My Trip to Atlanta – Part One

September 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

IMG_1269.JPGMy trip to Atlanta was exhilarating. I navigated two airports, a train system, and bus routes – all things I have not done in a long, long time.  I learned about five square miles of a city I’d never been to by walking.  Sometimes on purpose, and sometimes because I was hopelessly lost.  Traveling with a flip phone in a smart phone society is a whole different ball game than traveling an unknown city in the days of payphones and paper maps. People saw me holding a real map and not utilizing GPS and there was much commentary, and confusion by others on how to read it as it doesn’t flip itself around and identify your location for you.  Even now, the word processor is telling me that the word payphone can not be pluralized.  (When did that become a thing?)  But I’m fairly certain there’s no other way to describe more than one.

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My Pet Rock. I patted it every day on my walk to the AmericasMart.

I was pretty excited about the MARTA rail system.  I’ve missed riding the rail since I moved from Dallas. Public transportation, once the stop points are identified and times committed to memory, are so much more relaxing than driving.  I like being able to read on daily commutes, I like the safety of not risking car crashes.  I like knowing that if I begin my journey at such-n-such time I am guaranteed to arrive at my destination at another specific time – down to the minute.  Atlanta excels at this. The bus route, however, is a whole other ballgame that got me pretty flustered.  The buses sort of arrive when they feel like it, the stops are relative, and the entire route based on the driver’s mood.

Everyone is very polite, though, even when they are offering you drugs.  I thought, as a Texan, that I understood southern hospitality.  When it comes to Good Mornings, sweet smiles, and a general attitude of helpfulness – we’ve got nothing on Georgia.  Any half puzzled look on your face will immediately result in someone stopping to help.  Stand at a stop too long and someone will inevitably ask you which bus you’re trying to catch and inform you, “Oh sometimes that driver likes to stop on that side of the street, be sure you check over there too or you might miss it.”  Smiles abound, even in the early morning pre-coffee grog.

I went to Atlanta to work the Wordfire Press booth at DragonCon. Convention people are exactly what I expected, after doing Comicpalooza and OwlCon in Houston, it’s pretty much the same routine, just bigger and takes up the whole downtown area instead of one convention center.  But outside the realm of the Con, everything was incredibly foreign.  I felt like I had stepped into how I imagine the 1950’s in a lot of ways, and once three blocks away from the convention hotels and gathering areas, I’ve never been reminded so often of how white I am. Politely, but with bafflement.

Houston is a melting pot. Our segregation occurs on the socioeconomic level, rather than a race level.  Latinos, Blacks, and Rednecks all live next to each other as long as they belong in the same tax bracket.  I didn’t see a lot of Atlanta, but I got the sense that things aren’t that way there.  So many times I was asked, “What’s a white girl doing on this street? You lost?” Or, the most bizarre, “Why you so comfortable talking to a black man? Is your husband black?”  At that question I retorted, “Should I be scared of you?”  “No, but these other niggers around here are cut-throat. You need to watch yourself.”  I felt like a child being reprimanded for not knowing the rules, especially when literally everyone I talked to was so very kind.  Yet, there I was a block the other side of Five Points, getting questioning glances from people who thought I was too pale to tread on their turf.  “You lost, baby? You don’t belong here.”  Or when I went to The Underground below the wrong CVS: “No, honey, you shouldn’t be down here, go up and get back to Peachtree as quick as you can, that’s where your people are,” before I even mentioned I was trying to meet anyone.

The whole experience was eye-opening and disheartening.  I enjoyed every conversation I had, even the fellow who offered me crack was very polite and concerned, keeping his distance when addressing me.  Is all of Atlanta that way, or just those neighborhoods?  Why was everyone so separate?

In my perfect world, I want to notice how much darker your skin is than mine. I want to acknowledge that freckles on you look entirely different than freckles on me. Deep, dark skin catches my eye, as a prisma color artist I am enthralled by skin tones that involve so many undertones of purple.  I want to listen to deep, milky voices bellow soul music, and that be ok. I don’t mind you calling me “white girl” but if I describe you as a black man or woman, I would like for you to not be offended.  We are different in so many beautiful ways.  To say we don’t see color is a disservice to the amazing people God created, like not noticing the difference between a sapphire and an emerald.  But we are also both human, we have troubles and trials, we have cultures we sometimes share and sometimes don’t.  I’ve never been so grateful to have grown up in Houston, where we all live side by side, work together, grow together, and learn together.  Houston has its own problems for sure, but I think we all have a cohesive love for our city and for Texas that keeps us pretty united.

I hope to visit Atlanta again.  I hope to branch out farther and see what the city as a whole is truly like, as opposed to the downtown areas I was restricted to for the duration of my stay. It has so many lovely parts and many beautiful people.

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Book Nerds Romp and Raise a Ruckus

April 20, 2015 at 3:03 pm (The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I needed a vacation. I’ve been needing one for quite sometime, but it took a bit of time, planning, impromptu not planning, and selfishness to make it happen.

I went to Dallas for a few days, with the nervous approval of my husband, left my daughter with my mother; where I ate, drank, and was merry.  And got a tattoo.

The tattoo occurred toward the end, but was the plan from the beginning.

It went a bit like this…

We didn’t book a hotel.  It’s Dallas.  It was Tuesday.  We thought we’d find one.  And we did.  About ten hotels later.  Note to self, book a hotel no matter how silly your destination.  I truly never believed this until this trip.  I very much enjoyed the fact that in the last ten years, if I wanted a hotel and was somewhere, I just arrived and walked in.  Then again, I haven’t gotten out much in the last ten years.

Post Hotel Finding: My old college chums and my best friend since high school all crashed into one group and found ourselves at Goodfriend, a bar and grill with amazing fried pickles and ghost ranch, on the first evening.  There I discovered what I shall now always call fancy whiskey, although it’s actually a Classic Whiskey Sour.  This is not your Chili’s or dive bar Whiskey with sweet and sour – this involves egg whites and shaking and frothy latte like smoothness and basically heaven in a cup of whiskey.  This is also where we discovered that there was whiskey in the water.  Not literally, we just found it very easy to become happily plastered there.  Props to Matt, the owner, who is amazing.  And to the bartender who got me hooked on those Classic Whiskey Sours.

Moving on… The Double Wide.  Yes, that is the name of a bar.  Complete with toilet bowls serving as planters that provide extra seating.  I laughed, I cried, I was in a ridiculous bar with an appropriately fitting name, and strange men trying to talk to my friends who handled them much better than I would.  My response would have been “Go AWAY.”  But my friends are way more classy than I am and found themselves saying, “It’s been nice talking to you, but you’re crashing girls night.”

Wednesday, we got pedicures and ate Mexican food.  Margaritas, bookstores (The Lucky Dog), lots of coffee, a Ton’s Mongolian Grill Reunion dinner at 7:30 with even more college chums.  More bars –  Bowen House (way overpriced but I got some more whiskey in) and The Ginger Man (fun beer).  It was good to see old friends.

Thursday morning involved Cultivar Coffee and the most delicious vanilla latte I ever had.  There was a little hole in the wall taco joint across from it on Peavy called El Ranchito.  If I lived in that neighborhood, that’s where all my money would be going… to $1.50 homemade breakfast tacos.

And finally, some shopping, lunch and coffee, another bar visit (The Libertine) where I refrained because I was about to get inked, I found myself at Death and Glory Tattoo.  Where a very personable guy named Cole Alexander Davis was able to put Jane Austen’s words and handwriting on my arm forever.

“I am half agony, half hope.”

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It was a shockingly cozy experience. My last tattoo happened in a place that felt very clinical to me. The guy was nice, but I don’t remember his name. Here, I realized why people find the practice so addicting. It’s like finding a bar you love, or a coffeehouse you can’t live without. It’s not just about the finished product, or the drinks being made properly, it is very much about ambiance and whether or not you have managed to find a place that seems like home away from home. They have a delightful front porch and a cat that lurked but didn’t touch me. I could have stayed there for hours after, but we had more drinking to do.

One of the guys there said that people tend to tell them their whole life story. They know everyone’s business because they are sort of treated like bartenders and shrinks. I can see that. I was too awkward to take advantage of that ambiance, but I definitely loved it.

My lovely JJ got a tattoo with me.  It is also a literary reference to a poem that was read at her wedding.  “And then this moment…”  This is us, back at Goodfriend, being incandescently happy.

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Friday… we had more tacos and Cultivar. We visited the Black Forest Cafe and the Flagship Half Price Books. We drove the many miles home, mostly listening to oldies.

Thanks for my trip, Danielle. I know it was stressful, but it was also lovely.

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Log Off and Smell the Lattes

April 2, 2014 at 9:48 pm (The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

DSC03062The phrase used to be ‘stop and smell the roses,’ I don’t know that it’s an entirely accurate turn of phrase anymore.

I am a busy lady with lots of activities, but mostly I’m busy on the internet.  I have my personal accounts, and most things started out as hobbies, but somewhere along the way all my hobbies turned into jobs – and most these jobs include manning facebook, twitter, pinterest, and a whole host of other social media.  Not just for me and my writing career, but for my art company, bookstores, and, well, everyone.

Because I do all this from an actual computer, because I don’t have what I call a ‘fancy’ phone or any kind of ‘spectacular device’ (smartphone, ipads, and whatever other twenty-first century gadgets the world has at their fingertips these days), when I go on vacation, or even a business trip, I get a true break from everything.

I had a book signing in Dallas this past weekend.  Which means from the time I got into my car to drive the four hour trek to the time I pulled back into my driveway 72 hours later, I was on internet silence.  No facebook to log into. I didn’t have a chance to or even a reminder to tweet anything.  My blog became an afterthought; and everything of the cyberspace variety went 100% on the back burner so that I could spend all my time with the real world – or ink and paper when I didn’t want to look beyond my nose.

And guess what?

It was marvelous.

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Click the photo to see all the pictures from the HPB Preston Village book signing.

My afternoon at my signing was completely focused on my customers, my business partner, and the beautiful friends that came to visit and support me.  I’ve seen many authors sit behind author tables and have no clue how to interact.  Instead they spend precious moments when they could be chatting with fans, typing on smartphones or figuring out how to take credit cards.  Being able to accept credit cards sure does make things simple for people – but my tech-free weekend kept all transactions cash only, and I have to say, it was nice.

Afterward, a group of us went off to a new restaurant in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas called Smoke.  I highly recommend eating there for anyone who hasn’t tried it.  The food was excellent, the service was great, and the place had a pretty stellar vibe.  (By the way, the creme brule is to die for – and the best part is the candied ginger. )  Part of that vibe, I must say, was enhanced by the fact that we spent little to no time on our phones!

P1010467 Instead, we discussed future events for Aoristos and myself, as well as books (both published and not yet published).  To the right, my lovely friend Miss Golightly is taking a brief gander at the Follies Past by Melanie Ker while we wait for our dinner.  (I’m still reading, but there will be a review posted soon!  Austen fans, stay tuned!)

Time and time again I have gone to dinner with the far less considerate only to sit at a table and watch people facebook and text all their friends who aren’t present.  It’s something I’ve never appreciated.  So, although having  a smart phone would make many of my events have a more solid online presence, I am not inclined to purchase one until I absolutely have to.  I’m less interested in an online presence and more interested in being present.  The online part can happen before and after, in my opinion.

After being stuffed to the gills with the most amazing barbecue I’ve had in a long time, I finished the day at my aunt and uncle’s house.  It’s practically a bed and breakfast it is so cozy and relaxing.  Homemade lattes were made, there was some time in the garden, and then afterward the kiddo and I slept here…

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Clearly, this is after I mussed up the pillows.  P1010517

FYI, there’s a manlier room down the hall…

It was the best sleep I’ve had in a good long while.  Probably helpful that my eyes hadn’t spent any evening time looking at a computer screen.  (Not to mention, I was physically exhausted.)

Bright and early, and well rested, the next morning… I stepped out of my room to something that is nothing short of heaven to my soul:

P1010502Yes, that’s a coffee bar right outside the guest bedroom.  Complete with bottled water for the Keurig, International Delight creamers (in hazelnut and french vanilla), sugar packets, and real mugs!

After helping myself to coffee, I took my journal and Melanie Kerr’s book and headed to the room one door down…

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It was a beautiful morning.  I did what I do every morning, sans computer screen blinking at me.  That lack of a computer screen makes all the difference.  And although computers are useful, and I adore my jobs and the freedom I have to raise my daughter while working mostly from home; once in awhile I need to remember that just because I’m sitting, doesn’t mean I need to be sitting with technology.

Log off… smell the lattes… breathe, relax, enjoy.

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A Tidbit from Miss Golightly

January 4, 2013 at 9:45 pm (Guest Blogger) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

This is what Peace looks like…

Peaceful at Manhattan Beach

at Manhattan Beach, CA.

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