Story Trippin’: ‘Champagne Johnny’

Fiction Friday Britni Danielle

I’ve been wanting to use some of my travels as a springboard for writing for some time now, but I just haven’t. Last night, I just couldn’t shake the idea for Champagne Johnny, so I started writing. Let me know what you think of this & if you’d like me to continue. I’m going to pop in…weekly(?)…to either extend this story, or share another. Enjoy & please leave a comment!
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Champagne Johnny

Flirting in London was so much easier than in the States. Perhaps it was because she was only in town for a month and eager to scotch-tape enough memories together to hold her over until her next excursion. Or maybe it was because it was easier being a whore on the road. Either way, it was her last night in the Queen’s city and she was ready to burn a hole in her brain.

Jaylah ran around her hotel room trying to decided between the fuschia dress that showed off the creamy tops of her ample breasts, or the short black mini that exposed a dangerous amount of leg.

After remembering she planned on dancing like a wild 23-year-old dropping an obscene amount of E, she picked the pink number, brushed her hair into a lazy topknot, smeared on her lipstick, and ran out of the door.

After all, Jourdan–Jaylah’s new bestie–was waiting and she didn’t want to waste another minute of her last night in London on minor details like clothes; they were hopefully coming off anyway.

There were more important things she needed to tend to, namely Champagne Johnny, the beautiful man she was pressed up against on a dance floor the night before.

Like all of the other men she met in London, Champagne Johnny was slightly taken aback, but extremely intrigued by her forwardness. He had no choice.

When she asked him, “So do all of the black men in the city love white women or what?” instead of just saying hello, he knew she was unlike any woman he’d ever met before.

“Excuse me?” he said, completely caught off guard.

“Well,  I’ve been here a month and I’ve seen y’all with everybody but black women. What’s up with that?”

Champagne Johnny chortled, “No…not all of us,” he said extending an easy smile. “I’m Johnny, what’s your name, love?”

She noticed the sharp angle of his nose then, causing her to stop and take him in. His eyes were disarmingly generous, the lights in the Mau Mau bar seemed to glide across his sable skin, and the hint of a decidedly un-British accent danced on the tip of his tongue.

“I’m Jaylah. Where are you from?”

“Peckham.”

“No, no. Before. Were you born in London?”

“No. Moved here from Ghana when I was four,” he pointed to her empty beer bottle, “Want another?”

“Sure.”

As he walked away, Jaylah noticed the outline of his strong, sleek back and footballer’s body. She thought his arms were easily sturdy enough to lift her, and he moved with a quiet confidence that said he could own any room if he wanted.

In that moment Jaylah knew: she had to see him naked.

* * *

Jaylah’s heels clicked as she ran down Great Eastern Street to meet up with Jourdan before she got too pissed for having to wait. Although she journeyed to London alone to escape her mess of a life after she was unceremoniously “let go” (that’s how they put it anyway) from her writing gig at the LA Weekly and broke up with her vexingly bland boyfriend all in the same week, she was happy to meet Jourdan in line at the Pret.

Since their chance meeting, the two had become fast friends and had hit up every bar, lounge, museum, bashment, and flea market their too-tight budgets would allow.

“About time you got here,” Jourdan said with a wicked grin. “I was about to freeze to death waiting for your ass. Cute dress!”

“Sorry I’m late,” Jaylah kissed her friend’s perfectly polished cheek, “I was trying to sort out my outfit. You know, decide between showing the legs or the tits?”

“Uh huh, you’re trying to look cute for your man,” Jourdan teased.

An image of Champagne Johnny hungrily kissing her neck flashed through her mind causing Jaylah to smile in spite of herself. “My what?” she held up her left hand, “I don’t see any rings on these fingers.”

“Please. You know he’s coming. I thought I was going to have to pry him off you last night. I’m surprised he didn’t try to get you back to his flat.”

“He tried,” Jaylah smirked, “It might just work tonight, too.”

The pair laughed as they descended the stairs into Plastic People, a basement club known for its dim lights, tight corners, and massive soundsystem. A soulful house remix of Nina Simone’s “See Line Woman” was blaring through the speakers, and Jaylah quickly scanned the room for Champagne Johnny. No luck.

She was disappointed, but she knew he would show. At least she hoped so.

Although Jaylah wasn’t looking for anything serious, especially since she had just disentangled herself from boring-ass Marco, she ached to see Champagne Johnny with an urgency that surprised her.

Girl, chill, she commanded. He’s fine, but damn. Chill!

Jaylah was trying to stop herself from spinning into Crazy Town and creating an entire narrative about how Champagne Johnny was the one , and how years from now they will recount the story of their meeting. Calling it kismet and wondering what would have happened had she and Jourdan kept walking past the bar that night.

“Can you imagine?” she’d say to their friends over dinner, with Champagne Johnny’s arm comfortably draped around her shoulders.

“We could have missed each other. But look at us now!” he’d chime in right on time.

Jourdan tapped Jaylah on the shoulder, snapping her out of her daydream. “Ready to hit the floor?”

“Always!” Jaylah responded, a little too excitedly.

Just have fun, Jay, she thought to herself. You came to dance….not to fall in love.

~~

Want to know what happens next? Read part 2 here! 

Yes, You Can Road Trip Alone

The view of the CA desert outside my window.

The view of the CA desert outside my window.

When most people think of road trips, they usually invision a Griswold-style family vacation where the whole family piles into the car and annoys each other for what seems like an eternity before finally reaching their destination.

While this has been a rite of passage for many families, it has also turned many folks off to the idea of road tripping. Thankfully, you have alternatives.

Back in 2009, I drove the California coast with my then-5-year-old, my parents, and my little brother. I think I was feeling a bit nostalgic and just a little unsure of my ability to pull off such a trip on my own, so we had our own little Griswold-esque vacay. Although we had fun, I definitely got annoyed by my dad’s constant driving tips, and having to censor my language (and music!) with my mom in tow.

Recently, I decided to try something different. In honor of my 33rd birthday, I hit the road for an eight-hour, 500 mile jaunt to Arizona….alone.

Leaving Los Angeles...

Leaving Los Angeles…

And it was GREAT.

Thankfully, the drive from Los Angeles to Arizona is pretty straight forward: you hop on the I-10 and keep driving until you need to get off. That’s literally how it went.

I left L.A. at about 10 am, and after stopping three times to stretch my legs, get gas, and grab a sandwich, I got to Tucson a little after 6 pm.

How did I manage to stay sane for 8 long hours on the road?

Here are my tips for pulling off the perfect solo road trip:

1) Be patient: If you start any trip already annoyed, in a hurry, or on edge, it will be a looooong ride. Before I left I made a commitment to keep my cool, no matter what. Bad drivers? No problem. Traffic? I could deal with it. Random delays? I got this. If you keep your cool while on the road you’ll not only be happier, but I promise you’ll reach your destination sooner as well.

roadtrip3

2) Always have a GPS or smartphone: I’m not sure where I’d be without my Samsung Galaxy smartphone. It not only helped me navigate to my resort, but it also helped me locate restaurants, local attractions, and movie times while I was away. If you don’t have a standalone GPS, make sure you have a smartphone (or tablet) that can help you get where you want to go. It’s a lifesaver!

roadtrip2

3) Have TONS of music: There is nothing more annoying (and more boring) than trying to find  local radio stations while on your road trip. And depending on where you are–which may be in the middle of nowhere–you might not be able to pick up a signal at all. Before hitting the road be sure you have all of your favorite music, audiobooks, or podcasts on hand. Luckily, I have  XM radio in my SUV, so I can pretty much listen to my favorite stations anywhere. And when I got tired of that, I switched to my phone to listen to albums I already downloaded.

Sunset at the Loews Ventana Canyon.

Sunset at the Loews Ventana Canyon resort.

4) Keep the plan very minimal: Part of the fun of a road trip is being able to decide what you want to do on the fly. If you plan out a jillion activities in advance, your vacation will feel like a job. If you MUST plan, pick a few attractions you know you really want to see and leave the rest up to how you’re feeling that day.

Do you love taking road trips? In the comments section, share your tips for pulling off a good one! 

24 Hours In Savannah, Georgia

Savannah’s historic city hall

I’m channeling my inner Anthony Bourdain and doing my version of “The Layover.” If you’re not hip to the show, the premis is Bourdain spends 48-hours or less in one city and tries to experience it to the fullest.

Well, today I’m bringing you my layover in Savannah, Georgia.

A few weeks ago, I participated in a press trip with Harley-Davidson to caravan with a group of riders from Atlanta, Georgia to Daytona Beach, Florida.

Despite not being on a bike since I learned to ride last summer, I happily accepted the challenge to ride a hog over 600 miles to one of the biggest motorcycling events of the year–Daytona Bike Week.

When I started out in Atlanta, I was nervous but excited. Despite the 30-degree temps (and my complete lack of riding experience), I was insanely hopeful that I’d be able to safely navigate my bike (a beautiful 2013 midnight blue Softail Slim) to Savannah safely.

2013 Harley Softail Slim

The controls of my borrowed Harley Softailslim.

And I did…

….for an hour.

Then the gravity of the situation kicked in, and I decided to do the prudent thing and ride in the van to Savannah.

Luckily, my decision to ride in the vehicle instead of on the bike meant I had a little more time to poke around Savannah than my compadres who rode into the city a few hours later. #Winning

While I could have stayed in the hotel (the magnificent Bohemian Hotel on the Savannah Riverfront) to catch up on a little sleep, I headed outside to explore.

Downtown Savannah is filled with old school charm: cobblestone streets, lush trees, and tons of sculptures marking the city’s storied history.

Savannah’s tree-lined streets

And because of the Bohemian Hotel’s awesome location (right on the river), I was steps away from all of it.

My first stop was to check out the World War II memorial on the river walk.

World War II Memorial Savanna, GA

After taking in the view of the river, I headed over to one of the best known candy shops in the South and had THE most delicious pralines–ever–from River Street Sweets.

River Street SweetsHigh off of sugar, I decided to explore Downtown Savannah and take in the artwork which is scattered throughout the neighborhood.

Revolutionary War memorial in Savannah

Revolutionary War memorial in Savannah honoring Haitian soldiers who fought for America’s freedom.

While we were stopping through, the city was gearing up for its annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival, in which nearly 1 million people flood into the city to have a funky good time.

After our whole group surfaced, we headed over to Aligator Soul for a late dinner. While we weren’t too sure of the adventurous menu which consisted of rabbit, squab, turtle, fried green tomatoes, and of course, aligator, dinner turned out to be WONDERFUL. My sausage-stuffed squab was delicious, and the aligator appetizers were a surprising hit!

aligator soulUnfortunately, my trip to Savannah was super short. While I got a glimpse of the city that boasts so much Southern charm, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Early the next morning we headed back to the river walk so filmmaker F. Gary Gray could shoot his Harley-Davidson spot (and sport the famed Freedom Jacket), and we could continue our journey to Daytona.

FGaryGray_Savannah

F. Gary Gray rocking the Harley-Davidson Freedom Jacket

Although I’d never thought of visiting Savannah, Georgia before, it’s definitely a place I’d love to return to again (and especially the Bohemian Hotel–too cute).

Have you ever been to Savannah, Georgia? Leave me a comment and let me know your  favorite part of the city! 

I promise, summer is on the way

Quote

Taken at the Redondo Beach Pier..

“One must maintain a little bittle of summer, even in the middle of winter.” ― Henry David Thoreau

I know I’m blessed to enjoy summer-like temps year-round. But some of you are still suffering through snow and freezing rain.

Fear not…summer is coming. I promise.

What’s On Your Travel Wish List?

My passport has been feeling very neglected lately. It’s been 5 months since I pulled it out and got another stamp in the Bahamas, and since then I’ve been itching to hit the road again.

After my epic trip to London and Paris last December, I made a list of places I wanted to go this year, and unfortunately that hasn’t quite materialized yet. Instead of traveling, I’ve been steadily racking up bylines (which, will hopefully lead to more travel), but come 2013 I definitely MUST add more stamps to my passport.

So where would I like to go?

Costa Rica

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been wanting to go to Costa Rica for years. Perhaps it’s the potential to travel through the rain forest, or maybe it’s just because all of the picture I’ve seen look downright beautiful, but I really, really want to go to Costa Rica.

Paris

Sure, I’ve already been to Paris, but it was for a mere 12 hours. After reading ‘Passing Love,’ I realized that my magical day trip to the City of Lights didn’t even begin to scratch the surface. I want to wander the city for days, or weeks, eating pastries and working on my French.

Africa

I know Africa is not one, big ol’ country, but I haven’t quite decided which of Africa’s 50+ nations I want to visit first. South Africa is all the rage these days. Tanzania is a draw for its beaches and safaris. Ghana with its history and “Door of No Return.” I want to see the Africa other folks merely dream of and never knew existed.

That’s it for now, although my ideal list is a whole lot longer.

How about you? What’s on your 2013 travel wish list?

On Wanderlust & Travel Withdrawals

Sacré-Coeur, Paris – Taken during my trip last December.

After starting out with a bang and aiming to document all of my adventures in and around Los Angeles, I haven’t written in this space in quite some time. It’s not because I’ve been holed up in the house, slaving away on that unfinished book (I wish that was it), and it’s not because I haven’t gone anywhere around the city all summer. So what gives?

While I’ve been hanging out in and around L.A. for the past three months, my lack of travel travel, you know the kind where you board a plane and go somewhere AMAZING, has been giving me the blues.

After going on some very life changing trips (*whispers* London, I miss you) within the last year, my traveling has stalled, and I have yet to go…anywhere…all summer. I’m thoroughly annoyed and going through massive withdrawals.

ParisRecently, I stumbled on Jacqueline Luckett’s latest novel, Passing Love, and it has once again stoked the travel bug.

The novel follows Nicole-Marie Handy, a 57-year-old woman whose life is a list of “dittos.” Despite wanting more, Nicole is unmarried, a dutiful daughter to aging parents, a worker bee, and is involved in a long-time affair with one of her bosses who dangles a hasty marriage proposal in front of her to keep her stuck in a rut. After the death of her closes friend, she decides to cash in her vacation days and head to Paris for a month.

I’m not quite halfway through the book, but I love it already. The way Luckett describes Paris make me soooooooo very jealous. I wish I had scribbled more details in my journal about the streets and the people during my brief, but wondrous, trip to the City of Lights instead of just wandering aimlessly down les boulevards.

Reading Passing Love not only makes me miss Paris, but traveling in general. I miss that indescribable feeling when you first step off of the plane and you are so full of emotions you don’t know whether to laugh or burst into tears. I miss not knowing where to go first, but knowing that I have to go…somewhere. I miss it all. And I need to hit the road again.

Before this year is over, I’m going somewhere, anywhere. I’m desperate to make it happen.

How do you deal with wanderlust and travel withdrawals? 

Paris, In 90 Seconds

Tour paris

I must have lost my mind, or had a serious lapse in judgement, because I recently signed up for a Facebook group challenging its participants to make 30 Videos in 30 Days.

Although I love the video medium and would really, really like to make a documentary film one day, I’ve been making all sorts of excuses to not get started. Now, I have an excuse!

This week was the first of the challenge, and I’ve stayed faithful making a video every, single day. So far I made a commercial offering my services as a writing coach, and I shared a little advice on how to overcome the blahs and break out of a funk.

Today, I was fresh out of ideas and decided to put together a quick 90 second tour of Paris (like I did for London) using some of the pics from my trip.

Check it out!

Oh…and to keep tabs on my 30 Videos in 30 Days challenge, subscribe to my YouTube channel!

Abiento!

3 Things I Loved About the Bahamas

The view from my hotel at the Sheraton Nassau Beach

Is it really “better in the Bahamas”? Read on to find out!

I recently got back from a press trip to the Bahamas*, and let’s just say I had a magnificent time! Unlike many of you, this was my first time in the Caribbean and I went in without many preconceived notions about what I’d find.

Because I was traveling with the Ministry of Tourism, I figured my trip would be very “touristy” because their goal was to show off the best parts of the islands in order to get glowing reviews and get y’all to book a trip. I was prepared to be wooed by excursions and endless glasses of rum punch and the beaches, and more rum punch. But what I found–once we ventured off the beaten path–was something even more magical.

If you really want to know what’s “better in the Bahamas…” get out and mix it up with the people. Everywhere I go, I try to “fit in” with the locals. When I was London, I made a point to go to Brixton, and when I was in Paris, I wandered the streets and made it a point to not speak too much English as to be found out. I just like being treated like I belong. While it was difficult to pull off on this trip because we were chauffeured from place to place, I did manage to meet a few amazing Bahamians and it totally made the trip.

So, what were some of the things I LOVED About the Bahamas?

Most people in the country look like me: This may sound weird, but that I grew up in America and most places I’ve traveled to have been in the States and Europe, so I wasn’t used to visiting a country with so many black folks. It was evident as soon as we got off the plane. The customs agents, airport workers, the construction workers at the airport, our driver, the hotel staff. nearly EVERYBODY was black. While there are non-black Bahamians (a lot of the biz owners, British and American ex-pats, etc.), I can’t begin to explain how I felt to moving around in a country in which nearly everybody I met looked like they could be my kin. Visiting the Bahamas made me want to visit Africa. Weird, I know, but true.

The BEST burger ever! From the Sip Sip

The Food: I think I gained about 10lbs. in the 5 days I was in the Bahamas. Along with way too many glasses of rum punch, Bahama Mamas, and daiquiris, I ate…a lot. Although I don’t eat fish, I ate a ridiculous amount of conch and shrimp. The best fried shrimp I’ve ever had in my entire LIFE came from Indigo Cafe in Nassau, and even though I’d never had conch (a shell fish) before going to the Bahamas, I’m glad I did. I ate lots conch fritters (a must), conch chowder, grilled conch, and conch salad. Additionally, the best (and I do mean the best) mac & cheese I’ve ever tasted in my life came at the home of a Bahamian family we met during a people-to-people visit. OMG. It was the PERFECT mix of creamy cheese, pasta, and a little added spice. And I know I sound like one of those crazy infomercials, but THE best burger I’ve ever had in my life also came on this trip. All I can say is, if you love burgers and blue cheese as much as I do, go to the Sip Sip on Harbour Island. Delish!

When you go to the Bahamas, don’t try to stick to your diet…just go and eat and eat and eat (then swim, swim, swim…it evens out, I promise).

Trying on a hat from Junkanoo. It was the heaviest hat I’ve EVER worn in my life!

The People: Most people go to the Bahamas to relax, lay on the beach, and just enjoy the tropical scenery. That’s cool. But after you’ve had your fill of sun bathing and banana-boating, get out and meet the people. During our visit we had the opportunity to learn about Junkanoo, a cultural festival that takes place on December 26 and Jan. 1 of each year, from Mrs. Arlene Nash Ferguson and her husband. The Fergusons run the Educulture center in Nassau and had SO much energy and love for their country and its Junkanoo festival that it was absolutely infectious.

During the trip we also had the opportunity to visit with local Bahamians on a people-to-people visit. People-to-People is a program sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and allows tourists (yes, anyone can set up a visit) to hang out with Bahamians to learn more about the country and its people. Aside from the home-cooked food (which was down right amazing), I met so many cool people who were not only welcoming, but funny, friendly, and eager to share. If you ever visit the Bahamas…leave your resort and hang with the people!

Have you ever been to the Bahamas? What did you love the most? 

Photo Trippin’: Art of the Streets

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some pretty cool places. Although I’m no professional jet setter like the homie Oneika, I’ve had the pleasure to cross-cross this country and see some of our nation’s coolest spots. No matter where I go, however, I’m bound to find one thing–street art.

From pieces of the Berlin Wall in Los Angeles, to graffiti on the walls leading up to the Paris’ Gare du Nord train station, I’ve seen some pretty dope open air art pieces, and since I haven’t written a travel specific post in some time, I thought I’d share some of the pics I’ve snapped of my travels.

Enjoy!

Chicago, IL

Mural in Hermosa Beach, CA

Art in Milwaukee, WI

Pieces of the Berlin Wall

Piece of the Berlin Wall

and…Paris!

Are you a fan of Street Art? What city has the best outdoor art?

Getting Ready to Trip…How Do You Prepare for Hitting the Road?

I want this, badly!

How do you prepare for a trip, folks? Are you a last-minute packer? Do you plan every, single, thing out? Or do you go with the flow?

In about three weeks, I’ll be headed to the Bahamas for the first time. The Bahamas, y’all!! As a relative newbie to international travel (I only have 4 countries under my belt), I’m super excited for my first trip to the Caribbean. Even doper? I’m going for free! I’ll be headed to the Bahamas on a working press trip, and judging from my last jaunt to Milwaukee, I’m gonna have a funky good time (*cue James Brown*).

In preparation for my trip, I’m searching for the perfect swimsuit. I mean, you can’t go to the Bahamas with all of that turquoise water, and pristine sand, and NOT feel compelled to hit the beach, right? So, while I have what one might call a bathing suit stuffed in the back my dresser drawer, I think it’s only fitting to find a fly swimsuit for my inaugural trip to “the Islands.”

But here’s the thing: ‘m not the perfect size 6…or 8…or 12, for that matter. I’m what one might call a “curvy girl,” who fluctuates somewhere around a 16 (*gasp*, I just wrote that for real for real.). An while I carry my weight well (I’m tall & everything is proportionate), and I’ve had some serious swimsuit envy of the thick chicks who throw caution to the wind to rock a bikini, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it just yet. But as this Bahamas trip approaches, I’ve been eyeing the two pieces more and more and I think I just might cop one.

And yet….I still have doubts. What am I waiting for?

Yes, I could always wait until I shake this extra weight (the hiking is helping a lot) to rock a bikini, but even when I get down to my goal will I suddenly find the confidence to bare more skin? Or is my issue mental and am I not throwing on a dope bathing suit, sans coverup or shorts, because I’m afraid of what others will think of me?

Despite my brash exterior…I’m afraid it’s the later, rather than the former. But as Deepak Chopra said on Lifeclass (yes, I know I’m getting annoying quoting Lifeclass):

“What other people think of you is not your business. If you start to make it your business, you’ll be offended for the rest of your life”– Deepak Chopra

So while I’m still working on my body confidence, I think this trip will be just the thing I need to truly appreciate where I am at THIS moment of my journey and celebrate the progress I’ve made thus far.

How do you prepare for a trip? In your preparation have you ever had an ‘aha’ moment about your life?