Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Baltimore two cents, or three.

I'm on a quest lately to absorb as much information as possible about Coffee. The business, the culture, the product, etc. You see, I plan to own a little spot. Soon enough, meaning near future..I hope.

I'm excited to get a few tips from the cafes I work at. Mostly, what NOT to do. More importantly, my imagination gets to run wild in the quest of decor and taste. Homemade vs. store bought, organic and local vs. non, the cozy environment, the sounds...whatever it may be. I've created a small and tasty business in my mind.

I started work at this fun little spot between two neighborhoods in Baltimore. Hence the fusing of the name, Charmington's(Charles Village and Remington, get it?).It's a lone business in a mostly residential area. It's a somewhat struggling and gentrified location with yuppies, artsy types, students, long-time residents. I feel it represents the general theme of Baltimore, "We are trying, we are not quite there yet..but we are here." It's semi-optimistic, sometimes angry. My feeling about Baltimore is this: The way I feel about Detroit, its promise and potential, It comes from years of believing in something. Do I feel there's something special about Detroit? YES, absolutely. Would I feel that If I didn't grow up there? I'm not sure now. Does the adoration stem from a longtime love, A nourished love, an unconditional love? Maybe. That is how Baltimore is reflected back to me: Not always easy to love.

Young people are making it purposeful, enjoyable and using it as a wide open canvas. Long time residents seem to be shuffling by, sometimes barely living, feeling neglected. I seem to be focusing on the latter. And the latter IS a reality, a product of the city. At the end, I see the poverty, the struggle, the harmful and misplaced anger. I'm wondering with time if I will get it, " Ahhh, yes, Baltimore, you have that something." They have redeeming qualities, they do(I'm not trying to convince myself of that). But, you can't tell the story of a city like Baltimore without stating truths. Yes, they are trying to make it better, but don't put pretty little shades on. Don't make this city "the next brooklyn" because some late twenty-somethings opened a business. It's a steady ride, a work in progress. Allow it to be just THAT. It's totally okay, accept it. I applaud the journey to a better place to live. We see the effort and let's examine that effort years from now. A new story can hopefully be told then (this goes for you too, Detroit).

I don't want to shut my eyes to it and miss something great about this place. It's a regretful way of living. Maybe Charmington's will keep me alert. To remind me to appreciate my surroundings, for what they are and could be..sort of like, Detroit.

I do appreciate their coffee. Counter Culture, show me the way.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I like these.

Bottled up.

And this guy.

Alexandr Belozor paints on the bottom of the Black Sea near Yalta, during an attempt to create the largest underwater painting August 5, 2010. Belozor, 47, successfully created a 70 by 100 centimetres painting underwater while witnessed by a representative from Ukraine's national book of records. The record will be sent to the Guinness World Records for validation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New York, New York

I'm lucky to have affordable travel to pretty much any major east coast city(9 bucks on megabus!) Can I just rave about them? It was quick and comfy with a sassy bus driver. Use them.

New York City. I haven't been since my early 20s and I was itching to go to The West Village. They stole my heart. I think because my reading choices lately have been focused on young artists/writers/radicals in 1960s New York, I had created an unfair and outdated image in my head. One that Greenwich Village couldn't live up to. 50 years later, I could faintly sense the bohemian lifestyle in antique shop owners, delicious local bakers and overheard conversations with struggling musicians. The pages I read didn't portray the same Village, but I did feel a sense of preservation with certain locals. I spent my time listening, drinking coffee, window shopping, record and book hunting and eating...Oh, I ate. New York is delicious. My feet are aching and could tell a few stories of my 10 hour walking expedition.

If you go to West Village, 'SNice had fantastic organic coffee and a full menu of homemade vegetarian delights. They cook in the basement, so the smells of roasted cauliflower and tahini hit me whenever they walked by(which was often). The aromas literally brought me into this place. You won't regret it.

La Bonbonniere..I adore you. I was craving casual brunch food and saw two handsome 30 somethings sipping on espresso and sharing a cigarette outside....sold. It was subtly cool and comfortable, not to mention affordable and unpretentious. The cooks and waiters spoke to me in Spanish(I really need to learn since everyone assumes I'm from Cuba, Puerto Rico or Mexico). I take it as a very nice compliment..all stunning cultures and people.
I got a vegetarian omelette with mexican style house potatoes and coffee.Mmmmmmmm More coffee. I was on a blissful coffee buzz at this point. Perfect people watching with outdoor seating. Nothing fancy or chic and slightly dingy. Precisely why I loved it. I looked it up when I got home, and it's a neighborhood favorite. I chose well.

I did feel anxious in certain parts of Manhattan. Times Square was a personal hell. I don't need McDonald's in neon red lights or gargantuan billboards and advertising slapping me at every step. It was overwhelmingly nauseous and I kept wanting to jump on the train to escape. Luckily, I didn't spend a lot of time in Midtown. It was leaving a bad taste in my mouth and I didn't want to view my time there as awful. I regret not going to Brooklyn. I was limited with time, so my next trip is all about them! I wish I had taken more photos. Or had the best photographer and companion in my dear friend Es.

I got on the megabus and headed back to Baltimore. It was quiet for the first time in two days. It was as if everyone, simultaneously, had realized relief at the same moment. I will miss you New York.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

James Baldwin

I don't have a very regular schedule(good for me), so my sleep patterns are wildly off. But today, I felt pressed to wake up before 7 a.m. To be fair, it wasn't just the book. I couldn't keep my eyes closed anymore. But, I would like to believe that James Baldwin had something to do with it. Especially since the book was the first thing I reached for. Giovanni's Room was so troubling and astoundingly beautiful. Really, I'm wondering how he has escaped me all these years. It's okay though, I have so much to look forward to.

I woke up and finished the last 25 pages quickly. I felt sad reading the last couple paragraphs. I knew it would soon be over and I felt there was so much left to tell. Their story was complex, slightly unfinished and you had to be accepting of it. Baldwin has a way of keeping you there, in those moments where you, the reader, is so involved you are lost without those characters. A sense of loss and fulfillment fused together...

It's after 8 a.m. I'm still thinking about them and their room in Paris.

One more thing. Since blogging is self indulgent(me, me, me), I will be plugging my newest music reviews here and there. I've started to contribute to Impose Magazine. Have a read!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Missoni, I don't understand

Actually, I do. It's just...ugly.

I just peeked at their(Target) site for the first time since I've been reading about the website shutdown for the past 15 hours.

Someone bought this?

Girls, we have way better taste than this, right? The colors, the design, ugh. I had no idea it was this tacky. I've seen Missoni's clothing before and It wasn't quite this loud.

I'm gonna take a pass on this one.

Something NOT tacky from Northern Soul artist Donnie Elbert. Hey, sweet baby.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Park Treasures

I work across the street from the largest park in the state of Maryland. That's a made up fact. I have no idea if it's the largest park, but the mental image is astounding, isn't it? I will say it's pretty damn big and exceptionally beautiful.

I just realized how great it is this past weekend when they hold their monthly flea market! It's a massive and eccentric garage sale(sans garage) with close to 40 vendors.

I scored my man a 25 cent brass and copper buckle, a tiny wooden elephant(I'm attempting to build a small collection), Smokey Robinson and The Miracles early Tamla vinyl and this book. It's my bus ride read and If you think you know everything about Dylan, you don't. He was shy, sometimes too confident, romantic, stubborn, young and deeply in love for that moment. So far, it's a sweet peek into their first meeting and an exciting musical and idea bursting chapter in Greenwhich Village. I know I've mentioned this book before, but I just got my hands on it and I'm hoping it lives up to MY hype.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Alone music

When I'm home alone, I'm free to listen to every shitty 80s to early 90s song imaginable. It feels so good. There's no one here to explain it to. But if they are in the next room it just doesn't work the same. My dance routine just won't be as ..appreciated.

Pandora's Hall and Oates channel is guilty pleasure central. Listen and stay awhile.

I don't care if he's home(I do, he has a sweet face) but sorry. I wanna play Journey while I clean the room.

All day.

oh, steve perry.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stax Records

I've always been a big fan of everything Stax Records related. The Memphis label operated for a good 15 years before shutting its doors in 1975. It also shut the door on a significant time in soul music. A period that brought us Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, The Staple Singers..just to name a few.

They were the soul underdogs in many ways(Not to mention the Northern Soul that was brewing in England). Berry Gordy cornered the market with a more polished, aesthetically pleasing, radio friendly soul sound. The people agreed. But the people didn't always see what else was happening. That artists were and could be grittier. That the neat and highly successful Motown label had talent lurking and working in the background that just weren't be noticed passed Gordy's dollar sign dreams. What fit into his idea of the perfect radio hit. I guess it was basically a pre-cursor to what radio hits are measured against nowadays(MAIN DIFFERENCE: Motown artists(though polished) were extremely talented and had some of the best instrumentally talented backup musicians that music will know).

But Stax was here and Memphis had an army of voices that could not be denied. It was encouraging and exciting to see someone battle the biggest soul label.

Otis Redding would have turned 70 years old tomorrow. What would Otis be like now? I wonder. Still performing? Would there have been a time when people didn't love Otis Redding? It's weird to say I'm glad he never faded out because his potential was obviously endless. But a part of me is content that we are left with such a powerful legacy to admire. Even if it was short lived.

In the spirit of Stax Records and Otis Redding

And my new(ish)favorite Stax Tune. Pops did it right.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

So, When?

It's funny when we ask ourselves that. When is my life going to be different, more opportunities, more creative, etc? As if, someone comes knocking on your door to deliver the "your life is about to change" package. It's a lazy way to consider life and its possibilities and joys. I fall victim to this. Hard and loudly. I wait for freelance writing opportunities, when truthfully, I haven't done my part.

This blog kicks your ass.

She's right about my generation. We are dreamers with our eyes closed, living in the clouds above. We denounce "the man" but have a hard time working around him. We are slightly hypocritical about our values and beliefs. We are completely unsatisfied (as my mother would say) and somewhat lacking direction. BUT my generation is also creative and full of new and cutting edge ideas and we romanticize life In It's endearing simple steps. We just need to put all these things and ideas in a place. They don't have to fit perfectly, but It has to work for us.

And then I thought about him. Kris Kristofferson's 1970 debut album is packed with genius. Lyrics that knock you back.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Moving on?

Listen. I'm not rich. I appreciate cute and affordable clothing like any other gal, but I've read too many articles and blogs and seen too many "behind the scenes" clips. Forever 21, something ain't right.

Not to mention, the material sucks ( I know, I get what I pay for). But I'm tired of paying for shitty clothing, you know? I'm gonna (attempt) to subscribe to a better fit, better material, and maybe something a little more long lasting. And maybe something the 14 year old girl walking down the street isn't wearing.

I'm not trying to change your mind, by any means. I can't quit cold turkey If I tried.

They aren't the first and only corporation to exploit workers and certainly not the last.

But I can read this.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

More new.

I've been trying to find new songs, artists, books, publications, etc. Films have mostly been the new lately. Here are a few I've seen that I'd definitely recommend.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

First of all, Joan Rivers is typically never someone I would envision desiring to explore. She's obnoxious, tacky, frightening, obsessed with the shallow hollywood world..But you know what? Those characteristics kind of appealed to me too. I completely forgot how genuinely funny she is and how she truly is an iconic comedienne. I totally recommend this. It was heartbreaking, truthful, and hilarious. An extraordinary woman.

Another Year

This British film moves at a pretty slow pace. You are constantly waiting for something to happen. As if, something NEEDS to happen. The truth is, nothing explosive needs to happen. It's the story of their life, relationship and the people who share their life-their beautiful and somewhat ordinary life. Mike Leigh seems to nail the everyday in the most casual and human way. And that's what you'll enjoy about this film.

White Lightning

Jesco White is ..scary. The hillbilly, crude talking, mountain dancing West Virginian is an endless amount of shock and entertainment. This film is based loosely on events in his upbringing, boozing and maniacal life. I now understand the cult following in regards to this guy. It was an interesting(sometimes sad) and frightening peek into the life of a crazed Appalachian dancer who just wanted to make his daddy proud. Man, them hillbillies scare me.

Everlasting Moments

God, I loved this. I loved the photos she created, how she came to create them and the world it slowly shaped around her. So many tender images that are still vivid in my mind weeks after seeing it. I don't want to say any more. Please see this, and tell me after.

Lastly, I started watching this. I really want to embrace them. I've tried. I really have. There's something about Wilco that bothers me. Actually, there's something about Jeff Tweedy that bothers me. Is he arrogant? dull? hyped up? He sure as hell pukes a lot..

I actually really love watching the musical process take place. A hectic but sometimes serene production studio where a stunning phenomenon unfolds. Music is made. I dig all of that. But, I'm not feeling that yet. I'm halfway through, to be fair to the documentary. I'm not sure I'll make it.