Saturday, August 11, 2012

18 Seaboard: Worth a visit

Sarah and Ben weren't due to go on until 9:00 last night, so we had time eat at a local restaurant beforehand.  We made the decision late in the week, however, so reservations were scarce on the ground.  On a whim, I consulted the 2011 best restaurants list of local food critic Greg Cox, and one of his silver medalists was a place we'd never been.  OpenTable and the restaurant were kind, and a few minutes later we were set for dinner at 18 Seaboard

18 Seaboard opened in 2006, so it is obviously not a new establishment, but because it was new to me, I did the usual basic research.  The chef-proprietor, Jason Smith, has an interesting and varied background that includes stints in two serious New York restaurants.  He took the time to credit his executive chef, Ty Parker, and pastry chef, Billy Apperson, which I always like to see.  The menu sported an appealing mix of tarted-up versions of southern classics and some dishes that sounded more experimental. 

I was happy with my choice.

After finishing last night's dinner, I'm glad to be able to report that I'm still happy, though not without reservations. 

The restaurant is in an industrial-looking building with high ceilings and brick exterior walls. Inside, though, it's pure big city, with open ceilings, an active bar, and a lot of conversations filling the spaces.  I liked it. 

The food ranged from good to very good, though no dish stood out as exceptional the way almost every dish at a truly top-drawer place like Panciuto typically does.  Two of us shared two starters, the wood-fire grilled fresh bacon and the cheese board.  The cheeses were tasty, and the bacon was the highlight of the whole meal, more pork belly than standard bacon.  My main was a pork shank with bleu cheese grits, and it was both delicious and enormous; I ate only half the meat and a third of the grits.  (Scott was happy to polish off the take-out box for me at home.)  The desserts were all good as well, though a day later none stands out in my mind as wonderful.

The service was uneven, with every server who helped us trying too hard but not listening or observing well.  I appreciate their intentions, but less effort at speaking and more at paying attention would have helped.

All in all, dinner at 18 Seaboard was a good enough meal that I can recommend the place and will try it again. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

The longest I've smiled in ages

As I mentioned in yesterday's entry, earlier tonight we went to see Sarah and Ben, in their guise as The Camaraderie, play at the Deep South Bar in Raleigh. They were the first of four bands and the only one I had the chance to see. (We had to leave not long after their set due to some previously committed and important early-morning obligations.)

I know I'm biased, but still:  Their half-hour set was great.  I enjoyed every song, they were tight, the mix was well above average for a club, and they made very few missteps.  Each time I hear them, they get better.

Seriously, if you live around here, you'd be doing yourself a favor to catch them any time they're playing out.

The club had also done a good job of turning a somewhat run-down space into a neat performance venue by simply painting the walls solid colors and then writing on those walls snippets of band lyrics in mostly bold, white letters. 

Sarah came up to me before the set to point out that she would be playing on a stage whose front contained a few lines from one of her favorite bands, The Hold Steady.  Check out the writing on the black riser in the lower right of this photo.

As always, click on an image to see a larger version.

The full text may be hard to read, so here it is:
and I'm pretty sure we kissed
gonna walk around and drink some more
I had to point out to her the Jim Morrison lyrics that you can see in the upper right of this picture.

Yeah, I liked the place.

About halfway through the set, as I was listening to the music and watching them play and sing, I realized I had been smiling for some time.  The smile stayed on my face for almost the whole time they were on the stage.  I realized that seeing my children excel at something they love is a tremendous source of joy for me.  Watching Sarah on that stage was simply wonderful.

You may have noticed that I said the smile was on my face for almost the whole set.   The only time it wasn't came when they finished the song, "The Ladder," and in rapid order I remembered 
My mother loved that song.

My mother would have loved to see this show.

My mother is dead and never will see Sarah and Ben on stage together.  
My vision turned watery for a moment, and my heart felt slow and heavy, but then I recalled the times Mom got to see Sarah perform in orchestra concerts and in recitals.  I reminded myself that Mom loved Sarah and Scott, and she was incredibly proud of them.  She missed this show, and I am sad for that, but she saw a lot. 

I also know for certain that she would have understood exactly how I felt, because even though we couldn't really afford it, she somehow managed to scrape together the funds to take me to see Richard Kiley in the road show of The Man from La Mancha when it came to the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg when I was a teenager.  She and I loved that show, and she gave me a gift that on that night helped define me, that made me always and forever want to be a better man.

Then Sarah and Ben started a new song, my grief retreated to the hole it will probably always occupy in me, and the smile returned to my face. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Where you should be Friday night, August 10, 2012

(which is tonight as most of you read this) is, if you live in the Research Triangle Park area, the Deep South Bar in Raleigh. The reason is simple: Ben and Sarah will be performing there as The Camaraderie. 

I'll be there to catch their show, so if you come, be sure to say hi.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Want to watch me write?

Come to Chicon, the World Science Fiction convention in Chicago over Labor Day weekend.  There, on Friday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., I will spend half an hour being one of the Writers Under Glass.  This unusual program item will run for a lot of the convention; I don't know yet exactly how much.  The way it will work is that a large group of writers will spend half an hour each writing in an open area in the convention.  Each will write for half an hour.  Each will pick up where the previous writer left off.  The goal is to complete a story, presumably at least a decent story.  If I understand things correctly, the writers will all sign the manuscript, which the con will then auction.

I've never done anything like this, so it should be a very interesting experience indeed. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Another frustrating aspect of being a midlist writer

Earlier tonight, I had occasion to go into my local Barnes & Noble store.  While there, I fell victim to a trap that ensnares many writers:  I walked back to the SF section to see how many of my books were in stock.

Remember that on May 29, about nine weeks ago, No Going Back appeared. That novel was, I believe, my best to date, and all the reviews of it--few though they may be--have been glowing.  So, I thought there was a decent chance my local store would have one or two on the shelves.

Nope.  No copies of No Going Back.  Nada.  I have five novels out, and all that my local store had on offer was a single paperback copy of Children No More.

This kind of information is deeply demoralizing, but it is also beyond my control.  As I have to remind myself constantly, all I can do is write the best books I can. 

Still, this sucks.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Who am I rooting for in this coming weekend's UFC
Lightweight World Championship fight?

Am I going for the challenger and former champ, Frankie Edgar, or the reigning champion, Benson Henderson?


Yeah, that's the champ with three of my books.  Yeah, I'm pulling for him, but not, truth to tell, because he's reading my work.  I'm backing Henderson because he's a pleasure to watch, an awesome fighter, and, well, because he's going to win.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Invisible Wounds

Earlier today, I received this email message.

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your book: Children No More. My name is David Taransaud. I am an Art Therapist for children and adolescents, a speaker and a trainer at the Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education. After being made redundant earlier this year, I decided to use my redundancy payment to travel to Northern Uganda and set up an Art Therapy service in an orphanage for former child soldiers and young people affected by conflict and trauma.

I came back ten days ago and I am hoping to return in a few months to carry on with the work. This is quite an ambitious project that I have so far managed to finance on my own. I have just finished editing a short movie I made while I was there. As you'll see, I am no Coppola or iMovie genius, but it's real! I would be grateful if you could take the time to watch it.

If you think it's appropriate, I would appreciate if you could forward the link to your many followers or possibly add it to your Blog. I'm hoping it'll help to promote the awareness and the sponsorship of war orphans at the orphanage and with a bit of luck, raise financial funds for further resources. By sending this email, I am keeping my promise to the Kitgum's orphans that they won't be forgotten and I will do my best to raise awareness and help them in any way I can. So I thought of you! I have been told that I have ridiculously large dreams, but they sometimes come true.

And please feel free to give my email address in case people want more information about this project or would like to know how they can support the children at the orphanage.

Thank you very much.

Warm wishes, David
Here's the video.

I found it very moving, as I'm sure you will, too.

After the flap about Invisible Children and Kony, I can understand that some folks may feel reluctant to help in this area.  The problems are real, and the children need help, but I cannot say that I have visited these children myself and verified all of this; I have not.  That said, as near as I can tell from a little Web research, David is a genuinely good guy trying to do genuinely good work.  You can Google him, and you can get more info on the orphans at I obviously intend to support that group. 

I don't have all that many readers or followers of any sort, but if this moves you, if you would also like to support it, please contact David ( or Richard Akena (, the director of the orphanage, and see if you can help.  I suspect even a small contribution would mean a lot. For example, David noted in a later message that just since his video went live, which is a bit over a week ago, the orphanage has received enough contributions to enable them to order 50 bunk beds--which means that kids who for the past six years have been sleeping on dirty floors will now get to have beds. 

Finally, if you want to send toys or childrens' books, those would be awesome.  David said he saw only two such books while he was there, and both had pages missing.  The address is

The Pader Orphans Caring Project
PO Box 5
Acholibur sub country
Pader District

Helping 50 kids won't change the whole world, but it will change their world, and it will be another good step in the fight to help those kids abused by war.  Please think about it. 


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