All posts by Planet Noun

Friends get friends out of the house: Gallery dash for Obama portrait sightings worth the brief jaunt

SOMEWHERE IN THE DMV—Why in theeee WORLD does it sometimes take friends and family coming to visit before I venture out and about the these D.C., Maryland and Virginia streets?

When friends say they are coming into town and that they’d like to visit some spots around the city, that’s when I usually remember “OMG, I have zero idea what to show them!”

And then the internal questions: Should I show them this place? Should I show them that spot? Should I take them here… Or what about there? Will they think this is fun… Or will they fall asleep standing up?

via GIPHY

That was a recent predicament before a pal of mine came to town for business. Now, lookie here: I have lived in this area for a decade. And when Friend conveyed a desire to see parts of the town, I drew a blank.

It’s that whole idea of living somewhere for so long, you eventually slack off on exploring new local terrain on your own…and when you do, it’s because family member or pal visits the area. Well, maybe this isn’t your issue, so I won’t put my -ish on you, lol.

Weather woes
After wheel-traipsing around the National Mall monuments in pouring nighttime rain, and with more showers in the forecast, looking into an indoor activity option seemed a better bet for our next brief jaunt. Driving around trying to see the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the MLK Memorial can be pretty awe inspiring past the Golden Time of Day, but isn’t the best during inclement weather. Washington Monument is best for a drive-by view… but one needs to walk up to the Lincoln and MLK memorials to get the full visual and inspirational experience. T’wasn’t happening that weekday night.

Didn’t want to chance that idea again—especially on a Friday with rain forecasted… so the National Portrait Gallery it was.

I’ve seen the Obamas’ portraits reproduced online, so it really didn’t occur to me to visit them in person. But I figured Friend would want to see them—and I was right!

So we had a National touristy mission: to see the images of POTUS 44 and Michelle Obama, get to the MLK memorial if it wasn’t raining too hard, and to the airport. But I’m not here to talk about all of that—just the Gallery.

The Portrait Gallery is located in the Penn Quarter of D.C., which overlaps with the historic Chinatown neighborhood. The Gallery is right across the street from a major Metro stop (Gallery Place/Chinatown) and across from the Capital One Arena and less than a mile from the National Mall. Its really easy to find… and a walk to the Mall might be nice for a spring day, sans rain.

Anyhoo, our mission at the Portrait Gallery was accomplished quick-fast, thanks to the greeters at the Gallery’s door—this older brotha and sista. He reminded me of a loving uncle who crafted creative cussing combinations—the same one who would offer me popsicles at each visit—even when I was thirty-damn years old. Brotha-Unc pointed us upstairs and to the right before we could even form our lips to ask. We all had a good laugh over that. Thanks, Brotha-Unc and Aunty-Ma’am.

Up the stairs and to the right—Brotha Unc’s directions were spot on… To the presidential portraits… and it wasn’t too hard to find a line of folks waiting to see 44’s up close—and to snap photos.

After taking in portraits of Bill Clinton, which is on loan to the museum (I really liked his), JFK, and quick-peeping those of Daddy and Dubya Bush, Jimmy Carter, and quick glances at folks like William Howard Taft and Ronald Reagan, it was on to Ms. Michelle. We left the presidential portraits through a pod of youth wearing MAGA hats, then through a diverse showing of humanity… up the stairs… to the right… and merging with a casually, but thickly scattered group—each person, dyad, triad or more waiting for turns to behold Michelle’s portrait.

The young-us sometimes say representation gives them life. Methinks I know what that means. I felt it when I saw the Obama’s portraits. It’s a buoyancy that allows the spirit to take flight and soar… or just stamps a cheesy grin or hallelujah shout into your soul.

Info:
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Admission: Free-99!
Open 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. every day…well most days of the year.
If you go on Christmas Day, you’ll be SOL.
(Forgive me for that, Baby and Grownup Jesus…Amen.)

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Hitman tour leaves behind musical slayage in D.C.’s Warner Theater

WASHINGTON—God created music, dammit. I’m convinced. And he, she…or he and she…or it or them-there… they put a bunch of it on display last night when David Foster’s Hitman Tour hit D.C.’s Warner Theater.

David Foster is not, as James Comey might say, “out breaking legs and– you know, shaking down shopkeepers.” Nothing like that. This Hitman slays our hearts by taking shaped notes and cranking out hit after hit over decades—so many that you might not know how much this man’s musical footprint has pitter-pattered over your life’s soundtrack.

And it was a great show—aptly titled “An Intimate Evening with David Foster.”

An intimate feel it had with the Warner Theater’s ornate architecture and cozy seating.

Foster accompanied all of us down memory lane with with a team of fantabulous singers. They were EXCELLENT. “I wish I could sing like that,” Foster joked during the set, “then I wouldn’t need them.” He did croon lines from some of his beloved hits as well. And he’s needed, because no one can write what he writes how he writes it.

LAWDY-BE it was a good show! I just hope the adorable 70-something year old blonde lady sitting next to me didn’t think I was too loud when I got all happy and started shouting “YAAAAASSSSS” like I was up in church or something. She didn’t complain.

She also didn’t look 70. But she did tell me she retired from the CIA. #random

Sooooo… I’m a little biased about which of Foster’s guests I enjoyed most. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed them ALL. Fernando Varela and Pia Toscano can sing like NOBODY’s business! Whew! But Shelea blew the roof off the motha-sucka!

“I don’t understand why someone like her doesn’t have a show in her own right. She’s good,” CIA seat-neighbor told me.

“Best of all,” I replied, “she’s a genuinely nice person.”

Of course, of all the people on that stage, she’s the only person I have any experience with…  I don’t count the 25 seconds I stood next to David Foster–long enough to take a photo after a session at the NAB Radio Show in San Francisco in…2000, I think. Still have that photo somewhere… ##random

Lookie-here
The Hitman tour isn’t over. There are still some dates coming up in Florida. If you’re nearby—or not—airplanes still work, lol!

And if you can’t make it, just Google samples of Varela, Toscano, and Shelea. If you ever see them live—methinks it’ll be worth it.

Shelea:

Fernando Varela:

Pia Toscano:

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Netflix release explores a modern-day heretic’s journey to spiritual liberation in “Come Sunday”

NOT HEAVEN—OR HELL–So. What happens when the faith you’ve had for years slams into the realization that “it ain’t necessarily so?”

What happens when the faith you’ve cultivated or the spoon-feedings you’ve accepted since youth crashes head-on with a musing-turned hard-core question: “what if we’re getting it all kinds of wrong?”

And what happens if you share your changing views with folks who aren’t ready or willing to give another perspective mental due process?

Come Sunday, a recent Netflix release produced by This American Life  (yes, the WBEZ originated show and podcast) is about all of that. Bishop Carlton Pearson was an evangelical rock star…until he shared questions with his mega-church congregation about what he saw as a biblical contradiction…. Namely the subject of God’s love vs. what his church taught about the existence of an eternally burning hell… and the idea that all who don’t believe and accept Jesus as savior are doomed to roast in the afterlife. He couldn’t reconcile a loving God with teachings about an eternal rotisserie. Pearson says he heard God’s voice say Jesus is enough for all the world’s salvation, even those who don’t ever hear his name… which led him to figuratively say, dammit to hell. Pearson tossed the hellfire doctrine from his trove of beliefs and embraced a new theological worldview—the Gospel of Inclusion. This American Life told his story in a 2005 episode that was entirely dedicated to sharing his story.

And his chu’ch* folks weren’t having it. I don’t want to tell all the ups and downs of the story, but let’s just say he was an outcast’s outcast. Pearson is convincingly played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and his minister of music at that time, Reggie, is played by Lakeith Stanfield (Selma).

It’s a convincing story, to me, because I can relate to the journey and realization that yes—you may still believe…but you know you can no longer abide by all of the ways in which you were taught to believe…when your views of right and wrong are being encased in a chrysalis, surrounding you with mid-life metamorphosis… but you aren’t quite ready to tell all…Definitely not to anyone who might dissuade your self-inquisition.

Pearson didn’t have that luxury. He, convinced it was God’s voice, was compelled to tell his congregation. After all, as a purveyor of “Good News,” how could he stay silent and smother what was so liberating to his spirit? He lost his church and more before it was all over. His journey is depicted as rough and tear-stained, but the consequence seems to be a peaceful conscience.


*bet you didn’t know chu’ch was a contraction for church. Not really–but it exists now. Say it.  Chu’ch.

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Should I get down and derby?

(PLANET EARTH) — Sometimes work takes me to unexpected places. So a couple of months ago, in the cold-@$$ clutches of winter, I met a few ladies with no pants on.

My pants were on. I was working, yo. Yes, I understand that some professions don’t require pants—but this wasn’t that. Hark! Retrievest thy mind from the gutters.

So every year in the cold-stale crust of winter, folks get together to ride subways around their respective cities. With no pants on.

I’ve had the vicarious joy of covering this event at work for two years in a row.

Even though the three ladies were riding the Metro in their underwears (shout-out to little kids who say it plural because—two leg holes), it was for a kinkyless purpose.

The trio was from the Free State Roller Derby team, and they were pretty kind and friendly. We chatted, I got some sound for work, passed out a business card or two.

Months later, one of them dropped me an email inviting me to cover their season opener in Rockville, Md.–and a reminder to think about joining the league.

So I pitched the season opener story idea to the weekend managing editor–and it was a go!

Here’s what I learned in a nutshell—FSRD is almost nine years old, and they have a training program for newbies to get acclimated to derby-style skating. The new folks are called Fresh Meat, and before they can bout, they have to be able to skate a certain number of laps around the derby track—I think it’s 27 or so. Fresh Meat members are also taught other things, including how to fall–kind of like boxing, where you’re taught how to take a punch.  They assess their skills before letting them join a bout.

A couple of the ladies I spoke to said they were turned on to roller derby from the Drew Barrymore-directed movie Whip It. I’ve never seen it, but I must do so after the raves I heard today!

So question is… Should I try to join the league? It’s been several years, but I know I can hold my own on some skates…but derby style? I’d probably fracture my whole clumsy body. I’ve been described as lithe and graceful, but do not be deceived. Clumsy has always tread just beneath the surface.

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On My Block: A peek into the neighborhood with humor and gravitas

(LA -LA STATE OF MIND)—Hometown is a big place for me. Heck, I’m from Los Angeles. Ain’t nothin’ small about it. I live in the DC area now, but whenever I get homesick and am stuck between plane tickets, count on me looking for movies with those damn trees in the air.

But the Netflix series called On My Block dropped into my lap instead. And I let it stay awhile. The opening track by Daye Jack had me at hello.

On My Block immediately gave me the Friday feels—with a lado de la vida en South Central Los Angeles. And the first two minutes hooked me.

However, and this doesn’t happen often, nine minutes in, my thoughts degraded quick-fast. “This show is corny AF. What’s up with this dialogue. Ain’t no way these characters come up out the hood,” I scrunched my face.

Continue reading On My Block: A peek into the neighborhood with humor and gravitas

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EPISODE 6 – This Virgin ain’t plain, homely or boring | Interview with Skarlet Beverage Company founders

Life is filled with so much beauty and artistry.
From word play…
To picture play, painter’s creations—whether they be a portrait, landscape, still life.. or walls.
To tapestries hung on a rod or fine linens clothing the insides of a room.
Food—also art.
So is drink.
That’s where my next guests come in–founders of the Skarlet Beverage Company.
They’re bringing some spice to the world of upscale virgin drinks.
I learned about their business on my Facebook page. Full disclosure—I went to school with them… lost track after graduation—and reconnected via Facebook.
If you haven’t heard of Skarlet Beverages… Now you have.

Coming soon. Are you on the list?

A post shared by Skarlet Beverage Company (@skarletbeverageco) on

So how did they get started along this path? Well let’s join a conversation with the couple who’s making it happen–Skarlet Beverage Company founders Dean and Alecia Dennis:

Subscribe:

Or listen here:

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Erotic poetry to keep your Valentine steamy all year long–a chat with Rare Epiphany

There’s nothing like good talks with longtime friends.

Those conversations between decades-old pals can sometimes get pretty personal and… adult.

Especially if your friend has written a book of erotic poetry.

If you don’t know, you’re about to find out…about Atlanta-based poet Rare Epiphany.

Order her already-published books here.

Rare/Pam keeps a constant stream of writing activities on her docket.

“I have a cookbook coming, too, as soon as I learn how to measure,” she tells Planet Noun.  “I’m a classic Southern cook. I don’t measure anything. I just sprinkle ’till the spirit of my ancestors say ‘Enough my child.’”

She’s also working on a poetic autobiography and a second book of erotic poetry. Her projects include a collection titled “Think.”

“It’s funny, because the main script for think was done before Soul Kisses was done. I just never released [it]. And I figured there’s a reason for that, so I gotta go back through and try to look through it and figure out what’s going on [with] “Think.”

That project, Rare says, is built on a series of writing challenges.

“I specifically ask people, when I don’t feel like I’m writing enough, I’ll ask for challenges. So it can be a word challenge. Give me 10 words, and I’ll take those 10 words and…build a piece around these 10 words. Or I’ll say give me a song. And I’ll write a poem based on how the song makes me feel, or the story of the song, where it takes me. It can [also] be a quote–something to kind of push a poem out, and that is how a lot of Soul Kisses was written,” Rare adds.

I”m always working on some project or another.  And then I’ll get pulled into another project, and then I’ll get pulled into another project. And sometimes I just need a breather from something like the autobiography,” Rare says, which is psychologically taxing project because it delves into her entire history, which includes being sexually abused as a young girl.

When her pen needs break, she opts for happier writing projects.

“Let me write about rainbows and unicorns and stuff.  Feel good about life,” she muses.

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They want to set you up with a solid stylist and a fly ‘do

Hey there! Happy New Year! Happy Black History Month! Happy Month of Love! Welcome to Planet Noun Episode FOUR.

So this one’s about HAIR.  And a couple of women who saw a void and are working to fill it by creating an app.

It’s called Swivel—and one of their missions is to get folks connected with quality hair stylists.

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Memorable afternoons sans pants

Every so often I really love how I spend an afternoon. Today, I got to observe and follow dozens of people who took part in DC’s 2018 version of The No Pants Subway Ride.

Every year for the past decade or so, DC Improv has hosted its own iteration of the No Pants Subway ride which started in New York in 2002 as a prank by a group of guys.

Now, it’s held in January in several cities around the globe—all on the same day.

And today was cold AF. See, a good portion of the East Coast is trying to wriggle it self free from a cold snap that has gripped it by the throat for the past week or so.

I can’t say I know what it’s like to ride public transportation in my panties. And I can’t say that I will ever find out what that is like. Knowing how I am wired, that probably t’ain’t neva gon’ happen.

But what I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed watching a diverse group of human beings… Of different races, ethnicities, I’m guessing they all held different beliefs, jobs and the like… But as one person I spoke to today told me… They’re all just “weird” enough to do something like this and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

It was cool to recognize a few faces from last year. Like the blogger from Baltimore, the guy who dressed up as a character from The Walking Dead, and the older gentleman who is a self-described nudist.

And there are the folks I met this year—the roller derby ladies, the man toting a briefcase who was mostly dressed for work except pants, and the woman who participated to celebrate her 45th birthday.

Good times!

Nah, I may never drop my pants to ride Metro in my drawers, but I definitely appreciate folks who have the courage to do so.

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Podcast Episode 3–Bonus: Balikbayan boxes–care packages in reverse

Greetings! Merry post-Christmas, pre-New Year! Here’s a bonus episode of Planet Noun to end the year!

It’s an interview I found so interesting and relevant to the holidays, I couldn’t wait! I adore learning new things, and this was definitely newly-interesting!

Question: What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

When my siblings and I were younger, my parents would always pack a brown paper lunch sack with natural treats…. an apple…an orange… unshelled walnuts, pecans and almonds. One of my parents even snapped a photo of me dancing around our green shag-carpeted living room holding one of those bags on Christmas Day in 19-something-ty something.

That’s an example of a received gift. But what about family traditions surrounding gift-giving to others? What about traditions involving family members who are far away—separated not only by land, but oceans?

Well, I learned something new in this interview with Illinois based photographer and artist Jason Reblando. He wrote a piece for CityLab about special boxes that members of the Filipino diaspora send home each year for Christmas. They’re called balikbayan boxes.

That was Illinois-based photographer and artist Jason Reblando. Find more about what he learned about balikbayan boxes in this piece he wrote for CityLab.

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