Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Variations on Eating Clean, Part 1 -- Eat Skinny

Now that my winter weight is (slowly but surely) coming off, I've had to find a new way to recommit myself to eating clean from the inside out  -- because somehow, flat out eliminating stuff was so harsh that I have always had a sinking feeling that the extreme tough love approach on my stomach will backfire on me in the worst way imaginable.  The thing is, it hasn't. Outside of the odd moment of weakness here and there, most of the bad things on my list -- like fast food, sodas, junk food, pizza, rice, potatoes, bread and corn, for example -- are gone, anyway.  When I eat badly, I don't feel good. Nothing makes me want to jump back on the wagon faster than falling off of it.

If you think about it, this is the way your grandparents ate. (More on that later.)

I do miss sitting around at home, watching movies and munching on hot popcorn that's slathered with real butter and salt (three things that are an absolute no-no in the eat clean program) -- but corn bloats out and distends my torso horribly and it takes several days for it to go away.  I don't know when that kicked into overdrive. Loved the stuff as a kid. Lived on it in college. Eating it now is unthinkable -- unless I want to walk around looking like I'm 3 months pregnant.

Actually, touring Europe with Blood really caved it all in for me. Lots of cheeses, fresh bread, cured meats and NO exercise for weeks on end. My cholesterol went through the roof. What a mess. I had to fast for a few days to regain my equilibrium and get everything back on track.

When I tripped up over this list created by Oprah's guru, I stopped beating myself up, mostly because I've already made most of this a habit. I don't usually eat breakfast until after 12pm. I keep a Britta bottle in my purse. I usually cook at home.  That sleep thing is tricky, though. Forget that splurge meal. I can't handle it.

Whatever I'm not doing will get dealt with when I'm incapable of chewing anything after my next round of oral surgery that happens in the next week or two. (Yikes.)

Oh, and by the way: Rule 18 is super hard -- but I have to admit, I can see and feel a difference when I wake up in the morning. And it does wonders for my acid reflux.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Happy birthday, Malcolm X

“Well, I am one who doesn’t believe in deluding myself. I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn’t need any legislation; you wouldn’t need any amendments to the Constitution; you wouldn’t be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now. They don’t have to pass civil-rights legislation to make a Polack an American. No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver — no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.”
                                                                      — Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet, 1964

Its breathtaking, to think of where we could be as a people and as a nation, if our black leaders who came to prominence during the civil rights movement hadn't been slaughtered, in many instances at the behest of the federal government.  This country might have lived up to its true promise, and the ideals we like to believe that we embody -- things like "freedom and justice for all" -- wouldn't be handy catchphrases and branding favorites.  Anyone who attempts to console themselves by saying those things repeatedly isn't somehow making any of it true -- and it doesn't minimize guilt or entitlement.

Ultimately, the brochure doesn't match the destination hotspot. There isn't freedom and justice for all. There isn't equality for everyone. We aren't a democracy. (Not really.) And no one seems particularly interested in addressing any of this. Probably because everyone has been lulled into a functional stupor by reality tv, fast food and middle class poverty. (What's the first sign of malnutrition? Apathy. No wonder they don't want us to have vitamins...) If people were taught to think critically in schools, if we ate nothing but clean food and were given a living wage, this would be a completely different country.

There, I said it.

For your listening pleasure, here is Malcolm X's seminal speech The Ballot or the Bullet in its entirety. Anyone who considers themselves to be an American should listen to this very carefully. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

writing and rewriting and then some

surprise! i'm writing erotica -- under an assumed name, of course. i don't know what that name is yet but i've found a pseudonym generator, so i'm well on my way to something interesting. perferrably a guy's name.

someone dared me to do it and i figured, why not.  it's a pretty popular genre -- and when i say popular, i mean pert near everyone is doing it. i've heard from way too many writers who reignited their careers by taking up a pseudonym and writing erotica.  i haven't seen very much that explores any of it from a black female perspective, though. maybe i can change that.

strangely, it's the kind of thing that feels easy to churn out of me, now that there's relative calm in my life.

i'm working on rewrites on this libretto and i'm working on lyrics for a new song cycle and i'm working on submissions for the bmi musical theater workshop and i'm working on a dance performance idea. somewhere in there when my brain starts to glaze over, i'll pull out this erotica and reread it and think, hey this is interesting and then i write a page or two and put it aside. and then i'll go back to what i was doing. if i keep this up, i should have something interesting by the end of the summer. not a short story. probably a novella. a novel seems too cumbersome, too heavy, too much.
aside from all this writing, there's that soulful country/rock album i'd like to finish as a birthday present to myself.

apparently, this is a real incubatory moment for me.  this fall should be explosive.

when it's time to get out of the house and spend the day someplace else, the balcony lounge at the metropolitan museum of art is idyllic.  they have wifi, they serve high tea (amongst other things) and they have books and periodicals to get lost in. here's the kicker: not anyone can get into this lounge and it's usually empty on weekends, so i'm left alone.

as if all of that weren't enough, it's adjacent to the asian wing, so when my mind goes completely blank, i can walk to the next room and sit in front of a bodhisattva and be completely and utterly overwhelmed. what more could a nerdy blackgrrl ask for, really.

(i instagrammed this one a few weeks ago. it's ginormous.)

 i can't really think about budhisattva and not have this steely dan song swing through my head. (great album...)

Monday, May 13, 2013

"What do you do all day?"

Talent works, genius creates. -- Robert Schumann 

Once upon a time, a friend set me up on something of a blind date with a guy that she thought would be perfect for me -- whatever that means. We met up one random evening and after some initial awkwardness, we began to relax and talk easily. When I told him that I was an artist and explained what kind of performance I was into at the moment, he asked me what I did all day.  I didn't mind the question -- when I'm around certain kinds of people, I get it a lot. I usually enjoy giving a pithy response because what I have to say is so unexpected. No one seems to have any earthly idea as to what this creative life is really like.

It was the way this guy asked me that question that made my spidey sense tingle. Asking me what I do all day is fine by me. Talking down to me is unacceptable.

The funny thing is that it came out as a bit of a snarl, probably because of some leftover resentment for that LA actress ex-girlfriend I wasn't supposed to know anything about. Lord knows I have a good idea as to what she was doing all day. So all things considered, maybe that vitriol was meant for her but he had no business aiming it at me, regardless. This was our first date. This was the one moment when we both put our absolute best foot forward, right?  Try though I might, something in me couldn't ignore what lay underneath it all. So I answered his question.

This is what I told him -- more or less.

There are two kinds of artists -- those who replicate and those who originate.  I am an originator.

Replicators are not in the habit of forging ahead with their own ideas, going through the hell and high water of growing them to end goal completion by any means necessary. The are usually ready, willing and able to facilitate someone else's project. Don't get me wrong -- the enormity of work, dedication and talent that it takes to pull that off cannot be overstated. You take class to stay honed and focused, to keep everything on the level, to keep what you've got, to learn more. After a certain point, you get a show and you're working 8 shows a week on Broadway or in Germany or Japan or God knows where. All of a sudden, 8 years goes by and you don't know what happened.  All you know is, you have to get another show.

While I have certainly proven myself capable of replicating ad nauseam, that's just not who I am creatively. I'm not the kind of artist that auditions a lot and then sits at home, praying for the phone to ring so I can have a job.  Yes, I audition -- and trust me, the constant state of readiness that it takes to audition well is a full time job in and of itself -- but that process is the side dish in my creative life, not the main course.  If I want a job, I create it. So what I do every day is a little different than what other artists do.

At this point, I had my date's full and undivided attention. Unfortunately, he had completely lost mine.  He asked me about things I'd written but I was evasive.  Still and all, I kept going at a brisk pace, mostly because I wanted to wrap the whole evening up when dinner was over.

My day typically resembles that three headed dog from Hades. First and foremost? Maintenance and upkeep. I'm transitioning to on camera work and in that world what you look like is everything apparently, so I wear myself out with boxing on a daily basis and slowly I am growing into the habit of eating clean. There's the hard work of being a girl, too -- I have an eyebrowist -- and then when the physical stuff is out of the way, there's a slew of classes to take, just so I can stay good at what I do.  (Like on camera acting class -- so crucial during pilot season.) Voice lessons. Guitar lessons. Piano lessons. Practice, practice, practice. The art of the hustle is always on -- auditions, callbacks, go-sees, gigs.  Basically, I have to be ready all the time.

Secondly and just as important? Growing and developing new ideas. I am forever swimming through rewrites and workshops and readings, oh my! All of that gets scheduled into my everyday life, with auditions and callbacks sandwiched in where ever they will fit.

Last but not least, of course, is the gig itself.  I do a lot of different things so a gig for me could be bouncing around on tour in Europe, co-staring in a musical, playing a swanky private corporate party or tiptoeing to the mailbox barefooted in my kimono to get a residual check for an episodic.

Of course, he wanted to know what I did that day. As I politely refused dessert, I happily obliged. I had no intentions of ever speaking to him again so why not put a bow on this puppy? Here's the rundown:

I had a late night gig, so I slept in. I jumped on and off the phone, zipped through my email, looked over rewrites and messed around with a song idea on my guitar. Then I had a boxing conditioning class that was so brutal, I sat in the steam room afterwards for 30 minutes, trying to twist my torso without wincing. I paid my eyebrowist a visit afterwards -- beauty is pain, according to RuPaul, and he was right -- and then I dragged myself to the Performing Arts Library, where I did some research for a new idea. I had a callback for a voiceover that was pretty quick and then I met up with a good friend for tea and advice. I went home with a fresh perspective on my rewrites and buried myself in them until it was time for dinner.

My date went home with a fresh perspective that night. Maybe I did, too. I resolved to work smarter, not harder. Oh, and no more blind dates -- with non-artists, anyway.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ten Things Every Black Woman Should Have If She Lives in New York City

I've seen way too many of these "ten things" lists floating around -- and so have you. Most of them say things that are generally true for anyone, not just women.  None of them speak to me, especially when they say insist that's not the case.  Unless you're rich, independently wealthy or bankrolled in some other way (your parents bought your apartment! yay!), living in New York City is a very difficult proposition. The fabulousness of paying four figures a month to live in Williamsburg or Bushwick or Harlem just isn't enough after awhile. Something else has to soften the blow. 

If I didn't have all of these things, the quality of my life in New York City would take a decidedly downward turn. FYI: This list is not in order and it's totally in flux. Next week, it could morph into something else.
  1. A strong sense of personal style -- By now, you should know the difference between fashion (what trends/a clothing designer/your favorite pop star tells you to wear) and style (self expression).  You and your closet shouldn't be at the mercy of what's in or what's out.  I'm aware of what's fashionable and a lot of it looks like (expensive) fun but if I can't look like myself when I put my clothes on, what's the point. As a performer, I'm in the business of expressing myself.  Being me when I get dressed is the natural order of things so maybe there's an unfair advantage in there somewhere.  New York City is the place where your individuality is an asset because it sets you apart from the common herd.  Then again, if you really don't love yourself enough to be yourself in the first place, the wheels are going to come off that bus pretty fast.
  2. Excellent physical health -- You don't have to be in peak physical condition to live here but trust me, it helps. When I moved to Harlem, I lost weight and stayed lean in part because I suddenly found myself walking and riding my bike everywhere.  It was a drastic change from a place like Atlanta, for example, where everyone drives everywhere for anything.  Even going up and down the stairs to get on and off the subways will wear you out, if you do it on a regular basis. Then again, you can jump in and out of cabs to get around -- if you can catch one.  Aside from all that, being sick can be pretty expensive -- and what with all the money you're already throwing up in the air to live here, you really don't want to spend more on something that possibly could have been prevented.
  3. A friend in the Garment District  -- When what is fashionable and trendy loses its luster, it gets sold -- sometimes for as much as 90% below what you would have paid when it was on the rack.  You can sign up for alerts for sample sales to your favorite designers -- but if you know someone who works there (and what with six degrees of separation, you probably do), they can let you into the sale before it happens.
  4. A spiritual life
  5. A strong connection to your family (how ever you define it) and your community (the world your family lives in).
  6. A sister who will (lovingly and tactfully) tell you the truth and a brother who will always have your back.
  7. Your Own Private Hair Guru -- I don't care what you've got -- a tight weave, a closet full of wigs, a blow dryer that's your hair's best friend or a T.W.A. When it's time to get your hair done properly, you've got to have your go-to person on speed dial.  They're affordable, they're convenient and they usually know your hair better than you do. You didn't open a phone book to figure this out. You asked a sister and she told you what's up. Black folks live and die by word of mouth. Period.
  8. A well worn passport -- The importance of traveling internationally need hardly be stressed. Get out there. See the world. It will change your life. (Start here.)
  9. A museum membership -- This is quite literally the gift that keeps on giving. There are hundreds of museums, cultural sites, historical establishments and the like in New York City.  Most of them are internationally recognized and much lauded, and quite a few are trendy little hotspots.  Some of them offer memberships. If you join at a certain level -- and yes, you can write most of your fee off on your taxes -- that's where the fun begins.  There are events, parties, galas, previews for openings and lots of other exclusive diversions, not to mention added discounts and free passes to other museums all over the country.
  10. A diverse group of friends that includes at least one WASPy looking white guy -- Because when your fun night is over, someone has to put you in a cab. When there's some flak in any given social situation, someone has to smooth things over. And if there's a "problem", someone has to talk to the police -- and you and I both know that probably shouldn't be the black man in the room.

Friday, May 10, 2013

a happy epiphany

now that eating clean and not eating at night has become the rule in my foodie life and not the exception, it feels odd to not eat that way all the time.  the upshot is, i'm sliding into clothes that didn't fit me last spring, so the weight loss was gradual enough to stick.  maybe it's the change of seasons, but i find myself using clothes to measure the changes in my body instead of the scale. it's much more rewarding, much more satisfying and way more quantifiable than a golden number to hit that somehow "completes" me.

boxing everyday took inches off my frame but i hardly lost any weight. you're gaining muscle, my sparring partner/coach would say, waving me off. you're getting stronger. i was sad because i couldn't fit into my favorite little black dress. now i'm thinking, as long as i can wear all the clothes in my closet -- including that dress, eventually, if i keep this up -- who cares what i weigh.  and of course, all of this is making me very happy that i didn't toss out the vintage clothes that i love, simply because they didn't fit anymore. slowly but surely, i'm getting back into them.

so that's my happy epiphany for the moment. what's yours?

Thursday, May 09, 2013

12 Little Big Things

When I was an undergrad at the University of Texas at Austin, I went through a leadership program sponsored by the YWCA that gave me specific tools that I have used ever since to manage my life. The core of it seemed simple enough but the entire six week process ultimately served to unravel my way of thinking and showed me how to my live on purpose.  Certain things had to be undone and broken down and cleared away before the good stuff could sink in and take root. The people closest to me could sense a profound change in me and marveled at the person that I was becoming. I couldn't see it then but in retrospect, it was like someone turned on all the lights.

Whenever I see lists like this, I recognize what that innocuous little class taught me and I feel a profound sense of gratitude.  I have pretty much incorporated everything on this list into the most mundane moments of my world. A big thumbs up to #6 -- if anything has kept me outside of my comfort zone, it's growing and thriving as a working artist in New York City.

Interestingly, the first habit is the most important one. I constantly refine my goals and priorities -- two lists that live and breathe, on paper and in my mind's eye, in technicolor, all the time. S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Timely.  If you don't get this one right, the wheels are coming off the bus with a quickness.

What's especially vital is having your very own private working definition of success -- one that you refine and nurture when you see fit -- and a teflon coated attitude that won't let anything or anyone encroach upon it.

*sigh* If I knew then what I know now...

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

...these are a few of my favorite things...

Oprah's got her list, I've got mine.  So there.

1. Talenti Gelato --  Straight outta Dallas, Texas -- where else? -- this Italian delicacy (by way of Argentina's helado) is the best-selling gelato in the country.  The only reason why its #3 on the premium ice cream list is because you haven't tried it yet. I haven't touched my ice cream maker since I fell into a pint of this stuff. Woe is me.

2. BonChon -- Hands down far and away without a doubt the best fried chicken wings I've ever had in a restaurant.  Dizzyingly, astonishingly good.

3. Curlbox --  This is an inexpensive, exclusive, monthly subscription service created, owned and operated by a sister that's filled with natural hair products galore. (And yes, her company was the first to cater to natural hair.) I get to try out all kinds of wonderful stuff from the comfort of my own couch -- videos. Twist outs and curl creams and leave ins, oh my! No wonder my hair is growing like crazy.

4. Bra Smyth -- Oprah was right: most women (85%?!?!?) are wearing the wrong bra size. Kind of makes you wonder who told you which bra to get in the first place.  I don't know how I ended up with what I did, but I was way off -- by, like, two cup sizes. (Egad.) Until I whittle my way back down into a size that I can pluck off the rack at H&M, the upper west side's Bra Smyth is my spizzot. I especially like the little parlor-like fitting rooms and how attentive the ladies are, to get the measurements just right.

5. SEW Bespoke Clothing -- MPB is too big and tall to buy most clothing off the rack. When its time to get his next suit, this is where I'm taking him.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Flash Fiction: "Last Call"

Whenever I say that I should write a book, MPB says I already have -- within this blog. He's probably right. Until I get organized and publish something substantial, here's a short, swift, flash-y idea that I've been working on, in spurts.  Enjoy.


Last Call

          Every night, the same scenario.  Last call happened along unexpectedly.  No music.  Bright ugly lights. Big ugly bouncers, moving through the bar like human cattle prods, whistling and shouting obscenities. When only a select few remained, someone would pull the grate down and lock the door, signaling the moment when the evening shifted gears into a higher octane world. Candles were everywhere.  Soft music drifted through the air like chiffon. There were plenty of drugs and whatever else anyone wanted.  It was beautiful and morose.  And then it was over.  Eventually the grate went up again so everyone could stumble back into the full-fledged sunlight and the traffic and their day jobs and the rest of their lives. 

          This was the pit-stop I made on my way home, sometimes several times during the week. It was my way of unwinding so I'd be able to relax when I got to my apartment, which was no Shan-gri-la.  I just got a roommate, a skinny French girl named Claudette who apparently had never heard of deodorant.  Instead, she would douse her armpits with expensive perfume and wonder aloud as to why Americans bathed so much.  The funk that followed her out of the bathroom whenever she bothered to take a hot shower was enough to make my face twitch involuntarily whenever I thought about it. 

          Of course, Claudette didn't smell a thing.  Lucky girl.

          It wasn't just the smelly foreign white girl.  It was everything.  My life had glazed over into a series of hapless misadventures that left me feeling restless and unsatisfied.  I didn't know how to undo any of it so I numbed myself out with cocktails and dead-end relationships and waited for some kind of an upheaval.  A cool guy.  A new job.  A decent haircut.  The Lotto.  Something that would change things so drastically, my present scenario would be a distant memory, like things that happened to me when I was very young.  Something to think back on and remember with such clarity, it's almost as though it happened to someone else.

          The bar was clearing out as I arrived.  I bumped into one of the regulars on my way to the backroom.  She was bobbing back and forth gently, buoyed by a steady stream of drunken freaks who were making their way towards the exit.  She had a pink dress on and she was so high she just stood there in her strappy sandals, her eyes rolled back in her head, her yellowy hair all over the place.  If she had been lying down, I would have assumed that she was dead.  Nice shoes, I thought and I began to wonder if they were my size.

          I slid into a booth and put my feet up, exhausted. 

          The DJ cranked into that song "American Woman".  In my head, I turned up the Butthole Surfers' version and began to sip my first drink.

        Bouncers laughed and exchanged war stories.  Some guy across from me was smoking something that was making him cough violently.  Two girls in the corner were making out and giggling.  That blonde junkie was standing right where I left her.  Some guy had come along and put his arms around her, at first it seemed to steady her, but then as it turned out, to steady himself.  They both began to sway slowly to the rhythm of an invisible metronome, lost in the clicks that seemed to emanate from their bodies.  When the clicking noises fell out of sync with their movements, I realized that the sound was real.  Somebody was doing it in the bathroom.

          Somewhere in between the coughing and the clicking, someone let Jake inside.  He was pale and dark, a writhing tangled mass of bucolic imaginings, of venom and sickly sweetness and vomit and flowers. Jake liked me but he didn't know what to do about it.  Neither did I.  We'd been having a kind of Mexican stand-off of a relationship for awhile now.  No commitment.  No emotional responsibility. The fact that we were deeply in love was a big secret to everyone, especially to us. It seemed to augment our friendship and make us abnormally happy.

          Jake was drunk and he was high and in high spirits. He made his way toward me, spewing one rollicking non sequitor after another, filling the place with spontaneous combustions of laughter.  He paused in the flow of action that swirled around him to slide into the booth and kiss me intently on the mouth. Wide-eyed and startled, I pulled away. Although he smelled like a bar of soap,  his clothes had a slight odor to them that I recognized instantly.  It was my roommate. Clearly, she had been all over him. From the smell of it, she still was.  I could barely stand to share an apartment with her and now she was in my bed, putting her smelly body all over my precious Jake.  And there I was, squished in between them, fully dressed and unable to escape.

          As he held me in his arms, I felt the weight of time and familiarity between us.  It frightened me.  He was a dead end. And yet I clung to him, struggling to hold on to something that wasn't really even there.  He was my situation personified: the day job I wouldn't leave, the roommate I wouldn't get rid of, the myriad of issues I wouldn't face. I saw the world I created in his heavy-lidded eyes, beautiful and arcane, making love to my worry.  Did I know him at all?  How could I.

I knew that he'd have the smell of that girl on him, no matter how clean he was.  That was the last straw. It was over.  Somewhere in me, the night had finally ended. Instinctively he held me closer but I was already gone--out the door and into the sun that was waiting to shine on me.

Monday, May 06, 2013

My kingdom for a comfy sofa...

This classic moment in comedy -- hasn't everyone seen this? -- is brought to you by Monty Python.

The thing is, I'm looking for a comfy chair -- a comfy sofa, to be exact. I don't know why I'm having such a hard time. Probably because I'm not looking by myself. At this point, I've given up on the idea of a sleeper sofa or something brand spanking new that's affordable.  Jennifer Sofas, IKEA, La-Z-Boy. They're all out. I'm either going to find it refurbished at a flea market or a secondhand shop, or I'll pay way too much for it from some high end place like everybody else does.
I really like this one. It's so ugly, it's beautiful.

Or maybe I should just throw in the towel and go for baroque. (Heh.)

After a certain point, all of it looks good. Just not in my apartment.

Except this one. This one does not look good. I'm not even sure it's a couch.

I mean wow, right?

There's no rush but it would be nice to get this whole sofa question answered before my birthday gets here in June...

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Happy Cinco de Mayo, y'all...

While everyone gets trashed on margaritas and inhales copious amounts of Mexican food to celebrate -- what, Mexican Independence Day, right America? (wrong!) -- I thought it would be nice to have a two minute history lesson that explains it for those amongst us that might be curious as to What Actually Happened.

As much as I love the History channel's little blurb on this topic, this needs to be told from a black perspective -- like most of American history.  Because apparently, you won't know what really went down unless we tell it.

Here's the bottom line, plain and simple: If those French troops had provided much needed reinforcements to their Southern allies at that moment in the campaign, the Union might have lost The Civil War. And this country would be a very different place.

To dip into my archives for the golden oldie entry that goes into detail -- In Observance of Cinco de Mayo: A Lingering Afterthought -- please click here.

Oh -- and if you really want to crack up, watch this.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

May the fourth...!

Happy Star Wars Day!  Today's that special day that everyone shares their favorite moments from the franchise (when are they not sharing those moments?) so here's mine. MPB's work takes him to comic cons regularly and sometimes, I tag along -- it's like a big nerd prom! --  hence, my photo op with those storm troopers and then some

The way to (re)watch any Star Wars movie is to see it through the eyes of a real super geek as both of you stare transfixed at that Robot Chicken tv screen.  Here's where it all started: "Go for papa Palpateen!"

I'm telling you, nothing's better than watching this stuff with someone who can explain all the minutae. 

Before Robot Chicken came along, I seriously couldn't stand Jar Jar Binks.  He's so many racist characters and stereotypes rolled into one. On the one hand, he's the Stepin Fetchit of the galaxy -- bumbling, clumsy, stupid, inarticulate.  On the other hand, I can tell that from his propensity to scream at the very idea of trouble, he's also got quite a bit of Butterfly McQueen in him, too. And what's up with the effeminate sway of the hips, the Jamaican patois, the dreadlock hair/ear/whatever? I mean, seriously. What in the world was George Lucas thinking?  Couldn't he have found a well-educated, intelligent, thinking black person to set him straight? God knows he's been dating one for years.

Well. Thanks to Robot Chicken, I can laugh at Jar Jar Binks now with (relative) abandon -- even if watching too much of him makes me feel like I just got slimed.

Here's a Geico commercial!

And here he is with Darth Vader...

...and here's a fan that really stuck their foot in that sparkly moment.

Friday, May 03, 2013

"Is there any more mac and cheese?"

I still feel that French cooking is the most important in the world, one of the few that has rules. If you follow the rules, you can do pretty well. -- Julia Child

Never one to leave an interesting tidbit alone, I dug further into that delicious bowl of macaroni and cheese and found all kinds of yummy factual goodness about its origins. As one story goes, Thomas Jefferson brought back a pasta machine from a lengthy sojourn in Rome. This is why his daughter Martha Randolph -- the hostess of the house after his wife died -- is credited with creating the dish by combining macaroni and parmesan cheese.

That doesn't make any sense to me. Why would Martha Randolph -- or any other white woman with money and status -- even think to toil over a hot stove to "create" anything?  You and I both know that if that was the scenario, she threw that pasta maker at some anonymous slave, they came up with mac and cheese and she put her name on it because it was served at her dinner parties.  The End.

And why do historians continue to openly ignore Sally Hemings and the (at least) six children she had with Thomas Jefferson after his spouse -- her half sister Martha -- passed away? The DNA evidence is irrefutable. What's especially rich is that none of Jefferson's white heirs have ever had to prove that they are related to him. Saying so is enough.

Interestingly, I tripped up over this book -- Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America, by Thomas J. Craughwell -- that was a real foodie curiousity.  Apparently, it was Jefferson that brought French cuisine to America, not Julia Child. Who knew? James Hemings -- his deceased wife Martha's 19 year old half-brother -- was promised his freedom if he stayed in France long enough to learn how to cook and bake Jefferson's favorite things. He was then required to teach another chef how to make them. It took Jefferson 11 years to make good on that promise. (Hm. I don't suppose I'd be so giddy to let my freshly trained chef waltz out of my life, either.)

Jefferson was in Paris for several years as US Ambassador to France.  He was also learning important things like how to grow grapes to make his favorite wines. From what I've read, he really loved his bordeaux.  Here's a colorful aside: a 14 year old Sally Hemings was there, too -- as a handmaid to Jefferson's youngest daughter Mary. (Yes, that would make his kid Sally's niece, for those of you keeping score at home.)  While she was in France, Sally wound up pregnant with Jefferson's baby. (Insert *gasp* here.) And now you know the rest of the story. Or do you?

The good news is that once the smoke cleared, Mr. Hemings started his own catering business. The bad news? Five years after he was freed, he committed suicide at the age of 36, in Baltimore Maryland.

All that, so Jefferson could drink delicious wine and eat in high style -- and thanks to a well-cultivated vineyard and all those chefs James Hemings trained, he most certainly did, even after he was completely bereft of funds.

Something to think about, the next time you tuck into a bowl of mac & cheese.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Comfort Food: Mac & Cheese

Nobody makes mac and cheese better than my momma. Not even me. Especially me -- and I can cook my butt off.

I don't really know very many black folk who wouldn't co-sign that statement, probably because of the emotional connectedness we feel towards the foods we love. One bite of something delicious brings us back to a beautiful childhood memory and into the arms of the person who turned a slice of cake or a piece of chicken into a celebration of life and all the goodness that the world could hold. For some of us, eating those things brings us right back to those moments. No wonder we've got weight/body issues.

So of course, it is with all of that in mind that I post the absolute best mac and cheese recipe I could possibly find, anywhere, ever. Do I eat mac and cheese?  Rarely.  It's not a dietary staple for me. It's a treat -- and I believe that if you're going to have a treat, you should really do it up.

How many people does this serve? I dunno. Technically, 8 to 10 but hey -- once I put it on the table, it's gone and only 4 or 5 people got some, so...


3 cups of large elbow macaroni noodles

3 cups of shredded mild Cheddar cheese

2 cups of shredded Moneterrey Jack cheese

1 8 oz. block of Colby Cheese

1 8 oz. block of Monterrey Jack cheese

2 cups of milk

1 jumbo egg beaten

2 tsps of ground white pepper

1 dash of black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Boil the noodles for 15 minutes or until tender, then drain. Then put noodles in a bowl and add the milk, 2 cups of the mild Cheddar cheese, the shredded Moneterrey Jack, the white pepper and the jumbo egg. Mix thoroughly. Dice the block cheeses into 1 inch cubes and add them. Mix again, put in a 4 quart baking pan and place into the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with  the remaining cup of Cheddar cheese on the top and the black pepper. Place the dish back in the oven at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until top layer of cheese is starting to brown. Remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes and serve.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May Cake

NaBloPoMo May 2013

Nothing is going on and everything is going on.  It's all up in the air and it's all down on the ground and it's everything or nothing and nothing is going on. The sun shines so brightly these days -- with a blue sky brilliance that makes me feels so alive. And then I run outside and it's effing freezing and I'm walking home shivering like a small poodle and I'm thinking, what is the what.

The engine is revving forward and all systems are go and something in me is on pause. 

Spring cleaning abounds.  This seasonal winter weight gain is melting off me like I'm a snowman on the beach. I'm editing my closets very carefully. And thanks to that wacky tv show Hoarders,  I can't stop decluttering and throwing things away.  Needless to say, rewrites abound.  And of course, having a sinus infection and temporary laryngitis is pretty much the icing on my many-layered May cake.

The NaBloPoMo theme for May is Comfort -- whatever that means.  At the moment, I'm finding a lot of comfort in my ukulele.  I really don't know how to play it but its so simple, I can play it, if you know what I mean -- and every time I get a new chord right, it feels like I won the Lotto.

Okay, back to my closets and my rewrites. Just in case you're interested, here's what I'm working on with that uke: Ten Arpeggio Excercises!