Sunday, March 18, 2007


Random Thoughts re AWP-Atlanta

The 2007 AWP Conference and Book Fair were quite helpful but a bit intense or rather perhaps some of us might have over done it.

Several of the session I sat in on were helpful. I recall Robert Olen Butler's session on teaching writing and helping students develop "yearning" in their work. I couldn't agree more in that if writers know the skill of writing what is often missing is the "energy" to keep the reader reading. Something in the work needs to keep the reader wanting to continue; technique in and of itself is not enough. But the key here is that students need to be at that level of writing.

Then there was the session on the Breadloaf Approach which equally has a place among students who might have the "energy" but who lack the technique. But with all things, it doesn't hurt to be recharged by any means, with other writers. The poetry workshop I participate in is an example of what happens when one can write and share with others of like mind.

The other interesting session I attended was about Con Tinta, a collective group for Latino writers. As the speakers stated, its important for writers to support each other and promote their work. I couldn't agree more and have always held this belief.

The other treat of the conference is hearing poets/writers read from their work. Several come to mind: Thomas Lux, Cornelius Eady, Charles Wright. Then the Book Fair itself is like walking into a chocolate store, but the only problem is that one can become too satiated to the point that one doesn't want to see or hear anything because the mind can't process it all. That is why like the Book Expo, one truly needs to pace himself and not try to take in too much at once.

And finally getting to see and get to know friends (thanks, Julie Wakeman-Linn, Katherine Smith, Richard Peabody, Kim Roberts, Sarah Browning, Paula Goldman, Beverly Burch, and C. M. Mayo) better and to meet new friends is invaluable because as great as email can be, meeting someone in person simply cannot be substituted.

Monday, March 12, 2007


RendezVous Café in Arlington Specializes in Crêpes

Lucily for those of us who crave crêpes, we now have our own crêpes shop, the first in Arlington, on Wilson Boulevard perfectly located near the Virginia Square Metro stop and next to the Arlington Arts Center.

I happened upon RendezVous Café at 3540 Wilson Boulevard after a quick visit to the dentist. I had seen the shop just recently but it was my partner who checked it out before I did since he bikes to work. In a nutshell, I couldn't be happier to have such a cafe in Arlington.

I sat and chatted with the owner, Hicham Bennani, also an Arlingtonian resident, who saw the potential in a building most had almost abandoned. Bennani came up with the concept and design and with help from his business partner has managed to put together a chic Parisian style café, painted in Van Gogh yellow and green. RendezVous Café is complete with coffee, crêpes, Croque Monsieur/Madame, paninis, salads, smoothies, etc. It turns out Bennani is a renaissance man; he is also the chef au jour, one who has a history of restaurant management.

In fact, Bennani's story is quite interesting. He is originally from Morroco and happens to speak Arabic, Hebrew, French, and English. From Fes he traveled to Tel Aviv where he studied hotel management for about two years and returned to open up the first panini restaurant called Saggara in Fes, Morocco. And if anyone is craving to check out Fes, Pannani also manages Moroc RendezVous Tours, which can schedule individualized tours of Morroco.

From Morocco, Bennani slowly made his way to New York City, where he has family, after some time in France. Eventually he moved to the Washington, DC area, where he managed Mediterrean Restaurant, which specialized in Moroccan cuisine.

With regard to RendezVous Café, Bennani is looking forward to sunny days when the outdoor patio with colorful umbrellas will attract coffee drinkers who are looking for something a bit more exotic from the usual American coffee shops. The plan is to eventually open up the back area so that writers can host readings and artists will be able to display their art on the walls. He said that getting all the Arlington licenses and permits has been a challenge but that Arlington County has been extremely welcoming and they are pleased with the makeover and the execution of Bannani's plan to transform a building that had seen better days.

As a French café, Bannani figures those who wish to practice their French or who simply enjoy French music in the background will occupy the chairs at the classic Parisian tables partaking of their crêpes or slipping coffee. If not in the café, one can have Bennani cater a party for him. With his extensive training, he can do it.

Now, how is that? Voulez-vous un café avec une crêpes au sucre? Trust me the crêpes are delicious; try the one au chocolat. Where else but in Arlington.

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