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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.
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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 Hard Work Edition

Courtesy of Library of Congress

Courtesy of Library of Congress

So I meant to write last week but my Office was giving me the blues. I will bypass discussion of the American Cool exhibit to recount my latest musical adventure and an adventure it was. I need to start writing things down. I saw the announcement about the Gregory Porter concert at the Library of Congress and plum forgot to get tickets. By the time I remembered it was sold out. As a result, we decided to try for tickets as they make some available at 6p on the day of shows or so I thought.

I was really proud of myself. First I got there early. I had no food in my stomach but I was there. Luckily I arrived at the same time as half of the quartet so instead of being confused as to where to go I followed them. So imagine my little amazement when I got inside to wait for tickets and it was packed. I just figured a handful of people or so would give it a shot. I didn’t know how many tickets they hand out so I spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to best position myself for success and wondering where my buddy who decided to accompany me was. I realized first that you don’t get tickets, you get something called rush tickets. These tickets enable you to be the waiting list if the event isn’t filled. Since the show is free, a lot of people order tickets online and don’t show up.

The wait quickly become contentious as the line wrapped around the hallway and the old folks who must have arrived promptly at noon were turned up. They wanted to know exactly how the tickets will be distributed and how the staff planned to ensure there was no cutting. I cannot wait until I get old! Anyway I hate conflict and started to just move on but then my Gregory Porter guardian angel swooped in and saved the day. He told me that I can get in front of him. I ended up with tickets 74 and 75 of 100. Without his benevolence, I never would have made it. The staff told us that we needed to come back at 7:30 to see if we will make it in.

I will say that this method of giving tickets requires a lot of effort on the part of the attendees. You wait in line prior to 6p and come back in 90 minutes to do it again? Anyway we were back. We sat in the overflow room which looks likes the lounge of a Vermont bed and breakfast and queue back up (well in chairs) and proceed to wait. It was hilarious. Folks were antsy. The staff would call numbers and people wouldn’t show up and folks cheered. One lady claimed to be holding tickets for friends who were en route and she was promptly booed. Amazingly my guardian angel did not return. Maybe the arguing at 6p got to him or he realized this is the stupidest method ever to get into a sold out event. Why couldn’t we just queue up at 7:30p and they just let the first 100 people in? Folks had jokes. Joy spread as we burned through the first 50 numbers. However everything slowed down after that and sadness ensued. People started plotting. I convinced a couple to double up if it got down to the wire. Then…yes! Our number was called.

We entered and the usher guided us to an entirely empty row save for two people on the end. Unfortunately the lady at the end refused to stand up and she wasn’t the kind of person you could squeeze by. A note: if you are heavy and have mobility issues, please do not sit at the end of an aisle. I watched without being able to hear my friend argue with the lady and then dart off. I followed quickly behind to discover that she saw better seats. We found great seats about 7 rows up from the stage, next to a man who didn’t even know who Gregory Porter was.

Thank goodness the concert was awesome or I just wasted 2 hours stressing for no reason. I swear after his amazing rendition of Work Song I wanted to throw my panties or give him some kind of reward. The audience was obviously filled with fanatics who screamed song requests. Umm…that’s not how concerts work. Everyone demanded an encore and sat down like the little brats we were when we got one. It was 90 minutes of excellence as an award for 2 plus hours of work. A really good deal.

The Singular Edition

Courtesy of Asico Photo Blog

Courtesy of Asico Photo Blog

Almost two weeks ago, I treated myself to the Sharon Jones and Dap Kings concert. For some reason in the past year, I have taken myself out of the habit of going places alone. This is a thing that I have never shied away from. This behavior has not been a really successful practice: *cough* Stevie Wonder *cough*. Starting in college if there was something I really wanted to do and no one else was interested, I went anyway. I think it comes from two things: 1) I was raised as an only child and so I am completely comfortable spending vast amounts of time alone and 2) I grew up pretty broke and sheltered, so I always felt like I missed out on a lot and needed to catch up.

I still remember a friendship ended in college on my first adventure alone.  I wanted to go to the ballet. Oh, hilariously I have been me for a very long time, and none of the crew wanted to go. The group had voted to spend a girls night in and I wasn’t having it. The rule was the majority decides on weekend activities. So I snuck out to the performance and my “friend” caught me. She was so incredulous that I attempted to hide and go to something as “stupid” as the ballet that the friendship never recovered.

However, this bold act started me on a path to some really great experiences. One of my favorite New Year Eves was the result of my going out alone when everyone else was afraid of a little snow. I accidentally crashed a private party that included party favors, a DJ, a buffet and open bar. Score! The one drawback of going out alone when crazy stuff happens, you have no one to corroborate your story. My terrible experience at the Essence Festival can be co-signed by one of my best friends. So sadly, no one can acknowledge the ridiculousness I witnessed at this concert. Basically I watched a White middle-aged, upper middle class, farmer’s market attending type threesome form right before my eyes. I watched a nice Volvo driving (okay I cannot confirm this but I know it’s true) couple join a good lady friend. I watched the couple make out uncomfortably (well, for me) all while the lady covertly stroked the lady friend’s hair. I saw the man go get snacks while the two middle aged middle school teachers make out (also uncomfortable for me). I observed that by the end of the night with encouragement from the double agent, the man cozy up, kissing and fondling, both women. All of this occurred with only one eyewitness, a random man sitting next to me who I will never see again.

This distraction withstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. I still don’t like the open seating of the Lincoln Theater. It means I need to get to the venue 30 – 45 minutes early for complete boredom just to get a great seat. Once my overwhelming boredom ended, the show started with Valerie June. I have her CD after hearing her interviewed on NPR’s Tell Me More. I cannot figure out if I like it or not. There are three songs that I absolutely love and her voice is a true wonder. This was true of the concert as well, which was pretty true to the CD. I have never been a huge fan of bluegrass and the album has clear bluegrass, gospel and folk influences. I notice the stronger the individual influence determines my like for the song. The gospel and folk tinged songs. I love. The bluegrass, not so much. I also noticed that the songs I liked the most weren’t crowd favorites. So I was my own little island there. I still want me a sugar daddy to take me away from work, so the rousing rendition of Workin Woman Blues gave me all my life.

Finally after more boredom, where I got to watch the threesome come together and my right-hand neighbor order a t-shirt online, the Dap Kings arrived. The lull between acts at concerts are the worst thing about attending concerts alone. You have no one to chat with and are really concerned with conserving battery power. The Dap Kings started with spotlighting the backup singers before Sharon Jones, bald, defiant and energetic, graced the stage. She has been battling cancer for the last year and this was her second time on stage since treatment. She was a bit smaller, in size and presence, than usual but I happily danced along to all my favorite songs and the new stuff. At the end she led the crowd through a series of dances from the 60’s and 70’s, which was so much fun. Her commitment to her fans which was rewarded by roses from the crowd, made going out alone a great idea.

The Questioning Edition

Question_bridge_02_web_0Last weekend I attended the Corcoran Gallery’s exhibit called Question Bridge: Black Males. I will admit as woman I don’t always understand the male point of view. The interesting thing about the exhibit was that I learned that men often don’t understand each other’s points of view either. The exhibit is more of a documentary where Black men and a few boys ask questions that are answered by other Black men. Some of the responses were heartfelt, such as Andrew Young’s response of how he knew that he met the love of his life. Some responses were heartbreaking, such as when a gentleman shared that his brother died of cancer because he refused to see a doctor. Some were puzzling, as with the man who stated that he believes the n-word will change for the better just as Samaritan did. All were fascinating.

They interviewed men from every age group, socio-economic status, geographic region and education level. They interviewed men in prison, doctors, teenagers, rappers, actors. A very huge cross section. I couldn’t tell how long the interviews lasted. It could have been hours. We sat transfixed for two hours, losing track of time, listening and processing. I think the key to the interviews is that we are not a monolith. Black men are not a homogenous group that is easy to pinpoint and stereotype, despite what others may think. I could see the simple things that divides the group: if you grew in the suburbs vs. the projects, if you grew up pre-civil rights era or during the crack-infested 80’s, if you attended an ivy league college or the school of hard knocks.

I do believe I learned something. It is not something easily identifiable such as I learned that Montpelier is the capital of Vermont. I learned how men articulate themselves, what gets under their skins, what they say and what they are afraid to say. I realized that each of the men interviewed had something to say even if what they said isn’t something I completely understood or agreed with. I don’t “get” prison culture but neither did some of the subjects. I don’t comprehend the respectability politics that is laid at single mothers’ feet when it takes two to make children. And again neither did the other subjects. Lately, mainly because of some really vocal members of “Black Twitter” I had grown weary of hearing any opinions on any subject. The vitriol and rancor spewed on topics as simple as Valentine’s Day especially from Black men exhausted me. But through this exhibit, I remembered that we, “the Blacks” are not a singular community and for every Negative Neal there’s a Positive Paul and that’s a good lesson.

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.