The end of April is a celebratory time for people in my life. My dad's birthday is on the 27th of April. At 73, he and his wife spent his special weekend on Tybee Island in Savannah, Georgia, their home. (www.tybeeisland.com/). I sent him a card and a chunky gift card to some of his favorite restaurants. Three of my closest girlfriends boast birthdays on April 27 and the 28th - Chandra, Elise, and my Tata. I sent messages to the former two as Chandra is in Atlanta and my Elise was in Paris, France on her day for business. But Ern and I took Tata to family-style Italian restaurant Carmine's for a huge meal of shrimp scampi, porterhouse steak, chicken marsala, and a host of other fixin's. (www.carminesnyc.com/). We had a great time of sharing and connecting before I had to go to the airport to pick up my Anthony, who was returning "home" from his home of Denver, where he had spent the last week actually celebrating his birthday and taking care of business. Since he was away on April 22nd (his actual birthday), I had an itinerary of love and joy set up for his return. We hit the ground running by going to my Morehouse brother Chad Groom's set at the nightclub SECRET in the area of Chelsea's club row. We danced the night away and enjoyed being back in each other's presence (I had been traveling alongside his time in Denver... and I was missing him. We had a great time. And my Frankie and some of his friends joined us. Anthony's celebration was on... and popping! The next day, Anthony and I slept in, but then we got up to have a bit of an afternoon in Manhattan. We got haircuts before going to have an early dinner at Saigon 48 in the theater district. Then, we had our full circle moment on Broadway. You'll recall, Anthony and I met the opening night of "The Color Purple" on Broadway. I thought it would be great (and Anthony agreed) if we saw one of our favorites Fantasia in the role of Celie in the Broadway musical. It made for an inspired and entertaining night. Of course, you know I love LaChanze, the Tony-award-winning actress from "The Color Purple" who is also my dear friend. But Miss Fantasia definitely showed up brilliantly in a way that we didn't see in her Lifetime movie about her life. She was present, funny, emotional in all the right places, and that voice. Let me tell you about that voice. She turned those songs into even more of a religious experience as - it appears - she was channeling her own story and its connectedness to Celie. We - at points - were in tears. And to have her playing opposite my friend Angela Robinson (in as Shug Avery on this night), who shouted us out during the bows/finale (as I non-verbally introduced her to Anthony and she gave me a thumbs up from the stage). Afterwards, we met our favorites Jason & Marquise; Marlynn; Dante & Marcus (along with their friend Stephen from Switzerland). First, "The Ritz" in New York City (on Restaurant Row, 46th Street). From there, we went for an encore night at SECRET. We had the best time - catching up with the other couples and counting our blessings. On Sunday, we joined Marlynn, Michael K. Watts, Jason, and Marquise for brunch at Mamajuana Cafe. Then, we went to "DRUMS ALONG THE HUDSON", the annual affair that my friend Carl Nelson produces for Lotus Music & Dance (and the City of New York) http://www.lotusarts.com). It's a festival that includes an open-air powwow including Native American craft demonstrations, storytelling, and a festival of world dance traditions that share the drum as live musical accompaniment. Demonstrations of shad planking and tasting by The Hudson River Conservancy, fine Native American art and crafts, and international foods round out the festival festivities. It was a lot of fun. That afternoon, Anthony and I went to a restaurant where his friend Marcos works: VOYAGE in Greenwich Village. Marcos makes the best rum punch, which got us nice and primed for our evening festivities. Mind your business... (but let's say there were dollars and dancers). And that capped off our wonderful weekend. But before we could call it a wrap on the festivities, our Monday and Tuesday of this week gave us the chance to enjoy some more "festive" times together. On Monday, Anthony and I went to see my friend Nancy Hirsch's client Eric Lewis (www.nhirschgroup.com), a pianist and unique spirit who I've had the chance to get to know over the years. He used to play with Wynton Marsalis and was doing his solo set at Zinc Bar in SOHO (www.ericlewisgroove.com). Zinc is a really cozy (READ: cramped) spot. But we got the chance to hear the sounds of Eric that the nation got to hear at the end of GIRLFRIENDS' last season, an episode on which he played "Puerto Rico" at a party. On Tuesday, we had a nice dinner at the Maritime Hotel (www.themaritimehotel.com/) atop Hiro Ballroom where we were too late to see Robin Thicke perform for a "People" Magazine party. Then, we got the chance to hang out with Reverand Run's daughters Vanessa and Angela Simmons (www.mtv.com/ontv/dyn/runs_house/series.jhtml ), who invited everybody out to ULTRA (nymag.com/listings/bar/Ultra/) to celebrate the launch of their new footwear line: "PASTRY" (kinda' like a birthday cake).
The line features colorful, mid-priced athletic-inspired shoes in multiple styles for young women. Each shoe will come with a tube of scented lipgloss attached to it matching the shoe’s theme. Vanessa is a business communication major at St. John’s Univerisity and was gracious to pose with me for a pic. Her sister Angela recently launched a teen magazine called Angela’s RunDown. She was too busy in V.I.P. to chat me up, but waved from the distance. Also on hand? My good friend Walter Greene who is a fashion journalist, most noted for his contributions to "Sister 2 Sister". I also got the chance to catch up with April Woodard, correspondent for "Inside Edition" and confirm her for the National Association of Black Journalists' panel I'm putting together with all of the African American talent from entertainment news shows like "Inside Edition"; "Access Hollywood" (Shaun Robinson); ET (Kevin Frazier); and "Extra" (Tanika Ray and Jon Kelley). She says she's excited to be a part. (It was also good to see her publicist Yvette Hayward (who also produces the African American Literary Awards Show, Inc.) who booked me to be a presenter at her production last year. Meanwhile, Anthony and I got the benefit of another night of festivities followed by a mixer his friends Robert and Marcos put on at Pier 2110 in Harlem (www.pier2110.com/). There, as Anthony and I worked through a bit of a debate, we were blessed with a kindred moment which thawed the ice from our heated conflict to water. Basically, you remember that special song "Kissing You" that I referenced in a previous entry that Des'Ree recorded and performed in "Romeo & Juliet" (and has since been covered by Beyonce)? ("POP TARTS" ). Well, it's been such a special tune to us that as the beginning of the song began to play amidst a peek in our argument, we both just hushed (as if this was a symbol from God for us to "shut up"!!!). And a tear began to fall from my eye. Then, curiously, Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" was played at which time Anthony asked me to dance. Someone is watching over Anthony and me (at least the D.J.). HAPPY BIRTHDAY, baby!!!