The Grooving Edition

Courtesy of Billboard

Courtesy of Billboard

So if you watched the totally fun New Girl with the majestic wonderful unicorn that is Prince, you heard a funky groove called People Pleaser by Andy Allo. The worst thing about the awesome episode is that the lookieloos who don’t understand the quirkiness of New Girl watched the show for the first time and complained the entire time. Stupid twitter! I mean the episode gave us many Princeisms including his love of pancakes, ethnically ambiguous woman and dressing up those women in witchlike outfits. What wasn’t to love?

So two Sundays ago I went to see Andy Allo at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis. It was a $15 show and that spot is one of the few in the metro area that I haven’t been to. So I figured why not. I hate picking seats for a venue that I haven’t been to but we ended up with good seats. My main quibble with the show was that Andy was there with just her guitar and another guitarist. I hoped for a full band as I prefer full bands, lol. We only needed two more people! The thing I liked when listening to her stuff was the arrangements. I definitely missed that aspect in her live show with the limited accompaniment. In the albums, I can hear strong connection to Maceo Parker first along with others.

I really enjoyed the set. She had no opening act and proceeded to sing for 90 minutes, which was surprisingly long. She has a very sweet is the best way to describe it voice and I amazingly found the entire set very soothing. I realized that I could happily sit there forever and I wasn’t sure why. I think it was I am only shallowly familiar with her work and didn’t sit there anxiously awaiting some song or another that I just had to hear. As a Prince protégé, I easily heard his influence in her vocal approach. I could listen, chat with our concert loving tablemate and snack on my crab dip in pure bliss. It was a nice feeling. I would certainly see her again. I don’t know where she can find it in this highly segmented music landscape but I wish her success. But then of course then I can’t see her for $15. I can deal with that I guess.

The Resolution Edition

Happy New YearSo three weeks into 2014 and I don’t have much to report. No concerts, plays or other interesting outings to report. I actually spend the first week of the year participating in a few intimate in-home gatherings, that’s not worth writing about. So what are my hopes for this year? Usually new beginnings beg for new resolutions. This year I decided to focus on strictly tactical resolutions as to not look back and see failure.

That means no:

  • Lose winter weight and stop gaining winter weight (though I still need to lose weight)
  • Find the perfect job within 20 minutes of my house (why lawd why must I commute so far)
  • Meet the love of my life
  • Stop spending so much money on frivolity (every year I think I will be some fabulous saver until Macy’s has its winter clearance (I got five sweaters for $12 each!)
  • Change other people’s behaviors (yes, this has been a resolution of mine in the past, SMH)

On to the practical and seemingly achievable:

  • Make it into the parking garage at work—this has been remarkably difficult, because 1) I am not a natural early riser 2) I have a long 45 – 60 minute commute 3) the garage is full by 8 a.m. This means I need to get dressed quicker, wake up earlier and stop messing around in the morning. It’s a highly complex resolution. That is why I have only been successful 2 out of 3 days so far. This also meant I was stuck in the muddy, crater-filled overflow lot, which is not a joyous place. I can do it!
  • Take better care of my hair—I have been taking terrible care of my beautiful hair lately. This means clockwork washing (under the dryer now), regular trims and ultimately, going to the …ugh….salon!
  • Put up my laundry—I have a serious problem.  I do laundry and sometimes forget it in the dryer for a week (when it’s time to do more laundry). Or sometimes it sits in a little pile for days. I now must return my laundry to its home within 24- 36 hours. My coworker actually gave me a wonderful suggestion to include important clothes (workout gear, underwear, socks) with every load, so that I remember to remove the clothes.
  • Read more—my two books a month slipped to 1 book a quarter. I blame social media and candy crush. Before when I was bored, I would download a book to my Kindle and now I do the aforementioned things. Bad. All bad.
  • Release some tension—one remarkable thing I notice in yoga. I am tight. Really tight. Like I went for massages last year tight. I gotta de-stress somehow and loosen up.
  • Make me first – I do not do this at all. And I feel bad about it. And others make me feel bad about it. I am a born caretaker. I am a wonderful addition to the lives of basketcases. Have some weird neuroses, befriend me. I will get you on track, assist you and in return, I get nada. Well this ends. I will be totally selfish this year to see how it goes.

Those are my simple resolutions. Wish me luck!

2013 Recap

So how was my 2013? After two weeks of reflection, I can say it was a mixed bag. I decided that since my job has entered into the world of boring and uninspiring, I should spend more time on my social life. The funny thing is my boring little office job turned unbearable for a serious three-month stretch and I really had to force myself to go there everyday. A trick a friend and I developed years ago while in boring positions was to give yourself something to look forward to every week. This could include something as small as a pedicure and something as grand as a fabulous vacation. So what were the highlights? In honor of my Super Secret Book from 1986, here are the things I can remember.

Best Friends

I had some good support this year especially as my stress levels increased. And some people really went above and beyond. I am truly grateful.

New Friends

Well, only one but so far, so good.

Favorite TV Shows

Parks and Rec – The one where Leslie announces her candidancy and the crew slips on the ice is awesome.

Orange is the New Black* – Cliché, but so much fun

Arrested Development – I know some people were disappointed but this was such a weird and ingenious concept of storytelling.

The Good Wife – Although I admit that Alicia is getting on my nerves

Nashville – My actual preferred soapy indulgence over another one word female-lead ABC show

Dallas – Great clothes, great cars, beautiful homes. It’s the prettiest thing on TV

*Also serves as my favorite new show

Fun Fads

Pointy nails

Social Media takedowns

Bitstrips

I suck at remembering these things until two days later

Sports

This may be the year I gave on sports. Oh yeah, except the absolutely wonderful March Madness, my first love never disappoints.

Best Albums

Well, I liked a ton of women this year: Cecile McLorin Salvant, Valerie June, Alice Smith, Janelle Monae, Emeli Sande. Plus a few guys: Gregory Porter and Robert Glasper

Best Concerts

The best thing about this year are the awesome concerts I attended. I rang in the new year with Nas. I saw the gorgeous and just plain good Legends of Summer tour. Janelle Monae gave me one of my funnest moments in life. I also twerked to Big Freedia, screamed to Babyface and rocked with The Whispers.

Favorite Movies

Okay, this was a slow movie year for me. I usually see at least two movies a month, but significantly slowed down. So I really liked Gravity and The Butler. Twelve Years A Slave was so haunting that I will probably remember it for the rest of my life. That is all.

Funniest Moment

That crazy lady meltdown in the Kingston airport will be added to my amazing collection of stories, no lie

Worst Moment

Redacted to protect the guilty and horrible

And missing Stevie. Lawd Jesus, I missed Stevie!!

Fun Moments

Janelle Monae is everything

Slow Motion

Cruising on Route 3

Favorite Spots

So I lost my Cheers. I guess my liver is happy.

Meanest Moment

I plead the fizzifth.

The Holiday Edition

christmas_angelSo this weekend, at a party we had a rousing conversation about Christmas music. I can be a bit of a humbug when it comes to Christmas. But I do love holiday music. Of course I am a huge snob about music and usually only like one or two versions of the classics. So I don’t buy new Christmas albums because I honestly don’t care. Your version of This Christmas isn’t better than Donny’s so why are we pretending. I get it. Holiday albums are cheap to produce, easy to market and great returns on investments, but so. Here my definitive list. You are welcome to buy the recent offerings from Kelly Price or Ledisi but not I. My list is my list.

  1. This Christmas. Donny Only! So when I was little I had no clue who Donny Hathaway was, so every time I heard it on the radio, I couldn’t figure out who made it and got sad.
  2. Joy to the World – Whitney Houston. This is a close second favorite holiday song. God, I love this song. As I have established, I only like pure singers, not the folks who remind you of you and your crew. I hate that stupid rationale for liking an artist. There are folks who can sing and folks who can’t. Your fave’s warbling can never match the beauty of this.
  3. Silent Night – The Temptations. Because in my heart, I want you to be free.
  4. A Christmas Song – Nat King Cole. I amazingly also like the Toni Braxton version.
  5. O Holy Night. I loved this song in church but had to wait until the 90’s to finally get a great recorded version. And there are two! Mariah Carey and Celine Dion.
  6. Winter Wonderland – Aretha Franklin. I like how jazzy she made this boring little Christmas song, because when your office carolers sing it, it is a dry little ditty.
  7. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt. This has a message I can get behind.
  8. Every Year, Every Christmas – Luther Vandross. A good bit of melancholy that doesn’t make you want to totally slit your wrists – I’m looking at you “What Do the Lonely Do for Christmas.”
  9. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland. Sinatra and Luther Vandross works as well. You really need a throaty voice for this song to work. Sorry countless others that have made this song.
  10. All I Want for Christmas Is You – Mariah. Look this song is fun and uplifting and really how many Christmas songs can say that?
  11. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Jackson 5. So cute with young Michael!
  12. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love. If it’s good enough for Dave Letterman every year, it should be for you too.
  13. Let It Snow – Boyz II Men. No mention of Santa or Christ though.
  14. Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto – James Brown. I like the begging.
  15. Christmas In Hollis – Run DMC. With an honorable mention to Back door Santa, as shameful as that song is.
  16. My Favorite Things – The Supremes. So bouncy and fun.
  17. What Child is This – Vanessa Williams. I always hated this song in choir, but she made it pretty.
  18. Carol of the Bells – Destiny’s Child. I don’t even know why I like this thing. Maybe because it’s weird.

I love a lot more but I think I will stop now.  And apparently I am not allowed to like Baby, It’s Cold Outside anymore, so I left it off. But if I did like it — the Ray Charles / Betty Wright version.

The Nothing To See Here Edition

Last weekend I saw the Best Man Holiday. I was very excited. I remember the original movie came out right when I graduated from college and it was nice to see a movie about a group of Black college graduates, just like me. I of course told no one of my excitement because well…race-themed movies (thanks USA Today!) are fraught with unsolicited commentary. I’ll happily admit that I am a movie snob. I like intricately plotted, well written, superbly acted movies and silly romantic comedies (my guilty pleasure instead of the usual reality shows). My quibble is that a lot of popular movies directed at Black audiences or with Black characters as the lead rarely possess those four elements I prefer. See Tyler Perry.

But there’s another problem with telling people about my excitement about the movie. Black people hate seeing themselves on the screen. Is this harsh? Yes. Am I over exaggerating? Probably. The endless commentary surrounding movies is exhausting. No other artistic endeavor is dissected so deeply.

I remember when Brown Sugar came out. It was after a slate of films such as The Best Man, Love and Basketball, The Wood, etc. came out. A lady in my book club stated that she was tired of attractive, educated Black people in love movies. She wanted to see more movies with “regular” Black people. Here’s the issue: she was a pretty, college graduate with a white collar job living in Montgomery County. So I told her, if movie was made about her, she would be closer to Sanaa Lathan, than say Maxine in Soul Food. Her idea of regular wasn’t even who she was. This reminded me of another conversation we had in college, but I digress.

With the growth of social media, people who hate everything finally have a platform and can form partnerships with other people who hate everything. It is awesome for them and terrible for everyone else as they suck the joy out of everything. This strong vocal group of everything haters spend a lot of time disparaging movies with predominantly African American casts. So much so, you feel bad for even seeing certain movies, let alone liking them.

The vitriol aimed at The Help forced me to filter the term out of my twitter feed. The socially serious Black folks (see I used W.E.B DuBois for them) really hated the fact that Blacks were once domestics. This same group had similar reactions to The Butler. They say they disliked the movie but I knew the truth. I felt it was actually insulting to our ancestors who served as domestics. As someone with two out of three grandmothers as domestics, I really didn’t like how the arguments against The Help were framed. I actually challenged a well-known blogger on it.

The everything haters also feel that the actor is a reflection of the character, so that becomes a complaint. For example, folks really hate Terrance Howard–not for the crazed marital issues but because he commented on baby wipes–and thus his presence negates the quality of all movies that he is in. And there are a lot of actors people simply don’t like, so movies with those actors are trash. Jennifer Hudson and Terrance Howard made a movie together that I knew would never prosper. Amazingly people really like Nia Long though she is truly a meanie in real life.

People don’t like Black people being unhappy in movies, so slave movies are awful (12 Years a Slave). However, if the slave isn’t sad enough or has too much power then that makes slavery look too good (Django Unchained).

Apparently romantic comedies must be rooted in realistic situations or shouldn’t be made (Baggage Claim). These people obviously never see White romantic comedies, which don’t follow that rule at all.

Black characters cannot be too nice to White people or they are not down with the struggle because we all know in reality African-Americans are always holding meetings to discuss how to rise as a people.

Comedies may lead to cooning. Romances may cause people to think we are overly sexualized. Dramas only highlight our problems. We can’t be impoverished because there are so many middle class African-Americans. We definitely shouldn’t be lower class teenagers being helped by a dedicated non-Black teacher through the use of chess, dancing, hockey or writing. However, if the teacher is also Black then no one will go see it. We cannot make all the African-Americans affluent because that it not realistic. Historic dramas are bad because once the details are scrutinized, someone always gets something wrong.  “She had a brown pocketbook, not a black one!” Women can’t be the lead because that makes the movie boring. But if a woman is the lead, she must have a nice boyfriend or it is man bashing.  

There are basically two pretty safe movie genres. Christian movies: this is why I have counted a dozen movies in the last 5-7 years where the congregation is trying to save the church through a choir competition or a bake sale. Okay, I have only seen two of these movies and chalked the rest of them up as the same plot. And impossible Black man movies: Denzel, Will (not After Earth though, which looked terrible), occasionally Jamie (No Django!), etc. Hopefully, a pretty Black woman will play his love interest. I think this is how most Black actresses keep their mortgages paid. Salli Richardson and Kimberly Elise are the queens of this.

So in hindsight, I didn’t see anything last weekend. No commentary please.

The Dead Computer Edition

computerSo I completely forgot to write a post last week. I totally blame my magazine addiction. See I adore magazines. Always have since childhood. I love flipping through the pages and looking at the photography. With the slow death of the industry, I have been able to indulge my love with discounted subscriptions. I obtained these subscriptions for the low, low price of $5 a year. This resulted in six magazines coming into my home every month. Then something crazy occurred. I couldn’t keep up. And the magazines and junk mail overwhelmed my modest sized living room. And next something worse happened; I started receiving random magazine subscriptions that I didn’t order, including Shape, Vogue and Redbook. I didn’t need this in my life so I decided to completely clean the living and thus forgot to post.

Subsequently another awful thing transpired. My computer died. Oh stupid laptop. I hate computers because they die completely without warning and are kind of pricey to replace.  But since I hate computers, there won’t be a pilgrimage for an indestructible Apple because spending more than $1,000 on a laptop isn’t a thing.

I had such a lovely post planned on how the radio. Yes, the evil consumerist radio has been introducing me to the new musical acts. Of course I don’t mean mainstream radio. I mean NPR. Yes, NPR’s spotlights and reviews have led me to some new and interesting singers. Back in October, I went to see jazz artist Cecile McLorin Salvant at the Sixth and I Synagogue. Despite my strong desire to pull her aside and offer her my stylist consulting services, I really enjoyed the concert. Her throaty jazz vocalists are a surprise from someone who could have easily donned a onesie and started singing hooks for rappers.

I also planned to write about my experience seeing the movie, American Promise. The documentary traces the entire academic careers of two Black Brooklyn male students attending a prestigious school in Manhattan. The screening was followed by Q&A with the directors who are also the parents of one of the students. I had mixed feelings about the film. I understood the purpose—to watch how Black male students struggle in predominantly affluent, and White environments. It also unconsciously showed the adage that for a Black person being equal to your peers isn’t good enough as the boys struggled with teachers and administrators. However, I wish I left with an overall wrap-up statement.

Alas, computer died and I need to figure out how to get me a new one.  Not pleased.

Stay Cute Mondays – Get Sexy Edition

Courtesy of City Eats

Courtesy of City Eats

So the hottest thing going for the last several years—look I never said I was ahead of the curve, I just ride waves as they are about to pass—are speakeasies. It all started with PX in Alexandria and several others have arrived since then including The Gibson and The Columbia Room. Recently I visited Harold Black in Capital Hill to experience the mystery and wonder of it all. Most of the bars require a reservation and a deposit, which are hard to come by at the last minute. I decided to do this on a Thursday for a Saturday. The Columbia Room actually is a prix fixe tasting room, which seemed pricey for no reason.  So I made a reservation for Harold Black and the only reservation was for 11:30 p.m. but I am excellent at talking my way into most places, so I was undeterred. We arrived at 10p. and I convinced the door man to let us in. Hey, we had a reservation, what could be the problem? To describe the beginning…so the spot is unmarked above a restaurant. I went into the restaurant to figure out how to get there. We were told to go around the side, walk up the stairs and knock on a barn door to enter.

First let me say the place was sexy. It was dark (in a good way), secluded (yay, no aggravating drunk people!) and exclusive. A group of annoying bar hoppers tried to enter without success. The snobby yet nice (this is a weird trick that the entire staff pulls off) brushed them aside and told them that the spot wasn’t open to just anybody.  The point of these places is that you get above the top custom cocktails with housemade ingredients and premium spirits. My first drink was something off the menu. I liked it but really wanted some made especially for me. As I am important. The bartender asked me my favorite drink –whiskey sour—and flavor profile—tart and dry. Then I received it— he called it a Brooklyn Sour. I was so in love. I wanted to savor every drop. So the bar has a $35 tasting prix fixe menu with two regular bar items, two custom drinks and an appetizer. It seems extravagant at first blush but would have been cheaper than my three $12 drinks and one $7 appetizer. Despite the cost, it was a great night. The bartenders gave us samples of custom cocktails that he made for other patrons. We chatted with a nice girls night out duo. But the real deal are the cocktails…yum. And the dimly light seclusion—again, sexy. That made it fun.

Happy Anniversary! Edition

Anniversary Gift and Champagne Glass on LaceHappy Anniversary! My blog is officially one year old. Ironically, my blog anniversary also coincided with a bit of writer’s block. This explains the lack of posts. I started this blog as I was in the midst of professional ennui. I left my cool creative job due to bad management and returned to the life of a government office drone. I needed an outlet for some creativity. I also needed to find another focus in life if my career wasn’t going to be it. I have always loved outings, so I decided to that I needed better experiences. You can’t have a mundane work life and personal life.  I still remember my childhood hanging partner once said, weekends are for having fun. She stayed planning activities for us. Amazingly I sucked at a lot of them – skating, bowling and swimming, but I was out there trying week after week. I remember we even went paddleboating once, at which I was decent. I learned at an early age that the best life is one away from the couch.

I was reminded of this fact during the Columbus Day weekend. I planned to go to WonderFull that weekend. I even listened to Stevie Wonder all week at work to ready myself. But the weather was dark and rainy and I talked myself out of it. As an only child, I am more than willing to do things on my own. However, I just determined maybe it was best for me to stay in and rest. People always say that and I always dismissed it as malarkey. Hey, I was the person who went out for New Years Eve alone when my cousins cancelled because of snow. It’s Michigan. It always snows in December! That was one of the best nights of my life. Well, my instinct was correct and I should not have stayed home. Because Stevie Wonder showed up! To sing! I just…cannot. Lesson learned.

However, the rest of the weekend was good. I mean…it could have been an epic weekend for the ages but alas it was merely good. Sunday, we decided to celebrate the unofficial Treat Yo Self Day on a budget. First, we had brunch at Twist thanks to Living Social. I really liked the restaurant and would definitely go back. Then, we had pedicures with wine! I really wanted a massage but unfortunately the salon with the deal I found only had one masseuse on duty.

Finally the weekend wrapped with the most fun event ever. I didn’t think it would ever happen but the joyful (get it?) concert I attended my freshman year of college with The Fugees has been replaced as the most enjoyable concert ever. That was a lot of “ever’s.” However Janelle Monae wears the crown now. That concert was entertaining, danceable and fun. Fun is the best way to describe it. I think she is the most entertaining performer currently out. I mean she came out in a straight jacket to Django. I cannot express how awesome she is in person and I highly recommend everyone see her live.

Hopefully, the next year will bring even more adventures.

Stay Cute Mondays – DC Flea Edition

Me in need of lipstick, lol

Me in need of lipstick, lol

So I decided that I truly need a 1970’s leather trench coat in my life to get my Foxy Brown on earlier this year. I thought one day soon I’ll go online and make some google searches to see what pops up on Ebay and the like. As an aside, I am one of the five people in my age bracket who hates shopping online. If it’s not music or books, I cannot be bothered. The internet is too vast and my attention span is short for it to be a pleasant experience. Anyway, no fear. I did not have to do any of that.

I went to the launch of DC Flea and voila, a pretty purple leather 70’s trench. It fits perfectly like it is literally meant for me. I love flea markets and now I remember why. There’s always something perfect just waiting to come home with me. And I successfully avoided the multitude of snacks for purchase and thus a double score. So now, trench and I will be taking out sucker fools in the near future.

The Indie Artist Edition

flyer-goapele-wayna-howard-theatreLast week I took advantage of a Goldstar deal and went to see Goapele. I actually had been tracking several concerts this month to see if they ultimately became Goldstar deals but only one came to fruition. As I vowed that 2013 will be a year (still a real struggle) of rebuilding. I have been trying to save money. This means an over reliance on outings that cost less than $20. Despite vocal complainers, I actually like the Howard Theater. It’s pretty, easy to get to and sounds good, especially on the second floor. The sucky things about the Howard – service and food – can be advantages as often you can skip the $10 minimum because the servers forget about you, lol.

I got there promptly as intended to miss the opening act. I’ve heard her before at other DC events and I am not a fan of her voice. I have a mental block against high-pitched nasally singing voices. In fact the only other singer with this style of singing I can think of is Ayo. That is how much of a block exists.

Goapele was in great voice. However, she needed backup singers. I hate when performers don’t have backup singers. As much local talent exists, she could have employed some talented locals to back her up for the night. It was really obvious when she sang my favorite song by her, My First Love. The recorded version has this swelling background scatting that was sorely missed live. I remember I saw Ne-Yo at the Essence Music Festival eons ago and he didn’t have backup singers. I was shocked. He was a major R & B artist at the time, what was he thinking? My other complaint was that Goapele ran all of her songs together. I don’t really think her songs sound a lot alike as some artists do. So the lack of a pause or suitable transition was a bit jarring. I get that she might not be one that chats with the audience or provides little talky interludes, but a simple, “And now…” would have helped.

Oddly, I’ve always thought that Alice Smith had this unique, smoky rocker chick voice that I couldn’t place. However, on this night I felt that Goapele and she sounded eerily similar on some songs. As an aside, I went to the Hyattsville Arts Festival that weekend and the acoustic stool (not really a stage) had another singer that sounded like both Goapele and Alice. I started to scream, “Change honey, you are in for a difficult road.” Some voices are extremely popular with the masses and that list is very narrow, lol. For another aside, Britney Spears’ recorded voice is nothing like her actual singing voice, which is why she lip syncs so much. I read that in an article once and it blew my mind. The shaping that occurs in the record industry is a lot.

Back to Goapele, I did enjoy the concert despite my quibbles. I still think she could benefit from some old-school Motown stage coaching, but I think this of almost all independent artists that I see. My theory is that you will make the majority of your living from stage shows so you need to make them as electrifying as possible to ensure people keep coming back for more.