Dr. Velma

As a child, whenever I became sick, Dr. Velma, as Mom referred to herself, came to the rescue. She’d never attended any recognized medical school. She’d just survived growing up with my grandmother, who we grandchildren affectionately called “Mama Bea.”

Under Mama Bea’s care, Little Velma, the youngest child, drank sugary beer slushies so she’d have an appetite to gain weight. The sugar was added because Little Velma didn’t like the taste of beer. When Dr. Velma told me about this childhood weight-gain home remedy, I pointed out that’s why she’d been addicted to those sugary slushies sold at gas stations. Weird thing was the only time Dr. Velma craved those slushies was when she was traveling on long-distance trips. Just as abruptly as her addiction arose in her 40s, it ended for some reason in her 60s.

I was also underweight as a child, but Dr. Velma didn’t make me any sugary beer slushies. She’d secretly mix a raw egg in my hot chocolate since I wouldn’t eat much breakfast, but I had a sweet tooth just like her. A few years later, she gave me Flintstone vitamins.

When Little Velma had a cold, Mama Bea gave her moonshine. Mama Bea boiled the moonshine, added a little sugar, then when the sugar had just about dissolved, lit it on fire and had Little Velma drink it hot like a cup of coffee. Little Velma would drink this just before going to bed and sweat out the cold as she slept. She’d wake up the next morning and no longer have a cold.

For a mere itchy throat Mama Bea gave Little Velma a small dollop of Vicks vapor rub to swallow. Dr. Velma still does this right before going to bed, especially after she’s been around someone who was coughing and sneezing. Or “snottin’ and snarlin’,” as she calls it!

Dr. Velma also recommends using garlic shots for a cold. One of my sisters peels and crushes a clove of garlic in a tablespoon and adds a little orange juice for her three kids and anyone else who feels as if a cold coming on. I personally don’t need such fancy adornments my garlic shots. I just peel and cut up a clove of garlic and swallow the pieces just like pills.

One time Little Velma cut her ankle on broken glass. Her grandfather put soot from the chimney on it to stop the bleeding. To this day, Dr. Velma can show you where that soot is still on her ankle. Although Dr. Velma says you can use cobwebs to stop a bleeding wound, she’s never tried it herself. Of course, I just stick to Band-Aids!

My earliest recollection of Dr. Velma’s treatments was for a stomachache. I suffered from digestive problems as a child. So, Dr. Velma would mix liniment with milk and sugar. I’d drink that like a good little patient until I read the small, red bold print on the bottle, which stated that liniment was for external use only. Oh, you should’ve heard me roar about how she was trying to kill me, disregarding the fact that I’d survived the liniment treatment several times prior.

Lucky for my older sisters and me, Dr. Velma drank ginger ale for an upset stomach while she was pregnant with each of us.

While working as a bank teller in the basement of a hospital, Dr. Velma had a case of the hiccups. A customer told her to put a little sugar under her tongue. She claims that’s worked for her hiccups ever since.

In the 80s, Dr. Velma took pain medications that caused constipation. She recalled years earlier when Mama Bea told her this home remedy: dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in water followed by a vinegar chaser. Remember all those elementary school volcano simulations? Well, it also moves bowels!

Dr. Velma has been married to Dad for over 50 years. Once, she tried his home remedy for constipation. Dad drinks a mixture of prune juice and orange juice just before bed and has a bowel movement early the next morning. When Dr. Velma tried it, she became so gassy, she couldn’t sleep for fear of having an accident. Now, she only uses Dad’s constipation treatment in the morning.

My two older sisters and I inherited our oily skin from our mother. The first of Dr. Velma’s two favorite oily skin and acne treatments is swabbing original Listerine on her face with a cotton pad, followed by facial lotion. The second remedy is using milk of magnesia as a facial mask, which she washes off after about 30 minutes, unless it’s an overnight treatment. One of Dr. Velma’s nieces suggested using first morning pee as acne treatment. As far as Dr. Velma’s concerned, there’s only one place pee goes and that’s not on her face.

As a younger woman, Dr. Velma had heard about boiling a pinecone and drinking the tea from it to relieve arthritis. By the time Dr. Velma was old enough to suffer from arthritis, she didn’t bother with pinecone tea. She just sprayed WD40 on her joints. Now in her seventies, Dr. Velma eats nine gin-soaked golden raisins to treat the arthritis in her knee. I’ve often teased her that that home remedy only works because she keeps her knee drunk.

To treat the arthritis in her hip, Dr. Velma places a banana peel in a jar of red sports rubbing alcohol. She takes a cotton pad and rubs that alcohol on her hip. Even when the banana peel turns black, Dr. Velma doesn’t worry because the treatment still works! She only uses it at night because of the smell, plus her hip doesn’t hurt during the day.

Lastly every morning, Dr. Velma cuts up fresh ginger, boils it and mixes in a little orange juice and drinks it for general good health. This comes after her daily breakfast smoothie, which usually contains an apple, an orange, spinach or kale, a banana, a celery stalk, a carrot, pineapple or strawberries, a nice squirt of agava to sweeten it, four tablespoons of oatmeal, a wee bit of orange juice and a tray of ice cubes.

Given the rising costs of just stepping into a clinic or hospital and the fact that I’m middle-aged, I’ve stopped laughing at Dr. Velma’s old-timey, inexpensive solutions to medical inconveniences. I may not have access to moonshine and don’t buy liniment, but I’ve found tequila works just as well in a hot toddy or for digestive problems. I love eating fresh food, seasoned with garlic and red peppers and/or red hot sauce and occasionally fresh ginger—all of which heat up the body and make it more challenging for germs. I may never reach unofficial doctor status for my home remedies, but I can at least be the family historian.








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Halloween 2014

1 Cleopatra w:drink

This year, my inexpensive costume was the iconic Cleopatra. I meant to kill two birds with one stone by ordering a Bloody Mary to continue my research. Yet the bar was “provisional,” meaning they only stocked the commonly ordered drinks. 2 hosts

The three radio hosts dressed as neon trees–the headlining band for the evening. They got the evening rolling and spoke in between acts. Unfortunately, some asshole seated near me in the balcony section, booed them just about every time the hosts were on stage. Although his friends tried to persuade him to stop, their giggling just fueled him on. For this reason and how far it seemed I was from the action, I’m buying a mezzanine ticket next year!3 decorative masksI liked the huge masks that were hung up in the background of the stage.
4 decorative masksThey looked different, depending on how different colored lights hit them.5 hanging skullHanging above the center of the stage was a Janus-faced skull. Here’s a shot of the more gruesome face.
6 opening burlesque The first burlesque group seemed to have a story… I just didn’t follow what it was.7 opening burlesqueJust when I thought the narrative would come together, it was over. 8 opening bandThe first band was quite entertaining. Kind of a raunchy, loud rock band.
10 earplugsAfter their first song, I whipped out a bag of every middle-aged person’s favorite little friends–earplugs!
11 1st aerial dancer The first aerial dancer not only performed well on the ring, she managed to add a little extra tease: when she removed her heavily-sequined bikini top, she revealed a smaller set of of heavily-sequined bikini costume.17 2nd band The second band had a secular gospel sound. Not just saying that because one of the backup singers was black–all the singers sang as if they’d grown up singing in a black Baptist church.20 2nd burlesque The second burlesque performer had an elaborate costume, part of which she wore and part of which started off as a display.24 3rd burlesque The next performers were a combination of military zombie burlesque and aerial dancing.25 3rd burlesque They did a mash-up of popping and locking with “Thriller” moves.27 3rd burlesqueAfter a couple of formations, throwing in some “natural” movements in between, the aerial toys descended.29 3rd burlesque

Four of the zombie troop hopped on an aerial toy with another dancer in the middle on the pole.31 3rd burlesque My excitement reminded me of being a kid again and not knowing which ring at a three-ring circus to look at.32 women's costume contest Before the headliners, they brought up the female costume nominees. I thought the most out-of-the-box costume was the “pregnant” woman who had the baby’s limbs jutting out through her shirt.  The human flamingo was imaginative as well, but the audience voted for both the human flamingo (far rt) and the zombie bride.33 men's costume contest The male costume winner was a no-brainer. As soon as the guy with the big black wings walked on stage, the other guys could’ve walked off.35 Neon Trees When Neon Trees finally came on, I’d already started turning into a pumpkin. Yet I was curious to know if I knew more than one of their songs.36 Neon TreesTurns out, I didn’t! Fortunately, the third song was the only one I knew. So, I could have left then. I optimistically stayed for a few more songs. I got to witness two older, nearly legless women cry at the bar, their seat and stumble all over the stairs and occasionally dance.38 Neon TreesI left soon after the lead singer, who said he’d dressed as a dead cheerleader in heels to show empathy for women, sat down on the stage and remove his shoes.  He declared, “I’m done with these heels. I don’t know how you women do it.” Amen, brother! That’s why I no longer do it.

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Urban Drive-In Movie

Once again, the great city of Austin managed to pull off a retro experience.  This time, the drive-in movie. I met a few meetup friends at the urban drive-in movie for a double Halloween feature: “Scream” and “Freaks”.
1 reclining We were the first ones there; so we moved all the comfy reclining lawn chairs to the prime spot in the parking lot in front of the screen. 2 cheap red wine I brought a small boxed red wine, which turned out to be too cheap to be drinkable. Yet the food I brought totally hit the spot. Just behind the lawn chairs were some picnic tables where we ate our dinner before the sun went down.3 movie projector I was impressed at the projectionist’s set up. There were speakers all around the parking lot. Believe it or not, my sensitive ears were just fine with the volume.  Of course, I had my earplugs just in case. (Actually, I never leave home without them!)4 consession trailer Even though I brought my own food, there was a concessions trailer on the edge of the parking lot.5 portopottiesAs a budding germaphobe, I was concerned with a mere two porta potties. Initially, I thought I’d just hold it for three hours. I changed my mind, thinking if I hit it before the crowds arrived, perhaps it would be so gross or would at least have toilet paper. In the end, I don’t know how often those porta potties were cleaned. I just washed my hands and tried not to dwell on it.
6 in the parking lot As the sun set and some cars arrived, I loved the atmosphere of the drive-in.7 ol' fashioned movie ad

Before the movie, instead of watching previews, old ads were played. I forgot all about the health ads they used to show about getting a check up. Equally amusing was the Dixie cup-sized soft drinks and apparently Blacks, Hispanics and Asians didn’t exist.8 Freaks the movieI normally avoid scary movies, but since I’d already seen parts of “Scream”, it wasn’t too bad. Yet “Freaks” wasn’t scary at all–at least not to modern audiences. This classic movie had been banned since most of the cast were people born with physical disabilities. Yet, as another moviegoer and I discussed, back in those days, if someone with such disabilities weren’t associated with a circus or the movies, then life would have been very bleak. As slow-moving as “Freaks” was, I’m so happy it was about an hour long. The movie was over around 11:30. I  nearly turned into a pumpkin.

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Miffed about Muff


A few years ago, I surveyed a group of my female friends who train capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts. At that time, my mission was to discover their fellatio turnoffs. Collectively, they came up with twenty-eight objections. I compiled the data into a charming little essay called “How Men Blow Fellatio.” I’ve read it at several venues, including the Austin Feminist Poetry Festival, where a lesbian couple laughed the most. At the end of the festival, a male poet challenged me to write a companion essay, after surveying guys about their cunnilingus turn offs. I assured the male poet that I probably couldn’t do that since I’m not one of the guys. I invited him to host such an evening himself, write an essay and then we could each read our findings at an upcoming Austin Writers Roulette.

            A week later, I ended up at a house party and conducted the research over drinks around midnight. Since there were fewer participants than in the fellatio research, this essay is even less scientific. Plus, there were other women present while the guys responded, which added to the challenge.

Lastly, the whole experience proves that the universe conspires with me to write about things that need to be written!


The Findings

            Unlike their female counterparts, the men I surveyed about their oral sex turnoffs only came up with six objections versus twenty-eight from the women. Yet I had to tease the relevant data out of the conversation flow. Looking back, I should have recorded the conversation on my phone and typed up the transcript afterwards. Instead, I used my sparse notes and fiction writer’s talent to recapture the gist of discussion.

The first turnoff was not being warned that a woman was on her period. A woman who was present during this conversation defended the women’s side. “Sometimes, a woman starts her period during the act of having sex.” Another woman objected. “You can feel that coming on.” The debate among the women concluded with not all women experienced menstruation the same.

Then one guy mentioned how a woman once said to him, “I’m on my period; so we’ll have to have anal sex.” From there, the conversation digressed to how, among very religious women, anal sex was popular since their hymen remained intact for marriage and they still considered themselves virgins.

I got the conversation back on track by asking the guys if there was anything else that turned them off from cunnilingus. “No stink puss,” one guy answered. They also preferred for a woman to have groomed pubic hair.

One guy confessed to using a depilatory once around his genital area. All the women shouted, “It says right on the bottle you’re not supposed to do that!” One woman advised him to get laser hair removal since a few sessions provided a permanent solution.

Considering we were already talking indirectly about testicles, another guy shared how he gently tugged on his during sex to delay ejaculation. Although this was off topic, I had to ask a follow up question, “Just how much pulling tension should one use?” He told me that men had to decide that for themselves and women can’t do it for them.

Around this time, another guy asked if they could talk about the other side, the worst things about getting a blowjob. One guy screamed out, “No cheese grating!” All the women laughed. Even though the women agreed that teeth shouldn’t mostly be involved, one woman questioned if guys didn’t like some teeth thrown in. The guys winced and reported that only about 30% of the blowjobs they’ve received had been pleasurable.

At this point, I reread the cunnilingus turnoff list: not when a woman’s on her period, no stink puss, no excessive pubic hair. One guy added women shouldn’t choke a man with her thighs or kick him in the back. The conversation shifted into cunnilingus techniques such as massaging a woman’s feet, caressing her nipples and even reaching up to gently tug on her earlobes all while orally satisfying her.

One woman questioned the need to fondle earlobes and confessed that she didn’t like a guy going down on her since it just took time away from “the real act.” The other women said that they had no problems with a man making an effort to satisfy them.

At this point, one of the guys took his own survey when he asked the women, what was more important, length or girth. Unanimously, the women answered girth. The conversation splintered into penises that could be too big or small and the tallest, most massive man could have the tiniest penis. One woman pointed out that her best lover was smaller than average, but he made up for it with his creativity in bed.

I reread the list: not when a woman’s on her period, no stink puss, no excessive pubic hair, no thigh choking, no kicking in the back. One guy added women shouldn’t fart during the act although queefing is OK since that doesn’t smell bad. As a matter of fact, the only drawback to queefing, according to these guys, is when a woman overreacts to it.

The conversation returned to bad blowjobs. The guys expressed annoyance when a woman’s performing fellatio and just starts toying with their penis as if she’s more fascinated by examining it rather than pleasuring it.

For a final time, I reread the list: not when a woman’s on her period, no stink puss, no excessive pubic hair, no thigh choking, no kicking in the back, no farting. The guys looked at one another and agreed that the list was complete. At that point, around half past one in the morning, I said my good byes.





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Visionary Demands

For the October 2014 Austin Writers Roulette, “Visionary Ideas,” I imaged myself as the future global leader of the world. Not too far fetched, considering that most of the world’s population is female, brown-skinned and English-speaking (as a first, second or third language). There were ten changes that I wanted to see in the world. Before reading them, I informed the audience that they could applaud after I’d read each one.1.1 hostess


Here is my list of demands for the future of this world:

  1. Women will hold 51% of all leadership positions in government, businesses and religions since we represent 51% of the world’s population.
  2. Religion will stop being used to justify violence.
  3. Violence will stop being used to resolve conflicts.
  4. During conflicts, we will listen to what the other side wants then propose an offer to our mutual benefit.
  5. Men will no longer treat women the way they do not want their own daughter to be treated. (And no, gentlemen, I don’t give damn if you don’t actually have a daughter; you still know how you’d want her to be treated if you did.)
  6. We all will treat others the way they want to be treated.
  7. We will stop cutting funds for programs and education for under resourced children, but rather invest in them now to reap the benefits of their skills when they’re adults instead of imprisoning them later on at a greater expense.
  8. Underage youths will no longer be charged with prostitution since they cannot legally consent to sex, do not control the money and realistically are being trafficked by their pimp.
  9. The police will reaffirm their vows to serve and protect the public through collaboration and positive participation with the community versus militarized intimidation tactics and brutality.
  10. Women will no longer spend money on elective surgery to alter their goddess bodies, but will invest their money in pursuing a lifestyle that maintains their physical, mental and spiritual health.

20 As CleoA few weeks after debuting my list, I was featured at another poetry event. This time, I dressed up as a famous female leader, Cleopatra. For some reason, people kept referring to me as “Nefertiti,” but at least she was another powerful African queen.

The next day, I finally watched the movie “Lincoln,” where, among other things, I saw the reenactment of white male politicians going nuts over the thought of freeing the slaves. And what would be next, franchisement for Negros (referring only to black men, of course)? Franchisement for women? Oh, how they grumbled and gnashed teeth!

After watching “Lincoln,” I was fired up to attend a meeting where the three mayoral candidates and two pairs of district candidates answered five preselected questions.  Since the district candidates weren’t running for the district where I live, I was far more interested in the mayoral candidates’ answers, which are listed below unidentified since, at this point, I’m more interested in the brainstorming of solutions.

Question 1: (Environmental Justice) Many Austin families with low incomes–both renters and homeowners–are struggling to pay their utility bills.  What do you plan to do to weatherize their homes, make their utility bills (electric and water) more affordable and create living wage green jobs in the process?

  • Subsidize weatherization; save and reuse water (only 3% is done now)
  • Improved customer service over 18 years, including demand-side management; partner with agencies
  • Fought hard not to raise rates; customer service for SNAP; need a mayor who will fight for people who need the help since all want help

Question 2: (Transportation) The rail proposal serves a limited area, but its cost is shared by the entire city. South and Southwest Austin traffic concerns negatively impact thousands of people in regard to safety , neighborhood quality, and the environment.  The “Y” in Oak Hill has been a massive problem for decades.  How do you balance our investments to address the transportation needs of all areas of Austin?

  • Pushed for roads and rail; this proposition is a down payment for funding from the federal government; the railway will go from Georgetown to San Antonio with five stops in Austin
  • Sidewalks need improvement; community depends on public transportation to be viable; needs environmental study to evaluate impact to transportation changes
  • Austin went from 16th to 4th most congested city in US for cities of its size; Austin needs staggered work times and increase telecommuting; less ridership on CapMetro now than earlier years; bring back free passes for senior citizens.

Question 3: (Affordability) Despite the fact that businesses continue to move to Austin and thrive, homeowners pay more property taxes than businesses.  If elected, what will yo do to make sure businesses pay taxes based upon the actual value of their property, keep home ownership affordable and promote more affordable and available rental properties?

  • Make point-of-sale information transparent for businesses; help people lift themselves out of poverty to have living wages with benefits; keep renters in mind since they are the most vulnerable
  • 150 people moving to Austin every day and 40 people leaving; can’t wait for state legislature to start the conversation; tax exemption for homeowners; help renters become owners
  • Collaboration needed to lower tax rate appraisals; examine policy of appraisals for commercial and residential property

Question 4: (Healthy Neighborhoods) What will you do to invest in libraries and parks for low-income neighborhoods? Specifically what will you do to increase staff, programs, and facilities to provide safe and healthy alternatives for our children and youth?

  • Increase spending for libraries and parks; people can choose to tax themselves to improve communities; better engage community; need to make the spending pie bigger.
  • 4 million dollar push for libraries/parks; look at other funding sources; look at underfunded/utilized libraries and parks
  • (attacked other candidates) states more dollars to be be invested in parks and libraries

Question 5: (Living Wage) The city of Austin has a living wage policy so that the City does not pay for workers that end up needing to use City social services to survive.  That living wage rate has not kept up with the cost of living in Austin and is now lower than other less expensive cities in Texas.  What will you do to make sure City employees and its contract workers earn enough to live in the City and how soon will the workers start receiving this true living wage?

  • Study on cost-of-living needed; move people to self-sufficiency with progressive programs like CAP Idea
  • Worked construction for 4.50/hr; went to ACC and took CAPMetro; pushed for living wages and benefits
  • (Civil rights lawyer) 160,000 in poverty and under skilled people. Almost 60% of jobs brought to Austin don’t pay a living wage

Interesting debate! I learned about issues I wasn’t even aware of.  Also of note, there was an inverse relationship between a candidate’s experience in city politics and the candidate’s optimism of what s/he could accomplish.


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Night of Interactive Installations

For my first stop, I experienced art through all of my senses, starting with smell. Given a small satchel to sniff, I immediately recognized the barbecue scent.1 smell Then the lights were raised and I saw how the the smell of barbecue had inspired the photographers. 2 smelly photos For the next sensual stimulus, I touched the items in a tray. When the lights were raised, I saw that I’d correctly identified a fretboard and keyboard through my fingertips.3 touch Then I examined the music-inspired photos.4 touchy photosAt the next station, I wore headphones and listened to music playing.
5 hear When the lights were raised, I viewed the music-inspired photos.6 hearing photos Yet my favorite station was the last one. 7 tasteI cradled my barbecue pork rib like receiving an early Christmas gift.
8 taste I didn’t get into it like the guy in my favorite taste photo though someone had teased me of getting sauce on my shirt.9 tasty Another favorite photo showed a guy proudly displaying his burnt hot dogs while the woman in the background put out a fire. Typical!10 reminds me of Mom & Dad This interactive installation consisted of one famous photographer and two local photographers. I spoke with the local photographer who was present. Turns out, I’d selected one of her pictures as my free gift.11 one of the photographers The second event took place several hours after the first one of the day. I thought it was supposed to be interactive, but after the fact, when I looked at the invitation again, I saw that it stated “video installation.”  Amazing how my mind had added the “interactive” part. Nonetheless, I finally got my chance to try a speciality bloody mary.  12 Bloody Mary

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Eat, Drink & Volunteer

1 20th anniversary display

One of our local, upscale grocery stores recently celebrated their 20th anniversary.  This is the type of event I love to volunteer for. Not only that, but the icing on the 20th anniversary cake is that they really did not need outside volunteers. After their own in-house paid employee help, there were no gaps in the 8-month event planning to pull this shindig off. After three impromptu orientations, which turned out to be more ceremonial than necessary, we were given the green light to stroll among the preparations to familiarize ourselves with the lay of the land.2 fire pits

I made a beeline to the fire pits. Although I’d been to this grocery store several times since moving to Austin 5 years ago and this was the first time I’d stepped off the deck onto the lawn. 3 smoked salmon

The first fire pit had smoked salmon.4 moisturizing the pig

The middle fire pit had smoked whole pigs.5 chicken & pumpkins

The third fire pit smoked had whole chickens.  All three pits had pumpkins at the bottom. These pits were the bulk of the dinner,  which was served later in the evening when the paying guests arrived.6 dancefloor & stage

I’d been accustomed to dancing to live music on the deck, but a bigger temporary dance floor and stage were constructed near the pits.7 paella in the works

Of the three appetizers that were being served, the paella was the one I was most excited about. I took this picture while the rice and vegetables were still cooking and prior to it being decorated with mussels, jumbo shrimp and sausage. When I returned to this food station, which was run by a local restaurant, one of the owners recognized me from bikram class. Talk about small world. Of course, I gave her one of my business cards. I passed those little gems out like candy during Halloween.8 covered dining area The deck had been transformed to an elegant dining space, unlike anything I’d been used to in the past 5 years of eating, dancing and listening to music. There was a coffee, tea and dessert station in the back and a bar, featuring bottled water, beer, wine and soda to the right. 9 team mtg I witnessed the team orientation, which confirmed that my presence, along with my fellow volunteers, would be totally unnecessary. Yet, I had no complaints. I absolutely love volunteering for special events where I can eat, drink and socialize first before doing any other duty. (I’d like to think that as an interesting conversationalist, I enhanced other people’s evening.)10 the chef & I

After four hours of schmoozing, I finally fulfilled my volunteer duty. The Argentine chef, who was in charge of the fire pits and main meal, had a 15-minute book signing. In reality, my presence was not necessary and I noticed that the other book signing volunteers had not bothered to show up. Being the staunch Virgo I am, I wanted to follow through with my commitment, regardless of its duration. 11 signing

Technically, the chef had already signed every single cookbook that was for sale. So, he added a little personalization to the signature. For most, he chose to encase his signature in a large apple outline and add the person’s name.  For one guy who had a crew cut, the chef drew and outline of the guy’s head.

12 group shot

Toward the end of the evening, champagne was passed out and group pictures were taken. I didn’t take part in either, but enjoyed the festive close to a flawless evening.

13 parting giftsIn addition to enjoying the evening’s libations, I took home two commerative glasses. I tested out the wine glass the following day and will test out the miniature beer glass when I attend an Octoberfest celebration later in the month.

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Spoken Word for Insomniacs

0 the venue During the first day of the 2014 Austin Feminists Poetry Festival, the rain poured down. Despite the inclement weather, I’d prepared 30 booklets for my “Spoken Word for Insomniacs” workshop just in case.1 Book Display I also took the opportunity to set up a stylish display of my book and Austin Writer Roulette business-card-sized fliers.2 before the workshop The space was an art gallery, which displayed vibrant-colored paintings. 3 BookWoman displayIn addition to my book, there was a display of feminist poetry.
4 my calling card I left no stone unturned in order to promote the Austin Writers Roulette, which conveniently took place the day after the festival ended.5 magnets I loved that among the feminist poetry, these four kitchen magnets were all together.6 workshop participantsAs I’d suspected, the rain or the traffic kept the crowd away. Nonetheless, I enjoyed taking my participants through the steps of their insomniacs booklet.  First, they wrote a list, in words or phrases, of what kept them up at night. Then,  they wrote a one-sentence “elevator pitch” of each insomnia-inducing item on their list. Next, they visualized and wrote themselves as the hero. They could have had superpowers, a sidekick, cool gadgetry, and time-travel. Lastly, they used the remaining time to develop at least one of the ideas with themselves as the hero.
7 Thom

I gave them the most time to work on this part since I wanted them to walk away with at least one tangible thing.8 doorstop(Speaking of walking away, the doorstop caught my attention, along with the persistent rain.)9 satisfied customerWhen I returned to the group, I saw at least one of my participants had been cured of insomnia. More proof the process works!

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44th Birthday Celebration

1 Scoot Inn sign

My 44th birthday prequel started on Saturday with the Brazilian Day Austin celebration. I’d never been to the venue before, but knew I was in for a treat when my fellow capoeiristas mentioned “outside” and “barn.”
2 start of show

Despite the tiny, well-lit stage, we played in the small loose gravel-covered ground, which gave our performance both an authentic feel and raised the element of danger and surprise to the endeavor.

3 puxada de rede

We started with “Puxada de Rede,” which was a fisherman’s dance.

4 puxada de rede

This was the first time I’d ever danced it–I’d only been part of the chorus in previous performances.

5 puxada de rede

Given the recovery of my ankle after breaking it a year ago, I freaked out a little since this time last year, I was on crutches.

6 puxada de rede

Even with the less-than-ideal ground, I enjoyed the simple joy of being ambulatory.

7 puxada de rede

Good thing my spirits were so high; we messed up the choreography, but apparently only we knew that!

8 banguela

I missed most of the roda de Angola since some genius rearranged all our stuff and I couldn’t find my regular capoeira shirt.

9 banguela

Thank goodness I’d handed off my camera phone to another capoeirista who was not performing that night.10 banguela

She took over 100 pictures! Not that I’m complaining. I know that it’s challenging to catch a clear shot of capoeiristas playing even a slow game of Angola-style capoeira.

11 maculele

If I had been previously irritated with not finding my T-shirt in a timely fashion, I was doubly pissed that I couldn’t find the grass skirt I’d picked out for maculele.

12 maculele

We did mostly the same choreography we’d done back in May for the batizado. The only thing this time was at all three rehearsals, we’d had a different combination of people participating.

13 maculele

The only thing this time was at all three rehearsals, we’d had a different combination of people participating.  14 maculele

That ill-fitting grass skirt fell after a couple of moves. 15 maculele

I just kept dancing like the semi-pro I am!16 regional

For the last dress change for me, I could relax since I’d completed my part of the performance other than continuing to clap, sing and relieve someone on the pandeiro (tambourine). 17 regional

I was quite impressed at how fast my fellow capoeiristas played regional-style capoeira. After our performance, I got a yummy jalapeño drink, danced samba and forro, then left–all before 11 PM.18 yoga Originally, I didn’t think I’d have too much fun on my actual birthday since it fell on a Sunday. I wore my tiara the entire day to liven things up a bit. Although I merely posed with the tiara before yoga class, I learned after the fact how bad this idea was. As I removed it, my rambunctious dreads latched onto and would not surrender until a friend who worked at the studio cut it out. She was very empathic about the minor surgery.19 me & Cholula

Then, I met a friend for brunch. With my hair up and the tiara merely placed on my head, I suffered no more hair loss nor wardrobe malfunction.20 mimosa toast

I hardly ever imbibe fizzy drinks, but I figured a mimosa once a year or so wouldn’t hurt. 21 brunch

I’d never ordered this dish before, Sonora enchilada, but it was a wonderful call together with one of my favorite hot sauces.22 Mieca & meLater that evening, I went to an open mic, where I knew several of my poetry friends would be. To my birthday surprise, I saw one of my salsa friends from years ago who just happen to come out to listen to poetry.
24 me reading

When I finally got my turn to the mic, I was tired, but figured since I’d made the effort, I’d do my best.25 me telling a joke

I opened with a joke about my dress: “My mom gave me this dress since it’s my birthday. One guy told me that it looked like a table cloth. I told him that he’d not be eating off me tonight!”26 pitching my book

Then I made a shameless plug for my book, Tribe of One.  27 me reading

I read an excerpt from the book that dealt with the main character’s extensive search for the perfect vibrator. 28 holding BD cake

At the end of my set, I received a piece of a very rich chocolate and coconut cake.29 blowing out candles

Believe it or not, I’d had a little trouble blowing out that third candle. I thought it was a trick candle, but turns out I was just out of practice blowing out birthday candles. Then again, since I’m the upstart third daughter, perhaps it was appropriate.30 BD cake

I dove into that delicious cake! I had to put the fork down just to take a picture of it.31 Thom & the crew

My three poet friends graced the stage with their creative collaboration.32 TJ & me

The featured poet that night happened to be another sexually-explicit black woman who had been outside selling and signing her poetry book during my reading.
33 TJ me & friendAfter my set and birthday song, she ran in to tell me that she really enjoyed my reading. We exchanged books at the end of the night.


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Writing on the Air Interview

group shot
For my first radio interview ever, I was part of a four-artist panel. Three out of four of us where there because of our participation in the upcoming Austin Feminist Poetry Festival. The lone duck artist with the second best hair, only to my dreaded head, was a documentary filmmaker, searching for his birth mother. I figured there was no need to be dressed up since it was radio. Instead, I dressed for capoeira dance rehearsal, which was immediately after the interview.  All I can say is thank God I looked half decent since the filmmaker came flank with his crew.

radio shotI found the microphone a bit awkward, but that didn’t stop me from posing as if I was reading for this picture! I wanted to get all the “tourist” shots out the way before our segment began. I wasn’t nervous about the interview itself, but all the restrictions: no curse words, no graphic sex, no explicit descriptions of genitals, no calls to actions, no fart jokes. Out of all of them, only the last one had no chance of slipping out of my mouth.

I briefly recounted how I started writing poetry to remedy reoccurring bouts of insomnia. So when I was asked to teach a workshop for the Austin Feminist Poetry Festival, I agreed on the condition my workshop be called “Spoken Word for Insomniacs.” Then I read a rated G spoken word piece, “A Circle Has No Corners,” that was inspired by a conversation I overheard one of my capoeira teachers having and a recent bout of insomnia. I started reading it at 16:37 minutes into the interview.

I’ve never taken pills to sleep nor drank coffee to wake up, choosing first to exercise my stress out then later, writing it out. Writing had opened so many doors for me, given the flexibility the medium affords.

Listen to the interview:

Read “A Circle Has No Corners”: http://www.mathdreads.com/?p=886

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