
http://www.flyleafbooks.com
919-942-7373

WORDS AND NOTES, NOTES AND WORDS SHUFFLE
ViolinNotesMy Cross to BearIn Memory of Elizabeth Reed (Gregg Allman)
100 Love Sonnets (Pablo Neruda) +  The Lovers Cantata (Samuel Barber)
Goodnight, Keith Moon (Bruce Worden) +  Tommy (The Who)
A Reliable Wife (Robert Goolrick) + Kind of Blue (Miles Davis)

 

Read it online at Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY.

Memorial Day in The Hindsight Zone

In honor of Memorial Day … I’ll reverently spend some good memory time for all those who fought for us.

Then I’m moving on to other people from the past. The one’s you can’t un-remember. Can’t un-see. Can’t un-hear. Forever stuck like an earwig.  DATES that never shoulda even happened.

HindsighZone

“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of heart and mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Hindsight Zone!” ~with deepest, red-faced apologies to Rod Serling.

I admit it. I could stand and give full-blown testimony in a 12-step group. I’m addicted to the intoxication of love/lust in a big way.  I LOVE love.  And lust just gives me the full-out shivers. Sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference. It regularly gets me into trouble, and it more often backfires. Or used to. I’m more careful now, but I still stick my finger directly into the fire from time to time … because I want to make absolutely certain.

Plus, I love men. That’s all. Most of the men I could even imagine spending the rest of my life with are already spending theirs with someone else … or they live in my past, probably for good reason. But I know this. Relationships in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear.

I hope he's not a drummer or bass player.


But I’m hopeful. And I still believe in love. And falling in love.

My friends who long ago gave up on love ask me why I still go out on dates. Whatever else happens, it’s almost always guaranteed to end up as a story. Every time I start telling a BFF (or two, or ten) about “that” date, they roll out laughing.  Even while laughing their asses off, they’re admiring my hopeful optimism as I go on “just one more date.”

Y’all aren’t fooling me, I can still see that smidge of pity peeking around that wall of admiration. And then they say “when are you going to start writing this stuff down?”  Isn’t it enough that these stories have to live forever in my head? Now I’ve got to share?

Names are not changed. You’re guilty and you know it.

Ken (McLean, VA ’95)
Match.com
Him:  I’m buying the first round.
Me thinking:  Who says I’m staying for more than one?
Him: Whatever else we order, it can’t have garlic. Why does everything have to have garlic in it?
Me thinking: Good grief. You remember I’m a culinary school grad, right?
Him: Oh, listen. They’re playing Kenny G. I love this guy.
Me thinking:  Ok, I’m outta here (as I plan the bathroom-to-door escape).

Larry (NYC  ’96)
Blind date fix-up
Him:  Spent the first 20 minutes telling me how beautiful I was.
Me thinking:  Hey Larry, I have a mirror and I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck. Your spurious attempts at going home with me grow slimmer by the mouthful. Him:   Spent the next 20 convinced (AND trying to convince me) that I was the same person he’d had anonymous phone sex with last summer. She was Southern. I was Southern. Her name was Dixie. I had a dog named Dixie. Ergo …

John (NYC  ’96)
NY Sports Club.
He would move one stationary bike closer to me each workout. Drinks after work, he asked? We met at a tapas place around Union Square, sat at the bar, had a nice time. Not great, just nice. As we got ready to leave, he slid his arm around me and leaned in close ….
Him:  Well, you’re not the kind of girl I usually date, but would you be interested in gratuitous sex?
Me:  speechless, ’cause what exactly do you say to that?
Gentleman that he was (his definition, not mine), he insisted on walking me to the subway (although I did it every other day on my own) and as we got to the top of the subway stairs, he dared, he really did … dared to ask again.
Him: Well? What about it?
Me:  What about what? (Toying with him was more fun that I anticipated.)
Him:  What about taking me home with you?
I’d had just enough time by now to work myself into a proper little snit of indignation.
Me: Yeah, well, how big is your dick?
Him: About normal, I guess. (He actually had the decency to look surprised at my question.)
Me: Well, then I think gratuitous sex is out of the question.

BAM!   Moral:  Every once in a lifetime, you do get the chance to say that one thing that normally you’d only think of hours later.

John L. (NYC ’97)
Him:   Of all the places in NYC, I can’t believe you chose Dallas BBQ as a place to meet.
Me:   Well, you told me to pick the place.
Him:   Yeah, but I didn’t think you’d try to kill me with an onion ring loaf.
Me:  We didn’t order an onion ring loaf.
Him:  Oh, that must be the last girl I met in here.
Me:   So you’ve been here before?
Him:  Oh, yeah, everybody loves this place except me. Are we ordering the onion ring loaf?

Chip (NC ’97)
Background:  3rd date.  We’ve been having fun. Out in public. In a small town where you can’t hide. By the 3rd date, at Top of the Hill, it’s seems okay to start asking the obvious, right?
Me:  So have you been married before?
Him:  Oh, I’m married.
Me:  Now?  As in, you’re married now?
Him:  Yeah. But we have an understanding.
Me:  What kind of understanding?
Him:  Well, we both can do what we want as long as we’re discreet.
Me:  Oh, cool. Well, let’s call her, just to be sure.
Him:  Wow, you’re really aggressive.

TrueRomance

Who knew you had to ask marital status when someone asks you out?

It’s standard routine now.

Male. Check.
Age 55-70. Check.
Single. Check.
Really single?  Double check.

Stephen (NC ’98)
Match.com
Me:  um, Stephen, how old are you again?
Him:  Well, if you knew I was only 18 you wouldn’t have met me, right?
Me:  oh, Lord.

Bill (NC ’09)
Reconnection from the ’70’s
Me:  So what’s next for you in life?
Him:  I’ve got it all figured out. We’re going to drive around the country in a motor home with one of those bouncy houses. Just set up at county fairs and stuff. Charge all the kids a dollar. Do you know how much money we could make? Live in the camper.
Me:  Who’s we?
Him:  Well …. you and me.
Me:   Uh-oh.

Tom (Wake Forest, NC ’16)
OKCupid
Predate
Him: If you don’t look like your picture, you’re buying me drinks til you do.
Me: Same right back atcha, buddy. –>Truth. his photos are at least 15 years old.
Him: We’ll go to your favorite restaurant as long as it’s French.
I chose Kitchen in Chapel Hill run by the amazing Dick and Sue Barrows, because it IS my favorite restaurant.
Him to the waiter: What’s good here?
Me thinking: Oh, no, he’s kidding, right?
Him: I’ll have the raw oysters. Don’t overcook them.
Me thinking: Blank. Blink. Blink. Not funny.

Him: I love duck. I’ll have it rare.
Waiter: It’s Duck Confit, so it doesn’t come rare.
Him: Talk to the chef. I’m sure he’ll understand.
Me thinking: How far away is my car?
Small talk
Small talk
Small talk
Me: So I know you’ve been married once. What’s your love history like?
Him: My second marriage was only a couple of months. She was from Bulgaria.
Me: Oh, wow, what was Bulgaria like?
Him: I never went there. I met her online and then she moved in with me.
Me: Ah, well then.
Him: Yeah, but can you do this? (hanging his spoon from his nose.)
Restaurant owner: Looks at me and shakes her head.

MusicHeart

Now just in case you think I only meet losers … NOT true. I’ve met some great men, some were lovely and lively romantic connections who turned into really solid friendships. But here, where I sit today … coming off of a two year relationship where I’m still tender in places I didn’t know I had, I’ve only gone on one fix-up. Maybe my musings can spare you the humiliation. Maybe not. At the very least it can start a conversation, or abruptly end one. And make for some good stories to tell.
______________________________________________
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad (Derek & the Dominos)
Still Got the Blues (Gary Moore)
What’s Love Got To Do With It? (Tina Turner)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen)
That’s Amore (Dean Martin)
Feels like Home (Bonnie Raitt & Randy Newman)

Jeffery Deaver + The Skin Collector

SkinCollectorJeffery Deaver
The Skin Collector, National Book Launch
Tues. May 13, 7-8pm – Free
Flyleaf Books
Chapel Hill, NC
_______________________________________________
If you’re voting for fictional detective characters, Lincoln Rhyme is one of my favorites. Put him at a dinner table with Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, Harry Bosch and Stephanie Plum, and I’m in murder mystery nirvana. I’d make Boeuf Bourguignon, and because it would be downright criminal to pour the wrong wine, I’d open a dark, robust Malbec or a briary and brambly Zinfandel.I’d set a place for Jeffery Deaver too, being the father/ creator of Lincoln Rhyme, introduced twelve books and seventeen years ago in The Bone Collector (made into a major motion picture starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in 1999). Deaver’s newest Lincoln Rhyme novel, The Skin Collector (releasing May 13), has Rhyme and Sachs doing what they do best, cataloguing and outlining minutia while chasing after a tattooist with a tortuous agenda. I’ll say no more.Deaver is perfectly prolific leaving just enough time between Lincoln Rhyme novels that I don’t get itchy, and if I do, I turn to special agent/folklorist/song catcher Kathryn Dance, his other series character. Author of over thirty novels and short story collections, Deaver’s books have been translated into 25 languages sold in 150 countries. He draws on his own background as a journalist, attorney and, yes, a folksinger, when sculpting characters and plots. I can’t even imagine his research habits. He apparently is also a gourmet cook.Jeffery Deaver’s a big deal. And it’s a really big deal that the national launch of The Skin Collector, begins right here at the independently-owned Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill.“We are so lucky to have such a talented writer here in NC and we jump at any chance to host him in celebration of a new book,” said Flyleaf owner and general manager, Jamie Fiocco.I had heard tell that he lived in, or near, Chapel Hill, so I kept imagining I’d run into him at the grocery store because there’s a story I’ve been wanting to tell him for years. (You’ll have to read the Q&A for that one.)

DeaverAuthorPhoto200We connected on the phone that recent Friday when tornados were threatening, so we made a plan in case we got disconnected. Ten minutes in, hail was bouncing off the windows so fast and furious that I could barely hear him. We didn’t know what was happening in Chapel Hill (me in Durham, he in California), but we both fretted about our homes and dogs (he has a show-winning Briard). I’m thinking under my breath “holy moley, I’m talking with award-winning-international-bestselling-author Jeffery Deaver about the ‘hood, dogs, bookstores and Harris Teeter.”He’s a big fan of Flyleaf and they of him. “We’re incredibly excited to host Jeffery again,” Fiocco added. “He’s a wonderful presenter and is really funny and clever. In fact you never quite know what he’s going to do but you can be assured it will be entertaining!”

Much like the “never quite know” in every single one of his novels. I promised him I’m not a stalker. But I’ll be at Flyleaf on Tuesday, May 13. Cross my heart and hope to die.BrownSlashBar

Red the rest of the Q&A:

Simmer2Sizzle

Chapel Hill Boogie/SODU Blues & Heritage Festival

SoDu (South Durham) Blues & Heritage Festival:
Benefit for John Dee Holman
Sat., May 3, 1-6pm – $10 person/$15 Family of 4
Ages 12 and under free
Greenwood Commons
5410 Hwy 55
Durham, NC

JohnDeePapaMojos

 

One chilly Sunday afternoon back in February, I sat across from John Dee Holman in the Boom-Boom Room (translated: the back room) at the Blue Note Grill.  He was there to play a little with Tad Walters. I was there to get a story and hear a bit of him and Tad playing the blues. Joan, his long-time girlfriend, and I had already done our hugs and high-fives.  Not a bad way to spend a winter-just-won’t-go-away afternoon.

I teased Holman by admiring his blue-suede-shoe-blue corduroy trousers and asking if was ready to do some buck-dancing.  He hid a cackle behind his gnarled hand at the very idea of a man his age dancing.  “Might need a drink for that,” he said with a hint of mischief, adding “Get Joan to tell you how she ‘usta run a liquor house.”  Drink or not, the man can tell some stories.

Hillsborough-born, now living in Durham, Holman, long considered a Piedmont blues legend has toured both nationally and internationally. His first, and perhaps best album, Bull City After Dark, produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts was nominated for a WC Handy award. The record is sadly out of print and no longer available, but new local efforts are underway to try to locate the original masters. Holman was the recipient of a 1994 North Carolina Folk Heritage Award.

Talent. Awards. Recognition. You’d think that would have left Holman set for life.  But circumstance and hard times, that what makes the blues, have left him with major struggles that include losing his house. Even he says “ain’t got no head for bidness,” which is why he’s trusted others, many times misplaced. The Triangle Blues Society in conjunction with Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse, the Hayti Heritage Center, the Blue Note Grill, Music Explorium and the Questell Foundation decided to do something to help their blues brother.

“John Dee can drive a rhythm section into the dirt,” said blues-guitarist Charlley Ward. “We can’t let him down.”

Gary Messenger, President of the Triangle Blues Society agreed. “John Dee Holman represents the wellspring of the NC blues, particularly the Piedmont region which bears the name that graces John Dee’s music. It’s the responsibility of the Triangle Blues Society to take care of the music and when we can, those who make it.”

The inaugural festival, serving as a tribute fundraiser for the legendary Holman, is also an open membership drive for the Triangle Blues Society, (TBS), a volunteer-run, non-profit dedicated to honoring and keeping traditional and contemporary blues alive in the Triangle. Messenger elaborates, “by joining and supporting the TBS, we continue to play it forward and insure though our work and contributions that this indigenous for of music, the Blues, will be here long after we have moved on.”

Join or renew your TBS membership at the event, and you’ll save $5 on the ticket, plus receive gift cards to Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse, the Blue Note Grill, and a Triangle Blues Society T-Shirt.

SODU Poster

Lining up to play one of two stages are John Dee Holman, Tad Walters, Chuck Cotton, Tornado Blues Band, Charlley Ward Band, Joe Bell & the Stinging Blades, Josh Preslar, Eric “E-Train” Manning,  the Beauty Operators, Mel Melton, Jasme Kelly, Sacrificial Poets, Buddy Black, and Emma “Big Mama E” Davis. Last minute entertainment additions are possible.

Family friendly activities include food, music, dancing, arts and crafts, and more. Donations for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC are encouraged.

But back to that Sunday afternoon in the boom-boom room.  I asked Holman who he had played with that stood out above all the others.  His answer?  “Taj Majal, and that guy sitting right over yonder” pointing straight at Tad Walters.

It’s all about supporting and protecting our cultural assets, one of which is John Dee Holman, co-author of “Chapel Hill Boogie.”

John Dee Holman @ the Blue Note Grill

 

This will be our year + BI shuffle

ZombiesCatsCradleThe Zombies
Pat Sansone
Fri, April 18, 2014
8pm – $32.00 – $35.00

Cat’s Cradle
Carrboro, NC
http://www.catscradle.com

_________________________________________________
As invasions go, this one didn’t seem either strategic or tactical, but being the mid-sixties, the British invasion left a permanent musical imprint. It was rebellious and cheeky, fueled by the skiffle craze that had already taken over the UK. It burst right through Bobby Vinton, Fabian, Skeeter Davis, and Bobby Darrin, taking a rightful, and righteous (IMHO) place next to The Beach Boys and Roy Orbison. Pop meet the next generation.

All of a sudden, our white bread ears were listening, dancing, and yes, screaming to The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, The Yardbirds, Peter & Gordon, Animals, Stones, and The Kinks. Factoid Alert: One May day in 1965, the USA’s Top 10 in the Hot 100’s was ruled by the British Commonwealth, with one exception, Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

And they kept on coming ashore. The Who. The Hollies. The Zombies. These mostly blues and guitar-based bands, bringing with them a healthy respect for their own R&B heroes, most of whom lived right here in the U.S. Long, floppy hair and mod clothes horrified our parents. These are the people they warned us about.

The Zombies “She’s Not There” took five months to hit #2 in 1964, followed a year later by “Tell Her No” which only got to #6. Odessey and Oracle (1968), released after the band broke up still enjoys critical acclaim and included “Time of the Season,” often sound-tracked as the definition of the 60’s.

To say I was looking forward to seeing The Zombies at Cat’s Cradle when they played there for the first time in 2012 would be as understated as a little black dress, matched only by my initial-excitement-followed-by-sheer-terror at scoring an interview with original member Rod Argent.

Half expecting their musical, road-weary age to show through the edges of their performance, their energy level and extraordinary talent circled around and surprised me. For weeks after, I chided everyone I know who didn’t go. I was now invested in The Zombies. Again.

In an unrelated email sometime this past January, Cradle owner Frank Heath added a quick PS saying “Zombies will be coming back to Cat’s Cradle in April, by the way.” Yes, I would be interested in talking with Rod again.

So, as not complete strangers this time, Rod Argent and I caught up a few days ago on all that’s happened since they were last here in 2012. And they haven’t just been laying about this last two years.

First big surprise for the band was the call that Eminem wanted to re-sample “Time of the Season” for his 2013 single “Rhyme or Reason,” an angry spew toward his absent father. Second, was the new Chanel perfume ad for Coco Mademoiselle airing on TV starring Kiera Knightly that’s set to “She’s Not There.”

And they’re barely off the boat from a five-day Moody Blues Cruise performing with Roger Daltry (The Who), Carl Palmer (ELP), Starship and Little River Band. Argent claims they were almost too busy aboard the ship to attend all the shows. They’ve been having a ball and doing what they love. And there’s a new album in the works.

“I can’t remember exactly what our set list was,” Argent responded when I asked how this show might be different than two years ago. “Obviously, some of the staples are there. We can’t not do them, you know?”

“Some things from Odessey and Oracle, “Time of the Season,” “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” we have to do those. Also Argent’s song “Hold Your Head Up.” Plus a couple other early Zombies songs “She’s Coming Home” and “I Want You Back Again.” We love doing that one on stage now. Several songs from the Breathe Out album as well.”

I reminded him that when Frank brought me back to meet them that they had offered me a glass of wine, which I politely declined since I was my own designated driver, and in hindsight, I wished I’d taken them up on. I got a speeding ticket on the way home that night as I was blissfully singing “She’s Not There” at the top of my lungs. If I’d stopped, had the wine, that cop would probably have been long gone and I would have had wine with The Zombies.

His response: “Thing is, you should have had that drink then you could have apologized to him saying I don’t normally drive like this, but I’m a bit drunk.”

We both cracked up laughing and agreed not to let THAT happen again.

Special guest opener is Southern rocker and multi-instrumentalist, Pat Sansone, member of Wilco and The Autumn Defense.

Enjoy the interview!

DPM: Hi Rod, good to talk with you again. We’re looking forward to your return to Cat’s Cradle.

RA: You too, Deborah. We’re looking forward to playing there again.

DPM: I thought it might be fun to circle back and see what the last year and a half has been like. You were just beginning a tour in support of Breathe Out/Breath In.

RA: I’m not even sure where to start. The shows have been going great and a lot of cool things have been happening. We’re working on a new album. Eminem used “Time of the Season” in the background of his song “Rhyme or Reason” which is a sound-alike phonetically, but inserted totally the sentiment of the song and I thought that was great actually, to hear that, and throughout the song a lot of our original vocals were coming through and then he recorded a chorus himself with the new words and obviously rapping all over it.

That was very cool. Also there’s something that’s just come on, I don’t know if you’ve heard it or not yet, a big Chanel advert commercial on television with Kiera Knightly … very James Bondy … using “She’s Not There” which is very nice too. Lots of things going on and we’re having a ball playing as always.

DPM: One of my upcoming questions is what have been some of the biggest surprises this last year and a half supporting Breathe Out/Breathe In. Would Eminem resampling “Time of the Season” be a good answer to that question?

RA: Well, that was a pretty big surprise. I’ve got co-writing credits on his tracks, but I had to hear the version and okay it before it went out. He’s very secretive and protective of his tracks, and I can understand that. First of all, we were asked permission, and our publisher said “well, we’ve got to hear it first.” And he said “well, you can’t do that.” We said “How can we give permission if we haven’t heard it?” So he finally sent a link which only remained active for about a day or something where I could hear it. I can quite understand how he wanted to be protective of it. But I heard it and I loved it, absolutely no problem. I loved the fact that it was an inventive creative take on the original piece of material.

DPM: You said you are working on a new album. Can you and Colin actually find time and space to write while you are touring?

RA: Well, I can’t personally write while I’m on the road. I’ve tried and I can’t, but while we were back home, I’ve written a couple of things and there are couple of songs that are in the pipeline as well. So we started the recording of the new album. One track I like very much indeed that we’ve got down, actually both tracks we’ve got down I like very much, so that’s a start [laughing].

DPM: And you are recording in England?

RA: Yes, and that’s going to be hard this year because I’m moving house after 38 years and my studio’s in my house so I don’t know [laughing] how that’s going to work. When I get back I’ve got 38 years of furniture and everything else. It’s a big house, unfortunately, and it’s going to take a hell of a move, so that’s going to be taking up some of my time when I get home. It’s a question of actually finding the time to do the creative work and concentrate on that too.

DPM: What on earth prompted a move after all those years?

RA: Well, basically we wanted to move to a different area. It’s a very big house and it’s just my wife and myself in it now, and I guess we felt that if we were going to move then if we didn’t do it now, we’d never do it?

DPM: Downsize while you can still enjoy it?

RA: Well, it’s downsizing in terms of the property and the house. It’s like a sideways move really. We’re moving to an area we’d like to go to and it’s just a matter of doing that while it’s still possible [laughing]. The house we’ve got at the moment was built in 1815, it’s a very beautiful Georgian house, but strangely enough we wanted a bit more land now even though I want the building to be a bit smaller.

DPM:  2014 started off pretty great for you guys headlining on the Ultimate R&B tour in the UK with The Yardbirds, The Animals and Spencer Davis. Was it just members from those groups or actually the groups? That sounds like an incredible and amazing tour!

RA: Actually just members of those groups, which seems inevitable these days, but everyone’s been really enjoying it for real. Spencer Davis didn’t do it because he hasn’t been well, but instead we had Maggie Bell, who was great and is still singing beautifully. And a guy named Dave Berry, who had some big hits in the UK, though maybe not over here. He had a hit called “The Crying Game” which was beautiful.

DPM: Yeah, yeah, yeah … from the movie.

RA: Remember that? Yeah, yeah. Oh, good, you saw it. He was on the show and it was a lovely show. Great guys, really nice people. The Yardbirds actually had their original guitarist “Top” Topham from right at the beginning of the band with Jim McCarty and they were really great. All the bands were. It was a sold out tour, we were playing some beautiful halls. It was great.

DPM: I personally would love it if you would do one of those tours in the states, for crying out loud!

RA: Yeah, that would be good too. [laughing]

DPM: I’d buy a ticket to that. I was a big fan of all the British groups from the 60’s, but I think I told you that when we talked before.

RA: I think you did, and thank you for that.

DPM: And so now, you’re just off the boat! [laughing}

RA: {laughing] Just off the boat and THAT was great! Obviously we saw the Moody’s because we did the cruise last year as well and the Moody’s were obviously on the bill because it’s their cruise, but this time we had Roger Daltry. I saw his set which was brilliant, doing all the old Who stuff … really, really terrific to see that. I didn’t get to see all the bands because there’s always so much to do all the time and we had shows to do ourselves. But I saw, for the first time, a guy called Randy Hanson, who plays all the Jimi Hendrix catalog and Jim, our bass player, knew him from when he backed up the Kinks years ago. But Randy’s been authorized by the Jimi Hendrix estate to play Jimi’s material. He’s so bloody good. And it was great to see him. Being out there on a beautiful summers day listening to the wonderful Jimi Hendrix stuff was amazing. He’s toured with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding of the original Experience.

DPM: I saw them in 1966 when they opened for the Monkees.

RA: You did? Well, there you go! Then you know exactly what I’m talking about. I loved Hanson’s take on Jimi Hendrix, so that was pretty great.

DPM: I know you’re busy and it’s your day off, so anything we’ve missed that’s important?

RA: It’s a pleasure to talk to you again, Deborah. We’re really looking forward to this show. I’ll say the same as I probably said last time, but we have a band that’s the reason that Colin and I are out here. It’s such a kicking band and there’s so much energy on stage. Probably the best band I’ve ever played with, I think. If anyone’s thinking of coming and haven’t seen us, do come along and check us out, because it’s really a great show and a great band.

DPM: I can attest to that. Rod, thank you so much for your time and I look forward seeing you guys soon!
___________________________________________

BritishGuitarBI Shuffle (British Invasion Shuffle)
Well Respected Man – The Kinks
Heart Full of Soul – The Yardbirds
House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
Gimme Some Lovin’ – Spencer Davis Group
This Will Be Our Year – The Zombies

 

King Mackerel and the Blues are Running

KingMackerel1King Mackerel and the Blues are Running
The Coastal Cohorts in Concert
Thursday, Feb. 27 & 28, 8pm
$15/ Free for students
Playmakers Theatre, UNC Chapel Hill
https://memorialhall.unc.edu/

I tried living in the middle of the country. Didn’t work for me. Do you know how long it takes to drive to the coast from Memphis, TN?  Nine long hours. 491 excruciating miles. Today that would equal about 200 songs on your IPod. No amount of Drifters, or The Swinging Medallions, or even Jimmy Buffett can make that drive shorter or the sea closer.  I dreamed endlessly (and likely bored my landlocked friends) of living back in the middle of North Carolina, where in just a little over 2 hours, I could dig my sand-starved toes deep into the foaming surf. And eat seafood to my tummy’s content.

Sunset Beach, NC Photo by: Deborah Pardee Miller, 2004

Sunset Beach, NC 2004
Photo by: Deborah Pardee Miller

Once I moved back to Chapel Hill in 1998, I near ‘bout burnt the road up between here and the beach. My younger sister, Kate, who somehow ended up in Vermont, and I share the need for warm sun, sand, and sea. On one of our long weekend trips to Beaufort, we wandered into the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Thumbing through CD’s, I laughed as I randomly pulled out “King Mackerel and The Blues Are Running” by the Coastal Cohorts (Don Dixon, Bland Simpson & Jim Wann.)  I mused out loud that I had gone to high school with Bland Simpson, though he was a couple years older than me. The CD came home with me.

With an impressive performance history from its first run at Rhythm Alley in Chapel Hill in 1985 through its most recent at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh in 2012, “King Mackerel and the Blues are Running” has been performed at venues up and down the coastline from Virginia to Georgia. And then there are those other venues like the West Bank Theater (NYC) and the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center (Washington, DC).

Bland was old-classmate good enough to spend a few minutes with me talking about the history of the musical, how their fundraising performances have contributed to the environmental health of our coast, and the two upcoming shows at the historic Playmakers Theatre.

“We’re doing two nights; Friday is sold out, Thursday night has seats available,” said Bland. “It was a fun alliance to make to put it into context to the water in our world.  The history of the show is a very stout-hearted, light-hearted evening.”

The CD went to A rotation on first listen.  It’s one of the playlists I put on when I’m about 50 miles from the shore. It lures me on in to the beach like a rising wave, beckoning me to stay a while.  In fact, I’m listening to it now as I write, wishing that print media had a “push play” button so you could listen in.  If you love the North Carolina beaches, and I know you do, you’ll be instantly smelling salt air. You just might shag dance a little (or a lot.) Slurp an oyster (or two or three.)  Peel some shrimp (a couple or a pound). You might even be singing along as if you’d known the songs forever.  Holler if you want company.

Read the rest of the interview HERE.

Listen to some King Mackerel … go on. You know you want to.

 

Laugh Off + Zilch

You’re one of those people who believe your friends will never lie to you. You know the ones I mean … the ones who say “you should bottle this spaghetti sauce,” “You should run for office,” or even “you could make a living as a stand-up comedian.” If you’re still on the fence about that future as a comedian, here’s your reality check; a chance to hear and see some of the best out there.

NCCAFThe North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival (NCCAF), started in 2001 has become so popular and well-attended that this, the 14th year, has been extended to 10-full days reaching from Carrboro through Chapel Hill and all the way over to Durham.  Not bad for just a little festival created by Zach Ward, DSI owner and funny man in his own right. (DSI stands for Dirty South Improv. Now you know.)

It was easy to get Zach talking about both comedy and the festival, which started as a college invitational.  I simply asked if the festival was still run that way and speculated that they must have hundreds of comedians/improv groups begging to be included, then asked how many submitted this year.

Artist salon in Carrboro The ArtsCenterZach Ward, DSI feature“Improv, improv, improv (and standup and sketch and film),” he answered. “We shifted from an invitational model to a submission process after the second year of the festival. Acts submit in early October and are selected by the end of November. The festival has grown from 30 college improvisers in 2001 to over 500 performers each year since 2010. This year we had over 220 acts submit and 117 were scheduled.”

Aren’t you wondering what the process was for deciding who will participate?

“The process: watching lots and lots of comedy,” Zach said. “A small group of local performers and producers watch a majority of the submissions. We also travel and see acts live at other comedy festivals during the year. That helps a lot, when we are able to see and meet an act in person.”

This year also features the third Annual North Carolina Laughter Championship, where after a series of “Laugh-offs,” a winner will take away the title of “2014 NC Laughter Champion” and go on to compete in the SE regionals in Atlanta.  Also on the schedule: an Adult Spelling Bee, The Great Durham Pun Championship, The Monti, and Comedy Kingmaker, just to name a few.

Highlight acts during the festival include Beatbox (Chicago), NorthCoast (New York City), Magnet Theatre Touring Company (New York City), ImprovBoston (Boston), Billyhawk (Los Angeles), Red Letters (Oklahoma), and more.

Comedian Eddie Brill

Comedian Eddie Brill

And just to tickle my fancy, festival staff offered up an interview with Eddie Brill.  Eddie’s the guy who warms up the audience on The Late Show with David Letterman and formerly coordinated the comedy talent for the show.  Heck, yeah, I’d like to talk with him.

The festival runs from Thursday, February 6-Sunday, February 16 at the following venues in the area: DSI Comedy Theater, The Arts Center, Open Eye Café, Nightlight and FlyLeaf Books in Chapel Hill, and Motorco in Durham. Tickets are $5-$20 (depending on the event) and are available online at www.nccomedyarts.com.  10% of ticket sale proceeds will go to Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate and Beat Making Lab.

Read the full interview with Zach Ward and Eddie Brill online HERE.
_____________________________________________________

Music on Shuffle will be back!  Stay tuned.

Old-Time Jam + Pete Seeger + Shufflin’ and Jammin’

BanjoViolinOpen Old-Time Jam
First Wednesday of every month,
7 pm – Free

Nightlight
405 1/2 W Rosemary St
Chapel Hill
919-960-6101
http://www.nightlightclub.com

Let’s start with asking an age-old music question. No, not “when will <insert-name-here-of-your-favorite-band-who-broke-up> get back together?”  You were really going to ask the “what exactly is old-time music and why should I listen?” question, right?  In the encyclopedia that is my imagination, old-time music is what folks listened to before there was radio. It was the nightly after-supper, before-bedtime entertainment.  Typically played on stringed instruments, a fiddle and/or a banjo, it’s a folk genre steeped in tradition, to be sure, but whose tradition?  There are too many to count. Regional styles, from Appalachia to Texas, are as varied as the songs and players themselves.  Whatever you do, don’t confuse it with bluegrass. It’s not the same thing AT ALL!

Just ask the banjo. In old-time, the instrument is open-backed. In bluegrass, there’s a resonator on the back.  And let’s get picky. Old-time picking is clawhammer style. Bluegrass is finger-picking in a three-fingered style. Old-time music was going on before bluegrass and is often fiddle dominant. In bluegrass, vocals more often take the lead. And that’s a way over-simplified answer if I ever gave one.

Old-Time Jam at Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC.  Photo credit: Emily Hilliard

Old-Time Jam at Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC.
Photo credit: Emily Hilliard

Emily Hilliard had a fiddle when she came to Chapel Hill from Vermont.  She didn’t have to look much further than her own folklore graduate program at UNC to connect with the cream of the traditional musical crop, Steve Kruger and Joseph Decosimo, two banjo/fiddle players also in search of a venue. Hilliard approached Nightlight to gauge interest in hosting, they said “yes,” and there began the old-time monthly jam.

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

I asked Emily to go back to the very first jam back in Feb. 2010 …  what was that night like?  How many people showed up?

“The first jam in 2010 had a great turn-out,” said Emily, “with a fairly diverse crowd, from older musicians to Nightlight regulars who maybe had never really heard or played old-time before. There was also a pretty good range of skill levels–some seasoned musicians who knew a lot of tunes and could keep things going to folks who maybe played guitar or banjo or fiddle, but weren’t as familiar with the old-time canon of tunes to beginners. There were also a significant group of people who just came to listen and drink a beer and socialize, which I was hoping for–at its core, old-time is a social and community-based musical form, and you can participate by playing, dancing, or just being present, enjoying the tunes.”

Old Time Jam, Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam, Nightlight, 2.5.14

“Overall I was excited and encouraged by the response and am glad it’s still happening, particularly in the Triangle, an area that played an important role in the history of American traditional (and independent) music,” she added. “I still maintain many of the musical connections I made there–I always love running into some of the regular jam attendees like Dwight Rogers and Gail Gillespie, Mike Sollins, etc. at fiddler’s conventions in the summertime.”

Hilliard passed the jam on to Zeke Graves and Steve Kruger when she moved to DC in June of 2011, and Steve then handed down his role to James Finnegan. Zeke and James keep the circle unbroken, even as it keeps changing.

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Read the rest of my conversation with Emily Hilliard, James Finnegan and Zeke Graves for Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY online here.
______________________________________________

Since we’re talking music, it just wouldn’t do to bypass a chance to Pete Seeger.  I’ve ready many columns and tributes over the last couple of days, but none more moving than the one by Arlo Guthrie.   When he was a teenage, Seeger first heard Bascom Lamar Lunsford play banjo at the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival held in 1936 near Asheville, NC.  Lunsford taught him the basics and the rest is folk music history.

 Folk music icon Pete Seeger plays the banjo and sings with Arlo Guthrie (back left) at the Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert at Severance Hall in Cleveland, September 1996.  Credit: Neal Preston/Corbis


Folk music icon Pete Seeger plays the banjo and sings with Arlo Guthrie (back left) at the Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert at Severance Hall in Cleveland, September 1996.
Credit: Neal Preston/Corbis

Music on ShuffleShufflin’ and jammin’ the old time way:

Polly Put the Kettle On
Cripple CreekWildwood Flower
Sourwood Mountain
Will the Circle be Unbroken