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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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Haymaker of a Meal

Another week, another new experience

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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A few weeks ago, I shared with my readers the lofty goal of trying a different restaurant for date night at least once a week. Well, if you follow my @omgclt_ Instagram account and check out my OMGNOMS highlights, you'll see that the boo and I have been doing a pretty good job whittling down the list of the newest — and I would argue best — additions to the Q.C. dining scene.

Shortly after that article, my guy suggested going to Haymaker Restaurant in uptown Charlotte beneath Ascent Uptown Apartments across from Romare Bearden Park. I'll be honest, I'm an all-day grazer. I don't eat a lot in one sitting but if you add up how much I'm eating throughout the day, I guarantee it beats how much my boyfriend eats.

Not to mention, he prefers eating dinner late at night while I prefer eating around 6 p.m. So you can imagine, #hangry attitudes have taken hold way more often than he would like. And I have to apologize for what I've said when I was hangry more than I'm proud to say.

Luckily, however, neither of us were super hungry when it came time for our reservation at 8:30 p.m. I was thankful for the fact we didn't have too much of an appetite when I looked at the prices of the items on the large plates (balling on a budget). Especially considering we end up sharing a few small plates at other restaurants and being super full.

I checked out the menus beforehand as I always do. And the first thing I welcomed was the slogan: Make hay while the sun shines. Then I read that their specialty is farm-fresh fare — prepared by Chef William Dissen and Chef de Cuisines Ashley Quick — and fine cocktails. Combine that with a focus on food sourced from nearby, and you've sold me on a tasty experience with a deliberate conscience (I say this while arguing the true meaning of farm-to-table, *sighs* blame my women's studies background).

When we walked in, the first thing I noticed was the rustic-meets-modern decor, the bright lighting and the spacious concept. The space extends upward for two stories adding to the open feel (and additional seating space), especially when the entire front of the restaurant is comprised of windows.

The hostess was ready to invite us to our table, even though we were a few minutes late, and we settled in without any issues at a two-person table.

We took a long breath from the menu and, in usual fashion, decided to start with the easier-to-digest cocktail menu. The Haymaker Punch: bourbon, lemon, apple, ginger, shrub and cider ($12). Harvest Spritz: aperol, amaro montenegro, cava and orange peel ($10). At least that part was easy.

When it came to food, the task wasn't quite as simple. The waitress, who was almost too attentive (if you can even really get annoyed by that), had to come back to our table a few times before we were ready to just choose already.

However, we finally settled upon three small plates and a dessert that we'd share: crispy pork belly with sorghum glaze, field pea succotash, Benton's bacon, roasted onion broth and peanuts ($14); crispy fingerling potatoes with fresno aioli ($6); roasted asparagus with romesco, fried egg and herb croutons ($10); followed up by whipped ricotta cheesecake with lemon curd and thyme crumble.

And in case you're wondering, yes, we were full. First of all, fingerling potatoes will always fill you up and the aioli was delicious.

Let's be real, I'm no food critic, but I know how to balance my hunger, taste and wallet all at the same damn time. If ever someone wanted me to try every item on their menu, trust I'd still be able to make sound judgments on taste to share with picky eaters like myself.

To top it off, Haymaker serves breakfast every day of the week and brunch from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. (Make sure you check out the featured biscuit of the day before brunch.)

Given Charlotte's iffy food scene when compared to neighbors like Asheville in the past, Haymaker has most likely cemented its place in the Q.C. If I were you, I'd try it out the next time you're planning a date night and secure your reservation via OpenTable ahead of time. (Broke folk beware: there's a $6 loaf of bread you can order before your meal. I'd put that toward your entree unless you're just in the mood for yeast.)

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Black Girl at a Country Concert

'Sometimes You Got To'

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 9:40 AM

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"Oh I see you, country girl."

"Are you telling me he's gotten you to like country music?????? #truelove"

"Ummmm you know I'm excited about this! #countrygirlnow?"

Those were the comments that appeared underneath a picture of my boo and me after we went to the PNC Music Pavilion to see Old Dominion and Kenny Chesney. Why, you may ask? One, I've never liked country music. Two, I'm dating a white guy, if you didn't know already. And some of my friends, past and present, are just now finding out both of these little facts. That's what happens when you fall in love and go on hiatus for a while. I can't blame them. After all, the transition between single life to, "'We like going to the poke spot near Dilworth Neighborhood Grille ... terrible customer service is one of 'our' biggest pet peeves ... 'we' love watching scary movies together... " happened overnight for some – including my mom. And this, my friends, is what love is.

That being said, my taste in music (and partners) has always been fairly diverse. In fact, I sent him a screenshot of "Written in the Sand" by Old Dominion asking him if he'd heard the song before.

He and his friends have had to "adapt," too – by adapt, I hope you understand that I mean "sometimes you got to" make adjustments to your behavior, worldview and conversation in order to understand others. After all, Aerin's still going to turn up to Cardi B and argue about why #blacklivesmatter - and everyone listens. But I digress.

When one of my love's friends invited us to go to the concert last Friday, there was no hesitation when I responded with, "Yes, that sounds like fun." I didn't care who was performing, if I'd heard a song, that the genre was country or that we'd have to hike to PNC. All I cared about was the fact that I was going to be able to spend that time with the man of my dreams. And to me, that's the type of love that Kenny Chesney is talking about in "Get Along," released on April 6 this year.

"We find out when you die the keys to heaven can't be bought. We still don't know what love is but we sure know what it's not. Sometimes you got to ... get along." True love means being willing to step outside of your comfort zone, trying to understand ideas you've never been introduced to and even going to country concerts at PNC to listen to artists you may never have heard of.

That being said, my partner and I are really good at communicating when it comes to laughing at the haters, ignoring the ignorant and reconciling our differences. That's why it was easy for us to laugh at the fact that we anticipated the absence of black people at the show. (Some would maybe chop this up to the fact that we were #blessed with box seats. But I don't have time to get into social politics and perceived financial status. I don't care what color you are, free tickets, especially when they're epic, are free tickets.)

We settled in our seats as Old Dominion was performing their first song – traffic to PNC on a Friday afternoon is horrendous. Immediately, I noticed two things: how amazing it was to sit underneath fans with misters and how upbeat the atmosphere was. And when "Written in the Sand" came on, my boo turned to me quickly flashing a smile so big I could've melted.

By the time Kenny Chesney actually came on, I can honestly say I felt right at home. I observed cougars twerking in a box with a man who I'd imagined was their sugar daddy — after all, he wasn't "easy on the eyes." I witnessed Medics wheeling a girl out of the stadium — yes, country folk get lit, too. I thanked the high heavens that we didn't tailgate all day when we saw how sloppy drunk some people were — you would've thought the stairs were never ending. Can you ask for more entertainment?

But then it happened. The moment we'd laughed about and had been waiting for. I saw my first black person. It was as if the heavens opened up. A black woman walks toward us hand-in-hand with a white guy, donning cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, booty shorts and 18-inch yaki weave. Get. It. Bish. My boo and I burst out laughing and it's as if she was reading my mind when she glanced at me and smiled the biggest smile of recognition.

Anyways, I joke a lot about the dynamics of social interactions in nightlife. However, there are specific situations which really highlight how set in our ways we really are. A black girl at a country concert being one of them. But if we're really going to learn how to "Get Along" we're going to have to try to understand one another in a wide variety of spaces and figure out how to appreciate our differences.

When's the last time you pushed the boundaries of your comfort zone in Q.C.? Share it with me.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Night at the Comedy Zone with Belmont's Favorite Daughter

Good Fortune

Posted By on Wed, May 9, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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On Friday, I received a text from my boo asking if I wanted to go to a comedy show. I've been to a couple comedy shows, movies and operas (i.e. The Book of Mormon), but I've never sought them out on my own — unless we're talking about the time Katt Williams did standup on 4/20 a few years ago. However, I'm always down for a good time, especially when my "mans" is going to be there.

Before that, however, I had to make sure I made it to Harris Teeter for my P.I.C.'s birthday shindig. I spoke a few weeks ago about the allure of pregaming or maybe even just hanging for the night at bottle shops and grocery stores, like the Harris Teeter wine bar on Providence Road. I somehow ended up sleeping until 3 p.m. so of course I was running late. I showed up, grabbed a glass of rosé and settled in to giving all the hugs.

The next stop on the birthday tour was Tilt — her fave spot — for more drinks and a catered meal. For those who have never tried, certain special folk just might be able to convince the right person at Tilt to let them bring in some pulled pork, mac and cheese and jalapeno bites. It was 6:30 p.m. before I knew it and the comedy show was starting at 7 p.m.

I walked to The Corner Pub – you already knew that would make an appearance – and soon after our Uber was on the way. When we arrived, it felt weird to be walking to the proper door and not stumbling down from La Revolucion upstairs. And walking in to The Comedy Zone - Charlotte was that much weirder. "I must have been a lot drunker the last time I was here," I thought to myself. Why? Because it looks a lot like a crowded Steak 'n Shake.

The tables are awkwardly close together and it was already packed when we showed up. We squeezed in to our seats at a four top along the wall on the left side. Thank goodness for a boyfriend who's strategic when it comes to placement because my anxiety would NOT have been able to deal otherwise.

Either way. I'm not lying when I say that I had NO IDEA who I was getting ready to see. In fact, I don't know if I'd misheard the featured comedian's name when I was told who it was or not, but I was definitely telling people I was going to see "Future. No not the rapper, the lesbian comedian." (Glad I didn't repeat that too often to people who actually weren't ignorant.) Clearly, I was wrong, the feature was Fortune Feimster, a native of Belmont, North Cackalacky! And just like that, I was on board.

UnFORTUNately, (see what I did there?), The Comedy Zone didn't post anything about the two opening comedians so I can't tell you who they were. What I can tell you is the first comedian, also a lesbian, was solid. She covered everything from not thinking she was a "gay-by" (aka born gay) to discovering that she likes black things inside of her (that don't involve a male) and the entire performance was filled with genuine laughter.

The second guy pretty much fell flat. Maybe an acquired taste? He kept joking about losing the crowd via certain jokes, so there's a possibility that the crowd just didn't align with his sense of humor.

Naturally, however, Fortune took home the gold. She walked out in a button up that she unbuttoned to reveal a tee that said, "Cherie Berry lifts me up!" As to be expected from referencing perhaps the state's most recognized elected official, that joke landed before Fortune had said a word. She, too, kept it super light. In fact, she kept the spotlight on herself for the most part. She joked about how kidnappers didn't want to steal her (even though she's the perfect candy-loving candidate) because she looked like the kid from Bad Santa, and if you take a gander at her Instagram, you'll see EXACTLY what she means.

What took the cake about her performance though? Her ability to ad lib was also on point! When you're asking someone from China how the sushi is there and you can't catch your breath because you're attempting to correct yourself and rephrase your question and say "I mean, sweet and sour chicken?!" And if your takeaway is along the lines of, "Guess you had to be there..." check her out in "The Standups" on Netflix and see for yourself!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Turning 28 at the Market

Just Fine and Dandelion

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2018 at 1:07 PM

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Guess whose birthday it was last week? That's right. Yours truly. The big 2-8. My goodness, what a lackluster age to turn. This time last year, I didn't know it but I was taking part in a series of events that would almost lead to my demise.

No joke, last summer was one of those summers where you look back and it makes sense why Britney Spears cut off her hair in 2007. So this year, I was just excited about putting the past year behind me.

When my friends started asking me weeks in advance, "What do you want to do?" I felt the shrug and roll of my eyes in my response because I was genuinely uninterested in the idea of being disappointed two years in a row.

But my lackadaisical attitude wasn't going to keep April 25 from coming. The next thing I knew, every single day of the week was a night I couldn't remember with people I couldn't forget.

It started on Tuesday at The Corner Pub (of course). When the clock struck midnight, my boo thang, my friends and my CP family sang me "Happy Birthday" while my "cake" was sat in front of me.

And by cake, I mean a chicken tender smothered in hot sauce with a single lit candle and a side of ranch! (I've never been a huge fan of cake.)

And after dinner at my fave restaurant – Bahn Thai in Ballantyne – on my actual birthday the next night, I couldn't ask for a better surprise.

That's when those same people I was with on Tuesday (plus some) pulled the ultimate okiedoke.

Even though I was exhausted after what felt like a week-long birthday celebration, I agreed to go on a double date with my friend and her boyfriend at Dandelion Market.

I was exhausted, and all I could think about on our way to dinner was how excited I was to enjoy a glass of wine and great wine before heading home to go straight to sleep. But it's just never that simple in my world.

The boyfriend and I parked in the parking deck next door to Dandelion Market (which, by the way, is not validated at the popular restaurant).

When we walked in, I noticed my friend and her boyfriend sitting at the bar waiting on us – of course we were late. After what I would later describe as an awkward encounter, we walked upstairs to be seated.

When we got to the top of the stairs while I was looking for the table we were going to be seated at, I heard all of this commotion coming from the center of the room.

I glanced to see who was causing all the ruckus and that's when I realized it was my CP family and friends! They'd organized this entire situation and I was absolutely clueless.

But I digress. All that was to give you a little insight into Dandelion Market. If you haven't heard by now, this venue is more than just a bed of drunken madness at 1 a.m., it's also a highly popular destination for brunch, lunch and dinner seven days a week.

I'd only been there a couple times for food, however, I'd had a decent experience eating the food.

This time, all 15 or so people in attendance settled on one thing - Everything at the Market for $295 (dine in only).

What madness is that you ask? Oh, just every single thing on the menu for less than $300.

I'm not going to lie, even though I cosigned the decision, I was nervous. What if I didn't get to taste everything I wanted? What if I was still hungry after the fact?

Both reasonable questions to ask, wouldn't you think?

Nope, not even relevant questions at all. The special comes in three waves of food. By the second, I was full beyond words. By the end of it, everyone had that look when you eat too much and you know you could fall asleep at the drop of a dime.

Not to mention, there was so much left we could've fed three to five more people!

My favorite items: sweet potato gnocchi, fried brie salad, sweet and spicy green beans, sausage stuffed poblano pepper and the pork belly.

However, maybe the only reason those were my faves is because I was too full to appreciate everything else? I know one thing, Everything at the Market is perfect for parties 15 or more (and birthdays).

If you haven't been to Dandelion Market yet, plan a trip before the market menu item goes up. They're open seven days a week.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Third Time's No Charm

Revisiting Suffolk Punch for the last time

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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"Aerin why don't you ever write about bad experiences you have in your articles?" the boyfriend asked as we exited Suffolk Punch on Saturday evening. I'd already made up my mind that — after vowing to never become that person who only writes a review after a bad experience — I was going to write "healthy" reviews on Yelp and Google. I laughed at my boyfriend because I'd been asked that many times before. And the truth is complicated. But before I go into that, let me rewind.

This year, my birthday falls on a Wednesday. I have negative PTO time so going all out Wednesday night is most likely not going to happen. In anticipation of this unfortunate reality, I decided to spend this past weekend doing whatever it was that I wanted to do. Not that that's not a regular occurrence with me and the boyfriend, but on this occasion I can whine as much as I want (sung in Lesley Gore's voice) – or at least that's what I told myself.

When we finally woke up on Saturday, we decided to go to NoDa Company Store. Even though the flea market we wanted to go to was over, The Dumpling Lady was still serving up tasty dumplings for us to eat. We'd been talking about giving this food truck a try for quite some time so it didn't take too much to convince him it was worth the drive despite having a short window of time to also attend the Girl Tribe Pop Up Event in South End. And let me tell you: It. Was. Worth. It.

Fast forward. After shopping the pop-up boutiques in South End, we were trying to decide what we wanted to do next. We try to avoid the day-drinking train early on so we wanted to keep it low key. But as you know, it's hard to imagine how you're going to stay busy during the day on weekends — unless you're renting a bike or getting physical — without drinking. I ran through a short list of places I'd want to go in South End that may lead to a cocktail but not a day-drinking shitshow. Suffolk Punch won. I knew it wasn't necessarily our scene but thought the pace would be slow enough for us to still enjoy. I was wrong.

I'd visited the venue twice before and while it wasn't my favorite place of all time, I didn't mind grabbing a couple beers with friends in the past. The third time, however, wasn't the charm. After showing our IDs at the door and donning wristbands, we walked to the inside bar. We waited for around 15 minutes to order while other patrons and couples rotated in and out. I started to sweat. Customer service is one of the first things I always pay attention to at a nightlife venue. When we were finally greeted by a bartender, there was no warm greeting or an acknowledgement of our wait time, but the equivalent of, "Yes?" and a nod.

What made it worse? The $12 cocktails we ordered were beyond lackluster. I ordered the blonde Bloody Mary and the boo ordered a margarita. You'd think those were safe bets. But when I say I left the full Bloody Mary resting on a table outside, I mean it. The marg we shared but it was clear no love went into the making of that drink. I felt so embarrassed of making the suggestion I almost went back in to have another drink made. But the boyfriend pointed out that it would probably take 155 more minutes to even speak with someone so I relented.

*Don't be an angry black woman* I'd thought to myself when my emotions started to run high. And to my earlier point, that's where my issue with writing negative reviews lied. On the one hand, any publicity is good publicity. On the other, I was raised by parents who were constantly saying, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say nothin' at all."

As we walked out and he casually asked the question, I knew that my answer was embedded in that moment of "not wanting to be perceived as an angry black woman." I explained to him how I felt that sometimes it feels counterproductive to write a negative review. Half the battle is believing that half of my audience will expect me to act a certain way, think a certain way or enjoy a certain space. So, why reinforce those expectations? To which, he wholeheartedly disagreed. In fact, he felt remaining silent is almost doing the nightlife scene a disservice. Feedback is different than ignorance.

How do you deal with or approach negative experiences at bars, restaurants or venues in the Queen City? Share it with me at backtalk@clclt.com.

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Dating with Disabilities Involves Misperceptions and Wrongful Assumptions

Willing and able

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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Myron, 28, has had the Tinder dating app on his phone off and on for the past two years.

A few months ago, he joined OkCupid, where he's had a little more luck. Recently, he matched with a girl who, early in their virtual conversation, said something like this:

"Before we go any further, I just want to get something out of the way."

Myron knew what was coming. He's had many conversations like this. Myron has cerebral palsy, which affects his motor function.

He says it's hard to describe how his daily life is affected because he's so used to it, like an article of clothing he doesn't even think about. But he does say it generally takes him longer to do things. He also uses a wheelchair.

So, he wasn't surprised when his OkCupid match asked, "Can you have sex?"

In fact, he was glad she asked.

Many people avoid having the conversation. Myron commended her for having the gumption to ask the question. He's always been open about answering others' questions, but even so, the exchange left him feeling awkward. Not because she asked or because of the topic, but because the question forced Myron to confront a stubborn reality of his dating life.

"Other people might have a problem with seeing me as sexual," he says. "Maybe my disability influences attractiveness."

But despite his disability and the way others see him, Myron has had a dating experience similar to most other 20-somethings: He's had crushes and desires, chemistry and missed signals.

Like everyone, he's had to adapt his sex life to his desires and capabilities, finding sex positions that work and grappling with self-consciousness and body-image issues.

Talking about his first sexual experience, Myron could be anyone on earth: "I didn't have any prior experiences that told me what to expect."

His sex education mirrored that of most other adolescent Americans: He hit puberty and figured it out, picking up on the way things worked from Robin Williams bits, movies and his friends and parents.

But despite these commonalities, Myron's is a "visible" disability, meaning that it's apparent to others. In his high school geometry class, a classmate asked whether he could feel when he peed.

Myron came right back with something to the effect of, "Can you?"

He's always preferred that people ask direct questions, because he was raised to be open to educating others about his disability. He's always wanted people to know that he and others like him are just like everyone else.

There's a false assumption that dating a person in a wheelchair or a person with a disability means that you'll have to provide care for that person, which is not the case. Myron hasn't had to grapple with this issue personally, but he says that people who require an aide or intensive day-to-day care work to keep romance and care separate.

Myron addresses another assumption, too: "Don't automatically assume that we can't have sex, because you would be assuming wrong."

He wants others to be as interested in getting to know him as they are in getting to know others.

"It's ok to be curious," he says. "I want people to always feel like they can ask a question."

Myron knows that asking can be uncomfortable. In fact, most of the time, when awkward questions arise, he doesn't feel any discomfort about the topic.

He's been answering questions his whole life. Instead, he feels awkward because he knows the other person is uncomfortable. That's how he felt when his OkCupid match quizzed him about his capabilities. After answering her questions, their conversation fizzled.

"I'm disheartened with how the experience on the dating sites has gone," he says. "I guess people are superficial."

But Myron hasn't given up yet. Like millions of other dating app users, he's going to keep swiping, with the hope that love—real, deep, curious, sexual, transcendent love—is just around the corner.

"I'm just going to continue being open," he says, "and we'll go from there."

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Get Your Grown Folk on with Bottle Shops and Grocery Stores

Turning up at Teeter

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 2:37 PM

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On Sunday I woke up around 3 p.m. Give me a break, Saturday was a late night that turned into an early morning.

It happens.

I checked my email and saw something from my P.I.C. It was an invite for a birthday celebration in the coming weeks. I scrolled down to see the location and I had to rub my eyes: HT Wine Bar Myers Park. I scrolled back up, squinting with crusty eyes thinking I must've read wrong.

Nope, I began reading the email and noted "...[we] are throwing a little joint get together for our birthdays this year at the best bar on earth, the Harris Teeter wine bar — the plan is to start the party there and then move somewhere for some dinner/continued drinks. $5 wine flights on Saturday should have everyone in the right mindset."

I chuckled about the invite with the boyfriend. Not because it was a stretch for my P.I.C. to suggest a pregame at a local grocer, but because it felt like the icing on the cake as we continue to get older.

That's when I realized, my Friday started out with that same damn icing. Gasp. After a long work week, I was so excited about getting off work that I didn't care where the night led.

That's despite the fact that I'd bought tickets for me and the boo to SoFar Sounds Charlotte's second-year anniversary show. Before you knew it, there was no longer the question of, "Are we going to go to the show or not?"

We opted instead for a visit to the NoDa Company Store.

Self-described as a "multi-faceted space for wine, local beer and bar snacks, plus art, exhibitions and live music," NoDa Company Store has quickly become one of my favorite places to hang out or work remote.

Often times, when the doors are wide open and the warm breeze is blowing through the common space, it feels like I'm sitting on my grandma's porch with a glass of lemonade — but instead I'm usually holding the signature Company Store sangria.

The boyfriend had sent me a screenshot of their post before I left the office. The caption read: "#TGIF because we have ALL the NoDa-Colada waiting for you." It was absolutely the perfect day for maxin' and relaxin' on the swings in the butterfly garden or the updated deck and patio area.

Not to mention, I was recently reminded that they'd completed renovations inside the bottle shop. Needless to say, I was sold.

We located a parking space and walked up to the familiar, homey spot. The boo thang ordered each of us a frosty piña colada and we sat down.

Traditionally, piña coladas are made with rum, but it's my understanding that NoDa Company Store doesn't have a liquor license — similar to other bottle shops in the area.

As we slurped at the bottom of the cup, we both agreed that we had a good buzz going. What magic is this? No rum, and yet, we were still buzzing? Naturally, I ordered another one #noselfcontrol.

We enjoyed the warm vibes of spring (I say this despite the chill that followed just a few short days later) while a live band performed on the patio of the restaurant adjacent to us.

I was having a great time but my eyes started to get heavy. It wasn't because I was bored, but because I was content. And that's when I realized that "pregaming" at a grocery store or bottle shop wasn't a terrible idea.

In fact, it would make for an earlier night without the haunting expectation that you're going to be drunk bickering or hungover the next day.

To be completely honest, I intend on having a handful of early Friday and Saturday nights this coming season. I'm going to finish work, make arrangements to Uber to a bottle shop of sorts for early evening drinking and call it an evening before the real "freaks come out at night."

Well, that's the plan, anyway.

If you're interested in escaping your usual and engaging in the same, you have more than a handful of options to choose from: NoDa Company Store, Harris Teeter wine bar, Craft Tasting Room and Growler Shop, Salud Beer Shop and Brawley's Beverage.

And of course, who can forget about the Common Market. Even though they got rid of my favorite location in South End, I don't think the one in Plaza Midwood is that bad – though plenty of others would disagree.

But I digress, here's to trying something new this weekend in the Q.C.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The First Check Off My Summer Bucket List

Konnichiwa O-Ku

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 7:00 AM

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Despite my having gone to Charleston this past weekend for a wedding, I still managed to check off a new restaurant-slash-nightlife vibe in the Queen City before I left. If you read my article last week, you may remember I decided that my summer bucket list was going to be focused on eating my way through the Q.C.

We were both sick, but my sweetie pie still suggested we plan a date night before the weekend's festivities. *Swoons* Can we say #mcm? We often play the, "Where do you want to go? No, where do you want to go?" game that looks something like the scene out of The Notebook when Ryan Gosling is begging Rachel McAdams what she wants — heart-wrenching, I know. But this time, I asked him to just pick the spot.

An hour before he was going to pick me up, he asked if I was open to O-Ku Sushi. Um, anyone who knows me and my mom knows that we were probably Japanese in another life. In other words, I responded with what was essentially, "I do."

Located in the Atherton Mill shopping center in South End, O-Ku Sushi opened in September of 2016. My goodness, I still can't believe I hadn't eaten there yet! Per usual, I went to straight to the website to look at the menu. Currently, there are two other locations in Charleston and Atlanta, but three more are on the way: Washington, D.C., Raleigh and Nashville.

Below the locations, there was a blurb that read: O-Ku Sushi celebrates authentic Asian cuisine with a southern approach through a menu that focuses on unique ingredients and sophisticated presentations. Suddenly I remembered looking at the menu before and having the convo about going to try it a few months prior – a single piece of nigiri?

We went late enough that we didn't have to worry too much about parking, thank goodness. Upon entry, we immediately noticed the dim lighting and décor. It could've been the sinus pressure, but it almost felt like we were walking into a forest – at least I can say there were branch-like accents that stuck out of the columns in front of us.

As soon as we sat down we grabbed our menus. (I almost had to pull out my geriatric moves and turn on my flash because of the low lighting. #awkward) I'm not going to lie, we have the tendency to be indecisive when it comes to narrowing down our choices when the menu is fairly large. We even asked for suggestions from our waiter and were that couple that didn't even take his advice. *insert awkward giggle*

What we did know is that we wanted sake. Hell, I needed sake to take my mind off the fact that my head felt larger than life due to a sinus infection. Each of us got a 6 oz. bottle of Snow Maiden sake and that was plenty – I wouldn't suggest getting the bottle at these price points unless you have a larger party.

After maybe three trips back to the table, we were finally ready to place an order:

South End Shrimp: Apparently, this chef specialty is a local favorite.

Lobster Temaki: I told y'all I love me some lobstah!

Yellowtail nigiri and tuna nigiri: Self-explanatory, but it's worth noting the sushi chef adds a tiny deco or accoutrement on top of the nigiri – so cute!

Salmon and lemon roll: A light and refreshing makimono roll.

At the conclusion of our meals, I love to sit back and chat about whether or not a restaurant met our expectations. No, we're not food critics. However, we each love and appreciate food enough that we probably should be. I'll speak for myself when I say, the food was good. That's not to say there was anything wrong or, at the other extreme, anything that I'd die for – but I must note, the fresh fish that they're known for is some of the best I've ever had.

Nevertheless, I would argue, O-Ku Sushi is more of a place I would go for an "experience." The wait staff was attentive and polite. The space itself cultivates a good vibe and energy that lends itself to great conversation. There are a multitude of menu options, including omakase — a meal consisting of dishes selected by the chef that's described as an "artistic and creative multi-course tasting." (Weighing in at $100 per person, I'd save that for a super special occasion.)

Overall, O-Ku Sushi didn't disappoint. As Shirley Nash of Cornelius would say, I still left feeling "fat and sassy." On to the next dining/date night/nightlife experience.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

My Summer Bucket List

Eating my way through the Queen City

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

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Has spring officially sprung? You'd think so with the 80-degree weather we've experienced this week in the Queen City. But something deep down tells me that the cool nights of winter haven't given up just yet. Especially when I'm scrolling through my timeline and see my N.Y. friends posting pics of snow still coming down, while my weather app warns of a rapid drop in temperatures coming over the weekend. Nevertheless, the excitement of the upcoming summer is hard for me to contain.

Each year I set out to explore new nightlife venues or local adventures, a summertime bucket list if you will. But you know how that goes. Just like New Year's resolutions, they rarely get done. Before I know it, I look up and the summer nights are getting shorter and not even half the items on my summer bucket list are complete.

And while this year and summer I've committed to actually doing things like finding something to do that doesn't involve day drinking or putting my muscles (no need to LOL) to work on the rock climbing wall at the USNWC, I found a much more manageable summer bucket list for #summer2018.

As I walked my familiar route Uptown, I happened to notice new signage right before the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets: Eddie V's. Covered by fencing and signs of construction, I thought to myself, "Yeah, that's new. I wonder if it's open yet." A sucker for good seafood, my mouth started watering thinking about twin lobster tails and lots of butter. That's when the idea came to me. Instead of setting lofty goals that requires me making a commitment to social interaction, I'm going to eat my way through the Queen City this summer.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to keep you looped in on the latest additions to the nightlife scene. But I'm also going to convince the boyfriend to plan regular date night adventures we haven't been on yet. (It won't be that hard to convince him, he loves great food too!)

Here's a preliminary list of places I'm putting on my list:

Kindred: My boyfriend has suggested a couple different times that we spend a day in Davidson. Just a short 40-minute ride from the center of the city (don't even try during rush hour, though), Davidson provides Charlotteans a great option for a day trip. In addition to the fact that it's a small town with a charming disposition, Davidson is also home to Kindred. I've heard excellent things about the menu options at this chef-driven restaurant. I can't wait to try the ravioli but my adventurous heart keeps eyeing the Squid Ink Conchiglie – eek!

Haberdish: We've been saying for months that we were going to go to Haberdish. It's right next door to our Crepe Cellar in NoDa, the first date night spot we ventured to. However, every time we say we're going to set aside a day during the week, something comes up. Known for serving Southern staples like fried chicken, okra and biscuits, I'm interested to find out whether or not Haberdish can hold its own when compared to Mert's or Price's or, dare I say, the Shell gas station. I would be doing them a disservice if I didn't at least try their fried chicken, but I also need to see what's going on with the cast iron NC trout.

Eddie V's Prime Seafood Restaurant: Like I said earlier, I have a ridiculous affinity for seafood. To the point where I'm often extremely critical of popular (read: expensive) seafood spots in the Charlotte area. However, I'm willing to give anything a try. Twin lobster tails and lobster bisque? Sign me up. Take a look at the menu for yourself and tell me seafood lovers won't get excited. Also check the prices ... this is a situation where you might want to split the check.

Zeppelin: Let's be real. Date night always goes right when you combine small plates with handcrafted cocktails. And to my understanding, that's what awaits me at Zeppelin. My boyfriend told me about it first, but we haven't stopped in yet. I took a look at their Instagram and um, yes, I can't wait to give this intimate spot a try. What's going to be on my plate? Well, we usually end up doing quite a few small plates, which fills us up. But I also want to give that dry aged crispy duck a try.

Let's be honest, great food and strong drinks will always facilitate a great nightlife experience in the Queen City. Before you settle for a fast food pregame, grab your hottie and hit a restaurant you've never tried. Want to get in on my bucket list? Follow me on Instagram at @omgclt_ or shoot me an email at backtalk@clclt.com!

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