Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Long Lost Love: Cuddling Up with a Good Book

By Charles D. Springfield

Recently I found myself in a very cash-poor situation. In New York City, that’s actually not a hard place to find one’s self. Trust me! A nice apartment cost on average about $2,000 a month. A small, rail cocktail at a bar usually starts out around $7. Top-shelf alcohol can start out at $12 per drink. A movie is $12, sans the popcorn and drinks. And a typical lunch will cost anywhere from $10 to $20 unless you just want a quick bite to eat on the run.

So after a few months of enjoying living in the city – and waiting on some anticipated checks – I found myself on a tight budget. And I mean tight.

One great thing about NYC, however, is that it does have its fair share of free events and activities. I enjoyed a free concert in Union Square one afternoon. I saw a free Lady Gaga performance at the Today Show Toyota concert series. There are free and “pay-what-you-want” days at several museums. Free classic movies sponsored by HBO are shown at Bryant Part every Monday night during the summer. And there’s Shakespeare in the Park with professional actors like Al Pacino and Jesse L. Martin.

But for me, going out usually means I’m going to spend some money at some point. I might see a magazine that attracts my attention on the street. My girl Sherri Williams has a story featured in August 2010 issue of Essence magazine with Janet Jackson on the cover. I had to pick that up. The temperature has been in the 90s for most of the summer, so you have to stop to pick up an ice coffee, iced tea or ice cream. If I see a cocktail lounge that seems fun and has a drink special, I’m going to be tempted to enter.

So rather than staying in to be a major couch potato watching tons of re-runs and over-the-top reality television, I opted to go through my belongings, dust off a book and aim to get through it until my financial situation improves.

Since I haven’t read novels or followed best sellers lists in years, the only new books I’ve bought were about succeeding in business, finding your true self and health/fitness. All of those categories worked for me, especially now. When money is tight and options are limited, why not use this time to jump start a mini life makeover to improve myself mentally, emotionally and spiritually; get and stay in shape; and learn how to be more successful as a businessman.

I cracked open the first book and something happened to me that hadn’t happened in years. I stretched out on the couch and got fully immersed in a book. The pages continued to turn and the hours continued to pass on by. I forgot how clever writing, interesting subject matter and/or mind expanding advice can REALLY pull you in to stick around for 300-plus pages. And I loved it.

Whether the television was on or off, whether nearby New Yorkers were at each other’s throats in the park for whatever reason or if a series of panhandlers were trying to squeeze some non-existing coins from me, it was all irrelevant. All that mattered was the book I was reading and what was yet to come in the next chapters.

At the end of the day, the most amazing thing about the experience was that it reminded me of something that I loved to do once upon a time, whether I had money in the bank of not. And it inspired me to take a deeper look back into my history at retro hobbies and activities I once loved and make some of them a part of my current existence.

PS. I’m still reading A LOT.

New Ways to Fall in Love with Books Again

Sitting in bed, at a coffee shop or in a park may not be the ideal way for many people to experience the magic of books. There, of course, are audio books available on CD and through your favorite mobile music device that provide an alternative way for consuming books. But thanks to modern – and ever changing – technology, we are now able to enjoy books in innovative and exciting new ways.

Kindle: The Kindle Wireless Reading Device was one of the first-to-market gadgets that allowed consumers to download and read books practically anywhere – up to 3,500 of them. The new generation Kindle devices boast an all-new, high contrast e-ink screen, new sleek and lighter design, built-in Wi-Fi and free 3G wireless. My good friend Esther, who travels for work all the time, received a Kindle from her husband and absolutely loves it. It is sold through and starts at $139. Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6" Display, Graphite, 3G Works Globally - Latest Generation

iPad: The iPad has multiple uses: computing, music and video. But Apple wants consumers to know that it’s a “novel way to buy and read books.” Once you download the free iBooks app, you can browse and shop for books on the iPad. Unlike a paper book, you can tailor iBooks to suit the way you read. Turn iPad to the portrait orientation to view a single page or view two pages at once by rotating it to landscape. This device is on both my sister’s and my wish lists. The iPad can be purchased through Apple stores or online. The device starts at $499.

Nook: With the Nook, offered by Barnes & Noble, consumers have access to more than one million e-books, newspapers and magazines. Owners can read books any way they want by adjusting the text size to suit their needs. It uses Wi-Fi or 3G+Wi-Fi to download titles in seconds. And it stores up to 1,500 books with the existing 2G memory and additional memory can be added to store more titles. It even allows consumers to play Chest and Sudoku. Book lovers will love that the device is connected to one of the largest booksellers in the country. The Nook is sold through Barnes & Noble and other retailers and starts at $149.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Give Me That Sweet, That Funk, That Gushy Stuff: Watermelon Anyone?

By Charles Springfield

It’s very difficult to image that August is just about two weeks away – leaving us to come to the painful realization that summer fun will soon come to an end.
The good news is that it is STILL summer and we can – and should – make a concerted effort to enjoy every last drop of it, starting with consuming more delicious watermelon concoctions.

Followers of this blog are well aware of my underground campaign to inspire people to enjoy the taste and health benefits of watermelon. If you’re new to this blog, please check the archives for “The Official Fruit of Summer 2010.”

I’ve declared watermelon as the Official Fruit of the summer of 2010 and I think you should too. I’m feeling like Jay-Z – “I Just Wanna Love U (Give it To Me)” – when it comes to the fruit. I know some of you are simply just not fans of the fruit. But give me a few more minutes to see if I can change your mind.

Since we’re deep in the dog days of summer and the temperature is steady on the rise, I have some delicious, nutritious and intoxicating ways to enjoy the melon this summer. Check out the following recommendations and join my unofficial watermelon movement.

Enjoy, cheers and bon appétit mes amies! And for my same sex loving friends, Cheers Queers!!!

Spiked Watermelon Freeze Pops (recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, FOOD network)

1/2 (3 pounds) large watermelon, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup watermelon flavored 70 proof vodka (recommended: Smirnoff Twist of Watermelon)* see Cook's Note
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Special equipment: 16 (1/4 cup) ice pop molds, 16 wooden pop sticks or wooden coffee stirrers at least 2-inches longer than the molds.

In a blender, combine the watermelon, sugar and vodka. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Add the mint and pulse once to combine. Pour the mixture into the pop molds. Insert the wooden sticks all the way down the inside the molds. Freeze for at least 10 hours or preferably overnight.

To unfreeze the ice pops, insert the molds in hot water for 5 to 10 seconds. Serve immediately.
*Cook's Note: For nonalcoholic Watermelon Pops, substitute 3/4 cup orange juice for the vodka

Watermelon Margaritas (recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, FOOD Network)

1 teaspoon lime zest
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons coarse salt
1 lime wedge
1 cup watermelon puree (*see Cook's Note)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup premium 100 percent agave tequila
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier or triple sec)
1 cup ice

In a medium saucepan, combine the lime zest, water and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature and strain out the zest. (Can be made in advance; keep in a covered container in the refrigerator.)

Chill a margarita glass in the freezer for 30 minutes. Place the coarse salt in a shallow dish or saucer. Wet the rim of the glass with a lime wedge and dip the glass into the salt, coating the top edge.

In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 tablespoons of the cooled lime syrup with the watermelon puree, lime juice, tequila, orange-flavored liqueur, and ice. Shake until frothy and well chilled, at least one minute. Strain into the prepared glass and garnish with a lime wedge.

*Cook's Note: To make the watermelon puree, remove seeds from fresh watermelon and cut into large chunks. Place in a blender and process until smooth and well pureed.

Watermelon Green Tea Punch (courtesy of the National Watermelon Promotion Board)

2 cups watermelon puree
2 cups unsweetened green tea, chilled
1 cup grape juice
¼ cup cherry juice (optional)
2 cups Ginger Ale or Chardonnay


In a large pitcher, add watermelon purée, green tea, grape juice, cherry juice and ginger ale or Chardonnay. Mix well and chill. Serve over ice.
Makes 9 servings.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Summer Must-Have Item: Cut-Off Shorts

By Charles D. Springfield
It’s just a few weeks into the summer season and the weather is HOT, HOT, HOT. The hotter it gets, the less clothing people want and tend to wear. That’s why it’s time to pull out the long pants…and cut them.

Walking around New York – from DUMBO, Brooklyn to the East Village – the latest trend for warmer weather is cut-off shorts. Whether the look is in denim, chinos, cords or even a tuxedo pant, it seems to be all the rage. And why shouldn’t they be? With disposable income not as disposable as it once was, pulling an old pair of pants out of the closet and chopping them into a comfortable summer length is not only sensible, it’s very fashionable.

But what happens when you don’t have a pant that’s ready to be sacrificed? For those who want to save a few coins and want to be environmentally responsible, I say head on to your local vintage or second-hand store. Going the vintage route can help provide shopper’s greater versatility in shades, hues, fits and detailing. Since consumers will be looking for pants, his or her options increase because the length is irrelevant since the garment will be cut. Therefore, it’s all about finding the right fit and style.

However, if vintage shopping is not your stylo, there are several retail options for cut-off-shorts. Try Urban Outfitters, the Levi’s Store or the Gap for a slew of options. So do yourself a favor, give those legs some air and some sun and opt for cut-off shorts this summer – as often as you can.

Here are a few suggestions for really “getting in” when it comes to the cut-off trend:
- Vary the length: There are three distinctive lengths to choose from: Long, Medium and Short depending on how bold or daring you are and how good your legs look. I would just recommend staying away from the micro cut offs, like that of the Daisy Duke variety. There’s a thin line between sexy and cheeky.

- Switch up the style: Cut-off shorts are usually a light- to medium-colored blue jean. But with all the great design styles, textures and detailing available today, you’re only limited by your imagination. Try a khaki, army pant or cord to extend your casual looks. Go for dark blue or black denim for a more dressed up look. Or go all out with a dress slack, white denim or even a tuxedo pant.

- Have fun with it: Just because the shorts are cut offs, doesn’t mean you have to live with the frayed edges. Many people choose to roll up the bottom of the cut offs for a more clean look. And some people do the opposite and infuse a little personality by adding extra frayed edges or other detailing at the bottom (think the “Incredible Hulk” television series circa 1977).

- Alternate the corresponding top: Switch it up. A clean, white T-shirt or V-neck always looks good. But add a range of looks this summer by wearing a colorful or patterned tank top, add a vest or try wearing a light-weight blazer with your cut offs.

- Accessorize. Accessorize. Accessorize: Have fun with hats (straw fedora hats and newsboy caps), bracelets, sunglasses (the bigger the better or Aviators), chains/necklaces that speak to your personality and fun shoes (canvas high tops – or any type of high-top shoe for that matter -- and sandals sans socks please!!!). Flats are also popular this summer for women. So ladies, you can give your feet a break and leave the stilettos for your summer night clubbing .

Light Green is the New Black in 2010 Summer Fashion

By Charles Dion Springfield

For many of us, having hand-me downs or shopping in second-hand stores was much more of a necessity than a desire to prove a point or make a personal/fashion statement.

It was basically engrained in many of our lives whether we liked it or not. As a youngster it definitely wasn’t en vogue to wear your thrift-store threads to the classroom, let alone the playground. You’d be met with tons of teasing and ridicule.

But as we became adults and became increasingly fascinated with eras gone by, are unsatisfied with the new designs sprouting up in our local retailers or just want to maximize our wardrobe budget, we looked to thrift stores, second-hand boutiques and vintage shops for style, quality and affordability.

It takes an adventurous, or shall I state “envelope-pushing” individual, to purchase and successfully rock old-school/vintage garments. Therefore, it’s not much of a surprise to realize that vintage/second-hand shoppers were also early adapters to what we now know as the national movement to become more “environmentally responsible.”

It wasn’t until recently when I started to learn about the need to be environmentally friendly, that I started to make a conscious effort to investigate this situation a bit more – from a fashion perspective.

It turns out that every time a person buys or wears vintage clothing instead of newly manufactured clothing, that person is recycling. That clothing is being saved from local landfills which is great because according to various sources, an average of 11.8 million tons of clothing is thrown away each year. Learning about statistics like this forced me to think about how I can avoid adding my estimated individual 68 pound contribution to that number.

Light to Medium Green are ideal shades for Vintage Fashion

Thanks to my Mom, who was a some-time model and one of my biggest style icons during my childhood, introduced me to what I will from here on out refer to vintage fashion. And the rest is history. I won’t dredge out the ugly moments from when my vintage stories went from frightening to fierce or dreadful to disgusting (in a Tyra Banks way). I’ll let your imagination fill in the color of those details. But I eventually ended up becoming somewhat of a vintage fashion expert, sought out for advice on how to put looks together in a stylish manner.

My underlining personal style is all about a classic, sophisticated look. But I tend to show my rebellious side by infusing something “odd” for a modern, edgy look. And vintage shopping is perfect for that. I would, however, never wear or recommend that anyone wear 100 percent vintage or go Dark Green on the environmentally friendly scale with his or her fashion.

To me, vintage fashion has to fall in the Light Green to Medium green spectrum in order to stay current and fashionable. I recommend infusing it into one’s wardrobe in small doses. Learn to mix and match the old with the new – that’s when you create something exciting, personal and fashion forward. I mean, really, do you really want to wear someone’s used undergarments? You have to draw a line somewhere.

OUTFEST 2010 in L.A. Gets Taste of ‘Realness’ Thanks to Tika Out of Brooklyn

By Charles Springfield
The 28th Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival will receive a special treat when audiences are introduced to Tika (who now goes by Tik) in the "Realness" during the “Queerer Than Fiction: Documentary Shorts” showcase.
The documentary short provides a slice-of-life perspective of the funny and charming Black, female-to-male transgendered person as he navigates the gender transitioning process. The film will be screened on Friday, June 9, and Thursday, July 15, at the DGA Theatre.

New York-based filmmaker David Barclay Moore held true to his personal and professional mission of seeing the world differently by producing “Realness.” Moore, who was commissioned by the Ford Foundation, NBPC and ITVS for the masculinity project, set out to make a film that explored masculinity from a female perspective.

“I knew, kind of, what I wanted to do, but it was about finding the right person,” Moore said. “I think Tik has a compelling story.”

Shot two years ago, the film opens up with a montage of gender-bending individuals and couples set to Mariachi music. Viewers are soon introduced into Tik’s world, from picking out a suit that was originally his grandfather’s and getting ready for T-Day (testosterone shot day) to introducing his girlfriend Nicki and enduring the turbulence of changing from female to male.
“It’s exciting and scary,” said Tik, explaining his journey. “It’s a huge thing to change your identity." He likens it to the death of someone or the death of who they once were.
The film allows viewers to sample the ups and downs – funny and painful – aspects of being transgendered, while peeling back the layers of views on Black male privilege and the value of appearing male.

The filmmaker hopes this film gives the audience a more thorough understanding when it comes to thinking about transgendered people and transgendered relationships.

“Basically, I wanted to tell the story about two people that fell in love as Black lesbians and chronicle one’s journey in becoming a man,” Moore said. “Life is life and love is love.”

The “Realness” was selected for screenings at NewFest film festival in NYC in June and is currently being picked up by other festivals throughout the world. Moore was a semi-finalist for the 2008 Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab and a 2006-2007 Yaddo Fellow in Creative Writing & Narrative and was a Grantee in the 2001 Artists Mentor Program at Film/Video Arts.

Visit and, for additional information on OutFest, Moore’s work and a possible follow-up story on Tik’s transition.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stephen Tyrone Williams Tackles Acting, One Role at a Time

By Charles D. Springfield

“Some people have that je ne sais quoi/ I don’t know, but you just have to look back/two times, two times,” sings Amel Larrieux in the song “Trouble” from her CD entitled ”Morning.”
That’s exactly what I thought when I first saw Stephen Tyrone Williams cross my television screen for the first time. One Saturday afternoon, I was watching a collection of film shorts dealing with the theme of unrequited love.
Each film in the collection showcased a varying degree of the bitter sweet pain. The infatuated characters inhaled each love interest so deeply into their beings as if he or she were the oxygen needed to continue breathing. But viewers of the films were quickly shown the dark reality of the situation. Watching the characters not being loved the same way in return, not being available or being totally invisible to their love interests can send painfully shocking waves through one’s veins powerful enough to stop even the healthiest of hearts.

Three shorts into the collection, amongst a backdrop of clear skies, deep waters and brown sugar-colored beaches, Williams’ character Romeo appeared on screen in the film “Float.” There was something about Williams, a je ne sais quoi (I don’t know what) “thing” about him. In appearance, he resembled a young Sidney Poitier. His on-screen presence was cool and unaffected similar to that of Leonard Roberts (“Love Jones” and “Heros”). And he delivered his lines with the eloquence and homespun wisdom of a Maya Angelou.

This guy had something special and I was instantly a fan. Thanks to modern technology advances like Facebook, I made contact with Williams and kept in touch via a series of status updates and direct emails. I soon learned that he was one of the African Warriors in Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown” video, “Float” was being turned into a full-length film called “Children of God” and that he was an all around nice guy who loved his family, especially his son.
So when I learned that the first New York City screenings of “Children of God” were taking place at NewFest, the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Film Festival presented my Marc Jacobs, I had to secure my ticket and contact Williams for some additional information.

Filmed in the beautiful Bahamian islands, “Children of God” is Kareem Mortimer’s debut feature which takes a close look at the lives of three people trying to survive in a homophobic and violently repressive island nation. Jonny is a young white gay artist who recently lost his inspiration, putting his art school scholarship in jeopardy. In an attempt to clear his head, he travels to the serene island of Eleuthera, where he meets a black musician Romeo, played by Williams. Under the ever-watchful eyes of the judgmental island-dwellers, Jonny and Romeo embark on a steamy secret love affair that puts both their lives in danger. Meanwhile, Lena, a jaded preacher’s wife, initiates an anti-gay crusade on the island when she finds out her own husband has been sleeping around with men. As Jonny and Romeo fall deeper in love, Lena’s quest to rid the island of gays picks up steam and, together, the three stories barrel towards a dramatic conclusion.

Turning a film short into a full-length feature film can be riskly, but Williams said the writer/director and crew were thrilled at the opportunity. He said one of the biggest reasons it was expanded was because many fans of “Float” wanted to know more about the characters and what made them tick.

“From the beginning, people wanted a full version of ‘Float’,” Williams said via telephone while wrapping up a production of “Fences” in Syracuse. “Because of the time limit of short films, there’s only so much you can show to tell a complete story. I was excited about going deeper and finding out more about the character and why he does what he does.”

Another thing he enjoyed about being involved in the production was that he was part of a platform that attempted to show how similar people are, whether he or she is black, white, gay or straight.

“We tried to show the common thread between all the characters,” Williams said. “There is just so much hype about how different we are as people. We are more alike than we like to think. And at the end of the day, we are all children of God.”

To Act or Not to Act, That is the Question

Williams began acting while in high school. But he said it was something he fell into. A friend suggested that he give it a try because it was “FUN.” The friend was right. Williams initially had a lot of fun. Then acting started to transition into something that carried a lot more weight for him.

“It wasn’t until I saw August Wilson’s characters from ‘Fences’ that I saw characters that related to me, my family, my uncles,” he said.

Acting got very serious for Williams after attending the International Thespian Festivial while in high school, an annual week-long theatre festival that brings together U.S. high school theatre clubs, thespian troupes, and programs. Organized by the International Thespian Society, it is held annually in late June on the campus of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in Lincoln, Neb.
“I used it as a litmus test,” Williams said. “I really didn’t know if I could do it…become an actor. If it went well, I decided I would pursue acting professionally.”

Well, the rest is history. After much strong nudging by his high school drama teacher, Williams went on to earn a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama in Theatre and Communication Studies. He has performed in feature films and stage plays all over the United States, the Caribbean and Africa. Williams has collaborated with filmmakers: Simon Henwood (Kanye West), Michael “Boogie” Pinckney (Spike Lee), Keith Davis (Yale), Edward Morgan (Cirque du Soleil) and Tim Bond (Syracuse Stage) to name a few. He has also walked the boards at Market Theatre-Johannesburg and Seattle Repertory Theatre to Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Sky's the Limit for a Superstar

In the entertainment business, making comparisons from one artist to another is common place – especially if there tends to be a resemblance. Williams began receiving comparisons to Sydney Poitier when he was still in high school.
After hearing it too many times to count, Williams decided to see who this Poitier character was. It wasn’t long before Mr. Poitier became one of Williams’ biggest influences because of Poitier’s universal appeal and ability to break down certain doors for African American actors and African Americans. He is also inspired by James Dean, Marlon Brando, Denzel Washington and Jeffery Wright. And being an all-around artist, he also is motivated by the artistry and passion of Nina Simone and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Williams doesn’t want to make predictions about his future as an actor. He is taking on acting one role at a time, pushing himself to become a better storyteller and seeking stories and themes that are universal.
“People in general set up expectations on how far people go,” Williams said. “Positive people motivated me to just go and see what happens. I feel grateful for that and to have been acting for this long.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The F...15: A Weight Gain/Loss Story

by Charles Dion Springfield

It happens to the best of us. One day you realize that your favorite slim-cut, button-down shirt just won’t bottom down the way it used to. There is an extra “lump” in the front that puts some additional stress on the bottoms and button holes. Or, and this is my favorite of the not-so-favorite things, when it takes extra energy, time and several deep breaths in order to get into your beloved (insert your favorite designer/store of choice here) jeans because of a noticeably larger “lump” in the back.

That’s right! I’m referring to weight gain – that nearly unavoidable enemy that slowly starts to eat away at our vanity while also slowly eating away at our health. No pun intended.

It actually happens to such a large number of us when we enter our first year in college that it’s been coined “The Freshman 15.” Being a thin 18 year-old, not an ideal condition when you’re trying to be – in looks and actions – a grown man, I used to look in the mirror and wish I could gain an extra 15 pounds. Be careful what you wish for. It sneaks up on your ass several years later, or shall I say on my ass and my midsection.

As fate would have it, I did manage to fill out in my mid 20s. So this new weight is on top of what should be my normal weight. And since I’m far from my freshman days, I fondly – yet begrudgingly – refer to it is “The Fucking 15” or the “The F…15” for the people who flinch at F-Bombs and for elders I respect.

So what does one do about The F…15+? That’s right 15+. I think I have just gained a pound or two sipping on a huge mocha ice coffee with whipped cream and chocolate syrup while writing this story.

This dilemma is not everyone’s, though. If having extra weight on your frame works for you, I say: “Rock it, Sock it, Push it!” There are lots of people who look amazing with fuller frames, especially when it’s accessorized appropriately with confidence. I, for one, like Oprah with a little meat on her bones. There’s no need for her to go back to being a size 8. Besides, she’s Oprah. She has nothing to prove anymore.

I’m just not one of those persons who can pull it off, so it has to come off. I’m just not comfortable with it. It’s really just extra baggage for me and I like to travel light.

He’s Not Heavy…He’s My Reflection

Weight gain has only affected my vanity up to this point and I make fun of myself for that. But for millions of men, women and an alarming number of children, it is severely affecting their health and that’s no laughing matter.
According to The American Obesity Association (AOA), obesity is a complex, multi-factorial chronic disease involving environmental (social and cultural), genetic, physiologic, metabolic, behavioral and psychological components. It is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. The organization states that 127 million people in the U.S. are overweight, 60 million are obese and 9 million are severely obese.

If you think that’s alarming, the health risks are all together frightening. Obesity increases the risk of illness from about 30 serious medical conditions and is associated with increases in deaths from all-causes. According to AOA, early onset of obesity-related diseases, such as type 2 Diabetes, are being reported in children and adolescents with obesity.

Put the Pedal to the Metal, Some Pep in Your Step or Some Bass in Your Walk

Luckily, I’ve been in this situation before. Therefore, I had to think back to a few years ago when I put myself on a consistent fitness and nutrition regime. I tried a variety of things from The Abs Diet and “The Special K Challenge” to protein-packed smoothies and gym memberships.

Through trial and error, I learned some key lessons:
- Exercising at least three times a week helps; five times a week REALLY helps
- Cardio (30-45 minutes worth) does wonders for burning the calories quickly
- Strength training helps keep the extra weight off and tones the body
- Healthy snacks like almonds, carrots, protein bars and protein shakes help keep down cravings between meals
- Dinner salads with some type of protein like ham, turkey, fish or seafood is a delicious, low-cal and satisfying meal
- Water MUST be consumed REGULARLY
- Fruit and protein shakes were my saving grace to ward off post-dinner cravings
- Looking at images of the type of body I wanted on a daily basis reminded me of my ultimate goal
- Starving yourself or depriving yourself of things is SELF-SABOTAGE
- Decadent things like chocolate or martinis are just as enjoyable in moderation

Eventually I shed the desired weight. And I not only looked great, I felt great. While those various tactics really worked for me (I whole-heartedly swear by protein smoothies and “Hip Hop Abs” DVDs), the real reason it worked was because I was ready for it to work.

It’s all about setting goals and sticking to them. Once you’re active on a regular basis, you will become healthier and ultimately shed the pounds you can live without.

So no more mocha drinks at the coffee shop while writing my blog entries. Those will be replaced with green teas or the occasional reduced-fat mocha minus the whipped cream. And I will revisit the steps that led to my previous weight loss in addition to dusting off my “Hip Hop Abs” DVDs. Go ahead and laugh, but Shaun T made it enjoyable and fun. Plus it worked.

Next time you see me, I’m hoping there will be a lot less of me to see – Fucking 15 pounds less.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Remembering Max Lucas

by Charles Dion Springfield

Despite the joyous celebration of jazz and blues music at “A Great Night in Harlem,” there was something painfully missing that evening: the music and presence of Max Lucas.

The man and his music were unfortunately silenced on May 15, just days prior to the fundraising show in which the Jazz Foundation of America planned to celebrate his upcoming birthday. He would have turned 100 years old on September 13, 2010.

The legendary saxophonist and jazz icon was born in Nova Scotia, Canada to a family heavily influened by music. His mother was a singer and beautician and his father played the tuba and mandolin when he wasn’t working on the railroad.

Mr. Lucus played jazz for more than 80 years of his life. He began playing the saxophone when he was 14, two years after he was introduced to a family of musicians in Washington, D.C. and inspired to give music a try. Max and his mother eventually moved to Harlem.

He’s had the opportunity to play with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Muddy Waters, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn and the list goes on and on. And Mr. Lucus had a regular night at the Lenox Lounge on Wednesday evenings with his son Nathan Lucus, a jazz organist.

While I never had the pleasure to sit in on one of Mr. Lucus’ shows in Harlem or meet him, it was an honor to celebrate his upcoming birthday with his friends and family. Thank you Mr. Lucus for all your contributions to my favorite style of music. Through fans like me, your music and legacy will continue to play on for several years to come.

'A Great Night in Harlem' Continued During the Official After Party

by Charles Dion Springfield

The fun and excitement from “A Great Night in Harlem” spilled over to the official after party tent and continued for hours until sometime after midnight. Guests of the star-studded affair were immediately ushered over to the after party for cocktails, passed appetizers and more great performances.

It was the ideal opportunity to reflect on what a wonderful night we all experienced, snap a photo of your favorite musicians and rub elbows with jazz music royalty (literally, I physically rubbed elbows with Bernard Ighner the composer of “Everything Must Change”).

Once Sweet Georgia Brown (also known as “The Last of the Red Hot Blues Mamas”) & The Blues Crusaders took the stage, the night, the dance floor and the tent instantly heated up.

As I mingled with fellow party goers, maneuvered through the crowds surrounding the bar stations, watched everyone shake a tail feather and tried to prevent myself from floating away on a sea of cognac – I felt very fortunate that I had the opportunity to have experienced the night I just experienced.

Walking through the empty Apollo theatre in order to get to 125th Street was quite sad because I come to the realization that the evening was officially over. But what immediately put a smile on my face was the fact that Harlem is now just a few subway stops away from where I currently reside.

And on top of that, the next day was Friday, the day I make my weekly pilgrimage to the area to soak up the history, the culture, the spirit and the legacy of greatness. This was just the beginning of several great nights in Harlem – for me.

Jazz Foundation of America Paid Tribute to Jazz, the Blues, Supporters and ‘Love Doctors’

by Charles Dion Springfield

The star power was at a light bulb-busting wattage on May 20 as jazz, blues, opera, R&B and film and television greats descended upon the Apollo Theatre stage for “A Great Night in Harlem,” an annual fundraising concert for the Jazz Foundation of America.

Every year since 2001, more than 50 of music’s living legends perform at the Apollo for the organizations’ benefit gala. The goal is to help raise money needed to continue the Jazz Foundation’s mission, to save the homes and lives of elder jazz and blues musicians in crisis.

Hosted in part by Chevy Chase, Michael Imperioli, Kevin Klein, David Johansen and the Jazz Foundation of America’s Executive Director Wendy Oxenhorn, it was evident early on in the evening that it would be a monumental night. It seemed that celebrities, music lovers and glitterati from all around the country were destined to feast on a sumptuous evening of music, laughs and even a few tears.

While the night was dedicated to “The Spirit of Greatness” in jazz and blues music and the artists who continue to push the art forms forward, the spotlight was also put on the supporters, “love doctors” and the hospital that continues to meet the needs of musicians.

The pre-concert kicked off the night with award presentations with both “Saint” Agnes Varis and Ambassador Andrew Young receiving the “Spirit of Greatness Award.” Varis, vice chairwoman on the board of the Jazz Foundation and a pioneer in the pharmaceutical industry, has made it possible for the Jazz Foundation to employ musicians in 17 states to play free concerts in public schools and senior homes through the Agnes Varis Jazz in the Schools program. This includes eight southern states where New Orleans musicians were forced to settle post-Katrina. Young was a top aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and presently serves on the board of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change. He also serves as a member of the board of directors of numerous organizations and business including Delta Airlines, Argus, Host Marriott Corporation, Archer Daniels Midland, Cox Communications and Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The pre-show concluded with a theatrical and moving jazz performance of an original song by Davell Crawford entitled “Stranger in My Own Home” that depicted his life in New York after relocating from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

The night’s performances continued to crescendo with appearances by Manno Charlemagne, Fred Staton, Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Ron Carter, Barry Harris, Winard Harper, Terence Conley, Jimmy Norman and others. Roberta Flack performed and gave the audience the back story to her updated version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” from her jazz-inspired album, “Roberta.” Legendary Little Jimmy Scott, decked out in all white, belted out a powerful performance of “Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child” from his wheelchair. And Sweet Georgia Brown closed out the show alongside fellow performers and got the audience on their feet one last time.

Because of the generosity of others, the Jazz Foundation has provided a number of signature services to musicians and their families. An Emergency Housing Fund was founded by Jarrett Lilien and pays the rents and mortgages of musicians that fall on hard times. The Jazz Musicians’ Emergency Fund helps with everything from keeping the phone and electricity on to ensuring food remains on the tables of veteran musicians with nowhere else to turn. For more than 17 years, the Jazz Foundation’s Angel-partners at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center’s Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund have provided pro bono medical care – including free operations, specialists, lab work and diagnostics – worth more than $5 million in services for more than 1,000 uninsured musicians. Additionally, a volunteer network of dedicated, caring professionals provides free legal, dental and therapeutic services.

Many of the performers of the night have been helped by the Jazz Foundation. Therefore, for them, it was an opportunity to return the favor by giving their supporters the glorious gift of music.

To make a donation to the organization, visit, call 212-245-3999, ext. 13 or send a donation payable to “Jazz Foundation of America” to 322 West 48th Street, 6th Fl., New York, NY 10036. You can also make a donation using Text-to-Pledge by dialing 718-594-5333. In the address line, create your text with your name or company and the amount of your pledge. Then press send.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Big Apple: Ready or Not, Here I Come

(Part one of a three part series)

By Charles D. Springfield

It was about one month before I was to move to New York City – February 28 to be exact. And with about four weeks to bring things related to the relocation to a close, transition other things and start to get things in New York off the ground, I probably should have spent this particular Sunday cleaning, organizing and getting my head wrapped around the mountain of details before me.

But instead, I opted to take the 11 a.m. Amtrak Hiawatha Service to Chicago – one hour and a half away from Milwaukee where I’ve resided for the last seven years – to meet some dear friends for Sunday brunch at one of my favorite bar/restaurants, minibar.

I know. It probably seems foolish for someone to take what could be a highly productive day and spend the bulk of it eating, drinking and being merry in Chicago. Who would do something like that at this crucial time in the moving process?

I’ll tell you who would do it (two skinny thumbs pointing in my direction). It’s someone who needed a quick jolt of energy, inspiration and motivation from one big city in order to propel me forward to take on this colossal task of moving to The Big City. But most of all, I badly needed the trip to muffle all the noise from the naysayers who thought I should forget about NYC and just stay put in my seemingly comfortable life.

I’ve always been a big city kind of guy. I’m not sure how my fascination with big cities started. It could have been that there was something in the water in Upstate New York at my Nana’s house that drew me to the area. That was a place I spent time when I was about one year old and where I took my first steps. Maybe it was when I watched Batman take down villains in Gotham City, was amazed how Superman could leap tall buildings in a single bound in Metropolis or saw Spiderman swing from skyscraper to skyscraper in New York City.

Or it could have been that trip to London I took when I was 16 years old, which my parents STRONGLY encouraged. Whatever the reason, I knew early on that there was a big wonderful world out there to explore and that a big city would be the ideal place where I could fit in and feel right at home. Therefore, the thought of big city living had gotten under my skin in a major way.

But hold the phone. I don’t want anyone to think that my desire to live in a large city is an automatic dismissal of Milwaukee or other mid- to small-sized cities around the country. To the contrary! I’ve benefited greatly from living in Milwaukee and Jackson, Miss., and New Orleans. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, which is a beautiful, clean and culturally rich place. Despite it being recognized nationally as one of the most segregated cities in America, I actually learned to not only appreciate diversity but to crave it.

That hunger for diversity led me south to Mississippi to attend Jackson State University. I sought to immerse myself deeper into my African-American culture by attending a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Although we were mostly all young black men and women, I saw a broader spectrum of diversity of thought, behaviors, styles, attitudes and perspectives that I had never witnessed before. My fellow students were from St. Louis, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, all over Mississippi and international students from all over the world. My thoughts of feeling like an outsider in many regards were silenced quite a bit after being in that environment.

Ultimately after spending most of my free time from school in New Orleans over the course of several years, I landed my first job out of college working at the city’s daily newspaper. Although my time physically living in the city was short lived, my love affair with New Orleans still continues to this very day. Although I would love to move back to New Orleans at some point and be an active part of the rebuilding and revitalization of the city, my heart currently belongs to New York City.

For a lot of people – particularly my naysayers – New York City is a large, mean and intimidating place that’s over crowded, extremely expensive and frustrating to visit and live. It can be all of that. To me, obviously, it’s a lot more. It has an interesting duality to it. It can be one of the hardest places to survive and thrive while being one of the most wonderful cities on earth. It’s a place where you never know who you will run into or what’s going to happen to you on any given day. It’s a place where someone with vision, intellect, talent, passion and drive can go extremely far. It’s a city full of possibilities.

Yes, living in New York has always been a dream of mine. But It has been a dream much deferred. Several hurdles prevented me from moving to the city years ago. I landed a newspaper job in the South instead of an East Coast newspaper job after college. My first real attempt at relocating to the city was put on hold because the September 11 attack occurred eight months before my graduation from graduate school, leaving the city and its economy a complete mess.

But after having what I now refer to as “a series of unfortunate events” over the last two years, I threw caution to the wind and my shit in a bag (well, several bags) to make my dream a reality. No terrorists, no bad economy or no amount of sneaky slimy sons of bitches were going to stand in my way. Not this time. Those obstacles may have slowed me down, but my determination was unstoppable. I might not have had everything lined up as I would have hoped and I definitely could have used more money in my savings account. But I was finally making it happen.

That realization really sunk in for me that weekend. I was just a few weeks away from moving to New York City. The reality of it all was mind blowing. So a calculated distraction was in order. When Chicago called, I didn’t hesitate to answer.

It was well worth the trip. My friends and I feasted on a lovely brunch buffet and unlimited carafes of Mimosas. They congratulated me on my decision to move and praised my motivation to do it on my own terms. And these well wishes were coming from accomplished and talented college professors who have lived and traveled the world. It was a celebration of friendship and the extra motivation that only close friends and family can provide. It was just what I needed that Sunday: to live life and positively look toward to the future.

I found myself welcoming Monday morning with the fire to get down to the business of claiming the life I always knew belonged to me. As I was propeling myself forward, I held tight to this truism in life to keep me focused: Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. Some stink a hell of a lot worse than others. And most often you need to keep it to your damn self.

To be continued…

Official Fruit of the summer of 2010

By Charles Dion Springfield

The first day of summer is just about a month away, but I’m going to go out on a limb and make a bold prediction about what will be the hottest fruit consumed this summer. And no, I’m not talking about Ricky Martin. I’m talking about watermelon.

Why would I predict that? Watermelon is always a staple of the summer season, right? That is correct. It is an old summer standby. But similar to “Iron Chef America,” I believe it will be the OFFICIAL ingredient in several dishes, cocktails, beverages and deserts consumed this summer.
Since I’ve moved to NYC, I’ve been bombarded with watermelon. It makes a weekly appearance in my apartment thanks to my roommate. I chalked it up to him being from Louisiana and his love of a sweet, juicy watermelon on a hot southern day. But as I ventured around town from Uptown to Downtown, I started to see watermelon all over the place; from a Fresh Watermelon Martini at French Roast on 85th and Broadway to a Watermelon Salad with grilled shrimp, feta cheese, shaved onion and spicy red wine vinaigrette at the uber popular restaurant Cafeteria in Chelsea.

Therefore, I’m claiming it as the Official Fruit of the summer of 2010. And I think you should too.

Not only is watermelon juicy and delicious, it’s very good for you too. Watermelon is an excellent source of Vitamin C and a very good source of Vitamin A, notably through its concentration of beta-carotene, according to published reports. High doses of vitamin C and beta-carotene have been shown in a number of scientific studies to reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce the airway spasm that occurs in asthma, reduce the risk of colon cancer, and alleviate some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Sources also report that watermelon is also a very concentrated source of the carotenoid, lycopene. Lycopene has been extensively studied for its antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties.

Now, I’m far from being Oprah. So I’m obviously not empowered enough to cause a nation-wide watermelon movement. Although, I would love to scream: EVERYONE READING THIS BLOG TODAY GETS A WATERMELON!!! You get a watermelon! And you get a watermelon! And you get a watermelon!

But what I can do is provide you with some inspiration for infusing watermelon into your life this summer. Below are two amazing recipes courtesy of FOOD Network stars Bobby Flay (Watermelon Martini) and Paula Deen (Watermelon Salad with Mint) and Enjoy! And stay tuned for more recipes and stories on how to make watermelon your Official Fruit of the summer of 2010.


· 1/2 cup sugar
· 1/2 cup water
· 5 cups watermelon, seeds removed
· 2 tablespoons lemon juice
· 1 1/4 cups vodka
· 2 ounces melon liqueur, optional
· 8 lemon twists, for garnish

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar has completely dissolved. Let cool. In a food processor, puree the watermelon. Add a little of the sugar syrup to sweeten, to taste. Pour the pureed watermelon into 2 empty ice cube trays and freeze for at least 4 hours.

In a blender combine the frozen watermelon cubes, more simple syrup, to taste, lemon juice and vodka, melon liqueur and blend until smooth. Pour into 8 frozen martini glasses and garnish with a lemon twist.

***If you’re anything like me, you like to mix up your own concoctions. If that’s the case, I would recommend creating your own version of this cocktail by trying watermelon liqueur or watermelon juice. And you can also try incorporating lemonade, lime juice and/or a lemon flavored vodka.


· 1 (5-pound) watermelon
· 1 Vidalia or other sweet onion
· 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
· Salt and pepper
· 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
· 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
· 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
· 6 whole mint sprigs

Cut the flesh from the melon and cut into bite size pieces, removing and discarding the seeds. Set aside. Peel and slice the onion into rings.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk until salt is dissolved. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, a few drops at a time. Add in the chopped mint and taste. Adjust seasonings if needed.

In a large bowl, combine the melon, onion and feta. Pour the dressing over the melon mixture and toss gently until everything is coated and evenly mixed. Garnish with mint sprigs.
To serve, divide salad among individual plates and garnish with mint leaves.

***Feel free to put your own unique twist on this recipe as well by adding marinated and grilled shrimp, chicken, pork, salmon or tofu.

Maneuvering Life with Style

by Charles Dion Springfield

If you’re reading this, that means I finally got my sh** together and officially launched my first blog. Hi mom! I’ve decided to call it “Charles Springfield: Maneuvering Life with Style.” But I’m not trying to be Oprah, nor will it be ALL ABOUT me like Eve Harrington.

At this time in my life there is a flurry of change taking place. After years and years of hoping and wishing and praying to move to New York City, I forced it to happen this year. With the recent move enters a whole slew of changes, adventures, misadventures, challenges, successes, failures, romances, heartbreaks and everything else in between. But the underlining goal of my life is to face every challenge in a certain manner that is uniquely Charles Springfield and, regardless of the situation, maneuver this life of mine with style.

Since I began my professional career as a print journalist, I thought it would only be fitting to chronicle my experiences through narrative-styled perspective articles/essays via this ever growing phenomenon known as blogging. And to use my journalism background to round out the blog with news and feature stories that analyze my new life in New York City, highlight my love affair with fashion, offer my insights on bringing one’s personal style to the surface, showcase my fascination with finding the perfect cocktail, glass of wine or dinning option (recipe or restaurant) and selecting the right people to allow in one’s life.

While the blog will revolve around my perspective and approach, my goal is that the content and experiences published in this blog will be universal and relatable regardless of age, gender, race, political views, sexual preferences and spiritual/religious beliefs. You may not have had the same exact experience that I will write about, but I’m hopeful there are several parallels in your own life that can be drawn from the stories I publish. And through reader comments and other marvelous social media platforms like Facebook (group page: Maneuvering Life with Style) and Twitter (follow me @thelifestylings), I hope to make this particular blog engaging, entertaining, informative and meaningful for readers as well as for myself.

So please join me on my journey. Who knows! Maybe this little blog of mine will one day inspire the community at large to make a concerted effort to maneuver each and everyone one of our lives with style – together in our own unique way.