Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
This seemed so completely foreign to me, and because I was separated from the rest of my family for about half of my life and we had vastly different childhoods it shouldn’t be so surprising. But it shocked me. I grew up in an Italian-Irish inner city neighborhood – snatched from that and moved to Michigan at 5 – though I wouldn’t lose contact with that family till much later and spent every summer "back home" in Baltimore in that same neighborhood until I was 15. My siblings were born in Michigan.
I have a brother who hasn’t spoken to me since 1983 but we were very close growing up. He was thrilled & content with the swing set in our backyard while I planned future trips across Europe. My brother now lives in very rural Virginia. I, on the other hand, was banned from the local travel agency for swiping all the travel brochures. I felt very different from the people around me in Michigan with their snowmobiling and deer hunting. I had a fascination with being around different people – and years later I even handpicked the most vibrantly diverse neighborhood in San Francisco, the Little Saigon area of the Tenderloin to call home, (prostitutes help me find parking spots, and crack addicts meander around freely, and in a high-rise bldg largely filled with Vietnamese mafia-I have watched the children of a hitman grow from babies to high school and his wife is among my dearest friends), because Asians were the race I was least familiar with when I came here after living in Europe and the east coast.
The point I’m making is that while some of this is terribly personal, a lot of it was shaped by my family, my experience in the city, and the era in which I grew up, and in particular some experiences of my grandmother – most of which revolve around her love and passion for food. Those experiences and exposures have reverberated through me and is a big part of what makes me so different from the others in my family.
My family ran the first gay bar in Baltimore… in the VERY early 1960s. My Uncle (grandmother’s brother) was gay and a prolific songwriter who got a scholarship to Peabody Conservatory and then moved to Greenwich Village and was under contract to write “numbers” for the burgeoning “negro acts” in the late 50s and early 60s. Those that became close to my Uncle would come back to Baltimore for weekends and have Sunday dinner at my grandmothers narrow rowhome in East Baltimore. My grandmother began a longstanding friendship with Little Anthony when he fell in love with her meatballs. He then offered to show her how to prepare barbecue. They wrote to one another for the next 20 years.
When my uncle returned to Baltimore he would play clubs and make other club owners a lot of money, so they asked him to play "Pepper Hill" the family bar instead. His following was largely gay, and they found a clientele that were polite, “good punters” and would go out of their way to patronize anyplace that welcomed them. The bar was a huge success until my family failed to “play ball” in local politics and the city rezoned the building in 1963 as the new fire station which still exists today on (I swear to God) Gay Street.
Make no mistake, apart from one boho Aunt my family has never been liberal nor ventured more than a few miles away. Devout catholics with very fixed rules about masculinity, feminity and above all never ever venturing from the family. But there was also that very Sicilian wariness of authority, a complete disinterest in the language or ever returning to the country they came from (“bad memories”), and above all, an ability to turn a blind eye to anything that was lucrative. My grandparents met bootlegging. The front was a flower cart with booze inside, and others would try to hijack them, so since the man always had to drive the cart it was the woman who knew how to use, load and reload the pistol. That was my grandmother.
My gay Uncle regrettably died suddenly of an aneurism 2 yrs before I was born but he has haunted me constantly and for years my family was convinced I was his reincarnation (despite the fact that that’s TOTALLY un-Catholic) and my mother had a terrible fear I would die young as he did. Such inconsistent illogical superstition.
Now the “jew food” craze I vividly remember but didn’t understand until seeing a documentary much later. There was a push in the late 60s to make bagels and lox and kosher food more mainstream in America. Somehow my grandmother ventured where no Sicilian had gone before – to a family deli run by the Levitzes – and discovered “jewish pickles” as she called them – then pastrami and knishes followed. I remember a bit of a battle of wills when crunchy “jewish pickles” (nothing like Vlasic - more like pickled kosher cucumbers) were added to the notoriously italian tomato salad with balsamic that was always marinating in the refrigerator for a late night snack. My grandfather thought leaving the skins on cucumbers was “dirty” and disgusting, but as I recall he started to eat them.
This is where things get inconsistent. I distinctly recall anti-semitic comments in the family (“they look ugly, like fish outta water”), mostly from my grandfather, who also used the n word on occasion (which my grandmother never uttered and my mother said was "a filthy word that filthy people use".) My grandmother would say a black person attacked him when he was younger but never gave any details, and even at age 6 it was obvious she was making up some story to defend him, and that although my grandmother disapproved she’d never dare speak up against a man. The polite Sicilian word for black is pronounced NEE-vah-dah, but my grandmother later started saying black in English, but she said it as though she were saying “blech!” We were told to lock the doors and roll up the windows if we ever were near black neighborhoods. I have no idea how she reconciled all this with her friendship with Anthony.
So basically if not for the love of barbecue & good pickles I may very well be a great big fat cracker. But things certainly didn’t end there.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Picture this-August in NYC-left to live in SF yrs ago so to me, it's deathly muggy. Performing my play in NYC moving back & forth within the same 4 blox of the theatre district so many goddman times all I see is traffic & I don't even feel like I'm anywhere let alone in NYC. Finally Sun matinee is done and I just wanna die & catch my flight home Mon am & SOMEHOW I get talked into stumbling over to the HighLine and catch the Sunday sunset and a salsa concert at the Chelsea Piers. It finally hits me, I'm in NYC. And it's really really special and beautiful.
We make it to the end & I want good, reasonable, uncrowded and UNpretentious. Yeah in the West Village. My food czar friend suggests Moustache. A perfect ending to a perfect evening. It was circulating enough inside that we weren't hot, it wasn't hipster central and I wasn't breathing in some bridge & tunnel douchebag's Axe body spray fumes. Everything was terrific, from the lamb pitza - even the baba was really smoky and creamy. That was the moment, the only one in awhile, where I missed living in NYC.
Then the next morning was a zillion degrees and I was thrilled to be going home again!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Landed back in SF after taking Love Humiliation & Karaoke to NYC and have spent the last few days just breast stroking back to a normal life. But I've been asked a zillion times "How was NYC" and there isn't really a sound byte answer.
The short is - it was an amazing experience. I really struggled not to go with a set expectation of how it would go. It was unpredictable. As previously mentioned, we had sound issues right off the bat the day we arrived for our tech (by sound issues I mean the issue of having no sound - in a show with more than a dozen sound cues, most of which are SONGS - none of the CDs or backup CDs worked and we wound up playing the cues through our iPhones!!) There would later be a lighting issue (the light burnt out 10 mins b4 curtain and we needed to rearrange several things stage right so when the lights for each episode came up I wasn't off in the dark somewhere).
I held my own in NYC and I'm damn proud of that - I wasn't sure whether I would - I only know I love doing what I do and that I'm really dedicated to getting this kind of story out there. But as far as "setting NYC on fire" or getting "contract offers" - (please you guys asked! somebody's been watching a little too much Entourage lately?) Those Lana Turner moments can happen in places like NYC and LA, which is what i think brings out the worst in performers via anxieties. I'm so grateful this is happening later in life, when I'm grounded enough to know all that matters at the end of the day is how I felt about how I did. And I feel very good. I had a great group of people, support, a great team, who often gave in excess of what I was able to give back.
But there were reviewers from pretty big places, and a casting director for films, but that's more par for the course there, just as here in SF a good portion of your audience has been in a 30-day recovery program, been briefly buddhist, and/or wandered into the sex industry at some point. Walking around NYC was like remembering how I was when i lived there. (Desperate to somehow be acknowledged as the latest thing, the best, the runaway success, but still terribly modest and cool about it, or so I thought.)
If I coulda looked in a crystal ball back in 1989 and seen that 20 years later, I would NOT ONLY NOT be skinny, rich or famous (and there was no particular order cuz it had better be all three or nothin), I'd've probably said "well then just take me out now" and a Yellow Cab would've been happy to oblige.
Of course, I didn't realize I assumed those elusive things would naturally make me happy. What I never imagined was how aimless and meandering my life would seem at certain points, how desperately in love I would be someday, how much that would heal me, grow with time and how much exponentially happier I'd be.
But as for washboard abs, well not so much (in fact no abs at all to speak of as far as I can tell), no one jostling to snap my photo when I leave home (good thing given the lack of abs) & no West Village townhouse - not even a Tenderloin townhouse. But life is very very good. Sometimes I feel more love and support than I can wrap my mind around. And I feel really fortunate to have created this vessel in which to pour more of myself than anything else I've ever known. This is the story I'd die to tell. A funny story about wicked serious sh*t. How if you don't lose faith and hope, even when life supplies you an endless buffet of sh*t sandwiches - your entire world can still change suddenly and dramatically for the better.
I wish this for everyone, which is why I risk putting ALL my sh*t out there. The fear, the loneliness, the neuroses - the laughs. So ppl can say "hey if this steaming hot mess can turn it around why the hell can't I?" But the secret of the path is that there is no path. But if you can dream it, I promise it's there waiting to be manifested. And in it's own way, it's probably bigger and better than anything you could've imagined.
Friday, July 31, 2009
I'm VERY happy with the first show - for some reason, my voice was in really good shape, we switched the song at the end, different song and in a different place, when I'm giving David the elephant ring, it doesn't make the final song so weirdly close to the end of the show without being a finale. That went over well. Really good crowd. Susan Alexander (big laughs) and Heather Gold and some CSers.
Tonights show is the plumb spot, so we'll see. I get that NYC audiences are more about what's on the stage rather than how hot the audience is, moreso than SF audiences, or so it seemed to me. I'm a fucking authority on the subject, having done one show.
Yesterday was in my opinion as much of a triumph for my husband (the real life San Diego David) than for me, a number of people from other shows were astounded at how good my lighting design was for David having done lights just hours before. But he downloaded the lighting plot and figured out how to do things like backlight me when I did flashbacks so I was in sillhouette, which worked well, but which horrifyingly leaves me TOTALLY seeing everyone in the audience.
Anyway, I'm proud of myself, it still hasn't registered that I am performing in this massive MASSIVE city.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
I try to avoid karaoke because my mother was America’s first (non-Asian) karaoke hostess, and so I grew up in somewhat of a karaoke dynasty. The episode, “Christmas in Baltimore” (which had to be cut in this presentation of LHK to conform to the 90-minute festival format—LHK firmed, tightened, and toned—covers this history in greater detail.)
When I first moved to San Francisco, I met a very interesting older man named Byron Bentley—unlike any gay man I’d ever met before. He had an enormous collection of snakes. We weren't best friends, but we worked together for a few years, and saw one another every few weeks there afterwards—but he had an enormous impact on my life. He met his partner in rural California during high school; they’d moved to SF in the 70s, were still together in their mid-40s, had always been monogamous, and still had sex constantly! This pretty much challenged every belief I ever had about relationships (particularly same-sex relationships) on so many levels; beliefs I didn’t even know I had. And, though, I didn’t necessarily want what they had, it certainly expanded what I thought was possible—not just in relationships, but in life. I thought I was protecting myself with my non-negotiables—my “lists” of what did and didn’t work for me—but instead of protecting myself, all I was doing was limiting my own dreams. When I finally confronted what I was doing—how I was quietly sabotaging the very things I longed for—only then, did things start to change, but something terrible happened first.
In 2003, Byron died very suddenly after an aneurysm—and my own life had changed so much as a result of knowing him that I basically had to start writing to get through that terrible grief. LHK is the result of that process—a series of extremely funny, and sometimes tragic episodes from my life, each set in a different city, each at different times. I have not a single answer to life’s great questions, but I did change my life by constantly putting myself in challenging (and often mortifying) situations, and my wish is that this “blind hope” that led me through these experiences might at least entertain an audience; if not leave them with a sense of hope about what more might be possible in their own lives.
A version of LHK opened at a tiny theatre (as in, the size of a large restroom) with the notion that I'd just perform the show, work it out, and build and build. But I woke up (Christmas Eve 2005, I'll never forget it) blind in one eye, and had to start a two-year series of eye operations, eventually just making the situation worse—legally blind in that eye, and double-vision with both, which I still have. I had to close the show, and felt so incredibly defeated.
I decided I'd work on the show while I was recovering—and my friend (another performer and now producer) Bruce Pachtman, put me in touch with W. Kamau Bell. I disagreed with all of his suggestions, but he was ultimately right, and that changed everything. Kamau comes from comedy but has a very specific, effective and individualized format for bringing out the best in a performance—yet, no two pieces of his direction look anything alike. The only similar thread is the powerful and impactful end results.
There is also a community of artists he's attracted, free of the ass-kissing and clique-ishness I find in most arts communities—yes, it’s true, there are cities certainly more conducive to "making it big" than San Francisco, but I have never seen a community, overall, more focused on the craft rather than the "scene.” Cities around the world I've lived in are major characters in my pieces, and I hope audiences come away with more than just a story of a disturbed romance. LHK is about the intersection of the humiliation we must all risk if we hope to find love, and the tendency we have to “melodramatize” our pasts.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
(first of all, how freakin hot is he? Survey says "MUY")
I tried to get into "The Wire" from the beginning because it's set in Baltimore, the city I was born in and where my family still lives. I was horrified about being from there for years but now I'm immensely proud - a city with an intersection of southern and east coast culture. Then when my sister's house was used as a major location at the beginning of Season 2 - I started again. This show definitely takes a commitment - a bit more of a commitment than a novel actually. But it is so brilliant and so worth it. And yet I always struggle to break down an overview. Today, as I was browsing the full season on Amazon (that and online recipes ARE my porn) I spotted among several beautifully written reviews of the series, this really nice concise breakdown, written by Christopher Stensrud of Madison, WI.
"Season 1 effectively examines the danger of being an individual in an organization, using Detective McNulty and a drug dealer (D. Barksdale/Larry Gilliard Jr.) who both struggle against the reins of their respective employers. This issue develops against the thrilling backdrop of the drug war and an investigation into druglord Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris).
Season 2 shows the death of work in the post-industrial world, particularly the loss of blue collar jobs. This is shown through the port of Baltimore and its workers who start illegally importing items and dealing drugs to keep afloat.
Season 3 artfully reveals why reforming these institutions never works. Again this issue is examined through both a cop (Major Colvin/Robert Wisdom) and the drug dealer Stringer. Specifically, Colvin makes his district a drug-free zone to combat other crime, while Stringer tries to go legitimate in addition to trying to eliminate violence from drug-fueled gang wars.
Season 4 illuminates how kids fall through the cracks in schools, largely as a result of their hostile environment. The tagline, beautiful in its simplicity, for this season points to the political nature this story by sarcastically claiming that this country pursues a policy where "No corner [is] left behind".
Bringing this whole story full circle, Season 5 ties all of these problems together and argues that the media skews our perspective away from these important mattters to sensationalistic stories. This storyline revolves around a perceptive, noble editor (Gus/Clark Johnson)
and one of his deceitful writers (Templeton/Thomas McCarthy) who is more concerned about Pullitzers than real news. This season ends by showing how these issues create a circle of explotation and victimhood, a point made by showing how these drug dealers, cops, addicts, and even modern day gunslingers get killed, retired, and reform only to have their places taken by the next victim and predator.
Throughout the entire series The Wire pursues and achieves a level of quality, insight, and empathy never before reached in any television series or episode. It truly is the equivalent of a televised novel. It is the first Great American TV Show."
Monday, July 13, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
For those that have asked about the Cotton Candy song from the show - here is the original song and music video - odd as I haven't seen this video ONCE since right when the huz and I met in 1999. Special shout out to Denean, who helped me write that piece.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
My mind's racing - thinking what did I do? Why didn't he assault the guy that almost hit him before? Thinking I can't call 911 (moronic on reflection) cuz I don't have my headset on and i just got a $250 ticket for that when law changed. So I figure just get to the secured garage and stay locked in the car. Motorcycle follows me onto Myrtle (a weird side street so at that point I knew this is NO good) alongside as if to drive me off the street onto sidewalk and then he starts hitting my car WHILE ON MOTORCYCLE. While garage door goes up he hops off bike (just behind me now so I can't see plate) and tries to block me from getting in the garage - I start to just drive into him - not fast enough to really do anything and he moves alongside pounding front and side windshield really hard, like he's trying to break the glass. White male 46 grey hair black motorcycle jumpsuit, black helmet with square visor - I can't really see him) I'm confusing this with another garage that locks from inside so I figure once the gate closes he's stuck in there with me till the police come.
Only this isn't that garage and he is following me literally kicking the drivers side of the car as I'm driving. I'm totally flustered and he's wailing on the passenger door just outside me so I can't figure out how I'd even get out of the car to kick his ass if that's the way I wanna go. WEIRDLY, instead being pissed off, I'm being some huge pussy trying to UNDERSTAND his MOTIVATION in doing this but he just keeps saying he'll kill me, so now I'm thinking maybe best NOT to get out of the car. I'm now trying to call 911 but the phone keeps saying disabled. (Thanks Apple - thanks to your shitty phone I may BE disabled in a few minutes.)
Like a geekoid P*SSY I keep punching the iPhone trying to get the call to connect and THAT'S WHEN I realize the door is open and he's grabbing me - in obsessively locking the car doors I must have actually unlocked them but NO TIME for semantics - I'm staring at a big black helmet but all i could think to do was point the camera phone and say "smile for the cops p*ssy - they're on their way". (I'm so full of sh*t cuz I couldn't get 911 and I couldn't switch the iphone to camera mode - plus he was just this big helmet).
Just then the garage door starts closing and he lets go of me to go run out of the garage - so now I'm chasing HIM - (like animals do instinctually - if he stopped and turned around again I'd've just run the other way out of instinct). He jumped on his cycle (I couldn't BELIEVE how quickly he started it and took off) and sped past me as I ducked under the garage door as it came down, took Myrtle to Larkin and went left right into traffic without stopping or yielding. The freakin iPhone wouldn't switch to camera mode from phone mode fast enough BUT since the phone freaked him out more than me I'm sure he thought I snapped pix - I couldn't look at his plate AND try to shoot and I thought a photo'd be more important so I missed his plate altogether like an a*shole - I saw California and plate was white. Motorcycle was all-black and BIG - Harley-esque.
Then 911 said it wasn't an emergency if he was gone and then I called the wrong non emerg # - then called the carshare to report it. Amazingly no real damage to the car apart from the rearview mirror being bent in - not even a mar on the glass. He couldn't kick too hard because he was pinned in between me and the wall of the garage. Called my husband and since he told me not to leave till he got there I figured I'd just report it to the police or do it at home as there wasn't anything to really show them.
SFPD I called @ 5:15p said they'd like to send someone to the garage and while waiting the bldg mgr of the bldg the garage is in asked what was wrong because he saw it on the video cameras. That's when I found out there is video of what happened, at least inside the garage. Maybe not TOO useful because he never took his helmet off and motorcycle wasn't really in line with the garage door. So cops come 5:25p and I relay this whole super WEIRD-ASS story to them and they say they'll put an APB for that description and call me if they see anything. I don't care so much at this point - but my testosterone level is through the roof and now that i know there's video I walk around a little and try to spot him.
So apart from aging my nerve endings by about 20 years, I'm fine. Weird, weird weird.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
plain flour for dusting,
2 eggs, beaten,
breadcrumbs for coating,
olive oil for deep frying -
For the risotto: 1.5 liter vegetable stock, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 onion finely chopped, 300 gr Arborio or other Italian risotto rise, 4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper-
For the filling: 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp finely chopped onion, 100 gr frozen peas, 2 tbsp water, 75gr mozzarella cheese, diced. Instructions - Make the risotto like any other risotto (just no butter), spread on a tray and leave to cool. Make the filling: Heat the olive oil in a small pan, add the onion and sweat until soft. Add the peas, water and some salt & pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for few minutes until peas are tender, leave to cool. Take a little risotto and form it into a ball (easier if you wet yuor hands with cold water), make an indentation in each ball and place a few peas and a couple of cubes of mozzarella in it.
Dust each ball with a little flour, coat with the beaten egg and then coat in breadcrumbs. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep saucepan or in a deep fat fryer. Add the risotto balls a few at a timne and fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot or cold. Enjoy!!
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
I was - or I thought I was - perfectly happy with this great consulting gig for these fantastic clients, its never been about what I make, but about how much I'm valued, and I am really valued at what I do. (And my freakin fantastic marriage (who the hell ever saw that coming - if there was ever a trainwreck it was my dating life in the 80s. . . and all the 90s till 1999).) I stopped performing years ago because singing was just boring and I felt there were people around me that NEEDED to be up there performing and for whatever reason I just wasn't one of them. Not that I wasn't good enough, but that I didn't need it and they did.
Then my freakin psychic tells me in 04 that no matter what I think I need my soul has needs to do this thing with stories and music that I thought I didn't even care about anymore. But now I've shit out this baby and - I can't kill it. But it does really terrify me sometimes. To have this THING made up of all my pain & personal shit out there, external to me, like a kid. It's like when I got married - it was like I was watching a movie of me doing something I could never actually do in life.
All I can say is, I'm really lucky this is happening in San Francisco. From the music industry to my blow through standup to solo performance, there has been such a great team of people whos hands I have passed through. Thanks to Bruce, Kamau, dear gentle Martha, mama Leslie, and all the rest (like they used to say on Gilligan's Island) as well as the hugely unlikely degree of separation that made all that possible, Sia Amma.
I tape my performances to see what works and doesn't (I don't watch most of them, cuz it's just too agonizing, but I always watch the end of the tape, that's the only time I get to see the audience - where people sat, their body language coming and going.
It's a great thing, but it scares me to care so much about something. I don't think that has ever happened to me before. Or maybe the post op meds from my eye surgery are just makin me all Lifetime Channel.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
I actually don't go to my psychic for the great news, as it has also been the source of some difficult illuminations. And I am trained enough to know how psychics see things, so certain things (timing for one since timing in the psychic world is basically something that we create - I go into it more in my show) aren't so accurate.
I go to a psychic to see myself without the limits and cravings of my ego. To her I am just a soul, with certain things set out to do, to manifest, to suffer, to actualize. My ego wants to be adored and pitied and validated and not too challenged. The soul doesn't give a f*ck about any of that. That ability to be seen free of your ego is a gift and it's changed my life more than any other experience I know.
And its not just the reading itself - it's the vibration of the person's voice (my psychic works almost exclusively by phone since clients all over the world). I make my own recordings of our conversations cuz my iPod records so beautifully, and I often replay old readings before I go to bed at night. Its not the information, but the vibration before I go into the subconscious world. This morning I woke up with a creative idea i've been trying to string together for years. I've sensed it but couldn't quite grasp is consciously. I am very excited and will post more about this later.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Very "ikissyou.org" (the arguable inspiration for Borat). I love the fact that the model is so obviously not into him (they clearly had him on sandbags so she didn't tower above him). And I was a little apprehensive due to the song being called Dudu!! Thanks to Yigal.
Sunday, June 14, 2009