Tuesday, March 30, 2010


If I weren’t going to California, I would resent getting up at 6:30am for a 9am flight out of Kennedy. But it’s L.A. – my favorite place in the U.S. that isn’t New York. I can hardly wait.
So, I’m at JetBlue terminal 5 at JFK, buying my $9 turkey sandwich with one slice of actual turkey, which will be so warm by the time I want to eat it, that I’ll probably just shove it in the seat back and eat gummi bears instead. And just as I get in line to board the flight, I hear, “Eric? Eric Stine?”
It was fun to run into Jenni – whom I haven’t seen in twenty years (yes, twenty. Argh.) We went to high school together – actually, we went to junior high school together. She was at my Bar Mitzvah. We co-starred in Our Town senior year.
Now she had three kids and a husband and is trekking across the country for Spring Break (a trip that will take them to LA, San Diego and Vegas – my idea of a good trip, actually, though I imagine our itineraries are vastly different.)
We chatted for a bit while boarding the plane. “You look great,” she marveled. (It’s true. I do. Given, however, that I weighed over 250 pounds in high school and had a bushy head of wiry Jew-hair, an improvement was unlikely.) “I never would have recognized you if it weren’t for your Facebook pictures.”
Ah, the Facebook photo. The universal identifier stored in the “cloud.” An identifying avatar that tells your “friends” what you look like today (and please use your own damn photo; photos of your kids, photos of you as a baby, cartoons and icons are gay. Yes, I am gay and I just used “gay” as a pejorative. Suck it.) Click on them and your profile becomes a portal to a birthday party, a beach weekend, a family vacation or an embarrassing evening out – all of which provide a window into your life for people who haven’t seen you since the Reagan administration but might wind up five feet away from you in the airport one early Saturday morning.
At which point you might gossip about a classmate whose recent status update was "Free At Last!" speculating if it were a new job or a divorce.  (It was a divorce.)

I didn’t have a lot of friends in high school, and I’m not connected to many of those people via Facebook (and, with the exception of some friends of my sister’s, I’m connected to only one – loosely – in my real life.) Likewise, college. And law school.

But I’m connected to enough people via Facebook to have had an experience that makes me think about the ease with which I accept those friend requests, the occasions when I’ll meander through lists looking for people I seldom think about, the scrutiny with which I scour their profiles and their photos.
Why do we do this? Our lives certainly aren’t emptier without these people, and aren’t fuller when we find them. Few, if any, of us actually reconnect with these folks for anything more than wall posts, and the occasional drink which includes easily-made and rarely-executed promises of getting together again. (This excludes the subculture of men who look for former girlfriends and sexual partners for the exclusive purpose of having sex with them again, then ignoring them as cruelly as they did the first time around. Those guys get a special hell all their own.)

We look at their lives to see what we can surmise. We look at their spouses and boyfriends and girlfriends. We look at their kids, their houses, their vacations. It’s like going to your reunion without having to show up in person; where no one can watch you scrutinize your classmates for signs of happiness or misery, success or failure. We can find out who got fat, who got divorced, and who got lost from the safety of our couches. We can applaud ourselves when the good-looking guy who always acted like dick lost his job, his wife or his hair (shut up – I shave my head; there’s a difference. OK, there isn’t.) We don’t have to publicly cover our surprise if a burnout winds up with a decent life.

My guess: we’re not looking to make a connection; we’re keeping score. (Which is why - in all my Facebook photos - I either look adorable or my arms look huge.)
Interestingly, the best friend I have isn’t my friend on Facebook at all: my husband. He started using the site about a year before I did, and wouldn’t accept my friend request when I finally came online. He argued that he saw me everyday anyway, and didn’t need an update to tell him that I liked cereal, hated broccoli or saw a squirrel. He hears my stories and my jokes anyway, usually multiple times, since I repeat them. We share the same photos, the same vacations and the same house – he wasn’t going to learn anything from being my friend in a virtual world given how much of the real world we occupied jointly.

Smart man.

Friday, March 26, 2010

My niece is playing the Cinderella video game; the objective is to collect jewels and shoes. How is this good for little girls?
The father of Padma Lakshmi's baby girl, Krishna, has been revealed ... and it's some dork venture capitalist dude. Was anyone other than me hoping it was Sam Talbot, the cute cheftestant from Season 2?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Boiling Points

Shortly after I got to Washington, DC last Wednesday, a friend of mine texted me (I swear I must have a homing device implanted somewhere on my person) to invite me for St. Patrick’s Day drinks.
Now, I’m about as far from Irish as they come – plus, my people don’t get to march in the parade (you want to burn a bridge with the gays, leave them out of a parade – we love a parade; any forum where people line up on street corners to watch us prance by is going to appeal to a group of people largely identified by body image issues, fashion sense, and vanity.) Yet, I love to drink, so off to Paddy O’Tam’O’Shanter’s Faux Irish Pub (not its real name. It was some fake-O Irish pub between the Verizon Center and a Chipotle. But they had liquor.)
Oh, and contributing to the feeling that I’m being watched or tracked, half an hour after getting there, our CEO called me wanting to know where “everyone’s going.” Seriously, the best thing about this job is that I’ve attained a level of popularity that’s eluded me all my life. I truly have no idea what I’m going to do if I have to replace my feelings of inadequacy with actual self-esteem.
Anyway (I swear this story has a point), while we’re at Leprechaun Liquor Bar, there’s this guy who looks familiar in that way we’re you’re not sure if it’s someone from your past, or someone mildly famous – that weird Recognition Purgatory where you have to actively try and parse all the places you’ve ever lived, the people you went to high school and college with, and the TV shows you watch until you figure it out.
Then you realize how sad your life is because the person you’re staring at (who is now realizes you’re staring and may drag you outside and beat you up) is the guy who finished in sixth place during the most recent season of Top Chef (which has been off the air for a really long time. When is it coming back? Padma, why have you forsaken me? And who is your baby’s daddy? Am I the only one dying to find out who the little samosa’s pappadum is?)
If you’re a fan of Top Chef – and, really, how could you not be – you’ll remember the rather outspoken and arrogant Mike Isabella, he of the Mediterranean cooking and superterranean ego. So you can imagine my amusement – shortly after loudly and publicly identifying him, complete with pointing (I was drinking scotch – not a safe choice) – when he started hitting on one of our co-workers - who was not welcoming the attention. (This is the point in the story where I feebly attempt to avoid telling you (and fail) that he also spent half the night in the bathroom blowing coke up his nose.)
So, of course we had to go to his restaurant the next night – just for laughs (and whatever free food and liquor unrequited lust gets you.) Mike – I don’t know that you’ve got much game, but you make a mean hummus.
Still, it was the highlight of a week that included a trip to Denver – just for lunch (The Yard House is a chain, but it’s a pretty good chain. My turkey burger was the best I’ve had outside of Cafeteria at 17th and Seventh Ave.) Denver was followed by Lincoln where I consumed the largest steak I’ve ever eaten (Misty’s) and a bowl of Tortilla Soup at the Lincoln airport which was both misguided and a misnomer (Garbage Stew would have been more accurate – it appeared to contain every leftover scrap of meat and canned vegetable they had. Note to self: avoid menu items that are likely excuses for consolidating the week’s leftovers.)
You can imagine my relief in finally returning home after five days, and one hangover, on the road – and New York didn’t disappoint. 75 and sunny on Saturday, it was the nicest weather we’d seen since October – and a great way for my sister to celebrate her birthday on Sunday.
Did you know she has the same birthday as Rosie O’Donnell? When Rosie used to have her daytime talk show, her March 21 show was always made up of an audience who also had that birthday. My sister got to go once and got a pile of cool takeaways. I bet she’s jazzed that Rosie’s returning to daytime.
That’s right – did you hear that Rosie’s getting a daytime talk show after Oprah leaves the airwaves in 2011? Rosie, Ellen – is there a new rule that you have to be a lesbian to get a daytime talk show? (Though, if some of those Oprah rumors are true, maybe it’s not a “new” rule.) Is that why I can’t get my own show? What’s next? The Suze Orman Show? “Motorcycle Road Trip” with Meredith Baxter?
Maybe if I take up field hockey and bring in The Indigo Girls as my house band I can get a show?
I should stop stereotyping. I mean, it would be like someone saying that the only kind of show I could host would be about trendy places to go, celebrity gossip, and bitchy comments about physical appearances.
Which is – of course – exactly what I do. (This is where I remember to advise my readers that the tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is something they should reconsider on a case-by-case basis. Half the people who attempt this don’t have the skin tone for it, and generally wind up looking like they’ve eaten questionable shellfish. The remainder run the risk of looking like they travel by broomstick with a flock of flying monkeys behind them.)
But what really boiled this week wasn’t the kitchen at Zaytinya, wasn’t the soup in Lincoln, and wasn’t an overflow of bad lesser-holiday fashion. It wasn’t even jealousy over not having my own show (well, maybe a little.) It was boiling tempers over the final leg of the health insurance reform bill (now LAW. Suck it, Republicans!)
OK. I’ve written so much about this that we don’t need to get into the substance of the bill. We don’t need to argue its merits. We don’t need to chew over the parliamentary tactics.
But we do need to discuss appropriate behavior.
I was raised to believe that you respect public officials. That the President occupies an office worthy of deference and respect – and regardless of what you think of the man, you respect the office. Members of Congress may be (and often are) preening, self-absorbed boobs. But you respect the office.
So it was horrifying – truly unbelievable – to turn on my television to see Americans denigrate the tradition of peaceful protest and devolve from people exercising their first Amendment rights and into a mob befitting a Disney cartoon (where were the torches and pitchforks?) Calling members of Congress “Nigger” and “Faggot” and “Baby-killer”?
Are you kidding me?
I’ve got to believe there’s a clause somewhere in the unwritten social contract that talks about not spitting on each other.
The sad thing is – it was bound to happen. There was no way we could elect an African-American (or a woman, or whomever the first “minority” President was going to be) without ultimately generating a backlash. The good feelings over what we’d done were always bound to be followed by a late-breaking re-ignition of the Culture Wars; they never really went away. And so we claim to argue over the merits of Health Insurance Reform or Consumer Protection or (and get ready for this one, folks) Immigration. But the subtext is always about race, or gender, or class.
Because in a world where blacks and gays and women can achieve equality on the merits of their work (which often has to far exceed that of a white male peer group in order to deemed “equivalent”) there will always be people who feel marginalized and threatened by it.

Which is a shame. After all, if you can embrace it you’ll realize that this law helps you too; that now no insurance company can take away your insurance if you get sick.

And you can recuperate watching those amusing lesbian talk shows.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Of Course We Remember You!

There are a lot of places I could start this week.  The pending (maybe?  finally?) health insurance reform legislation.  The new state standards for Social Studies in Texas (oh, don't worry, we are SO going there.)  The near-elimination of Big Brother's Jordan and Jeff on The Amazing Race (this woman can't tell time, figure out which direction a subway is going, or eat sauerkraut - yet she still got the best looking boyfriend on reality TV.)

But we must begin with this week's premiere of Remember Me, the new Robert Pattinson film produced by...wait for it...

Cousin Trevor.

You should remember Cousin Trevor from January's Bar Mitzvah post, where he exhibited a tremendous capacity for offending people up close.  This week, Cousin Trevor, who brought the world such important contributions to film as All About Steve (the film that Sandra Bullock did NOT win an Oscar for) and License to Wed (boasting the only known on-screen appearance of Robin Williams and Mandy Moore) continues showcasing a talent for large-scale offense.

The offensive product is Remember Me, a tearjerker for teens that, according to Rotten Tomatoes, has received 79% poor reviews.  The reviews range from calling it "ambitious but overwrought" to a "poorly conceived melodrama."  My favorites, however, come from Rolling Stone's Peter Travers - who's often cited as giving good reviews to anything on a screen - who called it "weepy drool until the twist ending which turns it shockingly offensive," and The Boston Globe, which dubbed it "Some Kind of Terrible."

So, it's pretty much Schaedenfreude Saturday around here.

Next on my list to share with you is the state social studies standards in Texas, which has been revised by a 10-5 party line vote of the Texas Board of Education to put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, while voting down proposed revisions regarding the role of Latinos or the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom.

Neil, who is a product of Texas public education, remarked on a trip to Rome that he never learned anything about the Roman Empire because he never had to take any world history.  However, he clearly recalls the 12 years of Texas history he was forced to endure. (Seriously, I know it's a big state that flew under the flags of six nations - but twelve years of Texas history?  How many times can you study Sam Houston, the Alamo and the state fair?  This is a state whose contribution to America includes failed insurgencies (the Confederacy, the Alamo), George Bush (not the good one, the crappy one) and fried Oreos.)

Shall we take a look at some of the new standards?  (Additions in bold.)

Middle School Economics

The student understands the origin and development of the free enterprise system in the United States.  The student is expected to:
(A) explain why a free enterprise system of economics developed in the new nation, including minimal government intrusion and taxation, and property rights.

This is for 7th graders?  Seriously?  Who wrote these standards, Grover Norquist?

I wish I were a seventh grade social studies teacher.  Here would be my final exam:

"Given the strong historical importance of minimal government intrusion, please explain why there is no justification for denying same-sex couples the right to marry."

Something tells me I wouldn't last long in an Amarillo Junior High School.

My favorite new standard, however, is this one:

High School History. (Unit covers 1970s-1990)

...(E) describe the causes, key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.

While I'm tickled to offer an essay that highlights the penchant for members of the Moral Majority to demagogue against homosexuality right up until they get caught sleeping with teenage boys, I'm not touching the NRA.  Dude, they've got guns.

And speaking of tickled...

Can we please talk about the post-resignation meltdown of New York Congressman Eric Massa?  Do we really live in a time where a former member of the House can go on television and actually try to defend charges by saying he was simply having "Tickle Parties?"  "Tickle Parties???"  Did this phrase just enter our national lexicon, introduced by a Congressman who should be disgraced and, instead, is indignant?

Are you kidding me?

How is it that Eliot Spitzer all of a sudden doesn't look like the nadir of American politics?

And Nancy Pelosi better start cracking the whip and opening up some ethics investigations.  The Democrats won back Congress on charges of Republican corruption (Bob Ney, Tom DeLay, Mark Foley) only to foist upon us Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa and that Jefferson person who had $100,000 in bribes in his freezer.  (That's some cold hard cash!  I've been looking for an opening for that joke for months.)

Other than that - there's not much to tell you. I can't tell you about my dinner in Vegas, cause I've been sworn to secrecy, but I've got photos in case I need to save my job someday.  The rest of the trip was uneventful - other than a trip to the best airport candy store ever (Concourse D, The Candy Shoppe) - and a flight home during which the pilot requested medical assistance for a passenger.

Seriously, this is the second time in less than a month that this has happened.  Who the hell is getting on airplanes these days? There's something disconcerting about a flight attendant carrying an oxygen tank to mid-cabin less than an hour into a four and half hour flight.

But I'm home - at long last at home.  A rainy Saturday - perfect for Atchafalaya Roast Chicken.  Neil is making it tonight for our friend Robert's birthday.  It's a Paul Prudhomme recipe, and it's the best chicken ever!

Oh - one last thing - can we please start proofreading the texts and emails sent from mobile devices?  Half the emails I get these days look like they're written in Polish.  Oh...and putting "Please excuse typos" (or, even worse, Plwasr excude tyoos) does not make it better.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I'd Like to (Blank) the Academy

Ugh.  Torture.

Seriously, if they're looking to close Guantanamo, just show the prisoners the first 20 minutes of this year's Oscars.  If they know where Bin Laden is, we'll have him by sundown.

Now, I love me some Neil Patrick Harris.  And I really love me some singing Neil Patrick Harris in shiny tuxedo pants. (And...how do you know that the Neil I keep referring to in my blog isn't Neil Patrick Harris?  Ok, it's not - though the idea of Neil Patrick Harris cooking me a pork roast is too funny.)

What wasn't funny was his opening number.  Brilliant at the Tonys.  Hilarious at the Emmys.  Painfully embarassing at the Oscars.  Plus, Neil Patrick Harris dancing with a showgirl is like handing my Mom your Blackberry.  It's fun to watch, but she has no idea what to do with it.

Also, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin - yeah, they got funnier as the night went on, but that opening sketch dragged.  Not funny (though the Damn Helen Mirren/Dame Helen Mirren joke tickled me.)  Oh, and scowling at Goerge Clooney isn't any funnier now than it was in 1983 and they did it with Jack Nicholson.

Plus - were there any surprises?  Mo'Nique.  Christoph Waltz.  Blah blah blah.  When the biggest surprise is the adapted screenplay award, you're in for a dull evening.  I wanted me some Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White.  I wanted Whoopi in whiteface.  I wanted a surprise victory for Morgan Freeman and a speech dedicated to the teacher who inspired him when he was just a poor girl from Harlem with two kids and an abusive mother.

The most entertaining thing that aired all night was the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish commercial (seen it a hundred times, could watch it for hours.  Gimme back my Filet-O-Fish.  Gimme my fish.)  That, and the fact that they've cut the discussion the Scientific and Technical Awards to a four-second group photo introduced by poor Elizabeth Banks, who should have just come out and said, "Apparently I'm not big enough to present an actual award, so here's a group photo from last night's Dork Dinner.  Hope you get a real Oscar someday!"

So, now I'm in Vegas.  Why are the flights to Vegas always full?  The economy's in such deep decline I routinely get upgraded on the way to LA and San Francisco, but Vegas is packed.  With an average passenger weight of 265 pounds, not counting hairspray and velour, these flights are nightmares in the skies.  It's really disoreinting - on other flights, the passengers drinking at 8 am are either alcoholics or fearful fliers; on the Vegas flights - who knows.  People get on board and they're on vacation.  Manners go out the window.  The ladies next to me had four drinks a piece - before 10am (and NOT Bloodys or Mimosas) - and sang the Gilligan's Island theme song.

By the way - I do finally have a new recipe for you this week.  Neil made a delicious Mexican Pulled Pork to accompany the Oscars, and it was delicious.  He based it on a Food Network recipe, but he changed it up a little.  I'll reprint it below.

The big event of the weekend was my sister's surprise birthday party.  She'd kill me if I posted the pictures of her dancing on the table.

But I like to live on the edge.

Yes, it's a blurry mess, but...if the shoe fits.  (In all seriousness, Happy Birthday, Rach ---I'm glad you had a good time.)

Speaking of having a good time, Neil and I are celebrating our anniversary on Thursday - five years ago we met, struck dumb with nascent love (and way too much alcohol), and managed to exchange phone numbers and spell our respective names correctly.  It's true, folks, love really can find you anywhere. (Hey, it found me, totally trashed, in a bar on 19th street.)

So we're heading to Hawaii to celebrate.  Neil's never been (and he hates to fly, so it's sort of a gift and sort of torture - like our relationship.)  If you've got any suggestions for dining on Kauai, let me know.  We're headed out in April, but you can expect a post to rival the Mediterranean Cruise when we return.

The Last Word:

Do This, New York:

Make Neil's Pulled Pork (by the way - they go a little crazy with the lime juice, here - I don't think it needs that much.  Oh - and add a little more salt.

3 medium or 2 large russet potatoes to equal about a pound, peeled and diced

1 (2 to 3-pound) pork loin

1/2 yellow onion, whole, plus 1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed

2 bay leaves

12 ounces raw chorizo, casing removed and crumbled

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped (seeded and ribbed for less heat)

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram


For serving:

16 corn or flour tortillas

Lime wedges

1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves


Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold water. Add the salt, bring to a boil and cook until tender, 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

Place the pork in a large pot of cold water. Add the onion half, the garlic, and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently until the pork is cooked through and is no longer pink in the center, about 45 minutes. Remove the pork from the water and set it aside until it is cool enough to handle (discard the cooking liquid). Using your fingers or 2 forks, shred the meat into small pieces and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute crumbled chorizo until completely cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to a paper towel lined plate. Add the chopped onions to the chorizo skillet and cook until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shredded pork, the tomatoes, and the chipotle chiles. Cook until the tomatoes break down and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Return the potatoes and cooked chorizo to the pan. Stir in the vinegar, thyme, marjoram and salt, to taste. Continue to cook over medium heat until some of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

While the pork cooks, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tortilla and warm for 10 to 15 seconds. Flip the tortilla over and continue to warm until the tortilla is pliable and heated through, another 10 to 20 seconds. Place warm tortillas in a tortilla warmer or on a plate, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside; repeat with the remaining tortillas (or warm the tortillas in the microwave: stack them on a plate and cover with a damp cloth; microwave for 30 seconds and keep them covered until you're ready to serve).
To Serve:

Place the pulled pork in a serving bowl or bring to the table in the cooking pot. Arrange the limes, avocado, and cilantro on a platter. Pass warm tortillas so each diner can fill a tortilla with some of the meat and accompaniments. Squeeze lime juice over each serving.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Here's a question? I'm reading the paper and wondering why, if the Republicans are so sure that the Democratic Health Insurance Reform bill is "political suicide," why not let it come to a vote? The Republicans can vote against it, the Democrats can vote for it, and it can pass with the Republicans on record for opposing it. Then, they can get those Congressional majorities they are so sure will follow; the "price [the Democrats] will pay.". But of course that won't happen. Because the Republicans know - if it passes - the public will begin to see the innumerable ways this bill, though imperfect, does benefit them. And they'll extract a price from Republicans for opposing it.