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.
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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)

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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

Ho-Ho-Ho-lidays

The holidays – Thanksgiving through New Year’s – seem to turn the nostalgia dial up to eleven for many of us, especially when it comes to what you put in your mouth.  We find comfort in the familiarity of the menu and we want them prepared the exact same way we had them at our table.  I certainly wouldn’t put my mother’s green bean casserole up against anyone else’s because it was just green beans, cream of mushroom soup topped with fried onions, but it somehow tasted better when she made it.

That was never more evident to me than the year a former boyfriend painstakingly removed all the fried onions from the top of my casserole and placed them back one by one in the exact same pattern his mother had used. And yes, I stood nearby rolling my glazed-over been-in-the-kitchen-for-hours brown eyes the whole time. Gives whole new meaning to Brown Eyed Girl.  Or the year one of my best friends insisted on big marshmallows instead of tiny ones on top of the sweet potatoes. I got it. Finally. As progressive as we are, there are some things you just don’t mess with.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The expectations are relatively low in comparison to Christmas. It’s mostly about the food, the wine, the pie, and being together. Yeah, yeah, yeah … it’s about football too.

My family usually watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while making final preparations. We ate mid-day with everyone going around the table speaking out what we were grateful for, and we were done in time to watch football.  The non-footballers (ie. the girls) would pull out an old movie, usually a musical, sing along, cry a little, and laugh a lot. Almost everybody took a nap.

Christmas Eve we went to church, held candles, sang carols, and imagined that there was a Santa Claus. One year my brother and I sat (ok, we slept a little) at the top of the stairs in hopes of catching Santa. Never gonna happen.

I’m naturally, and often obnoxiously, curious. Translation: that makes me an obsessive Googler. Don’t challenge me to challenge. I can out-google you.

………………………………………………

An interesting representation of cultural foodways. What does your state say about you, your food traditions, and your recipe googling activities?
Just in case you’re one of those obsessive googlers (I confess, I am), check out this map of the Thanksgiving recipes googled in every state. North Carolina’s is Pig Pickin’ Cake with not a piece of pork anywhere close by.

pig-pickin-cake-600………………………………………………

Whatever the dish, the timing of the dinner, or the traditions surrounding the way each holiday is spent in your family, we’re all just wishing for a connection …whether it’s creating new traditions for our  future or simply longing for the warm ones in our past.

I wish you the happiest of coming days in hopes that they are filled with warmth, family, friends and food!

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.

“You’re trHindsighZoneaveling 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.

Larry (NYC  ’96)
Blind date fix-up
Him:  Spent the first 2o 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 I would 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.

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.

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.
______________________________________________
MusicHeartWhy 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