Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Finding My Muse

Spend an Evening in a NoDa gem

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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Okay, so I know I'm going to get ostracized for admitting this — probably by my CL editors who teased me when I "discovered" Snug Harbor last year — but last Friday was my first time going to The Evening Muse in NoDa. There, I said it. Before I end up having to adorn the scarlet letter for the rest of my career as a nightlife writer, give me a second to explain my social faux pas.

I only recently got to the point in nightlife where I actually enjoy going to "shows" with my friends. As someone who's known to consume rap, trap and all things hip-hop, I think I can safely say there's a huge difference between going to see Lil' Wayne perform at PNC Music Pavillion and the SoFar shows I've been attending over the past few months.

Maybe you disagree. However, there's a deeper level of intimacy you'll find at a "show" than you'll find at a concert, and I've grown to appreciate it completely. And that's even when I don't know anything about the artist/band performing.

Anyways, I've talked often about my SoFar Sounds Charlotte experiences in the Queen City and how the allure of "not knowing what you're going to get" has led to sold out shows twice a month. And on this past Wednesday, the boyfriend and I experienced déjà vu and nostalgia when we watched a couple familiar faces performing once again: Mo Lowda & The Humble.

The first time we saw them was on Halloween at Camp North End. It was my first show and I wasn't exactly in the right headspace to pay attention to anyone performing (it was BYOG – bring your own goodies), but I remembered one thing: he loved them. When I heard them at the show this past Wednesday (for my first time) at the Charlotte Trolley Powerhouse Studio in South End, I was taken aback.

The sound was pure and paralyzing. Next thing you know, "the band we didn't know" was announcing that they were playing at The Evening Muse two days later. I'd already alerted my sweetheart that a band that had played at the show in October was going to be returning, but it wasn't until that moment that he realized it was his favorite act of the entire show. (Side note: I almost suggested we abandon the show when I noticed that Futo Buta was only a stone's throw away and we haven't tried it.)

After hearing them perform, it was confirmed. We were going to the show at The Evening Muse. I grabbed tickets Thursday night and before you know it, we were in an Uber heading to NoDa Friday night. I'm not going to lie, I was shocked at how small the venue was. I pictured something along the lines of the Visulite Theatre or The Fillmore Charlotte. But no, this was tiny. The bar, which is on the right when you enter, was simply a wooden shelf with stacked bottles and glasses. And the stage? A three-inch platform. Other than that, there were stools scattered along the left-hand side and two single bathrooms in the back right corner. No bells and whistles for this music venue, and that's why I loved it. (Especially when I decided to make the switch to a tall boy PBR.

You enter at the corner of North Davidson and East 36th streets across from The Blind Pig. We had to pay a dollar for membership and then the boys headed straight for the bar. As a latecomer to the pregame, I needed to rely on an RBV to get me through. While I ordered, I watched the crowd slowly trickling in while bobbing their heads to Pierce Edens, another familiar face from the Camp North End SoFar show. We had no idea there would be an opener, so while we started to get antsy, we definitely enjoyed getting our money's worth.

By the time Mo Lowda & The Humble came on, I was ready for a sound that was more my style. You'll have to Google these artists if you haven't heard of them and experience their music for yourself. I'm no music writer.

Once they started playing, I looked over at my boo thang and he seemed to have the same look of confusion on his face as I had. Their sound was more rock 'n' roll than the sweet melodies I remembered from two nights prior. Don't get me wrong, I like that they can cater their music to the listening audience. However, we were looking forward to a repeat of the intimate atmosphere we experienced in the cozy space at the trolley museum.

Nevertheless, I'll definitely be returning to The Evening Muse for a show very soon. Share your favorite intimate venues with me at backtalk@clclt.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Rundown of Charlotte's Arcades for Grown Ups

Game on

Posted By on Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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When I was growing up, my mom and I used to go to a local laundromat at least once a week. Naturally, a child gets stir crazy in a space like that. Luckily, our laundromat had a PAC-MAN arcade game. My mom would even join in the fun, using the extra quarters we had to play one of her fav games: Galaga. Two decades later, I'm obsessed with playing Galaga every time I notice it in a room.

Recently, The Corner Pub — one of my constant hangouts for you non-readers — got rid of a Golden Tee game and replaced it with a multicade machine complete with Galaga! Enter: the resurgence of my passion. Usually, I'm a person who hates games. Anytime someone mentions playing beer pong, flip cup, cornhole, etc., I'm always the one that rolls my eyes and opts out. That's why my boo was shocked that I was flipping out over this new discovery.

Next thing you know, we were creating our own tour of a handful of arcade game bars in the Queen City. A couple I'd been to before, and I visited one new one. Check out three of my go-to arcade bars instead of hitting up your usual spots this weekend.

Lucky's Bar and Arcade

Lucky's is your best choice for gaming if you're looking to stay Uptown. It's conveniently located where the old BAR Charlotte was in North Side Station. This spacious venue has been open for almost two years.

Pros: Convenient location. Unlike some of the divier arcade bars across the city, Lucky's has plenty of space for you to move around. While I'm not a huge fan of the taste of the cocktails I've tried, their drink menu features "interesting" drinks like the martini with a piece of Nerds rope. While you can't get food direct from Lucky's, you can order food from Flight Beer Garden & Music Hall. You can check out some of their games online before you visit. Also, the '90s pop culture mash-up murals adorning the walls alone make it worth at least one trip

Cons: There's a minimum purchase upon entry. Instead of quarters, you get tokens, so you'll have to hang onto them and hope you don't lose them before your next visit. Most people avoid the specialty cocktail menu. Also, on several occasions multiple games have been out of order during a visit. Overall, I'd argue most patrons are more interested in the "clubby atmosphere" versus the gaming experience. (300 N. College St. #104, luckycharlotte.com)

Abari Game Bar

Charlotte's first true game bar. Let's be real, most of y'all bit off owner Zach Pulliam's innovative idea. If you remember, I interviewed him before the spot opened and got the inside scoop. Three years later, this intimate arcade and game bar is the preferred choice for gamers when overhearing conversations between true gaming geeks.

Pros: Memberships are $1 (bring cash). Private parking. You can get cash back at the bar by using your debit card. You put quarters, not tokens, in the machines so you can take home the extra cash at the end of the night and actually use it. They serve craft beer, cheap domestics and liquor. This venue is perfect for experienced gamers. Check out all of their games — including rare machines like 10-player Killer Queen — on their website.

Cons: No food, womp womp womp. Even Joe's Doughs next door is officially closed, although a food truck is sometimes parked out front on busier nights. While the small space is cozy, the game space can feel a bit congested. (1721 N. Davidson St., abarigamebar.com)

Palmer St.

This was the only arcade bar that I hadn't been to yet. I was in South End and the boo thang suggested we go try our hand at pinball and arcade games at a different spot. The latest addition to the arcade scene, this spot is an underrated choice for gaming in the Q.C.

Pros: Memberships are $1 (bring cash). Private parking. No cash back at the bar for games. But all vintage games are FREE. Yes, I said free.99! And pinball is only 50 cents. Not to mention, the setup of the venue leaves plenty of elbow room while you're playing. They do have a food menu, however, it's not the one you'll find on Yelp: pretzels, pretzel bites, corn dogs and chips.

Cons: There weren't any corn dogs left when we went and I left my card. *insert sad face* Game selection was limited to 40 machines. While vintage games were free, there were only a few. Other than that, based on the time we went on a Saturday until 6ish, I have no complaints. (412 W. Palmer St., facebook.com/palmerstgamebar)

Now get your game on, Queen City!

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Asha Sims Turned her Life Around by Putting in the Energy Work

The Yoni yogi

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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About 10 years ago, Asha Sims' life took a turn for the worse. Her relationship with her husband and business partner was falling apart. As a licensed professional counselor, she was familiar with the signs, but she didn't want to recognize them in her own case: She was in a denial about her abusive relationship.

Today, Sims is a model of strength for her clients and she feels firmly rooted in herself. She overcame the rocky end of her marriage and endured for some time with little to no income. For her, the source of her strength did not lie in talk therapy. Instead, she attributes her success to energy work.

"You can put on my tombstone: The woman I am today is due to energy work," Sims says. "It gave me a sense of empowerment."

Energy work refers to practices that are believed to promote spiritual health. For example, Sims' entry into energy work came from Reiki. Typically a client will lie on her back while a licensed Reiki practitioner, or Reiki master, lays her hands over key organs to promote spiritual balance. Another hallmark of energy work is the use of crystals, which are said to channel specific energies into the user's life in order to heal sickness or maintain spiritual wellness.

Pinterest named energy work the No. 1 wellness trend of 2017, based on how many times the topic was pinned. As with much in the spiritual realm, there is little to no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of energy work, but many practitioners and users cite extraordinary results.

Asha Sims.
  • Asha Sims.

To the skeptics, Sims says that holistic spiritual healing is a partnership and that her clients seek her out. Her goal is not to convert doubters, but to help those who come to her. Many of those clients are women experiencing problems in their relationships or sex lives. Sims believes identifying and overcoming sexual hang-ups, especially in women, is essential to living a spiritually balanced and rooted life.

"We lose our sexual energy, which is our creative life force. Our wombs are what bring life into the world," Sims says.

To determine whether your sex life is where it's supposed to be, Sims recommends nothing more than a simple glance at your feet.

"When you're dating, you want to make sure your feet are not dry, crusty, toenail polish peeling," Sims says. "Those are things I started doing for myself to build that sexual energy back up within me."

If your feet are looking a little worse for wear and your sex life is suffering too, Sims suggests reconnecting with your more sensual self: Take relaxing baths. Uncork a bottle of wine and treat yourself as though you were heading out on a first date. Get into the practice of applying oils and, in the process, appreciating your body. (And don't neglect your feet!)

In addition to practical at-home advice, Sims offers a whole range of services to assist in unlocking the positive energy that she believes comes from harmony and comfort in your sex life. In addition to being a Reiki master, Sims is also a certified Yoni advocate. Yoni eggs are carved stones designed to be worn inside the vagina. She also provides womb saunas, which involve applying steam to the vagina and uterus.

Sims' sensual yoga classes are designed to open hips, strengthen pelvic floor muscles and unlock sexual energy. At first, attendees are skeptical, but by the end of the class, her students are dancing and gyrating as the room pulses with sexual energy. Sims says that sometimes it's too much for her to deal with, and she hopes her clients go home and channel that energy — with a partner or alone.

Before the turning point that changed her life, Sims never imagined herself as the orgasm lady or the Yoni egg lady. But she's also not entirely surprised. She's always loved sex, she says, so she made it her profession. She believes that healthy sexuality leads to an increased capacity for love, creativity and healthy pursuits. "The more healthy orgasms, we don't have time to hate. It's all about love and expression and learning the value of sexual intimacy," she says.

Sims worldview has her won her fans on Facebook, where she regularly posts about sexuality and provides her followers with a forum to talk about sex in ways that they might not be able to otherwise. Whether or not her spiritual healing practice is the best approach for you, her advocacy for healthy sexuality and her efforts to build communication and community around healthy sexuality benefit us all.

Recently, Sims' 6-year-old son wanted to show her a magic trick. She didn't know what to expect. At the end of the trick, he made the big reveal with a flourish.

"It's a ... Yoni egg!"

Sims cracked up. Her son won't know for a while what a Yoni egg is. But plenty of her clients know, and, based on the glowing testimonials on Sims' website, I think they would agree that they can be magical.

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The CIAA Conundrum

The yearly conversation that everyone and no one is having

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 4:00 AM

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It never fails. The conversation is usually the same during the last couple weeks leading up to the end of February. "Well, you know CIAA is next weekend..." *insert awkward pause* as the speaker scans the closest black person's expression or the table for someone (anyone) who will cosign. Why, you may ask? The CIAA – Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association – an NCAA Division II conference of historically black institutions holds its annual basketball tournament around the end of February or beginning of March in our city every year.

If you're new to Charlotte and you haven't heard the murmurings of bar- and clubgoers expressing some version of lackluster investment, congratulations. The rest of us, however, have been hearing the complaints for quite some time – I'm going on year six. The issue in a nutshell? As much as some folks will argue that "race doesn't exist" in Charlotte, weekends like these reveal that the roots of social division are alive and well.

Usually, I use this particular column to discuss all of the CIAA events I've been to in the past, how much money artists throw at a local strip club, who's performing during the weekend or where are the best venues to go. This year, I want to weigh in on the conversations that a lot of publications choose to focus on, whether positive or negative.

In my opinion – that's what you say when you're trying to maintain some sense of political correctness, right? – it's no different than the "surprise" that's expressed every single time the #blacklivesmatter movement resurges in the city. "I don't understand what all of this about?" some state in exasperation every single time a stone is thrown in the direction of social homogeneity.

The question of whether or not one is going to engage in CIAA events, let alone leave the city, is a question or statement that comes up every single year around this time.

For one, there have been many articles written on the simple fact that the amount of people that actually attend the tournament has continued to decline over the years. Instead, the focus has shifted toward the multitude of day and night parties that take place in the city between Thursday and Friday (check our guide on page 16) and the high-profile violence that can sometimes occur at said events (already there are articles about Young Dolph returning to CLT after surviving a 100-bullet barrage in 2017). And yet, in the grand scheme of things, the weekend generates millions of dollars in revenue for the city.

The larger conversation, most of the time, is much more centered around...you guessed it, race. Let's not tip-toe around the fact that a tournament based around HBCUs is going to bring in people of color. And given our social environment with regards to racial tension, anytime there's a large influx in the city, there's always a perception that drama is going to follow. Hence, headlines like "Why the outrage over CIAA gunfire?" and "Yes, your leaving Charlotte to avoid black people during CIAA is racist."

But can we argue that these headlines, despite the fact that they have a clickbait flair, are getting right to the heart of the dynamics that exist from a cultural standpoint in Charlotte. Just last week, jokes were flying about how much gunfire, hip-hop music and how many motorcycles will be running the streets of Charlotte. But the real question should be, if the city is benefitting from a financial standpoint and we aren't seriously considering it going anywhere else, how do we move forward in a positive way? And then, how do we shift the conversation to the larger view of why there's always a division when it comes to nightlife experiences?

I don't know that there's a definitive answer. I've talked to people from a diverse array of perspectives that are grounded in race, religion, gender and sexuality. Not to mention, I come from a unique perspective with regards to all of those categories and I can say that the allure of nightlife in general has faded as I've gotten older. And I certainly understand navigating different spaces with regards to all of those things despite a certain level of comfortability. As an added bonus, I've worked as a hostess during CIAA and I've actually gone to a multitude of events.

Looking ahead to All Star Weekend in 2019, I begin to think about the fact that there will be yet another event that will bring a familiar dynamic to the Queen City. I am interested to see if we can begin to discuss what it is that fractures our nightlife scene and figure out a way to bridge a variety of gaps.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Only Way to Do Discovery Place is the 'Adults Only' Way

Droppin' science

Posted By on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 at 4:00 AM

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A long weekend in the Queen City usually implies a long weekend of drinking. That's right, your girl had Monday off in observance of President's Day. When I wasn't spending time with friends, I was enjoying sleep competitions with my sweetheart.

Even though I hadn't gotten much sleep on Thursday night, my boo thang had suggested we attend Science on the Rocks on Friday. I was exhausted, but he'd never been before and my adventures with him are always worth the trip – even when they are absent of food, sleep and water. Not to mention, after our first Valentine's Day together — I finally got to try Customshop Handcrafted Food, eek – I wanted to keep the celebrations going.

If you've been living under a rock, or you're new to Charlotte, or just a creature of habit, you may not know exactly what Science on the Rocks (#sotr) is. Let me break it down for you. It's an adults-only event that takes place at the Discovery Place, a two-story family-friendly (usually) science museum located Uptown at the corner of North Tryon and 6th streets.

A gander at Discovery Place's official website describes the event with the statement, "Science is shaken, not stirred, every third Friday of the month at Science on the Rocks." When I first heard about the after-hours event back in 2014, I couldn't resist a visit. The only thing missing from the usual daytime drip to Discovery Place is a cocktail, after all.

That following March, I was sipping on a "vaportini" at the event all by myself. Since then, I've been back for at least four or five more such events, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a theme that has occurred twice and sold out almost immediately each time).

I read the description for this past week's theme: "Is the way to your lover's heart really through the stomach? Can certain foods actually increase your sex drive? There's no denying it — food, love and sex share a special link that all comes down to science. Romance is in the air and there's more to explore than just chemistry at Science on the Rocks: Flirting with Food."

Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with food, so it seemed like a great idea. Plus, the description reminded me of the time I took my mom to a SOTR experience that was all about the "birds and the bees," where I watched in silent torture next to her while someone slowly placed a condom on a banana...

I fought through the after-work urge to take a nap and met up with my boo. The event always runs from 5 to 9 p.m., so I thought it would be a good idea to head over around 7:30 — not too early, not too late. And even though this approach has worked in the past, showing up later this time wasn't the best idea.

We purchased tickets at the door (yes, that's a thing) and perused the map of events. I hadn't always participated in the activities before, but this time the list seemed pretty interesting: Sex and Aphrodisiacs, Candy Chemistry, The Dating Game, Fruit Relay and Kinky Kitchen Trivia. Unfortunately, every time we went by a room designated for an activity, the class was full. Interested parties had to have tickets to enter and others had to wait for the next time slot and hope they could get in. Bummer.

Nevertheless, the first item I wanted to check off of my to-do list was grab a drink. "Victoria's Other Secret," a pre-mixed vodka and lemonade number was being served at the two makeshift bars upstairs. Even though the price tag was $9+, I thought I'd give it a chance. Surprisingly, two tiny drinks later, I was feeling the buzz.

We accepted the fact that we weren't going to get into any of the activities and decided to just browse the other exhibits that are featured on a daily basis. Frogs, jellyfish and the like. By the time we finished that – and I laughed at my boo for accidentally splashing the water in the huge, open fish tank – we'd put the last hour of SOTR behind us.

Before you plan your visit to SOTR, there are a few pro-tips to keep in mind: Buy your tickets online and early ($10). There's no guarantee that the event won't sell out and they end online sales early on the day of the event.You can buy tickets at the door, however, the price goes up to $12. And again, there's no guarantee they'll be available. Show up as early as you can. That way, you'll be able to catch as many events as possible. You'd be surprised how quickly 9 p.m. will roll around. If you bring cash, you'll be able to cut down your wait time in line at the bar. But make sure you bring a decent amount...the drinks aren't cheap. Don't forget, you can purchase tickets to an IMAX show at 7:30 p.m. for an additional $5. Not too shabby for a quick movie experience!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Trip to The Imperial That I'll Actually Remember

Third time's a charm

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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Is anyone actually calling it Northside Station?

If you've explored nightlife in Charlotte, especially Uptown, you know that the "building" that used to house Bar Charlotte and Republic Nite Club is now called Northside Station. That's where you'll find Lucky's Bar & Arcade, Flight Beer Garden & Music Hall, Tavolo (R.I.P. from what I hear) and The Imperial.

The first time I went to The Imperial, I was toasted. Beforehand, I'd gone to Science on the Rocks: Wizarding World at the Discovery Place. I was so excited about the chance to experience Harry Potter in the Queen City, however, it ended up being lackluster. I don't know why I thought butter beer would taste better in Charlotte than it did at Harry Potter World in Orlando. Nevertheless, my friend and I enjoyed what we could.

Once we had our fill, we left and went to The Local, and eventually, I decided to brave Charlotte nightlife alone and head to Lucky's Bar & Arcade.

Bad idea. I grabbed an RBV, or three, and headed straight for the Jurassic Park arcade game.

It's one of my faves at Lucky's and that night, someone was celebrating a birthday. That meant free coins for the random bargoer hogging a two-player game: a.k.a me.

Next thing you know, I'm in the bathroom fighting for my life before 10 p.m.

I collected myself to meet some friends at The Imperial around the corner. It was my first time and I didn't know if I would even be able to handle the epic cocktails that I'd heard so much about.

I was right.

All I remember was one of my friends and I ordering the same charred drink with ashes in it. Coincidence? I think not.

The second time? My parents were visiting and we went straight to the rooftop bar. Don't get me wrong, I loved every second of the fall breeze on that rooftop. However, I learned very quickly that the rooftop bar doesn't serve the same cocktails as the bar downstairs. Bummer.

Needless to say, after quick and blurry experiences, I was excited to revisit the jazz venue this past weekend.

One of my good friends and old co-workers was celebrating a birthday and wanted to get the girls together for a night out.

This mop I call hair kept me from being on time, but I was still able to take note of the highlights. I walked up the front stairs to the entrance of The Imperial and showed my ID.

There were way more patrons than I remember seeing the first time around. The lighting wasn't too dim, unique for a jazz bar, and there was plenty of seating: cozy booths along the wall on the left, a bar on the right. When I walked to the back, there was a small stage. On that stage, a live jazz band that was getting after it.

I'm not going to lie, it was kind of loud given the small space, but there's something about jazz instruments that I don't want to ignore. No matter how loud they are.

I surveyed the crowd as I walked toward the bathroom. It was awesome to see how diverse the crowd was as I walked toward the back of the venue.

And what was more exciting? The menu was just as diverse. I didn't have time to grab a cocktail of my own on this visit, but I did have time to taste the Bourbon Evergreens.

I glanced at the other drink options wondering if I'd find extravagant prices. Nope.

Compared to newer venues like Merchant & Trade, the stiff drinks that The Imperial's bartenders are serving up are worth the $12 price tag from what I can tell!

Whether you're more of the lounge-goer or a rooftop porch pigeon, you'll love the vibes at The Imperial.

This venue's laid-back atmosphere coupled with live jazz music on the weekends makes for the perfect date night spot or better yet, Galentine's destination. By the time I arrived to revisit the layout of the venue, my girls were ready to head to Connolly's, The Local and Tilt.

That's how you know the drinks at The Imperial have to be heavy in alcohol. Why? Gone are the days of making more than two moves in a night, let alone in a matter of a couple hours.

Before you head to a stuffier destination for live music in the Q.C., check out The Imperial. Based on multiple experiences, this last one being the most memorable, the venue won't disappoint.

Pro tip: If you're interested in a "galactic ride," try the social media favorite – the Amethyst Garden martini.

Do you have other favorite jazz spots? Drop them in my inbox, because I think I feel a jazz phase coming on.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Some Ideas To Heat Things Up for V-Day in CLT

Will you be mine?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 6:06 PM

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I'd completely forgotten about Valentine's Day until I came across my first meme of the year: Valentine's Day approaching! What y'all gettin'? The response: A snap from team Snapchat. Yep, it's that time of year again. Bring on the memes from the bitter single folk and those obsessed with their significant others. Thankfully, I've got a boo thang that's going to keep me from being bitter this year. But then I started thinking about what we were going to do.

Every year, this particular holiday sneaks up on me and I end up ordering something last minute. It never fails! If you plan it right, however, you won't have to worry as much about pulling out all the stops – especially in the gift department. I was thumbing over the idea of buying a subscription to Datebox around Christmas time, and now's as good a time as ever to revisit.

The concept is fairly simple – which has the tendency to get on my nerves when I think about how easy it could be to become a stay-at-home mom. Your monthly subscription includes a fully planned date delivered straight to your door. You could choose to get the details of your date delivered to your email or, if you're willing to pay more, delivered to your door. Of course, Charlotte isn't on the list of cities available just yet. But I immediately started thinking how easy it would be to put together the perfect Valentine's Day in the Q.C. without a pricey subscription.

Here are some ideas of things you can do with your special someone on V-Day around the Queen City that won't disappoint:

Get buzzed at a Hornets game. Have you been putting off inviting your sweetie to a sporting event? He or she may not be as invested in the game as you are (or maybe he/she will be) but I guarantee you a nice buzz at a game will lead to a good conversation about the birds and the bees once you leave. There's even a game on Valentine's Day.

Try a new local restaurant. Let's be real, dinner would probably win the award for most popular response on Family Feud. However, you don't have to stick with the stereotypical, break-the-bank restaurants. Instead, look up a local restaurant you haven't tried yet. Hi Tide Poke & Raw Bar is amazing. Not to mention, some bowl ingredients (plus, the raw oysters) are aphrodisiacs.

Get active. Maybe you're not ready to showcase your sensual skills at a couple's yoga class at Blue Blaze Brewing. But that doesn't mean you can't get active with your boo thang somewhere else. Yoga with kitties at Mac Tabby Cat Café or axe throwing at Lumberjaxe are great alternatives to a very public display of affection, wink wink.

"Wine" down. Grabbing a bottle of wine and getting your sip on is a good date that very few people would argue with (except maybe your friends in recovery). However, you can switch up the scenery and get away from slapping the bag at home to keep it interesting. Snag a tree house dinner with a beautiful view and a bottle – or two – of wine at Treehouse Vineyards' just a short drive away instead. Or, look up local wine and design classes and take home a memento of #VDay2018.

Give "love is blind" a whole new meaning. I was out of town when an intriguing charity event benefiting the blind took place. The idea was that guests would eat their meal "in the dark" opening their minds to the lived experience of those without eyesight. At the same time, patrons would be awakening their other senses. Take "nightlife" to a whole new level when you rent a private room at your fave restaurant (or at home), blindfold one another and see where the meal takes you ... yum.

Bring your favorites to the crib. Come on, sometimes "Netflix and chill" is all you need to enjoy time with your favorite person. You can even do it big by picking up food from your favorite restaurant or better yet, head to the grocery store and make dinner together - #sushichallenge. What's even better? Valentine's Day is on a hump day and you'll already be home. Thank me later.

Those are just a few ideas for you Queen City lovebirds. But don't forget, almost all of the things on this list can be just as fun for the single folk. Grab your girls or your guys and celebrate the love you have for your favorite pals – y'all won't have to worry about a petty fight either! What are your plans for an epic Valentine's Day night out in the Q.C.?! Share them with me at backtalk@clclt.com, I'm trying to have an amazing hump day!

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Everyone's a Friend at Smokey Joe's

A solo trip to a bar with no method to its madness

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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Let's talk about dive bars. . . again. Last week I described how I fell in love with Midwood Country Club from the moment I almost fell into the patio. Instead of the venue being an actual country club, I had stumbled upon a dive bar and couldn't have asked for more. Why? Beause I'm smack in the middle of a major dive bar phase, at the moment.

There's just something about the rinky-dink feel of a divey spot that's dimly lit, lacking in "matching" décor, serving cheap drinks and maybe even smelling of mold. Those are the spots that you'll meet people from all walks of life. You may not feel comfortable or like you're "at home" at first, but then the next thing you know, you're a "regular."

I recently visited one of my favorite dive bars for the first time in a while: Smokey Joe's Cafe.

And you know how I know I've gotten to the point where I feel completely comfortable there? I went all by my lonesome.

The first time I'd heard anything about Smokey Joe's, I was actually across the street at East African Cuisine. I noticed the little hole-in-the-wall and chopped it up as a biker bar I'd probably never visit. A week later, one of my friends who lived in the area asked a couple of us to meet her "at this spot on Monroe [Road]" for drinks after work. I was shocked when I pulled up to the unassuming building where I'd just convinced myself I'd never go.

Little did I know, it would become one of my favorite places to get weird.

And honestly, that's one of the best ways to describe it: weird. The layout of the patio doesn't make much sense. There's sand beneath the ping pong table outside. There are a few fire pits, maybe even a TV? You may stumble walking on the uneven ground before stepping inside. Renovations? Yeah right.

There are tchotchkes everywhere with no clear connection between any of them. There's even a waterfall in a nook in the ceiling – where does the water go exactly? But that's what gives the spot so much character. There's no rhyme or reason for the random items, decorations or mismatching furniture and yet it's just as cozy as can be. Not to mention, the drinks are stiff and cheap.

When I returned recently, I had the pleasure of catching a live show on the stage tucked in the back corner to the left and I fell in love all over again. Shana Blake and Friends perform at Smokey Joe's every Thursday. Blake, the lead singer, has a voice that will captivate you and her "friends" are ridiculously talented on each of their instruments of choice. I sat on a church pew, yes a church pew, and watched them perform while sipping a whiskey and coke.

Yikes, the first sip stung and I was tempted to go back to the bar and ask for a splash more of coke! But my mother didn't raise no punk, so I powered through.

When the show was over, I went outside to sit by one of the fire pits. I made it through that first drink so I thought I'd have one more.

Blake came outside to chat with some of the regulars and I just knew I had to tell her how beautiful her voice was. So I did. She was very sweet, which sometimes is hard to come by, even for local musicians.

I finished up my drink and decided it was time for me to go. As I was walking out, however, I noticed a hot dog stand right out front. "Don't tempt me with a good time," I thought to myself as I reached into my pocket for some cash.

Talk about topping off a great night. Live music at my favorite spot and a hot dog for the road.

The next day, I told everyone about how great they sounded and made them commit to coming back. And it's funny, I randomly went to Thomas Street Tavern the following Wednesday, and there she was performing inside! I doubt she recognized me, but in my more-than-tipsy stupor I remember saying, "Hey girl!" as I jammed out in my recently borrowed matching velour Michael Kors jumpsuit! *gasp* Nevertheless, it was a little reminder of my little dive bar nestled on Monroe Road.

I think I'll create a bucket list of dive bars across Charlotte and maybe even cross over into South Carolina. Tell me, where should I go?

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Midwood Is Home to My Kind of Country Club

Not just for the good ol' boys

Posted By on Wed, Jan 24, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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When you hear the words "country club," what comes to your mind? Golf. Old white men. Pretentious attitudes. Khakis and a button up.

Those phrases represent my most censored way of describing a space that, in certain circles, is viewed as the "good ol' boys' club." I know, I know, #hatersgonnahate, right?

Nevertheless, according to Google: a country-club is a privately owned club, often with a membership quota and admittance by invitation or sponsorship, that generally offers both a variety of recreational sports and facilities for dining and entertaining. *insert Quinta B's "he got money!"*

Now that we've gotten logistics out of the way, let's talk about Midwood Country Club (MCC).

Have you heard of it? I legit just started hearing about MCC within the last few months, and after all of the hooplah surrounding "memberships" in Charlotte almost two years ago, the last thing I was focused on was joining a country club and paying any more than $1 for a membership. Little did I know...

This past weekend I discovered that one of my boo's friend's partner worked at MCC and the crew was going to go.

By this point, I'd asked quite a few people who'd mentioned the spot what to expect. I'd imagined an upper echelon Charlotte nightlife venue: picture Fahrenheit or The Punch Room. A dimly lit room, deep red rugs, a cigar room and maybe a pool table.

I remember a friend asking me if I wanted to come with them and I responded, "No, I'm not dressed for that type of occasion."

They responded with a giggle but if I knew then what I know now it would make complete sense why they wore a face of confusion.

But I digress. Saturday I was drinking butterflies away at "the new-ish" Jackalope Jack's in Plaza Midwood with one of my friends.

That same friend was supposed to pick me up and accompany me to this month's Sofar Sounds secret live music gig, but alas, he fell asleep. So there we were getting lit before I was off to meet my boo thang who would soon be heading to MCC.

I looked up Midwood Country Club on my GPS and, even though I was pretty sure I could make the walk from Jack's, I decided to err on the side of caution since I wasn't 100 percent confident I knew where the venue was.

My Uber drove past Resident Culture Brewing and there it was. Immediately, I had Thirsty Beaver dive bar patio vibes. There was a post-and-chain situation happening outside cordoning off the patio but I didn't see this at first and had the stars not aligned and a fine, young gentleman alert me, I would've have cleared. that. patio. out!

Upon entry, I couldn't believe I'd stressed myself out about the "expectations for attire." This was no country club at all. If giving this divey watering hole-meets-sports bar the name "country club" wasn't a middle finger to "the man" and the "good ol' boys," I don't know what was, and I fell in love.

We were post-snowpocalypse so, as you can imagine, there weren't very many people inside the bar. In fact, the only features I noted in the spacious venue were a covered bar to the left, a few high-top tables, a TouchTunes and a couple pool tables.

And yet, the dive vibe was something I could get down with.

Later, I learned that not only was I late to the party hearing about Midwood Country Club, I was over three years late to be exact.

That's right, it's been open since 2014. I clutched my pearls in shock and awe that I could call myself a nightlife guru and yet, hadn't stumbled upon this spot right around the corner from everything I call home.

Not to mention, as is the case with most divey joints around Charlotte, I could tell in less than an hour that this spot has its own regular characters.

Just like the Corner Pub has regular passersby like Will and "Pretty Eyes" that add the seasoning that makes CP everything that it is, I can't wait to discover who those gems are at MCC.

I christened one of my new favorite spots when I accidentally took over TouchTunes and played my favorite Lil' Wayne song "Lollipop." And now that stuttering chorus that anyone and everyone recognizes will always be connected in my mind with my late discovery of a new favorite country club for the real "good ol' boys" (and girls).

Side note: I see a "must-see dive bar" list in the near future, faithful followers.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Bloody Business

Warning: You'll never be able to un-read this

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 4:22 PM

I'm a professional dominatrix, and I thought I'd seen everything in the last five years. But this situation completely baffled the entire dungeon. This middle-aged guy, seemingly in fine health, booked an appointment with me and my colleague for one hour of some very light play and a golden shower to finish off with. We did no CBT, no cock rings, no trauma to the dick area at all, no ass play, no sounding or catheters, no turbulent masturbation, nothing that could have caused this reaction. We brought him into the bathroom, and he laid down on his back, jerking off with a condom on his penis as my buddy was standing over him and peeing and I was saying all kinds of mean/encouraging sentiments and closely observing his progress. He came and... it was entirely blood. It looked like he shat into his condom, through his penis. He did not seem alarmed or in pain. He took off his condom himself, so he was aware of the situation. He did not remark on it to either of us! He made ZERO effort to prepare either of us, either. And it was not a little blood in his ejaculate — it was entirely blood. He has never returned. Is this person a monster or a vampire? Is he dying? Seriously.

-Mistress Echo

P.S. I went back to the bathroom with gloves on and removed the used condom from the trash and took a photo. It's the only way to communicate just how much blood there was.

"You can tell Mistress Echo that her client was not a monster or a vampire, and he is likely not dying anytime soon," said Dr. Stephen H. King, a board-certified urologist. "What she observed is a person with hematospermia, meaning blood in the semen."

While the sight is alarming — I'll never be able to scrape that photo off the back of my eyeballs, thanks — Dr. King assures me that it's nothing to worry about, as hematospermia is almost always benign. And even if you had done ball play or rough CBT (cock and ball torture), or if he engaged in solo CBT prior to the session, it's unlikely that kind of play would result in a condom full of blood.

"The vast majority of the semen actually comes from the prostate and the seminal vesicles, which are located deep in the pelvis just behind and below the bladder, respectively," said Dr. King. "Very little of the ejaculate fluid actually originates from the testicles," which primarily pump out hormones and sperm cells. "The prostate gland and seminal vesicles (also glands) store up the fluids and can become overdistended with long periods of abstinence and prone toward micro tearing and bleeding in this circumstance."

Blowing regular loads doesn't just lower your risk for prostate cancer, as multiple studies have shown, it also lowers your risk for filling condoms with blood and alarming your friendly neighborhood pro-Dom. Two good reasons for draining those balls, guys — and other people with balls because, as the Book of Tumblr teaches us, not all guys have balls and not all balls have guys.

"Also, these glands are lined by smooth muscle that contracts to force out the fluid [during ejaculation]," Dr. King continued. "If the force of contraction is excessive — a fucking great orgasm — this may lead toward rupture of some of the surrounding blood vessels and blood will enter the semen."

Your client's blasé reaction is a good indication that he's experienced this previously, ME, because most guys who see blood in their semen — or only blood when they expected to see semen — freak the fuck out.

"In my practice, most guys who see blood in their ejaculate the first time are sufficiently freaked out to seek immediate medical attention, and their doctors usually tell them this isn't something to worry about — unless it persists," said Dr. King. "In cases where the hematospermia persists, gets worse, or is associated with other symptoms such as pain, difficulty urinating, or general health decline, medical attention is definitely recommended."

Back to your client, ME: If blood loads have happened to him before (hence the blasé reaction), proper etiquette dictates that he should have said something to you about it afterward ("I'm fine, no biggie"). If it happens to him regularly, he should have warned you in advance — at least that's what it says in my imaginary edition of Emily Post's Etiquette.

I'm an old guy, 68 years old to be exact. (Also a Scorpio, if that matters.) I've always been a pretty horny person, and I had a lot of fun from the 1960s through the 1980s with a number of lovers. I figured that as I got older, my horniness would lessen and I could think about something other than pussy. Trouble is, I don't seem to be less horny. I find myself attracted to women in their 30s or 40s, but I wonder how I appear to them. I don't want to make an utter fool of myself by making an unwanted advance — but the truth is, I'm still pretty hot to trot. What do I do?

-Not Ready For The Nursing Home

You could see sex workers (quickest fix), you could look for women in their 30s or 40s who are attracted to guys pushing 70 (gerontophilia is a thing), you could date women in their 50s or 60s with a youthful appearance and/or attitude (there are lots out there, NRFTNH, and they often gather in groups to complain about how men their age are only interested in much younger women), or you could do all of the above. But you shouldn't regard moving into a nursing home as the end of your sex life, NRFTNH. I'm constantly reading news reports about sexually transmitted disease epidemics in nursing homes and retirement communities. People may not like to think about the elderly having sex — and the elderly apparently don't think about protection (or they're denied access to it) — but lots of old fuckers are still fucking. (And, as astrology is bullshit, NRFTNH, being a Scorpio doesn't matter. It never has and it never will.)

My husband has a foot fetish. The feel of his tongue between my toes when he "worships" my feet doesn't arouse me in the least. Rather, it feels like I'm stepping on slugs in the garden barefoot. Our sex life is fine otherwise. I resolved to grin (or grimace) and bear this odd aspect of his sexuality before we married, but I cannot continue to do so. When I told him this, he asked to be allowed to attend "foot model" parties. There wouldn't be intercourse, but he would pleasure himself in the presence of these foot models (and other males!). This would, in my opinion, violate our monogamous commitment and our marriage vows. I enjoy your podcast and I know you often advocate for open relationships. But you also emphasize your respect for monogamy and the validity of monogamous commitments. We are at an impasse. Please advise.

-Throwing Off Expectations

While "love unconditionally" sounds nice, TOE, monogamy was a condition of yours going into this marriage (and a valid one), and being able to express this aspect of his sexuality was a stated or implicit condition of his (and, yes, an equally valid one). If you're going to unilaterally alter the terms and conditions of your marriage, TOE, then you'll need to reopen negotiations and come to a new agreement with your husband, one that works for both of you. (Jesus, lady, let him go to the fucking party!)

On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood: savagelovecast.com; follow @fakedansavage on Twitter; mail@savagelove.net; go to ITMFA.org.

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