Living For The City

Reports from National Book Awards

Natasha T, Toni M, and Terry McM!Okay, I am the last blogger to weigh in on last night’s festivities. Please forgive me. I’ve just gotten out of bed. I think I am going to break the report up into several segments. I’ve got so many reactions, but I just don’t feel up to organizing them into one cohesive essay. So, I am thinking on entry about the food, another about the winners, another about who all I met… you get the idea.
Let’s start with the most thrilling moment of the evening. I was in the little girls room– I followed Natasha so we could dish about two people at our table kinda-sorta coming to fisticuffs. (It was minor, but still sort of interesting. A certain agent put a Vulcan death-grip on the person sitting next to me and told him to shut up so other people could hear.) Well, I was relating this, word for word, when in walks TONI MORRISON. Gossip ceased. It wasn’t appropriate to take a snap shot in the loo… so I just sort of waited and stalked. (The result: the pic on the right of Natasha, Toni Morrison, and Terri McMillan!)
Another gushing celebrity moment was meeting Ira Glass. I am such an NPR Nerd. I will admit, here in public, to loving “This American Life.” Check out the photo album. There’s good stuff in there.

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NBA: The Food!

Sweet TrayWe started with some sort of cold potato situation. Not exactly sure what it was called. Imagine potato wrapped in smoked salmon. Not exactly my favorite treat, but I ate it anyway. Then, the entre. Lamb chops. My favorite. The dessert was a mix of things, a little dab of ice cream, some sort of soft cake-like thing. What can I say? I came, I saw, I ate. And when it was over, Natasha and I went to all all-night diner and ate again!

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I Guess We Do Sort of Look Alike

Asali Solomon and Tayari JonesWhile at the National Book Awards, people kept congratulating me on my nomination. Some people complimented me on my beautiful reading. When I didn’t win, a couple of really nice folks said they had been pulling for me, and certainly I’ll get it next time. I was gracious, of course. But here’s the thing: I wasn’t up for an award! They had me confused with one of the following people: Edwidge Danticat– who was nominated for “Brother, I’m Dying.” or maybe M. Sindy Felin, who was nominated for “Touching Snow” or maybe Asali Solomon who read in the 5 Under 35 event. The picture at the left is me and Asali. All black people don’t look alike but we sorta do.
Ed, got me on tape talking about this. I still stand by what I told him. I mean the flip side of all black folks seeming interchangable at an event like this is that every black woman in the room got to be a celebrity for one night!

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Ohio State Murders

Last night, Sarah Schulman, my unofficial Virgil as I Dante my way through New York, took me to see Ohio State Murders, a play by Adrienne Kennedy. I was thrilled at the invitation. One of the reasons I moved from Urbana, Illinois to NYC was to, well, go to plays. But really, when you are new to town it’s hard to know what to see. Sarah, an accomplished playwright, knows her way around the theatre district.
(Self pat-on-the-back: I found my way there all by myself on the subway, no help from friends or websites!)
The playbill was mysteriously worded, “Ohio State Murders portrays Suzanne Alexander, a fictional African American writer whose life both is, and is not, like her author’s…” The effect of this was a uneasiness throughout the audience. Did this really happen? After all, the plot was pretty disturbing: An older well known black woman writer is giving a lecture at Ohio State University explaining why her work is so violent. On one level, it is a story of the birth of an intellectual and on another is a murder mystery and the crime is infanticide. When you factor in that Adrienne Kennedy is herself 76 years old and a graduate of Ohio State, you can’t help but feel a tightening in your stomach.
The tickets were a little pricey ($80), but I am glad that I went. The theater itself was only about three-quarters full with a mixed audience. There was one celebrity spotting: Cynthia Nixon from Sex in The City was there with her partner. Beside me, Sarah Schulman said, “See, she is a real actor. She goes to see good plays, not just the red carpet stuff.”
I am thinking to go to one play a month. Anyone have any suggestion as to what I should see next?
Related links:

  • The lead in this production was played by Lisa Gay Hamilton who played Ludacris’s mama on the season finale of “Law and Order: SVU”.
  • But Ruby Dee originated the role in 1992.
  • The NYT gave the play a good review.
  • An interview with Adrienne Kennedy.
  • File this under “a damn shame.” There is no Wikipedia entry for Adrienne Kennedy.
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    OMG, GWN!

    It’s midnight and I have a plane to catch at 7am for Chicago, but instead of sleeping, I just had to take a minute to post about the fantastic fundraiser for Girls Write Now.
    But before I report the night’s fabulousness, let me remind you what GWN is all about. Girls Write Now matches at youth girls with professional writing mentors. All the statistics are impressive, but my favorite is the 100% college acceptance rate. And since tonight’s event was a fundraiser, let me encourage you to break off a little something for such a worthy cause.
    OK, that said, on with the report.
    At first I thought the event was for the girls and their mentors, but I was informed that the young folks had already had thier shin-dig at Bluestockings Bookstore earlier in the evening. The second set was for adults only. This was to be grown folks business.
    Lauren asked if I wanted to go first and I said yes because the first reader has no act to follow. Or so I thought. Before I went on, we were treated to a warm up act from a dancer/actor by the name of Creamy Stevens. Need I say more? The Slipper Room is a burlesque club, so you expect somebody to take off some clothes. I am no prude but I would prefer that the stripping happen after my reading. After Creamy left the stage I read from The Untelling and the audience was very kind and didn’t ask me to remove one item of clothing and for this, I am very grateful.
    Next was Janice “Girlbomb” Erlbaum, reading from her forthcoming memoir Have you Found Her. (Can I say I can’t believe she got her blog post up before me!)She read us an excerpt about volunteering in the shelter for homeless youth where she spent much of her own adolescence. Powerful stuff. When that book hits the shelves, it will be on my shelf.
    Then came the musical act. Royal Pink. Oh baby! You all know I love live music. I guess you would call them an indie rock group. They are four women singing songs about sex, politics, sex, and general female empowerment. I loved it. I bought their CD and a shirt and a sticker.
    The evening was wrapped up with Miss Saturn, a hoola hooping professional. And, a cosmo with the band!
    Pictures? Of course there are pictures!

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    92 Ain’t Nothing But A Number

    Raquel Hill has John Hope Franklin and Tyehimba Jess has Les Paul.
    Yesterday, I placed a call to Tyehimba Jess right before getting on the Path train to return to Jersey. “I’m on my way to a concert,” he said. (He knows that I love myself a concert.) “I’ll pay your cover,” he promised. “I’ll even buy you a gimlet.” (He had me at “concert”, but I gladly accepted all the other promises.)
    Once we were in the taxi, he explained that was a rare opportunity. The headliner, Les Paul, is 92 years old. “He’s not going to be on the planet for long! The man is a legend! He changed the sound of the blues!”
    When we got to The Iridium Jazz Club, there was a line wrapped around the building. Les Paul’s fans were many and devoted. The man sells out two shows every Monday. Word spread through the crowd that the show was sold out.
    “I’m sorry, Tyehimba,” I said. “I know you must be disappointed.”
    “Wait,” he said. “Maybe there will be some extra seats.”
    “Well,” I said. “If there’s only one seat left, I want you to take it.”
    “Really?” he said.
    “Yeah, really.”
    He got all choked up. “Thanks Sis.”
    “It’s fine,” I said, disentangling myself and pushing him a little toward the door way. “Take the last seat.”
    From behind us, people in line commented, “That’s a good woman.”

    Continue reading

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    If this Town Is Just An Apple…

    Tyehimba Jess and the SongbirdLast night, I went to the Bowery Poetry Club… Well, I spent the day trying to get to the Bowery Poetry Club. I intended to make the 3pm celebration of the life of Sekou Sundiata. However, I couldn’t get my act together. The next event at the BPC was Roger Bonair Agard performing “To Be Young, Fast, and Black.” Sadly, I Dynamic Triomissed that too, but everyone was raving about it. I am happy to report that I did make it to the after-party.
    In the crowd were some of my favorite poets, including one Tyehimba Jess, whom I hadn’t seen in way too long. I also met Willie Perdomo, whose reputation precedes him.
    Roger and RuthAnd speaking of things I missed, night before last, everyone went to see Latasha Diggs WOW the crowd at the Whitney.
    Here are some random pics.

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    Let’s Do It Again!

    Last night, The Brand New Heavies played the Highline Ballroom and turned it out.
    I was hoping, this time, to finally meet the band. My chances were Dream on, Dreamer! good. I had received an email from thier manager promising a backstage pass, but alas, when I arrived, my name wasn’t on the list and I felt like a gate crasher. “I’m Tayari,” I pleaded. “Tayari-the-blogger!” No dice.
    It was all good, though. I was there with my best girlfriends, Vickie and Aisha (you may remember them from other BNH events) and Vickie and Aisha each brought a friend and (as usual) and we made friends once we got there. One of the best things about BNH is that their fans are extremely cool. Once the music started we all did what we do best. We danced, we sang. When I say dance, I mean, we really showed out. I am talking about spins and kicks.
    Afterwards, we all went over to Tillman’s for the after-set. The place was pretty packed, but the host was a Morehouse Man and membership does have its privileges. We were seated with our new friends, Carmia and Gregg. (She’s a designer and he’s a photographer.)Just when I thought the evening was winding down, in walked N’DEA DAVENPORT, the lead singer.
    She is so beautiful with a radiant spirit. She stopped at our table. “I saw all of you out there.” I was hoping she would compliment us on our spins and kicks, but this was good enough. We gushed, we laughed. And I couldn’t think of anything to say! Me, with nothing to say!
    She was about to walk away, and I at least had to say, something. I didn’t want to tell her that I spent all last summer on the Greyhound chasing the band up and down the eastern seaboard. I definitely wasn’t going to try the “I’m Tayari, the blogger”, thing again.
    She was turning to go toward what I guess was the VIP area when I called out, “I think your music has great integrity!”
    N’Dea was all glammed out in a silk kimono jacket and fancy sunglasses, but she really really heard what I said, or even better, she heard what I meant.
    “Thank you,” she said. “That’s important to me.”
    The pictures are really fun!
    Rachel just sent me a link to her pretty, artsy, professional-camera, mad skills, photos from the night!

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