Sunday, February 26, 2017

Essay - The All American Vietnamese Restaurant

There is something to be said about a Vietnamese restaurant. Not only is it a haven of tasty food, but it is also a microcosm of the world. My Sometimes Friday Lunch Place is no exception. The food, hot and fresh, greets me in open buffet style as I locate a place to sit. Once I get my first plate, I return to my table, pull out a book, and quickly delve into my lunch. Although I'm completely focused on eating and my book du jour, my ears take in the surroundings. People from all walks of life frequent this place - they come for the food and possible conversation, of which both are in ready supply. Several medical students. A single woman. A hipster family and their literal 1.5 children. College students who use chopsticks the right way. An older woman who reeks of being bohemian as she piles her plate with sauteed tofu and green beans.  A corporate group taking in a "power lunch". Artists wearing paint splattered clothes and grins from ear to ear. Homeless people who know that they'll get a good meal for little money. At times, tables are shared by complete strangers who are brought together by more than the tasty spring rolls. Sometimes, there are conversations and sometimes, the smartphone is their silent and convenient friend. No one is excluded here; no one is refused service, unless if you're rude to the staff or to the other patrons. To date, I have yet to see someone be escorted from the restaurant. From time to time, I'll stop reading to watch the staff bring fresh food to the buffet area; as soon as they walk away, people rush with new plates and wide eyes to load up on hot chicken wings and tofu with bean sprouts. It's gotten to be a game of sorts and it brings a smile to my face as I join in for my second round of food. After I finish off my second plate and read to a good stopping point in my book, I pack up my belongings to return to corporate, yet I am confident that my remaining hours at work will pass by rather quickly - curry chicken with pineapple tends to have that effect.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Path of Tea - Dian Hong Red Tea

After looking at Global Tea Hut's website several times, I finally decided to take the plunge and become a subscriber. For $20 a month, you receive a free tin of their tea of the month, plus their magazine (see above) that talks about Taoism and tea as a way of life, plus other little goodies. After having a not so great day, I reached my apartment, only to find a package from Taiwan waiting at my door!

After taking part in a really cool book signing, thanks to the folks at South Main Book Juggler  I returned home to make my first cup of 2016 Dian Hong Red Tea while reading my magazine. So far, I have learned MANY things that contradict what is being said about tea in the West - that's going to be another blog post! So, on to the TEA!

The tea smelled divine when I opened the container. I knew that I was in for a treat. Rather than make a full pot of the tea, I decided to just make one cup. So glad I did - this means my tea will last longer!

After letting the tea leaves sit in the cup for a while, I let the tea cool down for a bit before trying it. The first sip was lightly fragrant and smooth - not harsh or bitter at all. In fact, I didn't need sweetener.  Since giving up coffee and going full tea last year, I have slowly weaned myself off adding sugar to my tea. I will add honey every so often, yet I prefer my tea to be unsweetened most of the time.. After taking several unsweetened sips of my tea, I did add a bit of honey to the cup. The tea did not turn sweet at all but rather the flavour was enhanced, making it a damn near perfect cup of tea. For the record (and this I just learned from reading my magazine) - black tea is actually called red tea. That's one of those things about tea that got mixed up in the West. In any case, this red tea can be consumed at all hours of the day. It's a great way to begin or end your day, or even a nice mid day moment.

I look forward to next month's installment - thank you, Global Tea Hut!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

~ footprint ~

NOTE: this poem will be submitted for the Long Exposure Magazine 2017 Nature Writing Anthology:

One footprint.
Nestled among the clover, 
Growing too soon yet still there.
My steps, carrying along
the thoughts of solitude
along the forest trail.
A prayer, one word spoken
with every touch and contact made
with leaves that linger on either side.
Heady, musk surrounds my
senses, leaving me stronger and with confidence.
I move forward, each step
softened under the green
that causes whispers from my shoes.
I am a nomad in modern time - 
reflective of what one, what I,
can do, feel, think, understand.
The sun, filtered through branches, provides a sense to
"go on, dear one."
I refuse to be still.
Dancing along mushrooms are
the children of the trees.
Silent, I am watchful and 
careful. One step. Another. Another.
I am no longer a stranger.
One footprint. Here upon the green 
that settles to create a welcoming path.
One footprint.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Japanese Rock in the 901

When I learned that Japanese rock band Kazha was now living in Memphis, I was overjoyed! I immediately looked them up and started listening to their music. I saw them perform at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention last year and realized that they have quite a following. I'm more than proud to say that I'm one of them. While on my way back from a lovely vacation with Viking in Chattanooga this past weekend, I popped in the CD Evolution - WOW! If you are looking for killer hard rock music mixed with poetic lyrics, you NEED to listen to Kazha. Their music is perfect for those who enjoy hard rock, Gothic rock, or just damn great music.

From the first track Wake Up II - Wake Me Up to the final track of Blend and Fly, Evolution is a solid listen that will make you put the CD on repeat. The songs range from hard hitting to soft and tender, with lyrics that talk of love and loss. Kazuha Oda, the lovely siren and bass player of the band, sings these songs as though she is showing you her soul. The lyrics are personal and emotional, yet you'll soon be singing along with her. None of the songs are "weak links" - the entire CD is excellent in every way. Several of the songs that really stood out for me were Breathe Again, Face Your Fears, and Break Into Pieces. These songs felt as though she actually performed in my car as I drove home. When she sings, you know it's real.

After giving the first concert of the weekend at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention, I ran into Kazuha in the bathroom. I greeted her in Japanese, to which she smiled and said that I spoke Japanese really well.

Best. Compliment. Ever!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lacey Yeager's World of Art

Imagine, if you will, that you've been invited to a party at a friend's house. When you arrive, you see old and new faces and you smile, just as the host walks up to you and tells you that his friend Steve is running late. When you ask who Steve is, your host just smiles and walks off. A while later, everyone rushes towards the front door as "Steve" makes his arrival. You, however, gasp - it's Steve Martin! THE Steve Martin! After he says his hellos and gives many a handshake, you are then introduced to him by your host. He smiles, shakes your hand and says that its nice to meet you. You, on the other hand, smile nervously and try not to look foolish. He then grins and tells the party that he's got quite a story to tell. He makes his way towards the couch and sits down, just as everyone else gathers around him with their drinks and food. You sit down as well with baited breath. Someone hands him a glass of seltzer water; Steve Martin takes it, sips on it, then clears his throat and begins his story. Soon, you find yourself forgetting that you have a drink in your hand, and the others forget that their food is going cold. It's Steve Martin and the story he's telling is quite entertaining.

That's what it felt like when I read his book An Object of Beauty.  From the moment I read the first lines, as written by art writer Daniel Franks, I knew I was in for a treat. This book draws you into a world that not many of us know about and if we do, we either glorify it or we try to snub it. Lacey Yaeger is a young woman living in New York in the 90s who views the art world as something to be conquered. She makes friends without a care, seduces men just for the hell of it, and finds art to be more than just paint slapped on a canvas. After her lowly start in the basement of Sotheby's, she climbs her way to the top, all the while purchasing and selling art to those with discerning tastes and money to burn. Her closest friend, Daniel, is the narrator of her life - he knows Lacey and understands her to a point, yet even he gets stumped once in a while by her actions.

Any man who gets close to her is pushed away; she refuses to be tied down to anything. Except art. To her, art is Life, her life and the way she wants to live it. Buying a Warhol for her apartment makes her feel like her clients, giving her even deeper access to the world she occupies. She rises higher and higher on the art ladder, evolving from worker in a gallery to owning one, with no end in sight. However, due to greed, thrill seeking, or the dream to take a risk (or perhaps all of the above), it all comes crashing down on her with a background of 9-11 and the stock market crash. However, Lacey is one tough cookie - if she can handle the art world, then anything else is just a bicycle ride through Central Park.

I have to admit that I actually liked Lacey; granted, I could only hang out with her for short periods of time, yet I truly liked her. She always seemed to have a foot in both worlds - the world of the rich who can afford an original Van Gogh for millions of dollars, and the college student/early adult world of secondhand furniture mingled with thrift store shopping for cocktail party dresses and seeking out the cheap restaurants where the food is too good to be true. Lacey enjoys the thrill of having sex with a patron on a balcony at a hotel, then sealing the deal on artwork once thought to be lost to the Western World. And yet, out of all of her friends, Daniel seems to understand her the best. And the worst.

Steve Martin presents the world of art in a way only he knows - funny, truthful, entertaining, and just Steve Martin. This book had me hooked from page one; I had to know what Lacey was up to every day. She reminded me of a Holly Golightly (and for those of you who don't know who that is, go read Breakfast at Tiffany's - great book and film!)  - woman about town making a name for herself, and giving personal views into her life to very few people. Lacey is not and never will be part of the masses. or rather - the masses would never want her to partake in their world. And that's just fine with her.

If he does happen to read this review - Mr. Martin, PLEASE write more books. You've got a knack for it.

Thank you.


Monday, February 13, 2017

901 Story - The Tea Connoisseur

He was a regular yet never approached my booth. Every time I saw him, he always looked as though he had just stepped out of an outdoors magazine - always well put together with an air of confidence that came naturally as he handled his recycled bags with much ease. It shocked me when he, on a random Saturday, walked up to my booth and asked me what I sold. When I replied "Tea", his eyes lit up as he proceeded to reveal himself as quite the connoisseur. A bag of Cyberpunk tea caught his eye as he told me how Canada was very much a Tea Country. I listened as he spoke, glad that I was meeting more and more tea lovers in the city. Although we never said it, we silently agreed that we lived in a Coffee City. I immediately liked him as he purchased a bag of tea then left.

Every so often, I do miss coffee.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

901 Story - The Singer

I first met her during a tour; she reminded me just why I love the city and how much it had to offer. She showed the tour group that Memphis was far from dead and that Her residents had and always would be there for Her. Memphis speaks in music passed down from lips to lips; from Delta souls to the fire of Beale Street to the rough edges of STAX. She showed us these things with a smile and a spirit that couldn't be denied. Months and nights later, I finally made the attempt to see her sing in a local bar. I dashed inside from the cold and found myself in a place that states that ART will never die. The band played. She sang. I listened. The way she held her guitar and closed her eyes when she sang. Her voice, surrounded by the music, was of Memphis. A guy next to me nudged me then said that he loved her voice. I nodded and continued to listen amid the sounds of enjoyment from the patrons. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

901 Story - Gods of the Southwest

Gods of the Southwest ~

A black woman with a bohemian flair walked up to my booth at the community farmers market, carrying confidence and strength within her long curly hair. When she informed me that she was from Arizona and not a local, my eyes lit up as I told her how much I enjoyed her state. Her eyes, although hidden by her sunglasses, gave off a flow that could only be experienced in the desert. We chatted about the Southwest and how much I also loved New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Suddenly, a young girl who looked like an activist for the Earth, jumped into our conversation and said that she was from New Mexico. Las Cruces, in fact. She proudly showed off her state flag patch on her denim jacket and we all shared a laugh. Minutes later, the older woman artist whose table was next to mine strolled over to me and stated that she, too, used to live in Arizona. Her artwork were woodblock paintings of herbs and animals and it seemed that she breathed a new sense of Life in the colours. I felt the spirit of O'Keeffe smiling at me and realized that the gods of the Southwest were trying to say hello again. 

(Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico - 2015)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Apartment in the 901 - Of Buddha and Birthdays

I live in an apartment building where the residents are stories just waiting to be written down. The first "story" set in my apartment building was posted on my Facebook page not too long ago. I enjoyed writing it so much that I decided to continue the series - turning events and conversations in my apartment building into stories.

I hope you enjoy them.

He spoke to me of turning fifty the next day and how his mother wanted to throw a party for him. When he said the word "party", he frowned as if he'd eaten a lemon. I couldn't believe that he would soon be fifty; he looked to be about my age if not younger, or perhaps it was because of where we lived. When I told him that my birthday was around the corner, he smiled. He wore a simple black shirt that showed off Bill Murray's face with wrinkled khaki pants to complete the look. I thought he was an artist and for a moment, I wanted to ask him if he used special brushes for his paintings. Before we spoke of birthdays, we talked about a Buddha statue I purchased at a thrift store because it looked too lonely sitting among long forgotten Christmas decorations. When I laughed while complaining to him about the statue's weight as I tried to get it in the elevator, he laughed with me and claimed that Buddha was teaching me a lesson. Now, every time I walk by the statue in my living room, I'm inclined to agree with him. 

(model: Alissa Brielle - copyright 2015, Memphis)