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Europe Pt 4 – ROME! You’re up!

The next port was Civitavecchia which gave us access to Rome. I couldn’t have been more excited. Honestly, I didn’t think that was possible. But the more I thought of all the places I would have the chance to visit – well–

The next morning, I wolfed down breakfast and played the impatient waiting game until everyone else could get their crap together. This was one of the ports where we had things planned for–a tour and the places the tour would take us. The Coliseum, The Vatican – including St Peter’s Basilica, as well as lunch in Rome.

I. Was. Pumped!

As we drove through the streets, I realized how very little has changed. Aside from technology, most of the streets we travelled on were not paved with asphalt but with a kind of material that resembled cobblestones. It made for a very, very bumpy ride.

We were driven by where Julius Cesar was killed, shown the home of the current Roman leader, drove by one of the churches that is said hold one of the Holy Doors (porta Sancta). We were shown where Mussolini gave his speeches. We were also shown the historic theatre and was told of Nero and the burning of Rome. Historians believe that

The Coliseum – Photo by Kato

Emperor Nero burned down a great portion of Rome so he could build his massive royal compound. He took up a great portion of the seven hills of Rome. Our guide, Piera, doesn’t believe that.

I still believe Nero was batshit crazy.

Finally, we arrived at the Coliseum aka Flavian Amphitheatre. Even as our tour bust drove alongside it my eyes burned with tears. I was in awe of this structure built around 70 to 80 AD that still stood as large as anything else.  There is something remarkably humbling, standing in the shadows of this spectacular piece of history and walking along cobble stones that were laid during the reign of Emperor Flavian.

Piera explained the history behind it, that it was free to enter but people were all given tickets. Above the arches (entrances) are Roman numbers which she explained were on the tickets to tell people which gates to enter through to get to their seats. Seating was in kind of a caste system, of course. Inside, gladiators fought each other, animals fought animals–this was also a kind of a zoo as well. This was where people would see Lions, Tigers, Bears, Oh my!

Around the coliseum, houses are standing where families live. Beneath all that are the sleeping quarters of the gladiators, the animals, the gladiators’ hospital etc. According to Piera, th

Arc de Triumph in Rome

ere is an entire city beneath the current structures.

 

Also, the Coliseum was called the Flavian Amphitheatre but was called the Coliseum because there was a massive, golden (of course golden) statute of Nero outside it.  It was called The Colossus. During the dark ages and the decline of the Roman empire, the statue was melted down to make weapons for the constant battles Rome had to face – from outside forces and the dueling wealthy families within to civil wars. It was a bad time for Rome.

Another thing I learned, the French had this habit of building an Arc de Triumph everywhere. There was one in Barcelona that I had a chance to visit but was too tired to go. And guess what? There’s one in Rome right outside the Coliseum!

We wandered through Rome, stopping in certain places on the way to learn about little

bits of history that had me enthralled. There are Egyptian towers in the City, including one in the Vatican. There are statutes and monuments everywhere and each and every one of them has a story.

There was something about walking amongst these things, some of them built before the coliseum which mean they were built WAY before modern technology. Yet they stand as they were built yesterday. I absorbed the feel of them, touching everything I could, dragging my fingers through the fountain waters, wishing in every one I could.

I drank from some of the statues as our guide told us the water was some of the cleanest in the world. She knew the different ones we could drink from and which we shouldn’t. She drank from each and every one of them as well to prove we could and since I drink a lot of water, it was a blessing for me.

I’d always seen the Trevi fountain in movies. People would throw their money in and make a wish. Though it wasn’t on our itinerary, Piera brought us to it, explaining the history behind it. Of course, it was very crowded but we made our way as far down as we could until I could get a coin and make my own wish. I shed a tear then, because that

Trevi Fountain – photo by Kato

was a dream in itself. Piera I noticed that at the top of them there were names and years. Piera explained the names were of religious leaders.

Point, there is a lot of religious symbols and monuments in Rome. At one point, even today, Popes held a lot of power and wealth in Rome. Most of the buildings and statues and churches etc were built by popes or were commissioned to be built by popes.  Some of the buildings in the city were built from other buildings that were pillaged of their wealth and brought back to satisfy the need to build by the popes.

She told us stories of some of the wealthiest families back in the day living in Rome being the Pope and the Catholic church. We were even taken through the ‘ghettos’ of Rome where the powers that were at the time relegated the Jewish people, forcing them to live in not so pristine conditions. I realize hate has always been in fashion – I was extremely sad at that.

As I stood, staring at the fountain, I realized, a few hours in Rome just wouldn’t do it. I totally have to go back.

Next, one of my favorite part of each port – FOOD!

Mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto – Photo by Kato

We were taken to this beautiful, authentic Roman restaurant where the owner attended to us personally. He is friends with the lady who put the tour together. He was a lovely man who made us laugh. Here I had freshly made mozzarella wrapped in Prosciutto.

Note – during this trip, I was advised to eat all the things! I ate all the things. I’d never had this before and was a little leery at first.  But, I remember that when in Rome… Curious, I cut into the one sitting before me. I skipped the olives–I won’t eat that anywhere.

It was delicious. My mom and I ate an entire one by ourselves and then we started in on another one. We were also served fresh bread, keep in mind, everything was made on site. The bread was still warm and with homemade butter, I had to push the plate away from me and into the center of the table. Everything was so yummy.

Next, came the pasta. I was waiting for that moment. We were allowed have two types because we were tourists. We were given the chance to try two in one which was

Pasta in Rome! – Photo by Kato

amazing and I jumped at the chance.

It was a bit salty but good. Others in our group were complaining the pasta was hard. The thing is, we were in Rome and pasta is always cooked al dente. They don’t cook it within an inch of its life like we do here on this side of the world.

I enjoyed as much as I could then had to stop because of how salty it was. I was able to eat a little more of it than others because, as planned, I ordered a beer with my own. While the others ordered wine. I figured, I could have wine any time but my goal was to have a beer in every port.

Beer in Rome! – Photo by Kato

 

We then rushed to The Vatican. What we didn’t know was that the day we were there was a public holiday. The lines at The Vatican was surprising. We would have had to get there at least at 7am to make much of a move. But we were taken into The Vatican and shown around the square. I drank from the water spout and marveled in the history around us. We couldn’t get into St. Peter’s Basilica because of the LONG line. My mom was disappointed and so was I. But I was just happy to be in that space.

 

Inside The Vatican

To the right of this photo you can sort of see a part of the line heading inside the basilica. The line wrapped around behind where I’m standing to take this pic and disappeared behind the actual basilica. It was crazy.
For those who don’t know the significance of St. Peter’s Basilica – it is said to be built atop where St. Peter was buried.
I had a marvelous time in Rome and I can’t wait to go back! Hopefully, this time, I can spend more than a few hours and get to go inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
Hugs,
Kato
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Amazon Crap

Okay, this warrants a blog post because a facebook post would just be too long. Plus I keep getting emails now regarding the rest of my CIRO series. For those who have zero clue what I’m talking about, lemme break it down.

A year ago, I got wind of a new series, fan fictions really, that Amazon was doing called Special Forces: Operation Alpha: Miracle and the Beast (Kindle Worlds Novella) (GSG 9 - CIRO Book 1) by [Chailyn, Kendra Mei]KINDLE WORLDS. This is where a big name author, create a world, and other authors are then allowed to write their own stories within said world, using one or more of the World Creators (will become WC for this post) characters plus their setting.

I was super stoked. I LOVE LOVE LOVE men in uniform and jumped at it when I saw there was a special forces one started by Susan Stokes (who will become SS for this post). I created my CIRO – Beast, Pitbull, Barbie, Zero and Mouth and started writing like the wind.

I have fallen so hard for this guys. So far, Beast’s story has done well, was an Amazon bestseller, along with Barbie. Pitbull was due out this July, plus I’ve written a story in another world, The Brotherhood Protectors, that was due out this October. I am also in Mari Carr’s Wild Irish World and had just started a sexy cowboy novella in Sable Hunter’s world.

It came as a huge shock when our WC told us that Amazon was shutting down the Kindle World program. No reasoning behind it–it would be just gone.

So now, they’ve stopped taking submissions for the Kindle Worlds. All traces of Kindle world will be gone as of July and authors and WC are now left feeling like a lady bug who got knocked onto her back.

I am unsure of the reasoning behind this latest move by Amazon. And to be honest, now Special Forces: Operation Alpha: Barbie (Kindle Worlds Novella) (GSG 9 Ciro Book 2) by [Chailyn, Kendra Mei]that I’ve had time to think, I don’t care. What they have done is disgusting and it is really starting to become an issue for many indie authors, including myself. They don’t understand, or don’t care, what this now means.

This means that some WC can now screw over their authors. Because now, even if some authors change their stories to no longer include the WC’s characters/settings, the author still requires permission from the WC to republish the newly edited book. I mean, what in the hell?

Now authors have to replace covers, remove logos, rewrite stories or scrap them after all that work…it’s a bloody mess. Covers are expensive. For me, my Miracle and the Beast cover was done by a different person than who did my Barbie and my Pitbull covers. Thankfully, the Pitbull artist offered to work with me because she realized it wasn’t my fault this is happening and I LOVE my cover.

Authors will also lose all the reviews they’ve gotten since the worlds began on these stories.

I’m pretty sure tons of authors are going to get royally screwed by this upheaval. Amazon handled this very poorly. Thankfully, my special operations WC told us all that she has our backs and will try her best to make this less dramatic than it seems to be getting for some authors.

So let’s address a few things I’ve been getting emails and PM’s about:

  1. Will readers lose the stories on their Kindle – This I have no idea about. Readers will have to contact Amazon and ask them. Personally, I don’t think you will lose the stories. It’s probably like if an author un-publish their story, you don’t suddenly lose it. You paid for it.
  2. GSG 9 CIRO – Right now, the decision is to leave them in the Special Operations Alpha world and work with the authors who will remain a part of this world to get Wild Irish: Wild Chance (Kindle Worlds Novella) by [Chailyn, Kendra Mei]the stories back out as soon as possible. Once I have more news to report on this end, and can share, I will.
  3. The rest of the GSG 9 CIRO stories – PITBULL requires editing but is pretty much read. I am waiting to see what happens in the world and what SS decides and go from there. MOUTH’s story almost complete, writing-wise, and my niece already helped me flush out ZERO’s story. So, I plan on finishing them.
  4. Where the heck is REAPER – At the moment, REAPER is edited, cover done, beta-read and ready to go. I cannot, however, release it until I know what the WC for the Brotherhood Protectors decided. Depending on her decision, I will have to do some SERIOUS rewrites on REAPER to make it my and have nothing to do with the world, then have my cover guru change the cover to remove the logo (yes, I do have the cover and was just about to share it when the news broke, so that’s remaining secret a little while longer). So, to answer that question, REAPER is in limbo.
  5. Will there be new covers and do I need to buy those – I don’t know yet. The cover for Miracle and the Beast my change–I really would like to change it. The cover for BARBIE I will not change unless there is a HUGE problem. It is terrifyingly hard to find pictures of strong, black females on these stock sites and I really don’t want to venture into that hell right now. The cover for PITBULL will not change if the current plans stick. The stories themselves, (BEAST and BARBIE – especially BEAST) will go through major rewrites and edits so if you feel the need to repurchase them by all means. I will try my very best to ensure these new versions give you something new to hopefully be worth it. Of course, I will work with the other authors to have contests as well. More info once it becomes available.
  6. What will happen to WILD CHANCE – Again, no idea. I am still waiting to speak with the WC to make a decision that will benefit you guys and myself.  I don’t know what the WC is thinking at the moment and that will affect my decision for the story – either way, I will be putting it out again but it will be DRAMATICALLY changed due to copyrights issues and the sort.
  7. Can we still buy these books – Yes. According to amazon the only thing you cannot do right now, is submit new stories. You will be able to purchase all these awesome titled until around mid-July.
  8. Can we still read them on KU – For a little while longer you will be able to. They weren’t clear on when they will remove them from Kindle Unlimited, but they will be gone. Again, not sure when – since Amazon didn’t give us a removal date for KU.
  9. What can I do as a reader – I feel so proud and honoured to have awesome readers like you guys. Some people wouldn’t even ask this. But since you did, let me say this. Once these books are taken down by Amazon we will lose our reviews. So, if authors decide to re-release their stories, whether as is or vastly edited, please support us. Buy the books, some authors hand out ARC’s for free. Once you’ve read them, please go back and leave another review. We really appreciate constructive criticism (we love hearing how awesome you think our stories are too) and it helps us get better. Leave us a review, tell your friends, share it on social media, send a kind word to the author(s). Right now, between the whole cocky debacle and this newest brick wall, we could use all the love we can get.
    Be patient with us. This is hard and figuring out this conundrum that Amazon has left is in will take some time. Also, keep supporting your favorite authors during this time (and a few new to you ones as well). Transitioning will be super hard.
  10. How are you doing – Better than yesterday. I’ve shed a few tears to get my anger and frustration out. Now, I’m just looking for a way to be able to feel as if my writing is worth something again.

Personally, it breaks my heart having to go through this. And, in all honesty, I want to go buck while and start firing at people but what good is that going to do? We don’t know who to go after for this. Right now, we’re just taking the news and moving on as best we can. Last night I cried for about 3 hours when it sank in what we were about to deal with. I seriously considered quitting and I am still mulling it over because if you knew my past in this industry–it’s been more rocky than anything else.

As more comes to me that I can share, I will. In the mean time, thanks again for your support. It means a lot to me and the others within these worlds.

Hugs,

Kato

Interstellar – A Review

We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” – Cooper

Blurb: In Earth’s future, a global crop blight and second Dust Bowl are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable. Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a brilliant NASA physicist, is working on plans to save mankind by transporting Earth’s population to a new home via a wormhole. But first, Brand must send former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and a team of researchers through the wormhole and acInterstellar Posterross the galaxy to find out which of three planets could be mankind’s new home (IMDB).

Starring: Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike, True Detective, MUD),  John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun, The Crown, How I Met Your Mother), David Oloweyo (Star Wars Rebels, Queen of Katwe, A Wrinkle in Time), David Gyasi (Troy: Fall of a City, Containment, Man in the Orange Shirt), Anne Hathaway (The Intern, Get Smart), Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea, Gone Baby Gone, Ocean’s Eleven), Matt Damon (The Martian, We Bought a Zoo, True Grit)

Review: Let me start by saying Interstellar is a fantastic movie. It won’t be for everyone and I can get why. But the movie is none-the-less amazing.

For a lot of people Interstellar was a long, pointless flick that should not have been made. Some even went as far as to say it’s the worse movie they’d ever seen. And yes, I get it. I can totally see that. In an age where Marvel is remaking everything and nothing is fresh, Interstellar must have been some kind of a shock to the world.

Sure, it dragged like hell in some places, but I understand the movie. I get how it played out and why it did that way. This movie is a bit of a brain stretcher. It forces you to use your brain. It has math, science and more math. It grabs the mind and twist it in a way that forces you to think outside the box. No one has ever gone through a black hole and in this movie, Cooper has. He didn’t know what he would find or if he would even survive it but he did.

I think most people were expecting a rousing good time. They didn’t want to use their brain while watching it and Interstellar forces you to think, to work out the problem along with the characters. The first time I watched it a little slowly–I kept having to rewind to go back to a certain point and rewatch. I don’t mind–I love movies that challenges me.

The ending I had to watch a few times but I liked the way it ended.

There were quite a few big names in the flick but it didn’t feel like it was jam packed full of them. I love the low key-ness of it all.

Sure, Interstellar isn’t for everyone. And for most, you won’t understand and I think that’s why so many people dislike the movie. I enjoyed it. I think the graphics are mesmerizing, the imagination behind the flick had to have been amazing. You should totally watch this.

Hugs,

Kato

Europe Trip pt 3 – Napoli – I was in you!

The first port we stopped in was Naples.  At some point in my sleep, early in the morning, I felt the ship doing something of a weird, little shake. I shook it off as rough waters, rolled over and went back to sleep. Then my bladder started calling and I grunted and climbed out of bed. I noticed a little sunlight peeking in through the blinds and decided to look out.

The first thing I saw were these beautiful, red buildings. I screamed, jarring my mother awake. “We’re here!” We’re here!”

She moaned. “I know.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?” I was incredulous!

I quickly used the bathroom, then grabbed my camera and darted to the balcony and began snapping as many pictures as I could. My mother, who had cruised before merely pulled the sheets over her head while I was outside, making kissy faces, trying to get the best angle to take a selfie with the buildings in the background.

Toward the front of the ship was Naples’ Castel Nuovo – a beautiful castle that sits in the center of a busy street. A little bit of old mixed with the newness of cars zooming back and forth around it.

I couldn’t wait to get off the ship. But apparently, the authorities had to clear the ship before anyone could get off. I suppose that’s for safety. While we waited, I showered, dressed, grabbed everything I would need for the day, camera/phone for pictures, money for little things and pizza (ever since watching Eat Pray Love, and knew where pizza came from, my dream was to have pizza in Italy–specifically pizza margherita in Italy.).

I was ready to go – then my mom dropped the bomb on me that we had to have breakfast first.

Port of Naples with construction

*Dramatic sigh*

I tapped my foot impatiently as I wolfed down my meal. But then had to wait for everyone else. Soon, not soon enough, we were all together and were finally permitted to get off the ship. We wandered through customs, and through a gorgeous little shopping center then down flowing front steps and outside. I was tempted to fall to my face and kiss the ground while shouting quite dramatically “LAND! SWEET, SWEET LAND!!”

Then, I figured my mom would not impressed with my acting skills so, instead I settled for changing my status on facebook to “Naples I am in you!!”

I learned that Naples is also called Napoli.

We didn’t get much into the actual city. Aside from the port and looking at the beautiful buildings around. Instead, we found a taxi driver willing to take us to Sorrento and Pompei for a reasonable fee and off we went.

On the way, the driver – Guiseppe who told us we could call him Joseph, was hilarious. He played music for us, gave us some history of the places we were passing, the history

View from the street on way to Sorrento

of pizza margherita, Vesuvius and he stopped along the way so we could get out, stretch, buy souvenirs, take pictures while we oohed and ahhed over the scenery.

We stopped quite a few times and everything was absolutely breath-taking. At one point I found myself crying because all you have to do is look at this picture right here to see why. The mountains, covered in fog which slowly trickled into the clouds, building built into the side of the mountains, roads that turn into tunnels leading to different locals, buildings that seemed to have withstood the test of time and humans.  I was left speechless while the others were either taking pictures of haggling with a street vendor on the price of something. For the longest time, I remained at the railing, staring down over the Bay of Naples below us, wondering how high we’d driven. I watched sailboats go to and fro in the soft waters below. I watched cars go in and out of the different tunnels in the mountains, marveling at the technology and great thinkers who worked to make man be able to walk through walls. I was humbled by the time we climbed back into the little bus and took off again.

Limonchello

I have never had real limonchello, so when I saw it being sold at the side of the road, I forked over the 2 Euros it cost and picked up a cute little bottle of the stuff.

I didn’t drink it. I decided to save it for later. So we continue don our adventure, our driver being his hilarious self, playing for us everything from Dean Martin to Bob Marley. I tell you, there are very few things more amazing, that driving through Italy with Bob Marley blasting from the speakers.

Traffic became horrid when we arrived in one of the small towns before Sorrento. It was something I was used to. I took the time, when not in a tunnel under the mountains, to keep my eye on Vesuvius. I have to be honest, having Joseph remind us that it erupted in the forties was a little unnerving. But for the most part, I was left amazed by this towering mass that had caused such devastation in 79 AD, destroying everything in its path, including burying Pompeii and Herculaneum.  I leaned my face into the window, tilted my head, anything I could do so my eyes would remain on it. A few times someone joked that the fog against the tip was smoke and I eyed them with contempt for all of two seconds before that was forgotten and I went back to staring at the volcano.

We stopped again. This time, it was because the ladies in the front saw little carts on the side of the road and were curious what they were. Turns out, it was a place to get freshly

Me with the juice cart

squeezed orange juice made from the delicious Sorrento oranges. For 2 euros, we stood there and watched as he squeezed oranges with this machine into this beautiful jug that had been sitting in chunks of ice. He then poured it into a plastic cup and served it to us. I wanted to just keep drinking.

Maybe it was I was in Italy, almost into Sorrento, drinking Sorrento oranges but it was delicious–fresh, cool, not too sweet. I leaned my back against a concrete column and was enjoying until it was announced we had to go. I quickly downed what was left of my juice, dropped the cup into the vendor’s makeshift garbage, and fired off a few more pictures before hopping back into the bus.

Again, I rested into the side and stared out, trying to find Vesuvius in the horizon. But we’d turned into a different direction and it was no behind the bus. I frowned and focused on what Joseph was saying about the towns we would pass through.

 

We made it Sorrento. There wasn’t much to do in the square but shopping and bask in the history of the buildings around us. The group decided to appease my craving for pizza and we found this beautiful restaurant.

Lesson: In most parts of Italy, to order a meal and take it out, you only pay for your meal and applicable taxes. To eat in the restaurant, you have to pay a surcharge. It’s nothing major anywhere from 1.50 euros to about 3 – depending on the restaurant. So, don’t freak out.

We settled in and after I checked to ensured they had what I wanted I made my order. Someone said we should order two and each person could get a piece of each. I was vehemently against that. I’m a team player with most things but I had been waiting close to ten years for this moment. In the end, I got my wish and only shared with my mom. I tapped my foot impatiently, waiting for them to make it. And when it finally came, I took pictures.

When I finally tore off a slice and bit into it – it was just as delicious as Julia Roberts portrayed in the movie. Not too salty, no canned anything anywhere and just melted on my tongue. I moaned so loud, people at the table stared at me in silence for a second then burst out laughing. I then had to explain to them that this was all I really wanted in Naples/Sorrento and I was on cloud nine. Our waiter was amazing and kept us laughing the entire time. He spoke great English–said he learned from tourists who visited the restaurant. I was proud of him and told him so. I received my first “bella!” in Italy which made me very happy.

At the end, he brought us all free shots of limonchello.

The square in Sorrento

 

This was below the road and new Sorrento

We left Sorrento and headed back the way we’d come but diverted slightly for Pompeii. The streets in Pompeii were cobblestones, old, and beautiful. Though we didn’t get a chance to go into the destroyed part of the city (The line alone was killer and we had to head back soon to make our all aboard call), we wandered the outer rim, buying Gelato and little trinkets to bring back home. But, though we didn’t get a chance to go IN, I knew I was in the presence of greatness, in the presence of a force greater than man. I acknowledge that helplessness, dwelled in it for a little, then released it in the world around me.
Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii were good to me.
Hugs,
Kato

Todrick Hall – Music Monday

Name: Todrick HallImage result for todrick hall

Language: English

Fandom name: Todllerz

About: American Idol alum, associated with RuPaul, Bob the Drag Queen, Jordin Sparks, Pentatonix, Amber Riley, Jo Jo

Note: Todrick Hall is a smash. There is no other way to describe the way he’s taking the industry by storm. Whether he’s dropping it Low RuPaul or warning a trick about his Doll-hairs, his albums have brought creativity, music and acting to the forefront of an industry that seems to be going to the dogs.

Favorite Song: Colour (featuring the fantastic Jay Armstrong Johnson), Water Guns (featuring Jordin Sparks), Wrong Bitch (featuring Bob the Drag Queen), Dem Beats….

Featured song, Colour – Featuring Jay Armstong Johnson

Moonlight – A Review

You the only man that’s ever touched me. The only one. I haven’t really touch anyone since.” – Chiron

Starring: Mahershala Ali (Hidden Figures), Trevante Rhodes (12 Strong, The Predator), Image resultNaomi Harris (Skyfall, Ninja Assassin), André Holland (The Knick, Selma)

Blurb: A look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami. His epic journey to manhood is guided by the kindness, support and love of the community that helps raise him (IMDB)

Review: I cannot begin to tell you how profoundly this movie affected me. Do you know, sometimes when you’re watching a movie it feels rushed–like when they were making it they were trying to cram every bit of dialogue into a dictated one hour and thirty minutes. With Moonlight, while watching, I couldn’t help thinking the creators were taking me on a road trip and they were in no hurry, they wanted me to sit there, an immerse myself in every second, every bump of the journey, every smell, ever stop for bad street-food along the way.  Though the dialogue was stunning and beautifully written, the stillness in this movie is just as poignant and as the movement.

I feel this movie is such a strong commentary on what the world tells black men they’re supposed to and what they can never be. Be strong. Show no mercy. Straight is normal. Be a man. Walk this way. Talk this way – then by the time they reach a certain age, they have no clue who or what they’re supposed to be–who or what they are.

Kevin: Who is you, man?

Black: Who, me?

Kevin: Yeah, nigga. You. Them fronts? That car? Who is you, Chiron?

Black: I’m me man. Ain’t trying to be nothing else.

Kevin: So you hard now?

Black: I ain’t say that.

Kevin: Then what? [pause] Look. I’m not trying hem you up. Just… I ain’t seen you in like a decade. Not what I expected, none of it. Not good or bad. Just not what I expected.

Image result for moonlight charactersI haven’t seen another movie that tells the story of a young black kid with nothing to hold on to as well as Moonlight. It is lyrical in its simplicity, a number of tales woven into one masterpiece that deserves to be taken in and savoured repeatedly. It pulled at my soul in very unexpected ways.

 

Kevin: What you cry about?

Chiron: I should have cried too much. Sometimes I feel like I’m just gonna turn into drops.

Kevin: But you just roll out into the water, right? Roll out into the water just like all these rambo-fuckers trying to drown their sorrow.

Moonlight is almost spiritual. It blends with your emotions and buries its lessons as deeply into your mind and heart as humanly possible.

Black men are told the worse thing they can be is gay. So they struggle, alone, with who they are, pretending to be anything but. Their lives become unnecessarily complicated and leads to issues that they could avoided if they could sit down and just let it all out. So, having committed an ‘unforgivable’ sin, our gay men grow hard, unforgiving. We break them by telling them it is unnatural and against some kind of cosmic rule for them to find love where their hearts lead them. They become sexually stunted, taking superficial pleasure where they find it, sometimes in Image result for moonlightplaces they have no right taking it from and the slip into a darkness that they may never survive.

This movie is the story of so many of our boys and men. Hopefully it shows them that they aren’t alone. That it is okay to be who they are without judgment and if they are judged, they aren’t the issue.

I could go on and on about how amazing this movie is. I see now why all the critics were raving, the nominations, the awards–I get it now.

Stream Moonlight now on Netflix.

Hugs,

Kato

Europe pt 2 – Barcelona! I was in you!

Taking off from Pearson was smooth. My ears popped like mad as the plane soared higher and higher but I wasn’t worried. We were on British Airways into London’s Heathrow. The legroom was great. We were fed so life was good. I sat in the middle seat which was a bad idea. While my mom at the window was fine, the lady sitting on my other side kept poking me with her elbow every time I tried falling asleep. Soon, the long flight started taking a toll on my tailbone (I’d cracked it when was a teen and for some reason after that whenever I sit for long periods, my tailbone acts up.).

When we finally landed in London, I was relieved but that soon turned into anger. It was then we noticed that our ticket had no gate number. And because one of our party required a wheel chair, we kind of had to take a detour. This airport is like a small city. We had to take boxed elevator from the plane to the ground. Then this thing started moving and we couldn’t see the driver. I was horrified.

It took us to one building where we then had to board a bus on a 15 minute ride to another terminal. We were seated to wait for someone to come with a wheelchair for our party. We sat there for about forty five minutes (keep in mind, we still haven’t used the bathroom, gotten something to eat and the rest of our party was somewhere in the massive airport because they wouldn’t let them come with us and we had NO clue where they were). Turned out, they hadn’t sent the wheelchair and I was furious. I took things into my own hands, and pushed her in a wheelchair that had been sitting there.

We finally got up stairs, went through customs and realize our ticket didn’t have a gate number on it. We tried finding out where we should be but no one knew so we just sat around, waiting for it to pop up on the screens while praying we didn’t have to jet across the damn building again.

We still didn’t know where the rest of the guys were.

Eventually, the gate number was popped up on the screen and it wasn’t that long of a trek to it. Eventually the rest of the team showed up and soon we boarded and was on our way.

The flight was good. Leg room awesome. I fell asleep instantly and missed snacks but I didn’t care. I was way too tired.

When we arrived in Barcelona, getting through the airport was a little easier. This time I stuck with the people who didn’t need a wheelchair. Because of my limited knowledge of Spanish I was able to guide my group through and to where we could claim our suitcases.

Then we waited for the others to show up. It seems, getting through airports in a wheelchair is hell and takes your entire existence.

Finally, we were able to exit the airport and try finding a ride to our hotel. We didn’t get

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Barcelona – photo by Kato

a chance to go outside. We were approached by drivers offering to take us where we needed to go. I remained silent and went with the flow. Our driver wound up charging us 10 euros each to take us to the hotel. It wasn’t far away. We later found out if we’d taken taxis, it would have been far cheaper.

 

Lesson learned: In Barcelona, the drivers inside the airport are not taxi drivers. They are more of a private/limo type deal. Seek out one of the black and yellow taxis outside for a cheaper trip.

After we arrived at the hotel, I showered. But the hotel was a little hinky. It was a boutique hotel in Barcelona called Hotel Sansi Diputació. The lobby smelled like incense which I suppose is better than a stench. It was a problem checking in because apparently the company we booked the hotel through had not sent enough vouchers to the hotel for all the rooms we wanted. We then had to call them, explain the situation, had them talk to the lady who booked our room, then had them talk to the hotel representative and after about forty five minutes, we could go to our room.

The elevator was super slow but secure as a stranger couldn’t come off the street and go up – guests needed their room key to make the elevator go anywhere. Inside the room, the card was needed to activate the lights etc. That wasn’t my issue. My issue was outside my balcony doors was a wall. So even if you go out on the balcony, you can’t see anything. Outside the window in the bathroom was another wall. It dawned on me then that if there was a fire, there was no safe way of getting out of that building except the stairs.

I tried ignoring that and just enjoying the trip.

Also, the air in the room was horrible, there was no way to circulate it out.

Lesson learned: While other hotels cater to western guests with adaptors, this one doesn’t. Bring your own or go around the corner to an all night market to pick on up for 6 euros.

Anyway, we left to eat something and wound up walking to the Barcelona Cathedral. It was stunning. The walk there was breathtaking – stores lined the path as my feet passed over cobblestoned street.

Barcelona Cathedral – Photo by Kato

At the cathedral, there was a band there planning music that sounded like old Catalonia music. People were holding hands in circles and dancing. I could have stayed there and watched them all day. I’m not sure any of them knew each other. In that moment, I knew people of different race/cultures could work together and be productive.
By then my feet were killing me. I was told we were merely going for food at the corner so I hadn’t worn proper shoes. Two others wanted to go see the Spanish Arc of Triumph but I wasn’t feeling it. We stopped to eat before venturing toward it at this restaurant, Santa Caterina Guines, on the way. It was gorgeous.
This is my first Shandy ever and it won’t be my last – Beer and lemonade and so yumm!

My first Shandy

Lamb and Potato

Afterward, a few decided to continue on. But it was getting cold, my feet were killing me so I stuck with the group heading back to the hotel. Getting a cab was a pain and a half. There are taxi stands, like bus stops and we thought if we stood at the sign, we could get a couple of cabs no worries. Turns out, there was a line that started a ways off. We managed to do that. I put a few into one cab, told the taxi driver where they were going and they were off.
We waited for one for us and then we were on our way. It was like being in Jamaica and taking a taxi.
My mother to driver: What’s the speed limit here?
Driver: 50.
Me: It’s more of a guideline, really.
Everyone: *laughs*
The drivers drove like crazy, swinging out of lanes, speeding, it was crazy.
Close to the hotel, there was an accident – a scooter was rear-ended by a car and that car was rear-ended by a cab – thankfully the people from the scooter were moving so they seemed to be okay.
When returned to the hotel, myself, my mom and one of the other ladies ventured to the corner store for water. I was going crazy at not having any for hours. I drink a lot of water, you see.
Once that craving was satisfied, I reset all my clocks, set an alarm for the next morning and crashed.
Hugs,
Kato

Music Monday – Jackson Wang

Name: Jackson WangImage result for Got7 Jackson Wang

Nationality: Chinese (Born in Hong Kong)

Group: Rapper as a part of Got7. He is also a singer

Fandom: Team Wang

Note: There is something amazingly endearing about this rapper. Though he is a member of the highly popular Got7, his solo works speaks for itself. From his heartbreaking, self lifting Okay to his picking yourself up jam Papillon this kid has some major writing and musical chops. That large voice reminds me of the likes of TOP (BIG BANG), Rap Mon (BTS), Bang and Zelo (BAP) and Ravi (VIXX). Now, you may be wondering why he is a part of a Korean group – most Korean bands are made up of members who may look Korean but aren’t. Some bands have Thai, Chinese etc members. A few have American or Canadian born Asians as a part of them – like Epik High and Day6

Favorite songs: Okay, Papillon
Featured song – Papillon

 

Hugs,

Kato

Europe – The Beginning – [pt 1]

Disclaimer: For the most part, the pictures I post in these blog posts will be mine except where otherwise note. Also, my trip was awesome so it will be posted in different parts maybe every Tuesday.

Here we go:

A few months ago, my mother called me up and began regaling me with her plans of going on a cruise. Usually, she asks me to research for her and I began jotting down notes. We had a couple different conversations and on the third she asked if I wanted to go. I instantly began moving around expenses inside my head. I had been plotting a trip for 2018 but it wouldn’t be nearly as expensive as a Mediterranean cruise. I was plotting Iceland- and if you are really good, you can find a flight and hotel for $800. So I was putting away $1500 for the entire trip, tours included.

Then I stopped myself. No, with everything I had doing in my world, I couldn’t afford a cruise of that caliber without more time to put things in place financially. But then my mom said something I thought I was dreaming when I heard it. “Your father and I would like to do this for your birthday.”

*blinks. Blinks*

Photo by Joseph Chan – unsplash

 

Turns out she hadn’t been joking and the plans for Iceland was placed on hold. I was a little hesitant seeing as though this trip would be with my mother and her friends. Most of these women I barely knew or had never met. There wouldn’t be anyone there my age and things I would want to do, may not be on any of their agendas.

But, this was a trip of a lifetime and I couldn’t let that bother me…right?

The stops? We’d fly into Barcelona, spend a night at a hotel there then board the Norwegian Epic the next day. Then, we’d stop in Naples (Napoli), Civitavecchia, Livorno, Cannes and Palma De Mallorca then disembark back in Barcelona. My mind almost exploded. I had all these places (except Cannes) on my mental bucket list. I mean, I had a real list but gave up on that a long time ago.

I instantly began checking off things I wanted to do in these places. Barcelona was a toss up because we would only be there for one night. There wasn’t much we could do in that time but eat tappas and drink beer–which I did happily.

Naples – pizza Margherita and if we have time Pompei to see Vesuvius.

Civitavecchia – Rome which means the Coliseum, the Vatican (St Peter’s Basilica), the Trevi Fountain and if we have time where Julius Cesar was murdered.

Livorno – this means Pisa which also means the Leaning Tower of….

Cannes – No plans

Palma de Mallorca – Shopping

Oh yes, I had it all planned in my head.

I kept it to myself. I didn’t even tell my niece. Why? Well, I wanted to make sure this was actually happening. Plans fall through all the time. And this wouldn’t be real until money exchanged hands (or rather, credit card numbers were given).

Once that happened, I told my niece, my BFF and another friend I am close to. I didn’t post it on facebook or twitter or instagram. I silently stewed in my excitement. When my mom asked what I wanted to do on this trip I told her, “as long as I get to have pizza in Naples and see the coliseum in Rome, I’m good.” After all, one has to pick her battles and not only that, there were many other people going along – nine to be exact.

When I told my bosses at the office where I was going, I received advice.

  1. Eat ALL THE THINGS. Do not worry about diet or weight – eat everything!
  2. Pick pockets in the Vatican.
  3. Cover your shoulders and legs for your visit to the Vatican
  4. Have TONS of fun.

The tickets were booked in about February.

Then, I wait.

Hugs,

Kato

Black Panther – A review

Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. ‘Cause they knew death was better than bondage.” – Killmonger

This review is going to set up differently than all the others. Why? This is Black Panther! After weeks of things getting in the way, I FINALLY saw the movie everyone has been raving about. Image result Usually, I would list only the main characters. This movie deserve all its players to be listed. So, hold tight.

Starring: Chadwick Boseman (42, James Brown), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitville Station, Creed), Lupita N’yongo (12 Years a Slave, Star Wars The Force Awakens), Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead, All Eyez on Me), Forest Whittaker (The Last King of Scotland, The Butler), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Sicario), Angela Bassett (Waiting to Exhale, American Horror Story), Winston Duke (The Messengers), Sterling K Brown (This is Us, American Crime Story), Letitia Wright (The Commuter, Urban Hymn), Florence Kasumba (Transpapa, Mute), Martin Freeman (Sherlock, Fargo), Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes, Lord of the Rings), Isaac de Bankole (Casino Royale, The Last Witch Hunter), Sydelle Noel (GLOW, Things Never Said), Atandwa Kani (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Wild at Heart).

Blurb: After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people (IMDB).

Review: Lord have mercy! This movie was so good, I was sitting there trying so hard not to shove both hands in the air and scream “wooooooo!” The costumes, the acting, the graphics, the storyline, the women–omg the women! These gorgeous, dark skinned, queens made every other action star look like a chump. They were fierce, free, loving, beautiful! I have never seen black women portrayed with such awesomeness before.

Image result for t'challa and shuriI was super happy to see the way the story unfolded – didn’t see the twists and turns coming. I am in LOVE with Shuri–smart, beautiful and her relationship with T’Challa is perfection. She never calls him his name. It’s always “Brother.” There is such closeness there and fierce loyalty that warms my heart.

The relationship between T’Challa and Nakia is beautiful. They didn’t need to be overly sexual to show they care for each other.

Killmonger – I have to give mad love to Michael B. Jordan for the grace and courage he played this character with. There is something wild and endearing about this bad guy that you don’t find in any other movie. Yes, he’s a bad guy, yes, he’s committed some horrible crimes and yes, we should hate him. But as T’Challa said, “we must deal with the monster we’ve created.” He didn’t set out to be evil.

The women – T’Challa rolls with some bad-ass women. They are fierce, loyal and what every black woman should be. It is the way we should carry ourselves like queens even if we don’t wear crowns. All throughout the movie, the fight scenes, the amazing costumes, I couldn’t help thinking – if society stepped back and let women shine, we would and could hold up the world.

I cannot say enough good things about this movie. There weren’t one unnecessary word, everything was on point and bright. And the feelings, the emotions, all of them real and pulsing off the screen. And that ending…OMG Killmonger ripped my soul out.

Image result for t'challa and shuri

You have to watch this movie. For the action, the acting, the heart, the soul, the graphics, the music–you have to watch this movie!

I’m going to try seeing it a few more times before it disappears from the theatre – Then DVD, Netflix – whatever I have to do to own this movie – I shall do!

Hugs,

Kato