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Archive for the month “June, 2017”

Diner en Blanc Baltimore, We Got In!!!

If you thought you heard a high-pitched squeal anywhere in downtown DC, a little after Noon today, that would be me.

Me and one of my dear friends will be going to Diner en Blanc in Baltimore in just a few short weeks. (Check out the Forbes article that breaks it all down.)

I’m thrilled, I’m amped and I’m excited. I’ve heard about Diner en Blanc which started more than 20 years ago by a Frenchman who basically invited a select group of friends to dress elegantly in all white and set up a picnic in a beautiful public space and enjoy each other’s company. Truth be told, I’ve been starved for an event that requires people to put in some thought and effort. I’ve lamented in this blog how our casual attitude towards our lives, our meals, our going out and our interactions have really just made us a blah society. I can rock with some of the formality and style of the French and Italian and folks in other countries. Joie de vivre. Enjoy life. Enjoy each bite of food and swallow of drink and wear nice clothes and engage and enjoy your company. Put care into the smaller details. Yup, sign me up, if only for one night.

Each year, invitees from the previous year invited other friends, and it grew. It grew so much that the event has been taking place in major cities all over the world. At this point, thousands of people show up to appointed places at appointed times and then are sent by foot, public transportation or chartered buses to the selected spot. The spots have ranged from the Louvre in Paris, to the Usain Bolt Track in Jamaica. DC revelers have even partied at the foot of the Lincoln Monument. The photos are a true sight to behold.

So, when it comes to the inaugural soiree in the Charm City, one naturally assumes, we’ll wind up in the Inner Harbor. But, that may seem like the super obvious choice. So, my guess would have to include outdoor spaces that would make for great photos near iconic buildings or with potential views of the harbor.

If we don’t end up directly in the harbor, my top guesses are City Hall and Orioles Park or any area where ArtScape or the Baltimore Book Festival have taken place where large groups of people are able to gather and streets can be shut down. The Maryland Zoo and Pimlico Race Track are my wild card choices. They aren’t immediately downtown, but there will be enough spaces for buses to load and unload a bunch of folks.

My guesses include:
1. The Maryland Zoo
2. Right in front of City Hall
3. Fells Point
4. American Visionary Art Museum
5. Walter’s Art Museum
6. Oriole’s Park/ M&T Bank Stadium
7. Pimlico Race Track

There’s a lot to do. I’m using all of my strength to avoid purchasing a new outfit and try to find a lovely white number inside of my closet. I’m already against it because I feel it’s more for a power meeting at work. My go-to site is ASOS (every ASOS dress I’ve worn, the compliments pour in) and NY and Company is having a great sale. Those dresses always tend to fit me well and are made of comfy fabrics and are insanely easy to dress up with accessories due to their simplicity and versatility.

As for the shoes, I personally hate white shoes. They make everyone’s feet look like Fred Flintstone. Totally unflattering. White shoes no matter the style, make me think of the usher board and their sensible nursing shoes walking up and down the aisles at church. I do plan to follow the rules. I think gold and silver shoes are allowed, but either way, I’ll figure this out. Moving on.

I was determined about getting to my computer on time to get into the registration period for new folks, better known as Phase 3. Phase one folks are people who have attended previous events and get automatic invites to the next. From what I understand, Phase 2 folks are guests of phase one people who have attended before and Phase 3 are the newbies like me, who have never gone and managed to sign up for the wait list.

I was really excited today about being able to get in, I haven’t been this crazy about logging on exactly at 12 noon since getting tickets to see Prince. I willed Ticketmaster into submission and even went solo to increase my chances. Seeing Prince was a serious thing for me and I’m so thankful I did that. The following year, he passed away. See, good choices?

But anyway, I was amped. When I asked my boyfriend if he’d be interested if I managed to get registered, he politely declined. I let it be. He probably would have been miserable and probably the thought of him pulling together an acceptable head-to-toe white outfit in two weeks was probably the last thing he wanted to do.

My boyfriend was not about us lugging a table, chairs and our own food to a secret location dressed in all white, so this was a mission for one of the local homies who is always down for an adventure. I was able to quickly rebound from his rejection.

This homegirl is the type of homegirl who makes everything fun. Like gut, busting, silly, loud-singing, fun. I could have a bowl of cereal with her, or get lost in some random city with this chick, and shenanigans will ensue. We ALWAYS have a great time whether we are sitting around the house making mini pizzas, watching the Muppets and putting on clay face masks, or checking out an art exhibit. Yup, as soon as I sent the text, “We’re In!!” we’ve been texting and thinking of ideas on how to decorate our table… yes, that’s a thing and there’s even a prize for the best decorated tables.

According to Pinterest, folks go all out. Yes, I’ve stalked Pinterest and read every article. This is probably why my boyfriend wisely passed on attending this with me. While I’ve seen some elaborate setups, we plan to keep it simple, if for no other reason than not wanting to lug around a lot of stuff.

Diner en Blanc vets recommend having a hand truck to lug your goods. I will be investing in that.

So, yes, my boyfriend’s observation is right. He’s the more sensible one of our pair. This is a lot of work. But I’m actually very excited to pull this together and so is my home girl.

Yes, there are articles that poke fun at how much people end up spending to have a picnic in a public park, and even people calling it elitist and super snobbish because of the air of secrecy and the element of exclusivity due to the original invite only premise. There was another honest article from Washington City Paper about how much it really costs to attend one of these things, from buying or renting tables and chairs and linens, buying your own food vs. buying directly from Diner en Blanc to ordering your wine or champagne, because you can’t bring your own. Sniff, sniff. The costs do add up. I did go ahead and buy one bottle of wine through the website after registering, because dang, after all of that, it’s not about to be dry. We will need to toast. That is non-negotiable.

Is it bourgeois? Most certainly. I don’t care. We live in perilous times. I’m desperately seeking Trump-free, non-partisan, fuck-my-student-loan, joy.

It’s a moment to share with thousands of people, on a hopefully lovely night weather wise. Sure, people will be doing it for the ‘gram hard core, it’s a social media wet dream. Serious, google the pics. But, I really am interested in doing something unique this summer and just having a really great time, even if there is a bit of effort that goes into all of this. I’ve been looking for moments to engage in joyful things, and looking at pics from all over the world, I know that this is it.

I want to see other people’s creativity with their tables, what they decided to bring to eat, and then enjoy the entertainment and dance the night away with a breathtaking Baltimore backdrop.

So let’s get it.

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Pop Culture Is No Longer for You After 30. Guess What? That’s Perfectly OK

We are self-centered. We are built that way. We know nothing else.
I’m not saying this in a bad or negative way. I’m saying it in the I-only-have-one-life-i-can-never-be-anyone-else kind of way.
Our perspective is the only one we can go on. Can we empathize and sympathize with others? Yes, and we should so we don’t become complete assholes and are able to have successful healthy relationships with the other people we share this planet and our lives with.
So we don’t see it. As kids, our parents usually center their lives around us, and then as teenagers, we know that this world is all about us, for us and eagerly waiting for us to grow up so we can solve all the problems and make this place better, because we have the energy and the heart and we aren’t jaded.
In college, we attempt to equip ourselves with the intellectual tools, to in fact, go out there and make the world a better place, make the workplace a better place and be able to afford the lives we want.
So during those kid through college times, there’s a lot of marketing geared towards us, and towards us nagging our parents to get us the things we swear we need, so we can run faster, be cooler, etc.
The marketplace seems to be for the young. The music, the pop culture, the clothes we see on the racks in the stores.
It’s not until you reach your 30s, you realize that your tastes are changing and that you are looking elsewhere to find the types of things you want to spend your money on. Or based on certain habits, those things are finding you.
Over the years, I find myself in the mall less and less. I’m either bored or outraged with the options.
I look around in the mall, and I see kids who seem so young, but they are in their 20s. Then, I see women my age or older attempting to wear the same clothes, and I feel embarrassed. I try not to look too hard, but I can’t help it.
Then a moment of fear comes over me. When I’m not at work, do I have some ill-fitting clothes? Should I give up on shorts as my 40-something sister has resolved to do?
I wouldn’t take it that far, but I am conscious that I don’t have the same body I did in my 20s, and I think that’s perfectly fine. I actually am pretty glad about it. While there are certainly things I can improve to make sure I’m not cutting off circulation, or I can triumphantly put on certain slacks or skirts without elastic waists, but generally, I’m cool.
Things are going to continue to change, so I need to care about my health and I need to do my part to ease the aging process on my body. Fine.
But, I do notice my distance (ok, complete lack of knowledge of) from current slang and lingo. I gravitate to certain radio stations and certain music, and I don’t know who some of the biggest stars are now, because I hate their music. Me and my friends commiserate over how wack the new hip hop is, and discuss with great affection the old days of the 80s, 90s and 2000s. We gasp that some of our favorite movies are older than 20 years old, or that some of our favorite musicians have been gone for that long too. Some newer artists that I’m giving a chance to, I notice in their lyrical content, or even the style of how they are singing, they are not of my generation. They are something else, they are speaking to someone else. They are speaking to their peers and not to me.
It’s ok that 20-somethings have SZA, because I had Lauyrn Hill, Mary J. Blige and they were speaking and still speak to me on certain levels.
A lot of women spend their 30s wanting to turn back the clock, and we can’t. Even if we did, what we think we’re looking for is no longer there and we won’t fit as we are.
So, we have to embrace the present. We have to champion the things we like, and the things we love with no apology.
Blast the music you love to blast. Play a CD or vinyl if you like. Rock those jeans in the larger size, they look just as good as long as they fit your body correctly. Eat that piece of cake. Take a walk later. Go for a swim. Dance for three songs straight while you’re blasting the music.
We spend our teens trying to eek out who we are based on who we were around, who raised us, who we wanted to be like and who we didn’t want to be like.
We spend our 20s really trying to validate all of those findings.
I don’t want to spend my 30s searching for youth in a time that does not belong to me. I want to spend my 40s free and my 50s in unapologetic truth, bliss and satisfaction with the life I’ve been leading.
So, maybe we’ve passed a time where everything appeared to be for us, be it t.v., fashion and music.
That’s ok.
Because being older means being wiser and it also means enjoying the satisfaction of truly doing you.

The Pleasant Practice of Finding Joy

I’m in a book club. I’ve mentioned this lovely group of former co-workers who I join throughout the year to discuss books. We normally discuss books that are related to race in America as we are a diverse group, in age, race, marital status, children or none.

I love meeting with these women and sharing thoughts on such things, which turns out to be enlightening for all parties. It’s a safe haven, with excellent conversation and amazing treats and goodies to eat. The hugs and laughter is warm and genuine. It’s a respite.

But in reading these types of books, whether fiction or non fiction, I found as a black woman, I was greatly fatigued. I enjoy reading for fun, but dissecting Baldwin and DuBois or even looking at fictitious works by black authors, and the natural, normal pain of generational trauma that shows up in the subtle and overt, it just wore me out.

So, this summer, we are taking a break. I suggested that we find fun books to read or something from the arts, and we share that with one another.

I’m on a hunt for joyous things. I’m quite interested in pleasure. Kicking that off, I watched Julie Dash’s Tour de Force and the rumored inspiration for Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” “Daughters of the Dust.”

There was something very beautiful about seeing black women, young and old always wearing white and living lives of simplicity, isolated on an island where they could trace their ancestry back to the Africans who landed on those shores in chains.

Living on that island without whatever modern luxuries of the 1920s were, they worked hard to raise families and feed the entire community, everyone shared, everyone did their part, everyone respected the elders and lavished love on the children.

Even among the young women, there was an air of innocence still, and they played and danced and ran along the beach wild-eyed and free. Even the cousins who may have gone off to the mainland and tease them for being country and isolated and naive, could not deny the ties that brought them back home, feeling familiar, feeling safe and loved, eating familiar foods.

Watching that film, and after reading so many books fiction and non fiction, while struggle is a large part of life, carving out those moments of joy seem all the more important.

I think of how I feel when I hear a great song, or watch a beautiful play or see gifted dancers dance.

I think of what my favorite foods taste like, crab legs on a summer day sitting on a large deck facing the water in Annapolis, or floating on my back in clear waters in the Caribbean.

I think of laying in my bed with the one I love and turning over to kiss him good morning and see he’s already awake and looking happy and serene and I’m the reason.

So, this summer, the idea of joy and pleasure come to mind. What people, places and things make me feel good when the working day is done?

Where can I find moments of joy during my work day and after? I don’t have to wait until the weekend.

Am I making time for pleasurable moments? Can I walk slower from lunch? Why am I rushing all of the time?

Do my sheets smell and feel good when I get in my bed at night?

Did I drive a different way home? Did I use fresh groceries to make my meal?

Did I have a good conversation with someone I love or haven’t spoken to in a while?

Have I let go of some dumb shit from the past that has nothing to do with the present?

I’ve asked my friends on Facebook to share with me things that bring them joy and if it is a book, or recipe or whatever, I’d like to experience that. It can be music, a YouTube video, a restaurant recommendation. Whatever brings a feeling of joy and comfort, I’m interested.

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