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The Honeymoon Edition

Happy 5th Birthday blog!

So I wanted our honeymoon to be long. Since my husband (so weird to say) has a job that doesn’t like him gone and is stingy with leave, we only have 4 – 5 day vacations. I got my new passport in 2014 and it has one lonely stamp. I researched multi-day tours online and he was leaning toward a multi-day cruise of the Mediterranean (I am oddly averse to cruises, which is a story for another day). However my bucket list item is to go on safari. I won! But booking this tour turned out harder than I expected. First we were gifted a flight which meant to have to guess dates while we secured a tour. Unfortunately, no one was leaving within three days of our wedding. After two months of false starts, dropped travel agents and crazy quotes, we finally found a tour package. That was harder than finding a wedding venue, lol.

 

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Day 1

I am plum exhausted but we are pumped for our long journey to Africa. So I didn’t book the flight and do like long layovers in Atlanta, since Delta is always late and I have missed connections before. But boy did I not expect an eight hour layover. But we are platinum baby. We now have access to the premium lounges. After some research we started at the B Concourse lounge and where has then been all my life? I really needed this when I was a professional traveler. I’ve only been to one okay airport lounge but this one had heavy hors d’oeuvres, complimentary beer and wine, and a spacious layout. Everyone in the lounge was so chatty (could be the complimentary beer and wine) and the bartender kept giving me premium wine pours. We then ventured to the international terminal lounges which was debated as better than B. Umm, it was not. But it doesn’t have an outdoor patio and showers. But it lacked the fancy bar and comradery of B. Then we finally boarded our 16-hour flight in common class. Sadly our seatmate was stinky and no one likes stinky. I spent the entire flight watching snatches of terrible movies provided by the airlines as I dozed off frequently. Weddings are exhausting! I somehow managed to watch all of Baywatch though which was an awful life decision. Instead of starting a new movie when a movie ended. I should have just kept watching the same one until I finally saw the entire thing. Poor Moana.

Day 2

We made it to Johannesburg. We were on our own as the tour didn’t officially start until the morning. We stayed in Sandton, which honestly was the only neighborhood the various travel agents would recommend. I just took this as gospel since Johannesburg has notorious crime statistics. Arriving at the airport, there was a huge Tambo statue (namesake of the airport) and people kept posing for pictures with it. People joked that it would fall over. Turns out it was only a week old. My first lesson and this proved true throughout the honeymoon is that South African concierges are crap. When we asked for dinner recommendations, we were told to go to KFC. Yes because we spent 24 hours traveling to eat middle of the road fast food chicken. BTW, South Africans love KFC. I don’t know what they would do if they experienced Popeye’s. We just went across the street to the massive Mandela Square mall. It’s three levels and each level reflects the price of the items of the store, i.e. level one is at Forever21 prices and level 3 is Louis Vuitton. We ended up in the Da Vinci hotel and ordered a seemingly simple seafood platter and appetizers. This year we discovered the majesty of seafood towers and this was just a flat version with twice as much food for a lower cost. We didn’t need appetizers. We worked so hard to finish our platter without success. And we stupidly ordered side dishes and the platter came with side dishes. SMH. Finally we discovered that we could order bottles of wine for less than $20 which quickly became problematic. Then off to bed.

Day 3

My husband hates hotel breakfast buffets but this one looked more like Golden Corral then Days Inn. Our tour guide was 40 minutes late and we (well me) were in full panic mode after 30 minutes. We had no contact information and our hotel staff wasn’t much help. Note to self: always call the tour company 2-3 days out to obtain contact info. He finally arrived and to his surprise, we are Black! Honestly, the tour company thought we were White Americans and it became obvious as the tour progressed. Our tour guide is an Afrikaner and couldn’t properly hide his shock. As a result of this confusion, we were given a neutered tour filled with colonist viewpoints of how great it was that the European “found” this place. Our first stop was the Lilliesleaf Memorial, which is the farm where Nelson Mandela was hiding when he was arrested. It gave a nice, tidy history of the ANC but not enough information on the oppression that they were fighting against. We were off to Soweto with comments about “these people” for lunch in the township which was fine mostly because of the most delicious creamed spinach. Then a PC, non-threatening history of the Hector Pieterson Memorial, a child who was shot by the police when students were protesting the requirement to speak Afrikaan in school. Finally, a trip to the Mandela House, where I realized that the state of Michigan requested a formal apology from the CIA for ratting out Mandela to the South African government. After more terrible restaurant recommendations (I should have done more research prior to the trip), we headed back to Mandela Square to an entire section of restaurants that we overlooked the day before. We ate at Trumps, no relation, and ate full blown steakhouse dinner for two for the cost of one entrée in the U.S. Plus free dessert which my husband turned down and ended up being a luscious milkshake with caramel drizzle. He then tried to sip mine. Nope. Sadly at dinner the klutz came out and I spilled a glass of red wine. Then this entitled Afrikaner at the table next to us screamed at the poor waitstaff forever. I was then reminded that we were in a place where total repression “ended” just 25 years ago. On the bright side, we discovered Amarula.

Day 4

Unfortunately the belief that we were white caused us to be a lengthy tour of an Afrikaan history where I quickly lost interest after about 10 minutes. I feigned interest while excitedly realizing that there were zebras and some kind of antelope (I really started to confuse all the antelope by the honeymoon’s end) on the grounds. The tour guide remarked that after apartheid ended most people don’t care about Afrikaan history. Yep. We then visited Pretoria, which is only of the three capitals and where the President lives. It kinda resembles Baltimore (random). Trivia: America has the largest embassy. We also saw the capitol grounds which has giant statue of Mandela. The tour hits Mandela hard, not that he doesn’t deserve it, but also I think for the underlying reason that he is more forgiving and kind than others. I think his generous spirit gives some absolution without the work. Our guide mentioned that growing up in the countryside, he never knew that Apartheid was so bad. Umm, okay. We then visited a diamond mine and on the way stopped for lunch for another random food that South Africans love: pancakes. Honestly, they are more like crepes than American style pancakes as they are filled and rolled. I was not impressed. Mainly because I hate crepes. The area surrounding the diamond mine seems unstable and I can’t see it being there in the next 30 years. We saw replicas of famous diamonds. The world’s largest diamond ever was found there, though most of their diamonds are industrial. For dinner, we ventured to a new neighborhood: Melrose Arch, which resembles Reston Town Center. We ate at Moyo, a chain, but an African chain, so new to us. There were performers, face painting and fun dishes. Plus the guy painted my husband’s face whether he liked it or not.

Day 5

Off to the Pilanesburg Game Reserve, no Kruger for us as that was just too far. And yes, we received an unsolicited comment that Kruger is better. I was literally shaking with excitement as I wanted to go on Safari since I was a child. Safaris are at dusk and dawn. So our first one was at dusk. Our first spotting was a rhino. I hate to learn the difference between a white and black rhino, which isn’t easy to do at dusk. Then plenty of Springbok and some other antelope that I would need to google (see so many as Springbok is technically an antelope too). In the far distance, we saw a family of giraffes. If only we could drive closer. I couldn’t stop smiling. We next saw the largest elephant in the park, which didn’t look that big from the vehicle, but again we were already sitting high up. Then we started chasing cats. Our driver was obsessing with seeing all the cats and we zoomed various places when someone in another vehicle reported a spotting. It all got very breakneck. Someone reported a cheetah crossed the road quite far from where we were. We zoomed over to the area to see the cheetahs were gone. But I spotted one lounging under a tree and I said something but we already zoomed off because there was a lion spotting. My poor hubby didn’t get to see the pretty cheetah. Lions are the best because they like laying around in groups and don’t run as much as the other cats. We then saw the perfect picture of a hippo (which I was told were hard to spot) as it popped out of the water to give a yawn. Then someone spotted a leopard. And we zoomed over there only to be out of luck. So no leopards for us. At the equivalent of a rest stop, I saw another Black person! She was a German flight attendant of Ghanian descent and dating a U.S. Airman from Chicago. We actually discussed Homegoing, which I read on the ride over and I had so many questions about Asante. We get snacks and beers at the rest stop (samosas). And after seeing more rhinos, some gazelles and hyenas in the distance, we headed back to the lodge for a late dinner.

Day 6

Up at dawn for our next game drive. I have never made it successfully to anything before 6a if I slept the night before so I did not. 2nd game drive. En route, we saw two kinds of antelopes. Item of note: I really should have purchased the guide book with the names of all the animals. Today’s driver knew actual animal facts. This is a plus for those who care for more information (there were a lot of kids in our vehicle) but a minus you are ready to move on. For example, we spotted and watched a pair of mating lions for 20 minutes and we would stop to look at birds (sure). We saw a singular giraffe up close! Rare because giraffes are rarely alone and I hoped its buddies would mosey by but no. Zebras (pronounced like Debra by locals). Warthogs. When I was a young warthog… A jackal, so cute. It was following the lion pair hoping to get scraps of food. Baby hippos fighting. Luckily no crocodiles, though we sat waiting at their hangout. Those things scare me. Unfortunately, no cheetahs or leopards. So the leopards was a no for me totally and both no for my hubby. After a long nap, we headed to Sun City to try our luck at the casino. There my hubby had mutant oysters (his favorite food) and some great sushi, though the restaurant was empty. I promptly lost and my hubby broke even. As we waited for the shuttle which somehow left us, out walks a huge baboon. He just strolls by like it wasn’t a big deal. It was the makings of a great picture but I was too frightened as he was so close. I took a nice bath. And I got sick. So sick. I made it a long time with my sensitive stomach. I was taken under by something from dinner. So bad. But my hubby held my hair.

Day 7

As we headed to the airport we were greeted by an army of baboons. Man was the flight smooth. Without all the American rules, you can get to your gate in 20 minutes. I forgot life without taking off shoes and confusing lines. Though it was weird that everyone boards at the same time regardless of seat assignment. We successfully made it to Cape Town and I felt better. All the angry food was gone. Our driver is Malay (categorized as Colored by South Africa) and a descendant of Muslim slaves. He told us that all anyone cares about now is money and not race but that was quickly disproved. As we entered our hotel, we encountered glares and rudeness from other White guests. Cape Town is so lovely. Not a first impression of Johannesburg which is a regular work a day city. And everyone kept stressing how safe it is. Of course this is attributed to not being run by the ANC. I realized that a lot of Whites are stressed by the death of the kind Mandela and are really worried about their minority status as being only 10% of the population. For the afternoon, we walked along the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Then for dinner headed to the way too hip Long Street at the recommendation of our terrible concierge. We were about twice as old as everyone there (the legal drinking age is 18) and the drinks were cheap and awful. I felt every ounce of my age and asked a cab driver for a good dinner recommendation. We went to the truly authentic Marco’s African with drumming, xylophones and even some splits. It was awesome.

Day 8

We are up early to hit Table Mountain and I didn’t want my hubby to see the cable car first as he is terrified of heights. I thought I could trick him. I could not. Ever since a disastrous trek up the mountains of Kyrgyzstan where I honestly thought I would die, I am petrified of driving up mountains. My sheer terror of the drive in combination with the long line and my hubby’s refusal, I decided that the Table Mountain cable car was an experience I wouldn’t have. We drove over to Signal Hill to overlook the city. We completely a not super exciting city orientation tour. This is how I discovered that South Africans are way too enamored with basic squirrels because only one park in the city has them. You can buy nuts to feed them and people were constantly photographing them. And these people have baboons. So odd. That afternoon, we took a boat ride to Robben Island to see the former leper colony turned prison. There are multiple boats to the island. We were on a fast boat over and the world’s slowest boat on the way back (I think floating kelp beat us to shore). The island is a true journey and one where White South Africans cannot gloss over their dismal treatment of the native people. Political prisoners of African descent received less food, sterilization, a simple t-shirt and shorts to wear in all weather conditions, floor mats for sleeping and only three days of hot water a week. Nelson Mandela spent 18 years there and finally got an actual cot after 15 years. They had to do hard labor and no one was allowed to talk even though you live and work so closely. Our island tour guide was a former political prisoner who entered the prison at age 17. He said that giving tours was cathartic for him and allowed him to release the anger from his imprisonment. It was beyond moving. After that we attended the Oyster and Wine Festival on the Waterfront. I was really happy to see bands playing African music after seeing so many rock cover bands along the waterfront earlier.

Day 9

Up and at it to tour an island to see a seal colony, which stank to high heaven. We then drove down the coast, which resembles Cali but prettier to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. It is the southwestern tip of Africa, not the tip–which is highly stressed—where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. We were at the end of the world, at least one tip. We saw wild ostriches, it never dawned on me that there could be wild ostriches, and more antelope. Yea, I suck at the antelope. Then excitedly we darted over to see the African penguins which arrived in 1982. I love penguins and they are so cute. No baby penguins though. We ate a basic lunch in Simon Town. And the truly hectic pace of wedding planning and this non-stop tour weighed on me heavily. I hit a true wall. We forged ahead to the Botanical Gardens. Everything in my soul wanted to get on the tram, but elderly people trudged up the hills and slopes like it was nothing and I powered through. I just wanted to lay in the bed after our full day but Rider forced me out to dinner at this swanky African sushi fusion restaurant on the Waterfront. It was my first encounter with bland food and I barely touched it. I was so tired and we had the most inattentive waiter, which left me unenthusiastic. I should have sought a better food option but was too tired for research. Back to the room for terrible tv.

Day 10

Okay, my barely eating of dinner turned out to be a bonus. My hubby was so sick. Even sicker than I was at the lodge. Today was to be our whale watching and Stellenbosch wine country visit but that wasn’t happening. I took the opportunity to sleep while hubby ran back and forth to the bathroom. I ordered room service and finished my book. Though I was so enthused about the visit to wine country as I love wine, it wasn’t meant to be. Neither was my plans for a big departure dinner celebration.

Day 11

So hubby is still not 100%. So the final day was to be devoted to a relaxed day of shopping and sightseeing. We did none of this and just headed to the airport that afternoon to begin our long journey back to the States. All the rest I got was a curse because I was up and alert for the entire 16 hour flight back. It was so painful. So I actually watched the movies all the way through and so many are just not good. I see why the movies are struggling. I only liked Spider-man: Homecoming.  I know one thing, I am never doing this again. I can only fly this long in better seating. I thought my cattle car experience from Hawaii was bad but this was torture.

Day 12

To be ever so humble, home! And we crashed. We slept for 14 hours. True story.

Observations

  1. The public bathrooms are so miraculously clean. Even the messiest one I saw at the National Park was on par with neat ones in America. Me likey.
  2. Whew, South Africa is high up and I had trouble breathing. It’s higher up than Denver.
  3. White affluent folks didn’t of all nationalities didn’t know what to make of us, staying in the same restaurants and eating in the same restaurants. I almost had to push a woman because she wouldn’t leave the check-in counter and she naturally assumed I would wait for her to move when she was ready.
  4. They love ice cream, milkshakes and American sweets. So much red velvet cake.
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The 40 Edition

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So I saw this ridiculous article (http://www.vogue.com/article/forty-things-to-know-by-age-forty-molly-guy) about a month before my big milestone. I love first person stories in Vogue because they consist 80% of privileged Western White women telling tales about surviving deceased parents, ennui or professional struggles while summering on the Cape, riding in private jets or languishing in prep school. And the other 20% are personal testimonials of a now-famous person with melanin who overcame hardships in a war-torn country. There is no middle. This list is the former and pure nothingness. I mean it praises Lena Dunham for forcing her nakedness on us and talks about hanging out at Johnny Depp’s pool. I haven’t even been to a real pool party. Should I relate to any of this fluff despite the fact we are both 77 babies? However, can I make my own list? I am 40. I am a writer. I have been through some real stuff (not a war though). I can do it! Here goes:

40 Things I Learned Before Age 40

  1. Sum up your surroundings quickly. I was in first grade when I realized that my mom wasn’t like other moms. It was important to notice this quickly or I could have made myself crazy.
  2. Watch PBS. It made a childhood without cable a grandlearning experience.
  3. Set the goals and create steps to get it. In 9th grade, my English teacher gave my class a scholarship application with all the requirements. I kept it and pretty much fulfilled all of them. As a result, I received three scholarship offers by graduation.
  4. Got to speak to get your blessings. As a communicator, I meet every part of an organization. I cannot tell you how many times I have hooked up people with complementary needs and talents. But you have to tell me what you need first.
  5. Don’t complain. Nothing ever comes from it but pity. Do you want pity?
  6. Packing compactly is critical. My grandfather once told me that it was the important life lesson he would teach me. Team one carry-on!
  7. There are two ways to do things: Cheap and difficult or Easy and expensive. Choose wisely.
  8. Spring for a check once in a while. You won’t be homeless. Raised broke, made me Queen Divide Everything Evenly. It wasn’t always pretty.
  9. Sometimes you have to decide between time and money. I gave up a lot in my 20’s because I chose free time over earning extra money. But no money meant not doing everything I want.
  10. Learn to change a tire, change oil, replace a tail light, and jump a battery.
  11. Mean Girls is a movie not a life style. You really don’t need frenemies, no matter how many tv shows tell you otherwise.
  12. Follow the Five Vogue Rules of Attractiveness – Get a cool hairdo, Keep your eyebrows arched, Dress Well, Take good care of your teeth and skin, Smile often. It convinces people you are attractive.
  13. Stay away from unsolicited commentary. This one is controversial because people think it impends on their right to free speech. However, people already know if their car is dirty and announcing it won’t make it miraculously clean. And telling someone that you hate mushrooms while she is actively consuming mushrooms isn’t a conversation starter.
  14. Kiss the frogs. I could write a book on all my really, really horrible dates but past 30, you have to keep trying no matter what. Unfortunately the perfect mate isn’t going to knock on your door watching you are watching Netflix.
  15. Leave the house. I never fondly remember the time I watched a Lifetime movie on a Saturday night but I do remember the time I missed Stevie’s surprise appearance at Wonder-Full.
  16. Go out alone. One of the best New Year’s Eves I ever had was when my buddies abandoned me on a snowy New Year’s Eve and I went out by myself. I ended up at this amazing private party with free food, drinks and entertainment.
  17. Always choose the concert. Our legends are leaving us and there are so many I never saw live. See your faves at least once.
  18. Cherish those who answer the phone at 3a. I value those who go above and beyond and not everyone does. People tend to favor those with compliments and kind words over those who will drive you to the airport at 3a. That’s bad.
  19. Buy presents to match personalities. I once got family members different styles of purses based on individual likes and everyone talked about it for months.
  20. Have core values and know when they are violated.
  21. Be very careful of Darth Susans.
  22. There’s a moment when someone smiles at you because you compromised yourself too much and they won. Know that smile.
  23. Anticipate behavior. My family always popped by the house unannounced. I learned to be dressed and ready just in case and my mom scrambled EVERY SINGLE TIME.
  24. Move on. I move on quickly. Do I think people are irredeemably toxic? No. Do I think relationships can be? Yes.
  25. Reach out. My best and most uplifting relationship came from reaching out to a family member at the urging of my therapist.
  26. Climb the mountain. I never say I hate something unless I experienced it first. I climbed a mountain overseas and I discovered that I hate mountain climbing. But I know that for sure.
  27. Let others do something for you. My parents are quite self-centered and I constantly reject when person try to do something nice for me. This took years to get over.
  28. Things are better when I do them but okay is good too. Not everything has to be done to my specifications. Except folding towels and sweaters, there is only one way.
  29. Don’t make extra work for yourself. If your boss never reads proposals, why write them? If your chain of command constantly rewrites copy, then don’t agonize over your first draft.
  30. Conduct effective meetings. People don’t have to attend but if you need them to attend, be a good steward of their time.
  31. Wear solid underpinnings. A perfectly fitted bra works wonders. It makes you look great every time.
  32. Teeth are the key to attractiveness.
  33. Be kinder than you have to be.
  34. Always listen to the music before going to a concert. I might have been caught off guard once but never twice.
  35. Read often and always read the book before going to a book club meeting. Even 30 pages can save you from embarrassment like the author being a specially invited guest and asking pointed questions about her book.
  36. Pick a theme song a la Ally McBeal. Mine is Cleva.
  37. Know yourself, stars and warts. It informs your interactions. It’s amazing how critical people are without any self-introspection.
  38. Supervisor doesn’t always mean superior.
  39. I am the universe. I am a super organized J (on Myers Briggs). Often disorganized people say the universe will provide. The universe is me. I have band-aids at my desk. I carry toilet paper in my purse. I register online way in advance.
  40. Dance on the bar. Life can be short or long (per Chris Rock). Being a lifetime member of Ms. Pragmatic’s Sensible Guide to Practical Living may give you tangible items (money, a nice house, feet that don’t ache) but devoting yourself to a little silliness will make life short and fun.

The 2015 Recap Edition

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This is my 2015 recap. I wouldn’t say that 2015 was a banner year. But I don’t have those. I think not having many major life milestones is a contributing factor. No wedding, engagement, babies or new businesses. So it was just like any other year. Two items of note:

  1. I barely blogged this year. I ended up in a very toxic, soul sucking work environment and all I want to do when I get home is collapse on the couch and work on lump status. Ironically, my last project at my previous job was conducting employee focus groups. I was so amazed at how miserable employees were. People would be near tears when we asked the simple question of “how do you get along with your boss?” Now I get it. Bad workplaces sap every ounce of energy you have.
  2. Being miserable at work caused me to reevaluate my life. I became very Shalina-focused. I decided to not spend much energy chasing behind other people. I realized that I put forth much of the effort in many of my relationships and that ceased. I didn’t call first, extend many invites or deal with much selfishness. I just didn’t have the energy. This also affected my Top Ten Life. Not as many outings to discuss.

So without much further ado, here are my Top 15 moments of 2015. This is no particular order as I am trying to be more freewheeling and doesn’t include events already discussed on the site.

  1. I was so artsy. – Crafts are a good release. I made Kente cloth, painted pottery, created jewelry, adult colored.
  2. I binge watched. – I am not a tv person despite being raised by an absolute tvaholic. I like leaving the house (hence this blog). However, as mentioned by the two items of note, I didn’t cajole people to hang out and didn’t want to be bothered, so thank you to: Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, Broad City, Master of None, etc. for keeping me occupied. I saw some good ones and bad ones – I won’t mention Younger. So much shame.
  3. I did lots of road trips (on my Vision Board).- New York, three times! I went to Harlem (visited many places that I later saw reality shows either good or bad) and Brooklyn. I went to Hampton’s Homecoming for the first time in 10 plus years. I am now a big fan of all the suite parties! I went to Michigan twice. To quote Murtaugh, “I am getting too old for this.” That trip is getting harder and harder to do. I went to a Delmarva beach for the first time for an extended time (4 days, not a day trip) in the 20 years I have been here. While Dewey is nice, turns out honey doesn’t like sitting in the hot sun because he works outside all day.
  4. Afro Punk.- Grace Jones topless hula hooping. Lenny Kravitz jumping into the crowd. Enough said.
  5. D’Angelo returned to form. – However, he had the ridiculous idea that his 35+ year old fan base should attend a four plus hour standing show on a work day. Unfortunately, we needed to leave early as my honey’s feet were killing him one hour into his performance (four hours into the night). Apparently he performed for two hours. Standing shows need rules! Thou shall not have opening acts. Thou shall start promptly after doors open. Thou shall only book acts whose audience is 25 years old.
  6. Prince bestowed us with his presence. – Prince came to Baltimore and all was right. Actually not really because of the reason he was there after “riots” resulting from Freddie Gray’s death. I could talk about that issue for hours but will move on. So many funny things happened at the show just in the audience! One thing, Royal Farms Arena needs screens. I never knew who any of the “special guests” were and had to rely on sneak looks at my phone (phones were banned which caused some of the audience hilarity).
  7. I was considerate. – I did stuff that I really didn’t want to because I am a good person. I gave up Trevor Noah tickets (taping his Comedy Central special!) to go to my honey’s club event. I wanted to go to a wine festival but instead went to the movies with friends. There should be prizes given out for this behavior.
  8. Carefree outings. – I joined meetups. They are such an easy way to hang out. You don’t have to call people. You don’t have to endure being stood up. If you don’t have plans, you pick a pre-arranged event and show up! Honey thinks things are weird, but I came to love them. I golfed regularly. I zip lined. I sang karaoke. I grooved at Motown the Musical. Easy peasy.
  9. Childhood dream. – I hate to admit this but I’ve never seen a full New Edition show. As equally as Jill was moody, New Edition was fun. Damn they can still dance except Johnny who is turning into Eddie LeVert. Yay guys! I saw BBD on Valentine’s Day and they can work their 6 songs hard! Then I saw the full shebang at the Holiday Jam. So happy for me.
  10. Food and libations. You know what is fun? The Bourbon and Brew Classic! Bourbon tastings combined with horse racing. What a great idea. I ate the most divine Lobster Rolls (I wrote it down) at the Baltimore Seafood Festival. I drank so much wine at the Vintage Virginia Festival while dancing to Trouble Funk. I went to a violently okay wine festival at the Navy Yard though so they aren’t all silver and gold. I like these things a little too much.
  11. So fancy. – I was invited to not one but two tea parties. I am very elegant and this is the reason why.
  12. I got some cool deals this year. – Enjoyed the Black and Brown Comedy Get Down based on a random discount code. Took honey to a cool brunch. Found an okay hotel in Brooklyn. I still want my playlist, dammit! Vegas was a great hotel special.
  13. Celebrated Detroit. – Went to D.C. Loves Dilla for the first time with special appearance by Common who did one song though Dilla produced entire albums. But I digress. Though it’s weird seeing only two people in Slum Village. I was reminded of my dark dusty days at St. Andrews in the late 90’s. Remember this, rap battles are terrible. No, they weren’t good. They are terrible.
  14. One down, two to go. – So I finally went to Preakness. I just have Belmont and the Kentucky Derby to go. Plus, I need to start on the rest of my sports bucket list: U.S. Open, the Masters, and the World Series. The sky’s the limit. Hopefully, they will have less drunk people. Preakness has so many drunk people. But I had a great hat. That’s what is most important.
  15. Diner en Blanc. Last and my favorite. I worked hard on this. After seeing that the waiting list was in the five digits I decided to be creative. While I may not be the most social being (which is the key to getting invited) but I’m Cleva (shout out to Erykah). I created a fabulous infographic as to why I should be invited and voila, I was in. On paper it seems ludicrous but in practice, awesome.Honey was dubious. My friend bailed. But what a fun time for a tremendous amount of work. Plus as a treat, honey booked a room at the Marriott Marquis which isn’t as luxurious as it could be though it has the spa water with fruit in the lobby.

The Art Edition

April was for art. Unfortunately, Vegas had my mind pre-occupied and I never completed my purchase to see Toni Morrison, which was supposed to close the month. It was in the cart and everything. Then I got distracted. Then I forgot. Then I remembered two days later. And when I returned it was sold out. So I began my month with my favorite living poet—Nikki Giovanni. I pretty much stalk Nikki so I was excited to see that she was speaking on a panel following the premiere of Being Billie, a documentary on Billie Holiday in celebration of her 100th birthday. The film aimed to move beyond the portrayal of Billie as simply a tragic drug addict. I love my Billie, so my t-shirt emblazoned with her face and I were ready. I will admit two things. First, the event should have been in a bigger space more conducive to movies (too much light). Second, the film had excellent interviews but was really repetitive and could have used a keener editorial eye.

So I have three favorite contemporary artists: Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker and Mickelene Thomas. This month I saw two for three. We travelled up to New York to see the Kehinde Wiley and Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibits at the Brooklyn Museum. Sadly, an aversion to public transportation meant that we drove from Manhattan to Brooklyn and cabbed from the Brooklyn hotel to the museum. This took forever. This only gave us one hour to rush through both exhibits. I could philosophize on Wiley’s use of color but I am no art critic. I just like what I like. I love vivid colors and faces, so Wiley speaks to me. Basquiat was a hurried experience that just reminded me that I am not a huge Basquiat fan.

Later in the month, social media hipped me to the fact that Ava DuVernay would be at the Museum of the American Indian for a symposium called History, Rebellion and Reconciliation: Communities Mobilized for Social Change. But before that, I darted off to University of Maryland because I discovered that the David Driskell center was having a showing of Kara Walker. I adored her use of stencils and cutouts to tell and retell stories of African-American life and folklore. Sadly, most of her work was encased in glass so my photographs didn’t come out well. After rushing from College Park to The Mall and parking illegally, I made it in just in time to see Ava. I love Ava and she is gorgeous, gracious and intelligence in person, which is a huge perk. I have seen most of her limited work and she enlightened the audience on her creative process and what it means to be an artist in the 21th century. Amazingly she stayed and answered every question even the combative or rambling ones.

As mentioned, I forgot my Toni Morrison tickets. So Ava was the end of my artistic adventures. And I lost my newly purchased book of Wiley’s exhibit in some restaurant with delicious duck drumsticks.

The Budget Edition

SavingsHello beautiful long neglected blog. I swear I thoroughly enjoyed writing you but this has been a crazy summer. I know I said that about spring, but this has been truly crazy and I can give more enlightenment on that in the near future.

So July turned out to be “look at all these surprise bills” month. So I vowed to save money by limiting outings to twice a week at a max of $30 for a cumulative $200 for the month. This went okay. Fine I failed. Turns out my biggest issues are purchasing gas, eating out and dating. I didn’t realize that my kindness of treating my boyfriend ever so often would be so expensive.

Planned Week One

  • Birthday happy hour at El Centro. My theory is I can have 2 happy hour margaritas and a plate of tacos = $25 with tax and tip.
  • Golf with the ladies = $27.50
  • Bikram = $12

What Had Happened

  • The World Cup made the roof top deck impenetrable and I was starving. So we went to dinner. Then I had a drink with dinner. I finally made happy hour and was convinced by my little spendthrift to buy a round of drink. Actual = $49.47
  • I forgot I promised a bottle of wine for a friend’s cookout = $12
  • Golf with the ladies = $27.50. I skipped lunch to continue on my path
  • I go to $12 Bikram at 12p on my flex Fridays off. However, it was a holiday weekend and thus full price = $20

Planned Week Two

  • Happy Hour at my favorite cheapo spot – McCormick and Schmick’s at Nat’l Harbor which will need to include parking. I prepared for mussels ($5), fries ($3), a cocktail ($7), and parking ($9) = $28
  • Then I planned to attend the Lake Arbor Jazz Festival = $15 and possible food truck purchase $10

What Had Happened

  • The happy hour area was packed so I ended up with real dinner. Then I got on the new shiny Capital Wheel and parking = $53.90
  • My friend suggested buying door tickets as it might rain = $20. Then I didn’t like any of the food truck stuff and got real dinner at a restaurant but stuck to a complex salad = $19
  • Dinner that I forgot I was going to pay for…

Planned Week Three

  • Artscape to see Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. We were taking the train $12 and possible snacks $10
  • Fort Dupont for the DC Emerging Artists concert = $Free
  • The Hip Hop Bar Crawl – $11 for a ticket and $20 for drinks and snacks

What Had Happened

  • So amazingly, I spent $18 for drinks and my friend spend $24 on train tickets
  • Fort Dupont = free
  • I paid $22 for two tickets to the crawl and $9 on snacks. Drinks were purchased for me

Planned Week Four

  • Going away happy hour – $4 for parking (food and drink provided by host)
  • Birthday happy hour – food, a happy hour ½ price wine and parking = $20
  • Fancy dinner – comped as a result of winning a bet

 What Had Happened

  • Perfect
  • Food, wine, tax and tip $21. Parking = $4. Evil Parking Ticket because I forgot to hit start on the app until 30 minutes later = $25
  • Yay!

I also had to abandon my preferred paid yoga due to the fact that I was failing for either sub-par gym yoga or community yoga, which is actually pretty good but too crowded.

The So Far Spring Recap Edition

MP900091157This has been an extremely busy spring. So busy that I struggled to find time to blog while: 1. Working a stressful irritating job 2. Trying to find myself non-irritating job 3. Attempting to lose weight 4.Being a member of a couple and 5. Having a high mileage automobile.

I wanted to write about seeing After Midnight on Broadway and how much fun it was despite the fact that Toni Braxton whispered throughout the entire show. I don’t know what she has against projecting but the sound person could have at least recognized this tendency and turn her individual mic up. Babyface was awesome though and performed his butt off: dancing, singing, telling jokes.

I planned to write about the One Mic Hip Hop Festival and how I am too old for free events at this stage in my life. I spent 3 hours being pelted by wind while standing in line to see Black Girls Rock, only to be offered the opportunity to stand in the lobby and watch the show on television. Yea, so not a waste of time at all. Or seeing Grandmaster Flash at U Street Music Hall.

I intended to write about how I missed the Funk Parade by arriving 30 minutes late and didn’t realize that it was literally only 30 minutes long and not the advertised two hours.

Finally, I needed to discuss our happy weekend road trip to Durham, North Carolina to see the inaugural Art of Cool Festival. The festival was I was about to say cool but realized that is redundant. There were multiple venues and acts per venue to explore. I think the festival has to release some kinks. Some of the better known indie acts were in the venue farthest away from the strip accessible by bus. We missed the bus by less than a minute and unfortunately it didn’t return as soon as we imagined. We thought 10 minutes and finally flagged down a cab after 30. The hip indie acts were extremely popular and often the venue was full. I think they should have found a bigger venue for those artists because we only successfully saw Bilal. We spent the majority of our time in along the strip seeing smaller acts.

We saw Carolyn Malachi, Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz (nice duo in one of the few spots with food), Mark Clive de Lowe and Bilal on the first night. The second day we popped in and out of the outdoor concert. We were completely taken aback by the raw vulnerability of Cody Chestnutt’s lyrics. That night after lots of barbecue we attempted to see King but the venue was full. We ventured over to the main drag to wait for Marcus Anderson and Liv Warfield. It was a fun show but I hoped and most of the audience as well that Liv Warfield sang more than one song. We abandoned the constantly full, faraway venue for Shana Tucker, because according to Rider, she drinks beer alone at the bar and must be great. Our final show was Christian Scott. It was a fallback but I enjoyed it. He is quite chatty and some of the audience grew restless without music to distract them. I liked how the artists flowed in and out of venues to watch each other’s shows.

That was my post. Hopefully, I can restore my normal schedule and find a new job and lose weight and maintain my sanity.