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Out For The Night

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Series of Fortunate Events: Part Two

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 7:00 AM

In last week’s column I started a series based around random happenings in the Q.C. Spurred by a rift between my boy toy and I two weeks ago, I decided to take the opportunity to surround myself with friends. I forced myself — an only child and recluse at heart — to break my usual routine of work, nap, eat and sleep. Instead, I rallied every night of the week. What happened next, was the start of a really great book.

After attending a last minute show, Esperanza Spalding: Emily’s D+Evolution, with my bestie and binge watching Luke Cage all week, I was left feeling empowered and thought, “I can drink all the drinks and no one can stop me.” I was wrong, of course, but I still managed to make it through the work week without excruciating hangovers. That Friday, I realized I had two tickets to Creative Loafing’s Best of Charlotte party and the weekend had officially begun.

After scrounging all the drink tickets at BofC, and realizing Red Bull was nowhere to be found, I settled on a sour I hadn’t tried...Aunt Sally maybe? Full of beer and maxed out on dominating the conversation, I accepted I was a third wheel and should seek fun elsewhere. I stopped by The Brass Tap, where I was convinced to take a shot, before heading to The Local in Uptown. I ended up dancing the night away on the small dance floor in front of the DJ booth — yes, solo twerking is a norm for me.

Naturally, the next morning I wasn’t feeling 100 percent. I had settled on the idea of retail therapy at Concord Mills and lunch at IKEA — have you ever tried the Swedish meatballs there?! Honestly, truly, they’re to die for. While at the mall, a co-worker started blowing me up on my phone. “Do you want to go on a trolley pub crawl around 2?” she asked.

I let out a few sighs. The way my bank account was set up after a shopping spree and the way my stomach was set up after a full week of drinking, I attempted to dodge the invite via text: “Where y’all picking up at? I’m at IKEA so I might be a minute.” Ineffective, she sent the location (in Google maps), followed up with the required smart waiver and a series of texts that read: “Okay! Just be there by 2:15! Pick up a six-pack on the way. You can meet us.”

There was no way I was getting out of this. Can I use the “I’m black and what about my hair excuse?” Nope. Even though Hurricane Matthew was in full effect, I hadn’t gotten my hair done in weeks. While contemplating, I read through the texts and noted: We have extra jackets and ponchos. P.S. the trolley is completely covered. They have tarp walls. I scarfed a few Swedish meatballs — after all, that was certainly a priority — packed my large purchase in my car and headed to NoDa for a rainy-day pub crawl.

For months, my friends and I had contemplated setting up a day drinking excursion with Trolley Pub Charlotte but kept putting it off. And now, I had the opportunity to give it a whirl — for free! I turned my frown right side ‘round and prepared for the need to rally.

Once I arrived at the first stop — Heist Brewery — John and Vincent greeted me with a warm smile, took a look at my waiver, snapped a group pic and next thing you know I was straddling a bicycle seat with a beer in hand. The only rules? You have to be buckled in when the trolley was in motion and you can’t put your foot on the ground with a drink in your hand. Fair enough.

We pedaled from Heist to Free Range Brewery and ended the tour at Jack Beagles, where my friends tried to force me to take a whiskey pickle back shot. Have you ever had one? On top of six beers? That wasn’t happening. And after I figured out that I didn’t actually have to pedal, I realized I was having a really good time.

Considering Trolley Pub Charlotte for your next outing in the Q.C.? Here are a few pro tips:
1. BYOB for rides between stops. Beer or wine, plastic or can and you’re good to go.
2. Prepare for the weather. Hurricane Matthew is over, but who knows what the weather will be like for your crawl.
3. Be strategic with your crawl. You’ll want to enjoy being able to drink and ride while also hitting up some cool spots. Find balance between distance and quality breweries.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Series of Fortunate Events: Part One

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 4:30 PM

My boyfriend and I were on the outs for all last week. Instead of rolling myself into a ball and forcing myself into seclusion, I decided to surround myself with people who genuinely bring a smile to face. What happened was totally unexpected, but what I’d like to call a series of fortunate events. 

Every single day of the week I had “plans” — i.e., a distraction from reality. Most of these plans involved one too many drinks, but hey, it was better than doing the same thing alone. The first? An invitation to a musical performance Uptown.

On Wednesday, one of my closest friends who I’ve known since high school, asked if I wanted to go with her to a show — Esperanza Spalding: Emily’s D+Evolution. Even though I was familiar with the name, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. After all, my music taste is fairly diverse and I wasn’t sure which Pandora station had led me to Esperanza. But free tickets to a show with my bestie? I wasn’t going to turn that down.

Coincidentally, the performance was held at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square, a venue the two of us had visited frequently for Elevation Church Uptown.

As soon as we found our seats, we were captivated by the soulful and unique presence of Esperanza. A petite frame with the eccentricity of Erykah Badu, I fell in love with every word she sang, movement she made and instrument she played. I sat on the edge of my seat as Emily’s D+Evolution unfolded in the form of a stage play in front of me. As it turns out, the intimate venue was perfect for viewing this performance. It was a nice surprise to revisit this venue considering how so many popular Charlotte music spots are shutting their doors this year.

After the show, I jokingly asked an attendant if there were any way for us to meet her. She responded, “If you buy something, she’ll be signing autographs for 15 minutes.” I looked at my bestie and knew immediately that we’d be pulling out our debit cards.

I have a secret obsession with vinyl, and so does she, so we snagged two records and waited patiently in line. We were disappointed when the line attendant informed us we weren’t allowed to take pictures — one out-of-towner who we joked with while standing in line actually got caught when her digital camera’s flash went off; talk about awkward turtle. We giggled nervously, concerned that security would confuse us with the culprit and kick us out of line.

Have you ever thought about what you would say to your favorite musician? Let alone, one you’ve never really heard of that you’d just fallen in love with? What if you only had a few moments to capture their attention? I’d thought about it many times over in regards to other favorites of mine.
If I ever got the chance to meet Lil Wayne, who I’m obsessed with, what would I do if the words never quite came out? And as I watched Esperanza fully engaged in a conversation with a man just a few steps away, I wished desperately that I could hear what he was saying that was so intriguing to a Grammy-Award winning artist.

Another fan, a young girl with a guitar in her arms, cried incessantly after Esperanza had left her mark on what was sure to be the instrument she would treasure for the rest of her life. I sighed because I appear to be young but not small or cute enough to gain her sympathy as an aspiring rock star.

I looked down at the song list on the back of my newly-purchased vinyl and located the titles of my two favorite songs from the performance, “Unconditional Love” and “Funk the Fear.” Maybe I could explain to her how those songs meant so much to me especially while going through a separation period? It was too late.

As I approached the table, armed with my phone that had been recording a voice memo for 10 minutes preparing for the interaction, the only words that came out of my mouth were, “Such an amazing show, will you marry me?”

She looked up at me, smiled kindly and responded, “I’m sorry, I can’t.”

Share some of your meet and greet memories with bands and musicians at

Thursday, October 6, 2016

No Need for Plans in the Q.C.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 2:55 PM

Only an hour-long wait at Soul Gastrolounge. Unicorn balloons and throw up in the corner of Thomas Street Tavern. And premier seats for watching the game at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille. That just about sums up this past weekend in the Queen City. Surprisingly, none of it was planned.

I’ve fallen into a rut in the nightlife scene lately. I’m not sure if I’ve been going to same places too often or if recent events in the city have put a damper on looking for an adventure. Nevertheless, I refused to waste the weekend away being trapped in the house.

After spending Friday evening catching some high school football with my boyfriend — and missing out on a slice of pizza I’d been craving all day long — most of my homies were too tired to rally. I didn’t complain though, I decided to get some well-needed rest.

The next morning, my boyfriend and I skipped our Saturday morning sleep-in and hopped in the car to head to Little Spoon Eatery. The last time I went to this popular brunch spot featuring old school hip-hop, Luke Kuechly waltzed in for a tasty breakfast of his own. Never a dull moment! This time, I ventured away from my usual: eggs over-medium, cinnamon toast brulee and pork belly bacon. And while I wished I had stayed in my own lane, I’m genuinely amazed by the Southern staples sprinkled with Korean fare.

After breakfast, my boyfriend’s priority was getting home to watch the game. But I wanted to get a few minutes of shopping in. I begged him to take me to Anthropologie in South End before we had to rush back for babysitting his nephews. Surprisingly, he agreed — even though he was sitting on a display couch after 10 minutes into perusing. In any event, I snagged a few coasters I’d been eyeing for months and convinced him to check out the Atherton Mill market before heading home.

Did you know that cats can get testy around two-year-olds? Welp, we figured that out after watching my boyfriend’s nephews for a few hours Saturday afternoon. In spite of a two to three-hour naptime, my cat and I were “hangry” (a mix of hungry and angry) and exhausted by the time the bambinos made their exit, so we rushed to Soul Gastrolounge in the hopes of getting a table before the dinner rush.

If you’ve read my articles before you know that I’m obsessed with this cozy little tapas spot in Plaza Midwood. But getting a table can feel impossible after 8 o’clock. Many frequenters are familiar with the popular venue’s two-hour wait times. But guess what? We only had to wait for 45 minutes! Yes, I know, be jealous.

After a mule, RBV, sushi, shrimp skewers, goat cheese flatbread and a cubanini, we were ready to take on the night. Our first stop? Whiskey Warehouse to catch up with a co-worker. Home of arguably one of the best rooftop bars in the Queen City, it was a beautiful night for cocktails and people-watching. Afterwards, my boyfriend was a responsible adult and decided to head home. I, on the other hand, headed over to Thomas Street Tavern to kick with my partner in crime. Big mistake. The patio was packed which led to drunk convos with random people and a surprise burp forced me into the corner for some relief, if you catch my drift. Soon after, I called an Uber to go home.

The next morning I had the privilege — well, battling a hangover made any task a challenge — of attending the baptism of a good friend. It was an uplifting and terrifying experience all at once. A couple of us ended up being on camera for the event, but seeing the appreciation on my friend’s face made it all worth it.

After the service, I grabbed a biscuit and pondered whether or not I’d make plans for Sunday Funday while my boyfriend had “guy’s time.” My partner in crime convinced me that laying on the couch wasn’t an option. The next thing you know, I’m basking in an amazing booth at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille. I’d been anticipating visiting this bar for a while and was pleasantly surprised that on game day, in a packed house featuring a brunch buffet that we scored a booth all to ourselves. Mimosas, please?!

Of course, one thing led to another and a quick trip and a couple drinks turned into Sunday Funday madness that ended with crab legs at Hooters Uptown. I can’t complain though, an unplanned weekend turned into a weekend win!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Weekend Curfew? That’s New

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 11:59 AM

The past few days in the Queen City have been interesting, to say the least. The death of Keith Lamont Scott, a black male, at the hands of CMPD last Tuesday sparked #BlackLivesMatter protests throughout the city.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement was officially established in 2012 — following the acquittal of George Zimmerman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black male — in an effort to bring issues such as racial injustice, inequality and police brutality to the forefront of conversation. Last week, Charlotte brought the conversation back.

On Wednesday afternoon, a protest was scheduled for Uptown. Given the current social climate and media attention surrounding similar protests, many businesses, particularly in the Uptown area, made the decision to the let their employees leave early. As I stepped outside of my office and prepared to relocate I could feel the tension rising as Charlotteans piled into the light rail and police officers stationed themselves in front of buildings.

After receiving multiple texts from friends and family later on that night asking if I was okay and staying out of trouble, I knew that the protests had taken a turn for the worst. The next morning we were asked to work from home, learned that businesses in the EpiCentre had racked up damages and were alerted that the National Guard was on its way. That night, a curfew of 12 a.m. was instituted and would carry into the weekend.

After wrapping up work on Friday and welcoming my boyfriend home earlier than usual, we pondered on what we do. After all, neither one of us have navigated Charlotte nightlife under these circumstances, or had a curfew in a really long time. The football team he coaches had just won a season opener and our plan was to celebrate. But when we started to compile a list of places to go we became frustrated.

If we did go out, where would we go? Would the “riots” be the focus of every conversation? Would we want to have that conversation with every person, friend or foe, that we encountered? How quickly could we get from one place to another and make it home before curfew?
(Disclaimer: My boyfriend and I both have personal convictions about the events going on in our city and across the nation. Our commitment to enjoying the weekend in spite of, was in no way a dismissal. We were simply seeking opportunities to celebrate community instead of focusing our entire weekend on negative energy that wouldn’t fix the problems we all face.)

We decided to hit up a high school football game. Shortly before halftime, I was ready to leave. My hope was that we would leave the game, head straight to a bar, drink early and get home before 12 a.m. Later we were alerted that breweries, clubs and bars were closing early. We opted for a bottle of wine and $40 worth of snacks at a convenience store.

The following day and night was a complete wash. My boyfriend and I slept all day and the next thing you know, it was already curfew time. So we focused our energy on actually making something happen for Sunday Funday and yet another Panthers game. Again, we weighed our options. Head Uptown and deal with protest talk and crowded bars or stay close to home? The latter, seemed like a better idea.

I’ve mentioned Blue Olive Lounge before, but this time there was free food. I wasn’t even hungry, but I knew this was the best option for watching the game. We scored some Indian cuisine and mac and cheese. Talk about a killer combo! Not to mention, I made friends with some bar-goers and scored a slice of pizza, too. After a disappointing loss and only a couple drinks, I was tempted to keep the party going but followed my instincts and called it a night.

As I walked from the light rail to work on Monday morning, I went through the EpiCentre passing boarded storefronts — the aftermath of the actions of a small faction of protesters in Charlotte. I thought, ‘weekend number one of Q.C. social change is in the books.’

Regardless of your perspective on the social unrest in the Charlotte community, navigating the nightlife scene under these circumstances is very interesting, especially considering we have no real idea how long the protests will last.

How and where did you unwind after a long week given the current environment?

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Is It Time for Pumpkin Spice Lattes Yet?

Posted By on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 7:00 AM

The other day I was browsing Facebook when I came across a meme — a humorous image featuring text — that had a picture of a girl decked out in fall fashion, Starbucks in hand and a grocery cart full of pumpkins. The caption read: “Me, when I see one leaf on the ground.” I laughed hysterically and reposted it on my timeline. Shortly after, I started getting notifications from my Facebook followers, liking, loving and commenting on the picture. I guess I wasn’t the only one craving cooler weather, Halloween and the ever so popular, pumpkin spice lattes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’ll be the first one complaining when my alarm goes off and I’m walking to the CityLYNX Gold Line freezing my tail off in the dark. However, nothing excites me more than being able to wake up in the cold morning, effortlessly throw on fall layers and walk into work looking and smelling like a warm, comfy bed.

And you can’t forget that with the start of fall, “cuffing season” is also in full effect. This is the time when promiscuous singles seek the comfort of snuggles, electing to be “cuffed” or tied down by someone else. Gone are the days of, “suns out, guns and buns out.” All of a sudden, your exes — and their mamas — will find someone to play big spoon and little spoon with.

Even though the leaves haven’t quite started to change, and the North Carolina weather has been anything but cool, I intend to welcome the fall season with open arms on Sept. 22. Below are a few activities that I’m looking forward to as the season of Uggs, sweaters, boo-loving and pumpkin everything starts up.

Wine festivals: Picture hundreds of wine connoisseurs sprawled out with wine glass holders wrapped around their necks on the lawn at Symphony Park at Southpark Mall. That was me, just two years ago. My co-worker and I had stumbled upon tickets for the Great Grapes! Wine and Food Festival. After multiple wine samples in the sun, I was spent. The last thing I remember was hanging onto a trashcan in a Jack in the Box drive-thru. Needless to say, I’d like to have a more mature experience on Oct. 1.

NASCAR: My family’s been into NASCAR all my life. Despite having lived in Charlotte for three years, I have yet to make it to a race. This year, my friends and I are planning on making our debut for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 8. If we end up taking a party bus and tailgating, I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll actually make it in to the speedway to see the race. After all, if you’re not first, you’re last.

SCarowinds: Halloween is probably my favorite holiday of all time. That’s why I’m obsessed with SCarowinds. At night, the entire park, employees included, is decked out in Halloween gear, from costumes to decorations. While I’ve never been much of a rollercoaster-lover, I’ve always been intrigued by the costume choices, décor, mazes and fun houses. Get the jeepers creepers scared out of you at your fave amusement park Sept.16 to Oct. 30.

Halloween Pub Crawl: Two years ago, I managed to squeeze in four different costumes in a single weekend — mind you, I hadn’t dressed up for years prior to that. The most memorable day was getting dressed up with my partner in crime and her family for Rich & Bennett’s Halloween Pub Crawl. I skipped the festivities last year, so I think it’s about time I make a resurrection on Oct. 29.

Road Trip: Around Labor Day this year, my friends and I took a road trip to Asheville. We hadn’t gotten together in a while and needed a break. So we rented a cabin, grabbed lots of beer and hopped in our respective cars for the reunion. This fall, I see quite a bit of hiking, hammocks, beers and bonfires with great company. I’m hoping I can snag a hotel or cabin with an infinity pool. That’ll score more than my fair share of likes on #instagram.

Waterfall hike: Every year, I make a point to say that I want to get in shape or find more activities that will get me outside. After seeing one too many articles on the beautiful waterfalls throughout North Carolina, I’ve decided that’s one thing I want to see before it gets too cold. A cool day plus changing leaves plus a breathtaking waterfall equals heaven!

What activities are you getting excited about as we get ready for fall in the Queen City?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Panthers fans are on the prowl

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Can I just say that this past week has been one of the craziest of my life? I interviewed for a promotion at my 9-to-5 job and guess what? I got it! The news was delivered to me on Friday morning, and on Monday I started my new role. After work on Friday, I was exhausted. I could’ve settled for going straight home to “Netflix and chill,” but I knew that wasn’t going to happen since the Panthers were playing the New England Patriots at Bank of America Stadium.

I’ve never been a huge sports fan. I know, I know, taboo for a third year Charlottean to admit, but it’s true. I cheered throughout middle and high school but let’s be honest, while cheerleading is a sport, I participated more for camaraderie and “fame.” The latter part of my high school career was spent at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. While we had a cheerleading team and a few sports, education was our top priority. And after going to Duke University for college, you’d think something would’ve clicked. Nope. However, I did learn the value of tailgating for sporting events.

Nevertheless, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that it’s almost impossible to have a conversation with another adult without sports coming up at some point. Especially while living in a city that’s home to a NFL sports team. And to top it off? My boyfriend is pretty much obsessed with anything to do with sports whether he’s participating or not. As we joked about my recent sports-immersion he asked, “Are you really watching though? Who did we play in the Super Bowl?” Granted, that day’s memory was tainted by my condo’s HOA-party police so I knew the answer immediately when I responded, “The Broncos!” Nevertheless, I’ve had to learn a lot very quickly in order to accommodate the growing adult obsession with sports.

Last Thursday night I pulled out my Christmas present, a Kelvin Benjamin jersey — we’ll pretend like I knew his number and full name ahead of time — in honor of his big return, and prepared to wear it for the next day. After work, I hopped on the light rail to meet up with my boyfriend and we prepared to head toward Uptown. One of his friends recently moved into a condo right down the street from Bank of America Stadium so they decided to break it in for a Panthers watch party. Even though we completely forgot how crazy traffic is during home games, we still sat down in time for kickoff.

“Are you excited about Sunday Funday?” one of his friends asked. Of course he was referring to festivities on Sundays once the regular season games begin. I rolled my eyes and responded, “So excited!” And the truth is, I am kind of excited. Mainly because those days will give me a chance to get off the couch, grab a few mimosas and watch sports somewhere outside of the house.
Below are a few of my favorite spots to catch a “big game” in the Queen City. There apply even if you’re not a Panthers’ fan:

1. Draught: Described as an upscale sports bar in Third Ward, Draught offers the perfect combination of food, fun, sports and most importantly, drinks. I watched the Super Bowl there two years ago and managed to snag an entire table under their outdoor tent — talk about a premier viewing experience. Since then, it’s become one of my favorite spots for grabbing brunch and listening to music. Parking is limited and traffic can be busy since it’s so close to the stadium, so I would suggest grabbing an Uber to get there. For those eating or interested in getting a table, they get really crowded so there’s most likely going to be a wait.

2. Slate Billiards: Located in South End, Slate is perfect for anyone looking for a variety of things to do and see on game days. Pool tables, arcade games, ping pong, Jenga and other games are placed throughout the large venue. If you’re bored watching a game, there’s plenty for you to do. Keep in mind, it does get packed on game days. You are guaranteed to be fighting for space at the bar, especially if you don’t have cash for the beer stand. Proceed with caution and go with the flow.

3. Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse: If you haven’t visited this Uptown location yet, you’re missing out. I’ve never been a huge fan of the locations on Montford or in Ballantyne, but the Uptown spot is amazing — minus the fact that you’ll have to fend for yourself as far as parking goes. There’s plenty of seating, bar space and televisions throughout the venue that make it much more manageable when it’s packed for game day.

Where will you be watching the Panthers in the Q.C. this season? Share your fave spots with me at

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Balance is Key When it Comes to Work and Play

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 11:26 AM

Most weekends when I go home, I feel like I have no time to enjoy something in the Queen City at all. Lately, however, I’ve made balance a top priority by: taking time for myself, committing to trying new things and sharing weekend time with family. Needless to say, juggling the 2016 Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade and my mom’s 50th birthday celebration was a unique challenge this past weekend.

If you were in Charlotte and ventured to Uptown, you probably had some difficulty navigating the city streets. That’s because a portion of Tryon Street was blocked off to make room for vendors during the Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade on Saturday and Sunday. Last week, I shared a couple memories from past Charlotte Pride celebrations as well as events I had already set my sights on for this year. While I didn’t make it to every planned event, I did have the opportunity to go to a couple.

Friday after getting off work I decided to kill some time before jumping into a drinking frenzy and walked to the McColl Center for Art + Innovation to meet a co-worker. I was beyond ecstatic to check out one of their newest installations called, Open Occupancy: Artists Respond to HB2.

The seven installations are strategically placed on every floor of the art center in public restrooms. Artists respond to attacks surrounding NC’s House Bill 2 by infiltrating the very spaces that are being threatened. Talk about powerful! Through video, audio and art, each piece seeks to question, reveal, expand and transcend traditional narratives of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

My favorite? A positive image installation created by artist, Andrea Vail. Surrounded by silver streamers and a neon disco ball, viewers are invited to celebrate the beauty of all of our differences in a mirror while listening to a play list that can be navigated by following instructions located in the bathroom. You know I had to capture the moment with a selfie. My co-worker and I had to cut our trip short because the McColl Center was closing at 5 p.m., but I would highly suggest you check out the installation before it ends on Sept. 10.

After leaving the McColl Center, another co-worker and I decided to take a peek inside The Bar at 316. An LGBT-friendly bar located in South End, I was stoked to visit it for the first time. I assumed that I would find it somewhere along South Boulevard, so I was pleasantly surprised when we pulled up to a cozy two-story house on Rensselaer Avenue. While there weren’t a lot of parking spaces, and we had to buy some time at another bar before they opened, we felt right at home as soon as we walked through the parlor door.

Inside, on the first floor, we were met with an intimate atmosphere. The music from the second floor flowed down the stairs, but it wasn’t too loud to watch a show on a large screen from the comfort of two large couches, play pool with friends or have a conversation over a couple beers at the venue’s small bar. After grabbing drinks, my co-worker and I decided to venture up to the second floor.

There was another bar, — this one larger —a stage, more intimate seating and my favorite, a roof top deck. A comfortable space, The Bar at 316 is definitely a place you can feel free to be yourself and chill. Trust me, I’ll be making another trip very soon. After all, I didn’t get to see the space through night vision.

Before I knew it, my boyfriend and I were meeting up and heading to Bradshaw Social House in Ballantyne to meet up with some old co-workers that I hadn’t seen in a while. Rumored to be a popular spot for cougars, I wasn’t too surprised when I was informed the next day that an older couple, who’d given their fair share of compliments, seemed to be fishing for a plus one at home — if you catch my drift. Fortunately, no one got recruited prior to making an early exit for wind down time at home.

The next morning, I wouldn’t say I was hungover, but I wouldn’t say I was feeling very chipper either as my boyfriend and I drove to Childress Vineyards and Badin Lake for my mom’s birthday. The entire day included wine, beer, football, jet skis and a boat ride before we called it a night at my parent’s house. Upon returning to Charlotte by 2 p.m. on Sunday, I felt like a perfectly balanced weekend had come to an end, with a few hours to spare.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Charlotte Pride kicks off this week

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 10:59 AM

As I sat on a redeye flight from Boston back to the Queen City at 5 a.m. on Monday morning I thought, ‘How am I going to get through this work day?’ I sighed and attempted to take a nap while we sat on the runway. After fussing over multiple positions and trying to find a sweet spot without my neck pillow, I gave up and decided to browse Facebook one last time before taking off.

At the top of my feed was a post titled, “1 year ago today.” There was a picture of me in a tie-dye tube top with the hashtags: #cltpride #lovewins. Even though I ended up going to the Charlotte Pride Parade alone and went home with swollen lips after having a bad reaction to jalapenos, I smiled reflecting on that weekend. Suddenly, I was super excited to get through the work day because I knew that meant that I was one day closer to the kickoff of the 2016 Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade.

And while I tend to celebrate by turning up, Pride isn’t just about the parties. The week leading up until the parade incorporates education, forums, panels, outreach programs, volunteer opportunities and political conversations. All of which, provide a great chance for LGBT community members, allies and interested parties to support, nurture and grow together.

For those of you who don’t know, Pride is renowned not just throughout the United States, but also across much of the world. Also known as LGBT Pride, for me, it represents a celebration of difference. A positive response to the discrimination, violence and silence that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals face every single day.

What’s even better? I get to experience it twice a year. There are two pride festivals in Charlotte — Charlotte Pride (held in August) and Charlotte Black Gay Pride (held in July). Why, you may ask? While there is a shared, collective LGBT experience that should be recognized and appreciated, the minority experience can be uniquely different and isn’t always felt, shared or recognized by the larger LGBT community. In other words, it’s easy for minority causes and identities to get lost in the sauce.

Every year since I’ve been in Charlotte, a few friends, both members of the LGBT community and allies, have made an effort to attend at least one event during each Pride Festival. This past year, the highlight of Black Gay Pride was going to The Scorpio. Conveniently located near a Cook Out on Freedom Drive — did you catch the shameless late night food plug? — The Scorpio has been a safe haven for members of the LGBT community since 1968. I would argue it’s the closet you can get in the Q.C. to an underground, elusive and exclusive allure that you’ll find in New York LGBT spaces.

Every Saturday, you can catch a show that features dance groups, vocalists and fabulous drag queens. During Black Gay Pride, they usually try to incorporate someone who’s become a figurehead in the community. Last year, a star from RuPaul’s Drag Race was in attendance. However, no matter when you drop by, you can always expect to be fully entertained and to experience a high-energy atmosphere, with a splash of drama, all the way up until 4 a.m.

Sadly, each year, it seems like the amount of activities — for both festivals — decrease significantly. This year, I missed out on the Black Gay Pride festivities, but I plan on catching a few of the following events this week as the 2016 Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade continues:

• Aug. 19 (and continuing through Sept. 10): McColl Center for Art + Innovation will feature art installations in several of its public restrooms entitled, Open Occupancy: Artists Respond to HB2.

• The Official Charlotte Pride Kickoff Cookout Party at The Bar at 316 is also Friday night starting at 5:30 p.m. I’ve never experienced Bar 316, as many refer to it as, so this will be a welcomed change to my nightlife routine.

• And last but not least, I’m hoping to drop in for Takeover Friday at Le Méridien Hotel. (This may, or may not, include a quick trip upstairs to my new fave rooftop spot, City Lights Rooftop).

Unfortunately, I won’t be in town on Saturday. However, I’m optimistic about celebrating Pride this year in a new way. And if I’m lucky, I’ll make it back in time for the Charlotte Pride Parade on Sun., Aug. 21. What events do you plan on attending during this year’s Charlotte Pride Festival? What would you like to see different next year?


Fun and games in Charlotte

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 10:56 AM

Would you believe that this past weekend I didn’t get wasted? My boyfriend and I decided to take a break from Charlotte and head to Oak Island, NC. Blame it on the fact that we were hanging out with his family if you want, but for the first time in a while, I had a fairly sober weekend. Of course there were a few beers here and there but mostly, my drug of choice was Vitamin D. And I must say, my detox weekend getaway was much needed after an eventful night at VBGB Beer Hall and Garden last Thursday night.

Two weeks ago while out drinking with a couple co-workers, a few of us decided that we needed to spend more time together and that we were going to hang out the following week. (Side note: Planning while drinking is always a bad idea. You end up committing to something without being fully aware of what exactly you’re signing up for.) On that following Monday, I thought, ‘Someone’s definitely going to forget.’ Nope. Before the day was over, I had an email waiting in my inbox about the plans. I let out a sigh as I responded, preparing my mind for a hangover on Friday.

After work on Thursday, our sleepy, grumpy crew, too stubborn to postpone, hopped in a car and headed over to VBGB at AvidXchange Music Factory. As we prepared to round the corner past Label and Wet Willie’s, we were welcomed by a sign that read “Parking Garage Now Open.”
‘It’s about time,’ I thought to myself. We pulled in, found a spot on the first floor and walked in.

For those that aren’t aware, VBGB is one of the most popular spots for fun and games in the Queen City. On the outdoor patio, you’ll find ping pong, Connect Four, Jenga and corn hole. Not to mention, on Thursdays you can watch a series of volleyball games or participate in team trivia. That’s right, beer, liquor, games and fun all in one place.

For some reason, unbeknownst to me, a few co-workers, past and present, participate in volleyball leagues. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why people can be coerced into playing games by alcohol. However, I personally, have no desire to play games while I’m drinking. And I certainly don’t understand why anyone would want to subject themselves to the torturous summer heat to do so.

Nevertheless, it’s always hilarious to watch my tipsy co-workers stumble onto one of the six sand volleyball courts and play a competitive game. (If you’re interested joining a volleyball league or pickup volleyball play, check out The Sandbox at VBGB on The Sports Link website.) Per usual, what started out as a quick couple of beers turned into, “Maybe I should grab an RBV?”

Before you knew it, it was 8:15 p.m. and my co-workers were deciding on a Rave Production team trivia name and I was on my second Red Bull Vodka. What I’ve gathered is that the team name is one of the most critical pieces to playing trivia, and the more obnoxious the better. My co-workers settled on something along the lines of “Dr. Big D, M.D.” because doctor wasn’t enough. While other teams, went in the more conservative direction of “Make America Great Again” or “Trumpalupagus.”
The first round ensued, and I assumed my usual position of pretending to be invested while secretly looking up all the answers for my own satisfaction until I got bored. It started raining soon after the first round and I was hoping that meant the trivia game would conclude and we could return to the regularly scheduled program. Instead, the game was conveniently moved underneath the covered patio area.

By 9 p.m., I realized how drunk everyone was getting and decided it was almost time to call it a night. I waited patiently for the rain to let up so I could walk to my co-workers car and grab my backpack. Everyone seemed disappointed as I prepared to call my Uber and make my graceful exit, but I knew it was for the best.

The next morning, while brushing my teeth I started to feel nauseous and I thought, ‘Thank God I left when I did.’ And after finding out some of my co-workers ended up staying out until 4 a.m., I was resolved knowing I was going to have a much better day as I prepared for a relaxing weekend at the beach. You’ll be happy to know my co-workers were rewarded for being average with a free pitcher of beer. Although, their hangovers would probably argue it wasn’t worth it.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Bringing August in with a bang

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 2:01 PM

As my coworkers and I piled in to a room for a meeting, one of them proclaimed, “Champagne cures all.” I nodded my head in agreement, which was weird considering champagne had dominated my previous weekend in Durham. It was there that I discovered another drink to add to the list, things you can still drink even after it comes back up. Per usual, we spent the first portion of the meeting recapping the weekend’s excitement and for the first time in a while, we had a company event to discuss.

Our company finally hit a goal we’ve been focusing on for months. Our reward? An all-expense-paid trip to 204 North Kitchen & Cocktails. Talk about #winning. We wrapped up the work day a couple hours early, 3 p.m. to be exact, and walked up the street to one of my newest fave Q.C. spots. Decked out in exposed brick, piping and natural wood, it’s yet another great place for grabbing appetizers and cocktails in the heart of Uptown. (Sidenote: It’s quite hilarious that it’s situated between RiRa and Prohibition because 204 North gives off the “I’m adulting today vibe” while the latter tend to be where I end up when I’m re-making poor college decisions.)

If you happened to pick up a copy of Creative Loafing last week, then you know I was planning on hitting up 204 North for Queen’s Feast: Charlotte Restaurant Week. Last Tuesday, a few coworkers and I snagged a reservation for dinner. I had planned on getting the classic burger, fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese and a dessert. But after we arrived, my eyes landed on something I couldn’t resist: wine and lobster mac and cheese. I weighed my options, and decided that since I’m not a huge dessert fan and since more wine and the mac and cheese dish would equate to the $30 restaurant week three-course deals, I’d go with the new choice. Not to mention, they gifted us a charcuterie board for a delay in seating, so I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I would be.

Needless to say, after an excellent meal with great company on Tuesday, I was more than happy to accommodate my peers and head back for round two on the company’s dime. This time, however, we completely took over the upstairs bar area. As soon as we crossed the street, the hostess was already opening the door to greet us. I thought to myself, “If they can immediately distinguish a few underdressed young professionals crossing the street and assume we’re heading that way, they must be able to tell what they’re getting into.”

I avoided the large crowd that gathered and went straight to find a space at the bar. The smart cookies that coordinated the event knew that free liquor was a bad idea, so that limited our options to wine and beer. There was a loophole, however, Prosecco was on tap. Score! I grabbed a flute and headed to a table full of familiar faces — I know, I know, I should have been mingling, but honestly large crowds can be a bit overwhelming for my taste.

Two and a half hours later, the president of our company couldn’t wait to close the tab and disappear before stragglers began begging for more. We packed up our things and headed around the corner to Connolly’s on Fifth. It wasn’t until I realized I had cried with not just one, but two, of my coworkers that I was a bit more tipsy than I was supposed to be. My boyfriend and I had a triple date planned in honor of restaurant week and he’d only asked for one thing, “Aerin, don’t get wasted before dinner.” Oops.

I knew it was time for me to make my Irish exit as we walked to the last stop on the pregame tour: Fitzgerald’s. The unamused boyfriend came to pick me up and we stopped by my house so I could get changed for dinner at Upstream.

By the time our reservation rolled around, I wasn’t even hungry but I knew I’d better eat something. Remembering this spot was a popular seafood destination in Charlotte, I kept it simple and ordered the crab cake appetizer which ended up being the best decision of the day. And after munching on my boyfriend’s meal — spicy shrimp lettuce wraps and Wagyu flank steak — I felt full and satisfied.
Now that’s what I call a recipe for restaurant week success and a pretty great way to wrap up July.

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