Thank you to Tryon Arts and Crafts School for asking me to be a preliminary judge in their national ghost story contest, The Apparitionist. I can't wait to read all the scary stories! You have until August 27 to enter.
Friday, April 27, 2018
Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, April 27, 2018
I'd been feeding a stray cat for months when I contacted the Animal Defense League of Arizona to get on the waiting list to trap, neuter and release (TNR) my little wild cat. By the time my turn came along (there's about a two-month wait here), she was showing up daily, right on time for dinner.
I called her Ratty Cat because when she first appeared she was in rough shape, her long black fur in tatters. Regular meals revealed a beautiful cat, and while she learned to tolerate me, she remained aloof, growling and hissing if I came too close, even with a treat in my hand. I once held my hand out to her carefully; she sniffed it and whacked it, leaving me with a scratch to remind me she's feral.
I felt confident I could trap her on a Tuesday to get her to her spay appointment on Wednesday morning. Monday, she had kittens.
I called my contact at the Animal Defense League and asked, "Now what?" Even though it was April, the temperatures in Phoenix were already in the 90s, and it even hit 100 that week. I was told the newborns don't usually make it when it's over 90, so I went to work.
Paul helped me remove a board from our backyard fence where tiny voices cried out. Ratty Cat came flying out of her nest in the bushes behind the fence, leaving three black kittens behind. As instructed, I placed the kittens in the trap and waited to catch Ratty.
When she didn't show up, we took a crash course (thank you, Google) in bottle-feeding, and continued to leave the trap in place. At four a.m., I caught the wrong cat, a beat-up black-and-white cat (rattier than Ratty at her worst), but had to release it with a hope to catch it again someday after my kitten crisis had passed.
By four p.m. the following day, I was starting to panic, imagining myself bottle-feeding around the clock for the next six weeks. When the trap door fell, I was never happier to see that mean little face. I put Ratty's trap in our guest bathroom right away, carefully lifting the trap door just enough to put her kittens in with her.
The following morning I lined up outside the vet clinic with the other cat catchers. One woman had three traps; another man only had one because his other one had caught a raccoon. "I once caught a chicken," the veteran cat catcher lady said. They were all impressed with my mother and three bonus kittens.
I left a travel crate with the clinic, and was relieved to find Ratty and her babies safely inside when I picked them up that afternoon.
Thanks to an internet full of people experienced in dealing with ferals and their kittens, I had Ratty's new temporary home ready for her in my office, where our cat-chasing dogs can't bother her. We set the travel crate with mother and babies inside a larger wire crate with a litter box, food and water. When changing Ratty's food, water and litter, we turn into puppeteers, opening and closing the travel crate door with string and a yard stick so she can't fulfill her promise to kill us.
It's been ten days, and I still get growls, hisses and spits every time I freshen her crate, but there was one glorious morning I got a quiet purr before she was back to her usual threats that afternoon.
I know things could still go wrong as kitten lives are fragile, but so far, they seem fine. Now I'm looking down the road, hoping to find homes for the kittens (who will be spayed and neutered, of course) and to be able to grant Ratty's wish and free her back to her world but with a kitten-less future. Then she and I can get back to our regular routine where I feed her and she lets me admire her beauty as long as I don't get too close.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
I arrived in Los Angeles in the summer of 1984, and among my first jobs was a print ad for the L.A. Times. Shot by a husband and wife team that went by the name Four Eyes Photography, the ad only paid $75, but as often happened on print jobs, I was asked to stay and "test." When testing, everyone worked for no pay, but for images like this one that could be used in our portfolios. I recall wearing this same outfit months later on a fateful night when I met a man who changed my life.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, February 28, 2018
Why do I love Tryon so much? In a recent weekend visit, I boiled it down to three things: friends, community and place.
I discussed this with a friend at TJ's one morning who said, "It's good to be reminded of that. Sometimes I forget."
So, here I am, back in Phoenix, writing to remind you all how lucky you are to live in such a special place. Having grown up in Asheville, my DNA tells me I'm in the right place when I see the mountains, smell the fresh air, marvel at the natural beauty of Western North Carolina. That's "place," reason number three I still feel at home in a town I no longer live in.
Reason number two is community. I spent Saturday morning at the Tryon Coffeehouse Co-op where volunteer Tracey Daniels manned the bar, and locals welcomed visitors from Traveler's Rest. The next day I saw it when Bill Crowell, town commissioner and owner of Saluda Forge, pushed a hand truck up Trade Street towards The Tryon Bottle. The Bottle was a beehive of folks helping with a move to new digs in the center of the Missildine's renovation project.
And that brings me to the number one reason I love Tryon: friends. I am fortunate to have many wonderful friends in the "Friendliest Town in the South," but I also love how good you are to each other.
When Paul and I stopped in Friday afternoon for the wine tasting at The Bottle (I still called it "La Booty." Silly me!), we were greeted by lots of people we know, and picked up right where we'd left off.
Then someone introduced us to a new Tryonite named Bob. Bob told us he was a neighbor of ours and extended an unexpected invitation to come to his home the next evening. I can promise you I've never received a party invitation minutes after meeting a single soul in Phoenix. Or anywhere else I've lived.
We weren't able to attend the party, unfortunately, as we already had plans. I was sorry I wouldn't get to know Bob better on this trip. Then on Sunday morning, when we drove down Trade Street and saw our friends helping with the move at The Bottle, there was Bob. New guy. Pushing a hand truck full of boxes.
I was so proud to see people helping The Tryon Bottle owner Della Pullara get settled in her new location. I have no doubt she felt rich in friends that day.
My heart was full at that moment—full of love for Tryon and its friendly ways. But something else happened that day that broke my heart.
I saw a post on a Facebook community page by a woman named Zelda who moved to the area in 2014, and has no friends. I wondered how that could be, here where I'd met so many friendly people. Within a day, her post had over 200 comments, and I was shocked that some people said they were also friendless and feeling alone.
There were also many responses with offers of friendship, and suggestions of ways to meet people, and that gave me hope.
When posting advice to Zelda, I thought back to my early days in Tryon. The first thing we did was subscribe to the Bulletin, so I suggested the same. We watched the newspaper for events of interest, and soon found ourselves on a Gallery Trot downtown where we discovered lots of new people and places we loved.
I also suggested Zelda volunteer for a non-profit or two. Shortly after my arrival, I offered to serve drinks at Upstairs Artspace events. No, I'm no bartender, but I can pour wine without spilling it, and smile when I hand out the cups. Pretty soon, people I'd run into in town asked if I worked at Upstairs, and no, I didn't work there, but it was a reason to start a conversation, and conversations lead to friendships.
I'm not worried about Zelda anymore, and hope the other lonely people responding to her post are also finding new paths to new friends. It was brave for Zelda to post her plea for friends on a public Facebook page. She put herself out there, just like new-guy Bob did inviting neighbors over and then helping The Tryon Bottle with its move.
Seeing people reach out to make new friends in a new home was a good reminder for me to make more of an effort myself in Phoenix where I've found new friendships a challenge too.
So, thanks, Bob and Zelda. And thanks, Tryon, for always making me feel at home. I can't wait to see you again.
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Thursday, December 28, 2017
#TBT To 1988. We rarely got to keep the clothes we wore on jobs, but after a day of splattering paint on these overalls, I got to take them home. I actually loved them and wore them often after buying my old fixer-upper house in L.A. I generally wore a top with them though.
The song is about John Lennon's death. Here's the link to the music video.
The song is about John Lennon's death. Here's the link to the music video.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, November 8, 2017
I came to Tryon for Halloween to hear some ghost stories.
I hadn't been to Tryon in nearly a year and a half—an unexpectedly long absence—but life doesn't always go as planned.
I had an accident in January in Phoenix, broke my foot and my arm, and while I was recovering from those two surgeries, discovered I had breast cancer. (Go get those 3D mammograms, women friends. One saved my life.)
I couldn't write more than a grocery list for months because of my broken arm, and even that much writing was painful, so you can imagine how sad I was when I found out about a ghost story competition at the Tryon Arts and Crafts School.
"We didn't want to tell you about the contest," said a friend in a phone call, "knowing you can't write right now."
I immediately went to TACS' Facebook page and found the scoop on The Apparitionist, their national ghost story contest, and an exciting new tradition in Tryon's literary scene.
Two hours later, I was icing my arm and reading the first draft of my contest entry. Thank you, TACS, for getting me back up on that horse. Yes, it hurt, but I conjured up a ghost I didn't even know I had in me.
I knew the winning stories would be read aloud at TACS on Halloween night, and that planted the seed of a possible trip to Tryon. I was thrilled to find my story on the semi-finalists' list, and then on the finalists', and dared to hope a win would get me on a plane to North Carolina. Then it dawned on me: I don't have to win a contest to go to Tryon. I don't even have to have a reason other than I want to be there.
No, I didn't win the contest, but no one could have felt more like a winner than I did sitting in my chair on Halloween night at TACS listening to actors reading the winning stories.
It was great to see the school buzzing with activity, and so great to see old friends and meet new ones. And I'm not sure which were more impressive--the stories or the actors reading them. Hats off to the staff at the school and especially to Kai Elijah Hamilton who seemed to be the head bee that made the contest buzz.
The preliminary judges were local writers and storytellers Dottie Jean Kirk, Lee Stockdale and Katie Winkler, and the finalists were judged by head honcho Jack Sholder whose impressive list of directing credits include Nightmare on Elm Street II. We are fortunate to have Mr. Sholder as our Asheville neighbor, and he's the founding director of the Film and TV Production program at Western Carolina University where he teaches.
The first place story was "The Bargain" by Vicki Lane who has lived beside a Madison County graveyard for forty years, so probably had ghosts whispering in her ear as she wrote (is that cheating?). Nickengie Sampson blew us away with her performance, demonstrating why this story was the clear winner.
In second place was Joy Peng's "Let's Play," perfectly and creepily read by Michelle Fleming who can be found doing marketing and PR for TFAC when she's not on a stage. This was Joy Peng's very first writing competition, so taking second place was an impressive achievement.
Steve Wong of Spartanburg County wrote "A Breach in the Night" which won third place and was read by Martha Hogenboom whose list of theater credits is longer than my broken arm. In full disclosure, Steve wrote an article about me in Life in Our Foothills in 2014, and made me seem really interesting, so I already knew he was a good writer.
The Heritage Award went to Polk County resident Robert Orr for "The Ghost of Three Pee Creek," and was read by Miles Rice who proved that a story can be both scary and funny at the same time. Hey, what did you expect from a story with the word pee in the title?
It makes me happy to see on TACS' website that they've already made the command decision to hold the contest again in 2018. Details will be posted in March, and the contest opens in April.
So you all have time to start noodling on your scary story, and can mark your calendars to be firmly planted in your seat at TACS next Halloween to be wowed by more winning stories and more talented storytellers. Hey, if I can write a story with a broken arm, what's your excuse?
I can't predict the future, but barring more traumatic accidents and cancer treatments, I know where I'll be next Halloween: at Tryon Arts and Crafts School. I hope to see you there.