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All Who Wander

17 Jun

Barbie Van

Row after shiny row of new vehicles bask like sunbathers in the hot Saturday afternoon glare. Red, blue, black, charcoal, champagne, green, windshields flash in the bright sunshine. I maneuver my Toyota Matrix down each black topped path, hoping to glimpse a blunt nosed front bearing the small circled emblem VW. I am searching for a most elusive machine. . . the VW Bus. I knew before my trek to the local dealership that I wouldn’t find a legitimate one; they aren’t made anymore and the microbus redux was canned after the prototype. But I thought maybe I’d find a van or some sort of something that might assuage this long held desire of mine for a home on wheels.

My passion for tiny places has evolved through several phases and began when I was quite young. Aside from various under table forts and cardboard doll palaces, The Barbie Country Camper came rolling my way one Christmas in orange, yellow and pink 70’s flash. I sewed little pillows and wove rugs from scrap yarn on cardboard looms for the back of it, decking the van out in hippie calico patchwork and color striped glory for Barb and her Malibu pals. That van had every convenience imaginable. And in my love for Scooby Doo, the Mystery Machine took my imagination on a magical ride to both fun and adventure. So naturally as an adult, secondary homes of the mobile kind were ever so appealing to me.

Vintage Airstreams, Scottie Trailers, and Gypsy Vardo’s held my rapt attention hour after online hour, the possibilities overwhelming and the choices like a Chinese menu. Trailer vs. Van vs. Truck. New or Old, Create it or Buy it. Every time I browsed, I returned to one machine….a VW bus. Prices for a renovated one? Astronomical. Knowledge to rebuild one from scratch? Non-Existent. Caught between desire and knowledge, I tucked the idea away into my wishful thinking box. That is, until I started wandering.

That shiny emblem would then appear in my mind along with the sound of a rattling 4 speed grind when I’d leave a venue an hour or so from home. How nice it would be to roll into my cushy bed in the bus in some safe parking lot till morning, Clar curled with me in our little mobile cubby. Then morning French press coffee and Granny’s cherry jam on toasted biscuits for the way home. I relished the dream of driving out onto an Outer Banks strand and opening that side door, rolling out the striped green awning and walking the glassy flat sand down to the foam edges of calling waves, bluegrass tunes calling me back to the light shining from my bus, my tiny home of only what I need, only what is important.

So when the salesman strode over, mirrored sunglasses reflecting my eager grin, I wasn’t really prepared for my dream to end quite so quickly.

“Hi there”, I say.

I point to the blue grey VW Van hidden around the corner of the building with the dealership’s name on the side.

“Where are more of those?”

“That’s not for sale.” He says flatly.

“Okay.” I think, be cheerful.

“Umm. . .I’m looking for a hippie van, a bus…the ultimate camper home on wheels, you know the Mystery Machine, Malibu Barbie Pop-top, Woodstock, So.Cal mow-sheen….”

I click my fingers. I blink. I wink. I smile my red head smile.

“You’re joking right?” he says crossing his arms.

“No”, I say slightly wilting in the late afternoon sun.

“VW doesn’t make vans anymore”, he says, like I’ve just asked which cars come with 8-track.

“They don’t?” I say incredulously.

I mean as wildly popular as the old ones are and as long a legacy as VW has and as many mountain man hipster bluegrass listening PBR drinking techno-hippies there are these days and …No? Not even a box shaped wagon?

“Gosh no”, he says. “The last one was canceled in 2012. Sorry.” He turns and moves toward the showroom, out of the tarmac heat.

Deflated, I feel the breeze blow the edges of my purple daisied sundress. The cars are whizzing blurs on the highway. The showroom door closes. Windshields shine in eye piercing white. Clean tires and shiny stickered sides. All so new. All so ordinary. Feeling a tad foolish, I turn and amble back to my soccer mom Matrix, ankle bells tinkling.

People don’t want to wander anymore. At least not far from a Super 8, I guess.

I look up to see a young couple exit a test drive of a fully tricked out burgundy 2013 Toureg. A cool 52K.

It’s the zombie apocalypse. I’m telling ya.

Turn on the Red Light

1 Mar


 The body is an instrument which only gives off music when it is used as a body. Always an orchestra, and just as music traverses walls, so sensuality traverses the body and reaches up to ecstasy –Anais Nin

Remember me vowing to just put it all out there? Well, this last Saturday’s adventure in Richmond did just that,  metaphorically anyway. How do I write about my minor obsession with neo-burlesque without creating assumptions about my morality or sexual preference? How am I to be appropriately delicate and yet tell the story of the body, for that’s really what this intense love of the tease is all about.

Confession: I have had a long torrid love affair with my body.

Ugly and beautiful, fat and thin, tortured and free, my physical form and expression has been a life long challenge. Without too much revealing, let’s just say I have finally tangoed this frame into a comfortable space, and currently I’m resting until the next passionate onslaught. Saturday night, though, I finally witnessed the next move in resolving this push me ~ pull you battle in reclaiming my own flesh.

Last spring was the beginning of my interest in 40’s/50’s style burlesque after seeing the documentary, A Wink and a Smile. Don’t ask why I decided it would be a good way to spend a Netflix Saturday night, but this story of a Seattle burlesque school totally challenges the concept of the sexual power dynamic between men and women. My idol soon became Vienna LaRouge, one of the most beautifully clad (and unclad) women I think I’ve ever seen. While watching her performance on film, I was captivated first by her gorgeously layered green silk and Chantilly lace costume with its enormous wide brim hat. As an accomplished historical costumer, she creates all her stage clothing. Secondly, however, the structure and elegance of her movements and form are what changed my perceptions about what most people consider “stripping”. While she indeed was peeling off her clothing, the style is about NOT revealing. And it was very much different from the pornographic pole swinging, booty shaking, 10 inch plastic heel wearing lap dancing into which I had pigeon holed all such endeavors. More importantly, I listened to the audience. At one point, a man called out in what almost sounded like pain. I thought, who has the power here? And that juxtaposition of sexuality and power became a conversation my head which has not stopped since.  This is something I needed to find out about and the only way was by. . .gulp…taking it off myself, I thought.

After Internet searches revealed the closest burlesque lessons had been in Richmond and the Institute now closed, I decided to see some shows, then  if classes were really something I wanted to pursue, the search would continue. Last May, Pretty Things Peep Show was my first introduction to the world of sideshow burlesque. Loved it! Every spangled naughty minute of it. But, in this little notch of the bible belt, there isn’t much loosening going on, in public anyway. So nearly a year later when I found out about the Richmond Burlesque Review at Gallery 5, nothing could stop me from attending.

Hosted by a rather relaxed, but racy Ms. Ophelia Derrière and her sidekick Delilah (her own slightly bumptious back end), the performances were everything I had imagined. Her character is one I immediately adored. By societies’ standards, she is not the perfect body type by far, but she is one of the most sexy women I have ever encountered, reminding me of Mae West, a woman who is sexually pragmatic and yet quite comfortable in her own skin. Her persona fits her like the lace bra and tap pant set she wore under an open feathered silk robe. Anyone who can take a dimpled 44-ish inch posterior end, bare it completely and shake it in an “ass off” with fellow friend and boylesque performer, Chris Chaos, has a most enviable self-esteem. I found myself wishing to be that physically self assured. That gal, has sass and Delilah knows it and it’s no show…it’s real.

The sheer creative range of performances was what was most amazing, each act having its own character and tone. From Pandora Von Kit’s dramatic dances to Chris Chaos’ boylesque gender bending showstopper, each performance revealed a completely unique physical and sexual expression. Acts ranged from the quite demure Ziegfeld-esque feather fan dancing of The Garter Snaps to the leather laced Betty Page stylings of Deepa du Jour. The venue is perfect, too. Gallery 5’s space is close and intimate, colorful and eclectic and features a full bar for those in need of a little liquid encouragement. The stage is small and the production not about scenery or a preponderance of props. It’s all about artist, costume and imagination.

Several performers really moved me, but the finale with Pandora Von Kit literally dropped my jaw in awe.  When she emerged onto the stage in a black velvet robe, black platform stilettos and blue bi-level hair shining in the stage lights, the scene was automatically set for drama. Pandora danced to Jose Feliciano’s Tango de Roxanne from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. She is classically trained as a dancer, so it made little difference that she was also removing clothing as she did so. Her expression was in tandem with the music, becoming Roxanne, the woman in the night. And the story she told was one of desire and yearning and shame. Breaking free from laces…a release of passion into the night streets…an emotional baring of desire for a lover who was not present, but obviously with her. We gave her a standing ovation. She earned it. And my first thought was, I want to do that…. I so want to learn to do that.

One caveat quickly became clear during the evening: it doesn’t matter how a person’s body is shaped, big or small, tight or loose, obese or athletic, female or male, all form is celebrated in neo-burlesque. ALL bodies are beautiful. There was a singular absence of judgment. Laughing occurred at jokes, not at the expense of someone’s performing or bareness. All sexual preferences were honored. I could scarcely catch my breath after laughing at a rousing audience participation in sexual position Simon Says with three couples (straight, lesbian, and gay). And suddenly it struck me, this is part of being human. We deny that we are sexual beings a lot of the time and complicate our most basic of human needs and expressions. Our explorations of self in the physical realm become encumbered with social and moral assumptions and restraint. And then expressions become repressions, taking a dangerous and often damaging residence within. I’ve seen others, especially in local culture, be so damaged by should’s and shouldn’ts, being physically and emotionally shamed into silence. Neo-burlesque goes beyond entertainment to me. Its part of empowering the self.

I’ll be going back to the Richmond scene at the end of May for the Virginia Burlesque Review. And maybe I’ll take a class or two….and then, I’ll see how this conversation continues.

Richmond Institute of Burlesque:

Gallery 5:

Trailer for A Wink and a Smile: (warning: mature audiences )

Raising the Bar

7 Jan

Where do you write best?, Donna said. 

Up at the bar or in the coffee shop, I said.

She tilted her head to the side. What about at home?

No…not so much there, I sighed. Only when it’s warm, outside in the back room.

I need to be alone, in public.

Her eyes narrowed a bit above a slight smile, which meant I needed to explain. Only I couldn’t. The only thought that came to mind was that wherever I was writing, I needed to have someone take care of my needs while I dove into the images in my head surrounding an experience, either real or remembered. When I swim in words, like a channel glider, I need to be only a writer, only a writer and nothing else.

So reader, I have decided to invite you into my world of traveling for one. This blog, filled with my peculiar style of half review half non-fiction essay was born of two parents. One, a lengthy list of experiences I wanted to accomplish in my life, a “bucket list”. Living with intention, I call it. And second, the absence of anyone to really take with me.  As a single woman at my age, most of my friends are married with children and as much as I might like to find a companion for many of my experiences, there seems to be a singular lack of them.

Because I did not want to wait to live, I decided I should just do whatever I wanted now. My travel to Richmond in July 2012 was really the beginning of this mindset. But after December on the island, where I needed to retreat for healing and soul searching, I discovered I actually enjoy being with myself. Traveling alone or with Clarence in tow, it doesn’t much matter. I am able to see the world with greater clarity, fully immersing myself in whatever I am doing and learn how to balance savoring and saving, being present and yet keeping it for future contemplation.

I don’t prefer my own company to the company of like-minded people, but I do prefer it to settling for a companion whose presence seems needed solely to provide me social permission to be out of the house. I see so many women doing that. They feel they need the security of others to validate somehow pursuing their desires. They need not do that. Men don’t. When I go eat up at the bar, or attend an event alone, I am generally the only woman among a crowd of men who do not think twice about enjoying their own company in a fine place.

When one lives with intention, one adopts the mindset that the only person responsible for one’s own happiness is oneself. A marvelous time  or a miserable time, just as any companion might provide, can result. It’s one in the same. And for me this said, Why wait? Safety? There are ways to ensure that as much as possible. Comfort? Hopefully that’s where recommendations  come in. Some dining places and events seem to be more conducive to solo  enjoyment than others.

My hope is that in following my travels, you might either enjoy these same spots or find new ideas about ones to enjoy on your own, both my feminine readers and masculine alike. The focus of my writing is changing more toward  review now, but with a personal twist. It will take me a few posts to get the right balance, but I aim to share the experience first and then find the lesson in it if I can.

I don’t pretend to be the world’s best writer or photographer. So the writing is imperfect and I am okay with that. Its human. And my camera and eye has its limitations. If  you  comment please do so in kindness. I want to share all this with you, hoping that you will find something to carry along in your own journey.

That’s really what all this is about: a journey. Joe Campbell would say we all walk the same journey; we are just on different points of it at particular times. The joy is already knowing how it will turn out, because we all do. We return home, master of two worlds and then, we share our wisdom with those we love. That is my intention.


Losing Yer Knickers…an Irish Story

24 Dec

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What would Christmas Eve be without a story, loves? And so,

This is the story of about how there’s nothing like almost losing yer knickers when walkin’ into an Irish pub

One Christmas Sunday (about a day ago), I almost lost my knickers in front of a right handsome lad in the best Irish pub in Washington D.C.

I planned to go to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to mass the night before Christmas Eve. ‘Twas on the bucket list and what does an Irish lass do after mass? Go to the pub for fish and a pint, that is a given. Transportation was becoming a bit expensive over the weekend. Average taxi rides less than a mile or two were nine to ten dollars and a trip all the way to CUA would be outrageous, I had imagined. So, I decided to ride the Metro. I could walk to the station as long as I had the time and conceivably, I could go anywhere. Only four blocks to the McPherson station, then green line to red line, two blocks to the cathedral. Easy.

So I set out in my navy cashmere sweater, dark red scarf with Celtic pin, flirty short blue kilt, navy tights and high heel black oxfords. Demure, but sporty church/ pub attire. After one block, I knew I should have gone back. Firstly, the kilt flirts a bit too much when I walk in those shoes and a kilt wearin’ red headed lass walkin’ down 14th street at a fair clip is an attention getting thing apparently. I nearly caused two fender benders and had a few interesting proposals from homeless men.

I began to walk faster. That’s when I realized I had brought THOSE navy tights, the ones I had meant to throw away because the panty portion was too loose and would fall ever so slowly with movement all the way down to my ankles. But I was obviously pressed for time and for my own safety. Certainly I couldn’t miss mass nor take the dreaded expensive taxi. “I’ll be fine”, I thought. I had put on a pair of silk knickers over top of the tights because I had forgot to bring a slip and they had plenty of elastic so they’d hold the tights up. That was Christmas wish that Santa just didn’t seem to get wind of.

By the time I had walked to the McPherson metro stop, a third of my bare hips could feel the scratchy wool of my kilt, but I knew no one could see it. So, I ducked into the restroom before I boarded the metro, yanked the trunk portion up high and went onward. The trip took much longer than anticipated with all the high heeled walking and when I finally reached CUA, I had more than two blocks to walk uphill to the Shrine in ten minutes. I wanted to take pictures of the beautiful exterior with all the gorgeous lights in the evening sunset, but by the time I jaunted up the marble steps to the door, I knew I’d have to find a bathroom to yank up my tights again. They were further down than before and almost half of my rear was bare to the kilt. Yikes.

It wasn’t intolerable, though and no one really noticed, but it was becoming an issue and I realized then, “Jeez, I have to walk BACK to the metro stop at CUA and then all the way to Fado from Chinatown metro. This isn’t looking good.”

After spending time at the Shrine, I set out again for the metro stop. It was later in the evening and dark; the entire CUA campus was deserted. Warning thoughts were shooting across every portion of my brain and I seriously thought, “Lass, how stupid can you be? You can’t run in them heels nor those damned tights and not a soul will hear you scream. Get to the metro and get there quick!”

When I sat down, breathless in my orange pleather metro seat, a full three quarters of my bottom was without coverage and then it hit me. Feck, I have three blocks to walk to Fado in Chinatown. Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, they won’t drop…will they? So I tried to inch them up casually. I squirmed and tried to nonchalantly pull them up by stretching my legs, but to no avail. They were coming down and I had no option but to pray they didn’t fall before I could get to the restroom inside Fado.

Exiting the Chinatown metro station, I began to notice a looseness that I had not sensed before. Oh holy Father, the knickers were falling too! That’s when I panicked. I kept walking though, small strides, then large strides to try to stretch them up somehow. Nothing worked.

I saw a McDonalds.

Customers only bathroom.


So I kept walking and then I began to pray. “Mother Mary, please don’t let me lose my black silk knickers on 7th street in Chinatown. Dear Mother of God, I can’t lose my knickers in front of the saints and world of men on a street corner.” I stopped to cross the street over to the 700 block of 7th and I saw the sign for Fado. I have never been more happy to see a place in my life and with effort and stealth, I snuck my hand under my coat to grab the front of my knickers and tights to keep them up. For my entire derriere was now bare to the kilt and the under current wind and I knew if I had to walk more than to the door of the pub, I’d be bare as the day I was born with navy tights around my knees.

I made it in the door and made to shuffle to the back toward the restroom. Thankfully, it was pretty empty the night before Christmas Eve and then. . .

There he was, a green eyed Irish waiter with black hair and an apron to match. “Good even’ lass”, he said, “Where’d you like to place yourself?”

At that precise moment, the knickers gave way and I knew they were going to fall right then to the floor in front of this gorgeous waiter and I would be mortified beyond belief. But, I knocked my knees together and leaned into the bar . Casually flipping my hair I squeaked, ”Well, I’m not sure yet, lad. May I use your restroom and then seat myself?”

“Aye”, he said “Tis over there. I’ll get you something for your return?”

“Oh yes” I said. “Make it a Guinness and pour it slow…I’ll be back.”

So when he turned, I grabbed my knickers from the front through the kilt and hobbled quickly back to the restroom. Thank goodness no one else was there to see me and then standing in the stall, they fell like feathers from a duck. I stretched and pulled, rearranged and then slipped the knickers back on and knew I’d be okay. However, I’d better take a taxi home.

So there you have it…

The wisdoms in this?

Listen to your knickers, loves. Underneath everything there is a sureness which is necessary to being. The best experiences can be marred when flexibility gives way. If it means being late, or it costs more money, it matters not. To build upon anything one needs to attend to foundations. It’s most important to life, to love, to anything.


A Lady of Sorrows

23 Dec

Come not to the Father for comfort, but to the Mother, my lady …Mary

After a day of walking pilgrimage, I produced my soul upon the steps of The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for mass on Sunday evening. When I walked in, breathless with five minutes to quiet myself, I was shocked to find mass already in progress. Furthermore, they were saying the Our Father, a prayer which occurs near the end of the celebration.

I panicked.

I walked down to the Bethlehem chapel from the main sanctuary. Nothing, just contemplation. Then, I made a confused and hurried visit to the docent at the help desk.

“Ma’am, where and when is 5:15 mass?” I said.

It came out almost like a child. I didn’t mean to be so upset, but this visit was so needed, so important. I had prepared all day, journeyed through streets and metro to get there on time, and now….nothing. She explained to me that 5:15 Vigil, even though its listed on Sunday, means the night before: Saturday. The only Sunday evening mass occurs at 4:30. I had missed it.

I was so let down, so disappointed in myself, so upset. Then, she did something incredibly loving and kind. She reached across the desk, took my hand in hers and said, “Go somewhere quiet my child, and pray. Our Lady will guide you.” She squeezed my hand and said, “God bless you”. I nearly wept at her kindness. The church was open until seven she had told me, and it was just after five. So as I turned with tears in a choked throat, the only place I could think to go was Our Lady of Lourdes. It had been a very special place for my former husband and myself. On a summer trip to DC, I had shared the shrine with him, especially this chapel, this most holy, most special place. We lit a candle together in the medieval chapel during that visit. Tonight, in that same place, I prayed for comfort, for release. And I had no words.

What was given to me was a quiet grace. The words mattered not. My presence was the prayer. Love is simple. So amid candles and incense and the deep quiet peacefulness of holy presence, I went to my knees at the gate, gazed into one of Her many faces, and let go of this place of my past. It no longer held the quiet significance it once did. And when I left, I left him there, too. What he was at the beginning, what he became at the end.

Eventually, I wandered upstairs. No place seemed comforting enough until I came upon Our Lady of Sorrows. Suddenly, I knew I was home.

Is there any sorrow equal to my sorrow?

No, my Lady, there isn’t. But let me sit inside this grief and we will mourn together. Hope dies, but she has to in order to rise again. The hope of salvation in love, earthly love, must die. There is hope, yet, though. She lies entombed in the winter, in the snow, a pale new bud frozen in winter stillness. I sat in the small green marble chapel, breathed in incense and dwelt in sadness for a long while. I gave Our Lady my tears to hold and trusted indeed that I might be blessed.

I miss dwelling in spirit. I miss dwelling in hope.I go home tomorrow and I will abide. I will simply abide.

A Pilgrimage

23 Dec

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“If we walk far enough,” says Dorothy, “we shall sometime come to someplace” –Wizard of Oz

After a morning conversation with Mom about Granny’s flagging memory, this awful feeling has to change. Why is this huge and exciting place disturbing the small peace I had gained in Ocracoke?

Brunch was in order and after fussing about which to choose, I walked down the block to Birch and Barley. Marching in with a sunny smile at 10:45, I asked to eat at the bar. They acquiesced, but told me, “We don’t open until 11. You’ll need to wait outside.” In the cold? Seriously? Uh….no. Turning up 14th street, I took a left on the next block and found a small restaurant called Logan’s Tavern. The moment I walked in I knew, this is it. I feel happy.

The energy there was amazing, and the staff wonderful. I popped up to the bar and ordered a coffee and noticed the small sign which told me most everything on the menu comes from from local sources. Then, I spied a collection of gargoyles on the top of the bar. Yep, I’m in the right place. The bartender was so nice and the atmosphere simply sunny. It’s a place I could sit in for hours and not tire. Mornings ought to be comfortable in the sun, like a cat on the windowsill in winter sunshine. The hostess was quite friendly and she chatted with me while the day was just beginning. They all milled about mixing their tasks with friendship in great balance. The connections between them showed; that’s bound to spill over into service, I think. They chatted with me enough to make me feel welcome, but not too much to disturb my writing. I like a place like that. They all become part of my story. My french toast was so amazing I forgot to take a picture of it, but it was sprinkled with pecans and came with a massive load of eggs and a sweet peppery side of bacon. I had ordered only one egg, but I think it was almost four. I couldn’t eat it all, but it was altogether perfect.

After that tremendous breakfast, I walked all the way to the National Mall and then, around the tidal basin. It’s funny. I’ve lived here all my life and never really seen the monuments. So with camera and contemplation, I walked, and walked, and walked some more. This part of my journey has been like a pilgrimage, walking and letting go. Trying to be in the moment. Snapping picture upon picture, I continued. I tried to see each one as if for the first time on some grand European tour.

Each phrase gave me a reflection as if I actually was on pilgrimage.

Out of a Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope

Darkness cannot drive out Darkness, only Light can do that. Hate cannot drive out Hate, only Love can do that

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

With every stride, through every winding way, I was moved around inside my own thoughts, and it brought to mind a poem I teach, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. I thought back to the gravestones I have come to love on Ocracoke and this idea of why we raise them in memory of someone, to honor their part in the human story.

Yet e’en these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

We all want to be remembered, to make our mark upon humanity in some small way. It seems at times the only way to immortality is through memory.

I ended up by the Smithsonian Castle at the end of this long walk, and I found a seed there that I need to water and grow. I’d never been into Smithsonian Castle before and through a fascinating exhibit on the civil war in Washington DC, I found a most interesting and handsome fellow: Robert Kennicott, a naturalist for the Smithsonian who died at 31. Something about his photo really captured my attention. I want to know more about him, his work, and the Megatherium Club, the group of men who lived in the Smithsonian Castle during four years of the Civil War.

This is someone hardly anyone has written about and he’s a mysterious fellow to be sure, and dashingly handsome, at least to me. As I took a cafe’ au lait and cake break at the castle, I began to allow my curiosity to fill me. My last stop of the day was the Natural History Museum, for one of the only books written about Kennicott was supposed to be sold there. I met a lovely gentleman who told me the book was sold out, but that I’d really need to go to the Chicago Institute of Science. That is where his papers are and more. Guess where I’ll be going in 2013?

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All that Glitters

23 Dec

Sometimes, something can seem so marvelous …so perfectly exciting. People can be like that. Places can be like that. Experiences can be like that. But tonight, I went to Sax Restaurant and Lounge. Hours before going, I had a nagging feeling about the experience, something that overshadowed my long held anticipation and excitement.  Verdict: It was an expensive lesson in not worth it.

I’ve been wanting to experience the place for a long while, the main draw for me being burlesque and modern dance. First, let me say that the burlesque I have come to enjoy is about NOT revealing rather than revealing. I’m not a fan of pole dancing nor stripping. Twelve inch clear plastic platforms and lap dances are not in the least artistic expressions, in my opinion, nor appealing to me. However, after having watched With a Wink and Smile last year, falling in love with it, and then subsequent reading and research on vintage style burlesque, I found out that this is one of the few places in my area which features anything similar. The shows here are of the highest class, resembling acts from Cirque du Soleil and modern ballet rather than a gentleman’s club. The interior is rich, a literal explosion of bordello red velvet….and I mean 19th century New Orleans style, Moulin Rouge, lavish French baroque golden splendor.

To be sure, the champagne was amazing. After two glasses of Jean Baptiste Adam Rose (Cremant d’Alsace ) I was feeling rather fancy. The manager, Franco, came to my table to greet me and chat, offering a glass of Spanish Cava on the house. Its mossy earthy nose and mineral finish was amazing. You can’t come to a place like this without drinking stars.

To be sure, the food was to die for, small bits and bites in tiny plates, one after the next.  I nibbled and sipped at my table for one all evening. First, an arugula salad with strawberries, goat cheese and pistachio vinaigrette arrived, then some gorgonzola fondue, tiny bites of beef and bread to dip in a small pot just for one. Afterward, as the evening rolled on, three prawns in carrot ginger butter were followed by fried oyster sliders presented on tiny pristine white plates. It sounds like an amazing array of food I’m sure, but truly each small dish was two to three bites and although delicious and artfully presented, not really worth the cost.

To be sure, the service was impeccable. My waitress was so charming, and also so surprised that I was completely there by myself that her first reaction was to exclaim, “Oh…oh my god, you are my new hero.” She attended to me like a loyal waiting gentlewoman and truly made me feel more comfortable. The hovering of the other wait staff, though those to clear away dishes or glasses was oppressive. The pressure of what seemed to me to be constant supervision, or inherent curiosity at my single seating caused me to flinch more than once. There was one moment where one of the other waitresses looked at me, her gaze mixed with sadness and empathy. My instant thought was, “Oh child, don’t look so sadly at me. I’m not lonely.” And to tell the truth I wasn’t. The shows were what I truly went for but there again, the spin and the actual turn part ways.

Each absolutely fabulous, artfully choreographed, and beautifully lighted show was three minutes of pure bliss for me, separated by twenty minutes of blank dark stage. I am still disappointed… a lot. All I can really think about was how much of a better time I had spending twenty bucks dancing to the Rockers last Saturday night at the Topless Oyster community Christmas potluck in Ocracoke, dogs trotting across the dance floor. It was more real, more genuine. When this place turned into a true dance club at 11pm, I paid my check and took a cab home. No one spoke to me all evening; no one but staff acknowledged my presence. I was a ghost seated at the edge of a red velvet dance floor, entirely invisible.

The opulence of this place hides the feeling I could never shake the minute I walked in the door….beautiful…but no heart. And heart and soul are the ingredients to me that make a good dining/ lounge experience as a woman. Its not about the icing. Its about the cake. The elements have to be there, but what makes a woman feel alluring and adventurous and drawn into a sensual conversation with herself isn’t red velvet perfection…its genuine connection. And you can get that in a space like that, but it takes an emphasis on the personal aspect at the core. There is a taste for love, for bravery, for the sheer joy of decadence, but it comes with the expectation that not all diners will be providing their own companions to achieve the perfect mix.

It’s like some people. They create this wonderful exterior that just draws others in and then, when experienced, you can’t really figure out exactly why, but you feel let down. They have all of what seems like the perfect combination of characteristics, but when you really sit down to the table, they can’t provide any depth of heart.

Tonight is the last time I will place myself and my aspirations into fancy and empty rather than real and warm. Sometimes, I do already know better.

Not in Kansas

22 Dec

What is the sea without the sand

What is the sky without blue

What is the song without the words

What is the world without you.   — Clothilde Arias

Today, I toured the Museum of American History, mainly to see one thing: Dorothy’s shoes. And as I rounded the corner and saw them, I became overwhelmed with the enormity this journey. I’m just at the beginning.

Dear Universe, how can I ever walk this road?

I knelt beside those shoes and it took all the strength in my body not to sob. There they were. The shoes from the most hopeful journey I know, a metaphor for my entire walk from last year to now. It felt as if I was kneeling at a shrine and presenting my pain and grief in front of some sort of relic, a holy object that might somehow erase this grief over a life that has bloomed into a flower I never desired to grow. Behind them, was Kermit the frog, and from the minute his eyes met mine, words from childhood appeared.

Its not easy being green, to spend each day the color of the leaves.

The sadness was overwhelming. I actually had to go to the bathroom and get myself together so as not to make a total mess of myself in public. This went beyond being touched by something; this is a wound that’s leaking an absolute mess.

And I think I know why. Here, I feel so isolated and that is most ironic. In Ocracoke, I felt alone at first, but then comforted and connected. Literally, there was no one around, but I felt safe. Hurt, but safe. Here, there are people everywhere, a million things to do, to taste, to see, to photograph, to experience and all I want is my cottage on Fig Tree Lane and Zillie’s in the afternoon, the ease of a small world. I want to go home. Totally disconnected, I feel completely lonely in the midst of the million or so souls walking these streets. This morning, I saw a man crouch down and hug, cuddle, and then kiss his dog’s head on the street corner and it sent me into a stream of tears. Everything here is fabulous, exciting, beautiful, enticing, and all I want is Clarence, my cottage, and talks with Annie.

I may have left too soon. I may not ever be the same. I have to muster the energy to go to Sax Club tonight. I’ve already paid for it. If I just let go, it will be okay. The night will be a good experience and I’ll be glad I went. That new confident snazzy Cyndi? She left before Ocracoke and never came back. Someone else is here now and although she needs to be freed as well, I don’t like her much. People can sense her depression like a wiff of sour milk.


I went to the Willard today and passed up an experience. Tea at the Willard is booked for months, but they had a small spot for me. I should have stayed despite the $42 dollar fee. It’s a once in a lifetime chance, but I couldn’t enjoy it or give it the focus it needed. I wasn’t happy enough. Mom should be here with me. Today, she made jam with Granny and that’s where I should have been, but I just can’t. I can’t be in that world of pretending everything is alright.

It’s not alright.

I went round the corner  and had cafe au lait and tart at Cafe du Parc, where I’d rather go to dinner tonight instead of Sax. If there was a way out of it, I’d cancel the reservation and go back with friends sometime. I thought I could do this alone. It’s actually the main bucket list event of the weekend. I’m not sure I can, but I’ll try.

What comes will come.

The Green Eyed Monster

22 Dec


That’s what it has become. True and unbelievable guilt.

This morning I awoke to a crushing sensation of self abandonment and guilt. As if everyone has suddenly disliked me for having done this. I erased or hid every single semblance of this D.C. trip from Facebook. It’s as if I didn’t deserve to have an emotional crisis. Oh, excuse me, “spiritual awakening”. If I had been ill, had a gall bladder operation, broken my leg, developed shingles, there would not been the least amount of question of whether I deserved to take off of work nine days. Nine whole days after 18 years.

Yes, I ran away to Ocracoke.

Yes, I’m in Washington D.C.

I’m sure it does look like I went off to go have a vacation because my life, sigh, just became too tough.

Poor baby Cyndi…must be nice to just be weak and beg off.

What about the 350+ papers I will have to grade starting the day after Christmas?

What about the fact that I have denied Christmas’ existence this year? Yes, go ahead and be jealous that I went to a deserted island for nine days and now I’m tooling about the Capitol totally alone, trying to eek out some semblance of normalcy so I can go back and face my kids and my peers without being a mess. Go back home and kiss your husbands and your wives and snuggle up with them and your children and envy the hell out of my solo life.

Envy my empty bed, my empty arms, my empty house.

Be completely bitter that I avoided exam week while you sit by your Christmas tree and open gifts with those who hold your heart in precious trust.

Be pea green over the knowledge that I have forgiven my ex-husband for celebrating his second Christmas with a 20 year old girl.

You have every right to be covetous of my aging face, my dwindling bank account, my aging mother, grandmother, and aunt whom I am solely responsible for when they will come toward death from the next five to twenty years. Yeah, be jealous you have no siblings and no children to encumber you.

Freedom! It’s free?

Go ahead be pea green. My life is amazing.

Be jealous.

A Common Feast

21 Dec


How do you stop wanting something? How, after seeing the possibility of happiness do you walk away before a first taste, letting fear of the end of a great feast prohibit your seating at a table. Perhaps it is the fear of the end, of the last bite which prohibits the first, the regret of having eaten at all.  – – Beloved

In traveling I have had the opportunity to eat, really eat and enjoy gourmet food and fine wine. Well, maybe not so much Gaffers Sports Pub in Ocracoke, but most definitely wine at Zillies and then, most definitely in DC.

One of the most memorable meals I have had so far was at Granville Moore’s. Delores and John had told me about the place because John’s daughter works there. That’s all I really needed to understand. They said I needed to go, so I went.

The entrance of this Belgian style gastropub is nearly hidden. One could never tell that a restaurant was actually there at all; the cab driver had a problem even finding it. But when I walked in, I understood why. Originally a doctor’s office, the building is tall, two stories and very narrow, most likely a building from the early part of the 20th century. The bar is long, covering one side of each of two floors with a single row of booths on the opposite side of each bar. The first greeting from the doorman was sweet. He loves red hair. Story of my life.

But no room at the downstairs bar for a red headed lass to sit, so up the old creaky steps I went. The walls are barely painted, half wall papered, half scraped and the ceilings open to the rafters. A convergence of European pub and tenement house, the ambiance really works. This is upscale even in its unassuming wood and tarnished brass. I found a single spot at the bar and literally inserted myself into the eating crowd.  Quite quickly, I was reminded of the idea of the common table, of eating  surrounded in warm spirit by others. But also yielding to the vulnerability of eating. I had never thought about how fiercely vulnerable eating makes someone, but it does. We take off our defenses and sit at a fire and feed ourselves into life. We focus on our senses and take pleasure in them. It is something that must be done in safety, sometimes in quiet, but most times in communion. It’s why we desire to eat in groups, I think. To break bread together and to enjoy not only the flavor of what feeds us, but the act of eating with others draws them into our intimate life.

Granville Moore’s menu focuses solely on moules (mussels) and craft beers. And in the eating of this type of old world food, one dives into the nature of relationship, to others and to the planet. I ordered moules prepared with a sauce made of grand marnier, cream, duck sausage, and cranberries. Frites with curry mayo was the side along with crusty bread to be broken and plunged into that vat of sea-orange cranberry flavor. I ordered a beautiful beer. La Rulles Meilleurs Vouex, medium bodied, malty, not too heavy. Tasting brought to mind moss and dark soil, an image of Antaeus, strength in earth. Beer, like a tree, seems firmly connected to both ground and sky.

I sat there amid the crowd and ate and scribbled in my notebook. I broke my bread among the masses in intimate vulnerability. I listened to the couple next to me discuss her sister’s problems with home and parents. I watched the other couple beside me in their technological silence as he flipped through Facebook and she sat alone and dipped bread and ate, and ate, and dipped and ate. He flipped his thumb upon his phone screen in ignorance of her boredom, her sense of rejection, her beauty and vulnerability. If I had been brave enough, I would have told him to break a corner of her crust and feed her.

So how was the food? I held pale orangish pink moules, barely cooked, upon a tiny fork and watched them quiver before they hit my tongue in a salty revelation. Earthy and sharply citrus from a burial in cream, orange and berry, I felt and heard the bread crack and crumble under my fingers and then let it soak in all of the bottom of the bowl. Then, perching upon the top to my mouth, came a small morsel of duck sausage, rich and bloody and dark and filled with sage and the memory of a winter home upon a heath.

Perhaps there is something about a feast which doesn’t tempt some, but a feast IS meant to be shared. For in that sharing comes healing and life, growth and joy. One must share the table, the bread, the wine…and freely share. It isn’t a stolen moment. It is a gifted pause  to be able to meet another at table and feed the heart and soul as well as body.  We are invited to a common table. Its up to us to meet it.

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