Monday, November 17, 2008

After a week of wound-licking I am feeling much better.  It could have something to do with the fact that the sun is also streaming into my windows, there is certainly nothing like sunlight to perk up a mood.  I learned that after living in Seattle for two years!

I originally started this post a day ago and it began something like:
"Everything in my life sucks right now..."  Wow.  Amazing.  To cut myself some slack, I have had a pretty rough summer/fall in terms of personal, family, and work life.  I am still feeling uncertain about many things but my head is clearer now and I can see the proverbial path in the woods; I've been on it all along actually.

Now other than a painful lack of finances (no contracts anywhere in sight) I am alright.  I will just keep moving forward, because right now it's a little too much to try to figure out when and where to change direction.  But you know, as long as it's not backward, I'm pretty sure I'll be ok.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Back in touch

Never do these but found this in my Internet travels. Perfect to get me back into the swing of things, I'll call it Me In a Word:

Yourself: smoldering

Your partner: nonexistent 

Your hair: corkscrew-y 

Your mother: strongwilled 

Your father: wounded

Your favorite item: stone

Your dream last night: unmemorable

Your favorite drink: tangy 

Your dream home: old-fashioned 

The room you are in: cozy

Your fear: childlessness 

Where you want to be in 10 years?: Paris 

Who you hung out with last night: myself 

What you're not: weak 

Your best friend: quirky

One of your wish list items: stereo 

Your gender: female 

The last thing you did: examined

What you are wearing: slacks

Your favorite weather: rainy 

Your favorite book?: Song of Solomon 

Last thing you ate?: hummus 

Your life: full

Your mood: agitated 

The last person you talked to on the phone: Catherine

Who are you thinking about right now?: me

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I find myself back in a position where I don't want to be. But truthfully I'm not sure if that's where I am. Makes no sense, I know.

I've changed lots in the past few years, I broke out of these patterns that saw me receiving the very minimum from those around me and strangely wanting more and more rather than stopping surveying the various situations and moving on or forcing change in them. Change of myself, that is, I always stayed put and always got nothing. My needs were never met, I was never satisfied, I was never...

Now I fear that I could get myself back into the same situation if I'm not careful. So tonight I am stuck. I hate feeling stuck. I'm here because of my own mistakes, granted, but that doesn't make it any easier. Maybe I'll go to bed with a book, rest, cry, rest, then awaken refreshed (with any luck) and ready to move on.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I had dreams Saturday and Sunday about... I hate that. I don't want to say that out loud, which is why I'm writing it. I felt like I had to let it out of me. Is that weird, like it's a secret or something...

Stupid.

I don't feel like the door is closed but I'm not sure it's open either. Does that make sense?

It feels like the experience is hanging out there open-ended in the universe, where perhaps it will float into infinity or not. I hate that. I liked it before, just before everything. My mind was free, clear, unfettered by thoughts of...for the first time, maybe ever. I want that back, goddammit.

I've gotten to a point in my life where I really like the feel of certainty. Clean breaks. Cut and dry-ness, if you know what I mean.

But I keep seeing snow falling from my window sitting with...watching and waiting.

I don't like that.

Clean breaks.

Endings...happy or sad...just done.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Friends! Art. Life. Love?

So far this weekend three people who I adore have called me. It was all totally unexpected and wonderful since I had no plans and it's the first weekend in about a month that I've been home alone or home at all. So, I feel good today after a tough couple of weeks. I love the friends I have and the relationships I've managed to cultivate with them. I don't feel so alone anymore because of them. More importantly they are all sounding well. That makes me happier than anything.

I finally brought the second of three pictures that I had framed home and it looks okay. The third is still being finished and will probably be there for awhile because it's a bit pricey. But I look forward to it coming home when it does. I now have a couple of more pieces I want framed. We'll see. It's kind of expensive but worth it. Now my house is filled with art but honestly, I don't have enough wall space now. But when I head back to Paris I plan to find a place with plenty of wall space for my treasures.

Life is still moving along rather sluggishly but with promise, at least I think. It's both exhilarating and horrifying to think that the direction my life will take is all up to me. I have wish I had a genie in a bottle to shape a few events or that there was a scroll somewhere that I'll discover that will tell me what's next. But really I suppose I like the mystery of it all. The only thing I'd really like to be set on is the whole family and kids thing. I want them both desperately, but is any of that in store for me? I think I want to marry Pete Rock, I'm cute and smart and talented. He'd like me. Can anyone hook me up out there?

As for love. What to say. I'll talk about that some other time.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

It is definite. That thing has completely slipped through my fingers. Perhaps it was never destined to be...

That's okay. It feels okay. I made a big mistake this time around and I won't again. I won't again.

On the other hand, I had a fantastic weekend. I spent it with old friends, with whom, if I am lucky, I will keep in touch. At least with a few of them. I'd love to keep a few of them in my back pocket, so to speak.

Additionally, I just had a really big steak. It was delicious.

So, time to move on.

Yeah. Time to move on.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

In the past two weeks I just had something that I think I wanted slip through my fingers. Mostly because of me. I wasn't ready for it, I think. I say I think because I am uncertain about a few things. In any case, here I am where I started and for the first time ever, I am okay with that. It's damn hard, but I am not devastated. I do not feel like I have to reconstruct myself or my life in a different way and start over completely.

That is a very good thing.

I wish I had gotten what I wanted. I'm a little annoyed that I have to keep pushing now, because I thought it could have been pretty good in the grand scheme of things. It was challenging. For the first time, a challenge that kept me interested, engaged, on my toes. It was fun and definitely a learning experience.

So I am happy I had the experience but ready to try out the next thing that has come up for me. It should be good. We'll see where it goes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It rained all day today. Autumn is here. I really love this weather. This is the time of year that most people find very difficult. You know: the days are shorter, the temperatures are cooler, and the holidays are right there. But I love this time of year, perhaps because it's my birthday season.

I am looking forward to the holidays and may even go to my parents' home this year, breaking the solemn vow I made about seven years ago never to spend another holiday with them at their home. We shall see. I am looking forward to preparing something grand for one or both of our holiday meals since Christmas was such a success last year.

With that, my novenas are burning and I've implored the intercession of Santa Clara and the Seven African Powers. The least I could do is hold up my end of the deal by doing some work.

A la prochaine...

Friday, September 26, 2008

So much has changed in my life since last Wednesday. I think it has changed anyway.

I am left here wondering how life moves the way it does and how we get pushed along the way we do. How we forget, remember, or fail to realize who we are, where we are, what we are, or even what we need to do sometimes.

One thing is certain about life. You never know what will happen. I certainly didn't.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The past week has been a nightmare. Personally and professionally, I have been smacked around like a ball in a pinball machine. Lots of what has happened is my fault and I know that I have to get it together. I am on that path now and I have made a promise to myself to stay on it.

Can't say much else at this point.

I have to make some time though for baking. I have a Daring Bakers assignment and really baking just helps keep me balanced. We'll see what I can whip up.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I am wicked tired of being poor. Excuse that slip back into the nostalgia of my childhood in New England.

Seriously though, I am.

I need to get cracking. I'm trying, there is no doubt. Just not hard enough. Now I am having trouble with focus because in my free time, my thoughts often drift and I spend time reflecting on my new *ahem* situation and how I managed it all. Everything is good and I'm actually really fulfilled emotionally for the first time, perhaps ever, so I guess using that as an excuse is no longer an option.

What else can I say right now. Nothing, I guess, so, signing off...

Monday, September 08, 2008

PR saves my Soul...

I ran across this on youtube after doing a search for Pete Rock:



I had never purchased any of his solo material because, well, I don't know why. But PR is the most amazing hip hop producer. I would say that he could easily produce across genres if he so desired. He is a true artist.

No other producer comes close, there was Dilla (R.I.P.), 9th Wonder, and of course, Premo, but Pete still reigns supreme.

His work is complex and subtle. I have been inspired to develop some sort of tarte in his honor. Don't know what I will call it, but I'm envisioning chocolate, textures, a hint of salt, caramel, maybe hazelnut...to the kitchen. With PR playing in the background, of course.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Waiting

I'm waiting for my date to arrive.  Sounds weird after so long.

But really, I got ready for this, nothing special, but I realize just how much work this shit takes.
Showering, I mean really showering, not one of those in and out kind of things.  You just can't be crusty when you're dating.  And it's not even like I ever really am crusty, but you have to take extra care.

You can't have crazy toenails or rough feet.  You have to clean behind your ears, floss, handle all of those cracks and crevices, all of that. Again, not that I don't normally, but it matters when you're interacting with others and not just someone you want to, well, you know...

Anyway, it's crazy.  I forgot after all of these years being unfulfilled/with one person that it's exciting and takes work.

More importantly, I am learning that there are normal people out there.  That is to say, sociopaths are not the norm.  

But now, I have to run, because I forgot to floss...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oooh And I Like It...

I met a man.

I met him awhile ago very briefly, in passing, actually, at the a place where I worked. We ran into each other recently... He is Nigerian and has the deepest voice I think I've ever heard, and I love that. Anyway, although I generally try to avoid Nigerians, (I'll just say CRAY-ZAY and leave it at that), he is quite interesting. I suppose his being hot and chocolate-y has something to do with it too.

Anyway, when he talks I get tingly, literally. I'm going to have to look that up, I mean, attraction, deep voices...there is definitely no shortage of testosterone in his world.

This could be trouble, the voice alone could have me walking that stroll if I'm not careful.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I keep seeing bees....

I hope they are honey bees.

R.I.P. Bernie Mac



I'm late on this.

Well, I guess you can never be too late on paying tribute to someone...

Today a public memorial is being held for Bernie Mac and I can't go because I have to work. I still am having a hard time with his death and I am so disconnected from celebrities. But truly, I feel as though a member of my own family has died. I just think he was an immensely underrated talent who never relied on waxing nostalgic superficially or buffoonery to make his audiences laugh. God, I will miss him and as many others have undoubtedly done this week, I plan to have some milk and cookies in his honor today.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

the arthritic toe

i have been sidelined the past two days thanks to an arthritic toe. it hit me out of no where. and while i don't exercise nearly enough (read: at all) i have an almost uncontrollable urge to jog. of course, right now I am sitting soaking my foot in a pot (don't have a basin) of hot water heavily spiked with apple cider vinegar. pathetic.

i am feeling my age today. mostly because i think this toe may have a touch of "the gout," as the old folks would say. i think this is mostly due to a surgery i had years ago and an injury to the ankle of the same foot two years ago. anyway, here i am with a swollen foot soaking in a pot of smelly hot water thinking "oh my god, i think i have gout." sigh. i am limited today, my mobility is limited and the possibility of having what may be the beginnings of an incurable (sometimes degenerative) disease are both very sobering concepts with which to grapple.

i'm choosing now to embrace this poor toe...rather than allowing it to depress me i have decided to use it as a catalyst to be healthier. that really means exercising and less sugar for me.

...i have been witness to the declining health of those that i love for too long now, and while i am not disgustingly unhealthy or even remotely abusive to my body. i don't want to follow down that path. i need to treat it better.

i know i am not old, but today i feel limited and with the death in recent days of the incomparable bernie mac followed by isaac hayes, i am keenly aware of my mortality and the fragility of life and good health.

it's time now, toe.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

What is happening?

I'm so upset right now; I am emotional but...

I can't cry, I only sigh...and SIGH. The tears just won't come. WHERE ARE MY TEARS?!?

I am hungry but...

I can't cook and I can't eat; there is a taste in my mouth and I can't identify it.

I am so stuck right now but...

I can't unstick. What will it take? I just don't know.

I'm so alone right now but...

I'm not. But I am.

I have so much to say but...

I don't know how.

I have so much to do but...

I don't know where to start.



Maybe I will take a nap.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jesus be a basic English writing class...

This is why I no longer teach:

"Shopping days at the supermarket are a drag when the sun is shinning (sic) and the cool, cool pavement is there for the taking."

I don't know either.

This gem is courtesy of a student in the food writing class I teach, a mere five class meetings have confirmed unequivocally that teaching makes my ass tired (another of my Grandmother's sayings, God I miss that woman!).* 

Anyway, Jesus might also consider being a thesaurus, a dictionary, and a grammar reference book for good measure.

Thank goodness tonight is the last night. At least it will look impressive on my CV.

*By the way the stress is on the word ass, which gives it this delicious new sense that connotes a condition or affliction one is experiencing called "tired ass" at least that's how I always imagined it as a kid when my Grandmother would say it.

Ennui

You know, I hate counting on other people for stuff.  Really.  This is both a strength and a weakness of mine.  I sometimes find myself isolated and even struggling because I don't reach out.  Actually I often forget entirely to reach out and it's largely because I have encountered so few people in this life who I can count on, friends and family alike.  

I've met a few who are down for whatever (within reason, of course) and I cherish them, but it's taken a long time.  Still, even with them, I have trouble laying down my burdens, my armor, etc. and letting them help.  I know that it also has to do with control but that's another story.  In any case I am at a point where I am not only waiting for others but I am also squandering my own time and energy.  I'm in that cycle again.  I'm a little stuck.  


Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Lake

First and foremost, hello to all of the Daring Bakers who are stopping by. I'm sorry I there are no posts of the July challenge, I just didn't get my arse in gear in order to make it happen. But this month, I just can't wait, it's going to be fabulous, so come back, come back!!


Now, here I am, I have been struggling the past couple of weeks. Not with the calmness of life right now, but rather with the storm of thoughts whipping through my head about the future. Today, another horoscope:

Scorpio (Oct 23 - Nov 21)
You have been thinking about your future long enough. You may be sick and tired of going around on the same mental loops as you attempt to create something different from the life you currently have. Instead of fighting against the resistance you feel, try letting go of the attachment that you have to any long-term goals. You may be pleasantly surprised at what happens when your mind is freed from previous expectations.


I hate it when these things are dead on. I'm not even a horoscope junkie. Anyway, the gist of my malaise (in spite of the calm) these days, is that all that I'm envisioning is within reach but there's so much from here to the final destination, that I feel overwhelmed and slightly disheartened.  I have my own allegory for life change (or any kind of change), which is the lake. I thik I may have dreamed this initially and it has stuck with me over the years. It comes into my head at times like those I am experiencing now and shit, I kind of hate it. Here it is:  

I am first standing on the shore of a lake in a forest, looking at the other side, knowing that where I want and need to be.  The surroundings are absolutely beautiful and pristine, but there is no boat, no canoe, no other way to the other side accept swimming across.  The other part of this is, I really don't like swimming in natural bodies of water, I have a mild phobia.  Anything where I can't see to the bottom, you won't find me.  Additionally, I am not to fond of standing on the bottom of these bodies of water because anything could be buried/living in the dirt or sand (this stems from a childhood incident that has morphed into a fear that straddles the mild and the irrational), but I also would not want to stand on the bottom of a natural body of water that I couldn't see in. So the point is that I begin to realize that my only option is to dive in and begin swimming. As I continue swimming until I realize the other side is much further than I thought from the shore, but I keep swimming. Soon I stop and I am treading water in the middle of the lake, I look around to find that I am alone there--no one on either shore and no one in the water. I continue to tread and survey the situation. I begin thinking about what I will do, because my destination is still damn far away from me at this point and the water is cold and murky and I'm getting a little afraid because I don't like water like this. I look back where I came from. 'Should I just head back?' is what I think to myself. I contemplate for a while, I seriously consider turning back and finally I decide to move forward. I tell myself that I've come too far to turn back, I will have expended all of that effort and energy for nothing and that would be the failure. Especially when the reason I'm considering heading back is simply that the rest of the journey will be long and difficult. So I take a breath, and begin swimming again, even as fear of the murky water begins to creep into my consciousness.


The moral: the difficulty or complexity of a task is generally not reason enough to quit. And I live my life like that because unfortunately that's how I was raised and I have lots of pride when it comes to this whole thing.  Fuck.

Why do I hate it? Because being trifling is generally so much easier. My life would be less complicated if I was trifling and sorry.

But, I'm not. DAMN IT! (*said with a measure of regret*)

Maybe I should go and pick up some water socks in case I happen to briefly hit bottom while I'm out in the middle of that lake swimming to shore.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Astrology today

Here is my horoscope.
Hmmm, words to live by...

Don't just shamble down to the pizzeria and gobble a slab of greasy cheese, tomato sauce, and dough. Instead, arrange for an interesting person who likes you to home-deliver a pizza lovingly prepared by a gourmet chef. For that matter, Scorpio, don't tolerate mediocrity or the lowest common denominator in any area of your life. The Season of the Peak Experience is here -- a time when you have a sacred duty to give your best, commune with the highest, and ask for excellence.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Life and work are both at a stand still right now, with me feeling mostly like I'm being played.

But by what?  By whom?

Maybe this is the calm before the storm and soon all hell is going to break loose.  That is the scenario that has unfolded most frequently in my short but rather intensely lived life.  However, I am no longer the drama magnet that I used to be, so maybe....

Maybe I should just think of this a period of rejuvenation.  Not a prelude to anything just a period of soaking it all in and being...

I'll just enjoy living right now. 
____________


Monday, July 21, 2008

Clear Conversatin'...

I have been learning some valuable lessons about business communication.  I always thought I handled myself well, in a no-nonsense-cut-to-the-chase kind of way with a little friendly, warmth tossed into the mix for good measure.  Now, I'm starting to think not. 

After a morning of phone calls and contact over the weekend with a somewhat arrogant and abrasive group of people who I thought were out of my business horizon (and life) forever, I am beginning to reevaluate myself.

In trying to become a better communicator I have let the pendulum swing back a little too far. Where once I gave inadequate information, I now tend to over-explain and I don't know how I got here or how to find a balance or if I'm just a little sensitive today.

To be continued...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

That Thing...

Why do I always feel that there is so much to do?  Is there really?  I mean, really?

In this case yes.  

I have given myself another year before heading to France for good; I think I said that.

I know that the coming days will be filled with thinking, planning, excitement, self-doubt, and of course,  WORK.

There is so much work to do that I may even forget those aspects of life that seem to have gone perpetually undone all of these years.  I may forget the yearning for that certain something that I've come to believe will evade me for the rest of my days.  I won't name "that thing"  it's better that way.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Feed Your Mind...Part 2

I'm trying to read again.  So that I can finally honor my intentions that led me to forgo buying/hustling a television set.  I got some reading done, earlier this year.  Made a list, you know.  Then, of course, it fell by the wayside.  I let life (and trife) get in the way...So I'm back at it. 

It pains me to say that I've only completed one of the books on the list to follow and the others I'm juggle simultaneously...

Completed:
Perfume - Patrick Suskind 

Reading Simultaneously:
Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky
A Lover's Discourse - Roland Barthes
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Last Report On The Miracles at Little No Horse - Louise Erdrich (love. her.)*

Planning to Start:
Ralph Ellison - Arnold Rampersand

(and of course all of the rest of the books on the list from February I still haven't gotten to...)

Perfume.  What can I say other than I was a bit disappointed.  In the end it just kind of spun out of control and lost me.  Left me wondering, much as I always do after intense exposure to 'German-ness' what's really going on up in that piece?  Anyway, this book started out brilliantly.  What an amazing story and story teller in Patrick Suskind.  However, the cave episode almost lost me and the bizarre and rather 6th-grade-language-arts-class-special-Halloween 'scary'-story-assignment ending was too much and not enough all at once.  Sigh. That's literally what I did upon finishing.  I was waiting to be scared out of my pants.  It could have happened too, but...

Wait!  I just remembered in my guilt that I've been reading quite a bit.  As a favor to a friend, I agreed to become a reader for a local literary journal.  I have read at least 50 short stories in the past three months.  I have also read quite a few essays written by food writers in preparation for the class I am teaching.  Remembering that allows me to feel much better about my reading life. I had to say that out loud to make myself feel better!

Anyway, my plan is to finish all of these books listed above by summer's end.  Except maybe A Lover's Discourse.  That is truly one to consult periodically as circumstances dictate.  I may also hold off on Ralph Ellison until the fall, I don't know that I'm in the right frame of mind for a 625+ page account of the life of a brilliant yet self-hating negro.  It's summertime for goodness sakes!  We'll see about that one.

I'm going to have to make a plan.



*Ahhh...the prolific and fabulous Louise Erdrich.  Along with Toni Morrison, a writer idol of mine, though I am now four books behind.  I still have The Master Butcher's Singing Club, Four Souls, The Painted Drum, and the latest:   The Plague of Doves to savor.  

  


Here in the Chi, it's hot as all get out...

We're in the midst of another week long stretch of ninety degree temperatures and some very serious humidity.  Actually, I have to say again, it's really not that hot (low nineties, which I can handle) but with the humidity, it can get to be too much to bear.  

So, I am trying to do what I can to stay sane and trying not to turn on the air conditioner.  I have two fans running.  Sometimes I wonder, if 2 fans = 1 air conditioner on medium/low.  Who knows.  

I have finally gotten the copy written for my business website and I'm hoping that gets up and running soon.

Now, I'm about to start polishing the copy that I've written for my writer's site.  A good friend of mine, who I've known for ages, is going to design it for me.  I know it's going to be great.  I'm really excited.

These days, I don't have the most exciting news, but that feels good.  No real drama and the kind that's in my life now, is good, or will be in the end.

All is well...


Friday, July 11, 2008

Making my way...

This week two shitty things happened.  Two clients flaked on me, which is really par for the course in my business, if you'll excuse the trite expression.  That means almost $1000 that may never see my bank account, but truthfully, I think it may have been for the best.  I say this because another family situation has arisen and it has made me realize how far I've come personally (emotionally) and professionally in the last few years.

As much as I need the money and the exposure and pieces for my burgeoning portfolio, I know that the two people who bailed out, one callously and selfishly, the other weakly and sneakily, taught me a valuable lesson.  One is the relative of a dear friend and the other I made contact with and we were on the road to being friends, but she needed work for her business and it seemed the perfect fit.  I was wrong.  Anyway, I've learned two things (and maybe I'll add to this list as time passes and I reflect more on the situation):

1.  Don't do business with friends or relatives.  Now I can't make that a hard and fast rule, because I'm doing business with a friend but we are working more as partners.  Perhaps I should say here, don't provide goods or services to a friend or relative in the context of a business transaction.

2.  If people are bad clients, that is to say, pushy, rude, selfish, lacking boundaries, weak, or passive-agressive, you don't want them in your life anyway, in any capacity.  I'm going to also go out on a limb and say that they probably exhibit these same characteristics in their personal relationships to a greater or lesser degree.

A few years ago, I might have lamented this whole situation.  I would have analyzed it to death and thought of it as a personal reflection on me.  I certainly wouldn't have reacted the way I did, which was to immediately get angry in a flash that passed as quickly as it came upon me.  I then gave the deadbeats a few choice words and moved on to the next.  

So far in this business I've had people from all walks of life flake out on me:  a wanna-be celebrity chef in L.A., a couple of well-meaning but slightly provincial "ghetto executives," the editor of a fairly well-known magazine, and now these two.  It's always tough too take and I imagine there will be many more and I will spend more time licking my wounds than I did this time around.  Overall, however, I'm proud that I've gotten to a place in my life where I see no other option but to put myself out there.  Now, I feel like I don't know how to live any other way.

I like that.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Summer Fun

Went to the Taste of Chicago today.  Saw Stevie Wonder, ate Colombian food.

It's true, food and music unite the masses.

Make my day...

Here are seven very good things that have happened in the last week:

1.  Yesterday, I took the plunge and took art that I bought long ago (real art not mass-produced posters) to be framed. I went to a place on Chicago Avenue called April 7s Custom Framing. The owners were fabulous and when I walked in one of their dogs greeted me by licking my toes--sounds gross, but it was actually very sweet.  Should have known I was in the right place then.  Anyway, three pieces will be beautifully framed and ready to travel with me wherever I may go. All for the bargain price (?!?) of $987.00, to be paid in installments (lots of installments) of course.  I highly recommend then for anyone who has finally purchased a real couch of their own and is interested in taking that next step!

2.  I finally got in touch with a man who's planning to open an Algerian pastry shop here. Exciting. I'll head to his cafe next week for chakchouka, merguez, mint tea, and great conversation next week.

3.  I realized that I am ready to get back out and try dating again.  Don't know how I'm going to do it, but I'm sure going to try.  It seems to daunting.  But really how long can a sista lick her wounds?  

4.  I finally found a part time job!  Yea!  Now, I'll always be able to pay my rent, which is nice. Most importantly I can start looking for a new apartment with confidence.  Although I'd rather be looking for my ticket to move abroad.  Soon enough, soon enough...

5.  In a comment on one of my articles for The Root a reader encouraged me to write a book.  Oh, I'm feeling the love, yes I am!

6.  I officially have my first two clients.  Things are moving along.

7.  I found someone to braid my hair!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Latest on The Root...

I am a contributor to The Root, which is an online magazine with a focus on all topics, issues, concerning black people, which means it focuses on everything.  It's a great online publication and a sister to Slate, which I also love.  Awhile back, another article I wrote was picked up by Slate, which means it was on the Slate.com website too.  Check that one out here.

I like this latest article.  It's really helping me explore the topic of food in the African Diaspora. While I have been focusing largely on the Americas, I'm exciting to explore the Diaspora of Europe and other regions and I'm also really excited to explore the food of North Africans and other groups not typically associated but inextricably part of the African Diaspora.  After all, North Africans are African, but that's another post entirely, I won't get into that here.  Both of the articles I have written and a few upcoming topics are helping me organize my thoughts about a book or series of essays I hope to write.  A study of the food of the Diaspora is long overdue and I just can't wait to get writing, researching, and tasting in earnest!

I'd love to hear comments and reflections on the topic.  Please share your ideas about cross cultural connections of food and ingredients here or at The Root at either of my articles.  

Check out my latest on the topic here.

By the way, that photography is all mine too!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Paris, mon amour...



I think that I have made the decision to stay put one more year, as much as I want to go back to Paris tout de suite.  I came back for love and to get my mind right.  Now that my mind's right I feel like the rest will follow or maybe not and if not, that's alright, because, of course, my mind's right. 



What I am trying to do is build my writing business so that I can live like I live here there, if that makes sense.  It's going slowly and right now I'm feeling not so surely, and boy I miss my spot.  

I miss the smells and the sounds of Paris.  I miss the neighborhoods where I hung out and my soul opened up again.  I miss walking around Chateau Rouge trying to find a place to get my hair braided.  I miss my mint tea and my patisseries.  I miss my movies any time of day or night.  I miss my favorite cafe off the boulevard Saint Michel, surprisingly devoid of tourists. I miss my walks through Pere Lachaise where I could reflect undisturbed.  The dead generally mind their own business...



I miss the fine men, the flirting, the hustle and bustle, the sophistication of it all that makes Chicago look like a podunk backwater and even New York (a little bit).  I miss it.  I miss eating scrambled eggs sprinkled with a bit of Emmenthaler that taste like heaven.  Like no other eggs anywhere.  I miss my cafe creme and my cafe haunts.  I miss my favorite bookstore on rue Saint Maur and I miss eating the ambrosial mammoul found at La Grande Mosquee de Paris.  

I miss going to the Louvre at night and that stretch on the metro ligne 6 (that's Charles de Gaulle Etoile and Nation) between the Dupleix and Bir Hakeim stops at night. Each time you ride at night and reach that point and see the Eiffel Tower lit up you lose your breath, you forget how beautiful, how seductive it all is.  You are reminded at that point each time of where you are, not that you could ever forget.

God.  I have to get back home.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Fine As Wine In The Summertime...

My dad used to say that all of the time when I was a kid...

while buying tomato sauce at a supermarket not far from my house, i saw, one of the most handsome men i've ever seen.  hmmmm.  he and his friend comported themselves well in our brief exchange (that consisted of only of a hello).  too much.  still thinking of him the next day...

Friday, June 20, 2008

El Raton

Okay, this is the jam...

I mean not of this genre, but perhaps of all time.  Seriously.

Here's the live version of Cheo Feliciano's classic "El Raton" performed by the Fania All-Stars in Africa in 1974 I think.  If you can get the original do that too, but this is awesome, really, everyone.  In this clip there's Johnny Pacheco, Cheo Feliciano, Jorge Santana, Ismael Quintana, Ismael Miranda, Santos Colon, Hector Lavoe, and I think, Ray Baretto might be in it too. 

Seriously, stop playing, the jam of all time. 

I can count on one hand the number of musicians in any genre who get down like this anymore.




Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer Lovin'? Not so much...

Today I had an appointment for which I was, of course, running late.  At least I thought I was so I decided to take a cab from my neighborhood in Ukrainian Village to the Chicago/Franklin area in River North.  I got into a cab with who I thought was a chocolate-ly love muffin, tall with dark smooth skin; as I surveyed the situation from the back seat I decided that together with his cab driving-salary and mine from freelancing gigs that we could make a good life together.  Then about two blocks into the ride, I noticed he was listening to Rush Limbaugh.  "Rush Limbaugh!"  I shrieked.  He asked me slightly condescendingly (I now realize) if I knew who RL was.  "Of course," I responded "the real question is:  'Do you know who he is?'" (perhaps equally condescending on my part) The conversation progressed (devolved) and shifted to women somehow and he stated that he would love to come back in his next life to be a woman, because all we do is lie around at home with men buying us things, paying our bills and taking us out to eat, while men work hard.  He informed me that he works 12 hours a day driving.  He was outwardly hostile and I thought to myself and of course informed him that he might want to rethink the company he keeps.  By that time I'd arrived at my destination.  In parting I let him know that dealing with crusty ass negroes (and I use that term as a catch all for men of all races and creeds) is a full-time job in and of itself.  

I was feeling sassy, what can I say?

I was really struck by the experience, he was so vehement about it and in that short exchange, I could feel how venomous and bitter his attitude was about women, what he feels they represent, and his relationship to them.  All I kept thinking is that if he is with someone right now, he beats her ass on the regular.  Not so nice.  

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk.  I decided to go buy some plantains and I wanted to try once again to make a pot of arroz con gandules.  I never quite get it right, but I thought 'I'll go pick up the gandules and some sausage, and I'll take my time with it.'  So I headed out.  

Now, I must offer this bit of information, it's sunny and warm and I am looking real cute these days.  My skin has taken on this coppery shimmer from my walks and bike rides, and well, I am really happy and I think I'm just exuding all of that. 

Additionally it is holla season (as me and my girls like to call it) and I was walking through the 'hood.  It's a documented fact that dudes --young and old-- get real ignorant in the summer time.  Not all, but quite frankly, most, so I was braced for the "Ooh girl, you got a big booty!" or the "que culon!" or even the "Are you married, I think I could be a real good friend to you..." or the ubiquitous "Umph Umph Umph" or last but not least, uttered with a most lecherous growl the "Ay mamita/morena/churra, dime que quieres" type of comments...

Anyway, as I was headed into grocery store a drunk and/or hype ass negro screamed a garbled comment about my behind and presumably what he would do to if given the chance.  I wasn't sure at first until a man who was perhaps acting as a security guard yelled to him to go home and looked at me.  It was at that point that I got a little embarrassed, which made me angry. It's crazy the level of misogyny that we face on a daily basis and no one says or does anything about it.  Men who don't engage in those comments stand around and say nothing, other men who do engage feel it's o.k., that it's their right and privilege.  

The fact that the man at the store felt he could say this and that even the cab driver felt compelled to rant makes me wonder just how much respect (or maybe just how little) black and brown men have for black and brown women in general.  I already know the answer to that question, unfortunately.  Sigh.

Never did get that pot of arroz con gandules going.

Juneteenth is upon us...

About two weeks ago on a hot, humid, now rainy Saturday afternoon in Chicago we had been experiencing a string of days where temperatures hovered the high eighty-mid ninety degree range with crazy humidity.  Although it had been fairly mild, as there had been a very nice breeze all week, I knew it, the breeze that is, would not last.  

So I broke down and I bought an air conditioner with money I don't really have because my pet rabbit has been cranky and unwilling to frolic joyfully around the house as she normally does.  She was so cranky yesterday that she made me cranky.  I suppose that's more a function of the fact that I work from home and sometimes, for days on end, she is my only company.  Don't get me wrong, I also bought it because I know that soon enough I'll be caught on a day when the temperature is 98% with 90% humidity and the sun streaming into my windows.  It will be a 72-hour period when the temperature fluctuates about five degrees but you can't tell because the humidity hovers between 90% and 97%.  It will be one of those periods where you walk outside and you start pouring sweat even if you don't really sweat, because of the humidity.  Anyway, I got it.  

I started thinking though, about the ancestors, and how they managed to harvest cotton, tobacco, sugarcane, indigo, rice, you name it in the heat of the South, the Caribbean, Latin America, etc.  How did they slave away (no pun intended) in infernally hot kitchens cooking for families, or work as plantation blacksmiths in the searing heat and humidity of all of these regions?  The realization of that feat alone demands that we straighten up our acts and cut out the ridiculousness, self hate, and self-abuse that have become the hallmarks of the daily lives of black people everywhere.  Oh my god.  Really, if someone stuck me in front of the cotton/sugarcane/tobacco field or rice paddy, even in the pleasant breezy heat of the last few days, expecting me to hoe, plow, chop, or whatever you do in any of those situations, I would have been, well, there are no words.  

So each day in the heat of this and every summer to come, I will maintain quiet, yet fierce reverence of my ancestors, and heck even my not so distant deceased relatives who were bound to that life by Jim Crow and sharecropping.  Think about that as you try to beat the heat this summer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Get on the good foot...


For real, I need to find that cut by James Brown and get it running on an endless loop here at the crib.  Endless loop, am I showing my age?  And the picture?  Just love it, that's all...

I have so much to do.  I have so many ideas and I'm having trouble getting myself back on track after a recent events that shall remain unexplained here.

The four biggest things on my agenda:

1.  Preparing the syllabus for the food writing course I'll be teaching at Kendall College this summer.  Amazing that they just accepted my proposal without a lot of rigamarole.  

2.  Begin to plan a trip to North Africa and Turkey for vacation in the fall and for research for my next writing projects.  Plenty of dates and patisseries will be involved.  Oh yes.

3.  Make it up to Wisconsin to visit Growing Power, an organization trying to do big things in the way of urban farming in the Chicago area.  I'm hoping to put together an essay (what will hopefully be my fourth or fifth by then, check my first here) for The Root and maybe some other places, we'll see.

4.  Get in touch with the owner of a local cafe here that serves les gateaux.  I want to see if I can make them here.  I mean if I can't get to Paris as soon as I thought I would, I may as well make my sweet little loves part of life on American soil.  (With luck, I can get some lessons in making couscous--the actual grains, that is--I've tried it and was, well, fairly unsuccessful.)

Yes.  So much to do, so little time to nap.

**I also need to write here as much as possible.  I need to get some structure back in my routine.  Oh and more music and dancing, as much as I can possibly take!  Oh wait, and more baking, and...


Friday, May 23, 2008

Happy Endings...

For some reason tonight I feel compelled to write this:

After 11 long years, a "relationship" I had with a "man" is finally over.  It took so long because we both refused to let go of one another.  We had our reasons for holding onto each other, none of them good, of course, but we stayed put nonetheless.  

Things actually ended in January after him calling me out of the blue and a series of therapeutic emails that help me finally accept what I'd seen all along:  what I looked for in him for years didn't actually exist, I'd been willing it into existence and failing miserably.  So, in January I sent the final email I plan to send in which I told him everything that had ever bothered me about him. Certainly some of it was petty, but it's what allowed me to let it all go.

I did and I have never been happier.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Reflection

Does everyone who decides to pursue a dream go through hard times?  

Are pain and a constant undercurrent of fear and frustration the dreamers most intimate companions at the beginning (or always)?  I wonder.  

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What's up with your hair?

So, I live in a Polish/Ukrainian neighborhood and while what I'm about to write will sound a bit ignorant, I'm going to go for broke anyway.

Practically every single woman in the 'hood (and it really is the 'hood) has this crazy atonal dye job.  It's really amazing, you see every thing from yellow-orange (literally), orange (literally), red (literally), red-orange (literally), a strange purple color, to maroon (literally), and finally black.  I mean really, you could put your crayon up to their heads and it would match.  And I say atonal, because the colors simply do not, could not, would not ever match their skin tones.  It seems to be de rigeur in the community.  But see, this is not a recent phenomenon.  I remember having this conversation with a Polish friend of mine at least 10 years ago here in the city and she told me "Yes, my people are racist against Blacks, always talking about their crazy hair and tacky, flashy clothing, but what they don't realize is that they have more in common with that than they'd ever be willing to admit."  

It seems my old friend Iwona is still right after all these years...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Afro puff

My hair is natural.  Finally, after about 8 months it is getting where I want it to be.  I love it, I am consistently happy with it and never feel regret or doubt about it.  It's really is odd that I should even think that way, that I should utter that statement, but we live in a world where it is considered bizarre that a black person might want to sport their own natural hair.  People are baffled when you revel in your hair texture, the kinky coils, the tight corkscrew curls.  I spend a lot of time with people from Latin America, Brazil in particular, and they are amazed that I would want an afro.  I have been asked numerous times why I don't straighten my hair, tonight it happened again, after a woman noticed that my hair, when pulled straight, reached to the nape of my neck.  She looked startled, particularly because it looks only about two inches long.  "Why don't you straighten it?"  she asked.  "It would be so pretty and it would blow in the wind."  

I've heard this basic sentiment from all people of color.  Only white people say "Oh my God, I love your hair, it's so beautiful!"  I have my theories about that, of course, but that's another commentary.  It's crazy really that the natural me is considered a "style" and not just me.  It's amazing that the accepted and EXPECTED hairstyle for black women is one that requires the use of harsh chemicals or searing heat to completely alter the hair.  What's even crazier, is that we do it.  I did it forever.  It's considered part of a beauty regimen:  makeup, clothes, manicure, touch up.  Really, it's terrible.  Not that people straighten their hair, but because they feel that they have to.  Black women feel like they don't look neat or taken care of or that their hair is not done if it's not straightened.  Even the ones who aren't self-hating think that.  Some may say it's just easier, but it's not easier at all, it's just that they've accepted that straight hair = attractive and straight hair = female beauty.  Not me, I love my hair.  Maybe even more because I'm lazy.  I know that I may blow my hair straight someday to change up my look temporarily, but it will never again be because 'I have to get my hair done.'  And most importantly, no more chemicals. Ever. 

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fantasy 1; Reality 0

I realize this is not about food but...

The movie, "Humboldt Park" is being filmed in and around my neighborhood.  I don't actually live in HP but very close and I spend lots of time there, because I'm wishing that, when I'd made the decision to spend the next year on American soil this past summer, that I'd expended a bit more effort trudging through the neighborhood to find a gem among the tenements there. However, I took the first thing I saw, a cute, too small, half-tenement just south in the Ukrainian Village, which is still the 'hood (oh yes!) just with an Eastern European accent.  

Anyway, I was walking through the HP today (exercise walking, something I'm committing myself to, trying actually to work up to jogging in the coming weeks).  On the way in, I passed a film crew setting up for the shoot and on the way back I tried to follow the same route and this boy (he was probably early to mid-twenties, part of the patchouli set) ran up on me and declared:
 
"We're filming a movie."  I mean like right all up in my face.  
My response, of course was: "And..." "Well, can you go around?" He half asked.
"I live right up there, what sense would it make for me to go around two blocks?"
"But, we're filming a MOVIE here." He says, as though it matters.

This is part of a huge problem in our society.  It is not that I didn't know that they were filming a movie, as I said they've been doing it for almost a month now in the two adjacent neighborhoods.  So I had no problem going around.  My problem was that this youngsta seemed to think that it mattered more than the fact that he and the film crew that pays him are invading my neighborhood, making it impossible for me to walk down to the laundromat to wash my down comforter in the big washer and high powered dryer conveniently.  They are making it difficult for people to park, they are making it difficult for children and the elderly to get where they need to go easily and on top of it they keep slapping a sign that says bodega in front of the stores where they are shooting.  This is not New York.  We do not have bodegas here, I mean, obviously we have them, we just don't call them that.  No one in the neighborhood calls them that here.  People are annoyed that they are making life inconvenient and that they are not truly representing the neighborhood.  Instead of using established businesses, they have scoped out businesses of gentrifiers and slapped signs like bodega and pasteleria in front (Pasteleria, what the hell is that?  Again, I know what it would be, if we had that here, but come on, aren't people supposed to do a little research to ensure authenticity) and people who were once excited and happy that the neighborhood was getting attention, are much less so.  I shudder to think what they would do in a black neighborhood.  Oh, but wait, they don't really make movies about black people that are filmed on location in areas where black people live and work, unless its a period piece, or The Wire, which isn't even a movie, and since there are few projects left around here in Chicago anymore, and no plantations, there's probably nothing to worry about.

So, I'll stop.  The point is that I was annoyed by dude because he thought that making a movie really mattered more than my life or the lives of others in and around the shoot.  That's the problem with society today, too many people think fantasy is more important, more worthy, more serious that reality.

sigh.

Oh yes, I'm quite sure I won't be seeing this one because it has John Leguizamo and Debra Messing starring as central characters, and they both offend my sensibilities. Don't ask me where D.M. fits in... Someone with a greater tolerance that I will have to tell me about that after they see it.



Thursday, March 13, 2008

Phoenix dactylifera

Dates at various stages of ripeness


Since I began exploring and writing about North African and Middle Eastern food a few years ago, I embraced one particular food that I'd heretofore rejected:  dates.

Phoenix dactylifera or the date palm.  Dates are quite simply one of the most perfect, nutritionally balanced foods, but that didn't matter to me before, I thought of them as big, fat, overgrown raisins (don't particularly like raisins) when the truth was really that I'd never actually eaten one.  I just remember them most from date nut granola cereals as a child.  More significantly they struck me as looking quite like huge water bugs that one finds near open drains or in damp areas such as basements, so this, of course, did not help their cause with me one bit. 

But after living in Paris a few years ago, I ate my first Algerian pastry, called a makrout.  It's a little diamond-shaped cake, not much bigger than a petit-four that's made from semolina dough and filled with date paste flavored with orange flower water and a hint of cinnamon. 

Sometimes they are fried, always they are delicious.  

Anyway, after that, as I got to know more about the cakes and about Algerian culture, I noticed that while visiting with friends, I would get offered dates and milk.  There were Algerian deglet noor for sale in every shop in the African/North African neighborhoods where I spent my time. And I also noticed that everyone always had a box on hand at home.

Later after returning to the U.S. and beginning research for my article Gateaux Algeriens:  A Love Affair, I learned that dates (and milk) were the food that Mohammed ate to break his fast. I learned that desert nomads sometimes eat nothing but dates and milk to sustain them because they are extremely nourishing and packed with natural sugars that help maintain energy levels in such harsh environments.  Incidentally the Arabic name for dates is tamr and just the other day I learned that the Portuguese name for them is awfully close:  tamara. How's that for some ancient cultural diffusion?  I learned that dates are ingredients in both sweet and savory dishes all across the Middle East and North Africa and I've even tried a few.  There is nothing quite like Rice with dates and almonds as a side dish for a succulent baked chicken, or even a stuffing for all types of fowl.  YUM!  It's also particularly good as a side with pork roast or chops, because pork just marries so well with sweet fruit.

They have a fascinating history and there is so much lore surrounding them, they are incidentally one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world and of course they grow on date palms.  Not the kind of palm trees in the tropics, they really need the dry air and the heat of the desert to flourish.

These days I keep a stash in my own refrigerator to eat as a snack or to use in recipes.  They are now a staple in my pantry.



Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stolen Loot...



Okay, I recognize that I should be writing more posts about food.  To date only one since I took up blogging again.  I promise myself the next three will be about food, but I had to pay homage, to these M.C.'s.  Here for your (if you're reading) but mostly my viewing pleasure are:
Masta Ace
Craig G
A.G.
This is courtesy of Jay Smooth of illdoctrine.com.  Too much.   Jay Smooth, who has a great blog and an admirable perspective on things, has that endearing Skip Gates dork-iness to him, which is cute.  If you've seen any of the PBS documentaries he's done you'll know what I mean when you visit his site and view a couple of his video entries.   

Anyway, I love Hip-Hop, I can't say more than that.  

*I must give props to Jay Smooth for all he has done for the Hip-Hop cause with his site hiphopmusic.com, his blog, illdoctrine.com, and his radio show (check info here).  

Sunday, March 09, 2008

addendum

I really love Slate.com.  I have to get something on that site, anyway check this out about Margaret Seltzer, or excuse me, Margaret B. Jones


Enjoy!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

They really didn't know?

I've been keeping up with the reports on the rash of faked memoirs lately.  Well, I guess it's only two.**  The first is the Holocaust memoir by Misha Defonseca and the second is the Growing Up in the 'Hood memoir by Margaret Seltzer.  The first one, called: "Misha:  A Memoire of the Holocaust Years."  The author recounts her experiences of escaping the Nazis, being adopted by wolves, taking 1900-mile trek across Europe, and shanking a German soldier (SS or Luftwafen, I don't know, I haven't read the book) at the age of seven, I think.  No need to blink, put on your glasses, or re-read the last sentence, your vision is not blurry and there are no typos there, you got it right the first time--your girl Misha said she was raised by wolves.

The second, a ghetto fantasy, if you will, is called:  "Love and Consequences," and describes Seltzer's experiences as a half-breed (Native and white) living in an African-American foster family (!) in  South Central Los Angeles, where she quickly becomes engulfed in the whole Bloods/Crips saga as a drug runner and then dealer grace a her foster brothers Jamal and Devante.  No, I'm kidding, her foster brothers' names were Terrell and Taye.  Check out the NY Times article on the subject.

Everyone with good sense knows that anything is possible.  Really, I am a firm believer that no story is too fanciful, because after my share of adventurous living--and I mean that in the substance-free sense of things--I have some stories that one would have to live to believe. Having said that, however, sometimes, things just really don't add up.  Ms. Seltzer's tale is one of those that leave you wondering...

Well, it turns out that her "memoir" is actually the ghetto fantasy of an upper-middle class, 100% white woman who was so fascinated by the 'hood and all of its trappings after a short stint as a teacher, in what I am assuming was the public school system, that she decided to create a life and write a book about it, claiming the story as her own.  

I will not deny, that ghetto/gang life can be seductive to the outsider.  Even to the insider, or so many people wouldn't be down for whatever.  While desperation and/or poverty might push you out there I don't believe the two are enough to keep you out there like that, that life, from my observations is just too hard on the soul.  

My first encounter with the culture, which came after living the white-bred life of just about every American black kid whose parents move them to to suburbs in this country, smacked of romanticization. But after realizing that I was not so far from that life, that my parents and I were both born into that life and that thankfully unlike most of my extended family we had escaped.  It's not fun, and seeing friends and family atrophy in cellblocks or in crack houses, or even at local departments of human services, well, I snapped out of it.  Don't get me wrong, the ghetto has its charms, where else can you indulge passions for fancy hairdos, fancy kicks, and fried shrimp and catfish all in a two-block radius.  I mean really, some of those catfish shacks turn it out.  Still and all I'd rather just visit and go back to my cozy de-luxe apartment in the sky (not really, all that, but you know...), especially if I happen to working in the 'hood too, then its definitely sensory overload, but that's another story.  My point is, the 'hood is not to be romanticized.  I like the 'hood.  I like the ghetto, it feels like home, because it is for me at the root of all things.  BUT...

So my point is, that anyone with any commonsense would see that this story is highly unlikely for several reasons:

1.  I can't imagine a foster care system anywhere that would put a white kid in the 'hood with a black family, even if said white kid was half Native.  That's even more of a reason they wouldn't do it.  It's the same reason you never see black people adopting white kids.  I'm pretty sure adoptions agencies don't bring out the Asian-white-Native baby books when Black couples roll up.  It's just not done.  And if it is, somebody tell me something, please.  

2.  At one point in the book (as quoted in the article) the author says that:
"One of the first things I did when I started making drug money was to buy a burial plot..."  What? I say.  This kid is supposed to be 14 when this all starts.  You're telling me she had the forethought to prepare for imminent death at 14?  I was a public school teacher for six+ years and while I had some true geniuses,who were triple threats with street smarts and commonsense on top of it all--the smartest among my students were usually out in the streets like this woman claimed she was--I could never see it.   Not when there are the latest Air Force Ones, bad gangsta rap, and plenty of Flamin' Hots to be purchased.  Or even food, clothes, or transportation for the family in some cases. Come on now.  No kid has it like that.  Most adults don't.

3.  Finally, and this may sound comical, the foster mother is called Big Mom. What I'm referring to here are the snippets of language in quotes from the book.  For example the character used drug money to buy a burial plot.  People say that, but not so much and if her character was writing a true-life gritty street tale of the streets, she probably wouldn't either. It's interesting that the article cites several reviewers of the book thought the language to be contrived or a bit too embellished or even awkward.  

The kicker is that she got busted because her sister saw a profile of her in the New York Times referencing her as the author of the book and then subsequently blew the whistle on her.

At the end Seltzer says essentially that she just wanted to bring attention to the plight of the people about whom she wrote and that maybe she didn't do it in the best way.  Publishers who worked with her seem to justify her and themselves by saying that it all happened because she's just so naive.  Humph. I'm not sure naive is what I'd call her.

What I don't understand, is why not just bill it as a work of fiction?  Why co-opt a story built from fantasy.  Why own such a story?  People who live these stories don't necessarily want to own them.  SIGH.  It reminds me of one of Dave Chappelle's standup acts where he talks about people repping the streets constantly, with a declarative "I'm from the streets!" in response to which he says basically:  'Oh, how unfortunate for you.'  

Doing you is ok.  Really.  And no matter what anybody says, it's not ok to do somebody else for money (in either sense of this unavoidable pun).  I'm certain this woman would have never said a word if she hadn't gotten busted, she would have raked in the cash, gone on the book tours, inevitably shared a couch with Oprah.  I wonder if she would have given some of her earnings to the people whose stories she claimed as her own.  

I guess we'll never know.  Too bad she and Misha didn't have access to this from the good people at Slate.com.


**Let me add to this list Ishmael Beah ("A Long Way Gone"), Marjane Satrapi (for taking "extensive liberties..." with the subject matter of "Persepolis' and "Persepolis 2"), and Dave Eggers for actually not taking liberties in "What is the What".  The thing is these books sound fabulous, without the extras, with the exception of Eggers, who I am not feeling.  Ever.  Hated "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," found it to be 400+ pages of smart-ass-(racist)-white-boyese.  As you can see I still haven't gotten over it and I read it about six years ago.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

For Real?!?

My plan was to write a post about plantains and how I have almost totally swapped them for potatoes in my diet, but on my daily rounds of online news sites, I read an article about how Ohio has been the determinant in every presidential election since 1964 and why Ohio is a barometer of sorts for the nation's social and economic welfare.  I am from Toledo originally and while I lived there no longer than about a year or so when I was but a pup, I can tell you that after 30+ years of visiting periodically, that we're in a lot of trouble, if Ohio is every(wo)man's America.

As if we all didn't know that.  Anyway, what struck me about the article was a statement made by a couple of people that the author identified as diehard Republicans who had turned up at a Clinton rally.  Apparently, they decided to check out Hillary because they don't like the direction in which the country is heading under the Republicans.  

To this I say:  
HEADING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION?!?  
WE'VE ALREADY ARRIVED UP IN THIS PIECE!

I take this personally.  Who are the people offering up these inanities?  It is possible that the comment was taken out of context for journalistic license. Perhaps, but I doubt it.  Truthfully, I know who these people are, we all do.  They are my neighbors, acquaintances, even a few family members.  Hell, some of us are them.  I also know that things here in the United States could get worse.  Any follower of truth, any realist, knows, things (anything) can always get worse at anytime, but damn, heading?  Heading

They're only worried now?  I remember when GWB was first elected.  I was sick.  I vowed never to watch a State of the Union Address until he vacated the premises.  I decided that I would prefer to look up on the horizon and see the proverbial mushroom cloud (or literal, there's still time) rather than read about it's prelude day in day out or listen to dude rationalize ridiculousness each year, which would only serve to depress me further.  When it happened a second time, well, I really can't even begin to express how I felt.  I took that shit personally.  So, as an act of self-preservation, I have kept that initial promise to myself over the years and really, when I had a television, everytime GWB came on, I changed the station.  He offends me and he offended me long before Katrina and the recent trip to Africa.  I mean, think back to 2000, when he thought it pertinent in the course of addressing a meeting of the NAACP to remind the attendees that the Republican Party was the Party of Lincoln.  What?!?  

In 2001, I owned a television.  But the morning of September 11th, I remember that I got sick at work with the stomach flu, so while everyone was glued to the television in the conference room, I was driving south on Lake Shore Drive toward home, listening to radio coverage, crying my eyes out, and trying not to vomit.  I was fortunate enough to have missed the planes slam into the twin towers, fortunate enough to have missed desperate human beings hurling themselves from the windows of the buildings, and especially fortunate to have missed GWB's first reaction upon being informed while reading to babies in Washington, D.C.  What shocked me was that he was reading to them (no really) not his reaction, one could have easily predicted that.  I was annoyed (and still am) that he didn't actually go to New York after it happened.  He really should have, I don't care what anybody says. I n hindsight, is it any wonder that he did little more than fly above the hardest hit areas in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, or that he decided on his recent visit to Africa that he would focus on the success stories?  He's a punk. But, no, all of that is not what made people think we're heading in the wrong direction.

Which brings me to Katrina.  I didn't have a television at that time.  So I only saw what happened months after.  Why is it that only now, these people (who I am using as a representative entity for the great majority of Americans) don't like the direction in which the country is headed?  Why is it that no one says, 'Look, Bush and his crew have run the country into the ground, blatantly showcasing their racism, class-ism, and sexism and I am ashamed that I've played a role in letting them, so that's why I'm here to see what Hillary has to say'? That of course, doesn't exclude me or any of us who consider ourselves, thinking adults, liberals, whatever...but

Just once, I'd like to hear it said just that way.



  

Monday, March 03, 2008

Patisseries Algeriennes



Oh la la.  Comme je pense des patisseries.  Ca semble un peu bizarre je suis sure, mais c'est la verite.  Une vie sans ces patisseries...je ne peux pas l'imaginer.  

It's all true.  I am feeling the pull of the cakes that seduced me in Paris.  It's so difficult for me being away from all of that.  Just look at them....

Can you blame me?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I am working on edits for an article about a local neighborhood here in the Chi that I have always loved.  I've wanted to write about food, in Humboldt Park since I moved back, because Puerto Rican food is the shit.  While my editor is providing neither adequate direction nor time in which to get things done, I still relish the assignment.  

So, I am hard at work this evening, after she told me on Friday to include three more restaurants in my piece that would boost my word count from the 900 she originally told me to use as a cap up to probably 1500.  

I spent the afternoon going from place to place and met the owner of a really great place called La Bruquena.  I didn't include it originally, but I'm glad I went, because now, after a long conversation about Caribbean food, food of the African Diaspora, and gentrification, excitement about a project (actually an idea that's been floating in my head for ages) has been renewed. I've wanted to write something about food of the Diaspora and I have notes and research like crazy that I have not compiled or organized.  I am fascinated at the ways in which Africa has manifested itself in cuisine outside the continent.  I have been working at a Brazilian place and researching (and of course, eating) Puerto Rican and Dominican food lately, all of which has served to heighten my interest and reflection on the subject.  Dominican food, by the way, is surprisingly refined with diverse elements one would not expect.  At least I didn't expect it--I suppose I lumped it in with Puerto Rican food.  I never thought before about how its proximity to Haiti with its French and African influences might be reflected in the DR and vice versa with the Spanish.

Anyway, all of this, coupled with my knowledge of and experience cooking African American food (I still can't quite get down with the term soul food, although African American bothers me too, and southern doesn't quite do what I need it to either) whipped me into a frenzy today while talking to the owner of the restaurant who agreed to meet and talk about food and perhaps show me a few things in the kitchen. 

I love it when this happens.  It's like being on a diet and finally seeing those first few pounds fall off.  That's what keeps you motivated to press on. (I haven't had that happen.  Ever.  So, I am only imagining this.)  I have been working so much, laboring under the stress of poverty, rejection, and general fatigue only to find out that my efforts are paying off in the most unexpected of ways.

There's so much to do.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Feed Your Mind...

I don't have a television.  Partly by design and partly because I just don't have the money to buy even a used one from Craigslist.  I also can't imagine scraping together money for basic cable which would be the only way to get any reception of television stations at all...
When I returned to the Chi from Paris via Seattle, I had made the decision to jump into freelancing head first and not get a television.  I planned to get myself back into reading and particularly fiction.  And so I've done both, although, the first part of the plan has been difficult. The second part has been surprisingly difficult too.  Anyway, here are the books I've read since September:

1.  Leni - Steven Bach
2.  Mouth Wide Open - John Thorne
3.  Snow - Orhan Pahmuk
4.  The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
5.  The Known World - Edward P. Jones (in progress)*

I'm a little ashamed that the list only consists of five, particularly because I had to read John Thorne's book for a review I wrote that will be published in Gastronomica, but at least I can proudly declare that nothing by Zane or even Iyanla Van Zant is part of it.  I suppose life, survival, etc. has kept me busy.  My head has not always in a good place for reading.  

Next up for me, however:

1.  The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
2.  The Master Butcher's Singing Club - Louise Erdrich
3.  Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
4.  A Handmade's Tale - Margaret Atwood
5.  Parable of the Sower - Octavia Butler
(...the next few I started long ago (we're talking years here)  and I finally plan to finish them)
6.  The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse - Louise Erdrich
7.  Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
8.  A Death in Brazil - Peter Robb
9.  Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison 
10.  Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I am deeply ashamed at never having finished 6, 7, 9, and 10, but I will before spring ends.  

Overall I'm happy with life without television.  Sometimes I long for it, but really, $60+ each month to watch really shitty things is not worth it.  Now, with the end of The Wire and the fact that I can catch Boondocks episodes online, there's no real motivation.  Maybe when those elusive siblings economic/career stability decide to grace me with their collective presence, I can contemplate such a purchase.  Until then, if, in fact that day does arrive, I'll continue working my way through the stacks of unopened tomes that call my bookshelves home and giving my library card a much needed workout.

*Update
I finished The Known World last night.  It is quite an astounding book because it felt like a family history, like Edward P. Jones was actually there, as though he was channeling the ancestors.  I don't know what to say.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

El Negro Calde...


While I am rarely moved by celebrities, or anyone for that matter, I have to admit that occasionally I become fixated on people. I am willing to admit to an irrational obssession with Snoop Dogg that lasted from the time he first emerged on the scene on the Deep Cover soundtrack until 2005 when he released Drop It Like It's Hot. Great song, but I was horrified by the video in which, as many of you know, he featured his children along with shots of scantily clad booty girls, shots of him doing the crip walk, and shots of him getting his toke on. Up until that time, he'd put me through many changes as I tried to stick with him through the No Limit Soldier years, through the ridiculous MTV shows and those pigtails he seems so fond of, and even through the -izzle schtick he continued (excuse me, continues) to ply even after he heard countless white people co-opting. 

God knows, I tried. I tried, Snoop. 

But after the babies and the weed and the booties and the crip walk all together on film, I realized it was not to be. I had to let him go.

Anyway, now I've found someone new, but I feel much better about him, it's Tego Calderon.  I'm not ashamed to go into a store and proudly place his CD on the counter and say "Yes, I'm ready, ring me up, please."  I only felt that way once about Snoop, when I bought a replacement copy of Doggystyle, years after I'd purchased the original. 

So, o.k., this man makes me tingly all over. I don't know what it is exactly. There's something incredibly sexy about him. I once read him described as being "perpetually craggy" it fits, at least aesthetically. I could go on to describe why I find him handsome, but I'll spare you dear reader; my tastes often lean toward the unconventional. I just have to say that he has the most beautiful skin color. Amazing. You just don't find that tone among Black Americans, even with the many lovely hues you do find among us, it has to have something to do with the Spanish rather than English (or Scottish, rather) part of the mix.

Anyway, I haven't seen him speak or be interviewed, although back when I was plugged in I had VH1 Soul (the one thing I miss) and saw him in Bling'd touring Africa to learn about blood diamonds. I have only one of his albums (do the kids still say that these days?), the first, El Abayarde and it is really a piece of art. I'd had it over a year and I'd listened, but about a month ago, I really listened. It's quite masterful and so hip hop. Reggaeton, for all intents and purposes, I find wack. That's just my personal opinion, that was strengthened when I learned that artists like Ivy Queen, Daddy Yankee, and Don Omar were clowning at the Latin Grammy Awards a few months ago when Calle 13 won album or artist of the year, I don't remember which one it was. Who knew they served haterade at awards shows? They actually walked out in protest and then made it worse by speaking on it in interviews!!

For real? It's like that? So not hip-hop.

It was astounding because Calle 13 is really, really good. Really interesting and creative. Perhaps I don't understand the world of Reggaeton and if that is any indication, I don't want to. I also understand that right now I could be sounding like white people debating the issue of why a group like Arrested Development represents ground-breaking hip-hop while slamming say, Grand Puba or X-Clan.  However, I do know that hating--even though we all do it from time to time--is not cute.  Especially not on live television.

Anyway, Mr. Calderon, did not walk out. He is actually the model for a character in a book I am writing. I'd love to interview him someday, that is if I didn't get too tingly. 

He has great sensibilities, at least as conveyed through his music. Really innovative.  Did I mention he has a lisp and it sounds cool.  He's not the first MC with a lisp, but...anyway, enough...

I'm no longer conflicted.