I write this entry from 17E - a Continental Airlines, coach MIDDLE seat that positions me uncomfortably between two nice gentlemen – one of whom (the winner of the window seat) is accompanied by – GASP! – his dog. The pooch, considered carry-on for these purposes, is quiet as a mouse and just sits beneath the seat that’s in front of his owner. I wouldn’t have been reminded he was there (no smell or anything) but I just reached for my bag and laptop. Nothing against God’s four-legged ‘best friend’, but on a commercial flight? And yet I am GRATEFUL to one of my life coaches and friends Curtis for making it possible for me to be on this flight and the one that’s poised to get me to L.A. for two months and the one that’s poised to get me back home after my assignment wraps in L.A. come October. Also, after waiting in Atlanta’s airport for TEN hours last week to get home (based on lightning storms in New York), I too am HAPPY that the plane is moving in the air and on schedule. HEY CUTE LITTLE DOGGIE! NO COMPLAINTS FROM ME! LOL!
Well, here marks MY REALITY of late – chockfull of anecdotal craziness yet somehow I keep it moving. I am generally in a good mood as I head to Tampa for the National Association of Black Journalists convention (www.nabj.org)… and you know this is my annual therapy (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/7/29/like-i-never-left.html). Always a good time!!!! (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/8/13/audacity-of-hope-and-dreams-in-vegas.html). Hey! It’s where I met President Obama two years ago. And NABJ is where I interviewed Jennifer Hudson (just a couple of months before “Dreamgirls” would change her life forever!). I Chair the NABJ Arts & Entertainment Task Force. I am co-producing the NABJ Hall of Fame Banquet with my friend Michael K. Watts. I am hosting “NABJ Presents…” – a franchise I’ve anchored before with sponsor Walt Disney (www.disney.go.com). A couple of years ago, Steve Harvey was one of the special guests among others. This year, NABJ will greet ‘the first African American animated lead’ Anika Noni-Rose who brings Tiana to life in “The Frog Princess” (www.disney.go.com/disneypictures/princessandthefrog/). There are other surprises on tap for this well-produced event. And I am also sitting on a couple of panels – one about ‘freelancing’ (and what it takes to survive). The other is about ‘Gays in the Media’ (I have a month to ask you if you saw my photo in “OUT” Magazine – www.out.com - LOL! - http://www.out.com/detail.asp?id=25657).
I wish Ant could be here but his current project “The Wendy Williams Show” requires he be in the studio as that show pops out LIVE everyday (But he promises he’ll make it his business to come and see me in L.A. – hopefully an extended Labor Day weekend.).
Given I just got back home to New York City/New Jersey from my five weeks in Atlanta, it is a bit difficult to be leaving home (and Ant) yet again. But of course, duty calls towards keeping the revenue streaming. Of course, with the theme of my business for the last few months being “reality TV”, I too realize how important it is not to lose my own “quite lovely” reality as I chronicle other peoples’ reality with a fine-tooth comb and a microscope (all for entertainment and a living). On top of that, there are many things within MY reality that I want to work on and manage (home improvements, a vacation, blog upgrade, book deal, etc.) and same for Ant. He and I have our eye on ‘the balancing act’ – so we can multi-task these many goals alongside those relatable pieces that continue to pay our bills.
Perhaps I’m feeling encouraged and optimistic because of how Ant and I spent our small window of time together. Of course, our social calendar can be a beast to manage. But we made sure to make us the priority in anything to which we committed. So, if it was too stressful to commute or if it wasn’t so necessary that we go, we didn’t. Of course, there were a number of things we wanted to do around the house i.e. replace air conditioning; fix bulb in kitchen; organize clothes and closets; etc. But we were not going to spend our limp four days together doing that. Still, Ant sacrificed some sleep to pack my bags and ensure that I had everything I needed for this long trip. With that, we still had lots of time to chill and connect (despite his long, working days on Thursday and Friday), and – believe it or not – there was STILL lots of time for us to socialize.
One of our stay-in treats was “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” (www.bravotv.com) which roared onto the airwaves as a record 2.7 million viewers tuned in to make it the highest-rated debut in the overall franchise (any city). I’m not quite at the part within this season where I can share a slight tid-bit here or there on my attendance at a couple of the events that took place during the filming. Still, I can talk about how – in “my reality” – I had a lovely dinner in New York City at Harlem’s “Amy Ruth” (www.amyruthsharlem.com) with NeNe’s ‘House’-husband Dwight Eubanks (www.purpledoorsalon.com) who – as I’ve mentioned before – is a friend of my friends Carl Nelson and Lamoh Hicks. Since my time in Atlanta (and his wonderful hospitality), we’re warming to friendship status ourselves. Ant also got to meet Dwight and Lamoh – two ‘earth angels’ during my lonely stint down South. Later, we all gathered at “No Parking” (www.noparkingbar.com) in Washington Heights to ensure the boys got a proper welcome to New York City where they are working on some things I’ll be sure to report when I can.
This lovely night came on the heels of an awesome day that started in bed from which neither Ant nor I could part but soon thereafter we hooked up with our girl Dawn who manages and coordinates production units with many of the hit shows that film here in New York City. Additionally she is an actress and working on an ensemble piece that’s running at The Fringe later this month (www.fringenyc.com). The director of that upcoming project and Dawn's friend Ericka joined us at Kif (www.kifbrooklyn.com) - a Moroccan restaurant on “Restaurant Row” along Dekalb in Clinton Hills/Fort Greene area of Brooklyn. Ant also budgeted his wages to take me shopping – so I could accent my ‘couture’ with some new pieces. I’m fortunate to have lots of clothes but haven’t been able to justify ‘new buys’ inside our economics. But as they improve, Ant wanted to support me – as my man and my stylist – to gift myself (in addition to everything else we’re doing to stay afloat and catch up on our arrears). Some cute shops in Chelsea did the trick (at their expense. Several of these stores are closing!). But my obligatory roll through Moshood (www.afrikanspirit.com) ensured my convention will be blessed as he, Kunle, and the gang always ensure I walk out with something that doesn’t break the bank but will turn a head or million. Ant and I also got the chance to see our favorite couple Mara Schiavocampo and her husband Tommy who invited us by for tea and dessert. Like my “earth angels” Dwight and Lamoh, Mara and Tommy take care of Ant when I’m away which always makes me feel good. And I couldn’t leave town without seeing Ant’s “Amazing Grace” – best girlfriend Manivone. We went to his sometimes-bartending spot “Velvet Cigar Lounge” to say HI to her.
On the night prior to this day-long marathon, Ant and I drove out to New Rochelle, the stomping ground of my “Amazing Grace” Nichole who had in-town visitors Tori, her sister, and Daylen, her niece – both of whom are always a joy to be around. In the wake of our five-month blitz in Atlanta, Nichole and I were due a bit more of a reprieve from each other. But enough time had passed (two days) that I felt fine to see her (and her trusty lip gloss) again. SMILE!Plus, her girlfriend Cynthia who has become our girlfriend was celebrating her birthday at the beautiful home of another of their friends Michelle (and her husband Nelson). I’ve blogged about THE NEW ROs (I call them) many times. In fact, I joke (kinda’) that the next “REAL HOUSEWIVES…” could be culled from this group. Ant and I love to hang out with this group as their homes are lovely; their hospitality is awesome; and their easy-going way and care-free nature are totally embraced. Plus, they are always working on great projects. Michelle is a former recording industry marketing exec who is now wife and mother (to baby boy) alongside being interior designer (www.simplicitydesigns.org) and artist manager. Cynthia – in addition to her pursuits and accomplishment (just got a Masters) in social work – is the artist and has an Obama-inspired show (5 pieces) running in The State Building (in Harlem) as we speak (www.profoundaudacity.org). Then, nearby neighbor and girlfriend Chenoa (who attended Cynthia’s set with her husband Carlyle) is now a photographer. But my fellow Scorpion sister is always reinventing (www.chenoamaxwell.com). She too is an actress – perhaps most notably seen as “Lena” – the interim love of Darnell, Maya’s ‘husband’ on “Girlfriends”.
Later that night, Ant and I stumbled into “G” (www.glounge.com) – a place we hadn’t been together since I lost my camera there last August. We went to say HI to his buddy Aaron who I got to see while in Atlanta (at a house party). I also ran into my friend Clarence Haynes who I’ve blogged about before (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/8/5/movin-on-up-to-the-east-side.html). He’s been supportive to me and my book –project-on-the-market “Big Willies & Amazing Graces: gay men and their best girlfriends” which almost got sold to the publishing house for which he used to work (www.modelmayhem.com/clarencito or www.nycastings.com/clarencito). He transitioned from working as an editor at a world-renowned book publishing company to pursue modeling and acting. He’s been quite busy over the past few months – including an appearance as model in one of the last episodes of UGLY BETTY from last season (www.abc.go.com/primetime/uglybetty/index). He’s the silver man with cape behind singer Adele. Also, was a makeover model on THE MORNING SHOW with Mike and Juliet in May. And Clarence says his big epiphany of late is refocusing on his love of exploration of culture, race, gender and sexuality, both in publishing and performance. And that translates into him doing developmental work on a performance collective that will have dancers, singers, visual artists exploring issues around gender and sexuality – perhaps a backdrop for my sidelight of performing and presentation. And he hasn’t left the written word behind as proven by a piece he just recently wrote on E. Lynn Harris' literary legacy at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/clarence-haynes/what-lies-below-taking-ti_b_248197.html.
And of course, we couldn’t be in NEW YORK CITY for a week without getting a DIVA in. Well, more than one if you count our recently wed Tawana (Tata, I call her). She and I are near and dear, but Ant and I didn’t get the chance to join her in St. Lucia as she married her love Jules. But classic Tata showed up as if she was left to give a gift (always giving, she is) when she called to remind me that we have been long-scheduled to see Jody Watley (www.jodywatley.net) at B.B. King’s (www.bbkingblues.com). Jody was in great voice and in a great mood to vogue and even lay out on the floor for the “KIDS”. My Morehouse brother Michael K. Watts who does “LIVE FROM FRONT ROW!” (music and concert reviews) noted that the 80s triple threat channeled her Soul Train beginnings as well as her mentors from the most legendary of house music vogueing dancers. Michael even provided a rundown of the awesome show! THANKS MICHAEL!
I Want Your Love
Your Love Keeps Working On Me
I Want You
I Want Your Love (Reprise)
I'm the One You Need
Looking For a New Love
Don't You Want Me
Some Kind of Lover
A Night to Remember
For the Lover In You
Make That Move
A Beautiful Life
Saturday Night Experience
Still a Thrill
Wanna Be Startin' Something
GRACE JONES was also in town. But I didn’t realize. I knew she was going to be at The Hollywood Bowl but didn’t know that there was a New York City date as well. I hear she was FAB! As Jody stands on Grace Jones’ shoulders, perhaps Grace – and Jody - are standing on the shoulders of Naomi Sims who recently passed away. As one of the first Black models of note in America (if not the first), Naomi Sims opened the door for Beverly Johnson, Iman, Naomi, Tyra, and all the supermodels to catwalk through. I had the luxury of interviewing Naomi Sims a few years back in Santa Barbara. A total honor!!!!
And after a final day of prepping for this trip (including working the phones --- unsuccessfully at this writing --- towards finding a free/cheap-yet-comfy place to stay for my two months in L.A.), Ant and I got to spend ceremonious time with Ern at “On The Border”. It was sort of a last supper before I leave and before they both come to L.A. at some point – over the next month – to ensure I don’t slip through the cracks of someone else’s reality… and know that my own reality is worth maintaining and managing and nurturing. DEAL, GUYS?
P.S. Congrats to my cousin Kea who is going to be a Navy sailor. Though I was in Georgia a couple of days before her send-off, I had to get back to NYC to regroup for my trip that has me back south (even further... in Tampa). Here are all of us YOUNG COUSINS with Kea and - at-the-time - her pregnant sister. This was just a couple of years ago. Now, Kea is taking it to the next level. TRAVELING MERCIES... and ALL MY LOVE, CUZ!
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