Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cuba Libre

Last night my girl and I hit an Afro-Cuban concert by Jose Conde y Ola Fresca at the Neighborhood Theatre in NoDa.  This was the last thing I expected to come through Charlotte, so I was incredibly surprised when she told me about it.   image0-1

NoDa is very similar to Coconut Grove for those familiar with Miami.  It's a cool spot people flock to surrounded by neighborhoods of questionable pedigree.  We made sure that directions were printed going to and from this theater.  With Charlotte's propensity to change road names and the bevy of one way streets in that area, we couldn't be too careful. 

Finding the place was no problem and we explored the area having arrived so early.  By happy coincidence we drove by a vintage shop a friend of ours owns called The Rat's Nest.  I say coincidence because every time we had previously gone to this place was at night, following someone else and a little tipsy.  We stopped by to chat, having not seen her in well over a year.  While shooting the shit customers came and went.  One pair piqued our interest due to the girl having a very nice tattoo on her shoulder.  Ra complimented her on it and we all began talking.  Seems this couple had just recently moved up from Miami.  We told them about the show we were going to see, suggesting they swing by as well. 

Saying goodbye to the Rat's Nest, we grabbed our tickets for the show and wandered around looking for a quick bite.  Bellies filled with Boar's Head sandwiches we ambled back to the theater.  The crowed was a healthy mix of all demographics.  Old, young, latin,white, black and then some.  Even though it may be odd to say, it was a refreshing change of pace going to a public show where everyone wanted to enjoy it.  Too many times things like this (or movies, festivals, etc) are ruined by obnoxious fuckers who paid to get in, but completely disregard the event.  I still don't understand that mind set, but that's another post altogether.

In typical fashion it started half an hour late (which is actually early in Cuban time).  They kicked it off with a strong intensity which carried through the entire night, even in their softer paced songs.  Everyone was really into the vibe, all jamming to the music in their own way.  Some seated, some standing and some tearing it up with their dance partners.

The energy from the crowd, rhythms filling the air, bodies on the dance floor caught up in the moment.  Savoring it all I realized just how much I miss Miami.  Not the place as much as the feel of it.  The heat, the Caribbean flavor, the joie de vivre unlike anywhere else.  At the same time I was sad.  Here I am a painfully un-latin Cuban far removed from my cultural roots.  My spanish is rusty, my dancing is rusty, my homeland ties tenuous at best.  As much as I was loving their incredible performance, it made me keenly aware how incomplete I felt.  Made me think of how the embargo might not lift in time for me to be able to visit Cuba with my father.  How with the passing of my grandmother there are pieces of my history I will never know, whole sections of family lost to her memory. 

Cuban-Americans are a displaced people and I should be used to these feelings, but it doesn't make it any easier to bear.  With every passing year I feel less and less of my heritage being a part of what makes me who I am.  This erosion slips subtly under my perception, its full extent revealed only when I look inward.  My life is a good one filled with love and success, but this pain I feel is in my blood.  I don't want to become a diluted caricature claiming a background I scarcely understand.  The symptoms of this occurring are tangible and my fear of it coming to pass genuine.

Since leaving South Florida, the only time I've felt that same flavor was when hanging out with the Columbians in Windsor.  That warmth and acceptance made me feel at home.  Made me comfortable in my old mannerisms, ones that I had to suppress in our less boisterous, less touchy, colder surroundings.  In no other place outside of SoFla had we encountered a pocket of heat like that.  I find it funny we had to cross the Atlantic to find it.

Introspection aside, the night was fantastic.  We bumped into the Miami couple during a break.  One a New Yorker, the other Columbian we were chatting away like old friends.  While leaving the venue they convinced us to have one last drink, unwilling to relinquish their newfound compatriots.  Drinks were imbibed, hands flying wildly as we shared our tales.  Even though geographically they're a little outside our realm (Concord) it'll be cool to have a liked minded young couple to hang out with.  Our last young couple divorced rather messily leaving a gap we have yet to fill.

I picked up a shirt (5 bucks for American Apparel is a steal) and a CD.  Normally I'm not one to purchase CD's but knowing the proceeds went straight to the band removed any qualms I had.  This kind of multicultural flavor is something Charlotte will need to embrace more heavily as it grows into the hot spot it wants to be.  Hopefully this is part of a larger trend and not only limited to the freaky deaky parts of town.

Friday, May 30, 2008

One sentence to get me started

One of the weird ways my writing works is that a single sentence can spawn an entire post, short story or even novella.  A lot of times this is some of my best writing, filled with an energy fueled by the muse briefly visiting me.  If I keep churning the creative pot these sentences bubble to the surface more often.  When I don't flex my mental muscles they are as common as unicorns.

One of my last posts was spawned from "a towheaded Englishman stuck in our sub-tropic land" which actually came from an un-posted piece I wrote because "my first girlfriend, who was a bit of a fag hag..." popped into my head while showering.

A piece I wrote a while back sprung to fruition from "and then I woke up."  I'm still debating whether or not to put that one up.  I would love for it to be published but have no idea where to submit it.  Hopefully the 1000 word a day challenge will keep the kettle boiling with ideas, making these one sentence wonders a more frequent occurrence. 

Thursday, May 29, 2008

B-Day Wrap Up

Yesterday went just as well as I had hoped.  Low key, fun and with a couple of nice surprises. 

As per usual, my girl baked an incredible cake.  Not only was it a giant cupcake cake, but there was an assortment of chocolate star cakes all around it, each one filled with candy. 


And here it is after I blew out all the candles.  I truly am one lucky SOB.


My B-day lunch was good with at least one surprise guest, Gimpus Maximus.  Playing catch up with some of them I realized that several people thought I was still in the UK.  My last gig was back in March, but I guess the word hasn't gotten around yet.  Being mostly work colleagues it was a mellow affair.  Thankfully my half of the table was where all the deviants and non-work folks were.  Much more interesting conversations.

Dinner was even better.  Girlie and I went out to McCormick & Schmick's.  Since she had booked the reservation via OpenTable the restaurant was aware of my birthday.   Being our first time to this place we didn't know that they printed the menus twice a day (once for lunch, once for dinner).  What was especially cool about this was that the menus they gave us wished me a happy birthday =)

The meal itself was amazing.  I tried Halibut and Chilean Sea Bass for the first time.  Everything tasted incredible and one of the managers gave us free desert in honor of my day.  Overall the experience was superb.  I'm looking forward to coming back for future date nights with the misses.

As if the day couldn't get any better, my lovely wife gave me one hell of a surprise gift.  Delving deep into my interests she pulled out a left field gift that was 50% awesome and 50% unexpected.  In the very near future I will experience a live performance by THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS!  Yes, being excited about that makes me a super duper mega nerd, but I don't give a shit.  I've been listening to them since I first encountered them in High school and Tiny Toons.  

For those with no idea what I mean by that last comment check out the following:

Particle Man

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

I had a wonderful day, some twists and a spectacular lady to make it truly memorable. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Today is my "golden birthday"

For those unfamiliar with the term, a "golden birthday" is when the person turns the age of the day they were born.  In my case, I'm turning 28 on the 28th.  Even though the timing is special, I'm taking a laid back approach to the day.  Around the same time last year I had a going away/B-day party at Ru San's put together by my lovely lady.  It was a ton of fun culminating with non-stop dancing at the aptly named 80's club "The Breakfast Club".  A lot has changed since then and we've been through the ringer several times as well, so all I want for this birthday is something low key. 

What I will do to commemorate the special day is set a goal for my next year of living.  Work, life, time and a myriad of other excuses have been used for my procrastination with writing.  Even though my day to day is of a technical nature, my true love has always been the written word.  Fearing abject poverty and hunger, I never pursued it as a viable career.  Yet I honestly feel unfulfilled by not exercising my right brain instincts. 

With that in mind, I have challenged myself to write at least 1000 words per day for an entire year.  A total of 365,000 words from birthday to birthday.  Either posted or written privately, I need to keep up this level of output just to prove to myself that I have it in me. 

This is the first time I've ever attempted this sort of thing.  All my fingers and toes are crossed in anticipation.  I have a year of possibility waiting ahead.  Wish me luck ;)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I reminisce for a spell, or shall I say think back...

Growing up in Miami you encounter a lot of flotsam.  This nonstop playground had an incredibly transient nature to it.  People from all over the world and all walks of life flocked to it seeking a taste of its foretold treasures.  One particular piece of debris I had the pleasure of encountering was a towheaded Englishman stuck in our sub-tropic land.  His holiday excursion turned into an illegal residence due to a combination of feminine wiles and insufficient funds.  Trapped in a cage of his own devising, he slept on his girl's couch while working under the table Mexican style jobs.  I first met him at a local pool hall I worked at.  He was inebriated, as were most of our patrons, dipping frequently into the well whiskey affectionately referred to as rotgut.  Being the Londoner he was, walking long distances in this state was not uncommon.  What he failed to realize was that it was exceedingly dangerous in this new land.  If it wasn't the pedestrian unfriendly neighborhood designs, it was the bevy of unsavory characters waiting to exploit debilitated people wandering around in the AM's.  After relaying to me a tale in which he was almost "cruised" the last time he staggered home, I offered to give him a ride.  Chatting while driving we became fast friends.

At the time his circle of friends was limited to the girl who's couch he surfed, her mom, and the guys at his short order cook gig.  With me as his guide, we dived into the late 90's South Florida club scene.  The Brit and the Cuban were an interesting pair trying out our tricks on an unsuspecting populace.  His bowler hat and accent, my club kid clothes and piercing's.  The surreal nature of our nights often extended past our obvious juxtaposition.  Drug dealers with Dalmatian seat cover pimp suits, nymphomaniac Nicaraguan sisters, more lesbians than you can shake a stick at.  Our drunken mood altered evenings were memorable to say the least.  Even when the clubs grew stale we continued exploring the nooks and crannies of the nightlife.  A country dive bar hidden in a strip mall was a frequent resting place along with the adventure starting pool hall.  Sometimes we'd gather other soldiers attacking late night eateries with ravenous hunger and painfully inappropriate conversation laced with chocolate chip pancakes.  Our friendship began to fade as his attachment to the owner of the couch increased.  The proverbial on again/off again relationship, he eventually got sucked into it full force.

The last I heard of him he was getting engaged to that girl.  Perhaps it was a ploy to remain legitimately in the country?  Maybe he was truly ensnared by her charms?  Either way he floated out of my life the same way he had washed up, slowly and quietly another piece of jetsam in the turbulent Miami seas.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach

I am living proof of that.  My girl who knows me all too well, started Memorial day with a super breakfast explosion.  Words do not do it justice.  First, here's the entire spread...

Breakfast Spread 001

As you can see below, tasty southwestern style hash browns with a small mountain of toast.

Breakfast Spread 002 

Coupled with pancakes, cheese omelette, turkey sausages and tomatoes.

Breakfast Spread 003

All that with the usual assortment of jams, butter, cheeses (cream & farmer) and syrup.  Topped off with a glass of yummy milk and the engine oil I lovingly refer to as Cuban Coffee (yes it needs to be capitalized, its that damn good)

Breakfast Spread 004

After devouring everything in sight I promptly entered a food coma.  I for one cannot think of a better way to start the day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Boot to the Head!

Video game characters + comedy group recording = friggin' hilarious

I wish probate really was this fun.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Reason #245860 I Love My Girl

Yummy Breakfast 05-18-08

Yummy Sunday Morning Breakfast

Delicious omelette (cracked pepper turkey, jarlsberg cheese, spinach with tomatoes on top) & perfectly toasted wheat bread with margarine.  It was so damn good I had to share.

That is all =)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Today is one of those days I love

Days like this make me happy to live in Charlotte.  Bright blue sky with a fiercely strong sun.  Cool breeze blowing through.  Driving down winding roads, all windows down, listening to fantastic tunes (Venus Hum/Blue Man Group - I Feel Love).

Its my little moment of Zen, bringing calm to a troubled mind.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Re-Cut Trailers

While chatting with a film student friend of mine we discussed how editing and pacing affect stories.  You can find examples of this in many DVD extras (the "Fight Club" collectors edition is packed with them), behind the scenes footage or alternate takes. They go a long way in showing how simple little changes can completely re-arrange a film. 

You can also find great representations of this in re-cut trailers of classic films.  YouTube is littered with them, but here are some solid entries.


Mary Poppins


A Christmas Story


Now turning family/comedy films into horror is easy, but to pull it off in the other direction takes talent.  Here's my favorite clip of that.


The Shining


There seems to be an entire niche community around re-cutting trailers.  I'm all for folks flexing their creative muscles by taking the known into unknown territory.  Sometimes playing with someone else's work helps spark the creativity in your own.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A little funny for the weekend

YouTube - Akon Calls T-Pain

What happens when the two most vocoded voices in music come together... with some butternut reduction.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Wandering Thoughts

I stare off into the trees watching the wind twist them. Trying to decode the message in the rustling leaves. The clouds taking no notice of the secret knowledge being shared. A pale blue sky washing over everything.

The quiet settles me, soothing a mind too busy, too hurried. These soft moments are easily overlooked. Drowned out by the constant stream of modern reality. Incessant white noise cramming itself into us. No time for quiet in our lives. No time for thoughts turned inward. Unexamined lives making unexamined decisions leading to unremarkable fates. Making the motions isn't pantomime it’s all we have.

A world so uneasy with quiet.  Better to mask it with comfortable clamor because the devil you know… Potential is frightening. Difference unsettling. The herd providing security which so many crave.

Yet dancing on the leaves is the raw energy of possibility. Calling out to those willing to take a calm moment to listen to the silence.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Credit theft without taking the card

I had something very interesting happen to me today.  After work I went with my girl to the mall to pick out clothes for a photo shoot.  The first place we hit was Bebe, where she found a couple of cute things.  When she went to pay using her Mastercard, the transaction was "referred to the merchant".  That's odd?  So I tried mine, since our cards are tied to the same account, to make sure it wasn't the card itself.  Mine was also "referred".  Strange indeed.  I switched cards, purchased the goods and was on my way.

After dinner I thought about giving the CC company a call to see what was up.  I was surprised by what I heard.  Seems my card had been placed on surveillance due to some abnormal charges.  We went through my most recent transactions checking one by one.  Four popped up that were completely wrong (totaling over $3,000) and coming from a Kmart in Las Vegas.   The kicker is that I had the card in my possession.  Someone had gotten a hold of my number, created a "ghost card" then tried to buy stuff.

You always hear those kinds of stories, but it was one hell of a shock to have it happen to me.  I called the Kmart to let them know what had happened.  Tomorrow I'll follow up with their loss prevention people and attempt to track down the culprits.  Armed with the exact transaction amounts and times gives them an edge in matching the tapes.  From there they will take it to the police and the rest is history.

Thankfully I'm not directly damaged by their nefarious deeds.  In this case, the credit card company did me right.  No matter how careful you are these days someone will find a way to steal your shit.