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WHAT A WHIRLWIND the last couple of weeks have been!!! Getting ready for the holidays. Doing my best to ensure new business in my mix for 2011. Making sure existing business clients send my money for services already rendered. On their own, those aforementioned tasks can be (and – in some cases for me – were) overwhelming. But on top of that, I found myself processing why certain important relationships from my past – family and friends – have gone the direction of disharmony. (Some current life circumstances re-introduced the unresolved wounds and – even here after I’ve returned home from being with my family in Georgia – I still am perplexed as to where things went wrong. I still don’t have those answers, but that cloud has subconsciously and consciously covered me as I prepared to go home to Georgia to be with my family). Though so happy to be back in the physical presence of my loved ones – blood family and chosen family, a twinge of morose accompanied me throughout December (and still). But I put my best face forward and found many opportunities to call joy forth. No amount of sadness could dwarf my many BLESSINGS!


So this THURSDAY, DECEMBER 30TH at NATIVE RESTAURANT in HARLEM on Lenox Avenue & 118th Street, ALL-STAR KARAOKE THURSDAY NIGHT is BACK (after a pre-Christmas break). The week before last, we had a really spirited time. Our ALL-STAR KARAOKE regulars – like Brian, Rick, Turquoise, Sidra, et al held it down (as they do) – including throwing in a few Christmas carols. But I was so EXCITED to see my Morehouse brother Nasser Metcalfe who popped by to support (between his work detail with Prince, who was in the NYC-area. MORE ON THAT IN A MINUTE). Also, singer ESNAVI (www.esnavi.com) popped by and sang brilliantly. CHECK HER NEW MUSIC OUT! Also, NBC News’ Mara Schiavocampo – one of my BFFs and AMAZING GRACES – popped right off of a plane to grace us with her rendition of Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone”. And Bangin’ Ass Artists Troy Saunders – my dear friend – came by along with Darryl – to serenade us. Keep your eye out for all he’s doing to promote GREAT MUSIC: www.banginassartists.com/ Oh! I’ve mentioned my model buddies Cole; Paul; and Ian. Prior to ALL-STAR KARAOKE THURSDAY NIGHT, I got to hang out with Ian who – along with the other fellas – was heading home for the holidays. I shout them out from time to time because they are ones to watch… and Ian actually has a singing voice with which he’s promised to grace ALL-STAR KARAOKE THURSDAY NIGHT in 2011. Remember you heard it here first! HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL TOMORROW!


So for the five years Ant & I have been together, we’ve done the varied holidays a number of ways. He’s come to Georgia a few times. I’ve come to Denver a time or two. Sometimes, we have to do it separately where he visits his folks in Denver. And I get my solo family time in Georgia (Atlanta & Savannah). His plane ticket had him leaving last week just after he’d wrapped his work with “The Wendy Williams Show” for the year. It didn’t give us any hang time without the cloud of our respective workloads. But my girlfriend Mara and her husband Tommie came through with the opportunity for Ant & me to see PRINCE… and – VOILA! – Ant changed his flight and we got a really cool, early Christmas present. Let me just say: Madison Square Garden was PRINCE’s house on this night… and Ant & I were honored to be in the number. PRINCE sang just about all of his hits – from “Dirty Mind” to “Purple Rain” (and some of his self-penned hits that others have done like “Nothing Compares To You” (The Family & Sinead O’Connor) and “Cool” (The Time). Sheila E was a surprise guest who performed Sheena Easton’s PRINCE duet “U Got The Look” along with “Glamorous Life” and the big finale of “Love Bizarre” – featuring PRINCE who called up an ALL-STAR array of celebs to join in on the jam session. The stars included “The View”s Sherri Shephard; Whoopi Goldberg; Spike Lee (smiling with tambourine in hand); Naomi Campbell; Alicia Keys; Dr. Cornel West; Tavis Smiley; and on and on and on.  It was good to see my girlfriends Sidra, Dianne Smith, and Jacquie Lee in the house. We all enjoyed! Afterwards, Ant and I got a well-timed invite to join our buddy Caleb and friends at STK & Dos Caminos in Manhattan’s meatpacking district. GREAT way to celebrate before Ant and I parted ways for a week and change to be with our respective families! THANKS PRINCE, MARA, TOMMIE, CALEB, and THE REVOLUTION!


Once Ern & I got Ant to the airport the following night on his postponed flight, we got some catch-up time (as BFFs since 7th grade) – including our favorite Dallas BBQ; JAPAS 55 for karaoke where it’s always a good time! Then, a couple of days later, Ern & I flew to our young adult home and our childhood home – respectively. We touched down in ATL (from the Philly airport as we drove down from North Jersey to take advantage of a more economical flight). Our friend Cristal picked us up. We got our JR Cricket’s on. Ern’s sister Sam came to pick him up to take him to her place. My boy Lamoh – who you may recall from my summer in Atlanta last year - came to scoop me up to get me to my sister and her husband’s place. But not before we enjoyed our late night bite & cocktails.


So it was more than a notion to be having a casual day with friends and suddenly get an invite to a black tie affair but with the help of my friend Camille, we pulled something together (as I neglected to pack even a suit this time, a rarity). But worth it all to see some great friends. The day actually started pretty low-key-yet-fulfilling as my BFFs Chandra & Camille & Chandra's son Gavin picked me up and we enjoyed a nice lunch at Ru-San. Then, haircuts for the boys (Gavin’s first).And Gavin didn't cry once. He was the best client ever!!! Gavin and I showcased our new looks at TARGET. It seemed to put a smile on his face! "HI... GAVIN!!!!" I would say. And he in reply says: "HI!!!!!!" Ant and I consider it a blessing that we can share a little bit of Gavin with Chandra. And Tata too (or most pointedly). She's such a great support to us all! Somewhere amidst all of this, my girl Camillle and my boy Lamoh invited me to accompany them to DeVyne Stephens' formal gala. It was held at the old Roxy (Buckhead Tavern). Impromptu (for me), but I rode the wave to discover a FUN NIGHT. Bumping into Morehouse brothers, industry friends, old-&-new buddies - including Jermaine Dupree, Kelly Rowland, Kenny Leon, Jazze Pha (and his artist: Rain), THE Dr. J, Babyface (who did a holiday serenade), Keith Robinson (Dreamgirls & Half & Half), up-and-comimg singer of Black Parisian descent named Louisa, and a host of others. Special shout outs to: my old friends Shanti Das; Kenny Leon; Joshua Butler (Morehouse brother); Meredith Garcia (Fashion List – www.thefashionlist.com. Meredith  gave my blog "A Day in the Life of Riley: pop culture & possibilities" the Golden Poodle from R. Scott French and American Chang a couple of years back: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2006/12/22/wake-up-and-dream.html); Morehouse brother Will (of Obnoxious TV fame); Chris Ruffin, also a Morehouse brother (One Stop Productions who put on the event); and AUDIO which performed. And a special shout out to WXIAs-own Evelyn Mims, the "soap sultress" - one of my favorite people in the whole world! THANKS to Camille & Lamoh for making it happen!


Being back in ATLANTA wasn’t all galas and premieres. I also got to have low-maintenance hang-time with some of my dearest friends – including BFF Elise and her wonderful family. Elise and I enjoyed – dare I say – a bottle of Nuestro Orgello (www.tequilaon.com) inside margaritas that she prepared as her mom cooked Christmas dinner and other appetizers for us to snack on. Too, we caught up and had some of the best talk I’ve had in a long time as only Elise and I can do. I LOVE YOU, BOO! I too got to hang out with my cousin Floyd – always a pleasure. Shout out to Camille & THE WOMEN for inviting my Morehouse brother Khalid and me to their “vegan” dinner party (Khalid happened to be in town). Also, SHOUT OUT to the “Waffle House” for food I’d actually eat. LOL! And Khalid and I did that afterwards. But the food for thought at our vegan, Christmas eve affair was the most nourishing!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!


 I had some cherished time with family while in Savannah. My sister Janice, her husband Vincent, and I got on the road early Christmas morning. We got into town… and did a drive-by their god-daughter Deja’s house for gift exchange and a round of UNO (I won one of those rounds… and, OH MY!, how the game has changed from when I played as a child). Then, we made it to our childhood home where my dad and his wife Diana were awaiting us. Like we Riley’s do every Christmas, we all gathered in the living room and did our gift exchanges. Then, we got dressed to go to the first of our two dinners. My Dad’s side gathered at my aunt Goldie’s house. We were all excited to see my cousin Buddha for the first time in 15 years. He and I grew up together. (One disappointment: No chitlins’ this year.) From there, my late great mom’s only sister (and only sibling) Mary Lee hosted that side of the family. As always, we had a blast. So much so, my cousin Dee Dee and her husband Chris hosted us at their place the next day. The occasion: “low country boil” and Taboo. On this night, another of my favorite cousins Kejuanna took me by Ern’s place – so I could get a scoop (or many) of his mom’s banana pudding. While there, he and his family were playing Wii. Though a dusting of the blues (for a few pointed reasons), the light snowfall (and so many great reunions with family & friends - including a night at TANTRIC lounge spot on Broughton Street) underscore the reality: I am BLESSED with the LOVE & LIGHT of my adoring family & friends. That said, I got to spend some fun time with them at one of Savannah’s nightspots Tantric where we danced the night away. We also ran into many old friends from high school – including Shaun Beasley; Ricky Barnes; and Marcus Allen. And my cousin Robby was in the mix as well. As it’s been 22 years since I graduated high school, I took pride in how good we all looked. I guess Black doesn’t crack. LOL!


Holiday in Savannah wrapped with breakfast; visit from my high school BFF Natalie & her kids (for gift exchange); visits to a couple of aunts & other family/friends – including my Aunt Dorothy; and Vincent’s mom Ruth and son Brian. Then, once back in ATL, Ern and I met up with Carla; Thelma; and other mutuals at Cala Bar & Grill (for Falcons/Saints and catch-up). Nightcap: Karaoke Melody (in Doraville). We had a BLAST! And now I know where to go to karaoke when I go to Atlanta!!!!


In the wake of this storm, Ern & I managed to make it home safely by way of ATL, Philly airport, and the NJ Turnpike. I wasn’t ready to unpack, but EXCITED to chill at home alone and watch my annual treat: KENNEDY CENTER HONORS (CBS at 9pm/Eastern) as I’ve yapped about that so many times here on this blog: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2010/12/15/tis-the-season-to-be-jollyfa-la-la.html. My Miss Ross was in the audience and my boy Ryan was on the stage with The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington. They performed with Matthew Morrison, Carol Channing, Kelsey Grammer and Chita Rivera to honor Broadway legend Jerry Herman. 2010 Honorees of the Kennedy Center and President and Mrs. Obama included Merle Haggard, Bill T. Jones, Jerry Herman, and Paul McCartney among others. This is not the group’s first time on the national stage as they performed at the 2004 Kennedy Center Honors for Elizabeth Taylor and in front of millions at the “We Are One: Obama Inaugural Concert”, broadcast on HBO.


Teena Marie HAS died!!! What a loss! She reportedly died in her sleep. I'm told she had been having some kind of bad seizures for the last week or so. Last week, she had a seizure in her sleep, and she fell and broke her rib. She was resting with family & friends nearby. Her daughter found her not breathing. So sad! Though she will be missed, she leaves us with such a rich musical legacy – from “Square Biz” to “Lovergirl” to “Out on a Limb” to “I’m Just a Sucker For Your Love” (a song Rick James’ originally wrote for Teena’s legendary label mate Diana Ross) to “Portuguese in Love” to “Fire & Desire” (her duet with Rick) to “I Need Your Lovin’” and so many other hits!!! WOW! REST IN PEACE, OUR “IVORY QUEEN OF SOUL”!!!!! (AND TO MY QUEEN OF SOUL, as in QUEEN ELIZABETH RILEY - my late, great mother - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!).

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