Friday, November 21, 2008

Official Drink of 2008

I know it's late in 2008, but with the holidays coming up and all the turmoil in the world, people are going to be drinking more than ever. Since moving to Asheville, I've been on the hunt for a drink to order when we're out or something easy to make for friends who come over. For some reason, my standard cosmo or lemon drop that I made and drank so frequently in California just didn't feel right in North Carolina. I tried various other concoctions and have gotten by the past few months ordering a simple Mandarin & 7-Up. Except at Jack of the Wood, who informed me they don't have any of that "fancy stuff."

As with most culinary and mixology delights we've discovered here, this one was introduced to us by a wonderful fellow named John Fisher. John is an extraordinary cook and the unofficial Mayor of the UNC-Asheville Farmer's Market. So, without further ado, I offer, for your consideration, my new favorite drink:

The Whiskey Sour

1/2 oz bourbon
1 1/2 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
1 tablespoon of cherry juice, plus one maraschino cherry for garnish

You can also use a sour mix instead of the lemon and simple syrup and garnish with an orange slice, instead of a cherry.

Enjoy! Hopefully, all our friends back in Los Angeles will order one the next time they're at a bar (or now, if they're currently at a bar) and think of us!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Retail Therapy

So the second trip to Charlotte this week was the realization of an obsession that began on Saturday. The mysterious and tantalizing name "Southern Christmas Show" called to me. I've been telling Michael and everyone who will listen that I intend to have an old-fashioned Southern Christmas this year. The only problem is that I have no idea what that means. So I was hoping an event called the Southern Christmas Show would illuminate things.

I read in the Sunday paper that a local church group was taking a busload of folks to the event on Tuesday, and I was very, very tempted to hop on board. After all, they were offering a continental breakfast on the bus! But part of my reason for going back to Charlotte was to stop at Trader Joe's and stock up on Black Mountain Vineyards wine, and I didn't think a busload of people would take a detour just for me. If you haven't discovered Black Mountain yet, it's the best $5.99 wine you'll ever taste. We took it for granted when we had a dozen Trader Joe's stores in our backyard. Now, when the closest is two hours away, we stock up like crazy people preparing for a blizzard.

Before I could go wine hoarding, I was anxious to explore the Southern Christmas Show. It cost $9 to get in, and the demographic was clearly elderly and female. But I didn't care. I was there to learn, to absorb and observe. It did not disappoint. I happily stood in line to buy ornaments and cheerfully studied tree after tree of carefully themed designs. There were loads of vendors offering the latest in Christmas crafts and decorations and lights and holly as far as the eye could see. However, there were a few missteps. There is a fine line between festive and garish, and the line was erased and redrawn many, many times. I tried to imagine incorporating peacock feathers and cowboy hats in my decor, but decided to stay focused on our mid-century meets Edward Gorey theme in all black and silver. I found a handful of black ornaments to add to our collection and some potpourri so strong it made my eyes water. Everyone was very friendly and full of holiday spirit, and it wasn't difficult to start humming along with the carols playing everywhere.

Flush with the Christmas spirit, I decided to go to the mall for a fix. Asheville has a lot of shopping, but I miss my Macy's, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn. Luckily, I have this weird navigational sixth sense. I can enter any strange city and find a shopping mall almost instantly. I first discovered this gift with toy stores. I could stand in the street and know which way to go to find Toys R Us. I'm like a superhero. So I quickly found the fabulous South Park Mall and was thrilled to discover they had a Nordstrom's and a Crate & Barrel. I had a great time just strolling around, window shopping and feeling like I was back in a big city again. In Los Angeles, you all walk by Sur la Table, never imagining what life might be like without one! When I saw it listed on the mall directory, I almost wept.

I finally made it to Trader Joe's and filled my basket with cheap, but delicious wine. Then, trying not to look like a gigantic lush, I threw in a box of crackers before veering noisily towards the checkout. It was a beautiful and festive day, and it was nice to get away and not think about anything more serious than finding a black cow ornament. It's not difficult to throw myself into the holiday season and turn it into the sort of out-of-control mess they make holiday specials and movies about. I mean, I always sided with Lucy in the Charlie Brown special. Why not have a big pink aluminum Christmas tree, Charlie Brown? Who wants a stupid little twig? I think the people at the Southern Christmas Show would agree.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We Need a Little Christmas

Two trips to Chartlotte in one week. The first trip was on Saturday. We wanted to take part in the national day of protests against Prop 8 and the continued discrimination against gays. I had actually been dreading this. The whole Prop 8 thing has been so emotionally overwhelming and I just get angry and physically ill when I think about it or read the news or hear the latest wacko lie about the dangers of gay marriage. Massachusetts is about to celebrate five years of legalized gay marriage and guess what? It's not being taught in schools. Churches are not being shut down for refusing to marry gay people. The world didn't end. See, I'm angry again. It doesn't take much these days.

So I wasn't really looking forward to carrying a sign and marching down the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina. But then, I couldn't imagine staying home and sending Michael off on his own, either. So I went out sign shopping on Friday. While deciding whether or not to get the really pointy stakes or the less dangerous squared-off design, I strolled over to the Christmas department at Lowe's. You wouldn't think an angry, gay atheist would have a soft spot for Christmas, but I do. There's something about the lights and the decorations and the traditions that still provides a sense of comfort and warmth. As I was looking for a three-foot silver wreath to match our tree, I was suddenly inspired. I don't care if it's still two weeks before Thanksgiving, I'm going to put up our tree, decorate the house and start celebrating Christmas now!

This wore off as soon as I got home and decided to drink instead.

But the Christmas thing didn't go away that easily. On our trek to Charlotte the next day, we got off at the wrong exit and ran right into something called the Southern Christmas Show. A friend explained that it's a yearly event/showcase, promising six acres of Christmas decorations, crafts and food guaranteed to melt even the coldest and most cynical heart (aka mine). We found the protest, and I'm glad we did. It really was cathartic, joining in with hundreds of others, not feeling so isolated and alone, sharing the emotions with a sympathetic crowd. I had been worried that we'd see a lot of anti-gay protesters, but none showed up. The local media covering the event kept asking if we'd seen any. I guess it's not a news story unless you can get the haters spouting their poison. Well, fuck the media. You'll notice that in any coverage of the protests, they refer to us as "activists," "protesters" and "demonstrators." If you had been there you would have seen we're families and friends and people from all walks of life, ethnicities and backgrounds. But describing us like that would only humanize us. And now I'm angry again.

It was a good day. I'm glad we went. I needed to do something, and it felt good to be involved. Before we left, I gave my sign that said "Love Conquers All" and "You Can't Outlaw Love" to someone who didn't have a sign. We drove away knowing that come what may, we were here. And as we left Charlotte, I made a mental note to look up the details on this Southern Christmas Show.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

On the Boards

As you may have read on Michael's Twitter log, we made our Broadway debut yesterday after seeing Hairspray...sort of. The impetus for this trip was to see our friend Susie in the show, and she was great. Her comic timing and command of the audience really stole the show. So afterward, we got to go backstage to say hi and meet some of the cast. I say backstage, but we were actually onstage. Waiting along with us was actress/comedienne Mo Gaffney, which was a special treat because we're both big fans of hers and have just missed meeting her a few times back in Los Angeles. We chatted with her and took pics and indulged in our own little fantasies of traipsing the boards on Broadway. When Susie joined us we also got to meet cast member Kevin Meaney and saw, from just a few feet away, George Wendt, who's currently playing Edna in the show. Overall, really a fun and exciting experience!

Then, last night we got to have another one of those once-in-a-lifetime theatre experiences. We got to see Patti LuPone in Gypsy. Michael got the tickets, but it was 100% for me. Michael was not a Patti fan. He used to cringe whenever one of her songs came on the Broadway channel on Sirius. My theory is that you really have to become a Patti fan early on. You have to be a 10-year old gay boy who saves his allowance for a month to buy the dual-cassette cast recording of Evita with Patti and Mandy Patinkin. You've got to listen to it until it wears out and stand on your bed, arms outstretched, belting "Don't cry for me, Argentina!" That's where and how life-long Patti LuPone fans are made. Michael didn't do any of that. Crazy.

I'd never seen her perform live before, so I was pretty much a trembling mess when the orchestra started the overture. I wasn't the only one. The audience went nuts as soon as they heard that distinctive voice yell from the back of the theatre, "Sing out, Louise!" She was phenomenal! Even Michael admitted admiration for her when all was said and done. The whole show was great, really. The staging was simple, but very clever and evocative of the time period. I'm glad they saved money on the sets, because they splurged on a full orchestra and put them right on stage behind the scrim. It was thrilling to hear that score and that voice with a full orchestra! So many shows now are skimping on the music, using smaller and smaller orchestras to try to save money. Ask before you buy your tickets!

Above and beyond her vocal prowess, Patti gave a raw, complex and sometimes sinister performance as the mother of all stage mothers, Mama Rose. It really was thrilling being that close to that much talent. Which brings me to my final thoughts on not only Gypsy, but all the theatre we've seen this weekend. Namely, I'm jealous. Why couldn't I have been born talented instead of just a smart ass? Why can't I dance and sing? It's completely unfair that instead of leaping and spinning and belting B flats, I'm sitting in the audience trying not to mangle my Playbill. It doesn't help that Gypsy is all about someone with no talent who makes it to the top (of the bottom). But it's especially cruel that she's played by someone with talent! Why couldn't they have cast someone with no talent to play the untalented daughter?

It's a personal injustice that's right up there with my height. My father is 6'3" and I'm 5'9". What the hell? My whole life would have been different if I could have just been a tall dancer. Stupid genetics.

So today we're off to see the sights, do some shopping and have vegetarian Dim-Sum before going to see Susie's cabaret show tonight. People from Los Angeles may remember us dragging them one-by-one and in groups to see CA$HINO. It'll be fun to see it in its New York incarnation.

And still have to try to make it to FAO Schwarz.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Oversleeping in the City That Never Sleeps

Greetings from New York! Specifically, from the Muse Hotel, just a few steps from Times Square and Broadway. We decided to do a mad dash to New York City this weekend in order to see our friend Susie in Hairspray before it closes. Since we're here, we're also seeing Equus and Gypsy, with legendary Broadway diva Patti LuPone.

We saw Equus last night, starring Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter fame. It's a very intense play, and Mr. Radcliffe was very good. I completely forgot about Harry Potter after a few minutes. And for those of you who are curious about the full frontal nudity, let me just say that the play is of average length, but very thick with subtext.


We're off to brunch now, then to the Hairspray matinee. We managed to squeeze in a trip to the Times Square Toys R Us, and I'm hoping to make it to FAO Schwarz, too.

Will post more tonight!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The More Things Change

Spoiler warning! If you haven't read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you might want to skip this blog entry, because I intend to discuss a pivotal scene in it.

It is the most desperate hour for Harry and his friends. They have been captured by the Death Eaters, and Voldemort is on his way to kill them. With only moments to spare, Harry calls upon his old friend Dobby the House Elf, who is able to rescue them from their dire circumstances. However, in the thrilling, climactic moments, just as Dobby is about to escape with his friends, Bellatrix Lestrange throws a dagger and fatally wounds Dobby in the stomach.

That, my friends, is how I feel today. Obama's win was nothing short of thrilling. We jumped up from our seats, we cheered, we shed tears of joy and relief and hugged each other and the people around us. Then, as is so often the case these days, bad news announced itself with a beep from the cell phone. The polls in California had closed, and Prop 8 was way ahead in numbers. Suddenly, the elation and joy I had just been feeling disappeared, and I felt like I took a knife to the stomach.

So as the room around us exploded into cheers and celebration and promises of change and hope and a new beginning, a voice in my head whispered, "But not for you." Suddenly, it felt like the whole world was on a train departing towards a grand and exciting destination, only I was left standing on the platform at the station, waving goodbye. But I'm not alone. Thousands of married gay and lesbian couples and millions of my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters stand with me, still waiting for equality, still waiting for justice, still waiting for the "land of the free" that we were promised in the storybooks we read as children to materialize for us, too.

But storybooks are just storybooks. "Justice for all" and "equality" come with footnotes. Sometimes the bad guys win. Sometimes your friends escape danger and find happiness, and you get a knife in the stomach.

It is a new world today. For that, I am grateful. There will be change and hope and renewed sense of possibility.

But not for me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween in Asheville: Smothered, Covered, Peppered and Capped

Is it possible that I now look forward to Halloween more than Christmas? I love all the planning, preparation and shopping. I love the camaraderie and fellowship and goodwill. I love the candy. So Halloween is a lot like Christmas, except I get to dress up and scare people. And I almost never do that on Christmas morning.

Halloween in Asheville was brilliant. Because a few of us needed time and help with makeup and costumes, Michael and I decided to have an impromptu Makeup, Dress Up, Drink Up party. So some friends stopped by to get ready and enjoy a few cinnamon apple martinis before heading out to other parties. It was one of my favorite parts of the evening. To me, the prep work is as fun as the final result. Plus, my greatest Halloween fantasy came true: people showed up in need of costumes. So I got to pull some things out of our trunk and help them transform for the evening.

On the trick-or-treating front, we only got two. We had decorated the canopy of trees along our driveway with ghosts and lights and fog, so I was hoping we'd attract a little attention. Luckily, a neighbor brought his girls by, and I was so grateful, I gave them extra helpings of candy. I know people have convinced themselves that trick-or-treating is dangerous, but I really think we need to bring it back. I hate that it's been co-opted by malls and churches. I really think I need to organize our neighborhood into a must-see Halloween destination next year. I'll have to give that some thought.

So after we donned our costumes, we set off for the first party of the night. Michael, Mallery and I dressed as...Waffle House Vampires. It was a little high concept, I admit. And if you don't have a Waffle House in your town, you may be even more confused right now. But not all vampires are counts or wealthy plantation owners or Vice Presidents. Sometimes they work the late shift at Waffle House. So we were representing them.

The first party was fun, and it was great to see so many people dressed up. People in L.A. have a tendency to be "too cool" for Halloween. But I always enjoy seeing what other people come up with. Strangely enough, we only saw one Sarah Palin all night. And she was in a straight jacket. So it could very well have been the real one. Needless to say, we saw lots of other vampires, but we were the only Waffle House Vampires out that night. We then moved on to Scandals, which was hosting a big party with the worst layout and bar set-up in the world. Luckily, the music was great, so we got to dance and show off our fangs to lots of cute guys in sailor and soldier costumes.

The last stop of the evening was almost a dare. Mind you, were were dressing in real Waffle House uniforms that we bought off of eBay. Everyone said we had to go to Waffle House in costume, that it would be hilarious. Well, here's what I learned. No one really wants to see other people dressed as them for Halloween. After the whole restaurant grew quiet and turned to look at us, first confused, then unamused, we backed up right out the door and went home!

A couple of final thoughts:

1.) We really missed Laura and Paula's annual Halloween bash back in Los Angeles. It just didn't feel like Halloween without them.

2.) A friend of ours came up with a clever idea for trick-or-treating. He filled a paper bag with assorted miniature bottles of booze, then offered the grab bag to fellow revelers. You could probably use a traditional plastic pumpkin, too. Though the fun part was not knowing what you were reaching for. I think I'll steal this idea and rework it for the Christmas stocking concept.

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween! Pics will be up this week.