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 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...