Ah! on Thanksgiving day....
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.
What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?
~John Greenleaf Whittier
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Here's the Recipe, Now Let Me Eat in Peace!!
At our mini-dinner party last night, all the guests expressed their dismay that I had not posted the recipe for the Chile Rellenos Pie I made a few weeks ago. So to keep the peace, here it is, directly from AllRecipes.com:
Chiles Rellenos Pie
Prep Time: 35 Minutes
Cook Time: 55 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Yields: 8 servings
6 fresh poblano chile peppers
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 cups mild Cheddar cheese, shredded
1-1/2 cups diced cookedchicken
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sour cream
2 cups salsa
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I remember watching the 2007 Tony Awards when the cast from Spring Awakening came on to perform the B**** of Living and not being too convinced that I should see it. I enjoyed the song, but seeing it out of context -- just a bunch of high-school aged boys ranting and jumping around the stage -- was a bit off-putting. But CM convinced me to take a chance on the show when it rolled around to the Ahmanson. He bought two tickets for the third row, center of the mezzanine while we were attending another show so I couldn't back out. (And being the theater, well, not queen, perhaps handmaiden would be better, I decided to give it a chance.)
Saturday night, we found our seats and settled in to take in the stage before the show began. Unlike many shows, Spring Awakening did not use a curtain allowing the audience full visual access to the stage. The back wall, all the way from ground to ceiling was layered with red brick, that in turn covered with 19th century portraits, neon lights, various knickknacks, a ladder with a chair set just to the right of its top, and two almond-shaped entryways on either side. At the middle of the stage rested a large square platform with a blackened tree, almost like an ink spill. The band sat about two feet behind that, close to the back wall, and on either side of the platform, two risers with wooden chairs and audience members completed the scene. As the lights dimmed, a young woman dressed in Victorian undergarments strode onto the stage carrying a chair, quietly set it down and climbed up, then began to sing Mama Who Bore Me. The haunting melody served as a great introduction to this musical re-telling of Frank Wedekind's 19th Century play of the same name.
The drama involves four childhood friends going through the motions of sexual awakening while living in a very religious and repressed society. Like many teens today, the characters in the musical find that asking adults about where babies come from only brings sidestepping of the issue, such as the case with Wendla, the young girl singing Mama Who Bore Me. The young boys, on the other hand, rely on each other for that information, as Moritz does when asking Mechior to explain his carnal dreams about women. These lapses in judgement from the adults and the guidance of their peers leads both the boys and girls on a path that at first seems wondrous but ultimately leads to pain and suffering.
Wedekind's play was banned upon its initial publication, and I can see why: touching on themes of underage sex, homosexuality, and, in one of the funniest scenes, one of the characters masturbates on stage (though it's hidden beneath his sleep wear). At that time in society, such things were kept behind closed doors so bringing them to light onstage was almost anarchistic. They're still uncomfortable even with today's understanding of such things, but with the help of Duncan Sheik's music and Steven Sater's lyrics, they seem more palatable because the angst behind them is revealed. Learning about the desires for one another with the song The Word fo Yor body; about abuse through The Dark I Know Well; about death and grieving with Left Behind, and the pain of just being a teenager with The B**** of Living. They all have a rock/pop feel to them, ranging from haunting anthems to quiet love songs, and mix in modern objects to show no matter what the time period, teenagers experience the same things. Also, the songs are never sung to one another, seeming more like monologues of what the character is feeling. All the actors were fantastic and embodied the music, even the two adults who played all the adults, but Blake Bashoff stood out as the sexually confused Moritz. Incredible voice!!!
CM and I left the theater completely blown away by what we'd seen. In fact, he bought the soundtrack then and there, and we played it over and over and over on the long drive home.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Some think of the number 13 as unlucky.
I'm not so sure that I do.
This morning, traffic sped down the freeway, allowing me to make it to the office 30 minutes earlier than normal. Yes, that is a good thing since I usually arrive with only 5 minutes to spare after almost an hour on the road. So I decided to trade in my two winning scratchers at the liquor store. I wanted a ticket and $12 cash, and the cashier was happy to oblige. He scratched away on the ticket to reveal a number whch he input the register after scanning it, then handed me a fresh, new Happy Cow. He did the same thing with the second ticket, only after scanning and inputting, he returned the ticket with a slip that it had already been paid.
My mouth must have dropped open because the cashier tried to explain. "The system says that that ticket's been paid." I assured him that I bought the ticket at his store only yesterday and that it had been with me the entire time. In my head, I was screaming that the cashier was an idiot! No way could that ticket have been paid! Impossible! My outside voice stammered, and I guess my confused, frazzled face made him feel some small iota of pity for me. So he re-scanned the ticket, and wouldn't you know? He input some of the numbers incorrectly. He apologized as he counted the bills from his register. I told him that everything was okay and quickly left the store with my $12 and ticket.
At the café a few storefronts down, I ordered my usual warm cranberry muffin. The owner said that she'd left them in the oven a bit longer than she'd planned so they were a little well done. "But I'll give you a 50¢ discount...." Sure, why not? I handed over the money in exchange for the white bag with muffiny goodness inside and headed for the office.
Finally seated at my desk, computer slowly booting up, I removed the darkened muffin and pulled crunchy piece. And it's a good thing I did because I noticed part of a nut. Not just any nut, but a chunk of walnut to which I am allergic. I ripped open the muffin more and found the thing littered with walnut bits and also smelled warm bananas. A-ha! The wrong muffin! So I couldn't eat it and was too lazy to get up, walk across the street and ask for the correct one. But that turned out to be a good thing as my Area Manager walked in bearing a pastry wagon wheel from French's Bakery. $3 dollars wasted compared to spending some time at the hospital trying to combat an allergic reaction, I think it all worked for the best.
Then, at my semi-annual teeth cleaning, I've been sitting in the exam chair while the dentist scrapes away bits of build up with that hooked, pointed, sharp gum thrashing device -- and holding up a pretty good conversation with my ventriloquistic speech that she could somehow understand -- when the lights flicked once, twice then went out. She carefully withdrew the torture device from my mouth, watching her sister (my regular dentist) as she hurried outside. Moments later, she laughed as she returned to the office. "The entire shopping center is without power. The last time it was just our office."
The dentist pressed the button to return the exam chair to the upright position then giggled with embarrassment when she remembered that the power was out. I pulled myself up, and we sat in the semi-dark, chitchatting until the lights would turn back on which, after fifteen minutes, never happened. So I left the office with my teeth half-cleaned and an appointment to return the day before Thanksgiving.
What started out less than ideal quickly switched gears, winding up better than expected. And it all started with the $13 dollar scratchers. (Okay, so that last part may not seem "lucky", but the relief I felt certainly felt good. And that's enough for me.)
Thursday, November 20, 2008
A few Fridays ago, when I made that Chile Rellanos Pie, my office insisted on dessert so I walked across the street to the liquor store and bought everyone a Drumstick. The cashier started to hand me my change when on a whim I decided to buy 5 lottery scratchers. The cashier grudgingly tore them from the role and rang up my request. I thanked him, folded the scratchers and stuffed them into a back pocket until I was safely in the office and the ice cream distributed.
I tossed the scratchers on my desk and fished around my pockets for a coin. With penny in hand, I sat down and scratched away, revealing the work TICKET on three out of five. $3 or three tickets. A nice surprise, but I hid them in a pocket of my book bag and didn't think about them again.
Until this morning when I decided to stop at the same liquor store before heading into work. I handed over my three winning scratchers and received three untouched ones in their place. Once in the office, I quickly set to work scraping away the junk, r whatever that stuff is, and to my surprise, won $7 on one and a free TICKET on another. The tiny gambler in me convinced the much larger, frugal side to turn them in for more tickets, which I did at lunch. And out of those eight tickets, I uncovered two more winners beneath two of the Happy Cows: one with TICKET in block letters and one with $12.
So I'm wondering.... Should I trade them in for thirteen tickets, or should I take the money?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Random Sights on the Drive to Pomona
Sunday, we headed to Pomona to take part in a 4th Birthday Celebration for one of CM's great-nieces. And along the way....
....passing beside Mothers' Beach as we drove down Colorado St., a small group of people had crossed over the yellow caution tape affixed to the many wooden takes surrounding the sand. (The city closed the sand portion of the beach a few months ago due to some waste contamination.) They stood close to the water's edge, dressed in their Sunday finest, while two men held a blue and white blanket aloft. In the water probably 20 feet from shore, a woman was dunked beneath the surface, rising quickly then walking toward the small, cheering group....
....speeding North on the 605 toward the 10 Freeway, a small battered white Nissan passed us, and I pointed the driver out to CM. A large chunk of her hair was stuck in the window as she drove on, talking and motioning to the passenger who either didn't notice the hair or didn't want to say anything about it. We chuckled each time we either passed her or vice versa, until she finally rolled her window down slightly, freeing herself....
....at the transition to the 10 Freeway, the sky was filled with smoke and ash. At 2PM it seemed more like twilight than mid-afternoon. Large bits of ash fell like dirty snow. We could barely make out the hills not too far from the edge of the freeway. Approaching the 57 interchange, a blinking orange sign declared that two freeways were shut down completely to traffic and still cars merged onto those ramps and sped away....
....the Stawberry Shortcake piñata -- almost 6 inches taller than the birthday girl -- made quite an impression when it fell not because of the young boy thwacking it with a stick, but thanks to the weight of the candy. One of the adults tried to pick her up in order to re-attached her to the rope. Until her head popped off in his arms. The kids screamed with delight as the beheader stood on a ladder and rained the candy down upon them.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
LGBT National Protest Day - Long Beach, CA
CM and I braved the warm, ash-laden winds to walk from our apartment down Ocean Blvd. to the Long Beach City Hall, following two women with all 5 of their children either trailing behind or riding in a Radio Flyer and each carrying a sign of support for their two Moms. We almost missed the beginning of the rally as did many others, walking past the entry to the quad where the rally was to be held, and continuing almost past the court house. A woman on a bike told us to turn around as she pedaled past so we followed her into the quad and toward the awaiting protesters.
The woman speaking from a makeshift near the grass shouted into the microphone, her voice trying to carry over the howl of the wind and the thumping helicopter that circled overhead. I scanned the crowd with the hope of spotting either Sage or Chris somewhere amongst the men and women, children, dogs, pro-Gay signs, rainbow flags, petitioners, and a few police officers. I soon gave up the search and listened in to the many heads of local churchers speaking in opposition to the outcome of Prop 8's passing, to Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal who proffered a unifying message that set the crowd cheering. And everywhere around, we could feel the love and fellowship of the community coming together to fight for what's right.
View my pictures of Long Beach's rally here.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Bookwhore Chronicles: The Gay Haunt
Yes, I've finally gotten around to writing about the second ghostly book I was trying to finish before Hallowe'en. Unlike the other book of dead people, this one wasn't the least bit depressing or thought provoking. More happy-go-fucky....and I mean that.
I first learned of Victor J. Banis' The Gay Haunt a few years ago while reading Michael Bronski's fantastic voyage into the world of gay male pulps, Pulp Friction. Bronski used this novel as an example of how the pulp novels changed in the 1970s, using a scene involving a naked ghost on a hook and ladder truck careening through downtown Los Angeles.
I was laughing so hard that I determined to find a copy. Which I did, on Amazon.com, and which CM presented to me for my birthday this year. :-)
At the beginning of The Gay Haunt, formerly gay Paul is having a dinner party for his new fiancée Margo, his boss' daughter when a strangely familiar appears out of nowhere. A strangely naked man, too, however no one but Paul seems to notice him. Trying to regain his composure, Paul excuses himself from the party and hides away in his bedroom, locking the door behind him, stretching out on the bed and closing his eyes. Only then does he recognize the naked man: his former lover Lorin. But that would be impossible because Lorin passed away a few years ago. Even more shocking is when he opens his eyes to see a naked Lorin standing over him with a huge grin on his face.
Through a series of comedic and very bawdy -- VERY bawdy -- adventures, Lorin leads Paul on a romp of self re-discovery, re-visiting old memories and friends while trying to show Paul that he can't change his nature, that doing so would only be lying to himself and to others. And when I saw bawdy, I mean at one point Paul is trying a bit of foreplay on Margo when all of a sudden Lorin shoves his ghostly member into Paul -- and Paul describes everything. And it's actually very funny, in a 1970's sex-comedy-meets-Ghost kind of way.
I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Paul and Lorin, their interactions with other characters, and just the simple fun of the book. (I laughed aloud quite a bit, much to the concern of CM.) With Banis' writing I found it very easy to picture all the events (ahem), and though it took place during the early 1970s, it didn't come across as dated. And what a surprise to find it has a happy ending for the gay characters. No one committing suicide because they're oppressed by how society views them or killed outright because they're gay. We need more of that with gay literature. The sex and the fun, not the death and....well, you know what I mean.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I just saw a clip from a news station in San Francisco about an Anti-Gay Companies Blacklist naming companies that donated monies to Proposition H8. And at first I thought...well, I wasn't sure what to think. Part of was saying "Oh heck yeah!" while the softer, gentler side of me was wary what kind of light this would shed on the gay community. However, at the end of the clip, the reporter is speaking via phone to a man who donated money for Prop. H8. The caller seemed surprised and ended by asking if Prop. 8 hadn't passed, should he have created such a list.
At that moment, my gentler side concede to the other, "heck yeah" side. Because those who supported the proposition did just that a few weeks before the election. Remember those letters that went to companies who gave money against the proposition demanding that they also give money to the other/their side or else be outed to the community?
And aren't such lists already in place listing information about companies who support gay rights? Doesn't the religious right already try to influence some companies by threatening them with boycotts if they don't rescind pro-gay activities?
This article published in 2005 by the Yurica Report sheds a bit of light on such practices by the religiosos. I'm sure hundreds more can be found on the internet, in magazines, newspapers.
If they can do it....
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
On Sunday afternoon, CM and I braved the cold winds and headed for the Carpenter Center to see a re-working of the rarely-performed Cole Porter musical, Silk Stockings, staged by Musical Theatre West. The show didn't start out as a musical; it was actually a short story called Ninotchka by Hungarian writer Melchior Lengyel, which was transformed into the 1939 Greta Garbo film of the same name. That was later re-worked into the 1955 stage musical Silk Stockings and finally the 1957 movie with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse.
In this re-working of the stage musical, the setting is moved the early days of the 20h century to the Cold War between Russia and the United States. Producer Steve Canfield is trying to create a movie version of War and Peace for an upcoming US/Soviet peace summit in Paris. With the fear that the film's composer, a Russian named Peter Illych Boroff, might defect, three emissaries are sent to fetch him back. When the three take too much time, the Russians send Ninotchka Yaschenko to bring all four men back.
All the actors in this production had wonderful singing voices, from Darcie Roberts as Janice Dayton and Julie Ann Emery as Ninotchka to the Andy Taylor's Boroff and the three who stole the show (in my opinion) Stuart Pankin, Nick Degruccio and Paul Kreppel as Comrades Bibinski, Ivanov and Brankov initially sent to fetch Boroff but soon find themselves falling under the spell of Paris. And they get to work with some great music from Cole Porter -- Paris Loves Lovers, Josephine, On Through the Seasons We Sail, Satin and Silk and Stereophonic Sound.
My only problem with the show was the opening. The orchestra begins to play while a male ballet dancer moves about the stage. In the background, various projections of 1950s-1960s TV news programs play across the backdrop while numerous headlines about Russia and the Cold War scroll by. A very awkward opening that probably accounted for why I had a bit of trouble getting into the show at first. But after a while, the music and the acting pulled me in, and I found myself laughing along, enjoying the dancing and singing. In fact, we both had a great time and left the theater laughing, trying to remember the lyrics to Josephine. Something about "lubricating lips"....
Friday, November 07, 2008
Taking out my Frustration
What a mixed week this has been. One the one hand, Barack Obama won the Presidential election; on the other hand, Proposition H8 made it possible to add discrimination based on religious beliefs into the California Constitution. I've been so worked up about the passage that I almost forgot it was my turn to once again cook lunch for the office.
I frantically scoured All Recipes for something since I'm not someone who can just throw the leftover Chinese food, frozen paninis and cups of chocolate pudding together on the fly for a filling and nutritious meal. Not that that's what in our refrigerator. Any more.
I found what sounded like an easy recipe, something called Chili Rellanos Pie, and stopped at the grocery store on the way home to find the ingredients. The recipe called for six poblano peppers, but on the produce shelf were some nice, dark green Anaheim peppers so into a bag they went. I found everything else fairly quickly and left with almost $50 less in my wallet.
Back at the apartment, CM helped me to roast the peppers rather than broil them as the recipe suggested. I turned on one of the gas burners and set a chile onto the flames. The skin blackened and charred, and the seeds inside gently exploded. The kitchen and apartment filled with the wonderful aroma of roasting peppers (which lingered most of the night). Once the pepper had blackened enough all around, I loosely wrapped it in a towel, per CM's suggestion. "That's allowing the chile to sweat. Makes the skin easier to remove." And he was right! The skin almost fell off after five minutes beneath the towel, and CM offered to remove the skin and seeds for me while I finished the remaining peppers.
After they were ready, I layered them along the bottom of a pie dish. Once again, the recipe called for an 11" square pan, but I didn't have one so I improvised. Besides, isn't something cooked in a square pan called a casserole, not a pie? I then poured a layer of shredded jack and cheddar cheese over the chiles and topped that with some diced chicken breast. In a mixing bowl I whipped some flour and evaporated milk, beat in three eggs, smothered the chiles, chicken and cheese with it and gently set the whole thing into the oven for 45-50 minutes.
And here's the result before adding the two cups of salsa:
The flour-milk-egg mixture cooked into a thick and yummy pseudo crust, almost like a biscuit or cornbread. I let it cool overnight then thrust it upon an unsuspecting office for lunch today. the result?
I think they liked it.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Bookwhore Chronicles: The Brief History of the Dead
And for once, I'm not talking zombies.
I began reading two dead-themed books during October, hoping to finish them both in time for Hallowe'en posting. But nothing turns out as planned, and I finished both books this past weekend instead. Below is my review of the first book, in case you're interested.
The Brief History of the Dead, opens with a blind man walking into a place known only as The City. He tells the story of his death and his suddenly finding himself walking in a desert to the first person he encounters. And to the next. And the next, and so on. Others in The City also have stories of their deaths and how the came to this place. The people who've been in The City the longest tell the others that this isn't heaven -- not with the aches and pains, the having to get a job, the finding a place to live. People arrive, stay about 50-60 years, until the last living person who remembers them passes away, then they quietly move on to the next place. People are arriving and leaving all the time.
But one day, the number of new arrivals begins to increase dramatically. In talking with the new arrivals, the older residents learn about a worldwide plague known as "The Blinks" killing off most of the population. At the same time, people begin disappearing. A teacher chases one of her students down an alley. The student turns around as he exits the alley and waits. But the teacher never appears. Stories like that abound in The City, and before long the disappearances outnumber the arrivals, until the new arrivals stop altogether. The remaining residents search The city for each other and for the reason why they haven't disappeared like the rest.
Running counter to this is the story of Laura Byrd, trapped in Antarctica thanks to a geological survey requested by Coca-Cola. With clean water running at an all-time low, the soft drink giant purchased Antarctica to make use of its water resources so they sent a team to verify its usability. Laura and her two team members were only supposed to be in Antarctica for three months, but they haven't heard from Coca-Cola in almost four. And now Laura's alone at the station because her two team members left for the main base over two weeks ago to get supplies and haven't returned. The radio's airing nothing but static, and each time she tries the main base, no on answers. As her food supply dwindles and the electricity powering the heating coils dies, she finally gathers what few supplies she can and sets out for the main base.
Memories of her past keep running to the forefront of her mind -- her parents, a former lover, her best friend during elementary school, the blind man who sat at the fountain of her office building -- and she doesn't know why. They keep her company, though, as she learns what happened at the station and around the world.
For the most part, I enjoyed the book. The wonderful descriptions of The City and its inhabitants as well as contrast with the starkness of the Antarctic were vivid. Kind of a juxtaposition in ideas because life after death comes across as more alive than the drab, cold reality Laura faces. The stories both played well against each other, too, and I kept trying to figure out in which ways all the characters were connected.
On a more spiritual note, the book presents an interesting concept of what life after death might be. It's not really heaven, nor is it limbo. The physical bodies are dead but the souls, if you will, move to another step in the process, still keeping in line with the physicality of their previous existence but knowing that eventually, each will be moving to another place once the memories of the living are gone.
On the downside -- and CM can back me up on this -- the ending chapter didn't fit logically for me. After all the events that preceded, I imagined something a bit more...final. More sudden, I guess.
You'll just have to read it and let me know if you agree.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Don't allow someone to make your decisions for you. Exercise your right to vote!
Update!: I was officially voter #21 at my polling place this morning, even after walking the four houses down to the fire station. At 6:40 this morning in the wet, chilly aftermath of a rainstorm, I joined the line of waiting voters, which grew longer as those twenty minutes passed. Some were there with friends or partners, chatting away as usual. Others were out walking their dogs to the polls. Everyone seemed very excited, eager to have their say. At 7:00 am, the polling workers announced they were ready, and we quickly moved forward until the first few people stood in front of the table, stated their names, signed a book and took their ballots to the awaiting stations. I couldn't help but smile when it was my turn. And once it was done, I fed the ballot into the ballot counting machine and was presented with my voting stub and a sticker.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Is It Over Yet?
I woke up very early Sunday morning and could not get back to sleep. It wasn't Diesel that kept me awake -- though he has turned more vociferous with his food demands at all hours of the day. The time change had nothing to do with it, either. And no, CM, you were not snoring or talking in your sleep.
What prevented me from getting back to sleep were thoughts of Proposition 8. All the negativity from the Yes crowd, how they want to restore traditional marriage -- I didn't realize it had disappeared in the first place -- how they employ scare tactics and misleading information to persuade voters, and how much religion is playing a part in it. The majority of proponents are religious organizations or groups with strong religious ties.
Laying in bed, tossing and turning under the covers, the thoughts running through my head all dealt with someone trying to enforce their religious views upon me. I mean, isn't that in essence what Proposition 8 is doing, mandating a position based upon religion?
I always have the impression that if you were to ask a proponent why they were against gay marriage, they would say that they don't believe in two people of the same sex having relations. It's unnatural. Then, pressing the question about what makes it unnatural, they would fall back upon the Bible. I don't think that's too much of a stretch. Doesn't that violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Consitution? "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Which in my mind means that churches and temples and synagogues can worship as they choose, but also that they can't force their beliefs on anyone.
I could hear the rebuttals about the proposition not saying anything about religion or such views. But what about the 9th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Deny or disparage others (meaning rights) retained by the people. Everyone is guaranteed the same rights as his or her neighbors.
Proposition 8 wants to deny gay men and women the same right that heterosexual couples take for granted, making it a "special" right instead of an "equal" right. As a country, shouldn't we be well past denying rights?
And that's what really kept me awake early Sunday morning.
Bill of Rights information from the Cornell University Law School.