Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The 2013 Okapi Sampler!

Soul music.   Music from the soul, from the very core of being.   Soul music came to us from the joy and pain and love and yearning of African-Americans who used the tools given to them by jazz, blues, and gospel music to create a heavenly sound for us here on Earth.   Of course, the music has adapted and evolved over the years from Southern soul, to the Motown sound, to early '70s Philly soul.  It seemed for a long while that soul music had been picked apart and watered down so much by disco, and hip hop, and house, that it became just another historical genre with little relevance today. 

But, 2013 showed us that our souls still yearn to connect and understand and share.   While technology has put the world in our phones, soul music has re-emerged as a real way to connect to the most human aspects of existence, beyond what social media can provide.   Today's soul makers are using technology to reacquaint us with our core selves.   The best music of 2012 seemed to reach out to the world, while this past year, it seems we reached within.  

And, here are the Lair of the Okapi's favorite songs of 2013....







 
 #10 - The Juan Maclean - "You Are My Destiny"





#9 - Sophie - "Bipp"




#8 - Burial - "Hiders"




#7 - Justin Timberlake (feat. Jay-Z) - "Suit & Tie




#6 - James Blake - "Retrograde"




# 5 - Laura Mvula - "Green Garden"




# 4 - Disclosure (feat. Sam Smith) - "Latch"




# 3 - FKA Twigs - "Water Me"




# 2 - Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell) - "Get Lucky"




#1 - Rhye - "Open" 


There was a lot of good music this year, and it was tough to narrow it down to just ten.   Here are some more great tracks that touched my soul this year. 

Classixx (feat. Nancy Whang) - "All You're Waiting For"
Lorde - "Royals"
Forest Swords - "Thor's Stone"
Holy Ghost! - "Dumb Disco Ideas"
James Blake - "Voyeur"
Janelle Monae (feat. Erykah Badu) - "Q.U.E.E.N."
!!! - "Slyd" 
Jesse Rose - "Dance With Me"
Arrested Development - "Living"



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - The Circle Is Now Complete

For most of my adult life, I've referred to 1992 as the best year of my life.  And it was.   And I thought it always would be.    I've had more than my fair share of fun and wonder since then, but 1992 was just so pivotal and so, well,  hyperreal.   It was a year defined by a feeling of being in the exact right place at the exact right time...a feeling of the Universe lining up to define my life. 1992 saved me, gave me hope, and put me on a beautiful life journey.

And 2013 came and gave me the most beautiful gifts the Universe has to offer - purpose, meaning, wholeness, and love.   The circle is now complete. 

Tony and I started off the year in Tybee Island.   The Tybee Island New Year's crowd was a little rowdy for what we were hoping for, but a morning beach walk was the perfect way to start a wonderful year.






In February, we hiked up Stone Mountain (a lot).   We enjoyed some sketch comedy at Sketchworks, and saw "Bike America" at the Hertz Theatre, both of which were pretty groovy and reminded us of reason # 467 that we LOVE living in Atlanta - so much awesome local theatre.  The end of the month gave us a quick work-sponsored trip to Nashville, where we got to see the Nashville family (reason # 6 that we LOVE living in Atlanta...close proximity to the Nashville family).  









In March, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding DOMA, and a sense of hope spread across the country and a sea of red equality signs spread across Facebook.   The end of the month gave us a wonderful visit from Jenny and Sean and a beautiful view from the Sun Dial. 








April was just swell!   We took a nice long Atlanta Beltline walk on a remarkably beautiful day.   We had another work-sponsored trip - this time to St. Augustine and Jacksonville, and on the drive back we decided to take a "short detour" through the Okefenokee Swamp, and it was spectacular!    Alligators, herons, big pines...it was very much like the Everglades, but close to home.   Really one of my highlights for the year.    A couple of weekends later, we decided to check out the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, and stumbled across the setting of "Fried Green Tomatoes" in Juliette, GA.   A few more Stone Mountain hikes, and a quick work trip to Huntsville rounded out a great month.  








And, on May 18th, I proved that sometimes stories about little boys with really rough starts have beautiful happy endings.   After over 7 years together, Tony and I were legally married in Syracuse, New York in front of nearly all of our most beloved family and friends.   And, I came to understand that this man, this moment, all of this, is the meaning of life. 
 







After our wedding, we spend a night in Niagara Falls, four days in Toronto, and along and wonderful road trip across Ontario, down through Detroit, Cincinnati, Kentucky, and Knoxville, Tennessee.   




When we got back home, we had just two weeks to wait before I was able to hold the most beautiful thing I've ever laid my eyes and heart upon.







After the life shifting events of May and June, the rest of the year sort of pales, but there was still lots of fun to be had and lots of quieter moments of savoring the new roles of "husband" and "papa," and the unexpected joys of creating our new modern, modern family.   And, of course, there were still lots of hikes to be taken, like the one Tony and I took at Sweetwater Creek.  






All I can really remember about August is rain.   Like monsoon-style rains.   In fact, it rained for weeks on end all through the summer, but by August I just couldn't take it anymore.   Buckets and buckets of rain.   Oh, and bugs.   Lots of bugs.   Luckily, Michelle and Mark were getting married in Syracuse, so that called for another road trip.   We picked up Mike and Margie in Nashville, spent a night in Pittsburgh, and showed them the view from Mt. Washington.   





We were still in Syracuse for the first of September, and I got a taste of what "camp" is all about.  






When we got back to Atlanta, I got to see Depeche Mode for the first time since the "Violator" tour in 1990, and Tony was able to sing along to several of the songs.   My heart was filled with pride.  




For Tony's birthday, I took him to see Barry Manilow's new musical, "Harmony," which was phenomenal.   I couldn't sing along with any songs, but I think Tony is a little proud of my new-found appreciation for musical theater.   








October was full of fun stuff.  A visit from bestie-in-law, Lauren.   The Pine Lake Festival, a visit to ART Station.  And an amazing Blue Ridge Mountains getaway with our new Brady Bunch family.    Blue Ridge Parkway, Gatlinburg, Cherokee.  Such an awesome time. 
 





We made a first time visit to the Horizon Theatre in L5P, and saw "Third Country," a play based on the refugee experience in Clarkston, and we were blown away.   Just wonderful.







In November, I returned to the scene of the crime...to Panama City Beach, which is where my first memories were made.   I don't miss living in Florida, but I still love a nice walk on the beach.  





After a few days next to the ocean, we returned just in time for peak autumn (which means soul-crushing piles and piles and piles of leaves).   On the 18th, we celebrated our 8 year anniversary, and then headed to Franklin, Tennessee for some Thanksgiving family time and our annual walk around the old Carnton Plantation.   







December started with nice dinner with Gwen, an old-time friend from Pittsburgh, and a weekend visit from my sister and family (which ended with a stray cat in our garage).  And, we were able to catch John Waters' one-man Christmas show at the Variety. 









We ended the month and the year with an overly ambitious "Holiday Magic Tour" driving from Atlanta to Pittsburgh for a few days, then to Syracuse, for Christmas.   From Syracuse, we headed to Richmond via an ill-planned lunch "detour" through Philadelphia.   After Richmond, we took advantage of a drive through Raleigh to say hello to some wonderful, wonderful friends (and their soon-to-be-here baby!).   All in all, we our road trip allowed visits with 28.8% of my Facebook friends.






After our 2,000 mile road trip, we decided to saw goodbye to the best year of my life (so far) by cozying up on the sofa watching "Hairspray."   And the circle is now complete. 







 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2012 - The Year The World Didn't End

2012.   The year the world didn't end.  Well, for me, in some ways, the world, as I knew it, did end in 2012.  
 

I'm a pretty chipper guy.   And, I'm so, so grateful for the love and the life that I have.   But, this past year was marked by some pretty big shifts in life perspectives made from real and hard losses. There were lots of smiles, Stone Mountain hikes, and good theater too, though...


In January, Tony and I hiked up Stone Mountain (a lot), made some new friends at East Side Pride's "Eat Your Art Out" event, and had a pretty life-changing dinner date with the MarSmithalls at El Jinete.  





In February, spring came early, and daffodils were blooming by the first of the month.  Tony and I saw "Memphis" at the Fox Theatre, and what a great show!    I volunteered some at Zoo Atlanta, and organized an East Side Pride "Shopping for Equality" day at JCPenney at Northlake Mall as a thank you for the company's decision to stand by Ellen as their spokesperson.   And, one lucky Friday evening, I happened to run into my celebrity crush, Sanjay Gupta, on a Stone Mountain hike.  Of course, I turned in to a crazed paparazzo...






March was busy, busy, busy.   There was a "Dunaire Dines Out" at Mi Casa and and an East Side Pride bowling night at Stars and Strikes.  Tony and I saw "Billy Elliot" at the Fox, which was overwhelmingly meh.  I made a long hard drive to Pittsburgh to visit Ruth, and had some nice quality time with her.  The next week, Linda and Nicole came to visit us in Atlanta, which was awesome!  Tony and I went on my work-sponsored "Dirty South Tour," hitting Birmingham, Tupelo, Memphis, and Nashville along the way.   And, we got caught in the in a soul-cleansing rain shower on Stone Mountain....





In April, we celebrated our three year Atlanta anniversary.  Tony and I had a romantic-type date night full of jazz, fondue, and live alligators at Dante's Down The Hatch, and we had a nice visit from Karen and Ken and an all-too-quick hello from bestie-in-law, Lauren,.  We saw "Les Miserables" at the Fox and I came to understand how thoroughly genius live theater can be.  





I started off May with a work trip to Huntsville, Alabama - which I found out is much less awful than I assumed it would be.  President Obama made history, and made me cry, by coming out in support of marriage equality.  Shawn came to visit from Wi-Cheetah, and I really loved seeing him again, and I fell even more madly in love with Atlanta over Memorial Day weekend with Mondo Homo and the Atlanta Jazz Festival!   






June was hard.  It started with a heartbreaking call from Andrea, who had just lost her best friend.   Felix was so smart, so charming, so inspiring, and so ridiculously funny.   He is gone way too soon.   





June went out with a oppressively hot bang with record breaking heat, and the highest temperature ever recorded in Atlanta...106 degrees.   But, of course, climate change is a Liberal conspiracy.  





July brought some much needed laughs and friend time with a fun night at SketchWorks improv theatre, a visit from long-lost Strudel from Germany, and a "Big Chill" weekend with the MarSmithalls & Company in a mountain house in Asheville, North Carolina!  





On August 25th, 2012, the only mother I ever knew passed.   I gave the eulogy. 

My mother, Ruth Bentley, was born in September 1918, just a few minutes from here in Wilson.   She was the third of William and Sadie’s four children, and by all family accounts, she was a real pistol from the get-go.    Her sister, Gladys, used to tell stories about her rebellious little sister’s adventures of cutting school and getting in trouble.  We loved hearing Ruth’s stories of when she was a race car driver and about the job she had as a truck driver, long before women were allowed to do those things.  She was born at a time when most women weren’t allowed to have opinions.   Women weren’t even allowed to vote in 1918, but Ruth never allowed anyone to tell her what she was not allowed to do.
I think a lot of sons speak of recently departed mothers using words like gentle, quiet, and soft.   Well, my mother was wasn’t any of those things.   My mother was strong and independent, loud and opinionated.  My mother was a hard-worker, a real fighter, and she loved having a good time too.   As she would say, she had a mind of her own.   She hung out in, and worked in, bars and honky-tonks  and she smoked and cussed with the best of them.   She met Ed in a bar in West Elizabeth and I never saw her have a better time than those long nights of playing guitars and singing  along with Ed and Peg and Ben until the wee hours.   Yes, there were no Ladies’ Auxillary luncheons on Ruth Bentley’s schedule.
But, it’s important to remember that she was also the type of woman who worked hard to provide for her only daughter in times when single mothers weren’t spoken of.   It’s important to remember that she was the type of woman who, at 55 years old, would take in a 3 year old boy with nowhere to go, give him a home, and raise him through his teenage years when other women her age were retiring enjoying a slower pace of life.   She was the type of woman who loved her grandchildren beyond measure, and the type of woman whose last smile came from holding her new great-grandson.

Ruth Bentley was a truly extraordinary woman, and I am so proud of her strength and independence,  and it truly warms my heart to see that she passed these characteristics on to her daughter and her grandchildren, and I am sure they will gift their children with these traits.   What a wonderful legacy my mother has left in her passing.   


She was such a vibrant personality, it will be hard for me to understand a world without her.  I will miss her always, and be forever grateful for the life that she provided me. 







Thank the Universe, September came with some much needed House Music medicine for the soul at House In The Park.  

video
 

I took Tony on the Big Apple / Big 5-0 Birthday Trip.   We spent four fun-packed days in New York City, and saw Betty, Kelly, and The Poodle, and had a fantastic mini-reunion with Tony's much cherished friends from his college days at Albany State.  We had a really great time with Betty at the Jackie Beat show, we saw "The Lion King," and visited the MOMAOh, and I happened to have packed one of my favorite shirts, which I've had since the early '90s (so?) and did a little "then and now" photo...1996 to 2012.



After a fun, but exhausting, NYC romp, we took the train to Syracuse for a 5 day visit with family and a quick day trip to Rochester, which is super underrated (it has a f&*%ing waterfall in the middle of downtown!).   



After getting back home to the ATL, we were treated to an AMAZING production of War Horse at the Fox, and then treated even more to a visit from Dawn and Karina so we could all head over to Piper's wedding in Alabama (which, of course, culminated in a near altercation in an Alabama McDonald's parking lot over my Obama bumper sticker).  And, I took the coolest photo ever, of Louie greeting a late night visitor.






Brian came to visit in October for Atlanta Gay Pride, and we took him on a day trip to Chattanooga to satisfy my unrelenting hunger for kitschy roadside tourist attractions.   Rock City and Ruby Falls definitely did not disappoint and the Fairytale Cavern at Rock City was just over-the-top gloriously creepy gnome psychedelia.  Loved it.  The MarSmithalls had some profoundly wonderful news, and we had a nice afternoon of punkin carving at the MarSmithall compound with Ryan and Stimpy.   




November was exceedingly beautiful and started out right with a nice autumn hike with Ann, and a second term for President Obama!    Tony and I celebrated our 7th anniversary at our favorite special occasion type restaurant, Cafe Alsace, and we made our annual trip to Nashville for some Thanksgiving warmth and family.   We brought Tony's parents back to Atlanta with us for a not-long-enough visit and we took them to the Sun Dial. 




Just before Ro and Joe left, I was stricken by a deadly plague that kept me laid up for most of December.   Probably the longest and most recurring sickness I've ever hadYeah, December was a blast.  The world did not end, as predicted by the Mayans, and Tony and I had a particularly nice deep winter evening in front of the fireplace on the Solstice, and we saw "Les Miserables" at the movies with Lou and Kin on Christmas Day.   We said goodbye to 2012 with a trip to Savannah and watched the year end and the sun set while sitting on a swing, on Tybee Island Beach. 





And the world didn't end.   Sort of.