My recent trek back to my hometown of Savannah had me missing all of my family.
The lion’s share of them were in Washington D.C. for “Memorial Day” services - remembering our three forefathers - or Bishops - who have gone on. Also, they were all gathered to receive the announcement of the United House of Prayer for All People’s new bishop Apostle C.M. Bailey, who becomes only the fourth leader of the denomination, which is headquartered in DC and has 150 branches in 25 states. Bailey replaces Bishop S.C. "Daddy" Madison, who died in April (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/4/7/if-a-robin-can-say-thank-you-you-can-do-it-too.html). Madison served 17 years as bishop. With that, I got a glimpse of my nephew who left on a road-trip (with cousins) to DC and I got to briefly see my Dad and his wife Diana who let me stay in their home while they were away. They too were going to the DC-area but for a holiday gathering with her family. And I got to stop by my late mother’s sister Mary Lee’s house and give her a belated birthday gift (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2006/12/29/auntie-mary-lee.html). Fortunately, I traveled from New Jersey with and was in Savannah with “chosen family” – including one of my best friends since 7th grade, Ern, and our friend Kimberly Jajuan. She and I had committed to sing in Ern’s sister Niecee’s wedding. We took Newark airport to Atlanta and drove to Savannah. But first, we took a nice brunch with my good girlfriends Chandra; Carla (who noted that my Alicia Keys mention helped her understand what Keys was spoofing in her current video - http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/5/20/a-reversal-of-mendacity.html); and Camille (soon off to Beijing, China). “Thumbs Up” (where Chandra works on the weekend - www.thumbsupdiner.com) was our choice, which meant good breakfast food (as always). Once we finished catching up with the girls, we headed to Savannah. There, – at the end of my time in my hometown – I got the chance to meet the daughter of my little cousin Dee Dee (She’s 28) and her husband Chris. MiMi is her name and she is adorable. I can’t wrap my brain around the reality that Dee Dee is someone’s mother. Congrats to you both.
But the weekend would be defined by wedding bliss and family love. Ern and I took Kimberly to two Savannah staples on our first night: Spanky’s ( www.spankys.tv ) and Wet Willie ( www.wetwillies.com ). Spanky’s is known for its chicken fingers and potato spuds, which are still great. Kimberly got the crab stew, but wasn’t as impressed. I made sure she got the right batch the following day from crab-stew experts Carey Hilliard’s. She liked it! Hey Mikey!!!! After wedding rehearsal, we sang ourselves into an appetite. (Notice the theme in Savannah. Eat, eat, and eat again!). Geneva was the location for the rehearsal dinner. They served turkey wings, which were delicious. But the banana pudding really hit the spot – soft wafers after soft wafers truly did the trick. Afterwards, we did as we used to always do back in the day – headed to the home of Ern’s parents and listened to music. (Ern would host parties in the garage – including choreographed routines that he and his sisters and cousins would put on, like The Jets’ “Crush On You” and Club Nouveau’s “Lean On Me”). 20-plus years later couldn’t stop us from falling into place. And we had a great time!
Still, Kimberly and I were rested well enough to perform our songs. I had two solo numbers and a duet with Kimberly. “Wind Beneath My Wings” was my first for the seating of the bride and groom’s parents and special folks. Then, Kimberly and I did “When I Said I Do” by Kenny Lattimore and Chante Moore for the bride’s entrance. I closed the ceremony with “This Day”. All went well as the feedback goes. After posing for a series of pictures in the church and outside the church in the beautiful Greene Square (one of Savannah’s beautiful squares), we headed to the reception.
The reception gave me the chance to see some of Ern’s cousins that I hadn’t seen in a minute… and they are doing some great things in their respective professions. There was his cousin Nathan, who is now a Lacrosse Instructor via www.topdogsports.com. He’s working with some young athletes who are poised to be big names very soon (and he assures me I’ll have some of that scoop to share with you here). Then, Ern’s other cousin Korey, who grew up with Ern and his sisters Niecee and Sam. He went on to go to Morehouse, which he shared he was inspired to do – in part - because of me. (I didn’t know that as it’s been so many years). Anyway! He (and his lovely wife Markesia) have a photography business and – boy! – is he talented! Check his site out and call him: www.vsphotography.com (weddings) and www.vstatements.com (portraits/events). They are prepared to shoot a lovely set of pix for Ern’s sister Sam, who is expecting her first child (I sang at Sam and her husband Walker’s wedding a couple of years ago – also in Savannah). Ern’s other siblings Rod and Mona were also in the house. I got the chance to get my groove on with Mona – a precursor to our reunion from high school in a few weeks (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/4/7/if-a-robin-can-say-thank-you-you-can-do-it-too.html). We decided we could condition our 37-year-old knees, but not-too-much as they may give out upon our return.The wedding was beautiful. Niecee and her husband Cecil were a beautiful couple for the day and for all time. Niecee’s daughter Taylor made an impressive announcement that I had a hand at coaching her on. The wedding coordinator CJ said so. I love a wedding (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2006/10/25/love-is-in-the-air.html)!
The plan is that we’d all get changed and go to River Street and hang out (now that I was free to flow. I didn’t partake of any alcohol leading up to my performance to ensure vocals were pristene. Feedback says they were). But we ended up – as Ern’s niece Taylor put it – ‘partying like rock stars’ at his house. And -- eventually -- in the garage (again). And what fun! Singing at the top of our lungs to Debarge and all the other favorites from the ‘80s took us through the night into the morning. I left in just enough time to get my “chili pup” from Krystal (Breakfast menu starts at 5:00 am – www.krystal.com/). The next night, however, the fellas and I got the chance to get to River Street and enjoy the lovely weather. From spot to spot - including Fiddler's Crab House - http://www.fiddlerscrabhouse.com, we karaoke'd; sipped on frozen, fruity cocktails; and even danced a little before heading to "Waffle House" - another late night staple - www.wafflehouse.com/. (Imagine my excitement as - while on the way home one night - Savannah's WTYP 103.9 was hosting a “Battle of Old School Divas” between Diana Ross and Anita Baker. Based on the call-ins, Diana was leaving Anita in the dust, though I love both ladies much).
Also, Ern, Taylor, Kimberly, and I went to Victory Lanes for a couple of rounds of bowling (www.victorylanesbowling.com/). My sister’s best buddy (from our church) Steve (who too will be celebrating his 20-year-reunion from Savannah High the same weekend I will be celebrating my 20 years since graduating Windsor Forest High School). He came with his friend Ramona who I'd met before. They always bring tidings of comfort and joy. We laughed and caught up between my turns up (with the promise we'd try to get some more time in when I return next week). Always good to see familiar faces. Afterwards, we stopped by Marc by Marc Jacobs (www.marcjacobs.com/), a store that I was shocked to see on Savannah’s Broughton Street. Nice look (for Savannah and Marc!). Oh! I got the chance to see my "Original Amazing Grace" Natalie and her husband Dwayne, both of whom will be back in Savannah for our high school reunion as well. This because they were in Charleston for a wedding and decided to come through Savannah en route back to their home in Atlanta - so they could, in part, see me (but also rest and get another night's rest from their busy lives as parents and working professionals). Our preview/once-over of each other proves that we've aged okay and are maintaining our youthful essences and dispositions.
I have so much more to share, but will have to get it in later. My nephew is coming up tonight (to intern at HBO for the summer)… and Ant and I are readying the place for his arrival. With that, I’ll check in here very soon with some great pop culture tid-bits.
Oh! And so – as I was performing my “concert” – at Ern’s house in front of my many “fans” (friends and family), I would wrap my number with “Goodnight Savannah! I love you… see you next time…!!!!” (51 encores later, I finally left). But it turns out, I will be back for the big 20-year-reunion from high school in just a few weeks… and SCENE!
A FEW DAYS LATER:
Ant, Ern, Tina, and I went to see "Sex & The City" (www.sexandthecitymovie.com/) on Friday night (before we picked up Noot from the airport). WE LOVED IT! We celebrated our enjoyment of it by having cosmos at The Cheesecake Factory (www.thecheesecakefactory.com/). Just a sip for me as vodka does not agree with me (for some reason). Then, after a hearty meal, we picked Noot up and got him home to get settled in. Already, though he's only been here a few days, we've hit the ground running. Since he didn't start his work until Monday (which I'll chronicle in the companion entry), we filled up the cupboards with items and brands of his choice via Target (www.target.com/). Then, we were able to take him to join us at my South African friend Melony's party at "Spur Tree" on the lower east side of Manhattan. It's always good to see her. We also got to catch up with Johnna - a friend we met last Easter via Melony. A little karaoke capped off the night and Noot, Ant, and I came on home. I also got the chance to introduce my favorite boutique N (www.nharlemnewyork.com) to him. Our Larry, Lenn, Nikoa, Jamar, Natasha, and Gail were hosting a Sunday picnic. A friend, another Miguel, was in the house and told me about his new clothing line: www.miguelantoinne.com . Check it out! He's really talented. CONGRATS MIGUEL!!!! Also, I saw an old friend Rick. Noot was impressed with the store and says he is excited to see more of it (We must make sure he doesn't spend his whole check in this store). Given he's majoring in marketing and loves fashion and entertainment, he already began networking with co-owner Lenn who handles the marketing and public relations for the store. Thanks Lenn. What a mentor you are!
Noot and I also got to go to church. I mentioned to you folks that my church "The United House of Prayer for All People" is welcoming Bishop Bailey as the fourth bishop in the long history of the organization. Well, just as Noot comes to town, his summer has been blessed with our new leader's first visit - New York City. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I don't often get out to services with travel and schedule, but I do stay in touch with my pastor at the Harlem branch of our church and I send my tithes there. Noot and I were able to enjoy services and see some blasts from our past. Marc "Sir Dane" is a man from Savannah who used to babysit me in Savannah after my parents moved back to the states from Japan. He would go on to be (and still) a huge session singer and r&b performer in New York City (even recording an album in the '80s). Though I don't remember him from the babysitting days, I did listen to all that people spoke about him and what he was doing (and when that album came to my mom - signed - I was so impressed and excited that someone from my hometown went on to do something that I one day would like to do... and someone who did then what made me know it was possible for me to sing and do all the things that I do in this showbusiness). He is even chronicled in my friend Craig Seymour's biography of Luther Vandross ('The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross') in which it is reported (and Marc corrobborated it for me on Sunday) that his voice would have been on Luther's early hits "Glow of Love" and "Searchin'" had the producers not been able to negotiate with Vandross, who was the creme-de-la-creme of session singers at the time. As Luther came into the studio to close the deal, Marc was wrapping his vocals that could have been. Regardless, he went on to record an album and still performs all types of music to this day. I'm so PROUD OF HIM! And he would let me know (as he called me "his nephew") that he has kept up with all I've been doing (even TIVO-ing "Million Dollar Password" because he found out from his mom who is still in Savannah that I was going to be on at some point - . I'm still not sure when.). And with that, we were reuninted, albeit, in some way, meeting each other (as adults) for the first time. GOD IS GOOD... ALL THE TIME!
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