This Saturday, October 26, is Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service and a celebration of the power of people to make a difference.
On this day, millions of volunteers around the world will unite in a common mission to improve the lives of others. In honor of Make a Difference Day, today’s Tête-à-tête Thursday guest is Natalie Cunningham, former Volunteer Coordinator and current Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator for The Lexington Rescue Mission, a non-profit organization that works to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of hurting people in the greater Lexington Area.
Born and raised in Versailles, KY Natalie received her BA in Public Relations & Non-Profit Leadership at Murray State before making her home in downtown Lexington. She dreams of one day owning a boarding house in Morocco where patrons can play music for their meals, make art for their lodging, and enjoy some homegrown hospitality. She also happens to be one of my favorite lake guests.
The Bourbonista: Tell me about yourself in 50 words or less. At least one word must begin with the letter “X” and none can begin with the letter “S.”
Natalie: Life is a banquet table and we are here to fill it. I’ve been accused in the past of having xenophilia, but I can’t help my love for the exotic. I love to feed people, to experiment in the kitchen, and enjoy the fullness of life a full house brings.
The Bourbonista: I can vouch for your kitchen skills. When you visited the boat, those scotch eggs you made for breakfast were fantabulous…and, coming from me, that’s saying something considering they didn’t actually have any scotch in them. So, if you were a circus performer, what would you be and why?
Natalie: Trapeze artist, no question. I occasionally get made fun of for being such a girl, but I am in love with beauty. To wow an audience with grace and skill, while bringing something beautiful into the world, would be an amazing gift. Not to mention the incredible body I’d have to have to pull it all off.
She flies through the air with the greatest of ease.
The girl with hair on the flying trapeze
Seriously, you and that do flying through the air would be a spectacular. So, what would you do if you won the lottery?
Natalie: I would become a benevolent overlord of some small town, or a neighborhood in a larger city. I’m not talking about just owning all of the land, I mean complete take over. Buy up every piece of land, business and building, rename it the Elizabethan Quarter (a la my middle name) and declare myself Lord of the land. All who enter must have a code or pay a toll.
Or I’d be realistic pay off debt, buy my mother the log cabin she always wanted and go into hiding for the next 15 years so people could have time to forget I ever won.
The Bourbonista: I’m kind of digging this Elizabethan Quarter idea. I’m seeing Shakespeare’s England meets New Orleans during Mardi Gras—codpieces, blues bars, jousting, and frozen daiquiri machines on every corner. Now, let's get serious, if you were on death row…don’t act like you don’t know who you killed to get there…what would be your last supper?
Natalie: Oh no, the world is full of delicious foods. I think I’d kill myself early instead of deciding. If that’s not an option I would have home food: Soup beans, corn bread, fried pork shops, followed by a trip to Shoney’s salad bar, and some delicious rare delicacy I’d never tried before, just so I could go out with something new on my tongue.
The Bourbonista: I’m not an incarceration expert or anything, but I don’t think they’ll let you leave death row to go to Shoney’s. As far as that last rare delicacy—I found an article for you on “20 Strange Foods to Try Before You Die.” I personally would go for the Cambodian Fried Spiders. Now, if you were to write a short “Thank You” letter to your future self for all the cool shit you’ve done twenty years from now, what would it say?
Thanks for never wasting money or time on things like cable television. Thank you for taking those big leaps: couch surfing, traveling to the furthest reaches of the world, gathering the coolest stories and then for fostering those kids. You have given and received more love than you ever thought you could. Now keep bringing beauty into this world!
The Bourbonista: Would you consider fostering an aging party girl? I’m going to need someone to watch over me when I get elder and keep me from ending up going viral on YouTube dancing on a bar at ninety in nothing but a pith helmet. If you were a booze, which booze would you be and who would you want to drink you?
Natalie: I couldn’t imagine being anything but smooth bourbon, to wet the whistle of a weary traveler missing home.
In lieu of the recent rash of cyberbullying (including my own run-in with one), I was inspired to write this poem.
She bled out sugar, spice, and everything nice,
During her first menstruation at 7th grade graduation.
It was replaced with venom, vitriol, and a sense of superiority,
Soon she amassed a likeminded sorority,
And began her reign of terror over Mountain View Junior High.
Day after day, she sought out her prey,
A ruthless seeker of those who were weaker.
With her roving crew of cronies trailing behind,
She trolled the hallways hoping to find,
The perfect innocent on which to unleash her wrath.
While her classmates swilled beers, she got drunk on tears.
Others pain was her cocaine.
Her energy was poured into one master scheme,
To transform herself into every boy’s dream,
And every girl’s nightmare.
Year after year, she ruled with fear.
Her sadistic streak grew, even when high school was through.
In college, she determined that to gain clout,
She need only play on another’s self-doubt.
And point out their every flaw in the name of sisterly concern.
She used technological innovation to perpetrate devastation.
Without any trepidation she would ruin a reputation.
The workplace just served as a fluorescent-lit lab.
For her to experiment with new ways to torture and backstab.
Mean girls, if left unchecked, become mean women.
She even became so bold, as to wear a cross of gold.
Painted herself the picture of pious and pure, devoted and demure.
But no amount of make-up could disguise or erase,
The hatred that lurked behind her glommed-on face.
And even her DD silicone implants couldn’t hide a heart that dark.
Rather than admit defeat, and that cruelty had grown obsolete.
She tormented others for torments sake, leaving heartbreak in her wake.
Instead of learning that to be strong, you must be kind.
She chose to remain bitter and blind.
All the while convincing herself that she’d rather be feared than loved.
Even on her deathbed, she sneered at the doctor and said,
“Dear, with those looks, I see why you buried your head in books.”
She remained a mean girl until the ugly end.
And died without having one true female friend.
Imagine her surprise when she found out God was a woman.
Welcome to the Sunday Confessional. I confess that I love Catfish. I am not talking about the mud-dwelling variety, although I do enjoy those when Cajun-seasoned and blackened. I am talking about the M-TV show with Nev Schulman and his surly sidekick, Max Joseph.
It’s a spin-off of the documentary film chronicling Nev’s online love affair with a stunning and successful model/singer/songwriter/philanthropist who…believe it or not--because no way that sounds too good to be true…is not who she says she is. Instead she’s a frumpy middle-aged mother who uses her fake Facebook profile to escape from her stressful life. This apparently happens so often that each week they help hopeless romantics involved in cyber relationships connect with their soul mates. Surprise--it rarely ever works out and the person on the other end of the keyboard is seldom who they claim to be. These impostors are called catfish, which according to Wikipedia (who we all know is an indisputable source of information) is, “a person who creates fake personal profiles on social media sites—pretending to be someone more outwardly appealing than his/her true self, by using someone else's pictures and false biographical information.”
After watching every episode, this is what I have learned:
1) Unless they are a vampire, if they refuse to video chat…they are not real.
2) If they claim to be an astronaut/space archeologist, swimwear model, cage fighter, Sherpa, psychic porn star, Druid, opera singer about to sign with a major label…or have some other career that usually only exists in James Patterson novels…they are not real.
3) If every time you are supposed to meet in person, their rare form of cancer comes out of remission…they are not real.
4) If they swear the reason you cannot see each other face to face is because they are in the Witness Protection Program or working undercover for the FBI…they are not real.
5) If their photos look like they were taken during a Victoria’s Secret/GQ photo shoot on a Bahamian beach …they are not real.
Which leads me to my final lesson...
6) If the person you are communicating with online is twice as hot as anyone you’ve ever been able to score with in real life…they are not real. I know it’s sad and superficial, but it is the ugly truth…pardon the pun.
Today, Frank is crock potting Great Northern White beans. As usual, he is disappointed because I did not purchase enough pork.
Frank: Is this all of country ham you bought?
Me: You told me to buy a package of country ham pieces. That is one package.
Frank: Didn’t they have a bigger one? The ham is what gives them the flavor.
Me: I know. Heaven forbid your beans taste like…beans.
Frank: Beans aren’t very good.
Me: So, you’re basically just using them as little fibrous pellets to soak up the tasty ham grease.
Frank: Yeah, basically.
Do you remember the song “1999” by Prince?
“Say, say two thousand zero zero, party over,
Oops, out of time.
So tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1999.”
That song came out when I was fourteen years old. I remember doing the math and realizing I was going to be thirty-one in 1999. I cried. I cried because I was going to miss the biggest party of the century. You don’t dance when your thirty-one. You don’t make out at midnight. At fourteen, I thought that at thirty-one, for all practical purposes, you were dead. I did not die at thirty-one, and now at forty-one, I am more alive and in love than I have ever been…even at fourteen.
At fourteen he introduces you to Jim Morrison’s music and pot and takes you to roller rink where he plays hockey. A girl says, “That’s my boyfriend. Which one’s yours?” You point and blush and say, “The one in The Cure tee shirt with the earring and the bi-level haircut.” And you are so proud because he is the raddest dude in the place. At forty-one, he introduces you to his bald buddy’s punk revival band and pain pills, which he needs from decades of injuries and you need for energy. And he takes you to a skate park filled with boys on boards and bikes. A woman says, “That’s my kid. Which one’s yours” You point and blush and say, “The one in The Cure tee shirt with the beer belly and the beard.” And you are so proud because he is the raddest dude in the place.
At fourteen you know he is your soul mate because you talk on the phone every night, have both read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and love big dogs. At forty-one, you know he is your soul mate because you talk all night when you both have to get up early and go to work. And you’ve read everything and he’s read nothing, but that doesn’t matter--because he can read you better than a book. And your big dogs are your family and have taken the place of the children you both chose not to have.
At fourteen, you know he will be a good lover because he has watched porn and dated a girl two years older and he bites your bottom lip when you kiss. At forty-one, you know he will be a good lover because you are a good lover and will make certain of it, and he knows his way around when he goes down, and there is a mutual acceptance that neither body is what it used to be--but that experience and commitment can make up for a flat stomach if the lighting is just right.
At fourteen, you get jealous because he keeps a picture of his ex-girlfriend in a shoe box in his closet and still hangs out with her brother. At forty-one the ex-girlfriend is an ex-wife who he loved enough to give her his granny’s heirloom ring, offer to adopt her daughter, and wait celibate for months while she served her sentence. You wonder if a man can love that way twice in a lifetime, but you don't care. You’ll take whatever is left, which with him is more than enough.
At fourteen, you dream of a wedding with either him or a pop singer or a European royal. It really doesn’t matter as long as you get to wear a white princess dress and ride through the streets to the flower-filled church in a crystal carriage drawn by white unicorns with all your friend’s watching. You’ll hold your reception in Milan or on the moon. At forty-one, you know how hard marriage is and how often it fails. And yet, when you look in his eyes you know if you could ever spend forever with any man, it’s him. You are way past white. Besides, you know what looks good on you…you’ll wear red. There will be no flower-filled church. Neither of you believes in organized religion. And since he slept with a florist for eight years it would be rude not to employ her, but then she’d have to be at the wedding, which would be weird. You'll be wed in a bar. Instead of a crystal carriage, you’ll employ a fleet of yellow cabs to make certain all your drunken friends get home safe…cause we will party like it’s 1999.
Yes, I am more in love than I have ever been in my life. For better or worse…because at fourteen, you think you may be able to die of a broken heart. At forty-one, you know you actually can.
*This piece was written for the The Sisters Provocateur show, “Love is a Unicorn—Horny at the Start, a Myth in the End.” Frank and I had just become engaged. On this, our 2nd Wedding Anniversary, I am happy to say that I am still more in love than I have ever been in my life.*
Welcome to Tête-à-tête Thursday with the captivating, copper-topped Teneice Durrant. Teneice is the managing editor of Winged City Chapbook Press and co-founder and poetry editor for Blood Lotus: an online literary journal. She is an advocate for chapbooks of all genres, and is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Flame Above Flame (2006), The Goldilocks Complex (2009), and Burden of Solace (2012). Teneice is a proud graduate of Spalding University's MFA in Writing Program, and The University of Toledo's MA in English Literature program. She recently won the 2013 Kudzu Poetry Prize for her poem "Nectar." Her most recent projects include co-editing SMALL BATCH an anthology of bourbon poetry with co-editor, Leigh Anne Hornfeldt. The launch party for SMALL BATCH will take place Saturday night in Louisville, Kentucky. The Lexington launch will happen at Al's Bar on October 30.
The Bourbonista: First, thank you so much for including me in this anthology and letting me read at the launch this weekend. I promise I'll stay sober until I get off-stage...well, relatively sober...considering the subject matter, at least a drink or two seems in order. Now, tell me about yourself in 50 words or less. At least one word must begin with the letter “X” and none can begin with the letter “S.”
Teneice: I love books, bourbon and my babies. Most days I wish I could eat words with a fork. I am doubly-blessed with best friends that also happen to be crazy-good writers. I am a xenophile- totally fascinated by other cultures and traditions.
The Bourbonista: I'm with you on the books and bourbon, but my third "B" would have to be my BMX boy. If you were a circus performer, what would you be and why?
Teneice: Oh…. probably the ring-leader because I always want to be in the middle of things. I’m not coordinated enough to walk tight ropes or flip through the air. Or, the lion tamer.
The Bourbonista: I think you would be fabulous as a spec girl...you know, one of those women who rides atop the elephant in a showgirl costume and waves. That way you could just zone out and be writing poetry in your head the whole time. What would you do if you won the lottery?
Teneice: Free copies of SMALL BATCH for everyone! Lots of supporting my writing community…and really good seats to the Chelsea Man U games.
The Bourbonista: As part of that writing community, I will take my support in the form of liquid inspiration, a new pair of black cowboy boots, a lifetime supply of Totino's triple cheese pizza, and a pygmy hedgehog, who I will name Rasputin. Then, I promise to write a bestseller and dedicate it to you. If you were on death row…don’t act like you don’t know who you killed to get there…what would be your last supper?
Teneice: I’m going to go with mashed potatoes: Leigh Anne Hornfeldt’s Bacon Bleu Cheese Mashed Potatoes, my dad’s dill and sour cream mashed potatoes, and my bourbon mashed sweet potatoes.
The Bourbonista: You must not have heard that just this Tuesday, I mastered mashed potatoes. I made spuds my bitch. The secret--Greek yogurt whipped cream cheese. So, I would be happy to contribute to your supper. Write a short “Thank You” letter to your future self for all the cool shit you’ve done twenty years from now.
Thank you for raising such badass kids that are totally going to take care of you in another ten years. Thank you for doing all that poetry stuff. It didn’t make you rich, but man does it make you happy. And thanks for perfecting that polenta lasagna recipe. That shit is de-lish. Love, You
The Bourbonista: Final question...if you were a booze, which booze would you be and who would you want to drink you?
Teneice: Bourbon, of course. I’d be a beautiful bottle of Buffalo Trace and I would hope my friends would pass me around, get crazy drunk and write poems on dry erase boards… or something like that ;)
To celebrate of the release of Small Batch: An Anthology of Bourbon Poetry, join me at:
Louisville Launch 9PM, October 12, 2013
Come on out to Down One Bourbon Bar for an evening of words and whiskey!
Down One Bourbon Bar
321 Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202
The best way to learn is through our mistakes. This is never truer than when it comes to fashion. Through the years, I have made some massive errors, like the one in the accompanying photo. Back then, I didn't see the problem with lace, floral, and polka dots all on one chiffon shirt. And, though these days, I often dress like Endora from “Bewitched,” there was a time, not so long ago, when I had a solid grasp on style. Here are Ten Tips to make certain that you are making a fashion statement, not asking a fashion question.
I have a motto--the colder the weather, the redder the lip.
I'm not quite as adamant as Dolly Parton who said, "The only way I'd be caught without make-up is if my radio fell in the bathtub while I was taking a bath and electrocuted me and I was in between make-up at home. I hope my husband would slap a little lipstick on me before he took me to the morgue."
I fear if I allowed Frank to apply lipstick to my corpse, I might end up buried beneath a tombstone reading "Here lies Bozo." But, I do think that the right shade of lipstick can work wonders. And it doesn't mean you've abandoned your feminists ideals, as demonstrated by Barbara Mikulski who stated, "We, the women of the Senate, with President Obama by our side, will keep fighting--our shoulders squared, our lipstick on--because you deserve equal pay for your hard work."
After searching far and wide, I have found the perfect shade of red lipstick--not too orange, not too blue, and not too pricey. It is Lasting Finish by Kate 01.
To make sure it stays smudge free through a night of swilling booze, making out, and singing karaoke:
1) Apply liner just one shade darker than your actual lips and work toward the center. By not just drawing on an outline, you'll avoid the Elvira effect.
2) Next, slather on a coat of red lipstick.
3) Now, here's the trick--generously blot baby powder over the entirety of lips. Dust off excess.
4) Add another coat of lipstick, and you're set.
Trust me, follow this advice, and you could set a new Guinness World Record in kissing--the current one is 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds--and still maintain a perfect pucker.
For today's Tête-à-tête Thursday, we'll be chatting with performer extraordinaire and aficionado on all things burlesque, Siobahn Atomica. Siobahn is an award-winning performer, producer, choreographer, costumer, set designer, booking agent, teacher, and is the CEO and founder of Lexiington's premier burlesque and variety company Rebel Riot Revue.
The Bourbonista: Tell me about yourself in 50 words or less. At least on must start with the letter "x" and none can begin with "s."
Siobhan: I'm a mystical, exotic glamour puss who has a deep obsession with burlesque and chihuahuas. I have never learned to ride a bike nor have I learned to play a xylophone but once upon a time I was a ballerina and contortionist. Now I perform, make costumes, and produce shows.
The Bourbonista: Riding a bike is totally overrated. Seriously, you and I need to glitter up some adult tricycles and form a Tricker gang. We could have really sexy leather jackets...it'll be badass, let's do it. If you were a circus performer, what would you be and why?
Siobhan: Funny you should ask because I am a circus performer! I focus mainly on burlesque but also play with fire from time to time.
The Bourbonista: You know what they say about girl's who play with fire? They can roast a marshmallow anytime they please. What would you do if you won the lottery?
Siobhan: Pay off my student loans and buy a Winnebago that I will fill up with costumes so I can travel the country performing with my chihuahuas.
The Bourbonista: Yes...pasties across America. If you were on death row…don’t act like you don’t know who you killed to get there…what would be your last supper?
Siobhan: Pizza. Always. In Pizza We Trust.
The Bourbonista: Amen. So, usually, I would ask you to write yourself a thank you note and inquire what booze you'd be, but while I've got you, I have to make a confession.--I know and it's not even the Sunday Confessional-- Siobahn, I want to you when I grow up. Seriously, I have made a vow to myself that I will dance burlesque before my 46th birthday next June. So, give an old girl some pointers. What makes a great burlesque performer?
Siobhan: A great burlesque performer is passionate, dedicated to the art form and the audience, confident, and knows how to display his or her unique talents in the best way possible. In my opinion one of the great things about the neo-burlesque movement is that the performers who paved the way for the rest of us have made sure that burlesque isn't exclusive to the stereotypical "ideal" of beauty: all body types, colors, genders and sexualities have a place in neo-burlesque. To me, THAT is empowerment.
The Bourbonista: I'm feeling empowered already and I haven't even gotten onstage. With my unique body type and current level of voluptuousness, I think the more neo, the better for me. What advice would you give someone like me?
Siobhan: For anyone interested in burlesque the best advice I can give is to do your research BEFORE you get on stage! This includes reading, watching videos, going to as many burlesque shows as possible and interacting with established performers to pick up advice. I have a Pinterest board called "Things Every Burlesque Performer Should Know" with links to books, DVDs, YouTube playlists, articles, magazines, and much, much more. You can find it here:
To learn the art of burlesque from Siobahn, follow this link to Defiance Studios and check out her classes.
You can witness the magic for yourself tomorrow night at Cosmic Charlie’s when Rebel Riot Revue and Vagabond Opera will team up for a show that should not be missed!
They will also be performing a show at Haymarket Whiskey Bar in Louisville this Saturday from 8-9pm.
Also, save the date for the Bluegrass Burlexpo, a Kentucky burlesque Festival featuring over 30 performers from around the country being held in Lexington from November 14-16 at Natasha's, Cosmic, and Downtown Arts Center
the bourbonistA, Promoting Debauchery and stamping out political-correctness one blog at a time.