Sunday, April 22, 2012

Critical thinking.

I reviewed Scorched Earth for, and I feel a little like I murdered a puppy. Okay that's slightly dramatic. More like I kicked a puppy. I am a young writer in the Richmond community, and at this point I know a few other writers, but I still don't have a grasp on the larger literary "scene." Probably because I am not in any way a part of it. But I'd like to be one day, and I realize that I may have just imploded any hope of that by giving a negative review to the local, very successful literary "hero" David L. Robbins, whose story was the main focus of my complaints.

I wanted to love this play. Honestly. I hated that I didn't. When I sat down to write my review, I kept starting with this sentence: "I wish it were better." That was the most honest thing I could think to say. I wanted to give it a rave, to support a local writer and a Richmond World Premiere. And I tried to still support it as much as possible, because I do think it's worthy of anyone's time and that Richmonders should go to support it. But when it came down to it, I still wish it were better, and my review reflected that disappointment.

As a writer of the fiction variety (in my secret life-it even says so on my diploma! which is in my parent's basement), I couldn't get past the major flaws in the story, plotting, and characterization (on a literary level, on an entertainment level it's fun, and again, if I didn't emphasize this enough, GO SEE IT and support local theater). As I struggled with starting the review, there were moments where I wondered if I should just fudge it, so as not to piss off a whole lot of (powerful) people.

But then I told myself what I always tell myself, which is becoming increasingly more difficult as I become more familiar with theater people and start to really, really like the whole bunch of them. It's not my job to blow smoke up someone's butt, simply because that butt is particularly smoke-worthy (I apologize immediately for that analogy) It's my job to be honest.

It's just like in all those creative writing workshops, where it pained me, physically, to criticize other people's stories. I hated it so much that it was pretty much the major reason I never even considered getting an MFA in creative writing. And oddly enough I find myself faced with a similar task now. But I remind myself, as I did in those workshops, that anyone who does something creative, who puts that creativity into the universe, deserves honesty in return. Flattery, false praise-none of those things mean anything. They don't benefit anyone.

We have to be honest. And sometimes it sucks. Because I also remember being on the other end of that "honesty", going home and weeping for 24 hours after particularly brutal workshops. I would get angry, convince myself that my art was so MISUNDERSTOOD (I was 21 after all). But eventually, I would accept that my classmates weren't evil or mean or cruel. They were honest. They had to be.

All of this is to say, sometimes it's really hard to be honest. Especially for someone raised Catholic and who tends to be overcome by soul crushing guilt on a daily basis.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Full weekend.

So I spent the majority of this weekend writing a paper about cholera in Haiti, doing taxes (the bane of every freelancer's existence-why must the government treat me like a small business and make my life so complicated?), writing two freelance pieces, and studying for a big Adult Nursing Science exam. But shockingly amidst all that I managed to squeeze in a lot of goodness.

-Friday night dinner with the boyfriend at Mekong (got a Mien Ga-or Vietnamese chicken noodle soup-appropriate since I'm fighting off my right on time end of every semester cold-and nice because the soups at Mekong are so huge I took home leftovers which I just ate for my Sunday supper :) ). After Mekong we went to Barksdale (me with my critic hat on) to see Scorched Earth. I will keep mum on my thoughts for now, since I don't want to spoil my review (for all ten people who read it), but I will say it is awesome that Richmond can host a world premiere play by a local author. It is absolutely worthy of anyone's time and definitely worthy of this community's support, and I recommend anyone head to Barksdale during the run.

-Saturday night I went with my mom to The Roosevelt in Church Hill, which I've been dying to try. I really love Church Hill, with its quiet, village like streets and pretty hill top views, and do not spend anywhere near enough time there. Plus I'd heard nothing but praise about The Roosevelt. And it delivered. I tried my mom's starter of shaved beets and apple salad with fried oysters-and heavenly. There is nothing this former Charleston resident loves more than a good fried oyster, and it is an art form to get it just right, an art form Richmond does not do as well as my Charleston. But this, this was Charleston quality fried oysters. For my entree I had trout with mushrooms, and the trout was so perfectly cooked-flaky and tender, with crispy, salty skin that I actually ate (I never eat fish skin!). The mushrooms and broth that came with it were a party in my mouth. But one of the best parts was this mustard relish on top, which I took one bite of, and boom I was in Thailand. I don't know what ingredient I tasted that brought me back, but it was instant and complete in that way that taste memory is-how you can eat something and in one bite, be transported, in your heart and soul, somewhere in your past, with all of the other feelings and sensations that come with it. So that was awesome-a mini time travel back to Bangkok. I will definitely be back to The Roosevelt because I want to try everything else on the menu, especially the sauteed soft shell crab, peanut butter pie, and cornbread with honey vanilla butter. And I almost just passed out from food delirium typing the words "honey vanilla butter."

-After dinner we went to Henley Street Theatre's The Liar at Center Stage. Oh, I really, really loved this play. I was a little frightened by the whole 17th century French farce thing, but the way David Ives adapted and translated it, it's not only hilarious but fresh and modern and so, so sharp. I wished I had a rewind button for this play just to luxuriate in the insanely verbal, tongue twisting, rhyming dialogue that was so expertly performed by a stellar cast. This was a word nerds playground-just a luxurious tide  of language, chock full of dirty jokes and innuendoes and enough clever, rapid fire word play to make Aaron Sorkin's head spin. I was so excited to see Matthew Mitchell in the lead role. I was gobsmacked by how good his performance was earlier this year in Kimberly Akimbo, and I was similarly gobsmacked last night. He's fast becoming one of my favorite Richmond stage actors to watch. 

So despite all the work, I did manage to fit in some fun. And thank God for that, because finals are fast approaching and with them all hopes of a social life for two solid weeks.

However, the end is in sight, and I will spend my summer frolicking in sun dappled meadows. Or napping. Drinking wine and then napping. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012


So in between all the studying for my Pathopharm exam this weekend I've managed to do something I do very well-eat lots and lots of food. Even better the food this weekend has been particularly delicious, and exciting because I was able to try two new Richmond restuarants. I tend to get very over-stimulated and stressed out by the sheer number of new restaurants constantly opening in Richmond, not to mention the old ones I haven't been to yet. So it's always nice when I venture out to unknown territory.

On Friday night the boyfriend and I walked from my apartment to the Food Truck Food Court at the VA Historical society, which why hasn't this been a thing forever? It was a lovely evening, so we stopped next door to the VA Historical Society at my new favorite happy hour spot, the VMFA Best Cafe for a bottle of wine.

We sat outside here, and I am nothing if not a sucker for water side dining, even if the water is of the man-made variety. The grounds of the VMFA may be one of the coolest part of Richmond. It's also practically in my backyard, and I'm kicking myself for just now discovering this wonderful spot. Also hello $12 bottles of wine. 

Once we were all Pinot Grigio-ed up we walked over to the parking lot of the VMFA to find endless lines stretching from the trucks, especially the Boka Taco Truck, which is of course where I most wanted to try. We did end up waiting in line for quite the length of time, but oh it was worth it. Luckily for my indecisive self Boka offers the perfect solution-a sampler of their three main types of tacos-Asian, Mexican, and American.

We got our food and sat down, and oh sweet and holy Moses. I inhaled these three tacos. I'm not entirely sure I even chewed. And while doing so I went into complete food tunnel vision. The wind stopped. The crowd noises ceased. It was just me and my sweet, delicious tacos, and we were one and the same. If I sound rapt, it was because these tacos were just that good. Do yourself a favor and find their truck. I know I will. I will in fact be heretofore stopping school and work to pursue this truck with single minded determination. If you see the Boka Taco Truck, you will see me in my Ford Focus right behind it, every day, until the end of time.

Finally tonight I went with my best friend, Liz to the new Continental, where Phil's used to be. Okay so I was enraged when I found out Phil's was being forced to move (even it was just a block away). I grew up with Phil's. I used to go there after elementary school in my St. Bridget's plaid skirt and white button down and order club sandwiches and limeade. 

So I feel slightly like a traitor admitting that I really liked the new place. The menu is huge and has creative touches on it, like these yummy grilled barbecue oysters we split. There are lots of "classics" but re imagined with fun little twists. There are also a lot of healthier options like whole wheat pizza crust or turkey burgers (I got one of these and promptly devalued any healthiness by ordering a side of sweet potato fries). The beer selection is great. The patio is great. The inside has been spruced up with a larger bar. I dearly hope that Phil's is successful in its new spot, and it is sad that it had to move. But I can't deny that the Continental is fun and yummy, and I think it's going to do bonkers good business, if the massive crowd tonight was any indication.

So that was my weekend in food. Which will continue tomorrow at my family's easter celebration where  there will be lamb and fresh veggies from my aunt's farm and many, many desserts. And then Monday I'll get back on that whole reduced calorie bandwagon. At least until Tuesday night when the food truck food court comes back to the neighborhood :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hello April.

So I've been MIA for a while. Credit two major exams and my end of the month freelance deadline for getting in the way. So to get caught up:

-As promised I did in fact paint my kitchen coral and got two plants-basil and oregano. The evidence:

It looks really orange here, and it's a little more orange than I was originally going for, but it's a tiny wall and I thought a bold color was in order.

Isn't it much happier?

The world tiniest/ugliest kitchen-ever so slightly less horrible.

My "green space."

Delicious Greek oregano courtesy of Lowe's. 

And wonderful basil. Nothing in the world makes me happier than picking fresh basil to use for cooking. My mom has always grown her own basil, and to me it just smells so deliriously like home and summer. Now right after I put these plants outside we got a "lease addendum" saying that personal possessions on the fire escape were a hazard and punishable by fine. But really, these are not going to impede anyone. There's so tiny and unobtrusive. And if my landlords do try to fine me, I'll just be all "dude, these aren't personal possessions, this is nature, can we, any of us, really "possess" nature?." And then they'll ask me where my other, slightly more illegal, garden is.

I also saw the Hunger Games to celebrate two of my friends' birthdays. And I really liked it. I thought they did a great job staying true to the book, and the casting especially was pitch perfect. My only quibbles-Haymitch not drunk or unlikeable enough. It might be because Woody Harrelson could charm the pants off an inanimate object, and is just so utterly likable and decent seeming. But Haymitch is not supposed to be immediately loveable. He's supposed to be a cruel, drunken wreck of a person who only gradually comes to resemble a human with some shred of hope or fight. In the movie it happens way too easily. Also where is Katniss screaming for Peeta as the hover craft leaves the arena-one of the movie's most wrenching moments and important plot wise because it shows just how much Katniss cares for Peeta, and just how shattered she is by what happened in the arena. But aside from those relatively minor quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to see the sequels.

Finally the April issue of Belle came out and while I am always excited to see my Style & Substance section, I was especially happy with this month's issue. I think it's because I had a real connection with and investment in so many of my stories. I fell in love with Robin Cage's pottery in Westover Hills at 43rd Street Gallery, especially because anything in Westover Hills makes me sentimental (tis the place of my birth and young childhood). I loved being able to shine a spotlight on Level Green Riding School, since that place meant so much to me when I was little and went there for camps to ride horses. I'm not sure happiness gets any more uncomplicated or pure than being horse crazy and eleven years old, taking care of my designated horse for the day and contentedly feeding him sugar cubes in a shady, hay scented stall. I loved that place with all my heart, and I'm so grateful that it's still around and still thriving. Or seeing the Belle Pop Quiz, a feature I came up with in my crazy, little brain, and being so proud to have found a way to really let the personalities of the women involved shine.

I love when I can write about things or places or people that I care about, that speak to my soul. This month in Belle I really got to do just that, and not to be self-horn tooting, but I'm very proud of how it turned out.

So that's where I am right now. Life will continue to be more hectic than usual the next few weeks until the semester ends, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And that light is alumni weekend in Charleston and a house for three nights in Folly Beach. I can almost smell the Confederate Jasmine. I can almost taste the salty, local shrimp, fresh off the boat, washed down with a cold beer. I can almost hear the waves. I can almost feel the sun on my face.

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