• “BP & Spray Tanning” - article for This! Magazine

    “BP & Spray Tanning”

    (This! - September/October issue)

    Most people associate the summer season with Pina Coladas and beach vacations, but for me, it resurfaces my yearly concerns. The first of which is vision blindness. You see, when temperatures begin to raise, my khaki shorts allow my lily white legs to emerge from hibernation. The sight alone warrants moderate eye protection. However, if the sun hits my gams just right, the reflection alone is enough to burn your retina. The second concern, and arguably the most important, is the sun’s incessant attempts to make me the human equivalent to a lobster. So, instead of being bullied for yet another summer, I finally took matters into my own hands…

    Unfortunately, the time zones in Antarctica threw off my internal clock and I managed to return to our fair city during the height of summer. While most Roanokers bathed in the summer sun, the penetrating waves seemed to vibrate against my skin, as if indicating that the sun was laughing at my inability to travel with a calendar. I was on the verge of accepting defeat. Being a blue-eyed Brazilian seemed like a distant dream.

    Enter Barbara Neal Evans, owner of Blown Away Spray Tanning on Brambleton Avenue. Barbara first contacted me after reading and enjoying one of my previous articles. Immediately I loved her. It was then she invited me to stop by and consider getting a spray tan. How could I pass this up? It was finally my chance to be sun-kissed without getting sun-dissed. #WordPlay

    Barbara initially started her business simply because “it was fun and looked good” but through her journey, it became more about giving individuals a safer alternative to harmful UV rays. Skin protection is a passionate topic for Barbara. Within her salon, you’ll find displays of high quality sunscreens and various posts about sun safety. One alarming fact I discovered: Melanoma is the second most common type of cancer in teens and young adults and is the leading cause of death in women ages 25 to 30. Yikes!

    Barbara’s friendly and personable demeanor made it easy for me to strip down to my skivvies and get my spray on. Once we were underway, Barbara used the “premier sunless tanning product” Norvell. According to Barbara, each individual client of Blown Away receives a natural-looking tan because of the product’s ability to adapt to one’s skin tone.

    After a thorough “paint job”, I glanced at myself in the mirror. I looked like a Greek God, well… a Greek God with astigmatism, but I’ll take what I can get. As you can see in the picture, my tan was no joke. It looks like I’m wearing thigh-high boots… And yes, I was indeed the top leg color. Thank goodness I don’t have an addictive personality because I could get use to this (Sipping my 7th glass of pink Franzia).

    Barbara and the rest of the staff are fantastic. Check them out at

    PS – I haven’t brushed my teeth for a week and they STILL look white, bonus!

  • “BP & Drinks with Waynette” - article for This! Magazine

    “BP & Drinks with Waynette”

    (This! - July/August issue)

    Nothing feels more cosmopolitan than taking a “vino-laced” lunch in downtown Roanoke with the President… (Sipping a glass of cab sav) of Dr Pepper Park at the Bridges, Waynette Anderson.

    My drink break following President seemed a little misleading, mainly because Obama has me blocked on Twitter. I’m sorry, I like posting photos of every meal I consume. But I digress; let me try that introduction again…

    I’m a pepper. You’re a pepper. She’s a pepper. Waynette Anderson is the “pepper” behind Dr Pepper Park at the Bridges. Nailed it!

    As a hard-hitting journalist, it is my duty to ask the hard questions. Channeling my inner Barbara Walters, I asked, “Where are all the rides at Dr Pepper Park”? Side note to other journalists; definitely have about 11 sips of wine to achieve Ms. Walters’ speech pattern. Waynette graciously patted me on the head and simply said, “You’re an idiot”. Come to find out, Dr Pepper Park at the Bridges is a community venue and NOT an amusement park.

    Dr Pepper Park is a private venture, funded only by sponsorship, and is another exciting example of how our community is growing. It’s a place where all are welcome: kids, pets, bikes, trolls, etc. Plus, the park has a variety of participating vendors to highlight your experience including, but not limited to, beer! Waynette strives to provide an outlet for underserved niches of musical genres, as evident by the park’s current line-up. I have my fingers crossed for Davey and the Polka Barn Maidens. Waynette’s enthusiasm over the park’s schedule was so infectious, that I downloaded the Dr Pepper Park app, which conveniently allows you to buy tickets to any and/or all of their events.

    As lunch progressed, it was clear who had a better tolerance for wine. As Waynette proceeded to order a second glass, I struggled to take notes, which coincidently are a struggle to decipher now. Case in point, I wrote, “How often do cicadas come around”? Maybe that was a quote? Nonetheless, it’s a very good question; perhaps the topic for my next article? Another note that’s a head-scratcher, “local to organ prox”… Maybe alcohol and journalism don’t go hand and hand as I initially thought.

    As lunch wound down, Waynette called me an Uber and I thanked her by saying “you have a pretty lady face, lady”. As I fell into the backseat, my face managed to purchase tickets to multiple events at Dr Pepper Park and break my screen. Needless to say, I have a jammed packed schedule ahead of me.

    Want to join me at Dr Pepper Park but don’t know how to get there? It’s okay. I’m directionally challenged as well. Dr Pepper Park is located just across the street from the Virginia Tech/Carilion School of Medicine on South Jefferson Street. You can find the park by walking or driving into South 16 apartment complex, next to Starbucks, and follow the road to the rail crossing. The stage is next to the Walnut Avenue Bridge. Did that help? Did I lose you? Then maybe it’s best you visit:

  • "BP & the Conspiracy of Ami Trowell" - my This! magazine article

    “BP & the Conspiracy of Ami Trowell”

    (This! - May/June issue)

    Who is Ami Trowell? Well, for one thing, she’s a woman who can’t spell her own name correctly. I’m pretty sure it’s “Amy”, and Microsoft Word agrees. But, being a good friend, I’m putting my faith in Ami’s hands because I bruise like a peach.

    Ami Trowell is the Creative Director and fellow cast member of the professional improv troupe Big Lick Conspiracy. She joined in 2008 after stumbling upon an improvisation workshop. The chemistry was instantaneous and, founding member, Robb Rouse brought her aboard. Six years later, most of the troupe at that time decided to pursue other projects. Ami assumed leadership and successfully
    assembled the next generation of “conspirators”.

    Regularly performing to sell out shows, its clear Ami has a knack for improvisational comedy. Ami honed her techniques at Dad’s Garage in Atlanta and at The Second City. Her stage presence is reminiscent of comedic greats like Carol Burnett and/or Lucille Ball. Having the good fortune to work and play with Ami, I can confidently say everyone likes her more. No joke! I’m 93% sure she’s the reason my ex hung around me as long as he did.

    When asked what makes a good improviser, Ami said, “Some people have a tendency to over-manage a scene. The best thing you can do is let go.” And then she rambled on about being a good listener or something for what felt like forever. Once I re-engaged in the conversation, I shifted focus to the audience. Audience participation is a crucial factor in Big Lick Conspiracy shows. The best suggestions are honest and real. “Yes, boobies’ is a funny word, but we like a challenge,” Ami said proudly. It should be noted that my 7-year-old mentality is still chuckling over “boobies”.

    One rule Ami is hell-bent on, no alcoholic consumption before a show. As a current member of the Big Lick Conspiracy, this is how that rule comes across to me: bold and underlined. It is my feeling that sometimes you need to take the edge off. However, Ami disagrees. Again, my inner 7-year-old chimes in with a 15-minute long, “why”? Ami just stares me dead in the eye and utters, “There was an incident”. She is always referencing this undisclosed “incident”. Knowing Ami as well as I do, my theory is that uninvited nudity was involved.

    Ami is currently hard at work canvassing the Roanoke Valley. She’s made over a thousand flyers promoting Big Lick Conspiracy’s upcoming shows because she forgot her Facebook password. Technology is not her strongest skill.

    Check out Ami and the rest of the Big Lick Conspiracy at Corned Beef and Company, downtown Roanoke.

    • Saturday, May 21st
    • Saturday, June 25th
    • Saturday, September 10th
    • Saturday, October 8th

    Tickets are $10 in advance or, if you feel like living on the edge, its $12 at the door. Shows start at 7, but doors open at 6 and are typically 2 hours in length with a 15-minute intermission. For more information, visit