Saturday, June 27, 2015

Coffee And Rain - short story

Coffee And Rain

Olivia watched the slow swirl of coffee and creamer in her chipped mug as the rain continued to fall outside of her home. After a month of not taking any kind of break from her job, her supervisor decided that she needed to do just that for at least two days. Failure to do so would lead into job burnout and seeking other means of employment. Olivia noted with careful precision how the coffee seemed to hug the hazelnut creamer and dance along like a very slow waltz. Once the two became one, she took her mug into the living room and sat down on the couch that sat across from her large bay windows. The rain fell neatly outside, making sure that all received a nice wash from the previous three days of unbearable heat and unrelenting sunshine.

     Olivia felt her eyes begin to droop; she reached for her mug to take another sip then settled into the couch and wrapped herself in her favourite blanket that hung across the back of the couch. She felt her eyes turn to lead as she allowed the rain to send her asleep . . . only to wake up as she saw a figure suddenly appear across the street and slowly limp its way towards her house. Olivia sat up and watched with fascination as the seemingly dry figure moved with slow purpose and she wondered if it was a neighbour or perhaps a vagabond. As it got closer, she noticed that it wore a long grey coat and grey floppy hat, accentuating its tall and slender frame. She couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman and so remained on the couch to watch this seemingly important moment. As it limped, the rain seemed to fall all around it yet not a drop landed on it, almost as if the figure repelled the droplets.

Suddenly, it stopped several feet away from her window, raising its head to show off its golden eyes that seemed to quickly flash. The pale face seemed too perfect to belong to either a woman or a man. Just then, the figure removed its hat, allowing long grey locks to gently bounce down its back and either side of its face. Olivia continued to watch in fascination as the being then raised its arms to the grey skies and open its mouth. Suddenly, all of the rain changed direction and instead fell into the being's mouth.

 As the being consumed the rain, Olivia noted that the once grey skies slowly turned deep blue with white clouds that seemed to appear out of thin air. The figure showed no sign of stopping the rain; in fact, it seemed to almost enjoy the deluge. When the final drops fell into its mouth, the figure faced Olivia once more then began to move its full powdery grey lips as if to speak. Suddenly, Olivia heard a whispered voice filled with strength and age float through her ears.
    “I hope it wasn't too much for you,” it whispered. Olivia still could not tell if the being was a man or a woman.
    “Too much?”
    “The rain. Was it enough for you? You seemed so . . . dry.”
    “I . . . .yes,” said Olivia as a slow smile spread across her face, “it was enough.” The figure then smiled as it raised a hand to her in farewell then, while placing its hat on its head and causing the hair to disappear once more, turned around and slowly limped away. Olivia watched as the figure grew fainter with every step, turning itself from flesh to wisps of smoke. As it reached the end of her driveway, she could barely make out the form as a gentle wind blew the last tendril of smoke away. Olivia greedily swallowed her now cold coffee then raced outside to the cool and sunny day, just as others walked outside of their homes, glad that the deluge was over. Olivia looked around at her neighbours then lifted her head to the sky and smiled.

   “Thank you,” she whispered as a thin wisp of grey danced along the blue.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Southern Walden and Mary Oliver

I love it when ideas and thoughts I've had for a while visit me again and remind me what is lacking in my life. Such was the case when Thoreau's Walden bubbled to the surface in my mind and waved at me. I decided to wave back . . . and soon I found myself reading the poem Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Black Branches by Mary Oliver. Rather than talk about the poem and what it meant to me, I decided to post it on my blog. I hope you guys read it. Thank you and good night.

(photo taken by Kimberly B. Richardson at Overton Park, Bike Gate June 2015)

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches 
of other lives -
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, 
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, 
feel like? 

Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you? 

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides 
with perfect courtesy, to let you in! 
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass! 
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over 
the dark acorn of your heart! 

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint 
that something is missing from your life! 

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch? 
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot 
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself 
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed 
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone? 

Well, there is time left - 
fields everywhere invite you into them. 

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away 
from wherever you are, to look for your soul? 

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk! 

To put one's foot into the door of the grass, which is 
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and 
not be afraid! 

To set one's foot in the door of death, and be overcome 
with amazement! 

To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine 
god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw, 
nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the 
present hour, 
to the song falling out of the mockingbird's pink mouth, 
to the tippets of the honeysuckle, that have opened

in the night 

To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind! 

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life? 

While the soul, after all, is only a window, 

and the opening of the window no more difficult 
than the wakening from a little sleep. 

Only last week I went out among the thorns and said 
to the wild roses: 
deny me not, 
but suffer my devotion. 
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them. Maybe 

I even heard a curl or tow of music, damp and rouge red, 
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies. 

For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters, 
caution and prudence? 
Fall in! Fall in! 

A woman standing in the weeds. 
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what's coming next 
is coming with its own heave and grace. 

Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things, 
upon the immutable. 
What more could one ask? 

And I would touch the faces of the daises, 
and I would bow down 
to think about it. 

That was then, which hasn't ended yet. 

Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light, 
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean's edge. 

I climb, I backtrack. 
I float. 
I ramble my way home.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Evening in Paris - flash story

Evening in Paris.
I told him that when he asked me the name of my perfume. For a moment, I did not know he spoke to me for my mind had begun to wander after I walked into the dark bricked building. My day so far had been good and I was already thinking of my soon to be time spent working on my latest novel, so it truly did surprise me when a complete stranger paid attention to a part of me like that. He asked me the name of the perfume I wore and I told him.

 As we got on the elevator with three other people, I found myself wondering about the man who now stood in front of me. Would he go to a department store later in the day and locate the perfume for his girlfriend, wife, or even mother? Maybe the perfume reminded him of a lost love during his college years or the beginning of a new one. Perhaps the scent provoked him to think of reading old and dusty books while intoxicated and smoking Gauloises cigarettes. Still, I wondered if he even would even remember speaking to me; we humans have a funny knack for forgetting important matters only minutes after they have occurred.

Monday, June 15, 2015

~ Once Upon a Nightmare ~

Once upon a time, there was a young artist whose had an amazing talent ~ 

 She would visit the art gallery near her home and spend her time drawing, always drawing. 

 Although people loved her work and wanted more, she simply did not. She felt . . . different. Hollow. Empty.

 Yet, she continued to draw, for it was in her blood. The world did not understand that she had a gift. A most terrible gift.

 One sunny day, she visited the art gallery and looked upon the work of those in whom she admired. She wanted so desperately to be like them, not realizing that her talent surpassed them. On that sunny day, the artist decided to visit the basement . . . . 

 And soon, her talent slipped from her grasp and became . . . something else.

 Something darkly seductive.

 The artist still drew, her slender pale fingers tracing over and over . . . . 

  . . . giving more and more breath to her chaotic talent . . . . 

 She felt someone or something tug on her heart and still she drew . . . . 

 Her heart beat furiously in the shadowed hand, causing the masked figure to snicker softly.

 She felt alone in the basement, yet dared not venture upstairs for fear that perhaps, the figures surrounding her would suddenly disappear. If that were to happen, what would become of her?

 Suddenly, the artist heard maniacal laughter coming from behind her. She turned and saw nothing . . . 

  . . only to turn back around and see what she feared most - her utter destruction if she stopped feeding her talent. 

She stared into the cold eyes of true emptiness and realized that she couldn't stop. Not now. Not ever. Endure the madness, she heard in her ear. 

Having enough of the basement, she gathered her supplies and returned upstairs. Just as the last of the whispers trailed after her, she smiled, showing off her now multicoloured eyes. The artist would endure the madness.

The End.

Thank you to the following: the staff of Ions Geek Gallery, Alissa Brielle, James Weakley, Thomas Jenkins, Jada Brisentine and Chanel A. Strowder. Thank you for making my little nightmare come true. I could not have done this without you guys!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Decadence and Colours - The Art of New Orleans

6:30 and I'm listening to one of my new vinyls - golden hits of Louis Prima - and I've been dancing in my living room. I'm also thinking about the past weekend, in which I was one of the instructors for Dark Oak Press' genre writing conference. Although we had a small number of participants, we still had a rockin' time, complete with many added extras that just made it all the sweeter.

The hotel/conference center was located in the Warehouse District, also known as the Arts District, complete with many art galleries, restaurants, luxury hotels, and other places that would satisfy any interest. The area was also quite close to the French Quarter, as I discovered during my morning power walk on Saturday. Although the Arts District was less crowded than the Quarter, it was no less fun and exciting as I walked the streets and soaked up as much as I could.

Howling Wolf was our "host" for Friday night as we reunited with old friends and made new ones with such delicacies as crawfish "beignets", a dirty rice mixture with sausage and chicken and cheese ravioli. The bar/restaurant was the perfect place to kick back and relax while getting into the swing of all things Big Easy. As I wolfed down my second bowl of crawfish "beignets" and rice, I felt the city's loving arms wrap themselves around me as they had done countless times before. As I like to tell people, I have been visiting New Orleans since I was five years old and I consider it to be my second home. The sun soon gave way to the night and I was home again.

Saturday consisted of panels regarding the Way of Writing Genre Fiction that led to a lunch break. While others made their way to seek out food, I decided to be adventurous and seek out my own nourishment. After walking for several minutes under the blazing sun, I found myself at Peche Restaurant, a seafood and grill establishment with a style that carefully blended clean rustic and hipster modern. As I made my way to my table, I noticed that all the waiters were dressed in flannel shirts with carefully rolled up jeans and soon, my lovely waiter handed me a menu filled to the brim with oceanic and gulf delights. I soon decided on a Louisiana shrimp roll with blueberry cornmeal crisp for dessert, as recommended by my waiter and the food did not disappoint.

The Arts District of New Orleans is a softer yet flavourful area that will delight and tempt your appreciation for art in all forms. Thankfully, I was able to visit several of the galleries and simply view the current exhibits in blessed silence. As I walked from one gallery to another, I kept my cameras ready to be used and soon, I posted my discoveries to my online photography profiles. Suddenly, I had Gallery Orange, a contemporary art gallery located in the French Quarter, follow my work. I knew then that I had to make a special trip to visit their gallery and make that contact through the aether. I love making that extra move to meet people in person after "meeting" them online. Such was the case with Matthews Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico several weeks ago.

Sunday proved to be the day of days for me; after I made an early leave from the conference, I made my way to the French Quarter and set my sights upon visiting Gallery Orange. However, I located my favourite used bookstore, Librarie Bookshop, and quickly darted in. There is nothing like the smell of a bookstore and I took several deep breaths while grinning like an idiot. The aisles are narrow and packed with books yet I couldn't have been happier; twenty minutes later, I left with four books and picked up my journey to visit Gallery Orange. When I finally reached the place, I stepped in from the heat and made small talk with one of the gallery owners. The gallery was small and intimate and I loved looking at the bright colours of the pieces while trying to look "hip" - not easy to do when you're sweating from the heat!

After leaving Gallery Orange, I continued my jaunt through the Quarter, only to stop and peer into the windows of another gallery named AFA. I was stunned as I stared at the art then quickly walked in and asked the nice woman behind the desk if what I was looking at were original Tim Burton pieces? The woman smiled and said yes. Twenty minutes later, Barbara and I acted as though we had known each other for years as we discussed the future of libraries. With a friendly wave and one last glance through the gallery, I moved on only to stop five minutes later at a small yet inviting store that I had heard about the previous night during our tour of Haunted New Orleans. I had arrived at the Boutique du Vampyre!

If you seek anything and everything vampiric, this is THE store for you. Shirts, candles, Tarot cards, books and more all had that vampiric touch. I was in heaven. I picked up a copy of The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden after hearing about the book from the author herself and her friends, not to mention after visiting the Ursuline convent in the Quarter. It was a necessary purchase for someone as myself. After leaving the dim and comforting vampire store, I returned to my car and made my way home.

If you ever find yourself in New Orleans, make time to visit the Warehouse District and also visit the places I mentioned above. If you seek art in its many forms, New Orleans is the place for you.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Inner Self - Flash Story

Charles stared at his reflection while getting dressed for the movie at the art gallery. He fumbled with his tie for the third time, and then with a wave of flash anger, yanked it from his neck and flung it to the floor. Ever since Linda left him a year ago, he hadn’t been able to get the Windsor knot down pat like she did. Like she did, he thought as tears began to form in his eyes. He had wanted to marry her and spend the rest of his life with her. However, she felt differently when he walked in on her and her lover, his best friend Jeremy, one night from a long day of work. Now, he was alone and he was still not too sure about it all. He fumbled with the first button on his shirt then did a quick glance over. Satisfied with himself, he slipped on a sweater, grabbed his keys and headed out to the gallery. As he drove through the neighbourhood, he continued to think about his ex-girlfriend and why it was still so hard for him to be alone. After all, he was an English professor at one of the universities in town, had no late or delayed bills, and was quite the Jack-of-all-trades. Yet, he still dreaded coming home to an empty house night after night, for it meant loneliness.
His friends tried setting him up on dates; however, they would fail every time. All of the women his friends had paired him with were nowhere near what he wanted in life. Come to think of it, he thought as he turned down a side street to reach the bustling traffic, Linda was nowhere near what I wanted as well. Although she was very attractive and a decent sexual partner, she did not share his passions. In fact, he stifled many of his loves just for the sake of not getting into fights with her. All she wanted to do was shop and watch soap operas. Anytime he brought her along to a bookstore, she complained the entire time, leaving Charles more frustrated than before. Suddenly, Charles clenched the steering wheel a little tighter; all of this time, I’ve wanted to be with someone to share my life with when instead I needed to spend more time with the things I love, such as going to movies at art galleries and museums. He caught his reflection in he rear-view mirror and noticed that he was smiling. He was still smiling when he reached the gallery and parked his car. The walk to the gallery was quite delightful as Charles took in he crisp October night air. He walked in, got his ticket then walked downstairs to the theatre and sat down. Already, the place was filling up as people started to flood in. He looked around and saw that most were in couples or groups but that there were a few single people as well. Are they single or did their partners not want to join them, he wondered then focused inward. Going to a movie at an art gallery was something that Linda would not have enjoyed doing. He grinned; no, this is something I wanted to do. Something that I enjoy. Why should I hold back that which gives me pleasure? Why was I so worried about being alone when I have so much to return to? As the theater darkened, Charles continued to grin.  

(The Writer - photo by Kimberly B. Richardson, 2014)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Tortillas: Food of the Gods


It's around 9 at night (again) and I'm listening to Ahmad Jamal Trio play one of my favourite jazz pieces named Poinciana on one of my granddad's vinyl. I'm also thinking about the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico. I still can't believe it has been two weeks since I was last there. Great food, wonderful cultures, nice and friendly people and HISTORY. When I was in Santa Fe, I tried to visit as many museums as possible, but by the third one and a hail storm, I decided that lunch was in my near future.

I headed over to Tia Sophia's, one of the local places in the City Different, and enjoyed true chalupas with a massive sopapilla drenched in honey. As I bit into the tortilla chips, my senses went into overtime; this was unlike any kind of tortilla chip I'd ever had. The chalupas were two tortilla cups filled with beans, cheese, sour cream and homemade guacamole. Let's just say that I had a happy plate in minutes. While eating, I thought about a book I had just purchased at Collected Works Bookstore named Tortillas: A Cultural History by journalist Paula E. Morton.

But wait, you may be thinking, tortillas actually have a HISTORY?! Why yes. Yes they do, and it's quite a tale. The book was an absolute delight to read and I found myself with a greater appreciation for tortillas when I finished it. The tortilla begins with the Mayans, Aztecs and other indigenous cultures that occupied Mesoamerica before the arrival of the Europeans. Tortillas made from corn were seen as more than food - they were gifts for the gods and a necessary part of Life. At times, tortillas were offered to the gods (along with humans) and sometimes the food within the tortillas had an extra ingredient - blood. When the Europeans arrived, tortillas were pushed to the back as bread tried to make its way into their lives. The end result was the beginning of flour tortillas and its close and long standing relationship with the corn tortilla.

Tortillas were seen as a part of every day life, even as the later called "Mexicans" traveled north to America and enjoyed the fruits of the country. The daily preparation and eating of tortillas was a necessary thing; if one did not have tortillas, then one would have no food. One simply can not live without tortillas. The book was so well written and thoroughly entertaining that I felt myself thinking of tortillas the entire time that I was in the Land of Enchantment. The book even mentioned the "birth" of Taco Bell; Glen Bell, the founder, started his food career with hamburgers. However, thanks to McDonald's, he shifted his approach to Mexican dishes and instead created what most of us enjoy every so often. Even I admit that I have a special love for their seven layer burrito.

When I flew into Houston on my way back home, I enjoyed a nice and overly stuffed burrito that was made with a corn tortilla. And yes, there is a difference in taste between a corn tortilla and a flour tortilla. As soon as I returned home and went grocery shopping several days later, I found myself searching the shelves in Kroger for the corn tortillas, only to smile when I did find a nice package of thirty corn tortillas just waiting for me.

Tortillas - the Food of the Gods.

Just remember that the next time you enjoy one with your meal.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Maps, Madness and a Better Way of Life


It's almost 9 PM and I'm listening to Iron and Wine in the comfort of my pad. My mind has been thinking about recent events in my life and I feel better for having them. In the past three months, I have connected with people from all walks of life and enjoyed the mutual sharing of stories and experiences. Memphis, my home, is getting its coolness back and I am glad for it. Suddenly, we are popping up in the news in other cities and people from all backgrounds are supporting the city and local businesses because it's just the right (and cool!) thing to do. I have had awesome conversations with people who work for the City of Memphis, professors, artists, home renovators, geeks, freaks, film lovers, students and the list goes on. I am very much a people person; I love having conversations with folks and listening to their view of the world and what they make of it.

So, it came as no surprise to me that, during a really, really cool bicycling event thanks to Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op (of which I will be joining soon!), that I learned about Dinner and Bikes, a traveling show that focuses on transportation equality with emphasis on bicycles. Dinner and Bikes is also the home of Microcosm Publishing in Portland, Oregon, a radical publishing company with all sorts of titles to whet your intellectual appetite. After the event, I knew I had to purchase a book from them and soon found myself the owner of the autobiography Maps on the Other Side as written by Sascha Altman DuBrul. This is no ordinary autobiography, for Sascha is no ordinary man.

Having been placed in several mental institutions since his teenage years due to his bipolar disorder, DuBrul burst forth into the world as an activist, punk musician, seed trader, and a strong supporter in the world of psychotherapy. Just when it seemed as though suicide was his only option, he found strength in the freaks and created the Icarus Project, a massive organization that focuses on the labels of mental illness and the radical ways in changing how it is handled in our society. Maps to the Other Side is a collection of DuBrul's journals and previously published zines that chronicle his life from an angry and mentally ill punk teen to a force in the seed library movement and a return to organic living. He speaks frankly of his moments of "madness"; those pieces were the hardest to read for me because I couldn't believe that it was the same man who was so active and so creative. And yet, it was.

(The Artist Finds a Home - photo by Kimberly B. Richardson, 2015)

Maps to the Other Side is not for everyone - let me just say that right now. This slim book took me several weeks to get through simply because it was saturated with memories and experiences that should not be glossed over. He writes like a journalist, making you feel as though you are right there sowing seeds for the next harvest, jumping railroad cars to a new destination, traveling to Mexico and facing almost certain death, falling in love with a kindred spirit only to discover that the kindred spirit took their life.This book is powerful, amazing, terrifying, invigorating, and uplifting. His meetings with other people suffering from mental illness, artists, radicals, yoga practitioners, stern therapists and others framed him into what he is today. And what a man.

Thank you, Microcosm Publishing, for publishing this book. And . . . thank you, Sascha, for being such a bright light in this world. Thank you.