Monday, December 8, 2014

Charmed by Charm City: Baltimore, MD

I went to Baltimore and immediately became a member of the Lithuanian Hall Association.

Wait. Let me back up.

I went to Baltimore to dance, and eat, and see friends. We happened to arrive on a Save Your Soul night, where DJs were playing classic soul tracks off vinyl.

This party was hosted at a Lithuanian cultural center, and I don't know, I had to buy a membership for like $5 to get in.

The jams were sweet. The beer was cheap. I tried Zhiguly and wow that was a sweet and strong beer. Wow.

It was maybe a little difficult to wake up the next day, but the 32nd Street Farmers Market helped.


Mine had roasted pears and sage. But pork loin was also an option.

From there to the Holiday Craft Heap, one of two craft fairs put on by Creative Alliance that weekend (and yes, I went to both.)

Even though it rained much of the weekend, just walking around Baltimore was great for me. Charles Village is, well, charming. ALL THE ROWHOUSES, THO.

Unofficial Tour: THE SINKHOLE:

Actually, I think this was Federal Hill! Pretty, even in the rain.

That night I fell in love with The Charles arthouse movie theatre. Walked into Whiplash without knowing anything about the film. It was great, but very intense. It fit in with a lot of what I've been reading and thinking about lately, namely, people's passions and drive (and the question of when an obsession goes too far.)

I read Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler practically in one sitting, and it was wonderful to get wrapped up in her passions for comedy, improv, writing, directing, and other people. She made me want to steep myself in words that I love.

We listened to Serial on the drive down, and man, I am so hooked on this investigative journalism podcast! I usually don't feel drawn to Real Crime stories, but Sarah Koenig makes every tidbit of a heartbreaking murder trial from 15 years ago come alive and feel immediate and relatable. And she does make asides about the pieces of the case that bother her, and chide herself for poring over details that may not be relevant, and wonder if she's prying too much. But I always want more!

And then, Whiplash. It's gritty and nerve-wracking to watch an ambitious first-year music student push himself to his limits to perform, and force himself to make almost inhuman sacrifices for his craft.

After that we needed a drink on Hampden (after driving by the block lit up for Christmas, twice!)

Gotta try the local specialties! Natty Boh is like a sweeter Baltimore PBR. Hmm.

Sunday brunch is a passion of mine, and Miss Shirley's Cafe did not disappoint.

The monkey bread was sweet and chocolate-drenched... but I maybe shouldn't have gotten a sweet entree AFTER that. Whoops!

Cheese Danish Pancakes

Coconut Cream French Toast

ONE MORE CRAFT FAIR! Merry Mart was hosted at the Creative Alliance building in Patternson Park. The sun was finally out and it felt great to walk around.

They had a photo booth! Much photos.

Hit the road back to Jerz. Definitely a great adventure.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thankful, Thankful, Thankful

I am thankful I was able to be surrounded by my immediate family, and that everyone made it to Thanksgiving dinner safely in spite of a weird November snowstorm.

I am thankful that games are such a big part of my family life. Telestrations has led us down some weird and winding paths:

I am thankful I am dating someone awesome who once helped me make the Shield of Hyrule out of cardboard but who can allegedly make rainbow cookies from scratch THOUGH I HAVEN'T SEEN ANY EVIDENCE OF THAT YET JUST SAYING.


I am thankful that Friendsgivings happen, and that my contribution of vegan lasagna was well-received and also made my car smell like a pizza. Mmm, pizza.

I am so happy I spend time with friends who have playlists filled with En Vogue.

And who cook feasts for friends and share their families' leftovers.

And who dance, and dance, and dance.

More from the '90s mix. Hey Jealousy!

Friday, November 21, 2014

"I'm still totally confused about poetry and about living" -- Olena Kalytiak Davis

Olena Kalytiak Davis signs her newest collection at a NYU Creative Writing Program Reading, 11/20/14.

A windblown day. A hop-the-bus after workday in Jersey day. A crawl up the spiral parking garage, feed the meter, wait for NJ Transit ticket to unstick from the machine day.

But then you're off! The sun sets and the bus lights don't work. Can't read, can't write, but that's fine--talk and catch up. Wallow in traffic, realize Port Authority is way out the way from the Village, so convince bus driver to let you jump off early. (I never convince bus drivers. I leave that work to more charming people.)

Search for a hot cut of coffee, pass the Bobbi Brown store, swoon, Oh, lipstick! Your event is starting but oh, oh, oh this one is pink. A clay, a rose, a pretty pretty pretty.

But, coffee! Oh, coffee! Large, Black. Thanks.

We got there! We found it! We... can't get in! We can hear through the windows but the sign on the top door says, "Reading in Progress. Please use the basement steps."

But the door to those steps is locked!

I think, How funny, if we listen from below. I'll stay in the cold.

Some people are charmed, and when they knock, are let in. I just follow them around, grinning.

Jericho Brown is warm, charming, magnetic. I'm new to his work and just soak it in.

We came there for Olena.

I understand we live in the age of YouTube, but I have never seen her read. Like her work, her speaking style is frantic, scattered--unlike her work, when she speaks she leaves one idea for the next, quickly. She rarely finishes one thought. Her accent is, delightfully, Alaskan. (I imagined she'd have a dark, smoky Eurpoean sound. But this is so much better.)

She immediately admitted she was confused. Her 2003 book is being reprinted, her newest collection drops next week. She worries she's devolving, that this new collection isn't as good.

She's not sure she should write poetry anymore. She's not sure anyone should write poetry anymore.

(The remarkable thing is not that she has all these doubts. The remarkable thing is that she shares them with us.)

She's fixated on some ideas from one short story out of a collection she can't even pronounce the title of. She reads this author's work to us instead.

She reads new work and it is searing and honest. It leaves one audience member concerned about the author committing suicide. ("But it's a nice poem," the audience member assures her. Probably not a case where it's worth it to start the "the art is not the artist" conversation, huh.)

The reading is short and leaves us jittery. It's cold but we walk around and shake things out and find a Paleo cafe where they make us pricey, Paleo food (I thought they were supposed to hunt/gather it?) and we write, and write, and shake and write.

The bus to New Jersey rocks us to sleep. We are spent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Brunch and Brew City

I went back to Milwaukee to visit people. (Admittedly, I didn't even come close to seeing all the people I love. It was a short trip. I'll be back.)

I got in late Friday night and was greeted by a Midnight Dairy Buffet--cheese curds, frozen custard, om nom nom.

Sunday brunch is a MUST.

Even though it was snowing and the sun set at 4:30 p.m., I had to walk after brunch.

I walked from Juneau Park to Colectivo at the Lake. Back in my day it was called Alterra, but the vibe hasn't changed.

I used to walk six miles from the Marquette campus to visit this cafe. Epic Walks are a part  of me now, but I learned this about myself in college.

This trip made me wonder things like: would I be the same person today if I'd gone to a different university? Would I have eventually learned to take long walks, cook, read novels cover-to-cover, and live in bohemian cafes in another location?

I don't know. But I discovered these things in Milwaukee, so it will always be special to me.

I feel so lucky that Milwaukee and the people I loved there shaped me. I will always carry those four years with me and be proud of who I grew into there.

Two cafes I hung out in were playing Arcade Fire. So hip, MKE, so hip.

On my last day in town I walked around Bayview--though it was 17 degrees out!

Ahh, the Milwaukee Public Market, which I loved from its opening weekend my sophomore year. More great vendors have moved in since, and it was a great place to drink rose tea and warm up.

The art museum was closed that day. It was a foreboding sight in the snow.

Ended my stay in Riverwest.

I would like to tell a Riverwest Co-op story: I walked in through the 17-degree weather and my face was so chapped it was red. My hands hurt, even though I was wearing gloves.

I asked if they sold any hand lotion, but it had to be in a 3-oz-or-less bottle because I was about to get on a plane. They didn't have anything like that for sale, but dusted off an old free sample tester and let me take it for free. It was a beeswax lavender lotion, and it was so comforting I could have cried.

I almost couldn't tear myself away from People's Books Cooperative, especially this ZINE LIBRARY:

But I did. I made my flight and came home, to do many things, but also, to make zines with kids: