The year is winding down and I'm back home in Jersey from having been on a tour of 'my families' in Atlanta and Savannah. I'm basking a bit inside of my 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS (and closing in on my 12 DAYS OF DREAMGIRLS). I'll share here the highlights from my last week and change.
ON THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS: In my last entry, I referenced my wonderful interview with multi-talented director J. Maurice Jamal for the re-designed and upcoming issue of ROCKSTAR Magazine (formerly "Ballroom Rockstar" Magazine, which featured me in its debut issue earlier this year). His film "DIRTY LAUNDRY" (starring Loretta Devine, Rockmond Dunbar, Jennifer Lewis, etc. www.dirtylaundrythemovie.com) features Dunbar in the role of "Patrick", a man with southern roots who has relocated to New York City to unleash a "new" life his folks at home don't know about. Not EXACTLY my story, but so many of the nuances are ripped from the pages of my own life. And I look forward to telling you all when and how you can see this great film. Meanwhile, see a pic or two from our interview.
ON THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS: I made my way to Atlanta on Thursday morning, after my all-night social marathon in the city. My 19-year-old cousin Floyd picked me up and was my stellar driver/assistant/traveling companion for the next couple of days that I spent in Atlanta. First things first, I got the chance to begin my checklist of restaurants that I must do before I go back north. Nothing special in the way of five-star dining, but they are the kind of places that brought me comfort as a child (and help me to remember how simple and sweet things were in the past). We did cafeteria-style Picadilly first. From fried chicken to mashed potatoes and gravy to corn to Mexican cornbread to devil's food cake, I brought myself right back to what is so right about these cafeterias that are so popular in the south. But my SWEET TEA (which isn't as readily available in the north) was just what the doctor ordered for my holiday blues.
ON THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS: I got the chance to spend time with my sister and her husband in their new home in the Greater Atlanta area. Additionally, she, Floyd, and I did lots of last-minute shopping at a few malls (including my sister's and my annual tradition of her buying and me selecting my Christmas sweater in the wake of some ugly-sweater years of old). We also did Wal-Mart along with a lovely meal at a spot called "ARIZONA's". Here, my sister and Floyd pose after we enjoyed a meal of rib-eye steak, jalapenio grits, etc. And since eating is what we do, I got the chance to experience - for the first time - seafood restaurant Pappadeux which I'd heard lots about over the years. Finally, with my sister's fellow church members in tow, I got the chance to experience it. Floyd was there too with his mother Barbara. Over crabcakes, frog legs, and a number of other low-country delicacies, we had a great time.
ON THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: It was actually the same day as our PAPPADEUX meal, we enjoyed "PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS" starring Will Smith and his son Jaden. We really enjoyed it. Will did a nice job, but his son stole the movie with excellent choices in his scenes. He's - for sure - one to watch.
ON THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: On Saturday and Sunday (Christmas Eve), I got to enjoy wonderful breakfast at a place my Chandra works as a hostess on the weekends. She is another of my best friends since the college years in Atlanta and all the way through my years in New York City where we both worked. She's always inspired me in my career as she made daring leaps to design her "lives" as an advertising media planner turned publicist's assistant turned publicist for well-known brands like Warner Brothers, VIBE, and FUBU. From there, she came back to Atlanta to care for her mother alongside studying design towards her next career shift. Meanwhile, she's doing real estate. And through all of that, I've made my own daring leaps in my career (not half as risky as she) and we've continued to support each other. Perhaps one of my biggest smiles over my time down in Georgia came from her as I simply sat at the counter to eat my breakfast as she popped back-and-forth between her work and me. I LOVE MY CHANDRA and wish we had spent more time together. I too stumbled into familiar folks as happens when I'm back in Atlanta and Savannah. In an ironic twist of fate, I saw my old Atlanta pastor and his wife Apostle and St. Thompson (who now live in Charlotte). This, after I greeted my Chandra as we always have for our sixteen years of knowing each other --- JACK-AND-KAREN-style (from WILL & GRACE) with a hyper-sexual hump and tug. Imagine my embarassment. But I stood in it and greeted them warmly as I came to find out that their son, who I had never met, reached out to me via e-mail earlier in the week about a contact he was hoping to secure through me. To take the story a step further, their son, Adrian Dana, later joined them here at the restaurant. So, we got to meet each other and I got to learn more about his hat business. He's a milliner (www.church-hats.com) who has already landed some lofty contracts, like Tyler Perry's "Madea's Family Reunion" for which he did all of the hats in its wedding scene. CONGRATS! Meanwhile, the next day, a couple of Morehouse men (Class of '97) came up to me, recognizing me from the feature that the Morehouse Alumnus magazine did on me this month. They were nice guys and it was an appreciated shout out.
ON THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: I got the chance to participate in a roundtable of positive and powerful black gay men at popular Atlanta coffee shop "Java-ology". Excerpts of the content from the recorded chat (moderated by my friend Gil Robertson) will be published in CLIK magazine's Feburary issue. I'll tell you more as I know more, but let me just say the chat was nothing short of therapeutic as we spent that couple of hours. Gil and my other friends Mashaun Simon, who is the NABJ Student Representative (Board Member) and Michael K. Watts (along with four-to-five others) really helped to ground me as I prepared to journey from Atlanta to my childhood home of Savannah, which - for me - still carries a lot of stuff around that issue. We - firstly - looked at the plight of AIDS in our community (which stems from Gil's book "Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community", which I referenced in a previous entry). But beyond that discussion, we went even deeper to explore relationships, intimacy, family acceptance, etc.
ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: In three hours, I drove my sister and her husband the whole three-and-a-half hours it takes to get from Atlanta to Savannah. Once we arrived, we pulled up to our childhood home to see evidence of what we had heard from other family members and friends who had passed the house over the last few months. It seems Dad and his wife are selling the house. Though it was never a discussion, it seems they are choosing to have a new space that is their own since this is the home in which we all stayed with our mother who passed away in 1994. Clearly, no explanation is required from either of them as they begin this new chapter. It makes my siblings and me a bit sad, but everything must change. And this change has been a long time coming as last year my childhood room was turned into an office and I now sleep on a couch in a drafty den. Nostalgically, for me, there are still symbols of my teen years on the walls - from my Madonna "Borderline" 45-cover/poster, Prince's "When Doves Cry" poster, Diana pull-out from the 1986 "American Music Awards" (from "Black Beat"), and some Windsor Forest High School spirit ribbons. To "choose" perhaps what I am - in my heart - resisting, repressing, and maybe even denying, I got my Dad and his wife a gift of a WELCOME mat to somehow begin my work and healing towards this reality that one more huge change is about to unfold and I must "choose" it (even from my far-removed distance) above the line. It's hard though.
ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: On Christmas morning, my sister, her husband, our dad, and his wife took some time to do the traditional gift-opening bit. In addition to the WELCOME mat, I gave other gifts that I hope they will find helpful. We got our traditional gift basket from them - chockful of goodies that will allow us to have smooth skin and smell good. My favorites this year included the "Naturals" products - from the facial cleaning soap to the moisturizing cream. But the fun came from seeing my best friend Natalie, her husband Dwayne and their two daughters, Lydia and Hannah - the cutest pair of "Cheetah Girls" you'll ever see. They came by my Dad's house, so I could give them their gifts. And they were really grateful.
ON THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: My family became a part of my 12 DAYS OF DREAMGIRLS campaign. On CHRISTMAS night, after multiple CHRISTMAS dinners between my dad's side of the family and my mom's side of the family, 23 FAMILY MEMBERS (from mom's side) gathered at the REGAL theater for "DREAMGIRLS". I have to say having seen it eight times before that in New York City and Chicago, the Savannah audiences were a little meek. Still, most of my folks enjoyed the movie immensely (except for the few who wondered why there was so much singing in the film). I guess the fact that it's a MUSICAL was lost on some. Then, the next day, Ern (who joined me for one of the Ziegfeld screenings in New York City), his sister Niecy, her daughter Taylor, and I did a matinee in Savannah of "DREAMGIRLS". Still a limp audience, but the folks say they enjoyed it. Not everybody has to give standing ovations to the big screen the way that I had been experiencing in earlier, more enthusiastic screenings. However folks choose to enjoy "DREAMGIRLS" is all good.
ON THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: My family and I didn't stop with the "DREAMGIRLS". The next day, we all gathered for BOWLING, left-overs at cousin Felicia's place, and GUESSTURES! At the bowling alley, we cast everybody as a character from "DREAMGIRLS" and had a hoot of a good time with that. I was JAMES "THUNDER" EARLY (EDDIE MURPHY's character) and I gave lots of pelvic thrusts and yelps after my spares and strikes. This, of course, was the day after we all found out about the death of JAMES BROWN who is one of the composites folded into this EARLY character. So, that was special. And we laughed so much in the course of that day - from bad bowling, folks falling, and the GUESSTURES just took the laughter over-the-top as some cousins just couldn't control their mouth and though the rules are you can't "speak", some just felt they had to. ("Don't you see what I'm trying to do down here [with my gesture]....????", one cousin exclaimed. That's a disqualifier, if I've ever heard one. BUT HILARIOUS!!!).
ON THE 11TH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: I made it back to Atlanta on Wednesday night in time to hang out with my dear friend and protege Chris. He is a former journalist from Tennessee (Nashville was his last post...). But now he is studying at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), which is a part of the consortium Atlanta University Center which includes Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta University. I'm so proud of Chris and the choices he is continuing to make in the way of designing his life and career. I'm even more excited to have met his friends Jamil and Janice, who too are ITC students and good, positive people for Chris to be around as he shifts the trajectory of his brand. And how glad was I when all of them agreed to support my "12 DAYS OF DREAMGIRLS" campaign. After we enjoyed dessert, champagne, and other cocktails at CAFE INTERMEZZO, we went to Atlantic Station for an after-midnight run of "DREAMGIRLS", which Chris and Janice hadn't seen. Jamil had just seen it (and I had seen it 10 times). So, we ALL had a great time. After the movie, Chris and I did an all-nighter at WAFFLE HOUSE, discussing life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. We always have a good time together and lots to talk about. This time was no exception. And I look forward to watching Chris' growth in 2007 as I too look forward to more good times and sharing. MUCH LOVE, CHRIS!
ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS:
I had a lovely last supper at HOUSTON's in Atlanta (Ashford-Dunwoody) with my sister and managed to get back home to Jersey in one piece. Through all of the aforementioned, I was missing my boo Anthony who - as of this writing - is on a plane coming to New York City to ring out 2006 and ring in 2007 with me. It's been a year and a month now that we have been together (from the long distance) and though we've managed many of the challenges, I missed him something terrible over the holiday. It will be nice to reconnect joyfully through this weekend and look at what our next days will bring us. He too has committed to join me for my 12TH DAY OF DREAMGIRLS, the final screening that we will be able to experience together (since we didn't get the chance to sit next to each other at the Ziegfeld opening night). So, there will be a little to report --- perhaps - come the New Year on the weekend. Meanwhile, BE BLESSED and HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!