Giving (Extra) Thanks

Due to technical difficulties, enjoy this second serving of this week’s Notes post! 

There is a perfect little gem of a movie at your local theatre right now called Ladybird that perfectly evokes the real spirit of Thanksgiving. Or, at least, what it should be.

No, this is not because it has turkey dinners, enviable family gatherings or even any one real specific major revelation about what or whom we should all be majorly thankful for in life.

I mean, is there one such precious individual or experience that you can pinpoint from your past or present? Certainly I can’t think of one.

So instead what the immensely insightful writer-director Greta Gerwig (who will now finally be shed of the loaded and limiting moniker of “go-to indie actress”) has given us is a whole series of people and memories and hurts and pleasures from a fictionalized vision of her own last year of high school that trusts US to look inward and draw our own conclusions.

so angsty #inthebestway

Who was a jerk and who was wrong? Were you actually born into this family or unwillingly dropped into one of nature’s most regrettable mistakes? Are you right about more things than you’ve given yourself credit for or is that just your guilt or subconscious trying to sell you that there might have been two or more moments when THEY could have known better?

Of course we all have our THEYs but they differ depending on the age we are and what we’re experiencing.

This was the point of Ladybird for me and why it feels exactly right for Thanksgiving 2017.   We should be grateful for all of it – every last moment – for THEY have brought us to where WE are today.

If that’s not what we want we can choose to do better.

If that’s what we like we can look back in joy and appreciation – or in fear that it will inevitably one day all disintegrate and turn into dust and sand. Or we will.

a little light (and dark) humor

This is hardly revelatory stuff. Except in moments that you need to be reminded of it. Then it is.

It is also why the coming of age movie will always be a timeless and enduring genre that each generation or subset of a generation – yes that means anyone reading this – defines for itself.

No – this does not mean be grateful for the AWFUL (fill in this blank with the myriad sickening moments you’ve barely lived through or witnessed of your choice.

ah relief!

Please. This is not in any way meant to be inspirational and we have a whole host of upcoming holidays from which to draw those lessons from. But sometimes art – and yeah, many films these days still qualify as such – can remind all of us that what we get in any given year is usually a mixed bag that we figure out how to uniquely proceed through or get stuck in. It is this, all of this, that specifically makes us, individually – US.

And in the moments they are happening, we are usually the worst judges of US.

It seems not insightful but merely truthful to write this at the end of what has been a very difficult year for many of US – especially in the U.S. (Note: And its territories).

One supposes there are some – okay, at most a very small plurality – who get up each day singing the 2017 equivalent of Zippity-Doo-Da. But if you live in LA as I do, or in the NY or San Francisco areas, where many of my friends and relatives are located, it’s a tough lift to imagine.

Can we just stop with the term “Real Americans”? #dreamsfor2018

And yet –

I would like to see the negative events of 2017 – starting with Trumpism, moving through various climate and/or gun-related disasters, then segueing on to the public exposure of the nauseating ordinariness of sexual abuse in our culture, and finally ending with each of our own specific misfortunes in the last ten months – as part of a continuum.

They are part of what we are and have become – for sure.

But they DO NOT tell our ENTIRE story.

It’s too simplistic to define four years by 10 months or a single, seemingly cacophonic event. Just as it is way too reductive to define a young woman’s trajectory in life by the jerky boy she got rejected by in high school or the harsh, withholding mother who never understood her.

Even if your mother is played by the divine Laurie Metcalf

Ladybird respects her heroine enough not to underestimate her and it feels, at this time of the year, that we might all resist the temptation to pull the rug out from under ourselves or our worlds before our final scenes are played.

Some months ago I was seated at the bar of a hip restaurant in West Hollywood a dear friend had taken me to in order to cheer me up after some disconcerting news. (Note: Yes, the BAR – it was the only seating immediately available and it featured not only the same food but a real 180 degree CARRERA MARBLE countertop).

we’re very fancy

In any event, seated right next to me eating THE MOST FABULOUS food, was this very lovely, friendly and much more hip looking lesbian couple from London enjoying a pizza we knew we immediately had to order and, well many laughs we (well, I) clearly knew we had to be a part of.

After striking up a conversation, within minutes I’d somehow forgotten why we were there, tuned out the noise from any number of obnoxious Hollywood types within earshot and became thoroughly entranced with the very hip, funny London lesbianers’ tours of Venice Beach, the Hollywood sign, and tale of one particular dish at some other restaurant I’d been to many times that the most infectiously happy and hipper of the pair made me promise to go back and try because it would literally change my life.

me… 90% of the time

I felt better until it was almost time to leave when I suddenly and uncontrollably blurted out:

I just want you to know that Trump – so many of us didn’t support him. Please don’t think of us like that.

At which point, she put her hand on mine, looked me in the eye and replied:

Oh love, we know. We all know. Please, don’t take that on yourself.

MY EMOTIONS

She smiled, I nodded, she paid the check and she turned away. Then she got up and I noticed she was wearing a HUGE yet very stylishly hip diamond ring that sparkled her way towards the light by the door.

Wow, I thought, that’s quite a rock, no wonder she’s so happy.

Of course, as we know, nothing is ever that simple. Much as we’d like it to be.

Doris Day – “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”

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Giving Thanks

There is a perfect little gem of a movie at your local theatre right now called Ladybird that perfectly evokes the real spirit of Thanksgiving. Or, at least, what it should be.

No, this is not because it has turkey dinners, enviable family gatherings or even any one real specific major revelation about what or whom we should all be majorly thankful for in life.

I mean, is there one such precious individual or experience that you can pinpoint from your past or present? Certainly I can’t think of one.

So instead what the immensely insightful writer-director Greta Gerwig (who will now finally be shed of the loaded and limiting moniker of “go-to indie actress”) has given us is a whole series of people and memories and hurts and pleasures from a fictionalized vision of her own last year of high school that trusts US to look inward and draw our own conclusions.

so angsty #inthebestway

Who was a jerk and who was wrong? Were you actually born into this family or unwillingly dropped into one of nature’s most regrettable mistakes? Are you right about more things than you’ve given yourself credit for or is that just your guilt or subconscious trying to sell you that there might have been two or more moments when THEY could have known better?

Of course we all have our THEYs but they differ depending on the age we are and what we’re experiencing.

This was the point of Ladybird for me and why it feels exactly right for Thanksgiving 2017.   We should be grateful for all of it – every last moment – for THEY have brought us to where WE are today.

If that’s not what we want we can choose to do better.

If that’s what we like we can look back in joy and appreciation – or in fear that it will inevitably one day all disintegrate and turn into dust and sand. Or we will.

a little light (and dark) humor

This is hardly revelatory stuff. Except in moments that you need to be reminded of it. Then it is.

It is also why the coming of age movie will always be a timeless and enduring genre that each generation or subset of a generation – yes that means anyone reading this – defines for itself.

No – this does not mean be grateful for the AWFUL (fill in this blank with the myriad sickening moments you’ve barely lived through or witnessed of your choice.

ah relief!

Please. This is not in any way meant to be inspirational and we have a whole host of upcoming holidays from which to draw those lessons from. But sometimes art – and yeah, many films these days still qualify as such – can remind all of us that what we get in any given year is usually a mixed bag that we figure out how to uniquely proceed through or get stuck in. It is this, all of this, that specifically makes us, individually – US.

And in the moments they are happening, we are usually the worst judges of US.

It seems not insightful but merely truthful to write this at the end of what has been a very difficult year for many of US – especially in the U.S. (Note: And its territories).

One supposes there are some – okay, at most a very small plurality – who get up each day singing the 2017 equivalent of Zippity-Doo-Da. But if you live in LA as I do, or in the NY or San Francisco areas, where many of my friends and relatives are located, it’s a tough lift to imagine.

Can we just stop with the term “Real Americans”? #dreamsfor2018

And yet –

I would like to see the negative events of 2017 – starting with Trumpism, moving through various climate and/or gun-related disasters, then segueing on to the public exposure of the nauseating ordinariness of sexual abuse in our culture, and finally ending with each of our own specific misfortunes in the last ten months – as part of a continuum.

They are part of what we are and have become – for sure.

But they DO NOT tell our ENTIRE story.

It’s too simplistic to define four years by 10 months or a single, seemingly cacophonic event. Just as it is way too reductive to define a young woman’s trajectory in life by the jerky boy she got rejected by in high school or the harsh, withholding mother who never understood her.

Even if your mother is played by the divine Laurie Metcalf

Ladybird respects her heroine enough not to underestimate her and it feels, at this time of the year, that we might all resist the temptation to pull the rug out from under ourselves or our worlds before our final scenes are played.

Some months ago I was seated at the bar of a hip restaurant in West Hollywood a dear friend had taken me to in order to cheer me up after some disconcerting news. (Note: Yes, the BAR – it was the only seating immediately available and it featured not only the same food but a real 180 degree CARRERA MARBLE countertop).

we’re very fancy

In any event, seated right next to me eating THE MOST FABULOUS food, was this very lovely, friendly and much more hip looking lesbian couple from London enjoying a pizza we knew we immediately had to order and, well many laughs we (well, I) clearly knew we had to be a part of.

After striking up a conversation, within minutes I’d somehow forgotten why we were there, tuned out the noise from any number of obnoxious Hollywood types within earshot and became thoroughly entranced with the very hip, funny London lesbianers’ tours of Venice Beach, the Hollywood sign, and tale of one particular dish at some other restaurant I’d been to many times that the most infectiously happy and hipper of the pair made me promise to go back and try because it would literally change my life.

me… 90% of the time

I felt better until it was almost time to leave when I suddenly and uncontrollably blurted out:

I just want you to know that Trump – so many of us didn’t support him. Please don’t think of us like that.

At which point, she put her hand on mine, looked me in the eye and replied:

Oh love, we know. We all know. Please, don’t take that on yourself.

MY EMOTIONS

She smiled, I nodded, she paid the check and she turned away. Then she got up and I noticed she was wearing a HUGE yet very stylishly hip diamond ring that sparkled her way towards the light by the door.

Wow, I thought, that’s quite a rock, no wonder she’s so happy.

Of course, as we know, nothing is ever that simple. Much as we’d like it to be.

Doris Day – “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”

The Way We Are

When you love someone, from Roosevelt to me, you go deaf, dumb and blind.

That’s a line from one of the great Hollywood love stories – the 1973 Barbra Streisand-Robert Redford film, The Way We Were.

It is said by the very blonde, flawed and handsome Hollywood screenwriter Hubbell Gardner to his much more passionate and intelligent wife, the unabashedly ethnic Katie Morofsky, as a roundabout admission that he’s cheated on her.

The reveal of his sexual antics was bad enough after years of her unwavering belief in him. But what made it worse was what it represented – the latest of a long string of lies that undeniably proved the person she knew all these years was not a person at all. He was merely a mirage she created for herself.

A mirage… with insanely good hair

The real guy, in fact, was someone much harsher and uglier – someone indifferent to all sorts of immorality in not only others but in himself. Someone she did not really know at all.

In light of that —

Here’s a partial list of recently exposed, accused and extreme sexual predators in the entertainment industry with multiple victims and/or accusers:

Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Brett Ratner, Jeremy Piven, Ed Westwick, Steven Seagal, Louis C.K. and producer-writer Gary Goddard. 

Yes, I’ve limited the group to the most RECENT and the most FAMOUS. Certainly, there are more. A lot more. And a lot more to come.

I need a drink… or 12

Here’s a similar list in politics:

Electoral College POTUS Donald J. Trump, Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore, Fox’s recently deposed Bill O’Reilly and Fox’s recently deceased leader Roger Ailes, journalist and former MSNBC commentator Mark (Game Change) Halperin, famed New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier and former NY Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Note: I’ve also left out former POTUS George H.W. Bush from the list because he’s 93, wheelchair bound and his accusers have so far limited his violations to recent ass-grabbing and sexual innuendo from his wheelchair.

Uh, yeah, this IS where we ARE at the moment.

#SAD

The Way We Were screenwriter Arthur Laurents was writing about Hollywood and the glittery protective wall that shields many of its most lauded inhabitants all those many years ago. This was long before I got here. As did people who came before him like F. Scott Fitzgerald. And so on and as far back as the industry existed.

Yet here I sit, a writer with nowhere near their credits, about to say what they and others described, a lot more directly.

Be careful about whom you admire and be careful before you agree to meet them. If they are in the handful of the top three or five you most admire they can’t help but disappoint you – and sometimes most grandly. Because what any of us admire in a public figure in any field is not about WHO they are but what they’ve ACHIEVED in their individual fields.

Many of us, including myself at times, like to say one’s achievements are a part of them – like kindness, a great sense of humor or looks. Sadly, that’s a lie.

Talent, a mastery of a subject and glaringly high-level success, is a marker of work not personality traits. Most certainly, they are not markers of a great person, a bad person or even, in the end, a mere average person. They are outward achievements that vault an individual into the public eye and provide those old-fashioned values like fame and fortune.

But they say little to NOTHING about who that INDIVIDUAL really is at his or her core – or whether they are even a guy or gal you’d choose to hang out with, much less call a friend, role model or even object of adoration.

What they only are is produce – from that person.

Living in the ruins

Certainly, this is confusing and downright un-American. Not to mention, it’s disheartening as far as popular culture is concerned. This is why I don’t tell my students about the evening I spent in the eighties with one of THE greatest and most famous artists of the 20th century. Or a work experience I had years later with one of THE great music stars of the last five decades. Or the several months in which I was paired with that renowned and supposedly sensitive writer-director-producer some time after that on some other project that will go unmentioned.

Disasters, all of them, and not because I wasn’t trying. Yet each was horribly disappointing (if not horrifying) in their own way and to this day I still can’t understand how three so brilliantly talented individuals whose work I admired that much could be so downright……ugh…well, I’ll let you fill in the blank.

Remember this formula! #keepexpectationslow

Which then left me with a small but personal dilemma I suspect many of us are going through at the moment with the above names and those I left out. How do we look at their work now? Do we boycott them for political and/or personal reasons? What is the line for boycott – accusations, convictions, suspicion, personal opinion or just a general mass zeitgeist feeling?

Well this was a bad idea from the start…

If you eschew one of them do you eschew them all?

How long do they have to be in the doghouse? For life? Maybe so. Especially for the most egregious.

But is there any room for reparations among the lesser crimes? Or can any of these crimes even be lesser? And how much do apologies really mean?

Certain apologies are enough to get you that Iron Man money

Also – Do we get special dispensation for the ONE artist whose work has helped us through hard times or served as a creative guide for our entire professional lives??? Why not? Or…why???

This is easy for me given the present list of all of the newest offenders mentioned above. I can easily live without their work. And for that matter, I still don’t understand why Hollywood has forgiven the sexual abuse and anti-Semitic rantings of Mel Gibson not that many years ago — so much so that they cast him in the current Paramount mainstream comedy Daddy’s Home 2??? Though perhaps that’s punishment in itself.

What she said. #flopflopflop

On the other hand, I still watch Woody Allen movies and have gone to see numerous films Roman Polanski has directed. One of these guys has been accused by his daughter of childhood sexual abuse and the other fled this country in the 1970s for giving drugs and alcohol to a 13 year old and having sex with her.

So yeah, there’s all of that for me to NOT be proud of. In fact, the complicity feels even worse when I write it and read it over. Though I fear if I only watched the work of people in the industry who I knew and morally approved of, it’d either be a very short list or I’d keel over in boredom. Maybe both.

I swear if there is a Tom Hanks scandal I will scream #teamRita

This is not to say there are not all kinds of cool, moral, wonderful and faaaabulously talented artists I’ve both met personally and have yet to meet that are at the top of their games creatively and who never cease to bore you – or me. And plenty enough of the opposite to bypass.

It’s only to admit that we now live in an age where the behavior of artists will be inexorably linked to their art – which will in turn determine how, where and by how many people it will be consumed.

Well, that should be interesting. Or not.

Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”

Spin Cycle

There was no such thing as SPIN when I was a grad student in journalism at Northwestern University.

What?

No really – there wasn’t.

Oh, there were lies and bullshit and half-truths – sometimes by interview subjects, almost always from public relations flacks and, on the most difficult of stories, a consistent combination of all three. But our job as journalists, we were told, was to sift through ALL of the information and present the facts of a story, as we understood them, in the most coherent way possible so our readers could then draw their own conclusions.

OK, this method was frowned upon

– There were no alternative facts.

– There were no versions of Fox News and MSNBC with commentators telling us versions of the story we wanted to hear.

– There was no social media from which to consume fake news and no politicians or public figures in this country who would dare to deny even the most basic rudimentary truths that everyone knew were, well, TRUE.

That was what it was like in the late 1970s – a few years after Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of his knowledge, involvement and lies about Watergate and the dirty tricks he employed in order to win his election to the presidency.

seems quaint now

There was a demand for truth.

One wonders if that is even the case these days since there are so many more pleasant alternatives regardless of what side of the political or moral spectrum you are on.

For instance:

— It is much more pleasing to believe that global warming is inconclusive or even a hoax by elite scientists than to believe the Earth’s temperatures will make our planet uninhabitable by the end of the century.

— It’s also much more desirable to believe this doomsday scenario is nothing more than a liberal talking point than to acknowledge an exhaustive research report from our 13 government agencies that conclusively acknowledges our rising temperatures are, indeed, man made.

Nothing wrong here. Nothing at all.

But no need to stick merely to politics.

— Who in Hollywood wants to believe the 57 women and counting who have accused one of our most powerful industry figures over the last three decades – Harvey Weinstein – of various combinations of rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment?  Even if you loathe him, and many did long before this came to light, how do you acknowledge the community was so scared silent about his actions for so long when you were one of the many thousands who heard the rumors?

Are our careers all that much more important to us?

sigh

Yes, that was rhetorical.

— But if you don’t want to answer that then do answer how everyone could’ve heard about, and in many cases witnessed, Kevin Spacey’s thing for young boys for all those decades and done nothing? (Note: See Bill Cosby. Or so many others).

And while we’re shedding a light on my fellow liberals – Hollywood and otherwise – let’s talk about some spin on something far less serious.

Excerpts of Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile’s new book have just come to light and in one of the most publicized sections she writes about how she considered replacing Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, less than two months before the election, after Mrs. Clinton fainted going into a limousine following her attendance at the NYC 9-11 memorial ceremonies.

  1. The mere advancement of this statement implies Ms. Brazile would have had the power to make this happen – which she did not.

Really not the time for this Donna.

  1. Imagine all of the things you considered under stress, including MURDER, and then consider how much of a chance they had of becoming a reality.
  2. Then consider the lessons I mentioned from journalism school and decide whether you are really telling the truth about all of the above (Note: Especially the part about you replacing her with Joe Biden for president and…Corey Booker as his vice-president???) or whether you are merely spinning a story for your own salacious benefit i.e. in order to sell more of YOUR OWN BOOKS

Not ready to buy my t-shirt quite yet

Research and analytical skills are important but so is context, instinct and experience.

As adults, we’ve all been human for more than several decades so it is in all of our collective powers to surmise THE REAL TRUTH when something doesn’t sound or feel right.

We might not have the journalistic patience or skill to prove our cases for all of the above but we can use reason to decide for ourselves exactly when we’re being spun.

To whit —

If many of the top people in the very American company you co-owned were proven to have met secretly with numerous Russians yet professed no memory of those meetings after first publicly denying them, would you believe them?

Are we all in a Men in Black sequel? #20yearoldMovieReference

#NyetRuskies?

Or would you think you were being spun in an adult version of that nauseating amusement park ride you were barely able to endure as a child?

A talented writer friend of mine named Mikko Alanne, who also happens to be a former student at the college I teach at, created the eight-part National Geographic miniseries The Long Road Home. It debuts on Nov. 7 and is based on ABC reporter Martha Raddatz’s best-selling book that takes you INSIDE the U.S. involvement in the post-Iraq War in 2004.

a must watch

The show is riveting, dramatic and sometimes difficult to watch because it shows us the real HUMAN cost of war and death and bloodshed and ideals – on all sides – and allows the audience to come to its own conclusions by re-enacting just the FACTS as much as possible. Without spinning.

Yes, stories are condensed and judgments were made. It’s certainly not a documentary and definitely not a literal re-enactment of EVERYTHING that happened. This is not the purpose of television or even film drama, whose objective is merely to get to the SPIRIT of what is true as it entertains and hopefully, in some way, informs.

I’d settle for that instead of what we’re being fed now by too many real-life sources. The half-truths, the lies and the ongoing general line of bullshit is making not only us but all of our heads worldwide spin so fast and so quickly that it really is as if we are all on one giant collective Tilt-A-Whirl ride with no way to get off.

Try not to hurl

But as any adult knows there is always a way to get off.

Blood Sweat & Tears – “Spinning Wheel”

Anger Management

Are you angry yet?

Of course you are. We all are. No matter what side we’re on. It’s those kinds of times.

It’s in moments – or eras – like these that it’s nice to remember what one very wise psychiatrist once told me: If you allow yourself to feel your anger, really feel it, it will eventually turn into something else.

Angry cleaning, anyone?

Murderous rage? Well perhaps, maybe. Though the overwhelming majority of us never act on those impulses. More likely, we act out, most often towards our friends, relatives, therapists or – ourselves.   

That SOB stopped in the middle of the road is — on their f-n cell phone? F them! (Honk) Oh, of course, it’s a BMW.

Jesus H Christ, can’t YOU ever take the g-d dmned garbage out? Just once?!!! 

I hope Trump and every privileged straight white man over 50, 60 or 70 just dies.

I am a gold medalist

Fun as that game is (and God knows it can be endlessly satisfying for hours or months on end) there is still something to be said for actually getting angry about the very thing or person we’re actually ANGRY about and seeing what happens.

This weekend I watched the local PBS telecast (Note: While there still IS a PBS) of the Tony-Award winning Broadway musical Falsettos.

Get cultured, y’all. #PBS

It’s a filmed version of the 2016 revival of a small musical originally based on the life of a gay man married to a WOMAN first conceived by composer/lyricist William Finn in the late seventies in a little known piece called In Trousers – which eventually spawned several more musicals (March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland) containing those same and other characters in many other new off-Broadway and touring shows.

That is until all of these characters and stories (both gay, straight and now even pre-pubescent) met the tragedy of AIDS in the eighties and eventually morphed into Falsettos – an amalgamation of all of the above that emerged as an unlikely treatise about the times by depicting one of the first even–handed, real life portrayals of gay and straight people living as a sort of new and extended American family.

Bonus points for a FANTASTIC cast #imeanyouandrewrannels #youtoochristianborle

It sounds almost quaint and most certainly inadequate to recall Mr. Finn’s masterwork in such a fashion because of the amount of anger, rage and artistic boldness it took at the time in order to create these cheery, theatrical, operetta-like ditties that initially hung together as nothing more than cleverly sung, anecdotal accounts of contemporary urban life.

From where I was sitting in several big cities in the late 70s, 80s and early 90s at the time, there was little cheery or accepting in mainstream musicals, film or television where gay and straight people in families were concerned and certainly no reason to think there’d ever be. But that didn’t stop Mr. Finn and the many unknown thousands of others we don’t even know about at the time from taking their frustration and yes, often painful rage over the situation back then and turning it into something meaningful, smart and, most surprisingly, joyous by merely using their talents to tell the truth.

Probably more productive than what I normally do

Little did they know the times would grow darker and the chasm between the gay and straight communities would greatly worsen before it got better at the hands of a pandemic that finally forced mainstream America to begin to confront the truths that it had long locked away in the closet.

If the times were handing them angry, tragic endings, at least they could give us a human context from which to feel, understand and hopefully learn and evolve from it – if even a little bit. For who better to depict it for us than the very storytellers who had led (and lived) with these truths to begin with?

All this is to say – the angrier we all get about our current realities – of TRUMP; of SEXUAL ABUSE; of RACISM; of ECONOMIC INJUSTICE – pick a card, any card – the more we have an obligation to tell OUR truths about it.

AMEN!

For some of us that means marching in the streets literally and for others of us it means marching to our computers; or Congress people; or neighbors; or colleagues; or friends and family; or even strangers and screaming and/or sharing about what we believe is right – and fair and just – and what is not.

Or simply creating with our talents or speaking out with words and actions our VERSIONS of a just world.

Presenting our side of the story. Fighting for it.

Initially it will feel like a big who cares and it may indeed get worse before it gets better.

But like that very smart shrink said to me – anger is not stagnant once the cat is let out of the bag. It WON’T stay the same. It WILL morph into something else – not necessarily artistic or even beautifully redemptive – though that can happen. (Note: See Falsettos. Literally).

Embrace your inner Beyonce #lemonade4ever

Instead it can merely be a CATALYST for change – though perhaps only in ONE person’s mind or earshot. But that in turn can move into SOMETHING ELSE. And then AGAIN. Until you have, if not a movement – at least some momentum AWAY from mere – ANGER.

I don’t know about you but for me that’s the beginning of an antidote towards something. And better than where I was yesterday. Which was only angry.

Trust me. I once saw it all happen from a front row seat. And history, if nothing else, consistently repeats itself.

Alanis Morissette – “You Oughta Know”

Give it a Rest

Do you ever just need to rest? Pull the covers over your head and hibernate? Put your feet up on the sofa and settle in for a long day’s binge? (Netflix that is, but chocolate works too). Ever need to check out, even if just for a few hours, from the daily deluge of crap that inundates us everyday? Or just close the blinds and pretend it’s still nighttime and the sun is taking an extra siesta with you?

My bones are aching today and my mind is mush. Let’s all just embrace the exhaustion and give it a rest for a week.

But don’t worry — I’ll be back… and well-rested.

Watch out.

Sesame Street – “Take a Rest”

When in Doubt… Pizza

THE EQUIPMENT:

1 pizza stone (any size or shape – it doesn’t matter. I have a square one. It looks like a one-inch thick big ceramic square). Keep it in the oven at all times. But measure your oven prior to buying it to make sure it will fit!

1 pizza peel – that’s the wood plank thing with a handle you assemble the pizza on, slide it onto the stone with and then use to pull it out of the oven.

1-2 sheets of parchment paper – it looks like wax paper but it isn’t waxy and you can get it at ANY grocery store (usually next to aluminum foil). You put it on top of the pizza peel when you assemble the pizza dough/ingredients and then slide the paper/pizza via the peel into the oven when the pizza bakes so the pizza dough won’t stick to the stone.

1 pizza cutter – That round wheel cutter thing with a small handle on the end. You’ve seen it at every pizza place on EARTH and can buy it at any grocery store inexpensively. But if you don’t have one, just use a knife.

But DEFINITELY NO FORKS! #sosowrong

THE INGREDIENTS:

1 pack Trader Joe’s pizza dough (wheat or plain)

1/4  jar of Mario Batali’s tomato basil sauce warmed up slightly

A few handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese  (I often used Trader Joe’s organic low-fat mozzarella or FRESH mozzarella cheese from any grocery – or sometimes a combination of both)

A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes in different colors cut in half

A few handfuls of fresh mushrooms (I prefer crimini but regular button mushrooms work)

1 – 1 1/2 pre-cooked turkey/chicken sausages (Most markets like Trader Joe’s Whole Foods, Gelsons, etc. carry them) sliced

1/2 to one full cup of fresh basil leaves

1-2 tablespoons of oregano

You can assemble and cook this pizza A LOT quicker than you can get it delivered and it will taste twice as good.

  1. Crank up your oven as HIGH as it goes. For most HOME ovens this is 450-500 degrees plus. Depending on your oven this could take up to 10-15 mins. (Note: The higher the heat the crispier the crust).

USE CAUTION #obviously

  1. At the same time, take the dough out of the refrigerator.   You can keep the Trader Joe’s dough in the fridge for a few days prior to cooking and they sell it all the time. You can also buy fresh or frozen dough at many supermarkets ( e.g. Whole Foods) these days.
  2. Now take out the pizza peel and put 1-2 pieces of parchment paper on top of it that covers its flat section (mine is wood but they also come in metal).
  3. After 10-15 mins. resting out of the fridge, the dough will be more malleable. Begin to move the dough back and forth in your hands so it widens a bit to a bigger circle. Then place it on the parchment paper and with your fingers slowly widen it as much as you can to cover the paper. You can even use a rolling pin to spread it further even though veteran pizza cookers HATE when I say this. But screw them. (Note: You can rub some olive oil on parchment paper prior to laying the dough on it to make it less sticky. But you don’t need to. Once the paper is in the oven it usually releases the dough).

If you can’t press the olives yourself, store bought is fine. #barefootcontessarules

  1. Once the dough looks like a raw pizza pie, ladle or slowly pour the sauce onto the dough. Then spread it around with a ladle or spoon. You might not need ¼ or a jar but I like it saucy (no surprise there). Yes, you can make your own sauce but you will NOT do better that Mario’s. And it keeps in the refrigerator for at least several weeks after using it –so you can make another pie.

or if you’re in the mood for a cocktail #um #sure

  1. Now sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the dough. If you’re using fresh you can place small pieces of it in various spots and it will spread. I don’t like it overly cheesy (pizza, that is) but do it to YOUR taste.
  2. Now place/sprinkle on the shrooms, tomatoes and sausage. Try to alternate the ingredients around the pie so each slice gets you a bit of each. No, you don’ t have to use all three. It’s YOUR pizza. This is what I do. Or feel free to add other ingredients. But please, No PINEAPPLE chunks! I can’t even…

JUST SAY NO

  1. Now place fresh basil leaves between the ingredients all over the pie. It will look festive!
  2. Now sprinkle dry oregano over the pie. It’s the final touch.
  3. Okay – don’t be afraid. Just pick up the pizza peel that has the pie on it. Walk to the oven. Open the oven. Then quickly, with a thrusting motion, slide the parchment paper with the pizza on top onto the pizza stone and quickly close the oven door.

Is it ready yet???

  1. If you’re using wheat pizza dough it should take about 10-11 mins. With plain dough it’s usually between 7-8 mins. But EVERY oven is different. So periodically check to make sure it’s not burning. But DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN CONSTANTLY. This lets the heat out and the pie will get screwed up.

It’s happening

  1. Okay – when time’s up, open the oven door wearing an oven mitt. Hold the pizza peel and slide it under the pizza or the parchment paper and when it’s securely on the peel, pull that sucker out of the oven.
  2. Give it a minute and then slice. Oh, and turn off the oven and give it an hour to cool down before you touch anything.

Serve with green salad and lots of red wine. Or not.

Often pizza is enough.

Wear a bib!

This might look like a lot of steps but is incredibly simple.

DO NOT ORDER FROM PIZZA HUT.

NEVER STOP THERE AGAIN.

DON’T EVEN LOOK AT THE SIGN.

You’re welcome.

Dean Martin – “That’s Amore”