New release: WOLF AMONG SHEEP book trailer

“What exactly do you deduce we proposed?”
“That I enter into a sexual relationship with a married couple.”

Avery Collins is an ambitious young journalist in early-1900s Charleston, South Carolina, when exotic newcomers Timothy and Vonnie Duke spot him at a fancy gala on the Battery. The Dukes like bringing pretty playthings to their marriage bed, and with a promotion in mind, Avery entertains their advances not knowing lust can quickly turn to love — and love to murder.

WOLF AMONG SHEEP will be available February 27 from Hot Ink Press.

To support my Thunderclap campaign for WOLF AMONG SHEEP (and I totally need your help!!), GO HERE.

Dear Charleston: A Love Letter


Oh, city of raw oysters and lamplight,
Of uneven, brick sidewalks and Rainbow Row.
Dear haven of seafood cuisine and champagne,
Quiet jazz and Southern charm.

You embraced me—our two-year affair—
Welcomed a Yankee and called yourself “Home.”
In your arms, I felt love:
With you, with men, with myself.

When lonely, I walked the Battery.
When happy, I wandered East Bay.
When too hot, I hid in your restaurants.
When it snowed, I walked the Market in awe.

You were a place of love and loss—
But also of joy and never-ending beauty,
Of climbing vines and green gardens,
The smell of the sea and flooding streets.

I sang down your alleys.
I danced on your roofs.
I dawdled on street corners.
Cigarette smoke and a stolen kiss.

I left you too soon …
No longer did your sweaty summer arms surround me.
No longer did I hear the sound of the sea.

But even now, I hear you:
The tick of a quiet drum beat.
The clink of wine glasses.
The slide of an oyster, shucked.

From across the country, I cry for you, my beloved city.
I mourn the loss of peaceful walks, quiet talks.
Do dark alleys seem darker?
The music more subdued?

Don’t lose yourself, dear girl.
You are protected; you are loved.
The only red on your streets should be a spilled Bloody Mary.
The only scream … one of joy.

Double award-winner and ode to Charleston: A Man of Light and Scales

When you write fiction, you hope someone’s gonna like it. You never expect it’ll win an award, let alone TWO. My short experimental fiction piece A Man of Light and Scales placed second in the Maricopa Community Colleges District Writing Competition and second in Glendale Community College’s Traveler Competition. As these are both solely print journals, I now present the story for your online reading pleasure (even if my mom still doesn’t get the ending). Warning: explicit content and general mind-f**kery.

A Man of Light and Scales
By Sara Dobie Bauer

You meet him your second day in Charleston. More so, perhaps, you meet his violin. He’s wearing a suit you imagine cost as much as a car. No tie, which allows you a peek at his long, pale throat and into the shadowy place were neck meets chest. As he speaks to you, he’s still holding his violin: a red piece of wood with scratch marks and a faded veneer. You wonder at the abuse the instrument has taken but soon think these are not marks of abuse but marks of love—of devotion.

7ddf0379426a822a3033a26a364f9993You’re in a place called the Charleston Grill. Waiters scurry like albino beetles in white shirts and dark slacks. The restaurant smells of butter and fish but mostly butter. There’s a large framed photo of Billie Holiday on the back wall.

After the jazz quintet finishes their last set, you find out his name is Graydon Kelly and he would like to take you to dinner. At first, you think you should say no. He has that look about him: the thorn on the rose, the sugared rim of the poisoned glass. He’s over six feet tall. He has black hair, offset by light blue eyes. His cheekbones are even higher than yours, and you fleetingly think that if you reproduced with this man, your children’s faces would be pointed and sharp.

You agree to meet him the following night at a small Italian restaurant around the block called Il Cortile, translated from “Courtyard of the King,” and you laugh when you realize there is something quite kingly about Graydon Kelly.

When he shows up to your date late, you reassess. He’s in a pastel linen button-down and torn jeans. He has on boat shoes, and his curly black hair is a mess. He smells like pine. “Rosin,” he explains. Something to do with his violin.

He takes your hand and leads you to a table in the courtyard. His left hand is callused against yours. Outside, winding, wrestling fig vines grow up the exterior wall, illuminated by white twinkle lights that mimic the stars. He pulls out your chair and sighs into his seat.

He must notice you looking at him, because he smiles. “I look different when I’m not on stage.”

You acknowledge this is true.

“What’s the old adage? Fall in love with Gilda, but wake up to me?”

You fall into conversation, and it’s not the usual, polite, getting to know you babble. Graydon Kelly says odd, irresponsible things like, “You seem like you’re running from something” or “You have an amazing mouth” or the worst, “What do you think of me exactly?”

You only respond to the last comment: a terse, “I’m not sure.” You know this is a lie. You’re wild about every inch of him.

cb185530dd3a381b68d099afca968a3bHe walks you home in a rainstorm, leaving you both soaked and panting on the crooked front porch of the yellow plantation house you rent on Vanderhorst Street. He presses you against the exterior wall and kisses you with his hands in your hair. He smells like rain and marinara sauce with the lingering touch of pine. He tastes like tiramisu.

You invite him to fuck you on the front porch. At this, he falters. Perhaps not the thorn on the rose after all. But he falters only a moment before lifting your skirt, lifting you.

But Graydon Kelly does not fuck. He is an artist. His hips move the way he moves his bow across violin strings. When he comes with his forehead pressed against yours, you’re horrified to realize you could easily love this man.

Later, in your bed, you find him conversational. He makes himself at home. He is comfortable with pillow talk, even with an almost stranger. Again, you doubt your assessments.

He seemed so dangerous in his dark suit at Charleston Grill but so playful in his boat shoes with his messy hair: almost innocent—the kind of man you would take home to meet Mom. His comfort in your bed, though, is his tell, his admission. He does this all the time. He makes love to women he doesn’t know because they ask him to, because of his violin and his face and the strange questions he spouts over champagne.

When you ask about a white scar on his rib cage, he tells you his father used to beat him. One day, his father broke his ribs. One poked through the skin. In Graydon’s words, the bone looked like “a stick dipped in marmalade.” He was sixteen.

His honesty makes you awkward. You feel a need to share something, too, so you tell him you’ve been diagnosed schizophrenic. He doesn’t know what this means, not really, so you explain to him that you see things sometimes—children in white light on sidewalks; grown men covered in red scales. You tell him things have been better since the medication.

d51689d1bace799cc524d87377c06b5eYou expect him to leave, but he doesn’t. He stays until morning. You wake with his long appendages wrapped around you, his nose in your hair.

Then, he disappears. He’s gone for days before you hear from him again. By then, you’ve run the race of emotions and lost. You were cool at first, calm. Then, you missed him and hated yourself for missing him. Then, you were angry, which was when he returned—at the height of your anger.

He tells you he was gone to Nashville for a show. He tells you he travels a lot. You let him kiss you at Charleston Grill, and that night, he takes you back to his apartment: the second floor of a Battery mansion in the French Quarter. The floors are crooked, and his house smells like the sea.

He calls it “The Ballroom.”

It’s just one huge room with a bed in the corner, spotless kitchen, a rack of what appear to be expensive clothes, and finally, behind the only door, a bathroom.

He makes love to you in a grand, encompassing way, with his gaze on your face. You want to shield yourself. You feel like Lot’s wife, turned to salt.

There is no discussion of titles. You are not his girlfriend. When another woman kisses him in front of you, you say not a word.

After that, you allow yourself occasional visits to the Grill to watch him play. Graydon has played since he was eight, taught in Ireland, where he spent his childhood, which explained the accent that circled his vowels when he drank too much scotch. You watch his callused fingers. Your eyes wander down every crease and crevice of his black suit. You picture the way he looks underneath: a sinewy stretch of muscle and pale flesh and wonder how many other women in the room picture the same. You run your fingers down the side of your glass, slick with condensation.

He spends more time at your house. He brings sheet music, composes. One day, as you bring him a cup of coffee, you see your name written in pencil at the top of a page. The sound of musical scales is omnipresent.

You tell him you love him months later, and he frowns. He says, “I told you not to fall in love with me.”

And he did, too, the night you met his rich, Irish mother. In fact, he begged you. He begged you again and again, “Don’t fall in love with me. Don’t fall in love with me.” You were afraid to ask why.

36b4f9bd438941e6923265a4c84d38f4With your newly recognized emotions, you think Graydon Kelly will stop seeing you. Instead, the sex gets even better, almost as if he seeks to fulfill your emotional needs by giving you the gift of his skin. And it is a gift. You suspect he knows it.

You stop taking your meds and end up in a hospital. You don’t remember much. You remember the Grill and violin music. You had one of your hallucinations—a child surrounded by light, then nothing. When you open your eyes, you’re in an uncomfortable bed. Machines beep around you. Your head aches, and the violin player sleeps, slumped in a chair with his hand over yours.

You wake him with your voice, and he seems panicked. His light blue eyes dart around the room. He paces. He wants to know when you ate last. He demands, “When was the last time you ate?”

There is blood on his white shirt. It’s from a wound on your head. Apparently, you passed out and knocked yourself against a barstool. Graydon curls up in the little hospital bed with you, and you run your fingers through his hair.

He tells you he loves you, and now, you understand his earlier request: Don’t fall in love with me. You are panicked to understand you’ve been waiting your whole life for a man to love you. Now one does, and the pressure in your heart equals only the pressure in your bandage-bound head.

His composition is finished by Christmas. It is, in fact, your Christmas gift. He named it for you, and he plays it with his eyes closed. He plays most music with his eyes closed. He says he likes to feel the notes. He says playing music is like drowning, like when you stay underwater too long and feel light-headed, high. He says it feels like that.

You begin to wonder how much he hides from you. You know about his father, dead now ten years. You’ve met his mother, who worships him like the Christ child. He has only one friend: a dreadlocked drummer named Quent with flawless skin and beautiful teeth. Women circle Graydon, always.

Some nights, you stare at yourself in the mirror. You know you are lovely. You have long, chestnut hair. You have multi-colored eyes that resemble flower petals up close. Your cheekbones are high—but not as high as his. As he said, you have a very nice mouth. Despite all this, you sometimes wonder why he chose you. Of all the women in Charleston, he chose to love you.

When you end up in the hospital again, you fight. You had one of your visions. You saw a man with red scales, and you passed out. Graydon does not call you crazy, but he looks strangled. You decide your love is his noose, so you send him away, screaming.

He tells you days later that he slept with one of the nurses. After you kicked him out, he asked her out for coffee and instead fucked her in the hospital parking garage.

You take him back, because he’s not the man in the suit when he admits all this. He’s the man from your first date in the torn jeans and boat shoes. He’s the man with the unkempt black hair and the cloud of pine. He reminds you of home when you hug him and hold him until he stops shaking. He moves into your yellow house permanently.

9ada01c374fb5319d22742c7e841738eAt your wedding, he plays the song he wrote for you. He pays the big bucks to get you a suite at Charleston Place. In your fervor to remove his suit and find him, just him, underneath, you forget the condom.

When you tell him you’re pregnant, he worries his bottom lip. You think he’s going to tell you to get rid of the child. He can’t be a father. Of course he can’t. He travels and plays late nights and drinks too much. As you prepare yourself, though, he leans over in bed and rests his head on your stomach.

He says, “I think I hear Bach.”

Graydon Kelly is a wonderful father, despite everyone’s expectations. He was playing a show in Columbia when you went into labor. He missed Angela’s birth by five minutes but rushed in, hair askew, sweat on his brow, and took your newborn daughter in his hands like a Stradivarius.

He played a new song—a secret song—that he’d written for his little girl to the delight and amusement of the entire obstetrics floor.

He devotes all his emotion to Angela and to you. There are still those nights when you look in the mirror and wonder how you ended up with the talk of Charleston as your husband.

He gets more handsome with age, and you didn’t think that possible. He fills out a little. You enjoy the way his chest expands, the way he makes you feel smaller, smaller. There is less of you now, more of him. His black hair mimics the slick iridescence of a duck’s wing. His eyes darken. His left hand, as always, is callused.

You love how in bed you know which of his hands touches you, right or left.

You love him more than you love your daughter. You would die for him, kill for him. Sometimes you think you never should have agreed to that first date.

But then, he starts composing again, and when composing, he looks like a scungy frat boy. He goes from thirty-eight-year-old celebrity violinist to backwards cap-wearing, finger-chewing, forgets-to-shower little boy. You love him the most when he’s like this. Then comes a new song, and you love him more, more.

02a95a9ae6101647f587e1102ad3acebAngela grows. Graydon decides she will learn piano. She looks just like her father. You feel as though there is none of you in her, as though his dominant features suppressed your own. Your features linger in your empty uterus.

One night, you ask him to fuck you. You don’t want to make love, and he obliges. By the end, you slide over each other, covered in sweat. You pass names back and forth, pants of heated breath. His orgasm is so jarring he leaves fingerprint bruises on the outsides of your thighs.

Since they adjusted your medication, you don’t see the demons or angels anymore. There are no children in white light waiting on the corners of Vanderhorst and King. There are no slinking men with red scales and yellow eyes. No more hospital visits.

You think you are happy. You watch Graydon play with Angela in your backyard. She already far surpasses her piano teacher’s expectations and her father’s. The little girl has long, black hair that curls around her pale neck. She has her father’s fleeting smile, his long fingers. She has his glowing blue eyes.

When he’s on stage at the Charleston Grill, he doesn’t look at you because he enjoys the slow asphyxiation his violin allows. When he is at home, he stares at you, adores you. Then, he looks away. You often wonder if you’ve stopped seeing things at all. Don’t you?

An H and Five Ws with Painter/Photographer Chambers Austelle


Chambers Austelle (great name) is a Charleston, South Carolina, native and artist. I own four of her pieces. One—a black and white photograph of a forest that I understand she took while almost falling from a car—was a wedding gift. I have a spooky Halloween painting of a haunted house and two glorious portraits of my dogs.

Sure, I’m an obsessive fangirl, but she’s also my sister-in-law. My brother is a musician, and I find it miraculous that two artists can cohabitate and still love each other without MURDER. (Because seriously, I’m sure Jake wants to just murder me sometimes.)

Chambers is prolific and inspiring. She presses on, despite the difficulties of being an artist (i.e. rejection and emotional meltdowns). It’s time for you to meet her.

An H and Five Ws with Painter/Photographer Chambers Austelle

How did art become your passion? 

I think people love to hear about epiphanies. They want to know that “Ah-HA!” moment. Well, I never had one. The closest I think I’ve ever come to that is when I’ve tried other things and have inevitably realized, ah-ha, I should really just be making art. I think my mother may have realized it was going to be my passion, or already was, when I was seven. I think that was around the time she gave up on my room’s walls or carpet ever staying clean. I’ve always wanted to explore and create new things, using everything as a canvas or platform. I never took it too seriously until I changed my major to Studio Arts and realized that being an artist was a real possibility.

Who is your biggest artistic influence?

Wow. That’s a tough question. Sally Mann hands down set the path for my artistic style in photography. When I was in college, Rothko and Francis Bacon were definitely my favorite contemporary painters. For me, their work was the strongest and most mesmerizing. I know, I know, could their imagery be more different? But for me they’re both extremely meditative in their own way. I am influenced by so many different artists, though. I love images and am constantly looking at different works of art. Currently, I’d have to say the biggest influence award goes to Egon Schiele and Matisse for their use of line and flatness of color.

As an artist, what are you most afraid of?

Failing. My husband is an artist as well, and we talk and joke about how hard the struggle is. If something we’re working on isn’t coming along the way we imagined it, it hits somewhere deep. Being an artist isn’t a job; it’s who you are. So if you fail at a task, you feel you’ve failed as a person. We joke how people who have office jobs (not that office jobs can’t be stressful) probably never go home and cry about how they could’ve stapled those papers better, stacked them in a more aesthetically pleasing way, or made that sticky note a little more compelling. Oh yeah, then there’s that real fear of will we have food and can we pay that bill?


Where have you done your best work?

I have a beautiful studio. It’s the biggest room in the house. It’s filled top to bottom with canvases, weird tools, cameras, and little treasures I might or might not use one day. And everyday I drag what I need out to the kitchen table and set up shop. I love our home, and I guess I feel most comfortable in the most lived in room.

When have you felt most frustrated as an artist? Have you ever wanted to just give it all up and become an accountant?

I get FRUSTRATED with the can opener; I get disappointed with art. When I’m starting a new piece, I am excited. I can see the image in my head and can’t wait for it to be real. I work in layers, and although I have an idea of what the final image should look like, I like to leave room for interpretation and to follow the work itself. It’s extremely rare that the final piece will look like what I had first imagined. This being said, that middle ground also leaves room open for disappointment. I finished “Ann” a couple weeks ago. I was so upset halfway through. I thought I had failed. I left it alone until the next day, in which I worked straight through to the finished product. It’s always a give and take, but it’s always, always worth it.

WHY are you an artist?

I’m an artist because I can’t imagine being anything else. The first art class I took in college was Drawing 1, the prerequisite for all other studio classes. I remember the professor asked how many of us were Studio Art majors. After a whopping two of us had raised our hands, he told us that being an artist was a lifestyle choice, not a job. “Make sure this is what you want,” he said. It’s a conscious decision you’ll have to make everyday. It’s hard to answer this question without giving a cliché answer, but I make art because I love to. Yes it’s hard and scary sometimes. I always have to work to get better. It’s incredibly rewarding, though. It’s my job to create new beauty, whether it’s a contemporary portrait or just a burst of color and pattern.

Learn more about Chambers Austelle at her two websites:

I chose my favorite pieces of her work for this blog post, but there are so many more you need to see.


Don’t Slack on Setting

I picked up a book recently because it’s set in New Orleans. The plot sounded okay, but really, New Orleans. As someone who used to live in the American Lowcountry, I miss the South. As an Anne Rice fan, I feel I’ve visited New Orleans many times, even though I haven’t.

I was excited to start this book, escape the desert for a while, and be lulled into a sensuous stupor by the sights, sounds, and smells of what many consider the most beautiful city in the world.

To say I’ve been disappointed is an understatement. Here’s what I’ve gotten so far: “There was something about New Orleans—something about the air itself—a certain sultriness found nowhere else, that silky touch of humidity on skin like fingertips dragged slowly over your flesh.”

Great! And that was the first line. Since that first line, nothing, nadda. The author could be writing about Wall, South Dakota, and I wouldn’t know. Where is my French Quarter? Where is the overwhelming, sweet scent of magnolia? Where are the horse-drawn buggies for tourists?

ef5f114d06dfe0799832eb2df94d3424I’ll tell you where: in New Orleans. But not in this author’s book.

As a writer, setting is important. In my novels (even in my short stories), the city becomes a character. When I wrote Life without Harry, my readers rejoiced over places they recognized and couldn’t wait to visit places they did not. Same goes for Something about a Ghost, set in Phoenix. You know damn well you’re in Phoenix. You feel the dry heat and smell the spring-blooming orange blossoms. You see the purple-red sunsets, because Phoenix has a persona. Setting should have a persona.

As I mentioned, I was once lucky enough to live in the American Lowcountry. I lived in Charleston, South Carolina (aka “Heaven on Earth”), and the novel I’m writing at present takes place there. An excerpt:

“The air felt crisp, clean, light, and although most of the flowers were long dead, the air still smelled like some sweet bloomer over the usual scent of saltwater and wet sand. He clunked down the metal stairs that led to the ground floor and paused as his boat shoes met grass.

“He walked through the yard and its overabundance of dormant gardenia plants, their waxy leaves still green and lush despite the chill. The Crepe Myrtles at the end of his sidewalk were almost bare, beyond a few dark orange leaves that clung. He pulled a leaf free and held it between his fingers as he took a left and walked down Church Street toward Battery Park.

fbe2a39fb38fcb522ed53d63611ecbd2-3“He passed the houses where rich people lived, passed their well-kept gardens, their BMWs. He passed over brick roads, beneath the sprawling, wicked arms of Angel Oaks. He paused at Stoll’s Alley, a tiny walkway of brick, overwrought with climbing ivy—one of his usual short cuts—and kept moving until he entered Battery Park, the very tip of the Charleston peninsula.

“He stayed on the edge of the Battery. He stood on the walkway overlooking the harbor with his elbows leaned against the cold metal rail. The sky was cloudy, so the water looked dark green, tumultuous as though a storm would soon arrive. In the distance, he could see Fort Sumter and an American flag that flapped in the wind. There was a wind, a slight one that brushed softly over his face and brought with it the smell of dead fish.”

Do you smell the smells? See the sights? Feel the air? I hope so. I worked hard to take you to Charleston, even if you’ve never been there. This is setting, and for some reason, we’ve forgotten it. We’ve gotten so caught up in plot, character, conflict—but what is a story without a world, a sense of place?

This is a reminder to writers and readers alike: don’t let books get away with weak settings. Don’t be lulled by pretty people. People are but a thin pie slice of what is really happening in a story. Don’t disappoint me. I’ll find you and write about you on my blog.

Outrageous Fortune Publishes My Novel Excerpt

In the Fall 2013 issue, Mary Baldwin College’s literary magazine, Outrageous Fortune, published an excerpt of my novel, Damned if They Don’t. So many thanks to them for enjoying my work, and here’s to 2014 – a new year of inspiration and publication.

Novel Excerpt: Damned if They Don’t

by Sara Dobie Bauer

After their early morning dance practice for the College of Charleston’s presentation of Cabaret, Cleo and Alessa stepped into the October sun.

“Ah.” Cleo sang the word like the first note in Act Two. “Now, this is what I’m talking about. Crisp and cool.”

They were both chorus members, which had at first been a blow to Alessa’s experienced ego. Then, as the graduate school workload steadily increased, she saw the casting snafu as a blessing in disguise.

“Where are we meeting Emily for brunch?”

Of course, Cleo and Emily were practically in love. As soon as they met over drinks at Social Wine Bar on East Bay, the friendship was cemented. Together they bemoaned the dating scene in Charleston, because although there were plenty of eligible bachelors, most of them turned out to be untrustworthy asshats. They thoroughly disagreed on the topic of Graydon. Emily still found his persona deplorable, while Cleo was charmed down to her toes by the tall, brooding musician. Alessa, of course, fell somewhere in between.

5015d2c4dd114ae21334bdf8c6ad4b67She reached for her phone. “Emily was going to text me when she woke up.” She looked at the screen. “Why do I have three missed calls from Graydon?”

“It’s ten AM on a Saturday. Shouldn’t he be hung-over somewhere?”

“One would think.” Just as she was about to call him back, her phone rang again. “Graydon?”

“Hello.” He sounded out of breath.

“Are you okay?”

“No. Yes. Where are you?”

“Just leaving the theater.”

“I’ll be there in five minutes.”

“Wait. Cleo and I are going to …” She held the phone away from her ear and stared. “He hung up on me.” Alessa looked back at her phone. “Emily says to meet her at Virginia’s on King. Apparently they have a mimosa special today.”

“Well, what are you going to do?”

“Graydon said he’d be here in five minutes.” She shrugged.

“What, is he gonna propose or something?”


“I’m waiting until he gets here.”

“You don’t have to. Emily is probably already at Virginia’s.”

“No. I want to see what’s going on.”

The stern look on Cleo’s face told Alessa not to press any further. It wouldn’t have mattered. Graydon showed up across the street in three minutes flat.

Cleo scoffed. “Does his hair always look that perfect?”

“Yes. It’s disgusting.”

“He’s carrying red roses.”

“I can see that.”

man-holding-rose1He almost got hit by a car crossing the street, which made both the girls scream at him, and of course, he took a moment to cuss out the driver. He arrived on the sidewalk, and despite their hours of dance practice, he was actually covered in more sweat than either of the two women. Alessa pulled a hand towel from her gym bag and dabbed at his forehead and cheeks.

“Thank you.” He nodded.

“Flowers?” Cleo smirked. “What’d you do now?”

He gave his familiar glare, complete with lowered brows and strong set jaw.

“Cleo, why don’t I just meet you and Emily at Virginia’s?” Alessa opened her eyes wide, giving the expressive equivalent of, “Get the hell out of here. Please.”

“Fine.” She winked at Graydon. “You look sexy covered in sweat.”

Alessa agreed, but she wasn’t going to say it—not with the way he was behaving. Obviously he had screwed up, but what was there to screw up anyway? After four months of dating, they still didn’t use titles, no boyfriend-girlfriend. He still slept with other women, and sometimes they didn’t speak for days at a time, despite the fact that they worked in the same restaurant. She’d given up on anything normal with Graydon a month earlier, when another woman kissed him right in front of her. Now this? What, had he gotten someone pregnant?

“Graydon. What’s going on?”

He cleared his throat. “These are for you.”

She took the extended roses. “Thank you.”

“I woke up this morning in the bed of another woman.”

Alessa glanced away down St. George Street.

Read the rest at Outrageous Fortune’s website!

Who Wants to Visit the Roaring 20s?

Hotel del Coronado, 1925.

Hotel del Coronado, 1925.

This blog post was not inspired by Midnight in Paris, just to be clear. Instead, this blog post was inspired by San Diego and the Hotel del Coronado. I’ve decided I want to take a trip to the Roaring Twenties and live there for nine years—you know, right before everything went to hell when the market crashed in ’29.

The Hotel del Coronado (famous for the exterior beach scenes in the classic film, Some Like It Hot) was a very pleasant part of last week’s visit to San Diego and the nearby Coronado Island, where I had the chance to freeze my feet off in the ocean and see dolphins. I also admired the hotel: a 125-year-old architectural monster filled with crystal chandeliers, dark wood décor, and 1920s jazz music.

Although the hotel made me happy, it also made me sad. Let’s face it: I don’t always like Phoenix. Phoenix considers architecture from 1970 to be “historic,” and after living in Charleston, South Carolina, I have to tell you people, there is nothing historic about the 1970s. Phoenix is shiny and new, and I do have a place in my heart for skull décor and wild graffiti.

COCKTAILflapper2However, San Diego made me realize how much I miss walking the streets of Charleston, surrounded by flickering gas lamps, ivy that’s older than me, and houses that were around during the Civil War.

My need to time travel is more than just architectural. I did love the film Midnight in Paris, because not only did it embrace one of my favorite cities, but the movie embraced a golden culture and a specific time: the “Roaring Twenties,” what the French dubbed “The Crazy Years.” It was the era of jazz music, flappers, and the right for women to vote.

I adore jazz music. As you know, I’ve recently developed a girl-crush on Melody Gardot. Then, on the drive home from San Diego, Pandora showed me Koop and Devil Doll: two other modernized jazz/burlesque groups. Most modern music blows. The stuff you hear on the radio is crap. I’d much rather be enveloped by the trumpet of Louis Armstrong or the quavering alto of Billie Holiday.

cyd-charisse-fred-astaire-the-band-wagon1Then, there’s the fashion. Oh, the flapper gowns! And feathers! If I lived in the Roaring 20s, I could wear feathers—feathers everywhere—and people would think I was cool, not a Big Bird wannabe.

Plus, let’s not forget: in the twenties, men used to wear suits. Sleek, stylish, expensive suits every single day. I love men in suits, but unfortunately nowadays, most men only wear suits when going to weddings or funerals. Imagine Jake in a suit every day. Glorious!

Let us also bask in the decadence. Not only would I fully be expected to swing dance and bust out the Charleston at all hours of the night, but I could get away with slurpin’ whiskey and smoking cigarettes out of a big, ivory cigarette holder. There would be no Non-Smoking sections. I wouldn’t be a pariah for the occasional coffin nail; the behavior would be expected. Okay, so this isn’t the healthiest reason to go back in time, but hell, I feel like we’re all too damn worried about vitamins and vegetables nowadays. Wouldn’t it be nice to be bad for a little while?

I guess we all have an era: a time when we believe we were supposed to be born. My brother, for instance, would have been perfect in the 60s. Jake would have been happy dancing to Hall & Oates in the 80s. I think I would have enjoyed the 1920s. I miss old things, old places, which were easy to find around every corner in Charleston. I love 20s fashion. I love jazz. Literally, of course, I can’t go back and dance with the flappers. However, maybe I’ll start wearing feathers more often. I can easily add some flapper-esque attire to my wardrobe. I can lock myself in my house and listen to the music I like. And I can visit places like Hotel del Coronado—places that make me feel like, yes, I am home.

An Excessive and Irresponsible 30th Birthday Celebration

Ms. Jenny.

This past Friday night, Jake and I were sitting around watching Trollhunter—a B-horror movie from Norway—when our pal Brandon showed up at the front door. I had a couple seconds to think, “Huh, why is Brandon showing up at our house when he knows Jake has to work tomorrow?” Then, a girl walked in behind him, and I swore I knew her from somewhere. Then, in the dimness of our living room, I recognized the smiling face of my chica from Charleston, Jenny, who Jake had secretly flown in as a super spectacular birthday present to me. The next minute is kind of a blur, but I’m pretty sure there was a lot of hugging and cheek kissing and crying. So began my thirtieth birthday weekend.

Is the age of thirty any different from twenty-nine? Not particularly.  I guess people make a big deal out of it because it’s a nice round number, and it signifies the entrance into a new decade of life. I remember twenty didn’t mean anything, because at twenty, you were old enough to be in college but still too young to legally drink. At thirty, I gain nothing except a three where a two once was, yet because Jenny was here this weekend, I felt like thirty did mean something—because my weekend meant so much.

I met Jenny at work in Charleston, my very first week of habitation in South Carolina. That same week happened to be my birthday week, but I had no plan to celebrate, because I didn’t know anyone. Jenny, however, brought me a cupcake the day of my birthday. It was shocking to have a perfect stranger come into my office and put a cheerfully decorated pastry on my desk. We’ve been friends ever since.

Once Jenny got settled into our new house here in Phoenix, we went out Friday night to Ground Control, where we met friendly bartenders and patrons who bought us expensive shots of Frida Kahlo tequila, bless them.  We laughed and laughed until my ribs hurt and I was reminded of all the times we used to cackle on the beaches of South Carolina. Going to bed sounded terrible. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, I was too excited to sleep. I wanted to play, play, play, but since I’m thirty, I’m too old to play, play, play all night … or was I? Friday night, we slept; Saturday night, we didn’t, but we didn’t know what was to come as of Saturday morning, when we put on bathing suits and got mani-pedis together at the spa.

Following a highly productive trip to Total Wine, we went and hung out at a friend’s pool all afternoon. Jake met us there at lunch time, and it was all about the Absolut Miami and pineapple juice. I could have taken a nap, sure, but I didn’t want to miss any Jenny time. We reminisced about Belize, where Jake and I spent every day like Jenny and I spent Saturday.

At five, we showered and dressed, me in a highly out of character skin-tight lavender satin dress. The skin-tight was normal; the pastel color was not. We met the rest of our crew at Hula’s Modern Tiki downtown, where I enjoyed fresh fish and my cocktail of choice, the Dark & Stormy. As a collective, we consumed a Volcano Bowl—a thirty-dollar chalice of mixed liquors and fruit. I received copious offerings of expensive whiskey, tequila, and rum as birthday gifts (I love my friends). The rest of the night was composed of dancing at Sage and Sand, drinking cinnamon-flavored liquor, an after-party at my place (where we tasted all my birthday presents), and an eventual bedtime of 4:30 AM. Who says thirty is old, right?

Volcano Bowl. Mmmm.

I hated seeing Jenny leave on Sunday, and I already miss the lady friend who makes me laugh the most. I will be on a detox schedule, yes, for the next two years, but it was worth it. Huge, excessive birthday celebrations are always worth it, as long as friends are along for the ride, and great friends, I do have a few. By a few, I mean many, and maybe that was my favorite part of Saturday: watching a group of very different people converse, argue, and bond over preferred movie villains, shots of Fireball, and an obsessive love for seventies disco music.

Age doesn’t have to do with a number. It has to do with the friends you’ve made—and kept—along the way. I’m so blessed to have friends all over the country who I still keep in touch with. I’m blessed to have friends here in Phoenix who brighten my life on a daily basis. I’m blessed to have my very best friend, my hubbie Jake, who Jenny refers to as her Xanax substitute. That’s how all good friends are: they relax us, calm us, and keep us from going nuts … even on my dirty thirty.

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen: Bayou Cookin’ in Phoenix

Did you know Red Lobster is dangerous? Yeah. Me neither. Here’s how it happened. Right before Christmas, I ran in to the nearest Red Lobster to buy a gift card for Jake’s grandpa. I thought it would be a simple task, but when I walked in and smelled seafood I got sick to my stomach.

At my first oyster roast on Sullivan's Island in South Carolina. Love.

Not because I don’t like seafood. I love seafood. This was something else. This was something I didn’t even realize I missed, and that “something” was Charleston, South Carolina. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t miss the person I was in Charleston. I don’t miss the dating scene in Charleston. I don’t miss humidity, but I do miss oysters from Charleston. I miss the ambience of gas-lamp-lit streets at night and cobblestone pathways. I miss the way every restaurant in Charleston smells like seafood and how you can sit on Shem Creek and have a beer while watching shrimp boats unload their bounty.

This realization, while standing in Red Lobster, was enough to make me sit at the bar and take deep breaths. I got all emotional! I know, me? Emotional? Unbelievable right? Ha. But seriously, when I got back to my car, I felt all shaky and desperate to be back in Charleston if only for a day.

I told Jake about it that night—the way the smell of a seafood restaurant had cast me back to 2008 and Charleston, the Most Beautiful City on Earth. Then, last weekend, Jake suggested we go on a date, but he wouldn’t tell me where we were going. First, we sat outside on the porch and drank Corona. No, it wasn’t because I particularly like Corona. It was because drinking Corona outside while watching a sunset reminded me of being in Charleston, where I did stuff like that all the time. We set off on our surprise date soon after, and what a surprise it was when Jake pulled into the parking lot of a mysterious restaurant called “Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen.” And what bliss when I walked in to the smell of seafood!

I can’t describe the joy. A wave of ecstatic enthusiasm washed over me like Atlantic Ocean foam. I could barely refrain from running up to the bar and shouting, “Oyster shooters! NOW! … And where are your raw oysters from? Galveston? Sure! I’ll take a dozen! …. You make a good Bloody Mary? Sure! Two of them! HOORAH!”

The place was packed, which is always a good sign. It was filled to exploding with a completely mixed demographic, which makes me truly believe that no one is immune to creatures of the sea. The wait staff was pleasant, funny, and accommodating. The oyster shooters weren’t as good as the ones on East Bay in Charleston, but nothing is perfect. The raw oysters themselves—served with rockin’ fresh horseradish—were practically orgasmic. I did my best to subdue my obnoxious moans of enjoyment, but I couldn’t help it. It had been months since my last raw oyster, and girlfriend has an addiction. The seared scallops were a little salty, but I ate every last one. Jake and I both cleaned our plates; we were so full, we barely made it home before we both fell asleep.

If you like seafood and you find yourself living in a land-locked state called Arizona, you have to try Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. It’s like a pool of warm ocean water in the middle of the desert. It’ll bring back memories you never knew you had, and for a moment, you can pretend you’re sitting on a beach at dusk, watching Southern boys shuck oysters into ice-filled buckets.

Pappadeaux's back patio in Phoenix. Did I mention they have live music??

Best Day in Charleston 2011

I could tell you about reuniting with “the girls” at Social. I could tell you about sand between my toes and Shem Creek dolphin-watching with my family. Or maybe the fact that Charleston left me a reminder: bronchitis and an ear infection. Fact is the trip was too chock-full of good stuff to tell you about the whole thing. So instead, I’m going to tell you about the best day: Thursday, June 23rd.

The day began with grocery shopping. Jake and I needed ingredients for mojitos. We headed to Crickentree: the apartment complex I first called home in SC, where I met current resident and amazing gal, Becky. Becky, her sister Mary, and I used to spend afternoons by the Crickentree pool, so in homage to those days, we did it again on Thursday. Although Becky was under the weather, Mary, Jake, and I concocted our beverages and spent the early afternoon floating around a clear pool. We talked as if not a day had passed, and we laughed (when was I not laughing with Mary?) until finally, it was announced Jake and I had to leave for our “date.”

Our “date” was simple—I told Jake we would go wherever he wanted to go in downtown Charleston, before heading to my brother’s gig at The Pour House at 9 PM. We began our tour at Magnolia’s on East Bay. Magnolia’s is a classic Charleston restaurant, known for expensive lowcountry dining, white tablecloths, and pleasant wait staff. Jake and I ordered a bowl of Blue Crab Bisque—a fancy name for She Crab Soup. She Crab is maybe the most famous dish in Charleston, and it should be. It’s damn delicious. The key ingredient? Crab eggs.  Although Magnolia’s Blue Crab was good, the best She Crab is at Mistral on Market, which tragically no longer exists.

Next, we were off to Pearlz, where we each did an oyster shooter, composed of Pearlz special blend of pepper vodka, cocktail sauce, spices, and a huge raw oyster. I did about a dozen oyster shooters last week, which still wasn’t enough. I also enjoyed a bubbly glass of champagne, while looking out over the slate sidewalks and pastel paint of lower East Bay Street.

Stepping outside, we took a moment to wander past Rainbow Row and into The Battery. I came to realize on this trip that I don’t miss Charleston as much as I thought I did. I don’t miss the tourist hubbub. I DO NOT miss the humidity. I don’t miss the packed bars and lack of taxis. However, I do very much miss walking through The Battery, up Church Street, and over to Broad. I miss the look and feel of Charleston, but I’m not sure I could ever move back.

We headed to dinner at Bocci’s, an Italian restaurant down Church Street off Market. The food wasn’t mind-blowing, but the ambience made the place, as did the sudden (and very Charleston-esque) thunderstorm that descended with no warning outside. I love this about Charleston. I love that it’s sunny one moment and a deluge the next. In Charleston, the streets don’t get wet when it rains; the streets flood. I’ve seen it, first-hand, and I even used to know which streets to avoid when driving home because I knew they’d be two feet under water.

Jake and I paid our tab and ran outside, having missed the lightning and thunder now that we live in the desert. We walked down to Amen Street (it’s a bar; not an actual street). We did two more oyster shooters and headed to McCrady’s—a classy pub hidden down an alley. When we lived in Charleston, Jake and I spent many a quiet pre-party evening sipping scotch, just the two of us. Even the smell of the place reminded me of conversations once shared when Jake and I were still just two semi-strangers, learning each another.

At 8:30, we headed across the water to James Island, where Matt Dobie and his band were set to play at The Pour House. Matt is the lead vocalist and guitar player for Gangrene Machine. They’re four crazy dudes who play funk/psychedelic/rock music, featuring creepy lyrics, occasional costuming, and a wild headman. Matt Dobie? Wild? You heard me. If you met my brother off-stage, you’d think he was a low-key, funny, shy guy. Once on stage, he becomes a head-banging, dancing, theatrical genius. Tom Waits, step down. A new King of Weird has taken your place. My favorite song? “Meat my Friends” about a group of “reasonable cannibals … they just take what they need,” which may include your belly fat. Even though my mom looked a little disturbed on occasion over Matt’s less than politically correct lyricism, my dad walked up to me after the show to say how impressed he was with my little bro. I agreed. In fact, when I saw the boys outside, I pulled a Wayne’s World. (“We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”)

Thursday, June 23rd, was the best day of Charleston 2011 for me. The trip in its entirety reminded me how much fun I used to have talking with my gal pals. How much I miss having my little brother down the street. How much I love the ocean and Spanish moss on Church Street. I did see the ghost of my past self—unavoidable in the same haunts, doing the same shots of Van Gogh, with the same girls I was once single with. I blame my past self for my present bronchitis. But it was worth it, and knowing I’ll be back again in April for Mary’s wedding puts a wide smile on this Phoenician’s face.