I’ve got to take a minute to document my last week and change because it’s been non-stop and there’s more to come. Last Tuesday, my Ant graciously drove me 2 ½ hours from our home to Wallingford, CT for a shoot. In the wake of our long day and late wrap, we chose to quickly pop by Tuesday night’s SPLASH (www.splashbar.com) to have a nightcap and say Hi to our friends Dominic San Juan (SOON TO COME: www.DominicSanJuanonline.com or VOTE FOR HIM: http://lincoln.unbound.com or his MYSPACE: http://www.myspace.com/dominicsanjuan ) and ABC News employee/socialite/blogger extraordinaire Terry Wynn (http://texastigerofnewyork.blogspot.com) were in the house. Always a pleasure to see them.
The following morning, I had to be on the first flight to Chicago for an assignment that would hold me in the Windy City (Still Windy, too, though the first days of Spring). I got the chance to reconnect to many of my peeps. My Ki-Ki, some of her colleagues, and I made our own stir fry at Flat Top Grill (www.flattopgrill.com/) – my first time going. I had a great rice and vegetable dish with Korean BBQ sauce and wonderful flat top bread. Ki-Ki, by the way (Christened Jakki), wanted me to share with my blog readers that she has a FAB 2 BED/ 2 BATH! HARLEM APT that’s ready to rent for $2100-a-month. This 2 bed/2 bath unit is 1300 sq feet! Its located on the second floor of a beautiful brownstone on tree-lined street [West 154th Street (btwn St. Nicholas and Amsterdam) one block from the A C line!!!] This units features high ceilings, hard wood floors, a full size washer and dryer in the unit and tons of closet and storage place. The open kitchen is bar stool ready and features full sized appliances including a dishwasher. The living/dining room area has a large fireplace and 3 large windows that face the beautiful brownstones across the street. Both bedrooms are very spacious and will easily accommodate a queen size bed, large dresser and end tables. The master bedroom has a modern, full size bath and an L shaped wrap around balcony. Did I mention the full size WASHER DRYER in the unit? This apartment will not be around for long. Other Features: Floors - hardwood, LOTS of sunlight - excellent, nice kitchen, bathroom, storage space, GREAT closet space, Washer/dryer, AND Dishwasher. NO broker fee! Will do credit check and collect a security deposit to move in. Ready for IMMEDIATE move in! Call Greg Little at 212-722-9226 or 347-552-6395 (cell) to schedule a time to see the apartment.
Chicago Carl was back on the beat for this leg of my trip. And he and I jumped right in. He took me to see Poonie who cuts my hair from Westside Chicacgo’s Half Time Barber when I am there. It was great to see him again. Carl also stopped me by his former boss and current friend AJ to see his first class salon AJES: The Salon Inc. (www.ajessalon.com). As AJ just celebrated his birthday (the night – on my last trip – that I sat with Chicago Carl as he was recuperating from a horrible flu), I got to extend my B-DAY greetings to him. He’s such a great energy! On that night, Carl and I got the chance to see my best friend from Morehouse Eddie and one of my favorite starlets Ti-Ti at J. Alexander’s restaurant (www.jalexanders.com/). In lieu of my Houston’s, J. Alexander has become my place for consistent dining and comfort food. The next night, Ki-Ki had arranged an evening of dining for Carl and our other girlfriend Lesia. Ki-Ki canceled in the 11th hour (due to a belly ache) and Chicago Carl was working overtime. With that, Lesia and I got our one-on-one time at Rockit Bar & Grill (www.rockitbarandgrill.com), which offered us some tasty popcorn shrimp and glazed BBQ salmon. The ambience left a bit to be desired (too loud, too crowded, too much). A hair late to join us for our meal, Chicago Carl came and picked me up and took me by Miss Jesse Dean’s hair salon where he currently works to see owner Jesse and my girl Arlene. Jesse decided she would join us later for some social time. Chicago Carl and I then went on to the Northside to enjoy some margaritas and cute waiters (for me) and food (for him as he hadn’t eaten yet) at Cesars (www.killermargaritas.com). Before we could enjoy our night at The Kit Kat Lounge - www.kitkatchicago.com (where Jesse and her girlfriend Veronica had committed to meet us), we had to pop through Starbucks (www.starbucks.com/) for some caffeine. Two Dallas-based students (a guy and a girl) – in town for a Spring Break Christian missionary trip – stopped by our table to say HI. I wondered – and asked them – if they were in “Boy’s Town” to deliver us from “evil”, they – non-judgmentally – said “No!” They say they were drawn to our warm energy and just wanted to chat. We talked to them about their studies and their work in Chicago – including serving the homeless at soup kitchens. Additionally, they asked us for life and career advice. I gifted them with a copy of a new-age tome (my favorite genre of literature) that Ant and I are reading right now (as well as the rest of the world) – ensuring that the words would not compromise their walk with Christ. In fact, I assured they would help to strengthen that bond and have it show up that much more brilliantly in their life and the world. With anticipated snowfall (and our delay due to our modern-day tent revival with the Dallas students), we got to Kit Kat Lounge too late to enjoy the show, which normally showcases a fierce female impersonator – tonight’s bill was headlined by Traci Ross who does an array of divas including Janet Jackson’s “Feedback”, but we missed it all. Still, “she” sat down and talked to all of us through the night and posed for pix. She was so pleasant and is very talented. Check out The Kit Kat Lounge website to learn more: www.kitkatchicago.com about when she’s on. On the heels of my work day Friday, it appeared that I might be stuck in Chi-town (due to snow) vs. being able to get to Vegas for another assignment. If I had been, I would have gotten to join Chicago Carl, Ki-Ki, Vince, and Ki-Ki’s good girlfriend Kim Coles (one of my favorite comic actresses who had just said goodbye to Chicago and the nation’s airwaves via I-Village, the recently canceled show she hosted for NBC via Chi-town - www.ivillage.com/) for the opening night of “Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns” (www.meetthebrownsfilm.com/). I’m sure they had a blast, though a text from my nephew that it wasn’t his favorite of the Tyler Perry films gave me a gauge that it’s no “Why Did I Get Married?”, but when I do see it, I’m sure I’ll stumble into a giggle here and there (and perhaps a tear when the choir comes out at the end. I’m a sucker for a crescendo-ing, Gospel-tinged finale – not matter how cliché!!! SMILE!).
But Vegas was destined to be. The flight did get out of Chicago’s Midway, albeit a hair delayed. As soon as I walked into baggage claim, I saw a small crowd of tourists – excited to see somebody. At closer inspection, it was Mike Tyson. I waited for the drama to subside and I segued in to get my photo op. I introduced myself to him, sat right down next to him as one of the enthusiastic fans took our pic. He smelled so good. I mean, I was sniffing and sniffing, he smelled so good. He was quite even and centered (or perhaps medicated). But hands down, he was pleasant and it was quite a WELCOME TO LAS VEGAS. I had to get myself together around preps for the shoot, but once I did that, I got to enjoy my hotel The Venetian (www.venetian.com) where I’ve stayed before. With that, came a gondola ride, a little shopping – including a roll by Michael Jackson’s spot (from the 20/20 special: “I want one of those. I want one of those. I want one of those…That’s nice!”) Regis Galerie (www.regisgalerie.com/), an antique store that I’m sure attracts a whole, new pop client since he stepped foot via the lens of that special those years ago. Also, I went to Jack Gallery where they have the best pop art (www.s2art.com). In that moment (among many), I wished Ant was there with me as pop art is one of our favorite things to experience together. (Remember? Our great time in Vegas last August for The National Association of Black Journalists’ convention? - (www.nabj.org -
http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/8/13/audacity-of-hope-and-dreams-in-vegas.html). From there, I segued to The Palazzo (www.palazzolasvegas.com/) – new addition to The Venetian property (Miss Ross headlined the opening of this new, luxurious hotel a couple of months ago in January). I dined at the Palazzo’s Grand Lux Café (www.grandluxcafe.com/) before going back to my suite to get ready for work the following morning. All went well in Vegas (would have loved to stay a little while longer as Fergie – www.fergie.blackeyedpeas.com - was performing at the Mandalay Bay that night. Ant loves her!).
Well, home on the red eye. It’s Easter Sunday, a morning that produced many check-ins from my ‘original Amazing Grace’ Natalie, my ‘daily Amazing Grace’ Nichole, and another BFF from Morehouse Mike. I just thought they were making sure I made it back and wishing me a Happy Holiday. But at closer reflection, I realized they were all making sure memories of Easter Sunday 2005 weren’t keeping me down. That’s the day that Kodjoe died (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2006/10/25/love-is-in-the-air.html). Because the news of his passing came before I had a chance to experience the day as Easter, the holiday doesn’t always trigger me sad and mournful (That may too be because the date hasn’t come yet. It was March 27). But my friends just wanted to be sure as – truth be told – you never know with me as I am quite emotional and sensitive (I did have a good ol’ cry on the plane as I listened to my Jennifer Holliday’s gospel album from 1994 (“On & On” - www.myspace.com/thejenniferholliday\).
With that, I had a beautiful day with Anthony. We slept in and caught up with each other as – remember? – I had just landed from Las Vegas. Then, we accepted Ern’s invite to join he and our good girlfriend Danielle for an Easter Sunday Dinner at “Delta’s” (www.deltarestaurant.com) – celebrating the spirit of the south with fine Southern cuisine. THEY AIN’T NEVER LIE!!! (Slang for: “THEY ARE TELLING THE TRUTH!”). Everything was so good – from the fish and grits to the catfish fingers to the short ribs to the cocktails. You should recall Danielle from when I recommended her to my “superstar” girlfriend Mara Schiavocampo ((now a digital correspondent for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams (www.nightly.msnbc.com)). Mara was doing a piece on interracial dating. Danielle has been dating a white guy Bernard for the last five years. They are in love!
(http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-US&brand=msnbc&vid=b679062f-6e5f-4c96-beef-d618daca0591) and (http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-US&brand=msnbc&vid=86f005d2-227d-49cc-8933-816360249d3b). Also, it was Danielle’s first time meeting Anthony. They got along splendidly. I also didn’t realize to what degree Danielle is “Six Degrees from many things Pop Culture”. The random flow of classic and contemporary pop and R&B played lightly in the air – giving the ambiance of being in New York City during the ‘90s at “The Shark Bar” or “B. Smith” (though we were in New Brunswick, New Jersey). At one point, Beyonce’s “Kissing You” came on (One of Ant’s and my favorites by Des’Ree from “Romeo & Juliet” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXtiqJCzgHs). We found out that Des’Ree is her godsister. (Maybe we can get Danielle to find her for us when we need to book a wedding singer. That would be cool, right?). Then, we found out she is cousins removed and departed from songwriter Barry Eastmond – known for his hits for Anita Baker, Patti LaBelle, etc. (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/1/9/pat-on-a-hot-tin-roof.html). Afterwards, Danielle’s Bernard made us some wonderful martinis with Frangelica in it. We laughed, compared notes on all things TIVO and TV. Then, we went home.
At blog entry time, our week ends where it began – with Dominic San Juan – celebrating his Big 3-0. We weren’t able to attend his big party on Saturday night as Ant was working on an assignment in Jersey and I was flying over from Vegas. Dominic had a casual dinner on this day (which was the actual birthday) and we joined a good dozen to celebrate him over sushi, sake, and other modern Japanese cuisine, “Blue Ginger”. It was good! He pulled together a wonderful array of good energy and we all basked in it.
Of course, for all that I did do this week, I missed many things I would have attended were it not for the travel. Let me shout some of them out here:
- My platonic boo Carl Nelson and Kamala Cesar (www.lotusmusicanddance.org) invited us out to a press conference to announce plans around his upcoming event “Drums Along The Hudson 2008” (www.drumsalongthehudson.org). I’ve blogged about it before. Please come on out! The Sixth Annual Drums Along the Hudson: A Native American Festival and Shad Fest will take place on Saturday May 3rd, 2008 in Northern Manhattan's Inwood Hill Park at 218th Street, 4 blocks West of Broadway, from 11am to 6pm, rain or shine. This event is open to the public and is sponsored in part by Lotus Music & Dance, JPMorgan Chase, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Hudson River Foundation and WABC-TV
- I too missed an event put on last week by friend and publicist/social activist/author Terrie Williams (www.terriewilliams.com). Her new book is "Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting” (Scribner), a wake-up call to Black folks on depression. And on March 18, she hosted a “Day of Healing” in Harlem. My friend Michael attended and said it was really nice. For more information, go to: www.thestaystrongfoundation.org.
- My friend Marlynn has been working on a collection of erotic stories for Men of Color. He read one of those stories at the "Reading for Filth" series at Rapture
Cafe & Bar in the East Village (Manh)! Ant went to support on behalf of our household and says he had a great time. CONGRATS MARLYNN!!!
- We got an invite to the release party for Diddy’s group Danity Kane (www.danitykane.com/) It was at ‘tenjune’ (www.tenjunenyc.com/) in the meatpacking district. Congrats girls! Congrats DIDDY!
- My Chandra’s old boss Juanita Stephens (from their days Warner Brothers Music) called me. She’s still doing publicity (but in Atlanta) and Chandra recommended she call me regarding placement for a couple of her clients at the NABJ Convention this year in Chicago (www.nabj.org or www.unityjournalists.org/):
· Lalah Hathaway is back with a new album titled, "Self Portrait," due in stores on June 3 via the newly-revived Stax Records label (www.lalahhathaway.com/). The release is Lalah’s fourth solo project and brings her together once again with producer Rex Rideout, who served as the producer of the 2004 Grammy-nominated Luther Vandross tribute album, “Forever, For Always, For Luther.” Hathaway's track on the project, "Forever, For Always, For Love,” was the first No. 1 single of her career. The first single, “Let Go,” is a mid-tempo track written by Hathaway and co-produced with Rideout.
· To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Impressions, the documentary “Movin’ OnUp: The Music and Message of Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions” is being released on DVD soon. The two-hour film tells the incredible story of one of R&B’s most important and iconic groups. Also included in the documentary are 22 complete, vintage performances from The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield’s solo career filmed between 1965 and 1973.
COMING UP: My friend Ken Roberson (choreographer extraordinaire) sits on the Board of Trustees for “Our Time” Theatre Company Board of Trustees (www.ourtimetheatre.org). This non-profit organization provides an artistic home for young people who stutter. Its 6th annual benefit gala “Lean On Me” is coming up and it honors musical legend Bill Withers, who I ran into several months back at an event for artist Ernie Barnes (www.billwithers.com/).
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