Monday, May 30, 2011

Who's Your Pappy Now?

Patron Saint of Pappies

There’s a certain type of gay man for whom my friend Mark has coined the perfect name: the Pappy. You’ve all run into them, gay men of a certain age who are a little too rigid in their fastidious ways, often manifested in dress and movement but mostly in their firm adherence to the Way Things are Done. Mincing, non-mincing, they can be young but they always feel old. Pappies are found everywhere, with large enclaves in Palm Springs (the Boca Raton of older gay men) and certain sections of Fire Island. They’re frequently seen in argyle sweater vests.

Strong Pappy Potential
 On a flight to NY I sat one seat away from such a character. He was Classic Pappy, the lean varietal, due in no small part, I’m guessing, from his strict morning exercise regimen. Pressed jeans, navy sweater with the shirt collar out. Precise short haircut, Caesar-inspired, designer wire frame glasses. Skin stretched tight across a face nurtured no doubt by his twice-daily moisturizing regimen, mouth trending downward due to years of perpetual dissatisfaction. I’m thinking finance, or perhaps some kind of design sector. Secretly, or not so secretly, Republican.

He was in seat C of my row, across the aisle from his Pappy partner. They were one of the first ones to board. I swung my bag up into the compartment above and smiled in front of him. His mouth pinched tight and he audibly sighed. Moved his legs a fraction to the right and stared into the aisle as I clambered over him. How could he be so put out when we were just boarding? Did he think that he would have the row to himself? Have I ruined his Netjets fantasy?

The plane was full, and had, in our section, a large concentration of Asian passengers, foreign-born, including a couple with two kids who must have gotten their tickets at the last minute because they were all in middle seats scattered throughout the plane. Pappy was not liking any of it. He was not a happy Pappy. The woman had put her conical straw hat in the bin above, and after she sat in the row in front of us he leapt up to retrieve his earphones, tossing her hat (yes, tossing) in the seat between us to get to his bag. He pushed the hat back into the bin and rearranged the items. “Is that yours?” he asked the woman, who nodded. “Well, I tried to put it above my bag to keep it safe,” he said, then added in a cold sing-song voice, “Can’t guarantee anything...” He both condescends and demands gratitude.

How hateful could this man be? I crinkled my brow at him, but that was lost on Pappy because another Asian woman arrived to sit in between us. She’s clutching a large and kinda dirty cylindrical-shaped stuffed animal with a Hello Kitty logo on it. I’m assuming she’s brought it on to sleep against or on. As she’s getting to her seat, Pappy partner gleefully points out the stuffed animal to Pappy One and silently sniggers. I shoot him a glare, which has amped up from crinkled brow to active disgust. The man settles back into his seat, hopefully chastened. Pappy stuffs iPod buds into his ear and jabs at his screen. We’re off.

I spend most of the flight exquisitely attuned to Pappy’s every move, a sleeping Asian woman between us, poised to take offense and possibly action, should the situation warrant. I imagine what I would say to him, how I, Protector of the Common Folk and basic human decency, would chasten, even shame, old Pappy, by simply pointing out his rude behavior and lack of civility. Pappy is a restless flyer, his every move jerky and abrupt. I take note of his drinking, how much (two) and what (scotch). I pull at my upper lip, seething at this man’s smug, self-satisfied air, how he laughs at “The Office” on the plane’s video screen because he’s just like Dwight Shrute…

And then it hits me. How much time have I spent obsessing about this man? It’s been almost the entire plane ride. My jaw has been clenched for close to three hours, mouth pinched like Rick Santorum talking about gay marriage, ready to take umbrage because this man had not, in my opinion, done things the Way Things are Done. Dear God! I settled back into my seat and took a few deep breaths. Judgey McJudgey needs to chill out, I thought. Righteous indignation is a heavy carry-on that should have been stowed at takeoff, but I had insisted on holding it the entire flight, and it had transformed me, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, into a Pod Pappy.
Who's the Judgmental one now?
I’ve really got to watch out for this side of me. There’s an inner Pappy that lurks inside, and I don’t want it taking over. Let’s face it: I’d look like shit in argyle. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reality TV Feeds Me

A friend of mine once commented that I should start a cooking blog.

Is my need for procrastination so apparent?

Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to YoursThe amount of cooking I do does seem to be in inverse proportion to how much writing I'm getting done. That said, some tasty meals have been thrown down of late. I've fixated on this cookbook my Dorie Greenspan called Around My French Table.   It was given to me as a gift, and in return I've gifted it a lot. The marvel of this cookbook is that it presents delicious, impressive-looking comfort food that isn't hard to make. At all. Greenspan has the knack of compiling recipes that are written from the standpoint of someone who is in a regular kitchen with a normal larder. Nothing is too difficult or esoteric. I've used almost a dozen recipes already and they've all been standouts. Most notable is her chicken recipes. She's got three variants on roasted chicken that are easy and produce fantastic results. Look at that cover recipe! Who knew making a dough to seal the dutch oven would make such a difference?

I cooked one such chicken recipe last week, and had an entire breast left over, so I decided to test my resolution not to waste food by making... chicken pot pies! And not just any chicken pot pie, but a riff off of the one made by Carla on Top Chef All-Stars (if you don't know who Carla is, well, you're probably not reading this post anyway). 

It was awfully fun to make, and tasted EXACTLY the way I wanted it to. No cream, either, just a roux for thickening. Fresh peas, carrots, corn, onion and celery. Using just one breast yielded enough for 5 pot pies.

The rounded dome of the "lid"was made by draping buttery biscuit dough rounds over a greased ball of foil (recycled from other uses—bonus points!) Baked the leftover scraps of dough for the bottom of the plate, à la Carla, so that every bite had some biscuit with it. Had to run an extra three miles the next day to work it off.

Benj didn't eat his dome. Added another three miles in my head as I pounced on it.

Served the pot pies with some home made tomato soup with sherry, garnished with croutons and a chiffonade of basil. Soup was a little thin (had to skip the cream, as per Doug's insistence) but flavorful. And I had a disk of dough left, so, in true Quickfire Challenge mode, I whipped up some sautéed banana/nutella empanadas.

The dinner was great, although Doug and Benj insisted on calling it "booby pot pies." Heathens.

I guess I see their point.

Book? What book?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Roundup

My house is redolent with the odor of skunk. How it manages to permeate every room, with no windows or doors open, is one of nature's lovely mysteries. Our (stupid, accursed) dog has been banished to the garage for the night. That heady mix of flatulence and burning tires, it's like a noxious tonic for the soul.

Not much of note this week. My throat regained its vigor just in time for an audition and a taping. The audition was for a fourteen-year-old boy; the taping was for a monkey, and an anonymous pig. How I love my job! Where else could I do that? (Well, truth be told, I did that for ten years at Lifeline Theatre in Chicago, but now I get paid for it!)

I was all set to write about my waning obsession with Angry Birds, had a lovely "End of the Affair" analogy, but then they had to go and make a new "Rio" version of it, complete with marmosets and blue macaws. Damn their ingenuity! So I'm back in, trying vainly for some balance. It doesn't help when I get T-shirts like this from a fellow user:

My favorite website, Towleroad, found me a video that perfectly sums up my toxic love for this game, and it does it to an Adele song:

And finally, from the cool website Gizmodo, a story of an amazing 258 square foot house which is an inspiration for all Zen-minded, clutter-despairing, secretly-wishing-to-be-Germanic-in-totalitarian-house-cleaning folk like me:

It doesn't hurt that the guy is so cute, but, boy, is he going to have some problems when someone gets serious and moves in with him. Though maybe he could stow his boyfriend away, too. Hmm... that might be ideal...

Have a good week!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

No Sound and Fury

All right, slowly coming back after a voiceless weekend... Friday night, my throat started closing off. Frightening. By Saturday it hurt to swallow, eat, or talk. It was like that slug-thing from "The Hidden" was pushing it's way out of throat:
Remember this? Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nori? Netflix it. 

Thank God it happened after my "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness" Friday morning recording. I was afraid it was some kind of strep, but it turned out to be some kind of canker sore behind my uvula. Too much information? Those suckers are painful!

Spent the weekend sounding like the love child of Marlee Matlin and Kermit the Frog.

Started using sign language in public, just to fit in. I knew that would come in handy some day! Teas, soups, teas. No shouting at Benjamin.

Hey, at least I lost 2 pounds! Silver lining!

Have I mentioned yet? I've been meaning to. Goodreads is kinda like Facebook for the Emily Dickinson set. It's for those who don't want to share any personal information except for what books they've read. You know how, when you go over to a friend's house, you automatically scan their shelves, so you can pull out books and say, "I love this one!" or "What did you think of this?" Reading is such a private experience, but it also can forge strong bonds between like-minded readers. On goodreads, you write down books you've read, or are reading, and rate them. An EXCELLENT time waster, and it feels virtuous--it's like your cataloguing a part of your mind, so when the Alzheimer's strikes, you'll have some record of your literary life! Easy to move around. If you have friends on there you can view their books. There's also a literary trivia game, a place to SWAP books (that's very eco-friendly!) and, of course, a link to buy books. What's not to like? It's like a book club for the hopelessly introverted! (You know who you are.) And no one will ask you to buy a pair of chickens for their Farmville!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Back in the Closet

Doug: I'll explain to you how 'compression' works. Let me grab a piece of paper...
James : Er, wait, is this going to be like you trying to explain what 'going up a third' means in music?
Doug: Yes. 
James: I need more pie. 

I have finally set up my home studio, complete with baffler, pop-blocker and Samson mic. Got it connected to my laptop, which has the recording application Audacity installed. Despite my extensive reading, I was still feeling a little unclear as to recording levels; I felt a bit "Hey, let's put on a show, I got an old sheet for a curtain!"amateurish. This despite Doug's detailed drawing on a napkin of a sound wave before and after compression (my translation: "roller coaster ride up and down wheeee!" followed by "oh the roller coaster has been flattened by a giant stick it's not so fun to ride anymore"). Luckily, I have not one but two sound technician friends who offered their advice not only on equipment but recording setup as well.

So I'm good to go. Here's a look:
I've got a little bulletin-board strip above to pin my copy on. 

Impressive, yah? Now pull back:

Not so pretty now, is it?

Wait a minute! That there recording studio is in... a closet! Yes, it's true. The closet helps with the acoustics of the sound, so that it's not so "live." (If you have trouble understanding this, there's a napkin from Doug with your name on it.) It also helps cut off street noise, though not noise from our loud-ass conjure in the study who insists on doing alarm impressions whenever I step into the closet ("Don't hide!" it's screeching,  "Be proud of who you are! Remember Stonewall! I have a brain the size of a macadamia nut!")

Bird has to go into the bedroom. Closet door must be shut:
Just get a woolen blanket to throw over the glass, and I'll be like Viggo Mortensen in the root cellar in "The Road." Except instead of food I'll have old tax returns and paper from Staples. 

Did a test audio and sent it off to my agents, who seemed happy. So I'm good to go. I can stay at home and go to auditions at the same time! Only thing is—I NEED TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. I need some human interaction. Adult humans. Please, please... send help.

I'll be in the closet.