My Semester of Death

Most eighteen-year-old young adults go to college to learn about freedom, new skill-sets, and partying. I learned about all of those, plus I also learned about death. During my last semester of my freshmen year, I had two out of the ordinary deaths happen within a couple months. One death happened the first week of the semester and the second happened the last week of my freshmen year.

I had to take several English classes for my minor during my first couple years of college. During my second semester, I took an English Literature class. The first class session was on a Thursday in the Tuesday-Thursday class. The elderly professor meandered into class several minutes late. She looked like she had to be in her eighties or nineties.

The professor passed out the syllabus right away. Everything she did was at a snail-pace. She explained that she was the President of the American Bronte Sister Society and that a lot of her research was on Charlotte and Emily Bronte. Reading over the syllabus, I was not overly excited about having to read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

The professor explained that she had been very ill the previous semester and that she had to take the entire semester off from teaching. She said she felt much better and that she was excited about being healthy enough to make it through an entire semester. She let us go after fifteen minutes, which was exciting to the entire class.

My grandparents lived in Morgantown, where I attended school at West Virginia University. I went to their house that Sunday for lunch. My grandfather always read the local Dominion Post and there was one sitting on the lunch table, so I skimmed it while waiting for my lunch. A couple pages in, I came across the obituary section and there was a large picture of my English professor. She had passed away the day after our first class.

I went to a school of close to 30,000 students, so I didn’t know anybody in my class. When we went back to the English class on Tuesday, there was no professor in the class by the time it was scheduled to start. Since most college aged kids don’t read the newspaper, I figured that I should inform everyone that I thought she might have passed away.

When I told this to the class, they took it a completely different way than I imagined. Most thought I was joking. I even had a couple people tell me that it was pretty messed up that I would make up that the professor died. We sat there for about fifteen more minutes, and I felt several pairs of strangers eyes beating down on the back of my head thinking I was a jerk for my “joke.”

After the fifteen minutes had passed, a younger lady came into the class and set some books on the table. She looked at the class and introduced herself, and told everyone that she had bad news that our professor had passed away. She would take over for the rest of the semester and since the news was probably shocking to us all, she went ahead and released us for the day. I don’t think anyone thought I was a jerk anymore.

A couple months later as the semester came to an end, another abnormal death happened right across the hall from my dorm room. My residential adviser was a very nice guy, but also very unusual. He was a senior and called himself the nickname of a superhero and asked that we all call him the same thing. He had a poster of the superhero on his door and several in his room.

His room was right across the hall from mine. I really didn’t see him a ton that year. We might have had one or two dorm meetings (at least that I went to over the year). We got an email towards of the end of the semester  that he wanted us to stop by his room and let us know the day we were moving out so he could come check our rooms off.

The Saturday through Tuesday before exams started on Wednesday at WVU was called “Dead Week.” Since everyone was supposed to be studying and a lot of professors cancelled classes, the campus was supposed to be “dead.” It just so happened that my residential adviser was dead in his room across the hall for the entirety of “Dead Week.”

I knocked on my RA’s door to let him know I would be leaving Thursday. He didn’t answer, and I tried a couple more times over the next couple days with no answer. Eventually I just left a note under the door, not knowing he had been in the room the whole time.

I was in and out of my room studying those couple days and attending classes. On the Tuesday of “Dead Week,” I was walking back to my dorm, and a gurney with a body under a sheet was being wheeled out of the front entrance to my residence hall. Naturally, there was a big group of students standing around and checking this out. I walked over to some of the group that I knew, and they informed me that it was my RA.

I later found out that he had been dead in the room for four days. The front door was a solid metal door so the smell didn’t seep out into my hall. Our dorms had bathrooms connected to a back door of the dorm rooms that were shared with four other rooms. Since he was across the hall from me, I didn’t share a bathroom with him. Unfortunately, for those four rooms that did share a bathroom with him, those doors were made of thin wood.

After the smell got so bad in the bathroom, and the RA had stopped responding to his superiors, the residence director broke into his room. The RA was dead near his bed. He died of accidental asphyxiation. I will not explain why somebody would die that way in my blog, it isn’t a flattering way to go!

My final semester of my freshmen year of college started with a death and ended with another. While I wasn’t close with either of these two people, they did play an important role of my freshmen year.

 

If I Painted Your House in 1997:SORRY!

Moral: Don’t bully your workers, you could really need them in the future.

In 1997, I was seventeen and looking for a summer job. Looking back on my seventeen-year-old self, I can honestly say nobody should have ever hired me. I would never hire that version of Jay Callahan for a manual labor job. I was an awful sandwich maker, maker of honey baked hams, and I was the worst house painter.

My friends, Graham and Yates, and I were all looking for jobs for that summer to make some extra cash and get our parents off of our backs. We came across a sign in a front yard of a house in Buena Vista that said Collegiate Painters. We were rising seniors in high school so we gave them a call.

The boss of our region was named Scott and was a rising senior at Wake Forest University. He was in charge of a crew that painted mainly middle to upper class houses in the Buena Vista and Sherwood Forest neighborhoods. Rob hired all of his painters from Wake, except for the three of us. We later figured out why he needed three high school kids and it was not a good reason, it was to give us the areas nobody else wanted to paint.

Eight dollars an hour was a great paying job back then, so we were pumped about all the Dave Matthews and Blues Traveler CD’s we could afford with all of that money. Most of the painters from Wake were looking for some extra cash, while staying on campus and taking summer school.

Graham took a three week bike trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, so Yates and I had a head start on filling our pockets. Our first house was a large, two story brick house with a lot of trim that needed painting. From the start, we were picked on by Rob. He gave us the worst areas of the houses to paint and was never nice about it.

Yates was tall, so he made Yates paint places like the pipes on the roofs and underneath the roof. I was short so I had to paint low windows and the areas behind bushes. If you ever wonder who gets the job of painting behind bushes right up against the house, it is most likely a seventeen-year-old. At one point, I had to crawl underneath a row of prickly bushes and spend a day painting with thorns poking all over me. Rob would order pizzas for lunch. He would make Yates and I keep working until everybody else was done eating, and then give us a lunch break of cold pizza. We would purposely paint windows shut by the second week, just so Rob would have to go back over them and pry them open.

Rob and his friend, John, enjoyed watching us suffer and were what the French would call le stupide. John was a track star at Wake, and was one of those guys that thought he was better than the rest of the world. I guess it was popular back in those days for college students to get Chinese symbol tattoos. John had a big fat one on his ankle. I am not positive what it meant, but I am pretty sure it was the symbol for jackass.

By the third week, Yates and I were over it. Graham was set to return in a couple days so we stuck it out. Graham was dating the step-daughter of the President of Wake Forest at the time. He made sure to let all of the painters realize this on his first day. They must have assumed that Graham could help hook them up with new scholarships or better grades with his connection, because they were kissing his butt right away. While I was rolling around on my stomach trying to not mix paint and dirt on the bottom of the house and Yates was shaking a mile in the air, Graham was basically getting massages. We had the cold pizza and he was getting a big fat filet.

After about two weeks of Graham being back in town, Yates and I were done. Yates picked us all up one morning. On the way to get Graham, we decided we weren’t going back to paint ever again. We just weren’t going to show up at the next house. We told Graham it was okay if he kept going, but there was no way the two of us would be with him. Graham probably enjoyed making good money while being fawned over, but he was a loyal friend so he stayed with us.

That morning we went to Toys ‘R’ Us and tried on roller blades and played roller hockey in the aisles until we were kicked out. Then we went and got free smoothies from girls we knew that worked at the Juice Shop. We spent the rest of the day at Forsyth Country Club pool, where none of us were members. We knew several members and we even had codes to get free lunches on friend’s accounts. We were living the high life.

For the next three weeks until it was time for soccer tryouts, we got into a new routine (sorry mom and dad). We would wake up and put on swim trunks and put on old paint clothes over-top of them. We would act like we were off to paint houses, and instead we would go play roller hockey at Toys ‘R’ Us, get free smoothies, and hang out at the pool all day. We even got a paint can and would put some paint on our clothes to make it look really official that we were working.

Two weeks into our summer job vacation, we were at a party and all three of us got pages from Rob. Back then, if you looked at your beeper and there was a 911 beside the number, it was very important. We knew it was Rob’s number and we made Graham call him after several other pages. He put the phone at the house on speaker and we listened in to the call. Rob asked what happened to us and sounded like he was about to cry. Apparently, several other painters quit, and it was down to him and John. He really needed us to help him complete two big jobs that week.

After listening to Rob beg for a while, we finally told him that we would try to show up at the address he gave us the next morning. We woke up that morning, put our paint clothes over our swim trunks and went to play roller hockey, get free smoothies, and go to the pool; while ignoring pages from Rob.

If you had a house in one of those neighborhoods in the late nineties, I am sorry about the poor paint job at the bottom of your house. Also, if you ever have high school employees, don’t be mean to them just because they are young. It might come back to bite you!

 

Kat Lamp-Local Winston-Salem Difference Makers

In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem natives that have moved on to do significant things outside of Winston, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem. 
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Kat Lamp is a commercial artist that does a little bit of everything in the world of art, including concert posters for bands like The Avett Brothers, Andrew Bird, and Jump, Little Children. Along with the posters, she has some dedicated retail space inside Reanimator Records alongside some friends where she sells pins, greeting cards, and silly drawings.
Lamp shares a studio downtown (The Electric Pyramid) in a building with thirteen other artists, including Laura Lashley who I blogged on a couple months back (Laura Lashley Blog). The building was originally a funeral home for forty years, then the Pyramid Barber school for twenty years.Lamp also has a studio at home where she does most of her commercial work and runs her online store (website).
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Lamp has designed posters for The Avett Brothers since 2010. She recently made a poster for an upcoming Estrangers show at The Garage. She started playing in bands in 1996 and started making posters for her bands. Back then it was all by hand, and she didn’t learn how to use a computer until she started working at Kinko’s in 1999. She taught herself Photoshop and started making posters for her friend’s bands and for local show promoters (Gigposters page).
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Lamp grew up in Winston and in the Triad (she spent time in Greensboro) all of her life, except for a couple years with her mom in Myrtle Beach. Below she answers some questions about family, art, and Winston-Salem:

Questions about Winston-Salem:

Can you tell me a little bit about your husband and your pets?
Jeff and I have been married for 3.5 years and have been together since 2008. Jeff’s from High Point and went to school up and down the east coast. He delivers sandwiches during the day and runs sound at The Garage at night a few times a month. He also does sound every Sunday morning at Centenary UMC. We have 3 cats- Minime is a 16-year-old orange cat who looked like a mini version of a big orange cat I used to have at the time when I found him-I found him at the BP station on the corner of Peter’s Creek and Academy St. Giada is about 2.5 years old and has huge, silly eyes. We adopted her from the animal shelter. MiniMini is the baby, some neighbors found him at the gas station on the corner of Lockland and Silas Creek last June. His name is inspired from looking like a mini version of Minime, and he also came from a gas station. It gets a little confusing sometimes.

Do you have any local artists that inspire you? How about famous artists?
My studio mates at the Electric Pyramid are a never-ending source of inspiration. Laura Lashley, Shawn Peters, Ian Dennis, Kait Neely, and Andrew Fansler to name a few. Woodie Anderson and Clark Whittington are some other Winston artists who also keep me inspired.
As far as “famous artists” go, I’m inspired by a lot of different artists. This past winter I dug pretty deep into the work of Ed Emberley. I love his woodcuts and the way he simplified forms, color, and texture.

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Which Winston-Salem neighborhoods have you lived in?
Quite a few! I currently live in Ardmore. We lived in Ardmore Manor when I was little. When my parents split up I lived with my mom for a little while in an apartment off Healy. Then I lived with my dad in Heather Hills, where he still lives. I’ve also lived in Southside and off First Street.

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What are your top three favorite Winston-Salem restaurants?
Mary’s Gourmet Diner, Krankies, and The Porch.

What schools have you gone to in Winston? Who were your favorite teachers?
I went to Bolton Elementary and Philo Middle. I dropped out of Parkland High School three times, and dropped out of Independence High once before I dropped back in and eventually graduated from there. Independence doesn’t exist anymore, but it was a great school for “at-risk” students like myself. (I didn’t figure out I have dyslexia until I was an adult, so I had a lot of problems in school.) The classes at Independence were small and low-pressure. My favorite teachers from there were Mrs. Albert, who helped me understand Algebra for the first time (I’m dyslexic with numbers especially), and Mr. McIver, who taught art. He was encouraging and helped me get an internship teaching art at the Enrichment Center the summer after I graduated. Later I took some classes at Forsyth Tech, and Mr. Pinnix’s history classes were my favorite.

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Are you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?
I’m more of a downtown fan, but I do like Thruway because it’s super close to our house.

If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, a Bojangles biscuit, or a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
None of the above! If I was on an island forever I’d have to go with a grit bowl from Mary’s.

What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
I enjoyed going to Atlantic Beach last year for my first real beach vacation as an adult. (I’m 36.) I liked it so much I went back again with my husband. I have some memories of going to the Outer Banks a long time ago. I’d love to one day visit all the beaches of NC.

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Where is your favorite place in the mountains of North Carolina?
I have some good memories from Black Mountain, Boone, and Asheville. I’d love to do some more mountain exploring, too.

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Could you ever imagine leaving the Triad and if so, where would you go?
I think the Triad will always be my home. I love the gritty, kitschy, creative culture in Baltimore and always enjoyed playing shows and visiting there. Jeff has family there and I think it’d be fun to live there for a little while just for the experience and inspiration it could offer. I also love the west coast and wouldn’t mind living somewhere over there a little while, too.

 

I Asked Domino’s to the Prom

Fiction Story

In the mid-nineties, high school students did not have cell phones. We had to make our calls from a home phone or a now extinct payphone, where you had to scrounge around for a quarter. If you were lucky, your parents would let you have a phone in your room.

Some kids of the nineties, even had their own direct line, call waiting, call screening, and an answering machine.  I actually had a phone in my room too, but we didn’t have any of the perks like call waiting or separate lines. I also had a fairly nosy family that sometimes would pick up the phone in their room and listen in to other family members calls.

In the nineties, you had to either use the Yellow Pages, have an address book, or memorize telephone numbers. Personally, it took me about three calls of any number to have it memorized. For instance, I had all of my best friends numbers memorized.

To this day, almost twenty years later, I could recite a lot of friends now defunct home numbers for you. Now-a-days, you don’t have to memorize any numbers because they are all stored in your phone. I could also recite Domino’s number of 657-0097 to this day, because their thin crust was a meal of choice at our house.

In 1997, I was preparing for my junior prom. There was a girl that was a year older than me that I had a major crush on for a long time.  A long time for a high school male is about a month. Kelsey was a three sport star and very attractive. I was friends with some of her friends from the senior class and I would see her at several parties.

We took physics together that second semester. Being the scholar that I was in high school, I spent the majority of the time playing games in my notebook. To my luck, the teacher had Kelsey sit right behind me in her third quarter seating chart. I spent several of the forty-five minute physics classes of my junior year playing games like dots or hangman with Kelsey.

As the quarter ended, I got the wonderful news that Kelsey had broken up with her boyfriend from a rival high school. She had dated him for the last year, and this glorious break-up happened just a month before prom. I knew I better move fast if I had any chance for Kelsey to say yes.

I was too chicken to ask Kelsey in person. She was one of the lucky ones to have her own phone line her room. I called a friend that had her number and pretended that I needed her number for a question about physics homework. I wrote her number down 658-0097 and I had it memorized right away, because I was thrilled to actually have it.

I waited for a night that nobody was home at my house so I could call with peace and privacy. I actually dialed 658-0097 three times and hung up before it rang twice out of pure fear.

On my fourth call, I started to slam our beige phone down after I heard the ring, but some rare moment of bravery had me pull the phone back towards my ear. When it reached my ear, I realized somebody was on the other line.

I blurted out: “Hey, uh, Kelsey this is Jay. You know Jay from physics and the soccer team. I, uh, have brown hair. Well, I was just thinking, uh, I know I am younger, uh, I was thinking maybe, uh, just as friends, you know, that maybe we could go to the prom together.”

On the other end, there was a bit of a gasp, stifling a laugh potentially. Then a guys voice started to talk. Was it her dad? Nope. Or a brother, I did not know she had? Not quite. It was Domino’s. The guy said, “I am sorry dude, but you got Domino’s Pizza, man.”

Holy shiznit, I thought. I just used every ounce of courage in my body and then some to ask Kelsey to the prom, and I had dialed a seven instead of an eight with the third digit that fourth call. I quickly slammed the phone down.

I was too embarrassed to call Kelsey back that night. Luckily, for me, I found out the next day that Kelsey had gotten back together with her boyfriend from the other school, so I avoided the rejection I would have received if I called her number. I ended up going to my junior prom with another girl and had a great time.

I also received a free pizza less than thirty minutes later after my call to the wrong number. The people at Domino’s saw my number and had our address in their system. They must have felt pretty bad about my situation and sent me a free pizza.

On the cardboard box, somebody wrote: “Hopefully, you get in touch with Kelsey and she says yes.”

 

Starbucks:Where I Meet Famous People

Ever since I became sick from coffee in a little restaurant in Heidelberg, Germany in 1996, I have never enjoyed it again. If I am forced to go to Starbucks by my wife, I usually get an iced tea and potentially a piece of banana bread. The only real reason I go to Starbucks is to meet famous people.

I don’t think Starbucks will mind that I don’t like their coffee. Members of my soccer team go daily. Heck, my dad keeps the Starbucks on Fifth Street in Downtown Winston-Salem open single-handedly with his business.

In the mid-2000’s, I had two encounters with famous people at Starbucks. One brush was at the Starbucks of the first floor of the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh and the other was at the Knollwood Starbucks in Winston-Salem. Both meetings were awkward, mainly from how I handled them.

My dad and I drove up to Pittsburgh to catch a Pirates baseball game and to see Chelsea play Roma at Heinz Field. Chelsea is the equivalent to the New York Yankees in the English Premier Soccer League due to the amount of money they shell out to their players. Roma is the biggest club in Rome. The two teams were playing an over-priced exhibition game.

Now in Pittsburgh, if an athlete is not wearing Black and Yellow, they typically don’t care too much about them. The “Yinzers” especially don’t care too much about European Football. My dad knew that lots of times, professional sports teams playing in Pittsburgh stay at the William Penn. We had time to waste so we headed that way before the games, and as soon as my dad saw the Starbucks inside the lobby, he jolted that way like a dog after a tennis ball.

While we were waiting in line, I just happened to pick up the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and there was a story about the soccer match on the front page with a big picture of Francesco Totti. Totti is one of the most famous Italian players in history. He led them to the 2006 World Cup Title a couple years later.

In the headline under the picture it reads: “Totti: known by his last name, is Roma striker, Euro hearthrob and butt of jokes about his intelligence.” In Europe, he is the equivalent of Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady. In Pittsburgh, he is short guy with long hair.

That short guy with long hair, just happened to get in line right in front of us at the Starbucks accompanied by an older man in Roma warm-ups. As soon as I recognized him I not-so-nonchalantly hit my dad on the arm and showed him the picture I was holding in the paper. He motioned for me to get his autograph. There were probably twenty people in the Starbucks and they had no idea who he was or that he made more money in a game than they all did in a year.

I tapped Totti on the shoulder, and said something to the extent of you are a really great player. He just stared at me. I said it would be really cool to get your autograph. He continued to just stare at me. Finally, I held up a pen my dad handed me and the paper. He caught my drift and signed the picture. When it was his turn to order, the other man ordered for him. At this point, we realized he had no idea what I was saying because he didn’t speak a lick of English. The man with him just happened to be his translator.

Just a couple months after my encounter with Totti, I was driving through Ardmore in the passenger seat of John Van Zandt’s Honda, when I spotted Ben Folds and an older woman walking into the Starbucks on Knollwood in Ardmore.

As we were headed back to our Ardmore house that we rented, we argued back and forth about whether it really was Ben Folds. Finally after the yelling tampered down, we decided to go back to see if it was really him. We walked in and it was most definitely him.

I knew a lot about Folds since he went to the R.J. Reynolds High School and graduated fifteen years before I did. When I was in high school, we wrote an article about him for the Pine Whispers newspaper at the same time that his hit song “Brick” came out. I had also seen him in concert a couple times at Davidson College and Wait Chapel at Wake Forest.

I walked over to him and an older woman that we believed was his mom. He was in town visiting his parents. At the time, he lived in Australia and was set to release his second solo album. Just like Totti, I tried to engage him in conversation, and just like Totti, he probably thought I was a bit of an idiot. I talked about Pine Whispers, Reynolds, and his song “Army,” and he just looked at me. At the end, I spotted a Starbucks napkin and grabbed it and asked him to sign it for me. He nicely agreed and we left him to finally enjoy his Starbucks with his mom.

It has been at least ten years since I have met a famous person in Starbucks. Every time I go into one, I look around just to make sure a famous person isn’t sitting down, because the only reason I go to Starbucks is to meet famous people.

Charlie Lovett-Local Winston-Salem Difference Makers

In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem natives that have moved on to do significant things outside of Winston, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem. 

Charlie Lovett’s family moved to Winston-Salem in 1962, and two month’s later he was born. Lovett is currently a full-time novelist, who has written several fiction novels, non-fiction stories, and plays. His breakout novel, The Bookman’s Tale, was published in 2013 and is a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into several languages. USA Today said, “Lovett tells his story with ease, charm and a faith in his characters that eventually draws them into our sympathies.”

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His father was an English literature professor at Wake Forest for over forty years. “I can’t go anywhere in the southeast without meeting a former student of his,” said Lovett. His mother passed away when Lovett was two, and his father remarried when Charlie was five. “My stepmother, Miriam, has been a mom, a dog breeder, and has served the community as president of the Junior League, Board Chair at Summit School, and in many other ways,” said Lovett. He has an older brother and sister, and two younger brothers.

Lovett went to elementary and middle school at Summit, before he headed to Woodberry Forest for high school. Lovett went to Davidson for undergraduate school, and then went into the antiquarian book business until the early nineties. He received his MFA in Writing from Vermont College in 1997.

Along with writing books, he is currently a book collector and has a unique collection of Lewis Carroll artifacts. He has lectured on Carroll throughout the US and Europe, and he has written five books about Carroll. His two novels, First Impressions and The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, have received widespread acclaim. You can find more information about all of his books at his website: www.charlielovett.com.

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His new novel, The Lost Book of the Grail, will be published in 2017. “The book is set in an English cathedral library and delves into the world of medieval manuscripts and a mystery that involves both an ancient Saxon saint and a possible link to the Holy Grail,” said Lovett. “It’s been great fun to work on and I hope my readers will enjoy it.”

Lovett is also the president of the board of directors of Bookmarks here in Winston. Bookmarks is a non-profit organization, which is dedicated to bringing the literary arts to Winston-Salem in every way possible. It has had a long range plan that includes the opening of an independent bookstore in downtown Winston-Salem. “Bookmarks is currently seeking funding and evaluating sites for this project, which would give the organization a space for their offices, a place to hold author events, and a much needed independent bookstore—something that has been missing from Winston-Salem for many years,” said Lovett. Bookmarks sponsors an annual free book festival, an authors in schools program, summer reading program, and other author events throughout the year. He said, “It is a great organization that I am proud to be associated with.”

Lovett and his wife, Janice, spend several weeks a year in the tiny village of Kingham (population about 700) in northwest Oxfordshire, England. Lovett is currently there and said, “I am enjoying a sunny May morning in the village, birds singing outside my window. There are so many things to visit nearby—cathedrals, Oxford, London, great houses, lovely country walks—but some days there is nothing better than the slow pace of life in the village.”

Janice and Lovett met doing summer theatre at Emory University, and they have been married 22 years. They have two children, Jimmy (aka Lucy) and Jordan. Lucy is 24 and writes plays and works at a theatre in New York City. Jordan lives in Atlanta, and runs a wedding planning business. Below, Lovett answers questions about his writing and favorite parts of Winston-Salem:

Winston-Salem and Author Questions:

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always enjoyed creativity in one form or another and I did some creative writing in high school and college and even a little after college when I was starting in the Antiquarian book business. But it was really in my early thirties that I made a conscious decision to pursue writing not just as a hobby but as a career.

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Where did your love of Lewis Carroll originate?
I first encountered Alice in Wonderland in a set of records of the book read by Cyril Ritchard that I used to listen to on rainy days as a child. I think the fact that I met Alice as a story told out loud was one of the things that attracted me to it. My father was a book collector and when I decided to follow in his path I thought Alice would be a good book to collect as it has been translated, illustrated, and adapted in so many ways. Only later did I discover what an interesting person Lewis Carroll was. Now my collection is as much about him and his life and world as it is about Alice.
Which Winston-Salem streets have you lived on?
Robinhood Road, West Fourth Street, Stump Tree Lane.

What years did you go to Summit School and who were some of your favorite teachers there?
I went to Summit from 1966 to 1977, all eleven years from Junior Kindergarten to Ninth Grade. I had so many wonderful teachers, and I really attribute so much of my success later in life to Summit. Among those teachers whom I remember with particular fondness were my first grade teacher, Clara Allen; fifth grade teacher Suzanne Teague (who encouraged me in the creation and editing of a weekly classroom newspaper); music teacher Loma Hopkins, who was later a colleague and is still a friend; and Junior High English teacher Bill Carr, who could intimidate and inspire simultaneously and with whom I had the privilege to work when I returned to Summit as a volunteer in the theatre art program in the 1980s.

What are your favorite restaurants in Winston?
Now there are so many, which is wonderful. I will miss Skippy’s—the best hotdogs I’ve had anywhere. My favorites change from year to year, but these days Mooney’s, Fratelli’s, Bibb’s, Ichiban, Jeffrey Adams, Hutch and Harris, Carving Board, Chang Thai.

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Are you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?
Definitely Thruway. I’m not a big fan of malls in general and Thruway, to me, is much more convenient. I’ve also been through a lot of years with Thruway—I can remember the Record Bar, Food Fair, Tiny Town, Thalheimer’s, and many other stores from my childhood days. The only store that is still there from when I was a kid (and still in more or less the same spot) is Dewey’s.

If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian Sugar Cake, Bojangles Biscuits, or Krispy Kreme Doughnuts?
Absolutely sugar cake. And I wouldn’t have to be stranded on an island or limited to one item for breakfast to make that decision. Can I just start having sugar cake for breakfast every day right now?

What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
We had some nice extended family beach vacations at Wrightsville when my siblings and I all had small children. I liked that the kids could walk to the ice cream stand, hot dog stand, etc. But I must admit to always being more of a mountain person. I’m not a fan of hot weather and I can get a sun burn just thinking about the beach.

Where is your favorite place to visit in the mountains of North Carolina?
I’m of two minds here. On the one hand I could live at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville—amazing building, filled with Arts and Crafts furniture (my favorite style), the best spa I’ve ever been to, good food—need I say more. However, I spent my summer’s growing up in a house on an isolated mountaintop in Ashe County, a few miles from Glendale Springs and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I got to know every square inch of that mountain (named Bear Knob) tromping around in the woods summer after summer, and it’s still my favorite spot in the NC mountains.

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What do you typically miss most about Winston when you lived somewhere else?
What I miss most about Winston-Salem when I’m gone is the people. I love that everywhere I go in town I will see people I know—whether old friends of the family, folks from church, Summit families, book enthusiasts—and they are all so friendly. We joke that you can’t wear sweat pants to the grocery because you WILL run into someone you know. I also love having such a strong academic community in town and I often miss the proximity of a great university library (WFU) when I’m away.

The Last Blind Date Ever

I like to think that my first and only blind date happened to be the last blind date of all time. You hear horror stories of blind dates all of the time. I can’t say that my blind date was horrible since nobody was bodily harmed. I made a clumsy mistake during the introductory portion of the date, and there was no looking back from there.

The year of the date was 2005 and the internet was getting past the horrific dial-up phase of AOL and moving into the fast life of smartphones, wi-fi, social media, and Google.

Even in 2015, I am sure there could still be blind dates in the far reaches of Siberia or with indigenous tribes in Australia, but I can’t see them being possible anymore in the social media age of the United States.

Of course, there could be new relationships set up by friends or family. People meet all of the time off of sites like Match.Com, EHarmony, or the hundreds of other “single and wanting to mingle” sites, and go on dates without ever officially meeting each other in person.

The dictionary defines a blind date as, “a social engagement between two persons who have not previously met, usually arranged by a mutual acquaintance.” I personally don’t think it can be considered “blind” if you have ever seen the other person, even in a photograph.

In 2005, I just bought my first condominium, started my first year coaching college soccer, and I was teaching school. My student’s mother told me she had somebody she really wanted me to meet who was new to Winston-Salem. I agreed after the second or third time she asked me and she set everything up.

I didn’t look my age of twenty-five. I could have easily passed as fifteen. Until recently, I always looked a lot younger than my actual age. I didn’t lose all of my baby teeth until I was in ninth grade. I didn’t start growing until tenth grade.

At various points in my life I questioned if my parents lied to me about my age. I felt similar to when William Miller asks his mom, Elaine, how old he really is in the backseat of their station wagon in the movie, Almost Famous. Elaine, played by Frances McDormand, turns around and confesses that she skipped William two grades without telling him and he was really two years younger than he thought. When his mom finally tells him how old he really is, he puts his head back against the seat and says, “this explains so much!” (Click for link to scene).

My blind date and I decided to meet at an eating establishment on Fourth Street. It was probably in both of our minds that we wanted to have our cars with us just in case.

I was worried about being late, so I got there way too early. I had no idea if I was supposed to wait out front or get a table. I mistakenly picked the second option and got a table. The hostess, perhaps sensing my nervousness, decided to put the table right in the middle of the entire restaurant.

I was sitting there at the table for close to fifteen minutes, and with each passing second, I became more and more nervous. The waiter decided to make it worse by constantly coming back to check on me. He was one of “those” waiters.

Finally, my blind date arrived. She was attractive, but more of a Jennifer Aniston in Camp Cuckamonga than Jennifer Aniston in We’re the Millers (I am not insinuating that I could go on a date of any kind with Jennifer Aniston, just a difference of her attractiveness levels). I won’t get into much detail about my date, because I really don’t remember much about her.

This date was pretty much over before it began. Sitting there, palms sweating, I really had no idea what to do as she recognized that I was obviously the fifteen-year-old looking guy she was meeting, considering that I was sitting there by myself and looking very nervous.

For some reason my feet were underneath the spindle bar that goes across the bottom of some chairs. I decided to stand up and shake her hand when she got to the table. In what felt like slow motion, the spindle was under my heels and as I stood up the chair  flipped over and crashed emphatically to the ground.

The restaurant was packed. I vividly remember a table of middle-aged women that watched the whole event happen. I heard some “ah’s” and some chuckles from around the restaurant. Not knowing what to do, I tried to shake her hand while still bending over to pick up the chair with my left hand. This plan did not work as I somehow let go of the chair and, once again, it went crashing to the ground.

By then the whole restaurant was watching. I am sure I was as red as a a matador’s cape as I finally picked the chair up. By this point I hadn’t shaken her hand yet and I don’t think we ever did. We sat down as we both probably just wanted people to stop looking at our table.

At some point I must have redeemed myself during the rest of the dinner, because she suggested going to a movie. She also asked me to call her again after the movie, but I could never get the chair drops out of my mind.

It would make a fitting end if the last blind date ever ended up being Katie, my wife (who I do think is more attractive than Jennifer Aniston). That is not the case. After we each got in our own cars, I never saw my only blind date again. I am sure she remembers me as that guy that never shook her hand on our blind date.

 

Endia Beal: Local Winston-Salem Difference Maker

In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem natives that have moved on to do significant things outside of Winston, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem. 
Endia Beal (www.endiabeal.com) is a woman on the move both literally and figuratively. When I met with her at Camino’s, she had just returned from trips to Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, and Delaware. Beal is the current director of the Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University. Her photography has taken off and has been featured nationwide. She recently was awarded a Magnum Foundation grant (website link) for her current project, Am I What You’re Looking For? 
“There is a lack of diversity in art, specifically in photography,” said Beal. “As an artist and director, my work and exhibitions reflect issues that are happening right now. I travel a lot to talk about the Diggs Gallery and my photography.” Click on these links for articles about Beal in National Geographic and the New York Times.
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Self Portrait of Endia Beal
Beal is just one of nineteen photographers that was awarded the Emergency fund, a program that supports independent photographers to produce in-depth and creative stories on under-reported issues. She is focusing on, “young African American women transitioning from the academic world to the corporate setting, capturing their struggles and uncertainties on how to best present themselves in the professional workplace.” 
She is the middle of three rather tall daughters. Beal is 5’10.5 (she wanted to make sure I put the half in there), which is shorter than her older sister, Tiffanie, and younger sister, Courtney. Her dad is from Winston and worked for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, and her mom transplanted from Durham and currently runs a five-star in-home daycare, Cuddling Cuties.
It took a tragedy for Beal to really turn her attention to art and photography. Her sophomore year of high school, her first love, Shawn Carter, was shot and killed. She used art and writing to relieve her stress from the loss.
After Beal graduated from high school at Reynolds (the best high school in the state), she went to N.C. State for two years and wanted to major in graphic design. She took photography over the summer and realized that she wanted to switch her focus to art and photography. Tiffanie had instilled a love for the University of North Carolina to the family, and Beal transferred there for her junior year, and was later followed as a Tar Heel by Courtney.

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After she graduated from UNC, Beal lived in Washington, D.C. and worked at the Luther Brady Gallery through a fellowship with Art Table. She was only one of five women throughout the country selected for the fellowship. After her time in D.C., she came back home to Winston to work for the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) as a program administration assistant for two years. During this time she had her first gallery at White Space, when Marlon Hubbard and Chevara Orrin displayed photographs she took while studying abroad in Italy. 
In 2011, Beal left SECCA to attend graduate school in New Haven, CT at Yale for fine arts and photography. “I was the only person of color in my graduate program, and one of only six of sixty four in the entire department at Yale,” said Beal. 
In 2013, she did a residency after graduation in Woodstock, NY at The Center for Photography at Woodstock.She moved back home in 2014 and worked for Mullen ad agency as a strategic planner, before she was hired for her current position as the Director of The Diggs Gallery and assistant professor of art at WSSU. 
She said, “It is important that art reaches a larger audience of people that would never go to a gallery before, but now they will.”
Below, she answers questions about her favorite parts of growing up in Winston below:
                                                   Winston-Salem Questions:
What schools did you go to growing up and who were your favorite teachers?
I went to Moore for elementary school and I loved all of my teachers, especially Ms. Thomas. Ms. Davis was my favorite teacher during middle school at Wiley. I loved my basketball coach, Mr. Pinnix, at Reynolds. My sisters and I all played basketball there. My dad wanted us to play in the WNBA, but that obviously didn’t work out.
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Beal (middle) with sisters, Tiffanie (left) and Courtney (right)
What are your favorite restaurants in Winston?
My first choice is my Mamma’s kitchen. My mom, Sheila, is a great cook. I also really love O’Brien’s Deli off of Country Club and Sweet Potatoes on Trade Street.
Who is your favorite ACC Team?
Without a doubt Carolina, but that game last week hurt!
Where is your favorite place in the North Carolina Mountains?
In 2009, I did an artist residency in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Spruce Pines near Asheville at the Penland School of Crafts and I loved it there.
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Beal and her mom, Sheila
If you ever left Winston again, where would you move?
I am a Southern girl. I love the South. I would probably say the Raleigh/Durham area. If I had a second pick, it would definitely be San Diego.
What did you miss the most when you were living away from Winston?
I missed the Southern hospitality and the humanity of feeling connected to a person like you get when you live in Winston!
If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, a Bojangles biscuit, or a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
All of them would kill me! I would have to say a Bojangles biscuit, but you would have to throw in grape jelly.
Thruway or Hanes Mall?
Neither! I am an online shopper.
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Beal is the profile for this year’s RiverRun Film Festival

What areas of Winston have you lived in?
I have always lived in the Southside. 

What is your favorite nickname for our minor league baseball team: Spirits, Warthogs, or Dash?
I am a fan of the Warthogs, because that was what they were as I grew up!

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Beal speaking at Diggs-Latham Elementary School for Black History Month