Local Talent Spotlight: Taylor and Shane Drum on Kirkwood

Taylor Kinnet and Shane Meredith drumming on Kirkwood

Whenever I run into a talented artist, I wish I had a much larger online following so I can promote the heck out of them and help them achieve their dreams. Sometimes I wish it so hard I forget it’s not true. Then I make sweeping, self-aggrandizing statements about how ginormous my international network is, so let’s do a video/photo sesh/interview! It’ll be great!

Ahem.

Then I land back on Earth, and I swear I try to talk myself back down enough that I fit inside the humble little bubble of reality, but by then I’ve already seen the excitement in my eyes reflected in the eyes of artist I’m (most likely) squealing at. I sell the dream. That’s what happens.

The thing about artists is they either have talent or they don’t. These two guys, Taylor Kinnett (in the glasses) and Shane Meredith (in the backward hat), have it. So I said, “Let’s make a video!” And they said, “Yeah!” And they looked at each other, spoke drum language, and started to jam on three.

I was actually around a corner on the way to my car when I first heard their beats. Whatever they were drumming sounded familiar and gave me that belly dance feeling. I stashed my bag and walked their way instead of heading home. When I got there, they’d attracted a small group of women who danced around them and professed love before heading to a Tuesday night study session. As they left, Taylor shouted, “I love you, too!” Then he smiled and shifted his attention back his drum. It was utterly charming. Naturally, I took a seat and listened until they took a break in their set. Then I asked them questions.

It turns out Taylor and Shane have been practicing together on the Indiana University campus for the last three years. They made an agreement to achieve a certain level of skill before they would play around town. Shane indicated a paper cup on the ground in front of the duo before clarifying that they wanted to be seriously good before asking for money.

Shane also said he and Taylor have a dream of studying with a djembe master in Africa. They don’t know how it will happen yet, or who the instructor will be, but they are working steadily toward that dream.

I have the pleasure of working with writers who put a similar level of effort into honing their craft, but I have met many, many artists who slap paint on a canvas, words on a page or beats on a drum and argue against expending energy beyond the initial creation. It’s an ego-driven idea that moves beyond art into a failure to grow your person.

I’m happy to say that’s not these guys. They have developed a language within their music that you can see in this video. They follow one another with ease, love what they do, and keep sight of their dream as they work to make it happen. And Shane has his own charming moment when he looks at the camera and smiles, half for the audience and half for the drum. Watch for it.

My Ocean’s Dark Histories

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It’s funny how I sometimes have to confess a thing out loud in order to move past it. I prefer the page. It is often less vulnerable. I can delete or destroy far more quickly than I compose, but confession? I can’t take that back or float those words into my ocean’s dark histories.

Last week I expelled tears in a combustible series of necessary verbal purges. This had nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with the spirit. I was deliberate in my conversations, pushing words past the inevitable choking block in my throat. Those words were thunder and lighting. The rain was quick to follow from the orbs of a my occipital moons. I swear my brain is a universe. Traversing my emotional-laden memories is navigating a planet-wide jungle.

I had trouble remembering this about myself, even though I was reminding others.
I had trouble remembering this about myself, even though I was reminding others.

I can get lost in my head which is why I always keep an eye to the sun. Heat and light are grounding. I can follow them home even when they are just a warm puff of vapor. But I almost lost my stellar waypoint in the last few weeks. More than once it dipped out of sight, and that’s when I made my confessions. They were like parting curtains or blowing clouds across the sky so I could find my place in the galaxy and keep existing.

I apologize if it seems a bit like I’m in orbit. I have only just landed after a long, unexpected journey. Body trauma has a way of dredging up past trauma. And hardship has a magnetic setting, gathering filaments of trouble to it from great distances with little effort. When it rains, as is said, it pours. And when I cry, I might as well be showering.

I can’t say my well is dry. It has felt good to convulse in honest sadness. With each cry, a weight was lifted. The sun has grown brighter. I am equipped to find my way back to the path I cleared long ago–the one where the sun is always in sight, even if it is behind me. I have learned much on this journey. I was unaware how strong I have become. It’s wonderful to have come out the other side of battle with the calm clarity of warriorship.

Confession, acceptance, peace. That is the flow I have ridden. And while peace is not equivalent to joy, I am pleased to have arrived here.

Maqluba: Lebanese Eggplant and Rice Casserole

Maqluba is a dish my aunt never taught me to make. “My husband loves eggplant,” she said. She showed me the shiny purple of her hair when the light hit it right. “Everything eggplant.”

Eggplant. The most beautiful vegetable you will ever fry.

I laughed and didn’t think more of it until the evening Ghada flipped a dish of maqluba on the table. “This one is spicy. It has heat.” She was proud to serve a dish with a little kick in response to a comment I’d made a few days before about there being no such thing as spicy in Kayfoun.

The dish wasn’t spicy to my tastebuds, but there was a definite warmth lent by white pepper. The other spices she included were black pepper, cinnamon, salt and allspice. This recipe does not include white pepper. I also add tomatoes, but I’ve kept them optional within the instructions.

It’s a tricky business writing a recipe based on the memory of smell. The thing is, scent is the conveyer of the most powerful memories. As I put this together in my kitchen, I consulted a cookbook but I relied on the communication between my heart and my nose. Happily, the flavors came out right. That isn’t always the case.

If you want to make maqluba, I strongly recommend you wash the dishes as you go. This is a multi-step dish even if it is fairly simple. And if you’ve done it once, you can complete it quickly on the next go. I like to serve this with a tomato salad dressed in olive oil, salt and pepper. You do you.

Ingredients:

1 lb beef
1 cup pine nuts
2 cans diced tomatoes (optional)
2 large eggplant
vegetable oil for frying
2 cups white rice
2 tsp allspice
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
water

Instructions:

To begin, peel and slice the eggplant in 1/2 inch rounds. Salt it and set it aside in a strainer.

Place rice in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Add tsp salt. Allow to sit.

Brown the beef in a pan with half the spices. Add the pine nuts and saute until golden. If you are using the tomatoes, add them and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.

Heat enough oil in a deep pan or wok to fry your eggplant slices. Have lots of paper towels handy. Eggplant absorbs oil like a sponge. You will want the oil on high heat so that it bubbles around the edge of the eggplant as you slide it in.

Rinse your salted eggplant and pat dry. Add to the oil in batches, frying until golden brown on both sides, then setting on layers of paper towels to drain.

Drain your rice.

In a round dish that is of medium height, pour in half of the meat mixture. Place a layer of fried eggplant on top. Then press eggplant slices around the edge of the pan. Pour in half your rice. Repeat those layers.

Finally, prepare 2.5 cups boiling water with remaining spices UNLESS you are using tomatoes. In that case, reduce water to 1 5/8 cups. Pour over the layers in your pan. It is possible you will need more or less water. The goal is to just cover the top layer of rice. Place on heat and allow to cook covered approximately 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed and rice is tender.

Now, you want to flip this over on a serving dish to retain the mold created by the presoaked rice and eggplant. Place your serving dish over the top of your pan. slide the pan to the edge of your stovetop and counter. Don’t forget your oven mitts for this part! Place on hand underneath the pot and the other against the tray. Invert the dish so the tray is on the counter. Now gently pull up your cooking dish so the entire casserole slides onto the tray keeping it’s shape.

Yes, this is served in a cast iron skillet. My platters from Lebanon were never returned to me after a potluck. I don't blame the keeper. They were beautiful.
Yes, this is served in a cast iron skillet. My platters from Lebanon were never returned to me after a potluck. I don’t blame the keeper. They were beautiful. And this would look far better on one. Really, it doesn’t look as good as it tastes.

Don’t be afraid to not get this right. The flavor is the most important part, and if it’s a mess, there’s always garnish! Take a look at my most recent effort (above, made in my rice cooker). It isn’t pretty, but it was tasty. And, honestly, if I’d had pine nuts or almonds to toast, I would have garnished the heck out of that dish, set a few sprigs of parsley on top and called it a day.

Sahtain!

For more about this versatile dish popular in many countries, click here. 

Writing My Scars

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I have been in a low place for the last few weeks. It’s unusual for summer, but so is all the rain. I’m in the midst of surgical anniversaries, body traumas I have not been able to write, harm done to me by those I have loved without reservation, and pain I am still struggling to shed. It hurts, this space. But it is also a growing space.

 

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I am learning about myself. Each time I dip into the angry valley, I climb out better equipped to help other writers change their expectations and create new, positive outcomes.

It may seem odd for me to say this when I am barely clinging to the sky, but the thing about me is I always remember there is a flip side. Even when I can’t see the light. And that is not the way I was born. It’s definitely not the way I was raised. This way of thinking is one I have taught myself with the help of therapists, friends and the page.

I have a piece up today on what is becoming a sister site to The Honeyed Quill. I’d love to share it with you. It is the first piece I’ve written about what this body has been through. Click here to read “Scars that Wear Me” on On the Verge with Shareen Mansfield.

I know that I said I see the silver lining, but this place is hard. So, if you have words to help me lift myself, I’d love to read them here or there.

On Being (Not) Well

I am having a series of low days. There is context. It makes sense for me to feel the way I do right now, in the middle of multiple one year anniversaries of fear and pain and body horror.


I almost died. The doctors wouldn’t tell me what was wrong but I was almost gone and I knew it. And then the pain and fear just kept coming. From June to December I parted with bits of myself. I fractured and was put back together, none of it in a way anyone expected. Now, I look at my scars and shake my head not that I am here, but that any of it happened in the first place.

I’ve survived many traumas. I’ve healed and moved forward and found my balance in a world geared against survivors. Then I created a safe space for others like myself. There were hard moments, times when I was triggered and had to step back and honor myself, but I knew how.

Right now I can’t be sure what I need except self care self care self care. I am triggered so easily. My body wants to shut down. But I am a full-time mother. The kind of self care I need has to wait until they are in bed. By then I am often too tired for myself.

As I write this I am thinking of how, yes, I will corral the kids outside and sit in the sun. I will tend my heart garden in little ways, keep myself off the ground or from combusting, again. I’ve arranged additional therapy and kept to my schedule of time by myself outside the home. I know the tricks to getting well. I’m on my way. But it’s a painful slog and I want to lay down but I will wait until there is someone to give me a hand so I can get back up.

I know many of you have been here. I honor your battles even as I sound my own cry. We are, all of us, warriors.

Your Desert

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Half the battle is drawing the lines
the other half is deciding
which side to occupy
which space not to share
which lines to scuff
even erase

I used to stack my lines
until I built up shaking walls
surprised when they collapsed
I was tumbled over
a squiggly burial ground
I ceased

My finger, that toe, my nose-
the part doesn’t matter
just that they broke off
one at a time until I was
so much blood
gritty remains

I’m trying to say something
some grand statement
a meaningful, sweeping promise
but with words that chime true
not “it will be okay” because
it’s never okay

Not really. Not ever. “Okay”
is a lie. A sweaty, meaty lie.
Is it ever all right? No.
I’m stumbling here.
I’m a foal after birth
wobbling

So, the truth (that tricky bitch)
is to remember that sides change,
wind in the desert and lines fade
but you still get to choose
every moment you live
where you stand
and who you allow
to stand with you.