The Southerner and the City Meets the Electrifying David Blaine

David Blaine and ElectricityAs a child, I was taught that you do not mess around with electricity. One year around Christmas time, I had my own personal experience with the power of electricity as I checked the lights for the tree. In case you are unaware of this fact, you should not let your finger touch the prongs on the plug! It was enough of a shock to get my attention; I’ve never made that same mistake again.

So, when I read recently about David Blaine’s latest stunt involving one million volts of electricity I was instantly taken back to the moment in the garage when I lit myself up like a tree. Blaine is famous for his many death-defying stunts. He has suspended himself over the River Thames in London for 44 days with only water. He has been buried alive for seven days. He has even frozen himself in a block of ice. As of Monday night, Blaine has also stood in the middle of an electrical storm as one million volts of electricity were being shot his way.To say Blaine is a thrill seeker would be an understatement.

Corbin and I met Blaine the weekend before his stunt, Electrified: One Million Volts Always On. My friend, Denise Albert, invited us to come along as she and her boys went downtown to Blaine’s office. Denise worked with Blaine for many years, producing several of his biggest events. As you can imagine, the boys were beyond excited.

Blaine showed the boys some photos of what he was working on. Corbin asked, “why are you electrocuting yourself”? Blaine explained that he was “electrifying” himself and not “electrocuting” himself. There is in fact a HUGE difference between the two. In one you die, with the other, you don’t die! I did my best to explain this to Corbin.

Corbin tried on the glove of the Faraday suit that Blaine wore during the stunt. The suit was an adaptation of a Faraday cage which basically protected Blaine from the electrical field around him. The chain-like suit looked like something a really cool and hip knight would wear during battle. Before we left, the boys checked out Blaine’s pet alligator in the office. Yes, a pet alligator! Seems Blaine makes living on the edge a professional and personal matter. He also did a few card tricks with the boys that even left me wondering, “How’d he do that?”

On Sunday, Corbin saw Blaine being electrified at Pier 54 along the Hudson River. It was a cold and rainy day. Not an ideal day to be electrified if you ask me. It was also really, really loud. So loud, that everyone was given ear plugs before walking onto the pier. Corbin was speechless, like most of the crowd. It was a very surreal experience to see the giant Tesla coils shooting out bolts of electricity at Blaine. He was standing on his 20 foot perch raising his hands like a conductor of the perfect lightening storm. Blaine maintained his position for three days with no food. He received fluids through a tube and relieved himself with the aid of a catheter.

Corbin wasn’t sure what to think or say. He looked at me with this bewildered look in his eyes. I just kept reminding him that playing with electricity is extremely dangerous and even deadly. At the same time, I was trying to explain how Blaine was able to perform the stunt and not zap himself into the next life! It was beyond weird to see a man standing in the crosshairs of the Tesla coils and catching electrical bolts as if they were simply being tossed at him.

The Southerner and the City Was Not Impressed with Madonna



On Saturday night, Mark and I headed way uptown to Yankee Stadium, in the pouring rain, following a rare tornado outbreak to see Madonna. You see, we bought tickets to her show on Valentine’s Day not thinking too much about the venue. After all, how fun would it be to see Madge play Yankee Stadium? It was a fabulous idea at the time, but Mother Nature put an enormous dent in our evening as I watched the black billowing storm roll across the Hudson River and into Manhattan.

I had read in some recent reviews that Madonna had kept her fans waiting for over two hours. The tickets said the show would start at 8 p.m. rain or shine. I decided that we would hang out at the apartment, keep an eye on the weather and make a last minute decision on whether or not to go. That was a smart call. We arrived at the stadium at 9:30 and she finally took the stage around 10:30 p.m. I was taught that being late is the height of arrogance. It says to others that your time is more valuable than theirs. I agree.

Not only had we been left in the rain under a tornado watch but she was two and a half hours late hitting the stage to boot! Luckily, I hadn’t bought seats on the field, where hundreds of drenched fans stood in the rain during her performance. We had very expensive seats that we actually never sat in. Instead, we stood back under the overhang and watched the show.

I am a huge Madonna fan but I was really disappointed in this show. It was full of the typical theatrics, amazing dancers, political statements and ethnic drummer circle/singer folks. While she sang some of her classic hits, they were all remixed and a little on the dark side. Although, she did surprise the crowd when she broke into Holiday and sang it like she recorded it years ago. The sopping wet crowd went nuts, me included. But for me, that was really the highlight.

Regardless of her arrogance and disregard for keeping time, Madonna is a true performer. The show went on under insane conditions and not once did she miss a beat. Neither did her dancers or singers. Even her dancer who appeared to be spineless in a deep backbend while walking down a set of stairs during the show never once showed any signs that anything was wrong.

But, here is the kicker. We left before the show ended!

In a crystal clear moment, I knew that I was done with Madonna for the evening. No matter how much we had spent or how long we had waited for her to start the show. No matter how curious I was to see her drop her pants to show us her faux Obama tattoo. No matter how cool it was that her son Rocco danced on stage with her. I knew in my bones that I would rather be in my pajamas, curled up in my comfy bed instead of standing behind the seat where I was supposed to be sitting…while it poured rain.

Southerner and the City: Eagles and Otters and Whales, Oh My!

planewindowThe heat of summer has forced many New Yorkers to cooler places. Lots of folks head to Long Island and the Hamptons to enjoy the sandy beaches and summer breezes. However, we ditched the east coast for the west coast and headed to Vancouver and the outer islands for a Canadian wild life adventure.

What was billed as a once in a lifetime trip, turned out to be just that. We left Vancouver on a float plane and landed at Poet’s Cove on Pender Island which was where we spent the first half of the trip. Within a few hours we were out on the water checking out a pod of orcas a.k.a. killer whales. Spotting the pod took a while and was part of a nauseating and cold ride through choppy water.

OrcaCorbin, Mark and I spent the next few days on the water searching for seals, whales, bald eagles and bears. With a guide leading the way, we headed out in sea kayaks for a day of geo-caching. I’d never been on a geo-caching excursion. If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend it. You use a GPS device to find a hidden treasure box. When you find the box, you can take a small treasure for yourself out of the box but only if you leave one for the next person who will find the box.

On that particular day, we were joined by a seal and her seal pup. We spotted several bald eagles, too. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve only seen one other bald eagle in the wild. For me, to see at least six in eight days was simply awesome. We even checked out an eagles nest. Did you know that an eagle’s next can weigh up to two thousand pounds? That tidbit of bird trivia may come in handy if you ever find yourself on an episode of Jeopardy!

We flew on to Tofino for more whale, bear and eagle watching. Our bear watching excursion was a bit of a bust. The most we saw of a black bear was his back side as he walked back into the woods as we pulled up in our Zodiak (fancy float boat). Corbin laughs when he tells his friends he saw a bear butt. There is nothing like 7-year-old boy humor!

Did you know you can surf in Canada? I did not. Turns out you can indeed surf. We stayed at Long Beach Lodge where the waves were perfect for the novice surfer. We headed out with our instructor after getting into a wet suit. Keep in mind it was about 65-70 degrees and he water was much cooler. I don’t see myself chasing down any huge waves in the near future but it was a fun experience none the less. Corbin and Mark really enjoyed it.

No trip to the western coast of Canada would be complete without salmon fishing. Mark snagged several salmon that should be heading back to New York City very soon. It looks like we will be eating salmon for the coming months. We also saw several humpback whales on our fishing trip. A sea otter even popped up out of the water to check us out, too.

If you find yourself wanting to escape the scorching heat of the summer, I highly recommend heading north…way north! The Canadian weather was perfect and the people were friendly. It is a great place to unwind and relax with your family. The only bad part was returning to the heat of New York City.

Tripp Edwards was kind enough to share some of his photos with me. Due to a strict 25 pound bag limit, I left my nice Canon camera behind in New York City. There was really no decision to be made when it came down to either taking a camera or bottles upon bottles of lotions and potions and clothes.

Follow D.J. on Twitter @mrsdjduckworth and on Facebook at D.J. Cunningham Duckworth. D.J. is a contributing writer for New York Family magazine.


Southerner and the City: Selling New York

sellingnycWhen I was recently asked by my friend, Rebecca Martin, if I’d be interested in doing some writing for the magazine she worked for, I said, “of course.” I was not certain what all it would entail, but I was eager to branch out from writing for this blog and my personal blog as well. After a quick introduction followed by a meeting, I was brought on board New York Family magazine to write for their blog and possibly do some writing for the magazine. Writing for the magazine’s blog was a way for both me and the editor Eric Messinger to get a feel for how we would work together.

Shortly after our meeting, I received an e-mail asking me if I’d like to be thrown into the fire and take on an official assignment for the magazine. I said yes. Eric informed me that I would be interviewing the mom-daughters real estate team, the Kleier’s, from HGTV’s hit show “Selling New York.”

The date was set for the interview at -mom- Michele’s Park Avenue apartment and I began my research on her and her two daughters, Sabrina and Samantha. I watched numerous episodes of the show to see how they worked as a team. You can call watching TV for “research purposes” work, but it really felt indulgent to me. Either way, I liked it!

The Kleiers were very easy to talk to, and an hour went by in what seemed like only a few minutes. I checked my recording device, said my goodbyes and headed back across the park to my apartment. In my old job as a television journalist, I would have taken my tape, hit the edit bay back at the station and started logging in sound bites from the interview. However, this time around there was no video and I had an hour long conversation to listen to and sort out. I also had more than three minutes to tell the story like I would have had for a television piece. This time I had between 1,000 and 1,200 words to write and a deadline in five days.

I’m thrilled to report that the story has been published in the June issue of New York Family magazine. I am really happy to be back in the world of journalism again. I have missed it – parts of it at least. I have not missed the crazy hours at a TV station, covering tragic stories like a school massacre or reporting on city and county government. That last category falls under watching paint dry!

If you’d like to read the article, you can find it HERE.

For more of DJ’s adventure in the Big Apple check out, follow her on Twitter @mrsdjduckworth and on Facebook. DJ’s stories can also be found at

The Southerner and the City Gets Makeup Tips from TLC’s Carmindy

tallroseCarmindyI’ve always been a fan of cosmetics. When I was a little girl, I was always pilfering through my Mom’s makeup drawer. I was captivated by the sleek tubes of lip stick and the pans of blush and powder. As I grew up, I became pretty good at make-up application, too. Between all of the baton twirling, pageants and later on, an on-camera television career, makeup became a big part of my daily routine.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Carmindy. Many of you may know her from her time spent on TLC’s “What Not To Wear.” Each week, she helps transform a fashion victim with her expert advice on looking your best.

Over the two days I spent in her chair, she taught me some of her best tricks. My favorite tip and one I use almost daily is to highlight around the lip. Carmindy showed me by using a highlighting eye shadow, you can outline the lip. This technique works much better than a lip liner and gives you the appearance of a fuller lip. She also uses the same highlighting technique in the corner of each eye and right underneath the brow line. This really makes the eyes shine. And to finish off the look, she dusts a little highlighter right along the top of the cheek bone. It gives you a subtle shine with a huge impact.

CarmindyI have been blessed with what I think are fairly long eye lashes, and with the correct mascara, I can usually create a full lash line. Carmindy showed me how to amp-up my lashes with the use of false eyelashes. She took a full lash and cut about a third of it off and placed it on the outer edge of my upper lash. It added some fullness without making me look like a Kardashian!

Carmindy has teamed up with Sally Hansen and created a line of cosmetics. I’m not a huge fan of drug store, but I have to say, I’ve been wearing her blush, power and eye shadows and have been pleased. My favorite product thought is her lip gloss. It stays on really well and smells like a creamcicle!

You can keep up with D.J.’s adventures in the Big Apple at follow her on twitter @mrsdjduckworth and on Facebook at DJ Cunningham Duckworth

Southerner and the City – Greetings From Abroad

airplaneviewsmallItalyWhat is your dream vacation? I have too many to list but at the top of the list is Italy. Technically it’s a dream come true because I’m sitting in a bath robe in my hotel in Positano writing this post! Don’t hate me. I am not one of those smug travelers who visit exotic places only to mention it and then tell you nothing about the trip! Has that ever happened to you? “We just returned from a month long African safari. Did you see that story about the congressman from New York and his inappropriate text messages to those girls?”. REALLY! You can’t mention a fantastic trip to me and not plan on me asking you a zillion questions! That’s the journalist in me. I’m going to ask whether you want me to or not!

ItalyTo avoid sounding like that annoying relative who tells you in detail about every excursion and pulls out all of their photos and videos, I’ll keep it short and sweet. We started out in Tuscany at Castolle di Casole. It’s the perfect Tuscan setting. We were about an hour south of Florence. With the rental car, we day tripped around the area. The first stop was in San Gimignano —  one of my favorite Italian villages. If you visit Italy, I highly recommend seeing this walled medieval city high on the hill. We also took in Volterra. All of you Twilight fans should be familiar with this city. At least that’s what I’ve been told. I’m not into the whole vampire genre and probably won’t be anytime soon. There was also trip to Montepulciano to visit a beautiful winery.

Having seen Florence on previous trips, I knew I’d go back again. Florence is just an amazing city full of life, art, and history. It’s a place I never get tired of seeing. From the Uffizi Palace to the Duomo there is an enormous amount of art in this city. Which is probably why there are about 30 different universities represented there. I decided I wanted to see Florence from a local perspective this time. Our tour guide put together a day that was full of artisan shops that included a 4th generation Florentine paper maker, Alberto Cozzi, and an alchemist/jeweler/pharmacist, Allesandro Dari, who makes some of the most amazing jewelry I’ve ever seen. There were many other stops and shops along the way, but again, I don’t want to bore you too much with details.

ItalyOn Saturday, we took off for Capri. One word for Capri – UNREAL. The island is limestone and climbs straight up out of the ocean. As with any island, it’s most enjoyed from the sea. Capri is a geologist’s dream come true. There are so many different rocks, cliffs, formations and grottos to see. The most famous of the grottos is the blue grotto which we went in to see. I’ll explain this excursion in more detail on my blog at We crashed at La Scalinatella and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Capri. After three days in Capri, we headed over to Positano – the vertical city. That’s what I’m calling it anyway because once you get off of the boat, the entire city is laid out or more accurately up from the beach. I’ve never seen anything like it before. We spent today touring along the Amalfi coast and visiting Amalfi and Ravello. Both are ancient and magical places to see. Just when I thought I’d seen the most amazing view, we’d make another hairpin curve and I’d see another one! The hotel San Pietro has one of the best views of the Mediterranean I’ve ever seen. The outdoor bar area rises high above the shore and extends out, well, to infinity and beyond! Our driver pointed out a massive yacht below which he said belonged to Rupert Murdoch.

I’ve enjoyed this trip immensely. It has really been like two vacations in one. The first week was completely different from the second week. Traveling has been a part of my life for the last 10 years and I’ve had some good trips and some fantastic trips. I’m out of adjective to describe Italy 2011. Guess I’ll use the long flight back to New York to come up the perfect word.