Wednesday, June 27, 2012

i've got a beautiful feeling...

every day is drenched in sunshine and possibilities. even the rain means growth and nurturing and promise. if new york city is this lovely and amazing, the south i know and love and miss must be stunning -- replete with blooming scented trees, shady groves and azaleas everywhere. when everything around you is this beautiful, you really can't help but feel that beauty, too.

and so of course -- musical theater geek that i am -- the day finds me skipping through gotham like a sepia-toned shirley jones with an afro, singing that song from the musical oklahoma! you know it, too. everyone knows that song.


i was tipping through midtown the other day and when i turned my head, i saw this.

beautiful, isn't it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 26: dance, dance, dance

earlier this evening, i went to a dance rehearsal for the as-of-yet unnamed billie holiday piece i'm doing with francesca harper for the harlem arts festival on this saturday. two of her dancers were there -- pliable and open and smart, and willing.  i had no idea what to expect. i thought i was going to watch them create this something out of nothing but fran insisted that i play with them, and simply move around in the space and improvise. let's play! sounds innocuous enough. there was no choreography, per se. we were moving around and thinking aloud and cracking jokes and wondering how this might look or how does this feel or does this work this way.  as everything began to unravel and we explored the audio and got lost in the sound of billie holiday's speaking voice, telling these little stories about herself, something else gradually took over.  i forgot about the time. i forgot myself. i forgot my fear of dance, that thing in me that said this isn't mine.

through it all, fran's voice was this guiding light, shaping everything, suggesting something, requesting this, asking that. slowly but surely, we found our way. there was a moment when all of us were throwing so many ideas into the air, i could feel whatever worked sticking to us from the inside out. that was glorious.

all of it was storytelling, every single bit of it. because i knew the storyline, i could do the movement. but it was so much more than that. for the first time in my life -- with the bright exception of the lindy and of course those tea social dances from the 1920s -- i was moving with grace and ease and purpose and i wasn't lost. i wasn't self-conscious or uncomfortable, either.  it didn't scare me. it made sense. it felt right. it fit with what was happening around me, with what everyone else was doing and most importantly with the music that flowed through the piece. and it was fun.

thank God we videotaped it!

this is francesca's gift to me, though i suspect she hardly gave any of it a second thought, aside from yay, we're making cool blackgrrl art. when i tried to explain myself, i sounded like an idiot.

perhaps someday if she ever meets my brother the dancer, she'll understand.

Monday, June 25, 2012


  1. wit – always surprising when it comes from me and intoxicating when it comes from someone else
  2. an endless supply of fresh fruit
  3. insight
  4. wheatgrass
  5. the spectacular beauty of a harlem sunset

Saturday, June 23, 2012

kids programming at the 2012 harlem arts festival

here's some information that isn't featured on the harlem arts festival's website. if you have a kid or know one that likes to have fun with you, here's some details about next week's festivities that's especially for them.



Presenting our youth and family activity lineup for the 2012 festival! 

The Harlem Arts Festival will feature two days of family programming. Join us on either day at the Kids' Corner for arts and crafts for all ages. Then, on Saturday, June 30th in the Harlem Library, join us for a full day of dance, theater, music, and art classes and activities at Start With Art!

Kids' Corner
Fri-Sat, June 29th & 30th, 2012
Marcus Garvey Park

Friday, June 29, 12:00pm-4:00pm:
Family Yoga with Land Yoga
Face painting, arts and crafts, and more!
Saturday, June 30, 12:00pm-4:00pm
Button-Making with Cooper Hewitt
Mural Making with Harlem School of the Arts
Arts & Crafts with Harlem School of the Arts
Visual Arts Workshop with Artistic Dreams
Face painting, and more!

Start With Art!
Saturday, June 30th, 2012
11am-4pm, Harlem Library

Merengue Dance Class, Ballroom Basix

Poetry Workshop, 
Mayhem Poets

Harlem Swing Dance Class, 
Ballroom Basix

Theater Workshop, 
Harlem School of the Arts 

Griots in Concert, Yaffa Productions

Looking for more information on the festival? Check out our 2012 Festival artists, here!

Friday, June 22, 2012

the next gig: harlem arts festival 2012

THE HARLEM ARTS FESTIVAL is a FREE annual festival presenting Harlem-based music, dance, theater, and visual arts. Taking place at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park June 29-30, 2012, we invite the community to celebrate Harlem’s vibrant cultural landscape and contemporary artistry.

for more information:

there's a gallery walk, performance art, exhibits, music, dance -- and all of it is based in harlem.  francesca and i will be performing on the main stage at the newly renovated (and newly renamed) richard rodgers amphitheater.

here's the gist of what francesca and i will do: In this as-of-yet untitled theatrical performance, Queen Esther explores black feminism by continuing to deconstruct the iconic siren Billie Holiday through movement, sound and vision.  With Ms. Holiday’s speaking voice as an aural backdrop, Queen Esther sings her more relatively unknown yet timeless songs, melding this soundscape into Francesca Harper’s compelling choreography, exploring a relatively unknown side of Lady Day.

see you there!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

this is something i should do everyday

someone suggested that i do this awhile ago, to stay in a place of gratitude consciously. eventually, this will probably be much harder than it sounds – and it shouldn’t be.
for the moment, these are the things that float to the surface effortlessly.
  1. my life and
  2. God’s presence in it
  3. MPB
  4. stellar physical/mental health
  5. emotional maturity

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

30 days of birthday -- day 20: summer solstice

i spent the longest day of the year indoors, blasting the ac and blaring my favorite billie holiday box set -- chugging ice water, making lists, roasting chicken, working on my new idea, decluttering and reorganizing and swiffering, doing a severe amount of housecleaning, channel surfing and washing my ever growing natural hair. i got things done, i made progress. i ate clean -- even when i snacked.  (yay!)

good thing, too. the great urban outdoors was hotter than georgia asphalt this afternoon.  it's days like these that make me miss that southern heat that makes me feel as though something heavy is gently pulsating onto the top of my head with gentle thuds that make me walk like i've got absolutely nowhere to be for the rest of my life. and then all of a sudden, i realize oh, wow -- that's sunlight.

there maybe a moment that carries that kind of sweltering intensity up here in yankeelandia but those moments don't stretch into weeks and weeks. it's a day or two here or there. and then it's over. everything cranks down to somewhere in the low to mid 80s and nobody stops complaining about it.

i just want to slingshot each and and every single one of them into the barren hellish nothingness that is west texas in june so they can know what real heat feels like.

click here for my good news of the moment. (yippee!)

maybe i'll stay in tomorrow. if i keep this up, i'm going to attack my junk room with a vengeance before the weekend falls on top of me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 19: happy juneteenth!

a juneteenth celebration in texas -- june 19, 1900.

juneteenth -- our independence day -- is the day that the abolition of slavery was announced in galveston, texas in 1865.

i blogged all about it here -- pretty funny, too...!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 17: guess who won the pie contest?

grace gotham and i, having a beautiful birthday moment.

yep - i won the pie contest at the jazz age lawn party on governor's island yesterday: best savory -- tomato pie! grace gotham said they put it on the table for the crowd to sample and it was gone in ten minutes. yikes!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 16: the jazz age lawn party

yes, i'm going.
yes, i'm dressing up.
yes, i'm taking lots of photos.
yes, i'm entering the pie contest.
yes, yes, yes!

Friday, June 15, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 15: birchbox!

let me just say this for the record: i enjoy being a girl. admittedly, it was not always so. i wasn't the girl that knew how to be a girl in this really effortless female way.  i have always had to work hard at it. for the most part, its a fun ride but that wasn't always so, either. i was a tomboy until i hit puberty -- well, you can read all about that here, if you'd like) and then i was a very angry bitter pill until i hit college.  and then i got hit on, a lot. and then everything went left. thank God i was in texas. but i digress.

my friend gina told me about birchbox -- for $10 a month, a pretty package would arrive at my door, filled with anything from perfume to the perfect lip stain. i get to try all kinds of beauty products i'd heard about but could hardly afford. i love experimenting with makeup -- God knows there's always something new to explore -- but who has the time to run in and out of department stores and the like, and make that happen? and with no real money?

with birchbox, there are no contracts to sign, no crazy commitments, no complications. i get to try before i buy. and yes, there are online video tutorials, a pretty comprehensive website and a store to purchase whatever sample i like. too perfect!

i am smitten with the idea of trying things out at home like this. with enough subscribers, the opportunities are endless, really. what a great idea. is everybody doing this with all kinds of stuff, and i'm the last one to know about it? (probably.)

this is the way it looks when it crash lands on my kitchen table. it feels like a birthday present every month.

when i open it, there's a little card that explains how everything in the box coincides with the theme for the month. cute!

i open the tissue paper and what do i find? such lovely things. to the left, cynthia rowley dress-up band-aids -- something the girl in me could really get addicted to, if i were a little more accident-prone. below that, borghese crema saponetta cleansing bar for face and body -- perfect for traveling. you can even use it instead of shaving cream.

and then there's that little package, wrapped in tissue paper...

...filled with ada cosmetics bronzer ("flatters every skin tone"...yeah, we'll see about that...), bvlgari omnia crystalline eau de toilette spray ("combines notes of lotus flowers, bamboo and Nashi pear" - LOVE what this turns into when it melds with my chemistry/skin) and thebalm cosmetics stainiac in beauty queen (a two in one lip and cheek stain).

there are at least 3 things that i'd like more of from this haul, starting with that perfume. and the lip stain has inspired me.

hm. someone should create something like this exclusively for women of color.

okay, so here's the kicker: if i refer anyone to them, i get points (yippee!) so if you'd like to hook me up ("happy birthday to meeeee!"), please click here. and yes, a thousand thank yous in advance -- because like i said, this girl stuff is not only expensive. it's hard work.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 14: make art

i sometimes envy people who choose to do what they do, whatever it is.  i didn't choose to be an artist. i was always like this.

i'm growing a lot of ideas right now. they're coming at me explosively, like shrapnel.  sometimes a long walk will smooth things out but for the most part they unfurl inside me as i think on them. i should be a hermit for the next few weeks, just so i can write it all out -- but no such luck.  the sun is out, finally, and the beach is calling me like a long lost friend. boxing conditioning class is mandatory. there are too many places to hang out all over the place, especially in my own neighborhood. 

the art in me is everything that i am, poured into whatever it is that i'm doing at the moment. what i'm doing never feels like work. it is spontaneous, effortless and freeing. i follow my strongest curiousity and let it take me everywhere. i take copious notes. i daydream. i collaborate. and all of a sudden, everything takes shape as if it were there all along. and then i go and make something else.

you know what's work? practicing is work.  it won't be work when i get good at it but for the moment, i feel like sisyphus whenever i play the piano. or the guitar. *sigh* it's not a good feeling.

 no one explained this process to me. i refined it on these mean streets, by trial and error, by hell and high water, and by fire.  i began to walk down this road when i realized that because so much art in new york city (and the rest of the world) didn't include me, i would have to make my own. and then all of that grew into something else.

the idea of going out into the world to "discover" any of what i'm creating sounds exhausting.  it has always been much easier to know myself well enough to delve into my inner life for inspiration. i am grateful to God that i loved myself enough to value what i found and hold it sacred long enough to develop it and grow it into whatever it's supposed to be.

i wonder what's coming out of me next.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 13: billie holiday's resting place - the npr interview

the idea was intriguing, full of promise and somewhat daunting: an interview with an award winning npr producer at billie holiday's grave, to air on the anniversary of her death.

we decided to convene in front of the iconic lenox lounge at high noon on tuesday -- npr producer/reporter elizabeth blair, author and columbia university professor farah griffin and harmelodic me -- for our trek to st. raymond's cemetery, which was located in a far removed section of the bronx, all the way out behind God's back as my great-grandmother would say, by the throg's neck bridge at edgewater park.  no wonder i had never been there before, or ever thought to go. it was not easily accessible -- not like woodlawn cemetery, available via the 2, 4 or 5 subway lines, internationally recognized as a resting place for some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world, and recently designated a national historic landmark.  talk about a no man's land: edgewater park hadn't appeared on official city maps until 20 years ago. if you don't want to be found, that's exactly where you want to be.

ironically, woodlawn feels like a constant celebration of life. it's a really old cool place -- and i love old cool places. there are people wandering around constantly, looking hither and yon at the landscape, the architecture, the art and of course looking for musicians' graves. there are tour groups. there are events, festive gatherings, performances and the like. i mean, seriously cool stuff.  (i've performed there, too.) they even have a friends of the woodlawn cemetery group that spearheads a lot of activities. i love going there, especially with friends who love jazz as much as i do.  it's a wonderful way to pause and reflect and get lost in the past and the present while tipping slowly towards the future, all at once.  if it's a sunny day, you feel as though you're in a park because everything is so lush and green and well tended.  i suppose it takes a lot of money to maintain such a large expanse.

st. raymond's, on the other hand, is very private and very catholic. it's also older than woodlawn -- but it doesn't feel like it. i suppose the church picks up the tab for maintenance and upkeep because there are no paid tours and such. it feels so austere and distant, somehow -- and no small wonder. public transportation is not really an option and if you do get all the way out there, you had bloody well better have a way to get back. i can't even imagine the long strange walk you would have to endure to return to the land of the living, a subway line or a yellow cab sighting of some sort.

npr photographer mito habe-evans was a lovely surprise.  it was gray and cold (in the 60s? in june?) with a constant threat of rain -- so cinematic -- and fittingly, the small sturdy black umbrella i wielded held so much blue sky inside of it. we jumped into the first jitney that stopped for us at the corner of 125th & lenox. he was african and spoke english haltingly but thankfully his gps worked perfectly. with introductions all around and the talk amongst us that ensued, it seemed that we were there in no time at all.

adorned with my favorite african silver jewelry, i wore a black wiggle dress. i don't know why. when i realized how soggy and cold and miserable it was outside, i decided to wear a hat that made my head look as though it was covered with dogwood blossoms.  farah wore a black dress, too.  i was relieved to see that.  after a certain point, it felt as though we were dressed in funeral attire. totally appropriate, somehow.


once we were out of the office and done with logistics and armed with maps that would lead us to her section and plot number, our chat turned into a freewheeling conversation about jazz and the music industry and history and such that encompassed our collective love and respect for lady day. we wandered down a long wide stretch of black asphalt, framed with large trees that leaned over us, hovering attentively as we wandered with a purpose, opening and closing our umbrellas with each threat of a downpour. somewhere in the distance, cars whizzed by. every so often, a low-flying jet airliner zooming slowly overhead would break through the quiet around us. with headphones on, elizabeth and her mic was surprisingly unobtrusive -- and so was mito's camera.  it felt like we were done by the time we got started.



then again, to be completely honest, i'm not so sure when we got started. we had begun so long ago, each of us, where ever we were when we first encountered ms. holiday's voice, whenever we began to get to know her through her music, her biographies, her high-falutin' autobiography and whatever else we could read. and that almost completely fictional bio-pic that way too many people treat like a weird documentary. we  kept moving along such powerful yet tenuous parallel lines with our ideas and our projects and our performances and our documentaries and our interviews that circumnavigated this lady. somewhere along the way, those lines converged at her tombstone, with me singing and farah holding still and elizabeth holding the mic, unwavering and mito clicking and clicking and clicking and clicking away.

we won't be able to hear any of what we did until it airs on july 17th but i know it will capture the beauty and elegance and reverence that drifted around us like so much silver lining on such a cloudy day. mito's camera could shoot video, so she did. i remember that she was especially careful to hold it still as i sang. who knows if she got anything at all.  and that's alright with me. i quite like surprises.




there were moments that will stay with me for a long time, regardless. how silent we became when we realized that we had found it, and how we stayed that way for longer than i thought we would. reading aloud frank o'hara's beautiful and elegaic poem the day lady died.  farah, leaving a bottle of gardenia perfume on the edge of the bottom of the tombstone.  all of us, staring at her headstone and taking it all in, and then feeling a strange jolt in the pit of me as a thought flashes through my head and stays there, like a perpetual echo unfurled: she is real. she is real. she is real. she is real. she is real. she is real. she is real.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 12: the npr interview

today is the day that i rendevous with npr producer/reporter elizabeth blair and author/columbia professor farah griffin in front of lenox lounge at high noon. we are going to st. raymond's cemetery in the bronx, to visit billie holiday's grave and conduct an interview there.  it's for npr's morning staple all things considered that will air on july 17 to coincide with the anniversary of her death. 

needless to say, i've been looking forward to this for weeks.

i wish we could have a videographer. hopefully there will be a photographer. and yes, i will sing one of her songs while i'm there. 

after i process all of it, i should have an interesting tale to show and tell.  in the meantime, i leave you with this rare interview of billie holiday -- from sweden of all places, in 1954.

Monday, June 11, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 11: eat clean!

today is the first day of the clean program -- 21 days to not eat certain things strategically for maximum health benefits and to also spark long term habits. thankfully, i'm not just cleaning out my insides.  i'm building a better life for myself.

i know i need to drink more water and eat less salt and sugar but this is way bigger than that. when it's time to eat, it's a dirty world out there. thanks to the chemicals that are pumped into all kinds of animals that we eat as well as the stuff that's sprayed on genetically engineered fruits and vegetables, and things like peanuts and soybeans (a lot of people don't even know they're allergic to them!), a lot of what we eat can be pretty toxic nowadays, especially when we think it's good for us.  the only real way to figure out how food affects me is to see how my body responds to my not eating it for awhile.

i also like the idea of shutting my stomach down for 12 hours to give my body a chance to heal itself. 

this is my fourth go-round with the clean program -- my second one with mpb -- and the truth is, i'm actually looking forward to it. i'm not anticipating too much drama with my digestive system, mostly because i've incorporated a lot of the principles dr. junger teaches into the everyday ordinary moments of my life. i consider myself to be pretty healthy because i don't eat fast food and yet the first time around was a real jolt.  example? i stopped eating wheat gluten and i lost all the bloat and excess in my torso. who knew? since then, no bread, rice, crackers, cookies or pasta. every so often, yes i'll have some if that stuff if hits the table but for the most part i avoid it like the plague -- and i can see and feel a difference. especially in my voice. the same goes for dairy products.

it wasn't like this when i was a kid. in the good old days, i could eat whatever i wanted and hardly ever give it a second thought. but stomachs change. mine did, anyway. this is my way of getting to know myself from the inside out, all over again.  that's why i don't listen to anyone when they tell me what to eat. why should i, when it's my body that's breaking down because of it.

here's a list of all the stuff i CANNOT eat.

Fruit: Oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, banana 
Dairy: Eggs, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, ghee, ice cream, non-dairy creamers 
Grains: Corn, Barley, Spelt, Kamut (farrow), Rye, Couscous, Oats, Tritical, Wheat, White Rice,

Meat: Raw fish, Pork, Beef, Veal, Sausage, Cold Cuts, Canned Meats, Hot Dogs, Shellfish, Frankfurters, Kielbasa

Plant based protein: Soybean products (soy sauce, soybean oil in processed foods, tempeh, tofu, soy milk, soy yogurt), Textured Vegetable Protein

Nuts: Peanuts, peanut butter
Vegetables: Corn, Creamed vegetables, Sweet potatoes, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Eggplants, Peppers, (American) Yams
Oils: Butter, margarine, shortening, processed oils, canola oil, salad dressings, mayonnaise, spreads 
Beverages: Alcohol, coffee, caffeinated beverages, soda pop, soft drinks, black or oolong tea, fruit juice (unless it's fresh-pressed)

Sweeteners: Agave, Refined sugar, white/brown sugars, honey, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, Splenda®, Equal®, Sweet’N Low®, molasses

Condiments: Chocolate, most Jam & Jellies (made with sugar), ketchup, relish, chutney, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, teriyaki, Bragg's Amino Acids, other condiments

Other Foods / Extended List:
Farro (wheat)
Goji Berries (nightshade)
Bulgar (gluten) - Tabouleh
Sprouted Wheat (Wheat-grass & Buckwheat are the only wheat allowed!)
Gum (unless natural & organic, there are some made with stevia)
Udon Noodles

...and here's a list of the stuff i CAN eat!

Fruit: Whole fruits, unsweetened, frozen or water-packed, diluted natural juices
(Acai Berries, Apple, Apricot (fresh), Blackberry, Blueberry, Cantaloupe, Cherry, Coconut, Fig (fresh), Huckleberry, Kiwi, Kumquat, Lemon, Lime, Loganberry, Mango, Melon [Honeydew / other], Mulberry, Nectarine, Papaya, Peach, Pear, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Prune, Raspberry, Watermelon)
Note:  All fruits are preferred to be fresh and organic as well as local and in season whenever possible.  Dried fruits are okay in moderation but be aware that they are still very high in sugars (albeit natural sugars).  You can also reconstitute them by soaking in water to add moisture content back in which will cut down on their often constipating effects.

Dairy Substitutions: Coconut milk, Nut milks such as Almond milk, Brazil Nut milk, Hazelnut milk (unsweetened), Hemp Seed milk, Rice (whole grain, brown rice)
Note: Rice milk is the most processed of the dairy substitutes and often sweetened. Other dairy substitutes preferred.

Grains: Amaranth, Buckwheat, Millet, Quinoa, Rice: (brown, red, black, wild), Teff, Tapioca

Meat: (Cold water ocean fish): Anchovies, Cod, Haddock, Hake, Halibut, Mackerel, Ocean Char, Pollack, Sardines, Sole, Trout, Tuna, Wild Pacific Salmon, Striped Bass; (Wild Game): Bison, Buffalo, Chicken, Duck, Elk, Lean [grass-fed] Lamb or Goat, Pheasant, Quail, Rabbit, Turkey, Venison

Plant-based Proteins: Hemp Protein, Legumes and Beans (all except soy [Cannelini, Chickpeas, Chinese Long bean, Black, Black-eyed Peas, Fava, Kidney, Lima, Mung, etc.]), Lentils (brown, red, green, yellow, French), Pea or Brown Rice protein, Split peas

Nuts/Seeds: Almond, Brazil Nut, Cashew, Chia, Hazelnut, Hemp, Nut and Seed butter, Macadamia Nuts, Pecan, Pine nut, Pistachios, Pumpkin, Sesame, Sunflower, Flax, Poppy, Walnut

Vegetables: Preferably fresh, raw, steamed, sautéed, juiced, roasted
(Artichoke, Arugula, Asparagus, Avocado, Bamboo shoots, Beet & beet greens, Bok Choy, Broccoflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Chive, Cucumber, Dandelion, Endive, Jicama, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lettuce [red or green leaf & Chinese], Okra, Olive [rinse well], Onion, Parsnip, Pickle*, Radish, Ramp, Red leaf chicory, Rutabaga, Snow peas, Spinach, Sprouts [all], Squash: winter & summer, Swiss chard, Taro, Turnip, Watercress, Yucca, Zucchini
  • Vegetable protein: split peas, lentils, and legumes, bee pollen, spirulina, and blue-green algae

Bread & Baking Baking soda, Baking powder (non-aluminum), Gluten & Yeast-free Bread, Quinoa flakes, Rice Bran

Flours: Amaranth, Arrowroot powder, Brown Rice, Coconut, Chestnut, Garbanzo Bean, Millet, Sorghum,  Tapioca, Teff

Oils: Almond, Coconut, Cold-pressed Olive, Flax, Hazelnut, Macadamia, Palm, Pumpkin, Safflower, Sesame, Sunflower, Truffle, Walnut
Note: Please make sure oils are unrefined, extra virgin, non-GMO, organic, cold-pressed, etc. (especially in food that you aren’t preparing, yourself!)

Beverages: Coconut water, Filtered or Distilled Water, Green tea, Herbal teas, Kombucha (unsweetened), Seltzer or Mineral Water (sparingly - best to avoid), Spring water, Twig tea, White teas, Yerba Maté

Sweeteners:  Stevia, Coconut Nectar, Yacon, Whole/Fresh Fruit, Dried Fruit (sparingly), Monk Fruit

Condiments: All spices, Agar Agar, Backing Soda, Baking Powder (sparingly), Basil, Carob, Cinnamon, Coconut Amino Acids, Cumin, Dill, Dried Pepper (sparingly), Fish Sauce (sugar-free), Garlic, Ginger, Miso, Mustard, Nama Shoyu, Nutritional Yeast, , Oregano, Parsley, Raw Cacao, Rosemary, Sea Salt, Tamari (Wheat-free only), Thyme, Turmeric, Vinegar (Apple cider, Balsamic, Coconut, Red wine (sulfide-free), Rice, Tarragon, Ume plum), Whole Fruit Jam or Jelly (sugar-free),

Spices: Allspice, Anise, Basil, Bay leaf, Caraway seeds, Cardamom, Carob, Celery seeds, Cinnamon, Clove, Coriander, Cumin, Dandelion, Dill, Dry mustard, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Mint, Nutmeg, Oregano, Parsley, Raw Chocolate (sugar- & dairy-free), Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Salt-free herbal blends, Savory, Sea salt, Stone-ground Mustard (watch for added sugar), Tamarind, Tarragon, Thyme, Turmeric, Vanilla extract (pure),

Sea Vegetables/Seaweed: Arame, Dulse, Hijiki, Kelp, Wakame

Noodles/Pasta: Brown rice pasta, 100% Buckwheat noodles, Glass Noodles, Kelp noodles, Mung Bean (Thread) Noodles, Pho (With no MSG), Shirataki Noodles (*soy free)

Mushrooms: all (sparingly)
Puffed brown rice
Puffed millet
Rice crackers

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Saturday, June 09, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 9: incognegress

i've got a ton of unfinished work -- recordings, scripts, treatments and performance art -- that i'd like to complete within the next year. that, along with graduate school at nyu, potential workshops and artist-in-residency programs, on camera work and going on the road now and then means that i will be incognegress for the next year or so.  right now feels like a celebratory moment, of sorts -- the calm before the storm. i can pause and reflect and relax, and enjoy my friends and mpb, and thank God for all of it. its a beautiful life. i am truly blessed.

making art isn't tricky for me. i just open up and let it out.  i've never had writer's block or anything that would even remotely resemble it. there's always an avalanche of ideas overwhelming me at any given moment. i'd do a lot more if i had the money to pull it all off, but i suppose that's what any artist would say. 

this fall, i will be crazy busy. i will disappear into my work. it will be grand. and i will be gone. if i'm lucky, i will stay gone long enough to finish what i've started -- and who knows how long that'll take.

30 days of birthday - day 8: guilty tv pleasures

i watch way too much television. i tell myself that i'm doing research as an actor because i have to watch what's on to know what's up in terms of casting and where i might fit in.  and it's true -- that's why i can write off my cable bill on my taxes.  i certainly don't watch as much as i used to when i was a little kid. but too much is too much. there are moments when i have to make myself leave my apartment and run a few miles, just so i can get away from the history channel. i've got some cool books coming to me before the end of the month, so that'll be a handy distraction.

i present these shows in no apparent order of course -- and with the express understanding that i am slightly addicted to the discovery channel, the history channel and the food network. so much to learn, so little time.

first up? celebrity ghost stories - seriously, i can't get enough of this show.  usually at night, right before i go to bed.

the second show i can't get enough of? the first 48 hours. if i had absolutely no talent whatsoever as a performer, i'd be a medical examiner.  every dead body is filled with clues.  they're as much of a detective as anyone in law enforcement. it's all just one gigantic jigsaw puzzle, putting all the pieces together to solve a murder.

then again, maybe i'd be a food historian. everyone is a chef these days. it's become so pedestrian. i'd want to know where everything comes from, what it all means, how it all fits together.  this spice, that vegetable.

last but not least? chelsea lately, starring chelsea handler. basically, she's this middle aged breezy blonde, a self-professed alcoholic who shoots her mouth off at random. and that's entertaining enough, i suppose.  she's obviously a hard worker and she's worth a lot of money.  good for her. for some reason, though, i began to pay attention whenever she would interview someone, probably because the dynamic was so stark, thanks to ms. handler's abrasiveness. its always interesting to see which starlets take control of the interview and knew how to handle her -- and which ones she simply runs over.

i also love the way ms. handler ran through 50 cent so thoroughly, he won't even discuss their relationship or the anatomy of what happened.  on the other hand, she talks about it whenever she feels like it.  this from the guy that takes a great deal of pleasure in denigrating women.

who doesn't love the hoff? what a showman...! 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 7: byron lars

too many fashion designers have teams of minions, underlings, associates and co-horts that dedicate themselves to their fearless leader's vision, whipping together much of what floats down the runway each season. they are nameless and faceless, these hard workers. all too often, they are the ones who do the heavy lifting, only to watch said fashion designer sign and claim their clever idea. celebrity fashion designers are especially guilty of this -- everybody's got one! -- but who can blame them? it's a billion dollar industry and if you're popular, it's a more money situation.

byron lars is one of the only designers on the planet that actually puts pen and ink to paper and creates his own work. what he comes up with, season after season, is drop dead brilliant. anyone with half a brain in the industry knows that this is true.  the fact that he's a black man makes all of this even more salient. he is living proof that talent will out -- sometimes in spite of yourself or your circumstances.

there. i said it.

imagine my surprise when i met byron lars years ago after a gig at joe's pub and found out that he was a fan of my work.  he was there, time and again -- in the audience and swing dancing! -- way back when i was singing with the yalloppin' hounds, wearing vintage cocktail dresses and high heeled sneakers topped with a nigerian gele or a proper cloche hat or whatever else i could get my hands on. i figured no one was paying any attention to me anyway, so i may as well present myself the way i want and say what i want and do what i want. strangely, byron was paying attention. how cool! it's been a mutual admiration society ever since.

knowing him is a beautiful gift.

i love to wear his dresses because they are so tailored and womanly. they radiate confidence and elan in the most feminine way imaginable -- which, for me, is the ultimate powerhouse move. so many never realize this until its too late: as a woman, you are at your strongest when you are at your most feminine, whatever that is. you wearing men's clothing could be the thing that makes it pop in your world. or dressing up like an edwardian widow. i mean, seriously. whatever. we are all finding our way to it.

here's byron's beautiful wiggle dress i wore for the harlem stage 30th anniversary gala a few weeks ago. 

i once read a statement diane von furstenberg (another personal favorite!) made in 1972 that, along with that fabled wrap dress (which is hanging in the smithsonian, by the way) turned everything upside down in the fashion industry for some reason: feel like a woman, wear a dress. that pretty much sums it up for me. you might find me in a pair of jeans because i'm on my way to an audition or a pair of shorts because i can't box in a skirt (or can i?) but for the most part, i don't wear pants because i think diane is right.

every once in awhile, byron will spring a dress on me but the truth is, i'm always trolling the internet for his stuff.  everyone else is looking at porn. i'm looking for pie crust recipes and wiggle dresses. *sigh.* every once in awhile, i'll get lucky. this was the banner score of the moment: a long sleeved, striped, rayon/poly/spandex stretch blend wiggle dress with tulle overlay - new with tags. and NOT crazy expensive. whoopee!

"...happy birthday to me...!"