March/April 2009 Issue
Even Warren Buffett lost money.
VERVE decided to write about money long before the economy went into a tailspin. And for proof that it has truly been in freefall, look no further than billionaire Warren Buffett’s annual letter to investors, released in late February, explaining why his company, Berkshire Hathaway, reported a 62 percent drop in net income in 2008.
Sometime last year, before the pandemonium set in, we sketched out some broad topics we thought Western North Carolina women would find irresistible—like love, money, adventure and food. We tackled love in the January/February issue, and in this issue, money. The issue would have been poorly timed if, like most national media, we were offering stories full of anxious hand wringing about the sorry state of the economy. But we’re not.
by Linda C. Ray
photos by Rebecca D’Angelo
Emily Muscarella’s life is basically about energy flow. As a chiropractor, she helps her clients keep energy flowing smoothly through their bodies. As a West African dancer, performing with an Asheville group called Chix with Stix, she concentrates on energy flow through her own body, too. “It’s about movement,” she says. “A healthy spine to me is moving all the time.”
by Jess Clark / photos by Stewart O'Shields
In a stark, cavernous dance studio, eight women twist and wiggle across the floor, alternately facing a wall of mirrors and then large windows that survey the nighttime silence of Roberts Street in Asheville. Urging them on is an insistent, upbeat Latin piano-and-brass tune with rhythms that move the women’s feet as though they were hopping on hot sand. No, it’s not an art experiment or an aerobics class, but it certainly seems to get everyone’s blood pumping. This is a rehearsal for Dulcinea, one of the area’s only all-women Latin dance groups
by Jess McCuan
All great journalism careers should start with a good story. Cathy Mitchell’s began at age 24 at a pay phone in the middle of nowhere. She had been turned down for jobs by both The Washington Post and The New York Times, and she was standing next to a four-lane highway in Leesburg, Florida, talking to the editor of the town’s small paper, the Leesburg Daily Commercial.
“I said—‘Hi, my name’s Cathy Mitchell. I have a master’s degree from Stanford in journalism.’ That’s as far as I got,” she recalls. “He screamed—‘You’re hired!’”
by Janet Hurley
As executive director of the Asheville nonprofit RiverLink, Karen Cragnolin’s energy and vision have been a constant current for 20 years, even when many believed the French Broad River area could not be revitalized. Like the river, Cragnolin has always found ways to flow around obstacles. With help from her board and volunteers, she’s created pools of funding and collaboration to improve the river’s health and to develop the Wilma Dykeman Riverway, a 17-mile greenway that provides spaces where people live, work and play. Few who visit these spaces understand the depth of the RiverLink organization, which is located in an old brick building next to the railroad tracks in the River Arts District. From education to advocacy, RiverLink’s staff of four (plus two AmeriCorps volunteers) works with more than 300 volunteers to connect thousands to the river through summer camps, bus tours, river clean-ups and art contests.
Originally from Boston, Cragnolin started her career as a tax lawyer in New York. After she married Bob Cragnolin, an export executive with General Electric (now retired), they moved often, crossing the Atlantic several times. (Their daughter Nikki was born in Greece.) “We would arrive some place and I’d try to figure out how to get involved,” Cragnolin says. In Washington, she used her Middle East travel experience to help establish the American Arab Affairs Council. In the new free-trade zone of Dubai, where the Cragnolins landed in 1978, she helped develop the first licensed U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the Middle East. “Then,” she says laughing, “in 1986, we got transferred to Hendersonville, NC.”
By Laura Miklowitz
When some people think of used clothing, images of trash bags and mismatched hangers dance in their heads. But consignment stores are often more akin to boutiques than thrift stores, with attractive displays of eclectic (and sometimes brand new) items that can be purchased at lower prices, but not necessarily cheaply. In our neck of the fashion woods, Constance Consignment and Hip Replacements style themselves after high-end big-city specialty shops. Elite Repeats and Clothes Encounters are the go-to spots for wedding and prom garb. Rags Reborn Eco Chic Boutique has a strong focus on handmade items. Each store has a definitive slant.
Everyone loves a bargain, but it’s not just the savings we seek. With consignment shopping, it’s the thrill of the hunt. You can find anything from perfectly faded jeans to the perfect little black dress to your wedding gown and maternity wear. In an ultimate act of recycling, some savvy shoppers buy, wear and sell back clothing seasonally.
by Phaedra A. Call
It’s no wonder designers who make lingerie by hand are hard to find. After all, why go through the hassle and potential embarrassment of a personal fitting with a designer when you can just swing by Victoria’s Secret? (Or choose the low-budget, no-frills option, a six-pack of Hanes at Target?) For many women, convenience is key. But for plenty of others, the mass-produced, machine-cut female undergarment simply doesn’t fit.
by Maureen Healy
I had trouble thinking of them as troubled. As a children’s therapist, I worked in an inner-city clinic in Queens, New York, where I saw all sorts of misdiagnosed and mismanaged children. They were between three and 12 and had a range of problems, mostly stemming from loss, trauma and abuse. Many of them were born in faraway places. So many were the product of their miserable environments, with so many strikes against them. My heart yearned to see them in a wide-open space.
Being connected to a Tibetan Buddhist
by Jess McCuan . photos by Brent Fleury
Elynn Bernstein thinks of it as her New York loft in a vinyl box. Only the box—a 1,300-square-foot space in which nearly every inch is painted in bright colors and decorated with art objects she’s collected over the years—happens to be surrounded by 42 pristine, partially wooded acres ten miles outside of Hendersonville. The “vinyl box,” barn and grounds, once the site of a commercial nursery, is also home to three cats, four goats, 11 chickens, three sheep, four parrots, seven geese, two crested ducks and a partridge in a pear tree. Okay, so the partridge is actually an “attack turkey” named Martin who struts protectively around the property. But there’s something positively fairy tale-like about Bernstein’s home, named the Elfin Woods—a naturalist’s term for small trees that grow miraculously in poor soil above the tree line. The sight of geese and sheep ambling about on such picturesque high-mountain acreage makes you want to fling your arms open and reenact a scene from The Sound of Music. Though she lives at Elfin Woods with her partner Ron Schweitz, the vision for such a whimsical place came mostly from Bernstein, a 56-year-old painter and fiber artist who grew up near New York City and whose artwork, like her home, can be a bit surreal.