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”

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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”

What’s Happening (and What Happened)

It isn’t easy to speak out against injustice when it threatens your livelihood, your friends and family, or your physical and/or psychological self.

But what can be worse is NOT speaking out when any or all of the above are being threatened or at stake.

As news publicly broke this week of showbiz mogul-producer Harvey Weinstein being a serial sexual predator – in rolling stories and testimonies chock full of the kind of salacious details one’s eyes and brain wish they could un-see but certainly never will – I was ironically reading What Happened, Hillary Clinton’s book explaining her 2016 presidential election loss.

No, the irony did not escape me.

No man can write with much authority about the very particular challenges women face when a powerful man tries to crush her and centuries of patriarchal power automatically conspire to protect him and ensure his victory and her suppression. But en masse pushback and testimony from both women AND men can begin to slowly dismantle this kind of oppressive traditionalism and hopefully one day assure this kind of bull crap doesn’t continue.

oh it does… just ask abbi and ilana

As a gay guy, I never bought into the macho stance of patriarchal power despite the fact that I’ve clearly benefitted from it. I am not threatened by powerful women. In fact, I usually gravitate towards them.   Before it was fashionable, they gave me a chance and didn’t judge me by an unintentional swish of a hand or an unconscious sibilance from my mouth.

Is it obvious?

I’d like to say my attitude was merely because I was raised by this type of female and am an innately nice guy but in my heart of hearts I know it was more than that. Each of us are a product of our environments AND experiences and in turn are imbued with both learned and inbred prejudices we have a responsibility to recognize, dismantle and not make excuses for.

So as a male who is close to Mr. Weinstein’s age and who also grew up in his hometown of Queens I can say with great authority that he’s totally full of S*IT when he chalks up his actions to statements like:

I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.

Yes, Amy, he REALLY said that.

Well – that I know of.

… and of course what I saw on Mad Men #poorbobbie #utzchips

Of course, this is part of the problem. We just can’t fathom someone we know fondly in one context being a predatory pig in another. Or even if we can imagine it, we don’t want to believe it. Or even if we believe it, we’re not sure it’s our business or what we can do about it. Or even if we can do something about it, if it’s worth the risk because surely we can’t fight someone with all of that fame, power and money.

This goes for women as well as men, albeit for different reasons.

Which brings us to Hillary Clinton.

You rang?

There is no need to itemize the litany of predatory jabs Mrs. Clinton has been hit with over many decades of public life based on her gender. It’s bad enough to be accused of not being able to do the same job as a far less qualified man (Note: Or man/boy serial sexual predator), or slammed merely for the tone of your voice; likability; hair, makeup and wardrobe; or lack of…stamina?

Still, it’s quite another brand of gender politics when your man/boy opponent goes so far as to weaponize your husband’s former mistresses (LITERALLY) in front of you and the world in order to somehow get the public to place the moral blame on you for his dalliances during a presidential debate.

I can’t even…

Hillary has many things to say about what happened in her book, which manages to finally cut through all the doctrinaire thinking about her and her campaign and do the one thing she seemed unable to do for enough people during the campaign – humanize her. And that’s a value judgment coming from a guy who always saw her as human. At least, I thought I always did.

Which made me wonder, what is it about what she writes in this book that makes her seem even…more human? Perhaps it’s passages like these, when she reflects on her feelings the morning of her concession speech:

… I wear my composure like a suit of armor, for better or worse. In some ways, it felt like I had been training for this latest feat of self-control for decades. Still, every time I hugged another sobbing friend – or one stoically blinking back tears, which was almost worse – I had to fight back a wave of sadness that threatened to swallow me whole. At every step, I felt that I had let everyone down. Because I had.

Excuse me while I do this for the rest of time.

There is nothing more humanizing for us than a woman not only admitting defeat but blaming herself for it.   One hates to believe this is why certain sections of her memoir paint a more appealing Hillary but one also can’t fail to recognize it greatly contributes to the reason.

Nevertheless, it feels a lot better to focus on what Mrs. Clinton (Note: Why do I feel disrespectful consistently calling her Hillary?) humbly and wisely writes about learning from one’s mistakes and the ability we all have to use our virtues in order to soldier on for a better tomorrow.

Margaritas also help

Quoting a long passage from one of her favorite books, Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son (Note: Imagine that, a presidential nominee who reads!) about how she began to personally recover from her loss, she reflects:

Nouwen calls that the “discipline of gratitude.” To me, it means not just being grateful for the good things, because that’s easy, but also to be grateful for the hard things too. To be grateful even for our flaws, because in the end, they make us stronger by giving us a chance to reach beyond our grasp.

My task was to be grateful for the humbling experience of losing the presidential election. Humility can be such a painful virtue. In the Bible, Saint Paul reminds us that we all see through a glass darkly because of our humbling limitations. That’s why faith – the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen – requires a leap. It’s because of our limitations and imperfections that we must reach beyond ourselves, to God and to one another.

No, The Chair has not gone soft. I cop to not being a particularly faithful person in the traditionally religious sense. Still, here’s what coming of age in the 60s and 70s did for me – it gave me an undying faith that love and peace and caring could eventually win the day.

that…. and everything in the musical Hair

Sure I might not always remember this, and it will take time and we all might not be around to see the final result. But if time teaches you anything it’s the value of baby steps, the path of incremental change and the revelation that evolution means this all keeps going ad infinitum (hopefully).

Mr. Weinstein’s behavior is, sadly, just one more mere iteration of Mr. Trump’s. It’s not about who is more ill or who is more dangerous. It’s about all of us speaking out for what we know is right the moment we realize something is very wrong.

Tonight Show Female Writers Read Thank You Notes to Hillary Clinton

Idiot Boxing

It’s the new television season.

Whoopee!!

Television has always been a comfort zone for me – the equivalent of a soft, cushy chair (Note: Hee, hee) even when it’s dramatically tragic and making me think.

Of course, in a way, thinking is my comfort zone. Contemplating the fate of the world and trying to figure it all out may not always be reassuring, but excavating dark thoughts out into the open air – or page – at least frees them from doing further damage.

This is not to say experiencing the funny and absurd and entertaining is not an equally effective escape. It’s only to admit that both light and darkness do the job, albeit in different ways.

Lord (or whoever you deem your higher power to be) knows we need some escape right now.

No not you!!! I can’t bear to look at you right now #fantasyPrez #damnyousorkin

One can’t write anything at the moment and ignore the Madness of our Crazy King Trump – the man who hate tweets the mayor of Puerto Rico as hundreds or perhaps thousands of her constituents are dying from lack of power, water and food. Her crime: begging the bureaucracy of what she still says is the greatest country in the world (that would be us – the U.S.) for not cutting through red tape fast enough in order to literally save her people.

Here was the immediate response of our Electoral College POTUS:

My response:

Sure, it did make me feel better.   For like – a minute.

That is why we need television. Among so many other reasons.

So it was with hopeful anticipation that I tuned in for the newest diversions and deep thinking the small screen had to offer this past week and hit a few bright spots. The key phrase being: a few. There just isn’t enough deep thinking and diversion for my needs so far.

Still, let’s start with the good news.

Livin’ up to the hype

Will and Grace didn’t disappoint and made me LOL. (Note: You all know what that means, right?) Any show that can more than a decade later once again start with the title characters slaying a game of celebrity to the tune of bon mots like:

Will: She’s….don’t get me started..

Grace: Jada-Pinkett Smith!!

Well, that’s the pop culture dessert for me. It didn’t hurt when that was followed by:

Will: We want to love her but she makes it impossible.

Grace: Caitlyn Jenner!!

Yes, there are the Trump jokes, the egocentric jabs at each others’ clear and many shortcomings and the exaggerated stereotypes of representation of almost anyone in its orbit. But somehow this show has always made us (me?) feel that it’s not only in on the joke but is itself actually the #1 target of all the bitchiness. I don’t care what the naysayers speak: A plus for making me scream out with joy for once this year. Aside from that night when…oh, never mind.

She’s the real deal #andImtellingyou

The Voice – Most of you know I’m a frustrated singer who can sort of carry a tune but could never call what comes out of my mouth singing. Yet if I could call it that and I could choose my voice it would sound exactly like new Voice judge Jennifer Hudson. Sure, that would be an odd sight and sound but what makes a great singer are those very oddities.

Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus and Blake Shelton are still there, the talent seemed particularly promising and the genius of those revolving chairs still work. And who knew Jennifer Hudson was not only a genius vocalist but so sassy, smart and daring? She only seemed just sort of sweet and cool when she was interviewed (Note: Which truly is enough on its own when you can…SING).

#truth

But anyone who can throw shoes at performers to tell them how much she loves them and give a white guy contestant demonstrably more vocal soul in an impromptu 60 second tutor fest is invited to my house at least twice a week for the next three months.   At which time, I will have a modicum more soul and hopefully sound a little better.

Literally giving her left foot

The Deuce – I was fascinated by the NYC porn industry in the 1970s and not just because I was a teenager. There was something about its sleazy coolness and open arms of non-judgmental anything goes in an age where our institutions were anything but that – sparkled. Yes, sparkled.

I remember as a kid the glittering marquees near 42d St., the smiles from the hookers and pimps as you’d walk by who made you sort of feel like they were only serious to a point, and the tongue-in-cheek abandon many of its performers exhibited onscreen and in public that made it…well, sparkle. At least to this adolescent.

The hair, the clothes, the moustaches #youknowyouloveit

This show captures none of that, with the exception of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s fun and quite brilliant performance as Candy – the archetypal hooker with a sort of heart of gold. She manages to get the whole spirit of what’s going on while the rest of the cast and the writers and the directors seem caught in an imitative world of dreariness that begs to be seen as important. Maybe it’ll get better but, don’t dress. (Note: Get it?)

The return of This Is Us and How to Get Away With Murder

Keeping the kleenex close #waterworks

These are two of my favorite series and they couldn’t be more different. Still, they share one major plotline this season — the arc around THE BABY. In the latter it’s the who took my baby?!! (Note: Clearly, it’s not the dingo, though you wish it would or did) and in the former it’s we’re gonna adopt another baby whether you like it or not but…okay, maybe instead we’ll foster a teenager instead!!!

The problem with both these storylines is not that you and I don’t like babies – they’re okay. It’s that neither of them is truly in keeping with what these series are about. HTGAWM is not about the immediate fate of the toddler but what’s happened to the toddlers as adults. This is Us’ primary conceit centers on key moments in the lives of each of its three babies in childhood, adolescence and adulthood – but now they’re gonna give us a FOURTH kid?

Another kid??? #srsly

Nevertheless, kudos to 93-year-old Cicely Tyson for making it look so easy to be that real and compelling on HTGAWM, and someone give Milo Ventimiglia a long heartfelt hug (Note: Me, again? Please?) for figuring out how to be the best version of the flawed father we all long for in our imaginary families.

Young SheldonAs a smart kid with more than a few phobias I had to watch it. And after catching Jim Parsons promote it on Colbert as he spoke about his husband and what love can do for a gay man’s soul I really had to watch it – even if both young and adult Sheldon are not gay.

I want to like this. Repeat. I want to like this.

Let’s be kind – it’s not for me though the kid is cute and clever and very believable.  And it wasn’t cause it took place in east Texas. It just feels like…it’s trying too hard? Why not let young Sheldon more fully fly his freak flag and have the humor come out of reality rather than attempts at zesty comic set-ups and payoffs. Then, even for non-Big Bang Theory fans, the show could have potential.

American Horror Story: Cult – Gosh, it’s ridiculous. But not solely in the AHS franchise way. How can a camp series be too ridiculous with such a cool idea as the horror of the Trump election? Well, let’s start with stunt casting.

Having Chaz Bono as a redneck store manager Trumpster who would rather saw his arm off than stay home on poll day, or Billy Eichner as a gay (bisexual?) trainer at a gym who would rather commit murder than move out of his house – makes you think only of how clever it is to have Chaz and Billy on AHS. Except it isn’t. Cause these storylines are just plain…dumb.

We are definitely not on the street anymore, Billy.

Evan Peters is great as the incarnation of a blue-haired Charles Manson-like nihilist and Sarah Paulson doesn’t know how to NOT be in the moment, as they teach you in acting class. But there is no actor great enough to sell the ludicrousness of the smiley-face versions of killer clowns running amuck in Red State America.

I fear this is why they hate us.

Full Disclaimer: No I have not yet watched Ken Burns’ 18-hour, 10 episode documentary The Vietnam War, which is on PBS and streaming and, I hear, is fantastic. Yes, I know all about the Nixon/Trump parallels but I just wasn’t ready for that much thinking this week.  Soon, I will be, though. I think. Maybe.

Black Flag – “TV Party”