Wednesday, October 10, 2018

What It Means To Be a Woman in the Nightlife Scene in the Kavanaugh Era

State of the date

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2018 at 11:01 AM

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"What are you going to write about this week?"

My boyfriend asks me that question every week. And unless I've been somewhere new, I'll sigh because my answer is usually, "I have no idea." But that's also why I love writing about nightlife. Even if I haven't gone to a new venue, the conversations I have on a nightly basis will always inspire my articles.

So in this week's news, Brett Kavanaugh. I'm not saying I don't care what views you have on #MeToo, but I don't care about your views. If you've ever been in a hairy situation after a couple drinks, you know that an encounter can quickly go left or right for both — or all if you're into that sort of thing — parties really quickly. And I know for a fact that my friends and I have plenty of stories when it comes to why we understand the reality of what it means to admit, "Yeah ... #MeToo." So that's that.

Nevertheless, the conversations we've all witnessed or taken part in over the past year regarding #MeToo are very necessary from a social progression standpoint. That's why a lot of proponents have experienced a bleak couple of days this past week, especially given the outcome of Bill Cosby's case. But I'm the pessimist, feminist, black women who says, "I'm not surprised at all."

Due to the nature of the political and social environments currently, these are the topics of conversation after a few drinks at the bar when there's no gossip to discuss. So you tend to engage in or overhear quite a few conversations about what it means to be a drunk man versus a drunk woman engaging in relations after three or more drinks in.

"I mean ... If I treated every interaction I've had with a woman according to these 'new rules' the #MeToo movement has created I'd be in a lot of trouble ... " (One of the things overheard #interesting.)

So while I was grappling over what to write about after the usual question from my boyfriend, I stumbled across a New York Magazine account dedicated to the cartoons that they include in their "often controversial" articles. And the post was cover art that was a picture of a woman and the title was "A Working Woman's Magazine." Around the woman, were phrases (thought bubbles or insights into what the magazine would contain) like, "So you internalized feedback ... what next?!" and "SEEM MORE APPROACHABLE: move your mouth while you silently read!" also "5 outfits that say dependable and unlikely to get pregnant."

*Insert light bulb moment.* Almost every night I've gone out this week, the topic of Kavanaugh has come up. And in some ways, some version of Kavanaugh has come up every single night I've gone out, ever. From catcalling to #baddecisions, the dynamic of "relations" has always been the topics of conversation as one navigates through the treacherous landscape that is dating.

"It's a tough time for heterosexual, white men right now," one of my guy friends said in jest. And you know if I thought it was anything outside of jest, he would've caught these hands. But his statement was the epitome of all the statements that people like me hear and either decide, "Alright, let's effing go," or they just release the biggest sigh and keep it moving. So for him, "no harm no foul," I chuckled and then sighed.

But the truth is, that is my experience, especially in nightlife, all the time. I'm blacklisted — for lack of a better term — as the "angry black woman," "man hater, "feminist," "staunch leftist" or I'm silent because I just don't want to be stereotyped as any of the above. And honestly, the silence is way more overwhelming because I feel like I'm not doing my part. Talk about #blackfemalequeerguilt. It's stifling. You live in two worlds constantly, either you can educate or you can chop every person who shares an opinion that differs from yours down as "ignorant."

Needless to say, I was reminded very quickly of what it feels like to be in "the sunken place," revisiting conversations about black versus white, Republican versus Democrat and female versus male when Kavanaugh was allowed a "seat at the table."

It's a tough conversation that needs to be had, but that's why I struggled to find a voice even though I had plenty of reasons to discuss what it means to be a woman in nightlife after a "tough week." When in reality, it should've been apparent what my response should've been to my boyfriend, "I'm going to talk about what it feels like to exist as a woman."

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Help Yourself to Some Suds

Pouring my way through the Queen City

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2018 at 4:00 AM

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As of late, I've been so preoccupied with my thoughts that I haven't taken much time to try new things or venture out from my watering hole. Instead, I've been heading to the place I'm most comfortable and trying to take my mind off of being an adult.

I've started a new job. Two jobs in fact. I've restored my trust in love again. And I'm happier than I've been in a very long time. But you know what they say? With great power comes great responsibility. So, here's to the season of change.

Nevertheless, this past week I forced myself outside of my current comfort zone to check out the new self-pour spot in Plaza Midwood called Pour Taproom.

One of my close friends has been occupied with adulting of her own, and as such, we haven't had much time to hang. So when she hit me up after I'd sat cooped up in the house all day with an HVAC technician, I couldn't resist.

If you remember, last December I discussed my experience at a similar concept in a previous column about about a self-pour taproom called Hoppin' in South End. My biggest compliment? The fact that an introvert like myself can get to drankin' without having to endure an awkward interaction with a person or bartender. As you can imagine, the same goes for Pour Taproom.

Located next to Pint Central — the front parking lot is shared, but there's more parking in the back — Pour is a great addition to the Plaza Midwood nightlife scene.

In fact, I'd argue that the self-pour concept works much better in this part of Charlotte over the South End area. The vibe is way less "Chad," if that makes sense.

I entered the door and proceeded to the counter where I was greeted with one of the warmest welcomes I've felt in an establishment in a long time.

A friendly guide proceeded to take me on a quick tour after handing me a plastic card connected to a necklace with a QR code on it.

Instead of scanning the wristband tech like you do at Hoppin', you'll scan the QR code on your tag by holding it in front of a camera, while Pour's licensed technology does the rest.

After pointing out that I loved sours, my guide led me straight to where I'd find the beverage of my choice. I poured my first glass and sat down with my bestie.

In between pours, my friend — who's way more of an extrovert than myself — made another friend. Turns out, Brooke Martin had the pull to take us behind the scenes. As always, my girl was looking out.

Martin took us into the back room where we could see what's behind the scanners. The answer: 118 tap lines. That's right, Pour is the largest self-pour venue of its kind in the United States!

And the roomy space is definitely a reflection of that. Not to mention, they actually indicate what type of beer you're drinking. Perfect for the sour snob like me.

As I mentioned in my previous column, the tabs at Hoppin aren't organized by beer type, nor do they have as many beers to choose from.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not poo-pooing the originators in Charlotte, I'm just saying, before we get all like, "Why do we need another self-serve bar?" just know that there are some differences worth noting.

In addition to a QR scanner, increased organization, a larger selection and a huge space, they have a "WTF Wall" that is sure to grab your attention when you pass the front counter — it certainly caught mine. It features three unique, rotating taps for you to try.

Other than that, if you've been to Hoppin', you know what to expect overall; 32-ounce check-ins, a range of glasses to choose from, food trucks and, the best part, limited interactions with people you don't know.

If you're lucky, you'll run into Brooke or another member of their team who's willing give you a private tour. But even if you don't, it'll still be worth your trip.

For me, I'll be waiting until next month to go back. Why? I'm committing to Sober October again this year! That's right, I'm laying off the spirits for a solid month. Hold me to it.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the the new self-pour spot. Is there anything different you'd like to see in the next version? As Smokey the Bear says, "Only we can prevent terrible nightlife." He says that, right?

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Cool Activities to Follow a Hot Summer

Fall in love with Charlotte

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2018 at 10:28 AM

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After buying way too many groceries in preparation for Hurricane Florence, I'm thankful for a slight breeze during the day and cooler nights.

And naturally, on Sept. 22, everyone and their mamas were posting pictures, etc. celebrating the coming of fall. You know, memes like, "Gotta love fall. You can go from wearing the same five things all summer to the same five things all fall. #hoodieseason #layers."

Of course, they were also the same people posting, "When it's fall and North Carolina is like, eff that summer is still coming." Hypocrites.

But seeing all the memes, whatever the reason, I started to have daydreams about how excited I am for the fall. Especially when I always wear layers, no matter what time of year it is and I have a boo thang to snuggle up to. Yes, it's officially the start of cuffing season.

Last year, I spent the majority of my time going to house parties complete with bonfires, shows and believe it or not, going to Uptown Cabaret after Sunday Funday and football. Weird combo, I know. But there are a litany of other activities I'd suggest for the good people of Queen City and here they are:

Clutch your pearls at Scarowinds: A few years ago, one of my roommates wanted to go to Scarowinds for her birthday. Now, anyone that knows me knows that I'm not a fan of roller coasters. I don't even like driving too fast over a hump in the road. So me and another friend ended up riding the big swings over and over again until we mustered up enough courage to go to the haunted corn maze. Mistake. We were so terrified we ended up bear-hugging two complete strangers who dragged us through the entire maze. Sorry not sorry. However, the allure of living in a scary movie for a short period of time, between rides, is definitely what keeps Charlotteans going back.

Discover the Great Pumpkin Wall: What's fall without a pumpkin? Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice, pumpkin lattes. I giggled at the last one #basic. But the Great Pumpkin Wall, located in Elizabeth, will surely get you hype. Locals gather in droves to carve pumpkins, which are then displayed on a wall for everyone to gawk at. The warm glow that's created with the lighting is absolutely heartwarming. And two years ago, when I went, I met the mayor. #goals

Watch a "scury" movie in the woods: Think back to your childhood. What was your favorite movie to watch during the Halloween season? Nightmare Before Christmas? Halloweentown? Sorry I'm not reaching too far back, oldheads.

Nevertheless, I received the greatest notification I ever did see on Facebook for an event called Movie in the Woods: Hocus Pocus. Um, sign me up! That's one of those movies the young folk watch on repeat during this wonderful time of year when channels are playing scary movies on repeat. That event is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 13, at Cabarrus Arena & Events Center in Concord.

Be adventurous and see a random show: If you're anything like me, you have a preference for the type of music you listen to. However, Sofar Sounds is one of the greatest things to come to the Queen City. You purchase tickets after signing up on their website, but here's the catch: you have no idea who's going to be playing or where the show is going to be in Charlotte. Come on, who doesn't like a good secret? Don't worry, they tell you the day before. And I'll be the first to say, every show I've been to has been completely enjoyable.

Take a hayride and explore a pumpkin patch: If you don't want to settle for seeing carved pumpkins at The Great Pumpkin Wall, carve your own. Every year, I try to grab a pumpkin, usually from a store, and bake the seeds so I can munch on them while I attempt to carve it.

But this year, I want to go to an actual pumpkin patch so I can experience what it feels like to see a sea of pumpkins in a field. But a hayride? That will make the whole experience that much better.

These days, we can't predict how long each season in North Carolina is going to be. That's why we need to make the most of our time before it's too cold to enjoy life and we're smuggling Tic Tacs in our shirts.

Tell me, what do you plan on doing, besides drinking, in the Queen City for "pumpkin spice season," aka fall, this year? Share it with me.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Small Plates, Bye Bye Dates

Tapas can help you out of an awkward situation

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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This past week, an old friend came into town for a quick visit. In her usual flair, she returned to the Q.C. with a bang. Day two, she was sighing aloud about how disinterested she was in traditional dating now that she's relocated to Nashville. You know the deal: having dinner and going through the motions of getting to know a complete stranger over the course of a single meal.

"I just wanna eat. That's all I wanna do. I don't want to get to know you. What am I gonna ask or talk about if I don't wanna do my usual of telling you my entire life story? 'What's your favorite color?'"

These are a few of her least favorite things.

A hearty laugh from both the male and female audience followed. I can't blame her. If love fails me again in this life, and my boo and I don't work out, the last thing I'm going to want to do is pretend to enjoy getting deep with anyone ever again. Call me bitter or pessimistic, but when you've watched a movie over and over again, you never expect the ending to change. *steps off soapbox*

All jokes aside, my friend's perspective had me taking a new look at the Queen City's recent small plate craze. Personally, I'm obsessed with the whole tapas concept. What are tapas, you ask? It translates from Spanish as any sort of small portion of food. That being said, I thought about what my friend said, and thought, "Actually, small plates are a great compromise for an awkward date scenario."

Picture it. Tinder date, 2018. You order two small plates, and if you're not enjoying the conversation, you're free to enjoy the glass of wine or cocktail in front of you and then dip. It's the perfect speed date for any guy or girl, if you ask me. No qualms, no drama, no having to sit through a appetizer or large meal. And no having a friend call you 15 minutes in so you can potentially fake an emergency. Either it's working out or it's not. And if not, each of you can go on about your night.

So, I started thinking about the handful of restaurants in Charlotte that I've actually been to that serve small plates, and here's my list thus far:

The Stanley: I've already written about this Elizabeth gem. Long story short, every small dish, no matter how obscure for my inexperienced palate, was amazing (and I've been twice). Not to mention, they've managed to create some version of a unique menu every single week since they opened. Say what?! The peas and carrots were phenomenal. Pro tip: You'll need a reservation, so get on that. Also, they don't stay open super late, so keep that in mind.

Soul Gastrolounge: If you've lived in Charlotte for any decent amount of time, you better know about Soul. You certainly need a reservation for this Queen City staple (I've happily waited more than two hours for a table before). But they've managed to thrive and create a real footprint in the Charlotte area, so if you haven't been, you better effing go. They do quite a few specials, however, their regular menu alone is phenomenal. Go to their website and plan your night out (or a bite-'n'-go escape) in Plaza Midwood.

Bardo: Located in South End's Gold District, Bardo definitely has a littleSpoon Eatery vibe, based on the type of music that plays inside. Enjoy Biggie, Tupac and beyond while you're delving into carefully crafted small plates that are great tasting until the last bite. Be smart and get a reservation beforehand, just in case. Maybe you'll at least enjoy a few tunes before you head out early "due to an emergency."

Kindred: You're going to have to travel a hop, skip and a jump to get to Davidson, so if you ride with your date, a quick escape won't necessarily mean a fast end to the night, but all the more reason to take your own car. As far as Kindred goes, believe the hype. They're worth the trip — especially if your meal is free. Boo Boo and I had an absolutely delicious experience that you can also read about in a recent column of mine.

Dandelion Market: I've also already written about good ol' Dando. I experienced their market dinner (which is everything on the menu for $295) for my birthday party and it was epic. They have plenty of small plates for you to choose from. Not to mention, if you schedule your date for late enough, you can hope for a successful dinner and a long night upstairs on the weekends, as they stop serving food and the second floor turns into a dance party.

Those are my top five for now, but I've been to plenty more. Tell me, where would you go to drool over a small plate or two, whether or not you're avoiding a "horrible date situation." Share it with me.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hunkering Down for a Hurricane With Some Furry Friends

When it's raining cats and dogs

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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Last year, when Hurricane Maria hit the East Coast, I had plans to be on a Trolley Pub Charlotte crawl. No joke. However, I went to IKEA first. I went to the retail rabbit hole for two reasons: to procrastinate on drinking and to eat some delectable Swedish meatballs.

Throughout my stay at IKEA, multiple trolley goers called me to ask if I was going to make it, until I finally gave in. #peerpressure. Little did I know that the outskirts of the storm were already brushing through Charlotte. Imagine my surprise when almost everyone on the trolley had on ponchos! Meanwhile, the only black girl with aquaphobic hair had nothing.

And if you haven't heard of Trolley Pub Charlotte, you should know it's a pedal-powered bar that can fit up to 14 people. You've probably been stuck behind one on North Davidson Street cursing at the fact that, for some odd reason, Charlotteans actually enjoy pedaling around the Queen City while drinking their BYOB purchases. Go figure. Nevertheless, my saving grace during that hurricane were the rain flaps that our trolley conductor let down before the ride ensued.

A year later, here we are again in a state of panic as Hurricane Florence makes its way toward the Carolinas. There's no bread, water or alcohol to be found in your local grocery store (trust me). Honestly, I'm starting to get a little nervous, because your girl does not like to be hungry.

I've been receiving lengthy, cautionary texts from my mom warning me and the boyfriend about the impending doom: "By the way, in case you and your boo are not paying attention to the news they are projecting Charlotte to get a lot of rain and wind because of the hurricane. You might want to stock up on necessities and food in case you lose power. Make sure you keep your cell phones fully charged too." *insert heavy helicopter parenting sigh*

Meanwhile, I'm thinking about which bars are actually going to stay open so we can all drink through the apocalypse. And that's when I had an amazing thought, "Why not be with cats or dogs when it's raining cats and dogs?!"

So I've compiled a short list of my fave places to go where you'll find cats or dogs this weekend (or in the near future). Disclaimer: don't be surprised if you really have to wait for the future, because they're most likely to close in the event of a huge storm.

Mac Tabby Cat Cafe: The purr-fect place for cat lovers, this cat cafe is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but 60-minute reservations can be booked online for $12. And while they take walk-ins, you're not guaranteed facetime with their kittos. Not to mention, the cats you'll be spending your time with are up for adoption! Maybe you'll find the newest member of your family while you're there. (Although, I must warn you, this cat owner right here has been furious about her furniture ever since scooping my feline friend off the street! *insert eye roll*)

Lucky Dog Bark and Brew: In one word, humongous. Lucky Dog Bark and Brew is the only dog bar of its type in the Charlotte area. It's an indoor/outdoor dog park complete with daycare, overnight boarding, full-service baths and, how can I forget, a full-fledged sports bar. They have three locations so you don't have to drive too far when it starts to hurricane. I've been a couple times with the P.I.C., a bulldog mom, and I must say it's the cleanest bar I've been to while surrounded by a herd of dogs.

The Dog Bar: The O.G. animal spot in the Q.C., and the one place on this list I would be shocked if it actually closes due to weather. A doggy dive bar, this NoDa spot used to be my jam. An old coworker and friend used to hang out there with his beautiful platinum blonde pup, Luna, everyday after work and I would meet him up there and watch all the puppers run around. Not to mention, the drinks are super cheap. Does it get much better than that?! (Don't be surprised if the stench of wet dog fills your nose when you enter, but it's all a part of the experience.)

Obviously, there are plenty of other dog-friendly spaces in the Charlotte area, like breweries and patios, however, but the latter two on my list are each one-of-a-kind furry friend locations. Also, check out Daily Mews for another cat cafe location.

Tell me, where's your favorite place to be entertained by animals in the Q.C.?! Share it with me at backtalk@clclt.com. And stay safe in these streets when Hurricane Florence hits!

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Varsity Kinks

Shooting stars

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 1:41 PM

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I'm a cis woman in my mid-40s, and my significant other has a cuckolding fetish. My first response was "Oh, hell no!" But if I'm willing to have a threesome, how much further of a stretch is it, really? He does have some experience with this varsity-level kink, so he knows what to expect. I've asked him some questions, but some things I prefer to research on my own.

My questions for you: (1) I don't get cuckolding. I've read all about it, but nothing about it resonates with me. My SO really wants me to be into his fetish if I am going to act on it, but what if I'm just into being GGG? Can't that be enough? (2) How should I go about finding appropriate candidates who would be into sharing this experience with us? I'm not really sure that I'd want someone with experience as a bull, because I don't feel good about this playing out the way I've seen it in porn. (3) We enjoy cross-dressing and chastity play. How do I find someone who will be cool about my SO sitting in the room in a cock lock and lingerie? (4) I kind of have a "type" (don't we all), and I'm not certain my type plays into this kink.

I prefer someone who is very dominant in public but submissive to me in the bedroom. This doesn't seem to align with your typical bull behavior. However, I do not enjoy being dominated. Do you think this matters?

-Can't Understand Cuckold Kink

1. Cuckolding isn't that hard to understand: A cuckold gets off on their partner fucking other people and being humiliated or degraded by their partner and/or their partner's playmates. Seeing as you already enjoy dominating guys and threesomes, CUCK, what's not to enjoy about a cuckolding scenario?

2. Vanilla PIV intercourse rarely plays out in real life the way it does in porn. So whether you go with an experienced bull or find someone who's unfamiliar with cuckold play but game, you don't have to reenact whatever cuckold porn you've watched or read. Write your own script!

3. By using your words, CUCK. Tell any guy who's interested in being your very special guest star (VSGS) that your SO is a cuckold and he'll be there in lingerie with his cock locked up. If that turns a VSGS candidate off, then he's not the right VSGS for you.

4. In most cuckold porn, the bull — the man who fucks the cuck's wife or girlfriend (or boyfriend or husband) in front of him — is the dominant partner. But, again, you get to write your own script, and if you want your bull to be submissive, make that clear to your potential bulls.

I'm a 54-year-old gay guy living in New York City. I'm into bondage, and I have a profile on Recon with plenty of pictures showing what I'm into. A guy visiting from San Francisco cruised me. He asked me to send a face pic, and I did. He invited me to his hotel. He didn't have any gear with him, so I stopped at a hardware store and picked up $40 worth of rope and duct tape on my way to meet him. But after 30 seconds of small talk, he said he just wasn't feeling it. I said OK, that happens, and I left. I'm totally confused. I'm a decent-looking guy, and the photo I sent is recent. I was freshly showered, so no hygiene or BO issues. Obviously, you can't force yourself to be into someone, but could he have handled it better? Should he have followed up with a message apologizing? Should I reach out and ask him what happened, or is that just pathetic?

-Bondage Offer Not Delivered After Getting Evicted

Typically when this happens — photos exchanged, hookup arranged, mind changed — it's because the photos were out of date or were not representative. Since we aren't always the best judge of our own photos, BONDAGE, you should ask a friend who won't bullshit you to look at your photos and give it to you straight.

If your no-bullshit friend clears your photos, then reach out to Mr. San Francisco. He had to make a snap decision when you arrived with that bag of rope and duct tape: Did he feel comfortable letting this stranger render him helpless? In a vanilla hookup, he could give it a little time and back out after some foreplay — it's a lot harder to back out when the foreplay involves rope and duct tape. So send him a message via Recon. Open by telling him you aren't buttsore or angry, and he had every right to change his mind, even at the last minute — which means he has nothing to apologize for, so you aren't owed an apology and you shouldn't message him if you're seeking one.

Then ask if you said or did something that made him feel unsafe. If you did, BONDAGE, accept his feedback graciously — don't argue with him or attempt to litigate what went down. Just listen. It may not have been your intention to freak him out by making, say, a few serial-killer jokes, but his impression is what matters, not your intention. And who knows? A sincere effort to get a little constructive feedback may leave him feeling better about you and up for playing the next time he's in town.

My wife has a fantasy where she's blindfolded and restrained on our bed. She hears the front door open, followed by footsteps coming up the stairs, and then she's ravished by ... who? She won't know, presumably, until it's over. My question: In fulfilling this fantasy for her, where anonymity and surprise are part of the appeal, what do I tell her in advance? Do I discuss the entire scenario with her, so she knows exactly what's going to happen, minus the identity of the very special guest star (who would be a semi-regular we've played with before, but she wouldn't necessarily know that at first)? That seems to eliminate the surprise element of the fantasy. Is it enough to tell her, without mentioning the specific scenario, that I'd like to make one of her fantasies come true, and ask her to trust me?

-Ethical Thinking In Quite Unusual, Elaborate Tied Tight Enactment

Presumably? There's no room for "presumablies" when you're arranging to fulfill a varsity-level fantasy. I'm guessing she'd rather not know who's ravishing her before or during the big event, ETIQUETTE, and she may not want to know after. But you need to ask her what she wants — no presumptions — before you start making arrangements.

She might want to know everything in advance — including the identity of that stranger — or she might want you to decide everything. But you need to check in with her first.

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Kickin' it at the Kickoff

It's football season in the Queen City again

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 1:39 PM

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Chad is drunk. Chad is a huge football fan. On game day, Chad starts drinking way too early and by kickoff, Chad is belligerent. Before halftime Chad is either throwing up outside or getting kicked out of a bar. Not to mention, Chad has been drinking so much, you can smell it permeating from his jersey. Chad will be lucky to make it home with memories of the final score and without getting his ass beat. Whatever you do this gameday, don't be a Chad. *Cue next gameday commercial*

It's that time of year again. When the familiar smells of vomit, urine, beer and grilled food fill the air in Uptown Charlotte. That's right, that's the smell of football season. Close your eyes, take a deep a breath and let the nostalgia run through your mind.

I'm not going to lie. I've never been much of a sports fan. But there's something about the vibe in a bar on gameday, whether we're talking football or any other sport, that I can't resist. The energy is just so overwhelming that I find myself actually looking forward to the start of the game.

In fact, last weekend I couldn't wait to pull out my Kelvin Benjamin jersey (I know, I know, RIP). And I was only getting in my car to go home and visit my family for the weekend. I had so much #fomo as I watched my Charlotte friends' Snapchat stories of being at a Panthers tailgate or standing on the field at Bank of America Stadium, it was ridiculous. And yet I missed the majority of the game because I was cooking dinner #priorities (or #fakefan).

Nevertheless, there's nothing like a game in B of A stadium to remind you just how serious football fans can get in the Queen City. Not to mention how serious they get when they have a four-day weekend.

This past weekend was a prime example. Tennessee and West Virginia fans took over Uptown for a good ol' game of football on Saturday. No, I didn't watch. I witnessed the aftermath at my favorite watering hole. And I'll be honest, that's enough prime time television for me.

I laughed as familiar and unfamiliar faces sauntered around Uptown in their drunken states. Some were carrying takeout boxes timidly, nervous they were going to drop their "last supper." While others couldn't wait for an opportunity to taunt someone wearing the jersey of a team they couldn't stand. Fans in West Virginia jerseys were clearing have the most fun, as their team trouced all over the poor Tennessee Volunteers, 40-14 (ouch).

But this year, I've traded in my dated Panthers jersey to become a Wisconsin Badgers fan. Why, you ask? Welp, in the spirit of football season and genuine friendship, I received a gift following the Tennessee v. West Virginia game.

One of my boo's friends wore this ridiculously comfy flannel button up that I would steal every chance I got last fall/winter. And it just so happens the primary colors were red and black — perfect for him to wear during a Wisconsin Badgers game.

After he'd been drinking all day long, I thought for sure he'd be wasted. And I thought that was confirmed when he left he bar for a short stint and returned on a LimeBike with a gift wrapped in Christmas paper in the basket.

He sat down at our table with the gift in tow and proceeded to talk about a "house divided." Now, I'm very familiar with the concept during football season, however, the boo and I are not quite concerned with dividing our "home" over the Duke Blue Devils and the South Carolina Gamecocks. So I began tuning him out, chalking up his spiel to his drunken state of mind.

He then proceeded to say that whoever took the gift had to agree to be a Badgers fan all season long. I heard some of the boys listening chuckle, as he'd just purchased a Panthers surf poncho for someone while he was in Cancun. "I certainly don't need a poncho," I thought to myself as he handed me the box.

Dazed and confused, I opened the present while everyone watched #awkwardturtle! It felt like an eternity had passed by the time I finally opened the box to the exact same red and black flannel I was stealing last winter! He and his wife happened to go by the J. Crew outlet where he'd purchased it forever ago and it was still there! I could have cried. It was just another reminder of what the spirit of football is all about! Go Badgers!

But alas, the badgers are a college team, so I can still remain partial to my home team Panthers.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

With the Boys Away, The Gals Will Play

A girls' night out in the Queen City

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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When my boyfriend's out of town, I have to admit, it's hard to figure out what I'm supposed to do with my spare time. Especially when he's traveling somewhere epic, like I don't know, Cancun, Mexico!

If you're sensing a twinge of salt, you're damn right. *sighs* But unfortunately, there's this weird rule that girlfriends aren't allowed on bachelor trips, so my invitation never came.

Nevertheless, when the boys are away, the girls will play, so the ladies made plans to fill their weekend.

I had to go home for a quick visit with my mom, who was celebrating a birthday, but when I returned on Sunday I knew I would have to get out of the house so I hit up some gals I knew I could depend on.

After a couple drinks, I remembered why girls' nights and pajama parties were so much fun. For one, you can get as drunk as you want and cry as much as you want, and you won't get on their nerves.

And for a few fleeting moments, I could take my mind off of how much I missed my boo thang.

What started as an easygoing, almost sleepy conversation, quickly turned into a trip down memory lane as we Ubered to one of my old hangouts — Prohibition. I've been a few times for drinks since my earlier years in Charlotte, but it's been few and far between. After all, Pro is one of those bars that quickly became the sloppy college bar that only questionable adults went to.

But there we were on a slow Sunday night living our best lives laughing and talking our heads off — sure, it was I who was doing most of the rambling, but how else was I going to keep my mind off things?

The best part of the night was that there was no drama to be had in sight, and I chalk that up to the fact that there's nobody to argue with when the guys aren't around.

And I'm sure my boyfriend felt the same way sipping drinks at the pool while looking out at ocean waves. Yes, I'm still bitter.

Nevertheless, girls' nights are perfect for ladies that want to switch it up every now and then.

You don't have to wait for a bachelor or bachelorette party to make it happen. Trust me, your significant other will thank you. (Sorry for hogging all of your attention, lover.)

I put together a few ideas for a solid date night in the Queen City with your gal pals:

Treat your tastebuds to fancy cuisine. Finally, it won't be awkward to respond to your waiter or waitress with, "That'll be separate checks, thanks." I'd add La Belle Helene Uptown to your bucket list. You can get dolled up and pretend you know how to pronounce everything on the menu.

Imbibe delectable cocktails. Stiff drinks make for great conversation, or gossip, with your gals. But beware, your girlfriends are a lot less likely to cut you off. I was reminded of the perfect place for an elevated vibe and delicious libations — The Broken Spoke.

Pretend to be an art connoisseur. If you're lucky, your partner has an appreciation for something other than football. If you're not, BFF date night is perfect for activities like going to an art show. I was hoping to be in town for the SOMA art exhibition at Camp North End this past weekend, but naturally parental birthdays are more important. Hopefully, they'll have another soon, because I heard it was epic.

Pick up a new hobby. That will also make your significant other happy. Your boo may not be interested in pottery making, cooking classes, SkillPop courses or beading. But there's a silver lining. At least one of your pals will want to try all the things with you. And the Queen City has more than its fair share of classes for you to take.

Sweat it out. Maybe your squeeze prefers hitting the gym. But your friends will help you brainstorm any physical activity that will make working out fun. Try out a hip-hop spin class at CycleSouth or take a hot yoga class at Arrichion.

My boyfriend is my best friend, so I often have a hard time making time for my girlfriends. And knowing some of my girlfriends, they have a hard time with it, too. Enough with the excuses. It feels like it's been ages since I've hung out with a couple of my girlfriends and that has to change. Stop sending each other memes and snaps. Plan your next girls day or night this week.

What do you like to do when you need some girl or guy time? Share it with me.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Second Chance at Childhood

Throwback fun can make for the best experiences

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2018 at 2:57 PM

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Certain spaces and moments can trigger your nostalgia. For example, this weekend I took a trip to Folly Beach, just south of Charleston, as many of you know, for a 30th birthday party that came with its own hashtag: #thirtyflirtyanddying. We rented a three-story Airbnb that lent itself to a college-style house party, naturally.

By the time we'd gone through five handles of Tito's, and the majority of the group left, we found ourselves twiddling our thumbs on how to keep the weekend going. We spent a couple of hours at the beach on our last day and I watched the "gamers" romp in the sand. But once we were back at the house, there was only so much more we could do to entertain ourselves. Enter King of Cups.

If you haven't heard of this game, Google it. Nevertheless, it's one of those drinking card games that's played in college in which you learn very quickly the goal is simply to get everyone drunk.

With every card, I started feeling the weight of missing games and activities of moments passed.

It also reminded me that I've been wanting to create a bucket list of places to go in Charlotte where adults can relive the "glory years" of being big kids again. I went back to my little black book of things to do in Charlotte and I started planning the rest of my summer. So without further ado:

Roll around a skating rink. Why in the world did we ever let skating rinks die?! The boo and I were driving back to Charlotte from Myrtle Beach recently, coming up Independence Boulevard and I realized I'd completely forgotten about skating rinks when we passed Kate's Skating Rink. I don't know about you but throwing on a pair of roller skates after a couple cocktails sounds like a blast to me!

Roll some balls at the ol' alley. I was never a huge bowler growing up, but I certainly stirred up some trouble at our local bowling alley back home. But I can imagine I would totally enjoy an outing involving bowling with friends now (with the rails up of course). There's quite a few in the Queen City area but Ten Park Lanes in South End and Strike City at the EpiCentre are a great start!

Spend some quarters at an arcade bar. I've talked about the handful of arcade bars that have popped up around the Queen City in the past couple years plenty of times, and my fellow CL partiers recently did a tour of a few during their most recent Boozing on a Budget tour (which they did not invite me on, but I will surely be joining next time, sigh). Every time I play Galaga I have flashbacks of playing it with my mom while waiting for our clothes at the laundromat. What's your highest score? Check out my previous article or those of my Boozing on a Budget counterparts for a comparison of arcade bars throughout the city.

Jump around at a trampoline park. I was terrified of Chuck E. Cheese when I was a kid and never really cared for bounce houses at birthday parties. However, I can totally dig the idea of going to a trampoline park now! Granted, someone may break a leg now that we're older, or at the very least be too sore to walk for a few days, but an adult pizza party plus trampolines sounds like a big kid's dream come true if you ask me. There's DefyGravity in north Charlotte, Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Pineville and Urban Air in Mint Hill, so pick a direction and try one out.

Zap your friends at laser tag. I wish I'd been a fan of the sketchy laser tag bar when I was younger (clearly there's a common theme here), but there was something about running around in the dark that didn't excite me back then. Now, I'm like, who doesn't want to get lost in the dark with a few friends? Things may get interesting between the boo and I. *wink wink* Consider getting tagged by strangers and friends alike at Laser Quest on Park Road.

Swoon over zoo animals. Zoos and aquariums used to be the bane of my existence. They were hot, the day was long and walking felt like torture. But now I'm so obsessed with animals that when I was planning a special day for bae I chose Tiger World in Rockwell. In fact, I even booked an encounter with Ignacio aka Nacho, their newest attraction: a baby sloth! And let me tell you 10 minutes with him (at a not-so-affordable price) made my whole day! There's also Zootastic Park in Troutman and, if you're willing to make a little bit of a longer trip, the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.

"There shall be an eternal summer in the grateful heart." That's what a sign said outside of a convenience store in Folly Beach.

As I reflect on that quote while planning the rest of my summer, I think, what better way to enjoy an eternal summer than to find experiences that incite a childlike excitement?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Intersectionality and Separations of Pride Week

Inclusivity, or not to be?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 2:50 PM

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As someone who majored in Women's Studies in college, I was mind effed when it comes to LGBT life. I came from a space and town where being black was hard enough.

However, I was also what I'd call the black sheep of the family who could always think outside of the box. That's why I wasn't confused or appalled the first time I met someone who identified as a lesbian.

In fact, I was intrigued. Then came college and a separation from family thought. It was easy for me to appreciate and love difference, but the type of difference was so different that I may have been a bit overwhelmed.

So it's normal to be married to a woman as a man and go through a sex change and still want to be with that woman? That's cool with me. And still, the ways that I defined "normal" — a word that I loathe — in terms of sexuality were stretching.

Women's studies also taught me about the importance of separation of spaces when it comes to the women's movement as well as the LGBTQ+ movement. The reality is the first wave of each respective movement didn't serve the larger purpose.

White women and gay men weren't necessarily concerned with the experience of those of different races, cultures, etc. And that makes complete sense. They wouldn't know how to fight the battles of, say, black men or black gay men. I might even ask why they would be expected to fight someone else's fight when they had to fight their own?

Nevertheless, I found myself almost 10 years later in Charlotte asking myself the question: Why do we have Latino Pride, Black Pride and the separate, very white Charlotte Pride?

I'm friends with folks who have lived here for years and are utterly baffled when I mention any other version of Pride outside of the "regular one."

Just last week, in my piece about AfroPop! Charlotte, I mentioned that "other" spaces aren't paramount from a marketing standpoint in Charlotte. So I shouldn't be surprised that Charlotteans, who can't even appreciate the difference that is sexuality, can't imagine that other versions of Pride exist.

But then I also think about the fact that post-Charlotte Uprising, inclusivity and togetherness are at the forefront of my mind. And despite my background and experience, and even though I know there is true value in separation of space, I find myself asking the question, "Why can't we all just get along?"

So what do we do? We're in an era in which I'd argue respect of sexuality is winning when compared to views on race. But that's also why I'd argue that space has the power to be a true changemaker with regards to race.

And at the same time, it's a sacred space that respects race and experience in an innovative way.

But also, the same issues — maybe even barriers — seem to exist when it comes to marketing the "other" of "other" in Charlotte. Some people haven't "heard" about Black Pride or Latin Pride, but everyone knows that the Pride parade and festival are going to happen in Uptown Charlotte toward the end of August.

So why should I care about separatism or inclusivity when other cultures, races or experiences are being appreciated for what and who they are?

I think back to my most recent Pride experience with my parents. They are one of the only reasons I bring up my hometown experience. I can separate those who are what I define as ignorant.

And yet, they were traipsing around Uptown with me last year during Pride. While it was "different" than what they were used to, they were able to exist in that space and have a good time. Is there a world where that type of coexistence can be the norm?

So, given the fact that it's Pride Week, at least in our city, I felt the need to posit these thoughts and questions to the people of Charlotte.

I pose the question to my readers, what are your thoughts on separation of spaces? Is it a good or bad thing that we separate ourselves when it comes to something like Pride? Do you think that we'd better off coming together on everything that is socialization?

Share your thoughts with me at backtalk@clclt.com. Oh, and by the way, love is always going to be love.

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