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Attack of the Ten Foot Woman

Saturday night was a little slower than usual at Sweet Leaf Smokery & Eatery on Abercorn Street. The mellow evening gave server Caleigh Dinello time between refilling iced teas to talk about her chalkboard interpretation of “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” that’s graced the specials wall of the restaurant for the past month.

Regulars of the barbecue establishment will recognize Dinello’s style. Since joining the staff over a year ago, she’s been responsible for the chalk artwork and information on the back wall. After spending many late hours in creating different images, Dinello recently assembled a ten-foot-high panel “so I could take it home and work on it. It’s really light, and smoother than the walls.”

In honor of Halloween “I was thinking of doing Elvira holding a pork sandwich, but I don’t know if it’s too late,” said Dinello, striking an uncanny likeness of the Mistress of the Dark with a quick pose and turn of her wrist.

Dinello’s chalk version of the B-movie “attack” diva looms over the dining room. The poster girl’s giant head of thick auburn hair and eye-catching cleavage seduce diners glancing in her direction as they seek important information: Extra sides (mac and cheese), winelist options (try San Giuseppi’s Pinot Grigio), and beer choices (PBR among them).

The Sweet Leaf version of the ten-foot woman has a decidedly local spin—she’s standing in downtown Savannah, with her right hand holding the Abercorn smokery as if it’s just been ripped from its foundation. Sidewalk umbrella tables scatter as a horrified group of three-inch-tall people, and a dog, look on from the chalk painting’s bottom right corner.

Turns out those figures are Sweet Leaf’s owner, four wait staff, including Dinello, and the owner’s dog.

(A resemblance between the ten-foot woman and actress Ellen Barkin turns out to be pure coincidence—Dinello had never heard of Barkin until asked about her on Saturday.)

Because of its temporary nature, this picture is all chalk, but Dinello prefers working with paint. Watch for a show of her paintings, coming to a smokery near you before the end of the year.

Voting alone

Eastside resident Donna Culver is looking forward to voting in this Tuesday’s city election. Although she’s been an active voter “ever since I’ve been able,” until last year the now-54-year-old business owner always had to rely on other people to aid her in casting her ballot. Culver was born legally blind and lost her vision completely in 1987.

“I’ve always had to have voting assistance up until this last time,” says Culver. In 2006, for the first time, blind voters in Chatham County were able to vote without assistance thanks to a “tele-touch” voting machine that utilizes similar technology as the screen touch voting machines in place for the general public

“I really don’t trust other voters to help because they can say they’re voting the way you asked them to vote,” says Culver, “but they could just say they were and then vote the way they want.”

Culver describes the voting machine for the blind as a computerized system with six Braille-numbered keys and a headset offering recorded instructions to the voter.

“Over the headsets it would tell you what the candidates were running for,” says Culver. “On the amendments, it gave a brief little memo about what the amendment was about. It would tell you what to press, like press three for yes or two for no.”

“At the end of the voting it would review the whole ballot and say, ‘If all these things are true then press one, if not press two.’ Everything was true. Then the computer card came out just like it does with y’all and I was done.”

“My husband was so impressed with my reaction that he went ahead and voted without assistance, because his vision is getting worse.” Although he has some sight, Culver’s husband Robert is also legally blind.

“It was great. It was cool,” says Donna Culver. “Here I was, 53 years old and for the first time in my life able to vote by myself. It was fantastic.”

Email Robin at rgunnsav@bellsouth.net

Caleigh Dinello with her masterpiece

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Robin Wright Gunn

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