Finding Inspiration

As a person who thrives on creative energy, I’m always intrigued by what inspires people to create art. I’ve been inspired to write poems by just a single word. There have been buildings, names and experiences that inspired my writing (including the novel I’m currently working on). There is just something invigorating and phenomenal about the fact that a tiny seed — a thought, an idea, a vision — can spur someone to create art that amazes, entertains and inspires.

Just like 96.99997% of people out there, I am a fan of Beyoncé‘s music. By no means am I one of her crazed stans, but I do enjoy her music…well most of her music. There are some songs of Beyoncé’s that I just don’t like. (Sorry, people.) Some songs of hers seem to come off as manufactured, formulaic, uninspired fluff. Beyoncé and her creative team of collaborators undoubtedly have their fingers on the pulse of whatever’s hot at the moment. Now that’s not a bad thing. But I have a greater appreciation for art that is organic, and not borne out of a trend or some commercial objective. There’s a distinct difference between “art for art’s sake” and art fueled by profit. I know I’m probably going to incite the wrath of a few stans, but Beyoncé’s proven that she’s a master of manufacturing wildly successful commercial radio-friendly hits. New York Magazine’s Amos Barshad seems somewhat disappointed that this time around she wasn’t trying to go the hit-making route. I am glad she didn’t. When I read about the what inspired her to create her latest album, 4, something clicked with me.

In a recent interview in Essence magazine, Beyoncé said she took a year off from music to live her life and be inspired by the world around her. She said that by working with the musicians from Fela!, the Tony-award winning Broadway musical her hubby Jay-Z produced, that she allowed herself to get lost in the music. “What I learned most from Fela,” she said, “was artistic freedom.”

I loved the fact that she stepped away from the commercial music machine to “have life experiences” to inspire her new project.  “Having time to grow as a human being was really inspiring, and gave me a lot to pull from,” she told Essence.

(If I may digress here, I do believe that Beyoncé severing professional ties with her father, the Machiavellian Mathew Knowles, was the best thing she’s ever done for her career. I’d like to think that with her father no longer ruining managing her has contributed to the artistic freedom that was the guiding force on her new project. And now back to our regularly scheduled program…)

Listening to 4, I can feel Beyoncé’s newfound artistic freedom. The fact alone that she wanted her project to have “vibrata, live instrumentation and classic songwriting” (as told to Complex mag) was enough to make impress me. Yeah, I know she doesn’t singlehandedly write her own music, but she contributes to the making of her music, and she served as executive producer for this project. There’s something beautifully raw and honest about 4. To me, it doesn’t come off as a bunch of gimmicky, pre-fabbed hits. It sounds like it’s just music for music’s sake. And I like that.

And speaking of inspiration, Beyoncé’s “Love OnTop”, an infectious up-tempo song with a distinct old school vibe, inspired Heather Traska (@heathertraska on Twitter) to do a mind-blowing a cappella version of the song. Check it out here:

My Multiple Personalities…

I have a confession to make. I am a madwoman.

I have another confession to make. I’m an architect and a carpenter, too.

And even though I don’t have a law degree. I’m also a judge.

It’s all very true.

You see, as a writer, I like to create with reckless abandon. I like to put characters on the page, move them around, give them words to say, thoughts to think. I give them dreams then I might crush them. I create worlds for my characters, sketching out visions in words. Sometimes I go to extremes, creating lavish settings or paltry spaces depending on what I want.

It’s a beautiful thing to write freely. Writing without being tethered to guidelines and restrictions allows for maximum creativity. For me, writing with such abandon is probably the most enjoyable part of the writing process.

According to the Flowers Paradigm created by Betty Sue Flowers, I am in touch with my madman (madwoman, as I prefer to call her). Flowers, who taught English at University of Texas at Austin, says that the madman is full of ideas, writes crazily and perhaps rather sloppily, gets carried away by enthusiasm or anger, and if really let loose, could turn out ten pages an hour.”

But the madman competes with other characters during the writing process, and many times, that conflicting energy brings us to an unpleasant halt. Sometimes my madwoman gets stopped in her tracks, and I get a case of the “red pen-itis” and start striking words. The sketch of my masterpiece isn’t even done and I’m already desecrating it before it’s even done. When that happens, my madwoman gets really pissed. Indignant, even. Before I know it, my architect with her nosy self shows up, trying move things along.

The Flowers Paradigm explains that there are four personalities that show up during the writing process: the madman, the architect, the carpenter and the judge. I’ve already introduced you to the madwoman, the one that writes all the great ideas and crazy stuff. Then there’s the architect that takes the great and crazy ideas and structures it to try to make some sense. The carpenter takes the plans developed by the architect to build the masterpiece. Finally, the judge shows up and gives your writing a careful review, polishing up the grammar and syntax, making sure everything is perfect.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m very much in touch with my madwoman. We hang out often. If you haven’t connected with your inner madwoman (or madman), now’s the time to embrace her. Take her to lunch. Give her time to go wild on the page. Let her do whatever it is she wants. Don’t question or criticize. When your madwoman is completely out of steam, let her go take a nap, or get a drink. Or ice cream (if she’s not lactose-intolerant). Celebrate her accomplishment. Be sure not to invite the architect, or carpenter or judge yet. They’ll set the madwoman off and kill the mood for sure. Trust me, I speak from experience.

After your madwoman is satiated, invite your architect over for coffee. Show them what your madwoman has done. Then let them get to work. They’ll take everything, create a blueprint for the carpenter to work from. Trust them to get the job done. Now’s not the time to let the madwoman sneak back in and cause a bunch of ruckus. I’ve done that before and all she does is kick the architect out and take over. Before I know it, I’ll have pages and pages of great ideas, but nothing close to a finished product. If you find yourself in that situation, give your madwoman a notebook and a pen and tell her to go sit down somewhere.

Once the architect has finished, thank them for their work, and escort them out the door. Now it’s time for the carpenter to come over and get to work. Your carpenter is fully capable of building a masterpiece with the architect’s blueprint. Trust them. They will build just what you envisioned.

So now, your piece is finished. It’s built. You like it. Time for the judge to review your work thoroughly and carefully. They will give it the polish it needs, and then make a ruling letting you know that you’re done. Case closed.

It’s important to recognize these different personalities and give them space when appropriate, or suppress them when they’re not needed. Understanding these roles, and working with them will improve the writing process. Flowers wrote, “Whatever joy there is in the writing process can come only when the energies are flowing freely — when you’re not stuck.”

Gotta go. My madwoman is calling…

Worse Than A Dark and Stormy Night…

Bad writing makes you do this.

“Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.” – Sue Fondrie

Full of hyperbole and overwrought with dramatic imagery, Sue Fondrie’s opening line has won her top honors from the fine folks who run the Bulwer-Lytton Contest. This contest, established in 1983, was named for Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the man who tormented the world of literature with what is probably the most horrific first sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night…”

The Bulwer-Lytton Contest, which was started by San Jose State University professor Scott Rice, celebrates (in jest) bad writing gone horribly wrong.

Fondrie, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, has been included in the “Lyttony” of past years’ winners. You can check out their horrifically wretched sentences, many of which will have you laughing, crying or cringing…or maybe churning your mind like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine.

Don’t try this at home, folks.

 

Source: Poets & Writers Magazine

The Grand Rapids Lip Dub

If you ask me, this has to be one of best music videos ever. Over 5,000 people shut down downtown Grand Rapids, MI and walked through the city lip-synching Don McLean’s “American Pie”. This video, conceived and produced by Rob Bliss, was shot with a single camera in one take.

Plate Sharing

When I decided to get off my duff and start my blog, I turned to my dear friend, fellow writer, my Twitter brother, graphic designer and Broadway star Clay Rivers for advice. Clay has his own blog (which is magnificent and a must-read, by the way), so I figured he’d be the ideal person to help me navigate the blogging waters.

Over a series of tweets, DMs (that’s direct messages for you non-Twitter types) and emails, I shared with him a few ideas for my blog. As is typical of most creative geniuses, Clay told me he’d take what I had given him and get back to me with something. I shared with Clay that my experience as a blogger fizzled when the old school AOL Journal went out of style and out of business. (Side note and shameless self-promotion: my two now-dormant blogs The Cicada Files and The Carb Lover’s Notebook are still out there.)

Clay (Dr. Rivers as I like to call him) created a blog that captured my style and my personality. He did all of the grueling work in WordPress to get it set up for me. Then he told me he had an idea for a custom header. Custom header? Shoot, I was happy to just have a blog.

Then one hectic Saturday afternoon, I got a phone call. It was Clay. He had another idea. Considering that I am unashamedly obsessed with breakfast food (hence the “Writer. Teacher. Breakfast Food Maker” tag line), he thought it would be cool to use the header to “set the table” for my blog. He asked me if I was game. Of course I was! It turns out that Clay had a photographer friend in NYC (the fantastically gifted Russ Rowland) who he said could bring this idea to fruition. I trusted that what he would come back with something that would be brilliant.

The end result wasn’t just brilliant. It was delicious. And cute! It was perfect.

Thank you, Clay & Russ!

Bon Appétit!

Photography by Russ Rowland

The Art of Giving Back

A few years ago, I stumbled upon an article about a writing workshop for ex-offenders in Baltimore’s City Paper that caught my interest. There was something folksy and raw about this grassroots workshop that brought together experienced writers and those looking to find their voice as they re-entered society. Many of the program’s participants had stories to tell about their lives beyond life behind bars and barbed wire. The name of the workshop — Writing Outside the Fence — seemed fitting. After reading the article, a sense of urgency swept over me. I had to be a part of this effort.

My mother instilled the “giving back” mentality in my younger sister and me while we were growing up. As children, we volunteered at church sorting and folding clothes for the needy, or helping out with the church’s soup kitchen. Instead of teaching us to pity the images of the destitute and the homeless on the TV screen, my mom took us out to see what homelessness looked like on the streets of Baltimore. We met orphaned children at a local shelter. We took sandwiches and coffee to men and women living on the city streets, under bridges and in alleyways. I learned a very sobering lesson about life at a very young age.

Reading the article about this writing workshop brought back memories of my experience as a literacy tutor at church. It was humbling for me, then in high school, to sit with men and women old enough to be my grandparents and help them learn to recoqnize letters, numbers and simple words. When they were able to read that first sentence aloud on their own, and write sentences for the first time, their sense of pride brought tears to my eyes. I had taken the letters and the words they were struggling to learn for granted.

And so, on a muggy afternoon in June of 2007, I headed downtown to Enoch Pratt Library‘s Central Branch for a reading by the participants in the Writing Outside the Fence workshop. I had to meet these people. Both the instructors and the participants were rock stars in my mind. I wanted to be a part of this effort to help those struggling to find and hone their voice.

Their writing blew me away. One after the other, they stood up to read powerful, beautifully-written pieces about life, love, loss, hope, darkness, regret, redemption and God. The creative energy in the room gave me a buzz. I wanted to sit in on the next workshop (which is open to the public, by the way). After the reading I introduced myself to the workshop organizer and told her as much. “That’s wonderful, she replied. “But we’re looking for instructors. Would you be interested?” I didn’t feel like I could contribute anything by teaching a workshop. But she asked me to give it a try.

I’m glad I did.

I’ve been involved in the Writing Outside the Fence workshops for four years now. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience. In addition to the weekly writing workshops (held on Tuesday at the Re-Entry Center at Mondawmin Mall), we’ve held several workshops and reading events at the Brock Bridge correctional facility in Jessup. I can look beyond the records and rap sheets and see the stories, the potential and the untapped talent that reside in the hearts of these men and women. Everyone has a story to tell, and no matter who you are, what you’ve done or where you’ve come from, everyone deserves to be heard.

Since becoming a part of the WOTF family, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for writing and for the power of words on the page. I’ve probably learned much more than I’ve taught in the past four years. There is a beauty in helping others breathe life into their thoughts and ideas in order unleash their stories waiting to be told.

Baltimore Book Festival – Sept. 23-25

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Mark your calendars for September 23-25, the dates for the 16th Annual Baltimore Book Festival! This is one of the premiere literary festivals in the country, featuring many of the best and brightest authors from across the country.

I absolutely love the Baltimore Book Festival. It’s held in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in all of Baltimore: Mount Vernon. The mid-September weather usually is just right, not too hot and not too cool.

The lineup for this year’s festival includes: Sherman Alexie, Common, Tananarive Due, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Laura Lippman, Roland Martin, Terry McMillan, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Tavis Smiley, Alice Walker and many more.

If you’re interested in being a part of the behind-the-scenes action at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival, you can sign up to volunteer with the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts. For aspiring writers, it’s a great way to get immersed in the literary world (and network with other writers, too).

It’s a shame that both the Baltimore Book Festival and the National Book Festival (sponsored by the Library of Congress) are on the same weekend. But if you can manage to make both events, you won’t regret it. However, if you can’t, don’t worry. Several authors, including Terry McMillan and Sherman Alexie, will be appearing at both festivals.

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Me and my fellow BOPA volunteers with former Minnesota governor and author Jesse Ventura.

A Story Is Born

Columbus Day 2009. I was just a month into my fourth semester of writing classes as Hopkins, a few days into a new job and I had less than 30 days until my wedding. I was trying my best to stay calm and organized, despite the growing frenzy that was brewing. There was still a lot to do for the wedding. The DIY bride in me was not willing to surrender the creative projects to my very capable wedding planner. Add to that the pressure of landing a new job…a government job where everything had a form and an acronym to boot.

On top of all of the real life pressures tugging at me, I had to churn out an endless stream of fresh writing and critiques for my fiction workshop at school. I was able to take an unpolished piece from a previous class, brush it up and submit it for workshop the first time around, but this time, I had to come up with something new. The clock was ticking. I had workshop on Saturday, and I didn’t have a word on the page. With just a few days (literally a few hours) to work with, I wasted no time putting something on the page. I pulled something from recent memory, and started shaping it into a story. I didn’t map it out ahead of time, or create an outline. I just started writing with reckless abandon. Characters just sprung into action. Scenes unfolded as quickly as the words came to mind. I didn’t put much into the piece in terms of consciousness. Looking back on my first draft of the story, I honestly don’t remember writing much of what was there. It just happened.

Then I turned the story in for workshop. My classmates had a week to read, re-read and then write a critique of my story detailing their opinions of what was working, what wasn’t and how I could revise it. I was prepared for a lot of comments about a lack of structure, a lack of focus, or about the fact that I wrote the piece in present tense.

What was said and what actually happened shocked me.

My classmates commented on how intimate and gripping the story was. Someone used the word “organic” to describe the writing. My professor sat at the front of the room, nodding and agreeing with much of what was being said. Then they delved into what needed work. Of course, the story was floundering in places. It was a rough draft. Of course, I had a lot of crying, and dashes of hyperbolic writing in places. I’m an emotional person and it tends to show up in my writing. There were other things that were mentioned as areas of potential improvement, but overall, my classmates like the piece.

The funny thing about writing workshops is that the person being workshopped is much like a pedestrian at the corner of a busy intersection watching rush-hour traffic. You have somewhere to go, you’ve got to get across, but you have to wait until the light changes. That’s how I felt watching my classmates dissect my writing, trying to figure out if my story was based on a real event (it was), or if it was part of a larger work (it wasn’t).

After class was over, my professor asked me to stay for a few because she needed to talk to me. I was nervous because a few weeks prior she had asked the same thing, but that time it was to admonish me for being late to class two weeks in a row. Commuting from Baltimore to DC even on the weekend was dicey as a bad accident or a DC protest could put the breaks on everything. I wasn’t late this particular week. In fact, I was early. I was nervous and embarrased watching my classmates stream out of the room and into the halls to enjoy the balance of their Saturday afternoon.

With everyone gone, and the door closed, she looked at me and said, “I don’t say this to everyone that comes into my class, but I have to say this to you: You have it.”

I was floored, stunned, thinking I knew what she was saying, but then I wasn’t so sure.

“I read your story the first time through and was blown away,” she said.

Blown away by a first draft? A rough draft? This wasn’t even my best writing.

She keenly sensed that I was just framing something on the page and that it wasn’t a part of a larger work (as in a novel or something), but she said, “it needs to be. This belongs in a novel.” She told me my characters — three generations of women coping together through a crisis — resonated with her. She told me my work could go places. She said I was “publishable.” I melted. I’d been called lots of things, but never “publishable” before.

After our discussion which seemed to go on for ever, I floated out of the room, onto the elevator and onto the streets of DC. Two large epiphanies unfolded before me that day. I was affirmed as a writer, by a writer, someone who went through the same writing program at Hopkins and went on to get a publishing deal with Random House. I also accepted the fact that the story that spilled onto the page was much bigger than I was willing to see before. The story had been there all the time; in fact, I had been running from it. However, a room full of talented and accomplished writers saw its merit and gave me the push I needed to acknowledge what had been there all along.

Artscape Turns 30

Artscape is synonymous with summer in Baltimore. It’s the time of the year when people and all things creative converge in the heart of the city’s Arts & Cultural District, when quirky and edgy are normal and square is not.

My first and fondest memories of Artscape were when it was in its infancy, just a few years old. My mother put my sister and me in the car on hot Saturday in July and headed into town so we could check out this new free arts festival. I was probably 11 or 12 years old at the time. Life for me was about Michael Jackson and Prince and MTV and the Rubik’s Cube.

The 80s were bright and big. Shoulder pads were in. So was the Jheri Curl. As a child of the era, I was subjected to both. However, it was during that decade that I learned to appreciate creativity in all its glory. Looking at all of the outdoor art exhibits at Artscape, I marveled at the wild, quirky artwork on display. I remember seeing painted toilets, newspaper and foil fashioned into art, and many other unthinkable things. Nothing inappropriate, just strange.

I embraced Artscape. It was a big playground for the creative types. Individuality and expression were celebrated. People sang, danced, ate, and danced some more. My mom, my sister and I walked around that first year and took it all in. Artscape became an annual tradition.

This year, Artscape turns 30.  To mark the occasion, Artscape are going retro. 1982 to be exact. There plenty of beats and eats to take in this weekend. Add to that karaoke and improv comedy and storytelling workshops, and shows paying homage to pop culture (Think: all the 80s toys and fashion your nostalgic heart can hold).

If you’re in the area this weekend, head on town to the Mt. Royal area. You can plan out your Artscape experience, or just let it happen. Whatever this case, you won’t want to miss all the music, the performances, the food and the shopping. (Come to think of it, I bought the cutest pink & green purse from Artscape a couple of years ago. Now I can’t find it. Someone must have borrowed it permanently. I also bought a cute pair of pants made out of 100% Egyptian cotton sheets. Now I can find those, but can’t fit them anymore. Oh well.)

Happy Birthday, Artscape!


Scratch Dot Com (Part 2)

In the words of the late Paul Harvey, “And now, the rest of the story…”

I was supposed to meet BroLightEyes at Tyson’s Corner one evening after work for an early dinner and a movie. We had chatted on the phone a few times, and I immediately was drawn to him because of his smooth, baritone voice. In his online photo, BroLightEyes had captivatingly hazel eyes and a great smile. I could not wait to meet him. On that fateful day, I drove to Tyson’s Corner, parked the car strategically facing the incoming traffic and primped in the mirror while I waited. I was dressed to impress, well-coiffed hair, lip gloss gleaming. BroLightEyes wouldn’t be able to resist me.

I sensed disaster when I spotted a beat-up white car sputtering around the corner. My heart sank. It was BroLightEyes. How did I know? Those hazel eyes were blazing. He was studying me as if I was his prey. BroLightEyes parked his car and got out, and as he approached, he chucked a hocking wad of spit across the parking lot. Everything I thought was attractive about him dissipated. He had on a brown leather bomber jacket, and a dull brown shirt-and-tie ensemble. It was 90 degrees outside! He adjusted his hanging work badge around his neck just so that I was able to see that BroLightEyes was Mel Jones, Jr., a Network Security contractor with Lockheed Martin. I supposed he expected that would turn me on. As I watched him shuffle towards my car, my hopes for the date evaporated in the warm, late spring air.

Mel seemed much older and wearier than he appeared in his pictures online, about a decade or two older than what he had put in his profile. He walked like “old Arthur” was getting the best of him, yet he was trying to strut like he was some hip cat from the 70s. Totally deflated yet compelled to go through with the date, I trudged along as Mel wandered through department stores looking for furniture for his new apartment.

It’s been a long time coming,” Mel warbled along with Sam Cooke whose voice floated from the store speakers. I could tell by Mel’s stupid grin and his winking eye, it was going to be a long time going.

During our aimless walk through Tyson’s Corner, Mel made several attempts to grab my hand. My mother taught me never to hold hands with strangers. And so I didn’t.

While I was silently suffering, Mel was happy to have a companion he could drone on to about the ex-wife, the son she won’t let him see, the roommate with the vomit-spewing cat, the arthritic knee and persistent back pain, eye problems, knee problems, the on-again-off-again love affair with cigarettes, and a whole lot of other stuff I wasn’t listening to.

“I can’t believe it,” Mel said. “In a couple of weeks, I can’t wait to move into my very own apartment.”

Then he pumped his fist in the air with an awkwardness and utter lack of coordination that made me want to hide myself in the clearance bin.

“Finally!” He cheered.

What the eff?

Mel, who looked like he was old enough to have had a couple of his “very own apartments” already, didn’t have his own place? Never had his own place?

Mel grinned sheepishly and tried to tell me in his deep Mr. Smooth voice that he never had his own apartment. He sounded like Mr. Magoo.

“How old are you?” I blurted out, not caring what he thought of me asking such a question right behind his overdue declaration of independence.

“Well,” Mel sighed. “There’s something I need to tell you…”

I already figured it out, Mel, I thought. The good angel on my left shoulder was trying to tell me that Mel was just a year or two older than his profile stated. But the bad angel, who had become my best friend over the past hour, bet the good angel that Mel was much older than that. My money was with the bad angel.

The bad one was right.

Mel’s profile claimed he was 36. The joker admitted to being 49. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being 49. It’s a great age. But not for Mel. He actually could pass for much older.

As he talked and gestured, the big, dangling gold earring from his left ear bothered me. No man with the amount of gray hair that Mel had should be allowed to wear an earring that big or a leather bomber jacket in 80-degree weather.

“So did you want to grab some dinner?” Mel asked, gesturing towards The Cheesecake Factory. That was the first question he asked me the entire time we were together.

The Cheesecake Factory would have been a wonderful place to go for dinner with a date, but just not this date. Besides, it was Wednesday, Results Night on “American Idol.” Simon needed me. America needed me. And that became my perfect excuse to escape.

On the drive back to Baltimore, I reflected on my streak of bad luck with men I’ve met online and restaurants. There was a pattern here, a dangerous one.

Now MrBrandMan2U had a slightly skewed view of the world. He considered Horn & Horn and Red Lobster to be “upscale restaurants.” When he went out to for dinner, he brought his own special blend of Old Bay Seasoning and crushed Cayenne Peppers to restaurants and would send a little container in the back for the cook to season his crab legs with. He was so well-known throughout the restaurants in the area for being a BYOS (Bring Your Own Seasoning) patron, that they usually accommodated him.

I realized for sure that this cat wasn’t the one when he took me to a breakfast restaurant: Happy Family Restaurant. The name was a misnomer. Nothing was happy about that dump. It was a bland, blah-looking eatery, its style harkened back to the days of Howard Johnson and your local diner trapped in the 70s. Our server’s name was Velma, typical server name, I’d guess. She was a plump, surly-looking woman stuffed in an old-school pink waitress uniform complete with the frilly lace ruffles. She snarled at us as a form of welcoming us, and took our orders.

MrBrandMan2U was giddy. “This is going to be so much fun,” he chirped.

He asked for his milk to come out with his breakfast platter. Velma replied, “Oh you’re one of those types, huh?” Then she rolled her eyes and sauntered up to the counter. Stunned, I asked him if he thought she was being rude. Apparently, he didn’t.

“It’s part of the gimmick,” he said bouncing in his seat like a 4-year-old.

When our food came out, she slammed our plates on the table.

“Excuse me, you forgot our syrup,” MrBrandMan2U giggled like a third-grader.

“Go up to the counter and get it your damn self,” Velma barked, and walked off in a huff.

He was laughing hysterically. “That’s what they do here! They’re rude. On purpose!” MrBrandMan2U popped out of his seat, amused and very animated. “If you ask for anything extra, they make you go get it!”

Wow.

Then Velma came stomping back to collect the tip from the people at the next table who seemed to enjoy being insulted as much as my date did.

“You forgot my milk,” he was on the edge of his seat waiting to be insulted.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in my life.

Velma put one hand on the table and the other on her hip, and assumed the I-Am-Black-Woman-Hear-Me-Roar stance.

She leaned in, and in a low voice filled with attitude, “Just like you took your happy ass up to the counter to get your damn syrup, you can carry your happy ass back up there to get your damn ‘I want it with my meal’ milk. It’s that simple.”

I lost my appetite.

MrBrandMan2U bounced and ate as the sound of rude waitresses insulting patrons ricocheted off the walls. He later said that was the best date he ever had at the Happy Family Restaurant. And not because of me. But because Velma cursed him out.

And he left her a tip!

The next morning, I logged into Scratch.com, clicked on “cancel profile”, and the computer screen frowned. “Are you sure you want to leave Scratch.com?” I clicked the “yes” button. “We will miss you,” the next screen chirped. “Are you sure?” I clicked “yes” again. “We can make your profile inactive in case you want to take some time off from the dating scene,” the screen chimed. “Are you sure you want to leave Scratch.com permanently?” Underneath the question was some syrupy blurb about being patient, remaining hopeful, and giving Scratch.com another chance. Once again, Scratch.com asked if I wanted to leave. I didn’t see a “Hell yes” button on the screen, so I just clicked “yes.”

And with that, Mocha1Mocha and her legion of online suitors – MillionaireBy40, BroLightEyes, SuaveRev007 and MrBrandMan2U – vanished. I was looking for Mr. Right, not Mr. Will-Do, Mr. Liquid-Crack-Seller-Slash-What-Does-He-Do-Anyway? or Mr. I-Am-Just-Getting-My-Own-Apartment-At-Age-One-Hundred-and-Six. It was obvious to me that Mr. Right wasn’t online. On a site like Scratch.com, he didn’t stand a chance again