Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#RivCooks: Angel Food Cake French Toast

My best friend Ro was dropping subtle hints, before we left for our excursion into Washington, D.C. She insisted that we make breakfast in our Airbnb. I complied, I knew it would be incredible b/c we're both culinary artists. *coughs* Kinda.

She dropped a link to this super fat girl french toast on my page, a week ago, and I suggested that we cook it immediately. I soon realized that it'd been her plan all along.

We spent the morning in the grocery store and took the quick walk back to our temporary humble abode. This recipe was quick and easy. We had a blast making it. Click the link above and follow the instructions to the tee. The only thing we regretted was not using cinnamon. Let me know how it turns out!

From My Journal: Selfish

Anxiety is selfish.

This is what I realize while on the train, conversing with a friend who's having a rough time at work. I've just finished unloading on her. I spent our first six stops telling her about my nervousness around my upcoming trip and the new guy that I'm kind-of seeing. She took it all in, like a normal friend, processing it and relaying advice.

Her problems are much more serious.  I listen intently, I feel myself latching on to each one, taking them on as my own. 


This is what she beckons me to do, when I tell her that I'm extremely worried. I tell her that I don't process things of this sort, like her other friends do. I will carry them with me, until she's found resolutions.

& even though I've sent her countless articles. 
& even though I've sent them to my parents.
& even though I tell my lovers, before they become that way.

There's still an air of: 

Woman up.
Grow up, this is the way the world works.
You can get over that.
I thought that was a phase. 

She thinks I'm selfish. She says this out loud. It's the first time I've ever heard it and I absolutely agree. That notion is followed by the anxiety that all my other loved ones feel that same way. 

My empathy is so immense that it's better off that I don't use it at all. Unfortunately, I don't have that option. I'm an educator, with a ton of students that I constantly carry concern for. I am a supporter of friends and family members that need help with their burdens. I can't turn it off. It isn't human.

But's too much. 

I feel it welling in my chest, stacking as a person unloads. 
& sometimes I have to ask them to stop.

My friend is flabbergasted. She's turned to face the other side of the train, disinterested in our conversation. I touch her shoulder and explain that I care, I just need a second. She says she understands, but after she got off on her stop, after her absence for a week or so...

I know she doesn't.

But I want her to understand me...

My heart is a to-do list. I etch the troubles of others and my constant distress beneath my skin. It thumps like a check list:

  • Remember to follow up on that. ____
  • She can't find love. I know that feeling too. Follow up on that, too.____
  • Find a way to help so and so pay for that thing.____
  • If I can't...will so and so still love me? ____
  • Will they think I'm a good person? ____
  • Am I good person?____
  • Why don't you know that? ____
  • Write it out. Figure it out. ___

It starts as a small notion and spirals out of control. My mind finds correlations that aren't relevant, but its convinced itself that it's of the utmost importance. 

& so I've decided that...when I'm in this mode...I will stop you mid-sentence.

I will touch your arm and tell you, "Not today. I love you. I will eventually listen. But I cannot today."

& yes...I'm selfish. 

I'm sorry, but I have to be. 

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

― Audre Lorde

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fiction Series: Boroughs Apart: Part 2

After an hour of conversing with Ruth and Bethany about the piece and its immense worth, Ella was glad to be descending the brownstone’s steps. The entire time, Evan sat across the room, smiling and silent. She knew he was pleased with himself. He’d managed to run into the girl who’d played him earlier and now she was at the mercy of his family, concerning artwork her boss had his eye on.
Ella was a few steps down the block when she heard footsteps behind her. She stopped in her tracks, her dress swaying in the warm summer air, and turned to face Evan.

“Can I help you, sir?”

Evan smiled, again, “You’ve met my crazy family already. Half of the battle is won.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah. That’s the hard part, everything should be smooth sailing from here.”

“What exactly is this everything?”

“I think you’re everything. You’re gorgeous.”  

Evan looked much more relaxed than when she’d seen him earlier. He wore all black sweats, his Rolex gleaming from his cuff.

“Thank you. You live with your mom?”

Evan stepped back a little bit, “Wow. Blunt aren’t we? Straight to the point.”

Ella felt a little guilty. It’d slipped and she couldn’t help but notice that he’d changed here so he clearly wasn’t visiting.

He continued, “I do. I live on the ground floor.”

Ella thought of her own living predicament. She was still staying at home, due to financial constraints, but she was ready to lease an apartment with her gals and get away from the strictness of her mother’s household. She couldn’t imagine being under her mother and grandmother.

“Good luck with that.”

Evan tried to ignore her comment, “Can I take you out sometime? There’s this French African bistro that has great music and food, right around the corner. I’ve been meaning to go, but only if I have someone I can converse with.”

Ella gave in, partially because she wanted to get on his family’s good side, “Sure. Here’s my number.”

She pulled a business card from her bosom, which made Evan snicker. She smiled and continued to make her way down the block.


Ruth found the card stuck in the grille of the elevator in the apartment house her family owned. When her father couldn’t make it out to tend to a tenant complaint, she went in his place. This time Ms. Cecelia, an elderly woman that lived on the first floor for over a decade, complained about her new neighbors. According to her they were “a bunch of eggs1 with nothing but sheik2 that needed to scram.” She knocked on the apartment door, directly across from Ms. Cecelia’s and waited for someone to answer the door.

A young man cracked the door and pushed his face through the sliver. He was clearly tired, judging by the bags under his eyes, but that didn’t stop her from noticing how fine he was. He was the color of tar, after a rain shower, and his eyes were piercing. She stood in awe.

“Good Morning. Can I help you?” he asked.

Ruth remembered why she was there, “Hi. Good morning, Mr. Bailey. We’ve had a few complaints about the music here…”

The young men stepped out from the door. He was wearing a white collared shirt, with suspenders, and slacks. Everything was tussled, as if he’d slept in them, and Ruth was certain that he did.

She finished, “Rough night, huh?”

“Wasn’t no few complaints. It was one. I know it was that cranky lady from across de’ way. We tried to keep it down, but how low can you keep a live band. I know it was her, because everyone else from the building was here.”

Reynold was clearly Caribbean. His accent was porridge thick and it made him more desirable.

Ruth pulled the card she found, from her pocket. She handed it to him, “So this was your party then?”

The card read:

“Fall in line, and watch your step, For there’ll be Lots of Browns with plenty of Pep at:
A Social Whist Party:
Given By
Reynold & Markie
133 W 116th Street, 1st Floor,
Saturday Evening, Nov. 4th, 1929”

Reynold smiled at the card in his hand, “Yes, this was us.”

“We’re not a big fan of rent parties. We try to keep it quiet here. If you’re having a gathering, that’s fine. Try not to party.”

“If I have a gathering...can I invite you, next time?”

Ruth blushed, “I don’t think your landlord would take kindly to you flirting with his daughter.”

“Everyone is someone’s daughter.”

Ruth turned towards the elevator, pulled her fur up a little higher, and made sure she did her best walk down the hallway.

Ruth told her story at the table during dinner. Bethany and Evan had grown accustomed to hearing her tales about the good ol’ days, over whatever their chef had prepared. They’d also grown accustomed to his father’s chair, empty.

Ruth finished, “Rent parties was how they did it back then. Surely, Evan doesn’t need a rent party. We’ve got enough money for him to be out on his own. Hell he’s got enough.”

Bethany put down her fork, “Evan is not leaving this house, until he’s prepared to take a wife.”

Evan stuffed another forkful of chicken into his mouth. He did not want to talk about this, again.

“Patrick and I decided that this is what’s best for a young black man, growing up in Harlem. What more could he want? He’s got everything he’s ever asked for.”

Ruth sipped on her third glass of whiskey for the night, “Space. Room to breathe.”

“Evan, tell your grandmother that you’re okay with the rules of your trust fund.”

Evan quickly stuffed some beans in his mouth.

Ruth laughed, “I don’t hear anything.”

Bethany got up from the table and started clearing the dishes. She stomped her way to the kitchen and they could hear the sound of the sink, as she prepared the plates for the dishwasher.

“The girl that was here today was cute.”

Evan got up from his seat and took another right next to his grandmother, “Yeah. I think she’s beautiful.”

“Where do you know her from?”

“I don’t. I met her outside, today.”

“Well, don’t miss out on anything like your grandma did. Hell, like your momma is doing right now.”

“Grandma Ruth, don’t say that!”

“Evan, do you see your father here?”

Evan looked over at his father’s seat. He was good at cloaking his disappointment, but he wasn’t hiding it anymore. He’d become numb over the years. He was used to his father being on business trips and spending late nights in the office, instead of with his family.

Evan thought about Ella. If he could get her, or any girl for that matter, to understand his situation, he would never treat them like his father treated his mother.

Women, particularly the ones in his parent’s friend circle, never seemed to take him seriously: He was either too black or too white. They were astonished at the fact that he’d never taken on his father’s fraternity. They were annoyed with his philanthropy and lack of socialite savvy.

His mother and father spent years trying to introduce him to girls they felt were worthy, but Evan wasn’t interested. The girls, prim and proper, would sit on his living room sofa and spill their accolades and family’s prestige. He wasn’t interested in resumes, he was interested in people.

After Evan ushered his grandmother to bed and came down to clear the rest of the table, he heard his father come through the front door.

“Good evening, Dad.”

His father walked into the dining room, set down his briefcase, and handed Evan his evening paper.

“There’s a great article in there, on real estate in Harlem. You should check it out.”

Evan tucked the newspaper into his back pocket, “I will.”

“Your mother and grandmother asleep?”

“Yeah. They just went up. Mom should still be awake.”

“Oh. Well tell her that I’m going to the office to get work done. I’ll probably fall asleep down there.”

“I will. Listen, I met a girl today.”

His father raised his eyebrows, “Is that right? Is she anything like Rebecca?”

Evan could not believe his father was still bringing her up. Rebecca was the girl he’d escorted to her debutante ball, a family friend, and someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer. She was superficial and conceited, but Evan’s parents seemed to love her.

“She’s nothing like Rebecca.”

“Too bad. You’re really messing that up for yourself.”

“But she…”

His father interrupted, “I have work to do. Enjoy.”

Evan carried the rest of the dishes to the kitchen and placed them into the sink. He turned on the faucet and imagined that water could wash expectations away.

Harlem Renaissance Slang

1 Egg: a person who lives the big life

2 Sheik: A man with sex appeal

Saturday, March 14, 2015

From My Journal: Date Two Blues

I'm twenty-seven. I still struggle with insecurity and vulnerability, or lack there of. 

I still remember the days when men used to skip over me or talk directly to me, only to ask for my friend's information. 

I still remember waiting for my best friend to ask me to prom, waiting on my college crush to ask me for more than my notes, waiting on the guy that gets into the same car on the same train, every day,  to say hello.

It's this perpetual waiting, the notions of it, engraved in my memory, that leaves me in shock and awe when I no longer stand by. 

I find myself all talk, when I'm around those I don't fancy and those that aren't of romantic interest. 

I find myself numb, and stuttering, and awkward pausing, when I'm around the ones I'm truly interested in. 

Because true interest, will bring out a shyness that you never knew existed.
It'll pull the insecurity from the pit of your stomach and have you questioning everything.

Order something that you eat with your hands or with a knife and fork?
Did my makeup smudge, on to my teeth?
Would he tell me?
Why is he sitting so far?
What are his intentions?
Is he only here for one reason?

These are the questions that run through my mind, as you sit across the table. You fidget with your phone, you glance out of the window repeatedly. These are all signs that you're nervous too. I construe them for disinterest. 

Dating has become this thing:

This keep feelings inward thing.
This subliminal on social media thing.
This trying to read into social media thing.
This mostly text and never call thing.
This thing that feels like a job thing.
This half the battle thing.
This one-sided thing.
This conjuring tone through text thing.
This teasing thing.
This your-kisses-feel-like-you-want-to-stay, but your other actions don't thing. 
This wine consumption thing.  
This conforming thing. 
This badgering thing.
This where-you've-been, repeating yourself thing. 
This one word, when I've said a paragraph thing.
This I-drove-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-come-get-you thing. 
This who-is-she thing.
This "this hour of the night!" thing. 
This swipe left, swipe right thing.
This you're-too-good-to-meet-my-friends thing. 
This name-calling thing.
Bae. Boo. Love. Baby. Damn, girl. 
This misogyny thing. 
This emasculating thing. 
This CTRL, ALT, DELETE thing.
This find your recycling bin thing.
This phones face down thing.
This alter you thing. 
This change your afro, because he likes your weave thing.
This change your weave, because he likes your afro thing. 
This cut-your-beard, because I like your face clean shaven thing. 
This saying I-miss-you makes you Drake, thing. 
This love-songs ain't love songs thing. 

& just like this post: I am jumbled and structured all at once, when it comes to dating. We never grow out of these feelings. We learn to accept them, we learn to hide them, we learn that we might just need someone who understands it enough to never ask you to change. 

*lifts glass* Here's to date three. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fiction Series: Boroughs Apart

Evan Marquis was Harlem.

Born and raised, in a Striver's Row brownstone, owned by his ancestors that'd migrated from the south, his family embodied the American Dream. On the sporadic walks home, from his cushy corporate 401K in the Bronx, he envisioned Harlem as it once was.

The Cotton Club turned Community Center.
The Dark Tower, now part residence and part nail salon.
The Savoy, now a housing projects.

Evan heard the stories from his great grandmother. She was almost 102, her birthday nearing, and still vibrant as ever. He cherished their nightly talks:

Girls were more than just woo, back in my day. You needed to pitch more than that honey. We were all checking for Langston, but he wasn't checking for us. That's another story. But I knew love in another way. It was more than pretty boy and smooth talk. I looked for a man with rough hands, a man who'd seen and heard things, a man who could build a castle if need be. Your hands ain't rough Evan. You ain't ready for no real love. Your parents weren't either, but they do what they do and I mind my business.

Evan always laughed at her sentiments. He wasn't sure what she meant by rough hands equating to being a man. He considered himself a man: he had a great job, could live on his own if he chose to, and could woo a woman with his wit and check book if need be. Grandma had wisdom, but she couldn't be right about this. 

Evan took the long way, today. He longed to daydream and take in Harlem, on the days he got out early. It helped that it was summer. The streets smelled of sweat and sweet things. He walked down Adam Clayton Powell Blvd and imagined that it was 1926. He was dapper, having just left the haberdashery and something beautiful and bright walked by. 

Evan snapped out of his daydream, because something beautiful and bright...just walked by. 

Ella Williams was Brooklyn:

Knew all the lyrics to Lauryn Hill's Doo-Wop, jump rope queen, and stoop chiller. She was the girl that no one dared stand up to, when she was a hard-hitting tomboy and the first person to help a friend a need. The perfect mixture of her hardworking Jamaican parents and the block-boys her brothers assimilated into, she was incredibly smart, streets and otherwise. 

Ella was late to her new job in Harlem, as a junior curator at an art gallery. During the day, she spent a few hours manning the desk at the Schomburg. Her friends often joked that her multiple jobs deemed her a true Jamaican. 

Her new boss was a total a-hole and she did her best to accommodate him, but nothing was ever good enough. It was her second week on the job, with perfect attendance, and she was only running ten minutes behind, but she knew he'd let her have it. The trip from East Flatbush to Harlem was an arduous one. She had to take a dollar van, cushioned between women in scrubs and suits, headed to Eastern Parkway, to catch the train to the city. After hopping out of the overcrowded van, she barely made it on to the train. Even worse, the train was delayed. 

She ran through the gallery's glass doors, flung her purse and coat into her office chair, and made her way to the back office that belonged to her boss.

"Good morning, Jake."

Jake rolled his eyes at her, "You're late."

"I know. I didn't expect the trains to be this delayed. No excuses though, I'll leave earlier next time." 

"That was an excuse. Nevermind. I have a bunch of places I'll need you to go to. Bring me back a new Kehinde Wiley and ease up on the Basquiat. We have a show late tonight, so be back before 7pm."

Ella loved abstract work. She loved Kehinde too, but she was biased when it came to work that needed longer interpretation. 

"Got it."

Jake handed her a slip of paper, with three addresses on it, and she headed to her cubicle to put them into Google maps. She was so glad to be out of his presence. Jake smelled of cigarette smoke and unhappiness. He was an older white gentleman that was fascinated with African-American art, but didn't seem to have any patience when looking for great pieces that actually reflected the gallery's mission. 

Ella was a graphic design major, taking general art classes, when she realized that she was after the wrong profession. She became fascinated with Norman Lewis, Howardena Pindell, Basquiat, and many alike. She was interested in everything abstract and some Harlem Renaissance art. Lately she'd fallen for Kara Walker and Maya Asante and she was looking forward to helping discover unknowns who created work that was just as powerful. 

She printed the directions, for backup, just in case her phone died, and sped out of the door. Jake had given her three hours to go to places located in the L.E.S., Harlem, and the Upper West Side. He was certified crazy. 

Before she could make it half a block, she felt someone touch her arm.

He was perfectly tailored. He wore a plaid hat, bow tie, and was holding a briefcase in one hand. Clearly he was trying to sell her something or talk to her about her lord and savior. 

"I've really got to catch the next train out of here. Sorry!" 

He walked fast, alongside her, "I'm Evan. I don't usually do this, but you look so familiar..."

"Is that your best pickup line? Dude, I'd be so much more enamored if you respected my time." 

Evan walked faster, "I do. That's why you should just give me your number. We can just speed things up."

Ella stopped for a second, she looked him up and down. He was Sahara sand brown, eyes the color of the sky when everything felt wrong. Grey and deep. There was a sadness to them, but somehow it made him more handsome. 

"I'll pass. I really have to go."

She descended into the 135th street station.

Evan finally made it to his house. He entered through the garden apartment door, so he wouldn't have to deal with his mother. He knew she was waiting on him in the parlor room, as she always did. 

Before he could pull off his blazer, he heard her coming downstairs.


His mother walked into the area of the house they'd reserved for him. She was dressed as if she was headed to high tea, when she'd do nothing but sit home all day and complain. 

"Good evening, momma."

"It's still afternoon, son. Get your salutations in order." 

She sat down in his sofa and patted it, beckoning him to sit next to her, "How was your day?" 

"It was cool. Walked home, took in Harlem. I watched some of the boys playing in the park. I wonder if they know about what their neighborhood used to be. I've really been thinking about starting this young men's program again..."

"Oh, this idea. Listen, we did more than enough for this community. You don't need to do anymore for it. Just climb that corporate ladder and make me some grandchildren." 

"I'd have to leave home, to do that." 

Evan was annoyed that his mother disregarded his dream, once again, but he tried not to let it show. 

"Why? Why can't you find a respectable woman that understands your circumstances?" 

"No one wants a man who's almost 30 and still lives with his family."

"Fine, move then." 

"You know my trust fund won't allow that." 

His mother laughed, "Exactly Evan. Find a girl that understands. It's just not your time yet. Come up later, I have some people coming by that I'd like you to meet."

She made her exit, after grilling him with more questions about his day. Evan kicked off his shoes and locked the door that led into his space. He loved his home, but sometimes it felt like a prison. He was ready to be free.

Ella was coming up on her final stop for the day. The last visit was in Harlem, so she'd come full circle. The neighborhood was beautiful, all the houses looked exactly the same. She'd walked past the block several times, but never down it. With all the gentrification that'd been happening in Harlem, she was sure that no black family owned any of the homes. 

She looked at the address, on the paper Jake gave her, and then the house. She'd finally made it. She knocked lightly and waited for someone to answer the door. 

To her surprise, a beautiful middle aged black woman answered. The woman was overdressed and Ella assumed that she was headed to a party shortly.

"Hi, I'm Ella. I'm from the Umoja Gallery." 

The woman clasped her hands together, excitedly, "Oh! We've been waiting on you! Come in."

The woman led her into a beautiful living room. The space was filled with tons of artwork, predominately from the Harlem Renaissance, and ornate antique furniture. An older woman, sat, napping, on a love seat, in the corner. 

She yelled at the napping woman, "Ruth, wake up! We have company." 

Ruth jumped awake, "I'm only resting my eyes. Calm your nerves, Bethany." 

Ruth wore a long black robe and looked like she was wearing every pearl she owned. She was holding what seemed like Scotch, in a glass, in her hand. 

Ella giggled on the inside, she could tell that Ruth was something else in her day. 

Bethany smiled, "Above sleeping beauty's head is the piece we're trying to sell. Your gallery owner fawned over it at our last social gathering."

Ella walked closer to it, "It's beautiful."

It was a painting of jazz musicians sitting on a stage, each musician was painted utilizing several different shapes. It seemed to blend Ella's favorite time period and art genre together.

Ella heard footsteps enter the room, behind her. 

Bethany spoke again, "This is my son, Evan. The piece is his favorite, ignore his attempts to get you to purchase something else."
Ella turned around to face the gentleman she'd met on the street earlier.

Evan rubbed his chin in sheer confidence, knowing she was trapped. 

They both looked at one another knowingly. 

"Hi, Evan." 

Ella extended her hand and Evan shook it, "Pleased to make your acquaintance, again." 

Bethany interrupted, "You two know one another?" 

She took in Ella's shoulder length dreads, bright yellow summer dress, and huge Sankofa earrings. Bethany's face was not one of approval. 

Ruth took a sip of scotch, laughed, and clutched her pearls, "Seems like they do." 

See you soon, for part 2? 
Comment below!