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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

What a way to spend the afternoon

I don’t nap. It’s not a habit I’ve been able to acquire, despite all of the health-related benefits. No siestas, snoozes, catnaps, nor forty winks. For me, it has always been a long day’s journey into night.

This trip has been one of many firsts. First, I found out that I was that kind of girl. And I’ve said “I told you so: not once but twice. And now, I have to confess that, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Joburg visiting friends, I fell asleep for an hour and fifteen minutes in the noonday sun. And I felt the better for it.

It’s spring in S. Africa and still a bit chilly but my southeast facing bedroom was all warm and cozy from the sun. So I found a sunny spot on my bed, fluffed my pillows, and grabbed a book. A light breeze played hide and seek with the curtains. The water gurgled in the little fountain just outside my window. It was a spring day as it was meant to be − happy.

I thought, this is how a lioness must feel at the end of a long, hard week of fetching and carrying – a soft spot under a Syringa tree far from the maddening crowd – her intent also the same as mine, to renew herself, body and soul, and carve out a bit of alone time, in my case, with a good book.

I wondered, if she were human, what would she would be reading – The Life of Pi, Charlotte’s Web or maybe The Tiniest Tiger?

I opened my book of poetry and chanced upon Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 27” and read the first two lines :

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;

That’s me, I thought, before sleep stole upon me and lightly brushed her hand upon my half closed eyelids.

Upon waking, book still in hand, I finished it.

But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expir’d:
For then my thoughts—from far where I abide—
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself no quiet find.

However, unlike Shakespeare, I did myself some quiet find in that unexpected nap. And I spent the rest of afternoon just like that lioness lazing about under the South African sun.

photo: © istockphoto.com/pai toon

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Just add water

Lots of things arrive late: spring, the mail, airplanes, babies and, yes, even me on occasion.

And so here we are well past daffodil season and lilacs are in bloom. Welcome to May and welcome back to the Café Girl Chronicles. I rejoin you refreshed, re-energized and with a renewed approach to my writing.

I haven’t exactly been idle. During the past several weeks I have been working on an outline for a screenplay for Any Color but Beige – a little at a time. Piano (slowly) piano (slowly) as my Italian friends like to say. And I can do this because the only deadline I have to meet is my own.

It’s not a bad thing to let your brain lie fallow for a while. Treat it like a garden. Turn the soil every so often. Add new thoughts, philosophies and concepts as fertilizer. Prepare it well and harvest the ideas that come.

In my case, I’ve planted a few seeds that are already bursting through this fertile soil of my mind like unruly wildflowers in a meadow. To be a good writer you also have to be a constant gardener. Sometimes friends tend your garden for you by showering you with little drops of encouragement, just enough to get you started. And so it is with me.

Ever since I arrived in South Africa a week ago, my friend Julie has been watering the garden daily, checking for signs of life. This is the same Julie who precipitated the idea that I could write a book. (See Chapter 25 in the book). So it’s only fitting that I sit at her dining room table overlooking her verdantly wild and natural South African garden bathed in sunlight and start writing again.

photo: © istockphoto.com/manley099

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People often ask me, “Why did you write a book?” If they are friends who know me well, I will often mischievously reply, “I did it for the party.” And there’s a grain of truth to that response. As months go by, there have been more celebrations. Who knew the ancillary benefit to all that hard work would be enjoying the fruits of your labors with friends?

It started simply enough with a family get together in August just before I launched Any Color but Beige. My large and loving family went out of its way to host a surprise barbeque complete with a heartfelt toast from my brother Jimmy, an endless buffet of homemade Italian and American specialties, and many desserts. They marked the occasion with a present meant to represent all the hard work I’d done: a framed pen and ink drawing of black and red dance shoes, just like the one that appears on the book’s cover. Their pride was palpable, and I felt like I had just been handed the Pulitzer Prize.

Further fetes included a couple of Girls’ Nights In (GNI), hosted by friends in two places so different from one another in geography – America and Africa – and yet so similar in the comfortable familiarity of female friendship.

At the first one, I partied with Judy and her friends in the wilds of a Wisconsin, so starkly beautiful in its winter’s dress that it

Wild in Wisconsin

took my breath away. Inside we moved between kitchen and living room, eating, drinking and talking. Judy had blown up an old high-school picture and used it as a buffet centerpiece. Bowls of brightly colored M&Ms added just the right amount of color to the event as did my colorful “tales told out of school” about Judy. (See Destination:  Chicago in the book for their significance.)

The second party had the lush green landscape of suburban Johannesburg as a backdrop. Julie had ordered bright yellow helium balloons and tied them to the mailbox ensuring that no one missed the house. We congregated in the kitchen, chatting and eating and were about to move from the kitchen to the living room when Julie asked me to leave the room for a second.

From the next room I had heard a gasp and wondered what had happened? Had someone spotted a scorpion or snake? I didn’t have to wait long before they called me back into the kitchen and I saw the most amazing the sight. Leana, another Café Girlfriend, had made a cake in the shape of a book – my book. It was a carrot cake and everything, from the colorful book cover to the beautifully fashioned dance shoes was edible. I didn’t want to cut it, but cut it and enjoy it we did.

After the cake, it was time for me to talk about the book. I could have done a reading but the setting in both cases didn’t lend itself to that; it was much too informal. And so I told the “back story” about how the book came to be. And I also talked about each of my respective hosts’ role in the book. (You can find more about Judy in Chapter 3 and Julie in Chapter 25 of the book.)

Like the American Café Girls, the African girls had lots of questions and lots of stories of their own to share. Some things are universal, and it looks like Café Girlfriends are the same the world over. We’re all united by our shared experiences in life and in love. And Any Color but Beige is chock full such experiences it seems we can all relate to.

The conversation and the wine flowed freely, and everyone was reluctant to call it a night until we all agreed that we would somehow, somewhere meet again to continue our stories. At both parties, some of the girls were meeting for the first time so we ended up not only celebrating the book but also friendships old and new. I said in an earlier post that to be successful in this self-publishing business you not only have to be talented you have to be lucky. The excitement, enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of my family and friends have showed me just how lucky I am. As for the rest, it’s just icing on the cake.

A Party that Takes the Cake!

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