North Carolina. You might not know much about it outside of the Carolina Panthers (there will be another chance Cam Newton), or that it's the place where Michael Jordan honed his ballerific skills...but this place is one of America's best kept secrets.
There are a few things North Carolina does well - beer, BBQ, and beaches! I hear they make a mean sweet tea, but I don't really drink it, so you ain't heard that from me. What I CAN tell you, is that it's home to some of the most beautiful coastlines east of the Mississippi. I've hit up Myrtle Beach (which is actually in South Carolina, but just a short hop from N.C.) and Carolina Beach, outside of Wilmington. Both are easily accessible from Raleigh/Durham, where I stayed during my visit. Texas hack - take a trip to Corpus Christi or Port Aransas, because you and I both know that Galveston just ain't it.
On a recent trip to Raleigh/Durham, I was scouting around looking for local treasures with a good friend (and designated tour guide), and somehow ended up in one of the most intriguing places I've ever seen. My guide says, "I'm taking you to a treehouse club." My mind flashed to Mickey Mouse for a hot second, and those of you with small children will understand when I say I started hummin' "hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog." I chuckled. A treehouse? Seriously? I look down at my open toes and start wondering how far up I'll have to climb, and whether or not the thing will support my weight. I'm thinking of a little shack, far up in a tree swaying back and forth, and a small hole in the bottom to climb through. I'm thinking rope burn on this rickety ladder I'm about to climb up. I'm thinking space for about 4.5 grown people as long as nobody is over 5'6. I'm thinking I think too much.
I was not prepared for what I saw when we rolled up on the thing, way out in rural Roseboro, N.C.
It wasn't your ol' run of the mill He-Man Woman Haters Club either (you know I had to reference the Little Rascals). Think more along the lines of R. Kelly's backyard party where everyone is steppin' in the name of love and don't see nuthin' wrong with a little bump n' grind. It's a big house built around a very big tree. And way out in the middle of nowhere (no offense Roseboro), right behind the owner's real house, the party don't stop. I'm a fairly decent writer, and I'm having trouble finding words to express how enamored I was! Up and down stairs, in and out of cubbyholes, back doors that lead to new spaces...there was so much to see - inside and out. The entire place made of wood. The furnishings are a mash up of things collected over time, so nothing "matches," but it all makes sense. Each chair, each mural, each signature of those lucky enough to visit scribbled on the wall (including mine), is a part of its genius.
This juke joint in a tree is the brain child of owner, operator, carpenter, master BBQ pit man, bartender, and entertainer extraordinaire - Buddy Melvin. He started building "The Treehouse" around a nearly 16-feet 'round water oak in 1997 and has been adding to it ever since. Here's where it REALLY gets interesting...he's got BOOM-BOOM rooms people! And a shower in the ladies restroom. Because you just. never. know. I kid you not (check the pic below). But Buddy admits nothing and leaves everything to the imagination.
You probably won't find The Treehouse on any "top things to do in N.C." list - although, you should. Shame on you oh-ye-faithful creators of top lists! But I mean, have you ever heard of Roseboro? Me either. Don't get sassy you native North Carolinians. You have to know The Treehouse is there. And thanks to me - now you do. And this is kinda off topic, but why the hell do so many cities in North Carolina end in 'boro' anyway? Greensboro, Goldsboro, Grantsboro, Mufreesboro, Carrboro (ROLL CALL)...I could go on. I'm seriously curious though. SO curious that I actually Googled, "Why do so many cities in North Carolina end in 'boro'?" In case you're interested, here's the best (and most legit sounding) answer:
"Can't believe I am responding to this, but here goes...You will find the ending 'boro', which is short for borough, in states which made up the original 13 colonies. This is because back in England since the middle ages the word "borough" was used to describe townships or areas granted some form of self government. This English concept and word were brought over here as the English formed settlements in "New" England. Americans adopted this traditional word and used it in places like Pittsburgh - also another way of saying 'boro'."
Hmph. The more you know. Without further ado...here it is...in all its glory. And it's pretty damn impressive.
Downright awesome right? Friggin' right.
I stopped by the place in the middle of the day, so there wasn't much going on, but I got a personal tour from Buddy (he accepts donations to help keep her going). My friend has seen the place in full swing, and tells me it's worth my trip back to catch it when it's on and poppin'. The fat girl in me will go back just to taste Buddy's grillin' technique, so no arm twist necessary. I dug around for a picture with people inside so you can understand just how massive the thing is, but no luck. Perhaps that's the point. Everything that happens there stays there...
This is one of those times when you just have to see it to believe it. I stood in the middle of the main room - a.k.a the dance floor - thinking about what kind of buzz would be happening if it were full of people. You can almost hear it if you close your eyes. The Treehouse embodies a special spirit and you can feel it. You gotta just go. If you ever wanna plan a road trip to somewhere you've never been...the Carolinas are full of culture and history. And if you decide to drive there - please read my post on successfully road trippin with friends before you go (shameless plug).
They don't do the place justice, but here's a few more of my pics in The Treehouse...and while you're at it, press play on R. Kelly's video down there to put yourself in the mood.
Here's a few more not-so-well-known, but totally worth it, reasons to visit the Tar Heel state:
Big Ed's Country Market. The biscuits though. They are EVERYTHING. And grits that make me miss my granny even more. Houston hack - Frank's Grill.
The Haw River. Awesome place for pictures, especially if you have a drone! Texas hack - tubing down the Guadalupe (which is even better because you can bring booze).
The burgers. Have you ever had a Carolina style burger? *church fan and faint*...it might not be for everyone, but I was in heaven. Chili and coleslaw. Game, changed. Houston hack - Hubcap Grill.
Asheville. I've never been, but I hear it's like the beer mecca. And OMG. They have a beer week. #sold. Houston hack - 8th Wonder Brewery. It's like a mini beer fest everyday in your back yard.
Queen Anne's Revenge. If you're a cool nerd like me, you'll enjoy a museum all about the pirate Blackbeard (awesome attraction for the young and curious travelers in your crew). Texas hack - cruise the Black Dragon pirate ship in Port Isabel.
If you make it out to Buddy's Treehouse, be sure to leave him a donation for a full scale tour!
Until next time...go, get #lostinfamiliarity
Did you travel during the holiday season? If you're anything like me, you live for a spontaneous road trip. Sure, I love the feeling of the wheels touching down on the tarmac of a city I've yet to discover, but there's something to be said about the journey that comes with hitting the highway. However, if there's one thing I've learned in all my travels, it's that you can't take everybody on the road with you (or the plane)...no matter how stable you THINK your friendship is.
Have you ever hit I-10 East headed to New Orleans for a little weekend gallivanting and around about Beaumont thought, "What the hell have I just done?" The drive from Houston to B-Town is about an hour and a half if you're cruisin', and just long enough for you to realize that you'll be in the car for the next 4-6 hours with minions from the depths of travel hell.
You know them well...the ones who need to stop to pee every seven exits, need a smoke break two exits after that, want you to turn the radio down so that they can hold a 15-minute conversation about Shri-boo-boo's cousin Niecy who's baby daddy is sleeping with your neighbor but that ain't nunna yo business (right?), they eat everyone's snacks but don't buy anything when we stop because "Eh...I'm not hungry", they never have any cash to pitch in on the gas (even though that was made abundantly clear before we hit the road) so they have to "get you back" when you guys come across an ATM. Oh, and not just any ATM. It has to be THEIR bank's ATM. Because BAY-BAAAY no...they will NOT pay that $3 convenience fee for anyone's convenience but their own. Any of this sounding familiar? And no, to my current road-trippin' friends, I don't mean you (don't call my phone later charging me up). So these mavens of mischief are easily the bane of your existence on the open road, right? I know. But the good news is - there's help.
You're planning a trip to somewhere undoubtedly awesome and it just makes more sense to drive. Maybe it's the two of you headed to shop in San Marcos for the weekend. Maybe there are four and a possible in the car if you've just crossed after a semester of "ass whoopins" (but frats don't REALLY do that, so pretend I didn't say that), and you spent all your money buying chicken and Hennessy for your DP and ADP, but you still wanna celebrate - albeit on a serious budget - so someone agrees to take the "bitch seat" for the journey (FYI - this is NEVER recommended).
Speaking of the bitch seat - let me take this opportunity to go over the roles in the car. Oh yes, everyone on a road trip serves a purpose. The driver is, well, the driver. Be nice to the driver because he or she sets the mood in the car. If the driver is pissed, everyone suffers. The front passenger side is probably the most coveted spot because of its location, but this is an imperative role - not to be taken lightly. It's like sitting in the emergency aisle on an airplane, except your seat reclines. As the navigator, you are the official map reader, the DJ, the lookout for the POPO, the keeper of the driver's snacks, and the master conversationalist (to keep the driver alert). You CAN be demoted to back seat if you screw this up. That brings me to the back seat riders. Your job is to simply ride and speak when spoken to. You cannot drive from the back, nor do you control the radio. Reach your hand through that middle passage if you want to, you'll come back with nubs! And no, the driver can't scoot the seat up to give you more leg room.
Now don't worry - a road trip CAN be the time of your life, even if you're in the back seat. As long as everyone agrees to take the unspoken, unwritten, but completely necessary - road oath. I didn't write one and to my knowledge no such thing actually exists (my patent is pending), but you can kinda hammer one out based on the list below. If you actually hope to speak to these folks again, here's a few things to remember:
So after putting together these "Rules for Roadies" - or maybe we can deem this the official unofficial "Road Oath" - (yep, read it out loud and make everyone repeat after you)...I might need to do some self-reflection about my behavior as a road tripper. I'm guilty of at least half of the things on my list! Damn...that's a tough pill to swallow. Ah well, just like with anything else in life, we live and we learn. I road trip with friends quite often, and I've traveled both near and far, so I feel confident in these rules of engagement. It's not impossible to road trip without casualties, but you've gotta be smart about it.
All I'm saying is - just like money and moving in together - a road trip can ruin a perfectly solid friendship if you let it. Choose your traveling compadres wisely. And oh yeah...HAPPY NEW YEAR people! Is it too late to say that? Maybe it's a "new year, new you" or maybe you're the same ol' dysfunctional you from 2015...either way - it's OK. I kinda prefer flawed and dysfunctional versions of people. It's honest. So here I am giving up my first offering for 2016. I hope you enjoyed it!
I think a woman's worst nightmare is to hear a man (especially one she's just getting to know) ask her over for a night of "Netflix and chill." In a woman's mind, this is pretty much the equivalent of a guy saying, "I don't really see this going anywhere, so I'm just gonna see how I can go about spending the least amount of money possible and still get what I want from you, because you ain't even really cute enough to have on my arm in public." OK, maybe we don't think ALL of that, but we think something kinda like it. Trust me on this one. There are those occasions where the woman might wanna just "Netflix and chill" her damn self, but that's a different kind of post for another day.
BUT - in defense of the fellas, the stone cold truth is that dating is CRAZY expensive. And if you're getting to know people (meaning more than one at a time), your "nights out" start to make a HUGE dent in your pocket. So sometimes, Netflix and chill is all you can afford. And sometimes, a night in the house is really just what the doctor ordered. Use your best judgment.
With Houston basically becoming a baby New York City, I can't (and won't) imagine what men go through when preparing to ask a woman out. I'm sure it's intimidating. For all of the regular reasons guys get shy and add to that, the whole - I work a normal job with decent pay, I tithe, and I pay my bills on time - thing. Sure, there's room to splurge sometimes, but if you want a man who is working, providing for children (because most are at our age), keeping up with investments and savings and 401K, or saving for a house, or already in a house with big house bills, paying student loans (because you probably want him to be educated), setting aside funds for a future family, and being all fiscally responsible and what not...then you have to know that we can't party like it's 1999 every night. This all depends on where you are in life and what you're looking for. You might just hope to meet Arian Foster coming out of Walgreen's and live happily ever after, despite all of his baby mama drama. Good luck with that. For those of us living in reality and in the words of Lucious and Cookie Lyon before they had the Empire, it's hard out here for a pimp.
I had a man once tell me (long after the date, of course), that he was SO glad I kept it modest and didn't order something outrageous on the menu because he was working with limited funds the first time we went out. He wouldn't dare have told me that on the night of the date, but he later mentioned that he ordered something based on the cost of what I ordered. That's why you guys let us go first, huh? Now some of you might call him crazy for asking me out in the first place knowing that he only had XYZ amount of dollars in his pocket, but that's the reality a lot of men face. Trying to balance being a gentleman and desiring companionship, while being faced with someone constantly asking, "When are we gonna go out?" or "Where are you gonna take me?" or "Why don't we go to Del Frisco's?"
I can say this because, admittedly, it has been me on several occasions. Not really being considerate of the guy and the fact that one dinner date might cost him an entire day's paycheck! Don't even get me started on the cost of a movie nowadays (even without spending that $50 at the concession stand). OK, so I know what some of you ladies are thinking, "Why are you dating someone who has a job in which a day's pay is equal to one doggone dinner?" And I would say to you - you're missing my point.
All of this is to simply say (I sure did take a scenic route though), guys there are things you can do in Houston that won't break the bank and that any woman who is truly into you will appreciate. I think most women will agree that creativity on a date will take you much further than the amount of money you spend. This is the same for ladies. There are occasions when a woman wants to treat her man to a night out and the same rules apply - use your thrifty brain power. As for me, I grew up with a daddy who told me that I should never pull out my wallet in the presence of a man and I always keep that in the back of my mind; however, I do realize that my parents grew up in a different time. It all comes down to what you want and what you will accept. That's different for everyone. You just have to find that person who aligns with you on those things. For both men and women, that's part of the weeding process.
Now don't misunderstand me guys, EVERY woman wants to be treated like the queen she is and YES, we like things. Shiny things. That's just a fact of life. Whether her "thing" be nice bags or shoes or jewelry or trips to far away places (my personal favorite), sometimes you have to just suck it up and make that happen for her - if you want to keep her around that is. But women, in my experience, men are much more willing to do those things for you if you're not always acting like a spoiled brat who demands them from the word hello. And yeah, I've been that brat too. But hey, we live, we learn, we grow. Or at least I hope we do. There are some outliers who believe everything I've said up to this point is bullshit. And that's fine, because I'm clearly not talking to you. Or maybe I should be...might learn ya sumthin'.
Point blank period - a woman LOVES it when a man takes time to plan a date. Ladies, we all know that moment when he picks you up and the first thing he says is, "What you wanna do?" ARRRGGG!! This is like date death. Then there's a back and forth for like 30 minutes of "What you wanna eat?" "I don't know, what you wanna eat?" and "Well, what do you have a taste for?" and "OK, give me three options and I'll pick one," or he finally just pulls over and says, "Let's just sit here until you figure out what you want." SUPER. SIDE. EYE. We're thinking, "You ol' fish-eyed fool! You asked me out on Tuesday. It's Friday. In 3.5 days you couldn't have come up with a plan for a date that YOU asked ME to go on? I could've been in the bed catching up on Being Mary Jane." At this point, the only thing saving you is that she probably beat her face (meaning she did the fool with her make-up in case you've been under a rock), and she's feeling real jazzy in whatever outfit she chose. Somebody besides you is going to see her in it so that it's not an effort wasted. You'll undoubtedly end up going to grab dinner and maybe a movie, or hit up one of the bars I mentioned in my last post (shameless plug). She'll be OK with that, but she'll also remember your lack of planning. Things might be forgiven if you splurge for good drinks at The Davenport.
I mean come on guys. You take more consideration than that when you're hanging out with your fellas! By the time you meet up with your boys, you know what place you're going, the game you're watching, the drink you're gonna order, the wing flavor you want, and the name of the stripper you're gonna tip later. If you have trouble thinking of things - GTS (Google that shit)! Or just refer back to this post (hee-hee). I don't know. Maybe it's just a big ol' burden to always have to come up with the ideas? I'm not saying your lady can't ever plan a date, but in the beginning - you just need to take the initiative. Congratulations on being born male. LOL!
Here are a few ideas that might keep you lookin' like the superstar you are:
Boozy Picnic @ Miller Outdoor Theatre/Hermann Park - Invest in a picnic basket. Or an Igloo cooler if you think you're too manly for that. Get a blanket and a bottle of wine (it'll run you between $7 and $15 for a good one and for Pete's sake - don't get Yellowtail) and pick a spot on the hill. On a clear Houston night, this is the perfect place for the kinds of conversations that let you know whether she's wifey material. Bring cheese and fruit for extra points. If you really want to show her what you're made of, grab some Frenchy's too. Yes, Lawd! (*go away fat girl spirit...I told you about showin' out in front of company*)
Hot Sauce Tasting @ Firehouse Subs - I know you might look at this one like, "What the hell? Tiffany don't suggest that a man take me for a sandwich!" And I feel you, I do. And honestly, I've had better sandwiches, but this place is cool to me because of a unique little thing that they do. There's a place in New Orleans called Pepper Palace that I have to stop by every time I visit the city (I think the closest to us is in San Antonio). Heard of it? Anyway, they let you taste all the different hot sauces, BBQ sauces, marinades, and seasonings they sell. Firehouse does something similar and they have the bottles available for you to buy. If you're out and about looking for a quick lunch, this is just a fun way to break the monotony.
Cooking Class @ urbanCHEF - This is the backdrop for a perfect date night. Tap her nose with some sauce or something and then give her a smooch. Don't lick her face or anything, because that would be weird. Unless you know her like that and that's y'all's thing. Now this idea, in all fairness and honesty, goes against what this post is about. This place is expensive. Like...you could take her AND her mama out for dinner and it might be less than this place. However, it's still a pretty awesome idea and on that night that you feel like splurging...I'm just sayin', this could work out well for you in the end.
Movie or exhibit @ Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) - Free on Thursday nights #forthewin!! And if you're willing to throw in a few bucks for tickets, they often show foreign and independent films that you can't see anywhere else. This will make you look all artsy-fartsy and cultured...which is usually a big plus for women.
Paint @ 3 Hues Houston - Get dirty with it! Or at least play in some paint. And who doesn't love to let their artistic flag fly? This is a great place to do group dates because they let you paint for free if you bring 5 people (at $25 pp)...if you go with 5 other couples - you AND your girl paint free! We all love freebies. Even if you don't do the group thing, the painting is reasonable and the best part - it's BYOB. I should rename this one Paintin' with Patron, and I would do that if I liked Patron. How about Lacquering with Liquor? That's LIKKA (in my Uncle Ruckus voice) for the folks in my circle. Put some stank on it.
Bowl @ Your local alley - This is old school fun that people often forget about. And I'm not talking the fancy-smancy bowling alleys that have popped up in recent years. I'm talking the good ol' maybe your feet will catch a little gangrene if you're not too careful kind of place. Complete with a pitcher of beer and sketchy eats. Don't get all bourgeois on me...these places are still a lot of fun. A little friendly competition might even ignite a spark or two for later.
Tasting and Tour @ Local Breweries - I am on a personal mission to hit Houston's breweries, because sadly - I haven't tried any of them. Hey, I make these lists for myself too! These are on my list to try: Saint Arnold's, 8th Wonder, Karbach, and Buffalo Bayou. Blog post coming soon...
Good Eats @ Any Food Truck - These things pop up all over the place, move around at will, and show up at festivals and other events around the city. Food trucks are no longer those mobile-bacteria-infested-boxes that you assumed only frequented construction sites. They are boasting food that rivals many Houston restaurants. Jump on the bandwagon - or the food truck - and join other Houston foodies who are in the know. Check out local listings on occasion to see what's happening where.
Sweat Together @ Any place with access to H2O - I'm not saying hit the gym and prove that you're an Olympian. I'm just saying do something active. Hit the trail at Memorial Park or jump around on the trampolines at Sky Zone, which is surprisingly inexpensive. Bike around Downtown on a Houston B Cycle for the low-low. Admit it, you want to. The only thing with this idea is that if you haven't even said the word exercise in the past 10 years, this might be challenging. It's hard to manage conversation and look cute when you can't breathe. This, I know.
Arial View @ the Chase Building - There's an observation deck on the 60th floor of the Chase Building with some awesome views of the city. It's totally free and open to the public, but it's only open during business hours (M-F 8-5:30) and no weekends or holidays. So for this one, you either need to blow off a day of work or snatch her up for a quick lunch break if you're in the area.
If the work week gets the best of you and you just can't muster enough creative juice to be great, then use the resources around you! Here's a few I use when I want to get out of my bubble:
Also, don't underestimate the power of recon. If you are dating - one or multiple people (do ya thug thizzle) - then get out and SEE what the city has to offer - get LOST IN FAMILIARITY. One evening after work, stop by a new place and grab a drink. Get a feel for the vibe and see if it's somewhere you would bring a future date. Make sure it's not a place where you would run into other people you're dating - let's be honest...it happens. If you're "dating" that means you're still single and folks need to stop putting so much emphasis on that word. I digress, check the prices so you know before hand what you're getting into. Go online and check the menu. Become a connoisseur of your city.
So let me give the obligatory PSA before I go. These places and ideas are things that I like to do (me as in...me and my taste). I can't promise you this stuff will work on everybody, but what I can tell you is that if the woman (or man) is really interested in you - it doesn't really matter what you do. Most of us just want to know that our time is desired. But taking the time to creatively plan a date, will put you ahead of the game...sharing your true intentions is optional, but highly recommended.
Houston. H-town. The third coast. The dirty South. Screwston. Tha H.
My city is known by so many names, but I just call it home. I have a love/hate relationship with this place, though. I wasn't born here, but anyone would agree that if you've lived somewhere for more than 30 years - it's where you're from. I wanted for so long to live somewhere else. Anywhere but here. I did it once. I moved to Atlanta for a few years back in the nineties. Ahhhh the nineties. Just the thought takes me to a happy place. Raise your hand if you remember Cross Colors? Gangsta Nikes? Girbaud? Starter jerseys? Filas with the Velcro strap across the top? The House Party movies? Where were you the first time you heard Dr. Dre's The Chronic album? You're welcome for that trip down memory lane...if you're over 35 years old, I know you took one.
Now, back to my city. Houston is the most diverse city in the country...like, seriously. Click here if you don't believe me. We have folks from a little some of everywhere here, so when you visit - you don't get that uncomfortable "we're not in Kansas anymore" feeling in your bones. It's one of those places that feels familiar. It looks like any other metropolitan area, complete with skyscrapers and cement-paved roads. Yeah, we're not all horses, tractors, and cowboy hats down here, although you can certainly find a lot of that too. But you knew that. Houston has been making a name for itself for some time now, so I doubt anyone still has the misguided belief that we're all rednecks. If you do, start by visiting every place on this list and then let's revisit this conversation.
I've found a love for this place, that didn't exist in me before, because I never took the time to get to know it. There are so many things to do and see around here if you use your resources and open those big, beautiful browns (or blues, or greens, or whatever you're workin' with). I've compiled a list - in no particular order - of a few places that you need to try if you haven't already. I wanted to give you a mini review of each one, so bear with me. If for no other reason than to look like a guru about town in front of your friends...you need this list!
Davenport (Shepherd) - THE. Best. Martinis. In the city. Or at least the best I've tried so far. And over 70 of them! I'm willing to take your suggestions and drink my way to another winner if you wanna dare me. Any takers? This place is one of my faves. If anyone visits from out of town, this is on my top 5 list of places to take them. I will say that it has changed quite a bit from the time I first fell in love with it. It's attracting a younger crowd, but then again, it attracted me when I was young. The fact that I use the word "crowd" and Davenport in the same thought is almost blasphemous. Those who remember it when it was still a hideaway should know what I mean when I say there's a couple of sweet spots at certain hours. You have to go before the crowd arrives (get in and out before 9 p.m.) or after they leave (you're safe around 11:30 p.m.) and go on to whatever ratchetness they originally intended. And oh yes, the big D does a double pour on all of their drinks - WOO! For the win. I recommend the Cucumbertini if you like refreshing drinks or the Caramel Apple if you prefer something sweet, but you really can't go wrong no matter what you get. For all you cigar aficionados, brothers and sisters of the leaf are welcome.
Marfreless (River Oaks) - Affectionately known as "The Blue Door." You know it. I know it. This is the make-out bar. It's a place where lovers go. Or perhaps friends with lover benefits. BUT - it's also a cool place to go on a first date if you're feelin' some sexy energy between the two of you (notice I didn't say go have sex, but do you...this is a no judgment zone). I wouldn't make this your first stop on a first date, because it could become awkward being enveloped by the plush couches upstairs in the red-light-special semi-dark room and you haven't even gotten to "How many kids do you have?" By the way, insert kid here. This place and a little Jodeci in the car...aaaaaand that's how I met your mother. You've been warned. If you sit downstairs by the bar, you can meet a few friends for a good conversation. The thing I love the most about this place is that it's hardly ever crowded (which is relative, I know), but it always feels busy. It must be the energy.
Alley Kat (Midtown) - This place is part-owned by the guy who owns The Breakfast Klub and Reggae Hut, Marcus Davis. If you know Houston, you know Marcus. He's good people, so I support his visions. We should do more of that by the way...support our hometown peeps. It's a cute little duck-away spot that I discovered on my 36th birthday as I looked for something low-key to get into. You can catch live music, DJs, and even karaoke. It's also within walking distance from a couple of other bars in case you wanna hop around. Ask for the drink with the muddled strawberries.
Anvil (Montrose) - Two words: Suffering Bastard. No, that's not what we call all of the guys who hang at this bar, although there are probably a few in the mix. It's a drink, and one of my favorites at this place. There's not too much for me to say about it, because you just need to go. This is one of the few places in Houston that believe in true mixology. You will taste the expertise in every pour and reading the menu is half of the fun. The crowd looks a bit "hoity-toity" when you first walk in, but that feeling quickly fades once you settle in. The whole place reminds me of a Mumford and Sons video, but with bartenders instead of guitars and banjos.
Capone's (Upper Kirby) - Live music and people who aren't afraid to hit the dance floor...with a little liquid courage, I presume. Coolest thing about the place - the bookshelf bathroom doors. Then, there's the pizza. Sweet baby Jesus, the pizza. It's pizza for foodies and the drinks are a bonus. Go with a friend, do a half/half pizza of the Steakhouse & the Capone's, and order a flirtini (if you're into that kind of thing) - or a beer. Doesn't even matter. Mind. Blown. I once drove to this place in torrential rain at 1 a.m. to get a pie. I'll just drop the mic right here.
Absinthe Brasserie (Montrose) - I don't drink its namesake, because I don't like black licorice, but this place is synonymous with laid-back. It's tucked away in a parking lot, but you'll know it by the large wooden door at the entrance. It's very unassuming and you might pass it a few times before you see it, but once you do - it's worth the trouble. They've got some tasty munchies while you partake and it's the kind of place you can go alone after work for a drink. The bartenders are usually excellent conversationalists.
Stone's Throw (Montrose) - They do this progressive happy hour (HH) thing where the drinks are $4 at 4 p.m. and $5 at 5, all the way through the $7 at 7, and I'm ALL about it. It gives folks, who can't fight Houston traffic fast enough to get anywhere by the dreaded 6 p.m. cut-off that most HH specials boast, a chance to enjoy at least a couple of bucks off. Who made that rule anyway? Not real working class people, that's for sure. Reverse HHs try to make it up to us, but they're no better because you have to stay out past 10 p.m. to catch those. If I have to be at work tomorrow, I'm not starting anything that late except my snore pattern. But this place makes their own ginger beer for cryin' out loud. Yes, yes, a million times YES. Be sure to try the Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn and the Humperdinck cocktail! The Violette Femme also deserves honorable mention. I've never tasted anything like it.
The Spot (Third Ward) - Although I don't really recommend this place on weekends...unless you like the whole fight-to-get-a-drink, elbow-to-elbow, so-close-I-can't-breathe kind of crowd. However, during the week, this is the spot (you see what I did there) to get a damn good drink. I recommend the Panty Dropper or the Skittles a.k.a. Ciroc Punch, but I also recommend a vacation day afterward! I can get my grownup, hip-hop fix here on any night of the week.
Voodoo Queen (East Downtown) - Although it kinda smells like hot burnt syrup and urine if you stand downwind outside, it's a cool bar. I think there's some kind of factory close by (coffee maybe?) and the smells from that place...well, let's just say I wouldn't stand outside and eat. The bar is eclectic and low-key, just the way I like it. It was voted one of Houston's best dive bars. I can't quite put my finger on the crowd because I get something different every time I go, but perhaps that's the beauty of it. Full of regulars and weirdos all at the same time, but one thing that IS consistent...the drinks. They're always strong even when they don't taste like it. Order the thing with the lime and the sugar cube and the flame...they'll know what you mean!
"Potomac!" We all threw our hands up and screamed as we traveled over the bridge that links Arlington, Va. and Washington, D.C., crossing over the Potomac River. We did that every time we took the trek from our hotel to "the hill." Every. Single. Time. And it never got old.
As a senior in high school, I traveled to D.C. on a school trip. Just to let you know what kind of ambition I had back then...I did that instead of the senior trip to Cancun because I once wanted to be in the FBI, and learning about the government seemed more fascinating at the time. What the hell was I thinking? I'm not in the FBI, by the way.
It was my first time on a plane and experiencing what I call "real" travel - complete with that annoying clogging of the ears thing that always seems to last until my trip is over. That's the part they don't tell you about when you get on the plane...that you feel like a pair of pliers is slowly squeezing your brain to death. It wasn't until I was older that I understood that had less to do with the pliers and more to do with my Eustachian tube. Oh, you didn't know I was going to enhance your vocab with this thing? LOL! Look it up. I did.
So I'm in D.C. one evening at a dinner theater - because that's what every 17 year old wants to do on a trip - and that's when it hit me. Well, it was more like a light tap. I LOVE this. This is what I want to do forever. Travel, eat, and laugh with friends! If only it were that easy...and of course, if only I could get paid to do it. Imagine my surprise when I found out people DO get paid to do it. One day, young grasshopper. One day.
I'm 37 going on 24 (except for in this body, which feels more like 78 1/2 at times). I'm a Texan. I'm a lover of travel, family, people, live music, tasty food, nail polish, ladybugs...and GETTING LOST IN FAMILIARITY. I'm also a procrastinator who has an unhealthy addiction to chocolate, because I can't tell you the good without admitting a little of the bad. That sounded like my intro at a group meeting - can you tell I've worked on it?
I told myself that I wouldn't let the threshold of another year come and go without finally sitting down to write my first blog post. There was always something in my way though, you know? You know how we are. The "I don't have any resources" and the "I'm not ready" and the "I just don't have the time" and the "What if nobody wants to read it?" But, I finally thought that thought and saw that thing that gave me that message that inspired me to move and go and do and be and get up off my ass. Yes, I realize there is no punctuation in that last sentence and yes, I want you to read it that way. Anyway, I got a little kick in the rear reminding me that I haven't begun to scratch the surface of my potential and if I'm not careful, I'll squander it. I'm all about giving credit where it's due, so let me tell you who that proverbial foot belongs to - Dr. Eric Thomas. He reminded me that I have to put in the time on my grind and stop trying to cheat it. Nobody ever ends up anywhere amazing on accident. Well, there was that one time in Toronto, but you and I don't know each other that well yet. Either spend every moment trying to be your best self, or shut up about what you haven't become because you were too scared or too lazy to move.
I think people should travel well and often. We should get lost and not ask for directions. We should be silly. We should eat a lot of good things. We should travel to places where English is not familiar to most. We should jam out in the car like nobody is looking. And if someone IS looking - who the hell cares?! We should say things that we want people to know and feel free afterward. We should learn that thing we've always wondered about. We should be the aggressor sometimes, even when it's uncomfortable. We should be honest, even when we end up looking like idiots. We should be OK with realizing that we're not who we were last year or 10 years ago, because that's called progress. We should pick our noses when they're full. OK, we definitely shouldn't do that. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. Get a tissue dammit!
So here I am, in this inaugural post...telling you that I'm growing. I hope you'll join me.