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11 Random Things #SOL23

November 14, 2023

A lot has happened since my last, non strictly a reading update post, so here is a catch-up post in list form, mostly about hanging with friends.

pics of me and my friends

1. I went to a taping of The Jennifer Hudson Show with a friend of mine. Unlike in all of the clips I’ve seen floating around Instagram, our taping did not feature a guest who sang so there was NO singing from Jennifer or anyone else. Which. Kelly Clarkson sings on every episode of her show. I’m just saying.

It was fun, especially seeing and talking to the people in the audience. The woman sitting next to us said it was her fifth time attending a taping and, when we arrived, the woman in front of us said, “I can’t believe I’m about to see my idol!” It was all very cute.

After, we went to dinner at Hungry Crowd, which was so good that we both cleared our plates, AND I left an actual review on Yelp! further proving that people leave reviews either when they love, love, love a place or are very dissatisfied.

2. Another friend was visiting for a work thing, so we met at Ms Chi Cafe, the restaurant of one of my favorite Top Chef contestants, Shirley Chung. (I want to one day have a meal from at least one of the restaurants each former Top Chef contestant owns in Los Angeles, so thank you to my friend and to Shirley Chung for helping me cross one off my list.) The food did not disappoint, and the signature Jumbo Cheeseburger Potstickers were *chef’s kiss*. The best part of the evening (besides the company, of course) is that our server came out and told us the kitchen was about to close and asked if we wanted to order anything else: “Perhaps donuts?” To which we responded, basically in unison, “DONUTS?” He understood that to mean yes (which it did), so donuts we did order. The funny part is that I had looked at the menu before we met up at the restaurant but somehow forgot about the donuts because everything else we ate was so good. I obviously will never make that mistake again.

3. The other fun thing about that dinner is that I somehow did not notice/know that Ms Chi is right across the street from The Ripped Bodice, which I have been to MULTIPLE times. And since I was a little early to meet my friend, I had to make the great sacrifice of browsing in the bookstore while I waited for her. The problem with The Ripped Bodice (besides all the books, natch) is that it’s the one place in town where I can smell Briarwick Candles of which I have too many and also of which I bought at least one (if not two) new ones while I was there. (Also, they just released holiday candles which their Instagram person told me would be available to smell at Ripped Bodice, and y’all need to pray for my pocketbook because I already know I’m probably [definitely] going to wind up buying the Christmas Tree one.)

And because it was a great night to see friends, I ran into a friend of mine who works at the bookstore so got to catch up with her a bit before dinner.

4. I signed up to take the Pilot Bootcamp class at Script Anatomy. I do not know why I did this (I know exactly why I did this) since now I have homework.

5. I also signed up to take Storytelling for Social Justice through UCLA Extension and, well, see #4. Plus, I misread the course description and didn’t realize the focus is on nonfiction not fiction, which would be fine if I wanted to write nonfiction. (I most decidedly do not.) I am learning a lot, but I have defaulted to the behavior of some of my students, by which I mean I don’t know what to do for the major project of which we’re supposed to turn in 5-10 pages per week, so I have just…not turned anything in. I turn in all of the other assignments, mind. Just not the big one. So. Yeah.

6. I took a trip to Maryland so that I could see my longest running friends and visit my hometown as part of my sabbatical research. While there, I went to Russ Parr’s birthday happy hour at the MGM National Harbor, the field dedication at my high school homecoming (I convinced my friend to go to the game with me, which was great because I got to hang out with her and her son), visited my undergrad (which I graduated from 20 years ago this year), coordinated a meetup between my grad school friends and longest running friends, attended the Porches writing retreat (a friend gifted me two days), and had a sleepover with my longest running friends. A time was had.

7. The reason I took the trip when I did is that there was a perfect storm of conference overlap between two of my grad school friends AND one of my other grad school friends moved to DC and, as noted, my longest running friends are there. For various reasons, the grad school friend who was at a conference in Baltimore was unable to make The Gathering™ (what I called the friend meetup) but, because I wanted to go see my undergrad campus and all the changes that had been made, I arranged to meet her in Baltimore.

Our first order of business was to get food. She’s a vegetarian so found a soul food vegan restaurant not far from her hotel. As we were leaving the restaurant, two guys in a car asked us if we knew where it was, so we told them we had just come out of the restaurant. They asked how we thought it was blah blah blah small talk blah. Then, after we got in our car, one of the guys came up to my window and asked, “Do y’all like concerts?” To which I replied, “What kind of concerts?” And he said, “BBD, Xscape, 90s stuff.” To which I said, “Uh, yeah.” So then he gave us two free tickets to the Baltimore R&B Experience.

The guy, apparently, is the road manager for BBD.

When we got to the show, we found out they were floor seats, not (too) far from the stage. We got there just in time for BBD who were phenomenal as always. I had seen them before and would definitely see them again. Xscape closed the show and they were also good, but they have a very different style from BBD (they perform out while BBD invites the audience in) so the experience wasn’t quite the same, but they were definitely worth the price of admission. (That’s a joke because the tickets were free, see?) It was so fun, and we had such a good time. It was also my friend’s birthday weekend, so she was beyond thrilled.

8. The Gathering™ was also a good time. (Full disclosure: I was so excited the night before that I hardly slept like a kid before the first day of school hahaha.) Before we met up with my other friends, I took my grad school friends on a tour of where I grew up so we hit the major locations (neighborhoods, schools, etc). This of course took us through DC, particularly near Howard University (my mom used to work at the hospital), and the gentrification blew my mind. One of my friends pointed out that I had seen gentrification before, but I told her that this was the first time I had seen it in neighborhoods I was familiar with before the changes had been made, so I could actually see the difference. It was completely disconcerting and infuriating.

9. Porches was nice, and I definitely see why my friend who gifted me the time at the retreat loves it so much. I thought my little house at the Joshua Tree residency was an introvert’s paradise, but I was wrong. Porches is. There is nothing and no one there but trees, trees, and more trees. The check-in info said to stop at the Food Lion (about 20 minutes away) because you would not want to drive back down to get food once you were there. That was correct. There were so many winding roads through so many trees, and it was not a trip I wanted to repeat until/unless I had to. So, unlike with Joshua Tree, I do not know if I would have lasted seven weeks there because I probably would have lost my mind. I probably (maybe?) could last two weeks, tops. A true introvert, however, could probably do seven weeks easy.

10. After MD, I made my way to FL. I had a little get together (of people who were in town–I forgot last weekend was a holiday weekend). Then, I went to THE BEACH. A proper beach with warm weather and colder than I wanted water, but water that was still warm enough to get into. I also used that time to catch up with another friend who lives very close to the beach (10 minutes!), and it was so great to see her and catch up and also to do it at the beach. Oh, beach. I miss you so.

11. And now I’m writing this from my parents’ place in FL. I got to catch up with another friend today and will hopefully be going to the movies to catch The Marvels before I head to the final leg of my trip in Tennessee. And then it’s back to the West Coast and my regular life.

I’ve really had a stellar time visiting all the people I don’t get to see that often now that I have moved across the country. I really need to visit more.

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  1. nancyrsantucci

    Eleven Random Things is quite a whirlwind of fun, family, and friends. You took me to the places where you traveled, and my favorite thing was number two. I am a Top Chef fan, so your quest to experience Top Chef restaurants in LA sounds like an ideal experience. You certainly got the right food at Ms Chi Cafe. The potstickers and donuts both made my mouth water.

    • Akilah

      I forgot to add that the Voltaggio Brothers have a restaurant at the National Harbor in MD, but it was a little too rich ($$$) for me that visit. I would have to seriously plan if I want to eat there. So I was close, but no cigar.

  2. Glenda Funk

    I had the best time reading about all your fun times, but I kept thinking: “I need to get a life!” LOL. Then I had to remind myself you probably did all these things in a bit more than a minute. During the summer of ‘22 I took a three week road trip w/ a couple friends. I think I probably have a long list of things we did! But sitting on my couch eating ice cream I’m dreaming of more fun times. That gentrification, however, is disheartening. New and shiny ain’t necessarily better. It’s often the opposite.

  3. Darin Johnston

    Oh. My. Goodness. What a whirlwind of food and friends and experiences! As I clicked on each link, the variety of food is amazing (rural Iowa didn’t offer quite that much!) and to get free tickets to see BBD? How cool is that?? Thank you for sharing your time with us! Like Glenda said, “I need to get a life!” 🙂


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