Wednesday, August 8, 2018

AfroPop! Celebrates Two-year Anniversary

Subversive subcultures

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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A few weeks ago, I went to a networking event to support a friend of mine. These events aren't a cup of tea for introverts like me. Yes, I'm an introvert. Luckily, a few familiar faces from my last job were there to put my mind at ease. After a few drinks, the stuffiness had worn off and I was more willing to gab with patrons.

My friend who hosted the event is the type of person who doesn't meet a stranger. It was only a matter of time before he was making introductions on my behalf. I'm thankful that he did, because he ended up introducing me to a sweet woman who told me all about an event that happens at least once a month in Charlotte, Durham and Atlanta called AfroPop!

What is AfroPop! Nation? It's an event "that celebrates the rich heritage of various African diaspora nationalities through music, live drums, dance, vendors, fashion and art." Why in the world hadn't I heard about this event before?! Especially when then-editor Mark Kemp had just written an article in March about the inspiration behind the event. *cue self-judgment*

Yes, there's plenty I could do to stay #woke and aware of who's "doing it for the culture in Charlotte," but then I also thought about how easy it is to access information about events in the city that aren't put on by those classified as "other."

For example, Durag Fest, which was an alternative Juneteenth celebration held at Camp North End, was a perfect catalyst to discussions about "who's supported in the Charlotte community." The durag was used as the centerpiece of the celebration, and if you know anything about the history of durags you know that it is entangled in conversations about blackness, culture and fashion. Quite the statement event, however, it was only after the event was fairly invisible in the Charlotte community and then went viral in the aftermath that I began to question how much support do "other" communities have in the Q.C.

"I don't feel that minorities have equal access. You can see distinct pockets in the city where certain cultures go to a party. Getting access to venues is a tough thing in Charlotte," says Eric Ndelo, one of three innovators behind AfroPop!, on minority access to resources in Charlotte. "Either you don't have the right vibe (look) for the club or you don't have enough money. Ownership is the key ... We need our own and to put other people on. Things are changing though and more minority owners are popping up everywhere."

That being said, I felt privileged when my new connection gave me her number and invited me to attend AfroPop!'s two-year anniversary event at The Underground at AvidXchange Music Factory. I read up on the event on their website and Facebook page and was reminded of my first Su Casa visit and the article that followed in which I described the event as a "monthly oasis for the culturally starved."

I was grateful that by the time I arrived, the crowd had thinned out. As I said earlier, I can get a bit overwhelmed when I'm in larger crowds. I bounced around with a friend who works at The Underground and visited a few of the booths placed around the dancefloor. I'd promised myself I wasn't going to buy anything, but $60 later, I was the proud owner of a handmade copper ring and a South African beaded necklace. I celebrated by doing some version of a reggae dance before heading outside where I'd later chat with my invitee and Ndelo, her brother. I wasn't in the best state to ask questions so I asked for his card so we could connect later.

When I asked him to reflect on his first AfroPop! event and how far the events have come, he said: "The two-year anniversary was special to me because that's two trips around the sun and AfroPop! is still just picking up steam. It's a beautiful feeling knowing and not knowing the potential growth that the future holds ... The vibe was electric. With the horns, AfroPop! dancers, two-DJ set, light show and concert-style venue, it felt more like a show or concert party than just a cultural dance party. It showed that we stepped up our showmanship and are offering a tailored experience ... We set out to intertwine the fashion, dance, knowledge, colors, music, food and celebratory aspects of various pan-African cultures to create one big gumbo called AfroPop!"

And let me tell you, that gumbo is definitely worth tasting. What are your thoughts on the state of cultural diversity or lack thereof in Charlotte nightlife?

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Differences

They don't have to destroy relationships

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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I'm gay and have been dating a guy for 10 months. He's great overall, and I would say for the most part we both want it to work out. But I am having a problem with his friends and other lifestyle choices. All of his friends are straight, and almost all of them are women. All of my friends have always been gay men, like me, so I find this strange. I don't have any problem with women, but I don't hang out with any women, and neither do most of my friends. He makes dinner plans for us with his straight friends almost every week, and I grin and bear it. They're always old coworkers, so the whole conversation is them talking about old times or straighty talk about their children. It's incredibly boring. He's met my friends, and he likes some of them but dislikes others. It's obvious that he is not comfortable relating to gay men, generally speaking. He does not seem knowledgeable about gay history or culture. For example, he strongly dislikes drag queens and never goes to gay bars. There is one woman in particular he makes dinner for every Friday night. It's a standing date that he's only occasionally been flexible about changing to accommodate plans for the two of us. Now he's planning a weeklong vacation with her. When he first mentioned this trip, he asked if I would want to spend a week camping. I said no, because I don't like camping. He immediately went forward with planning it with her. I'm pretty sure the two of them had already hatched this plan, and I don't think he ever really wanted me to go. I think it's WEIRD to want to go camping for an entire week with some old lady. He does other weird things, too, like belonging to a strange new-age church, which is definitely at odds with my strongly held anti-religious views. He has asked me to attend; I went once, and it made me EXTREMELY uncomfortable. The fact that I didn't like it just turned into a seemingly unsolvable problem between us. He says I'm not being "supportive." I need some advice on how to get past my intense feelings of aversion to the weirdness. How can I not let our differences completely destroy the relationship?

-Hopelessly Odd Man Out

Differences don't have to destroy a relationship. Differences can actually enhance and help sustain a relationship. But for differences to have that effect, HOMO, both partners have to appreciate each other for their differences. You don't sound appreciative — you sound contemptuous. And that's a problem.

According to Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute (a research institution dedicated to studying and strengthening marriages and other interpersonal relationships) — who says he can accurately predict divorce in 90 percent of cases — contempt is the leading predictor of divorce. "When contempt begins to overwhelm your relationship, you tend to forget entirely your partner's positive qualities," he writes in Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. Contempt, Gottman argues, destroys whatever bonds hold a couple together.

You've been together only 10 months, HOMO, and you're not married, but it sounds like contempt has already overwhelmed your relationship. It's not just that you dislike his friends, you're contemptuous of them; it's not just that you don't share his spiritual beliefs, you're contemptuous of them; it's not just that his gayness is expressed in a different-than-yours-but-still-perfectly-valid way, you're contemptuous of him as a gay man. Because he doesn't watch Drag Race or hang out in gay bars. Because he's got a lot of female friends. Because he's happy to sit and talk with his friends about their kids. (There's nothing "straighty" about kid conversations. Gay parents take part in those conversations, too. And while we're in this parenthesis: I can't understand why anyone would waste their time actively disliking drag queens. But being a gay male correlates more strongly with liking dick than it does with liking drag.)

This relationship might work if you were capable of appreciating the areas where you two overlap — your shared interests (including your shared interest in each other) — and content to let him go off and enjoy his friends, his new-age church, and his standing Friday-night dinner date. A growing body of research shows that divergent interests + some time away from each other + mutual respect = long-term relationship success. You're missing the "mutual respect" part — and where this formula is concerned, HOMO, two out of three ain't enough.

Here's how it might look if you could appreciate your differences: You'd do the things you enjoy doing together — like, say, each other — but on Friday nights, he makes dinner for his bestie and you hit the gay bars with your gay friends and catch a drag show. You would go on vacations together, but once in a while he'd go on vacation with one of his "straighty" friends, and once in a while you'd go on vacation with your gay friends. On Sundays, he'd go to woo-woo church and you'd sleep in or binge-watch Pose. You'd be happy to let him be him, and he'd be happy to let you be you — and together the two of you would add up to an interesting, harmonious, compelling "we."

But I honestly don't think you have it in you.

P.S. I have lots of straight friends, and I'm a parent, and sometimes I talk with other parents about our children, and I rarely go to gay bars, and I haven't gotten around to watching Pose yet, or the most recent season of Drag Race, for that matter. It's devastating to learn, after all these years and all those dicks, that I'm terrible at being gay.

P.P.S. If a straight person told you, "I don't have any problem with gay men, but I don't hang out with any gay men, and neither do most of my friends," you'd think they had a problem with gay men, right?

I've been in an on-again, off-again relationship for the past four years. My girlfriend has an assortment of mental-health issues — anxiety, depersonalization episodes, depression, paranoia, among others — that make it very stressful and tiring to be with her. Despite my best attempts at getting her to seek help, she refuses to take the plunge. Whether it's a result of her illness or not, she refuses to believe that I actually want to be with her. I do care deeply about her, and the good days are wonderful. But nearly every time we go on a date or have sex, it ends in tears, and I have to endlessly reassure her that I do really want to be with her. I'm exhausted by having to defend my feelings for her multiple times per week and I don't know what to do.

-He's Exhausted And Lost

There's only one thing you can do, HEAL: Put this relationship on hold — take it back to off-again status — and make getting back together contingent upon her seeking help for her mental-health issues. You've made it clear, again and again, that you want to be with her. By finally seeking help — by actually taking the plunge — she can make it clear that she wants to be with you.

I have a very sexy German boyfriend, and he is not circumcised. His otherwise beautiful dick is a problem. It smells — sometimes a little, sometimes it really stinks. After he showers, the smell is still there. He says he uses only water. Is there a better way to wash an uncircumcised penis? Can he use some kind of soap?

-Girl Asks Gay4 Grooming Intervention Near Genitals

Yes, GAGGING, there is a better way: He needs to wash that thing with motherfucking SOAP. If the soap he's got is irritating the head of his penis or the inside of his foreskin, he needs to try other soaps until he finds one that cleans his dick without causing irritation. And you should make allowing that otherwise beautiful German dick anywhere near you contingent upon him learning how to clean it properly. There's no excuse for stank-ass dick.

On the Lovecast, a biblical recipe for abortion: savagelovecast.com; contact Dan at mail@savagelove.net; go to @fakedansavage on Twitter; ITMFA.org

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Davidson Dayscursion With a Detour to the Lake

College daze

Posted By on Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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Recently, I've had some spare time on my hands and I've enjoyed making the most of these rare moments — ones that I refer to as #funemployment. I've focused on improving my mental mindset and spending time with my boo. But don't be fooled, this kitten loves to sleep!

That's why I appreciated my boyfriend telling me we need to get out more often. And to be quite honest, since he said that, I've found myself feeling the most motivated I've felt in a long time. Recently, I learned that he'd planned our first dayscursion up north to Davidson!

We played roulette with the weather for about a week. Who doesn't want sunshine when you're driving somewhere new for the day? Despite our skeptical meteorologist friends on the news, we managed to settle on a day that ended up being a beautiful day filled with sunshine.

Now let me preface this by saying my boyfriend is the ultimate planner. He's the type to take time researching dive bars, restaurants, you name it. He takes notes on what's good or bad about all of them and provides a tentative itinerary. And what's even better? You don't have to worry about him saying we have to stick to a specific schedule. #blessed

Believe it or not, we hopped in the car before noon, and even though I wasn't feeling 100 percent, we were both excited about the activities we had planned. We parked downtown on Main Street and headed to our first stop: Summit Coffee. A quaint little coffee bar with a splash of hipster, Summit makes for a perfect spot to grab a coffee and walk or bring your laptop and work remote for a bit. (I don't drink coffee but I really wanted to buy a succulent in their logoed coffee mug. #basic)

After that, we sauntered in and out of the eclectic shops on the street before he informed me of the first stop on the list: The Pickled Peach. A "casual hipster ambiance," it sounded perfect to me. To our dismay, they were closed for their annual summer vacay. Before the disappointment settled in, I weighed the available options within walking distance and decided we should just hop in the car and drive the short distance to one of my newer faves: Hello, Sailor! He agreed immediately.

If you haven't been to the Sailor yet, You. Need. To. Go. Technically located in Cornelius, the 10-minute drive to lunch was beyond worth it. We sat on the covered patio and partook in two of my favorite items on the menu: Hamachi (puffed rice, umi and macadamia nuts), avocado, egg and brown butter saltines. If the words aren't mouth-watering enough for you, check out @omgclt_ for pics.

When we finished, it was time for the next activity: jet skiing! Now I know what you may be thinking, this black girl is defying all the stereotypes. Nope. This was the second time I'd gone jet skiing and I was still just as nervous as I was the first time. I don't like water, getting my hair wet, swimming or water creatures. However, I love seeing my boo's excitement even when he has to deal with my nervousness and anxiety. The highlight: him having to pull my jet ski in close enough for me to touch every time we stopped at an island. #blackgirlproblems

After leaving the lake, we returned to Davidson for a casual driving tour of the Davidson College campus — a picturesque experience. It's peaceful and quiet on a Thursday, not unlike many college campuses in the summer, but just imagining alum Steph Curry walking to class was enough for me.

Then for the last stop: Kindred. The first Charlotte-area restaurant concept from Joe Kindred (the second being our earlier lunch destination, Hello, Sailor!), Kindred is a fine-dining, small-dish destination. The boyfriend had talked about it as a must-go for us for a date night.

And let me tell you, was he ever right. I eat okra sparingly, but theirs was spot on as far as how it was prepped. Additionally, we ordered melon crudo, scallops and a ravioli dish. (Pro tip: order their house-made pasta last so you don't get too full).

By the time we left, I was so sleepy and full I could've slept in the booth where we were eating #uncouth. We hopped in the car for the ride back to Charlotte as the sun was going down. I couldn't believe I made it all day without a nap but "look at God."

I'm a creature of the night, but I had an absolute blast on our day trip. I would've enjoyed a revisit to some of the local breweries I went to a couple years prior when I toured Lake Norman, but I had no regrets. A day well spent in Davidson.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Blast From the Past Hits Charlotte

I didn't know I'd like it

Posted By on Wed, Jul 25, 2018 at 11:31 AM

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When's the last time you've heard a song that reminded you of your past: a high school dance party, a drive with your best friend or a family member, an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend? Whatever the case may be, music has a way of transporting you back to specific moments that are nostalgic.

That's what I felt when a friend from high school hit me up last weekend asking if I wanted to go to see Sammie. You may not recognize the name given the fact that he was a kid when he came out with one of my favorite #throwback songs, "I Like It." But he was a great example of a heartthrob who young girls pined for as he danced around in his music video. (Google it.)

However, like many child stars, he fell off. Maybe he produced an album or two (last one being "Coming of Age" in 2017) but let's be real, it's hard to come back from who you were and your clout years (maybe even decades) later — especially when you made your bucks as a child star. For the record, it was my friend's birthday and I'd just sent her a text about how I missed her. What choice did I have other than to rally and make it happen. Now for a little background.

When she texted me asking me if I wanted to go, she said:

"So. Minor update. I've found out Sammie (the singer) told me (yes he told ME) he's gonna be at morehead tavern tmrw [sic] night and he said I can hit him up if i come out. I love his music and it'd be dope to meet him. Wanna do that with me? After I do dinner with my family i can head up there if you're down."

Of course, as a friend first and then nightlife writer, my response was, "Lmaooo shut up!!! Howww?" And naturally, she left me hanging and didn't acknowledge why she was communicating with him in anyway shape or form at all. Now I'm certainly interested, even though I'm a prehistoric fan of Sammie.

I clicked the link to the event she sent, and that's when I saw the "event," whatever it was going to be, was at Morehead Tavern. And then I asked myself the question, "As a nightlife writer, WHY don't I know about this venue, or why haven't I been?" At that point, I was feeling inferior. I started Googling where it was with my boyfriend and while the name was familiar, we couldn't place it. *insert nervous vibe*

By the time I convinced her to come to my favorite watering hole, all of my inhibitions had dissipated. We hopped in an Uber after a drink and headed to Morehead Tavern. We walked into the main entrance (which is on the top floor for those who don't know) to an empty bar and we were directed to go back outside and hang a right. *confused*

We walked by a long line of cars, entered a different entryway and then we were standing in front of a window showing our tickets. All I was thinking was, "I'm worried about my white girlfriend being here with just me." I remembered telling the people checking us in, "We've had a couple drinks, but don't let shit pop off and kick us out." They laughed and then she popped her head back in and said, "Yeah, I'm the only splash of vanilla here." *crying laughing emoji* She knew I was running my mouth about that specific topic lol. Damn, that's why I love that girl.

We entered what felt like a small waiting area that was connected to a room with a small bar where we grabbed a drink. Then we walked into the main downstairs area. It was quite spacious compared to the upstairs space, and based on the number of people standing patiently around the stage, it was clear that we were finally in the right place.

It's been a while since we'd seen one another so we caught each other up (and drunk cried) on the events that'd passed while we waited, for what felt like an eternity, on Sammie to walk onto the stage.

When he did, he was accompanied by an entourage *insert eye roll.* My friend turned to me and asked if she should try to go on stage after a few minutes and while I was worried her story about him messaging her wasn't going to get her a pass, I remembered my good old days of nonchalance and minimal inhibitions, "You know what? Go for it. The worst that can happen is he'll act like he doesn't know you. And I'll be here if he does. Just please say excuse me."

And don't you know...he let her on stage?! What. A. Riot. Childhood dreams, met "hoodrat 'tings'" in 2018. He didn't end up performing the "only" song I cared about (at least while I was there, in the hours preceding getting caught up on the tour bus) but to see my girl's face light up on her birthday after meeting Sammie was well worth the new experience.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Safety 101 on the Streets of Charlotte

Stranger danger

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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Last week, I was watching the news — a rare occurrence for this writer because local news stations tend to irk me. However, the boyfriend had left the TV on after watching one of the millions of World Cup soccer matches and the news popped on. I was shocked, for lack of a better word, to hear that a female Uber driver was sexually assaulted by a passenger and then instructed to drop him off at his destination.

Wow. For the longest time, ridesharers have been more concerned about the fact that a driver may do the same thing to them and for some reason, we never thought about the flip side.

A couple years ago, I listened to two separate male coworkers tell me that they experienced a weird coinky dink with a male driving the same car on two separate weekends. Long story short the man in each case pretended to be an Uber driver on nights when they were distracted or unable to double check who they should be riding with.

Fortunately, he didn't end up doing anything to them, however he did convince them to ride home with him to "take out his dog" all while he consumed blow in the front seat.

Last month, we heard multiple accounts of female patrons allegedly being drugged at Rooftop 210 and Suite in the EpiCentre. Geez.

I thought we left roofies behind a long time ago. Especially after Rick Ross was dropped by Reebok after rapping a controversial sexist verse in a 2013 song, "You Ain't Even Know It (U.O.E.N.O.). "I die over these Reeboks, you ain't even know it/Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it," the artist rapped. This was a full seven years after the Me Too movement was founded by Tarana Burke and four years shy of it gaining popularity.

Other nights, I sit around a table with mostly male friends and listen to some say how, "Women shouldn't walk home alone." I roll my eyes thinking they're sexist or just plain annoying. And even though I know the female-male dichotomy of "who can better take care of themselves" can be annoying, the fact that the conversations are relevant are just as annoying.

No matter who's "safer," the reality is that your mom and dad — who can come off as fearmongers at times — aren't all that wrong when they spout lines like, "Nothing good happens after 2 a.m. You can't trust people anymore. People are crazy." No matter how much we want to believe that people are innately good, sometimes they're not.

So what's the point, Aerin? As of late, my senses have become heightened to how little bar- and club-goers take for granted when it comes to safety. We've heard all the stories and yet, we keep hearing more about things that end up going wrong. From bar fights and gunshots to poor hookup decisions and roofies, we've heard it all. And yet we often forget to make sure we're aware of the rules required in order to truly be aware of our surroundings.

Every time I think about walking home alone at the end of a night or think about how I've let friends go home with a stranger the more annoyed I get at myself for even being aggravated by the friend (or when I'm in my man-hating phase, the "male chauvinist who thinks he knows what's best for me") who suggested I practice better safety habits.

True, we can't live every moment in fear, but we can make the best decisions during the time we have. "Stranger danger" is a real thing that we may take for granted after we become "grown." However, that doesn't mean the threat doesn't exist. And let's be real, if alcohol is involved, the threat becomes even more relevant.

Just last week, a regular at a local watering hole was telling me and my boyfriend that a couple was stabbed and mugged just an ear throw away. How easily that could've been us if we had parked on the same dimly lit street. The incident may not have made it to the news, it may not have been a part of some huge conspiracy, but nevertheless, it happened in an area where we both feel fairly comfortable.

All this to say, let's not be stupid. Shit happens and we can't always avoid it. But every other day, we can make smarter choices, especially when we approach nights in the Queen City.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What's a Party Writer to Do When She May Be Ready to Put Down the Drinks?

Let's get real

Posted By on Wed, Jul 11, 2018 at 12:02 PM

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I'm ready to call it quits today. That's what I was saying and have been saying every single time I've gotten super wasted over the past few months. We give writers credit for living the lifestyle, but we never want to actually talk about what it means to have your mind made up about certain topics . . . until I met him.

This kind of thing isn't often talked about in the arena of nightlife and drinking, because let's be real, when it comes to nightlife, everything revolves around drinking. But the reality is that those who understand what it means to be teeter-tottering on the edge have openly talked about it.

In October of 2017, I wrote about how I decided to take the month off from drinking; call it a #refresher. I kept everyone looped in on my progress and thoughts each week while still trying to stay engaged with the allure of the night.

Well, here I am, almost eight months later, with the same questions on my brain. Should I use money as an incentive to stop drinking? Is my man the best reason why I should stop drinking? Should I try yoga as a meditative practice and alternative to an unhealthy lifestyle?

The past few months have been some of the best and worst months of my life: the perfect little ball of organized chaos, I guess you could say. And most days I don't know how to decipher the best answer to any of my questions.

Have you ever seen 28 Days, the movie starring Sandra Bullock in which she has to go rehab because her contentment with drinking had gotten to the point that she couldn't even function as her sister's bridesmaid? I watched it on one of those sober October nights and couldn't help but see myself in her main character.

In the movie, Bullock's character Gwen Cummings states, "Yeah, I know I drink a lot, I know I do because I'm a writer and that's what I do, I drink. I'm not like those people out there, I can control myself! I can, if — that — if I wanted to, I could, if I wanted. I can! I can!"

I watched her say that and wondered if I was the same person, even after being able to take a month off without any problem. Some of my best work has come from nights of drinking. Stimulated by hundreds of thoughts and inspiring conversation, I find myself staying up until the wee hours of the morning just to write — a task that I have a harder time doing in the middle of the day when I should be most productive.

I also thought about my best friend, who just moved to Pittsburgh, about how she came into play with those October articles I wrote. Recently, I had asked her again if she thought I was an alcoholic and she assured me that she didn't believe I was.

But the fact remains, I'm still struggling to find total happiness.

If you're a night owl like me, you know there's a stillness at the end of the night, post-drinking, that can't be refuted or ignored. No matter how annoyed I am at a political or personal conversation, or someone's negative energy, I keep going. And when my mind goes to #theUpsideDown, I can only wonder if it's because of the alcohol or if the alcohol is just intensifying feelings that already exist.

The other day I was driving through Plaza Midwood and noticed a building I hadn't noticed before, with a couple people sitting on a porch. For some reason, I immediately knew what it was: a support group. A gentle reminder that there are safe places where people who are struggling can go.

I thought back to the man who wrote me a couple years ago now; he wondered what an AA crawl would look like. I'm thinking now that it wouldn't be the worst idea, though not something for print. At the time I thought writing about it would be taking advantage of the resource. Now, I'm not so sure I shouldn't take that crawl — privately.

But I digress, I'm just reaching a point in my life where awareness is critical to making the right decisions moving forward. I want to continue to have meaningful interactions in nightlife with patrons, owners and the people I love.

Transitioning from #vamplife may never happen, but finding the best ways to make the most of that lifestyle will continue to stay at the top of my mind.

If you've ever struggled with finding the perfect balance between nightlife and drinking, share it with me in the comments section below or by email at backtalk@clclt.com.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

How To Crash Service Industry Night

Where they do that at?

Posted By on Wed, Jul 4, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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Even though my 30s are looming on the horizon, I'm still considered a millennial in social situations (insert eye roll). I do believe, however, my "millennial" status is one of the main reasons why money, savings, student loans and anything finance-related is always on the top of my mind. That's why my first visit to The Union on "service industry night" was a bit mind boggling. Let me explain.

If you've been in Charlotte any decent amount of time you know that bars and clubs come and go. A new spot opens and it can look familiar and maybe you don't know why, it's probably because the name changed. Blame it on too much drama, blame it on poor marketing, it happens all the time.

A couple weeks ago, a friend's boyfriend wanted us to go to The Union because he works in the service industry and his coworkers were going there. I used to live in South End and quite frankly, I had no desire to go. Why? Because nothing has survived in that space for very long. Why get my hopes up for a spot that probably won't be around come 2019?

If you're a regular in South End, you know where I'm talking about. It's one of the commercial destinations connected to Camden South End on the corner of South Boulevard and East Bland Street. Before it was The Union, it was Helles & Dunkel and World of Beer (which is now in The Epicentre). You may even know that 'Stache House Bar & Lounge, which was located on the same block on the opposite end, closed its doors unexpectedly about a month ago. *gasp*

Nevertheless, when my girl told me that's where her boo wanted to go and my boo showed signs of interest I thought to myself, "Why not?" Our Uber dropped us off and my dramatic brain thought the lights would turn off and the bar would close in front of my eyes. Nope. All was well and there was even a baby pit bull inside on the floor for me to play with — heart be still.

I was a little tipsy but I decided on an RBV when my boyfriend asked me what I wanted to drink. When we sat on the small patio outside, I remembered the whole reason why we were triggered to make the trek — all booze is half off on Mondays for service industry night. The venue was spacious, one of the owners was behind the bar with a welcoming smile and let me reiterate, everything outside of top-shelf liquor (even shots) was half. the. price. What else do you need?

Let's be real, the G.O.A.T experiences of nightlife, the crux of our good times, are largely dependent on those who serve us. Yes, there are certain nuances that can throw a night off, but if there's no one in the bar and we have something to complain about, it's probably because we didn't like something about our waitress or bartender. And they have to deal with us, which in and of itself is why they deserve a back rub, a round of applause and a weekly discount.

I'd heard tales of days past when service industry nights were off the chain. The rules were changed or bent, even if for a night, and the discounts were lit. But every time I heard about it, it was as if those days were long gone. That's why I was beyond intrigued when my friend's boyfriend said that we would get 50 percent off for service night.

I know the venue is "new," but I began to wonder if anyone else offered the same deal. I asked one of my friends who used to work in the service industry if she knew of any venues that offered similar discounts. Prohibition was the only venue that she immediately informed me offers half off to service people and other restaurant and bar folks on Tuesdays.

And based on my research, (and after asking The Union and Prohibition myself), I haven't found another nightlife venue in Charlotte proper that will take half off your tab when you go to close it. This isn't to say that a variety of bars don't honor some sort of "special" every day of the week — even if they're not calling it "service industry night." But if we're being honest, this also means that every patron, who probably shouldn't be out drinking that day of the week, can slide through and reap the benefits of a discount.

The question is...when it comes to discounts — especially 50 percent off (and no, not just a bottle of wine) — where they do that at?! Everyone who wants to drink the best liquor or cocktail as possible for as cheap as possible. It's even better when you do so on your own dime and can afford it. So tell me, where are the best deals in the Queen City? I'm trying to cut down on my tab, too! Share your fave spots to save a few bucks at backtalk@clclt.com.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I Stan for The Stanley

A flavor destination where it's needed most

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2018 at 3:30 PM

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When the boyfriend told me he had to make a reservation for The Stanley a couple weeks in advance, my brows raised in anticipation of the cuisine that was to come. I'd heard rumblings about the newest addition to the Elizabeth community but hadn't done much research on it. Now that we had a reservation, it was time to check out the menu and prep for another Queen City date night.

After the loss of some of the local nightlife flavor, such as Philosopher's Stone and Kennedy's, my hope for a solid night out as an Elizabethan faded. I would walk past the new Pet Supplies Plus and tattered Dollar General and sigh. I'd hoped the newest apartment complex would introduce ground-level commercial space, but when the structure was finally completed that hope also faded away.

However, my optimism was restored when I noticed renovations to the Dollar General shopping center and heard whispers of new nightlife spots and/or restaurants being added to the old Heroes Aren't Hard to Find and Crisp locations. *insert emoji praise hands* One of those spots, of course, was The Stanley, a "farm-driven" restaurant concept opened by James Beard-nominated chef Paul Verica and his sous chef son, Alex.

While the space is small — my boyfriend and I counted about 10 small tables and a handful of stools at the bar — let me tell you, the menu packs quite a punch. Before I get into the menu, let me start by saying, our mouths dropped when our waitress informed us that the menu changed six times in the first week it opened in late May.

We perused the menu and decided against the entrees. I've told you before, we don't eat very much in one sitting, and you can't get a good grasp on the true capabilities of a chef if you don't try more than one thing on the menu. Again, #notaselfidentifiedfoodblogger, however, I'll fill you in later on how Chef Verica gave us the ultimate pat on our backs and that's why I don't care what y'all think.

But I digress. We settled on a few small plates, which included:

Beef tartare, radishes, greens, hard-boiled quail eggs, capers, flat bread - $15

Asparagus: as many ways as we could think of - $11

Scallop, fennel, apple, pork belly, lemon, herbs - $15

Peas, carrots, pork belly - $12

Sweetbreads, hot sauce, carrots, celery, blue cheese - $14

Strawberry shortcake (wasn't listed on the menu)

Just so you know, sweetbreads are not actually sweet pieces of bread. They are the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb (according to Wikipedia). DO NOT be surprised. My sweetheart carefully recreated every single dish on our personal plates. I know, I know, heart be still. And I can promise you, every single dish, including the sweetbreads, was phenomenal. I mean, seriously how the actual F do you prepare asparagus three different ways and make it taste good each time?! How do you create carrot foam and make it mouthwatering?! We relished in the moment of the short journey we took with every bite.

And when it was all said and done, you won't believe what happened. As we were wrapping up dessert, Chef Verica stopped by our table and ever so sweetly bent over with his bag over his shoulder and a couple books and said, "I wish every person who came here would eat the way you did." Shocked, we didn't really know how to respond so we just smiled. But um, what?! I wanted to slap my momma I felt so good about that compliment.

Two weeks later, after riding a scooter around Elizabeth and Plaza Midwood for three hours, I donned a pair of boots, threw on a "nice" jacket and walked to The Stanley. For what you may ask? Um, I wanted their perfectly cooked scallops again. No joke, I took a trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, and ended up dreaming about those scallops last weekend. I made it my mission to get scallops for dinner while we were there, but alas, it wasn't the same.

You may be wondering why I thought I could go there on a whim. Just who do I think I am? If we had to wait a couple weeks to get a reservation, why did I think I could just walk in and eat scallops whenever I damn well please?

Well, you're not mistaken in asking that question. You do need a reservation if you're sitting down for date night. However, you can walk in if you can snag a spot at the bar. To my dismay, I took too long getting there and they'd stopped taking walk-ins because they were running out of food for those with reservations (I guess everyone figured out the key to tasting the menu pretty early).

Next time, Stan.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Local Researcher Goes Deep into Women's Sexuality

Getting off for science

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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In a small room on campus at UNC Charlotte, women show up, one at a time, to lean back on a padded, reclined table that looks like it belongs in a doctor's office. On a nearby counter are drawers of lab equipment, one of which is labeled Cleopatra, for the queen who supposedly invented the first vibrator by caging bees. On the wall in front of the table is a large television screen. Once the woman is all set up and given detailed instructions, the lights in the room go off, the television comes on, and a woman-friendly pornographic video begins to play. In the glow of the screen, she'll stimulate herself — for science.

This is just one component of UNCC's Women, Immunity, and Sexual Health lab, or WISH, led by health psychologist Dr. Tierney Lorenz. The lab focuses on investigating questions at the intersection of women's sexuality and mental and physical health. This study is aimed at unraveling part of the complex relationship between a woman's reproductive and immune systems.

"One thing we've found is that sexual activity can change the way that a woman's body responds to certain kinds of immune challenges," Lorenz says. "Does sexual arousal potentially protect against certain kinds of sexually transmitted infections?"

The lab also investigates a host of related questions: The immune system is designed to attack and eliminate foreign objects — what prevents that system from attacking sperm and embryos? And how does a woman's sexual history affect the immune system's function? More specifically, would an abstinent woman's immune system interact with sperm and embryos differently than a sexually active peer's

Lorenz's research suggests that sexual activity in women provokes adaptation in their immune systems. During ovulation in sexually active women, antibody production and other infection-fighting functions drop, but there's very little change in the immune function of abstinent women during the same part of the menstrual cycle.

"The immune system has to have some way of knowing, is there a possibility that I might either be getting pregnant or that I might be pregnant? If so, I need to change the way that I respond to invaders," Lorenz explains. "Sexual activity may cue the body to think that conception is possible, and therefore I should do certain things a little bit differently."

Even as she and her colleagues make groundbreaking advances in our understanding of women's physiology, Lorenz says her work constantly reminds her how much we still don't know. She cites one example after another; the mechanism of copper IUDs remains a mystery, same for the notorious arousal-inhibiting effect of antidepressants.

"The way that our bodies work is so poorly understood," Lorenz says, "and there are so many assumptions that women's bodies must operate very similarly to men's, without any data to support that."

She explains that for about 150 years, textbook writers assumed that women's sexual arousal came from the parasympathetic nervous system — the rest-and-relax system — just like men's. In fact, women's arousal is governed by the sympathetic nervous system, which also triggers the fight-or-flight response. Understanding this link allowed Lorenz, who has worked in clinical settings, to reassure sexual-assault survivors that arousal during assault is neither unusual nor an indicator of "wanting it."

That link has also led to hypotheses about the link between women's arousal and some women's responses to rape fantasies and auto-asphyxiation. Even women who hate that they have rape fantasies often find them an effective shortcut to arousal, Lorenz says.

Science is also yet to satisfactorily explain why female bodies are better at achieving multiple orgasms. "Physiology has not explained that," Lorenz says. "I feel like if I were a drug company trying to make the next blockbuster drug, I'd want to figure that out."

Studying questions of female arousal has come with no shortage of challenges. Lorenz describes one example of the phone calls she gets every month or so: "Does your husband know that you're doing this?"

For Lorenz, it's easy to write off the cranks who call her up. What's less easy to write off are the entities that fund her research. "Nobody wants to be the person who funded the vagina study — ever," she says. "We always have to tie our research back to some other health goal." In one grant proposal, at the request of the funding agency, she had to replace the word "sex" over 5,000 times.

She adds that it would be impossible to get funding for a study that investigated how to make sex better. But, she adds, "When I tell people about the work that I do around desire, around pleasure, around interests, they get excited and interested. They think that that's valuable. The money just isn't there."

Even though there remains much to explore, Lorenz says her field has come a long way. She describes how her mentors, just one generation ahead of her, had to fight for credibility and recognition as scientists. Despite the occasional unsolicited phone call, Lorenz says things are different for her. "To the extent that I present myself as a scientist," she says, "people accept that."

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Party With the Happy People

Don't Chase the Fun Away

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2018 at 4:00 AM

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This past Tuesday night started out like any other. Well, other than the fact that I'd already walked to the halal cart for lamb over rice. And yeah I know, many will judge me for going before 2 a.m. but I'd missed it the previous two nights so the craving was real.

Nevertheless, my boyfriend — who decided not to disown me for my dinner choice — and I went to our fave watering hole for a normal late night. Little did we know, however, our regular plans would be changing very soon. A friend of ours walked in with a couple friends and sat down inside the bar.

Thirty minutes later, our friend was walking out with another friend who he'd convinced to go with him and his two friends to Chasers Charlotte NoDa. You know what happened next. They started in on us, trying to convince us to tag along. *Sigh* Just when I thought we'd enjoy a quiet night on a patio with just the two of us.

A quick Google search turned up these results: "'Where the happy people party!' A fun gay nightclub featuring the finest in female impersonation from all over the nation and sexy go-go boys." Yep, we were in for a hell of an experience if we decided to go.

I looked at my boyfriend immediately trying to gauge whether or not he was in for a drastic change in scenery. Me personally, I'm no stranger to LGBT nightlife. In fact, some of the most fun I've had in Charlotte has been at popular spots such as Scorpios, Bar 316 and (what used to be) L4 Lounge. However, this particular night, I was uninterested.

I voiced my complaints, "It's going to be too loud. I don't do the club scene anymore. I'm not in the mood." To each of my concerns, the boyfriend rolled his eyes. I think he knew I really wasn't in the right frame of mind, but the lack of valid excuses weren't working either, especially when some of them were coming across snobbish or like I was a "know-it-all."

When it was all said and done, the boo was convinced, even though I couldn't tell if he thought I was trying to do the convincing through my complaining. Despite my anxiety, I try to go with the flow. So guess what? We grabbed an Uber with another patio straggler — who, I might add, said that Chasers was a good time and that it could be confirmed by all the "hot chicks" present.

Our driver, who looked a lot like Fortune Feimster, pulled past the spot (we didn't know where we were going) and she said, "Wait, y'all going to Chasers?" She put the car in reverse and pulled into a sketchy little parking lot where there was a sign on a small building over a door that looked more like a back entrance. She assured us we were going in the right way, that we'd have a good time and ended with, "Oh hey, it's free taco night and stay out of the bathroom." She laughed a hearty laugh and we walked away from the car a bit confused as we walked down the stairs into the nightclub.

It was dark, but someone waved us over to a window on the right where we got IDed and I peeped a sign that said, "CASH BAR ONLY." No worries, though, they have an ATM inside. We got out cash and proceeded to the bar before grabbing seats at a table right in front and below the stage. The venue is small, so I was thankful that there weren't a lot of people on this eventful Tuesday.

When the performers were on stage, the faces in the crowd lit up. And as for those performers, they took their jobs very seriously. Their makeup was on point, their outfits were lit and if they ever missed a step in their routine, I couldn't tell. Some of our group passed ones to the performers as they made their way down the stairs of the stage into the crowd. I just observed as I was still trying to figure out when I was going to be buzzed enough to be on the same level as everyone else.

It wasn't until we stepped outside that we realized our third wheel didn't know that ladies loving ladies weren't there every single night of the week. Talk about a riot. He was clearly shook and it was hilarious to me. It was late, 1:30 a.m. or so., so we'd have to save real fun at the venue for another night. We hopped in an Uber and drove away.

The next morning, the boyfriend and I laughed as we remembered our adventure. Even though I wanted a better first experience that I was prepared for, I was thankful my boyfriend didn't let me Chase the fun away.

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