Something about North Carolina

Posted in Uncategorized by Sean Holton on September 25, 2009
Handmade quilt by Patty Huff
Handmade quilt by Patty Huff

What is in the drinking water of North Carolina? Whatever it is, it gives women from that state the ability to make extremely creative get-well presents.

The handmade quilt above was crafted just for me and my brain tumor by my friend Patty Huff, who was born and raised in North Carolina and now lives in Charleston, S.C. It also contains a subtle reference to the name of this blog. And I think I just now noticed something that looks like some kind of Shroud-Of- Turin/Eye-Of-Crazy-Ass combo image just to the left of the center of it. But that might just be a reflection from the camera flash. Or maybe not. Patty? Did you do that on purpose? The dimensions of the quilt are 36″ x 36″. I’ll leave the rest of the oohing and aahing about stuff like color selection, composition and dynamic flow to readers. Enjoy.

Anyway, Patty is an artist who can dash off a quilt of this caliber almost as if it were just a Post-It-Note. When she gave this one to me, she told me just to use it as a “footwarmer.” But I said ‘Hell, no. That’s a piece of art that’s going to be hung on my wall.’ So that’s where it is — right in the middle of the main wall in my living room. (The whole experience was like having someone like Jackson Pollock knock on your door to ask if your house needed repainting.)

Patty handcrafts things like dolls and decorations and other stuff you might see on the HGTV channel. But Patty has her own channel — it’s called The Patty Channel and it kicks HGTV’s butt. The big problem is that the only people who are allowed to subscribe to the Patty Channel are her family and friends, and it doesn’t come in over your TV set, even if you have expanded cable. You can only view it in person. I keep trying to convince Patty to get a website and sell the quilts she makes, but she won’t do it.  I don’t think she’s ever sold anything she’s made. So between that and the limited distribution of the Patty Channel, she obviously has some marketing issues to deal with.

Patty is married to my friend John Huff, a brilliant journalist and editor and Duke University (there’s North Carolina again) graduate who taught me pretty much everything I know about how top-notch newspaper projects are conceived, reported, written and put together for publication. Unfortunately, those skills are not as relevant in the marketplace as they once were. I first worked for John in 1987 at the Orlando Sentinel, and so we’ve been friends and beer-drinking-and-golf buddies for 22 years. 

Kelly, Brenny, Neely and Johnny

Kelly, Brenny, Neely and Johnny

They’ve got four great kids — Kelly, Brenny, Neely and Johnny — who I watched grow from ‘throw-em-off-the-diving-board’ sized midgets to beautiful, full-fledged adults. When they lived in Florida, I used to go over to their house all the time and barbecue chicken KC-style. The Huffs also had lots of cats, ferrets, rabbits, gerbils and other critters around the house, including one of Brenny’s guinea pigs, which bit me on the thumb once while I was trying to get two (more) Budweisers out of the refrigerator for me and John.

Me driving, Chopper & Kaley in sidecar

Me driving, Chopper & Kaley in sidecar

I chose the North Carolina connection for the headline of this post, but just as easily could have titled it — “Cool People You Meet Because You Worked At A Newspaper.” The personalized get-well cards at left featuring me and my Jack Russell terriers Chopper and Kaley were designed and hand-drawn for me by my friend Santa Bogdon, another native North Carolinian whom I met while she was the art director for the Orlando Sentinel’s Sunday magazine back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. (Newspapers don’t have Sunday magazines anymore).

Chopper (wearing board shorts) soaks up rays with Kaley (in skirt and bikini top)

Chopper (wearing board shorts) soaks up rays with Kaley (in skirt and daring, two-cup-only bikini top)

Anyway, Santa now has her own successful graphic-design business in Orlando and you can see lots of other great stuff she does at HER website (See how easy that is, Patty?).

Before I met her or even knew she existed, Santa was a designer at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Mo. Here’s a weird twist: After Santa and I got to know each other in Orlando, we compared notes and discovered that we had lived in Kansas City during the very same years, just a block or two away from each other in the Westport area. It was when she was a North Carolina expatriate cranking out Shoebox Greetings cards at Hallmark and I was a hometown boy cranking out crime, fire and sewer-board stories as a reporter at the KC Star. We never crossed paths in Kansas City.

Santa’s husband is Gary Bogdon, the Sentinel photographer I mentioned in an earlier post as the guy I tormented on the Old People project but who now is a freelancer who does stuff like shoot cover photography for publications like Sports Illustrated magazine. You can see lots of his astounding work at (Patty, are you still reading? Santa designed Gary’s website, and maybe she could design your website too.) Gary is a very hilarious man. If my memory serves me correctly, he won Santa’s heart and her eventual hand in marriage at a by-now-long-forgotten Sentinel party one night many, many years ago by sprawling out on the carpet and doing a one-man, theatrical interpretation of what it’s like to be a piece of bacon frying in a hot skillet. 

Alex, Santa and Marley

Alex, Santa and Marlie

So one thing led to another. That’s how life happens.  And now Santa and Gary have two boys — Alex and Marlie. Alex is in high school and is already a better writer than lots of people I knew in the newspaper business.  Marlie is a few years younger and rambunctious the way kids used to be back when I was a low-tech kid. The last time I was over at Santa and Gary’s house, it was a beautiful afternoon and there were no TVs or video games or Guitar Hero kinds of things going on inside. Instead, Marlie was running around outside with a wild pack of other kids from the neighborhood. He had an Army helmet on and was carrying a stick. He was in the midst of climbing trees and building a mud castle in the back yard. He came indoors only to ask Gary breathlessly (but still very respectfully) if he could borrow some matches in order to set something on fire, so as to bring some still-imaginary element of the Tree-Climbing-Army-Mud-Castle game to its denouement in all of its physical, non-imaginary, file-your-insurance-claim-right-now glory. Gary, stepping up to the plate to make what was later nominated for Best No-Brainer Parental Command Decision Of The Year, said: “No, Marlie. No matches.”

Even though I kept my mouth shut, I was pulling for Marlie. He made me remember what it was like to be just a kid having fun.


9 Responses

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  1. ludden said, on September 25, 2009 at 10:42 am

    quilt will do you serious good
    go ahead and use it
    patty made me one… i said…it’s too perfect to touch
    years later… still perfectly preserved
    missed opportunity

  2. RebelliousRenee said, on September 25, 2009 at 11:05 am

    that quilt is stunningly beautiful…. Patty’s color sense is right on…

    but I’m coming to her defense…. selling crafts to strangers is vastly different than just making stuff for loved ones. One must be driven enough with a deep seated NEED to produce said products. You know I weave and sell. I do it because I MUST. Here in New Hampshire…. my motto is…. live to weave or die.

    And I’ve never met one professional craftsperson that has sold much of anything through a website. People really need to see and touch craft work before buying. Every crafter I know who has one does it to show a small sample of their work to people who have already bought from them. It rarely attracts new buyers. To be successful at selling crafts one really needs to do fairs and have their work in galleries.

    oh yeah…. there are 2 areas in this country that are well noted for their craftsmen…. North Carolina and New Hampshire…. Patty and I have it covered…. :0)

  3. RebelliousRenee said, on September 25, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I forgot to tell you that the craft business took a huge hit with the attacks on New York 8 years ago. And with the current recession it’s bleeding even further. I will survive because Rick makes good money… we have no children or mortgage…. and the money I make is mine to play with. If Patty actually needs to make money…. I wouldn’t suggest to her to go into the craft business any more than I’d suggest she go into the newspaper business.

    Hey sweetie…. you have a good rest of the day!

  4. Flatus said, on September 25, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Lard, I guess Patty will just have to make one more for your feet 🙂

  5. scott said, on September 25, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I just made the patty quilt the wallpaper on my ancient PC!
    Sean I read your blog every day and look forward to it. must stop by one day on my way to Publix. Need anything?

  6. Ann Hellmuth said, on September 25, 2009 at 5:15 pm


    What a lovely tribute to some very special people. I would say however that you can make it in the craft business but the demands are 24/7 and you need the web to get your name out there and establish contacts.

  7. Jamie said, on September 25, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Once I recovered my eyesight …. that is one glorious piece of artwork. It is a shame she doesn’t sell them. Maybe you could introduce her to Reb Renee who weaves. The rest of the column was a tour de force and you are certainly fortunately in your friends. I do wonder what Marlie would have done with the matches.

  8. Chop-line said, on September 25, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Holt-line, you managed to paint a very accurate portrait of the entire family in about 4 paragraphs. I know you are tired, but your spot-on observations and brilliant writing skills are extra keen these days. Thanks for such funny portrait of our odd little tribe.

    Watch the mail for your next Chopper and Kaley card — it’s already in the works.

    And just to update Jamie, Marlie’s focus has shifted from matches to football. Not only do you get to tackle people, when it rains, you get to tackle people and roll around in the mud. For Marlie, this is even better than matches.

    By the way, I immediately saw your Shroud of Turin reference when I looked at that lovely quilt. I like to think it is a sign. Keep the finish line in sight my friend. You are almost there.

  9. Neely said, on October 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Mom certainly can make a good looking quilt…
    I really enjoy reading your blogs Sean, and now I am craving some Sean-style barbecue chicken!

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