Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tea Review - Mandela by NYA TEA

I had the pleasure of meeting Kai Oredugba of NYA TEA at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas last week and I have to say - he is one cool dude. I then turned my attention to their teas and instantly fell in love with many of them, one of them being DUBA The Mandela. This rooibos blend smelled divine and I knew I had to have some; thankfully, Kai gave me a sample of  the blend. I told him that I wanted to marry the blend and asked if that was crazy to say. He said no. While preparing it today, I could instantly smell orange and cloves as the hot water came in contact with it. When I finally tried my first cup, I was completely blown away by the simple yet complex taste. This rooibos blend is the BEST I've ever tried - a smashing blend of rooibos, orange peel, clove, cardamom, coconut, pink pepper, and flavour. The tea blend before preparation smells heady, exotic, and full of fruit flavour. The taste of the tea is fruity with a hint of a caramel like aftertaste. All of the ingredients blend so well that it comes at you all at once without being overpowering, almost like in layers that you don't even know are there. The mouth feel is inviting, cozy, and year long satisfaction. Since rooibos has no caffeine, you can enjoy this blend all day. You don't need to add any kind of sweetener to this blend - just prepare and enjoy. I look forward to ordering more of their teas - these guys know what they're doing when it comes to tea!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tea Review - Twinings New Zealand Breakfast Blend

Leave it to me to order a tea straight from New Zealand.

As much as I do enjoy several teas from Twinings, I had no idea that they created a blend just for the country of New Zealand. When I did locate it, however, I immediately whipped out my credit card and placed my order, all the while wondering if I would actually receive it. After weeks of patiently waiting, my box arrived and several hours later, I had my first cup of Twinings New Zealand Breakfast - much thanks to Products from New Zealand!

Don't let the name fool you - this tea can be enjoyed all day long without worrying if the caffeine will keep you awake. I enjoyed this tea two hours before bed and when I did go to sleep, there were no caffeinated problems. This tea is subtle and delicious with every sip and thank goodness I ordered an 80 bag box - I've been drinking at least a bag or two every day. The tea has a smoky start, much like a Lapsang Souchong, then finishes with a bit of Earl Grey, leaving your palate refreshed and quite happy. The tea "rolls" well with a soft mouthfeel - no harshness in the mouth or in your stomach. If you add honey to the tea, it only gets better as honey enhances a tea's flavour (IMHO). Although I do enjoy drinking it with honey, this tea is quite good by itself. This tea also goes well with Biscoff cookies!

If you order this tea through Products from New Zealand, be advised that it will take between 8 to 20 business days before it reaches you, unless if you live in New Zealand or nearby. If you enjoy a good hardy tea that can be consumed all hours of the day, New Zealand Breakfast is the one for you!

Side Note:

I'm six day away from attending my first World Tea Expo - two days of networking with other tea companies, enjoying panels regarding tea, and being around other tea lovers and enthusiasts. I never thought I would ever go, yet next week that dream will become a reality. I am going to write several blog posts regarding my experience there  - who knows what that will lead to?

Join the Leaf!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Tale of Two Women

The Door by Magda Szabo, printed through NYRB, was a challenging read for me. Not so much of the intellectual depth or the story itself, but rather the "relationship" between the two main women. Magda is a successful writer who is married and lives an affluent lifestyle. Due to the pressures of her and her husband's lives, they decide to hire Emerence, an older woman living in their village, as their housekeeper. Right from the beginning, Emerence comes across as a brash, unapologetic, and illiterate woman who could care less about the world. She has her small number of friends, her house filled with cats that no one may enter, and her housekeeping duties. Whenever someone tries to show compassion toward her, she lashes out with vitriolic words or she suddenly turns to stone and refuses to speak as punishment to the one who offended her. Yet, even with her bristling manner, Emerence shows her form of love toward Magda and Magda feels honoured to be the recipient of such a rare emotion.

I won't give all of the story away but like I said earlier, this was a challenging read for me. Although everyone seemed to eventually forgive Emerence for her ways, I found myself wondering about her power. Even when Magda tells her off and walks away, she is later wracked with guilt over what's she said to Emerence and then later feels that she deserved it. Everyone in the town knows of Emerence and willingly give her power to remain the same and never change. In all honesty, I wanted to stop reading the book several times yet I felt compelled to read it to see how it would end. I had to see how far the relationship between the two women would go. She refused care when people discovered that she had had a stroke and was living in filth. When someone tried to visit her, she yelled at them to go away and leave her alone. When Magda and her husband finally accepted Emerence's gift of a little dog statue, Emerence dusted it then threw it to the ground, causing it to shatter - this act later lead to peace in the household for quite some time. When a friend of hers committed suicide, Emerence advised Magda that she wouldn't have stopped her - if her friend was still lonely after being cared for and fed, then apparently she wanted to die. Sometimes, those who have nothing to lose can become the mirror of the world - they show the weakness of humanity in a truthful light with no apologies. Perhaps that was Emerence's job but then again, I know she wouldn't have cared less.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Down Below to Madness

Ever since I read her collection of short stories published through The Dorothy Project, I have been in love with Leonora Carrington. Her madness, her surreal visions - all of it. However, I returned to the book that got me interested in her from the beginning - Down Below, as printed through NYRB. It is here in which Carrington tells of her decent into madness after her lover, Max Ernst, was arrested by the Nazis in Provence. She traveled to Spain to escape the Nazis yet ended up in an institution. This slim yet powerful book made me shake my head several times as Carrington tells her audience of her "attempts" to Down Below in order to escape the doctor and his staff and their cruel ways. Although she finally was able to leave, I wondered if perhaps this experience changed her in some form. In describing her madness and coming out of it, was she exposed to something more than the rest of us? Whenever I viewed her paintings, I wondered if they were the result of her madness that transformed into a "better" view of her world. Her words seem so calm in describing her decent - almost like an artist describing his "masterpiece" to the world and knowing that perhaps, the world won't understand it.


Monday, May 28, 2018

A Weekend of Guilt

Every so often, I enjoy reading what I like to call a "quiet novel". The characters spend their days contemplating their acts and when something tragic does occur, it is muted and subdued yet still powerful. Bernhard Schlink's The Weekend is one of those novels. I was first introduced to his work while watching the film The Reader (never read the book - I know, I know) and I fell in love with the tragically beautiful story. The Weekend kept me gripped within its story as the ending came with a sense of "hope" for all of the characters.

Jorg has finally been released after spending 24 years in jail for being part of the infamous Baader-Meinhof group, as his sister Christiane prepares a weekend celebration for him. Friends and loved ones will spend the weekend with their long lost friend, yet all is not right under the seemingly calm surface of the country weekend. Truths finally come into the light, most of them painful, while emotions will flare as the past is brought in as a guest. At the center of it all is Jorg, who merely wants to reconnect with the outside world and try to seek out his new place in life. However, there are those who wish for him to return to his past life, one filled with loud voices, murders, and actions carried out in the name of an idea of a supposedly better world.

Schlink's writing reminded me of W. G. Sebald - quiet, thoughtful, yet no less compelling. I found myself sitting with the group and wondering if his friends truly saw him as their friend or a symbol of something they despised and secretly (or not so secretly) adored. While others stood in the back to watch the parade go by, Jorg was in the middle of it. I felt sorry for him - after being released, Schlink describes him as a broken down older man. Has the parade moved on without him, or did it silently wait for him to be released? And if it did, does he truly want to be a part of it again or just walk away?


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

To Fight The World, One Must Look Within

Although I'd heard of Pema Chodron, this is the first time I've ever read her work. When I finished reading When Things Fall Apart, published through Shambhala Publications, I repeatedly said, "Wow." This book is for anyone, not just Buddhists, because the message is simple: when things fall apart, look within to find the "answer".

These times are filled with much running around, constant feeding of information, and the desire to want more and more. Yet, we also suffer from depression, anxiety, fears, worries, "bad luck", everything. We think our lives are perfect until we lose a job, our spouse or partner decides to leave us, or unwanted and disturbing thoughts begin to creep into our minds and make us doubt ourselves. So, what do we do when things fall apart?

For some of us, the answer is talk with friends, go on retail therapy, alcohol or drugs, mindless sex, or anything else that would allow us to enjoy a sort of escapism - a feeling of pleasure from so much pain. Yet, as Chodron writes, what if we realized that pain COULD be pleasure? What if rather than running away from our fears and pain, we actually looked at it as a sense of pleasure in that it may teach us something about ourselves? Rather than run from the loneliness, we embrace it and see it for what it is, then let it go because we are stronger than that?

This book had me nodding YES so many times - her words are simple yet they carry a deeper meaning. In order to fight the battle of the world, we must look within for the strength. We alone have the power to look at our fears and darkness and see them for what they truly are. We must be still in order to move. We must be silent in order to hear. We must show compassion to ourselves and then to others. It may be easier said than done but when I honestly began showing compassion toward myself and others, I felt a shift. It was "moving mountains" but it was enough to get my attention and to make me want to continue doing it.

Thank you for your words, Pema Chodron. I truly do appreciate them.

Ex Libris.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Five of Cups

She wanted to get away. Drop everything and just run. She could feel her pulse racing as the thoughts continued to pound in her mind. Run away, run away, run away. She closed her eyes and told herself that it was only a dream, that people who run are those who needed to calm down and focus. She opened her eyes and looked around her living room, then began to talk with herself.
"The Five of Cups," she told herself, "is a powerful card. It tells me, now, that I look for the things I don't have rather than the things I already have. The one man who didn't want me. The job I should have taken. The friends I desperately wanted. The books I didn't publish. Instead, I have a wonderful partner in my life, the three books I've already published, the friends who take me as I am, and the chance to breathe in a forest on Saturdays." She leaned back in her couch and took in her surroundings. Silent books, ready for her to read them. Photography she loved to collect. Already calm emotions that needed to be acknowledged. She raided her eyes to the ceiling and thought of walking along a train track with one bag, one bag only. One step followed by another with the same problems tied to her neck. She wanted release and freedom and found it suffocating that she even wanted such a thing. She opened her hand and looked at the crumpled Five of Cups card that was determined to imprint her skin.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Dear, Dear Leonora

I first heard about Leonora Carrington (6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011)  through New York Review of Books - they were about to release one of her non fiction books and, given the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. Although I didn't read that book (yet), I was still fascinated with Carrington - who was she? What did she do? What did she find important in her life? On a whim, I finally purchased a copy of the book The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington through The Dorothy Project and devoured it. Carrington, being a part of the Surrealist Movement among so many other things, was a writer who was before her time. Her words seduced and haunted me and all I kept thinking was, "I wish I had met her."

After reading the first story titled The Debutante, I stared at the cover's image then said, "Hmmm. Okay, then!" The Debutante is the story a young woman who befriends a hyena at the Zoo, then coerces it to take her place at a party so that she can read in her room. Complete with the hyena eating the young woman's maid and placing her face on top of hers, this story made me fall in love with Carrington -I have a bad habit of falling in love with fellow creatives. Once there, the book leads you by the hand and takes you to a world far more dreamlike and macabre than you could ever imagine. The people are mad yet they like it as they stuff themselves with food that is most peculiar. Trees will talk and rip themselves out of the ground. Corpses offer themselves to be ridden through a dense forest. Winged beings that barely resemble humans howl at the moon and drink "red". People transforming themselves into horses and back and again and back. 

As I finished up the book this morning, my thoughts continued to reflect on the fact that mostly everyone in her stories were either mad or about to go mad. Yet, the madness that is portrayed does not seem to be life threatening (unless if you are a Queen) nor harmful. The madness here feels as the norm in this world - to be mad is to be understood. To be mad is to see the beauty of it all without question and if you do question, it just means that you GET IT. of course, these are my own opinions but DAMN, I love her version of madness. Her words and images are truly astounding and I feel at a loss because I will read something else rather than more of her work. However, absence makes the heart grow fonder, or perhaps it will be eaten by a large black bird. 

I almost splurged and purchased every book related to her last night. I haven't done that since my introduction to Ian McEwan. Still Leonora Carrington has a place in my heart, nestled right next to Clarice Lispector, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Iain Pears, Edna St. Vincent Millay and many many others. 

To end this review, I want to quote my all time favourite line from this book. Although I write dark fantasy, this line struck me as horrifically beautiful:

"You can't love anyone until you have drawn blood and dipped in your fingers and enjoyed it."

Leonora Carrington is my Goddess of Surrealism and Madness. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

The River Before

The first time I saw him, he was naked and lying on the banks of the river. I was on a walk with several friends when we spotted him and rushed over. As we ran, I knew he was dead and I wasn't a friend of Death. By the time we were a foot away from him, the man slowly got up and stared at us with eyes that I'd never seen before. They were blue and yet with a hint of mud to them. His pale skin held a slight twinge of blue that swirled around like waves. We stopped in our tracks as he raised a hand to us and smiled. His short black hair was still wet as it stuck out in all directions from his head. He then saw my face and walked towards me. I felt my heart beating rapidly as he came towards me and my so called friends moved away to give him room. He asked me my name and I told him with a shaky voice.
"No," he said, "what is the name that the River gave you?" I told him that I had no other name, to which he reached out to touch my hand. I did not flinch as his warm watery hand made contact with my suddenly dry skin. His eyes studied me and soon, I felt a warm wash flow through me. One of my friends asked him if he was alright, to which he replied that he had come from the River Before. He looked at my friends with a calm gaze then returned his focus on me. The blue muddy eyes welcomed me into his soul. Thankfully, my friends were all dreamers - one asked if the River Before was a beautiful place. He, still focused on me, traced a line down my arm as he said that the River Before is too blue to behold - a place for his kind to drink and rest. I then asked for his name. "Silt," he said with a grin. Another friend asked if he wanted to come with us for clothes and shelter. Just then, others came running up to our group and Silt in amazement. A man yelled that Silt had no business being naked around here and that if he came quietly, they would "take care" of him. I stood in front of him and said that he was coming home with us. I could feel Silt's breath on my neck and knew that my choice was a sound one. The other people looked at us with a mixture of disgust, fear, and a little wonder as they slowly walked away. Silt came with us.
He stayed with me and taught me the ways of the River Before. His body could change colours on a whim - clear blue like his home, muddy as the food he ate, and clear like the dreams he spoke of. His eyes showed the equal of blue and brown when he laughed with me. When he touched me as a man touches a woman and his lips brushed against mine, I saw the River Before and his people. His body smelled of pure rain water mingled with freshly turned earth. One day, after so many others passed, Silt asked if I wanted to go home with him. I asked if this meant that I would die, to which he laughed and said no. We returned to the bank where we first found him and he slowly removed my clothes. I then removed his and, after sharing a deep kiss, we walked into the River. As the cold waters covered my body inch by inch, I began to feel fear until Silt squeezed my hand and said to not be afraid. I nodded as the river covered my head and I gasped for breath, yet Silt continued to hold my hand as we slowly walked through the muddy water. I saw nothing, nothing . . . until I saw the bluest blue, clear and welcoming. Warm and happy. I saw others like him swimming along, all like him. All dreamt from the River Before. When they saw us, they waved and welcomed us home.

My name is Tide. I am of the River Before.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

THOSE People

(Cafe Eclectic - Harbor Town Memphis)

I see them everywhere. THOSE people. They seem to meet up in packs, converse about whose house they'll be visiting later that day, and who will bring what craft beer. I watch them from behind my curtain of shyness, desperate to be a part of their world. They see more, experience more, and dress in ways I could never imagine. They wear clothes that make them look as though they just woke up from a perfect night in which nothing fell out of place. Black framed glasses with a careless attitude make me wonder if they wear them just as an accessory rather than for vision problems. I wanted in, I kept telling myself. I wanted into their world and their jokes that seemed to be private. I wanted to shop with them at the local grocery store, searching for the best apples. I wanted them to help me with my wardrobe and tell me how to put on my hemp lip gloss properly. I wanted to be invited to their houses to talk about my latest read over wine and cheese whose name I couldn't pronounce. I wanted to be like them and hate them within the same breath. And then, one day, one of them noticed the book I was reading and asked me if I liked it so far. I looked up from my book and noticed the face - clean and free of makeup, female sensitive with a hint of something earthy, short black hair, clothes that were made for her. I smiled and said yes and asked if she'd ever read it, to which she sat down next to me and told me (with a white teeth smile that proved she drank a lot of coffee) that her group had JUST finished reading it. Can you imagine the odds, I said with a smile. She continued her smile then asked if I was doing anything later - her friends were going over to Tom, Steve, Joan, Sarah's house for wine and watching French films. Book closed, grin even wider. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Ink Stained Nothing

(from the Woodruff Fontaine House in Memphis, TN)

My words, my blood. My thoughts, shared on paper for the world to see and possibly ridicule. I see people using their words so carelessly, as though they wanted to give away their power. Not I. I refuse to give anyone anything that I treasure. Each thought comes from my mind like a soft whisper, a delicate knife slicing through the air, or a single drop of water to land in a glass. You see my words and you KNOW. I want them to be near me, forever. And yet. . . my hands tremble when I hold my pen. My eyes dart here and there, searching for something that fell out without warning. My heart beats rapidly as I read line by line on the too white paper. My words, my prison. I want them to feed me so that I never know hunger again. I close my eyes and feel . . . .

The stain grows above me on my ceiling. Black and viscous. Muted whispers of nothing sensible. I look up and see my words there. They float and fly towards the over growing mass above my head. Are they going to kill me? Will they take mercy on me, their Creator? The whispers grow louder. I want to see them. Each little line. One stroke of my pen becomes my noose. They suddenly slide down my walls, changing the white to a heartless black. I sit at my desk in the middle of the room. No windows, no fear. They come towards me as children returning to their parents after a long day of playing. Here we come, they whisper. Open your mouth, dear. Open wide. I do what they want. Soft. Slow. Pulsing. Fear. Tremble. Regret. Love. Anguish. Terror. Please, please, please. Let us return. Let us in. In. In.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Laina - a fragment

(my grandmother's hands, yet I think Laina's hands would look just like hers)

I have seen several lifetimes and still I am amazed at how limited humanity appears to be. So much beyond the realms of Maybe and Hopefully. My hands, wrinkled and brown from many suns kissing them, can still serve tea faster than the wood elves in the next town! I want to share my life with you - what I did and still do, whom I've seen, whom I've slept with (wink), and which areas I'm banned from because I disobeyed their rules. A Tea Traveler, once set out into the worlds, is loyal to only one set of laws - the laws that bind a Tea Traveler to what they do for the sake of Tea. When I took the oath, I was a mere 20 years old and rebellious. Still am I guess but I digress. I wanted to leave Birmingham for good when I stumbled upon the town of Mabon during spring break. Yes . . . the way you looked at me when I said that name. You know of it, don't you? When I found it, I couldn't believe my eyes. All of the things I'd hoped and wished for were real. When I crossed the Veil to the Otherworld, I held my first conversation with a strange man who wore loose blue clothing, claimed he was from the Land of Sleep, and served me the best cup of tea while telling me a story about a desert dryad. When I finished my cup, I thanked them then asked where I could get more of that tea (it's called Blue Wave and it's now one of the Forgotten Teas), he told me something better - visit the Tea Temple and study to become a Tea Traveler. The rest, as the Tea Mystics never say, is history. Of course, I'm only giving you a sample of my life. If you want more, then pull up a chair, chew on those Soft Shoulder tea leaves, and let's begin . . . . 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Wasure - a fragment

The name I chose was Wasure - forgotten. Just like the teas I study, I am forgotten by my past.

People see me and whisper to their friends. Is she? Is that the one who - ? I catch their glances at me and smile from behind my black fan. They nod quickly then rush off to their destination, while I remain in the Temple. They want to see Me as I truly am, want all of those lingering questions answered. I refuse to show yet I do tell them - yes, I am of both. I studied the history of the Forgotten Teas and was "blessed" afterward. No, it is not a curse. Far from it. People from all over come to the Temple to pay homage to our work, enjoy our carefully blended teas, and listen to our stories or our adventures. And, as always, they finish their day at the Temple with a visit to my area. They come to hear my stories and to peer carefully at my face and my handmade red silk kimono. I always have a smile for them, for is that not the Way of the Temple? One night, as I prepared for dinner with the rest of the Mystics, my teacher pulled me to the side and placed a hand on my forehead.
"Three Apples," he said to me with a smile. I looked at him with a blank look on my face, knowing better than to question him. Since he was over 400 years old and looked barely 60, I trusted him with everything he ever told me. "Seek the Three Apples," he continued, "and your Path will truly begin." He then bowed before me and went into the dining room. I stood there in silence as I felt the warmth from his hand still on my forehead. I then nodded to the air and walked into the dining room. For three months, the three apples remained on my mind as I continued with my daily duties. In all of my time studying the Forgotten Teas, I felt as though my Path was clear to me. I was wrong. Every time I saw a new face enter the Temple, I wondered if they had anything to do with three apples. Every time I went into the city for errands, I searched for three apples laying on the road, or in a shop, or even at homes I visited for special requests. Then, on a rainy morning, a woman walked into the Temple. She came alone and wore clothing befitting that of a lost soul. I paid no attention to her except to give her the standard greeting, only to stop in amazement. She noticed me staring at her and walked over to me.
"Greetings," she said with a grin, "why did I shock you so?" I quickly closed my mouth and tried to regain some form of composure.
"Your necklace," I whispered. "Where did you get it?" She looked down at her necklace - three silver apple charms strung on a thick black string hung from her neck - then looked at me again.
"I received it as a gift from a friend now long dead. He said it was the way to my Door being opened." She grinned again. "Perhaps you could tell me?" I reached out to touch the necklace and immediately felt a strong current of power from it and her. I bowed low.
"My name is Wasure," I said with a trembling voice as I caressed her cheek. "I am Blessed."

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Darker Wonderland

I found a copy of The Floating World in a used bookstore here in Memphis. Being a lover of Japanese culture, I figured that it would be an interesting read. I was wrong. The Floating World by Cynthia Gralla is an excellent read, one that I would like to read repeatedly. This book is lush and sensual, allowing the reader to dive into a darker Wonderland with hopes of never returning home.

Liza, a student at an Ivy League university, leaves it all behind to travel to Japan after being entranced by the world of ankoku butoh, meaning the dance of utter darkness. She sees a different world and longs to become a part of it. Her life in Japan soon consists of dancing butoh, starving herself, taking in new lovers while she taunts her former lover back home, and meeting and befriending a strange woman who leads the way. Maboroshi, a woman who dwells in this Wonderland, lives a life of decadence, extremes, and never ending pleasures. She and her group of women dressed as maiko (apprentice geisha) wreak havoc in the streets of Tokyo with perfume scented kimonos, daggers, and distorted visions. They lure Liza into their world and it is here that she evolves and becomes something stranger and deeper than she could ever imagine. The Floating World is a novel of a woman's attempt to discover her hidden side, the one she knew possibly existed yet never met it until now. Reading this book was like having a delicious erotic dream.

When I was halfway through the novel, I knew I had to reach out to the author. I had to let her know just how much I adored her book and that I had to create a tea blend for it - The Dance of Maboroshi tea blend will be coming out in two months - be on the lookout for it!

I fell in love with Gralla's writing - she makes you feel everything you read. You want to see the horrific because it pleases you so. A light brush of silk across the face as you are blindfolded, your heart beating fast because you are in someone else's hands. You desire more and you know that you'll get it, yet be warned. The darkness never leaves this Wonderland, this modern ukiyo. It will crawl across your skin like the sushi placed on the naked woman in the more expensive restaurants. You take your chopsticks and delicately pluck the darkness from the woman's body and eat it, feeling the slight warmth from the skin envelop around your morsel. Gralla gives us morsels to savour just like Liza and we feel full from it. We feel lighter than air and stronger than ever because we have tasted true desire. I could go on and on but I'll just end this review with - Buy The Book.

Arigato, Cynthia-san!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Harney and Sons Organic Bangkok - Tea Review

I may have found a new Spring/Summer favourite.

Harney and Sons Tea Company has done it again with Organic Bangkok Tea Blend. This green tea is quite the refreshing blend, as you enjoy the tastes of ginger, coconut, and vanilla along with the green tea. The smell of the tea is quite grassy and fresh, making me burn my mouth in the process because I didn't want to wait for it to cool down.

The overall experience of this tea is exotic, delicious, and for me, simple. Although the tea smelled grassy and fresh, the taste was very much a pleasing blend of green tea, coconut without being overpowering, and vanilla. I tasted only the barest hint of ginger at the very end of the sip - that surprised me, as ginger tends to be strong and sometimes bitter at times depending on how much is used. Yet with every sip, the flavours came alive for me while the mouthfeel was wet and satisfying. The instant I took a sip, I felt as though I was in another land, enjoying a Spring day while people watching in a cafe. This is a tea for when you are on vacation - adds to the overall excitement of being somewhere else! This tea is a good "comfort the soul" tea blend as well and I would love to try it iced. I didn't need any sugar or sweetener for this tea; however, I did eat some mango sorbet before sipping the tea (works well - try it if you can!) and that flavour enhanced the tea. This tea came in my Murder on the Orient Express tea order as a free sample and I'm glad I had a chance to try it. I will definitely be ordering this tea very soon.

Much thanks to Harney and Sons!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express - New Tea Review

Murder on the Orient Express is one of my favourite films and books - someone has died on a snowbound luxury train, and it's up to Hercule Poirot to solve the murder! When I learned that Kenneth Branagh would be directing an all new version of the classic film, I knew I had to watch it. However, when I learned that Harney and Sons Tea Company made a blend for the film/book, I really knew that I had to have it. I decided to enjoy a cup of the tea while watching the film and the experience was more than I bargained for.

Let me start by saying that I truly enjoyed the film. While the first film will always be my favourite and the book is a lovely piece of work, the Kenneth Branagh version is worth watching. An all star cast against a luscious and colourful backdrop with a heinous murder underneath it all - go rent the film!

Now - on to the tea!

The Murder on the Orient Express tea blend is a decadent mixture of black tea, oolong tea, jasmine tea, and bergamot oil. When you open the tea tin, the first thing you smell is the bergamot - a winner in my book. However, when the tea is prepared, the levels of the flavours change. First sip was quite smoky - a nice surprise to the tea. When I let it cool down somewhat, the smoky flavour remained yet now with a bergamot/jasmine end. The mouthfeel was wet and longing for a another sip. As the tea continued to cool down, the mouthfeel increased as wet and now soft. The best way to describe drinking this tea is: getting on a train with adventure in mind, wearing all black clothes, packed with books and a trusty camera, a feeling of decadence and longing to see the world. All of that in one cup.

This tea is perfect for all day but I think I'll be enjoying this tea on the weekends or in the evening, preferably while watching a foreign film or enjoying a really good book. This tea blend should be savoured little by little - no slurping it down.

Much thanks to Harney and Sons for creating such a delightful tea!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I love it here.

An eternal sense of bliss. Nothing to do but just breathe. The clouds crawl across the sky. My eyes barely move to watch them. There are others near me. They feel the same as I. One woman never moves her head as she rests against a tree. An older man lifts a flower to his face as he lays in the grass. He eats the flower then lets his hand drop to his side to locate another one. Three children dressed in white breathe in unison. I raise my arms to the clouds and watch them move back and forth. So slender. I can see my bones protruding under my skin. When was the last time I ate? Ah, another cloud.

I remember one time when my world was filled with noise. Rushing to get out of bed, rushing to get to work, rushing to get home to my husband, rushing through uninspired sex, sleep for three hours then do it all over again. One rainy day, a man with a dented tea pot stood at my door. He said he could slow me down. At first, I thought he was insane until he gave me a cup of his tea. One sip and I felt my eyelids grow heavy as the man became a blur. I blinked ever so slowly and soon found myself in a vast valley. I saw people of every race, gender, and age either laying on the grass, leaning against trees, or just walking around. I then heard the voice of the man telling us all to breathe. I slowed down. I took a deep breath then fell on the extremely soft grass. I slowed down. I'm still slowing down.

I see the man every so often. He calls us his friends.

Sometimes . . . I see . . . someone suddenly jump . . . .up and look around . . . .in fright. . . . as though . . . . . . . they don't know why they are here. . . . . . . . . . . they try to . . . . . . . . . . run . . . . . . . . . . . . and the ground holds them . . . . . . . . . . . . . fast. . . . . . . . . . soon they . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . return to just breathing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I raise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . my . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arms . . . . . . . . . . . . to the . . . . . . . . . . clouds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . when did . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I last . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . eat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(time for tea, my friends)

(breathe just breathe)

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . breathe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Condemnation of the Soul

I stand before you a condemned man. This rope around my neck will soon end my life, thanks to you out there. Scoff at me all you want but I speak the truth. Each and every one of you are to blame for this. You claim that I committed such an atrocious act, yet I know my innocence. I would never do what you claimed I did. Rachelle was my life, my love. I wanted to grow old with her. To kill the one thing that brings me joy . . .I'm sorry, what used to bring me joy. You know how much I loved her.

Yell at me all you want but I didn't kill her! Never in a million years!

Are you through screaming at me? In fact, I should be the one screaming at you. Yes. Look at you, so smug, so blissfully unaware. I may die an innocent man but I am still condemned thanks to my beliefs. You have no idea what you're a part of now. Remember when your lives were as fulfilling as the slop you gave the pigs? Remember those days? We were all poor yet we were content. And then . . . She arrived. Dressed in a simple dress, she appealed to your sense of wanting something more and gave it to you. No more wishing for a decent bed to sleep in, no more hidden fears, no more loss of coin. She revealed her true nature as She erased your faults and gave your perfection. You took it willingly. She saved you in exchange for unwavering loyalty, of which you were all too happy to give. Tell me: when was the last time any of you left this town? When was the last time you desired to walk the forests to search for the delicious red apples? When was the last time you did anything? I refused to give in so easily and She knew it. At first, She offered me lands in other worlds, then a chance for unlimited wealth. I continued to refuse. Then, that bitch of a goddess turned my love against me. I thought that Rachelle would soon see reason yet that never happened. And yet, I still loved her. I knew she would come around soon enough. Then oh then She showed Her true nature. She . . .drained my Rachelle's life right before my eyes. That goddess you claim to love so much, SHE killed my love!

I have nothing more to say to you people.

You there, take your mask off and get this over with. I know they can't wait to see the life fade from my eyes. I just hope that Rachelle's soul is cleansed through Death. I can only hope for the same with me.

Make it quick. Do it now.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sensei of the West

I refuse to be angry. When one is angry, one feels less than what they were yesterday. I want to remember him, how he moved around me and talked about which poets turned him on. We were never meant to be together, I realize that now. For us to say YES to each other would have meant a year of crying under a grey sky. He wants to see me. I still tell him no. He smiles for himself, now. I want to remember him. The words, words, words strike cold on my skin, causing blisters. I feel at a crossroads - take one to forget or take the other and be in pain. His green eyes. My brown ones. His full shock of salt and pepper hair. My dark brown hair that has a mind of its own. So much older yet I was his equal. My Sensei of the West.

(the mind of Sophie, older from my novel The Decembrists)

Monday, March 5, 2018

Speaking Into Infinity

My grandmother refused to speak with me after she died. I was warned about that, of course. He told me to expect silence after they have passed on. "I wanted to tell her one last thing," I said to him, to which he only smiled and took my hand in his.
"It's not possible," he said. "The dead become deaf to this world and only hear the Winds. Your prayers, pleas, promises, all of that falls short." I wanted to believe him. I wanted to show him and everyone else that I was okay, that I could move forward with no regrets. I saw others and how they handled their losses - screaming, crying, wondering, thanking. They were different to me  - apples to apples, dust to dust. He told me that their eyes become golden when they reach whatever they reach.
"Why tell me this?" I asked him. "Why do you know what the rest of the planet does not?"
"You," he replied, "wanted to know the truth." I suppose I should fault my damn curiosity for this. I see my grandmother, in her whitest of white, seated at a table in the middle of a vast something (can't place it, I refuse to lie) as she watches the clouds drift by. Her golden eyes see everything before her and nothing behind. No flesh wrapped worries of paying bills, getting to work on time, enjoying records with the person you love, feeling heartbroken when the person you want doesn't want you back. She shed all of that when she died.
"And who," I asked my friend as we sipped on our Oolong tea, "are you?"
"I am nothing, everything, listening for a single drop of water to fall in an ocean. I am within you and outside. I am here." I took another sip of my tea, knowing that my friend was more than what he showed me. I noticed his delicate white skin that held a dull glow. He told his name, once. I wanted to forget it. He called himself a Poet. I wanted him to love me for I knew that I would never survive the ordeal. He came here to find me. I know that. He saw my grandmother and she said nothing about me. He wanted to tell me that the Cycle is real (feel this and guide me through it). He loved me before I was born. I wanted to laugh until I saw his eyes shift. Can I believe in gods now, I wondered. Will he let me?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

All Hail the NEW Vampire Master - Book Review

I really hope this isn't the last of the Black Knight Chronicles. Since book one, I've been with Jimmy and Greg, Charlotte's geeky and kick ass vampires, as they fight their way through the OTHER side of Charlotte, complete with fallen angels, Lilith, renegade vampires, the Fae, the Goblin Market, etc. And every time, they seem to come out on top. However, book five, In the Still of the Knight, left me wondering about their future, albeit an undead one. At the end of book five, Jimmy was (somewhat) made the Master Vampire of Charlotte after Tiram was killed. I remembered closing the book and thinking, "Now what?" Thanks to Renaissance man and friend John G. Hartness, Man in Black answered my question.

Man in Black literally picks up right where book five left off. Jimmy, now Master Vampire of Charlotte, doesn't know the first thing about ruling a city. Nor what to do when a representative of the Vampire Council shows up to "evaluate" his actions befitting a Master. Nor what to do that Greg, his best friend, is still pissed at him. Nor what to do that Sabrina, his I-think-she's-my-ex-girlfriend, has left him as well. Nor what to do when the entire city seems to be flooded with otherworldly creatures. All he knows is to stay (un)alive when many want him Final Dead. Not to mention trying to solve a kidnapping of the daughter of a crime boss who would make any vampire actually tremble.

Did I also mention snake men? Yep. Pumped up werewolves? Check. Demons eating actors? Got it.

Man in Black is a damn roller coaster of a ride AGAIN through Hartness' city of Charlotte. Just when you think you can take a breath after In the Still of the Knight, Man in Black straps you in even tighter, gives you a helmet, then pats you on the back while saying, "I warned you. . . " Non stop action, fights, MUCH gore, and above everything else, Jimmy's smart ass humour. Gotta love that. I always know that whenever I read a Hartness book, I know that I will cringe, laugh, and plow my way through it. I was glad that a certain character showed up at the end - kinda missed him (grin).

If Man in Black just happens to be the final book in the Chronicles, then I would be satisfied. But. . . if there is another book in the works, then YES! If you have not read the Black Knight Chronicles, you REALLY need to invest in the books. Trust me.

Thanks John, as always. Love your work!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A New Day, A New Breath

She woke up after a deep eight hour sleep, looked around her bedroom, and realized that today was that day. Miranda jumped out of bed, put on her slippers, then made her way to her living room and plopped down on the couch. She took a deep breath as she turned on her phone: was she really going to do this, she asked herself. As soon as the phone came to life, she noticed several notifications from the very people who led her to this decision. Miranda took another breath then clicked on the notifications and began to type. Ten minutes later, she submitted her replies then got up to make a cup of coffee. As the coffee began to brew, Miranda leaned against the counter and thought. And thought. And thought. Too much time wasted, she said to herself. Too many people wanting more than they really deserved. Too much time following people who never gave a damn. Too much time thinking one thing when it was clearly another. I want out, she said out loud. She quickly made her coffee with a small pour of hazelnut creamer then returned to the living room, where her phone had begun to blow up with reply messages. Miranda stared at the messages as they came in, each one trying to justify their actions of the sender. I was busy. Life goes on, ya know? Well, you haven't made any attempt on your end. Blah, blah, blah, Miranda said as she took a sip of her coffee. Today began a new direction on her Path. As she sipped and watched the messages continue to appear, she thought about Joseph, her dear friend who recently moved back in town. There was something there between them, a spark that both of them tried to ignore. He wanted a woman who loved to cook spaghetti. She wanted a man who could juggle. As her phone finally stopped vibrating from the barrage of messages, Miranda took another sip of her coffee then picked up the phone and sent a text to Joseph, asking if angel hair pasta with Italian sausage was all that was required.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Leaves of Fortune

When the waitress handed our fortune cookies to us, she looked directly at me. I smiled and told her thank you in terrible Chinese, to which she still stared at me. I looked around at my friends then looked at my cookie. Rather than the standard golden brown I was so accustomed to, my cookie was a deep red. I looked up to ask the waitress a question, only to realize that she had disappeared. I unwrapped my cookie and held it up to the light. My friends asked me why mine was red, to which I just shrugged then opened it. A piece of paper fell in my hand and as I ate my deliciously sweet cookie, I read my fortune. Rather than the usual "Good Luck Will Come To You Today" fortune, this one had only one word - LEAVES. I stared at the word for several minutes, as though my brain would decipher this word that was obviously a code. My friends became bored of staring at me staring at a piece of paper, so we left the restaurant and drove off. As I drove, I kept the piece of paper in my left hand like a talisman. Leaves. Why leaves? When I reached home, I got out of my car, ran upstairs to my apartment only to turn around, get back in my car, and return to the Chinese restaurant. As soon as I walked in, I found the waitress enjoying a cup of tea at a table in the back. She looked up at me with an expectant gaze then waved me over to her table. I walked over to her and sat down as she poured me a cup of her tea. Oolong, I thought. After she poured and I took my cup, she told me that I could stop running. Before I could ask her what she meant, she continued and stated that I was like her. Like so many others before and after. We answer a different call, she said in a soft tone. The blessing of Leaves are upon you, she whispered just as a door suddenly appeared to the left of her. I drained my cup of tea then got up and opened the door to another world I prayed would someday be real.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Justine - fragment 2 -

Justine showed her secret to me. I pulled away. She looked at me with a stunned expression then began to cry. I wanted to show you, she said as the tears fell down her face. I wanted you to see me as I truly am. I stared at her in silence. I wanted to turn away yet couldn't. She turned away from me. I sat next to her and stroked her long red hair. I'm sorry, I said, taking in her scent of peppermints. She said she was blessed on her side. I continued to stroke her hair. Do you know how much I love you, she said as she turned her face toward me. Her eyes, once ever shifting colours, were now a solid deep blue. I love you, Justine repeated. I traced her lips with my finger. I still couldn't believe it. I don't know, I said as I turned away. Justine continued to cry as I walked out of her room. I wanted to get away from her and her scent of peppermints. I wanted to get away from her love that I didn't deserve. I sat in her living room and listened to her crying. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I got up before I could change my mind and returned to her room. Justine remained in the same position. I said nothing yet sat down next to her again and kissed her shoulder. She stopped crying yet remained silent. Help me to understand, I said. I want to understand you. Justine turned to face me then placed two tear stained fingers on my lips. I suddenly saw her home on the other side, the paintings she created with colours I never knew existed. I saw her world, open and waiting for me. My eyes returned to her again. Her eyes resumed their shifting colours. Can you love me, she asked. My love is meant for you and you alone.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Justine - Fragment #1

I first met her at a party. The host, a good friend of mine and sometimes drinking buddy, led me toward her. He told me her name was Justine and I reached out to shake her hand. I remembered that her faint paint splattered hands were soft. She wore a white shirt with jeans and her eyes took in everything at once. I remembered that moment as, several weeks later, we lay in her bed while it rained outside of her apartment. I still couldn't believe I . . . I wasn't a lesbian. Neither was she, she told me when she caressed my cheek while flute music from Japan played in the background. Her eyes stared right into my soul and I couldn't look away. She said she wanted to kiss me. I let her. She claimed later that she fell in love in with me when I met her at the party. I touched her face then her lips. She told me where she came from and I knew she was serious. She had to have been from there - how else could she explain her eyes that changed colour every few seconds? She said she waited for the right moment to meet me. I asked her if she was my Muse. She rolled me on my back. The rain continued to fall.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Fey Sounds of the Appalachia

I love listening to musical groups that have many labels yet are always shifting and evolving. Tuatha Dea, the tribal/pagan/Celtic/rock/Steampunk group from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is one of those groups. A friend of mine recommended the band to me several years ago, and the Viking in my life gave me all of their CDs (he's a BIG fan). When I learned that Tuatha Dea had a concert set in Memphis, I knew I had to go. Seeing them live was a performance I will never forget - electric, sensual, eclectic, fey, everything! The concert that I attended was at Hard Rock Cafe - I was told that in order to get the full effect of the band, it's better to see them in an outdoor event. I do remember losing a bit of my hearing for several hours after the concert - I regret nothing! While on my latest jaunt to My Second Home, I decided to listen to their newest CD, Kilts and Corsets.


From the first title track to the bittersweet end track Open Letter to You, this CD delivers and packs a punch that is solid all the way through. Every song is flawless and rich with their sound and there wasn't a song that I disliked. Several of my favourites, however, were Kilts and Corsets, Morgan le Fay, and Appalachia Burning (written about the 2016 fire in Gatlinburg). These three songs stood out to me with the flow of the music, the blending of the singing voices, and the lyrics. If you have never seen them in concert, I highly recommend doing so. If you've never heard of them until today, you need to listen to their music. Their music will make you want to dance even if you claim you "can't dance". I know I'm a late bloomer to Tuatha Dea but I'm so glad their music is a part of my life now.  If you want to start collecting their CDs, start with Kilts and Corsets. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Cora's Dreaming - NEW TEA BLEND!

Earlier this year, I wrote a review for the novel The Floating World by author C. Morgan Babst. The pre, during, and post Katrina was a moving novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. The novel moved me so much that I had to create a tea blend. Actually, I take that back - the blend created itself while I read the book. When I expressed my idea for a tea blend to Babst, she was very happy at the news. So, may I present to you, the NEW tea blend of Viridian Tea Company - Cora's Dreaming! 


The tea was inspired by the character, Cora Boisdore - a young woman who remains behind while her family evacuates before Katrina arrives on land. What she witnesses during that time will change her life forever. The blend is a delicious mixture of sencha green tea, jasmine, rose hips, and dried lemon peel. The first batch smells heavenly and I can't wait to try it! If you do purchase a bag of this tea blend, I highly recommend purchasing a copy of the book as well. 

The tea blend will be for sale at my booth at the Cooper Young Farmers Market, my Etsy store, and other places soon to come. You can purchase a copy of The Floating World on Amazon or at your local bookstore. If the bookstore doesn't have copies of the book, please order one through them. It's worth the read. 

Much thanks to C. Morgan Babst for being so open to having a tea blend!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Pho Between Friends

 (Phuong Long - Memphis Tennessee - 2018)

I regretted ordering the chicken and lemongrass, as the spices were too much for my delicate palate.
"Too spicy?" my friend asked while trying not to laugh at my now watery eyes. I scooped some rice in my mouth, cooling it somewhat, then nodded that I was fine. My mouth was of no concern tonight. Greta needed me, spices or no. She nodded then resumed slurping noodles while continuing her story. "I didn't plan it," she said as she laid her chopsticks to the side then took a sip of her tea. "It just happened."
"That's usually how it works," I said after taking another bite of my spring roll. "Love does shit like that. So, are you happy?" 
Greta grinned then resumed eating. "As happy as one can be. I mean, damn, that sounded bad. Look, I still can't believe that someone would be interested in me. Me!" I sighed inwardly: Greta, the PhD in Physics, violinist, lover of meditation, traveler, tea enthusiast. And SHE thought she was not a catch? I watched her eat - long shiny black hair pulled back into a thick ponytail, deep brown eyes, and lips that stayed covered in her trademark deep purple lipstick. Flawless pale skin enhanced by her beauty. She knew no other colour than black in her wardrobe, still clinging to her Goth ways while nervous men/colleagues couldn't stop staring at her.
"Is he a Man of Many Ways like you?"
"Actually," she said as she began to use her spoon for the broth in her pho, "he's not. Complete opposite. Yet every time we're together, we can't stop talking about everything."
I arched an eyebrow. "Talking? Is that what you crazy kids call it these days?"
She laughed, showing off her still perfect lipstick. "Get your mind out of the gutter, young lady. Yes, we do other things but we really do talk a lot. Honest!" I grinned then finished off my spring roll. She smiled at me, only to suddenly frown as her eyes went somewhere else. I looked at her strangely then turned to see a rather handsome man walk into the restaurant with a short blonde woman. The woman looked up at him then planted a kiss on his cheek. He kissed her nose and embraced her, only to stop when his eyes saw Greta. I returned my gaze to my friend, who was now staring into her half eaten bowl of pho. A single tear fell down her cheek and landed in the soup. I watched as my friend's so called love of her life quickly walk by us with the blonde woman as they chose a table in the far back. I felt a lump in my throat. I wanted to reach out to my friend yet held back. Greta remained quiet as she stared at the shrimp that floated around in the pho.
"The man of many ways apparently chose another way," she whispered as I began to hum with the ongoing elevator music, feeling more than at a loss.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Boys of New York Are Never Lonely

I first met author Jeffrey F. Barken through social media of a Twitter persuasion. I later learned that one of his characters from his novel, All the Lonely Boys in New York, also followed me on Twitter. I thought that was cute. However, when I began and finished Barken's book in one day, I honestly hoped that I would never "meet" the character. This book grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go, not even when I finished it. I knew what was going to happen after the words ended and I was terrified yet somewhat relieved for the character. About time he got off his butt and actually DID something, I thought.

Meet Myles Fletcher, a young man who has recently returned to 2008 New York after some time spent in Israel after sleeping with his best friend's girlfriend. Now that he has returned, he wants to apologize for committing such an act, yet Ari, his friend, has moved on to bigger and better(?) things. Myles learns that his friend is now part of an anti-war group lead by a fiery ex IRA member named Murphy. Soon, Myles gets drawn into Ari's group, even going so far as to becoming employed by Murphy to take on the task of Secretary and meeting the other "members" of the group. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, for on March 6, 2008, the group sets out to attack the Army Recruitment Center in Times Square, no holds barred. Myles, located at the hideout apartment, keeps tense watch as the plan is supposedly carried out. Yet, as the day progresses, mingled with Myles' past, the reader watches the slow destruction of people carried along by lies and empty promises.

I will honestly state that I disliked Myles very much, yet I was right there with him both present and past as he stumbled through his life with no direction and purpose. Men like him, able bodied and reasonably intelligent, still seem to land on their feet, while others who work hard just make ends meet never seem to catch a break. After Myles sells a story to the New Yorker, he feels on top of the world yet he hopelessly dangles in the air, just waiting for something else to throw him along. That something else comes in the form of Murphy and soon, Myles receives $500 a week just to snoop and record words. He lives in near poverty with his roommate/more than a friend Nathalie, drinks and pops pills to merely exist from one moment of Life to the next, and is "driven" to finish a novel that exposes his little slice of New York to those who could care less. And yet, I was right there with him. Every whiskey drenched breath he took, every moment of being hunched over his Chinese food. I loved it.

All the Lonely Boys... felt like moments of the novels Fight Club and Bright Lights, Big City, and yet this novel stands on its own. The thrill of living in New York and wondering how you will make your way, the loneliness of being that one drop within a never ending ocean, understanding the darker nature of Mankind when pushed in the "right" way, not to mention the drugs, alcohol, and the feeling of reclaiming the power you lost - welcome to Myles' world.

When I finished reading this book, the first thought in my mind was to immediately read it again.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Love of a Colour

(Memphis Botanical Gardens)

Claire watched the trio calmly set up their easels. When they first arrived in the park, Claire wanted to run towards them and tell them that she LOVED art. Instead, she imagined them looking at her strangely while trying not to laugh at her, causing her heart to crumble into a million pieces. She gripped her book tighter as she brought it up to her face and tried to resume reading. The trio, two men and a woman all dressed in ratty yet stylish paint splattered clothing, joked with each other, causing Claire to lower her book and watch them. She saw them take out their paints and cans of brushes, then later as one of the men and the woman exchanged a kiss while the other man rolled his eyes with mock frustration. Claire looked at the woman and noticed that she carried an air of confidence. She doesn't need to ask permission for anything, Claire thought. She just makes things happen. Just then, the second man glanced her way, not giving Claire enough time to glance at her book that was now completely forgotten. He smiled at her and she returned the good deed, only to groan inwardly when he jogged towards her. When he approached her, he continued to grin as he said good morning to her. Claire placed the book next to her and smiled as a reply. He introduced himself as Luke and Claire immediately imagined them going out to their favourite Chinese restaurant on Thursday evenings. She cleared her throat, told him her name, and asked if he dreamt in colour. Luke stared at her in silence for a several seconds, then took her hand as he sat down next to her. Indigo is my best friend, he replied as Claire smiled while the grey butterflies in her soul flew away. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Song for One

(Cafe Rue de la Course - New Orleans, Louisiana)

The voices were always there but it was not until she turned 28 that she heard them for the first time. They flew within her mind like disoriented moths in search of a murderous light. When she first heard them, she wanted an explanation of each entity. She wanted to know their backgrounds, lifestyles, and tales of love. The voices, happy that they found an understandable host, gave their essence to her. They gave her new words for colours and presented sounds unheard of by the rest of mankind. Her eyes sparkled with a fevered glow while her skin tingled. The voices locked hands and formed a dancing chain as they sang a melancholy song off key. The stirrings of madness soothed her soul as the voices told her they would. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

We Are Nowhere. We Haven't Gone. - Book Review

I had the pleasure of meeting author C. Morgan Babst at Square Books for her recent book signing. She was a delightful person to speak with and her reading was truly incredible. However, I had no idea that her book, The Floating World, would haunt me as much as it did. Her first novel is truly a work within the realm of the Southern Gothic, a style I enjoy very much. Hurricane Katrina was not a storm. It was a never-ending nightmare. Many of my friends in Louisiana told me of their experiences before, during, and after that time. When I read Tom Piazza's novel City of Refuge, many of their stories plus the ones my parents told me floated to the surface in my mind. Although I never lived in NOLA, I still feel as though it affected me greatly. The Floating World gives us another viewpoint of the hurricane, one that will stay with me for a long time. Haunting, lyrical, almost seductive, this novel is a must read.

The Floating World records the events of the Boisdore' family as they prepare themselves for the hurricane, as well as during and well after. Joe, an African American male artist descended from freed slaves, his "Uptown"  white wife Tess, and their two daughters Cora and Adelaide or Del, are the center of this novel. Joe and Tess prepare to evacuate the city, yet Cora wants to stay behind. Meanwhile, Del, having left NOLA for the bright lights of New York, makes a return to NOLA after the hurricane has passed. Joe and Tess are on the rocks and the final draw is when Joe "refuses" to go after Cora when they need to leave. Cora, willowy and somewhat not on this plane, stays because she feels she needs to. She needs to remain at home to protect that which she loves. However, it is that decision that will change her life forever. When the hurricane finally dissipates and NOLA begins to slowly rebuild itself, the nightmares appear. Joe's father, Vincent, slowly succumbs to Alzheimer's and memories of the past as he wanders the streets. Del, having returned to her home city, tries to handle her fractured family as well as the broken life she left in New York. Tess wants what's best for her daughters, yet it is her own passion that she fulfills. Cora falls prey to something that has been released by the hurricane and you wonder whether or not she wants to break free from it. Madness, disease, memory, disaster, passion, lies, and above it all - hope. Welcome to The Floating World.

Again, I can't say how much I enjoyed this book. Whenever I "see" myself with the characters while reading a novel, I know the book is a good one. In fact, I even underlined passages in the book with a pencil - so many lines that struck me as, like I said before, lyrical and haunting. Babst has a gift with words and it clearly shows. She makes you feel what the characters are feeling and you can't help but give in. You want to be with Cora as she walks the streets at night in a daze. You want Vincent to get better, all the while knowing that he won't yet you enjoy his memories of eating pies. You will feel rage against Del as she unleashes her fury against her parents, yet you know deep down she's right. You will feel a myriad of emotions through this work and you will be better for it.

I spoke with Babst via Twitter and told her how much I loved her work, so much so that I will be making a tea blend as inspired by her words. Look for details on the blend coming soon! We also agreed to meet each other again the next time I'm in NOLA - so many questions to ask her.

Thank you again for your words. I'm glad that Cora "made it".


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Wrong Number

(Memphis, Tennessee - 2015)

I am afraid. I wish I could tell her not to leave, again. I choke on the words. I want her here with me. She's gone. Left her coffee cup for me to ponder over and "discuss" the mysteries of it all. That's such bullshit. She's gone because I pushed her too hard. I wanted her more than she wanted me. And now, and now. I told her that I loved her eyes. She rolled them and sighed. You always say that, she said under her breath. Only two months ago, she loved to nibble on my ear whenever we made love. And now, and now. I pick up the coffee mug, smell the faint hints of espresso and hazelnut. I gave up coffee five years ago for tea. She joked and told me that I would return to the bean. Like a prodigal son or something. Damn. She began to pull away when she told me that she thought I spent too much time reading rather than play with her hair while we watched movies. She was a reader too; imagine that. Shit. I need to go home. An apartment with faint traces of her perfume lingering around like a nightmare. I'm getting up. Walking out. Seeing the sun beaming down on me. I see people walking around, each in their personal sitcom. I make the steps to my apartment. Close the door. Lean against it. Cry my heart out. Fall to the floor. Feel like nothing. Lower my head. The phone rings. I look at it. Wrong number. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

To All the Men Who Never Loved Me

(Memphis, Tennessee - 2014; model: Jean Marie)

To all the men who never loved me,


I just wanted to say - thank you. Thank you for giving me those sorely needed lessons and reminders of Life. You did such an amazing job and I'm glad for it. To the man who thought I was immature when I got excited during a Harry Potter movie - thanks. To the man who wanted me to be his "other girlfriend" whenever he got bored with his girlfriend - arigato. To the man who felt such a close connection with me, only to dump me when you knew I wanted to marry you - merci. To the man who did cocaine in my apartment and slept with another girl in my bed while I was at work - cheers. To the man who couldn't hold a conversation with me because you really had nothing to say - danke. So many to name and thank yet I will keep it brief. I hated myself back then. I had no idea who I was and why I was on this planet. All I knew was that I needed someone in my life to validate me. I needed a man to direct me and tell me my name. No longer. Yes, I am with someone now, but this one is different. He knows himself and knows me yet has his path to take. I am merely his companion as my road is somewhat next to his. For all of the years of crying, panic attacks, seeking the "low hanging fruit" because I thought I had no other option - no more. I found my name. I found myself.

May your nothing lives continue to give you pleasure.

Yours with no affection,

A Woman Who Found Her Name

Monday, January 29, 2018

You See What You Feel

(Dixon Gallery and Gardens - Memphis, Tennessee -  2018)

As David listened to Thelonius Monk, he moaned in ecstasy as he pulled into a deserted parking lot while on the way to work. He needed to close his eyes and “see” Monk.  He wanted to watch the sweat pour down the musician’s face as he slammed out the notes on his piano. David was a rare person in that he could “see” into the mind of a creative person, especially if he touched, read, or listened their work.  He felt what they felt when they produced their works and even felt their loss when they had their failures. While some people called him an empath, others just deemed him insane. David tightened his grip on the steering wheel as he “watched” the jazz musician play for himself. The notes, the sounds, the despair. All of it. When the track finally faded into nothing, David slowly opened his eyes as the rush dissipated then continued his drive to work with a large grin on his face. In this perfect moment, David met Thelonius Monk and called him friend. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Second Generation

(Downtown Memphis Tennessee - 2015)

He carried the weight of the world on his shoulders yet he was used to it. No one else was fit to be selfless in this cycle of time, he once told me, because people chose to be hedonistic rather than to simply live, love, and learn. Perhaps they were unaware that the Romans were long gone from the game board of the world, having turned in their lead soaked playing chips. I admired him for the fact that he refused any form of help; it was in his blood, after all. To be the son of Atlas was not easy but he held his own. Even when the offspring of deities would tease and taunt his stoic nature, he held his head high and tightened his grip on the massive sphere above his solid frame, his eyes focused on something that only he could see. When he took breaks from his task, he sought to have tea with me for my presence was soothing and cool like aloe on skin. At first, I wondered why anyone would want to spend their leisure time with the daughter of Hades but I later realized that he respected and liked me. My background carried never-ending waves of disdain, prejudice, and hatred from others, but I could not change any of it. Twas the will of the gods.