Finding No Boundaries: crashing an artist colony for an evening

Finding No Boundaries
crashing an artist colony for an evening

SALT Magazine
October 2014

Words and Photos by Joel Finsel

At the eastern tip of the Cape Fear Coast, where the northern and southern currents collide, the surf forms sideways rather than parallel to the shore — the waves project outward from the beach in a line that almost seems palpable, as if you could walk along it, like a path. Some people think this point gave the Cape Fear its name, since so many ships would wreck on the sandbar there.

I had come to Bald Head Island to learn about No Boundaries, an international artists’ colony, but was lost. The tram driver had taken me to the wrong house, leaving me alone on a stranger's porch just before dark. I rang the bell and a disheveled man came to peer at me from behind the glass.

“Hello,” I said, “are you the chef?”

He looked at me with raised eyebrows.

Somewhat desperate, I held up my Moleskine as credentials. “I’m a journalist covering the artist colony,” I explained. “I'm sorry, I was told I’d be staying with the chef.”

Something in my eyes must have let him know I was something other than the horror-story villain who shows up at your vacation house in the off-season just after you and your wife have settled in for the evening. Or possibly he was just bored and looking for a touch of adventure. He drove me to the old lighthouse keepers’ cottages, where the artists stayed. Someone there would know where to put the outsiders like me.

Many artist colonies are like utopian experiments where creatives live and interact with one another. Those not invited tend to shrug them off as a bunch of lucky people able to escape the status quo for some time in paradise while the rest of us continue to suffer. But the story of No Boundaries is more daring than that. It began in 1993 when a Wilmington painter named Pam Toll traveled to an artist colony in Macedonia. The country had just been formed two years before. Toll had a friend who’d studied there and come back full of stories about the fresh enthusiasm surrounding the arts. Macedonia had thirteen arts colonies, the woman said. Toll applied, and months later found herself at an 800-year-old monastery in the Osogovo mountains, about seven miles from today’s Bulgarian border.

Living among the Macedonian people, Toll says, she felt as if she had been removed from time. Men walked their goats into town. She discovered that a hike through the hills meant multiple invitations to sit and sip rakija, a brandy made from a variety of native herbs and fruit. She left with an impression of having been initiated into an international tribe of artists, many from countries still at war with each other –– Serbia, Kosovo, Albania. If they could live together and inspire each other, then peace seemed possible.

Toll was twice asked to return to the Osogovo colony in subsequent years, and to bring another American artist with her. She first invited Gayle Tustin, a painter friend from Wilmington. “Pam and I were in a painting group together before she went on the first trip,” Tustin says, “and I saw a huge change in her when she came back.” The next year Toll brought along local painter Dick Roberts, a co-founder of Acme Arts Studios. Afterward, in talking, the three painters realized that the experience in Macedonia had profoundly affected each of their lives. It was then, in the mid-nineties, that they started dreaming up the concept of No Boundaries.

The question became, location — where to place their particular thumbtack on a world map of similar enclaves. Nearby, picturesque, and relatively undeveloped, Bald Head Island already offered retreats for solo artists (Toll had been awarded one there too). And she knew the president of island’s management company, Kent Mitchell, from swimming at the YMCA.

Mitchell happens to be an architect with a drawing habit. They struck a deal. Bald Head would transport the artists to the old lighthouse keeper’s station and give them accommodation in the three cottages there. In return each artist would leave behind one painting per week of their residency.
Toll, Tustin, and Roberts met weekly for a year to manage the details. “We knew we were never going to make money,” Tustin said. “We considered it to be one drop in the sea for world peace.”  Sixteen years later, painters from all over the world have done stays at No Boundaries. If every artist’s journey to the colony were represented by a different colored thread on the map, the end design would be a multi-layered tapestry.

Last year marked a turning point in the history of the colony. The founders — Toll, Tustin, and Roberts — stepped down, and a new president, Michelle Connolly, took over. Connolly is a Wilmington artist with roots in both England and Australia, the perfect No Boundaries blend of international and local. With the change in leadership, the format has changed a little, too. The colony now invites international artists every year, rather than on alternating ones. But the founding spirit remains: “There are literally no boundaries,” Connolly said.“It’s funny how often we repeat the saying, but it’s true.”

I thought of one. “What about the rest of the community?” I asked. “Are there boundaries against people visiting who aren’t a part of the colony?”

“We encourage the public to come,” she said, “especially during the open-studio day. Visitors are welcome other times, but there’s no guarantee the artists won’t be out painting in the marshes. It takes some doing to get there, but that’s not because they are trying to keep people out. In fact, we invited an entire class from DREAMS [Center for Arts Education in Wilmington] to come out last year and spend the day with the artists.”

When I posed the same question to Tustin, she said, “No Boundaries is remote on purpose, but more to give the artists space to make breakthroughs than to keep other people away.”

The artists arrive to find the floors of the three modest houses of Captain Charlie’s Station covered with plastic, to keep the paint off the floor. The structures take their name from lighthouse keeper Charles Swan, whose family and staff occupied the government-issue buildings between 1903 and 1933, back when supplies had to be air-lifted in by planes landing on the beach at low tide. The entire layout looks to be about the size of one of the neighboring mansions visible from the beach.

Each artist stakes out his or her own place to work and sleep. They live communally for two weeks. Dinner is provided, but for most of the rest of the time they are on their own. It’s a fascinating Petri dish to observe. When I was there, applicants had come from as far away as Indonesia, Australia, and Rwanda. Styles ranged from primitive and outsider, to figurative and abstract. The close quarters force exchanges, resulting in a cultural cross-pollination. As someone crashing the party midway, I felt a little like I was walking onto the set of a reality show in the middle of the season without having watched a single episode.

The first artist I met was Brandon Guthrie, who welcomed me onto the porch with a smile. He offered me a beer, and we sat down on rocking chairs to stare at the moon’s reflection melting into the sea.  Guthrie said that before coming to the island he’d felt burnt out, artistically. He’d been making a lot of similar work for weeks on end. He had also recently become chair of the Humanities and Fine Arts Department at Cape Fear Community College. He welcomed the added responsibilities but said it was “nice to set them aside a while.

“Something about coming out here,” he said, “it’s like opening up all the windows in your body and letting fresh air in.”

Guthrie described how strange it felt to be around so many people who liked to talk about abstract ideas as if they were normal topics of conversation. “We tend to hold back from those types of discussions in ordinary life,” he said. “Out here, it’s the kind of medicine people need. It’s important work, definitely not a vacation.”

Inside the cottage, a group of five or six other artists were passing around a book of Leonard Cohen’s poetry and taking turns reading poems out loud. After listening for a few minutes I decided to walk into the kitchen and say hello to the chef, who was supposed to be my roommate. To my surprise, he turned out to be a friend I’d known for years (Jameson Chavez, the head cook at Manna, where I tend bar). Having watched him cook a hundred times, I could tell by the way he smashed the butternut squash that something was different about him. He was taking his time.

As the artist assigned to be his kitchen helper poured us each a glass of wine, I asked the chef what was up. He responded that this was his first day off in weeks. When he’d woken up that morning knowing he would have to travel all the way here to cook for a group of strangers, he hadn’t felt particularly motivated to get out of bed. He had heard about No Boundaries, and knew that the colony had a tradition of inviting in chefs to cook for the artists, but he hadn’t really known what to expect, and confessed that he’d almost bailed. “But all of my gloom lifted when I arrived,” he said, smiling. “Everyone has been so friendly. I haven’t felt this calm in a long time.”

He had been warned to prepare for having little in the way of cooking tools or spices, so he decided to keep the menu simple: roasted pork tenderloin with braised cabbage. Happy to discover a blender, he puréed red chile, onion, garlic, and vegetable stock into a sauce as the rest of the artists began to arrive.

I asked the first, a painter named Jonathan Summit, about his experience so far.

“It’s a gift from God,” he said, sitting down next to me. “I feel like I could go anywhere in the world and know someone who is a No Boundaries alum.”

Others began trickling in. Soon there were about twenty of us seated around a couple of long tables. Every time my glass of wine got dangerously close to empty, someone topped it off. After Jameson had stood and explained the menu, the rest of us cheered and clapped. I recorded over two hours of dinner conversation, but when I replayed the files, there was too much chatter, interrupted by toasts and spontaneous laughter, to render them indecipherable. But I know it was an excellent night.

There was a Rwandan artist, Nkurunziza Innocent, whose colorful abstract canvases and shell-totems I had seen. There was a Chinese tea master named Weihong, who had brought with her, to that remote Atlantic outpost, teacups salvaged from a shipwreck in the Pacific. Wilmington’s own Harry Taylor was there, making his distinctive tintype photographs. An Indonesian artist named Jumaadi, who had a show scheduled in Charleston right after the colony closed, played the guitar and sang. It was well past midnight when the chef and I finally staggered off to our house a half-mile away.

Since its inception, No Boundaries has existed mainly for painters, but under Michelle Connolly’s leadership the roster has expanded to include more film-makers and photographers, as well as the occasional writer. The outlier slot for this fall’s class will go to a singer-songwriter from Nashville named Gabriel Kelley (it’s not clear yet what he will leave behind, in place of two paintings — a song?). The group arriving on Bald Head in November will include artists from Brazil, Spain, Argentina, and Cuba (pending visa approval).

For anyone interested in a casual visit, Open Studio Day is Tuesday, November 18, from 2–5 p.m., at Captain Charlie’s Station. Those unable to make the trek — including but not limited to those who have heard about ‘Cloden,’ the ghostly child bride said to inhabit the middle cottage — there will be an exhibition in Wilmington. The Wilma Daniels Gallery at Cape Fear Community College will open the show with a reception on November 22. Interested buyers, or anyone with an interest in art, will have a rare chance to see pieces from all over the world, made right here on our coast during two intense and transformative weeks.

Joel Finsel profiled humanitarian inventor Jock Brandis in our March issue.

Jock Brandis: An Edison For the Bottom Billion

The Ongoing Quest of a Humanitarian Genius

by Joel Finsel

originally published in SALT
click here for original spread and images

Brandis, photo from Replan It

The tall, slender, gray-haired man known simply as “Jock” to people scattered all over the planet was born with the slightly more exotic name of Joost Brender a Brandis, in 1946, and not in North Carolina, but in the Netherlands. When he was still a baby the family moved to an isolated farm in northern British Columbia, where he spent his childhood. His parents had not been farmers, but his father had always wanted to live in the country (on the passenger’s list of the SS Delftdyk, which sailed into San Francisco in August of 1947, he identified himself as a Dutch “agriculturist”). It was an upbringing that required a lot of improvisation. “We were so isolated,” he says, “and there was no place to buy anything. If we wanted toys, we had to build them from scraps of wood.” At age 12 he was given a simple how-to science kit and within a year had learned enough from it to fashion a crude blowtorch, which he used to begin building a small jet engine. According to the book his sister wrote about him fifty years later, Thinking Big, Building Small, the sight of a young boy doing such dangerous work had proved alarming to visiting Dutch relatives. But his parents indulged it.

For a time, in his teens and twenties, Brandis’s urge to tinker with machines lay dormant. He enlisted in the navy, to pay for college, which eventually he did attend, majoring in anthropology. After graduating, and with his “idealism glands working overtime,” Brandis joined CUSO (Canada’s version of the Peace Corps) and wound up living in the Trench Town slum of Kingston, Jamaica, where he was supposed to teach rude boys auto repair. But because he was one of the only people there with a university degree, they asked him to teach general science instead. He did receive his first exposure to filmmaking during these years, coming to know the director Perry Hensel (of Harder They Come fame), but mainly Brandis found himself giving lectures on what he felt were essentially useless concepts, to kids who desperately needed hands-on skills to improve their lot and even for survival.

Brandis never forgot the frustration he’d felt, in those classrooms. It sparked a belief in him that most often what people in crisis needed was not cultural betterment but know-how. Give them tools to take care of themselves and they’ll build the rest. Working with Canairelief in the late 60s to help starving children in the war-torn country of Biafra (at one point it was estimated that 5,000 children were dying a day), he found that he never felt as useful as when — at a base on the old Portuguese penal colony of São Tomé — he was able to put his metalworking skills to use fixing shrapnel holes in the relief planes that carried the supplies. He accompanied some of these missions as “loadmaster,” physically exchanging tons of food for starving babies, some of whom died as they lay on blankets in the cargo hold under his watch. On one of these expeditions, while riding in a jeep across a crater-strewn runway, Brandis looked up at the man across from him and recognized Kurt Vonnegut, there to report on the massacres (Brandis’s stories often contain these fantastical-seeming but, it will turn out, verifiable details).

“It was a fast way to grow up,” he says with characteristic understatement about his time in Biafra. But in hearing him talk about it one gets the sense that some of what he witnessed left scars. Poverty and violence had been one thing, blood and death and starvation were another. At the age of 25 — but much older in terms of experience — he decided to go home to Canada, hoping to pursue a lighter existence for a while.

It was at this point that Brandis’s oldest love — amateur invention, tinkering with gizmos — came back into his life through a strange channel (though one familiar to many in the Port City), the movie business. In Toronto, he landed work on the set of a forgettable comedy-thriller titled 125 Rooms of Comfort. He was hired as a gaffer, basically a lighting electrician. This led to work on several other productions. During one, the “rather grisly motorcycle gang feature” Race Home to Die, he noticed how the thick cables that snaked across the floor were causing everyone problems, tripping the actors and making it hard to maneuver carts. He started daydreaming a sort of structure, a system of aerial rigging that would elevate the light-cables up off the floor, both removing them from people’s way and making the lights easier to move. The design involved a series of interlocking aluminum segments that, via a system of screws, could be made to hang in place overhead in various irregular spaces (making it perfect for on-location shoots). He called it the Light-Beam. The December 1974 issue of Cinema Canada called the invention “revolutionary” and included this little scene under “Technical News”:

"Toronto lighting-cameraman Jock Brandis strolled into our office not too long ago with a home-made equipment case in hand, and proceeded to construct a lighting beam across our office which was capable of supporting a couple of hundred pounds of lighting gear without making a mark on the wall. Not only that, but the entire thing weighs less than 20 pounds."

Brandis from Cinema Canada in 1978

The article goes on to add that, “Mr. Brandis may be found in his basement, hand-assembling these highly practical and useful items.”

Four years later Brandis was living not in a basement but on a tugboat in Toronto Harbor. For fun he restored antique motorcycles. He’d set up his metal-shop in an abandoned warehouse with towering ceilings in an industrial part of Toronto (in a surreal twist he was approached by a group of French Canadian circus artists wanting to know if they could “rent the air” above Brandis and his team, in order to get used to performing above crowds, as they soon began doing under the name Cirque du Soleil).

According to Cinema Canada Jock’s “innovative designs,” some of which are still in use on movie sets around the world, had “established [him] as a living, breathing legend of the film business.” The magazine even ran a beefcake-y picture of him, to accompany the profile.

In 1984, the “Italian DeMille,” Dino De Laurentiis — the producer who made the great La Strada with Fellini (and also made Barbarella) — decided he liked Wilmington and wanted to start making movies here. For the enterprise to work so far from Hollywood, and from the special skills and workshops that had grown up around the industry there, De Laurentiis needed people with highly adaptable talents. He needed guys like Jock, who even if they weren’t in your department could tackle special problems as they arose and cobble together solutions, with limited materials, as actors sat getting paid to wait in their trailers. When directors needed quieter generators, or a bed that would appear to eat people whole, or somebody who knew how older lighting systems worked, they knew they could call Brandis. For twenty years he was a gaffer/prop maker/best boy/fixer, working on David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and the Stephen King films Cat’s Eye and Maximum Overdrive, eventually earning an Emmy for his work on, of all things, Monday Night Football. “I was basically a lighting guy,” he says, “but I was never that good at the politics of it. At one point I did a movie with a pair of big stars, and I thought, if I ever have to spend another day with these oxygen-thieves, I’ll shoot myself.”

One day a friend of his, a woman named Carrie who’d become similarly disgusted by displays of Hollywood behavior, simply walked off the set. It was a particularly stupid film, and she was a script consultant. She threw down her clipboard, announced to everyone in the room that she’d been “put on the planet to do better things with her life,” and left. She joined the Peace Corps and moved to Africa, to a mud-hut village in Mali called Woroni, where she stayed.

In 2001 Brandis got a call from her. The solar-powered water pump that powered the village’s water system was broken. Nobody knew how to fix it. The Danish government workers who’d installed it fifteen years earlier were long gone, and without regular maintenance, it had stopped working. She’d told the local officials she knew some people who might be able to figure it out. Jock joined a team of local volunteers and, with some trepidation (this was his first trip to Africa since he’d left the “hell” of Biafra in a hail of gunfire three decades before), flew to Mali.

When the pump was fixed, some folks decided to hang around in Mali for a while. Jock did a few days of exploring around, getting to know the village. Lush, green Woroni was a far different place than Biafra had been. It was actually more like “paradise,” he says.

Woroni, Mali

One morning he walked out into the surrounding cotton fields. Having at that point been a Southerner for many years, he understood how the crop could devastate once fertile fields by robbing the soil of nitrogen. He was reassured to come upon a group of women shelling sun-dried peanuts. The villagers understood a basic concept of soil conservation, that peanuts and other legumes can replace the nitrogen cotton absorbs (the lesson George Washington Carver taught us in America).

But then Brandis looked closer and noticed the women’s hands. They were raw and in some cases bleeding, from shelling the tough and leathery sun-dried nuts, using nothing but their fingers. And although Brandis couldn’t have known it at that moment, these cuts in their hands were allowing a mold-born toxin to enter their bloodstreams, giving many of them a sometimes deadly immune disease.

“I thought, surely there was a better way,” Brandis says.

Before he left Africa, he made “a very casual promise” to the head of the local women’s cooperative that if she would encourage the villagers to plant more peanuts, he would send them a shelling machine. “I figured they could take the excess to market.”

Back in Wilmington, he sat down at the computer, assuming that a few minutes online and a credit-card transaction would be enough to satisfy his end of the bargain. But logging on led only to frustration. He found that he could easily buy a peanut-shelling factory if he wanted, but nothing that would be of any real value in a village that lacked electricity.

Confounded, he did what any rational person interested in peanut-culture would do and called Jimmy Carter. The former president’s secretary got in touch with him, and dropped heavy news: Brandis was wasting his time. The machine didn’t exist. Other people had called asking about it over the years, he’d checked. Brandis would have to tell the woman he couldn’t deliver.

This was precisely the sort of challenge that Brandis had always loved, that had fueled him as a kid in that cold shed back in British Columbia. Something didn’t exist — you had to make it yourself. Hearing that others had tried and failed just encouraged him. “Whenever I have an idea people don’t laugh at,” he says, “I seriously reconsider.”

At first he had only a string of setbacks. The technical difficulties were formidable. It was easy to make a simple machine that would crack open shells, but one that would do so without harming the nuts inside, and especially with any kind of speed or efficiency, that was different. He ran through a sketch-book’s worth of failed designs.

His luck changed when he made contact with an expert in the field of plant physiology, a professor named Tim Williams at the University of Georgia. Williams had also been looking for a small nut sheller, describing it as “the holy grail of sustainable agriculture.” His own years of searching and tinkering had produced one potential clue: he’d seen a sketch of a machine that another traveler had encountered in a Bulgarian village (Bulgaria was long one of the only places in Europe that grew peanuts). The machine worked by rolling the nuts around in a kind of cone, a hollow cone with another, solid cone inside of it, and just enough space left between the two to crush the shells without hurting the nut. Williams sent Brandis a copy of the sketch.

Brandis — accustomed to working with metal — immediately took the picture to a friend’s machine shop. But the machinist surprised him by suggesting they consider concrete rather than steel. “I hate messing with concrete,” Brandis can be heard saying in a Canadian documentary made about this project. “I automatically assumed my idea was better than his, and having sufficiently ridiculed him, I got in my pick-up. I drove about a block when it dawned on me that he was a genius . . .”

Concrete could be made anywhere in the world, solving a major aspect of the shipping problem. Instead of sending finished machines, they’d send kits with molds and a few prefabricated metal pieces. People could build the sheller anywhere, and for almost nothing.

One problem: the molds had to be both light enough to ship and strong enough to hold up under repeated pourings of concrete. Brandis visited his old friend Pete Klingenberger, a local boat builder, to ask about the possibility of using fiber-glass. Klingenberger is “a man of infinite patience,” says Brandis, who brought him model after model, as he tinkered with the design. Klingerberger would cast each one in fiberglass. 

After months and dozens of prototypes, they created a machine that worked . . . but only when shelling a single nut at a time. In the Bulgarian sketch, the cone had been upside down, i.e., with the fatter part at the top (a funnel shape, the most natural-seeming shape for the task). But it created a situation inside the machine where multiple lanes essentially merged into one, jamming at the bottom.

Brandis made the one modification he accepts credit for: reversing the geometry. He literally flipped the design on its head, giving it more the shape of a traffic cone or an old-fashioned butter-churner. Now it worked beautifully, the nuts and shells falling together out of the bottom into a basket, to be wind-threshed like wheat and chaff. In an hour, someone using the sheller could outperform five others working by hand for a day. The quickly dubbed Universal Nut Sheller is now in use in at least thirty-six countries. Thousands of lives have been saved, and many more thousands improved.

In the dozen years since its invention, Brandis’s peanut machine and his efforts to disseminate it have made him famous. He has won a $100,000 Purpose Prize for humanitarianism, a Popular Mechanics “Breakthrough” Award, and been invited to deliver a series of lectures at M.I.T. on the value of “Stone Age” technology in the modern world. Numerous documentaries and interviews cast him as a dashing inventor-hero.

In person, he seems refreshingly uninterested in the myth of himself. Quick to joke, self-deprecating, eager to engage with strangers. Of the different interviews I’ve done with him, about 99 percent were conducted in bars. His daughter, Maaike, owns Cape Fear Wine and Beer. His son, Darwin, followed him into the film industry. His partner, Gwenyfar, runs Old Books on Front Street. He carries himself very much like an unassuming fellow citizen. The Canadian in him? You do get a sense that a big part of Jock never left that shed in British Columbia. He never comes quite as alive as when talking about making things, describing his latest inventions. “How’s it going?” you might say. “Great!” he replies. “Hey, what if we built a cellphone charger that was powered by houseplants?” Or, “I’m working on this gravity-powered water pump, trying to figure out how to keep it working when the stream is low,” and he’s off . . .

Jock Brandis with President Carter with a 
Universal Nut Sheller at The Carter Center

The enterprise that has consumed his attention during the past decade is the internationally recognized Full Belly Project, which Brandis co-founded in 2003 with a group of fellow returned Peace Corps volunteers. The non-profit started its mission under an unusual banner: to create technology for “the bottom billion people” on the planet. One of the unfortunate things about that market is, there’s not a lot of money in it. Which explains how the industrialized world could go a century without inventing a machine as simple and vital as a hand-turned peanut sheller. But people invent things they’re hoping to sell. Full Belly is different. It works to invent things that it’s actually hoping to give away, or even just to teach other people how to make. Brandis never even took out a patent on the Universal Nut Sheller. 

Most of the organization’s work has been done in the developing world where a lack of infrastructure makes smaller, human-scale machines essential. Recently, however, Brandis’s thinking has taken an interesting, inward turn. In 2009, after an awards ceremony at Stanford, he met a man named Tim Wills, who’d founded the non-profit Foothills Connect, a “rural technology” initiative that worked to link North Carolina farmers with high-class chefs in Charlotte. The locavore food movement had created a market for locally, sustainably grown crops, but it wasn’t easy for the restaurants and the small farmers to find one another. More than that, many of the farmers were facing new challenges brought on by climate change. There was less rain, for one thing. They’d grown used to growing only corn, and corn needs a lot of resources. It’s easier for big farms, with giant irrigation and fertilizer systems. But for the smaller landholders, “Monsanto has left them behind,” Jock says.

Wills introduced Brandis to Henry Edwards, an 84-year-old man in the North Carolina foothills whose 340-acre farm has been in his family since the eighteenth century. When Edwards started growing corn, “back when the climate cooperated,” as he put it, rains averaged fifty-five inches, which was enough not to require irrigation. Recent droughts had changed all that. Still, the family was holding on.

On Jock’s first visit to the Edwards’ farm, he watched Henry push an antique hand-cultivator through the field to dig a furrow. “I thought, ‘That’s too Africa for words.’” He quickly realized that some of what he’d been doing and learning in other, poorer countries was relevant to people in his backyard.

In consultation with Henry Edwards, the farmer’s son, Duncan (a former Exxon geophysicist who worked closely with Brandis at the farm), and Tim Wills of Foothills Connect, Brandis turned the power of his daydreaming on an Appalachian small-farm. They developed a cluster of ingenious devices: a gravity-powered water pump that sits directly in the bed of a stream and by a seesawing motion generates enough energy to move water 900 feet, also a portable pump apparatus that could be moved from pasture to pasture with the stock and used to fill the drinking troughs, which could themselves be modified into special solar-powered motion-activated basins (Brandis calls them “horse water fountains”) that can detect an animal’s approach, filling and emptying as needed or not, getting rid of the stagnant pools that breed equine diseases like “the strangles.” In the last two years the Edwards clan has started harvesting eight to ten acres of corn again.

On a recent Saturday, I joined about twenty other volunteers at the Full Belly Project’s cerulean-blue shed on Chestnut Street. Brandis was in Cambodia, filming an episode of the documentary series REPLAN-IT. The challenge was to help poor people in Cambodia who don’t have access to sanitation. Brandis and the other crew members were staying in nice hotels in Phnom Penh, and he noticed (as one does occasionally) how much soap was being wasted. He used the bar once or twice, but the maids replaced it every day. Meanwhile the people they’d come to help were dying, some of them, from unsanitary conditions. Full Belly partnered with a Cambodian NGO to start a soap-recycling initiative. The used soap bars are sterilized, used coffee grounds are stirred in as an exfoliant, and the mixture is pressed into new bars. The hotels buy the machines and do the soap-making. In exchange they get to put up little cards in their bathrooms boasting of the fact, providing some valuable green P.R. 

Snooping around the shop, I took in a few of Brandis’s other recent inventions. There were portable sanitation stations to be positioned next to outhouses (empty two-liter soda bottles are suspended upside down around a kind of concrete sink, with a barrel-and-tire contraption to catch used water). There were aflatoxin Peanut-screeners (they look like futuristic versions of those old Fisher Price Viewmasters and use black light to identify infected nuts). And finally, desks designed to fold out into beds for students in typhoon-stricken places, where schools are often the only safe havens to wait out storms. There was also a new design for students in Africa where most children are still forced to sit on classroom floors. The skeleton of the seat and table is built of a single piece of rebar—the pliable metal rods sometimes seen jutting from cracked concrete—folded fifteen times into an origami desk. A high school volunteer came up with it. The surfaces will be made of the “mountains of plastic trash” in places like Nairobi, where the Full Belly Project will soon begin partnering with another NGO already on the ground. Jock envisions paying slum-dwelling children to gather the plastic. He will set up the solar ovens somewhere out in public, a place where locals can gather to watch him melt it into hard sheets, offer their own ideas, and hopefully decide to use the same process to make other materials, like roofing tiles. Scanning all the prototypes, it was obvious that Brandis’s quest to design for the bottom billion was far from complete. It could even be said that he’s just getting underway.

Grabbing a pair of work gloves from a nail by the door, I overheard one high-school-age volunteer, a tall dark-haired kid, ask another what they should do with Jock out of town.

“What we always do,” the other answered. “Get the shop ready for when he’s back.”

Cliff Cash Profile

published in Coast 

Tuning in to satellite radio on a long road trip last year, I spent the late hours listening to short clips of comedians. Almost all of the jokes on the Comedy Central channel were good, but only a few penetrated my highway hypnosis enough to make me laugh out loud. One that I remember started like this: “Let me ask you all a question. Do you feel safe?” It was a man’s voice (possibly) imitating a redneck. “Well, you shouldn’t,” he continued, “You know why? Because that Obama’s gonna take all the guns in the whole world and melt them down to make rings for gay people to get married with.”
As others in the car laughed with me and the comic’s name, Cliff Cash, was announced, my mirth paused. “Wait a second,” I thought, “I know him.” Cliff Cash, owner of Green Coast Recycling, is also a founding member of Friends of the Lower Cape Fear that started the Stop Titan website and ongoing petition to halt the opening of the Carolinas Cement (Titan America) facility here along the Cape Fear River. As a strong community and environmental advocate–winning last year’s North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Pelican Award for his efforts–this local comedian keeps Wilmington engaged, and laughing.
Excited to tell him about hearing his joke on the radio, I met up with Cliff a few months later to talk about the evolution of his career—from losing nearly everything he had when the real estate market collapsed to becoming Port City’s Top Comic.
I was at a low point when I started writing jokes about three years ago. I was down and discouraged and needed a laugh, so I went to a Nutt St.’s open mic night and after that, everything changed. People had said, “You should be a comedian” to me before, but it took seeing other regular people up there doing it to convince me to try. I went back the next week and rattled off an over-written set about chickens having abortions, and it went so well that I was hooked. Timmy Sherrill, co-owner of Nutt St., was a huge part of my growth. He encouraged and helped me make connections. The first two years were mostly me figuring it out, building confidence, and traveling a little. Then in 2013, I started to go for it. I won Port City’s Top Comic, then Comedy Zone’s Almost Famous competition. I made it into the finals of Comedy Central’s Up Next nationwide comic search and was pretty ecstatic about that.
You always hear people say, “Do what you love.” You hear it so much that it feels meaningless. I never tried to do something that I really loved before as a job. I sold cars, then renovated and flipped properties. I started Green Coast Recycling thinking that doing something with meaning and purpose could be as good as doing what I loved, but there really are no substitutes for doing something you truly love. I never knew what that was until I started doing standup. It really made my life better. I’m a much happier person. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I met my fiancé around the same time and she’s really changed my life, too.
I would if the right person was interested and I thought they would do things the right way. The right person could take it to a whole other level. I’d love to do comedy full time. Nothing would make me happier. I’ve done the math on how much I can make on the road and I think I could make it work. The most encouraging things have been other comedians telling me I’d be “crazy not to chase this.” Another thing I realized is that I can get a message to people through comedy in a way that I never could have before. I can speak about things that I believe in and maybe change the way people see it all while making them laugh. If I can reach 100 or 1000 people a night, maybe I could achieve more through comedy than with a recycling company or an environmental initiative. It’s a much bigger and captive audience. They want to laugh, but they also want to be made to think. A good comic can deliver both.

First Date Drinks: What Your Bartender Isn't Telling You

published in Coast


It shouldn’t be a surprise when a guy in a business suit orders an Old-Fashioned. Or when the Marlboro man orders a bourbon, neat, and a beer. Similarly, a man drinking a Cosmopolitan should not be surprised if his masculinity is challenged.
Fraternity brothers sip Scotch at their formals while underage sons of rosycheeked second-marriage grooms, Captain & Coke. Stoners usually go for some non-mainstream beer or an occasional retro cocktail like Vieux Carre, depending on the potency of the evening. Young fashionistas often sip Vespers, Mezcal Mules, or Aviations. Then again, there are times when the stereotypes fail. What can I say to the young woman dressed like the mannequin from a vintage boutique who requests Drambuie, neat? Maybe, when she was a little girl, her grandfather slipped a thimble in her eggnog once before singing carols around the neighborhood? Or maybe she reads Hemingway? With that said, know that what I’m about to write should only be taken as a guidepost. Nothing definitive. To continue is to enter the rainy fog of generality in which everything I’m about to say is false even though, after fifteen years experience mixing drinks, I know that’s exactly the way things are. Confused? Good. Nonetheless, I’ve chosen three commonly ordered cocktails available anywhere spirits are served–the Martini; Gin & Tonic; and the Manhattan–and attempted a mini-psychoanalysis of the person ordering each. If you have a first date on the horizon, take heed, for if the person you are meeting orders one of the following, this is what your bartender is not telling you about the company you keep.
Breeze Elderflower

Martini – The person who orders the clean, shaken-to-ice-shard consistency vodka martini is intense. He may not seem so at first, but there’s a lot of heat under that engine, and this is how he lets off steam, drinking a hard shaken, chilled glass of liquid courage, including: CEOs of major corporations (without a garnish) and actresses (with olives). Retired judges (and servers aft er their shift s) drink gin, stirred with a long slender spoon, garnished with a lemon twist.
Gin & Tonic – This person cares about his health, as “tonic water” was originally introduced as a medicine; its principle ingredient (quinine) is antimalarial, a superb reason for the colonial British in tropical climes to mix in a jigger of gin. Think Doctors Without Borders or just somebody who probably doesn’t spend too much of his life in bars, playing it safe. Next time, tell them if they want to stand out, try adding a bit of Fernet Branca, another medicinal spirit rumored to have remained legal during prohibition.
Manhattan – I find most Manhattan drinkers deliriously complex, especially the ones who are not afraid to return three or four in a row made wrong. For one, they’ll tell you, “Never shake a Manhattan, no, no, no, only stir. Use two ounces of rye whiskey and a full ounce of the best vermouth you have, preferably Carpano Antica,” (hopefully you’ve kept yours in the refrigerator if you don’t go through a bottle every couple of weeks). “And the cherry, don’t even think of putting one of those red #5 Franken-kirshes in my drink. Don’t you have a bottle of nice cherries, like Luxardo, somewhere? What kind of place is this?” Not sure what to order? I often revisit a few core recipes when a woman like my wife simply asks me to “Make something good.” They’re not too sweet, nor too strong. They don’t have a layer of foam, a smoking shard of dry ice, flaming twist, or other theatrical element to throw a delicate social situation out of balance. They’re relatively simple, well-balanced, and most bars should be equipped to make them without a lot of fuss.
Breeze St. GermainElderflower Fizz – My personal take on the St. Germain cocktail (see below), this bright fruit and citrus elixir has universal appeal and is as close to a silver bullet as I’ve found for helping to turn somebody new onto cocktails. 1 oz. your favorite gin ¾ oz. St. Germain ½ oz. fresh lemon 1 oz. fresh grapefruit blueberries splash of champagne Combine all but the champagne over ice in a mixing glass. Shake for thirty seconds and strain into a prechilled glass. Top with champagne fl oat. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit and fresh blueberries.
St. Germain Cocktail – The easy flavor of the elderflower liqueur adds just the right amount of sweet. And at forty proof (20% alcohol), it’s only half as strong as a typical vodka, rum, etc., so you can stay sharper longer. Prefer a little more liquid courage? Ask the bartender to add a jigger of vodka or gin. 1 oz. St. Germain (shaken over ice and strained) Fill rest of flute with a 1:1 champagne:club soda mix lemon peel twist
Lime Rickey (Mocktail) – Prefer not to drink alcohol but also don’t like to feel singled out? The “Rickey” is one of my favorite cocktail templates, yet it may work best without any booze at all. 1 oz. fresh lime juice 1 oz. simple syrup 3-5 dashes Angostura bitters Fill the rest with club soda Garnish with a cherry and twist of lime Mix the lime juice, simple syrup and bitters over ice. Shake for thirty seconds and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Add soda. Garnish with a twist of lime.

Zach Hanner Profile

 published in Focus on the Coast April 2014

Shortly after moving back to North Carolina from off-Broadway performances in New York in 1993, Zach Hanner took a job in a restaurant called Crooks on the River. Downtown was a little grittier then, but with a burgeoning film industry, and by chance he found himself cast as a day-player in “Forrest Gump.” However, at the end of the day, Zach’s part was cut…twice.
Such is the film business, it seems, and though “it was kind of a bummer,” it taught Zach a valuable show business lesson: never get too high or too low about anything. And, while his part was cut, the film still won an Oscar and is still probably playing somewhere in the world every day–a nice consolation prize. I first saw Zach in 2006 when he played the burly Officer Lockstock in “Urinetown” at City Stage, and I became an immediate fan. I didn’t know he already had more than a dozen film and TV credits to his name by then, including roles in “Matlock,” “The Patriot,” and “Big Fish;” but his work ethic and talent came through.
Today, in person, for all the bravado he displays on the screen and stage, Zach seems refreshingly uninterested in his bragging rights. Rather, he seems most alive when talking about his work with local high school kids. As Artistic Director of TheatreNOW, his work includes after-school programs and outreach called Superstar Academy, a non-profit designed to help local kids at low or no cost, and Hanner teaches most of the classes. He also manages a lively dinner-theater roster. On weekends, Hanner hosts a weekly episode of children’s theater.
As Captain Coy T. Plunkett, a riverboat captain, Hanner, who also writes the show, leads the audience through a Scooby-Doo-style mystery designed around lessons about Wilmington. The response to Super Saturday Funtime has been overwhelmingly positive, winning awards in both the Star News and Encore. In April, folks can also look for his adaptation of Celia Rivenbark’s “Rude Bitches Make Me Tired,” with four local actors—Belinda Keller, Kathy Rudeseal, Melissa Stanley and Jordan Mullaney— star in a multi-media show a bit like the news segments on SNL. When I stopped in to see Zach on a Wednesday evening in early March, he was getting set to host a comedy open mic with a panel of celebrity judges. They weren’t serving dinner this particular evening, but the bar was open, and despite the cold and rain, there was a good crowd for a Wednesday.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Intensive preparation. A simple stretching routine and vocal warm-up, but the real work is done long before it’s time to perform. I’ll go over lines for hours until they occur from muscle memory. Once that work is done, you can add all the little character touches and start to become that person.

What have been some of your favorites?

Film-wise, I really enjoyed working on the b-horror, low-budget hip-hop-zombie-bank-heist flick “Dead Heist.” I played a bank manager who gets terrorized by a gang of robbers and then killed by zombies only to come back as a zombie and be killed again! On stage, it was playing country legend Hank Williams in “Lost Highway.” It resonated with me as a musician and actor raised on country music on Pilot Mountain [in North Carolina]. It took some time to climb back out of that one once the curtain closed on it.

Is there anything you can tell us about what’s going on in the film industry at the moment?

I would like to see the tax incentives remain and not end as scheduled at the close of 2014. The opponents cry “Hollywood Welfare” and “they bring in all their crews from LA” and other falsehoods to bolster their case, but they don’t understand the amazing effect the business has on [local] tourism. Tons of people come to see where “The Hunger Games” and “Iron Man 3” were shot and support local businesses. I would hate to see us give those dollars, as well as the hundreds of millions brought in by the productions, to our neighboring states, but we need incentives to make that happen.

Essentials for 'How to Make Your Home Bar'

Originally published in Focus on the Coast, March 2014


When, in 1806 a newspaper editor in Hudson, New York was asked the question, “What is a cocktail?” He responded with: “Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head.”
zDSC_2335 copy
It starts with just a couple of bottles, or maybe an old shaker––better yet, a suitcase-set with a few cocktailmaking tools and tumblers, and slowly, over time, you begin to collect the beginnings of a home bar. A couple of cool glasses follow, then some coasters, maybe even a tiki umbrella or two. Cocktail ephemera are magnetic and tend to accumulate. Before long, you’ve had enough visitors to your home who have seen your collection that you have no choice but to host the cocktail party you’ve been secretly planning in your subconscious for months. Don’t worry; you don’t need to wear a smoking jacket in order to mix up a round of Old Fashioneds.
Playing Hugh Hefner is actually much easier than you might think. After sixteen years tending bar, I still feel like the hardest part of making drinks is not the actual mechanical process, but rather the stress of having to do so quickly, often with a backlog of faces straining for your attention. With that in mind, there’s no need to panic if you keep your numbers reasonable. And, in most cases, most people can tend to themselves with a few basic mixers set out for them. If you are the least bit wary someone might open up the old Mr. Boston or Playboy cocktail guides, then you’ll need to make sure you pick up a few key auxiliary things––like bitters and vermouth––for them to try their hand at many of the recipes inside. So, plan ahead, because many of the items require special ordering. Starting out, I would begin by searching online for Fee Bros. Old Fashioned bitters, Gary Regan’s Orange bitters, and a small bottle of Luxardo cherries. Add anything else that seems interesting to which your budget allows, as bitters never spoil and many have medicinal qualities. You’ll also need to make a trip to a local supermarket for small bottles of both sweet and dry vermouth, queen olives (stuffed with whatever’s your pleasure), an array of citrus (lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges) and Angostura bitters. Oh, and don’t forget some extra ice.
zDSC_2063 copy copyIngredients aside, let’s talk tools. Apart from a shaker, the second most important tool is a jigger. Even though I’ve made countless Manhattans, I still measure each one. While a jigger may sound sexy, it’s really just a small silver measuring cup, however, any old shot glass will do in a pinch. The jigger is essential because a well-made cocktail depends on a precarious balance of elements. When all of the different elements hit the taste buds in all the right places at just the right time, a cocktail rises above the sum of its parts, but in order to benefit from the mixological refinements of the past century, you have to use a jigger.
Other required tools are a citrus press––any small, hand squeezer will do–as well as a long slender spoon, ice scoop, and bucket. Speed pourers are also a good idea, along with beverage napkins, swizzle sticks, and garnish skewers. Oh, and don’t forget a muddler. Then, of course, there’s the booze. My advice to the lonely traveler among the liquor aisle: Keep it simple. All the flavored spirits out there, like the pear vodkas and maple syrup bourbons, I’d leave them alone for the time being and start with mid-level basics: vodka, gin, rum, whiskey.
Essential cordials should come next, like Cointreau, St. Germaine, and Chambord. Start with a few favorite cocktails in mind, make a list, and buy accordingly. As for price, concocting a good mixed drink depends on quality, but that doesn’t mean the most expensive. A person who orders a Bay Breeze made with Grey Goose could easily save $10- 20 with either Tito’s or Sobieski, respectively, and I’d challenge them to tell the difference after adding cranberry and pineapple juice. Then again, a clean vodka martini is a totally different story, and Grey Goose may be the way to go. In the end, trust your instincts, and if you’re not sure, ask your bartender to let you sample a few of their favorites, like my favorite drink of the moment, The Staff Pick from manna. Prefer to make a large batch of something delicious in advance? Try a Cherry Moonshine Punch.
2 oz. Templeton Rye
1 oz. Carpona Antica
Dash of Old Fashioned bitters
Stir the above together over ice for
20-30 seconds. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a marasca cherry.
1 bottle Jr. Johnson’s Cherry Moonshine
1 can frozen lemonade
2 liter bottle of club soda
2 bottles of sparkling apple cider
2 lemons
3 oranges
Thinly slice fresh lemons and oranges
and place in a large punch bowl. Pour
in cherry moonshine (including the
cherries from the bottle) and the thawed
lemonade. Gently stir in the club soda
and the sparkling apple cider. Add sugar
to taste if necessary. Finish with ice.

Among Psychics and Thieves

Earlier this year I began a new bi-monthly fiction column for Encore, Wilmington's alternative weekly. Thanks for checking out the most recent installment below.

We’ve had quite a few spiritualist set up camp in the corner of the bar over the years, and no matter how mundane their presence has become—spreading their table-tents throughout the dining room—I’m always intrigued by the confidence these women (why are they always women?) radiate.

“Psychic Readings by Patricia” written in a sleek font on a white isosceles triangle with $20 on the back. Tarot Tonight! $10, handwritten on colored construction paper below a stamped-out star.
Ask the ‘Whispering Angels,’ in purple flowery writing on a pink and light gray card, $15.

I imagine ancient people once making pilgrimages to these women on some craggy mountain peak or jungle lair, seeking guidance from the oracle to determine the fate of nations. It’s fun to think that maybe I have been hanging out with the modern reincarnation of Pythia every Wednesday night who, in this life, has been forced to take on a more conventional role as mother, chit-chatting about psychic hotline contracts, or her daughter’s boyfriends to a lowly barkeep.

“Okay, here we go…the Queen of Cups,” Patricia said as she dealt the tarot cards chosen by her newest subject—a young woman in a business suit—and flipped another. “Uh oh, the Devil. Don’t worry, this mean-looking guy isn’t really as bad as he seems. Think of him as nothing but a manifestation of negative energy, and that could mean a lot of things, all of which aren’t that bad. Oh, look, wow…look at this! Because it follows the Queen of Cups, which represents a huge abundance of positivity, it looks like whatever negativity you are met with—maybe something of yours will be stolen or you might have an important meeting with someone who is in a really bad mood—you’ll be so wrapped up in a thick blanket of good energy that you shouldn’t have too much trouble overriding him. You might even be able to turn some frowns…upside down.”

I stopped eavesdropping as two girls came in, looking around nervously, as if unsure they wanted to stay.

“Hello ladies,” I said, “How are you tonight?”

“We good,” the taller of the two replied, still scanning the room.

“Dinner for two?” I asked.

Eyeing up two stools with easy access to overhear the reading, they each took a seat.

“Got any Alize?” one asked.

Sort of an unusual request these days, but I was happy someone had been thinking ahead to this potential moment when they bought the lone bottle hidden behind the cognacs. “How would you like it?

“With some tonic,” she said.

“Coming right up,” I said, losing myself in the method: choosing an appropriate glass, filling it with ice, pouring in the blue booze, topping it off with quinine, dropping a cocktail napkin, putting in a couple of swizzle sticks, and placing it before her.

Turning to the other girl, I asked what she would like. Caught up in the bizarre spectacle of the psychic, she seemed surprised by the question.

The taller girl jabbed her shoulder and she sprang alert. “Huh, oh. No, nothin’.”

“What’s your name?” the taller girl asked me. “I think I saw you somewhere else. You ever been on TV or somethin’?”

I fell for it. “No, but thank you very much,” I said, trying to conceal my blush before going back to rearranging things at my station.

A short time later, I noticed that the newcomer had barely touched her drink.

“Is your cocktail okay?” I asked, thinking the combination odd from the start.

“Nah, I don’t know what it is,” she said, her smile turning into distaste. “Somethin’ don’t taste right. I don’t know what it is….”

Taking it off the bar, I held it up to a candle. It looked exactly the way I imagined Alize and tonic would look. Going back over to examine the bottle, I poured a little over ice and drank it straight. My nose winced at the sweet, orange flavor.

“Would you like to try something else? I think this stuff is supposed to be served extremely cold…or maybe it’s the tonic?” I dumped the glass into the sink below the bar, waiting for her verdict.

“Nah, we’re just gonna go,” she said. “How much was that drink?”

“Eight dollars.”

“Sheee-it! Nah, we best be heading out. But thanks anyway, baby.” Leaving a dollar on the bar, they walked out laughing back and forth, and smiling.

Five minutes or so later, the psychic finished up, smiling happily to see that her new customer was pleased.

“Thank you very much,” the young woman said, reaching around to the back of her chair for her purse. “I just have to say, wow! How did you know all that? I am truly amazed.” Then as an afterthought, she asked, “How much is it?”

“Fifteen dollars,” Patricia said, smiling. “I don’t know if you are interested, but here, take my card, and if you think you might be interested in having a private party, I do whoever is hosting the party for free. The rest pay $50 for a full half hour reading.”

“Thanks,” the girl replied, rummaging through her purse.

Thirty second later, the truth set in.

“For some reason, all of the cash is gone…and my credit cards!”

Stunned, Patricia asked, “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I know I had plenty of money when I got here because I just went to the ATM!”

They both looked at me desperately.

Where were your “whispering angels” on that one? I mumbled under my breath as I ran outside to an empty sidewalk. When I came back inside, shaking my head, the girl looked ready to cry. My stomach felt like it had been hollowed out with a drill.

“Oh, that’s so awful,” Patricia said. “Here, take this, my number and address are on the card. Just send me a check.”

National Margarita Day - Saturday 2/22

The first thing you should do on February 22 is buy limes, lots of them. Then invite over all of your friends.

I'm thankful that National Margarita Day falls on a Saturday this year. What better way to pay tribute to the juice of the agave than a get-together with the people you love (without having to convince them to skip work).

To avoid showing up empty handed to a margarita party, here are a few basics. The classic margarita is 100% blue agave tequila, fresh lime and sugar. But from this steady foundation, countless variations exist, so don't be afraid to flex your creativity.

Need some starting points, try these, provided by the kind people at Avión:

elevated margarita on whiteElevated Margarita
2 parts Avión Silver or Reposado
1 part Fresh Lime Juice
1/2  part Agave Nectar

Combine ingredients in shaker with ice, and shake vigorously.  Fine strain over fresh ice.  Garnish with a lime wheel.

Blood Orange MargaritaBlood Orange Margarita
1 1/2 parts Tequila Avión
3/4  part Cointreau Orange Liqueur
1 part Blood Orange Juice
1/2  part Fresh Sour Mix           

In a cocktail shaker add all ingredients with ice.  Shake and strain; best served over fresh ice and garnish with an orange twist.

Rita-Rioja-2Rita Rioja
1 1/2 oz. Tequila Avión Reposado
3/4 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
3/4 oz. Simple Syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
Fresh Red Pepper

Muddle a fresh red pepper and a few leaves of cilantro in a cocktail shaker. Add Tequila Avión Reposado, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. Fill cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a salt rimmed cocktail glass.

Devil Anse Cocktail

Ian Murray of manna
The Cocktail

Bartender Ian Murray's cocktail tribute to "Devil Anse" Hatfield (patriarch during the famous Hatfield & McCoy feud along the Kentucky/West Virginia border) melds just the right amount of strong and spice.

2 oz. cinnamon-infused Trey Herring bourbon
2 oz. organic apple cider
1/2 oz. fresh lemon
4 drops Jerry Thomas bitters

To make, combine the above ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and stir with the barrel of a recently fired pistol for 30 seconds. Strain over a large ice cube. Garnish with fresh apple and cherry.

If I were making one at home I might add a half ounce of grade B maple syrup (making it a "Preacher Anse") for someone who takes their drink a little sweeter; but either way, this innovative tipple often leads to interesting conversations about bootleggers and moonshine.

The Killer
Devil Anse Hatfield

Born William Anderson Hatfield in 1839, "Devil Anse" was a nickname of mysterious origins. Some speculate that his rival, Randolph McCoy (who lost five sons over the thirty year fight) gave it to him. Others felt the name had been earned during the Civil War when Hatfield, a Southern sympathizer, rode strong enough to take on the devil himself. It's also possible he was just a rowdy boy, whose elders bestowed the moniker to contrast his more even-tempered cousin, "Preacher Anse."

Whatever the case, he supposedly carried a rifle with him wherever he went and remained a crack shot until the end.

A life-size statue above Hatfield's grave.