Highmark Brewery Whurk Article

When great friends make great beer, good times are in store. That’s what this group of lifelong buddies is learning as they cut their teeth on a new business venture.

Tucked away in a Kings Highway strip off of Route 3 East is Stafford County’s newest corner of craft beer heaven: Highmark Brewery. Opened in early February, this 3,500 square-foot facility offers a brewery and tasting room, plus plenty of beer garden-style seating outdoors with an adjacent field. It was a cool Sunday afternoon when I made the trip to meet two of its co-owners, Chuck Rau and Brandon Newton. When I arrived, couples were lounging on wooden furniture outside, sunbathing as they enjoyed tasting flights. An open garage door near the bar allowed the interior to bathe in natural light and let in a soft breeze. I sat at a table, took in the relaxing, casual ambiance, and sipped on a Lone Wolf IPA, a pale ale with a spicy kick. It was one of Highmark’s six core offerings on tap, the rest being Freshwater Blonde, Blueberry Blonde, Blue Stone Kolsch, Highmark IPA, and River Rock Stout. Tasting notes from the bunch included common elements like citrus and hops, but also more notable ones like blueberry, chocolate, and ginger.

If you feel a laid-back, friendly atmosphere when you enter Highmark, it’s because that approach is at the core of the brewery’s existence. All of the owners and operators here are childhood friends and family from Fredericksburg. “We went to high school together, played baseball together,” Newton said. In fact, you could call Highmark a product of their artist collective. In addition to Rau and Newton, there are two other co-owners: Mark Thorsted, the tastemaker of the bunch, and Brad Birack, who covers logistics. Newton went on, “Mark started brewing some really good beer, it was his little home project. We all started brainstorming about getting a space and doing it larger scale.”

The design of the place is a minimalist’s dream. Newton, who is well-regarded for his oil paintings of local cityscapes and pastoral scenes, partnered with his wife to create the artwork and lettering adorning the interior. Across a prominent wall, the words “In pursuit of happiness” loom large, a motto that perfectly captures this communal space. On an opposite wall is the brewery’s logo, punctuated by two large stars, a staple of any self-respecting venue this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Between the inviting openness of the room and the blending of indoor and outdoor seating, there’s a low-key charm that’s often missing from your average bar. “We have freedom here to do what others sometimes can’t because they’re in downtown Fredericksburg,” said Rau. “I think we have some good space that we’re hoping to activate and have some fun.”

Brandon Newton

As for the location, Newton explained that they were looking for quite a while before settling on their Kings Highway digs. Things may look unassuming at the moment, but they have their eyes on future growth. With easy access from Route 3, ample parking, and relatively few neighbors, they anticipate collaborations with local artists, live music, food trucks, and potentially even an outdoor music festival. They already have their first concert under their belt as fellow Fredericksburg-native musician, Jay Starling of Love Canon, performed at their grand opening. Newton and Rau see it as their mission to push the Highmark brand beyond just the brewing business. After all, in the spirit of their familial atmosphere, all are welcome through their doors.

That ethos does bring up an interesting dilemma, however. Highmark is joining the ranks of a handful of microbreweries that have popped up around the greater Fredericksburg region in the last few years. As a new arrival, I wondered how they planned to establish a place within the already crowded local scene; I spied two crew members from Adventure Brewing Company, another popular brewery in Stafford, sitting at a nearby table. Nevertheless, Newton saw nothing to be alarmed about, saying, “They’ve been fast friends. We’ve needed help and they’ve offered advice when we needed it. Yeah, we’ve been really surprised to how welcoming they’ve been and it’s great. I feel like we have that ‘further together’ thing going with it.” He and Rau even went on to cite their friendship with Strangeways Brewing, a notable Richmond brewery expanding to Fredericksburg in the near future. It’s clear that the spirit among the local brewing community has been one of teamwork rather than cutthroat competition.

Even in its infancy, Highmark has been bustling. I was pleasantly surprised to see the high turnout during my visit, especially since Rau and Newton mentioned they had mostly been bringing in customers by word-of-mouth. The couple sitting at the next table over from me, both Fredericksburg locals and frequent patrons of other local breweries, Steve and Holly, decided to try out Highmark on a friend’s recommendation and were enjoying the offerings. When asked if they considered themselves craft beer enthusiasts, both having ordered a flight of all six beers on tap, Holly said, “I’m not a beer drinker and I love it.” To that, Steve retorted with a laugh, “I am a beer drinker and I love it.” If you can please both the novice and aficionado at the same time, you must be doing something right.

Highmark Brewery (390 Kings Hwy, Unit 107, Fredericksburg) will host a St. Patrick’s Day party on Friday, March 17 featuring live music, games, and food. Festivities start at 4 PM. Learn more at highmarkbrewery.com.

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Tales of the “Unemployable”: Being a Philosophy Major in our Career-centric Climate


“You won’t get a job with a major like that,” is something that senior philosophy major Briana Hutter has heard often during her four years at the University of Mary Washington. Hutter finds herself having to explain her choice in major a lot, but she doesn’t let it get to her.


There are many misconceptions surrounding her field in particular, like the most common assumption that students in the major can only aspire to be “teachers…or unemployed…or baristas,” said Hutter.


Though Hutter isn’t the only one trying to correct the general opinion on studying philosophy in college.


In fact, new research has come out recently disputing the prevalent “unemployment” conception. Last week, the publication PR Web published an article citing numerous findings by researchers debunking popular myths about the discipline.


One in particular was a recent study conducted by The Federal Reserve Bank of New York showing that in 2015 only five percent of philosophy majors were unemployed six months after graduation.


Another article, published the same week by Bloomberg claimed that philosophy majors were actually seeing their incomes increasing. “Beyond those with special technical skills, philosophy and public policy majors have also seen their earnings rise,” said Austin Weinstein, author of the article.


These findings show that the job market for philosophy majors could be much more open and receptive to this group of young thinkers than most would assume.


Hutter is one of many students rebelling against more practical considerations about choosing a “moneymaking” degree over a major they actually enjoy. Some would even go as far as to call these majors “useless”, which is something Hutter would adamantly disagree with.


But she admits that it wasn’t always a popular decision, especially when telling her parents during her first year at school.


“They initially were concerned that I wasn’t going to be a basic business major, but after, they realized it doesn’t matter what you major in. It just matters that you get that diploma. I would have a better time in college majoring in something I enjoyed studying,” said Hutter.


She’s still right about the enjoying herself part of that decision. Not many people get the opportunity to spend their days in pursuit of enlightened thought. This semester she’s decided to take a direct focus on the philosophy of western religion. Hutter spends her mornings discussing The Bible for her “Christian Beginnings” class and then she’s off to muse over “Death & Dying in Early Christianity”. When she’s not in class, Hutter is in the Simpson Library working on her thesis paper. In which, she discusses the cyclical universe, religious pluralism and nihilism.


Another obvious proponent of this academic course of study is UMW’s department chair, Craig Vasey, who had much to say about the negative discourse on the study of philosophy.


“It is a complete misconception. We had a career panel three weeks ago and two recent graduates (working as a technical writer/ consultant for Booze Allen and as Financial Director of the Kennedy School for Ethics at Georgetown) both told us that it is precisely their skills from philosophy that make them successful. They both credited their training in logic, and their ability to do research, to write well, and to think critically,” said Vasey.


“Paino was a philosophy major, by the way,” Vasey added, referring to the current president at the University of Mary Washington, Dr. Troy Paino.


Vasey might be right about the changing times, as more and more news publications have been buzzing over the resurgence of interest in philosophy.


A recent Forbes article entitled, “A Case For Majoring In Philosophy” spoke on the change in rhetoric surrounding the major. The Forbes contributor who wrote the article, Travis Chamberlain, was a proud philosophy major himself and even earned his Ph.D. in the subject. He wrote on the increasing interest in studying philosophy.


Chamberlain names another article in The Atlantic called, “The Earning Power of Philosophy Majors”, arguing that philosophy may be a good way to go in terms of real world benefits. The Atlantic article includes an impressive roster of very successful philosophy majors, including well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Peter Thiel.


But another philosophy major, Charlotte Ciobanu, believes that the field may be in jeopardy.


Ciobanu recently graduated from the University of California, Riverside with her BA in philosophy and is currently pursuing her Master’s in the discipline at the San Francisco State University. She currently teaches introductory undergraduate philosophy classes at her university.


She worries that, with the rampant misunderstandings about philosophy, departmental numbers could dwindle.


“It’s strange but much of the focus in academia has shifted to applied, practical knowledge–engineering, computer science, applied sciences. Philosophy explores the theoretical side of things. Philosophy of mathematics, of language, of science, all of these sub fields within the broader discipline of philosophy directly inform the way things like applied science are done,” said Ciobanu.


The one thing that remains unwavering is her dedication to the importance of philosophy.


“Everyone stands to benefit from studying philosophy–it will make you sharper, more capable of assessing and identifying good arguments, it will make you more articulate, more thoughtful. I have found it to be a very humbling discipline, in the sense that, I must remain vigilant in even assessing my own implicit biases, my own potentially bad arguments,” said Ciobanu.


In early March, the philosophy department at UMW held the aforementioned campus event where prospective students got to speak and interact with Vasey, philosophy and religion professors, and alumni. This on-campus gathering was a definitive move on the part of the department to attract more prospective philosophy students while also dispelling any misconceptions undeclared majors may have.


Some students begin cultivating their interest in philosophy even earlier than freshman year.


For Hutter, the bug bit her early on in high school. “I took a European history course and for the briefest of days we talked about existentialism and it got me hooked. Then, in AP English class we read Ayn Rand’s book Anthem and that completely changed my outlook on life and I wanted to be a philosophy major,” said Hutter.


It isn’t all a creative pursuit to her, as she uses the more practical aspects of her major at her part-time job in food service. Philosophy sharpens her empirical thinking skills and helps her anticipate people’s needs. But in a way, it has also imparted her with a passion for knowledge.


“Philosophy as a skill is literally a love of wisdom. So it gives you the skills to use logic and rationalize situations and organize the thought process in a way that isn’t taught in other majors. Other majors teach you specific job applicable skills where philosophy teaches you how to think effectively,” said Hutter.

Kathleen Kennedy Whurk Article

Kathleen Kennedy

Interview by Natalie Beyer
Issue 47 • January 2017 • Mechanicsville

What do you get when you combine textile sensibilities with traditional metalwork? This jack-of-all-trades conceptual artist intends to find out.

We often don’t give a second thought to keys as objects. We get them, give them away, swap them, make copies, give them back, and then they leave our minds forever. They go to some far-off land, an island of misfit items, home to orphaned socks and loose bobby bins. Seldom do we think of their functional and nostalgic power, but that is exactly what compelled artist Kathleen Kennedy to pay homage to these remarkably unremarkable objects in her latest installation piece: a chainmail pelt made entirely of keys. Entitled simply Pelt, it is being showcased this month in Material as Medium, the exhibition currently on display in Alexandria at the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Target Gallery. Each featured artist uses the vernacular of textiles and fiber art, broadly interpreted into sculptural forms. The opening reception included a group discussion with the show’s juror, Aaron McIntosh. Both he and Kennedy teach at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, the institution where her love affair with sculpture first blossomed.

Kathleen Kennedy with her Pelt sculpture, a section of chainmail constructed with keys.

“I finished at VCU with my BFA in 2008. I studied metalsmithing and glass working there. After that, I moved to Seattle, Washington for about three years where I worked for a handful of different artists and really made the decision that art was something I was going to do.” Later, while in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kennedy spent several years experimenting with a variety of materials. She draws on these lessons when working today, finding inspiration from the many mediums she has mastered over time. Her hope is that she never finds herself limited in her artistic pursuits. “My students will often ask what I specialize in, like: What’s your thing? My answer is that I’m a generalist. I like to feel like I generalize in a little bit of everything. Specialize in nothing and try a little bit of everything.” Despite this outlook, Kennedy keeps glass and metal close to her heart. The manipulability and control she has in these elements offers a delightful juxtaposition between the hardness and softness. “Glass really seemed like this magical material to me and metal was almost a little bit of the opposite. Not opposite in that it wasn’t magical, but it wasn’t this fluid material. It was this structured, hard material that had so many possibilities to it, that just kind of stuck.”

Kennedy’s process is informed by the impressive power of nostalgia. Upon seeing Pelt up close for the first time, I discovered that one of its keys looked exactly like the key to my first car. During our interview, I confessed to her how it took me back to the excitement of getting my first set of wheels at the age of 16. This personal reaction pleased her, as she responded, “That’s what I really wanted, to be able to use this object that is so familiar to everybody. That you could look at that pelt and you could find the familiar in it.” Another aspect in many of Kennedy’s pieces is the sentimental tie to her family. While pursuing her MFA, she often used art to recall relatives back home in Virginia. Kennedy remembered missing her parents the most, but also that her feelings of separation were a source of inspiration. In one such sculpture, she stacked brass rings on a wall-mounted installation of a kitchen counter, echoing her father who would always take his wedding ring off to wash the dishes.

Pelt came together after months of accumulating keys, some coming from a small collection given to her by a late grandfather and others coming from the darkest recesses of eBay. Kennedy painstakingly set each link of the chainmail that binds together the outer layer. She made note to arrange each of key according to color and shape, creating a lush surface of steel and brass, the varied textures reflecting light much as thick fur would. Though at a distance they meld together into a flowing mass, each key retains its unique identity as a utilitarian object. “Keys come and go,” she mused, “They’re useful for their time and then we don’t need them anymore. But they’re always cut for that specific lock, for that specific place. That’s kind of what’s so special. Even the one that looks like that key to your first car, if you were to take it and put it in your first car, it’s not for that car. That’s the amazing, beautiful mystery to me.” Being identified as a pelt, rather than a more common article of clothing or home decor, is also significant. Simultaneously playing off of archaic textiles, medieval royalty, and fantasy images like those found in Game of Thrones, Kennedy explained, “I was originally seeing it as a blanket of keys, as this domestic comfort of keys. But when I finished it and had it up there, I was like, this isn’t a blanket. This is a skin. The skin of all of the places you’ve been.”

As a centerpiece of the show, draped dramatically off of a pedestal near the gallery entrance, Pelt commands the viewer’s attention. Despite resting below eye level, the intimate space allows the work’s presence to be that much more overwhelming. Other notable pieces from the show include the enigmatic quilt assemblage of Julia Gartrell’s Old ManLindsay A. Hall’s subdued yet provocatively hung Blinged Out, and Katie M. Westmoreland’s monochromatic embroidery Sift No. 4 (Traced). Together, the Material as Medium collection offers a compelling testament to the vitality of textiles. The sheer variety of forms, textures, and even interactivity is unmatched by other mediums, all qualities that are giving voice to a new generation of contemporary conceptual artists.

A gallery visitor viewing Julia Gartrell’s quilted sculpture, Old Man.

The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia Whurk Article

The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia

Interview by Natalie Beyer
Issue 46 • December 2016 • Fredericksburg

Racially motivated murder, biased police work, a community-wide cover-up—it was a story just waiting to be exposed, and that’s exactly what this retired reporter did.

“I was in the news business long enough to know when you’ve got a good story,” Jim Hall said as we sat on campus at the University of Mary Washington. This Fredericksburg resident was speaking of his authorial debut, The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia: Seeking Truth at Rattlesnake Mountain, an account of a troubling chapter in the Commonwealth’s not-so-distant past. We had met at the Hurley Convergence Center, mere feet from the archives used to conduct his research, before he was to present to UMW professor Claudine Ferrell’s upper-level history course. Hall had teamed up with Ferrell, herself well-versed in the history of the practice of lynching, while writing the book. Together, they worked to shed light on a local mystery that began almost 85 years ago.


The Last Lynching was a project of passion, beginning out of simple curiosity, but eventually growing into a mission to expose the truth behind a piece of small town folklore. A longtime writer for The Free Lance-Star, Hall had retired from newspaper journalism in 2013 and was toying with the idea of studying the regional history of lynching. Specifically, he wanted to document how local newspapers had reported lynching occurrences. In order to limit the scope of the project, Hall decided that he would review clippings from Virginia newspapers published up until 1930. That is, until he stumbled across the Shedrick Thompson case.

Thompson was a suspected kidnapper and rapist whose body was found, burned and mutilated, hanging from an apple tree in Fauquier County. The official cause of death: suicide. Though it had happened in 1932, two years past Hall’s self-imposed limit, something about the case enticed him to dig deeper. It had all the makings of a true-crime thriller: the kidnapping and rape of a prominent Southern belle known as Mamie Baxley, collaborative murder, police cover-ups, and the community’s collective keeping of dark secrets. Hall himself had to admit that broaching this topic would not only be difficult and sensitive, but virtually taboo. “Lynching is a weird subject,” Hall said, “It’s fascinating, but horrifying.”

One initial attraction Hall had for the story was the apparent lack of common sense applied to the investigation. “You know, if it looks like a rose, smells like a rose, it’s a rose,” Hall said, “and this case, it looked like a lynching, it was at the time that lynchings were being done, and it involved a crime—an alleged crime—for which lynchings occurred.” The more Hall sifted through coroner and police documents, the more complex and twisted the tale became. “There were a lot of elements that made it look like a lynching, yet the official version was suicide and that didn’t sit well. There was just something about that. It was like the good ol’ boys got away with it and the community covered it up for them.”

Hall faced many difficulties sourcing credible witnesses who were alive and willing to talk with him. Since so many years had passed, the best Hall could manage were descendants of the parties involved and neighbors of the Baxley family. Many did not want to speak about their family’s connection to the murder or cover-up. “There were people who wouldn’t be interviewed because of it,” Hall recounted. “There are descendants of those who perhaps were involved who wouldn’t be interviewed. It was a difficult process at times. I think there were seventeen people—Fauquier residents—who cooperated with me.” He had more luck when talking to younger residents who had grown up with the story as childhood lore, almost unaware that it actually happened. “There were plenty of people in Fauquier who knew about it, who had been told about it, who had grew up with this story and were happy to tell me what happened—what they heard happened. I think I made a good case for what happened based upon the stories of those who lived there.”

After he finished his manuscript, Hall found that the road to publication was not an easy one. “I got rejected three times,” he said with a raspy laugh. After passing the piece along to his historian friends for a bit of peer review, he approached numerous publishers before being accepted by The History Press based in Charleston, South Carolina. Though they were quite enthusiastic about the project, regional book markets have been less so. “The publisher has had a hard time placing the book in retail outlets in Warrenton because of the sensitive nature of the subject,” he acknowledged. “The museum at Warrenton has a very nice bookstore and gift shop. They wouldn’t carry it.” Though he expected pushback from the communities mentioned in the book, he felt a sense of journalistic duty to get the truth out, even if it didn’t paint a pretty picture. “There is a resistance still to the telling of the story. The argument made to me indirectly is, ‘Why are you retelling this sordid tale? Why are you bringing up this old story?’” Hall’s answer: “I’m not retelling this sordid tale. I’m telling this sordid tale for the first time because it’s never been laid out in its entirety. I don’t think anyone that I know of has made the case for what actually happened, and that is, a murder.”

The Last Lynching was officially released this past September, bringing to bear the historical justice that Shedrick Thompson and his family deserve. I was curious to know what was next for this new author. “I’m story-driven,” Hall said with a smile, “I want to be knocked over by a story and then I’ll spend the time that it takes to pursue it. But if it doesn’t sort of get me out of the chair, I’m stuck. So, I’m waiting. I hope that another story comes along that interests me.”

The Kettle Whurk Article

The Kettle

Interview by Natalie Beyer
Issue 44 • October 2016 • Staunton

To make a co-op performance space, mix one part vaudeville, one part burlesque, plenty of elbow grease, and a few sharp knives.

I first met Carmel Clavin in downtown Staunton at the By & By Café on Beverley Street. When I arrived, there was a man playing fiddle for people passing by on the sidewalk. Clavin showed up soon after with her fiery red hair piled on top of her head in a Frida Kahlo braid, complete with the adornment of large golden flowers. It occurred to me then that Clavin truly had her finger on the pulse of this small town, as she knew almost everyone in the coffee shop, from the baristas to the patrons — even the fiddler outside. The artistic oddities that take place between Beverley and Frederick Street seem to be what Clavin likes best about this locale. It’s no wonder that this Cleveland native has spent the last eight years of her life basking in the eccentric charm of Staunton.

Carmel Clavin

To say Clavin is a character would not only be an understatement, but a vast underestimate of her power. She is a woman of many tricks, both literally and figuratively. Clavin is an actress, singer, firebreather, belly dancer, and vaudeville aficionado. And now, she can add venue manager to that list with her newly founded co-op performance space called The Kettle. It could be considered the lovechild of Clavin’s previous venture, the Shenandoah Fringe Festival, and her sideshow troupe, Spectacle & Mirth. Clavin has always been drawn to the sheer variety of vaudeville and burlesque, and the festival served as a vehicle for such performers to showcase their talents. Held this past April, the ShenFringe debut was an overwhelming success featuring dozens of sold-out events at improvised spaces throughout downtown Staunton. Not wanting to lose that momentum, she decided to pursue a more permanent venue where future efforts could be headquartered.

It all started with an Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds needed to jumpstart the project. Crowdfunding was a natural choice given the venue’s co-op structure, a model that Clavin has also used when advising other small business ventures in her day job at the Staunton Creative Community Fund. Tucked away above the Staunton Antiques Center, The Kettle shares the second story of the building with the The Artisans Loft gallery. These modest accommodations provide everything that an up-and-coming performance group needs: lighting and sound equipment, a stage with a curtain backdrop, storage space for props, and comfortable seating for about 50 people.

Madame Onça

Inspired by the fact that great tea is made by combining different ingredients together into one delicious blend, the venue’s name reflects the notion that this is very much a group effort. In her words, “It’s meant to be a transformative space, like a kettle, because it’s better than what you put into it, which is a delicious and fulfilling brew.” That ethos translates into diversity and representation amongst the performers who take its stage. Clavin explained, “I’m trying to make it more known and obvious that The Kettle and Spectacle & Mirth and ShenFringe are places where it’s not about diversity for diversity’s sake, it’s diversity for the sake of reality.” She added, “It’s about actually representing what we have. I’m still learning what that is and striving for that, as well as for disability and for people of the trans community and of the gay community. It’s meant to be inclusive, everything is meant to be inclusive.”

Above all, Clavin wants The Kettle to feature acts that emphasize raw performance over art. “I think that entertainment is more important than art because entertainment by necessity is about interaction, communication, discussion, and dialogue. Art is about proclamation. I like to interact and I like to have a back and forth.” This symbiotic relationship between performer and patron is what gives The Kettle such an intimate, exciting atmosphere. One might easily imagine Clavin as an old-timey carnival barker, managing the perfect assortment of sideshow acts, lifting up the curtain to beckon you inside. However, her distinctive style is much more methodical and nuanced. “What I like to do is stuff that’s not frivolous,” she explained. “There’s a beauty in frivolity, but I think that the entertainment that calls to me—and that I like to create—is something that has more of a left hook to it. That’s what I strive to have inside of the work that I do instead of just a review, which is a show that is based on a parade of things that are unrelated. It’s just a style choice.”

Paulo Garbanzo

The Kettle had its grand opening on September 23 with Secrets & Lies, a Spectacle & Mirth review bursting with sideshow acts, many involving sharp knives. Miss Opal dazzled with her romantic sword-swallowing, managing to survive the performance with bubble-gum pink pin curls intact. Perhaps the starkest departure from the typical conventions of burlesque was the strip tease number performed by world-renowned jester Paulo Garbanzo. Channeling the spirit of Flash Gordon, he proceeded to literally throw off articles of clothing in order to save the planet, leaving nothing but a small red thong and pasties. After intermission, Clavin delivered on her promise of group participation as she hosted the party game “Three Truths and a Lie.” Four audience representatives took turns telling the scandalous tales of real-life American spy, Betty Pack. The rest then had to vote, by applause of course, on which secret mission was most likely the lie. Another WWII send-up went to the show’s love ballad between the Soviet Union and the U.S. as personified by Madame Onça and Joy Rayman, set to the tune of “Dream A Little Dream of Me,” sung by Clavin herself with cello accompaniment by Master Eleanor Graham. The night ended not with a whimper, but with a bang, as Clavin took the stage one final time to surrender herself as human dartboard for Garbanzo’s knife-throwing routine.

After this first taste, patrons are eagerly awaiting to see what will be served up next at The Kettle. Clavin herself has big dreams for the small space, including a rooftop garden and solar panels to make it a more self-sustaining entity. What’s sure for now is that this new addition to Staunton’s theater scene is brimming with synergetic potential.

Miss Opal